Interlude: And So Let Us Be

“The source of might in an army is unity, not numbers. Therefore, the mightiest of all armies numbers a single soldier.”
– Isabella the Mad, Proceran general

Hakram was smelling a rat. Adjutant had always enjoyed using that particular human idiom, as it happened, mostly because it was patently untrue by face value. Humans had all the nose of a sparrow, stumbled around like drunks in the dark and were terribly fragile in most ways that mattered. The last had little to do with rodents, but it was always worth mentioning. As a rule, humans would not be able to smell a rat if it was nesting under their own pillow. Unlike goblins, who entirely coincidentally tended to have very full cookpots when Legions were garrisoned in cities. Goblin stew was always an enjoyable meal, Hakram thought, if not necessarily for the taste then always for the surprise.

“The Magisterium is pleased by your understanding, Lord Adjutant,” Magister Zoe Ixioni smiled. “It is always a delight to speak with a professional like yourself.”

The slaver – he would not forget for a moment what she was, even if she offered an empire’s worth of smiles and compliments – offered Louis Rohanon a more restrained look.

“And we honour the Principate as well, of course,” Magister Zoe added. “It is deplored by the enlightened members of our assembly that war was waged between our nations.”

“First Prince Cordelia is a fervent adherent of peace and diplomatic resolution,” Louis Rohanon replied without batting an eye, lips quirking enough to imply a smile without ever delivering it.

Princess Rozala’s ‘secretary’, who regardless of what he was now titled had been until recently the Prince of Creusens, had proved to be fairly adept at navigating the meetings Hakram had found himself dragged into one after another. Adjutant rumbled out a breath, feeling the rhythm of Bittertongue’s old song sound against his bones. No peace can there be, between lash and orc. It was an affront to the history of his kind that he must now speak otherwise, pretending the ways of the sorcerer-lords of Stygia did not sicken him as he watched the magister slip away. Rohanon let out a noise of distaste, when it was only the two of them left in the room.

“I always end up feeling like I need a wash after entertaining someone from the Magisterium,” Louis Rohanon admitted.

“Would that someone had laid to waste that city and its slaver-lords with it,” Hakram gravelled. “Yet they have tread with care to avoid this, over the years, and it seems still.”

The man nodded, slowly. He was a skinny, scholarly sort this one. Yet not without spine or cleverness, and for a Proceran seemed a surprisingly decent man. That might explain why the Jacks had found out he was so badly in debt to Iserre. Decency was unlikely to see one thrive in a place like the Highest Assembly.

“If I might speak frankly, Lord Deadhand?” Rohanon hesitatingly said.

“I would prefer it,” Adjutant said. “Mine are a simple folk, and the sly ways of humans confuse me.”

It was almost appalling, the orc thought, how eager people this far west were to believe that. Not so appalling he would not use it, however. The former Prince of Creusens choked.

“That would have been more believable a lie before I saw two envoys fall for it, my lord,” Rohanon delicately said. “It no longer holds water in the slightest. Not that listening to Basileus Leo explain to you the office and powers of the Hierarch was not most entertaining, but I would spare myself the indignity if you’ll allow it.”

“Leo Trakas was a most helpful young man,” Hakram drily said, neither admitting nor denying anything. “You offered frankness, Louis Rohanon, and I accepted. Speak accordingly.”

“I would not dare to presume as to the Black Queen’s intent in sending you out,” the former prince said, “yet if you were meant to assess divisions and seek weaknesses in the League, you should have come to the same conclusion as I.”

The orc studied the man, considering if this was a conversation he should be having, then lightly inclined his head I agreement.

“The League of Free Cities is on the verge of collapse,” Hakram acknowledged. “Nicae has yet to hear of the disastrous fate of its fleets but already the Basileus seeks to displace Helike as the leading power. Atalante chafes under a villain’s lead, and at the frequent slights it is offered.”

“Bellerophon is out of its depth,” Louis Rohanon noted. “I would hazard a guess its general-delegate has not received instructions from the People in weeks, if not months, and is entirely unwilling to do anything that might result in execution by the kanenas.”

Which was, as far as Hakram could tell, essentially any action at all. The Republic of Bellerophon’s legal system struck him as what might come to be if a dutiful scribe set down every single shout from an angry mob and made them all into law, then repeated the process half a hundred times.

“Delos remains aloof, but it appears both Stygia and Penthes are readying to leave the sinking boat,” Hakram added. “Else Magister Zoe would not have been so eager to assure me theoretical alignment with the Tower would not result in military support of any kind.”

“The Tower has been digging at the Tyrant’s position in the Free Cities,” Louis Rohanon openly aknowledged, “and the Empress has lived up to her reputation in achieving such broad success. Unless the Hierarch takes the League in hand this day it will not survive this conference as a united entity. Should he die, nearly half the League will seek the Empire’s protection against coming retribution before the corpse is cold.”

Which was inconvenient as without allies in either the League and the Thalassocracy the sole avenue to bring the Empire to heel was a land war of the old way, Callow and Praes entwined in the ancient dance of steel once again. Yet as much as Hakram’s mind was inclined to tumble down the slope of logistics and strategy, it would be a mistake to do so. The Tyrant of Helike was the devil of the day, and what they had now discovered the Named must have already known. The ship that had carried him to the peace conference of Salia, the large and largely untouched army of a united League of Free Cities, was on the verge of collapse. As things stood, even if the Tyrant ordered these armies to ravage southern Procer most of them would ignore him and continue the retreat south. And with Catherine having crippled the famous kataphraktoi, Helike’s own army was crippled in turn.

The Tyrant of Helike no longer had the clout to make demands. More worryingly the boy-king must have known it would come to this for weeks if not months, and he had still come. And so, Hakram was smelling a rat.

“I fear,” Hakram Deadhand said, “that Lady Dartwick’s instincts have proved true.”

“In what way?” Louis Rohanon asked, eyes cautious.

“Kairos Theodosian is exactly where he meant to be,” Adjutant said, “and cares little for the fate of the horse he rode after he ceases riding it.”

Indrani had never been one to shy from admitting to herself when she was enjoying something, and so she wasn’t going to start now: this was hilarious, and she in no way regretted striking the first spark of that debate.

“Soon you’ll be telling me magic is an art and not a discipline,” Masego scathingly said. “Divine approval? You might as well start praying for spell formulas.”

“There is recorded precedent for certain workings functioning better when aligned with the words of the Book of All Things,” Roland said. “While I would not-”

The Rogue Sorcerer was trying to keep things civil and academic, which naturally meant he was doomed to fail just as all voices of reason had been since First Dawn.

“Spoken like a Trismegistan coinpurse,” the Witch of the Woods snorted contemptuously. “Praying would work swifter than your method and involve rather less scribbling of numbers. And Gods forbid you forget to carry a one: you’ll melt your face instead of lighting a candle, if anything happens at all.”

“While Trismegistan sorcery is known to require significantly more study than most, it has also been proven to produce more reliable-” Roland tried.

“You defend ignorance as creativity and methodology as shackles,” Masego retorted, deeply appalled. “I should expect nothing more from someone who apes Ligurian magic without-”

“Dogs of Trismegistus bark not –”

“Perhaps,” the Rogue Sorcerer desperately said, “we should lower our voices. At this rate illusion or not they’ll hear us arriving.”

A moment of silence followed, the two mages who’d been arguing looking away in embarrassment at how heated the conversation had grown.

“I hear Jaquinite sorcery can do stuff neither yours can do,” Indrani idly said.

“That would matter, I imagine, if Jaquinite sorcery could reliably do anything in particular,” Masego said.

“Teach an apprentice Proceran magic for a year and they will crush one taught Wasteland posturing for the same,” the Witch of the Woods retorted without missing a beat.

Ah, Archer thought. Much better. Roland shot her a betrayed look she answered by prettily batting her eyes, and the giant wolf the Witch was riding on glared at her woefully. Indrani sniggered. ‘Woeful’, which worked as two puns because Archer was one of the Woe but it was also close to wolf and… eh, just wasn’t the same when Cat wasn’t there to be offended to her core by the puns. She’d keep it in mind for when she ended up giving her report, though. The four of them were getting close to Lyonceau, the small town they’d been headed towards for the better part of an hour now, so perhaps it was time to pretend she’d been on Roland’s side this whole time.

Zeze and the Witch were in a full blow argument again, voices progressively rising along with the general pettiness of what was being said, so she cleared her throat loud enough it’d cut through.

“Shame on both of you,” Indrani piously said, “ignoring poor Roland, when he’s trying to warn you about dangers.”

The Rogue Sorcerer eyed her pensively.

“I believe,” he said, “that you might just be the worst person I know.”

