Interlude: So Smile, Tyrants

“And so as night fell over the Blessed Isle, his Dread Majesty sent across the river the corpse of Prince Robert and the captured Princess Juliana, still bound in chains, for when released she had bit off the ear of the High Lord of Okoro. King Selwyn Fairfax rode halfway across the bridge, where he thus addressed His Dread Majesty: ‘You have fought this war grimly on the field and gallantly beyond. Would that you had been born west of the river, under a virtuous star.’ And so His Dread Majesty replied: ‘For having been born east of the river I became instead a man to pluck stars from the sky. Is that not a higher virtue?’”
– Extract from ‘Commentaries on the Campaigns of Dread Emperor Terribilis the Second’

To match the coming Damned, Chosen had been sent for.

Because Creation was a strange and ironic thing, Rozala Malanza thought, this had been the suggestion of Catherine Foundling and opposed largely by Cordelia Hasenbach. Not that the First Prince would be so uncouth as to risk offending the Dominion by implying its favourite son was anything other than a treasured ally. There’d been talk instead that the Peregrine’s presence might incite the Tyrant to misbehave, that surely the White Knight himself would be enough. Princess Rozala suspected that the First Prince had known it would fail, and it had, but had allowed herself to vent a sliver of personal dislike in as harmless a manner she could. That Hasenbach despised the Peregrine was no surprise to her, not since she’d heard the full story of what had taken place at Saudant. The sleepy little fishing village by the shores of Lake Artoise that had been butchered to bring the Carrion Lord to heel, leaving not a single survivor. Not even children.

It had shaken Rozala’s high esteem of the Chosen, to hear this. A greater good had been achieved by the act, that much could not be denied. How many more dozens of thousands would have died if the Legions of Terror slipped the noose in Iserre to ravage the western principalities as well? Yet it’d been a grave evil, that too could not be denied, and one dealt unto a sworn ally. The First Prince’s view of the matter was without nuance, but the Princess of Aequitan could not quite bring herself to share it in full. She remembered still the Grey Pilgrim saving thousands of lives during the Battle of the Camps, and almost as many after when he went from wounded to wounded and worked his healing to exhaustion. It had been an ugly choice the old hero made, and one he had no right to make. But did they not breathe a little easier for it? Were they not, behind the outrage at the lives taken and the brutality of the act, all a little grateful for what had come of it?

The dark-haired princess could not embrace the choice he had made, the deaths it had meant, but neither would she condemn it outright. It would be hypocrisy of the worst sort to let Peregrine undertake the bloody work of capturing the Carrion Lord for them and then in the same breath to complain of his murderous meddling.

“Princess Rozala?”

The Arlesite general turned a pleasant smile upon the woman who had approached her, for this was a relationship that must be cultivated for years to come should they all survive these dark times. Lady Vivienne Dartwick cut rather more regal a figure when out of the thief’s leathers she’d worn at the truce talks in northern Callow, though Rozala decided that the milkmaid braid crowned by a tasteful silver circlet rather helped the effect. It was said she’d once been a Chosen, before the Black Queen turned her to villainy. Though few believed the Black Queen’s handpicked successor to be anything close to ‘redeemed’ from such damnation, she was still considered rather less incendiary an interlocutor in diplomatic talks. Nobly born as well, for House Dartwick was on the Callowan lists of nobility, which was a balm on the pride of those who still balked at negotiating with a no-name orphan like Catherine Foundling. A foolish thing, that, when the shadow of that orphan’s displeasure had half of Calernia shaking in its boots, but pride could oft be a foolish thing.

“Lady Dartwick,” Rozala replied. “How may I be of service?”

“The Lord Adjutant is being sent out by my queen and will require a guide,” Lady Vivienne said. “If I might trouble you to provide one?”

A matter of too little importance to speak to the First Prince over, Rozala idly thought, yet requiring the assistance and assent of a high-ranked Proceran. The Callowan noble had correctly navigated etiquette in approaching her, which was a refreshing change compared to her mistress – who largely behaved as if she were above such things. Rather more gallingly, she was not wrong to believe so.

“My personal secretary Louis Rohanon will see to it,” the Princess of Aequitan said.

She discreetly gestured for one of the attendants to approach her, so Louis could be informed of her request. It was insulting that her dear friend’s abdication of his crown for the sake of the Principate meant he no longer qualified to attend councils such as this, but given the recent… agitation in Salia the princess knew it was not the time to test the First Prince’s tolerance.

“Will the Lord Adjutant be leaving us, then?” Rozala asked.

She would not mind that, for the quiet watchfulness in the orc’s eyes spoke of little missed. Yet it would not do to loose a Damned without first learning where he would head, and for what purpose.

“Queen Catherine intends to sound out the loyalties and interests of Nicae,” Lady Vivienne said.

And she’d sent out an orc to do so? The Princess of Aequitan was no village bumpkin, to believe orcs men turned to corrupted forms by some ancient sin and the hand of Below, but it could not be denied that the Deadhand’s large fangs and leathery skin fed into his looming presence to unsettling result. Though the Lord Adjutant had struck her a clever-minded and methodical, he hardly made for a pleasant envoy. Unless, of course, a reminder of force was what the Black Queen meant to send. Who could truly know, with that one?

“Then allow me to offer my secretary’s services as scholar and translator,” Princess Rozala suggested.

