Chapter 74: Partial

“Trust not oaths: from a liar they are wind, from the true they are needless.”
– Penthesian saying

Gods, I should have seen it from the start.

What did Scribe actually care about, in that all-consuming way Named cared for things? It wasn’t land or wealth or glory: all of those she could have easily claimed from her position at the side of the Carrion Lord and no one would have batted an eye. She hadn’t, though, and neither had she claimed any formal authority beyond what her service to Black brought. She’d been a shadow, the spider at the centre of the web. Named could be quiet, subtle even, but rarely in the manner she’d been. I doubted more than a dozen people on Calernia knew what Assassin’s face looked like, but he had a reputation. He’d done deeds, however grisly. Scribe, though? Even in Callow, where she’d effectively run the bureaucracy of the occupation for two decades, she was known as little more than Black’s aide. When Named wanted something they acted, and those actions rippled consequences outwards in ways that had little to do with power – it was the Role that cast a long shadow, not unnatural swiftness of limb or the heady thrum of an aspect unleashed.

Yet when thought was given to the matter, the Scribe had been slightly more than a shadow: she’d been my teacher’s shadow, in particular. There was something about Amadeus of the Green Stretch, or perhaps his ambitions, that must have drawn her to him. She had little stake in the Empire, though, and was not from it: she’d herself told me she was not born of it, and Black had once told me they’d met in Delos. I could go mad trying to parse together the desires of such a purposefully obscure stranger, though, so why even try? I could see what mattered to her simply by looking at where she hadn’t… faded into the background. She’d cared for the old Calamities some, less so their children – Masego rarely spoke of her – but in the end it was my father she’d attached herself to. Fear of pain or death wouldn’t work on someone like Eudokia, Adjutant was right about that. You’d have to threaten something she cared about, and as far as I could tell one of the few things she valued in this world was the trust between her and Black.

Hakram had caught scent of that, far before I could even begin to glimpse the shape of the truth, and so now I had a knife to rest against the throat of that trust. No longer strangled or threatened, the villainess slowly rose to her feet and talked.

“It was necessary,” Scribe said. “And considering your personal and political enmities with Malicia, none of this should be unpleasant to your ear.”

Akua’s Folly had been permitted and even somewhat obliquely funded by the Tower, I had not forgotten that. Akua Sahelian would pay her dues for that and more, but the Dread Empress would not be spared the settling of all accounts. And her debt had only grown, with the brutal attack that’d been Night of Knives. Some of those losses had been personal, too. Ratface would not soon be forgot. Only now I had to wonder if I’d been steered, didn’t I? If Scribe could do it to Black, someone she loved and trusted, she would not bat an eye before aiming me at her enemies. On the other hand, would the Empress not have tried to cast the blame on Scribe for that if she could, even if it was even slightly feasible? And there was General Istrid’s death during the Doom, too. Juniper’s mother had taken a knife in the back and it was still anyone’s guess who’d wielded the blade. These days I was inclined to flip a coin over whether it’d been the Empress removing one of the key Black loyalists in the Legions or the Matrons getting their pieces in place and giving me opportunity to swallow up leaderless legions into the nascent Army of Callow. Which I had, promptly enough. Now, though, looking back? Malicia had lost two legions and the supreme commander of my freshly strengthened armies been given good reason to despise the Empress. There was no end to that rabbit hole, if I tumbled down it.

“As far as I’m concerned, this can only end with Malicia’s head on a pike,” I conceded. “But this is not a reasonable way to go about this, Scribe. Shit, you were more than just playing with fire: Procer might have collapsed, if someone put a knife in Hasenbach! All for something an honest conversation might have achieved instead.”

“That is where,” Scribe calmly said, “you are wrong.”

There was no tremor to her voice, no hesitation. She believed what she said. And she also didn’t give the slightest fuck about the hundreds of thousands of deaths that might come from the Principate toppling. No, I darkly thought, she wouldn’t. Sabah had been the only one of the Calamities who gave more than a passing thought to the lives she took, which made it all the more a tragedy she’d been the one to die first.

“I expect we’re not about to have a stirring discussion about whether Cordelia Hasenbach truly is the key to keeping the Principate functional,” I cuttingly said.

“He would have forgiven her, Catherine Foundling,” Scribe said. “Without ever using the word forgive, but that would be the truth of it nonetheless. No matter what any of us said, he’d make peace again.”

“Look, I’m not going to argue he doesn’t get sentimental on occasion,” I said. “To be blunt, there’s a reason I’m still breathing. But he’s still Black. There’s lines, and if he has to choose between the Praes he wants and Malicia-”

“He’ll try for both,” Scribe said. “Offer her to be his Chancellor, another leap of faith: trusting that she would be one of the few who never schemed the death of their tyrant.”

“That would not be acceptable,” I sharply said. “If she takes a ship across the Tyrian Sea I won’t pursue, but she doesn’t get to stay anywhere near the reins of power. Not after all the shit she’s pulled. He knows that.”

“It won’t matter. He always forgives,” Scribe said, and under the calm tone that were and old and cold anger. “Malicia. Ranger. Even Wekesa, who spurned one of the few ways the Empire could be corrected without steel in hand out of sheer petty apathy. He always forgives them and takes up the work instead. It will kill him, Catherine. It has been killing him for years, but this once he might as well slit his own throat. I will not have it.”

I almost denied her, the words on the tip of my tongue, but then I thought of Arcadia. Of the Queen of Summer holding Masego and I in the palm of her hand, and how she’s still not come the closest to killing me that day. He would be angry, if I killed you, Ranger had said, her desire to take my life almost a physical thing, but we’ve been angry before. It passes. The Scribe had known my father for a very long time, and though she was… warped in some ways, as all Named were, she was not necessarily wrong.

“There were ways that weren’t as risky,” I said.

“None that would hold under scrutiny, which you can be certain will be had,” Scribe said.

And the thing was, if you counted Black’s life above everything other concern I could even understand why she’d believed this was what needed to be done. And why she’d assume I’d go along with it too. As a play, it’d finished isolating Malicia from every other halfway trustworthy actor on Calernia – at this point, who aside from Kairos would even consider bargaining with her? It would ensure that Black would climb the Tower, putting someone at the head of the Empire I could trust when I abdicated, and while Hasenbach still held the reins of Procer her position was weakened just ahead of pivotal negotiations. Now that this had been carried out successfully, I only benefitted from the outcome of her scheme. Oh, no doubt she’d have preferred I never catch on, but this was not a fatal mistake to her was it? I gained nothing from outing her and would lose quite a bit from tattling. Now that the Jacks could benefit from her agents in the Wasteland, I had an actual reason to want her to keep breathing – the arrangement would likely die with her. Would Black killer her, if he knew? I honestly wasn’t sure. He’d tolerate manipulations for Malicia, I suspected, but then he’d considered the Empress his superior.

Not so with this one, I thought.

“It wasn’t worth the risks,” I finally said. “And you know if he ever learns about this, he’ll snap.”

“There are three people alive who know of this,” Scribe said.

I felt a pang of irritation.

