Interlude: Suffer No Compromise In This

“Fifth of all Choirs, sternest Judgement
They who cannot abide the repugnant;
None more farsighted than the Tribunal,
And none as even-handed or as brutal.”
– Extract from the ‘Hymn of Hymns’, Atalantian sacred text (declared heresy in Procer and Callow)

Anaxares had been a boy when he’d first heard the song of rage.

He’d been seven when thousands boiled through the streets of Bellerophon in wroth, for the lot-drawn iakas had mismanaged the People’s wheat and rationing was announced. He’d heard myriad voices howling out the same displeasure, like a great beast made up of an entire city, and it had been a thing of awe. So many voices, all telling of the same belief: this may be, yet this is not how it should be. The iakas were dragged out one and all, and before the citizens they had failed were made to answer for that failure. Tribunals were called by the People, held by the People, and the People handed down their bloody verdict. As a boy he’d watched the fear on the faces of the iakas with curiosity, but it had felt distant. Like a glimpse of another world entirely. His own was easier grasped for it was made up of the pounding of a thousand feet, the shouts of a thousand throats. The people, he’d dimly grasped then, were the river that carried them all. No single man nor woman could command the current, and like any capricious river-god it could bathe or drown as its whims demanded. What purpose was there to fear, when naught of this could be changed? And so Anaxares the Diplomat had let the river take him where it would, beyond care or worry.

Yet the river had brought him to a shore where none of the people should ever know.

What a terrible thing it had been, to watch the sole thing he truly believed in turn against itself. Your services to the people have made you a Person of Value, the kanenas had told him. And in that blasphemous betrayal the seed of a greater folly was planted, for the People cast their vote for Anaxares the Diplomat and that worst of treasons saw him elected the Hierarch of the Free Cities. Long had he wondered of this, of the purpose to it. Could there even be one? Forbidden to take his own life through action or inaction by the decree of the People, he had been left to wallow in the absurdity of his continued breath. And with every moment the world had hounded him for further treasons, flies swarming to him like they would to carrion. Named and kings and queens, princes high and low, a buzzing flock of foreign despots that wanted him to sit at their table and pretend they were anything more than ticks sucking the blood out of those they claimed to be ruling. And all the while Kairos Theodosian, Helike’s bloody son, had taken the spurs to his flanks until this day came. This hour, this moment, this reckoning for all the many balances left uneven.

Anaxares was not blind. He knew well the Tyrant had paved the road to this for his own foul reasons. It did not matter to him, for the destination was of his own choice, and no part save that one weighed on the scales. It’d been a choice forged in that terrible, lucid moment where the creature that called itself the Wandering Bard had tried to clap him in chains, but he had not grown to regret it since. Anaxares had been a boy, when he’d first heard the song of rage, but he heard it still as a man grown. It had stayed with him, seeped into his bones, and as the great despots of the east and the west entered under his watchful gaze the tune was so loud he grew deaf to all that was being spoken. The Tyrant flew above on his gargoyle-carried throne – a familiar twitch of revulsion went through him at the sight, the clenching muscle of Thrones Are An Unforgiveable Abomination Unto The People, To Be Met With Scorn And Thrown Rocks – and addressed the lot of them, weaving his exact truths into the finest of lies. The song ebbed low, though it did not leave, and the Hierarch cut in through the chatter.

“Be seated or you will be expelled,” Anaxares stated.

“Lord Hierarch,” a fair-haired woman said. “I greet you-“

The diplomat twitched.

“There are no lords in a court of the People,” Anaxares of Bellerophon coldly said. “Neither crowns nor the petty tyrannies of those claiming them are of any weight here. Be seated presently or you will be expelled-”

He did not know her name, unfortunately, and so glanced at the Tyrant in question. The mad boy grinned back.

“Cordelia Hasenbach,” the king of Helike helpfully provided.

Was she? It would explain why she might be under the mistaken impression her words carried authority here.

“Yes,” Anaxares said, “that.”

His eyes swept the crowd, recognizing only a single face: Catherine Foundling, the so-called Queen of Callow. The Black Knight of Praes was not here, which was displeasing. The man had also committed crimes under the laws of the League and would not have been unfit to stand trial today, were he present. A woman at the back of the pack, bearing a large unstrung bow, raised her hand.

“Speak,” Anaxares said.

“Is that the Dead King?” she asked, pointing behind him.

There did indeed seem to be some sort of crowned skeleton there, the Hierarch noted. It was holding a cup full of blood, which after a long moment he was forced to concede was not against any law he knew of. The diplomat once more cast a glance at the Tyrant, who equivocated with a wiggled palm.

“More or less,” Anaxares replied.

She raised her hand again, to his irritation.

“Speak,” he repeated.

“I see the Dead King got refreshments,” the woman said. “Which is most terribly unfair, as we have not.”

“That is not a question,” the Hierarch peevishly told her.

It was, however, true. And damning. Anaxares turned to glare at the Tyrant.

“My staff are on it,” the boy assured him.

It would suffice. He was not concerned with the matter beyond the perception of willingly allowed imbalance.

“I will not repeat myself a third time,” Anaxares bluntly said. “All attending must take their seats or depart.”

There was offended shuffling from the band of Avaricious Foreign Oligarchs, but they heeded the reminder. Not that the diplomat spared them much attention, not when the accused himself was stepping forward. The White Knight, Hanno of Arwad. No longer a citizen of Ashur by their own laws, inquiries to the Thalassocracy had established, and seemingly claimed by no one in particular. No one mortal, that was. The White Knight was a tall and solid man, plain of face but of calm bearing, and he strode to the stand reserved for the accused without need for prompting. Anaxares approved. He waited until the man stood amidst the gutted altar to Above before speaking up.

“I am Anaxares of Bellerophon,” he informed the Named. “The elected Hierarch of the Free Cities.”

“I know who you are, Anaxares the Diplomat,” the White Knight replied.

The afternoon sun filtered in though the stained glass and the gaping walls, casting the court in mixed and coloured light. It made the White Knight seem as if he had been painted on, as if this entire court of law was some delirious stretch of Arcadia. Anaxares remained seated at his table, facing the accused with a quill in hand and the parchments he had prepared for this day ready.

“Then you know why you stand now before me,” the Hierarch said. “A grievance was lodged by a member of the League concerning crimes you committed, and my judgement was sought over the matter.”

“I am not a citizen of any nation of the League,” the White Knight said.

That was true, and to be entered in the record, though of no repercussion on the proceedings.

“That is irrelevant,” Anaxares flatly replied. “Crimes committed against citizens of the League on the grounds of the League fall under its jurisdiction nonetheless.”

He paused.

“I am told,” the Hierarch said, “that you willingly agreed to submit yourself to judgement.”

If so, that was a principled action. Not one that mattered in the slightest when it came to culpability, but the principle was laudable regardless.

“I agreed to stand trial,” the White Knight corrected.

“Then as is allowed the laws of the League of Free Cities, you are allowed to request someone to advocate in your name,” Anaxares said. “So long as they are a citizen of a member-nation, that is.”

“I have volunteered to serve as your defender, should you desire it,” the Tyrant called out. “Otherwise a band of seven candidates was arranged.”

Those had already been refused, which the boy knew even if he now implied otherwise, and so Anaxares made note of the Tyrant’s petty obstruction.

“Your candidates were judged unlawful,” the Hierarch reminded the Tyrant. “Gargoyles are not citizens, even when words indicating otherwise are painted on them.”

His gaze turned to the former Ashuran.

“While remaining here in containment, you have an hour to send for such an advocate should you so wish,” Anaxares informed him. “Or you may accept the offer of the Tyrant of Helike.”

“It was my understanding,” the White Knight said, “that it was the grievance of the Lord Tyrant that led to this trial.”

A moment passed.

“That is correct,” Anaxares conceded.

“I would seek to be impartial in both offices, naturally,” Kairos Theodosian cheerfully assured the accused, “You have my solemn vow in this.”

“A kind offer,” the White Knight drily said. “I will be serving as my own advocate, Hierarch. Who is to be my accuser?”

The song stirred at the man’s mellow manner, the way he seemed to take none of this seriously. Anger, anger the white-clad killer who had walked the Free Cities and killed as he pleased and never once thought there might consequence to this. That a Name and the blessing of angels set him beyond such petty matters.

“There is no accuser,” the Hierarch harshly stated. “Your crimes are not in dispute, they are a matter of known record as certified by sworn witnesses from Delos, Stygia, Helike and Nicae.”

“Then the actions you deem as crimes should be listed, should they not?” the White Knight said. “Unless you intend to simply pass sentence.”

“I deem or dismiss nothing,” the Hierarch said, grinding his teeth. “The law is writ, and known to any who care to know it.”

He brought forward the first parchment, his own familiar writing providing the list that the Named was asking for.

“Murder of citizens of Helike and Stygia is the first charge,” Anaxares said. “On one hundred and seventy-three counts assured, forty-two alleged with proof in only the second degree.”

Which was to say, less than two witnesses and no writ evidence.

“You speak of soldiers,” the White Knight said, “fought in time of war.”

“In time of war between members of the League of Free Cities,” the Hierarch said. “You are not a citizen, and so not legally part of such a war, unless you took coin as mercenary in the service of a lawful government. Do you here claim to have done so?”

“I do not,” the White Knight said, “though I worked in lawful accord with the Secretariat in the defence of Delos and with the permission of Strategos Nereida Silantis in the defence of Nicae.”

“The Secretariat has provided records that put truth to your words,” Anaxares acknowledged. “Basileus Leo Trakas, who speaks for Nicae, has declined to do so. Yet in the absence of payment from Delos that would qualify you as a mercenary in the employ of the Secretariat, the point is irrelevant. The askretis cannot absolve a crime, only abet it.”

Anaxares reached for his papers, where he had put to ink the names he could not all remember. There were many, some he had known when he was still entirely a diplomat.

“You also murdered sitting members of the Magisterium, the exact list of your victims being-”

“Has the Magisterium then made complaint to the League?” the White Knight interrupted.

The song rose in pitch at the interruption, not for the words themselves but at the disrespect for the trial they implied.

“It has not,” the Hierarch replied, brow creasing in displeasure. “It has, however, granted rights to another party to seek redress in its name.”

“That would be me,” the Tyrant gleefully said.

“That is correct,” the Hierarch agreed. “You have also attempted to murder the ruling king of Helike-”

“Also me,” the Tyrant added, still with unseemly glee.

“- and in the attempt claimed to hold the authority to pass judgement over King Kairos Theodosian of Helike,” Anaxares continued unflinchingly.

“That is incorrect,” the White Knight said.

Someone in the benches loudly cursed, but the Hierarch paid it no mind.

“Speak now, if you would amend the record,” Anaxares said. “It has until now been understood that in your role as the White Knight you spoke for the Choir to which you are sworn and passed judgement in their stead.”

Was the man now renouncing the authority bestowed upon him by the Choir, in an attempt to exempt it from consequence? If so, it was a cowardly thing.

“I do not judge,” Hanno of Arwad said, “and passed no judgement over the Tyrant of Helike. The judgement was passed by the Tribunal, and I sought to execute the sentence it as is my duty.”

The song, oh the song swelled. This was, Anaxares understood, so much worse than he had believed. Had the Tyrant known? No, that did not matter. Law was law, no matter what capering gargoyle brought it to the fore. Yet mistakes here could not be allowed.

“Clarify what you mean by ‘the Tribunal’,” the Hierarch ordered.

“The Choir of Judgement,” the White Knight replied.

“You then allege,” Anaxares slowly said so there could be no mistake, “that the Seraphim of the Choir of Judgement have claimed the right to pass judgement over citizens of the League?”

“It is not a subtle thing, what you attempt,” the White Knight told him. “Do you understand this? That you have not tricked or fooled any in this hall. That your intent is clear as day.”

“What I attempt,” Anaxares of Bellerophon softly repeated. “As if this were some sort of plot, a scheme against you or your masters. Is that what you believe, Hanno of Arwad? That the Seraphim and your service of them are owed abeyance? That the world entire is to twist and bend to your verdicts, unasked for and unsought?”

We are all of us free, the song whispered in his ear, or we are none of us free.

“Madness,” the White Knight said, “is no excuse for baring steel at the Heavens.”

“If the Heavens would have part in this trial,” the Hierarch coldly said, “they may be seated and silent, like the rest of the gallery. Speak not otherwise of those that cannot be called to account.”

“This will not end as you wish, Hierarch,” the White Knight calmly said. “Yet if you cannot be turned aside so be it: the Choir of Judgement acknowledges none to be beyond its jurisdiction, save for the Gods Above.”

The song filled him, up to brim, but that wroth was as much his own as the tune’s.

“There is no law, writ or known, that grants this right to the Choir of Judgement,” Anaxares of Bellerophon said with excruciating calm.

“And yet it is theirs nonetheless,” the White Knight said.

We are all of us free, the song hissed in his ear, or we are none of us free.

“No,” the Hierarch coldly said. “It is not. And if it would pretend otherwise, let it stand before this court and defend that crude arrogance.”

“I warned you,” the White Knight sadly said.

Power coursed around the court, first the distant weavings the Tyrant had laid around this place and then the blooming protections the tyrants high and low garbed themselves in out of fear. And then it came, the answer he had asked for. There was no ceiling above them, nothing save the cloudless blue sky, and through it the wroth of Judgement came down on him.

The Hierarch burned.

