Interlude: A Hundred Battles

“Under pale moon,
Across the snow
As the dead croon
And flies the crow
 
Did we not lose,
A hundred times?
Did we not win,
A hundred times?
 
Our iron wrought,
Saw use earnest
It rusted not
Left unburnished
 
Did we not lose,
A hundred times?
Did we not win,
A hundred times?
 
We came and went,
Unconquered few
We Tyrant’s get,
The tried and true
 
Did we not lose,
A hundred times?
Did we not win,
A hundred times?
 
Weep not for us,
For in the annals
Our stele reads thus:
A hundred battles
 
For we did lose,
A hundred times
And we will win,
A hundred times
‘till falls the age,
And end the times!”
– “Dead In A Hundred Battles”, Helikean soldier’s song

“I win,” Kairos Theodosian laughed.

“- death,” the Hierarch of the Free Cities said.

The Tyrant wished and the candle was lit.

No heartbeat passed before the wroth of the Choir of Mercy descended upon him: it was immediate and unflinching. Even as his lie echoed across the hall the curse laid upon him by the Grey Pilgrim tightened its grip, seeking to smother him. Ah, it was worth every irksome moment where he’d been denied the pleasure of blatant lies to now have the Peregrine’s little mistake smash the Ophanim in the back of the knee just before they could tidy up all the loose ends. Mercy’s cold purpose forced against him, an immeasurable sea of pressure against his soul, and the Tyrant of Helike was going to lose this. But he knew, even as his last good eye shrivelled in its socket, that he had bought a candlespan of life before that loss occurred. And that made all the difference in the world, didn’t it?

“I have vexed you, I see,” the Tyrant gregariously said, addressing Mercy. “Well, if you would allow me a-”

They did not, in fact, allow him a rebuttal. The full weight of the Choir’s attention descended upon him and he tasted blood in his mouth, as the Ophanim finally grasped that they would not be allowed to murder the Hierarch before they’d dealt with him. Stories were such a funny thing, weren’t they? Like, say, ‘wicked villain is sentenced never to lie again by the champion of a Choir, then in a moment of delightful hubris speaks such a lie’. It was the kind of story that’d need a thundering, righteous Choir to smite that uppity servant of Below. Not the sort of thing you could do while simultaneously serving as the hidden knife of the Heavens in someone else’s tale. It wouldn’t matter that the Choir had the capacity to serve in both roles concurrently. Fate would punish such lackluster commitment with failure on both fronts.

His left knee pulped. The Tyrant was not certain whether that was his own doing or that of the angels, which rather amused him.

Kairos has once been told he would not make it to his thirteen nameday, a prophecy croaked by the dry lips of the ancient thing that laid in the crypt deep beneath Helike. And it’d told it true, it had. A hero might have thought, perhaps, that their kind and benevolent Gods had cured them of their many miseries. Kairos Theodosian knew very well what manner of deity he served, though, and so never once deluded himself into believing this – indeed it was a relief, when he first came into his favourite of his aspects. Wish. What a pretty bauble it had been, seeing the wish of others. Even more so when he learned it could be used to do things, to bridge the gap between the possible and the not. For a price, of course. It was then the he understood the prophecy, forged anew by darker hands.

Twelve times the Tyrant of Helike would be allowed to see come and go the day of the year where he had been Named and die on the dawn of the last. The Gods Below, magnificent monsters that they were, had presented him with a beautiful dilemma: would he spend his thirteen years of reprieve in mediocre obscurity, or would he spend the years to reach for glory? For that was the nature of wishing: all could be had, for a span of the life he might have lived.

“I always was a spendthrift at heart,” Kairos confessed. “It is the nature of princes, my friends, to waste the treasuries of their fathers.”

Alas, the Choir of Mercy was growing no fonder of him. It must have been quite cross, he mused, that its greatest strength was hamstrung by its own champion. For Mercy was not the mightiest of the Choirs, the most farsighted or the most beloved: it was the most flexile, befitting of its purpose as the tier of loose ends for the Heavens. Yet now it must pass its thread through on very particular needle’s head before it could attend to greater purposes, namely the continued existence of Kairos Theodosian. Anaxares, glorious mad son of Bellerophon that he was, was attempting for force his verdict upon the dealers of verdicts, and though he was not succeeding neither was he failing. The Seraphim’s crushing strength slid over the Hierarch like water off a duck’s back, though his own burning indictment found bite but no flesh: even with Bellerophon’s fury at his back, the Choir of Judgement remained the Choir of Judgement.

It was like watching a man attempting to wrestle the sea, and every bit as gloriously absurd as that sounded.

The Ophanim, sadly, did not seem to agree. And in their impatience as finishing to choke out the Hierarch – oh, that one detail must have burned Tariq like acid when he’d emerged at the crucial moment and unleashed his patrons like a dagger in the side – they decided the time for subtlety was past. If a tight grip would not suffice, then a fist would have to serve. The Tyrant, Gods take him if he lied, had no parry against such a stroke. Even simply receiving it would burn through the last of his life in the bat of an eye. Of course he didn’t need to have such a parry, not strictly speaking. The Ophanim smiting this entire temple into barren ash would mean…

Darkness flooded the broken House of Light, the cold night soothing Kairos like a cold press as it cooled the blood seeping out of his pores. His head lolled back, the bone of his neck feeling like they were made of wobbling pastry, and he grinned malevolently as a match was struck a mere foot away from him. It was the sole light to be had, and it cast Catherine Foundling’s face into sharp relief as she lighted her pipe. She puffed, glowing red embers burning as she did, and spat out long stream of wakeleaf.

“You want to burn Kairos, burn Kairos,” his beloved enemy shrugged. “But you don’t get to burn the rulers of half the continent with him. Archer’s escorting them out, under protection of the Hierophant. Until they’re out of the way, hold your hand.”

It was a superb thing, the way the Black Queen could so address a Choir and expect to be obeyed. She’d survived so many close calls with angels she’d somehow come to believe she could match them, and through that utterly crazed belief become something that could genuinely give a Choir pause. And so Mercy found itself peering into the Night, wondering if the battle laid out there to be fought would truly result in its victory – and hesitating, for the consequences if it didn’t would be utterly disastrous. Against any other foe it would have struck regardless, but Sve Noc? The blood-soaked goddess of theft in victory? Losing might just have consequences. And even the villainess was preventing the full exercise of their power, she was letting through the wroth still shattering him bit by bit. Their hand held, and convulsive laughter escaped his throat until he choked on it. How long would it take for them to grasp that every time she got away with that, she came harder into the story of someone who could get away with that?

