Interlude: Wicked

“Inexorable is the end of the journey; choose wisely how you spend your steps.”
– Ashuran saying

“Look, I’m not saying half a hell won’t come howling out if you disappear instead of attending like a good Choir boy,” Queen Catherine said. “But this whole serene thing you’ve got going on? That’s the look on the face of someone about to have it slapped right off.”

Hanno was not certain what was more surreally amusing: that the most prominent villain of their age was expressing sincere worry for his well-being, in her own rough way, or that the First Prince of Procer was seemingly unable to decide what part of this she found the most appalling.  The three of them were riding ahead of the rest of the column and at brisk a pace, though Lyonceau would not be in sight for some time.

“I have fought the Tyrant before, Your Majesty,” the White Knight replied. “I am not unaware of the danger he represents.”

“You fought Kairos when he was sowing the seeds of a hundred enmities,” the Black Queen flatly replied. “Now he’s reaping his harvest, Hanno. He’s going to burn every favour and story he’s got up his sleeves so he can snap Judgement over his knee.”

“Damned or not, he remains a single man,” Cordelia Hasenbach carefully said. “Surely you do not mean Kairos Theodosian could face a single angel alone, much less an entire Choir.”

“I’ve been in brawls with two Choirs, Your Highness,” Queen Catherine reminded the other woman. “It can be done, and without losing a finger if you’re quick and careful enough.”

From the look on the First Prince’s face, Hanno mused, she had finally happened upon the part she could find the most appalling. The White Knight was less offended, for though the touch of Contrition always served a purpose it was not often gentle in pursuing it. As for Endurance… Hanno cleared his throat.

“Fuck off, you bottom feeders. This one’s been claimed fair and square,” he quoted, drily amused.

Some of the last words the Stalwart Paladin had ever heard. That life had perhaps been the most useful to call on, when studying the Black Queen. The Lone Swordsman had been the rival of her youth, and her struggles there too far removed from the woman she’d become, and none of those who’d died at the Battle of the Camps had seen much of her aside from the terrifying foe that’d been the Sovereign of Moonless Nights. The Stalwart Paladin, though, had walked among the people of the Callowan city of Dormer and then spoken with the Black Queen for some time. It had been fascinating, hearing through him the offer she’d extended. Go home, Catherine Foundling had offered, looking so very exhausted. She’d offered peaceful means, and bared steel only when pushed.

It was not his place to judge, yet it had troubled Hanno that he could not easily decide what his answer would have been, had he truly stood in the other hero’s boots.

“Shit,” Queen Catherine said, cheeks darkening. “Went fishing for that, did you? In my defence, they tried to snatch the man after I’d already put him down hard. It was unsporting, is what I mean.”

“You cursed at angels,” Cordelia Hasenbach slowly grasped. “You called them bottom-feeders?”

“It wasn’t about the bird wing thing,” the Queen of Callow assured the other royalty. “I can’t stand puns. It was about the kill-snatching.”

“Perhaps,” the First Prince said, voice choked, “we might return to the matter at hand.”

“As I was saying, Your Majesty,” the White Knight calmly continued, “your worry is appreciated yet I speak not in arrogance. I understand what it is that the Tyrant of Helike seeks to achieve through this purported trial.”

“He’s going for Judgement,” the Black Queen agreed. “And any other day I’d say the Seraphim lose a feather before they eat him, but today? We get a curse on the way out, White Knight, and it sticks. Even when it has no right to.”

For once, the memories that set his mind astray were not another’s. Gods of my ancestors, grant me due, his mother has once snarled. And as the blood-soaked tile through which she had honoured Below for many years shattered, the heavy weight of a curse had filled the air. All it had taken for it to seize men by the throat was for a knife to kiss a throat, and Hanno of Arwad to become entirely an orphan. The White Knight knew a thing or two of curses spoken with one’s last breath.

“I speak not in ignorance either, Your Majesty,” he softly said. “I understand that Kairos Theodosian is perhaps the closest thing to a high priest of Below that draws breath on Calernia, and his passing will not be a gentle thing. Yet it is your own past, that drags your eye away from the truth of this.”

She considered him with those clever, serious eyes that ever belied the casual manner of speaking she wielded as club and scalpel both. Honestly examining herself for where she might have made a mistake, a misstep. A refreshing thing, this. The willingness to entertain she might have erred.

“You think it doesn’t matter what he comes at you with,” she slowly said. “All he’s accomplishing is giving the Seraphim a good, clear shot at him.”

Judgement had already been passed on Kairos Theodosian, on a floating tower in sight of the walls of Delos. That verdict had not waned or weakened for the passing of months, and still resounded like a whisper in the back of Hanno’s mind. The Tyrant of Helike had ran across half the continent hiding in the shadow of great hosts and great needs, yet now he was delivering himself to the Tribunal of his own free will. There was no escaping that judgement, once it had been passed.

“Even as Queen of Winter, you did not wield your full might,” Hanno said. “You understood, then and now, that strength without restraint in a villain is a call to the grave. Yet I am not a villain, Catherine Foundling.”

He met her gaze, serenity untroubled.

“I am the Sword of Judgement,” the White Knight said. “If Evil seeks to end me, I will break it. Should the Enemy seek to struggle against the Tribunal instead, then what heeds not justice will be put down with overwhelming might.”

“Using strength on Kairos Theodosian is like trying to strangle a stone,” the Black Queen warned.

“Yes,” the White Knight agreed. “And crow he might, that he will not lack for air. Yet it will not matter when the grip shatters rock.”

He watched her watching him, saw the eyebrows narrow and the thoughts adjust. She had understood, without him speaking a word of it, that there was more to his certainty than she knew. From he could almost see her passing through a list of possible allies, now as nimble in her thinking as William of Greensbury had found her to be on her feet. Her eyes almost flicked behind them, to look where the other guests were riding, and Hanno nodded in assent. Yes, she’d understood correctly. It would be not one but two Choirs the Tyrant of Helike would face, should he bare his fang against the Tribunal. The Black Queen clicked her tongue against the roof her mouth.

“I’ve given you warning,” she finally said. “I have nothing more to say on the matter.”

Her gaze moved to the First Prince, whose face had remained inscrutable for some time as she followed the conversation closely.

“Your Highness, I extend offer from Sve Noc to weave… containment over Lyonceau, in case the Tyrant’s last surprise is meant to spread.”

Cordelia Hasenbach smiled pleasantly.

“A kind offer,” the Warden of the West – though only the shadow of what that might have been, to his sorrow – replied. “Yet I wonder at the price of it.”

The Black Queen grinned.

“No cost,” she said. “Call it a gesture of goodwill between allies against Keter.”

The First Prince seemed even less pleased, which took Hanno some time to grasp. Ah, it had been horse-trading. Cordelia Hasenbach would have preferred this to be a transaction, bought and paid for. The Black Queen offered instead a favour, to be repaid in kind one day. It was a bargain that demanded little of Procer yet would benefit the drow in the currency they would need the most after the Tenth Crusade came to an end. The blue-eyed princess turned to him, and already he could hear the question on the tip of her tongue: how likely would it be that such protection would be needed? Yet she never spoke the words and looked faintly ashamed for a flickering moment.

“Procer will be grateful for the aid, First Under the Night,” the First Prince of Procer said.

Hanno’s esteem for the woman, which had already been set high by the laurels branded onto her palm, rose a notch. She’d preferred owing a favour than to gamble with lives in her charge, even on the finest of odds. The Black Queen nodded in acknowledgement, then flicked him a glance.

“Mind you, they’re not coming any closer even if things go south on your angels,” Catherine Foundling said. “I’m not risking their feathers on the Tyrant of Helike’s chosen grounds.”

“The grounds were our choice, Queen Catherine, not his,” the First Prince reminded her.

“That doesn’t mean they’re not his chosen grounds,” the Black Queen grimly replied.

Both she and the White Knight moved in unison when there was a tremble of sorcery ahead, though when the silhouettes revealed became clearer the tension went out. Antigone could hardly be taken for anyone else, riding Lykaia’s broad back as she was, and Roland’s eternal leather longcoat was almost as familiar a sight. The other two he recognized only by description. The tall woman in mail with a long green coat and a half-hidden face must be the Archer, a guess that the massive longbow on her back seemed to support. The blind man with dark skin and long trinket-woven braids must be the Hierophant, a warlock who when enthralled by the Dead King had very nearly killed every single living thing in Iserre. Hanno cocked his head quizzically at Antigone, who replied in the same Gigantes stance-speak.

Respect, dislike, danger. The dislike had implication of arrogance, not offence, which was interesting. So was the danger, for the corresponding tilt spoke not of ‘past danger’ or ‘potential danger’. Antigone’s opinion was that the Hierophant, even stripped of his sorcery as he currently was, might be able to kill either of them in a fight. That spoke to the respect, for the Gigantes prized not a single virtue should it be accompanied by weakness.

“You both seem untroubled by those approaching,” the First Prince of Procer mildly said.

Unlike them, her eyes could only discern details so far.

“Archer, the Rogue Sorcerer and Hierophant,” the Black Queen said. “And if I’m not mistaken?”

“The Witch of the Woods,” Hanno agreed. “I expect they will have word of Lyonceau for us.”

Simply because the Tyrant of Helike had kept his cards hidden until the last moment did not mean they would enter the trap blind. The White Knight had learned much from his own defeats, from studying the dooms and triumphs of his heroic predecessors. And this particular method, which he had once discussed with the Peregrine, often served: sending a companion out with only vague mandate when the enemy was afoot. It was creating an opportunity for providence to smile upon them, for as all other things providence must be helped along lest if fail. That Roland had been chosen as an instrument along with Antigone was no great surprise, and neither was the Archer’s presence. Like her storied teacher the Lady of the Lake, she was likely cast in Roles either heroic or villainous by circumstance.

Her allegiance to the Black Queen put a hand on the scales towards Below, it was true, but then Catherine Foundling had often sailed dark ships to pale shores – terrible shores, it was true, but pale nonetheless. The Hierophant’s presence was more surprising, and ill-omen. For providence to have offered a stirrup to his foot, his particular knowledge must have been needed. The four approached, and though the First Prince’s armed escort neared they were not so uncouth as to take defensive positions. Cordelia Hasenbach’s horse was shaken but not put aflight by the massive shape of Lykaia, which he noted approvingly. It was a well-trained beast.

“I don’t suppose you just happened onto Lyonceau by accident,” the Black Queen tried.

“Warded up to the Heavens,” the Archer said. “Literally, even!”

The Hierophant stirred.

