Chapter 75: Analog

“I assure you, Chancellor, that with but a few words they’ll come around to agreeing with me. Almost like an incantation, really.”
– Dread Emperor Imperious

Good grip, I thought, as he clasped my arm tightly once back before withdrawing.

“I was warned about you,” the White Knight conversationally said.

He was a dangerous man, I knew, for heroes usually were. Yet I did not feel particularly endangered, for by all reports Hanno of Arwad was not the sort of madman who’d draw a sword thoughtlessly. I leaned on my staff to push myself up on the low cattle-wall, pressing my cloak against the back of my leg with my other hand so it wouldn’t bunch up. That’s better, I thought. Took the weight off my bad leg.

“Were you?” I replied. “You don’t seem all that worried.”

“Not that sort of warning,” he said. “The Grey Pilgrim called you a thresher.”

My brow rose. I was a city girl to the bone, true enough, but it was still a Callowan city. I knew a thing or two about farming, if only in principle.

“Like for grain?” I asked, cocking my head to the side.

He had a rather honest face, I decided, for all that it was plain. The calm on it wasn’t affectation, no. It was just the consequence of being so amiably unruffled by all that went on around him, perhaps not even something he knew he showed.

“One that separates the wheat from the chaff,” the White Knight quoted. “He argued that there are Bestowals that, by their nature, draw to them both great loyalty and great enmity.”

“Sounds like Tariq,” I conceded. “Mind you, I’ve always found he throws words like ‘fate’ around a little too easily. Anyone who ends up making waves will draw both enemies and allies, there’s nothing magical about it.”

“There is, when so many of those allies were once your enemies,” Hanno said. “I am told that most of your closest companions fought you at some point or another.”

Well, not that many. Indrani had introduced herself by ambushing me, I conceded. Vivienne too. Juniper and I hadn’t exactly begun as bosom friends, and there was a reason that I’d ripped Akua’s heart out of her chest. Shit. Hakram had always been a delight, though! And Robber had mostly been other people’s problem, which by goblin standards was positively saintly. I forcefully refrained from thinking too much about how the Everdark had turned out for all involved.

“Oh Gods,” I muttered. “I genuinely can’t argue with that.”

If I’d lost that argument in my own head, I somehow doubted it’d go my way spoken aloud. The hero softly chuckled.

“It is not unlike sculpting, I’ve found,” Hanno said. “What your hand knows, what you have crafted, is not what the eyes of others see.”

“Been mistaken a few times, have you?” I asked.

He agreed with a nod.

“Often it is misunderstood what the Choir of Judgement is,” the White Knight said. “I’ve been asked to adjudicate land disputes, to settle disagreements over scripture and once even to decide on the rightful owner of cattle.”

He breathed out, as if exasperated by the whole of it.

“The Seraphim do not attend to earthly laws or even holy writ, Black Queen,” Hanno of Arwad said. “They render only one manner of judgement and it is not fettered by anything of Creation.”

“That’d be the spinning coin and the,” I mimed a blade across the throat, “I take it?”

“If the coin spun for ever soul on Calernia, it would show the laurels more often than not,” the White Knight said. “The circumstances in which it is prone to spinning, however, have favoured the showing of the swords.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

He cocked his head to the side.

“Why would it?” the White Knight asked. “If only wicked men are judged, why would another end come of it?”

“And you don’t think you’re passing judgement as well?” I frowned.

“That is not my place,” he said.

“The coin doesn’t flip on its own, you know,” I pointed out. “And as far as I know, you don’t toss it for everyone you meet.”

The hero looked frustrated, but only in passing. I supposed I hadn’t been the first person to say as much to him. He was one of the great Names of our generation, true, but he was also a pretty personable man all things considered.

“You are Queen of Callow,” the White Knight said.

“Don’t suppose you could get me that in writing?” I drily said.

If getting the Sword of Judgement to put it to parchment didn’t end up settling the legitimacy of my rule, nothing ever would. He blinked, visibly bemused.

“Ignore that,” I sighed. “Yes, I am Queen of Callow. Couple other titles too, but that’s the highest one.”

“Then, unless I am mistaken, you have right of high justice over all in your kingdom,” Hanno said.

That was slightly more complicated an issue than you’d think, actually. High justice – essentially the right to sit in judgement of anyone no matter how high their birth and the severity of their crime – had been moved around some these last few decades. Before the Conquest the answer would have been a straightforward yes, as the ruling king or queen of Callow had been one of the few figures able to sit in judgement over anyone. Under Black the right of high justice had in theory devolved to the imperial governors, though in practice he’d been the one holding it: though his authority came from the Tower and not a crown, he’d been the only man in the kingdom would could sit in judgement of both governors and the remaining nobles. It was no without reason that when I’d called my teacher the crownless king of Callow not even the Choir of Contrition had gainsaid me. These days my kingdom’s laws were a messy jumble of old Praesi decrees and dusty Callowan laws, but as the anointed Queen of Callow I did in principle have right of high justice. If I started going after the few nobles left through even legal means, though, I’d have a rebellion on my hands. I’d allowed my court to squeeze the northern baronies in their coin purse but nowhere else, and Gods forbid I ever try to pass judgement on Duchess Kegan even if she ate a full cartload of babies in broad daylight before a hundred witnesses.