“You’re about to die,” the Black Queen told him.

“Well spotted,” Kairos cheerfully replied.

He spat out a thick glob of smoking blood afterwards, but it was well worth the trade.

“Now would be a good time to pay up what you yet owe,” the Queen of Callow said.

“Indeed,” the Tyrant of Helike mused. “Allow me then to grant you the greatest gift of all.”

The red burn of her pipe was the sole light in the dark, and what allowed him to be certain he was addressing her instead of an endless void. It also revealed her sigh.

“It’s a monologue, isn’t it?” she said, sounding resigned.

His fingers clenched, not out of surprise or dismay but because a swath of flesh and muscle on his arm had gone dead and dried up in the span of a breath, contracting the rest. Yet the rebellions of his own body were nothing new to him and did not truly distract from the great pleasure of having someone who understood. Not someone who agreed or sympathized, for indeed either of those things would have spoiled the broth, but someone who… followed the cast of his dice. It was such a rare, precious thing.

“Gods Below, Catherine,” he grinned, “why would it be anything else?”

His throne was half-sunken into he ground now, his attendant gargoyles made rubble, but still he clasped his scepter and his head loosely kept Theodosius’ crown. All was as it should be.

“It is said among my people that the hour of death is also the hour of revelation,” Kairos said, “for when the distance between life and death grows thin so do the veils that keep our eyes from hidden truths. My own father, for example, called me as grotesque imp as he died. Which was remarkably perceptive for the old drunk, I assure you. Still, I’ll admit stabbing him those seventeen times might have served as something of a hint.”

Talking should have, by all earthly laws, precipitated his death. Taken him tumbling down the cliff of annihilation, an already strained body and soul snapping like a twig under the added strain. Instead, the Tyrant of Helike found the trembling of his hand slowing, the blood in his throat drying. He was, after all, villain speaking his death-words: earthly laws were the lesser set of those now applying to him.

“I stabbed my father too,” the Black Queen mused. “Twice. And it wasn’t even the same person both times.”

Well, now she was just showing off. And by amusing him doing almost as much to kill him as the angels were, which was quite inconvenient.

“Don’t interrupt,” Kairos chided. “This is a monologue, not repartee. As I was saying, in the spirit of my rapidly approaching annihilation, I would therefore offer revelations.”

And did he not have a great trove of these to spill over the ground, painstakingly gathered one betrayal at a time?

“We begin with the corpse of an angel,” the Tyrant of Helike said, “though of course there can be no such thing.”

It was months ago he had first dangled that truth in front of her and knew she had been digging after it ever since. As well she should, for it was the very devil in the details – in a manner of speaking.

“In glorious old days,” Kairos Theodosian wistfully said, “there was once a woman who broke in Evil as one would break in a stallion. From triumph to triumph did she march, west and ever pursuing, until by the shores of a great lake she met in strife a hundred priests-elect of the Hallowed. And these holy souls did scour themselves to bring forth the great spirit they worshipped, one that cast judgement upon all it beheld, and behold her it did.”

Ah, what he would not have done for a glimpse of that grand moment. Truly, there never had been nor ever would be a match to Dread Empress Triumphant.

“For that presumption she slew it,” The Tyrant ferally grinned, sharp teeth bared, “bearing tall banner, and wrote her rage in blood across a hundred trembling tribes. That which was not a corpse sunk into deep waters, turning into bones that dreamt, and there was left to slumber. Some across the years learned of this, and of the great works that might wrought from such a thing, but none were so bold as to attempt to make a sword out hallowing petrified.”

Ah, but heroes lacked for such beautiful ambitions. The living kin of that dreaming thing came too easily to their help, he’d always thought, and so there was no need for ingenuity unleashed.

“That hoped-for boldness still escapes our kind,” he mourned, “but a lesser manner of soul did grow desperate enough.”

How could Cordelia Hasenbach not be, when doom covered her home and kin as the south tore itself apart in a war with no end nor meaning? There had been so little left to lose, and in the end the First Prince answered first to duty.

“This is no coincidence,” Kairos reminded his peer, “for indeed there are no coincidences. This one least of all, however, for it is a harsh sword long in the swinging. There is a thing out there that delights in intercession –”

He paused, allowing for dramatic arrival should it be in the cards. Only silence answered.

“No?” he mused. “No, I suppose not. Not while the Hierarch still breathes.”

Even should she wear a different face when she arrived, Kairos amusedly thought, all that would change would be that the crime of personation with intent to confuse the court would be added to her tally. If it was as he suspected, her very name would prevent her from putting herself in such a situation even should she desire it. Setting aside the thoughts, he returned to the thrust of his speaking, though he did not there was not anger in the Black Queen’s eyes. Ah, noticed his little trick had she? That the wards around Lyonceau made escape more difficult when the fabric of Creation was troubled. Which, given the presence of two Choirs in wroth and the high priestess of Night wielding the very stuff, was very much the case. It ought to keep the hostages close long enough for his purposes.

“And that thing, Catherine,” he drawled, “it has been waiting a very long time to kill another: one who claims rulership over dust and bones. But is a cautious crown that lairs to the north, one that does not often leave its shell. It took cornering and opportunity, to bait it out. Defeat on the horizon and victory at hand, how could even such a leery thing not be tempted? It scuttled out and lost a finger or two but got to witness the truth of its foe in exchange.”

One of his kidneys had just melted, the Tyrant dimly noticed. Oh dear, that was quicker than anticipated. Mercy was refining its technique.

“A fair trade, as these things go,” he rasped out.

He mastered his voice a moment later, with great effort.

“It would not have mattered,” the Tyrant said, “if not for the hidden sting of augury. You see, there was a plan. A warden for the west, besieged. Her ears open to whispers. And as the sky darkened, inch by inch the finger would tighten until the trigger was pulled.”

His only functioning arm snapped up, for the other was a desiccated waste, and he snapped his fingers.

