Interlude: Harp

“Second, beholden:
Candle to blind
And harp to still.”
– Second of the three so-called ‘Mavian Entreaties

Les Horizons Lugubres was a tavern in the same sense that silk was cloth.

None could lay foot within its glass and stone gardens without first having been vouched for by three patrons, and though the hall’s outside looked rather trivial its insides were a maze of shifting private alcoves: they changed with the sun and the moon, the season and the weather, so that no two hours spent there would be quite the same. The nature of the establishment had made it a favourite of the Circle of Thorns since decades before Louis of Satrons’ tenure at the head of the league began, though it was under his stewardship that the Circle became the hidden proprietors of it. Tonight’s surroundings were the work of a young woman from the principality of Orne, he’d been told, an artist who had one walked the fields of the Red Flowers Vales seeking inspiration. The influence was plain to the eye, though for all the provincial origins it was exquisite to the eye. Redwood tables and sculptures of colours glass – angled so that the moon’s shifting radiance and shadows would mimic the touch of wind on grass – were flanked by panes of green and grey painted in the Bourdonnier manner, with the occasional glinting metal thrown in pêle-mêle to hint at the armour of fallen knights and fantassins. It was all rather appropriate, given the reason the Circle was convening, and the tart Lange red the affair had been paired with by their sommelier lent the hasty proceedings a much-needed touch of civility.

After the last of them arrived and took a seat, being poured their glass by the colleague to their left rather than a servant according to one of the Circle’s more practical traditions, Louis of Sartrons rose to his feet. His glass went up, matched by that of the other twelve men and women in the room, and he cleared his throat.

“To Procer, and Her Most Serene Highness,” he toasted.

His words were politely echoed, and as one they drank before settling into their seats. Louis waited a few moments, tinted light casting red shadows like claws on his skeletal face, before addressing his peers.

“It would appear a coup is underway,” the spymaster said. “As of now the involvement of the Holies of the House of Light and the Silver Letters under Balthazar Serigny have been confirmed. The extent of the conspiracy beyond this is unclear, though a degree of royal involvement is only to be expected.”

At the other end of the table, the comfortably withered Antonie of Bientaillant rapped her knuckles against the table to signify a desire to address the table. Louis acceded to the request with a sight inclination of the head.

“My friends in city guard tell me the conspiracy claims to be acting on the behalf of Princess Rozala Malanza, though they have not made this widely known,” Antonie said.

Bertrand de Gonfallond, sharp-eyed and younger than most in this room, rapped his knuckles but a moment later. Louis paused for a moment longer than necessary before allowing him to speak, an unspoken reminder that lack of courtesy to a fellow patron of the Circle had no excuse.

“Given the prominence of Balthazar Serigny within the coup,” Bertrand said, “we must consider that this was made known to Antonie’s friends on purpose. Balthazar has some knowledge of our laws, as you all know.”

It was not impossible, Louis thought, or in truth even unlikely. The Circle of Thorns served no master but the Principate itself, that was its governing principle and foremost law. Not the First Prince, not the Highest Assembly and certainly not the House of Light. Given that the highest office in Procer was not hereditary, it had been understood by wise minds early in the nation’s history that the Principate’s spies abroad could be beholden to any one family or institution. The Circle must ever be above the fray of schemes within the bounds of Procer, intervening only when there was foreign involvement. If the Circle took sides in the Assembly’s little squabbles, it risked endangering itself and therefore the Principate’s eyes abroad. In truth that vaunted neutrality had been bent, on occasion, but never too far. Those who would have the ambition of playing throne-maker in the Assembly were weeded out early in their tenure with the Circle, long before reaching positions of true influence. Were these years of peace, or even less strenuous a war, an attempt to dethrone Cordelia Hasenbach by another princess would merit no debate. And it was undeniable that even in these… delicate times the only acceptable successor to the First Prince was Rozala Malanza, as no one else had the support or popularity to keep the Principate from falling apart.

Yet Procer had come upon the antechamber of the end times, and now the lines between the foreign and the domestic had blurred. It did not help that the Bastard might be behind what Antonie’s people had learned, as their young colleague had noted. The head of the Silver Letters had learned too much for comfort of their laws and methods during the Great War, and he was in no way above using Princess Malanza’s name as a shield to keep the Circle out of this affair until the dust had settled. To his left another knuckle rapped the table, Alejandra of Cuenera departing from her usual sullen silence to raise her voice.

“It matters not if Seregny attempts to trifle with us,” she said, voice faintly accented. “It is not ours to decided whether Cordelia Hasenbach or Rozala Malanza will rule. It is ours to unearth whether the attempted transition of power is free of the Enemy’s meddling.”

There was a rippling murmur at the table at that, as much in consternation as approbation. Several knuckles rapped, though Louis chose that of Joachim of Essenrer – one of the elders among them, and the sole Lycaonese. The Circle had been careful that there should always be at least one from the northern principalities among them, though recruitment was oft difficult. They could not claim to speak to the interests of Procer without the rearguard of their empire having a voice at their table.

“It will be necessary to carve into the Silver Letters,” Joachim said, voice oddly powerful for a man so old his skin looked paper-thin. “They are the weak link. The House will have everything of import in cloisters and basilicas, but the letter-openers brought in too many for every safehouse to truly be secure.”

Louis hid his amused smirk at the dig at their opposition behind a sip of wine, as many others at the table. Letter-openers, Joachim had mocked them as, for the head of the Circle at the time of their rise to legal employ had mocked the thugs as a ‘confederacy of letter-openers and cutpurses’. There were some who said the name of Silver Letters itself had come from the way their first founders had made much of their wealth opening the correspondence of the wealthy and powerful to extort coin by blackmail. The smirk faded along with the taste of the wine on his palate as Louis de Satrons digested the rest of his colleague had said. It was true but it would also carry consequences unless acted on properly.

“It appears I will have to be led astray by my personal loyalty to Her Highness,” the head of the Circle of Thorns calmly said. “As is our way, I will depart early to allow you to write the denunciation without my presence.”

He paused a moment. Louis supposed he should mayhaps be moved to say more, as if it proved that the Silver Letters or their fellow conspirators had not been induced by a foreign power this would be the last time he addressed the Circle as its leader.  Perhaps at all. Yet he had never been particularly prone to such flights of fancy, in truth, and he had known everyone at this table for decades. Theirs was not a profession that allowed for sentiment, and he would not insult their common service to the Principate by looking back upon it with unnecessary nostalgia. Theirs was grim and often foul work, and those who carried it out oft came to grim and foul ends. They had all known that long before earning a seat at this table.

“You know of my endorsement for my successor,” Louis said. “And for the seat my removal would leace empty. As for the rest…”

He rose to his feet once more and raised his glass.

“Let none lay hand on this land,” Louis de Sartrons said.

Glass roses to match his, as one.

“Without bleeding for it,” they replied, every last hard-eyed.

You will be as a circle of thorns set around Procer, their ancient founder Clément Merovins had charged, so that none may lay hand on this land without bleeding for it. If there was rot in the flesh, if the Enemy prowled Salia on this night, then they would rip it out root and stem.

Balthazar had not taken a seat at the table, instead leaning against the wall of the ornate Hall of Herons as he indulged himself by studying those seated.