“By law I do,” I conceded.

“As one with the right to pass judgement over any Callowan,” Hanno said, “did you then proceed to drag every man and woman you encountered before a tribunal?”

My brow rose.

“You don’t stand judgement in Callow without having broken a law,” I said.

“And I do not bring into the gaze of the Seraphim every soul I encounter without reason,” the White Knight replied. “Nor would I stand benumbed and allow a life to be taken before my eyes while I asked for their verdict. I do not judge, Catherine Foundling, because I recognize the fallibility of what I am and what I know. It does not mean I am blind or helpless: it means that where others have no choice but to be burdened with uncertainty, I am not.”

That was rather more reasonable than I’d expected of the man, I admitted to myself. My brushes with Choirs had been less than pleasant, most of the time, so I’d been predisposed to seeing lunacy lurking in one who had openly sworn himself to do the bidding of one. Black had been less than flattering in his assessments of the man, too, though he’d also cautioned that the White Knight was both intelligent and an exceedingly dangerous and versatile killer. Then again, I could hardly imagine my father ever sitting down to have a polite chat with a hero – or the opposite, in all fairness. Over two decades of the Calamities smothering heroes in their narrative crib had rather thoroughly burned that bridge for both sides. I still found the notion of the Seraphim being considered an authority over even a chamber pot rather revolting, but hardly enough to draw a blade over it. So long as that authority was not forced on anyone, and it stayed well out of my kingdom, it fell under the category of ‘someone else’s problem’. If the nations of the west wanted to grant the right of high justice to the Choir of Judgement, that was their decision to make.

Of course, there was one little issue with all this.

“And villains?” I asked. “Don’t they always get a flip, White Knight?”

He smiled, though it was a distant sort of smile. One straddling the line between reminiscence and the aloofness of professional attending their trade. He stood before me, little more than a well-built man in cloth, and still he spoke with an authority that could not be denied. Conviction was at the heart of Names, I knew, and this one did not lack faith. Black was one of the finest hero-killers Calernia had ever known, and he’d gone after Hanno with the full roster of the Calamities while the White Knight led a disparate band of greenhorns. And the man stood before me still. Some of that could be laid at the Bard’s feet, at her schemes, but only so much. Even the Intercessor could not make a sharp blade out of straw.

“Are all those that worship the Gods Above to be called Good?” Hanno replied.

“No,” I said. “But worshipping Below is against the scriptures, isn’t it? Heresy.”

“Do you worship Below?” he asked.

“I curse in their name, mostly,” I drawled, rather amused. “But I’ve been called an odd duck amongst my kind. Most villains do in fact keep to the Gods Below.”

I knew Hakram did, though it was in the orc way under the name of the Hungry Gods. He wasn’t particularly pious, though, and considered it a private matter besides. Indrani’s utter indifference to all things religious probably counted as some sort of heresy, I was pretty sure, and while Akua worshipped the Hellgods in that very Praesi way that did not exclude attempted murder and usurpation that worship was not less sincere for it. That her growing fondness for heroics had not been paired with conversion to the ways of the House of Light had been a source of some amusement to me, particularly since even if she was a Wasteland aristocrat she knew her way around the Book of All Things better than I did.

“The Choir of Judgement does not follow scripture,” Hanno reminded me. “It was written by mortal hands, a fetter like any other.”

“But if a villain, say, made a carriage out of skulls,” I said, then let the sentence hang.

“Graverobbing is not a particular concern of the Seraphim,” the White Knight replied, sounding almost amused. “Especially when it is only presumptive.”

“But you’d keep an eye on them, after that,” I shrewdly said.

“As I would keep an eye on a man walking into a house with a bared sword,” Hanno said.

While the man in front of me was far from an idiot – I suspected he’d be deeply unpleasant to argue with – I wouldn’t assess him as the kind of silver-tongued schemer I’d come across more than a few times. Oh, it was possible a long game was being played even if he was a hero. But my instinct was that he was much as he put himself forward, and I’d stayed alive this long by listening to that little voice when it tugged at my attention. And right now that voice was telling me that the White Knight didn’t have to be my enemy. I didn’t relish the notion of angels passing judgement through someone else’s hand, and I very much doubted that Hanno would stay his work even if I asked him to pretty please do so, but he could be accommodated. If he worked within the bounds of the Accords, and even worked to enforce them? Hells, he might be a legitimate boon. Heroes would follow the Grey Pilgrim out of respect for the man, but if the White Knight endorsed something a lot of people would take that as the blessing of the Choir of Judgement. There were parts of the continent where that carried a great deal of weight. Even now, after the Tenth Crusade and the fury that’d followed the Salian conclaves, Callow was still one of them.