The heiress-designate eyed her pensively. It would mean anything spoken would later be reported to her, true, but it would also lend the weight of Procer’s tacit approval to whatever was spoken. Besides, Louis truly was fluent in tradertalk and of scholarly inclination besides. He would be of practical use, regardless of all the rest.

“I thank you for the boon,” Lady Vivienne said, tone formal. “I am certain Lord Adjutant will delight in the use of such an able aide.”

Secrecy was not paramount to whatever the Black Queen had planned for the League, then, or perhaps even Nicae in particular. The arrangements were made swiftly, and all was in motion before the latest arrivals stirred the room. The Grey Pilgrim’s stride was greeted enthusiastically by the highborn of the Blood, though rather more coolly by the Callowans and the Carrion Lord. First Prince Cordelia herself offered the due courtesies and not an inch more, for even in utter scorn the Lycaonese princess was rarely anything but flawlessly polite. The White Knight’s entrance was, by contrast, was more warmly received. The Chosen’s willingness to work with the Highest Assembly – though never under, for Hanno of Arward answered to the Tribunal alone – and the strictures of Proceran law had endeared him to Hasenbach and even Rozala herself, she would admit. Never before had she heard of a Chosen who would list and explain every kill he’d made in a rioting city before scholars of law so that the actions might be assessed.

At least not without hinting it was mere humouring of mortal crowns, while the White Knight had instead seemed serious and even earnest.

The White Knight and his companion the Witch of the Woods were also notably strong Chosen who had come to safeguard Salia and the peace talks, which had been reassuring considering who would be attending. The Black Queen, the Hierophant, the Tyrant of Helike – and now it seemed even the Hidden Horror himself. In truth Princess Rozala had been surprised at Queen Catherine’s suggestion that the White Knight attend this council, for the Sword of Judgement was blatant enough a ward against her that the dark-haired general had believed she might take offence. Apparently, Rozala Malanza faintly thought, someone had forgot to inform Catherine Foundling of this: she met the White Knight’s arrival with a smile and a respectful nod, which the Chosen casually returned. Rozala was not the only one to take notice, the eyes of half the room coming to rest on the pair in silent surprise.

“Kairos Theodosian nears,” the Black Queen suddenly said.

It had been more than a year now since the Tyrant of Helike had sworn eternal friendship to Cordelia Hasenbach. Not that she had ever believe him. Nor would she now put too much stock in anything he said, not even if Chosen insisted he had been bound by a curse of truth. If a madman believed the sky to be green, did that make it so? No, the Tyrant had been a thorn in her side for too long to be taken as anything but a peril.

The First Prince had considered the young king a diplomatic and military headache from more or less the first breath after he’d taken the throne, for he’d proven to be both cunning and very much inclined to turn that cunning against Procer. The blonde princess had once believed that Helike and its boy-king could be restrained by fetters of ink, treaties binding the League to a ten-year truce with the Principate until other affairs were settled, but that had arguably been the second-most serious diplomatic blunder of her reign. She could not be certain that the Tyrant’s rise could truly be laid at her feet, for he might well have struck out for power regardless of anything she did. Yet the League’s vote for truce with Procer had undeniably been the trigger of the civil war that propelled the Tyrant of Helike to greater heights. And saw Anaxares of Bellerophon elected to the office of Hierarch of the Free Cities, though in some ways that seat was still good as empty.

Still, for all that Cordelia had maneuvered and plotted against Kairos Theodosian she had never seen the man with her own eyes until he came to Salia. Much of what she had read of him proved true, the First Prince pondered once more as the Tyrant swaggered into the parlour, but it did not quite do the man justice. The thin sickliness, the loose robes that did not quite hide erratic convulsions and trembling, or even the blood-red eye under wispy brown curls: Theodosian almost seemed more notion than man, as if some godly hand had painted grinning malevolence on the canvas of Creation and crowned it king of Helike. Most of those here loathed him, the First Prince considered. Some loathed him so deeply it was like a poison in their veins. Yet looking at the young king and the two waddling gargoyles flanking him, one would think he was among friends.

“Oh my,” Kairos Theodosian drawled. “Such a gathering of great and mighty names. My heart is made all aflutter.”

“Lord Tyrant,” Cordelia Hasenbach calmly said. “Welcome. You are thanked for accepting our invitation.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” the odd-eyed villain grinned.

“Gods, you really are such a prick,” the Black Queen of Callow said, sounding almost admiring. “If I didn’t know better, I’d call it an aspect.”

The fair-haired Lycaonese bit down on her initial wave of fear and irritation. Much as she disliked the manners of the other ruler, it could not be denied that no one in this room had even half the understanding of the Tyrant she could boast of having. As if to prove correct her thought, instead of storming out at the casual slight and informality the other villain instead let out a cackling laugh.

“Catherine,” he replied cheerfully. “A pleasure to see you, as always. Is that my old friend Amadeus I see cowering in your shadow?”

The Carrion Lord, who had kept his peace and spoken only sparingly since his declaration of war on the Tower, never lost his air of cold indifference.

“It is a rather broad shadow, these days,” the Carrion Lord casually replied. “It makes for comfortable cowering.”

The choking sound from her side was, Cordelia realized, most of the Blood supressing laughter.

“An empire’s worth of room, eh?” the Tyrant sneered. “I wonder, did the broken spine take the Name or was it the other way around?”