“That was unkind,” Masego seriously said.

“Rogue,” the Witch said, “comport yourself cordially. They are our allies for now.”

There was a pause.

“You have fought the Dead King, besides,” the Witch reminded him.

“I know what I said,” the Rogue Sorcerer muttered.

“I forgive you, as mine is a forgiving nature,” Indrani lied.

Roland met her eyes discreetly, lips moving to silently mouth ‘the worst person I know’ in Chantant, and she grinned back. Indrani had grown to like the Rogue Sorcerer: he was a delight to toy with and halfway decent in a fight. Not too hard on the eyes, either, which was always nice in a boon companion. He’d also proved more useful when they’d run into the Witch of the Wilds and accusations had flown about how they were plotting to murder the entire Grand Alliance. Which Indrani was reasonably sure was not the case, since she would have had a seat at the council where that’d be decided and she’d not been that drunk in a while. Roland had more or less vouched for them not being up to no good – at that moment in time, anyway – and that’d led to the question of why the Witch would think they were up to some skulking murderousness.

The answer was, in a word, Lyonceau.

Archer herself had found there was something odd with the League’s camp when she first went out on a walk thereabout, in essence because there was nothing at all odd with the League’s camp. The Tyrant might be able to keep his lunacy in check for a few days, Indrani had mused, but the Hierarch? Unlikely. She still remembered the frightful madness that’d fallen over Rochelant like a veil, the red-handed tribunals that’d spread out like tendrils of sickness from where the Hierarch sat. It was the sort of thing you could tuck away in Arcadia or some other neat little pocket, on occasion contain behind the right sort of wards and sometimes even something you could lull into sleep. For a time. But there were always, always signs. So Indrani had told herself, maybe there were wards. None she could find, true, but it wasn’t her specialty by any means.

Zeze had been raised by a man who’d turned warding into weapon to shatter fortresses, though, and losing his sorcery had done nothing to curb his sight. The Rogue Sorcerer had been with him then, the two of them discussing the Twilight Ways and the making of gates for it, and it’d been easy to bully – convince! Convince him to come along. No wards of the calibre that’d keep the Hierarch quiet in the League camp, they’d confirmed for her. Might have been a good time to go to the Crows, then, but Zeze still kind of wanted them on a vivisection table and the Sisters tended to ask payment up front for miracles from anyone but Cat. Who had half a dozen other cats to skin, about then, and a limited amount of additional hands in Hakram and Vivienne. So instead Indrani had called on the finest band of useless busybodies she knew, namely Robber and his cohort of miscreants.

Her Majestic Catherinery had helpfully turned them loose on the countryside with even looser instructions, so it’d been child’s play to commandeer their little goblin legs and watchful eyes. The Hierarch had to be close, because there was no way to the Tyrant was wandering too far away from him, and it wasn’t like the man was going to feed himself – so find the food, find the man. Or so had been the thought. And Robber had put his cohort to passable work, keeping a watch on the League’s camp through the day and night. Unfortunately Kairos Theodosian was, as usual, a twisty little fucker. The food wagon had gone out under illusion veils, then passed through some wards carved into stones. Twice they’d followed a wagon and lost it, which none of them had taken well pride-wise, and some Magisterium prick had caught the goblins lurking so Archer was forced to send them away.

They’d gone hunting for the ward stones instead, since those would be the key, which was when they’d run into a masked woman on a giant wolf and some very hurtful accusations. The Witch had come to it form the other way entirely, as it happened: she’d found an abandoned town a few hours out of Salia that was entirely hidden by wards and followed the wagon line from the other direction until she ran into them sniffing around a ward stone. Conclusions were leap to, though Indrani would admit that a pair of villains around a disappeared town was usually pretty damning stuff. The place was, according to the maps Roland had gotten his hands on, called Lyonceau. It was one of those small Proceran towns that emptied during winter, and according to the locals pretty much the only thing of note bout it was that it had a large House of Light: several towns and villages around used it for the festivals instead of their own small altar, since it was cheaper than building and maintaining one of their own.

It was suspicious nonetheless, all had agreed, and they’d gone to trespass – by which Indrani meant investigate, naturally, since you got to call it that when you were on the side of the angels. Though in theory the Witch was the one guiding them, in practice since she’d spent most the way arguing with Zeze it had been the helpful giant wolf that led them.

“This isn’t right,” Masego suddenly said.

All four of them were Named, and none fresh to the mantle, so the moment the Hierophant spoke the other three ceased moving forward. Indrani could see nothing but a snowy plain above, and apparently neither could Roland, but even with the mask she could see Masego and the Witch were looking at the same place.

“We’ve arrived?” she asked.

Leaning on her aspect might allow her to peer through an illusion or a ward, but she’d rather not begin using those too early in the day – not when there might yet be a fight ahead of them.

“We are at the outermost boundary of the wards,” the Witch of the Woods said. “I grasp your meaning, Hierophant. This is… unusual work.”

Roland muttered under his breath in the mage-tongue, gesturing sharply with one hand as he reached within his coat with the other. The silvery sorcery that gathered around the tip of his fingers he laid against the small wooden box he’d produced and it sank within. He opened it deftly, revealing some sort of oily ointment.

“Around the eyes,” the Rogue Sorcerer told her, “and over the eyelids.”

Indrani’s brow rose and she dipped a finger, handling one eye and then the other. The smell was unfamiliar to her, save for what she suspected to be apple tree bark, and it tingled pleasantly against her skin. One she’d applied it as the hero had instructed, she found she could now glimpse colours where before there had been only air. It was a vast tapestry of many-coloured threads, she thought, yet she could only ever see the threads she was directly looking at.

“It is not merely unusual work,” Masego said, sounding troubled. “It, in part mine. Akua Sahelian’s also, and a myriad others, but some of those patterns were first laid down by my hand.”

“There are other influences in there,” the Witch of the Wilds said. “Callowan wards, Aenian cants and that odd Jaquinite escapement.”

“No sorcerer could make such a thing,” the Hierophant said. “No living one, anyway.”

“The Tyrant’s bargained with the Dead King before, we know that,” Indrani said. “What’s so troubling about these wards anyway?”

“The Doom of Liesse was meant to bring forth devils, to forge Greater Breaches,” Masego hesitantly said. “This is…”

“Angels,” the Witch of the Wilds said. “They are not as easily summoned as devils, but this is meant to command the attention of angels.”

Well, Archer thought, shit.

Vivienne found Adjutant waiting in the hallway, along with a worried-looking Louis Rohanon. She was not the only one to notice this, Princess Rozala excusing herself from her conversation with Lady Itima to silently join her as she sought out Hakram.

“Lord Adjutant,” she greeted him, “Secretary Rohanon.”

Rozala Malanza went through the same round of courtesies, receiving the same nods for it.

“The situation in the League is considerably more unstable than we’d believed,” Hakram quietly said.

“We believe the Tyrant no longer holds sway,” Louis Rohanon added just as quietly. “And that he was undermined by the Tower. Both Stygia and Penthes seem to be leaning towards Praes.”

Which went some way in explaining why the Tyrant had willingly served as the Dead King’s herald once more, Vivienne thought. She’d believed until now it was simply a matter of letting loose a wild lion in the pen so he would not seem as dangerous, but this… fit. Though a raging lunatic, the boy-king of Helike was brilliant in his own way. He must have known that the Princes’ Graveyard would be the beginning of the end for his influence in the League, and with it his right to make demands of the Grand Alliance, so he had helped forge another calamity so that he could bargain away the key to beating it back in exchange for the promises being made to him being kept. The vicious wretch had yet to miss a single step, though Vivienne had a hard time believing the outcome of the Graveyard had been his intent. Most likely Catherine’s victory had forced him to improvise in the wake of the defeat, leading to this fresh madness.

“It no longer matters he’s lost the League,” Vivienne admitted.

Surprise, from both men.

“He swore before the Peregrine he has a way out of our current predicament,” Princess Rozala elaborated. “His bargaining chip has changed, though the bargain has not. He still requires the White Knight to stand trial for his actions in the League.”

“When?” Hakram asked, hairless brow creasing.

“Today,” Vivienne said. “The recess will be extended into a dismissal of today’s session. We will be heading out to the trial’s grounds presently.”

Catherine and Hasenbach had returned to the hall along with Yannu Marave and the Carrion Lord to swiftly pass the motion, though given that the Grand Alliance commanded a comfortable majority in such votes that was largely a formality.

“It cannot be held in Salia, surely?” Louis Rohanon said, looking alarmed. “I know not the consequences of attempting to pass sentence onto the Sword of Judgement himself, but surely we cannot risk the people of the capital so recklessly.”