He’d not known the full breadth of their plot, as was not unusual in such things, yet at this hour of truth the masks had come down when this council had brought out those who wished to form the heart of the coming reign. It was no small company, near a hundred to his count. His Silver Letters and the Holies had formed the heart of the conspiracy so he had known the involvement of near everyone of import, but now the rest of the lot had come slinking into the palace he’d taken for them to gather like maggots on a corpse he found the disparity of those involved to be somewhat troubling. That they’d run thin in matters princely was only to be expected, given that near every royal that remained in Procer was on one of the northern fronts, but a harvest of two was not so trifling a thing: Prince Arsene of Bayeux, one of Amadis’ old hounds now trained to heed Malanza’s hand, had been the easy mark.

He had much to gain from the Princess of Aequitan rising to higher office, as one of her inherited partisans. Princess Cotilde of Aisne had been a surprise when he’d first learned of her, and even now she seemed highly uncomfortable in the company of the others. It was principle that’d turned her against Hasenbach, he gathered. The consolidation of the Highest Assembly into a tame thing had smacked to her of tyranny, and she’d approached the Holies for moral guidance and advice – only to be brought into the fold of the conspiracy instead. There were only two other royals in the city, Renato of Salamans and Ariel of Arans, neither of which had been judged safe enough to invite.

Prince Renato was one of Hasenbach’s loyalists, now more than ever as a war against the League of Free Cities had miraculously spared his lands, and while Prince Ariel was more ambiguous in his allegiances he also had a great many soldiers marching on his lands through these ‘Twilight Ways’. Both had only reluctantly accepted the summons to a session of the Highest Assembly, and immediately begun delaying on actually moving towards the physical assembly until their spies could have better notion of what was taking place. They’d learn little, Balthazar had seen to that. Between the bloody chaos in the streets of Salia and the mysterious deaths of the few captains and officials best known in the right circles to trade whispers for bribes the easiest ways to gather information had been neatly closed.

The true trouble with those two was that now that Hasenbach had made a fool of him and escaped his own damned hands it was quite possible she’d taken refuge in the manse of one of them. Both princes had refused entrance to both the city guard and the House of Light, Prince Renato’s captain of the guard splitting open the head of an overly ambitious city watch officer without batting an eye. Those manses could be taken, the conspirators had the numbers for it, but it’d be hard fighting and neither of the royals part of the coup were willing to agree to it.

The precedent might be dangerous to their kind, after all.

A motion passed in the Highest Assembly could pry open those gates, most likely, but the masquerade there had to be played out first. For all that the conspiracy was currently lacking princes, with a little enthusiasm it could begin the work of making a few. There were candidates on hand, Hasenbach had seen to that when she’d begun her little trick with the restored Guillermont Decree – she’d had men and women of the right blood and birth to serve as successor-candidates for every principality left leaderless by the Princes’ Graveyard. Much like how those who’d plotted to unseat the Lycaonese savage had enjoyed the very refreshments in this hall that Hasenbach had arranged for her own captains, these royal candidates would now be crowned and made the conspiracy’s creatures instead of the First Prince’s.

It would begin soon, for the summons to the Highest Assembly would soon have been sent a full bell ago and when that time was reached the sessions could begin even with the absent. A mere two votes would not be enough to pass anything, of course, but there the Holies had come of some use. While the crowned heads were away from Salia they had left behind assermentés, sworn surrogates who could vote in their stead. By oath these surrogates were to vote only by the will of their prince or princess, yet the House of Light had applied both fear and faith to good effect.

It was the will of the Heavens that certain measures be passed, and to vote even by oathbreaking was sinless. To refuse was to serve the Enemy, whose dark hands had touched the heart of Cordelia Hasenbach and corrupted her body and soul. Those priests could not convince Balthazar had seen to himself, now that the Augur was no longer an issue: hostages, blackmail and naked threats had been enough to secure a narrow majority. He’d have preferred to hold the session without even waiting for the whole bell to pass, but both the royals and the Holies had refused to hear of it. Rozala Malanza’s ascension to holy rule was not to be marred by even the slightest of procedural faults. The former fantassin thought them fools for it, for though they worried of such details being used to overthrow Malanza down the line they were forgetting they first had to get the fucking princess on the throne.

Which he suspected would be harder to achieve than expected, given the discordance of conspirators he was looking at. There were Salians there, officers in the city guard and the garrison as well as bureaucratic officials. Hasenbach’s harsh measures against corruption in the capital had seen kinsmen from most great families in the region lose a sinecure and the assorted income, and as she’d refrained from purging the old guard that’d acted with probity quite a few had nursed private hatreds of the First Prince for years and only now come out to settle them. It’d been Balthazar himself who dug out half of those malcontents, having his fresh flush of agents in the capital find out who had grudges while ostensibly looking for ‘Praesi infiltrators’, yet Prince Arsene and the Holies had stumbled across quite a few themselves.

It’d been the realization of exactly how many enemies Cordelia Hasenbach has made that’d prompted the conspiracy to act, as well as the understanding that the window of opportunity was slight. A coup could not be had while there were foreign armies within marching distance of the capital, and Malanza had been exceedingly clear that she could not be seen to be doing the overthrowing herself: it had to be settled before she arrived in Salia. Still, the Gods had smiled on them when the time came. Some scrivener in the House had unearthed a precedent from the Liturgical Wars about a priestess’ regency in Segovia that’d had one of the holdover faction in the Holies swing over into the camp preaching direct action, swinging the House of Light’s influence entirely behind the coup just in time.

Some agents of Prince Arsene had caught sight of the priests moving guards into the city and the Prince of Bayeux had tentatively reached out to the Holies, adding the weight of his own growing conspiracy to their own. It’d all fallen into place, just before the last chance any of them would have for years if ever, and so Balthazar had set aside his own wariness of Princess Rozala in favour of backing the coup to the hilt. Never again would he have such an opportunity and Balthazar Serigny would not let that fucking murdering savage rule one moment longer than he had to. Not when his own sister had never even gotten a grave in Brus, just gotten thrown into a mass grave with the rest of the fantassins by the northern butchers.

He might have suffered through that, in truth, even if that’d been the day where he’d thrown his support entirely behind Princess Constance of Aisne. But Salieri getting an arrow in the back for coming too close of the Neustrian camp after dark? Balthazar considered himself a callous man and did so with some pride. Callouses were what grew from rough use, honest use, and though poets and highborn could afford sentiment the likes of him found just as costly as any other luxury. Yet even for him, a sister and a husband was too much. It’d been like poison in his veins every time he looked at Hasenbach, the knowledge that if she’d just stayed in her fucking frozen wasteland like Lycaonese were meant to then someone proper could have put an end to the Great War and the only two people he’d ever slightly cared about would still be alive.

And he could do nothing, for even intent would be smelled out by Hasenbach’s pet oracle Chosen. So he’d smiled and served and waited, even as she made plain she meant to replace him with some twit from Lyonis. He’d kept it all inside him and placed men and women he owed in useful places because one day, one day, there would be an opening. And it had come, hadn’t it? Because there truly had been Eyes of the Empire in the Salia, and his people had caught them along with their papers – including a dated suggestion of how to arrange the murder of the First Prince, mentioning the Carrion Lord’s own theories of how the powers of the Augur worked.