“Inaccurate,” he said, voice mildly irritated. “For the third time-”

“Greetings, Your Majesty, Your Highness,” the Rogue Sorcerer said, bowing. “What my companions are attempting to convey is that the town is heavily warded with an eye as to the angelic.”

Accurate, Antigone silently told him. Secrets, Dead King.

“Are any of the wards harmful in nature?” the White Knight asked.

“No,” the Hierophant said. “Not in the slightest. They command and retain attention, and so in function have similarities with the initial part of a ritual Breach-”

“As in devil summoning,” the Black Queen flatly interrupted.

“The first segment of such a ritual, yes,” the Hierophant peevishly replied. “As I was saying, Catherine, if you had let me finish.”

“Surely that must be harmful in some manner,” the First Prince said, looking sickened.

“Not unless you want to argue that attracting angelic attention is harmful,” Queen Catherine drily noted. “Which I’m guessing might be less than popular a stance with some of your subjects.”

“Simply the act of warding makes such a meeting place suspect,” the blonde princess insisted.

“Salia’s warded,” the Archer said.

“What Lady Archer means, Your Highness, is that making such an argument given the nature of the wards might be considered by some a breaking of faith,” Roland delicately said.

Which was a peril that Hanno would not lightly risk, as it would expose all those that had broken faith with the Tyrant of Helike to the vengeance that would follow. In a stroke, the heads of all signatories Grand Alliance would be in the villain’s reach. There was no understanding of this situation that was acceptable, for even if the White Knight was certain to die in such a trial his life would weigh less on the scales than that of Catherine Foundling and Cordelia Hasenbach: without those two, the war on Keter was lost. The cause would be weakened by his own death, but hardly irreparably.

“We must proceed,” the White Knight said. “Though given the circumstances, I believe the presence of great mages among our number could not easily be made into a slight.”

“I don’t care if the Tyrant gets snippy about,” the Black Queen snorted, “Hierophant is coming. Archer, I need you in Salia.”

“You can’t be serious,” the Archer replied, tone hardening.

A swift exchange in Kharsum followed, neither of them apparently aware he’d used Recall to learn some of the tongue months ago. Queen Catherine was insisting that should they all die in Lyonceau then Vivienne Dartwick would need both the Archer and the Adjutant at her side to keeps things from collapsing, while the Archer argued not untruly that if the Black Queen died the talks were dead anyway. The discussion ended when the Archer informed her queen that she’d stick around ‘Zeze’ to watch his back and stay out of trouble, if that was what it took, and Queen Catherine angrily conceded. Neither of them paid any attention to the Hierophant’s protest he had no need of a bodyguard.

Antigone inclined her head in question, but he dismissed it. Best for all if she started with them, as far as Hanno was concerned, and Roland as well. He was not as powerful a spellcaster, but he was cunning and his knowledge broad in scope. And so they resumed the ride forward to Lyonceau, into the jaws of the beast waiting to gobble them up.

It was, for a hero, one of the most practical places to be.

It had made for a serviceable temple, if to admittedly asinine Gods and the occasional feckless Choir, but it made for a rather dignified courtroom.

Kairos Theodosian had seen to it, assigning his most trustworthy servants to the task. Sadly most of the gargoyles that could tell colours apart with their beady little stones eyes had been merrily massacred by Catherine when they’d had their little tiff at twilit Liesse, which had made for a charmingly eclectic selection of paints and cloths. Even as the latest of his esteemed guests passed the threshold of the wards encircling Lyonceau, the Tyrant of Helike leaned back against his throne and cast a critical eye on the stained glass before him, which was depicting the first elected First Prince being crowned by what appeared to be a flock of naked giggling cherubs. One of his trusted servants had painted over the face of Clothor Merovins a bright red beaked nose and touched up his hair with bright blue spikes, which one might venture to say was a fetchingly clashing addition, yet it was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, as the Alamans said.

“Naked angels?” the Tyrant of Helike said. “’tis most obscene, my loyal minions. Possibly blasphemous as well, I’d have to inquire with a priest.”

Inquisitive chittering was his answer, his last gaggle of gargoyles gathering to hear his regal proclamations.

“You shall have to clothe them,” Kairos decided, touching his lip with his scepter. “In undergarments, naturally.”

More chatter, increasingly inquisitive.

“The colour will be of your choice, I would not lightly infringe upon your artistic integrity,” the king of Helike assured them. “Yet if I might venture a suggestion as to the appearance? Lacy.”

The chittering turned rather enthusiastic, matching his mood perfectly. Even as he ordered his porters to move him away, his heart already warmed in anticipation of the fresh abomination those incompetent little mongrels would create in trying to paint something as delicate as lace. The House of Light was coming along nicely, in his opinion, and all it’d taken was knocking off the roof. And large swaths of the walls, and rearranging most the insides. Also desecrating the consecrated grounds, as the delightful outrage from Above at his presence thundering in his ears sadly hadn’t been worth the constant migraines. Yet now the temple was a lovely piece of work, raised platforms with benches and seats surrounding what he liked to think of as an arena: the altar to Above turned into the defendant’s stand, and the splendidly shoddy table and chair the Hierarch of the Free Cities had spent several days making with his own hands, as Anaxares despised the notion of using tyrannical Proceran tables and chairs instead.

Gods Below, Kairos had not regretted having the man elected even once.

The sole standing walls that remained were those encasing the tall panels of stained glass, casting colours lights on the ground that mixed with that which the afternoon sun carelessly shone through the gaping swaths. The Hierarch of the Free Cities was already seated on his rickety three-legged stool chair, methodically scraping any ink off the parchment that’d been used to send messages to him, avoiding the need of in fact using any such scroll not given unto him by the People – which was perhaps for the best, as to Kairos’ understanding of Bellerophan law he would then have to report anyone having gifted him such parchment to the kanenas for having paid tribute to a Foreign Despot, namely the Hierarch himself. The laws of the Republic were as a splendid maze made entirely of trapdoors, to the Tyrant, most of which led to a pit of spikes but some instead to a mob of angry crocodiles. That there would be a dead body at the end of the journey was perhaps the only part of it not in doubt. Truly, the people of the Free Cities could all learn a lesson or two from the Republic.

They were significantly better than anyone else at spontaneous lapidation, for example.

“It’s all the practice, I think,” Kairos told his trusted attendants.

“It is fascinating,” the Dead King said. “Even now, I cannot tell if you are mad or feigning.”

The Tyrant’s good eye found the skeleton-thing that claimed kingship of death and Keter, and to his continued distaste found nothing at all.  Oh, the body was there. A shell, pretty enough if a little too pretentious for his tastes, but he couldn’t see in it. Even if he leaned into the aspect, in that way that allowed him to glimpse past that first burning wish at the heart of everyone into that myriad of lesser ones, all that there was to be found in the Dead King was a darkness. If he saw the first body, the true one, Kairos believed his sight would not fail him so. It had not failed him with the Wandering Bard, after all. Yet Trismegistus was ever a cautious one, a creature of brokers and emissaries and intermediaries. All of them the same old horror, but as the name went it was intent on remaining hidden. How unsporting of it, really. How was he to break what the Dead King wanted most in the world, if he knew not what it was?

“How boring life would be, if there were only ever two choices to be had,” Kairos lightly said. “Our guests have come, dear friend.”

“Yes,” the Dead King said. “I can feel the Hierophant. Soon, now.”

“It is a shame the Empress could not attend,” the Tyrant sighed.

The old thing laughed, for the both knew Kairos would have betrayed her as eagerly as he intended to betray Ol’ Bones himself. Sadly, Malicia had decided that after wringing him dry of every use she had of him and cutting the grass under his feet among his beloved allies she no longer had a need to humour him. The Dead King himself was here because the old thing was under the impression the only one that could make him bleed was the Intercessor, and that these games in Salia were a passable amusement until he retired to his domain. What splendid arrogance, this, what sumptuous hubris! Truly, was the King of Death not among the greatest of their ilk?

“I shall have refreshments brought to you,” Kairos smiled, for he was an impeccable host.

It should be interesting to see if the Dead King would in fact drink from a cup of human blood, even though he had no throat or stomach or any real need to. Still, with the guests so soon to arrive the Tyrant of Helike had his porters bring him to the highest point in the old temple, atop the platform in the back. A more discreet snap of the wrist had another cup of Valiant Passing brought to his hand, and he drank the brew fully though the taste was horrid. It was a necessity, sadly. Without it the fits came every half hour and he was blind in one eye, though the old recipe was only a temporary reprieve. Soon, Named or not there would be enough of the poison in his bones that no purging trick would see him through it unharmed. Ah, but the harm had been done long before the drink and there’d never been any purging of that. Tossing away the cup in a corner, Kairos allowed his loyal attendants to drape him in the formal regalia of the kings and queens of Helike: the cloths of purple and gold, the heavy bejewelled crown that Theodosius has adorned with the jewels of defeated royalty, the pearl-incrusted slippers.

He was ready before the first of his guests arrived, passing through the open and unhinged gates of the former temple. Catherine, bold as ever strolled in first. The Queen of Callow still bore one of the strongest wishes he had ever seen, pulsing with her heartbeat: peace, peace, peace. It was like watching a flower bloom anew with every beat. Even now it was all he could do not to laugh until his throat bled, for what an exquisite jest it was that one of Below’s finest servants in the long history of Calernia was at heart one of Above’s! At her side that boring little thing the White Knight tread, all desires his own faded while that horrid thing intertwined with the Seraphim – I wish to be just – tainted everything. Most of the others that followed behind were tedious to behold, Cordelia’s implacable duty and ugh, the Blood was all honour and glory as always and oh, wasn’t that Itima Ifriqui craving revenge? Ah, what a proper villain that one would have made with a little prodding.

Neither Rozala Malanza nor Vivienne Dartwick were attending, which was amusingly cautious of Catherine and Cordelia, though it seemed the Witch of the Wilds and the Hierophant had been dragged along. Reading the latter was always amusing for the splitting headache it gave him, the Hierophant’s path to apotheosis being so deeply steeped in High Arcana that trying to understand the concept was like driving nails through his own forehead. The Witch was intriguing, for a hero, her wish for completion too complex and driven in notions he did not understand to properly grasp, but she was still a passing fancy compared to the Archer and that delightfully strange and nuanced horizon. The wonder of discovery, of the fresh and new, of doing things no one had done before. It was not all-consuming like Catherine’s craving for a peace that would justify all the horrors or the White Knight’s childish need to have his hand felt, but it was deeper in some ways.