Everything he’d said fit with what I knew of his actions. He’d come to be involved in the Free Cities because the Tyrant had started a war, and as far as I knew never fought where there wasn’t a villain involved. He’d come as part of the southern crusade, which was a mark against him, but it was largely Black he’d been there for. And while I loved my father a great deal, I couldn’t deny that he was a monster twice over. I believed him to be the man who’d stood between Praes and its worst impulses for decades, and perhaps the monster needed to reform the Dread Empire into a nation that wouldn’t vomit its poison over the rest of Calernia every few decades, but that in no way made him a good man. It was not unjustified, to want to kill him. That didn’t mean I’d allow it, or that it would not make things objectively worse if it happened, but I wouldn’t delude myself into thinking that Amadeus of the Green Stretch was not a monster. He was other things, too, but that didn’t expunge the first truth him. In the end, I didn’t have a lot of axes to grind with the White Knight and he’d proved one of the more reasonable heroes I’d come across. Hanno had even gone north to fight the Dead King and only returned to prevent the Tyrant from having a continent-collapsing tantrum.

In all honesty, that put him pretty high up my list of people who hadn’t severely fucked up in the last year. He had Black beat, for one.

“You don’t take issue with mortal laws, then,” I said.

“It would be absurd to,” he noted. “Lest the Heavens themselves rule, what other way is there?”

“And if those laws applied to even Named?” I pressed.

“A law need not be just,” Hanno of Arwad said. “It need only be a law. I would no more bend my neck to such a wrong than any other threat.”

“I’m not talking about settling right and wrong for all of Calernia,” I said. “That’s doomed. Howling Hells, let’s not even talk about Good and Evil – not even all of Good agrees on the same boundaries. No, I mean basics. You can’t tell Named that regicide is over, neither heroes nor villains would obey that. But limiting the means by which it can be done? That might work. And it’d end the practice of burning down half a city to kill a tyrant or usurp a throne.”

“Not laws, these,” the White Knight said, eyes curious, “but rather rules of engagement.”

My veins thrummed with excitement, because unlike Tariq he’d not needed to be led to that. He’d grasped it, quickly, and did not seem opposed in the slightest. The dark-eyed hero let out a little noise of understanding.

“Ah,” he said. “I see now your cleverness in making such rules so basic. If the expectation placed is so low and Named still fail to clear it, none will desire to support them. Neither others who bear mantles nor the powerful without, for only the erratic would break such bare bones rules. The vast majority of Named will see their lives go untouched, with only the most radical being restricted.”

He paused, looking at me with an expression I found difficult to place.

“This is more than rules of engagement,” the White Knight said, “this is a blade swung at the most callous servants of Above and Below. Within a few generations of grand gestures being harshly answered by all other powers, you would excise that entire manner of thinking from the Named on Calernia.”

Not even Black had caught that, I thought. Oh, he’d seen parts of the Accords as being meant to restrain the most destructive aspects of Praes, but he’d not really gotten it because at the end of the day he did not think of stories the way I did. He’d stayed alive as villain occupying my home, a hotbed of rebellion, by avoiding ever getting caught in a story or pattern that’d get him killed. Unlike me, unlike Akua even, he only rarely wielded like a weapon. It was the same with the Pilgrim, I though, in his own way. Tariq carried around on his back the weight of all his tragedies but at heart he was a guest in the stories of others. Sometimes a guest who ended that story before it could grow into something dangerous, others a wise old man who nudged it to something more acceptable, but the Peregrine as an entity remained… constant. Always playing the same few roles in different stories. He’d know a great many of those, but it would be his nature to think of them as a landscape he’d travelled far and wide. Not something that could shift and change.

“If the flying fortress crowd and the Contrition-ritual crowd always die, always fail? People will remember that,” I quietly agreed. “Gods know it’ll be public enough when the hammer’s brought down. And when it’s been happening for long enough, well, everyone will ‘know’ that sort of thing doesn’t work. Same way heroes don’t die when they’re thrown down cliffs or villains don’t get beaten on the first step of their plan.”

“And with most Named having a stake in ensuring at least the barest of civility is maintained between their kind, the odds are strong that your rules will last long enough to make that mark,” Hanno said. “It is a sound notion.”

“Then you’d be in favour of such a set of rules?” I asked.

He half-smiled.

“They did warn me,” the White Knight pensively said.

I almost cursed. Gods, let this not turn into a damned flop where by simple nature of having been proposed by a villain this entire concept was to be dismissed as a plot of Below. That would be bitterly disappointing after the rest of this conversation.

“I’ve not spoken a single lie,” I said.

“Which makes you singularly dangerous,” Hanno agreeably replied.

My fingers clenched until the knuckles went white under the gloves.

“Ah, you misunderstand me,” the White Knight said. “That you are silver-tongued and perhaps one of the most dangerous people alive does not mean I am dismissing your proposal, Black Queen.”

“Then what does it mean?” I asked.

“That I understand what the Grey Pilgrim meant, now,” Hanno of Arwad said. “You have a pull, Catherine Foundling, that drags others into your wake: either as followers or as wreckage. I am glad to have seen it myself before we first met on formal terms. It would have been startling.”

That last part he spoke ruefully, as if mocking himself.

“There doesn’t need to be anything mystical about this,” I insisted. “I don’t have sole claim to the Accords, not in the slightest. I speak for them because I’m in a position to, not because they’re solely my horse to ride. I don’t know what you think-”

“I very nearly agreed,” the White Knight amusedly said. “Just now. Without thinking twice. After speaking with you for not even an hour. Because you are reasonable, well-spoken and even charming in what I assume to be a rough Callowan way.”