She must step in now else the villain would needle everyone here ‘til Last Dusk. Satisfying as it was to hear the Carrion Lord pricked, it did nothing to endear the one pricking him to her heart. Or advance the cause of Procer’s survival to let it devour time from the recess, for that matter.

“The Dread Empire of Praes,” the First Prince said, “is not why it was asked you attend this council.”

“Then by all means,” Kairos Theodosian drawled, “reveal this revelation to me, Warden of the West.”

Cordelia stepped forward, back straight. Closer to a villain whose suspected body count was in the hundreds, who had once router an entire host by wielding a storm and not so long ago ripped out thousands in cavalry from Arcadia and smashed them down onto the earth. She stepped forward with utter calm, for these were her chosen grounds and her favoured manner of strife.

“Circumstances have ensured there is an alignment in our interests, Lord Tyrant,” Cordelia said.

A heartbeat passed; the blood-red eye blinked.

“Boring,” the boy-king said, solemn as a judge passing a sentence.

“Yet here you are, standing among us,” the First Prince said, unruffled. “Itching to turn on the Crown and Tower who have used you better than you used them.”

“Slightly less boring,” the Tyrant conceded. “Still I’ve yet to hear a single reason I should break such deep trust or sunder a precious bond of fellowship.”

“You require assurances, understandably,” Cordelia said. “This can be arranged. You stand, as you said, among an assembly of great and mighty names.”

“And what would be required of me in exchange for these assurances?” the Tyrant grinned. “Go on now, Warden of the West. Do not disappoint.”

“You have been deep in the Enemy’s councils, Lord Tyrant,” Cordelia said. “Reveal their plans to us and-”

“Nononono,” the Tyrant of Helike interrupted, growing increasingly shrill. “That was not the right thing to ask. You’re doing it wrong.”

The villain seemed genuinely agitated, his arm slipping out of the folded sleeve hiding it in a spasm. His brown eye had grown watery, as if he were in pain or sorrow. The First Prince was taken aback, and for once uncertain as to how she should respond. A limping gait whispered across the floor, the Black Queen hobbling behind the Tyrant’s back and slowing only to offer her the most insolent wink Cordelia had ever seen. She flushed.

“Sometimes they need us devils to speak the ugly things, Kairos, you ought to know that by now,” Queen Catherine said, tone teasing.

Tension in the Tyrant’s shoulders loosened by a fraction at the words, and Cordelia grasped the game. Silk and the steel, then. She was more used to standing as the former than the latter, but not unskilled at the exercise.

Say it,” Kairos Theodosian demanded.

“Give us a good reason to keep warring on Keter,” the Black Queen said.

As she often did, the Queen of Callow was cutting to the bone of it for that was the truth exact of what they needed. A great banner of fear and outrage that would bind Principate – and beyond – to pursuit of the war against the Dead King, and if there was one man who might give them that at this very moment it was the Tyrant of Helike.

“Ah,” the odd-eyed king said, savouring the sound. “There it is. Now, let the mangled relic in the corner attest to my words – not you Amadeus, at least this time – and pronounce truth where it is. I have such a reason and can reveal it to you.”

All eyes in the parlour turned to the Grey Pilgrim, whose eyes were narrowed.

“Truth,” the Peregrine slowly said. “In word and intent.”

“Then let us speak of price, Theodosian,” Cordelia said. “Some offences may yet be forgiven, should you bargain in good faith. Wealth and honours could be laid on your brow.”

Cordelia was much taller than the Tyrant and made certain to loom over him as he spoke. A tilt of the neck lent her the appearance of looking down on him as she spoke, and she added a faint hint of sneer to her lip. Dislike was as distracting a feeling as any other, and if she must wield the reputation of the Alamans abroad to best achieve it she would not balk at the indignity.

“He’s not the coin kind of king, Hasenbach,” the Black Queen drawled. “No, he’s an old-fashioned sort. He wants his seat at the table back. Don’t you, Kairos?”

Which Queen Catherine wanted no more than Cordelia herself, though with the amused glint to her eye she was doing a fair impression of desiring otherwise.

“Catherine, how distressing,” the Tyrant grinned. “That would imply that I currently no longer have a seat. Am I not a participant in good standing of this peace conference?”

“Helike can be spared retribution for its reckless war-making and treachery,” Cordelia said, phrasing it as a great concession. “Your abdication, however, might be required for the sake of peace.”

“Now there’s a familiar tune,” the Black Queen smiled.

It was, the fair-haired princess thought, a little too sharp a smile for that sharpness to be entirely feigned.

“Ladies,” the Tyrant intervened, sounding utterly delighted, “come now, is there truly need for such language? Now, unless I am mistaken there was some talk of dues.”

Queen Catherine began circling again, and Cordelia breathed in. Time to see what the two of them could bargain him down to.

“You are due quite a few things,” the First Prince pleasantly agreed.

“Mostly the one, as far as I am concerned,” Kairos Theodosian grinned. “And dear Catherine knows what I want, she does. She even brought it for me.”

The trial, Cordelia thought. It was all coming to hinge on the trial of the White Knight, as promised at the crossroad of the Princes’ Graveyard. She had been warned by every Chosen and Damned she was on speaking terms with that to allow such a thing to unfold would be highly dangerous and acted accordingly.

“Your demand for a trial of the White Knight is on the official order of affairs, Lord Tyrant,” the First Prince mildly said.