“Death, dead,” Kairos said with relish, for it had been a pretty plan indeed. “That was the trick, you see: letting it eat someone’s whole world before they mattered, and then make them matter. Too late, then, to shake free of that story and the chains it brings. Quite a bit more would die along with it, of course, but then victory is not without costs. The clever crown caught on early, now, and it flees back to its lair. It would shed the chains binding it for a set more pleasing, if you let it.”

He met the Black Queen’s gaze, with his bloody red eye.

“Don’t let it, Catherine,” he said. “It does not deserve this.”

He hacked out a wet laugh, for deserving hardly ever mattered.

“And so here we are now, at the crossroads of it all,” Kairos Theodosian said.  “The crossbow has been forged, and aimed, but the hand that wields it is closed to intercession. Its quarry is a lion rampant, and forewarned, but there are a great many hunters gathering to hunt it. It would lair again, let the danger pass, but it cannot simply vanish – lest it be followed, crossbow in hand. To survive now it must either cow the hunters or break the crossbow.”

And even then, the Dead King would not ever truly trust the first of those two. Even cowed, the great Names of Calernia might still be nudged into rolling the dice. It had made striking fresh bargain with it after the Graveyard disappointingly easy. He’d been looking forward to the challenge of convincing Keter to ally again after betraying it so often and cheerfully.

“And so back it went to its old friend Kairos,” the Tyrant drawled, “who happened to have a grain of sand on hand that fit that hallowed mechanism quite nicely. There was a need for some expertise to see it through, which was helpfully provided, and now we arrive at the moment of truth.

He grinned, his teeth gone red for the bleeding of his gums.

“Yes, Catherine, I see the question is on the tip of your tongue. Say it.”

She studied him, unblinking.

“What happens when a Judgement-corpse is wielded, if Judgement is dead?”

The right question, as he had expected. She had yet to disappoint.

“Truth of truths, my friend,” he chortled, “I already gave you the only answer to that question worthy of being spoken.”

A Rochelant, when they had first begun this dance of theirs.

“That’s the entire point,” she softly quoted, “finding out.”

He’d be dead long before that riddle was answered, naturally, but what did that matter?

“Now,” the Tyrant cheerfully said, “you two distressing damsels stuck bargain with me in Salia, and I promised you a good reason to keep warring on Keter. I am a tyrant of my word, and so here it is: Keter will keep warring on you.”

Surprise, for though she was clever and ruthless and dangerous, she did have an inflated sense of the threat she truly represented to an entity like the Dead King.

“Your coalition does not scare the King of Death,” Kairos told her, not unkindly, “your petty assembly of armies and treaties which you so wastefully wring your hands over. He fears only one thing in all the world, and I have torn through the perilous nets she wove against him.”

The darkness thinned, and the Ophanim wasted no breath in stepping harder on his existence. Kairos spat out blood that looked like boiling pitch, burning a streak down his own chin. The hostages must be close to out of danger, then. Yet it was as had been ordained, for now that he had spoken in pride through the lessened gloom he was allowed to see if his pride was to be deemed arrogance after all. Was the net truly broken? Would a thousand years of fury and madness poured into a single man be enough to humble a Choir? For all his scheming and deals, the truth was that the Tyrant had no idea.

No longer was Anaxares the Diplomat flattened into the ground by angelic verdict, he saw, mended only by stubborn will. Yet that did not mean the Hierarch was winning. It was, to his eye, a shattering deadlock. The will of Judgement was hammering down from the Heavens, to no avail, yet Anaxares’ scathing dismissal of that authority was not resulting into his own judgement biting into the Choir’s flesh. It was a tight embrace between entities that could not bend and a man that would not. It would not be enough, Kairos saw. In time the Tyrant would be slain, and when that moment came Mercy would choke the life out of the Hierarch.

Too strong. Even after all the schemes and the lies and the hundred petty victories, the servants of the Heavens were simply too strong. Like a rat biting a lion’s tail, their rage had been a splendid but doomed gesture. Yet there was glory in that too, the Tyrant of Helike thought. In firing an arrow at the moon and coming close before it fell back down and took you in the throat. Even in defeat he would have no regrets, for –

“If you will not come to me,” the Hierarch said, rising to his feet, “then I will come to you.”

Anaxares of Bellerophon rose while under angel’s wroth, and for that insolence the flesh was peeled from his bones by fervent fire.

“Oh,” Kairos breathed out, genuinely moved. “Oh, you splendid madman.”

The Hierarch of the Free Cities was swallowed whole by shimmering heat that for a moment chased out of even the darkness of Night. And when it went out, he was gone. The White Knight dropped to the ground living, but unconscious, and the Tyrant of Helike felt a laugh bubble out of his throat. Not a rat biting a lion’s tail, how wrong he had been. This was a king swallowing poison. He was with them, now. Standing among them, obstructing like only the sons and daughters of Bellerophon could.

“Gods keep you, Hierarch,” Kairos said, and for the first time spoke the title with respect.

Gods Below keep you, Anaxares of Bellerophon, and it is a pride to call you Hierarch of the Free Cities, he thought. Die as you lived, my friend, without peer in your madness.

“And now we have a war, Catherine,” the Tyrant of Helike said. “The war that will bring this age to an end, one way or another.”

The Black Queen looked at him through the dying gloom, her face a cool mask.

“On your feet, Kairos Theodosian,” she said. “That much you are owed, and not a single thing more.”

It would have been a lovely thing, he thought, to dance with that one until one of them died of it. A lovely thing indeed. Matted in sweat and blood, one knee a ruin and both legs half-gone, the Tyrant of Helike pushed himself up. He stumbled forward, legs failing him, and knew he would die before he touched the ground. And it came, it came as he knew it would. Like a whisper across his skin, soothing the pain like a kind hand flicking dust away from his shoulder.

Below was watching.

The attention itself was as a question, for what man or woman alive had paid finer dues than the Tyrant of Helike? And so, at this later hour, he was asked for his wish. So many tantalizing possibilities flickered in the back of his mind. Curses that would rend the continent asunder, the strength to wound even the Choir that was about to take his life or even a loop in the hole – a few years more, if he could talk his way into keeping them. O Wicked Gods of mine, do you not know me better than this? All I have ever wanted of you was the answer to a single question, and only in this moment could it be asked. One staggering step forward, and he wet his lips as he spoke.