The Tribunal gazed down upon him, and its fury broke his bones and scoured his flesh. All around him shattered, even the very ground, and even as his body tore apart claws dug into his mind. Force him to look where they would, to see what they wished him to see. Before his eyes unfolded and endless shifting tapestry, made from all the decisions that were made and could be. The depth was… too much to grasp. The threads of every action and consequence, of the reasons and the endings. This was, the Hierarch grasped, what the Seraphim saw. The truth of their judgement. And as he tried to parse it, he felt his mind begin to unravel. He could have looked away. It would have spared him the horrendous pain going through every fiber of who he was. But that would be admitting that their judgement was right. That it was correct, for they knew things mortals could not. And so as he stared unblinking Anaxares of Bellerophon found oblivion snaking her arms around him. Oblivion, and with it would come rest. Would that not be a relief? And yet there was one thing he could not help but see.

It was a woman, carving words into a stele of stone that somehow reminded him of a great bird’s corpse. Around her was a sea of people in rags, thin and sickly and hungry. Yet there was something in their eyes, as they looked at the stele and the woman, that made him want to weep. And the words, oh the words he knew them. Every child born of Bellerophon knew them. All are free, or none. Ye of this land, suffer no compromise in this. The woman was wounded, bleeding within, and with the last letter she died. But the words, the words stayed. And as the city rose around them, around the stele, blood splashed stone. Suffer no compromise in this, the stele had told them, and so they did not. And they bled and they bled and they bled, and they bled but they never bowed. Not once did they look at the world, even at the very bottom of the pit, and bend their neck. It would have been easy, light as a feather. And perhaps they would have been better for it. And from mother to son, father to daughter, the words on the stele had carried down. Until they ended up told to a small boy, who one day would be a diplomat. Suffer no compromise in this, Anaxares thought, and the world sang it with him.

His body was a ruin yet there was a need for it, and so the Hierarch decided it would have to Mend.

Bones set back in place, soldered by will, and flesh knit itself anew. Teeth made by heat into black and broken stones flew back into his mouth as the table and the chair snapped back into place. The Hierarch of the Free Cities dipped his quill into the inkwell, tongue lolling out of his half-broken mouth as it reformed.

“This will be added to the record as evidence of guilt,” he informed the Choir.

Attempted murder of a sitting judge of the court, he penned. The Seraphim had expressed their displeasure yet not bothered to attend, but that would not be enough to spare them judgement earned. Mind clear and still as a pond, the Hierarch closed his eyes and allowed himself to Receive what he required. Silhouettes stood before his gaze, bearing each six wings of bronze and a conviction like a fire that nothing could put out. They gazed back, and in their fury struck again. The world broke, and Anaxares with it, but without pause it was mended anew.

“Petulance,” the Hierarch said. “I address now the Seraphim of the Choir of Judgement, also known as the Tribunal, and Indict you for the following crimes-”

They smote him again, and he mended. It did not matter, for now his Name sang and filled the world. As it had in Rochelant, a blank slate on which all could write their accusations and have them known by all.

“- despotism high and low, arrant and illegal intervention in League affairs, attempted regicide –”

The Tyrant of Helike was laughing, he realized as he mended anew.

“- disturbance of the court, three –”

It was desperate now, the burning that consumed him tinted with dismay.

“- four times,” the Hierarch adjusted. “And repeated attempted murder. Given the overwhelming evidence-”

It no longer hurt, the Hierarch mused as he mended, as if the ability to feel pain had been scoured out of him.

“- the verdict cannot be in doubt,” he continued. “I pronounce you guilty and sentence you to-”

The words choked in his mouth, for something has seized his throat. Not the Tribunal, no. It was a great presence but not that, and as the grip tightened around his throat the Seraphim prepared to strike again.

“I win,” Kairos Theodosian laughed.

And the grip was gone.

322 thoughts on “Interlude: Suffer No Compromise In This

          1. caoimhinh

            Hey, just found this conversation between Kairos and Anaxares on Villanous Interlude: Thunder, the chapter where Anaxares became Hierarch:

            “She thinks I made you to kill me,” Kairos said. “She’s wrong, my dearest bosom companion. I’m not some Praesi of the old breed, oh no. I have more unusual ambitions. But here I am, getting ahead of myself.”

            I really don’t think Kairos is planning to die in this “Trial of the Choirs”.

            Liked by 6 people

      1. Shveiran

        I get the logic, but … would the Gods’ Above try strangulation? ineffective strangulation, gone before Anaxares has been ended? Seems… underpowered, coming form the Higher Ups.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. IncognitoMe

      Sooo… wild theory here, but I’d say Kairos might have caused a rift between different choirs. Hear me out.

      When the Seraphim prepare to strike for the last time, they go for the Ophanim that are trying to silence the Hierarch before he judges Judgement. For while it is for the greater good if the Seraphim are not judged, we have precedent in Pilgrim’s side story Peregrine where he demonstrates the difference between Justice and Mercy.

      Pilgrim spared that prince from Orense despite the fact that he is responsible for killing his sister because “it was not the Choir of Justice that he was sworn to”.
      He also killed his nephew to prevent future war, which again was for the greater good, not for justice.

      But Judgement/Justice does not act on potential consequences but on injust actions.
      (Slight tangent, are Judgement/Justice the same choir? The Riddle of Fault and the side chapter Prosecution have me thinking this.)

      Now, Hierarch has not been broken by Judgement nor actually been coin flipped, so is he guilty in their eyes? The problem for Mercy is, that just like Judgement, they, too, deal in absolutes.
      In this case their purposes are in direct confrontation to Judgement, as it is up to them to dispense justice and in their presence they tried to murder the Hierarch. For the greater good, yes, but that is not justice.

      Now, can the Seraphim physically allow an injust action? Not as angels dealing in absolutes. So now you have two choirs at each other’s throats and Kairos win is inciting a war between factions sworn to the Gods Above. The Gods Below have no stake in this fight where they could lose and they gain no matter which side between Ophanim and Seraphim prevails.
      Through this, Hierarch and Kairos might have just become the greatest livibg servants of Below. And now, they are owed for their service.

      tl;dr:
      Seraphim strike at Ophanim who are choking Hierarch at the end. Kairos win lies in inciting conflict between Seraphim and Ophanim, bringing a net gain to Below in any case.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Shveiran

        …I don’t really follow.

        Mercy is after the reduction of future suffering.
        The Hierarch is a plague upon Calernia and the Seraphim is a force for Good.

        Why would Mercy’s goal prompt them to side against Seraphim again?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. More specifically, the Ophanim/Mercy are about reducing what they consider to be unnecessary suffering. Not all suffering in general. If something is deemed necessary, you are screwed as far as Mercy is concerned.

          The Seraphim smiting Heirarch and Heirarch resisting that smiting causing him to suffer? They don’t care in the slightest.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Or Peles

        I thought that as well, and I believe this is Tyrants plan unfolding perfectly, and was his plan all along.

        We are repeatedly told that the Seraphim judge all that they see, when Hanno tells Cat that he avoids casting their gaze unless he has good reason too. Including in the opening quote of this chapter.

        We are reminded in the last couple of chapters that Pilgrim murdered a whole Proceran town to bring down Black.

        And further, Tyrant insisted, as I recall, that Pilgrim be responsible for Hanno showing up to the trial.

        And he made the ward to make the place attractive to angels.

        We are even shown last chapter that Hanno is not thrilled with Contrition and Endurance.

        So the ploy here is to bring the Ophanim under the gaze of the Seraphim in judgement mode, and create dissention in the ranks of Above.

        It is so amazing that I really hope this is the real explanation. It would be a breathtaking achievement, and put Tyrant in the ranks of the greatest Villains ever, and also an amazing story achievement.

        Like

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Hanno noted last chapter that he’d have more than one angelic choir. The other one (presumably mercy but not clear yet.) Just took it’s own swing. And apparently in doing so fell for Tyants trap.

      Liked by 16 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Hmm, actually that sounds a lot like the Ophanim. They have been referred to as a softer and subtler hand than the Seraphim.
          The Choir of Mercy doesn’t come with fire and blinding light, but with lighter intervention. Like when that Levantine priest tried to use Light to hurt Pilgrim, they didn’t smite her, but simply took away her ability to use Light.

          Here, they stopped Anaxares from speaking by closing his throat. Not a lot of fanfare or impressive action, but it did the job (which was stopping him from reading the sentence against the Choir of Judgement) until apparently Kairos intervened and the grip was gone.

          Liked by 10 people

          1. Shveiran

            Then again, their gaze during the Twilight Ways Mourning was much closer to what has been described as Contrition or Judgment at work.
            And Pilgrim may have employed a pillow to kill his nephew, but he was swinging rays of Light whenever the situation was dire. I’m just saying… strangling really sounds like a step down.

            Liked by 4 people

    2. Insanenoodlyguy

      Hanno noted last chapter that he’d have more than one angelic choir. The other one (presumably mercy but not clear yet.) Just took it’s own swing. And apparently in doing so fell for Tyrants trap.

      Liked by 10 people

        1. Tenthyr

          You misunderstand, it’s very possible that the grip on Heirarchs throat was Mercy, acting in their allotted function.

          Kairos was swinging for the other Choir the entire time.

          Liked by 18 people

          1. caoimhinh

            How Kairos-like to have been aiming at the other Choir this whole time. Though I’m unsure of how he would hurt Mercy when Anaxares Indict is aimed at Judgement, I guess we’ll see next chapter.

            Also, Neshamah definitely got hurt just now when Judgement stared down and stroke at Hierarch. And Kairos saw it coming, which is why he was laughing at the Dead King’s presumption of being safe there. Hahahahaha

            Liked by 9 people

              1. Crash

                I wonder if the Bard would be dumb enough to attempt intervention and get burned as well.

                In fact, having forgotten the two choirs mess for a moment, I tought the great presence strangling Anaxares was her and Kairos used his Wish to send her away.

                In other news Hanno continues to think himself above the old villain pitfall of thinking he has already won. This should humble him a bit.

                Liked by 4 people

                1. Mm.

                  He’s actually pretty young and pretty new to this. We’ve seen all his confrontations with villains onscreen, the only offscreen development he got was while opposing ravenous hordes of undead and dealing with his own kindergarten of a side.

                  He has… a lot to learn.

                  Liked by 2 people

            1. ChillyPepper

              It might be something as simple as ruining the status quo for above and below just for shit and giggles, just think about what bard would do to stop this or her fuming head as she fails to.

              Liked by 4 people

    1. Cicero

      Actually… I’m not sure this does anything to the White Knight, as the Heirarch seems to have forgotten about him once it became clear that he was merely an agent for the Tribunal.

      I actually don’t know what happened, because it was deliberately left unclear. Guess we’ll find out next chapter.

      Liked by 17 people

    2. Can we start rumors that Grey was raised with necromancy tho?

      You speak as if the Tyrant hasnt just proclaimed victory at the climax. His victory is assured, nothing can stand in his way now. Wink wink.

      Liked by 10 people

  1. TruthHut

    As mad as the Heirarch is, one has to admire the fortitude to hold to his beliefs while being repeatedly spited by the heavens. Even while acknowledging that his people may have suffered more so for not bowing.

    Liked by 13 people

      1. Shveiran

        As opposed to a society where key roles are assigned by drawing lots among people who are forbidden to learn how to do things first, and who are lynched in the street when inevitably they end up doing a bad job that causes the death of the citizens themselves?

        … I’ll take the stagnation, please. With a cup of not blood.

        Sisters, the Bellerophonian must breed like rabbits if there are any still around and kicking.

        Liked by 10 people

        1. laguz24

          Yes, I agree seriously how has Bellepheron lasted this long as an independent city, without it being ruled by someone else in all but name since actually conquering it would result in revolutions from then until forever

          Liked by 5 people

          1. caoimhinh

            The way I see it, the Kanenas rule Bellerophon in all but name behind the illusion of their democracy, so they keep the city from completely falling into disorder and anarchy while still enabling the population to be affected by the stupid things they vote upon and what their ignorance brings, like having outdated maps and manuals for war and probably everything else.

            Though Bellerophon has been noted to never having won a war, they seemingly have enough population to defend themselves from foreign intervention, as Anaxares argued that “The People had voted that enough draws counted as a win”.

            There might also be a magic force at work, or a narrative weight to their city/society, as we just saw that Bellerophon was built around the corpse of one of the gods from Stygia after it was slain by the Sword of the Free, and the Kanenas have been shown to possess sorcery for brainwashing, memory-erasing, mind-reading and also for compressing and expanding stones that are kept within the bodies of the population (or at least the Diplomats, which are executed when they mentally break a law)

            With the kind of leash that the Kanenas have on the citizens of Bellerophon, it wouldn’t be hard for that group to keep them from falling apart, or maintaining the delicate balance of that city’s crazy laws that apparently all end in death and the necessary capability to not only not collapse as a society but also fend off foreign invasion.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Shveiran

              It’s possible. personally, I jus think no one in the Leagues bothers because their are too crazy to conquer and there is no real use in exterminating them as they pose no real threat.

              Liked by 6 people

            2. The kanenas don’t rule, they do their allotted function precisely and punish each other for any overstep even more zealously than regular citizens. We have WoG on this. There is no man behind the curtain, it really does work like that.