“Don’t be daft,” I said. “He’s a villain. So are you, so am I. Secrets like this always come out with the likes of us, Scribe. And if you don’t do it on your own terms it’ll be on some hero’s instead.”

There were simply so many ways for secrets to be snatched from even the grave. Some manners of necromancy, echoes in Arcadia, or even just a very improbable but not outright impossible human mistake. Providence wasn’t a panacea for all ills that handed you everything always, the way Black had once intimated to me, but it did make sure that if there was a chance in a hundred all a hero needed to do was roll the dice.

“You speak with great certainty,” she said, “yet I have buried greater sins than this and never did they rise from their graves.”

“You’ve never been in everyone’s eyes like this, though,” I flatly replied. “Every great power on the continent is looking at Salia and the smouldering remains of your plot, Scribe. Hells, you’ve got the White Knight and the Grey Pilgrim here. Your really think two Choir busybodies like that aren’t going to get even a hint from up on high?”

“There are limits to how much even angels can intervene,” she said, sounding irritated. “It is not a rule that the Heavens see through every scheme, else there would be no purpose to ever scheming. They have no reason to even begin to look, so-”

“How are you not getting that you’re not playing iron sharpens iron in the fucking Wasteland anymore?” I snapped. “This isn’t killing teenage heroes in Callow before they get their first aspect, Scribe. You’re trying the odds with the godsdamned fate of millions on the line, every hound the Heavens have to send sniffing at the ashes, and you think-”

A hand came to rest on my shoulder, though it was not warm.

“Cat,” Hakram said. “This no longer serves a purpose.”

I breathed out angrily. I’d not even noticed getting to my feet, much less the clatter of my abandoned pipe against the table. Ash had spilled, though not enough to start a fire.

“Fine,” I said. “You’re right. This is not acceptable, Scribe.”

“A decision made in anger might be regretted,” Adjutant cautioned.

My fingers clenched. My instinct was to drag her, by the hair if need be, in front of Black and let the truth spill out. But Hakram was right, there’d be long-lasting consequences to that. And until I could separate my instinct to go through with this from my harsh urge to see Scribe getting the rude awakening she’d been bargaining for, it would be best if I stayed my hand.

“I’ll hold my tongue for now,” I said.

“I will require guarantee that you will first speak with me, should you unwisely choose revelations,” Scribe said.

Fuck you, I almost said, you get nothing from me you– but Hakram’s bony fingers squeezed my shoulder slightly.

“Fine,” I got out.

Both Adjtutant and I knew she might start scrambling for leverage over me the moment she left the room, but if she did take off the gloves and flay her alive before use her reanimated puppet-corpse to call off whatever she’d schemed. The days where I was willing to let the Calamities twist my arm were long past me. I snatched back my pipe, though the wakeleaf was spoiled. Out of sheer pettiness I hobbled to cut in front of Scribe as she made for the door.

Wasn’t much, but it did slightly help my mood.

Even after the anger cooled no answers had sprung forth, because there were some choices that had no clean way through. It’d been one of my earliest lessons as the Squire, and though I wished it hadn’t proved as repeatedly and brutally true there was no denying it had. I could have slipped away into a warded room with the same half-council I’d gathered earlier to debate the matter, let their advice carry me through the noise until some sort of conclusion took form. I didn’t, for I’d grown weary of the same words echoing around my mind again and again. A council sounded deeply unpleasant, at the moment, and though I knew indecisiveness could be a costly thing to a woman in my position a day’s staggering would not change too much. Dawn would carry with it a great many hopes, for messengers had come from Salia and the delegations were to be received at midday. As agreed, an escort of four hundred would be allowed to every representative save for Black – who was, effectively, here as an extension of my own delegation. It would have been wiser to head to bed brisk and early, but restless and the coming of darkness had me too awake for it.

I went out instead, shedding all escorts save for the handful of Mighty I sensed trailing me in the dark. The countryside around Salia was, well, rather mundane. Given all the wild things one heard about the Principate’s capital I’d half expected everything within ten miles of it to be a pleasure garden dripping in jewels, but this could easily have been Callowan countryside. Lands did not look so different from one another, when covered by ice and snow. Though the village where my soldiers had been quartered, Roque-Faillie, had nothing of note all that close I was surprised to find a light fluttering in the distance after ghosting past my guards. It was coming from structure, too, though not a large one. Curiosity drove me forward, limping as I went and leaning on my staff of yew. The Mantle of Woe I’d left behind, traded instead for a warmer fur-rimmed cloak that Hakram had sown me. It was quite lovely, and he’d even reminded my whining about all my clothes being black: it was a pleasant shade of deep green instead, almost like the colour Archer favoured. I blinked in surprise when I got a good look at where the light was coming from, for though the sight was not that odd I’d not expected to see it.

It was a small farm I was looking at, though it must have been used for cattle-herding as well by the looks of the low wall to the side. Someone had hung a lantern on the side of house, off a rusting iron hook, and I caught a grunt of effort coming from near the low wall. Light in my limp, I moved onto the snowy path and found a man working on the cattle-wall. It’d been shoddily built, I thought, more piled stone than anything else, and a large swath of it had collapsed. Some had used a shivel to break the snow and ice and was steadily stacking the stones anew. Brow raising, I took a closer look. Not a Proceran, this one, at least not by birth: his skin had that Thalassina tone to it, too pale to be Soninke but too dark to be Taghreb. Tall and built like a working man, with fuzzy hair cropped even closer than even Legion regulations demanded, he’d shed his coat. Instead he wore a long-sleeved grey tunic he’d rolled up the sleeves of, and I let my gaze linger just a moment on the muscled forearms and calloused hands. He was rather plain-faced, I saw when he turned to glanced at me, and either clean-shaven or hairless. His dark brown eyes had a sense of steadiness to them, peace almost.

“Can I help you?” he asked in flawless Chantant.

Almost embarrassed at having stared, I gestured towards the wall he was working on.

“Won’t hold without mortar,” I said. “And it’s a little late in the year for that. Won’t take properly in the cold.”

He looked surprised.

“Are you a mason?” he asked.

“I have a friend who works with stone,” I shrugged.

Insofar as Pickler could be said to be doing then, when she crafted engines to tear down walls. I took another few steps, moving to the side of the path so I could lean against an intact part of the cattle-wall.

“Spring is coming soon enough,” the stranger said. “It may hold.”

“Hopeful sort, aren’t you?” I drawled.

“I see no purpose to ever assuming the worst,” he replied. “It seems like a tiring way to live.”

“You get more pleasant surprises that way,” I hedged. “You don’t have the look of a local, if you’ll forgive my saying so.”

“I am not,” the man agreed, body shifting as he stacked another stone. “It is not my farm, if that is your question. I was given leave to use it while waiting for a friend.”

“Here?” I said, genuinely surprised. “You know there’s delegations close, right? The League further east and Callow’s just to the west. That’s a lot of jumpy soldiers.”

Not to mention I’d let Robber loose. He wasn’t going to around stabbing farmers – although this definitely wasn’t one – but he wouldn’t be above a bit of a scare if he got bored.