It was not always the wish that commanded her, but it was so deeply ingrained abandoning it would kill her sure as dawn.

The Tyrant of Helike gestured for his porters to take flight, though until more of the flock joined in to even the sides his throne was slightly askew in the air and Theodosius’ crown, always too large for his brow, went askew with it. His rise caught the eye of everyone in the room, even the Hierarch.

“Greetings, friends,” Kairos Theodosian grinned, “and welcome. Now that all are in attendance, it seems we can at last begin the trial.”

At last, he yearningly thought. At long last.

212 thoughts on “Interlude: Wicked

    1. erebus42

      Honestly, he might as well have said, “what could possibly go wrong?” Or “there’s nothing he could do to hurt us anymore then he has”. That’s the unfortunate thing about heroes, they haven’t learned to not give fate straight lines like that.

      Liked by 16 people

    2. Oaclo

      So this is the first time we’ve had anything from Kairos’ viewpoint, right? Quite interesting. Unfortunately I think we would need significantly more to get a solid idea of his sanity once and for all.

      Liked by 5 people

            1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

              This. I mean, it’s right there in the etymology of the term: sanitation. There aren’t truly unclean minds in the sense referred to, only minds with differing content.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. To elaborate, the concept of ‘sanity’ comes from comparing people with each other, and outside of that comparison it simply does not describe anything.

                (The same notably applies to the overall concept of health and ability/disability – if, say, everyone in a society is malnourished, malnourishment won’t be seen as a medical condition; if people normally grew wings, those without them would be seen as disabled)

                This is opposed to concepts such as hair color – if you only have one sapient being in the entire universe, their hair still has color, which can easily be defined in comparison to the color of their other body parts, not to mention other objects and creatures in the universe.

                But to define the concept of sanity, you need at least two, for one to be saner than the other – and for cleaner definition you’ll need three, for two to be the norm and one the deviation. If you only have one, whatever they are is what sanity is and that’s all there is to it.

                This is similar to more obvious social constructs, like in-group/out-group: if you don’t have enough sentient beings existing to form a society in which they exist, they simply have no referent. 404 null not found.

                Liked by 2 people

      1. Crash

        Cordelia wouldn’t have lasted a goddamn week with a Name. She has zero ability with stories it’s so funny. I’m sure she could learn given time but she wouldn’t have had that.
        The way that Procer vaguely dislikes Names in general means that she would have come into a name with little to no knowledge and a Bard whispering bullshit on her ears. The Augur really came through on that one, Hasenbach would have been Fucked.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Eh. Named, she would still be in the same Role she is in right now. It’s not like she’d have suddenly started going dungeoneering or fighting other Named in one vs one duels. Her overall lifestyle would be the same and the challenges she faces would be the same, and as Named she’d have some intuitive sense of stories to go with it.

          To stop nitpicking and address closer to the point, I’m sure Exiled Prince had had his name for longer than a week when he ran into Catherine. Being a fucking idiot is not an immediate death sentence for a Named, just a very likely one if you don’t learn real fast.

          And Cordelia is already being tutored… to learn real fast. That saying things like that is so utterly ridiculous it doesn’t even jinx you, it’s just straight up a false statement.

          Liked by 5 people

      2. JJR

        Oh, opps. I misread that really badly somehow. And cuffing the First Prince is probably a bad idea, diplomatically.

        She still shouldn’t have said it though. Normally it’s the villains complaining about the hero but the story is still probably going to conspire to show Cordelia just how much damage one man can do.

        Liked by 3 people

  1. Someguy

    So what is Kairos’ own [Wish]? An end to his pain and nailing it into people like his pre-Named caretakers who really should have shut their mouths telling him to “pray for his salvation to absolve him from the sin of being born”?

    Liked by 8 people

      1. Crash

        Isn’t it just the most delightful little thing?
        The child that learned his death was all but mandated by Fate rebels and lives not only one more day, but several years. Claims a Name and power for himself, and spends all his time dedicated to nothing but sowing chaos and doing exactly what he wanted, no longer a slave to Fate but a man who wields it.
        Kairos is passing judgement on those who tought themselves Above it, he’s bringing the Choirs to a heel yes, but I think he means to judge Fate itself.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Pokekid01

          I disagree on the idea that Fate mandated he die before his thirteenth birthday. It’s my interpretation that the Oracle Beneath Helike doesn’t necessarily tell people thing that are TRUE, just what they most benefit from hearing.

          Or I’m wrong and he should have died, but he cut a deal with Below to stave off inevitable demise, kinda like the drow.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Crash

            See I really like that tought on the Oracle. Wouldn’t that be interesting? I have no idea what to do with it but it’s delightful.

            However I don’t think he cut a deal with Below. He’s very clearly still staving off death, in fact at this point I reckon he’s being kept alive by his tea thing alone and the fact that names can purge poison. But the real reason for doubting a deal with Below is his reaction to the Skein’s audacity of changing his “Fate” even a little bit, messing with his choices while Spooling.
            Kairos is a guy who takes offence to having his choices taken for him or a path neatly laid out for him that isn’t of his own making. I doubt Below would just offer him a life with no strings attached, nah I don’t think they did it.
            I think that Kairos Theodosin, the Tyrant of Helike is alive because he is that much of a magnificent bastard. He’s playing his odds against his own body by ingesting poison everyday and purging it away until he physically can’t anymore all because this man has a Wish and he’ll absolutely see it through.

            Liked by 9 people

          2. JJR

            I went back to the Usurpation chapter to see the exact wording of the Oracle and an idea struck me. Kairos was told specifically that, “he would not make it to his thirteenth nameday.” Which makes me wonder if the Calendar that Helike uses has leap years. If it does, and if Kairos was born on the equivalent of Febuary 29, then he could still be on track to die before his 13th name day. Sure, it would be a technicality, and I’m not sure if we ever did learn what his name day ie, but prophesy loves technicalities.

            There’s also the chapter quote, “One hundred and forty-three: do not try to avert prophecy, fulfil prophecy or in any way tinker with prophecy. Swallowing poison will lead to a quicker death and less ironic horror inflicted upon Creation.” I’m not sure about this, it could be that his averting the prophecy is about to unleash ironic horror upon creation. But part of me thinks that’s it’s an unfulfilled promise of sorts, Kairos tried to avert his death prophesy but is about to learn that he never did and drinking poison would have been a better idea. He is actually drinking poison at the moment, so he does have his bases covered in that regard.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. I think the idea is that Kairos knew full well that tinkering with prophecy is a terrible idea when he first went to ask for one. He’s just not against terrible ideas. Given we see him literally drinking poison here and all. Ironic horror unleashed upon Creation? When can I start? – Kairos, cheerfully

              Liked by 2 people

          3. I also disagree with the idea that Fate mandated that he die before his thirteenth birthday. It was just a medical diagnosis more accurate than doctors are normally capable of giving. [If his condition was unchanged by factors outside the medical aid he was in position to receive within that period] he was going to die.

            So he introduced such a factor in claiming a Name, and the oracle went ‘cool, that went outside the predicted framework, let’s high five over that’.

            Like

              1. Probably at some point before Cat became Squire, since she hadn’t been Squire all that long when she knocked off Kairos’s nephew.

                Though, admittedly, that itself isn’t the greatest marker of time.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Kairos was 12 wen e laimed te trone, and 16 during Preipitation, wi took plae in summer after First Liesse wen Caterine was 17. Rigt now Caterine as reently turned 20. So yes, we ae a fairly deent idea.

                Sorry about my keyboard.

                Like

      2. haihappen

        I have a couple of idea’s and half-backed theories about the trial.
        My newest one is

        “He wants Fate itself to stand trial”

        Fate is the Thing below the crypt. Fate is the Thing that Kairos has been fighting against all his life. Fate is the Wager between the Gods, making pieces on a chessboard paint themselves white or black.
        Ending Fate would free people from having to make a choice between two nuclear options.

        The Hierarch is there to preside over the trial, his Domain working as a force-multiplier or enabler, He himself precedent on the abstination of choice. Hanno with the Choir of Judgement is meant to be the executioner of this abstract concept.
        And a death is needed to make it stick.

        And somewhere in there, he also screws over the Dead King, because he would not be Kairos if he didn’t.

        Liked by 10 people

        1. > And somewhere in there, he also screws over the Dead King, because he would not be Kairos if he didn’t.

          At a guess, he’s going to get Judgment to screw over DK before he does whatever else he has planned with/for them. Because if DK had enough splendid arrogance to show up for this like it’s a passing amusement then he deserves an appropriate party favor.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. Crash

            Yeah it’s best to remember Calernia is actually some backwater small continent.

            The Miezans with their sorcery that still can’t be reproduced milenia later came from somewhere. The Yan-Tei are vague ideas, the Ashurans bend their necks to their patrons on the other shore. Somewhere out there the Gnomes have their little cyberpunk utopia going on.

            Liked by 6 people

            1. Yeah. We aren’t going to be breaking the entire worldbuilding here, the laws of physics are going to stay the same after as they were before. It is only the Calernian pattern that we’re taking scissors and scotch tape to.

              Liked by 1 person

      1. ATRDCI

        Cat: “Cordelia, I give you my strongest assurances. I wasn’t making a….a *pun*. I merely told a Choir to fuck off because those assholes were going to steal my kill. I took down that Hero fair and square.”

        Cordelia: *rendered silent by a combination of shock, offence, and extreme confusion as to how how a person could so violently and thoroughly miss the point*

        Liked by 12 people

    1. caoimhinh

      We already knew some of those, but it’s really interesting seeing it through Kairos’ eyes, isn’t it?

      Catherine’s desire for peace is what’s driven her all this time. Indrani told her about her wanderlust and Cat had even reflected about it on some chapters. Cordelia has always put a heavy emphasis on “because we must” to make it clear she makes all this because she sees it as her duty.

      The members of the Blood are really as expected, a lot of glory-hungry people. Though I’m surprised it was Itima and not Aquiline who wished for revenge (Aquiline’s brothers were killed by Itima).
      The Witch’s desire is interesting, as her “Completion” seems to have a lot of meanings that Kairos wasn’t able to fully grasp. Hanno desire for justice being wrapped by the Choir also has interesting implications, but makes sense given how he relays the bigger matters of judging and decisions to the Angels.

      I actually thought Masego’s wish would be understanding or comprehending everything, rather than becoming a god. The way I saw it, Masego’s Apotheosis was rather a consequence of gaining knowledge about the laws of Creation rather than the goal all along; though Kairos did mention that that wish had a lot of nuances and was wrapped in High Arcana, so maybe it’s both things.