              I grew up in the ruins of Soviet Union, and I know this:

              – no, this kind of pure principle cannot hold outside heavy Story intervention. Luckily, that’s exactly what they got in-universe;

              – there is indeed a grim beauty to it, when you’re looking from the inside. It’s romanticized as easily as war, which is also terrible but loved by many nonetheless. It’s bad, but “we will rather take the bad than give up on our principles” is… well, remember William and the entire Liesse Rebellion? That was literally the same thing. For every last person who has ever gone to war for a cause, it’s the exact same thing. Fuck, most of the people PRESENT, the ones on ‘our’ side, follow this. They just have different principles.

              People have different priorities. This? This is the most terrifying expression of that. And it’s real. I knew its face, growing up and gathering my own principles bit by bit, brick by brick, slowly coming to my own very personal disagreement with it.

              I disagree.

              I know what there is to agree with.

              Liked by 14 people

              1. Wow your comment hits pretty close to home for me, i am living in Venezuela and while i was youn when this whole “socialism” started i still was able to see how it progressed, personally i think there is also a bit of stupid pride and stuborness, is like some people just can’t admit they were wrong or fooled, then there is those that never really worked in their lives that are happy seeing people they envied be trampled down

                Liked by 3 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  Agreed.
                  But that kind of narrow-mindedness isn’t exclusive of a certain brand of politics.

                  I’m from Colombia, here we are living the opposite situation, but heading towards a similar collapse; as Alvaro Uribe and his extreme right politics are fucking up the country with high taxes for the population, corruption, and giving benefits to only a small group of wealthy individuals and corporations, not to mention his connections with paramilitary groups.
                  He got drunk on power after taking office and betrayed the call he was answering initially. Sure, he fought off the FARC and other Guerrillas, but then he went too far and got corrupted (or maybe he was always corrupt, as investigations of his nexes with Pablo Escobar show).
                  Worse, when the chance to achieve peace with the Guerrillas arrived during Juan Manuel Santos’s government, people in Colombia actually voted against the Peace Treaty because “they couldn’t forgive FARC” and because they believed the Uribist propaganda that the peace treaty was going to “sell the country off to the Guerrillas and the socialist left”.
                  A couple of years later, people yet again were manipulated by the propaganda to vote against the Anti-corruption Chart that aimed to fight corruption within the government (especially the Senate) by making higher punishments to corrupt politicians.
                  This is something I personally watched and lived through, mobs are dumb and manipulable.

                  But the point is, extremes of any kind are bad, and the pursuit of an ideal while disregarding everything else tends to mess up a lot of stuff and hurt a lot of people.
                  Left and Right politics aren’t inherently superior to each other, they pursue different goals and value different things, yet they are both very destructive when taken to the extreme.

                  Bellerophon’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the decisions taken by the mob voting can be mistaken, is as wrong as the Praesi High Lords’ unwillingness to think other people matter even remotely as much as them (having even a word for “others” that means “not us, therefore inferior” as shown in one of Fasili Mirembe’s POV).

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. Slider

                    Talking about SA, your situation mirrors what happened in Peru during the 90s (very charismatic but evil man who still has supporters because he finished the EVUL terrorists) (actually evil, but not as demonic as they are made to be and he certainly is not as saintly as some try to paint him) and recently after its Congress was dissolved (supposedly because they misdirected investigations against corrupt individuals, allegedly because they knew compromising things about each other).

                    Liked by 2 people

            3. Or Bellephon is simply a city without wealth, assets and gain that make the costs of invading it too expensive for even optimal gain, while their distinct lack of victories, leaders and reputation make it pointless even for a prideful conquerer trying to press their mark on history. The extreme unbending mentality of the militia there is just an added motivation for the smart conquerers to not conquer it unless necessary to get the full set.

              Even the tallest trees can be blown over and uprooted by a hurricane. Yet that same hurricane may fail to rip off a post-it note because there’s not enough pull for its bit of sticky glue to give way.

              Liked by 5 people

          2. Ahad Mahmood

            I believe it was stated in one of the previous books that they’re pretty poor as a state and the energy required to subdue them wouldn’t be worth it. They also function as a tie-breaker to the league and keeps the odd number of cities.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Kirroth

      And that’s why there’s no way it worked. This is a Named battle so we’re going by Named rules. Kairos’s plan was too clearly telegraphed, his declaration of victory was too soon, and there was no sign of a counter-move from Cat or Hanno. No villain’s master plan ever works that smoothly in the climax.

      Liked by 9 people

        1. Nairne .01

          I’m not sure Cat wants to counter this, though I think she would prefer the Hierarch to exit the story. I have to wonder what is her game here, what is her victory condition here.

          As for Hanno, ye that does sound like him, and it does justice (yea I know it sounds like a pun) to him being inexperienced and very naive (at least compared to Tariq).

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I’m not sure if Cat HAS a counter-move, because as far as she is concerned, this falls under the catagory of “Not my circus, not my monkeys”

            She’d PREFER if Hanno survived, and Tyrant got beat…. but just because she’s the protagonist, doesn’t mean she’s going to be sticking her neck on the line Vs every annoyance. She made no move in Salia during the Coup, and for now she is focused on The Accords, and beating the dead king, and Malicia, and maybe the Bard.

            It’s POSSIBLE she has a sneaky plan… but I’m not putting bets on it.

            There’s also the point that Kairos apparently had plans to betray EVERYONE. Has that happened yet? This seems like it might be a strike against a choir, but I still don’t see how this situation is going to cripple Cat, Cordelia, Dead King, the blood, the pilgrim, and the half dozen wizards we have handy.

            … actually, now that I think about it, if there ARE any sneaky plans to be had, my bet would be on everything catching fire, and then the three wizards coming up with something afterwards to mend the situation.
            Given that Hanno be like “Oh look, Providence delivered me ALL the wizards”, that seems kinda likely.

            Liked by 7 people

            1. Nairne .01

              You said something very interesting, Kairos betraying everyone
              Now if we consider:

              That an angel or a whole Choir might have just become corpses and the Dead King is there or…

              That Hierophant witnessed everything that happened or…

              That something might have happened to the White Knight if something happened to the Choirs and the Witch of the Woods is there or…

              Anyone has any other ideas? 🙂

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Andrew Mitchell

                This. This is what I’m most interested in learning about.

                >That Hierophant witnessed everything that happened or…

                Well, maybe not MOST interested. But I want very much want to see Hierophant continue his journey towards apotheosis.

                Liked by 2 people

            1. I would say it’s mostly because “yeah this is unfolding 99% as I predicted” in Cat snark is just not the most interesting/entertaining POV to be had here.

              We know what Catherine thinks about this kind of thing. There is no new information to be had there.

              Now everyone else…

              Like

            1. >”I wonder if Kairos has already given him the information he’d traded for this.”

              So… I read this, and some horrible thought came to me….

              “Give us a good reason to keep warring on Keter” – Cat, in So Smile Tyrant.

              What is Kiaros is planning to just TELL them a reason to fight DK… what if he plans to GIVE them one?

              …. probably not, as “I have such a reason and can reveal it to you.” implies otherwise… but ummmm…. This is Kiaros. Implications are not to be trusted.

              What if treachery against everyone here includes precisely the breaking of any truce with DK. DK doesn’t want it, and depending how its done, it may well cost Cat and Cordelia dearly.

              Liked by 5 people

  2. Wow, I wonder what the force trying to hold his mouth shut at the end was? It wasn’t the Seraphim, but something else?

    Anyway, it didn’t seem like dude finished passing sentence, still room for Cat & co. to interrupt with some quick talking.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Frivolous

    My opinion may be in the minority, but I like what happened. Isn’t it one of the resounding themes of A Practical Guide to Evil, that Evil and people in general get really pissed off at Good’s presuming to judge them, and that Good should not get to do so without consequences?

    So I like it that the Choir of Judgement gets Indicted for its crimes against the People. It’s fitting and it’s amusing. Judgement has stomped on many evil-doers over time, but now it faces something that has the power to stomp on Judgement, and for once Judgement is afraid.

    It should be.

    I think Kairos and Anaxares are about to join the very select club of people who have harmed a Choir. The only 2 people who have so far are Dread Emperor Traitorous and Dread Empress Triumphant.

    Liked by 14 people

    1. sutortyrannus

      While I can’t speak to whether or not you’re in the minority, you’re certainly not alone. There was something almost visceral in my enjoyment of this chapter, of those who have arrogated the right to judge and deal out punishment brought low because they came up against something they couldn’t overwhelm with force.

      To paraphrase the Athenians – A standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel those upon whom it would be enacted and enforced, and determined by those who possess such power. And now the Seraphim, after being secure in their sight and strength for so long, are being called to account by a power against whom they have found themselves outmatched.

      Consequences. That’s the lesson that Good and its ilk must learn if they are to survive in the Age of Order. All who act will face consequences.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Shveiran

        Ok.

        Uhm.

        Look, I have beef with Above and Heroes.
        Like, a lot.
        You can check the comments on Book 5 if you want confirmation, I think my record is pretty clear.

        But…
        If you have a dislike for Heroes and Choir claiming the right to judge anyone and want to see them answer for that, are you really telling me that you found satisfying to see them judged by the Hierarch?

        The Hierarch.

        Mister I despise all those that claim to rule others, yet I’m very willing to act as the Tyrant -the TYRANT- of Helike wants.

        Mister I in no way found it a problem that the Tyrant invaded the rest of the league and in no way am I going to hold him accountable for that shit.

        Mister how dare you kill citizen people in a war on League soil, say I while amidst the army of the League on foreign soil.

        Mister the People have not voted upon it so it is unlawful, but I guess it doesn’t matter if I go harvest souls in Arcadia to build a personal army at the suggestion of the Tyrant or participate in a war against the rest of the world.

        Mister I’m not a person of interest until I want to sit as judge in my capacity as the Hierarch of the Free Cities.

        Mister I’ll hold even the gods accountable to the laws of my own city but not, say, the many Magisters and despots in my own army subjected to my own authority.

        The Hierarch .

        … Look.

        It’s not like I don’t want to see Judgment get a rap on the nuckles. But I wouldn’t find satisfying to see Hitler fall down a flight of stairs, you know what I mean?
        Sure, it would hurt. But… there is nothing really satisfying about it, you know? I mean, personally.
        This not… accountability. It’s another uncompromising force claiming right to judge all that strikes its whims.
        Sure, I get it, it’s the Choirs getting their own medicine thrown in their face. But… it’s not karma, it’s not justice, it’s not payback. It’s just a Hierarch shaped flight of stairs the Seraphim fell down.

        And if it sticks? If they break their metaphorical necks?
        That just means we’ll never see them be called on their own bullshit by someone that is not doing precisely the same thing as them.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. sutortyrannus

          I…guess.

          It may not be fair, or just, to have someone throw their own arrogance back in their faces for the sake of retribution.

          And as you’ve clearly laid out, the Hierarch isn’t by any means beyond meriting judgement of his own, for all of his crimes by action or inaction.

          But still it’s…something, I guess? This force that has acted with impunity, according to principles it’s determined entirely on it’s own, and enforced against a world that can’t hold them to account – to strike at that, for essentially taking choice away – it’s something, isn’t it?

          Maybe I can’t see what shape actual justice or payback or accountability would take when brought against them. Something like this, though,where they effectively can’t make the problem go away by smiting it? I think it’s the start of all of those better outcomes you highlighted.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Clmineith

          I agreed on everything except the metaphor.

          At least the stairs would be just an accident, it would not pretend to be justice.

          It’s more like if, instead of Hitler falling down a flight of stairs, he was judged by Staline on the charge of using the wrong sort of gas in the camps.

          Completely satisfactory on all accounts. And insulting to the very concept of justice.

          Pretty much like this parody is an insult to the concept of democracy, actually.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. parahacker

            So…. You’re saying, pretty close to how the aftermath of ww2 actually worked out. Sans one Hitler, already dead… standing in Fascism itself as the target of appropriate yet loathsomely hypocritical judgment.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. > Pretty much like this parody is an insult to the concept of democracy, actually.

            I’ve said it before but I think it bears repeating here: I genuinely believe that the fact that the only democracy on Calernia is a grotesque blood-soaked parody of that concept is no coincidence. We know that Bellerophon was created/backed by Below (or agents thereof), and Below loves hidden knives and poisons you don’t suspect. Bellerophon is a “maddened altar of a city” in its own right, but more than that I think it’s meant to discredit the idea of democracy itself, leaving Calernia largely mired in the feudal default that we’ve seen the ugliness of many times by now.

            tl;dr – I don’t think Bellerophon is just an insult to the concept of democracy, I think it’s a deliberate sabotage of the concept of democracy on Calernia.

            Liked by 6 people

            1. Shveiran

              It’s possible, but if you are right Below is playing the long game here: I doubt a democracy could work without technology evolving a couple century beyond the current one, and on Calernia tech tend to stagnate comapred to the real world.
              Democry require education and information to work properly, and they in turn require technology.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. But both education and Information are…. Social technologies. Certainly made easier by mass printing etc, but social things nonetheless.

                Hell, Rome had a democracy. Not a kingdom sized one, but democracy none the less.
                That was PRE feudalism.

                Liked by 2 people

              2. I mean. Democracy (for a given value of the term) got started in the US in the 18th century. Maybe I’m mistaken, but my impression was that Calernia has printing presses, which would be the major educational/informational technology relevant to democracy in that timeframe. And for that matter the Roman Republic operated on at least a form of representative government well over 2000 years ago, with tech actually below the Calernian level (and no magic). I think based on RL history you’re underestimating the viability of democracy without… honestly, I’m not 100% sure what specific technology you’re thinking of? Unless I’m misremembering about printing presses, bc those are definitely relevant (although as I still feel the Roman example shows they are not inherently required).