“The First Prince agreed,” Princess Rozala said, smiling approvingly. “The trial will be held outside the city. Haggling was had over the exact grounds, until we settled on a town in the countryside three hours’ ride from here by the name of Lyonceau.”

“It is a trap,” Hakram bluntly said.

“It’s Kairos,” an amused voice drawled. “Of course it’s a fucking trap.”

Vivienne turned and saw her friend – her queen – limping forward, leaning on her strange yet oddly soothing staff. She did not hide her surprise at the swift return, or at the way that the drow called the ‘Lord of Silent Steps’ stood at her side. Hakram was just as surprised, by the looks of it.

“Your Majesty,” Princess Rozala greeted her. “Was your right to vote passed to a delegate?”

“We’re already done,” Catherine replied. “First Prince Cordelia wasted no time on ceremonies, and most votes were know before they were cast.”

“The League?” Vivienne asked.

“Couldn’t even agree on a delegate without the Tyrant herding them,” the Queen of Callow said. “The wheels are coming off that cart, mark my words.”

“And the Dead King, Your Majesty?” Princess Rozala probed.

“I hesitate to ascribe surprise to a bare skull,” Catherine mused. “But this was not his work, I’d bet rubies to piglets over it. This stage belongs to Kairos Theodosian alone.”

“We believe the Tower to be actively courting cities among the League, Queen Catherine,” Louis Rohanon said. “Dread Empress Malicia would have greatly undermined the standing of the Tyrant for this to succeed.”

The Queen of Callow frowned.

“Then after riding his last horse to the grave, he has saddled a fresh one,” Catherine said. “You saw it true, Vivienne.”

Even now, the former thief was surprised by the flush of pleasure she felt at the freely offered praise. It was not entirely warranted, in her eyes, for while she’d brought up the notion first but she doubted they would not have seen it themselves in time. Still, it was not unpleasant to hear. She smoothed away the emotion, for there were higher callings than indulgence at hand. A drow painted in the colours of the ‘Losara’, the tribe among their kind that Catherine had unsurprisingly ended up forging when none at hand suited her purposes, stepped forward to murmur in Lord Ivah’s ears before retreating. The Lord of Silent Steps addressed the queen in Crepuscular, and she closed her eyes in thought. A few moments passed, and she opened them.

“No, doesn’t mean anything to me,” she told the drow. “Adjutant, I need you to find me someone who knows something. An herbal brew made of foxglove, nightshade and powdered graveborn mushrooms – what is it for?”

Vivienne was looking for it, so she caught it: the faint tremor, the pulse that shuddered through the fabric of Creation as Adjutant called on one of his aspects. The tall orc’s head snapped to the side, cheeks creasing in amusement as his eyes came to rest on the approaching form of Lady Aquiline Osena.

“Providence, warlord,” he gravelled in Kharsum. “The wind is in our sails for once.”

“Don’t rejoice,” Catherine replied in the same. “Think on how bad the opposition must be, that we are smiled upon.”

The Lady of Tartessos was approached, and Princess Rozala was prevailed upon to make introductions. Few courtesies were had, as Levantine ways tended to be pleasantly brisk. The question was asked, though nightshade was a term unfamiliar to the Levantine. Belladonna, however, she recognized.

“That is champion’s brew, though I have never heard of graveborn mushrooms being used in the recipe,” Lady Aquiline said, though she looked bemused at the question. “Only one without character would use it in an honour duel, but it can be a worthy thing when drunk in the deeps of the Brocelian.”

“What does it do?” Catherine pressed.

“It lends strength to the dying,” Lady Aquiline said. “It calms limbs, eases the flow of blood and lends vigour – for a time, and at a price. It is false strength, and when it fades often kills the drinker.”

“Let me guess,” Catherine Foundling grimly smiled, “graveborn mushrooms would add a little more to the vigour, right?”

“I am not certain,” the Lady of Tartessos admitted. “It would be better to ask Razin, as one of the Binder’s Blood would be learned in such lore. Yet what you say seems likely, for barrow-born things often lend poisonous strength before they kill.”

“Catherine?” Vivienne asked, looking at her cautiously.

Something almost like fear had flickered across the Black Queen’s face for a moment.

“The Tyrant of Helike was drinking this by the cup last night,” Catherine said, “and it was brewed potently enough it would have outright poisoned someone without a Name.”

A moment of silence passed.

“Steel yourselves, my friends,” the Black Queen gravely said, “for when the likes of Kairos Theodosian comes to sing his swan song it is not a thing to be taken lightly.”

139 thoughts on “Interlude: And So Let Us Be

    1. Big Brother

      This isn’t a berserk Tyrant. This is everything he’s worked towards since the beginning. The forging of the Hierarch, the unification of the League under him, the war on Procer, the Trial of Hanno.
      Kairos is nearing the end of his plot, and we are finally seeing it. The Judgement of the Choir of Judgement by the Hierarch, and the (possible) shattering of a Good Power source older than Calernia.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Big Brother

        And since I’ve never seen it mentioned in the comment threads or on the Discord, everyone seems to have forgotten Kairos’ main Aspect. WISH. Every time his red eye has flared he’s been making a Wish, to ensure everything has flowed the way he wants it to. His actions seem absolutely random at worst, and just a constant stream of betrayals at best because it’s a distraction to keep people from realizing he’s been following one of the most powerful Aspects on Calernia the entire time, and his master plan has moved uninterrupted throughout the story.
        Also, is there a rough timescale of when Kairos came into his Name in the story, because if it’s just as the story started, a Wish he made to set everything in motion may be why Cat became Black’s Squire instead of becoming the White Knight. Bard even mentions Cat was supposed to lead Will’s little party and act as the glue keeping it together as the White Knight, but doesn’t know why Cat ended up a villain.

        Liked by 17 people

        1. Lord GM

          You wouldn’t happen to have a neat little collection of scenes that mention his eye flaring red? Because if that truly indicated him using that insanely powerful aspect, it would shine a whole new light on many things.

          I probably wouldn’t go as far as making it the inciting incident for Cat’s heroic journey, but it would definitely proof that he is playing a far greater (and far more meta) game than everyone believes he does.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. Jane

            You know, it’s questions like this that make me Wish that this was one of those stories that conveniently tagged every chapter that a character made an appearance in, so that it would be easier to go back and review this sort of thing. And the author could play fun meta games like, “Why is the Scribe tagged here, I didn’t see them!”.

            Liked by 8 people

            1. Shikkarasu

              Or Assassin. Let’s not forget he was on screen in the first 2/3 books according to Word of God. I wouldn’t put it past EE to have had him appear in all books so far.

              Liked by 3 people

        2. Scrutable

          Does anyone have a convenient link to where the abilities of Wish were explained? I see people reference it a lot in the comments but I don’t remember what exactly it’s supposed to be able to do.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Vega

              The best part about all of this is that this could be the FIRST part of a plan of his so it will go off without a hitch but the rest could be derailed by the HERO who was recently blessed by providence (cat) to change the outcome to her favor. So Tyrant gets to flip the finger to the above while Cat gets to “mess up” phase two

              Liked by 1 person

        3. caoimhinh

          I don’t think you should put that much faith in Wish, it can’t possibly be as powerful as to warp reality and even had affected Catherine’s choice.

          Also, Wish hasn’t been properly explained, it’s capabilities have only been hinted twice.
          The first, by Kairos himself when talking with Anaxares, he said that he had the ability to know what people wish for.
          From Villanous Interlude Thunder:

          Kairos said. “She’s not like the others monsters, though. She has no face and as many lives as there are stars, and behind those veils only one single burning desire. It’s a thing I can see, you know. What people Wish. And when I look at her, what I see is glorious.”

          Notice that the word shone when he spoke it, implying the use of the Aspect, lending credibility to this instance. Further down in that same chapter, in another conversation with Anaxares, Kairos hinted that it was thanks to this that he was able to make the Kanenas do as he said, as he “gave them what they wanted most, deep down, under all the laws and the lies.”

          The second hint of what the Wish aspect is capable of, is what you are taking as guide for your comment, what the Skein said when it was facing Kairos in Liesse and its spooling of time was undone by the Tyrant.
          From Book 5 Chapter 43 Treachery:

          Spool,” the Skein snarled.

          And just like that/

          /the Tyrant of Helike sneered.

          “Fate is a tug of war, you raggedy old thing,” Kairos Theodosian said, and there was something sharp in his tone I’d never heard there before. “Do you think the wishes of the conquered matter more than those of contenders?”

          “You die laughing,” the Skein hissed. “Or. You flee. Or. I am broken. Or. Everything burns. Or. Or. Why does it keep changing?”

          “There’s more than one reason I picked him out for this band,” I amusedly said.