“I had heard,” the man said. “I warned my friend, though she cared little for the warning.”

“Headstrong?” I said, genuinely sympathetic.

Indrani wasn’t exactly what you might call a pliable young maiden, even when I wasn’t actively insulting her.

“Rather,” the man said, amused. “And she dislikes cities. It will do her some good to stretch her legs.”

“Been in Salia, then?” I casually asked.

“I have,” he said. “We are being hosted in the city.”

“Not Levantine, by the look and sound of you,” I mused. “Sure as Hells not Proceran. Ashuran, then?”

“A long time ago,” the man agreed, then shifted to Lower Miezan. “You are Callowan, yes?”

“Laure born and raised,” I agreed in the same.

“Come with the Black Queen, I would think,” he said.

“More or less,” I said. “You a translator? I expect with the amount of people coming into the capital there’s bound to be good coin in it.”

He was perhaps in too good a shape for one, but it would rather impolite to outright call him a mercenary who’d picked up a few languages while out on campaign. A hired blade wouldn’t make it into any place of import, but with foreign soldiers in Salia knowing their tongues would be a skill people were willing to pay coin for.

“I know a great many languages,” the man said. “You might say I have a gift with them.”

There was an almost rueful note to his voice when he said that. Yeah, that wasn’t a mercenary. No idea what he actually was, but I was leaning towards whatever the Thalassocracy’s equivalent of the Eyes of the Empire was.

“Were you at the Princes’ Graveyard?” he suddenly asked.

I nodded.

“It is said that angels seeded dreams among soldiers of all armies,” he said, dark eyes lingering on me.

I’d gotten an interested look or two in my life, and this wasn’t one of them. He’d assessed me as someone who knew how their way around a blade – checked my frame, my stance, for callouses on my palm. Yeah, definitely not a common mercenary.

“Didn’t get one,” I said. “But I’ve heard the same.”

He slowly nodded.

“Unfortunate,” he said. “I’d wanted to speak with someone who had dreamt.”

“Oh?” I asked. “Dubious about the Arch-heretic of the East not getting smote by angels?”

He looked amused.

“It is a meaningless title,” he said.

I cocked my head to the side, honestly surprised.

“It comes from no sacred writ, it has the blessing of no Choir nor the assent of the Heavens,” he elaborated, seeing my curiosity. “If priests declare the sun to be wicked, does it make it so?”

“I think you have a large enough conclave, probably yes,” I mused.

The man’s lips quirked into a smile. He hoisted up another stone and set it down before wiping his brow and pulling down his sleeves.  Picking up his coat, he moved to sit by my side on the cattle-wall.

“You do not think much of priests, it seems,” he said.

A priest is usually a good thing,” I drawled. “It’s when you’ve priests in the multiple that the trouble starts. They’ve a way of starting to believe that whatever they agree on is the truth, and it’s all downhill from there.”

“Is there not a House of Light in Callow?” the man asked, sounding surprised.

“Sure,” I snorted. “But it’s never been overly guilty of agreeing on anything. Mind you, they still keep to the Book. It’s the Praesi that have no priests at all.”

“My mother kept to the Gods Below,” the man admitted. “She was rather bemused at the notion of formal priesthood.”

I glanced at him.

“Soninke?” I guessed.

He nodded. I’d been right then, he had mixed blood as was – had been now, I reminded myself – common in Thalassina.

“From Thalassina,” he said.

I grimaced.

“Hope you didn’t have any family there,” I said.

“I do not know,” he admitted, then frowned. “It is true, then? That the city was sunk into the sea?”

“Large chunk of it went up in smoke, way I heard it,” I said. “And that much sorcery, even when you’re just close…”

It was his turn to grimace. Yeah, I suspected that’d not been a pleasant way to die for those unlucky survivors.

“Heavens shepherd their souls beyond,” he murmured.

A well-meant sentiment, I thought, though most Praesi would sneer at it. The man pushed himself off the wall and put on his coat – good make but well-worn, most likely not a noble then – and with a smile offered me his hand.

“Hanno,” he introduced himself.

I went still for a heartbeat as it all came together. Slowly, I breathed out.

“Catherine,” I said, clasping his wrist in a legionary’s handshake.

His eyes widened, the slightest bit.

“Black Queen,” Hanno of Arwad said.

“White Knight,” I replied. “Fancy meeting you here.”

198 thoughts on “Chapter 74: Partial

      1. Cassus

        I loved the chapter!

        Back with a fresh list of typos:

        Tower, I had // Tower; I had
        could, even if it was even // could, if it was even
        calm tone that were and old and cold anger // calm tone there was an old and cold anger
        she’s still not come // she’d still not come
        above everything other // above every other
        Would Black killer her, // Would Black kill her,

        This one changes the meaning of the sentence, but I’m pretty sure it’s what you meant. Please double-check, though!
        tolerate manipulations for Malicia // tolerated manipulations from Malicia

        room, but if she did take off the gloves and flay her alive before use her reanimated// room, but if she did I’d take off the gloves and flay her alive before using her reanimated

        but restless and the coming // but restlessness and the coming
        was coming from structure // was coming from a structure
        Hakram had sown me // Hakram had sewn me
        he’d even reminded my whining // he’d even remembered my whining
        Some had used a shivel to break // Someone had used a shovel to break
        but it would rather impolite // but it would be rather impolite
        I think you have a large // I think if you have a large

        Liked by 4 people

      1. RandomFan

        I’m pretty sure that was a threat to gouge out people’s eyes if they didn’t vote, not a statement of authorial status. But it might’ve been to kill people.

        Either way, they’re not the author.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Morgenstern

          I’m pretty sure it was more a concern that we might not get to see more PGtE, if this work falls far below in the list, but… oO Eh?
          Whatever is up with people these days? Why is everyone suddenly arguing this personally on here? oO … or is it just me being in such a mood that I’m mis-reading “dry humor” as something else again… =/

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Morgenstern

            Anyways, another typo question:
            Can “remind” now be used the same as “remember”?
            There was this sentence about Hakram making that cloak and even (remembering, I’d have thought, but it was “reminding” here) that Cat did not want all her clothes black

            Liked by 3 people

  1. Huh.
    I’m not sure if I think Scribe or Cat is more likely to be right about this secret getting out.

    What the hell is Hanno doing out there? He was last seen inside Salia.
    Guided by providence?
    Oh. Wait. Antigone/Witch of the Woods is around somewhere, too.
    I wonder who was responsible for putting them so close to where Callow/the Legions were being placed.

    On the upshot, it seems that he’ll be opposed to Cat’s having been declared Arch-Heretic being a problem. That cannot hurt.

    Liked by 19 people

    1. Brigsby

      They were remarkably civil, having things like being orphans, and views from both sides of the fight in common might have something to do with that. For all he is the White Knight, I predict he will be one of if not the single greatest supporter of Catherine. The Choir of Judgement seems to judge based off intent more than anything else based on what we’ve seen. If I am right then the Choir will support what I think his natural inclination will be. His mother after all was a follower of the gods below and he never thought her evil for it, but those who followed the gods above killed her without justice, proving that not all villains are Villians, and not all Villians are villians.