“lo,” he croaked out, “and behold…”

Another step, his knee giving out. If he could only prick his hear, he thought he might…

“I have…slain-” he whispered.

Ahead of him the veil lifted, and terrible light was revealed. And in that moment he finally heard it.

“-the Age of Wonders,” the Tyrant finished, smiling with pure childish joy.

And to the sound of applause only he could hear, a moment before light engulfed him, Kairos Theodosian died.

355 thoughts on “Interlude: A Hundred Battles

        1. Drake

          It’s more that it was such a powerful moment, and someone basically used it as part of an advertising campaign. It’s like slapping an add for the funeral home at the end of a eulogy.

          Liked by 11 people

    1. This is less worse but still meh. Try to not pin the concept of voting on any actual characters or moments in-universe. There are plenty of jokes to make that aren’t bait and switch.

      Like

  1. Huh.
    Kairos is dead, at long last, but killing the Age of Wonders? I’m not sure I quite buy that, though he has given Cat the reason she needs to be able to carry through and finish it off.

    What the hell is going on with Heirarch?
    Resisting Judgement is impressive, but … going to the Choir? That’s … new.

    Liked by 15 people

      1. caoimhinh

        The way I see it, is not so much that he is sitting with them as he is facing them in the Angelic Realm.
        Anaxares did not become a part of the Choir of Judgement, he took the battle to them, so the Hierarch and the Seraphim are now in a stalemate. Until they manage to defeat the Hierarch and judge him, they will be unable to do anything else, no wonder Hanno got a blackout after the Choir disconnected.

        Liked by 12 people

          1. caoimhinh

            No, a human simply does not become an Angel, plus he is trying to judge them, it would not make sense that he joins them or become one of them.

            What happened here is him continuing the fight on another plane of existence. Hierarch judged them and sentenced them to death, but could not carry out the sentence as they were out of his reach, so he went to them.
            Not to join them, but to kill them. He apparently can’t kill them as he lacks the strength for it, but he can force a stalemate and obstruct them, preventing them from continuing to judge people until they destroy him, which they apparently lack the strength to do.

            Liked by 14 people

            1. > No, a human simply does not become an Angel,

              One does not simply walk into Mordor, eh? :3

              This is unprecedented, I agree. But the conditions aligned just that way, and I don’t see any other way to interpret ‘he stands among them’ without stretching.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. caoimhinh

                Anaxares is not a servant of Above.

                He is now among them, not as part of the Choir, but locked in battle against them.
                He said it right before his body was burned “you don’t come to me, then I will come to you”, the soul of Anaxares is continuing the trial, trying to judge the Seraphim and kill them, while they try to judge him and destroy him.

                The courtroom was simply moved from Creation to the Angelic Realm, because Hierarch could not reach them from his position in the mortal realm. He did not become an Angel, that would be going against what he is trying to do, which is killing the Angels of the Choir of Judgement.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. More importantly, I don’t see another way to interpret “obstruct them like only true sons and daughters of Bellerophon could” without stretching. Bellerophans aren’t known for obstructing others’ procedures and institutions, their signature move is trying up their own. Obstruction from within, making it impossible for a body they are a part of to function correctly, smoothly… and in a way that does not fully align with the Will of the People.

                  Like

          2. I’m with caoimhinh on this one: A human does not become an Angel, but they can stand against the Angels and face down their power. Remember when Cat mugged an angel for her resurrection? This is Heirarch’s similar moment of confrontation.

            Liked by 2 people

        1. I believe that you are correct in this assessment, and while they are busy battling the will of the people the corpse of one of judgement can be accessed without the consequences that were previously upon such said access.

          For example, destruction by the Dead King.

          Liked by 3 people

      1. Crash

        Kairos Theodosian won.

        Mercy killed him for lying, but he dies on the applause of Below as their champion and the winner of this battle.

        I wonder if Mercy just got fucked by that too, for claiming a kill over a lie that became truth. Might not matter but one last hail for the Tyrant of Helike and his madness.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Shveiran

      He didn’t really.
      If I say “I won” before running a marathon, it is a lie. If I actually run it and win it, it doesn’t retroactively become true: it was a false statement THEN. Consecutio temporum matters.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. “I win” and “I will win” are logically distinct statements. More than that, it was a statement made with the very express intent that it be a lie. If there was any sliver of doubt that he was lying, it would have undermined everything he was trying to do with it.

          It’s sort of like why Mercy was forced to deal with him before choking out the Hierarch – it’s not that in theory it couldn’t do both, it’s that narrative logic would result in splitting their effort resulting in failure. If Kairos’ lie in order to pull their attention was also not a lie in order to be a trap for them, that would have been splitting the effect and neither would have worked.

          Liked by 5 people

  2. magesbe

    Magnificent. Easily the most magnificent death in the story to date. Kairos was a bastard who I went from loving, to loving to hate him, to just hating him, and back to loving him. And he went out on his feet, which is really the biggest gesture of respect Cat could show to him at the end.

    Also, Judgement just might be a little bit screwed.

    Liked by 25 people

    1. Soronel Haetir

      It’s certainly getting easier, that first time with Contrition it tok everything she had, but here there was no pressure on her at all (though the angels were perhaps a bit preoccupied).

      Liked by 15 people

      1. We don’t know there wasn’t pressure. We know it didn’t look to Kairos like there wasn’t pressure. Doesn’t mean Cat isn’t about to fall over.

        That said, it’s UTTERLY GLORIOUS how this is the second time Mercy is conceding to her having a point.

        Liked by 14 people

        1. Josh

          If Cat’s wish is a constant appeal for peace, I imagine it’s less of a concession of the point, and more a concession of the means.

          I’m struggling to see any difference philosophically between a desire for lasting peace and what mercy’s mandate is, cat and pilgrim are just getting hung up on details. Not really much of a surprise that a flexible villian (if she’s even a villian anymore without having a name) would get along better with the most flexible choir.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Not really, what he did was lock the trial room and say “until this trial ends, no other judgment can be carried out”.
      He moved the confrontation to the Angelic Realm, but did not become one of them. He is in fact stopping them from operating.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I think the implication is he became one of them.

        > He was with them, now. Standing among them, obstructing like only the sons and daughters of Bellerophon could.

        Bellerophans don’t obstruct other people’s institutions. They obstruct their own.