          Was Kairos Theodosian a treacherous, unpredictable and murderous madman? Yes. Obviously. But against a particular kind of foe – say, an oracle who’d spin our of new thread of prediction from his every whim as the lunatic committed to them with ironclad will unhesitatingly – that had its uses.

          Spool,” the Skein snarled again and/

          /“Do you think yourself above even the Gods, you presumptuous relic?” the Tyrant of Helike snarled back. “Do you think you can erase me like chalk on a slate? Learn your place.”

          “Shouldn’t have done that,” I told the Revenant, pulling at my pipe.

          “It will kill you,” the Skein cackled, its laughter like rumbling thunder. “Wish, wish into the grave. How many years can you spend?”

          I winced. I’d fought enough Named to recognize when one’s bottom line was being crossed, and the continued attempts of the Revenant to use its aspect were definitely whipping Kairos into a proper frenzy. I could only guess at what was the cause of it, but the rage in that crimson bloodshot eye and the wildly shaking hands struck me as too raw to be a lie.

          “I will confess,” the Tyrant of Helike said, tone eerily calm, “that you have rather offended me. You may attend to other matters, Black Queen. This one will be settled by my hand.”

          While the Skein implies that wishing takes years out of Kairos’ life, it’s unconfirmed and could be a misconception, it could be that Kairos was simply undoing the reversal of time since Spool could be considered the Skein’s wish and the Tyrant’s aspect happens to counter it.
          It’s also shown that Kairos rage is not because of the loss of life, but rather because of the attempt of manipulating his fate, a subject he is very touchy about, and it’s in fact the pivot of his coming into the Tyrant Name.

          Also, it’s highly unlikely if not outright impossible that his aspect could warp reality to make his wishes come true. In the instances I recall of his red eye shining nothing lucky or extraordinary has happened, rather it had been said that the red eye seemed to pierce into them and shone as Kairos displayed more “madness”.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. So…. hate to say it, but I don’t think that Kairos has been running on a “grand plan” this entire time.

        By which I mean, based on seeing Heirarch’s POV, the plan to judge angles seems very much HIS plan. If I had to guess, I’d say Kairos was juggling for the lulz right up until Heirarch was formed… and the subsequently managed to catch with in Heirarch’s desires, realized they were insane amazing, and decided to build the rest of his plan so as to achieve it…. but I DON’T think he created Hierarch with this specific plan in mind. (He just wanted to make Anarexes to screw with things).

        That would be my guess… time will tell. (maybe)

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Zggt

          I’m not sure; Kairos was supposed to die while his heroic brother that everyone loved got everything. He was born crippled and literally dying, and used his Name to subvert destiny. But in this world you can subvert destiny, not avoid it altogether. It really would fit him, all the old-school villainy, which allows you to curse with your dying breath (as Cat did with Will). It also fits with the metaphor of the game – where he would destroy himself to spite the so-called inevitable because he cannot allow the choice (even one of his own death) to be made by anyone else.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Lord GM

          As Cat has learned at the academy, every complicated plan with too many moving parts will come apart sooner than later.

          I was not trying to imply that he masterfully planned every move from the beginning. Instead he was improvising the hell out of every situation to get closer to his final goal and probably using Wish to help things along. Heck, he was trying so many diffent ploys that he turned “always being in the first step of a plan” into a valid strategy (at least for a while). Sure, half of them failed and half he did just for fun, not really knowing where they might lead. But some of his crazy schemes actually succeeded. And now all the plans he juggled are about to come tumbling down on everybody’s heads.

          Liked by 5 people

    2. JJR

      I doubt it. Roiding out into a giant muscle beast is always the last thing the villain does, and the most boring part of their character. He’s got something far more interesting planned.

      Liked by 8 people

    3. caoimhinh

      More like he is doping himself before running a marathon.
      That the components of this drink usually kill the drinker doesn’t mean much, given that it is a Named who is drinking it. More important is the fact that Kairos is doing this because he is going to need a lot of power for whatever he is planning.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. WuseMajor

        I suspect his plan, at least as far as the drink is concerned, is simply “live long enough to enjoy watching his endgame.” Because he’s been sick and dying since we met him and I think it’s starting to catch up to him or a price might be coming due.

        Liked by 13 people

  1. magesbe

    Was the spelling Catherine as Catherinery… intentional? I mean, I wouldn’t put it past Indrani, but it does seem like an odd way to slang.

    Also, pieces are beginning to come together. A trail for a servant of the Seraphim. A ward capable of bringing an angel. A Hierarch (possibly) capable of judging them.

    Yes, it’s coming together. The only thing I’m missing is why this would be his end game. What does he get out of this aside from the amusement of watching a Seraphim, a member of the choir of judgement, get judged?

    Liked by 10 people

      1. Jane

        I’m not so certain – the way I understand it is that the more of a nudge one side gets, the more of a nudge the other is granted, allowing a balance of influence – and that when one side gets the upper hand, that allows the other to better concentrate their influence (one really powerful Hero instead of a dozen decent Heroes, for instance).

        Since this is acting on the Powers That Be instead of the Powers That Be acting, that shouldn’t apply – setting aside for the moment that the rules outside of Creation presumably differ.

        That said, if it does work that way, I think that would qualify the Tyrant as the greatest traitor in history, indirectly murdering one of his divine patrons via Story. He’d probably be the greatest Saint in history to Praes for such a deed, an act of holy betrayal that killed two of the highest powers.

        Liked by 12 people

    1. > Was the spelling Catherine as Catherinery… intentional? I mean, I wouldn’t put it past Indrani, but it does seem like an odd way to slang.
      Given the full address is “Her Majestic Catherinery” instead of “Her Majesty Catherine” it’s definitely 100% intentional and actually flows quite well ❤

      Liked by 8 people

    2. Theo Promes

      I suspect he might be trying to corrupt the choir of justice. Putting the white knight on trial by the incarnation of mob justice, surrounded by some eldritch angel-trap…
      Maybe the plan is to change the meaning of justice towards Hierarch’s approach.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. tithin

    Theory: he’s going to force the white knight to trial, and judge his choir via a forced summon.

    I thought the trial would be a metaphorical judgement, using his colleague Anaxares, but the more I consider it based on this most recent development, I think it’s going to be a literal judgement.

    Two hostile forces representing judgement, judging each other, one via their champion the white knight, and the other via anaxares.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Zggt

      Heirarch said as much; he saw the choir through the White Knight’s coin and decided that the choir itself must stand trial (and using his Kafkaesque logic: be found guilty and executed, as is the right of everyone who stands trial for standing against the will of the people).

      Liked by 6 people

  3. Jane

    Even now, the former thief was surprised by the flush of pleasure she felt at the freely offered praise.

    I do believe someone had mentioned the influence of shipping goggles in the last set of comments?

    Well, I do believe I’m wearing my set quite securely this chapter 🙂 .

    Liked by 8 people

      1. Jane

        Well, we know that Vivienne likes guys, and Catherine believes Vivienne is straight, but… That’s not 100%, ironclad, this-is-completely-unchangeable proof that she is. If the author wanted to put them together, all it would take is a conversation between the two where Vivienne said “Oh, yeah, I usually date guys, but I am interested in women sometimes – including you,” or something to that effect.

        It’s evidence enough to presume she’s straight, but not so much evidence that the author couldn’t include a twist to the contrary if they were so inclined, to put it succinctly.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Vivienne has never actually dated onscreen, or likely ever. Catherine goes off subtler clues, and those are less likely to be wrong. I mean Cat was pining for her for half a book, you’d think they’d have found each other by now if that had a snowball’s chance in hell of happening.

          Also, this particular mentor/student-like relationship would make romantic entanglement pretty damn squicky. Cat is in position of authority over Vivienne, both formally and in Vivienne’s mind. No sexy times on top of that p l e a s e, Killian was enough of a trainwreck already

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Jane

            Regarding dating, that’s not quite right; Cat mentioned that she knows that Vivienne has had some hookups with some guys while in town. None of them were relationships to the best of our knowledge, but that’s strong proof that she likes guys, though not necessarily exclusively.

            Regarding the timeline, I don’t think the timing has ever been right for such a resolution, either way; during the Fey arc, Vivienne was still adjusting and everything was on fire; after that, Cat was Winter Cat, and everything was on fire; after that, Cat was underground while Vivienne held Callow together, and everything was on fire; after that, it’s now, and while both of them might be in the right headspace and physical space to start thinking about things, everything’s currently on fire.