“Very far down the list,” the Tyrant replied, just as mildly. “And I could not help to notice some details of procedures related to its positioning. Now, were I a suspicious man, I might suspect they’d allow a clever sort to put off that discussion for weeks, if not months.”

Which had been the very intent. The League of Free Cities as it currently stood was a derelict taking water, and the situation would only worsen unless the Hierarch himself intervened. It was unlikely he would, meaning that waiting for a span might very well see the Tyrant’s power among the League and perhaps the League itself collapse – and so make any demands of his utterly irrelevant, for he would no longer have the knife at the throats to see through his extortion.

“Then we move it up the list,” the Black Queen shrugged.

“I would not wish to be unseemly in my demands,” the Tyrant smiled. “And so, I’ve a suggestion to offer that could be considered less of an imposition.”

The smile widened, until all that Cordelia could see was a thin, sharp slice of teeth and a pulsing red eye.

“Let us hold the trial now.”

126 thoughts on “Interlude: So Smile, Tyrants

  1. Huh.

    This can’t be Kairos’s endgame. Putting White Knight on trial now isn’t going to be something that ends the game for Kairos, because there’s other stuff going on that he’s interested in seeing play out.

    So perhaps he’s just trying to establish a precedent for use in some other plot.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Oshi

      The treachery is the end game. He is the ultimate partisan for below. Chaos is what’s needed and he will do anything he can to achieve it. This is when the fun starts.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. erebus42

        While all of that is true, Kairos prefers to maximize the impact of his treachery. This seems like lesser treachery to me so that makes me think he’s got something grander in mind.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          “something grander”? I agree. I wish I could guess what he’s planned. The best I can think of is to use Heirarch and the trial to strike a significant blow against the choir of judgement and cause people to loose some faith in Above.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. IIRC, a number of knowledgeable folks have said that his plan is to actually trap and perhaps kill at least one of the Seraphim. However, I would have thought that he’d require Hierarch’s presence for the trial, and I can’t imagine nobody would have noticed that. (That said. I’m reading this late, so I haven’t seen the current chapter yet.)

            Like

        2. caoimhinh

          My current hypothesis is that this Trial of the Choir of Judgement is actually a test trial for whatever Kairos has in mind for dealing with the Bard.

          This would engrave into Creation the instance of mortals exacting judgment over the tools of the Gods, which is a powerful thing and with a huge weight even if unprecedented (or perhaps on behalf of being unprecedented). This could very well be the sharpening of the blade that ultimately takes the Intercessor out of commission and banish her from the game.

          Kairos is the one who understands the most about the Bard (along with Neshamah) after all. His Wish aspect enabled him to see through her, back when he was still plotting to make Anaxares into Hierarch, which is pretty early on in the series.

          Liked by 26 people

            1. Kyle

              I agree he could be trying to establish a precedent, or he could be going for something more direct. It has been implied that hierarch can pass judgement on even beings normally beyond judgement. Given how strongly the choir of mercy reacted to threats against the Pilgrim, and how the choir of judgement has in the past directly intervened on behalf of the white knight when his passing of judgement was interfered with, perhaps Tyrant is trying to bait the choir into intervening to prevent heirarch from passing judgement on the white knight. I am willing to bet it is against the law in Bellerophan to interfere with legal proceedings which would give heirarch the ability to pass judgement on the whole choir.

              Liked by 11 people

              1. You gotta admit- Heirarch swatting down the entire choir of Judgement is pretty fricken’ badass. Shame that they seem to be one of the most reasonable angel factions around (based on Hanno’s backstory).

                Honestly, neither Mercy nor Judgement seem all that bad really. Not GOOD, but still reasonable.

                That said…. Hierarch is getting crazier and crazier. Anarexes V1.0 was a chill dude, but the Hierarch of the free cities has been getting more and more nutso each time we see him.

                Also, IF Kiaros manages to use this to stab the Choir of Judgement, pretty sure Below is going to give him SO many brownie points, and probably grant him an extra year worth of good health.

                Liked by 4 people

                1. Shveiran

                  I’d argue that Anaxares was simply powerless and therefore not dangerous in the beginning, not “a chill dude”.
                  The election didn’t really change his ideas, it just made them relevant. I always found him rather… disturbing, personally.

                  Liked by 6 people

                  1. HHmmmmm fair.

                    He’s distrubing due to the brain washing… but I’ll respect his refusal to accept power when it was offered, and his bizzare calm when facing down Tyrant as a mere mortal.
                    But yeah- fair call “Chill dude” may be taking the description a bit far.

                    Liked by 4 people

                2. reyishi

                  Actually Judgement is described as a pretty hardcore choir : Hanno is the very first hero acting to its name because every time a hero wants to go for the Judgement route they were instantly smited (it was said in thr earlier I don’t remember which but I think the Lone Swordsman was still alive).

                  Like

                  1. Shikkarasu

                    That would be Prosecution II
                    “Five I have sent, in my day,” the stranger said. “None returned. Ashur is not loved by them, child. There is too much rot in the flesh, and the Seraphim despises that sin most of all.”
                    I don’t think the Boatman was saying there have been no Judgement Heros, just that in his time(probably a mortal life, so 30-60 years depending how old he was) he hadn’t seen anyone succeed. Either the last Judgement Hero was a few decades ago, or they didn’t use that boat trick to gain their name.