      He seems a decent fellow all told. Grounded in reality, like a mirror image of Cat as she might have been, had she gone for the mantle of Black Knight ht.

      Liked by 18 people

      1. I love that the shocking revelation of who they are came in the form of them just introducing themselves after a stretch of conversation, like normal sane people do. They’re absolute fucking icons in doing things the logical way that makes sense – sort of!

        Liked by 18 people

            1. When Catherine described him, I’m like: “That might be Hanno.”
              The remainder of the chapter beautifully reprised every other time the Black Queen had a conversation with an unknowing interlocutor, and Cat’s first conversation with GP.

              Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          I personally find it a bit funny that they didn’t even introduce themselves as anything else than their first names, yet that was enough for them to recognize who the other person was.
          Though I guess they are both versed enough in Name Lore to realize that if they are meeting a mysterious charming stranger and that stranger has the same name as an important Named, then they can only be one and the same.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Catherine spent half the conversation wondering who tf this is because he’s sure as fuck not a common mercenary. Considering Catherine is limping and uses a walking stick, I don’t think Hanno did anything less, beause she’s sure as fuck not a common legionary.

            So, yeah lmao. Blessed moment ❤

            Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Now I have to wonder if somewhere out there, there is another girl named Catherine and when she introduces herself people go “You are the Black Queen?” and she has to spend some time convincing them she is not a powerful heretic Named.


      2. ______

        Less on the intent and more on the degree of how much they are guilty for their past misdeeds vs how much can they do to repent for them. The choice is the most important part, both in how much agency they in whether not to commit their crimes, and whether or not to repent after being judged.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Like Cat, he has an Evil parent whom he might not exactly agree with on everything, but certainly sympathizes with.

          They chose different methods of handling that, but I don’t think they’re that afar apart~

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Quite Possibly A Cat

      “On the upshot, it seems that he’ll be opposed to Cat’s having been declared Arch-Heretic being a problem.” He was never going to have a problem with Cat because of that title. Heck, he wouldn’t even have a big problem with Cat being a villain. I think it will come down to a coin flip if they get along or not in the end.

      Liked by 20 people

      1. I think they’re already gettiing along, and Hanno doesn’t let the coin fly without good specific reason.

        (namely: he is currently attacking that person, the person asked him for Heavens’ judgement specifically, everything is on fire and he has no better way to make it slightly less on fire)

        Liked by 12 people

    3. > I’m not sure if I think Scribe or Cat is more likely to be right about this secret getting out.

      Cat is right that it will certainly come out eventually. Scribe is remarkably good at keeping secrets, but yeah, too many eyes, and some of them immortal and/or nigh-omniescient. The question is whether it will come out while it can still make a difference, “for good or ill”. Especially with Providence at the table….

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Gyndroid

        The thing I’m curious about is that Cat’s sitting on two *major* secrets herself–namely, she’s got Akua in her service, and she tried to make a deal with the dead king. Hell, she’s aware Kairos knows about that too. Does she…have a plan in mind, then, for when this gets out, as she apparently assumes it must?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, Pilgrim, at least, knows something about Cat having been thinking about and having (at one point) tried for a deal with the Dead King.
          On the other hand, it’s also true that Cat didn’t actually make a deal with the Dead King, and instead tried to kill Malicia in order to prevent her deal with him.
          And that Cat intends to remove the Dead King’s foothold on Creation.

          As far as the Akua reveal goes … yeah, that could perhaps be a problem. On the other hand … Akua’s crimes all took place in Callow (and Praes), so nobody else at the table has legal grounds to go after her.
          That said, Cat is more likely to sacrifice Akua to the Grand Alliance instead of Amadeus.

          Liked by 1 person

    4. AceOfSword

      “What the hell is Hanno doing out there? He was last seen inside Salia.”

      Since he’s a knight he moves in a different way from everyone else and ignores normal barriers. That’s how he managed to get surprisingly close to the other side’s queen.

      The upside is that he’s now too close to be threatening, Cat would only be in danger if she was further away and a bit to the side.

      Liked by 8 people

    5. Joshua

      Interestingly enough, I came to the opposite conclusion. Two sides meet before the battle and exchange friendly words seems to flow nicely into a bitter rivalry dynamic.

      Besides, there’s not much more that Cat disrespects than someone who submits entirely to higher powers to solve problems like Hanno does. I image that fact alone precludes them being much friendlier.

      Suppose we’ll see next chapter though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, that’s entirely possible.

        But it won’t be Hanno causing Cat problems because the Conclave declared her Arch-Heretic of the East.
        His refusal to accept the Conclave’s declaration of that might not actually help anything, but there’s no realistic way it can hurt Cat, unless some asshat tries to make the argument she’s mind controlling Hanno or something into ignoring the Conclave … and I don’t think that’d get all that much traction anyways. I think it’s a more likely to helpful than not, no matter what else Hanno does.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. >there’s not much more that Cat disrespects than someone who submits entirely to higher powers to solve problems like Hanno does

        You might be projecting from Amadeus. Catherine is the one who made a pact with two goddesses and let them read her thoughts on an ongoing manner, I’m just saying.

        And Hanno only resorts to his coin when he has no other sane solution, so…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny how providence has certainly been favoring Cat and people who agree with her, lately.

      Like Augur specifically commented that providence was on her side in her trick with Bard, like she even got micromanagement warnings about taking a wrong turn in conversation.

      And now this 😀

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Despite my previous comment about “Providence being at the table”. I think it’s increasingly clear that Providence is a world-mechanic, not an agency. Cat is playing by its rules, better than most heroes ever have. Specifically, she’s “making her own luck” by reading the scenes and the stories, putting her own butt on the line when needed, standing by her friends and her principles, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, and especially by breaking her own paths despite every temptation. And all that carries the rewards of Providence.

        Liked by 12 people

      1. ______

        Headcanon: the reason for Hanno to be surrounded by pretty much exclusively female Named is that he needs his own fleet due to being an Ashuran.

        (inb4 so does Ashur in general, these days)

        Liked by 12 people

    1. stevenneiman

      They have in some ways very similar views about the world’s problems, but very different views about the solutions. They both see organizations and institutions following incentives to act corrupt, but Cat thinks the solution is to realign those incentives to encourage them to be less harmful while Hanno thinks the solution is to only trust those he believes (right or wrong, I don’t know enough to say) to be beyond incentives.

      Liked by 11 people

  2. Skaddix

    I mean yeah Cat is not wrong this does raise the odds that Scribe was actually behind taking out Istrid and Ratface…After all Malicia has mind control she doesnt especially need to worry about Istrid revolting with that fail safe after all. I think Cat is right this comes out and a pretty bad moment for her.

    Classic Girl Meets Boy, Queue the romantic music under a starlit sky.

    Liked by 14 people

    1. haihappen

      This is usually the point in the story where they either have a long private conversation, leading to a buildup in tension, or, an incident happens that leads to the situation or the intentions of the characters to be misunderstood.
      Good thing there are no impulsive colleagues of either roaming about, ready to stumble into the situation and wiiiiiildly misinterpret them… oh wait…

      Liked by 12 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        This just leads me to imagining this as being Cat’s new “Fire” Reputation.