That last one was kind of insulting, I decide, but the rest pretty flattering. I cleared my throat.

“Still not too late to agree now,” I gallantly tried.

“No, perhaps not,” Hanno calmly replied, “but it is certainly too early.”

He suddenly twitched, head turning to look at the far south. I couldn’t hear or see anything, at this distance, and it might be a little gauche to call on Night to aid my senses next to the Sword of Judgement so I refrained out of politeness.

“My friend is returning,” the White Knight said.

It took a moment for me to place it.

“The Witch of the Woods?” I asked.

He dipped his head in agreement.

“A great she-wolf walks with her,” he said. “Neither are fond of cities.”

“I’ll take my leave, then,” I said.

I could on occasion recognize a hint when it was sent my way. I dropped down onto the snow, softening the blow with my staff, and tightened my cloak around my shoulder. Wouldn’t be too long a walk back to camp and I probably should head to bed – I had quite the day ahead of me tomorrow.

“Good night to you, White Knight,” I said, dipping my head in salute.

“And to you, Black Queen,” he replied, doing the same.

I cleared the path, though as I crossed back into the plains I was stopped by a call.

“I expect they will not grow fonder of cities overnight,” Hanno said.

He wasn’t speaking loudly, but his voice carried perfectly.

“Might be I go for a walk, then,” I replied without glancing back.

The yew staff dug into the snow as I limped back home – thump, thump, thump – and I wondered if it truly should go. There might come a day where the coin went up spinning in judgement of me, after all. Not this winter, not this year, maybe not even this decade. But one day? Oh, there’d been a shiver of that going through the conversation. Violence coiled and controlled but never too far from the surface. As a younger woman that might have disturbed me, but these days it simply marked him to my eye as someone able to handle strength properly. Still, I now understood why many heroes deferred to that man: he was so utterly at peace with the power he wielded and what he wielded it for that looking on the surface of that placid pond you’d only ever see your own doubts reflected. I wondered if he’d hesitate, if on that day the coin showed swords. I wondered if I’d hesitate to kill him before the coin ever began spinning.

Neither yew nor snow held answers for me, save that when night came again I would return.

147 thoughts on “Chapter 75: Analog

  1. Huh.

    I think Hanno is probably going to come down in favor of the Accords in general, even if he disagrees on some of the details.
    This is a good thing.

    I wonder what the Witch of the Woods will think. Of both the Accords and Hanno and Cat talking. And I fully expect her to walk in on then tomorrow night.

    Liked by 28 people

        • If Cat is half-naked when the Witch arrives, or even rolling on the floor with her arms around Hanno, she was either being really convincing on her sell of the Accords, or negotiations broke down and they were fighting.

          It is surprising how many situations Cat has been involved where she actually ended half-naked without anything sexual or romantic going on.

          To the top of my head, the list includes:
          – Masego operating to rip off a piece of her soul to extirpate the corrupted Seek Aspect
          – Masego putting the seal on the Moon Heart the Winter King gave Cat
          – Masego doing regular mystical medical check-ups on her
          (LMAO, Masego has seen Cat naked and put his fingers in her more times than Indrani has)
          – The multiple times she got ripped apart in battle and her armor broken but she regenerated thanks to Winter. (Battle of the Camps, the Spellsword, in the Ever Dark)

          Liked by 21 people

          • > LMAO, Masego has seen Cat naked and put his fingers in her more times than Indrani has

            Funny, but objectively untrue. Cat and Indrani shared a bed regularly for months.

            Liked by 7 people

            • Yeah, but Masego was poking around in Cat’s insides for years. Since before they even met Indrani. And we know he did a lot offscreen.
              Sure, Masego probably wasn’t examining Cat at the frequency Cat and Indrani were enjoying each other (most of the time, anyways) … but Masego had way more time to work with than Indrani did.

              Liked by 3 people

              • Good points. I concede that my “objectively untrue” was wrong. My view now is that the question isn’t really decidable either way.

                > Masego was poking around in Cat’s insides for years

                I feel that’s stretching it quite a bit. But it’s just a feeling because I don’t have a good understanding of time in the guideverse.

                > And we know he did a lot offscreen.

                True. Masego was checking Cat’s soul regularly, but we don’t really know how often.


                • Masego first poked around Cat’s innards before First Marchford. Before Indrani even showed up. So he started in early book 2.

                  On the other hand, Masego most likely only poked around inside Cat regularly after she got Winter Fae powers, so early-ish book 3, since before that he only needed to poke around as one-off medical treatments for specific injuries.

                  I’m not entirely sure how long it would be … but likely a minimum of two or three years, counting the timeskips.

                  Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been feeling a lot more sympathetic towards Hanno now that we’ve actually seen him in his dealings with people other than instant enemies. And seen that he actually does more than just ask for advice on who to kill and then kill them.
      And yeah, the Witch is definitely an unknown quantity. I don’t recall if we’ve ever seen a characterizing moment from her, unless you count Hanno saying she doesn’t like cities.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. This whole conversation was gold. I think that Hanno might really be the great proponent of the accords on the Heroes’ side. I think that Hanno and Cat might actually become sort of friends eventually, though the fact that Hanno might one day try and kill Cat will always be there between them. They both know that as far as the Seraphim are concerned, that coin might just flip swords for Cat.