Given that the eastern monster had run a merry chase around the heartlans while making a fool of every force in the west until the Peregrine caught him by surprise, Balthazar had read those ‘theories’ with great interest. And, upon deciding they were reasonable, finally reached out to the Holies afterwards, to… lend a hand, and perhaps a few suggestions. Not that they’d ever trusted him, which was admittedly not unwise of them. Seven priests from the very upper ranks of the Holies were in attendance now, representing the House of Light along with their swarm of lesser priest attendants. The priests had been scheming for longer than any of them, as it turned out. Balthazar had seen some of their correspondence with Malanza, and while it’d begun innocently enough also it’d begun months ago and grown increasingly treasonous as it went.

The Princess of Aequitan had struck gold when she’d raised the notion of restoring the House’s seat in the Highest Assembly, by his reckoning. That’d been enough to move the ambitious to begin convincing the not, and after that it’d only been a matter of time until enough priests fell on her side. I’d been bold of her to use the royal seal of Aequitan on some of the correspondence, though Balthazar had noted she’d been clever enough to do so only on those letters which were seemingly innocent. Not all had been penned by her, for perhaps a third were identical to the samples of former prince Louis Rohanon’s handwriting the Silver Letters had in their possession. Yet given how deep the once-ruler of Creusens was known to be in her councils that was not unexpected, if surprisingly trusting of her. It might be that Rohanon was to be her formal consort after her election.

It was unfortunate that the situation in Iserre had made it impossible to send someone directly in the army camp – Sophie of Lyonis was watching Malanza like a hawk for exactly such a thing – but it had been observed by his agents that the letters were in fact coming from the heart of the coalition army. He’d even intercepted one, and used it as an introduction to begin his own private correspondence with the princess. That’d been the last confirmation needed for Balthazar, as while someone else might be willing to offer him an empty pardon there was no one else who should be interested in very obliquely suggesting that Rozala Malanza’s younger brother and rival claimant, at court here in Salia, should perhaps meet with an unfortunate accident in the chaos of the events to come. She likely had her own agents to arrange such a thing, Balthazar knew, so he’d taken the request for what it was: an extension of trust to bring him more fully into her camp.

It would be a pleasure to work with a woman such a deft hand at the Ebb and Flow, especially one who had the foresight to hide it unlike so many of her peers.

“- and so the House of Light had begun to debate whether the actions of Simon of Gorgeault have made him graceless, as the known murderer of lay brothers of the House.”

The spymaster’s eyes snapped up at the old man who’d been speaking, of the Holies from the south.

“A clarification,” Balthazar the Bastard said. “Was Brother Simon harmed before being returned to confinement?”

Gods, let them not have bled the old man. Balthazar was not particularly fond of him, but the Holy Society had friends in many high places and if they began whining about their leader being harmed during the coup there’d be an outrage. The Arlesite priest purpled at being questioned in such a manner, but there was no one in this hall who did not know who Balthazar Serigny was now – or why crossing him would be a costly mistake.

“He was not,” the Holy said.

Balthazar’s brow rose in surprise. Gorgeault was long past his prime, but it was known in some circles he’d had quite the adventurous youth. He would not have gone quietly.

“He was not harmed at all?” the spymaster pressed.

The priest spoke through gritted teeth.

“He was not returned to confinement, cutthroat,” the Holy reluctantly said. “He escaped.”

Oh. Oh, those fucking fools. Did they not realize how that changed things? Balthazar, much as it burned to admit it, had blundered when he’d failed to seize Hasenbach more forcefully. But now the Silver Letters were out in force, every priest in the city was keeping an eye out for her and the manses of her supporters were under constant watch. It was known she’d fled into the high districts after making it out of the palace, and those had been closed down by guards and garrison so it was a certainty she was still in there. If she was in anywhere but the manses, it was only a matter of time before she was found. If she was in one of the manses, she could only wait helplessly there. It was still a dangerous situation, given the cunning of their quarry, but one that could be salvaged: especially if the Highest Assembly came through. But now Gorgeault would be out in the streets, and all his little friends and their little hiding places that no one else knew about would be opened to Hasenbach the fucking moment the other spy found her. Which he would, because for an old sack of bones he was sharp as goblin steel.

“Serigny,” Prince Arsene said, voice cutting through the room and demanding silence by simple virtues of his station. “What troubles you?”

“It troubles me that our friends in the cloth have let slip one of the few individuals capable pf smuggling Cordelia Hasenbach out of the capital,” the head of the Silver Letter flatly said.

The silence that fell was deafening.

“That cannot be allowed,” another of the Holies said. “She is to stand judgement before the Heavens and the Highest Assembly.”

“Shall either bother themselves to fetch her?” Balthazar cuttingly replied.

Anger from the priests, which like most of them was growing rather tiresome.

“Enough,” Prince Arsene yelled, and when heeded lowered his voice. “You have a suggestion to make, I take it?”

“I’ll need at least two thousand men,” the spymaster said. “Retinues, city guard or garrison it matters not so long as they are steady and will obey orders.”

“And what will they be ordered?” a Salian captain suspiciously asked.

“We know what part of the city Hasenbach has fled into, and we’ve sealed it off,” Balthazar Serigny evenly said. “Yet I have received fresh information that, in her despair, the Wicked Prince has struck a bargain with Below and is now attempting to bring forth demons into the city.”

There was a pause.

“For the sake of Salia,” the Bastard smiled, “we shall have to burn her out.”

Wearing heavy cloaks, in deference to the last winter chill and not any great need for discretion, two tall silhouettes strode within the southernmost gate of Salia. The Witch of the Woods frowned, smelling blood and smoke, and inclined her head to the side questioningly.

“Order must be restored,” the White Knight calmly agreed.

214 thoughts on “Interlude: Harp

  1. magesbe

    Uh. Somehow I don’t see those two coming here to ensure Cordelia’s usurpation. This rebellion is screwed.

    I mean, they’d be screwed anyways because I highly doubt that Rozala endorsed any of this, but they’re screwed before she even arrives.

    Liked by 22 people

        1. erebus42

          We’ve already seen that the Pilgrim’s judgment is hardly infallible. The White Knight has been shown to lean a little too heavily on the Choir of Judgment and the precedents of the memories of past heroes. That being said I think it’s a bit too early in the game to make a solid prediction on what his role will be in all this.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. >The White Knight has been shown to lean a little too heavily on the Choir of Judgment

            Are you referring to that time in Free Cities he went along with the inane obstructive bureaucracy despite everything without protest, or to that time he demonstrated why you shouldn’t ask him to resolve disputes by killing one of the royals involved and then went back to meditating and figuring out strategies in his tent?

            Liked by 5 people

    1. poipoipoi

      Subtle issue:

      Tyrant is using Heirarch to very publicly go after the White Knight. Hit the White Knight right as he “restores order” and that could end badly.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. DoOd

        I expect Kairos is using himself as bait for a judgement while in the presence of Hierarch.
        Hierarch will then object to the choir having a right to judge people of the League.

        Like

    2. Dainpdf

      Unfortunately, the White Knight has a tendency to just cut down anyone deemed unworthy by Above… which may include both parties.

      Also, he is Named, which means the Bard may have gotten to him. If she wants Cordelia dead…

      Liked by 4 people

      1. TheZorginator1

        Here’s the thing, we have no idea what choirs want what or what the Bards take on all this is. The Pilgrim and Mercy are very unlikely to be angling for the destruction of the Principiate and I can’t see them deciding to kill off Cordelia at the moment. It’s very likely that this is all a plan by Scribe and that would make the choir of justice against it on principle. The Bard…she might do something to fuck over Cat in a way that wouldn’t get back to Pilgrim, but this will weaken the forces against Keter and that’s not what she wants. Not to mention that it would lessen the Augurs influence which is the Bards biggest lever to control the Principate.