        Events keep happening almost full anime style that result in other people walking in in ways that make it look like Cat and Hanno are engaged in a passionate, sweaty, and sometimes depraved relationship of the flesh.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. Insanenoodlyguy

            Cat: *Angry ranting*: Look, he really was showing me this hold that he’d learned from one of his memories, a hero with the same body type as me. It was training! Training!

            Archer: So you really weren’t getting hot and heavy with the guy?

            Cat: *snort* The fuck I wasn’t! Every room in that godamn farm. We had to fix a wall, and the fence when it broke in an entirely new place! But we didn’t do anything like that in the goddamn training hall the First Prince could and did walk into, no!

            Archer: Do you… want to do something like that in the ‘goddamn’ training hall?

            Cat: … mmmmayy-no. NO!

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Oshi

        More then that. They need to meet with everyone first in the city and assuming everything goes off then they have to deal with whatever agenda ahs to be dealt with before Hierarch can do his thing.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Soma

    What a delightful meeting. The important mysterious stranger is always fun, especially coming from both ends.

    And the Black Knight, Amadeus of The Green Stretch, too sentimental to see to his goals? Truly? If so, what a hilarious inversion and demolition of a great many long winded arguments I, and a great many, perhaps less long winded arguments, others made.

    Perhaps it is Malicia operating on logic alone, and Amadeus clouded by sentiment and emotion? I have some doubts on both, but oh my, the rug was just ripped out of so many people’s feet, potentially.

    Great chapter!

    Liked by 11 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Amadeus is not a cold machine without emotions and feelings.
      Malicia is not an emotional wreck without cunning and logic.
      Each relevant character on the series is a multi-faceted and complex individual.

      I don’t think what Scribe said is really ground-breaking, as it matches what we have seen of Black. She is simply thinking that there was a high chance of Amadeus forgiving Malicia, his best friend in the world, like he has forgiven others from his closest circle of friends before when they had big fights and disagreements.
      From her point of view, it was likely he would incorporate Malicia into his plans rather than get rid of her at the first chance (which is like him, even to his enemies he extends the chance to work for him when they are talented), so she took measures in order to force his hand.
      And that’s just what was perceived from Scribe’s point of view, don’t forget she is even more prone to cold logic than Amadeus and she is also not a friend of Malicia, so she is not inclined to have Black take risks due to Malicia.

      It’s kinda like when Catherine initially put trust on Vivienne and made the deal with her to have the Thieves’ Guild work for the crown of Callow. Cat was willing to extend trust, even when Thief had just been fighting against her, but Hakram took measures behind the scenes to make sure Vivienne would not betray Catherine (nearly traumatizing Vivienne in the process). Then did it again when he cut off his own hand to prevent her from leaving the Woe (and she finally stopped being afraid of him).
      Scribe is like that for Amadeus, taking actions in the shadows for what she believes to be his best benefit.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. It’s funny how I’d been unhappy with Scribe for Not Getting what hurts Amadeus and what is important to him, but looks like it’s the reverse – she understands it very well, and sees long-term hurt as more important than the short-term one.

        Liked by 8 people

          1. Xi Cree

            “Like a knife loves a steady hand, like a sparrow loves flight…”

            These words were spoken once before. Hakram knows the lay of her as well as he remembers his own hands.

            Liked by 4 people

      2. Soma

        I fully agree with you that every character is multifaceted, that’s very well said.

        I should have made it more clear that while I was stereotyping characters in my comment above, that is not the way I see them. I was taking a very brief jaunt through the lens Scribe provided. It’s such an inversion of the way I feel Amadeus has been presented that it was entertaining for me to enter that headspace.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. laguz24

      The ability for Black to forgive and keep his band together was what made him different from all the other Black Knights in the past, however, it could be a weakness as shown here, there is no right way to go about things. Even Scribe can be wrong about things, for example in the first book she thought Catherine was going to leave but Black knew she was going to try to fix things.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Soma

        I think I very much agree with you. I’m definitely not making definitive statements here. I actually think the narrative situation is very fluid right now. Who is right, or what combination of perspectives is most right, is very much up in the air. It’s just the perspective Scribe gives is such an inversion of the way the story has primed us to think about Amadeus I couldn’t help but remark on it.

        Liked by 3 people

    3. >And the Black Knight, Amadeus of The Green Stretch, too sentimental to see to his goals? Truly?

      Amadeus is a fucking mess, and suicidal depression has been messing with him since before the start of the series, because he is genuinely personally too kind and nice a person to manage the kind of position he’s in without getting ground to dust by it.


      Liked by 7 people

  4. Oh yes i wanted them to meet like this!!! Although i am surprissed Cat was checking out Hanno, i wonder if that could become either a running gag (like with that callowan duchess? that i can’t remember if it was kegan or not) or something more serious……..

    Liked by 8 people

    1. stevenneiman

      She generally only does it on first meeting except with her two actual lovers, but Cat does tend to at least give people a good looking-over if they’re reasonably attractive, to the point that it is something of a running gag. Ratface, Kendall, Malicia (or course), and I’m sure at least a few others got the same treatment.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Indrani pointed out that Catherine constantly leered at Vivienne.
        Vivienne in turn also said that Cat is a leerer that “checks up” almost everyone.
        She also delights her eyes on Akua at every chance she has, even on Book 1.

        Ah, she also takes second looks on Rozala.

        Liked by 12 people

        1. > Vivienne in turn also said that Cat is a leerer that “checks up” almost everyone.

          Specifically, IIRC she also noted that Cat doesn’t stop ogling people even when they’re literally currently actively engaged in trying to kill her. Which elevates her all the way into Harry Dresden levels of Staring Problem haha.

          Liked by 5 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Haha, that was a fun chapter, she was even blushing when Wekesa smiled at her. Even had to repeatedly remind herself that he was at least triple her age and also gay.
          But that still didn’t help, hahahaha.

          To be fair, Wekesa was said to be ridiculously handsome in more than one occasion by different characters.

          Liked by 4 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Ah, I personally found it less cute and more in the attitude of “Ok, there’s a chance I might get killed tomorrow so… what the hell. Let’s fuck.”

              He didn’t want to die with any regret XD

              Their last moments together, though, those were pretty romantic.

              Liked by 3 people

  5. pyrohawk21

    The moment Cat saw the light from afar, I knew something caused by Divinity was happening. The moment the stranger said he was Ashuran, I knew he was the White Knight, and his friend was the Witch of the Woods.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Yep, those kinds of meetings no longer happen at random for Catherine.

      I started suspecting it was Hanno when she mentioned his skin tone “his skin had that Thalassina tone to it, too pale to be Soninke but too dark to be Taghreb”, as people on that side of Calernia tend to be pale-skinned, but that could still be any traveler, maybe even a new character.
      What really settled it for me was when she mentioned the eyes “His dark brown eyes had a sense of steadiness to them, peace almost.” Hanno’s eyes had been described that way before, seems like he gets a lot of peace of mind thanks to not bothering to judge anything and leaving those concerns to others.