            Regarding Cat’s opinion, I’d also note that she’s too close to be an unbiased observer; if she thought that a relationship with Vivienne was even possible, it would mean that she would have an actual choice to make. One that risked her plans for Callow, and the balance of the Woe, for her own personal happiness. Setting aside the fact that Cat seems to have a thing about being happy, would she really be willing to add that kind of complication to her actual goals for a personal relationship? As you note, it would be messy – so for her, it’s a lot easier to just tell herself it was never possible to begin with.

            Anyways, all of that said, there’s a difference between what’s reasonably possible in the work and a prediction about where the author is actually going – just because it’s possible, and there are passages that can be interpreted as suggesting that outcome, doesn’t mean that that’s where anything is going.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Fair.

              I’m just here like… if I’m getting pissy and passive aggressive about ppl shipping canon lesbians with guys (which I am) then in ONE WORK where like 90% of everyone is LGBT+ maybe we can try and extend this respect to the one (1) character explicitly said to be straight. I know real life is still Like That and all f/f is a gift but Guide is not!

              You have a point about Catherine, but I would also note that she could simply say Vivienne was not interested in her, not clarify she’s straight. I don’t think Cat’s the kind of cocky casanova who’d assume the only reason someone could possibly be not interested is because of incompatible orientation.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. > I don’t think Cat’s the kind of cocky casanova

                This isn’t really germane to this conversation (or anything), and is also a bad idea, but I kinda really want to portmanteau that into “cocksanova”.

                Liked by 3 people

              2. Jane

                While I understand your reasoning, and would never dream of making this argument if we were talking about real people instead of fictional characters, I would also note that the two issues aren’t really the same – there’s a tendency to downplay the seriousness of lesbian characters and relationships that doesn’t exist with straight characters. Wishing that a lesbian character was bi contributes to that marginalization, while wishing that a straight character was bi is just fans being unrealistic again. It may be somewhat inappropriate, but I imagine most authors probably find it more squicky when readers pair characters up with their mortal enemies.

                Regarding Catherine, there are many benign reasons she could come to that conclusion – it’s easier to conclusively close that door rather than believe she can change Vivienne’s view of her, Vivienne’s cues are subtle enough that they’re easier to ignore, it’s the first excuse her subconsciousness came up with… We would need more evidence that Cat was mistaken before we could really argue why she was mistaken. It’s something that would be easy to explain, but that’s putting the cart before the metaphorical horse.

                Liked by 5 people

                1. > I imagine most authors probably find it more squicky when readers pair characters up with their mortal enemies.
                  -giggles in CatAkua-
                  (by which I mean these two aren’t going to be a couple any time soon because DUH everything, but……..)

                  > Regarding Catherine, there are many benign reasons she could come to that conclusion – it’s easier to conclusively close that door rather than believe she can change Vivienne’s view of her

                  I suppose.

                  Mostly, when I’m reaiding Guide, I want to live in the world where inequality already doesn’t exist (like in Guide), you know? =x

                  Liked by 2 people

                2. Orientation aside, though, I also take issue with the specific relationship. The phrase you cited is part of the dynamic of Vivienne looking up to Catherine and seeking her approval, whereas Catherine knows it and uses it to ‘steer’ her (and feels a little bad about it). That is the exact opposite of something that should be mixed with a romantic/sexual relationship. Like forreal, the power dynamic goes sharply away from okay here. Sure, it doesn’t quite pass my treshold of “no nope never and I’m never visiting this comment section again just because it was suggested”, but it’s… closer to Hye/Amadeus, The Great Nope Ship, than Wekesa/Tikoloshe or something else like that.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Jane

                    Ah, with regards to that, I’ll simply say that their relationship was different prior to this book (and that I signed on to this ship prior to this book), and that I’m trusting that things will either change again, or that Cat is direly misreading the hero worship.

                    I mean, back before the Underdark, Vivienne’s relative position to Cat sounded a lot more like Indrani that it did Hakram. This is a pretty new twist to their relationship, that wasn’t really introduced prior to Cat scolding her during the rescue of the army.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. Nnn. I’m not so sure. There’s a reason Vivienne went straight from opposing Catherine to getting third degree burns in every single goddamn fight she was in with the Woe. She threw herself into this fully, beyond all logic, reason and self-preservation, and I think Indrani nailed it when yelling at Cat in Everdark – a girl who wanted to belong and matter so badly she’d joined a doomed rebellion with people she didn’t like, respect or trust. She was still trying to hold herself back, to make her imprinting on Catherine conditional, as of Book 3 – but it was always nothing short of imprinting. She’s a baby duck following her mama duck, and if anything it is indeed getting better lately, because she’s letting it outside and taking the reins, instead of allowing it to steer her beyond her conscious control.

                      Like

              3. Insanenoodlyguy

                Between Cat, Indrani, and Akua (you know she’d do it just to, pun intended, fuck with her if it was an option), if Viv was going to drift up the kinsey scale, it seems likely it’d have happened by now.

                Liked by 3 people

        2. Zggt

          On one hand true, but I think that our author knows better than pulling the “yet another person who hangs around the MC wants them” again (two is kinda the boundary of cheesy-harem territory, do you *really* want this story to cross that line?).

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Jane

            Hey, a shipper wants what a shipper wants, darn the consequences 😛 !

            Joking aside, though, her relationship with Indrani is explicitly not a romantic one, and neither thinks it will be a long-term relationship, so I don’t think it would risk falling into the cliché – and with the general lack of romance around the main character (Killian… Doesn’t really count, given how she just kind of faded away from the story), the author has plenty of freedom to act, so long as they commit to a given relationship past this point.

            And while it’s entirely likely that Cat will end the story single, if she does end up in a relationship, it’s not really going to be possible to avoid the issue you raise – this late in the series, it would have to be someone that the reader is already fairly familiar with, as there isn’t enough time to develop a new character up to the standards of the existing ones before the climax. While that’s not a barrier if she ends up with Hasenbach, Rozala, or Malicia, Cat already has fairly close relationships to most other characters who have been previously introduced.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Trebar

            That is kind of an oversimplification, don’t you think? I assume one of them is Killian, and that was a full-on relationship. Indrani has to be the other, but that relationship is hardly harem territory.

            Liked by 2 people

      1. Lord GM

        Indrani is indeed glorious. We already knew for a book or two that she is far more intelligent and educated than she lets on. Now we see that she also has the social intelligence to lead others by the nose.

        I just feel pity for Roland.He just can’t win against Indrani using fair means. The other two are too deep in her pocket already.

        Liked by 10 people

  4. Aston Whiteman

    Judgement or Reptenance…

    There’s one more angel in heaven…there’s one more star in the sky.. Kairos we’ll never forget you.

    Let telling truth never die.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Quite Possibly A Cat

    The ultimate betrayal would be to get an Angel to smite DK and Dread Empress, be redeemed and Ascend to Heaven on the back of that very same Angel. Then spend the rest of Creation throwing Wishes down from Heaven.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. WuseMajor

    “Then let us be wicked,
    Let us be reddest ruin
    Rent, broken, crooked
    Black hearted and cruel

    Then let us be doom,
    To both friend and foe
    Fly banner of gloom
    We lowest of the low

    Rise, rise all ye villains
    You rogues and madmen
    Proudly claim the stage,
    Of this wondrous age

    We are not kind or just
    Deserving of any victory
    We are a thing of dust
    Promised only misery

    So smile, Tyrants,
    And let us be wicked”

    —– Final monologue of “The Many Deaths of Traitorous”, a play on the reign of the Dread Emperor Traitorous

    I found the source for the recent titles.

    This is definitely the Tyrant’s Swan Song. And it will be glorious.

    Next title is likely to just be

    Wicked.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. burguulkodar

      Awesome find. Thanks! I was a bit puzzled by the recent titles, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

      Might I just add that these titles synchronicity is one MORE marvelous touch from this wondrous series, it never ceases to amaze me.

      Author, kudos to you. Again. You somehow really reflect some of the inner workings of my mnd sometimes. I love these little secret things you put inside the text, like little puzzles to be sorted out by the readers. This is just so me in my own short stories and poems! So few people get it though, but it is worth it anyways.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        > So few people get it though

        For sure: I wouldn’t have got 95% of EE’s hidden gems without this commenting community pointing them out to me.

        You make me wonder what ELSE EE may have included that this community has missed….

        Liked by 1 person

  7. caoimhinh

    For a moment I thought Kairos had used Still Water on the League’s armies. Turned out this was about him preparing the ground for the Trial.
    I’m surprised Cordelia and co actually agreed on doing it on the place Kairos asked, even when they know it’s a trap. It would be funny if Kairos had used reverse psychology on them by asking the trial to be done somewhere and they were like “Oh, no. We are going to use it on our chosen ground, let’s use Lyonceau.” although Pilgrim was there Beholding Tyrant, so he should have noticed.