                    Liked by 4 people

    2. Licens

      He doesn’t want the White Knight put on trial. He wants to be tried by the White Knight, for Hanno to flip that coin, and he wants it BEFORE he tells them what they need to know. He’s trying to force the hand of a choir, or break the Knight. Either the choir lets him live, the WK defies his choir, or the information dies with him.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Poetically Psychotic

      I get the feeling it’s not Hanno he wants on trial, it’s the Choir of Judgment responsible for his actions. Executing the White Knight on a technicality would be hilarious. Executing an *entire Choir of angels* would be the stuff of legend.

      Like

        1. I’d say it’s probably because it does not use characters as corrupted handpuppets on a distorted stage shouting our words as their own over sharp shards of the fourth wall.

          It puts us in their place cosplaying, instead. That’s much better.

          Liked by 3 people

  2. My very own name

    Typo thread:

    > anything but flawlessly polite. The White Knight’s entrance was, by contrast, was more warmly received. [Double was]

    And the ship just sailed!

    > the Black Queen hobbling behind the Tyrant’s back and slowing only to offer her the most insolent wink Cordelia had ever seen. She flushed.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. erebus42

        Despite it frequently being pointed out that she is no great beauty, between Hanno, Cordelia, Aquilline, and Rozala Cat’s got a nice potential harem going. But as the late great Rateface once pointed out she’s got “charisma not beauty” which makes a difference.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Jane

          Didn’t the last chapter mention how she hisses like a goblin?

          We don’t often see how many characters ogle Catherine back, but… That doesn’t sound like the basis for a traditional harem MC to me…

          /tongueincheek

          Liked by 6 people

  3. Slider

    Of course the little shit wants the trial now. Why does everyone let the madman dance unimpeded?
    He’s a very refined man for brushing off Dear Catherine insults, though. Such gentlemanliness is rarely seen amongst his peers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Zgggt

      He knows something we don’t.

      Judgement being held accountable under a human court is guilty: human morality cannot be based on complete knowledge, therefore the assumptions of “Above’s Plan is good”, “Judgement knows better than mortal justice”, and “by definition, Judgement cannot be unjust” are not legitimate defense under a court of law.

      And yet, even with all that, Hanno and Judgement should still win. Perhaps because Hanno uses knowledge of earlier White Knights to enforce Judgement, then he can be held accountable for their actions, which may have fit the time. Or, since Black mentioned that had heroes not interfered stealing Callows weather would have succeeded. So, instead of an exchange of weather, Callows remained untouched, but all generations of Praes since have paid the price… But somehow I don’t see any White Knight judging anyone for centuries of suffering, and in there lies a massive injustice that can be attributed directly to Judgement and their representatives.

      What would happen if Judgement would find the concept of a White Knight guilty?

      My assumption has always been Kairos knowing to a certainty he could create a spectacle with absolutely massive ramifications.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Jane

    Foundling and Hasenbach really do work quite well together, when they’re not too busy working against each other. Hasenbach playing to Proceran stereotypes was a delight, as well.

    Liked by 9 people

  5. You know, considering that the White Knight considers himself above no other mortal, I actually think nothing will really happen to this, apart from maybe the Angels getting slightly fucked over.

    But if that happens, doesn’t that just give him more agency? To see that the absolute aren’t so absolute in the first place, and that man itself has right to judge their own.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oshi

      People have to stop focusing on the White Knight. When was the last time Kairos ever targeting the person he said he was. The trail ITSELF is the goal. The outcomes don’t matter if he can carve into creation something. I can’t wait to find out what it is.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. mindsword2

        One thing I’m wondering if the trail is the means to a different end. He can see another’s Wishes and so if he can get Judgement to make an appearance he might learn what they Wish, which would be a wonderful insight into how to manipulate the Choir of Judgement itself.

        Liked by 6 people

  6. caoimhinh

    Wow, Cordelia is really bad at dealing with Kairos.
    She might be a skilled diplomat and politician, but she simply does not have the right mindset to face Kairos.

    Liked by 6 people

        1. Cicero

          What’s particularly funny is that Cordelia notes she is is used to playing silk (good cop), and in this instance is instead playing steel (bad cop), but in fact she doesn’t really have to change much to play bad cop, since all her courtesies and politeness irritates Karios, while Cat’s playful insults is what he likes.

          ….

          ….

          Is Karios an M?

          Liked by 9 people

    1. jack

      Cordy deals with two realms. The Material and the political. Steel and soldiers, and noble promises.
      More the latter than the former, in her case.

      She’s not named, she doesn’t understand stories or why they’re important. she doesn’t understand that Kairos needs to be treated like a villain, a treasonous viper, not a political adversary or the leader of an enemy faction.

      Offer him a knife and a back to stick it in, and he’s as happy as a clam. He couldn’t care one jot for promises of clemency, political power or gold to pay his soldiers.

      Cordelia doesn’t get that. It’s why she doesn’t understand why The pilgrim’s attempt to shape a story that could kill Catherine could be considered an assassination attempt.

      She doesn’t realise that all of creation moves because stories tell it to. It’s her blind-spot, and why she doesn’t reckon much to Cathrine’s warnings that whatever they’re digging out of the lake could be used to wipe out Procer as a whole.
      She knows names, but she doesn’t know Roles, or what a Pivot is.