      Now the bigger mystery is: What is Kairos’ own Wish?

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Oaclo

        I think Masego’s wish isn’t quite as simple as it seems here.

        I’d say it’s probably more like he wants a systematic, complete understanding of what makes and breaks apotheosis as opposed to coming up with a single path that would get him there.

        Liked by 13 people

          1. As others have noted, I think both? Remember that Masego’s original motivation was related, by him, as resulting from seeing his father(s) unravel the shard of Arcadia they raised him in and realizing that the Gods could do the same thing to Creation itself any time they pleased. In light of that I think that Masego probably wants apotheosis because he thinks he could use it to either safeguard Creation or make his own as a backup if necessary, which would by why he would need to both thoroughly understand it and be able to use it as a tool.

            Liked by 8 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Yeah.
          That reminds me of one of Masego’s more iconic phrases:

          “Power is a consequence, a happenstance enforced by laws that were artificially set in place. Knowledge is the heart of this. And should a man know as much as a God…
          Would there even be a difference?”

          Liked by 12 people

      2. Shveiran

        I’d remind you good people that “the godhead is a trick of perspective”. Masego belives to understand more and to ascend are one and the same – achieving one achieves the other as well, and so splitting the two is an exercise in futility.

        Liked by 11 people

        1. TAP_M113

          I think that this episode will offer more light about apotheosis – namely, by destroying it in live TV. After all, what else would be “Witnessing” Hierarch casting down the Choir of Judgement? Zeze LIVES for dissecting this kind of stuff, and weaponizing it to maximum effect.
          I predict that Masego is about to gain a VERY powerful tool to his arsenal, and maybe the stuff of what Death King downfall will be made of. Besides, it would be fun to see Hierarch and Masego interacting. I think they could actually become friends, or those academics that are frontally opposed, yet they see each other as the sole scholar they can respect….
          Or we get masego to be Alexander the Great, and Hierarch play Diogenes. Masego pesters Hierarch to teach him to harness his brand of madness, offering literally anything he may desire for it, and Hierarch only asks him to “step away from his sunlight”.
          This would be so fun, at so many levels – Hierarch has access to the ultimate Villainous Dream power (harming even the Gods), but has no desire to exploit it for himself.

          Interestingly, Kairos seems to have accessed some sort of future-sensing to ensure that they would pick this city, or he heavily used his “Wish” aspect to ensure it happens. The fact of him being in so bad health means that, either he had to use a lot of heavy aspect use to set the board and it took a toll on him, has lost a lot of favor with Below, or he is about to lose his name and transition it into something even greater.
          In all of those cases, there is a window of opportunity here – he shouldn´t be able to pull aspects like crazy. If he is outsmarted, it will stick.

          Guess what it would mean? The Trial stands to be a BIG success in Below´s name if he can pull it off, if the possibility of gaining a name Greater than “Tyrant” is on the line…

          Liked by 3 people

          1. The easiest answer as to how they picked this town is that they employed a sensible and predictable set of criteria that made it the best choice. Which Kairos had employed before them to figure out what they would choose.

            When a vase is pushed off the table, you don’t need future vision to guess that it will next hit the floor.

            Liked by 9 people

            1. Or … it’s just the town that they (Procer) assigned the League delegation to be housed in outside of Salia for the talks.
              Presumably one that was least defensible and/or valuable.

              Which Kairos then had warded up.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. caoimhinh

              Yeah, like was said in this chapter, when Cordelia goes “hey, we were the ones who chose this ground for the Trial” and Catherine is like “sure you did, Cordie. But it’s still Kairos’ chosen grounds.”

              Cordelia is really bad at dealing with Kairos, and still refused to acknowledge they had been predicted and/or manipulated for this, even when it was obvious and undeniable. She’s learning to put her pride to a side and look more objectively to things, but she’s still not quite there. Cat had to beat Procer and co. repeatedly and in different manners before Cordelia acknowledged Cat was more than a strong thug ruling Callow.

              Their only chance at getting off well in whatever Kairos has in mind lies with Catherine, otherwise everyone else (including Neshamah) are gonna be played like a fiddle by Kairos.

              Liked by 5 people

              1. I don’t think she “refused to acknowledge” it so much as it didn’t occur to her until Catherine spelled it out. She’s a step behind when it comes to Kairos because he’s even more offbeat than Cat is – she’s odd, but she at least wants the same things Cordelia does, so she can figure her out motivation first. Kairos is just… utterly alien.

                I’d say right now their best chance in this is Catherine’s passive effect, so to speak – the sympathy she’s earned with Kairos, and his inclination to fuck over her opposition more than her.

                Liked by 5 people

      3. Andrew Mitchell

        We know we’re going to find out what Karios’ wish is in this next arc. That final line “at last, at long last” made it clear that Karios deepest desire is about to come true.

        As to what it is, I’m sticking to my previous guess. He wants to do harm to Gods in revenge for his childhood.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

          My own deepest wish is for you to spell “Kairos” correctly. 😛

          I kid. Just giving you heck ’cause I can. And because “Karios” sounds like some kind of candy or cereal or candy-based cereal or something.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            Hahaha, thank you. I had NO idea!

            Kairos correction accepted. Your deepest wish has been fulfilled.

            Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos, Kairos…

            It takes a while to get my muscle memory going. 🙂

            Liked by 4 people

  2. Draylen

    Oh Kairos, forgetting that the majority of people arent the villains of their own story. Named tend to be exceptions, because so many of them either grab the Villain Ball or hit a Then Let Me Be Evil, but none of the Woe, nor Malicia, really believe themselves to be the Villains of the story, except where circumstances are forcing it explicitly. And even that’s only happened to Cat, fighting against a bigger, stronger, more experienced hero, and getting away with it by being cleverer and smarter and more devious and dastardly than anyone else expects.

    Oh, right, Akua is sort of part of the Woe now. So they have a Token Evil Teammate. Although even she is having a redemption arc (perfect for RED!)…

    You know, typing this out makes me wonder if somehow Cat has been winning everything because she keeps getting to play the Underdog Never Loses card. Despite being renowned as an invincible army. Someone needs to assemble a ragtag group of volunteer peasants to assassinate her.

    Also, I wonder if, the way its bolded, a Personal Wish can somehow be developed into a fourth Aspect. Especially as powerfully tied to the character as it is.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Catherine keeps siding with the losing side, attempting to protect those who cannot protect themselves. And she throws herself into it completely enough it does in fact grant her perpetual underdog status.

      Liked by 8 people

  3. Cicero

    So… does that suggest Catherine would have been for the Choir of Mercy if she had not chosen to turn to Below?

    No wonder the Grey Pilgrim was so distraught when he first met her.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. Shveiran

      It’s possible, though I’d argue that while she always had a “practical” approach to things, her Greater Good philosophy was very much shaped by her mentor’s influence.
      A different key figure in her early years could have led to a different approach, and thus made her closer to a different choir.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Shveiran

        An easy contender, for instance, would have been Contrition. Cat has long believed teh sword had a key role to play in shaping the world, which we have been told is a recurring theme with Contrition, and she tends to her past mistakes like pot plants and feasts on those flagellant fruits as often as possible.

        Liked by 8 people

            1. Looking back to II.20: Ashes, where she muses on regret:

              >And yet as I searched myself for that feeling, watching at over half a thousand men going up in flames, I found nothing. No, that wasn’t right. Not nothing, just… little.

              Not a patch on the self-flagellation that her officers start to notice later.

              Liked by 2 people

      2. Cat would have a thing or two in common with Judgement, too. Yes, her early motto was in opposition to it, but that’s exactly the thing – it’s Judgement-based questioning that threw her off her stride enough that she needed to wrap herself in pithy words to keep going. I said and continue to say that what Catherine wants to be is Sam Vimes – arresting an army for breaking peace, if that’s what it takes. Her despire from the start was to uphold the law, preferably just law, but any law will do in a pinch – peace is irrevokably tied to order, in her eyes, and she would see Mazus hanged for his crimes, not violently overthrown. You know?

        Liked by 11 people

        1. > I said and continue to say that what Catherine wants to be is Sam Vimes

          That’s not a half-bad comparison at all – she even historically shares (one of) his defining flaws, namely the tendency to over-centralize power in her own person*. Because when Sam Vimes answers “who watches the watchmen?” with “me” it sounds cool and is very representative of the character, but it’s not exactly a stable system that can be relied on to outlive him personally being present and able to enforce that. And to her credit Catherine has recognized the failings of that approach and is currently actively trying to mitigate that/prepare her people to do without her if/when that becomes necessary.

          *And that despite being extremely disdainful/distrustful of authority figures who exercise unquestioned authority in general – like Sam Vimes.

          Liked by 9 people

          1. Catherine shares his zen approach to being anti-authoritarian while being the authority, too XD

            But seriously, I’m just picturing Catherine pointing at the Night Watch books and going ‘that. that’s what i want to be doing’. She’s only not doing that because she doesn’t have a Vetinari to arrange the conditions neatly for her, so she’s been forced to step into his shoes instead XD

            Liked by 5 people

        2. Shveiran

          You make a good point. Though I’d argue judgment really really really requires trusting something other than yourself to choose what is Just.. and Cat was never willing to uphold anything but what she thought was Just. She always wanted the power to change things, you know? Still, I had dismissed judgment out of hand… And you made me see that was quite the mistake.

          Liked by 7 people

          1. When Vimes encountered a conflict between written law and what he knew was right, never once did he side with the law.

            Catherine wanted to change very specific things. Even to this day, her central goal is to make laws and ensure their enforcement.

            Liked by 5 people

              1. The biggest difference between Catherine and Vimes is age and experience – Vimes entered the story adult, experienced and utterly disillusioned and broken by powerlessness. Catherine entered the story 15yo, idealistic and as utterly naive in some respects as she was wickedly sharp in others, and those weren’t the same as they were for Vimes. They had rather different lessons to learn in many ways – Catherine didn’t need to be shaken out of her apathy, Vimes didn’t need to be brutally shown that actions have unintended consequences (he learned THAT on the glorious 25th of May). They start at very different positions, so it is fascinating that so much of the ideals they hold is basically the same.