    Liked by 20 people

      • He specifically wanted to agree, but didn’t. Which is quite sensible IMO.

        There’s going to be quite a range of reactions from Heroes. Hanno’s an important data point, but just one. Honestly, there’s bound to be some that say “no accord with Villians, ever”; Laurence was one example. But mostly, I expect most will sign on, after much discussion & debate, because signing The Accords is the right thing for all people to stop the worst excesses of both sides.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, thinking before accepting a treaty is extremely sensible🙂 But the fact that his first reaction was to accept said treaty (proposed by one of the most infamous and canny Villain of his generation) is surprising. The fact that it seems to happen just like Catherine want makes me fear that something very unpleasant is about to occur.

          Liked by 4 people

      • Not really. It’s a mixture of (1) Catherine leading up to it from the angle she previously god Hanno to agree on, (2) her force-of-nature charisma. It’s exactly the thing that happens when you are really good at getting people to agree with you which is exactly the skill Catheirne has, and has been commented on many, many, many times.

        Liked by 3 people

        • > her force-of-nature charisma.

          Well, that’s the thing. Her charisma isn’t just a matter of skill at manipulation, or even persuasiveness. Hanno’s response makes it clear that he’s recognizing a “narrative power”, where Cat tends to sweep up people in her wake. Hanno doesn’t easily get swept up, because he’s a major player in his own right — but he can certainly feel the pressure.

          Fortunately, he’s not contrary enough to oppose her just because something’s pushing him, but he (quite reasonably) wants a double-check (from someone with serious magical defenses) before he decides to go with the flow on this.

          Liked by 2 people

    • No, even worse, instead of the Swords, what if she gets the Laurels?

      I mean… She got something out of contrition, she argued her way to something with mercy, it wouldn’t surprise me that she manages to do enough good or make an argument to judgement that she gets a pass from them too.

      Imagine if you will… Cat, black queen, arch heretic, gets personal approval from all seven choirs. Truly a Lord of… Neutral.


      • Usually when the earliest readers open the link, there are few to no comments. So sometimes it happens that after they finish reading and decide to put the link to Topwebfiction, somebody else is doing the same.

        Coincidences happen sometimes, I personally like it when they do it in a creative way, it’s pretty cool in my opinion.

        Personally, I was gonna go with:

        “You don’t take issue with readers’ votes, then,” I said.

        “It would be absurd to,” he noted. “Lest the Authors themselves vote, what other way is there?”

        and then add the link, but when I reached the end of the page I saw the first comment already had it so there was no need.

        Liked by 11 people

  3. This chapter feels like a good day for Cat, so who’s going to ruin her day? And we haven’t see the Tyrant for a while, let’s see how fast Cat’s day will go down.

    Liked by 11 people

  4. The fact that Hanno did not simply agree to the Accords, nor reject them, but wants to think about them before deciding, is actually rather encouraging.

    If he supports them (and I think he is currently inclined too) it will because he believes it is the right choice. Not because he thinks it convenient, or the situation compels him too, or because he wants Catherine’s favor for something else. But because he actually believes in the core of the Accords themselves.

    That would mean that the Accords would gain a supporter on the Heroic side who will support them the same way Catherine does. Not merely for the surface reasons, but because he understands and support the greater goal.

    Liked by 23 people

    • Huh, I still think he’s going to decide whether to support the accords or not by flipping his coin. Because I can’t see him ridding himself entirely of uncertainty about them. And if he has doubts, then he’ll need something else to judge.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Don’t the gods Above and Below both have a stake in keeping the stories (and Named) coming? If they’re sending the Bard to do as much as possible to stop the Liesse Accords, they wouldn’t hesitate to rig a coin flip.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Accords aren’t about destroying either stories or Named, only to curb the worst excesses. If anything, they make the whole shebang less likely to spontaneously self-destruct, making them in Gods’ interest and to a degree even Bard’s, decreased influence or no – if decreased influence comes with reduced workload, who’d say no to that?

            >If they’re sending the Bard to do as much as possible to stop the Liesse Accords

            Are they?

            Liked by 2 people

      • He himself says that the Choir of Justice only levies one kind of judgement: absolution or death. If he flips his coin on the Accords, it’d pen him into one of two options: support them, or kill everyone who does support them. I’m not sure he’d be interested in taking that risk.

        Liked by 7 people

        • Just imagine:
          Catherine presents the Accords document to Hanno and he filps the Coin of Judgement. The coin falls on Laurels, so the swords’ image is burned into the parchment.
          It can be taken as signature XD

          Liked by 10 people

        • I think of it more as an absolute yes or no. It can’t make a good judgment over where to set a property line or something like that, but it can only answer simple questions

          Liked by 2 people

        • It’s not entirely clear how willing to communicate with Hanno the Seraphim are.
          He might be able to get a response on whether or not they think he should support the Accords or not. On the other hand, since their means of communicating with him is a bit binary … they could like 99.999%, but their response could still be no because of that 0.001% they don’t like.