      Her only direct interaction with Name Lore is when she refused to allow the Gods Above to Name her, because she thinks that her own country’s system of governance is more important that the Gods literally empowering someone with divine authority.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. I mean, fucking nobody has the right mindset to face Kairos (except Cat). I think Cordelia could pick up on it over prolonged interactions, but her default is too alien for her to grasp how he works quickly.

      She works so well with Catherine though.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Jane

        If memory serves, even Hakram questioned Cat’s approach to Kairos when she had him draw up the letters back at the Graveyard – because exactly how many people like being treated with open contempt by their “allies”? It’s not the sort of thing one would find out naturally, certainly – not unless one were prone to a quick temper, and started insulting him when he didn’t do what you wanted. Except in that case, I think he’d probably continue misbehaving to wind you up further.

        …Catherine really had the right of him in her description of him this chapter. No doubt the only reason it isn’t an Aspect is the fact that his personality flaws are not a transitive verb.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. I wouldn’t call “abused kid gets triggered by 90% of the ways the world can approach him into actively making every situation worse” a ‘personality flaw’ per se. Like I’m not saying Kairos is a good person, this particular bit of terminology just doesn’t sit well with me.

          And yep, Catherine getting him after just one face to face conversation is fucking genius.

          Liked by 3 people

  7. Andrew Mitchell

    Of course, Cordelia & co. have to let this happen; THE reason to prosecute this war against the Dead King is just too important.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the trial. Hanno, Heirarch and the choir will all be important players, but it’s unclear to me how the trial is going to play out and what the result will be. It’s could be quite an important milestone in Cat’s aim, to upset the game between Above and Below, by showing everyone that Above (and by extension Below) really don’t give a shit about the people of Calernia.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Time for the Trial Mini-Arc, I wonder if it will really be done in a couple of interludes right away or in a later date. The trial seems important enough to not be finished in a single chapter, but who knows.
      Either way, that is not Kairos’ goal or endgame, putting the Choir of Judgement to Trial by mortals is just a means to an end. But I wonder what it is…

      Anyways, I really hope someone shouts “Objection!” at some point of the Trial. Maybe the Bard making a dramatic entry or something.

      Liked by 11 people

  8. devildragon777

    …Kairos is going to swing Anaxares in for the trial, isn’t he? Heirarch may actually be able to usurp or cause damage to the Choir of Judgement in the process…there’s a reason the Tyrant picked Hanno, and it definitely has to do with either his patron or Hanno’s own beliefs regarding mortal law.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I think it’s rather that Kairos saved Hanno’s life because he had this plan of using him against the Choir in the future, and he also used that chance to make a deal with the Bard if I recall correctly.

        Kairos is one of the characters that sees furthest ahead, despite appearances.

        Liked by 5 people

  9. Hardric62

    > The dark-haired princess could not embrace the choice he had made, the deaths it had meant, but neither would she condemn it outright. It would be hypocrisy of the worst sort to let Peregrine undertake the bloody work of capturing the Carrion Lord for them and then in the same breath to complain of his murderous meddling

    Methinks Cordelia is seething both because the Peregrine decided to keep Amadeus alive after that (despite the fact it is paying up dividends now), and probably because she remembers the Saint of Bitches’ self-professed goal of burning Procer to the ground. Odds that the Grey Peregrine didn’t know of that are likely considered as quit elow in her book, meaning he approved her enough for not stopping her. Might cause you to be a tiny little bity salty.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. Hardric62

        I know, I was just pointing out why Cordelia could be so disgruntled about the Peregrine to Rozala.
        And I guess I’m using this as a PS too, because the Saint of Bitches’ meddling with the House of Light for that Arch-Heretic mess was also likely why the pricks felt too big for their britches and took part in that coup attempt. One more reason for being salty.

        Liked by 5 people

  10. superkeaton

    Cat’s being such a cheeky shit to Cordelia, I love it. And she shameless eye-candy eating. For all the talk of proper diplomacy, it’s the low-born warlord Villainess who has to do the sweet talking. Love. It.

    Wonder what kind of work Secret Agent Hakram’s about to get up to… Heh, 00rc.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. caoimhinh

      It’s funny because only 3 chapters ago Catherine was saying “From the corner of my eye I saw Princess Rozala’s lips twitch in suppressed amusement. It would have been impolitic to wink, I supposed, and besides I had a policy.”

      Yet she winked to Cordelia in this chapter (mere minutes afterward) in such an insolent way that Cordelia flushed in indignation. Hahahaha

      Liked by 6 people

        1. Shveiran

          Why else? Cordelia is playing along, but she is poised, genteel and does care for courtesies and protocol.
          To have such an informal approach is an indignity to her. Not one she’ll not cast aside of course, she is not stupid.
          But… yeah, I think it makes her feel indignation at the gesture. Don’t you?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Cordelia had just been knocked askew and is unsure what to do. If she were somehow angry or indignant at the Black Queen in the middle of looking to her for cues on how to act, I’m sure it would have been remarked upon.
            No, this is a different kind of flushed.

            Liked by 3 people

              1. Ultimate_procrastinator

                My friend, you are attempting to argue with Shipping Gogglestm. That can only end one way: with you flat on your rump, collecting the shattered pieces of your rejected reality, while the owner of the Shipping Gogglestm triumphantly substitutes their own reality. Best just to role with it 😉 (or roll your eyes, whatever you prefer)

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Ultimate_procrastinator

                  incidentally, does anyone know how to make text a superscript here? I tried googling html tags for it; the tags don’t show up, but the text was just left as normal, so I’m not sure what was wrong. I would assume if I screwed up the tags they would show up in the comment?