        Honestly, with all the lies and naked ambition going around the coup, it sounds to me like the White Knight is going to start cleaning house among the holies. A bunch of priests lying about demon summoning in order to burn a portion of the city for their ambitions doesn’t exactly seem like something the choir of justice would be into.

        Liked by 15 people

        1. Yep.

          In the Free Cities, as well as at the Vales, Hanno has very much been going along with authority – even blatantly obtrusive/corrupt, as long as they were on the right side of the war. Cordelia is on the right side of this war, and the fuckers causing unrest and making shit up are most definitely going to find themselves on the wrong one.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Shveiran

          Judgment, not Justice. A meaningful distinction, in my opinion.

          We have been told that the Choirs are pure incarnations of absolute principles. Though the Choir of Mercy was shown to be focused on the bigger picture, I don’t think the same goes for Judgment: you judge one defendant, and the “but they are bad too” defence doesn’t usually end in acquittal.

          I think the question isn’t “who would the Choir find not guilty”, because all of these people are bloody murderers.
          Much more meaningful, in my opinion, is to ask “who will Hanno spin a coin on, and who will he not”.

          Liked by 7 people

        3. Unoriginal

          Its scribe. The reference the ‘Blacks’ plan settled any doubt IMO. Remember the eyes of the empire are specifically designed to draw attention at times something Cat learns early on when talking to Black and oops now they’ve let slip plans on how to bypass augur to the coup.

          Liked by 7 people

      2. DoOd

        I don’t think Bard wants Cordelia dead, I rather think she is trying to make her into a villain.
        I’m basing this on Anaxares’ received vision of the Augur being whispered to (I believe by Bard about dredging up that thing from Triumphant’s day from Lake Artoise)

        Liked by 2 people

    3. Insanenoodlyguy

      Depends. This is now set up for all manner of unfortunate misunderstandings. The White Knight will, no doubt, start flipping coins rather than just believe the first thing he hears, but if he’s told the First Prince is summoning demons AND THEN a bunch of night-wreathed drow start coming out of twilight portals, followed by the Arch-Heretic of the East and her Master, the Hated Carrion Lord who’s already had a judgement from the coin, well. He might just be convinced that whatever else happens, there are people he should kill first before asking questions.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. They still have several days before the armies arrive, and the armies aren’t going to exit Twilight right there in Salia, for reasons specifically including, although not limited to, preventing just this kind of unfortunate misunderstanding. Seriously, the organization/coordination of all of this is not THAT bad.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          The INTENT is not to do such a thing. But, we in a story now, and it’s probable that our protagonists and co. will be informed Salia is going to hell in a handbasket and they need to be there NOW.

          I don’t think the whole army would march right in, no. But Cat taking a few mighty and named and saying “okay, lets go sort this!”? That has a narrative possibility.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. That would not help Cordelia tho. It’d make her a foreign puppet in the eyes of all observers unless Cat managed to keep her involvement entirely secret… and that’s the exact kind of thing that blows up at the least fortunate moment to the worst effect, so no, I don’t think Cat would.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Shveiran

              there would be backlash, sure, but the question is whether or not those will outweight the benefits in a situation this dire… I’d argue yes, especially if the decision is taken without knowing the White Knight and the Witch of the Woods are in the area.

              Liked by 1 person

    4. NerfGlastigUaine

      Yeah I didn’t think Rozala was behind this before, but this chapter confirms she’s not. The moves are too good, the timing too right, the coincidences too big to be her. Rozala’s a lot of things, but a “deft hand at the Ebb and Flow” isn’t one of them. And if it the Scribe like most suspect and this chapter supports, then I’m even more impressed with her now. And scared. If she could do this in Salia under the nose of the Augur and Hasenbach, imagine what she could do in Laure.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Shveiran

        Indeed. How exactly Scribe has managed to, given that the Augur seemed to keep Praes in check for a long time as the main Proceran Name, is something I’d really like to find out.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. That is right, she didn’t force anything, this is like Murphy’s Law, this could have happened one way or another the only thing she forced/created was the involvement of malanza and how this gives the others an oportunity, and by oportunity i mean and excuse, alibi and shield to hide their own avarice under the veil legality

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Shveiran

          Look, I get what you are saying, but by the same logic Assassin could have stacked Cordelia’s pillows full of poisoned needles because “it was still her choice to lay down there, he just created the opportunity”.

          Increasing agents to increase your chances of intercepting messengers is one thing; to nudge here and there to ensure that a plot picks up steam and is led by the nose is another thing entirely. It has intent all over it: she was not just creating chances, she was actively corresponding with them and feeding them documents to shape their actions.

          There must be a reason why Augur didn’t or couldn’t intervene, because this took a long time and she cannot have been missing for that long. We are still missing a crucial piece.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. I think the piece that’s missing is Scribe’s Stranger power. There’s a reason she amped it up so high Catherine forgot about her existence entirely. I think she took a chance on it working on Augur and then it, well, did.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. NerfGlastigUaine

              Augur has blind spots. She can’t see stuff that isn’t planned beforehand for one. If you create opportunities and then take advantage on the spot she can’t predict it, or something like that from what I remember. I think it’d be cooler if Scribe worked around Augur’s power in logical ways instead of just forcing it with aspect. Kind of a theme in PGTE where cunning and logic beat brute force.

              Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, snap.

    Scribe infiltrated Malanza’s camp.
    And set up Serigny to learn the theories about Augur’s powers.

    Baltazar is lying about what Cordelia’s doing, of course. Still, torching where he thinks she is would probably work … except for the distinct lack of an identifiable body to be recovered.

    But Hanno and the Witch are arriving at Salia. This coup is going to end very very badly.

    Liked by 15 people

    1. Skaddix

      I mean I think pretty much everyone knows Baltazar is lying but it fits their narrative lol.

      But yeah the White Knight and the Witch of the Woods have arrived so this Coup is Done.

      Liked by 11 people

    2. Micke

      Still, the Gods had smiled on them when the time came. Some scrivener in the House had unearthed a precedent from the Liturgical Wars about a priestess’ regency in Segovia that’d had one of the holdover faction in the Holies swing over into the camp preaching direct action, swinging the House of Light’s influence entirely behind the coup just in time.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I’d bet it’s Scribe for sure, but I’d also bet she’s in the habit of collecting obscure precedents and technical truths exactly for the purpose of having them “uncovered” at the right time (and quite likely in the habit of deliberately obscuring them further before then, so they don’t get turned up by accident instead of by design). Although she’s quite obviously not above using fakes when it is necessary, there’s no deadlier lie than the one you tell by sharing a carefully selected truth. For instance, Balthazar mentions here that they’ve gotten some letters with Rozala’s actual seal on them, though only on the innocent letters. What do you want to bet that those letters are real, because Scribe has been letting the innocent letters from the Holies get through and sending Rozala’s replies back through the same methods as her fakes have been sent? It helps confirm that the letters are actually coming from Rozala in a very convincing way, because some of them actually are.