          It’s also unclear as to what Hanno’s determination not to judge covers and doesn’t cover. Clearly, it covers people, and when he’s been asked to arbitrate disputes he flips the coin, issuing the judgment of the Seraphim, not his. On the other hand, he is clearly contemptuous of the Conclave, but that could just be because they tried to claim the right to judge Cat the Arch-Heretic of the East. However, this discussion seemed to imply that he might be willing to support the Accords without any sort of indication that he wasn’t going to judge them and instead he’d be consulting the Seraphim for their judgement.

          Like … where does Hanno’s determination not to judge because he isn’t qualified end, and where does the necessity to make basic comparative value decisions begin? Ie, if he were to go hunting or something, would he need to flip the coin on every deer he sees until he finds on that comes up swords, or can he make the decision on which deer he should try to take without the coin?

          Liked by 2 people

          • I think you’ve raised some excellent questions about the communication between the Seraphim and Hanno and where Hanno calls on the Seraphim and where he doesn’t. I’m sure we’ll learn more about those questions during the remainder of the Guide.

            My comment to @talenel was specifically in relation to flipping a coin on the Accords and I wasn’t commenting on any other ways the Seraphim might communicate.

            It’s clear that Hanno won’t flip a coin on the Accords because (A) we’ve only seen that Hanno uses the coin on people, and (b) Hanno said in this chapter that flipping the coin on a person brings their souls to the gaze of the Seraphim (“If the coin spun for ever soul on Calernia, it would show the laurels more often than not” and “And I do not bring into the gaze of the Seraphim every soul I encounter without reason”). These points together meant that it would now be absurd for the coin to be used on the Accords. We know EE is a better writer than that.


      • Amadeus try to interrupt the spinning and was smacked in the pavement by the Seraphim. If Catherine try that, the collateral damages from the fight between 2 gods will be ugly. It why Catherine spoke of killing him before the coin spin.

        Liked by 4 people

          • That said, I suspect that the fact that Cordelia could touch the coin at all was shenanigins.

            We’ve seen Hanno flip his coin THROUGH A ROOF and catch it again as if the roof wasn’t even there. The fact that Cordelia could touch the coin was purely because she had the authority to do so (both legal and narrative authority).

            Cat just… doesn’t have such authority. Sve Noc probably don’t either.

            Hierarch possibly does…

            Also, I’m now imagining Hanno flipping the coin on Cat, and the coin goes up…. and then just doesn’t come back down.
            And Hanno and Cat are left standing there “Huh…. now what?”

            Liked by 7 people

    • I maintain that when the coin is flipped for Catherine a raven snatches it from the air.

      And if he tries to flip it on Masego it will come up heads. Even though it didn’t even have a bust of Masego, owner of Judgement, engraved on the obverse before it was flipped.

      Liked by 8 people

  5. This ship is gaining speed. Lots of Speed.

    Hanno is probably the first Hero that Cat has looked forward to meeting again, and so soon.

    And Hanno was saying all sorts of nice things, when he famously doesn’t like to judge people one way or another…

    (Come on Judgement, Cat isnt that bad of a girl… OK maybe she’s much worse. But this could totally work.)

    Liked by 8 people

    • I think you might be trying to support your ship. Because I see nothing to indicate that Cat or Hanno is really interested that way. That coin seems to hover over everything. I’m unsure is Hanno will ever be able to get truly close to someone else as long as it’s omnipresent.

      Liked by 8 people

        • I mean… I’m not sure from what we’ve seen that Hanno gets “Attracted” in quiet the sense you are discussing.
          He does what he thinks is right. If he judges that sleeping with the Apologetic Magistrate will help her chill out, then he isn’t opposed to it, but fundementally, its about the magistrate. There’s some sort of thing with the Witch of the wilds*, and he likes and cares about her… but you never hear him thinking about whether or not she is attractive.
          As Hanno says “I don’t judge”
          Basically Hanno is weird.

          And on the other side…. Cat certainly thinks her is charismatic… but also describes him as “plain”, and seems to oggle him less than most other people she meets.

          *Personal theory is that the witch is some kind of “Virgin priestess” type, who gains her power from the wilds specifically because she doesn’t fool around… henve the Magistrates earlier comments that she is interested in Hanno, but always disappointed. There’s something screwy going on there, and I’m pretty sure her Name has something to do with it.

          Liked by 4 people

          • Hmm, I could believe that maybe on the Ashen Priestess, but not on the Witch of the Woods.

            The Magister’s comment was “If all it takes is asking, it is cruel no one has told Antigone.” implying that the Witch was trying to catch Hanno’s attention.

            It’s simply because the Witch of the Woods seems to spend a lot of time around Hanno, given that they even share a Giant-related background and both use that silent language with nuances even on the degree you move your face, that’s not surprising. And from an outside perspective, it might seem that there’s a romantic interest if two people spend lots of time together, though Hanno denies there being anything of the sort, and implied that there were clear lines drawn there and that was shown in the silent language they use.

            “Hanno understood the Witch of the Wilds perhaps better than anyone not of the Gigantes could, for the silent tongue they shared had a hundred thousand nuances but not a single lie. They knew where they stood, and what could and could not change from it. Insinuations thrown against that were like an egg tossed at a rampart.”