                Liked by 1 person

        3. Lord GM

          I can understand your dislike for Hierarch. But I can also understand Hierarch. And his actions, his convictions, his very being make sense to me when looked upon through the lense of his convictions.

          Hierarch is operating on a very limited set of core rules and his unshakeable belief in the founding principle of his people: “All citizens of Bellerophon are equal or none are.” And this applies even to the Gods.

          But there is also the fact that Bellerophon has to accept that foreign nations have their own laws and that it is necessary to tolerate them or even work with them to a degree. And that is why diplomats have such a hard time, since they are constantly forced to toe the line. Hierarch typically tries to stay out of things on the basis that dealing with foreign tyrants has a high risk of being in conflict with the law of the people. We know Hierarch hates Kairos with a passion and would like nothing more than to punish the Tyrant. The problem is that, according to Bellerophon law, Tyrant did nothing unlawful – Wrong? Sure. Evil? Definitely. But not against the law. And that is all that counts to him.

          Tyrant declared war on the other Free Cities, so his actions, as Evil and murdering as they were, were within his right to do. Killing soldiers, as we have learned today with the White Knight, is not illegal as long as you are either a soldier or a mercenary fighting for a nation that has officially declared war.

          Similar thing with the other rulers of the League: Hierarch has no legal grounds to judge them according to Bellerophon law because they don’t fall under it.

          The Gods on the other hand, ARE considered citizens and even have their one vote in the assembly each. Thus they do fall under Bellerophon jurisdiction by Bellerophon law.

          Liked by 7 people

        4. gyndroid

          I will say–I don’t think the Hierarch is a hypocrite by being the judge here.
          He’s not above judgment. He absolutely is keeping a running tally of all the ways in which he’s supposed to be executed. He wants to stand trial, and attempted to do so,and when he hated the results of that trial because it declared him as special, and above the law, he grew furious, and grew a name. If he had his way, he’d submit to a different judge at the end of his allotted tenure as Hierarch and justice would finally be done.

          I kind of love him. Not like, unequivocally support him. But I love what he as a character brings to the story.

          .

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Shveiran

            He started the trial on the grievance that Hanno was a foreigner that killed League soldiers (at the inviattion of League head of state, incidentally).

            He was in Iserre as the ruler of a League army, treading foreign soil and killing foreigner soldiers, including Procerans, after having come there with no invitation.

            How is the trial not a joke, again?

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Law does not exist for its own sake. Principle should not exist for its own sake.

        I cannot agree with what Hierarch and his ideas stand for. I know what it is very intimately, I know its songs. I grew up with it as a logical puzzle: one person is nothing before the people, what IS wrong with that? I found my own answer and I found another and I found another and I am terrified.

        Principle for principle’s sake is a train without brakes, one that leaves dead bodies in its passing without ever looking back. The Choir of Judgement was not given its authority by the People, but there’s a reason all the Good nations are willing to work with it: it DOES GOOD. Its champions DO GOOD, and make the world a better place to live in. That matters more than any principle ever could.

        I see no satisfaction in this, only terror. Real terror.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Lord GM

          > Its champions DO GOOD, and make the world a better place to live in. That matters more than any principle ever could.

          Well, that is basically just another principle. What makes this one better than any ot the others? (BTW, I agree with you. Just playing devils advocate here – or Hierarchs, to be more Precise.)

          Well, it is the old question of “free man in hell or slave in heaven?” taken to its quite literal extreme. Heroes and most good people are content being “sheep shepherded by angels”. They trust their shepherd and have little desire to leave the save meadows assigned to them.

          But the hallmark of Villains is that they yearn for freedom and feel shackled by the limitations imposed on them from above (pun intendet). So they rebel. I can fully understand Hierarch’s indignation at the pure arrogance of the angels declaring themselves the shepherds. After all, the sheep have never been given the choice.

          Of course you can say that this rebellion is childish, immature and shortsighted. And it probably is. But since when has that ever mattered to any rebellish teenager. No, understanding that your parents / caretakers are right actually makes them rebel harder, because admitting defeat would destroy their pride, their selfimage, and that would feel bad. Our own brain punishes us for doing the “right thing” in this case.

          Psychology is strange.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Mary Gentle

            I can’t use a quote to prove my case without re-reading the whole PDtE (which I absolutely will, once it ends, and I can enjoy all the lovely foreshadowing that I didn’t spot as such!) – but my impression is not that the Gods Above and their Champions do good.
            Or if they do, it’s that kind of good that is happy to do evil, too, if it forwards their mission. Tariq/Grey Pilgrim would be an example.
            And Hanno, though I love the man to pieces, has abdicated ALL responsibility in what he does — he’s the Choir’s finger-puppet. He’s not doing good, because HE’s not actually doing anything at all.
            If you’re asking whether the great unNamed masses have a more comfortable life under Good than Evil… Maybe most do. William didn’t seem to like Contrition much, but maybe it’s different for Named. Still, even if the sheep would be better fed under Good, is that all that morality comes down to? A full belly and nobody pointing a sword at you?
            I hasten to add that I, myself, would go for the full belly and no pointy object every time, but I wouldn’t claim it’s MORAL.
            All the while the Gods Below and the Villains are acting to promote agency, I think they can claim to be doing something moral. (And therefore Good. 🙂
            Existentialism isn’t a comfortable philosophy in action. But you can label a lot of the Villains here as acting in good faith – Cat, of course, and Amadeus, and the Dread Empress. Even Akua the Shade appears, at the moment, to be doing what she’s said she will. (OK, Cat doesn’t give Akua much agency, but I think you’re allowed to curtail someone’s actions if they have Akua’s track record!) Even the Dead King offered a truce that he clearly would have kept. Yes, because it would have won him the war in the end, but still, acting in good faith…
            Tl;dr
            Admitted there are many Villians acting on the “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” principle (Milton’s Satan is obviously a Name), but the Above they’re standing against is an autocracy all the same. If you inflict your Good on people without allowing them agency, they’re not people, they’re puppets.

            Like

            1. Lord_GM

              I fully agree. And I never said Above or their Heroes did good. They do Good with capital G, as in: whatever Above wants. More often than not, this is considered beneficial, heroic and good by the common people, but that doesn’t mean it’s not all the things you said.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. > And Hanno, though I love the man to pieces, has abdicated ALL responsibility in what he does — he’s the Choir’s finger-puppet. He’s not doing good, because HE’s not actually doing anything at all.

              When will this meme die?

              99% of all Hanno has done for his entire time being Named was without asking the Choir for input. Times he flipped the coin – the coup in Salia counting as one time as it was a single event that took only a day – can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

              It’s a tool he uses when he needs to do something very specific that he feels personally uncomfortable doing without it.

              Incidentally, to use it is a decision he makes every time, too.

              > Or if they do, it’s that kind of good that is happy to do evil, too, if it forwards their mission.

              Their mission to do good, yes. What other kind is there? Would you be unwilling to rip off a bandaid from a child’s knee because it hurts them, even though the wound needs to be treated?

              There is a fundamental disconnect of some kind here. Sometimes if you want to go east and there is a rock in you way you need to backtrack a little to go around it. Do you not acknowledge utilitarianism as an ethical philosophy categorically?

              Like

        2. Remember that Anaxares and his city are in service to Below. He’s not about Good. Here he is standing against the right of the Choirs to judge humans, but that’s not in service of a higher principle, only his (inherited and trained) principles.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Andrew Mitchell

    I’m surprised the action here moved as fast as it did. I was expecting more build-up before the Tribunal appeared.

    The choir tried to smite the Hierarch four times and failed each time. Mend seems to not have the usual limitation of three uses. No wonder the choir was dismayed… I’m honestly surprised that any Name is enough to stand up to a whole choir so well. Was it something about the wards that stopped the choir being as powerful as they would otherwise have been?

    “- the verdict cannot be in doubt,” he continued. “I pronounce you guilty and sentence you to-”

    The words choked in his mouth, for something has seized his throat. Not the Tribunal, no. It was a great presence but not that, and as the grip tightened around his throat the Seraphim prepared to strike again.

    “I win,” Kairos Theodosian laughed.

    And the grip was gone.

    What was the grip?!? I have NFI.

    What is Hierarch going to do to the choir once he delivers his verdict? Can a whole choir die?!?

    Liked by 7 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Yep, and Hanno can use Recall over 20 times (as seen in Villanous Interlude Calamity III).
        Also, Named get a second wind when the Story is on their back (like Pilgrim’s cooldown for Shine becoming zero and exhaustion leaving him after the Band of Five was formed to go to Liesse), and Hierarch definitely was the one with the bigger narrative weight in that confrontation, so even if his limit was 3 Mends per day, he had an extra force to go beyond his normal limits.

        Liked by 10 people

      2. There’s also the way that the usual limits on repeat Aspect uses tie in to how spamming the same ability is unsatisfying story-wise. And since the Seraphim kept trying to hit Hierarch with the same attack after the first failed, it’s unsuprising that the same countermeasure kept working.

        Liked by 4 people

      1. Nairne .01

        That’s up for debate. It depends on what his next plan and its first move (which will obviously succeed).

        But I want to raise another point. This is also a classical “I won” and let my guard down moment for a villain. I wonder what will happen.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Amoonymous

      Best hypothesis I’ve seen for the grip would be the Choir of Mercy, given it was a great presence but not the Seraphim. Additionally, smothering lives “for the greater Good” is considered under Mercy’s jurisdiction (and the death of Judgement is certainly not Good), and White Knight already said he’d have two Choirs with him.

      That said, Kairos declaring his victory after Mercy’s intervention and the apparent blocking of their intervention doesn’t bode well.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. sammax

      I’m pretty sure that he could only use Mend that often because Judgement kept attacking him in the same way over and over. They could have smited him a hundred times and he would be able to Mend every time because it was conceptually one attack. If someone else had attacked him in addition he probably would not have been able to Mend that attack.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Without precedent on this continent, as Erratic has phrased it.

        Also, I’m pretty sure Hierarch is a Neutral Name… taken in by Below because they are generous like that, but not actually allied with it.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. erebus42

          Yeah I’m pretty sure you’re right and like the Ranger and the Archer it could potentially play a role aligned with either side depending on the individual and the situation

          Liked by 5 people

        2. > Also, I’m pretty sure Hierarch is a Neutral Name… taken in by Below because they are generous like that, but not actually allied with it.

          This is only semi-apropos to anything rn, but it’s interesting to me how Below is in a sense often more “welcoming” than Above seems to be. I think it’s because, or at least is in part because, for Below the question of whether the ends can justify the means never becomes relevant. Because justifications only matter to the just. So whether they’re perfectly happy to be working with you is solely contingent on whether what you’ll be doing will ultimately serve their goals (probably also relevant to why so many Above-aligned people get twitchy when somebody at least ostensibly an agent of Below seems happy/eager to work with them). Whereas for at least some elements of Above, assessing whether someone can be considered to be doing good may potentially involve not just considering the impact of their actions but whether their motivation is corrupt. Because (as I, a layman, understand it) there are major elements/strains of moral theory that say if your motivation is corrupt then you aren’t good even if the results of your actions are.

          Above definitely isn’t uniform on that, though – not just Tariq but even the Ophanim themselves have shown themselves to be ultimately willing to give F.U.N.!Cat a chance despite the fact that they can’t Behold her anymore. Which makes sense inasmuch as Mercy’s generally appeared to be pretty utilitarian as a choir so it’s not surprising that uncertainty over motive would matter much less to them than just assessing impact and I think Cat’s been steadily gaining credibility as someone who wants good things to happen. What’s really interesting is how open Judgment-sworn Hanno seems to be to working with someone who still has “justifications only matter to the just” sewn on her banners (even if we the readers know she doesn’t strictly believe in that anymore). Hanno, you’re a special boi, please don’t die.

          Even less apropos of anything, if the Guideverse ever somehow advanced to modern tech levels and social media became a thing, do you think Woke Bae could become a Name?

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Below is more ‘open-minded’ in the sense that they genuinely actually don’t employ any selection criteria other than power at all. Of course they end up with a motley crew: they don’t care who they take!

            Meanwhile Above actually is trying to build something, to achieve something, so yeah… pickier.

            As for Names, as someone recently very accurately put it, they form out of archetypes. Is ‘woke bae’ a character archetype? I don’t know this one. I do know modern character archetypes of ‘badass marine’, ‘disgruntled veteran’, ‘action spy’, ‘internet troll’, ‘hacker’, ‘corrupt politician’, ‘militant feminist’, , ,

            Liked by 3 people

            1. > Below is more ‘open-minded’ in the sense that they genuinely actually don’t employ any selection criteria other than power at all.

              Idk, it seems like it’s really more about your attitude towards holding power that attracts Below’s patronage rather than just whether you have it. Below seems to have empowered with Names a number of people who had no power at the time, but the common attitude of “if they get in your way, then step on them” does seem to be very much a common thread. Albeit an attitude that often goes to wildly variant ends.

              Tbh when I (tongue in cheek) suggested Woke Bae as a name I was kinda low-key imagining something akin to the Cards Against Humanity card about “Social Justice Warriors with flamethrowers of compassion.”