    Now the question is: will Kairos die doing this?
    I personally don’t think so. His doping with that drink seems to me like he is filling his tank in preparation for an action that will drain him extremely.

    If I were one to let my imagination and speculation roam free, I would think Kairos is actually planning to strike a bargain with a Choir after creating the huge mess that the Trial of Judgement is bound to be.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Draylen

      If Kairos does die here, Catherine is going to need to pull Wish out *immediately*. Otherwise, Neshama is going to have access to all of its wonderful uses with no drawbacks at all (like the fact each Wish is killing Kairos). If we thought Skein was bad… Wish could be so, so much worse.

      And Neshama gets to walk away with something else, here, too. Lyonceau is ripe to summon an Angel, obviously a Seraph here. So not only will everyone present be afflicted with JUSTICE, just like our long forgotten tool Will tried to do with Contrition, Neshama will be able to trap/seal/kill-and-take-over/absorb it. Because we all know if anyone is able to, it would be the Dead King.

      Unless Heirophant can steal it first. Which… is Probably Very Bad, but not the worst option here? Either way, I think we’re in trouble.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. burguulkodar

        I was wondering when, if ever, Masego would get his sorcery back.

        This mess kinda makes me feel it might be the right time to do so. Although he might never recover it and just become a theorethical teacher in that Villain-Hero School.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I don’t think Kairos outright asked for Lyonceau. More likely, he checked around to find the town best suited for a trial by the criteria he knows the Procerans would employ, then fervently argued for holding the trial in Salia.

      Liked by 11 people

  8. The obvious answer has never before been the right answer when it comes to what Kairos is up to.

    Ah, Indrani. Never change.
    Also, pitting the Witch of the Woods and Masego into a magical debate in front of the Rogue Sorcerer? That’s cruel. But funny.

    Liked by 8 people

  9. I think that Kairos needs his magical berserker pill because he lost a favor of the Below. It was stated outright that the only thing that is keeping him alive is said favor, and when his power dwindles, his illness encroaches. And the stated effect of the drink is “giving life to the limbs and vigour to blood”. It is likely a way for him to power through the most sacred of acts, that can be considered a prayer towards Gods Below – a betrayal of them.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. So… here’s a fun question:

    What do you think the team are going to do with hierarch if his minder Kiaros bites it?

    Because the obvious thing to do is off him for crimes against common sense and sanity, but then again, he is probably the mortals ONLY weapon vs Wandering Bard at present, and she is NOT YOUR FRIEND.
    I can’t help but think it would be wise to keep the madman around somewhere.

    …. except, gods damn it, none of our heroes KNOW that Heirarch is effective at smiting WB. … or perhaps his previous smiting was just happenstance, and nothing special- it just fell under the catagory of “Promised death” and hence forced her to leave.
    … but I suspect is more than that.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. ethericsentinel

        The fact that the League falling apart on the Hierarch’s death would be anticlimactic, for one.

        This is Kairos’s swan song, but it’s Anaxares’s grand stage. There’s plenty more story there to be told if EE cares to tell it.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Andrew Mitchell

    I laughed out loud at

    Roland met her eyes discreetly, lips moving to silently mouth ‘the worst person I know’ in Chantant, and she grinned back. Indrani had grown to like the Rogue Sorcerer: he was a delight to toy with and halfway decent in a fight.

    Roland is a delight.

    Liked by 8 people

        1. On a meta level, Indrani was gleefully throwing gasoline into the fire while Roland was frantically looking for a fire extinguisher. When he did succeed at getting them to leave off for a moment, she restarted the conflict anew. And he knows exactly what she did, so when in the end she’s like “anyway shame on you for not listening to poor Roland” he KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT SHE DID, while both Masego and Antigone seem to miss what’s going on.

          Liked by 10 people

  12. Lord GM

    For the first couple of books, Cat has played DnD, Black played Chess using Named as chesspieces, Malicia played Diplomacy against Procer where every move is a game of Chess. Bard and DK try to steer the way the entire Chess tournament goes by meddling on all levels (Bard prefers to micromanage on the DnD-level while DK prefers Chess and Diplomacy.)
    The Great Game the Gods play is probably even one level more meta than that.

    Now Kairos is going to get to the Gods and make them pay for the injustice he had to suffer being born into a weak body to a cruel father.
    And so he is going to deny the Gods their favorite game. And the way to do that is to cause a logic breakdown in the operating system all the games are running on by proving that the Choir of Judgement is injust.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Lord GM

        By “playing D&D” I mean “looking at live as a serious of combat encounters and trying to solve all problems by punching them in the face until they stop being a problem”, as opposed to “thinking long-term and considering the consequences outside the initiative order”. It took First Liesse (and probably Second Liesse as well) for Cat to learn that lesson. That is why she chose the staff over the sword.

        It is easy to mess with gods in D&D, because typically your games are run by a mortal GM and have the limitations that come with it. It always bugged me when I hear a player brag how their character pulled a fast one on Asmodeus, the god who invented scheming!

        In the Guideverse, the Gods are much harder to mess with because they are played by actual Gods. We know that they know how to cover their bases so that no lucky villain accidently stumbles over a method to actually mess with them. And if they do, the Gods throw Providence and Bard at them before they can use it.

        So my laudations to EE for coming up with this complex, yet consistent and absolutely compelling world design,

        Liked by 2 people

  13. TAP_M113

    I am suspecting that the Tyrant is going to win BIG this time… and the results are going to look like Irritant, Traitorus and Triumphant decided to settle down and raise child together.

    Reasons? Kairos seems the sole representative of the classical “Age of Wonders, flying fortress” brand of Villainy that Below historically seemed so fond of. Since our dear protagonists and even Malicia are pretty much against the classic methods favored by Below, and are even spreading infectious memes against the tight leash Above keeps on their favored named, the hard-liners amongst the Gods must be pushing HARD for some backlash against the over-ambitious mortals.
    And whatever is happening right now, the near-unprecedented and frankly concerning providence downpour raining on the woe standing besides the heroes tells us that Below is going to strike a BIG blow.

    Besides, I believe that, since the very beginning, Kairos has CONSCIOUSLY grown and tailored his name, aspects and role for what is to come next chapters. Consider this: Tyrant has inherited one of the mightiest names Below keeps on its arsenal, and even brandishes the stolen concept of “Hierarchy” – one of the greatest meta-level victories Below has ever got over Above, stealing away what once was one of its core concepts. Yet, with all the power he has, he seldom has used any other aspect besides “Wish”; as a social-based villain it is VERY concerning he has survived, yet alone achieved most of his goals without more than the occasional visible use of more that one aspect.
    This is even worse when you consider that Kairos has got two striking and even more disturbing features in his arsenal. The first is that, simply put, he is a Meta-level Munchkin exploiting “superpower disability”, “lacks magic abilities”, “lacks martial abilities” “comic relief”, “affably evil”, “Flying fortress” and “Lesser Evil” tropes to an extent that SHOULD have got him killed already. He is a social villain character which has specced a couple of dual-use nuke aspects as a concession to his survivability, and “Wish” as his single “social” aspect. He is burning the candle from both ends, as much as he can conceive, because he has been stockpiling “narrative karma” for this moment. And now he is chasing the “near-death” advantage with his poison ingestion…. So I expect him to win this round, and introduce the “mortals against the gods” angle in the story anew.

    The second is that he KNOWS a lot of things he shouldn´t. His three known aspects, “Wish”, “Rule”, and “Rend” should not give him so much information as he wields. There are three answers for that. Either he is Bard´s favored and trusted tool in creation, has the old Oracle/God of Helike riding shotgun in his left eye, or he is THAT smart as to get ALL of his information by sheer social manipulation skills (including the Hierarch “Receive” aspect visions). And as a social villain character, he has got access to ALL of the major world players, named or not, that HE has tricked into going to a judgement presided by the Hierarch, which is the named cultural linchpin binding the League together. A naval power which just shattered its sole contender , the Ashur thalassocracy.

    My suspicion is that, as long as he does not escalate enough to leave the “lesser Evil” position and upstage DK and Malicia as the main threat all the free races must overcome, he is going to succeed. He will trap everyone before the Hierarch, and will auction who gets to survive the gaint “Rube-Goldberg Judgement deathtrap” Hierarch is presiding. Those who don´t give Kairos the right terms and the best bids get judged and beheaded by the Hierarch.
    And you know what is funny? He can judge EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Hierarch can judge ABOVE (Hanno), BELOW (Catherine), MORTAL DESPOTS (Cordelia/Malicia/Vivienne) and UNLIVING DESPOTS (Death King).
    And you know what they say… the number THREE is very story-relevant, and has let VERY deep groves on Creation. And you can permute the above elements in many ways to fit the bill…

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Oh yeah, this is Kairos Victory incoming.
      He’s damn well earned it (both in universe, and in narrative terms OUTSIDE the in universe scoring system).