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Does this mean that in your world, everyone who ever argues that a character is attracted to another character is wrong by definition, and even if it ends up explicitly acknowledged in text they were still wrong that other time? Or do you just have a firm conviction that this particular time is wrong and no such thing is happening between Catherine and Cordelia in particular?

                  Like

                  1. Ultimate_procrastinator

                    No, I was just jokingly pointing out that, right or not, shippers tend to hold tightly to anything which is or is perceived as evidence for their chosen ship, and arguing about whether it makes sense doesn’t really tend to go anywhere. I also decided to throw in a mythbuster’s reference with the whole rejected/substituted realities line, which probably muddled the joke a bit. Personally, I have no particular opinion on why Cordy was blushing here; could be for shipping reasons, could be, as others have pointed out, because she’s a stickler for protocol. Either way, it was a funny moment, and I don’t particularly enjoy arguing about shipping in general, so I will make no further statement or commentary on the matter. I apologize for not communicating more clearly, especially if I gave offense in the process

                    Liked by 5 people

                    1. > No, I was just jokingly pointing out that, right or not, shippers tend to hold tightly to anything which is or is perceived as evidence for their chosen ship, and arguing about whether it makes sense doesn’t really tend to go anywhere.

                      You might not have considered that in context this would refer to the specific people participating in the discussion? Like, with this statement being made on the commend chain of a specific discussion, this is you making a statement about commenters in it.

                      “Jokingly” unfortunately does not make this un-hurtful, as the essence of the joke is not “haha nobody would take this statement seriously right?” but “haha these particular arguments so stupid right?”

                      As illustration, note how it led to specific people checking out of the discussion like “ur right”, instead of smiling at the joke and continuing the conversation like before.

                      This was a pretty damn hurtful thing to have happen to you, and so I am clarifying: did you mean for it to lead to this, or did you completely misread how it would be taken in context?

                      Like

                    2. Shveiran

                      It “was a pretty damn hurtful thing to have happen to you” to have someone point out their belief that these theories regarding ships seem built on sand?

                      That’s a pretty strong reaction for someone who has often done the same regarding theories they dislike.

                      He didn’t call anyone names, he didn’t say you have to stop, he just said “this seems silly, and I don’t think you are willing to discuss it seriously”.
                      If that’s past the hurtful bar, I’m not sure we can have discussions.

                      Like

                    3. > these theories regarding ships seem built on sand?

                      It is fairly rude to state this so indirectly and not to the person you actually disagree with, yes.

                      Like

              2. Yes, because it doesn’t change her mood – she’s still off balance and looking to Catherine for directions. And she has no time to acknowledge this, nor any intention. Absolutely no part of her wants to think for even a second about why she flushed there, so the narration moves on immediately. That, in fact, makes perfect sense.

                Like

        2. caoimhinh

          Yes, I am sure.
          Cordelia just emphasized the insolence of that gesture right before flushing. That’s not an embarrassed flush of “Oh, my god my crush is looking at me!” nor anything romantic or sexual, it’s the simple indignation of a proper and mannered noble receiving an informal and disrespectful gesture by someone else.
          We have already seen this a lot of times, Cordelia does not like informalities, and she is obsessed with them to the point it almost pains her when she has to skip formalities (we have seen this from her own POV) and she has always frowned upon Cat’s disregard of etiquette.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. The Hilarious part of all this being is that Cat winding up Cordelia and winking and breaking all rules of decorum…. is the perfect diplomatic play for getting on Tyrants good side.

            Probably that’s WHY she is doing it (also because fun). But the point is, the more she does this, the more she plays Tyrants game, and the happier he is to play along.
            Hell, even if he knows its manipulation, he’s happy to have a dance partner.

            Liked by 6 people

              1. Shveiran

                That is rude, yes.

                I don’t think that’s what I did, though. I said (implied, really) that I find one particular discussion silly and that in light of this I am opting not to partecipate in it anymore rather than have a fight.

                I’m not sure what you are angry about. Do you feel I have to join every discussion?
                Or do you think it was it wrong of me not to concede even if I wasn’t convinced?

                Like

  11. Ιούλιος Καίσαρας

    “Never before had she heard of a Chosen who would list and explain every kill he’d made in a rioting city before scholars of law so that the actions might be assessed.”

    [Lawmeter breacks]
    His lawfulness! …It passed 100.000 points!!

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Jane

      Idly, I wonder what his justification was for killing that woman selling carpets. I mean, she was defending her shop from looters, before the coin flipped; she evidently had sins in her life, but I don’t know that Proceran law would have condemned her at that specific moment.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Interesting question! If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he told them whatever the Choir showed him when he was meting out judgment that made him get all smitey and because it’s Hanno he probably did his best to suggest where they could find material supporting evidence that would corroborate that (e.g., “in the vision she killed the child in her cellar so I’d check for a buried skeleton of a child there with severe damage to the skull from a blow struck from behind with a blunt instrument”). And then they checked and found that evidence, which would both justify that specific kill and bolster Hanno’s credibility overall.