      As I recall, only Hakram has that kind of serene look in his eyes.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. caoimhinh

        While I agree with you on that, I think it’s worth pointing out that we are getting relevant new characters in Book 5, we already had several, in fact: Razin Tanja, Yannu Marave, the Proceran nobility that’s fighting north and the other Heroes.

        Not to mention characters that had just gotten a bit of screen time and barely an introduction before, and only now are being really explored, like Roland, Cordelia’s spymasters, Grem, Augur, Scribe, many of the Drow Mighty, etc.

        We have yet to see the Goblin Matrons, the Orc Clan Leaders, and the rest of the High Lords. Plus the rest of the Revenants that the Dead King has in reserve, I expect them to be pretty interesting characters.

        This series still has a lot to offer through the characters.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. ZarquonZ

    Yeah… She’s Named and the Black Queen. It was a toss up between the stranger she met at a random farm being the White Knight, the Assassin or the goddamn Almighty Creator himself. There’s no more casual coincidences or mundanity in her life!

    Liked by 4 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Yeah, sure. 100% agree. She’s certainly got enough power/influence/resources/narrative-weight that she influences stories and events like she was a powerful Named.

          I was being pedantic, which is why I started with “Well, actually”

          Liked by 6 people

  7. caoimhinh

    Gotta say, Hanno’s meeting with Catherine started even better than Pilgrim’s did. Not just because she was leering at his muscles. Hahaha.

    Also, his eyes widened when Cat introduced herself? So it was a surprise for him as well?
    Gods Above, Below, and Providence, what are you up to?

    P.S: For a moment there, I imagined Cat asking him to be her translator, and if he actually accepted, and then presented himself at the negotiation table wearing armor, everyone would have been shocked and start rumors about the Black Queen’s skill to achieve that.
    It wouldn’t have happened, but I think it would have been hilarious.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > everyone would have been shocked and start rumors about the Black Queen’s skill to achieve that.

      ❤ yep!

      I ship them, I really do. And if that doesn't happen then at least Hanno's now confirmed (90+%) to be part of Catherine's next band of five.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Raved Thrad

        From the scene where Hanno and Antigone are interacting during the attack on the Red Flower Vales, I got the impression that Antigone has a thing for Hanno, and since she seems to act without most of the trappings of “civilization,” I’m fully expecting her to get territorial over him.

        Liked by 9 people

        1. laguz24

          Oh, no you just made me think of a harem spin-off where every powerful woman on the continent is after Hanno. Cat, Witch of the Woods, Alaya, Cordelia, Bard, Repentant Magister. Auka, Champion, Archer, and Ranger. While they could easily destroy the continent, they all live in the same house and Auka can’t cook because she puts poison in everything out of habit. AaAAgGGHhhH. CURSE YOU!!!!!
          Cat: “What is that?”
          Auka: “A Praesi Tower Cake.”
          Cat: “It’s poisoned isn’t it.”
          Auka: “No, how could you say that?”
          Cat: looking at cookbook: “Yep, 3 tablespoons of arsenic, in the trash it goes, we voted on this, Auka.”
          Auka: “But”
          Rest of Harem: “Trash, Auka or you’re going back in the box.”
          Auka: “With Hanno?”
          Harem: “No!”

          Liked by 13 people

      2. caoimhinh

        Later on the grand meeting.
        Catherine:*Waves a hand* Hi, Hanno.
        Hanno:*nods his head* Catherine.

        *Everyone stares at them, Kairos laughs*
        Pilgrim: You have met before.
        Cat: Yeah, it was a delightful night in a farm.
        *Everyone utters some variation of ‘wait, what?’*
        Rozala: I would request some clarification of the matter.
        Cordelia: I believe this is not the place and time for that?
        Kairos: I know they both wish for details. Naughty, dirty details, if you would forgive my language. Except you, Tariq, I heard you can no longer forgive much these days. The League of Free Cities backs up Procer’s request, of course. Be as thorough as you can, dear friend.

        Liked by 19 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          Cat: Well…

          Hanno: We met when I was working on a fence at the farm had a very edifying conversation that made our positions clear, discovering we actually have more in common than i would have expected.

          Cat: Yes. That!

          Pilgrim: Ah, yes, I’ve had a similar-

          Hanno: Then we had sex. Lots and lots of sex.

          Cat: *Buries face in hands*

          Kairos: *crosses his arms and pouts, his fun spoiled*

          Liked by 3 people

      3. NerfGlastigUaine

        Villain – hero ships usually don’t end well for the villain. Especially when the villain is a well-intentioned extremist overlord. Especially, especially when they’re teaming up to face a bigger threat. Classic formula would be for villain to pull redemption equals death/sacrifice to rescue hero and give him willpower to kick bigger villain ass.

        Liked by 12 people

          1. NerfGlastigUaine

            Oh totally, I doubt she’ll fall for it, but she’ll be aware of the pattern before she even thinks about a relationship. Cat doesn’t break tropes, just subverts them, and I doubt she’d take this risk unless she sees a way to play it to her advantage. At least, I hope not. If she throws away everything to Ride the White Knight, I’d be rather disappointed.

            Liked by 6 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I know right? He even Recalled William the Lone Swordsman for his fight against Amadeus, and specifically focused on Catherine, as he was trying to find out the flaws in Black’s fighting style through the flaws of her style.

        Then again, Cat has changed quite a bit since those days, sharper features, darker skin, different build in muscles, she even grew up a couple of inches!(or so she claims)

        Then again, Hanno might just be bad at remembering faces, or he was so focused on looking at the Squire’s fighting form (and William almost always met Cat in armor) that Hanno didn’t bother memorizing her face.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. Not just external power. My sister is quite short, but her personality makes her seem bigger. Nobody ever notices her height up close, it’s when they see her from a distance that they go “oh, she’s shorter than I realized!”

            Liked by 4 people

          1. caoimhinh

            That’s not an impediment in this case. Notice how Catherine (without calling for the Night) is perfectly capable of seeing Hanno’s features, his muscles, and even the color of his eyes.
            Hanno, as a Named, has better vision than normal humans so he must have been capable of seeing Catherine almost as clearly as if it was daytime, they are also standing very close to each other and with a light source nearby (the lamp that caught Cat’s attention in the first place).
            It’s simply that he didn’t recognize her face, rather than not being able to see it clearly.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Catherine literally has Night as her current domain and power source, of course she can see clearly in the dark.

              A single lamp in the night can actually make it harder to make out a face than in just star/moonlight, because of the sharp light/shadow obscuring features if you aren’t staring right at the lamp.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. caoimhinh

                Nope, she actually needs to call on Night to use it if she wants to improve her senses, otherwise she doesn’t have better vision than a normal person.
                That in particular has been mentioned several times, especially when looking at things far away, and she usually declines to use it for something so petty.


          1. caoimhinh

            Hm, I don’t think that matters in this case.
            Named have superb vision, so the darkness of the night is not that much of an impediment, plus there is a lamp by the side of the house (which is what drove Cat there) and they were next to each other, so they could both see each other clearly.