                Liked by 5 people

          2. Oh, and outsourcing to the Choir of Judgement the way Hanno does is actually an outlier for Judgement heroes. Normally Choir heroes follow their own understanding of the Choir’s signature virtue, with the Choir only caring that they don’t stray from that and supporting them on that path.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. We don’t know that what Hanno does is an outlier for Judgment heroes because we haven’t seen any other Judgment heroes. We’ve seen three choir-sworn heroes in action – Sad Contrite William, Merciful Tariq, and Aspirationally Just Hanno. And IMO each of them has had a markedly distinct relationship with their patron choir, and only Tariq’s relationship closely resembles what you’re describing as being generally typical. When Bard (it was Bard, right? I’m not crazy?) was talking about the different choirs it definitely made it sound like each has a different style/approach with their sponsored heroes also.

              Liked by 8 people

              1. SpeckofStardust

                But we do, Bard outright states this-
                “So speaks the Choir of Judgement,” she said. “Though you’re fairly moderate for one of theirs. Most would have executed the upper Secretariat and taken command of the siege after out little tower episode.”
                He eyed her silently for a moment.
                “I do not judge,” he finally said. “That is not my Role.”
                “You’re going to be a fun one, I think,” Aoede grinned.
                He is by the account of the teller of a thousand tales is a strange/fun one.

                Liked by 7 people

                1. Mm, good note; I’d say I need to do another re-read but I save those for the breaks in between books. That does seem to indicate that Hanno is unusual in not taking the figurative gavel of judgment into his own hands.

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. And William absolutely had that relationship – note that his genius idea for gathering an army for his revolution straight up came from Cat’s branding, and at no point did the Choir course-correct him on anything in any way. As long as he was being contrite and attempting to compensate the world for his wrongs, they didn’t have opinions on what exactly he was doing, even if every single other hero he met agreed he was fucking awful at life.

                People tend to headcanon that Choir of Contrition just mysteriously exactly matched William in temperament and idiocy, but from what we’ve seen of Mercy and of the curious case of atypical hero of Judgement (with Judgement treating him like they held his exact opinions the entire time actually), it makes much more sense to assume a Choir simply molds itself to its chosen champion.

                Liked by 4 people

            2. Shveiran

              Also, to be Hero is to embrace Above’s vision for the world, if in a way fitting your limited understanding of it. Virtue – Above’s idea of virtue – is how you get your Name.
              I don’t think Judgment would be cool with someone going “yeah dude, I know what’s right, and I’ll murder anyone who acts differently”.
              Judging is to compare one’s actiosn to a set of rules, not to define those rules in the first place. It’s Choir of Judgment, not Choir of Lawmaking.

              Also, I love Sam Vimes to bits, but I doubt he’d be cool with Choirs either, Judgment included.
              And an argument could be made that while he is definitely a good man (a gentle man, if you would) he is not a very good policeman.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. > I don’t think Judgment would be cool with someone going “yeah dude, I know what’s right, and I’ll murder anyone who acts differently”.

                > “Though you’re fairly moderate for one of theirs. Most would have executed the upper Secretariat and taken command of the siege after out little tower episode.”

                You were saying?

                > Judging is to compare one’s actiosn to a set of rules, not to define those rules in the first place. It’s Choir of Judgment, not Choir of Lawmaking.

                Cat’s ambition wasn’t initially to make laws, it was to get herself into a position where she could enforce them on those who thought themselves above them. She only realized she needed to full on rule Callow after her time in Ater and Black’s tutorship showed her just how badly there low key weren’t laws that Obviously Needed To Be There, and how the only position from which she could really enforce them was the very top.

                We’re talking about a hypothetical scenario with hero!Cat, one where she is not in fact thrust into a position to seize power through the Empire’s internal hierarchy early on.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Shveiran

                  > You were saying?

                  I believe you may have misunderstood my point.

                  Murderousness is not the factor I’m aiming at, but rather the reason behind the murdering.

                  My argument is that Heroes (try, within the limits of their own limited undeerstanding, to) use the rules of Above as guidelines for hwo the world should be, and swing away to make it closer to that shape,
                  Hanno’s moderation compared to usual Judgment types really has no relation to this.

                  Regarding Early!Not!Cat, I would argue you are focusing on the fact that she wasn’t about “writing new laws” but rather about being in a position “to prevent abuses”. It seems you took that as “she wanted to enforce laws”.
                  I disagree. Cat perception was that Mazus was perfectly within its right to raise taxes, and didn’t like that. She simply didn’t believe she had a reasonable way to interfere with that.
                  So she wanted to be a part of the system to have the necessary power to affect the situation.

                  That wasn’t because she wanted to be an enforcer, it was because she didn’t believe changing the rules was an option.

                  Like

                  1. Okay, so in notepad some of my keys don’t work, and on wordpress pressing enter sends te message. Amazing.

                    Let me try again.

                    Caterine as always wanted to be a guardian, and se as said tat se is not fit for making te new age, only beating up people wo want to break it and protet people wo CAN make it. I don’t tink wanting to ange laws is entral to er arater te way you seem to. I an see were we read te same ting te exat opposite ways. Tis is wat I see: tat Caterine was fored into writing laws, and would rater just stand oer te ones already made wit a fiery sword and a 🙂 @ anyone wo wants to break tem.

                    Se beliees te laws se is trying to bring are utterly obious, elementary, and it’s just an oersigt tat tey weren’t already tere. Se as no loe for Heaens speifiially, altoug a lot of it is a funtion of er time as a illain, but teir laws mat te ones se beliees SHOULD be. I beliee a Coir an work wit tat.

                    Liked by 1 person

    2. Cat

      We don’t know much about Endurance but it keeps getting mentioned and by name alone does that not remind you of Cat?
      To keep going despite the obstacles is Cat’s nature.

      “You will bleed, a chorus of voices whispered into his ear. You will suffer. You will weep, yet find no relief. Though your soul is young and your weight feeble, you will take on the burden of many. Iason, son of Idrim, We offer you the misery of Endurance. We would embrace you one of our own, to blood and tears and bitter end. Iason Brightsword, Son of Tears, will you withstand horror so that others do not?”
      From the Stalwart Paladin’s chapter.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Shveiran

        Yeah, but to be fair, you could put most characters into that definition. Doesn’t Cordelia sound like that? Or Black? Or Tariq? Or Saint?
        Basically, so long as you keep going after bruising your knees, you fit in.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. All heroes match Endurance in a basic way, arguably even most Named. So you gotta look closer than ‘gets hurt a lot’, and when we look closer at Cat, we see her giving up and going ‘ok guess I die now’ no less than twice – the two I remember were at First Summerholm against Rashid, right before she got Struggle after he insulted Callowans, and in Everdark after having her soul cut, where she just gave up and lay down to die, but didn’t die quickly enough for her restlessness to not get her to get up and keep trying out of sheer boredom, god bless this ADHD wonder of a person.

        I’d say Endurance really ain’t her.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. If she’d been aligned with a Choir from the start of her career, I’d argue it wouldn’t be that one. Her desires morphed into this over time, early on she was willing to start a war to see done changes she wanted.

        Liked by 4 people

  4. Wow, spectacular chapter and i can’t believe even with a direct POV the only thing we got to what the Bard wants is teasing from Kairos, is like he knows what her end ame is and is rubbing it on our faces!!!

    Wonder if the comment about Masego arriving implies they plan to use him or if it just a left over from when he was possesed (like DK can smell him or something xD)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > … the only thing we got to what the Bard wants is teasing from Kairos, is like he knows what her end ame is and is rubbing it on our faces!!!

      We know that Karios knows the Bard’s deepest desire and he thinks it’s “glorious”…. So, yes, he IS rubbing it in our faces. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Whoa! Kairos POV. I don’t remember one of those before.

    Huh. Kairos wants to break what people desire most. Or, at least, he wants break the greatest desires of certain people, presumably Bard, Dead King, and it’s not clear who else he wants to kill the dreams of.

    And Heirarch judgy powers vs Choir of Judgement is confirmed.
    Wait … would the Seraphim Judgement Coin even work on Heirarch? Well, Heirarch with his “judgement of the people” domain/aura active.

    Heh.
    Cordelia will need to get used to Cat’s irreverence.
    Fortunately, Hanno doesn’t seem to mind it.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. If this is how Kairos thinks and what he sees when he looks at people, we would have definitely remembered seeing Kairos’s point of view before now.

      Whether or not Hierarch is subject to the Seraphim’s justice and vise versa seems to be the uncertainty driving the tension at this point.

      I like a hero who doesn’t mind a snarky companion, even if they’re technically an enemy. Pragmatism, in both finding every friend against a common foe and not taking slights to your side too personally.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Hanno actually managed to get Catherine embarrassed about her own shit. This man is at the top of the trolling food chain here and I adore him with my entire heart.

      Also, the part where he thought that even if he were certain to die in this trial, his life was less important than those of Catherine and Cordelia. My heart ;~;
      (heroes in PGTE are real heroes and they HAVE me. every single one of them has me)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. > This man is at the top of the trolling food chain here and I adore him with my entire heart.

        Hmm idk, I feel like Catherine responding to that quote from Hanno by giving earnest assurances that when she called angels bottom-feeders and told them to fuck off she certainly wasn’t making a pun was actually her trolling Cordelia, by massively (and deliberately) missing the point of what would be offensive about that. Which Cordelia’s reaction bears out IMO.

        Liked by 8 people

  6. caoimhinh

    Kairos POV was awesome and a delight to read, not the least because it gave us insight on the deeper Wishes of many of the most relevant characters (plus confirming that’s why Kairos laughed like crazy the first time he saw Catherine).

    Also, he hinted that Neshamah is not really completely safe right now, which is cool. I want to see exactly what Kairos wants to accomplish here.

    Now the trial “at long last” starts, and the hype is off the roof!

    Liked by 8 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Pilgrim and Amadeus aren’t there at the moment either, apparently.

      Hanno said that “the Tyrant would be facing two Choirs” so that implies Tariq is there in the group.
      I guess Amadeus was kept in Salia for his safety? It seems Cat is expecting this to blow up so she kept him away since without his Name his fighting ability is diminished (he’s likely still very dangerous, but in the face of a clash that’s involving Choirs and Named of the Hierarch, Tyrant and Dead King caliber, it’s better to not have him near the blast area.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. TAP_M113

        You know, the “Mirror Knight” is said to be fated to become monstruously strong thanks to his “Dawn” aspect, which makes him stronger with each passing day. Remember how even Hanno was quite scared about what kind of threat he would need to face in the future, that the Choirs thought they would need such a potent weapon to fight it?

        Above and the Choirs have been noted to be precognitive (Hanno glimpse of the Seraphim and how they judge, how the Augurworks), but they have also been shown to be very fettered by unspoken rules when it comes to acting on that knowledge (Augur will get waylaid by other deities, or by spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decisions). The fact that the Ophanim could not resucitate Grey Pilgrim, even if they wished to, also points in that direction.