        Liked by 9 people

        1. LarsBlitzer

          Well yes, inasmuch a magically imbued bureaucrat who’s been indoctrinated within an inch of his sanity to worship Structure, the System, and The Infallible Voice Of The People would. I’d say the odds are pretty even that he’s up there tying the Choir in knots with argument after argument. The Choir may carry the big stick, but they’re entirely too used to winning because they say so. They’re like someone playing Monopoly with a knife close to hand: someone makes a move they don’t like would get a shiv in between their ribs. They’re not used to being Destroyed by Facts and Logic, or whatever passes for it in the Hierarch’s mind.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. There isn’t a mechanism for them being destroyed with Facts and Logic. They don’t actually listen to anyone outside of their number except for their chosen champion, they don’t need to, there’s no chance the other person has information or angle that they don’t.

            But if there is now a discordant note in the Choir itself…

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, this. Hierarch and Judgment were locked in a stalemate neither of them could win; Kairos’ gambit was going to fail because once he died Mercy would be able to kill the Hierarch, not because Hierarch would ever lose to Judgment (or win against them, either). Then Hierarch left the mortal plane and took the stalemate to the Tribunal’s own realm. I would bet that normally Choirs can issue some angelic equivalent of a visitor’s pass to other Choirs (which would presumably enable Mercy to follow and finish off the Hierarch up there), but I would also bet that at least in the case of the Tribunal they have to make a judgement to allow that before it can happen because that’s so tied to their very nature and Choirs are (seemingly by design) immutable. And the very stalemate they would need to let somebody in to resolve will prevent them from passing such a judgment until that stalemate is resolved, which it can’t be without letting somebody else in, which can’t happen because they can’t pass any judgements to allow anything like that until the stalemate is resolved. And so on ad infinitum.

        Hierarch’s madness seems to have resulted in a perfect, perfectly unresolvable Catch-22. Which seems very, very much narratively in keeping with Bellerophon/Bellerophan law since that whole city is a cross between a permanent French Revolution and a paean to Kafka.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Ugh, I didn’t realize my comment would be so far away from the one I was replying to. If anyone else is like me and has trouble following when WordPress does that, I was replying to caoimhinh’s comment that started with:

          > Not really, what [Hierarch] did was lock the trial room and say “until this trial ends, no other judgment can be carried out”.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. RoflCat

      He became part of Judgement, in order to pass his judgement onto them.

      Basically imagine a crowd of robotic juries judging people based on their preset law, and now there’s a madlad in the midst of them throwing his vote with his own, different laws, and also trying to throw them into the defendant stand.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. Novice

      Oh, better than dead. He’s now part of the Tribunal as a duly elected representative of the People. I have no words to describe the sheer balls this man carried all the way to the heavens.

      Liked by 17 people

        1. Vega

          The difference here is that the man shouting that it shouldn’t rain ascended to the sky and said it can’t rain without the approval of the people and the sky is forced to listen.

          Liked by 4 people

  3. Hitogami

    Wow. That’s a hell of a way to go.
    The amount of respect I have for all three villains is huge.
    Praise be the mad Hierarch in his magnificent madness!
    Praise be to the Tyrant, the schemer who plots against gods and men!
    And Cat, you didn’t do much else, but you once again made the Choir back down.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      That, as kairos noted, is huge. This was likely their last chance to kill her. She has defied Angel’s thrice, three different choirs. Cat is now officially one who faces the will of Angel’s and tells them they can’t have their way.

      Liked by 23 people

      1. No but the story is trickier: she’s also the one who has twice convinced Mercy that she’s right.

        I don’t think Kairos read his right, I don’t think Mercy yielded to strength and uncertainity of potential confrontation. I think Catherine did not force them so much as… caught their hand and asked them nicely? Because uh. Duh.

        Liked by 15 people

          1. Indeed! This is exactly what I wanted for him (in the sense of “this fit his character”). People last chapter were speculating Kairos was going to game his way into more life, but that was never what he was about. Kairos Theodosian always intended to die; he just wanted the world for a pyre.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. And forgive my protagonist bias, but he died leaving the world to Catherine…

              A couple of cryptic hints whose meaning has yet to be revealed. Everything she wanted hers on a platter: no angel weapon, no Choir of Judgement, DK continuing the war. A question if she can manage what she believes she can.

              In his last moments Kairos rooted for Anaxares sincerely, and was proud of belonging to the same polity as he.

              I believe he would applaud Catherine’s victory similarly. I hope his afterlife affords him a balcony seat with a lornette.

              Like

    1. Sparsebeard

      Well, with Hierarch joining the Tribunal, it might take slightly longer than a coin flip to render judgement now, he he he… unless, of course, the accused is one of those pesky foreign tyrants.

      Liked by 9 people

    1. Novice

      While I’m sure that there are cleverer or more accurate answers other commenters might provide, I’d like to believe that Kairos’ question is: “Are you entertained?!” with the Gods Below answering with an applause.

      Liked by 23 people

        1. Novice

          … I can’t believe I missed an opportunity to make that reference. Can we, uh, just pretend I actually meant to make a reference, that I just forgot the word ‘not’ and that the exclamation point is not a typo? That would be swell.

          Liked by 7 people

        1. agumentic

          I didn’t think it was possible for me to like Kairos more, but that somehow does it. What a swell guy, to spend his outrageous favor with Below on a simple “Was this a worthy performance?”.

          Liked by 13 people

          1. Halinn

            Were the question anything else, he would not be Kairos Theodosian. And I imagine for his unwavering service even in death, they’ll have their hands on the scale to ensure that his work is not undone.

            Liked by 5 people

          2. burguulkodar

            He somehow reminds me of Ryuusuke+Caster from Fate Zero.

            The theory that god is just a watcher who likes to be entertained, often with copious amounts of blood and suffering, is very alike the Gods Below here.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. erebus42

    May devils carry you down to the lands below you beautiful bastard. There truly has been none quite so delightfully wicked as you.

    As for you Heirarch, may you tie Judgment’s hands for an eternity, for you have NOT come to bargain. Show those foreign Oligarchs that the will of the people will not bend and that there are consequences to believing that one has the inherent right to judgment.

    I will be curious to see how this will effect Hanno. Will Mr. “I do not judge” have to learn how to actually pass judgment for himself for once?