            Liked by 2 people

    2. >Also, his eyes widened when Cat introduced herself? So it was a surprise for him as well?

      Yep! Why would he think a random stranger who wandered up to him and started talking about mortar was the Black Queen? We the readers know the writer would not show us a meeting with a random with that framing at this point, but Hanno most definitely regularly interacts with a lot of regular people (like the owner of the farm, apparently!)

      And Catherine has the manners of a common legionary more than anything, when she’s not turning up the fancy or the cowpoke.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I mean, Hanno went out of Salia and into a farm right next to the town where the Army of Callow was stationed, he must have known where he was.
        That’s why I at first suspected he was pulling a Pilgrim and doing this in hopes of having a private meeting with the Black Queen without all the formalities and nuances of an official meeting.
        He also thinks in terms of stories as shown in his first couple of Heroic Interludes, so I was thinking “well, Hanno can pull this off, a peaceful and honest talk between rivals outside official meeting is also a story” but seeing his surprise when she introduced herself, that hypothesis went up in smoke.

        This was a chance meeting, which means it was Providence, which means the Gods, which implies the Bard is at least aware this is happening and may even appear there.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Would be interesting!

          I am absolutely not seeing Providence mean Gods, though. It’s a mechanic of its own, functioning entirely independently of one’s allegiance with Above or Below. See: First Liesse.

          And yeah, he knew where the Army of Callow was, but he hadn’t met Catherine before. Grey Pilgrim, with his wealth of experience with various villains, could conclude from cold reading that the Black Queen of Callow would be likely to take a random stroll in the fields alone and in regular clothes. Hanno? I find it completely plausible that the possiblity simply did not occur to him. You think someone walking around streets of Liesse circa Book 2-3 gap was likely to randomly meet Akua Sahelian in the street?

          Liked by 3 people

  8. Andrew Mitchell

    Took me a while to figure it out but at least I was a bit quicker on the up-take than Catherine. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I think it’s a good thing they’ve had a pleasant chance meeting before the discussions in Salia.

    I’m not sure what to think about the discussion with Scribe, but I’m certainly glad Hakram was there. It seems to me Catherine’s instinct to tell Black the truth is the right course of action and it actually feels a bit weird that she’s not decisive on this.

    And it was nice of EE to respond to so many points raised in the comments from the last chapter.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agreed. I’m honestly expecting Amadeus’s sentiment to be the right course of action here, in the end. Throwing away attachments in the name of practicality/revenge is not a good path to take, and Catherine has already figured that out for herself – but not for him, yet. I suppose she still sees him as invulnerable in some ways, subconsciously – he’s her teacher, her father, no way he needs to be swaddled in a blanket and protected for the cruel world, right? 😀

      (he does)

      Liked by 6 people

    1. Yep ❤

      Catherine is only normally recognized because of the mantle of Woe, and even then, without proper context, even her own legionaries tend to not recognize her. Remember the Empress of Procer?

      And her manner is that of a common legionary too, thanks to Rat Company. I wonder if Hanno deduced something was off about her the same way she thought he was not a mercenary, or if he genuinely thought her a regular soldier

      Liked by 9 people

      1. > Remember the Empress of Procer?

        I will never forget the Empress of Procer. That poor Empress watching his entire life flash before his eyes as he gets a strong lesson on why sassing randos for claiming to be somebody famous isn’t a super safe policy on a continent filled with Named (and beings of equivalent narrative weight like F.U.N.!Catherine). So classic.

        Liked by 4 people

  9. edrey

    no scribe, he would find out soner or later, the story is too strong already to said the less. but she is right, he would forgive malicia, and to be honest Malicia only “”sin”” is to be proud of Praes culture, when is a shithole of treason, poison and extreme racism
    well, i wont say i didnt see it coming, but i was hoping for more, that teaser was way too much, i am thinking in the chat of the pilgrim and cat or the one with black in Peers, the wait will kill me here

    Liked by 6 people

    1. laguz24

      Personally, I think that Malicia isn’t proud of her culture as too ingrained in its methods. She was never one of the true Praesi, in all their flying fortress, invisible army glory. As said by Diabolist, but she has been playing Chancellor so long that she has started to act like them with all of the stupidity that entails.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. TBF Malicia knifed Amadeus’s trust in the back pretty badly. “Leap of faith”, was it?

      I find it utterly cute how frustrated Scribe is with Amadeus’s self-sacrificial tendencies. SHE’S NOT WRONG ON THAT ONE

      Liked by 4 people

      1. SpeckofStardust

        On the other hand She’s incorrect that he wouldn’t be willing to purposefully kill his friends, he very much thought about how many would need to ‘die’ right before Captain bit it.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Yeah, but that was for after he was dead. He wouldn’t have to live with it, which makes the kind of selfish difference that would tip the scales on something this emotionally fraught.

          All of Amadeus’s friends agree that he forgives all of them everything. Both Wekesa and Hye estimated him as likely to forgive either of them killing Catherine, and Wekesa was angry at Hye for taking advantage of it (which gives additional delicious irony to Eudokia being angry at Wekesa taking advantage of it in turn). Alaya still expects him to forgive her and come back, not thinking of anything she did as crossing the line of no return.

          Scribe’s assessment might be off on where exactly the line is drawn, but the general tendency is correct :3

          Liked by 5 people

          1. ninegardens

            > Alaya still expects him to forgive her and come back, not thinking of anything she did as crossing the line of no return.

            Well yeah. They had philosophical disagreements, and disagreements about HOW do get things done, but such is life. They’re FAMILY (not literally, but whatever). Of course he’ll forgive her.
            And by the same token, she’ll forgive him. Despite the fact that he took the (very stupid) plan she had sunk years and lives into and exploded it, she still seemed perfectly willing to dedicate a large portion of her spy service to getting him back the moment she realized he was in trouble.

            They are angry at each other, and might even be wary of one another in the future, but I suspect, in a very real sense, Amadeus has *already* forgiven Alaya.

            In terms of Maddies forgiveness… I guess what Alaya’s done so far might make Maddie a little wary of her in future… but fundementally she HASN’T crossed that line of no return. Hence it makes perfect sense that she doesn’t think she has.

            The weird part in all this is that Scribe may be the only one in all this who HAS found a way to do something Maddie can not forgive: namely, she attacked a member of his family.
            And probably the cruelest thing Black could do in response is to tell her to leave. Not hurt her, not fight her, simply tell her to get out of his life… and never come back.

            Liked by 4 people

              1. ninegardens

                See- that’s the thing I’m trying to figure out: Is scribe treated as Family? I’ve never seen anywhere in Black’s thoughts or actions that suggests she is in quiet the same way… maybe it just hasn’t come up.
                I dunno- for me it feels like it could go either way in terms of whether Scribe counts as family or not.


    1. talenel

      “I see no purpose to ever assuming the worst,” he replied. “It seems like a tiring way to live.”

      This is when I really began to suspect.

      “It is not my farm, if that is your question. I was given leave to use it while waiting for a friend.”