        My hypothesis? Above itself has seen that Judgement, and maybe even Mercy, will be crippled or outright killed by the Trial, and has started damage control one or two years ago, by turbo-boosting the Endurance Choir and its champions, so that they will be able to hold the fort alone, at least for the generation that Judgement and Mercy will need to spend licking their wounds.

        Unless our merry band of misfits is VERY GOOD, they won´t be able to change what is to come – the Trial is already prophesized to be a success. So yes, things are THAT dire for Above.

        Liked by 7 people

            1. caoimhinh

              No, he isn’t. It was the Stalwart Paladin who was about to be sworn to Endurance, and he was killed by Catherine.

              If Mirror Knight was sworn to a Choir, it would have been mentioned more often, either by Cristophe’s POV or by Hanno when thinking or talking about him, as we have seen Hanno do when talking about Pilgrim (he always mentions the Seraphim).

              Also, something worth mentioning is that, according to Book 4 Interlude Kaleidoscope VI, Mirror Knight obtained his Name after passing a set of trials in “the Old Lake” set by the spirits who lived there, which he called “the Elfin Dames”. They were also the ones who gave him his armaments and the blessing that became his Aspect of Dawn.

              Liked by 4 people

  7. Big I

    I predict that by the end of the trial Hanno will have become the Black Knight, and the Choir of Judgement will have either been destroyed or corrupted somehow into Fallen Angels.

    Long term, I predict Cat will become the Grey Pilgrim. She’s got the sage advice thing down pat.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. TAP_M113

      Oooh, that would be a GOOD one! I doubt it will work that way (It is a test of faith, and hanno has been described as a Man of unbreakable certainty), but I see how it checks, story-wise. Still, this comes with the same problems as when Heiress tried to turn Cat – namely, this trope tends to backfire at the wielder so damn often that I doubt that Kairos would fall for it. Not enough reward for the paltry benefits it offers.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Highly doubt it, but really want it to happen. Probably more a matter of either nothing happens or an acceptable cost is taken.

      Or Cat doublecrosses Kairos by suddenly askmanding Hierarch to instead pass the judgement onto the long since turned more evil than good Hashmallim. She just needs one other to back her vote, and they’ll outvote the Tyrant whose of course only gets one vote same as anyone else. And considering judgement of the angels is rare, she might make a case to Hierarch for having the People of Callow weigh in before whatever Kairos wants.

      The Hashmallim seem the most tied to the Choirs’ foundations of being made when Good still considered slavery okay, and thus inherently utilise and allow it. Can’t call enslaving an entire city including the children to go crusading as mindless zealots anything less than super-evil these days, and Cat’s new wave of morals would lend itself for these archaic ‘Good’ guys to be put on the chopping block.

      All the Story elements are there, Cat just needs to claim them. The Callowan Long Prices for even the smallest slights (One successful and one attempted enslavement of an entire city by the Hashmallim), Procer having given her the smooth excuse to Hierarch that some know her as the Queen In Callow which isn’t a title rather than a name freely given by the People, and maybe even the recently ascended Sve Noc (who’re currently worshipped or acknowledged by some Above Callowans and whose wings color a still technically good country’s banner) with her Drow that copy the angelic power remaining the same even when individuals die schtick to be a suitable replacement.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I have said before and keep saying that the chapter where he argues he needs to die instead of her is basically a passing of the torch – he has acknowledged that she is filling the same basic Role he is, on a level more broad than Names, and is doing it better than he had been, so it’s time for him to move over.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. TAP_M113

      Yes, it would drag Below kicking and screaming into doing community service, and allow to ciment Evil “Hero roles” that are positive and widely accepted by society.
      Incidentally, the same as the Yang-Ti (a major, peaceful and prosperous superpower, by the way) have a ruling representative of Above and Below at all times without the place exploding into a mess of flying fortresses and bands of five roaming the countryside…

      I think it is NOT a coincidence both Above (10th crusade) and Below (Hierarch+Kairos trial) are trying to mess has hard as they can with this particular outcome, each from their own side.

      I bet that Above and Below old hard-liners are fussing and screaming about how “The stupid parental control is about to lock PEGI 18+ games running into the X-Box (Calernia)! It was already bad enough when it happened with the Wii (Yang-Ti)!”

      Liked by 6 people

  8. WuseMajor

    …Honestly, I think they’re STILL underestimating Kairos. They think he’s going to stage a suicide strike and use the Hierarch to attack Judgement in some way. And…maybe he will, but I think there has to be more here. His final act is going to betray everyone, as much as possible, somehow, and I doubt the full scope of that will be evident in advance.

    He’s kept something hidden. I don’t know what, but his plan here still has something they haven’t grasped that is going to bite them all. Yes, even the Dead King.

    …I’m starting to suspect that he’s going to try to break the world, get the Hierarch to argue that the Wager of the Gods is formally unjust or something.

    Also called it on the title.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. TAP_M113

      I fully agree with you. My suspicion is that, while Kairos has 1-2 main plans he wants to see through, he has intentionally stockpiled at lot of targets of opportunity by piling all the people he dislikes/antagonizes/wishes to betray in the same place.
      If he doesn´t get his big, evil plan to fruition, he will go to town “betraying everyone present as the first step of my plan”, and make sure that the ungodly amount of collateral damge he causes will achieve the same result.

      I like him. He has got his Irritant/Traitorous-fu honed to a sharp edge, he deserves to win here. Hell, not even Amadeus nor Catherine have ever displayed so much Meta-level cunning as he is displaying by arranging the playing field as he is doing.

      Including the lace underwear on the Seraphim. Stop pretending that you cannot see through the 4th Wall, Kairos! Munchkinning the “Comic Relief” trope and musing how you “Are Near Death” and “No One is Invulnerable” just before your final confrontation gave you way, you sly magnificent bastard. You know we want you to win already, no need to lay the Meta so thick (even if it is part of what we adore about you) 😉

      Liked by 7 people

  9. laguz24

    Oh, crap Recall is even more op than I realized. Seriously it gives him memories and skills without the story baggage. Everything Cat and all the other heroes/villains have learned they have learned from their triumphs or failures which makes them even more wrapped up in fate’s tangles. Hanno gets to have all the experience in the world without the story baggage and when something like this comes along that comes from his own life he is completely unprepared for it.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > Oh, crap Recall is even more op than I realized. Seriously it gives him memories and skills without the story baggage.

      Good point. And it seems he can learn from any hero (e.g., the Lone Swordsman and the Stalwart Paladin) and not JUST from White Knights like I had previously assumed. So, very OP indeed.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. konstantinvoncarstein

        If he was even slightly interested in history and other cultures, he could explore the memory of Heroes from across the whole world and all eras. He could even Recall Dwarven or Gnomes Heroes😀

        Liked by 6 people

          1. TAP_M113

            You bet. After everything is done, somebody has to avoid the unchallenged Dwarfen and Gnome polities deciding that a little human Genocide is acceptable. Given how societies progress, and the fact that dwarves are close to industrial societies, while Gnomes are already firmly on it, somebody is bound to postulate and spread the worse schools of Social darwinism, Manifest Destiny and violent XXth century Utopias amongst those races. And then it is game over if Calernian and human tech levels have not improved in the meantime….

            Liked by 2 people

            1. > And then it is game over if Calernian and human tech levels have not improved in the meantime…

              Eh, not sure I agree. The gnomes’ previous cited violent intervention matched the story of “foolhardy researchers ignore dire warnings, then dire shit happens” which isn’t a story that’s biased against the gnomes at all. Those philosophies you cited might have “worked” IRL (in the sense of being able to spread and do a lot of damage, not in the sense of functioning to actually produce good things), but in Calernia/Guideverse those lend themselves very handily to being framed as villain stories. And villains always lose in the end, at which point we can expect the gnomish tech monopoly to be well and truly broken which is pretty much Game Over for the gnomes as a species given how many bridges they would have not just burned but detonated.

              So tl;dr here is I expect the gnomes are canny enough not to let themselves in for that, because if they weren’t it would probably have happened already given that the gnomes have been maintaining this tech monopoly for, what, thousands of years now? More than enough time for that to have happened if they weren’t deliberately and consciously avoiding that as a matter of policy.

              Liked by 6 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Back when he fought Amadeus, Hanno explicitly said he was Recalling lives from many different Heroes. For the two confrontations, as I recall, he used the Spear of the Free, the Lone Swordsman, the Rebel Knight, the Merry Brawler, The Unconquered Champion, Flawless Fencer, the Lance of Light and the Barehanded Pugilist.

            Hanno can’t use their Aspects, but he can use their experience and fighting styles.

            Liked by 4 people

  10. TAP_M113

    Great interlude EE! Now FINALLY we get an inkling of how the Tyrant is able to be so damn insightful and know so many things he has not bussiness knowing – “Wish” is a dual use aspect, with the ability to see in real-time what any individual wants, besides rewriting reality when personally used by Kairos himself.

    I have to say that Kairos is a grade AAA+ Meta-level Munchkin with a weapons-grade name. “Wish” is the most OP social/meta aspect I have ever seen, particularly when one accounts the fact that it is a first aspect, which tend to be very serviceable, but weaker as a rule. I think that only Malicia´s “Speak”, Hanno´s “Recall” and Pilgrim´s mind-reading aspects are that powerful, and they are senior-level names. I guess that “Tyrant” is a REALLY powerful and historied name that has carved a sizeable groove in creation, right there with “Dread Emperor” and “Grey Pilgrim”. That, and also the fact that Kairos is getting rocket-grade fuel from multiple overlapping “superpower disability”, “underdog”, “chronic backstabbing disorder” and “near death” tropes.

    And Hierarch refusing the use of “tyrannical” Proceran furniture? Priceless. Keep on living, our favourite doublethinking “Homo Sovieticus”. You shall have my bow, Hierarch.

    Between this, and the likelyhood to witness Hierarch with his 3 aspects fully online, I am really fired up. Go Kairos! Leave a choir-sized, charred groove of ruin in Creation. The Gods have long been meddlesome and despotic, and their denmise was long overdue.
    Long life Bellerophon! Death to the celestial tyrants and foreign despots!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I can’t remember when, but I’m pretty WISHes secondary use has been mentioned a few times before. Like- he explicitly eyeballs Hakram and gets weirded out by him at the start of princes graveyard…


      What’s the bet that he tells everyone Bard’s deepest Wish, shortly before he snuffs it?