      And because his final plan is unlikely to be aimed directly at the protagonist, its unlikely that anyone’s plot armour is going to get in the way.

      He’s just going to… wreck….
      Something.

      I don’t think he’s going to hold everyone present hostage as it sounds like you’re suggesting. I suspect he has one or two targets that he is just going to DESTROY.

      …. Amadeus might actually be one of them, come to think of it. He does hate that guy. But probably not as much as he hates fate, so who he’s out to sunder is pretty much up in the air.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. burguulkodar

      His “Wish” aspect reminds me a lot of the Neverending Story artifact, the “Auryn”.

      It also let you make wishes, but with each wish you would lose a memory of your self in the “real world”, until you would become completely woven into the fantasy world and thus without any more wishes to make.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Lord GM

      You make a very good point how Tyrant was able to susrive that long by playing the tropes.

      But like ninegardens I think that his plan is not solely to take mortal rulers hostage and extort worldly concessions. He is planning to die and doesn’t care if Helike, the League of Free Cities or all of Calernia cruble to dust. There is nothing they could give him.

      The open question remains: What does he really want?

      What could he want?
      As I said, he doesn’t care much about worldly matters like wealth or politic relations. He is burning those like there is no tomorrow (which probably really isn’t, at least for him). He doesn’t care for his own people (or people in general) too much either.
      It might be possible that he is out for glory, that he wants to go down in history as the greatest Villain who bested famous Dread Emperors and maybe even Triumphant herself. But even if he is all about enjoying the spectacle of a villanous live, this seems pretty shallow and I would be disappointed if that truly was his only motive.

      So I think, glory is merely a welcome side effect of his true goal: Ruining the Great Game of the Gods the best he can. And to do that he would have to break either the playing board (Calernia / Creation), or the means by which the Gods interact with it: Bard, the Choirs, Providence and/or Names, if he doesn’t aim for outright Deicide (with capital D).

      Cat is already aiming to limit the influence of the Gods’ Game by restricting Names through the Acords. And we know the Gods don’t like that. (I don’t believe Bard when she says they don’t care about that paper.) But such a softhanded and reasonable approach is not Kairos’ style. It has to be a show for him.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        > Ruining the Great Game of the Gods the best he can. And to do that he would have to break either the playing board (Calernia / Creation), or the means by which the Gods interact with it: Bard, the Choirs, Providence and/or Names, if he doesn’t aim for outright Deicide (with capital D).

        I think you’re on the right track here. There’s some foreshadowing from Villainous Interlude Thunder when Karios is talking to Anaxares. Karios says he can see the Bard’s one burning desire and it’s glorious. And remember some people believe that the Bard wants to end the Gods influence over people.

        Like

    4. Andrew Mitchell

      Thank you, thank you, that’s a fascinating contribution. Either he is Bard´s favored and trusted tool in creation, has the old Oracle/God of Helike riding shotgun in his left eye, or he is THAT smart as to get ALL of his information by sheer social manipulation skills (including the Hierarch “Receive” aspect visions).

      Bard’s favored tool? Yes, extremely plausible given, back in Villainous Interlude Thunder, Karios told Anexares (sp?) that he can see Bards ‘only one burning desire’ and ‘it is glorious’. Whatever Bard’s aim is, Karios is probably working towards it as well.

      Oracle riding shotgun in his left eye? Very plausible IMO and not something I have thought of before. We know some of the advantages Cat has received due to her close involvement with the Sisters. Karios benefiting from a similar relationship could explain a lot.

      THAT smart via social manipulation and Hierarch? Possible and certainly part of Karios’ package but I don’t think that would give him enough of a knowledge boost.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. “No peace can there be, between lash and orc.”

    Are we sure Hakram is, like, okay? Did he maybe have a stroke and forget about the Gallowborn, the Mantle of Woe, or the attempt to enslave the entire Drow nation? If the Dead King isn’t ‘lash’ then no one is, did Hakram miss the explicit try at forging a peace between him and orc?

    The orcs as a people have been the gleeful instruments of Callow’s subjugation for like twenty years, they worship the man who took their enemies freedom away. They are the oppressor’s whip hand. Governor Miezes stayed in power because the Legions killed everyone who opposed him.

    But their self image is that they are somehow opposed to slavery? Hackram looks down on a city of people who are basically just amateur hour praesi cosplayers? It would be pitiable if the body count from their delusion wasn’t so incredibly high.

    The only other Named orc we know of was Captain, whose entire schtick was that she enslaved a monster. The orcs are just fine with slavery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. devildragon777

      …Captain wasn’t an orc, though?

      And Hakram isn’t fond of the Praesi subjugation either? A lot of the reason Amadeus was/is so well-liked among orcs is orecisely because he managed a half-fix that gave them actual authority and standing in Praesi society, even if it was mostly just contained within the Legions. Or do you think that prior to the Black Knight an orc could have even had a shot at becoming a general?

      Hakram wasn’t there for the Drow, and the finale of that was an attempt to bring them back to relevancy and give them their own nation and bringing them out of a cultural deadspin…something that has parallels with what Hakram wants to do for the Tribes. Akua mostly doesn’t have a leash anymore, and the Gallowborn are gone as an entity, pretty much.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Eh. Sorry. Post wasn’t up when I was still typing mine. ^^° Good point about the parallel of what Cat is now actually trying to do with/for the Drow and what Hakram wants for the Orcs.

        Sidenote: The Gallowborne were not a people enslaved. They were sentenced to death for the worst crimes Callow acknowledges as such, if I remember correctly, and given the choice to suffer their “just” sentence (hanging) – or try to redeem themselves by fighting for Callow. Not quite the same as enslaving a whole people, is it? At least to me it feels a bit like going in the direction of comparing apples to eggs.

        ————

        “No peace can there be, between lash and orc.” – That’s from something far larger that came up in one of the Interlude-chapters of Hakram, explained via the history of the orcs in much detail there; I just can’t remember which one. =/
        It certainly might be worth to look at that again, for a definition of that phrase as understood by the Orcs and to whom they apply it in which sense.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. Morgenstern

      Wait… What? Since when is(/was) Captain an orc?
      Far as I remember, Captain did not enslave a monster… she WAS the monster… werewolf-like. Also, she was just a very big human wielding a very big weapon.

      ———
      Are you entirely sure that Hakram is against the lash in general – and not simply in the closer context of “the *orcs* shall never be enslaved again” (and maybe the Magisters somewhen subjugated orcs)?

      Conquerors are often quite fine with conquering others… they just don’t like to feel the leash themselves; wounded pride and all that, I guess… He joined a *Warlord* in the person of Cat… who are meant to conquer (and be personally free; no mention of letting everyone *else* go free).

      As an aside, did Hakram ever learn Cat basically tried to enslave the Drow? He wasn’t there at all during that arc; the only ones with her were Indrani and Akua the Shade. And Cat came back as high priestess, not enslaver, but … ally… shall we say; all turned out more or less well with the Drow, she is now more or less respecting their right to form/develop their culture by themselves, just trying to influence them towards not killing everybody and each other…

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Also, Cat initially went to the Drow to look for allies, not to enslave them. The whole enslaving method only came up when she encountered a totally different state to everything down there than imagined and it was kind of a effed-up-from-the-start i-don’t-have-any-other-ideas spontaneous notion, potentially going along with some leftover Winter possession, and even then coming along with/via the method of “who wants to be my new court and get new powers?”, a messed-up attempt to adjust to the whole death-cycle-Night-harvesting-everyone-killing-each-other down there and how the Drow … made “allies”. (And, yes, a rather mistaken understanding of “omg, what is going on here, these people need to be “saved” from their own madness” … and most of all the HOW to achieve that.)

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Morgenstern

          Don’t get me wrong. It was certainly wrong all over to go at it that way Cat turned to down there (and she realized it herself, if rather belatedly, but at least she did). Point is, the whole arc was (also) about realizing how NOT to.

          Hakram’s chapter containing the quote reminisced here, bringing up the history of the Orcs and his own wished for them, ALSO was about OVERCOMING the shortcomings of the past. Not only about their own subjugation, but also the work they did for the Empire, what they were/are still used at, despite the reforms bettering their place in the scheme of things over there, and some own thoughts about what was wrong with the Orcs tribes before their fall as well. But no, it’s certainly not perfect and caring-for-everyone; it was centered about caring about the ORCS. Again, patriotism. Just as with Cat for Callowans. Caring for others/the continent comes after that / is informed by that. They’re also Villains for a reason and not in any way perfect. Yes, it IS probably a mite hypocritical. They’re far from perfect in their attempts to make things better. The whole Guide is about such questions and mistakes (among other things), isn’t it?