      This is when I knew. The point about him being from Thassalina and a foreigner, the description of his build, the point about him waiting for a friend (it had to be the Witch), the refusal to make even the slightest sort of assumption, it all fit. Then, each little clue went further and further to confirm it.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. I was like “so what oddly metaphysically significant character will this be” when Cat spotted the light, like.. really. That wasn’t going to be a random nobody.

        And then ‘a tall dark-skinned man but not pure Soninke’ and like ah. Hanno.


        Liked by 7 people

        1. talenel

          Honestly I just wasn’t sure at first whether this was going to Meeting a New and Important Character or Meeting Random Nobody Who Nevertheless Says Oddly Wise and Important Things. You know meeting the whole random peasant in the wilderness who spreads the wisdom of the common masses.

          Liked by 3 people

  10. NerfGlastigUaine

    Guys, off topic, but I tried to measure the size of Calernia. So, in Chapter 19 of Book 3, Nauk says it’d take 1 ½ months of marching to reach Laure from Marchford. Now, Roman legions could typically march around 30-35 km per day and Legions of Terror seem to be heavily inspired by them, so taking the lower bound, we can estimate that the distance between Marchford and Laure is ~ 1300 km. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that 1) there is a river cutting off Marchford from Laure, 2) the area around Marchford seems somewhat rocky if not outright mountainous on the map. Therefore it is possible that it is not 1300 km but likely somewhat less, taking into account terrain slowing down marching speed.

    Now, I assumed the marching went around the river, not through, and decided to disregard the terrain and go with my initial assumption of 1300 km. With some quick calculations and use of Word, it seems as if the longest vertical length of Calernia from the tip of the Everdark to below Stygia is 5.4 times the length from Marchford to Laure (+ detour for river), so ~7020 km. For reference, South America’s length is ~7600 km. Now, at its widest Calernia is roughly 4700 km wide with these calculations, which is only slightly smaller than South America’s widest point of 5100 km, and Calernia has a more consistently large width than SA. However, it also has far more lakes, so I’d posit that the two are roughly similar in landmass with Calernia slightly larger.

    Any thoughts? Disagreements? Questions on why I’m wasting my time on this when I have a test tomorrow?

    Liked by 12 people

    1. laguz24

      Unless you actually give hard numbers in distance or have two rivals going for the same goal space does not really matter. You could say it is 200 km and it took 2 days to get there, then we have problems. But everyone measures distance in time, as it took 2 weeks to march to the river etc. This is why we have the trope Sci-Fi writers have no sense of scale and sci-fi books attract people who actually care about such minutia.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Rather than Erratic overshooting, it may be that the Legions simply aren’t as fast as the Roman troops that they’re loosely modeled after. Especially if they don’t have roads to the same standard. In particular, I haven’t seen mention of the “Roman stride”, which IIRC I heard about from Kipling.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. I think they probably have the training to move fast, but the roads account for the rest of the loss. Praes has Roman-like roads, and Amadeus specifically had the same ones built in Callow for troop movement, but Procer? Yeah… Конь да путник, али вам не туго…

          Liked by 3 people

          1. My advanced linguistics training (read: Google Translate) tells me you just said “A horse yes traveler, but you are not sad…”.

            Is that a, uh, regional saying? Or has my advanced linguistics training somehow failed me? Maybe both?

            Liked by 4 people

            1. It’s a song quote.

              Конь да путник, али вам не туго,
              Кабы впрямь в пути не околеть,
              Бездорожье одолеть – не штука,
              А вот как дорогу одолеть?

              И у черта, и у бога
              На одном, видать, счету
              Ты, российская дорога –
              Семь загибов за версту!

              (first stanza and the chorus) (it’s from a movie abt 19th century Russia, but it applies in spirit to this day and not only in Russia proper)

              Rough translation… oh wow this is HARD. These idioms are really… local 0.0

              Horse and traveler, isn’t it hard for you,
              How do we really not die on the road,
              It’s not that hard to manage off road,
              But how do we manage the road?

              Both the devil and the god
              Probably have the same accounting
              For you, the Russian road –
              Seven turns in a mile!

              Fun Google translate facts: ‘да’ is normally translated as (and means) ‘yes’, but can also be used as a rare/antiquated/literary homonym meaning ‘and’

              …I’m just going to translate the other two stanzas to, for full context of the reference.

              Нет ухаба – значит, будет яма,
              Рытвина, правей-левей – кювет,
              Эх, дорога, ты скажи нам прямо,
              По тебе ли ездят на тот свет!

              No bump – there will be a pit,
              Pothole and a ditch to the left and to the right,
              Hey, road, tell it to us straight,
              Are you the one used to travel to the afterlife?

              Но согласны и сапог, и лапоть –
              Как нам наши версты не любить!
              Ведь браниться здесь мудрей, чем плакать,
              А спасаться – легче, чем ловить!

              But both boot and bast shoe agree –
              How could we not love our miles!
              After all, swearing here is wiser than crying,
              And fleeing is easier than catching!

              Liked by 4 people

      2. NerfGlaistigUaine

        Huh, is that WoG? B/c last time I asked about Calernia size it sparked a ton of interesting speculation, a lot of it by caiomhinh which was basis of this calculation, but no definitive answer.

        I actually think Legions might be faster than Roman legions. When William summons the Hashmalim he and Bard talk and say Cat and the Fifteenth could flee before the angel arrives, e specifically says it’s “more than enough time,” which means they could travel 49 miles (79 km) in two days. Admittedly, it’s a two day sprint rather than a months long march, but it definitely suggests Legion march time is at least comparable to Roman legions.

        Until WoG intercedes all we can do is speculate based on textual information. Personally, I like to have a mental map of things while reading.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. True! I just don’t see it as making sense for Calernia to be that big while having so few notable cities.

          Erratic tends to avoid specific numbers, which is wise considering he’s mixed up cardinal directions before XD and I don’t remember if there’s WoG… but I find it easier to file ‘travel times’ than ‘number of cities’ as ‘ehhhhh not quite’

          Liked by 2 people

  11. SpeckofStardust

    So anyone else thinking that the wall their taking about is a presentation of either Procer or the accords at their current state, cause you know it totally is meaningful.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Frolamiz

    So much foreshadowing, I love it!
    Just think about it, Hanno is trying to build something, then Cat come and tell him it will not work. Then there is their exchange about optimism and pessimism…

    The obvious metaphor would be the Liesse accords, but EE is generally not that predictable and it could mean so many more things!
    Anyway, I’m sure it’s another “‘till your last desperate breath clawing at the dark” that we will rediscover after rereading.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. superkeaton

    Its about time. Hilarious that Cat got the introduction drop on a hero, she hasn’t gotten to do that since she geeked those kids, but they were rookies, not Heaven’s Current Favorite. Looking forward to this.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Thane

    You;re killin’ me. You have a gift(a curse) of fulfilling everything I want in an update but then, making me want even more. It’s beautiful(painful).

    I have wanted for this meeting practically since you introduced hanno.

    Thanks for the beautiful story you tell us

    Liked by 2 people

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