            Then again, not saying something is not the same as lying.
            The Witch might have simply made no insinuation of romantic interest yet, but Hanno seemed pretty certain.

            Liked by 11 people

          • > As Hanno says “I don’t judge”
            > Basically Hanno is weird.

            Don’t dis something until you’ve tried it yourself. Reducing my judgement of other people in day-to-day life has been good for my mental health and relationships.

            Liked by 2 people

        • … eh…? Please tell me that’s not meant the way it can easily be read as, what with the whole play on “straight(en)”… *sigh

          Tell me it’s just the “i liked to pop around, but now i find this one person actually gives me enough to stay with them exclusively” (for i don’t know which amount of time)… , pretty please?

          ((… Even though even that can be hurtful, because most people find they are not “naturally monogamous”, explaining much of the difficulties humans have when it comes to relationships (you choose your kind of pain… but often, there is always *some* kind of pain, be it not being quite as fulfilled as you would wish or having to deal with jealousy issues; choose your poison…).))

          But if it actually should be the case that you really wanted to imply “a bisexual can be turned straight by that one special person” (sigh; please no…)? :

          Then it would seem you’re confusing bisexuality and *monogamy*…?

          And even then, a whole lot of monogamous people (of whatever sexual “type” preference when it comes to gender) do NOT stop finding other people of their “type” interesting – they just don’t follow that interest while in a relationship, if being monogamous at that point. (Although there might be some who really are so full of love for that one special person that – while that person stays in a relationship with them! -, they do lose all romantical/sexual interest in anyone else. Such cases not make the same true for everyone, though; much the contrary, according to statistics. People refrain, but that’s not the same as having no interest at all.)

          A relationship to one special person means just that: a relationship with that one person that fit into your “type” already.
          What is possible: that one person that made you realize your type is *broader* than you thought.
          But that does not make the reversal true. Where is there EVER any actual “oh, i suddenly realize my type is LESS broad than i thought”?
          Only because you find that monogamy suits you with that person who fell into your broad type, while you’re with them, that does not change your sexual preference for gender… Find that you suddenly like a guy when before you only ever liked women? Well, say hello to finding out you were actually BIsexual. Only your other-components-than-gender-“type” when it comes to men is much narrower than your “type” for women… *that* is entirely possible.

          But “I was bisexual, but now I don’t like women anymore AT ALL”? Highly UNrealistic. And even fantasy stories should have ONE kind of “realistic” in it: the one that enables readers to RELATE. That is: basic human emotions.

          Yes, there are quite a few known cases of “I found monogamy works with this one person, because they’re giving me so very much” (at least for the time that relationship works, which MIGHT just be the rest of your life… but more often ends at some point or other). The preference ranging from monogamy vs. polygamy has been found to change in people over time.

          But that is NOT the same as shifts in wholesale stance from “i don’t care about gender, i simply like HUMANS” to “i now suddenly prefer gender x to gender y”, because of one person.
          I.e. sexual preference of a certain type is NOT under the same hat as being monogamous or not.

          Bisexuals are not suddenly heterosexual because they’re in a relationship with a person from the other gender (and do also not suddenly become homosexual while being in a relationship with a person from their own gender) – their whole shtick is *not caring about gender at all*, thus being able to find a partner of either gender because gender is simply no part of their preference. They might have a tendency (see above, broader type when it comes to other features of a person for one gender than the other making it more likely you find more suitable mates from that gender than for the one for which the other components are of a much narrower type), but there really are no proven cases of anyone actually having a narrowing-down of their overall sexual preference when it comes to a basic thing as gender. There might be the odd “I don’t like men/women in general, and thought I was homosexual, but I do find I like *this* one guy/gal” – but that is no narrowing down, it’s a broadening. Now you like women (broad type for women) AND that one guy (very narrow type of men you like) = i.e., hello to discovering your *bisexuality*.

          Liked by 7 people

          • … I should have used “gender xy”, I guess, would have been easier in terms of speech… =/

            For all cases where I used only one example: all options were meant (including non-binary genders).
            It’s the example here (Cat, being a woman who likes men and women (we don’t know about non-binaries in her case), with slightly more women seeming to fit her other categories (broader type for women) that made me switch to those specified examples rather thoughtlessly. Meh. Speaking about this IS in general still a bit difficult for me, after a lifetime of being exposed to heterosexual norms in speech.

            Not being able to edit sucks one again. (No, not the good type. =P)

            Liked by 2 people

          • I was going to politely suggest that maybe you were overreacting and the post in question just meant in the innocuous sense of a criminal “going straight,” and then, because I am a diligent poster, re-read aforementioned post and actually comprehended the last sentence.

            Oof, yeah, no, I see your point; that’s a rather… Framing it generously… Poorly-phrased sentiment, isn’t?

            (My own cardinal rule is “whatever two (or more) adult sapients/sentients get up to on their own time is nobody’s business but their own, provided it isn’t directly harming[1] someone else.”)

            [1]”Being offended” doesn’t count as “harm.”