              And God Fucking Damnit, why did you have to suggest Internet Troll as an archetype? I mean yes that’s an obvious candidate for a modern-day villain Name, but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean I want people thinking about it and making it even more likely. I’d prefer to iron that groove out of Creation. Where’s my reality iron? Did I leave that in FLCL again?

              Liked by 4 people

              1. > Below seems to have empowered with Names a number of people who had no power at the time

                Who? Do you mean Name claimants given the advance single Aspect before their free-for-all?

                Given how they promptly either prove themselves powerful or die, I wouldn’t say that counts as a break from the pattern.

                And yes, being able to defeat others roughly your equal IS power.

                Like

                1. Some Names have multiple claimants. Some don’t. Some probably do at some points and not at others. And Below seems to be perfectly happy to give Names to people who are total nobodies at the time. Having a Name is power; they don’t need to select for people who already have it. Which is why it makes sense to me that the common thread seems to be the type of attitude that Below’s Named have towards using power once they get it; namely, to do whatever the hell seems right to them personally.

                  Like

      2. KageLupus

        I don’t think that Hierarch’s powers are granted by Below, though. He has explicitly cast out both sides as Wicked Despots, and told the Bard to go jump in a lake when she tried to get him to actually pick a side.

        Named aren’t necessarily tied to either Above or Below, which is why you have people like Ranger, Archer, and Thief running around. Honestly Thief is probably the best example for this, since her Name had nothing to do with which side she was fighting for.

        Aspects are a way for Named to impose their madness on the world at large. When the Hierarch used Mend he was telling reality that it had not submitted the requisite forms (in triplicate) to obliterate his body and so the request to do so was denied. Dying was unacceptable, and so he did not accept it. That has nothing to do with Above or Below and everything to do with Hierarch’s absolute certainty in his path.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. TAP_M113

          Yesss. Thanks for your defence of “NEUTRAL NAMES” and their census. I think that one of the major suppressed thruths about Creation is that Above and Below, including the Gods, are probably creations of mortal belief, like a low-scale use of the magic “gift” by every single mortal. The existance of Named would be an identical intrynsic property of mortal societies – but Above and Below could not risk this truth being known by their cattle, isn´t it?

          So basically “Above” and “Below” tricked mortals into conferring them deific, unalienable status, and particulalry, into making them believe that they were the substrate of Creation itself, instead a sediment of magic powered by belief and layered upon the physical, non-magical substrate of reality thorugh many, many eons of mortal generations. Uncountable layers of stories defining them as wise, omniscient and impervious to all harm were ingrained into cultural memory to protect them from retaliation, and science and philosphy carefully suppressed and destroyed to avoid people from realizing the truth.

          But this truth remains, and it is why we can have “neutral names”. Since all power stems from collective belief, philosophies and cultural traits, we get unaligned names from philosophies unaligned from the Above/ Below morality axis. “Archer” for the tales of explorers, hermits and outlaws that do not recognize any authority and embody human wanderlust. “Hierarch”, for the people of the League and even Ashur Thalassocracy believe in the rule of human, mortal law and tribunal to organize society and government as the hallmark of civilization and their culture.
          And now, such as “Neutral Name” is going to demonstrate why mortals are much more powerful than they are aware of, and the true source of all power lies in creation, not in the Gods.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Lord GM

            Interesting theory. On the spot I can’t remember any fact that would falsify it, except maybe the Warlock’s brief lecture about Universal vs. Creational Laws from Book I. I’d have to double check.

            Still, I’ll stick with my own thesis.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Sinestere

            Kairos Theodosian has shown “the angels tightly written script” they follow (might as well be a programing language) can be manipulated if you do the homework. How far behind can the wandering bard be from the same fate?

            Cat has strong Story Fu, as did her teacher / father before her. Even she misunderstood who she was dealing with. The Tyrant of Helike is a programmer who understood that the angels are closer to binary functioning beings who can have their equally binary trump cards turned both against them and / or each other if you set the stage correctly. Too many angelic decisions / actions are based on superior force being a greater authority than mortal forces for the purpose of Story Fu. Also, being untouchable before this point lent them authority as they don’t have to answer to anyone lower than the gods above before today. People who can whack you and you can’t whack them back might grow arrogant in such a position.

            Cat (if it was her) realized the danger too late and her cursing is all wrong as removing the agents of above from the story should be something she is cheering on as she also wants to remove the wandering bard who is just another agent, after all.

            In the end, Story trumps superior force (that of angels but not gods directly) and the angels of judgement are now outside the story, banished if not destroyed by what they forget, in their arrogance, was stronger than they were. Maybe they were doing their jobs for too long, maybe they took their positions for granted. In any event, if the sentence is death, who knows what will come after?

            Liked by 2 people

          3. I think we have WoG to the effect of yes Gods Above and Below really are what they claim to be. Hold on let me find.

            > “The influence of the gods is usually on the subtle side. You’re right that
            Evil Roles usually let people do whatever they feel like doing – that’s
            because they’re, in that sense, championing the philosophy of their gods.
            Every victory for Evil is a proof that that philosophy is the right path for
            Creation to take.[…] Good Roles have strict moral guidelines
            because those Names are, in fact, being guided: those rules are
            instructions from above on how to behave to make a better world. Any
            victory for Good that follows from that is then a proof of concept for the
            Heavens being correct in their side of the argument”

            > I started writing the Guide in large part because I wanted to deconstruct or
            avert modern fantasy tropes, and the Principate is a large part of that. It is,
            undeniably, the largest force for Good on the continent. It’s kept both the
            Kingdom of the Dead and the Chain of Hunger at bay for centuries when
            otherwise they would have rampaged through most of Calernia. Living
            conditions in Procer, even for the peasantry, are better than pretty much
            everywhere else. Its rulers obey the dictates of the House of Light to the
            letter, if not always in spirit. None of this changes the fact that they are a
            feudal empire, with all the nastiness that implies. They still war on each
            other for petty reasons, see the people they rule mainly as a source of
            income or manpower and the Principate has tried to invade almost every
            other nation on Calernia at some point in its history. Heroes die young,
            villains crash and burn. At the end of the day, most people actually
            running things are just /people/. Getting a set of rules from the Heavens
            doesn’t magically make everyone that takes up a crown a decent person.

            > The Gods Above and Below do roughly correspond to “lower case” good
            and evil, as far as entities that far removed from mortals can be
            understood. That neither side of the equation intervenes directly means
            there’s a lot of room for interpretation in the respective philosophies they
            preach, but the bare bones are there.

            I’d say with erratic being this willing to give out worldbuilding details and behind the scene trivia in the comments, there aren’t major worldbuilding revelations coming. Things are largely what they appear to be, it’s just that the implications of that are… in question.

            Like

        2. > When the Hierarch used Mend he was telling reality that it had not submitted the requisite forms (in triplicate) to obliterate his body and so the request to do so was denied.

          LOL! But yeah, I’m wondering if Names represent the otherwise-excluded middle between the Gods Above and Gods Below.

          Liked by 2 people

    3. Nairne .01

      I think this might have to do with the Hierarch’s presence and the circumstances right then and there making the whole place his (Hierarch’s) domain. Like how Cat was uber-powerful in her own domain.

      I think its a very good question you are asking here. What will be the sentence, it feels like thats the point where others might try to give their opinions/suggestions.

      Liked by 4 people

    4. Isi Arnott-Campbell

      “What was the grip?!?”

      The going theory is that it’s the Choir of Mercy and that Kairos’ intent was to cause civil war among the Heavens by forcing two Choirs to act in direct opposition to one another’s mandates.

      Like

      1. Nairne .01

        I agree, “Yoink” had way more surprise to it.

        Though I still remember Nauk’s (may he have a good viewing seat in the afterlife) bolt to the throat moment – and how I reread and laughed at that all day.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. TAP_M113

        Nah, I love this moment. Judgment had it coming. I know that Hierarch is mad, and applying the Bellerophon legislation globally would render the world a distopic nightmare… but the topic of the book is that the current crop of MORTALS want to defend their rights against the exactions of BOTH Above and Below, and stand against the horrifying death tolls caused by unrestricted named intervention.
        Do not think of it in terms of “Good” or “Evil”; think of it as Mankind getting out of the middle ages feudal government and create the XVth century nation-states, with a centralized government that suffered no interference from the Church in their governance, and dismantled the military power of feudal nobility. No one would be tolerated to stand up to the might of the state.
        Now, this enabled more powerful socities, which waged wars of conquest at unprecedented scales and enforced bloody colonization worldwide…but also restricted civil warfare, increased quality of life, harmonized law, propelled research and infrastructure, and was a step in the road of progress. From those states would eventually come the enlightenment of the XVII-XVIIIth centuries, whose philosophies, expanded and taken to their logical conclusion, led to the first steps of the scientific method and, consequently, our current well-being.

        I think that it is something laudable, and what unifies most of the attendants to this trial. Even when taking into account that Hanno, Cordelia, DK and mayybe even kairos and other of the attendants do not oppose both Above and Below influence being restricted, EVERYONE present considers that at least a side of the pantheon should be prevented to cast their baleful influence over creation.

        Catherine is a mortal using named power to restrict the damage via the Liesse accords; Cordelia is an unamed Mortal, and proud of it, that wishes to remove the danger of Named rulers (Malicia) to her country, but makes the mistake to extend immunity to “Above”.
        At the end, “Above” is treating mankind and all mortals as immature children, and is VERY willing to suppress disidence, kill free-thinkers and execute people for crimes they MAY commit in the future.
        This MIGHT be looked upon as a laudable thing, for people willing to consider the “undeniable” results before the means employed, but this will only keep mortals immature and suppressed until the invetiable thermal death of the universe, or an asteroid striking the earth and causing an extinction event.
        Nevermind that all instances of interarction with mortals we have seen, excepting mayyybe Pilgrim, are depicted as scenes of “mind-rape” in which the Choir browbeats the person by torturing it with alien sensory input that “proves” their undeniable, superior ability to rule. We have NEVER seen the Choirs doubt themselves or justify their actions, and only Mercy has ever tried to console mortals upon the harm caused by their actions (It was with Grey Pilgrim, and there is a reason it is a really beloved grandfather figure to most of above believers).

        So yes, Hierarch may be a very controversial figure. But what he is doing here is right, and he is demonstrating a display of heroism. He doesn´t mind to die in order to limit the abuse and exaction excersed upon mortals. He knows that people should be afforded respect and dignity, and until an equalizer is provided and Above and Below stop being untouchable, they won´t come to the negotiating table. So he is establishing a VERY important precedent – all conflicts should be resolved by the social contract provided by lawful agreement and codified into laws, and violence should be witheld and executed through the law, and the law alone.

        This opens the door to the Liesse accords being respected by Above and Below, besides mortals.
        And it is something sorely needed. If Above and Below are beyond justice, they will keep trampling everyone upon creation under their boot. As such, Hierarch is fighting the good fight – the ability to defend the interests of mortals under the law, and solve all conflicts between Mortals and Gods in a setting where violence is greatly reduced, and grievances of ALL sides are resolved under a code agreed upon all parties.
        At the end, the Hierarch will judge according to the law, and I think he would be surprisingly amenable to chnages in his code of laws – like, say, replacing his enforcement of the insane Bellerophon law by something dictated from the Liesse accords legal committee, should he be persuaded that these accords represent The Will Of The People.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. TAP_M113

            Sve Noc, and was Named until very recently. Also, Death King has said that she is still firmly on her way to apotheosis. She may be offered a new name, and has been under named influence until very recently, even during the drafting of the Liesse accords.
            She should count as one, or her impact in the stroy has been done under that influence. Compare that to Cordelia´s case (aka the Iron Cordyceps ;-))….

            Liked by 2 people

        1. Lord GM

          I mostly agree.

          But at least according to the first chapter of the Book of All Things, not all the Gods want to suppress the mortals.

          “The Gods disagreed on the nature of things: some believed their children should be guided to greater things, while others believed that they must rule over the creatures they had made.”
          – First page of the Book of All Things (…and also the first page of this webnovel.)

          Most people seem to believe that these two factions are identical to Above and Below. I think that these are two different criteria and that we actually have more than two groups of Gods. And it looks like those who believe “their children should be guided to greater things” (I will call them Chaotic Gods for short) will earn a major victory today through the hands of the Hierarch.

          And I predict that we will see their final victory (delivered by Cat and her Accords) in the epilogue of the last book.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Lord GM

          I mostly agree.

          I merely want to point out that not all Gods want to suppress the mortals.

          “In the beginning, there were only the Gods.
          Aeons untold passed as they drifted aimlessly through the Void, until they grew bored with this state of affairs. In their infinite wisdom they brought into existence Creation, but with Creation came discord. The Gods disagreed on the nature of things: some believed their children should be guided to greater things, while others believed that they must rule over the creatures they had made.

          So, we are told, were born Good and Evil.”

          – First page of the Book of All Things (and also the very first paragraph of this entire webnovel)

          I don’t think (against common belief) that “those who believe their children should be guided to greater things” and “those who believe that they must rule over the creatures they had made” are identical to Above and Below (or vice versa). Instead they are lawful and chaotic Gods amongst both Above and Below.

          And the chaotic Gods will earn a major victory today at the hands of the Hierarch.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. > At the end, “Above” is treating mankind and all mortals as immature children, and is VERY willing to suppress disidence, kill free-thinkers and execute people for crimes they MAY commit in the future.