          And of course, then Rozala shows up and the Holies say “hey here’s the coup we talked about, you’re welcome” and she goes “say fucking what, that’s not what we talked about you goddamn lunatics, don’t you know we’re at war with the Dead King and we don’t have time for this shit?”. Because Rozala is bae. But here’s the thing – if we assume that Scribe’s goal is to sow chaos, the coup failing is likely to work just as well as the coup succeeding. Because let’s say Cordelia reassumes power, “roots out the conspiracy”, discovers it was all done in concert with Rozala Malanza, and Rozala is then left with a virtually indefensible position as far as proving it wasn’t actually her. Which means she either has to submit to arrest and very likely execution (under normal circumstances certainly) in response to what she knows are false claims about what she was doing being presented by her political enemy who literally killed her mother, or defend her freedom by force of arms with the army she happens to be at the head of. Which means even the ostensible best-case scenario of the coup failing could still extremely easily lead to civil war in the heartlands of Procer, which would not be easily or swiftly resolved since most of Cordelia’s loyal forces aren’t in the area. So she could maybe hold Salia, but couldn’t be expected to quickly defeat Rozala, while conversely Rozala would struggle to both capture Salia and prevent the First Prince from escaping and rallying her forces to the north.

          In practice, Cat and her Magical Traveling Murder Menagerie (notably including special guest star Amadeus of the Green Stretch) will probably put paid to all this scheming, possibly with help from the Heavens for once if I’m reading the end of this chapter right. But still. God Damn, Scribe might be the most dangerous member of Amadeus’ band in the end. I mean Warlock only destroyed one city and he had to die to do it, Scribe might just single-handedly kill an entire country here without so much as showing her face and then walk away whistling if she wasn’t (presumably) about to get stopped.

          Liked by 8 people

      1. Except this isn’t at Amadeus’s orders.
        Scribe would have started arranging things in order to prevent Amadeus from being executed and to rescue him.
        It seems most likely to me Scribe is mostly hands off in Salia, and letting the Procerans do things, while she spent most of the time in Malanza’s camp, dealing with the mail.

        Scribe didn’t choose the timing here.
        Besides … it’s likely that she would consider a weakened Procer would improve Amadeus’s bargaining position.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ox

    And so, the black queen came uppn a burning capital and turned to gaze upon her former foe. With oaths binding her to fight north, and dreams of a greater future, rozala and catherine started a war and set sail a ship.

    Liked by 8 people

        1. KageLupus

          To be fair, this whole mess is caused by Scribe, who was set on the path by Black, who Cat has explicitly agreed to be responsible for. So there is at least a plausible transitive chain that says that this is Cat’s fault.
          Not to mention that Black told Cat that Scribe was going to be in Salia starting shit, and to my knowledge Cat has not made Rozala or anyone else aware of that fact. So that could be argued as guilt by omission.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Guilt by omission, no. “Now are you going to hand her over for trial or what”, yes 😀

            And I think Amadeus might actually find himself in the position where he feels like he has to give up on her, too~

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Just to clarify, I’m assuming that it’s Scribe rather than Cat who would be handed over for trial.

              But the thing is, Named don’t normally “do” trials. If they get too out of hand, they get taken down by other Named, usually but not always on the other side of the Good/Evil line. Setting up trials for Named could be one of the big innovations of Cardinal, even if most of said trials still get held in absentia.

              Remember that even in our world, equality was a thin enough fiction that (1) in writing the early American laws, juries had to be specified as being of the accused’s peers, (2) even that’s been honored as much in the breach as in good faith, and (3) even then it “obviously” didn’t apply to women or slaves. Things have improved somewhat since then, but even a glance through a week’s headlines makes it clear that we’re a long way from actual “equality under the law”. And in Calernia, equality of all people not only isn’t supported by society or religion, it’s patently contrary to the “laws of nature”.

              Liked by 3 people

      1. caoimhinh

        “Callowans as a people can be summed up by the fact that, before the Uncivil Wars had even come to a close, it’d become a common boast among the populace that the Black Queen had not even spent a sennight in Keter before having several counts of arson and murder to her name.”
        – Extract from the personal memoirs of Lady Aisha Bishara.

        Callowans’ next boast is gonna be: “She hadn’t even arrived and the city was already on fire. That’s how fucking good she is at setting things aflame. Don’t mess with the Black Queen.” LMAO.

        Liked by 9 people

          1. Shveiran

            The memoirs seem to imply the Keter overture will become known in (at least) Callow before this whole mess is resolved. Not, all in all, impossible. That Cat went to deal with the DK is something that has narrative weight, and thus will need to EVENTUALLY be addressed.

            Liked by 3 people

          2. The official story in Callow is that Cat took the Woe to Keter and tried to stop Malicia from unleashing the Dead King and kill Malicia.
            Then (presumably) Malicia retaliated by having the Eyes/whomever assassinate a huge portion of the Callowan government.

            It’s already out that Cat went to Keter … they’re just leaving out some of the details.
            Also, it’s “Firebug Cat” – everywhere gets set on fire, eventually.

            Liked by 2 people

      2. Insanenoodlyguy

        Losara beheld the city, it’s air thick with smoke and screams, and a shadow fell upon her face. “This mayham has been wrought by hands not mine.” she said. Her disappointment was such that she then destroyed the sigil that dared attempt such a coup, and the fires she spread that night eclipsed those set by those who’d called themselves ursurper, such that the northern cattle knew her as the burner of Salia.

        Extract from the ‘Parables of the Lost and Found’, disputed Firstborn religious text (though this particular parable is agreed upon as fact by all sides of debate)

        Liked by 12 people

    1. caoimhinh

      She is probably going to be complaining about it from the distance.

      Catherine:“You are all witnesses that I’m here and not there where the fire is. I’m not getting blamed for this one.”

      Rumors EVERYWHERE the next day: “It is impressive how the Black Queen managed to set fire to Procer’s Capital while being many miles away. Her dark powers and cunning mind are matchless in scope.”

      Liked by 31 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        Curse the inability to edit and delete!

        “All I’m saying is, the Black Queen acquired power over the head of the very calamities that raised her. And then scant days later, one of those calamities that answered to he that now answered to her just happened to set the city on fire, you know, the thing she always did all the damn time?” Elvera Tanja, defending her controversial thesis, “The Burning of Salia: The Black Queen’s forethought plan”, at Cardinal University.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. konstantinvoncarstein

            It is humoristic. It was not Catherine who set Sarcella on fire. During the escape of the Lantern commando who kill Nauk, the city caught fire. Abigail used that to halt the Levantine advance (Interlude: Beheld I).

            In a second time, Catherine went through the flames to attack the Levantine by surprise and light her pipe on the way on a burning house.

            Because Catherine has a reputation for starting fires, someone jokingly said in the comments that the pipe story was a proof that Catherine set the city aflame, because obviously the greatest villain of this generation could not simply use a match for that.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. konstantinvoncarstein

                You’re welcome🙂 Personally, I read the comments multiple time. I like to see all the theories and analysis, it is often very interesting and can help me to better understand the story.

                Like

      1. Decius

        What makes you think that Balthazar doesn’t have access to goblinfire? Surely there would have been some with Black, which might have been seized along with his notes.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. TheZorginator1

          Burning a city district to stop a “demon summoning” is one thing, if they start using powdered devil to create unholy flames that are the distinct weapon of the arch-heretic of the east…the White Knight isn’t going to be impressed with their current plans as it is.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Decius

            Doesn’t Scribe/Assassin’s plan for revenge against the Pilgrim for killing the Black Knight involve making Pilgrim use angels to realize that the entire thing is a setup and avoid major damage, thus establishing a draw between Pilgrim and the Calamities?