      Liked by 5 people

    2. > Now FINALLY we get an inkling of how the Tyrant is able to be so damn insightful and know so many things he has not bussiness knowing – “Wish” is a dual use aspect, with the ability to see in real-time what any individual wants

      We definitely knew this before, at least from Interlude: Thunder in Book 3, which is where he discusses with Anaxares what he saw in Amadeus and in Bard.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Just out of curiosity, does any have a textual citation for Wish actually having the “rewrite reality” use that everybody seems to be ascribing to it? Because I at least can’t remember any case where anybody in the actual Guide has referred to it working like that, so it seems like maybe people are just assuming it can be used like the D&D Wish spell when in fact it just does what Kairos is using it for here.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          During the Free Cities arc, he betrayed the Calamity but was send to Arcadia by Warlock. After he came back to save Hanno, he said something about having to use a Wish to escape.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            Yes, but that wish could easily have been used to find the deepest wish of a Fae and that enabled Kairos to bargain with the Fae for help to get out of Arcadia.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. “Wish, wish into the grave” – Skein, in Liesse.

          That it can be used to produce any type of effect is an occam’s razor deduction from its name, dire price and how far apart the two precedents of its use that we know have been – teleporting around in Nicae and messing with Skein’s Aspect in Liesse.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Both excellent examples, my thanks to both you and Konstantin. That is a good indication also of why Wish isn’t quite as OP as someone might assume, because I’m guessing the fact that the (apparently) extremely physically draining aspect went to the permanently near-death cripple is very relevant to the story logic of why he was “allowed” to have something that strong.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. I think it’s not just ‘physically draining’, I think it likely interacts directly with Kairos’s sickness, allowing it to progress further in the way otherwise held off by his Name.

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              1. I mean. I’m not really sure why a major physical drain wouldn’t have exactly that effect? Definitely not a doctor, but my layman’s understanding at least is that a major health shock of any kind can worsen the progression of a chronic/degenerative condition. If it exclusively and specifically interacts with Kairos’ illness per se then to me that seems like it would be necessary to have that exact condition to qualify for that Aspect, which seems a little over-specific to make sense (again, to me at least).

                Liked by 1 person

                1. > If it exclusively and specifically interacts with Kairos’ illness per se then to me that seems like it would be necessary to have that exact condition to qualify for that Aspect, which seems a little over-specific to make sense (again, to me at least).

                  Every Aspect is individualized though? Like, they are unique to the person and arise from THEM and THEIR story, and sure some of them repeat in broad strokes, but INHERENTLY they are tailored. It’s just that a lot of people wear some very similar sizes.

                  I don’t think Wish is narratively tied to Kairos’s EXACT illness, considering no-one even knows what exactly it is other than ‘incurable’.

                  But it absolutely IS tied to the story of AN incurable illness. Kairos pays for it in his remaining lifetime, and it WOULD NOT WORK on someone who DIDN’T have a degenerative fatal illness and a mindset of ‘let it all burn’. Kairos gets to make wishes BECAUSE he is dying, that’s the price and the connection.

                  A major physical drain implies you could see, say, Catherine or Indrani having that Aspect. They couldn’t. They don’t meet the prerequisites, because the prerequisite is that you have to be dying.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. > A major physical drain implies you could see, say, Catherine or Indrani having that Aspect.

                    No? Because literally my starting premise was that the Tyrant was only able to get this aspect because he’s dying/extremely sick and using the aspect in its active form kills him faster (since it’s adding such an enormous physical drain to his already extremely frail constitution). The relevant quote from what I said being “I’m guessing the fact that the (apparently) extremely physically draining aspect went to the permanently near-death cripple is very relevant to the story logic of why he was “allowed” to have something that strong.”

                    tl;dr – I think we might be saying the exact same thing in different ways.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. The thing is, ‘physical drain’ is something that can be counteracted. With healing, potions, eating well, whatnot. That’s why I’m saying that it goes directly to the illness’s progress, instead.

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                    2. I think we might have a different understanding of the medical dynamic underlying this. What I’m thinking of most definitely can’t be counteracted by such means, at least not with the degree of efficacy that would be required for someone who is already as sick as Kairos.

                      I know you play/are familiar with D&D, right? If you’re somebody who has to make Fortitude/Con saves (depending on what edition you’re playing) against your incurable degenerative illness every day for it to not get worse, which inevitably you’re going to fail a certain percentage of the time anyway, taking a big chunk of Con damage is going to result in your disease getting worse regardless of whether said Con damage is with time and treatment recoverable (Guideverse IMO doesn’t have an equivalent of quick-and-easy Restoration spells, certainly not without Light being involved). The damage being eventually “fixed” isn’t going to help you when the progress of the disease that occurred in the interim isn’t fixable.

                      Taking a hit to your health when you can’t afford any such thing on top of what you’ve already got just makes more sense to me as a price than somehow just making you sicker in only a single specific way. Maybe that’s just a personal perspective thing, idk. I would also stipulate that I do think that Kairos somehow magically getting well or no longer being affected by his illness would fundamentally alter the operation of his Name, much as Vivienne moving away from doing Thief-y stuff undermined (and ultimately removed) her Name. “Mad cripple” is the baseline premise of Kairos’ schtick, and both halves of the term are salient.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Well, I would not describe ‘Con damage’ as ‘physically draining’. It just doesn’t seem to be a good description of what the mechanic reflects to me.

                      Like

  11. ChillyPepper

    Just for musing sake, does anyone see similarities between Cathrine’s chosen dream from the beginning of the story to events unfolding like so?

    at the very least the killing of both her evil and good selves.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. SpeckofStardust

    “How boring life would be, if there were only ever two choices to be had,” Kairos lightly said. “Our guests have come, dear friend.”
    Well, he is going to stab both sides here.
    After all it is the only choice that really matters.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Gods below, you can’t help but love this evil little bastard, as he stumbles towards the finish line, coughing and bleeding having given his *all* for the running of the race. Having lived a life free of compromises, and schemed, and struggled, and knowing his time is short, and you can practically feel how *tired* he is, how exhausted, how he yearns for the finish line, how he yearns for the plan to be complete, the fear of mortality nipping at his heels, that unspoken certainty that if he hesitates for a moment he’ll miss out- he’ll be too late.
    If he hesitates, he’ll never get to see just what he might have done.

    …and really, that’s what sets him apart from the likes of Akua. Akua was driven by a desire to be remembered. Kiaros I suspect doesn’t CARE if anyone remembers him, he just wants to know *for himself* if it can be done…. and that makes the little madman ever so endearing.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Well, Akua was compelling and sympathetic in her own right, in the entirely different way of doing what she’d been taught was right no matter what it cost her, or anyone else, along the way…

      Terrible children the both of them, and for the both of them it’s the adults who shaped them so who are to blame at the core of it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong, Akua’s characterization was solid….

        But like, NOBODY in the audience wanted Akua to win. She wasn’t loved the same way as Tyrant is (At least, not at the time of her Peak Villiany).

        With Tyrant (and partly because his goals are hidden), I think there’s a decent chunk of readers hoping his victory.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. I feel like I wanna roll to disbelieve the Narration here, jeez.

    Like, Cat’s wish is peace? Our Cat? The protagonist? What peace?

    If it is peace for herself she can be on a boat in five seconds flat.

    Peace for her nation she’s turned down over and over. Like, the whole thing with her letting Swordsman go to start a revolution so that she could rise in the ranks was her trading away peace in Callow for more personal power.

    Peace in Calernia is literally trying to break out, and she is doing her very best to squash it, right? Like Dead King is literally retreating his armies and Cat has made a bargain with Kairos where he’ll tell them a reason to keep on warring against Dead King if they let him put White Knight on trial.

    I mean, clearly the author is correct about their creations, but, like, this revelation feels to me like it flies totally in the face of her characterization to this date. Right? Like, surely the person who craved peace wouldn’t have taken the knife at the start of the story.

    I buy that Catherine wants to dunk on her enemies, she wants to smoke more weed, and more seriously, she wants to reshape the future with the Liesse Accords, leave her mark on the world, all that jazz. But if she wants peace she has chosen, like, the weirdest possible way to get there.

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    1. She doesn’t want “peace for my lifetime”, she wants PEACE.
      She doesn’t want peace for herself and her friends, she wants to build the sort of peace that does not break.

      She doesn’t want peace that will screw over future generation via DK.

      She wants the sort of peace that will mean Callow will never be invaded by the Empire again.

      Remember, she was bothered not just by the present occupation of Callow, but by the fact that it has inevitably been the battlefield of Good and Evil for GENERATIONS.
      That is the conflict she is trying to defeat.

      If a War today puts down the dead king, stabilizes the Drow, prevents Hellgates and Angel bombs and gets the Empire into a position where trade and sorcery earn it more wealth than force of arms, THEN she has achieved peace.

      Hell, the fact that she desires peace is obvious enough that people guessed it back when she met Kiaros for the first time, I’m pretty sure.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Catherine has started wanting peace from the minute she started undersanding the price of war.

      No, she did not always want it. But by now, she’s been saturated with the price of her failures sorely and completely enough, that everything she wants boils down to this: peace. It’s the prerequisite to all else she wants, and it’s the end result if she is right about it. It’s the opposite of strife, and strife is what she sees as the ultimate enemy. Strife, and war, and destruction: she does not believe that she can give her people prosperity, she does not see in herself the ability to provide that, but if she can provide peace, that will be enough.

      It’s not just a desire: it’s an ideal, it’s a belief. It’s faith, that peace can exist, that peace can hold, that it’s possible to achieve what Amadeus wanted and have everyone lift each other up instead of pulling each other down.

      > Peace in Calernia is literally trying to break out, and she is doing her very best to squash it, right? Like Dead King is literally retreating his armies and Cat has made a bargain with Kairos where he’ll tell them a reason to keep on warring against Dead King if they let him put White Knight on trial.

      You’re wrong about this one. Peace with the Dead King now will mean he’ll come back to war on them another time. Peace with Dread Empress Malicia will mean that Praes will linger in the shadow of suspicion and knowledge they’ll make the darkest deals the minute they’re pressed. It’s a peace for one generation, that will have everything descend back into the perpetual war of two sides the minute the balance shifts away from the precise configuration Cat has managed to force it into.

      Catherine needs to fight this war so she can win it, because otherwise peace with the Dead King is impossible – he has nothing to gain from it unless he’s losing.

      Catherine needs to fight this war because Amadeus needs to continue the Reforms, and for that he needs to be in position to force his will on Praes – and the Empress cannot be trusted to cooperate even if she agrees.