          I guess I’m just really surprised the question if Hakram is all okay in the head (or the Orcs in general) is only coming up *now*, when the whole thing with the orcs vs. lash is dozens of chapters past already. Including the contrasting examples used here of things he might have taken offence to, depending on the definition of how exactly he despises slavers / enslavement, in what context etc. *headscratch

          Liked by 3 people

    3. Lord GM

      I’m sorry but half your arguments are not valid.

      The DK is a great evil and nobody felt comfortable when the Woe collectively reached the conclusion that they are simply out of options. The only “real” slaves Nashema keeps are the undead Named IMO. His mortal subjects actually live a good live and worship him as their beloved god (or so we are told). And the mindless undead don’t have a will that could be enslaved.

      Conquering a land and enslaving its people are two differnt things. Callowans kept most of their freedom even under Praesi rule. Never did Black attempt to take away basic human rights. (The right to bear weapons is NOT a basic human right!)

      That Praesi governors abused their power is true. But even they couldn’t just pick someone from the the streets, strip away their dignity and dictate every move they make from then on. Basically all they did was raising taxes into unsustainable hights. But these governors acted explicitely against the wishes of the Tower. They also couln’t use the Legions to enforce their laws but had to use their own troops. Actually the Legion and especially the orcs enjoyed it when they could show the governor’s guards who the boss is. Which ironically endeered them to the locals.

      Blaming the Legions for maintaining order and suppress violent rebellions is like accusing the police for keeping law and order.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

        “Blaming the Legions for maintaining order and suppress violent rebellions is like accusing the police for keeping law and order.”

        I was with you until you said that. I still agree that Callow’s people were not reduced to chattel (modern definitions of slavery are more inclusive and would encompass basically the lion’s share of any population under feudalism, but chattel slavery is the extreme form we’re discussing here), but all cops are collectively bastards even if individual cops aren’t, I say. There are dire systemic issues inherent to law enforcement as we know it, correction of which would eliminate their comparability to the Legions.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. hakureireimu

    The only other Named orc we know of was Captain, whose entire schtick was that she enslaved a monster. The orcs are just fine with slavery

    When you rant ends with such obvious falsehoods it’s just hard to take it seriously at all.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. >“It is not merely unusual work,” Masego said, sounding troubled. “It, in part mine. Akua Sahelian’s also, and a myriad others, but some of those patterns were first laid down by my hand.”
    >“There are other influences in there,” the Witch of the Wilds said. “Callowan wards, Aenian cants and that odd Jaquinite escapement.”
    >“No sorcerer could make such a thing,” the Hierophant said. “No living one, anyway.”

    Hmm. IIRC, the Rogue Sorcerer himself doesn’t seem to actually be a sorcerer, rather running on his Name (like Heirophant, for that matter). It could be the Dead King, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kairos found yet another option.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. TAP_M113

      Taking into account that the Wandering Bard confessed that, any time she was given freedom to act on her own, she sought “the story that would free Creation”, do you think that the enchantment has been woven by her?

      Because from Death King and her own revelations, it has been heavily implied that she is working against the God interests. From all magicians that have been introduced so far, only Death King and Bard would have the longevity and experience to do this kind of work. The fact that Masego and Akua wards are present points to Neshamah, but Bard was also very involved in the doom of Liesse, so it could be her. Malicia could also have had the neccesary exposure, but she doesn´t seem so much of the sorcerer type, excepting her admittedly impressive experience with body-jacking spells.

      At last, having the Bard heavily invested in this operation would FINALLY explain how Tyrant can know so much secrets he shouldn´t ever had the chance to learn; Bard would have been steadily feeding him secrets, while Tyrant´s job was to gather all relevant world players at the same pllace so that Hierarch judgement has a lot of witnesses and the precedent of judging Choirs or Gods makes an indeledible, smoldering grove on the Narrative. If the Deicide of Gods with capital G succeeds in front of the representatives of all nations of Calernia (and maybe with their aproval), it will enter the folklore of all those nations as a self-evident truth. It is a story that would free creation, or rather, a sufficiently large narrative gun – Nobody can escape the rule of Law. Should it be broken, its retribution will strike down even the Gods.

      This angle also has two major fuel sources to make it suceed. First, the free Leagues star is waning. With the Above-fearing Thalassocracy cast down, the League beat its sole competitor and is on the verge of becoming a superpower. The League and Thalassocracy are similar to the ancient Greeks, where their cultural identity is defined by the primacy of law and the concept of political Utopia. The Hierarch is THE symbol of the League as a people, its cultural named bedrock. If the Hierarch judges a Choir, or even a God successfully, this will be the long-overdue catalyst that the League had been narratively “owed” for centuries, and will represent their ascension as a people, with the same weight as Triumphant had for Praes.
      Second, at least half to two thirds of the current named of Calernia are currently questioning the rule of the Gods, with Above being perceived as particularly meddlesome, unfairly abusing of their meta-narrative advantage, as exemplified by the OP providence mechanics, and due their comeuppance.
      So I get the feeling that Kairos judgement is going to suceed, and I get the feeling that at least half of the audience is going to find that the results align with their personal ethics (particulalrly Catherine). Which half of the audience its is, and who Kairos gets to kill/shaft in the process, is going to be decided on a whim. This is the Tyrant´s, and Irritant/Traitorous brand of narrative kung-fu: Since complex plans are bound to fail, gather all your ennemies/allies in the same place, let their cumulated stories conflict and sabotage them into failure, and then attack whoever makes a narrative mistep before they can recover.
      In short: If you are a Villain with a shotgun surrounded by all your foes in a barrel of finite doom, you won´t miss your shots, no matter where you aim. And you WILL have your narratively-enforced killstreak…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. One quibble: “least half to two thirds of the current named of Calernia are currently questioning the rule of the Gods…”

        Not even close — it’s just several of the most powerful ones, and that’s just among the ones on-screen.

        Liked by 3 people

  17. TAP_M113

    In a lighter tone: Do you ship Kairos and Catherine?
    Because, on a meta-narrative level, I would. They get along great, and no matter what you say, I get the feeling that Catherine is the only person in the world that Kairos genuinely likes and respects, let alone fee that can understand his brand of wacky, pyromaniac humor and rage against the heavens. Conversely, Catherine has cut Tyrant a lot of slack, humors all his antics, and cannot avoid but respect and like Kairos panache and brand of trolling. Should they have met at the War College, they would have been thick as thieves. Robber-grade at the very least, maybe Hakram-Grade. Kairos would have been Catherine´s (and everyone) favourite treacherous lieutenant, I bet.

    Give Kairos 3-5 years more of life, and I could see Kairos creating an intrincate plot to doom the world that only Catherine and friends can thwart. After a lot of adventures, comedy and devious scheming across the free cities, Catherine narrowly escapes Tyrant´s latest “Rube Goldberg” deathtrap, just to find Kairos Theodosian waiting at the exit with a political marriage treaty that would conveniently solve all of Catherine´s and Callow problems, and a marriage ring packed hidden within a bundle of wakeleaf. Of course, Kairos would be mounted on Hakram, his faithful Liessen charger (yes, hakram the goat) 🙂

    Jokes aside, both Kairos and Catherine have cut each other very preferential deals and treated each other with a surprising amount of lenience. When Kairos Theodosian goes so easy on you, you bet there is a reason….
    The only people I would “ship” so much are mighty Jindrich and Robber. Jokes aside, after everything is said and done, either Jindrich gets adopted into the “Lesser, lesser Footrest” tribe Robber and Pickler create, or they get adopted in his sigil. I have a soft spot those two, and we defineitively need more Robber time. Since Nauk died and the rat company vets have slowly drifted apart under the pressure of proffesional life, we need more wacky antics…and nobody delivers them as well as Robber and the other goblin do.

    Well, Kairos does, but I think he is a honorary Goblin Matron, anyway. I wonder what would happen if he gets the chance to make a recruitment drive in the Green Eyries… I bet Goblins would love this guy, and Kairos would see them as all he wishes his gargoyles could be. It is a match made in Hell and showered in goblinfire, that would make a lot of folks happy and propel property damage to unprecedented heights. Why hasn´t it happened yet?

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Big I

    I really hope the Hierarch wipes out the Choir of Judgement. I’ve been looking forward to that.

    It just struck me that the White Knight and the Hierarch are suited to be each other’s nemesis. One believes in Divine Right, the other in the Will of the People.

    Liked by 2 people

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