            Sure, that plan has been overtaken by events elsewhere, with all the (heel/face)/(face/heel) turns that resulted in Cat resurrecting Pilgrim and Pilgrim losing his Undo button, and also Black being unkilled. But it’s not like those events could reasonably be anticipated, even by Scribe.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. >Doesn’t Scribe/Assassin’s plan for revenge against the Pilgrim for killing the Black Knight involve making Pilgrim use angels to realize that the entire thing is a setup and avoid major damage, thus establishing a draw between Pilgrim and the Calamities?

              huh?

              Liked by 4 people

          1. Shveiran

            They could use it in a way that pins the blame on Cordelia, though. The average person in Salia will know jack shit about goblinfire, after all, no? Munitions were not popular until the Reforms even in Praes, and Procer hasn’t had to deal with the Legions until very recently.
            The high ups will know about it, sure, but passing Green flames as teh work of the Wicked Prince could be feasible.

            Liked by 6 people

            1. Decius

              Not even all of the highly placed conspirators need know about it.
              “We were burning out a demon summoning and found the wicked prince, so we called the boss over. Shortly afterward the fires turned green and started burning things that can’t burn. I guess we must have arrived just in time, imagine what that demon would have done if it hadn’t been disrupted at the last minute!”

              Also: The first time Cat is in a city, things always go bad. It’s escalating.

              First it was just a corrupt governor and guard. Then there was the goblinfire incident at the foundry. Then everyone in the city died and turned into the power source for a flying fortress. Then Keter.

              When Cat arrives, tradition requires that things be worse than “Everyone is already dead and we have to fight them and the Empress steals the alliance we’re negotiating for”.

              Liked by 5 people

            2. Insanenoodlyguy

              Why use it at all though? Normal fire would get the job done in this case. Yes magic can put those fires out, but those spots that stop being on fire are the spots you then go in and take a hard look at. Oh hey, found the Prince!

              If anything, Goblinfire makes things uncertain. You can’t be sure somebody is dead if you don’t have a body.

              Liked by 1 person

          2. Isi Arnott-Campbell

            Hey, could you not use the word “retarded”? It’s outdated medical jargon meaning “nonverbal and thus not a whole entire human being with rights and so forth,” and entering the mainstream hasn’t exactly improved its connotations.
            It costs you $0.00 to not use slurs for the developmentally disabled, that’s all.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              Sorry, I didn’t know. English is not my first language. I saw the word on some Facebook memes, and from the context I tought it was only another way to say “stupid”.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Dainpdf

    Right. Exactly what a volatile situation like this needs, the headsman of the Heavens. This will turn out well.

    Also: Cordelia was working so hard to have Salia in proper shape when the foreigners came… and now it’s on fire and full of riots.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. caoimhinh

      On the other hand, this will achieve what the Saint of Swords wanted though in a different manner: after the fire passes and the situation is resolved, what is left will be united in a strong rule and with clear purpose.
      This situation has just enabled Cordelia to have a scenario where she can eliminate most of her opposition in Salia in an effective and legal manner.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          Narratively, Cordelia dying is improbable. And now that Heroes (including one specifically formed to judge) are in town, there is even more chance of her surviving.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I would love to see this train you’re describing. If only the gnomes weren’t stifling technology I’m sure a Dread Emp would have put one of those in the air by now, covered with guns no doubt. Alas for the wonders that might have been.

            Liked by 3 people

      1. Shveiran

        What it will achieve is make a mess for her, frankly. You are looking at the long-term benefits, and you are right in theory; but this costs her a very weakened position in the short period, which becomes a long term liability if you need crucial negotiation right this instant and your back is to the wall.

        I mean, a fire in her capitol, headed by one of her secret services and influencial religious figures, two more Princes in need of deposition, the candidates for the Princes’ Graveyard’s substitues being compromised… that is a gargantuan power vacuum during the Principate direst time. This is not a boon, by any meaning of the word: cleaning house only works if you have time to tidy up afterward without a sword at your throat.

        Cordelia is going to end up at the table holding to her country with her teeth… Procer will lose a lot of influece unless everyone else is very determined not to see that happen.
        And I’m not sure many will be so inclined.

        Liked by 6 people

          1. Shveiran

            She will prop her up, that much is granted. But with all that’s going down, I’d argue Procer will lose its place as the most powerful state on the surface of Calernia. I’m not entirely sure Cat has any interest preventing that, even if she could.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Procer’s place as the most powerful state on Calernia (excluding, um, at least three non-human states) has a lot to do with their place as the wall between Keter and the rest of Calernia. And Cat’s developing mission is to take down Keter for good.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Shveiran

                Mhm, is that your take? I didn’t consider those factors, I was mostly attributing it to “we have a lot of good rich land and are a big fucking deal”, but perhaps I was wrong. This is a narrative driven world, after all.

                Liked by 1 person

      1. Cordelia doesn’t seem to think so, as per her POV on the subject. And frankly, there are plenyt of other options. A literal demon or angel would presumably not be present in physical form (or People Would Have Noticed), but an ancient devil is still a possibility. So is an old “lesser” god, of either allegiance or a would-be independent. Or something we haven’t encountered yet, like an ancient revenant, perhaps a counterpart to Helike’s Thing In The Basement.

        Liked by 6 people

  5. konstantinvoncarstein

    This coup will be a lot more difficult to justify with 2 literal chosen of the Heavens opposing it. Cordelia can thank Catherine for they presence, because without the truce they would have never depart from the northern front.

    “Burn her out”. A purge of Salia is really needed.

    And brother Simon is so badass!:)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I wonder what those two are doing so far from the frontlines. I mean, the 3 months of truce started what, like 5 days ago? They should be nowhere close to Salia, though Hanno can Ride his steed of Light and the Witch of the Woods can fly, so there’s that.

      Where they prompted to go to Salia by the Choir of Judgement?
      Doesn’t seem like Pilgrim contacted them, and even if he did, they couldn’t have arrived at Salia in the less than five days since Tariq’s deal with Kairos.

      They are there with their own agenda, I wonder what it is.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Scavion

        Heroes arrive in the nick of time to stop the Rightful Ruler from being deposed by Evil.

        Providence lengthens their step and casts aside all obstacles.

        Or in other words: It’s story time and Hanno is gonna cleave,smite and judge.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Shveiran

          Does Hanno know that, though? Who told him and how/when? When did he set off for Salia?

          Maybe there was a time-jump as the interludes started; I don’t think he could have arrived this early if it is still just a few days after Liesse III

          Liked by 3 people

          1. The more loyal priests of the HoL might well have prayed that this violent insurrection be dealt with by higher powers, ultimately leading to the Choir of Judgement informing Hanno “hey, there’s a job for you in Salia”.

            Or, given how stories tend to pull the Named around, I would be unsurprised if he “just happened” to encounter a reason to head there….