            Liked by 4 people

      • People are making comments about a ship between them for the fun of it rather than the story realistically making them interested in each other.
        I personally don’t see them getting involved as anything more than friends, but it’s fun to make up situations and speculate.

        Liked by 12 people

        • Yes, the danger isn’t what I mean by the coin being omnipresent. It’s the idea behind it, that, when it comes down to it, he isn’t the one making some of the biggest decisions in his life, something alien is. It creates an emotional distance that generates respect, but not true affection I would say.

          Liked by 3 people

  6. I wonder what will happen when Cat realizes that she’s been riding Providence this whole time. She seems to have forgotten what it was like when she fetching Hierophant as part of the Band of Five: it’s not that you get stronger or smarter; it’s just your enemies leave openings and the winding path gets a little straighter and isn’t it just so EASY being good? You’d think that nearly converting the golden boy of your opposing idealogy on your first “chance” meeting might be a wake-up call. But beware, Black Queen, remember the false guilt you felt the day after you let William go. If Providence starts leading you towards a hot mature even-tempered guy, you need to jump off that horse before it leads you off a cliff.

    Liked by 12 people

  7. They caught each other’s interest and had a polite conversation, earned each other’s respect, and gained a bit of understanding of each other. Great friendships had been built with far less.
    That their sides want to kill each other just adds more spice as far as Catherine is concerned.

    It’s likely the best scenario among the realistic ones, as he didn’t promise to agree but didn’t refute either. Such compromise as backing the Black Queen even if it’s on something beneficial for everyone requires a bit more consideration than the first instinct and impression. At least now they have a cordial base agreement to start off, which is great.

    Also, real smooth, Hanno, way to go. Dropping that hint that the house will be empty tomorrow. And Cat’s response was pretty much “It’s a date then”.
    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    P.S: “for only the erratic would break such bare-bones rules.” Well, Erratic is the Author, so in theory he can break whatever rule there is, hahaha.

    Liked by 11 people

      • Huh?
        Oh… I read the exact opposite intention here:
        “Antigone will need to be out of the city tomorrow night also, so probably I’ll be here again, waiting for her”

        Hmmm… re-reading I’m not sure which intention is right here.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Hey, Indrani is not monogamous, either. As long as Hanno can live with that, where’s the problem… 😉

        But yeah, this better not turn out to be a facepalm-assery of “how bi-s can be straightened out”; it really would sour the story, to have to see bullshit like that purported HERE, of all places, where sexuality and gender preferences of any kind are treated much more less-toxically then in way too many other stories.

        Liked by 4 people

        • “But yeah, this better not turn out to be a facepalm-assery of “how bi-s can be straightened out”;”
          This part confuses me. How would a theoretical romantic affair with the Wight Knight would do that? Even a long-term, monogamous one? Are preferences erased because someone settles down in a relationship?

          Liked by 7 people

          • I think Morgenstern wasn’t referring to the story itself, but the fandom, namely all our wordpress discussion. So rather then EE implying cat was “fixed” or “Screwed straight” or “found the right man” or any of that bullshit, it will be down here below the story where that bullshit will come up and they dread those sorts of comments appearing.

            Liked by 5 people

            • Eh, I honestly doubt it. That would mean she would stop lewding every pretty woman down the line. As far as character developement goes, this seems as implausible as Robber becoming a pacifist unironically.

              Liked by 5 people

              • Again, the fear is not that Erattic suddenly shows a much different attitude about sexuality in his writing, but that the fandom discussion goes sour because of how contentious the subject can get.

                I, of course, stay firmly in my homestuck-fandom style “Ship all of the people with all of the people. All of them.”

                Incidentally, when are Cordelia and Robber going to fuck already!?

                Liked by 7 people

          • Ah, that’s because of Sugar Roll’s comment above saying it would be a good story if Hanno gets to “straighten Cat out” by shifting Cat’s tastes on romantic interests.
            It provoked quite the reaction in Morgenstern.

            Though I stand on Morgen’s side of the argument, I believe Morgen shouldn’t fall for that bait, nor take that response into other people’s comments, as each person is only responsible for their own comments. One person’s comment does not represent the fandom.

            Liked by 2 people

  8. Well dang, up to this chapter I was thinking the White Knight was this random demented killer and suddenly he’s being made to seem so… nice and reasonable. (is immediately suspicious)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. We got a bit of theology; explains why Above is so hands off–because they do not rule.

    “You don’t take issue with mortal laws, then,” I said.

    “It would be absurd to,” he noted. “Lest the Heavens themselves rule, what other way is there?”

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Lovely bit of symbolism here, with the whole thing being a game of chess, White Knight on the board with Black Queen. Of course, in chess, black and white are opposed, and the knight is the only piece that can directly threaten the queen without putting itself in the line of fire — specifically existing for that purpose, mostly.


    Liked by 3 people

  11. big infodump energy

    “Can’t you have a converstion for five minutes without immediately talking about THE THING” “WHY WOULD I”

    I love her…………………………………

    (opinion poll: ADD Catherine Foundling y/n?)


  12. Look i get shipping but saying he’s destined to be with cat simply because he’s a guy is stupid, its also stupid to imply he’ll correct her because she’s been with women too much. seriously its like the comment section devolved the moment he appeared


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