        As for whether Proceran law would support an on-the-spot execution, it’s true that I don’t know that it would but it’s also true that I don’t know basically anything about Proceran law period (because I don’t think any of us do, and extrapolating modern standards of justice backwards into a feudal political system is a dubious methodology at best). Though even with the relative shortage of Chosen/heroes in Procer I think it’s been shown they’re generally highly revered when they do show up, so I would find it plausible that they might at some point have been granted legal status to act as dispensers of high justice (sort of like a prince, but without any broader political powers or rights). Which would mean that Hanno had the legal standing to pass judgment himself rather than legally needing to drag a criminal before a different judge, meaning that the only question would be whether the judgment itself was justifiable as a valid verdict.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Jane

          Ah, that would be plausible, and would entirely address the issue of timing.

          Does the coin show him why they’re being judged guilty, though? I was under the impression it was a simple “Hey, Judgment, Smite or Not?”-style system, but I don’t recall anything specific either way…

          Liked by 8 people

          1. Shveiran

            That is my idea as well, though I don’t think we ever saw it from Hanno’s POV so it is entirely possible every detail of teh judged life pass before his eyes. Or, for that matter, that he sees dancing monkeys to lift his spirit before he has to take a life. We really have no data, so far as I recall.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. We HAVE seen him react to people based on the coin flip though.

              In particular, with the rando shop keeper he kills he very much gives them the look and “You know what you’ve done”, compared to random riot instigators where his reaction is “Oh, your doing a bad thing”.

              Based on that, it feels like he must have SOME information, otherwise he wouldn’t have emotional reactions to people.

              Liked by 3 people

          2. Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a picture/statement of exactly what happens when he flips the coin, even during his POVs. Given that he’s had a few of those at this point I’m guessing that might be a deliberate authorial choice, but idk really. So that’s just a guess on my part, but it seems plausible at least to me.

            Liked by 3 people

  12. I mean, really Kiaros is being the very patron saint of reasonability here. He’s only asking for a thing that everyone has already agreed to give him.
    In some sense, I’m surprised people aren’t more relieved to get this debacle over and done with sooner rather than later.

    The fact that Tyrant is willing to pay Cat TWICE for the privilege of putting Hanno on trial (once here, once at princes graveyard) is rather nice of him.

    It’s almost as if Kiaros is a true friend and ally who has no hidden agenda whatsoever.

    I mean… you can barely even be angry at him for bringing DK and Alay-bells along – its not like their plan particularly hinged on Tyrant inviting them, they COULD have spread word of a truce offer in plenty of other ways (heck, they probably ARE, like… right now… screaming their peace offer from the rooftops, and via spies in inns, and a dozen other channels. Them being in Salia is just the icing on the cake).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Kairos knows when he can push and when he cannot. He has very little leverage, there’s a reason why Cordelia and Cat opened with “let’s say in return for this service we won’t kill you”. They could and they would.

      Also, I’m visually remembering this scene like that one with Andronike and Komena circling around Cat when she explained her case wrt not eating the Twilight crown, only it’s Kairos at the center and Cordelia and Catherine circling him. Sure that’s not what they are physically doing, but it’s the spirit of the thing.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Shveiran

      I mean, yeah, Kairos already paid for this…
      … then betrayed the band of five…what, three times?
      (shove the RS and steal the crown; duke it out with Catherine for the souls; nudge Saint’s death)

      Considering his part of the deal was being part of the band of five in exchange for the trial, I’d say there is a need for a new payment XD

      Liked by 6 people

    3. Oshi

      I think it’s a little more then that. Kairos has always hated the idea of the Dead King because he is stagnation and an end to the game. He played the game to win and paying twice to Cat is winning in his book because ti gets him all he wants and loses him the things he wanted to give away anyway. I’ve been sayin this for a while now but this is Kairos’s game through and through and Friday will bring his final stage.

      Liked by 5 people

  13. Calemyr

    This setup reminds me of the Discworld book Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett.

    One of the foundations of the story was the creation of a clock so precise that it captured the “universal tick”, the smallest fraction of time. To do that, it needed to be more precise than time itself and so, the instant it was turned on, time got gummed up and broke, creating a timeless world where only creatures that could exist outside of time (or trained time manipulators with specialized equipment) could function and everyone else was just so much furniture.

    Putting Hanno (who never operates without Judgment’s guidance) on trial is pretty much the same as the clock. It’s capturing the divine within the mundane, placing the mortal above the immortal. Even if the trial exonerates Hanno, the very act of the trial places the choir of Judgment within the purview of mortal law. That’s going to break things, and probably make things that were once impossible now merely improbable. The thought that this might, in fact, make the Bard vulnerable may well make it a worthy sacrifice to the Dead King (who would lose his foothold in the mortal world) and the Dread Empress (who once dreamed of making a world where Evil was allowed a fair shot at the game if they just played it smart).

    Others have said this better than I, I know, but I cannot resist when the opportunity arises to reference the Discworld.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

      “I cannot resist when the opportunity arises to reference the Discworld.”

      You and every other person of good character who’s familiar with the series. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Insanenoodlyguy

    So maybe I’m missing a turn of phrase here, but I don’t really get the “broken spine take the name” bit. I’ve heard of having no spine, so something like “Did losing your spine take the name, or was it the other way around?” would have made sense to me, but maybe there’s some other turn of phrase I don’t know?

    Liked by 1 person

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