            Liked by 7 people

                1. Shveiran

                  Mhm, so you areof the opinion they are here for the peace talk? You may be right, but if that’s the case I’m very curious regarding what their agenda is.
                  I suppose big chosen could bully (or at least expect to be able to bully) themselves a seat at the peace talk negotiations even if others actors disagree on the fact that they should (I doubt anyone but Pilgrim would agree by this point, but still).
                  Even if it was so, I wonder what it is that they wish to say so badly.

                  Like

                  1. I’m pretty sure they’ve been called there from above. Now, this could be in response to the insurrection (per my previous comment). But I actually think it’s more likely that they got the call a few days previously, when Pilgrim got angelic backing to involve Hanno in those peace talks via the trial.

                    Liked by 1 person

  6. superkeaton

    Oh Scribe, you clever woman. How long have you ben at this?

    Also howdy, White Knight! Ready to say hi to Catherine and Black in person for once? Oh they are going to tweak his fucking nose so much…

    Liked by 12 people

    1. After the Free Cities arc, I have a sneaking suspicion he is.

      It’s funny how much of the fandom takes the ‘headsman of Heavens’ and ‘unreasonable judgemental killer of everything’ talk to heart, while ignoring us having seen onscreen that Bard was actually weirded out by how moderate and willing to cooperate with local authority Hanno is.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. erebus42

        She was probably expecting Saint 2.0. He leans a bit heavily into his role and on the heavens to give me too much faith that he’ll be overly helpful. But hey, he may surprise us you never know.

        Liked by 5 people

  7. Big I

    Interesting. This puts the White Knight in the reach of the Hierarch, once everyone reaches Salia. I predict that will end very badly for the Knight, and the Choir of Judgement.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Nairne .01

    “Because there truly had been Eyes of the Empire in the Salia, and his people had caught them along with their papers – including a dated suggestion of how to arrange the murder of the First Prince, mentioning the Carrion Lord’s own theories of how the powers of the Augur worked.”

    There, subtle yet obvious enough (at least to me) proof that Scribe has her fingers in it.

    ——–

    I genuinely laughed at the part with Hanno.

    Liked by 14 people

  9. SpeckofStardust

    Eh we might see the white knight in a good light this go around.
    After all its rare to see the hero’s straight up win but with this coup and the confrontation with the Hierarch give 2 big things they can win and not fuck up Cat.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Yeah, Proceran priests seem to constantly try really, really hard to show to everyone that they are an organization corrupted by earthly power at every chance they got.

      Then they get offended when that’s pointed out.

      Liked by 7 people

  10. Valkyria

    Oh well. Some Praesi spies that have been undercover there for Below knows how long were suddenly caught and apprehended at the exact moment where they carried moooost useful documents.
    hmhmhm…
    and then some random “scribener” discovers the perfect solution to bring everyone into the fold for this coup.
    Hmmmhmmm..
    Yeah no, for such a great spymaster isn’t he like… too naive for not noticing how perfect everything falls into his lap?
    But if there were any doubts until now, this has basically written Scribe all over.

    Also, Hero Squad to the rescue! Finally they’re gonna be truly useful.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Valkyria

      Or fuck up this whole thing even more. What’s sure is that nobody really knows what’s happening and everyone just blunders their way through. A whole new order of a clusterfuck that will only need one misstep and boooom.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Valkyria

        Well, consider that the truce with DK only was a few days ago and all of them should technically still be on the frontlines up taking care of the wounded after the battle with the dead.
        I’m rather intrested how the two of them got down here so far.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Agent J

          We assume much by assuming it was a few days. It’s mentioned the Twilight Way’s can turn a trip of months into one of weeks. It’s not, to my recollection, been mentioned how long it’d normally take to march from Salia to Iserre. Plus, the truce was confirmed before Cat and Pilgrim even returned and then there was the Tyrant thing, a few days of R&R, getting shit in order, a quaint campfire all before they started marching.

          Plus, one hero has an Aspect related to movement and the other can fly.

          And finally, while the Band of Five was forming during the Princes’ Graveyard, the Pilgrim mentioned that Hanno was already on route.

          It’s not impossible that they made it to Salia before.

          Liked by 6 people

    2. > too naive for not noticing how perfect everything falls into his lap?

      He’s an arrogant fool. And when Rozala actually does show up, I suspect there will be an exchange to this effect: “Hail to our new First Prince!” “Really? [looks around] So, all of you are willing to follow my command? Very well, this is my first order: Execute this traitor Balthazar.

      Liked by 7 people

    3. ActionKermit

      I believe one of Scribe’s powers is to make people not notice her unless she specifically wants to be noticed. Didn’t Catherine have to call on the Night a few chapters ago just to remember that she exists?

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Valkyria

        Not saying he should notice her specifically, just saying that the planning feels too smooth, that everything falls into place just at the right time. I just think he should be a little more sceptical about that.

        Liked by 4 people

    4. Agent J

      From what I’m seeing, it’s a mixed between seething hatred long hidden, boldness to take advantage of the first opening he’s seen in a decade, and fear that we won’t see another given how Cordelia is centralizing power.

      He did not notice how perfectly things fell into his lap, because he did not want to. It’s shit like this that makes Scribe consider sentimentality an impairment and why she’s playing him like a violin.

      Liked by 9 people

    5. ninegardens

      I mean…. Hero squad has been up north defending against the Dead King this whole time.
      That seems pretty legit to me.

      Hell, even down in the free cities, they seemed to be doing a reasonable job…. they were just being played by Bard, and up against the Calamaties AND Kairos, which is difficult by anyones standards.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Xinci

    I must say I felt like clapping for Scribe this chapter even a the bare minimum of her manipulations. Truly making your enemy think its their idea is one of the most effective routes to control them.Lets see,she has at least, planted Liturgical document,had a Agent copying the writing style of one of Rozala’s trusted and making a dialogue happen for months to influence the House of Light faction. Used Black’s notes to nudge the Proceran intelligence network into a specific set of actions, and organizing her own agents to the degree that she set all of that up(though naturally could be using local powers to set up a fair bit of prep so less work for the Eyes).
    The holes in the strategy are there but most of the Proceran figures involved dont really want to think about it that much due to their own self interest. Its very well done.
    Though naturally heroic intervention can probably ruin it when its almost done.
    It is also interesting that Wicked Prince may have been a Name at one point? Maybe part of the reason Tyranny is so feared in Proceran culture?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I considered the possibility that Louis actually did turn, but nope: (From “Seven”)

      > A bundle fell at my feet with dull thump. A straight-edge cavalry sword, wrapped in a cloak.
      > “I had,” Louis Rohanon pensively said, “genuinely believed myself to be a decent man, until tonight.”
      > “And still I hesitated,” the man who’d been the Prince of Creusens ruefully said. “If this is the truth of us, my friends, then we have no business wearing crowns.”

      Also, Bard’s comments strongly suggest that Procer’s fear of Tyranny was likely “encouraged” by the Dead King’s manipulations throughout their history.

      Liked by 5 people

  12. Alex

    Scribe’s subtlety combined with her ability to hide knowledge of her existence from others is ridiculous. We’ve heard in other chapters that people know how dangerous she is, and here they can’t even consider the possibility she’s involved.

    No wonder most Praesi are terrified of her.