      Catherine needs to fight this war because it’s proof of concept, because it’s unprecedented unity of the entire continent with only fringe outliers staying out of it. It’s making a new groove, a new story, a new pattern, one that Calernia will be able to fall into again and again from now on if it is completed all the way.

      Catherine needs to fight this war because on the other side of the chasm is a hope not just for a momentary truce, but for complete rearrangement of when people go to war and when they don’t. What she cannot break, she will regulate, and if she cannot stop the conflict entirely, she can at least bind it with laws – she can.

      If she wins this war.

      There is a saying: peace reigns when people who want peace are better at war than people who don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I mean, it sounds to me like you are describing someone who wants to win, and, like, we are in agreement re: that being Catherine?

        It is just weird to describe that as wanting ‘peace’, yeah? She wants victory! People keep giving her the the option of ending the fighting, and she keeps prolonging it, and her driving goal is for there to be no fighting?

        I mean, okay, if that’s the tune the piper’s calling, but, like, if you are gonna Greater Good the Wish revelation then what’s the point of it? Like, you could have someone whose wish is East East East like a trumpet blowing and they are going west because one day it will let their descendants go east.

        Go back and read the bit where Catherine gets Diabolist’s ultimatum re: Liesse, a dagger to a hundred thousand throats. See if you can find a single second of consideration of the idea of surrendering.

        She doesn’t think about it for a day, she doesn’t think about it for an hour, she doesn’t think about it for even one minute. Genuinely conceding is right the fuck out. But she also doesn’t pretend to concede and then attempt a rescue, doesn’t beg for heroic intervention, just makes pompous declarations about getting Big Revenge.

        Like, if she wants peace, it is presumably so that people can live in it, yeah? The story literally put a hundred thousand of those living people stacked together on the table and it weighed less than the chance to rant about how much of a Hard Man making Hard Choices she was.

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        1. > But she also doesn’t pretend to concede and then attempt a rescue, doesn’t beg for heroic intervention,

          …because it wouldn’t work? She didn’t have those options. She knew these people were as good as already dead, so yes she went straight to swearing Big Revenge.

          > Like, if she wants peace, it is presumably so that people can live in it, yeah? The story literally put a hundred thousand of those living people stacked together on the table

          …and she could do nothing to help them.

          I am not saying Catherine always makes the best smartest choices that are the shortest way to what she wants. God no; I’m not even saying she was necessarily right in the reasoning she employed against Diabolist, just that that’s what she thought at the time.

          She doesn’t want peace for herself. She wants peace for other people. That’s why Kairos calls her a servant of Above at heart: she is selfless and she wants to do the right thing and what she believes the right thing is is what forms her greatest desire. If you want more money forever, investment is a smarter move than hoarding, even if it costs you money upfront, you know? Catherine is investing in future peace, and it’s exactly what her characterization is.

          I mean, as far as Second Liesse goes, do you remember her being more or less suicidally depressed for a book straight after it? Do you think it’s because she doesn’t care about that ‘hundred thousand lives stacked together on the table’?

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          1. I mean, if you want to show a character regretfully writing off hostages, there are, like, ways to do that. They exhaust every possible yada yada. We see this beat used elsewhere in this story, Cat getting the band together to get everyone’s take, maximize their odds. She does it when she cares about something (without looking back I feel like there was a planning session before the confrontation with the Winter Fae, and one before Keter Malicia assassination attempt), and the text generally emphasizes that she is prioritizing the thing over who gets credit for it.

            The beat of ‘Diabolist threatens genocide, Cat instantly laughs in her face and threatens soul slavery’ is a different one. It is the one we got just recently, where Diabolist got needled about them having tortured one of her buds to death and she no-sold it and asked if he was a screamer. The point of it is that the antag in the scene has misread the protag, threatening something they don’t value. It is a way to put heat on an antag, shine on the protag.

            Like, it isn’t a coincidence that Diabolist’s demand is ‘we 2 fight vs. Malicia, or I do a genocide’, and Cat dares her to do her worst, and one genocide and one soul enslavement and a few other atrocities later we have…drumroll, Cat & Diabolist fighting vs. Malicia. That’s not coincidence, it is the author beating the point home with a hammer. 2 paths to this conflict, one involving a monstrous series of utter atrocities and the other involving letting Diabolist be the one who does the dunking, and Cat didn’t need five minutes to choose.

            I’m agreeing with you that Cat doesn’t always make the right choices, but I suspect we maybe don’t mean the same thing by that. I see her as a Napoleon type of figure, basically cleverly and successfully implementing her bronze age warlord values. My guess is that your ‘mistakes’ are my ‘character revealing beats’, and vice versa.

            That is, I suspect your version of Cat’s mistakes are those which lead me to my conclusions re: her actual values, while my version of her mistakes are the tactical mis-steps that the story calls out from time to time.

            As far as wanting peace for other people, I dunno if I can square the circle with you here. Like, we aren’t just disagreeing, we are presumably wondering which book each other are reading. I doubt we can even approach consensus there, we’ll probably keep on disagreeing.

            I generally put Cat’s post-Second Liesse mental stuff down to being Sovereign of Moonless Nights at the time. Like, if you want to root for the character, I think you kind of have to.

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            1. You’re rigt on te money re: wi book te oter is reading. Wondering wat you tink of Cat’s self-sarifie tendenies, like in Tird Liesse wen se literally fougt te Pilgrim oer te rigt to die on te altar? Sorry about tis, two of my keyboard keys deided to stop working suddenly.

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              1. I don’t see them as incoherent with the image of the character I have. My take on Cat is that she wants to win much more than she cares about what prize is at stake or how much she has to spend to do it.

                She fought Pilgrim for the same reason she fights Bard, for the same reason she fought the Crusade. No one else gets to win, even Sve Noc agreement comes only after Cat loses.

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                1. With Sve Noc Cat explicitly still had a good chance of winning, given to her by Akua being a better lawyer than Komena. She discarded a victory in the making, which is what gave the gesture weight enough for the goddesses to claim her as their priestess.

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                2. Oh, and copypaste from a comment I made on another thread:

                  ““Don’t negotiate with terrorists” is a harsh rule, but it was invented for a reason. Catherine had realized it back in Book 1, against Akua as well. It was always nothing more than a trap, a way to turn her tendency to care about people against her.

                  So yes, she acts like she doesn’t. She acts the way someone who doesn’t care will act, only with added violent revenge, because that’s the way to long term discourage it. She does the exact opposite of what a person making such a threat wants. If she doesn’t even deliberate, if she doesn’t allow it to affect her at all, then the threat is ineffective and there is no point to using such a tactic ever again.

                  That’s the only way she could secure the safety of all those who could be used against her: by making sure there’s no benefit in it.”

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                  1. I don’t think I’m going to persuade you, but, like, it seems like at the point where someone has a knife to a hundred thousand throats you should maybe abandon the Hard Guy Doctrine as bankrupt and negotiate?

                    Not to be mean, but, like, she very obviously didn’t secure the safety of the people of Liesse, since they all got slaughtered.

                    It is a recurring theme of the story that dick measuring violence is bad. Everyone Cat meets, basically, ends up in the party once the foreplay is over.

                    Cat fought Akua and it turned out she needed exactly one fireside chat to become a friend. Now they are fighting together against Malicia. Cat fought Sve Noc and killed a lot of Drow before teaming up. Cat fought the crusaders and dumped a lake on them, killing thousands, before, you guessed it, teaming up against Dead King.

                    In every one of these cases, Cat would have been better off not fighting. She ended up in the same place, but with lots of bodies. She could have rebelled with Diabolist, could have negotiated with the drow, could have surrendered to Cordelia.

                    You can go back to the Fae if you want, who fought before friending, back to her legion, where she fought all of her officers before working together. Go back to starting William’s rebellion, only to realize Black had always planned for her to be his protégé. It is crabs in buckets all the way, the entire story is beating her in the head to try and get her to understand that it is ok to not be the winner.

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  15. magesbe

    > It is just weird to describe that as wanting ‘peace’, yeah? She wants victory! People keep giving her the the option of ending the fighting, and she keeps prolonging it, and her driving goal is for there to be no fighting?

    > I mean, okay, if that’s the tune the piper’s calling, but, like, if you are gonna Greater Good the Wish revelation then what’s the point of it? Like, you could have someone whose wish is East East East like a trumpet blowing and they are going west because one day it will let their descendants go east.

    I’m probably going to repeat people above because I feel like you don’t understand. Cat doesn’t want peace however long it takes for the Dead King to screw over Calernia again, and he will because it isn’t in his nature to be contained. She doesn’t want peace until Praes decides that since it’s lost all control over Callow they should invade again. She wants a peace that will span for many generations. She goes to war to remove the likelihood of future wars, or at least the kind of future war that’s basically a nonstop series of war crimes. If someone has internal injuries, you may need surgery to fix them. Assuming anesthetic isn’t a thing, it will probably hurt a lot. But it needs to be done or they’re just going to get worse.

    Cat isn’t being offered lasting peace by anyone. She’s being offered a number of versions; temporary peace, ‘peace’ but actually war and oppression (that’s what Akua offered), and ‘technically peace but you might as well be at war because it’s just as bad.’

    Speaking of Akua. Submitting to Akua would be a terrible idea. She was basically a wannabe Triumphant, and was going to fuck over the entire continent extremely hard. Callow would once again be a battle field, this time Praes vs Praes. And she’d be expected to side with a monster and actively fight against her mentor, which would just make the war worse. Sure Liesse would survive. But it’s like a terrorist threat. Sure giving in will save lives. But the whole is more important than that.

    And a false concession would last probably days at best, because it would require Cat actively turning against her current allies, not just watching and waiting. After all, if Akua doesn’t turn the people of Liesse into zombies, her army is much weaker and thus must compensate by having Cat take her army and help.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ^
      “Don’t negotiate with terrorists” is a harsh rule, but it was invented for a reason. Catherine had realized it back in Book 1, against Akua as well. It was always nothing more than a trap, a way to turn her tendency to care about people against her.

      So yes, she acts like she doesn’t. She acts the way someone who doesn’t care will act, only with added violent revenge, because that’s the way to long term discourage it. She does the exact opposite of what a person making such a threat wants. If she doesn’t even deliberate, if she doesn’t allow it to affect her at all, then the threat is ineffective and there is no point to using such a tactic ever again.

      That’s the only way she could secure the safety of all those who could be used against her: by making sure there’s no benefit in it.

      Aaaand the guy I want to reply to is probably never going to see it.

      My keyboard works again, though. Yay?

      Like

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