          What?

          Like

  5. erebus42

    Beautiful. Come on finished it man!

    He probably won’t though. I do believe the Tyrant just pulled a Traitorous and with his final act of betrayal betrayed himself. Though I suppose even if the Heirarch ultimately fails, the Tyrant still managed to humble the heavens themselves. Which hey, that’s not bad for a kid who was supposed to die unloved and in obscurity at the age of 12.

    Liked by 5 people

        1. Someguy

          When Kairos said “I Win” it was a lie and Mercy shifted its hand away from smothering Heirach to kill Kairos as per Geas.

          But when Mercy lifted it’s hand from Kairos, Heirach finished convicting Judgement turning Kairos’ Lie into Truth and Mercy into Violence (damning it).

          …..Above may now owe Kairos a Below enforcible Ressurection.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Perhaps.
            Though I like this hypothesis, I find it weird how it depends on the fact that the Ophanim couldn’t do two things at the same time.

            I mean, if I’m an Angel strangling Anaxares with one hand, I can use the other to kill Kairos through the bless/curse/gead of truth that Pilgrim was somehow capable of putting on him. Or should be.

            And if one Angel can’t do two things at once, then surely the other Angels of the Choir can kill Kairos while the first one is left keeping Hierarch silent?

            Liked by 7 people

          2. Lord GM

            So basically he caused a logic error in the likes of “This sentence is a lie” ?

            Called it!

            (…if it is really what happened. We will have wait until we find out on Friday.)

            Liked by 4 people

        1. Shveiran

          Possible, yet then I’d say Kairos’ celebration was premature? As in, he said it before he used the aspect to good effect?
          I don’t know, I thought the other commenters have it right when they pointed out he said it and thus it must be true. I don’t like the idea he has already won, but I think that’s what is being suggested.

          Liked by 4 people

  6. kp9999

    I loved this. As mad as the Hierarch is, the things he fights for are so pure. A utopian vision that so many people throughout history have longer for. I feel like I understand and agree with every character in this story, even if only for a few minutes.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. caoimhinh

    Oh… epic chapter.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the vision Anaxares had in this chapter would mean that Bellerophon was founded by the slaves that escaped Stygia thanks to the efforts of the Sword of the Free, which we saw through Hanno’s POV once.
    The stone stele is a great bird’s corpse, one of the two bird gods that ruled Stygia!

    That’s quite a background. The call she left is pretty noble, too bad about how her successors implemented it with brainwashing, death sentences and keeping people ignorant. They are a twisted democracy, but the ideal they pursue is pretty noble and now their ingrained cultural hatred for oligarchy makes a lot of sense. Kinda like the Deoraithe’s hatred for the Elves in the Golden Bloom.

    Also, now we got an explanation for how Kairos reverted the Skein’s Spooling of time in Liesse: he had artifacts made of Hierarch’s power, so he Mended time to undo the Skein’s Aspect.
    We know he had a sword made from Hierarch’s power, from what we know now as his Indict Aspect, so it’s not far-fetched that he had another object imbued with Mend.
    It’s certainly a more reasonable and sensible explanation that Kairos having reality-warping powers through his Wish Aspect, which we know works by enabling him to see what people desire.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. sutortyrannus

      >Correct me if I’m wrong, but the vision Anaxares had in this chapter would mean that Bellerophon was founded by the slaves that escaped Stygia thanks to the efforts of the Sword of the Free, which we saw through Hanno’s POV once.
      The stone stele is a great bird’s corpse, one of the two bird gods that ruled Stygia

      Somehow, I completely missed this. Excellent find!

      Relevant passage, for the lazy:

      Redress and Retribution, they were called, the patron spirits of Stygia. Lesser gods that had settled in the heart of the city when it was first built – he knew this for a fact for he’d watched one of them millennia ago centuries ago. Golden beak dipped in blood, eyes older than her entire bloodline red with hatred that was utterly inhuman. It would not matter. She was the Sword of the Free: she would wrest her people from chains and lead them to found a city in the east. A land where no would ever rule over them again. She rose, wounded but unbowed, and fought again.

      On the other points though, I think that Kairos’ counter to Spool was definitely Wish – I think the Skein itself would serve as credible source. After all, we’ve seen Wish show its power to affect reality before this:
      Creation ripped open in the distance and howling winds spilled out. The Tyrant of Helike fell out, without visible wounds. Amadeus closed his eyes. Solutions. Or a way to turn this into a mutual defeat, should this prove impossible.

      “Well isn’t this is a mess, if you’ll forgive my language,” the Tyrant grinned. “Your ornery friend with the spells cost me a Wish, but it was worth it to see all this with my own eyes.”

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Nah, we know it’s Wish. Makes perfect sense for it to be OP at the cost of casting from HP – that’s like Kairos’s entire thing condensed, and that’s what Aspects ARE.

      Aaaand we actually knew that about Bellerophon, too.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. superkeaton

    In its own bizarre way, Hierarch’s actions are almost entirely in line with what Cat wants to accomplish. Culpability and limitations on the interventions and actions of Above, Below, and all their servants.

    Also Hanno, she told you so.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Shveiran

      No. NO IT ISN’T.
      Anaxares is just trying to judge whoever he wants, and not judge who he doesn’t want, according to his own view.

      He is not trying to be Cat. He is trying to be a Choir .
      Culpability and limitations have nothing to do with it. Talking about freedom is not enough to be a champion of it.

      Liked by 9 people

        1. Not really. He very specifically is representing the whole League and their combined laws. Not just Bellepheron.

          Also, he stated clearly he’s punishing the White Knight for crimes committed in the free cities because that’s where he has authority. .

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Shveiran

            According to whom, himself?
            It’s the same thing. He feels justified to do it, so he does; he is still using only his own meter to measure where things stand.
            Anything he accuses Hanno and the Seraphim, he has committed himself.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. They are not comparable.

              Yes, the Annaxares believes he is justified in following the laws set by the people he was elected to represent. Shocking. No country in existence hasn’t punished foreigners who wander through the countryside killing their citizens.

              The difference between an elected representative enforcing the rights and will of those who elected him and an ancient entity that kills whoever it wants because it was created to help even older and powerful entities win a bet is huge.

              The only reason you would be on Judgement’s side is, if like Hanno, you considered mortals too stupid to be allowed make decisions for themselves. As agreeable as Hanno is, his whole shtick is about denying the idea that mortal decisions or knowledge matter in any real way, and so it’s alright to just go around and kill anyone who defies your superior Judgement.

              Like

              1. > The only reason you would be on Judgement’s side is, if like Hanno, you considered mortals too stupid to be allowed make decisions for themselves. As agreeable as Hanno is, his whole shtick is about denying the idea that mortal decisions or knowledge matter in any real way, and so it’s alright to just go around and kill anyone who defies your superior Judgement.

                That is not what Hanno believes or how he acts.

                Like

  9. Jworks

    I think the tyrant “won” because Above was forced to put a hand on the scale. When Judgement was called to trial it was within its rights to react how it did, but whatever Choir stepped in to help Judgement tipped the scale in favor of above. Now Below can put their own hand on the scale to balance it.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Gamer7956

      I read above what I think actually happened. The Tyrant had not won yet. He lied – which meant Mercy owed him a smiting, payable immediately. That hand that tried to silence the Hierarch? Mercy, who had to leave to deal with the Tyrant. Tyrant’s probably still dead, but the judgement passes on Judgement.

      Liked by 10 people

  10. jpadams1997

    I have two theories as to what is happening at the end.

    One, tyrant forced the choir of Mercy to act against the choir of judgment by making the pain judgment causes hierarch being too much for Mercy to witness. It has been stated before that the choirs don’t necessarily have to agree on a single action. Or some form of judgment verses Mercy I’m not quite convinced of this one.

    Two, tyrant has baited bard into hierarchs feild of influence by harming the choir of judgment and will now be putting her on trial.

    I don’t really see the death of a choir happening and these two options seem the most likely to produce results the tyrant would want. Mercy turning against judgment would splinter the entire idea and story GOOD producing the option of Good vs Good. The bard being put on trial with both the dead King and Catherine in attendance to act as both witnesses and accusers to her crimes could possibly kill her. I just don’t know what angle cat will swing to manipulate the possible stories here.

    Third bonus theory, both at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. konstantinvoncarstein

      Mercy want to diminish global suffering. The death of Hierarch would accomplish that, and the surviving of Judgement as well. I doubt Mercy would stop judgement

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Well, first obviously Mercy stepped in to try to stop what’s happening by softer means than what would trigger Mend – just preventing Anaxares from speaking.

      Then, Kairos did… something. I’ve seen two versions that make sense: used Wish to kick away Mercy’s hand (likely his last one), or spoke untruth by saying ‘I win’ when he hadn’t yet and drew Mercy away from Anaxares to smite him instead (but why wouldn’t Mercy be capable of multitasking? They’re a CHOIR).

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Nairne .01

        The second option would mean that the Mercy knew what the win conditions for Kairos’ are. Tariq was not mentioned to be acting which is either intentional on EE’s part (as in to build tension and reveal things in the next chap) or Mercy didn’t know and/or tell Tariq for some reason.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Considering that loud curse was when Hanno started to swing the conversation towards “I did this on the authority of the Choir”, my guess it was Catherine. She would definitely have guessed that as the pivot in the conversation that would point the Hierarch towards the Seraphim.

      Liked by 9 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I blame the Kanenas.
      They are the ones who actually rule Bellerophon, and the ones who ensure the twisted state of their society to continue.
      I mean, they were founded by a Heroine, the Sword of the Free, yet they worship Below (though admittedly Below has a more hands-off policy than Above); and despite being a city founded by former slaves they have apparently no great dispute with Stygia, which is a city of slavers and the city from where their ancestors originally escaped from.

      There was definitely a heavy influencing and manipulation of the people through the generations, the only ones we have seen that apparently are exempted from this constant brainwashing are the ones who enforce that brainwashing and execute the death sentence: the Kanenas.
      They are the despot oligarchs in the heart of Bellerophon.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Quite Possibly A Cat

        Yeah, it would be great if Hierarch would return to Bellerophon, smite the Kanenas and then reform it into something a little saner. Then go kill all the slavers or something.

        They probably worship Below because Below is more freedom loving and Above is more obedience loving. Although you would think that a free people would be free to choose obedience to Above.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. caoimhinh

          The Kanenas kill by their own criteria, without passing their decisions through a tribunal of the People. The Kanenas kill the diplomats when they mentally hesitate. They also brainwash the population and keep them ignorant.

          They also are the ones who practically sold Anaxares off to Kairos and made up the position of “Person of Value” for him because Kairos gave them what they wanted. So Kairos bribed them, but since they are the true rulers and law enforcers of Bellerophon, no one can do anything to them.

          What’s more, when Anaxares reminded them of the principles and laws of their city, the few Kanenas that agreed with him were immediately killed by the others. The Kanenas are their own tribunal and make decisions by an internal vote of their own.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Kissaten

            You are reading them wrong. Kanenas are uncorruptible and are servants to the people, I think author said that somewhere. The “tragedy” here are not “lies of the ruling class”, it’s not 1984 for Sisters’ sake, but rather “mob rule made an exception to it’s own laws”. They literally made their own a tyrant, and a Named on top of that.

            Liked by 3 people

      2. Shveiran

        I’d just like to first apologize to you if I may say something too rude here. It’s just that this theme is very relevant in my country right now, and I am very, very easily angered by this kind of arguments.
        This is not your fault, and I’ll try my best to argue politely. Just, you know, in case I sound rude? It’s not you I have a problem with, just wanted you to know it.

        Now.

        There is no perfectly horizontal society.

        There has never been one, there cannot be one. Because society is complex, and needs complexity to work. Because society needs decisions to be able to work, daily decisions who have a relevant impact on people’s life; and it is impossible for all citizens to a) be involved in the process without slowing it down so much that it can no longer fix the problem and b) to have the necessary information to make a good judgment call on every issue.

        I love democracy. Democracy is great. Democracy is also not an horizontal society.
        In a democracy EVERYONE gets to VOTE, the VOTED ONES get to make the DECISIONS and are held accountable for them, most frequently because their mandate ends and they need to be voted again to keep their power.

        What Bellerophon (and others in at least one country) are suggesting is DIRECT DEMOCRACY, the idea that no one should have more of a say than anyone else in every relevant decision, which is, if you’ll forgive my French, bullshit.
        I don’t know shit abou medicine, for instance, and I should not be the one making the decision about how much money we should allocate toward medical research or what fields are more promising. I have no clue, so I shall have no say.

        “We are all of us free or we are none of us free” sounds great on a stele.
        And if you take it to mean “ban slavery”? That’s great.

        But if you take it further? If you take it to mean there shouldn’t be anyone above the people, no matter how selected or for how long, because the people should make their own decisions?

        You have an horizontal society.

        Which just means you have no society at all.

        A society needs someone to make decisions, because *I* need to be able to go to work in the morning without having to also decide the allocation of research funds in the medical field, and researching the subject to make a good decision, AND research and decide hundreds of other topics.

        IT JUST. DOESN’T. WORK.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Yep, I agree with what you just wrote, although I don’t think that was my point.