    Liked by 9 people

      1. Oh no, they are perfectly aware that spymistress of the Black Knight, a Named Villain is not inside Black’s camp, it’s just why would they even consider that, and bother thems
        elves with triffling little Scribe? They’ve got coup tp fail.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. Cat didn’t forget she existed. She just didn’t come to mind. It wasn’t like Catherine was going about thinking “hmm did Black have a spymistress who followed him around, nah that doesn’t sound right I’d remember that”. She just consistently found other things occupying her attention, and as soon as she specifically concentrated on Scribe she remembered her perfectly.

            Scribe’s power isn’t memory erasure, it’s presenting herself to Creation (which I think was suggested to be a manipulation of her Name, or maybe a specialized aspect) as so unimportant that people just don’t think of her unless they specifically try/are prompted to. It’s a meaningful distinction because it means that her power is more easily disrupted/bypassed than memory erasure, but less likely to be noticed in the first place. You can notice yourself having a hole in your memory and people living a certain kind of life would probably train themselves to do so, but noticing yourself not noticing/thinking of something isn’t quite the same skillset.

            So it’s not that they couldn’t remember Black having a spymistress, which would likely raise red flags with somebody as you’d expect someone like that to have someone filling that role and while Procer isn’t as magically inclined as Praes by any measure they’ve had enough mages for long enough that people must try to use them in their Ebb and Flow scheming some of the time for memory editing or w/e. It’s that their brains were going “oh his spymistress is probably in Praes or something maybe, anyway we’ve got bigger fish to fry so let’s move on before we’re even really thinking about that”. Which personally I’d call scarier, on balance.

            Liked by 8 people

              1. I think we’re close to being on the same page then? Except I don’t think that it redirects you if your attention lands on her, bc when it does it seems like the effect falls away pretty fast. It’s more like your attention will never land on her naturally, so you have to consciously force it – but as soon as you do, it’s done.

                Liked by 2 people

  13. jack

    So… take every mention of ‘letters’ or ‘correspondence’ in this entire chapter and remember that the Scribe probably intercepted and altered the contents, or just outright fabricated the entire thing.

    Liked by 6 people

  14. My only question is wether Scribe is with the army or inside the city, black said she would be there but this one appears to indicate she is with the army. Up until here i have a couple of ideas of how this would develope…..right until those 2 appeared, i should have know the author wouldn’t let it be that easy, i loved how he just dropped those 2 as literal spanners in the work xD

    Moment of black humour but can you imagine the faces of Malanza, Cat, Black, etc once they arrive? i mention cat and black because of Eudokia’s involvement (and how it was black’s anti auur plan that allowed it, in fact i am 99% sure the leak of said plan was intentional xD)

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Author Unknown

    Scribe’s cookbook:

    Add one commoner spymaster, finely diced and a handful of corrupt lesser officials to the pot. Simmer in resentment over low heat for several years. Add three tablespoons of misdirection, a pinch of happenstance, four leaves of forged parchment, one-half cup of righteous indignation and one cup of avarice. Mix well. Turn up the flames to high and add two fresh Heroes. Stir until the plot thickens.

    Liked by 6 people

  16. haihappen

    Hilarious timing all around…
    Truly, Scribe set up a combo so perfectly it resembles a Rube-Goldberg-Machine, and the Heavens have their little helper showing up at the exact best/worst time. That’s Providence for you.
    However, some of the people strike me as rather “dumb”, namely Balthazar. He is a spymaster, and should know not to trust letters of conspirators that cannot be verified in person. He, however, seems to be blinded by hatred for Cordelia, so that is almost excusable.
    Considering that they know they deal with Named, and not acting accordingly, either speaks of either a fatal case of ignorance combined with over-confidence, or equally morbid stupidity.
    Also, guarding a VIP (very important prisoner) by only two rather idiotic guards? Some Tropes never get old. He was basically guaranteed to escape.

    On a side note: People throw around suspiciously capitalized Names (more Insults) for each other… I am reading to much into this? (E.g., The “Bastard”, the “Wicked Prince”)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Balthazar may be a spymaster, but he has no concept of story-fu, and so he he’s a gamepiece instead of the player he thinks he is.

      Speaking of which, I found a quote in the reader comments for Digger which is totally Cat:

      Absconding_Cascade: Destiny, the annoying supernatural obstructive bureaucrat who you want to punch but can’t so instead you set its paperwork on fire and do things your way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Caerulea

        I too, am confused. The incident the url referee to was in july, and incidient.site, the website is on, gives a Russian error message. Is there official word, because I would like to read this chapter.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. As noted below, that’s a malware attack — possibly hijacking WordPress, but more likely just slipping their hook into the ad feed. Notice that it didn’t name ErraticErrata, or give any details at all… just a generic hook intended to make people click “for more information” (and download some malware).

      Online advertising companies (including Google!) let pretty much anyone pony up a few bucks and get their chosen message and link posted on any number of sites. Just make sure the link points at something “innocuous” like “Fresh snake oil beats little blue pillls!” when you submit it, then a day or so later change the message to “Someone you care about is in danger! Click here to save them!”, and the button to “download and run HaXxor.EXE”.

      Caerulea and anyone else who actually clicked, run your antivirus scan now, and keep an eye out for any unusual behavior from your computer!

      Also, this is the *other* reason why I run AdBlockPlus. (The first reason? Well, those suspiciously-relevant ads wouldn’t be half as annoying if they didn’t act like a pack of dogs who’ve scented a bitch in heat.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I mean, she was the person who organized Black’s spy network in Callow, where a full generation of nascent heroes were repeatedly and quietly extinguished with barely a peep even as a substantial chunk of the rest of the continent’s heroic cast lent aid. So I’m gonna guess pretty dang good. Or at the very least, picked up a fair amount from Black.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh yeah, given that she’s organizing this coup on behalf of a woman who’s loyal to the current Prince, I don’t think Scribe is exactly trying for a *successful* coup.

            Like

  17. Andrew Mitchell

    None could lay foot within its glass and stone gardens without first having been vouched for by three patrons, and though the hall’s outside looked rather trivial its insides were a maze of shifting private alcoves: they changed with the sun and the moon, the season and the weather, so that no two hours spent there would be quite the same. The nature of the establishment had made it a favourite of the Circle of Thorns since decades before Louis of Satrons’ tenure at the head of the league began, though it was under his stewardship that the Circle became the hidden proprietors of it. Tonight’s surroundings were the work of a young woman from the principality of Orne, he’d been told, an artist who had one walked the fields of the Red Flowers Vales seeking inspiration. The influence was plain to the eye, though for all the provincial origins it was exquisite to the eye. Redwood tables and sculptures of colours glass – angled so that the moon’s shifting radiance and shadows would mimic the touch of wind on grass – were flanked by panes of green and grey painted in the Bourdonnier manner, with the occasional glinting metal thrown in pêle-mêle to hint at the armour of fallen knights and fantassins.

    Magic? It’s got to be, right?

    “It appears I will have to be led astray by my personal loyalty to Her Highness,” the head of the Circle of Thorns calmly said. “As is our way, I will depart early to allow you to write the denunciation without my presence.”

    Clever, and committed. But I’m unsure of what Louis is about to do. Any ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. nipi

        No he doesnt. He feels that as a mortal he is incapable of passing proper judgement so he deferes to the Heavens. His backstory already had him flip a coin to determine peoples fate.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

          I believe you’ve misunderstood Andrew’s comment. What I think he meant is that Hanno’s flip-a-coin-to-get-heavenly-orders thing is only applicable to people, not to abstract concepts like treaties.

          Liked by 1 person

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