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Someguy

      I think it falls the other way. You know all those judgements sought from him for various religious/legal/personal disputes that he found an annoying misunderstanding on the nature of Judgement? Those are the only judgements he can adjudicate now since Heirarch’s key peeve was for Judgments Unsought & Unasked for.

      Hanno will be stuck in his own personal hell with Judgement having to officiate over only petty civil suits for the rest of his life.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Judgement might have to switch to “okay we’d tell you yes or no but one of us vetoes any verdict we try to give on principle so here just have the infordump and figure out for yourself and something”.

        Hanno: “this is the exact opposite of what I asked for but I cannot deny that that’s fair”

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Even she knows that’s too damn risky. Akua she kind of had no choice. This one would feel that robbed of his dramatic exit, hell have to outdo himself the second time. He might end creation.

      Liked by 17 people

      1. copaceticcockroach

        Probably not. Cat follows Black’s teaching about magical items, which means no magical items. Or at least magical items that are important. She didn’t take Contrition’s sword, so I don’t think she’ll make any artifacts, at most she’ll just take one of his Aspects.

        Liked by 6 people

          1. And it doesn’t count as relying on the same trick every time, since the artifacts she gets are narrow and tricky enough she cannot really rely on them beforehand as a strategy, per se. Each use DOES count as a SEPARATE trick.

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Also, it would be rude.

        She didn’t tell him to die on his feet because it’s what he’s owed because she DOESN’T live the life of a priestess of death observing final rites and fair measure now.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Choir of Judgement burned Anaxares because he judged them.
      Choir of Mercy killed Kairos because he lied, and the Pilgrim’s curse forbid him from lying.

      Kairos revealed to Cat:
      -The nature of the corpse in the Lake (an Angel of Judgement that was slain by Dread Empress Triumphant).
      -That the Wandering Bard had wanted to use Cordelia as a Named Warden of the West to kill Neshamah.
      -That after that scheme was broken thanks to the Augur’s actions, the Dead King now thinks he actually has victory at hand since he does not fear anything besides the Intercessor, so Keter will keep warring against Procer.

      Too bad Kairos didn’t reveal the Intercessor’s wish to Catherine.

      The White Knight passed out because Judgement is now locked in a stalemate in the Celestial Realm fighting Anaxares, the backlash of that stroke him because Hanno is a Hero sworn to Judgement, he heavily influenced by them, and his Name is connected to them.

      I hope this helped you a bit.

      Liked by 17 people

    2. Insanenoodlyguy

      Annexes didn’t die, or at least, he didn’t get killed by Judgement. He went to judgement. The stalemate is now forever. Judgement cannot do anything but continue a fight it can never actually win, or it will lose. Which means it is, for all purposes, dead.

      Kairos lied that he won, and it became the truth.

      Liked by 11 people

    3. Cicero

      Anaxares was trying to pass judgement (of death) on the Choir of Judgement, so the Choir passed judgement on him to kill him before he could pass his judgement.

      Then Mercy, who was there as the backup Choir in case Anaxares proved too powerful for Judgement to take down on their own tried to kill Anaxares. Then Kairos told a lie, which, because of the previous curse of truthfulness required Mercy to kill him first before they could kill Anaxares. This allowed Anaxares to get off his judgement on the Choir of Judgement, leaving them trapped in a loop of judgement and stalemate.

      So Mercy got very angry at Kairos, and try to kill him faster so that they could then kill Anaxares. Only Cat then intervened, delaying Mercy, on the grounds that killing Karios was fine, but using so much power that they also killed the bystanders (like Cordelia) was unacceptable. Mercy then hesitated, and decided to continue with killing Kairos slowly instead of unleashing the nuke. This delay was further lengthened by Kairos beginning his death monologue.

      In which he reveals that it wasn’t going to be any trouble keeping the Grand Alliance together and fighting the Dead King despite his offer of peace because the Dead King was now going to retract that offer. He had only previously made it because he feared the Bard and her dead angle trap, but since the dead angel was an angel of Judgement (from when they tried to judge Triumphant – may she never return), Anaxares sentencing of the Choir of Judgement to Death had given the Dead King some narrative power over the dead angel of the sentenced to death Choir, negating the threat of the Bard.

      Meanwhile, Anaxares got tried of trading ineffective blows with the Choir of Judgement, and decided to, well let me quote it:

      “If you will not come to me,” the Hierarch said, rising to his feet, “then I will come to you.”

      It’s not entirely certain yet what effect this decision has had. Some think it means that Anaxares is now part of the Choir of Judgement, effectively judging itself. Maybe it just meant the Anaxares is now in the Heaves, and currently executing the Choir of Judgement. Maybe something completely different no one has thought of yet. Though whatever it did it knocked Hanno (the White Knight) unconscious.

      Thus Kairos, through his suicide by angel, managed to screw over everyone everywhere: the Choir of Judgement, the Choir of Mercy, the White Knight, the Grey Pilgrim, Cat, Callow, Procer, Levant, the Dead King, and his own League. Truly a Magnificent Bastard.

      Liked by 21 people

      1. Now the biggest question is: what did this actually do?

        The Dead King is exactly where he wanted to be: not in position to be threatened by the dead angel (possibly? I’m not even sure about that actually, Anaxares didn’t exactly get off his verdict the way he wanted to)

        Catherine is exactly where SHE wanted to be: still leading the same goddamn coalition with all the same tools and weapons she was GOING to count on.

        Cordelia is concussed, ask again later.

        Intercessor is… WE HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA. We know what Kairos thinks she was trying to do, but we don’t even know if Kairos knew bout the dwarves. Or the other drow.

        Kairos definitely achieved his goal of going out in a blaze of glory, but did this REALLY fuck anyone over?

        Liked by 2 people

    4. Cato

      Anaxares was trying to pass judgement (of death) on the Choir of Judgement, so the Choir passed judgement on him to kill him before he could pass his judgement.

      Then Mercy, who was there as the backup Choir in case Anaxares proved too powerful for Judgement to take down on their own tried to kill Anaxares. Then Kairos told a lie, which, because of the previous curse of truthfulness required Mercy to kill him first before they could kill Anaxares. This allowed Anaxares to get off his judgement on the Choir of Judgement, leaving them trapped in a loop of judgement and stalemate.