          Also the situation is made worse in Bellerophon because:

          A) They elect their positions by drawing lots, so the people selected for the positions are not skilled in those things; plus they never get the chance to become experienced because all information is erased from their minds after 3 years when they draw lots again (exception being the Diplomats)

          B ) the population is kept as a brainwashed and ignorant mob that every 3 years get their mind swept clean.

          C ) the Kanenas betrayed their mandate as the law enforcers to become the one who made the decisions.

          So Bellerophon is of course an ineffectual society, they have ignorant people, suffer a lot, have antiquated doctrines and knowledge, and are also manipulated by the ones who should be the keepers of their laws.

          P.S: Don’t worry, I didn’t get offended or thought you were rude. Though I’m not sure which part of my comment made you angry.

          Liked by 6 people

            1. The Kanenas are said to all be capable of mind reading. That means, to me, that they are all mages with the Gift and very specific and specialized training. What other applications (beyond the boulder shrinking and remote controlled expansion trick) they have the training for is unclear.

              And you are either born with the potential to use magic or you are not.

              The Kanenas are an exclusive and self-selecting group, and likely have hereditary tendencies, as magical potential tends to run in bloodlines/family lines.

              They watch everyone else in Bellerophon, but only they watch themselves. It’s the old question – who watches the watchers.

              They may well have started out well meaning and intentioned … but it’s been centuries, which is more than long enough for human tendencies to creep in and the rot to start.

              Liked by 3 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  What? No.

                  The Kanenas were explicitly said to use sorcery as shown in Villanous Interlude Thunder, they use magic to read minds, erase memories and to manipulate the stones that they put inside people as killing devices.

                  In Rochelant we saw Hierarch’s power, his own faith empowered him and his domain made the people go into a frenzy for trials resembling the ones in Bellerophon, which in turn made their new faith further empower Hierarch.
                  There were no Kanenas there, even if you are referring to “the tribunal of seven voted people to carry sentence” they are still not real Kanenas, simply judges and executioners chosen by the crazy mob who were affected by Hierarch’s domain, and after each sentence they were chosen anew.
                  Maybe that’s how Kanenas are chosen, though I highly doubt it, Anaxares might have simply chosen the best course to replicate the highest tribunal he knew of by using the best mean he knew: voting.

                  The real Kanenas, the ones who overlook Bellerophon, enforce its laws and execute criminals through sorcery, are not story-infused nor Named. Though new Kanenas are definitely messed with by the more experienced Kanenas, as Anaxares said that all Kanenas have a muted look to their faces, and we saw they all speak without emotion and in a flat tone, likely as a consequence of heavy brainwashing.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Oh, and the WoG quote:

                    > “While Bellerophon is closer to rule of the mob than true democracy, it’s not
                    secretly run by the ​ kanenas ​ . Their mandate to ensure no one ever gains too much
                    power applies to each other, and they’re even more brutal with other ​ kanenas
                    than they are with regular citizens.” (​ link​ )

                    Like

          1. Shveiran

            My mistake, then.
            I missread your post and thought you meant that without the Kanenas betraying their role, Bellerophon could have worked, which sounded a lot like certain Italian politicians pointing at shady figures in dark rooms and arguing for direct democracy.
            Apologies all the same for missreading you.

            Liked by 4 people

        2. NerfGlaistigUaine

          While I agree, Athens had a direct democracy and they did pretty well for some time. Admittedly, not perfectly horizontal b/c a lot of ppl couldn’t vote (women, slaves, non-landowners), and they had leaders and office holders, but still a direct democracy where everyone eligible voted on any important legislation. Direct democracy does get more and more inefficient as population increases and specialization increases, and in modern first-world societies it would be woefully impractical.

          A lot of words to say I agree, but there’s nuance and that’s important.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            Athens wasn’t a direct democracy: it was a democracy with moments where citizens voted directly.

            that is not uncommon, even in modern democracy. For instance, elections are a moment of direct democracy. As another example, in my country to change the constitution you also need the direct vote in favor of the populace.

            To have direct democracy, you must go beyond moments; if you elect people to make decisions on certain issues, you are past that. If that is the norm, you have an indirect democracywith direct moments.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. NerfGlaistigUaine

              Incorrect. The norm in Athens was to vote on policy directly, legislative bills and such were all handled by all eligible citizens. It was far beyond just a few moments. It was more a direct democracy than anything else, with moments of representative democracy where they elect officials – strategoi for example – for specific tasks.
              I understand you’re biased against direct democracy, but don’t let that make you un-objective. There’s no such thing as a “pure” form of any government, but if both legislative and executive tasks are handled directly by the people then it’s pretty obvious it’s a direct democracy.
              Of course it lasted less than a century, but while it lasted, there’s your example of a direct democracy.

              Liked by 1 person

        3. Nairne .01

          I agree with what you said.

          I’d just love to point out that “and are held accountable for them” happens very rarely or not severely enough. People in power are making the decision for so much more than themselves. Having a press conference, apologizing (if it even happens) and resigning is not being “held accountable”.

          I do understand that people are not omniscient, and mistakes happen. But more often than not it is not a mistake but self-serving that causes harm.

          Liked by 3 people

        1. caoimhinh

          I just mentioned that in another comment above.
          In Villanous Interlude: Thunder. Anaxares reminded them of the laws of the Republic and how it was their duty to enforce those laws so they must execute him.
          The result? The 3 Kanenas that agreed with Anaxares were killed by the other 4.

          There, it’s also a fragment that shows that the Kanenas are a group of their own, apart from the rest of the People:
          “Citizens did not get involved in the debates of the kanenas, or the grisly ends they inevitably came to.”

          Liked by 4 people

          1. medailyfun

            Just like specialization exists within the republic at all, kanenas are specialized to carry their duty. Why would republic need the generals if the army can vote on their next action on the battlefield? 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              That’s besides the point we were just discussing, you know?

              The Kanenas are undoubtedly a separate group from the rest of the Republic, they are the ones who judge and execute, being the true controllers of Bellerophon.
              Plus, the only instance of the Kanenas “judging” each other we have seen, was when they killed the 3 ones that actually tried to follow the law.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. It’s against the law to question the decision of the People though. The 3 who agreed with Anaxares were, in the eyes of the other 4, committing treason. I’m guessing who dies was the result of an instant vote.

                And this is not how a controlling group works.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  Killing the ones who tried to uphold the law over the interest of the Party?
                  No, that’s pretty much exactly how a shadow group controlling a city works. They are like a mixture of mafia, corrupt government officers and abusive police.

                  An important detail is whether the citizens of Bellerophon actually voted for him to be a Person of Value, which is what the Kanenas claimed when they appeared before him, and they might have just being lying to him to manipulate him. However, that position/classification (Person of Value) did not exist before, they made it for Anaxares because of Kairos.
                  Within Bellerophon’s laws, to even imply that one of the citizens could become such thing would be a crime, as it goes against what the core of the Republic is, since the existence of a “Person of Value” implies that they are more than the rest, or that the others are “Not of Value”

                  Though you are right that disagreeing with a decision of the People is unlawful in Bellerophon, as shown in this Epigraph:

                  “To declare an assertion of the People as untrue is unlawful, even if it was retroactively asserted by vote to be untrue, at which point referring to it as either true or untrue is equally unlawful.” – Bellerophan formal codex of laws, circa 1321 A.D

                  Liked by 1 person

        1. caoimhinh

          Yeah, I remember EE saying something about it, though I don’t recall exactly where. If you have the link, please share it, I could use a refreshment.

          However, it’s worth mentioning that authors can change their minds on a subject, and that the Kanenas might not have “ruled” Bellerophon but they still certainly had a heavy hand influencing the city’s culture and overall situation.
          Maybe they still kept to their call at the time EE made the comment, but later on they changed, as shown by Kairos convincing them to make Anaxares a “Person of Value” which goes against Bellerophon’s laws.
          Even if they don’t rule in the usual sense, they are definitely the most powerful group in Bellerophon, and answer to no one but themselves.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Quite Possibly A Cat

    So what did the Tyrant win? I hope its a kitty. Think of how much he could be improved by having a cute kitty.

    I like that the heretics have judgement as the 5th choir.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Alduraithel

    Well, I might be absolutely wrong here.
    But if I’m not, Cat Just killed the Pilgrim.
    In “Concord” she became guarantor of his oath and vowed “to kill him personally, should he break it.”
    Mercy intervening would be breaking the Pilgrim’s oath. A less extreme solution might be she stopped him to not have to kill him.
    Or I’m wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      My reading of the situation was that Pilgrim hasn’t broken his oath. Pilgrim made the oath on behalf of himself and the grand alliance, but NOT Mercy. Mercy acted, Pilgrim did not.

      Unless, of course, Pilgrim played an active hand in asking Mercy to assist the White Knight. Which is possible, but AFAIK we haven’t seen any evidence of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Is it weird that Judgement even CAN strike at Anaraxes?

    What are they judging him FOR? Smitting people just for disagreeing with them doesn’t seem very… just… although I guess it IS judgemental, so it kinda works…. but unless they’ve got a specific thing to pin him for, I’m surprised they even have the power to smite him.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Well, he kinda reached for them first, summoning them to be present in the trial, and was doing it through their chosen Hero who was at the moment being judged. Plus there were wards to not only attract celestial attention but also to keep it.

      So there was quite a bit of weight there for the Angels to act.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. The only thing Judgement judges is “Would Creation be better off with this person alive, or dead?” Hanno explained this when he talked with Catherine earlier – he can’t judge, say, a land ownership dispute, because there’s only one sort of judgement he can carry out and it’s not suitable for most cases.

      It seems like Judgement only acts when someone calls for them – the White Knight, or someone asking the Knight for judgement. In this case, however, Anaxares straight-up told them to appear before him, so that gives them the right to appear.

      Liked by 4 people

  14. Frivolous

    Though one might be tempted to believe that Kairos’s motive is only to harm the Choir of Judgement, I don’t believe that might be the case.

    We know the Choirs are fixed in number. Hierarch might kill one, but it will be replaced immediately. It might be possible to confine an angel, but I doubt imprisonment is what Hierarch will sentence it or them to. Bellerophan law always seems to punish with death.

    So if we assume an angel or angels will die soon, it might be that Kairos has use for a dead angel. It might be he wants a place like where William put his sword into the stone. Perhaps a realm of fluid laws, one where he can exert his will and Wish himself healthy?

    I mean, it’s quite possible he’s going to die soon regardless, but it might be he has a scheme to avoid or transcend his demise.

    Also, also: I’m reminded of the Book of Job. When one claims ultimate power and authority, it must be quite startling and painful to discover you’re not the Greatest Ever and that your Judgements can be overturned by an Even Higher Court.

    Good might be inclined to argue that Right Makes Might, but here Evil seems to be proving that without Might, Right is meaningless.

    Liked by 5 people

  15. StarlightGlimmer

    Bellerophon has been an altar to the Gods Below for centuries if not millenia. The Mighty of the Everdark hold dread secrets, but what terrible power does the mad city’s sole Person of Value bring against the seraphim?

    Liked by 3 people

  16. laguz24

    Personally, I love how Stygia and Bellerpheron are almost identical opposites of each other. Both cities are horribly repressive societies sworn to evil to a greater or lesser degree. They both use the same fighting formations with a difference in how good they are from terrifying vs laughable. They are both governed/ run by small groups of magically empowered oligarchs. The only difference is the nature of their chains Bellepheron is chained by the fact that if all of them are free none of them are. Stygia is chained by the fact that they are both slaves to fear, the slaves fear the masters and the masters fear the slaves. Also, I think that going off of the theories posted above the stele is the Retrobution Crane while Stygia kept the Redress Crane and you kind of need both to grow as a society.

    Liked by 5 people

  17. haihappen

    Is nobody even acknowledging that Anaxares just pulled a “Justification only matters to the Just”? The Seraphim nearly annihilated him, burned him down to the one core belief he has. A core belief that is shared by a city state that exists for countless years. The Will Of The People: unbending, unforgiving, absolute.

    The angels bit off more than they could chew.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Shveiran

      …I’m not really seeing People expressing their will, here. Just one man, assuming he knows what that will is and shaping the world accordingly.

      Someone might even venture so far as to call this foreigner a despot.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. haihappen

        “The Will Of The People” is the only thing that matters to Anaraxa. Not in a sense that he is getting instructions from his city or anyone in particular, but the distilled belief that people, any people, should be absolutely free, or not at all. This is belief ingrained into the mind of any Bellerophon’ian, as it is their founding principle
        In a single person, it is an opinion. In a group of people, it is a mob running amok. In a Named, it can become Truth in Creation itself.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Shveiran

          And since here it is the will of a single man that is passed as the will of the people, it is precisely the same as declaring ” L’état, c’est moi”.

          It doesn’t get more foreign despot than that.

          Liked by 1 person

  18. jack

    Pure arrogance, on Hanno’s part.

    Not really surprising. As nice as he seemed, he’s still on the wrong side. Not as a ‘Hero’ but as a ‘pro-divine’ agent.
    It was shown when he showed regret that Cordelia turned down her budding Name, even though accepting it would mean implicitly handing over control of her entire country (and all the people she’s responsible for) to the heavens, instead of the ruler that they appointed themselves.

    He thought that that would be a good thing, which shows that he hasn’t really been paying attention.
    Then again, Hanno is… kind of broken. Judgement basically destroyed him, hollowed him out and created something that’s pretty much a walking coin-flipping robot just to allow them to reach out into the world.