      So Mercy got very angry at Kairos, and try to kill him faster so that they could then kill Anaxares. Only Cat then intervened, delaying Mercy, on the grounds that killing Karios was fine, but using so much power that they also killed the bystanders (like Cordelia) was unacceptable. Mercy then hesitated, and decided to continue with killing Kairos slowly instead of unleashing the nuke. This delay was further lengthened by Kairos beginning his death monologue.

      In which he reveals that it wasn’t going to be any trouble keeping the Grand Alliance together and fighting the Dead King despite his offer of peace because the Dead King was now going to retract that offer. He had only previously made it because he feared the Bard and her dead angle trap, but since the dead angel was an angel of Judgement (from when they tried to judge Triumphant – may she never return), Anaxares sentencing of the Choir of Judgement to Death had given the Dead King some narrative power over the dead angel of the sentenced to death Choir, negating the threat of the Bard.

      Meanwhile, Anaxares got tried of trading ineffective blows with the Choir of Judgement, and decided to, well let me quote it:

      “If you will not come to me,” the Hierarch said, rising to his feet, “then I will come to you.”

      It’s not entirely certain yet what effect this decision has had. Some think it means that Anaxares is now part of the Choir of Judgement, effectively judging itself. Maybe it just meant the Anaxares is now in the Heaves, and currently executing the Choir of Judgement. Maybe something completely different no one has thought of yet. Though whatever it did it knocked Hanno (the White Knight) unconscious.

      Thus Kairos, through his suicide by angel, managed to screw over everyone everywhere: the Choir of Judgement, the Choir of Mercy, the White Knight, the Grey Pilgrim, Cat, Callow, Procer, Levant, the Dead King, and his own League. Truly a Magnificent Bastard.

      Liked by 3 people

    5. WuseMajor

      Originally, Mercy was going to kill the Hierarch before he could deliver the Verdict on Judgement… but the Tyrant lied and forced Mercy to deliver the Pilgrim’s verdict on him first, so the Hierarch could continue unimpeded.

      Then, the Tyrant got to give a Dying Monologue and, as everyone knows, a Dying Villain gets to talk for as long as they want before they die. So, the Tyrant explained what was supposed to happen: The Bard was going to put Procer through the ringer in order to force Cordy into gaining a Name and then, via her story powers, get the new Warden of the West to use the Angel’s Corpse as a weapon to kill the Dead King.

      However, while they still have the Angel’s Corpse, Cordy is not Named. So she can point it wherever she wants. Like at the Bard.

      Meanwhile, the Hierarch, unable to force Judgement to submit, decided to just go over there and have it out with them. So….now he’s in Heaven serving as opposition to Judgement. And, given that the Angel’s Corpse is powered by Judgement, who knows what will happen if they try to use it. No matter who they try to use it on.

      …Which is, incidentally, a problem, because the Dead King is, honestly, only afraid of the Bard. Whether he is correct in this is an open question, but as of now, the Big Gun that the Bard has spent hundreds of years building to shoot him with has been broken and turned into something unknown. As such, there’s really no reason for the Dead King to bother talking to these people anymore, when he could instead sweep over the West like a wave if he so wished.

      And finally, the Tyrant died. I’m unclear on what his last question meant.

      Liked by 11 people

          1. –In the Future–

            *dark summoning ritual completes*

            “Hello mortals, I’m Kairos, the Angel of Betrayal! Are we all ready to have a jolly good time?”

            And Mercy’s just fuming in the corner because it’s blatantly a lie that he’s an angel, but the binding was that they got to kill him if he lied and they already did so now the binding’s done.

            And to be clear, I’m picturing all this occurring as part of Masego’s masterclass on summoning from the hells at Cardinal, where this is the controlled demonstration of why just because you aren’t summoning them for combat it doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly dangerous.

            Liked by 5 people

  5. NerfGlaistigUaine

    First of all, kudos to the guy who guessed that Kairos lied on purpose to distract Mercy. Rarely is a WMG correct on this site, and this deserves to be acknowledged.

    I think this is my new favorite chapter of this fic. Absolutely brilliant, this is how a magnificent bastard like Kairos should go out. Even as he lays dying, angels burning him as his last gambit plays out, he monologues to screw everyone over. Seriously, everyone, especially the two big honchos. I officially declare Kairos Theodosian the Tyrant of Helike the greatest card-carrying for the evulz villain there ever was. May he rest in chaos, knowing that he fucked up everything.

    Godfucking damn this was amazing. Can’t wait to see the repercussions of all this. What a wonderful way to cap off the week.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Kudos to:

      – those who called that this was Tyrant drawing Mercy away by a lie;

      – those who called Kairos’s final play being the end of the Age of Wonders;

      – those who called the ‘thirteenth Nameday’ literal phrasing twist;

      …I’m pretty sure NO-ONE called Anaxares becoming one of the angels of Judgement. Holy shit. This is so epic and so perfect. It’s just so, so, so… so right. Congrats, everyone who was in favor of them getting some accountability! It comes in the form of the hivemind being joined and expanded. Your Opinions Will Be Heard!

      Liked by 13 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        My kudos also goes to all those people with correct predictions as well.

        You’re right, no-one called that exact outcome. But IIRC some people did call somethings that have the same effect — “Hierarch will poison the choir” and — “kill/destroy the choir”. These are not actual quotes; just the sense that I got from their comments.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Shveiran

        >> Congrats, everyone who was in favor of them getting some accountability! It comes in the form of the hivemind being joined and expanded. Your Opinions Will Be Heard!

        Really?

        The Hierarch being involved in the process helps?

        …Really?

        Liked by 3 people

      3. TAP_M113

        And now a new star shines on the depths of the world, in the honor of all those who “Wished” for a different world. Go on, Kairos, you magnificent bastard – you made this world better, and you better believe you entertained us – we applause you, Tyrant king of Helike.
        Also, he loved Catherine, or at the very least wanted to consider her a platonic lifelong partner/friend. I am happy for him, and hope that it was a relief for him to have someone who understood his brand of madness and would enact the wish he cared about the most – killing the age of wonders – as he died.