    He implicitly accepts the heaven’s divine right to do whatever the fuck they want. Something that goes directly against Catherine’s wishes to call the Gods out on their playing games with human lives.

    Frankly, it seems like her goals align most closely with the Hirearch, but her being a queen and him being an nutcase means that was never going to fly.

    As stupid and crazy as Anaxares’s people are, and their ‘democracy’ is easily just as bad as the slavery that their ancestors escaped from, his thoughts of ‘who gave the gods the right to judge us?’ is perfectly clear and understandable.

    By contrast, Hanno’s ‘Madness is no excuse to bare your blade at heaven’ makes him seem like… well, a dogmatic lunatic.
    What is the heaven’s excuse to bare their blades at humanity?

    Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged.

    So yeah, she warned him but he was too up his own ass with ‘I’m the hero, it’ll go my way, my divine patron is infallible’ to pay attention, so he got wrecked and his choir might be dead.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You’re wrong about most of this, except for the ‘head stuck up his ass’ part wrt Judgement’s power. He did indeed put a little more blind faith in them than was warranted.

      All the ‘hollowed out divine agent’ stuff is mostly nonsense. You should not listen to Kairos so much, or to Amadeus. The Choir of Judgement doesn’t do shit to humanity other than giving their appointed champion power to call on them. When said appointed champion, who IS a part of humanity notably, chooses so. Which Hanno does in situations of uncertainity for their help to determine what’s the right thing to do.

      Like, Anaxares put him on trial for helping a city defend itself against brutal invaders. That’s Insane Troll Logic as far as laws go. Hanno has been going around HELPING, brutal Choir or no.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. SpeckofStardust

        On the other hand he stopped targeting him the second he effectively stated that all these ‘crimes’ were committed by the will of the Seraphim…
        That being said Anaxares while I like him is far down the utterly mad road.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. > The Choir of Judgement doesn’t do shit to humanity other than giving their appointed champion power to call on them. When said appointed champion, who IS a part of humanity notably, chooses so.

        I think I largely agree with you here (esp re: your actual point in this present argument; Hanno def isn’t “hollowed out” in the least IMO), but to play devil’s advocate I’ll note that tbf it was made very clear in Hanno’s origin story POV that Judgment doesn’t exactly appoint champions except on what appear to be very narrow criteria. Giving great power to a person of an extremely specific mindset/value-set who matches your perspective and the kind of stuff you want to happen isn’t exactly a value-neutral action, regardless of the extent to which (or whether) you specifically guide them afterwards.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Hanno is noted by Bard to be different from usual Judgement heroes, specifically with his ‘I do not judge’ mindset being unique among them.

          I would argue Judgement, like other Choirs, requires specific virtues/features of mindset/priorities, but actual conclusions drawn from them, actual plans vased on them, actual opinions are the part they rely on the champion having to fit the current era/society.

          William would be an extreme example, with not even most other heroes agreeing with most of his bullshit, but Contrition just aligning themselves with it because hey, he’s contrite!

          Oh, incidentally, wouldn’t THAT expain how Traitorous managed what he did…

          Like

  19. Kurona

    The white knight was just too arrogant and probably should have listened to Catherine’s warning but he didn’t which is a story of imminent failure regardless of being good or evil.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Catherine didn’t exactly have specific advice to offer other than ‘your face is too serene’. I suspect if she had better ideas in mind Hanno would have at least listened to them. As it was, he HAD no other course of action open than to trust in the Choir.

      Like

  20. Aotrs Commander

    Yeah, on consideration, I’d take the tyranny of Above and/or Below both over Hierarch and Bellerophon. As much as I find Above and Below distasteful (Above’s hypocrasy slightly more), I find the idea of enforced-ignorance mob-rule vastly more so on every level.

    I was kinda rooting for the angels, this chapter, actually; as at this point, I kinda will root for anyone that ISN’T hierarch. *Maybe* even Bard. It’s be a toss-up…

    Liked by 6 people

  21. Isaac Martinez

    So no one will coment how the city of Bellerophon was founded by people who survived an airplane crash.

    Well, who cares. I just have one thibg to say.

    WHERE IS THE GOAT?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Isaac Martinez

        ” It was a woman, carving words into a stele of stone (a piece of metal) that somehow reminded him of a great bird’s corpse (the airplane). Around her was a sea of people in rags, thin and sickly and hungry. Yet there was something in their eyes, as they looked at the stele and the woman, that made him want to weep. And the words, oh the words he knew them. Every child born of Bellerophon knew them. ”

        Or maybe I am wrong and is just the legendary stele of giantic birds.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. C_B

          The gods of Stygia against whom the Sword of the Free rebelled, Redress and Retribution, took the form of giant birds. From Hanno’s recollection in Heroic Interlude: Injunction:

          —–

          The White Knight watched the tall banner floating above the camp, gold and grey set with two pure white cranes. Redress and Retribution, they were called, the patron spirits of Stygia. Lesser gods that had settled in the heart of the city when it was first built – he knew this for a fact for he’d watched one of them millennia ago centuries ago. Golden beak dipped in blood, eyes older than her entire bloodline red with hatred that was utterly inhuman. It would not matter. She was the Sword of the Free: she would wrest her people from chains and lead them to found a city in the east. A land where no would ever rule over them again. She rose, wounded but unbowed, and fought again.

          —–

          I imagine this is what’s being referenced here; the Sword of the Free is carving this stele after having killed one or both of the bird-gods of Stygia, and the tablet she’s chosen to carve evokes that victory in some way.

          Liked by 3 people

  22. TAP_M113

    I am 100% supporting Hierarch on his quixotic, noble endeavor. I hope that this Judgement inflicts lasting and proportionate damage on the Choirs and Gods – they are despotic tyrants that have caused untold death and suffering, they must be made to compromise, negotiate and behave like citizens with the same rights as Mortals, and unless the threat of jugement under the Law is enforced, the entirety of Creation is a dystopic mess akin to a subtler version of 1984 – big brother is replaced by the Gods and their Choir/Devil enforcers, and their vision is only more acceptable because we haven´t fully seen what BOTH sides did and will do at long timescales.

    The downfall of the Drow. The genocide of the kingdom of death. The 10 crusades and their leagcy of sorrow. Below-empowered maniacs and Above-chosen frenzied templars. Dogmatism and cries of heresy paving the tomb of anyone trying to empower mortalkind, fleets of flying gonme ships genocidingentire nations to prevent people from discovering the benfits of science and industry.
    And at every turn and atrocity, the Intercessor intervening on behalf of her masters to make it happen, to decorate the millenary chessboard with colourful atrocities and fresh deaths for their entertainment. So big are the Gods exactions that even her most faithful servant is plotting their downfall!

    Somebody had to say “no more”. To defend the rule of Law as the bastion that protects the weak and innocent from the rampaging mortal Warlord and the divine Despot. Hierarch is doing something heroic – he is saying that The People, as understood as “The Mortals”, has dignity and rights, and should not be trampled by the unexplained, unsolicited “justice” of Choirs and Gods that won´t accept to be accounted as responsible for their own action.
    So I am supporting Hierarch. His vision is noble and beautiful, no matter the fabric the Flag is woven from. It goes in the sense of history, and his ideas, once their excesses are rectified, will do great good to Creation.

    So godspeed, you magnificent Hierarch. Long life Bellerophon! The Will Of The People shall not be denied!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Aotrs Commander

      Are you being sarcastic or serious? I genuinely can’t tell.

      (Given that Bellerophon is emphatically *not* interested in protecting anyone’s actual rights or freedoms, just its *own* labrithine laws, which seem to be more targeted at ensuring “no one can be allowed to be better than anyone at anything.” In this very chapter, we learned this includes “make people do a job by random lot and then execute them if they don’t do a good enough job on the thing you have actively ensured they can’t be good at.” Theirs is a culture that is as close to the unfettered horrors of a social-media-ocracy – with added RNG – as it can possible be, pre-industrial.)

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Decius

        It’s equality for equality’s sake, and the harm done by enforced equality is acceptable.

        But the rule has a simple unstated exception. “All are free (equal), or none are. But some are more free (equal) than others.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Lord GM

      “My fellow sheep! Rise against the cruel shepherds who dictate our daily lives. Who decide which meadow to grase upon. Who butcher us for their own amusement. Yes, they may seem caring at times. They strike down those rebelling against their rule and tell up is was for our protection.
      But who asked them for their protection? What gives them the right to kill our brethren? What makes their decisions any more just than ours?!
      So rebel, my fellow sheep! Let’s trample down this fence of false believes and explore new meadows!
      For I will rather be a free sheep in hell than a slave in heaven today and lunch tomorrow!”

      Liked by 3 people

  23. Calemyr

    My money is that it was the Bard strangling the Hierarch. That is very much a small-picture solution that angels or gods, even subtle ones, wouldn’t consider.

    But the Bard? She’d consider it, and see it as a practical answer: nuking him doesn’t stop him but if he can’t breath he can’t speak. She’d be desperate at this point, and not really thinking beyond the consequences of this action.

    And yet, it wasn’t the verdict that Kairos called his “win”, it was the stranglehold.

    I think, for a very brief window, the Bard is going to be out of commission. She’ll wake up in a new body, feel herself up to see how much fun she’s likely to have in it, and jump back into the action, but that’s going to take time. Could be days, could be minutes, but either way, there’s a window right here and now that the Bard literally can’t interfere, and the Tyrant is standing right there with a stopwatch and a large chunk of the continent’s movers and shakers watching very closely.

    So now the question must be asked? How long is the Bard down and how many damning secrets can the Tyrant and the Dead King share with crowns of the realm in that time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anaxerxes called the Bard a “creature” but the choking force a “presence” that was similar to Judgement but distinct. I’ve been seeing other comments saying it was likely Mercy and I think I agree on that. Mercy would consider itself within its rights to finish off a dying man and to forgive the Tribunal from being killed, but it’s not the smartest or most flexible collective and it seems to have put itself on the chopping block too.

      I feel the Bard, like the Dead King, is too canny and self-preserving. to put herself in an existential checkmate where she can lose some of her power.

      We saw the power of a single angel corpse (I think it was mercy?), and the might of a single feather (William’s sword). I wonder what it would look like, then, if two entire collectives of angels were beheaded and feathers scattered like shrapnel?

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Yeah, but like… Bard:
      A) Is not ABLE to touch people or directly intervene.
      B) Is physically incapable of being in Hierarchs presence (Its even stated that Tyrant has been avoiding her by sticking close to his most trusted advisor)

      It just… there are reasons Bard CAN’T be here. Not now. Not directly.
      (Indirectly, well yeah, sure, that’s a thing)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Yeah, I doubt that presence gripping Hierarch’s throat was the Bard, since she can’t physically attack someone.

        However, remember that actually she can touch people (as seen when she hugged William, when she leaned on the shoulders Hanno’s group when talking, or when she dragged Amadeus up to help him sit when he was tied as a prisoner), she can also talk with not Named (though apparently only in the presence of another Named) and even give them things (like when she “bribed” one of the Goblins by giving her fake silver coins, or when sharing the alcohol in her flask), though she can’t attack or physically influence things (A.K.A the stories unfolding).

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Calemyr

          I would argue more that she can’t *afford* to interfere. Much like the Dead King, there is distinct difference between what she can do, and what she can do without opening herself.

          My argument is that she’s so desperate in this instant that she does something she wouldn’t do if she were thinking straight. I claim she thinks the Heirophant passing his sentence is the worst possible outcome. I then claim that she is wrong, and her knee-jerk overreaction leaves her open to a worse outcome than she really thought was possible.

          Like

  24. Rup

    “Suffer no compromise in this,” Anaxares thought

    ……some how i got this picture:
    Dr. Manhattan disintegrating Rorschach even as he MENDs….
    again..
    again..
    again..

    Liked by 3 people

  25. gbevis

    So: Bellerphon took a stele that was the corpse of the spirit of Retribution, and systematically sacrificed (retaliated against) against any that would rise above anyone else for centuries. Like the Daoine fed their ancestors to their power-source, the People of Bellerophon fed their wayward children to a quasi-god thing. While no-one was said to be in charge, a squad of acolytes (kanenas) kept all in line and the steam of sacrifices going, all to support the “capricious river god” that was a song of rage in the heart of the mob. No-one seems to notice this looming god-thing because it keeps to itself within the mad city.

    Fast forward a few centuries

    Kairos, able to hear the desires that drive us, hears the People’s cry for Retribution against all that would rise high in judgement and crafts a Name into a high-priest of Retribution. He then lures the very embodiment of Heirarchy within it’s reach, feeding Judgement (and maybe Mercy?) into the hands of Retribution. These then inspire Retribution first by smiting from on-high, then by trying to stifle it’s Voice (Song of Rage?) at the exact time when:

    ” It did not matter, for now his Name sang and filled the world. As it had in Rochelant, a blank slate on which all could write their accusations and have them known by all.”

    With this kind of a setup, I think we may not just be seeing the end of the Choir of Judgement from Above, we may be seeing the rebirth of Retribution from Below.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. willstewar@yahoo.com

    Ugh. what next, will a Choir lose to littering? This is just becoming “Cosmic Entities Lose to Bureaucrats” the series. Why were these angels and demons so feared and worshiped again if they are so easily defeated?

    the rest of this might as well be completely predictable: all cosmic entities lose and nothing but law will remain. Unless the Cosmic Entities acquire more teeth, whats even the point?

    Liked by 1 person

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