        And now, the Hierarch sits with the choir of Judgement for eternity, acting onto the defender stand. While it is hard to know what will happen, probably Judgement will only be able to intervene in cases when the Hierarch is convinced of the righteousness of the cause, while they will be able to oppose him whenever he has a fitful of bloody lunacy. At the end of the day, it will probably restrict the unfairness of judgement.
        Also, the image of Hierarch, the bloodthirsty prosecutor, functionally becoming the defence attorney by the dint of circumstances is a VERY amusing one.

        And you know what is even better? I imagine Judgement CHANGING how it manifests on Creation as a result. Whenever a coin would be flipped and sentence carried out without recourse, now something different happens.
        A domain apears. The remains of a desecrated church, where a rickety table, a three-legged stool and a defaced altar stand. An old man, his eyes burning with otherworldly zeal, stands as judge, defender or prosecution – whatever lot is drawn, as long as it serves best The Will Of The People.
        And for all eternity, he will read the accused their rights, prosecute charges against those Above and Below, and ensure the representation of Creation within the workings of the tribunal, so that the Rule Of Law extends to all.
        Suffer No Compromise In This, indeed.

        Liked by 10 people

    2. Lord_GM

      Well, he didn’t fuck up everything or everyone. There s one exception.

      He successfully entertained Below and stayed truthful to them till the end. And that’s all that ever realy mattered to him.

      Liked by 11 people

        1. If they now win, he helped her.
          If they now die to the DK due to lack of supervillian, then he fucked her up entirely.

          Based on protagonist plot armour ETC, I don’t see DK winning….
          But if we weren’t reading, I’d say Tyrant screwed over Bard, gave Cat a coinflip and said “Good luck”

          Liked by 3 people

  6. Huh…. so Cordelia’s superweapon was supposed to WORK (according to Bard).

    But then Auger and Tyrant BOTH messed with the plans, and not who damn well knows what’s going to happen.

    Wait… no…
    Is the sword of judgement the White knight, or is it something made from the angel of judgement in the lake. I’m unsure.
    Either way… yup… Kairos gave them their reason to fight DK… namely he fucked up Bard’s plans enough that DK no longer feels threatened.
    What glorious betrayel.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Actually the superweapon should still be working? Judgement isn’t dead, in fact it’s more hearty and hale than before! A little busy with internal issues maybe but when has that ever stopped a corpse!

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Shveiran

        There is an unknown in the superweapon’s functioning introduced by Anaxares being part of the Choir, whatever that means.

        The moment the weapon becomes crucial in the war against the DK, the pivot gurantees that unknown becomes a certainty of it malfunctioning.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Considering it was the DK who helped organize all this? There is a heavy dose of delicious delicious narrative irony in it Not Actually Helping, too.

          Though yes, it will most definitely be obstructed SOMEHOW.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Holy fuck.

    Wow.

    That’s the MIGHTIEST comeback Kairos could have possibly had against Akua. Holy wow. She just got burned so hard she’s going to be a charred ghost from now on and she was ALREADY a ghost.

    Liked by 9 people

  8. Mary Gentle

    Oh damn. I so hoped he was going to make it. 😦

    Magnificent as his death was…

    Not all the implications of this are clear to me, but if the Hierarch actually has gone to Heaven in pursuit of his justice, that’s… stunning. What does this do to Mercy?

    And, how has Kairos slain the Age of Wonders?

    Got to admit I gulped this down because I HAD to find out what happened. I’m sure I missed a ton of things. But…

    Yeah. Hoped the Tyrant was going to make it. Kairos leaves a gap that won’t easily be filled.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. agumentic

      >“I am Kairos Theodosian,” he laughed. “Tyrant of Helike. And I say that my Rule extends to even the sky. Come, servants of the Heavens. The Age of Wonders is not dead yet. Not while I breathe.”
      – Prologue of the Book 3

      And now, when he ceased breathing, the Age of Wonders is dead. Godspeed, Kairos, you magnificent bastard, it was an utter delight to read about your misadventures.

      Liked by 25 people

    2. Big I

      There’s an earlier Tyrant chapter where he wipes out an army by himself, and he says that the Age of Wonders isn’t over as long as he still lives. I’m guessing his dying words are related to that

      Liked by 5 people

        1. Mary Gentle

          Maybe. I like Hanno lots, but he’s a guy who’s given his whole sense of agency to Mummy&Daddy — I mean, to his Choir. Now he has to act on his own, er, judgement.

          I like to think that would give him a jolt where least expected…

          Seriously, if Judgement is now stuffed up because the Hierarch is up there blocking its every act, then Hanno has lost his raison d’etre. That’s sad.

          Maybe Cat can console him.

          Um… I ASSUME someone picked him up and carried him out of the ruins, right? He won’t be just discovered in the morning with the footprints of hundreds across him?

          Liked by 3 people

          1. > he’s a guy who’s given his whole sense of agency to Mummy&Daddy — I mean, to his Choir

            No, he hasn’t. He only asks them when he NEEDS their judgement, and he IS the one who decides when it’s needed. They don’t hold his hand through daily decisions. Did you read the extra chapters? Did you see him arrange heroes like pieces on a gameboard for most beneficial effects and fewest drawbacks? That wasn’t the Choir telling him what to do.

            Hanno only defers to them when he needs to judge whether an individual is deserving of holy smiting and the aforementioned holy smite if they do.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Mary Gentle

              >Did you see him arrange heroes like pieces on a gameboard for most beneficial effects and fewest drawbacks? That wasn’t the Choir telling him what to do.

              >Hanno only defers to them when he needs to judge whether an individual is deserving of holy smiting and the aforementioned holy smite if they do.

              I suppose I think that the Holy Smiting is what Hanno does, the rest is just, well, paperwork. In the sense that he can do the arranging, etc., but when it comes to making a moral decision — he just tosses a coin. The very apotheosis of denial of agency!

              Granted, he’s certain in his own mind that Above will point the coin in the “right” direction, but that’s still not the same thing as putting your own ability to judge on the line.

              He has not, so far, had to ask himself if HE thinks a person is deserving of damnation or salvation. It’s a coin toss. Of course, NOW he may have to save or damn off of his own opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing it, because I think it’s an opportunity for character development.

              I wonder, if he decides he no longer has the qualifications to judge, does he lose his Name of White Knight?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. caoimhinh

                Ah, actually, we kinda just saw that in this month’s Extra Chapter “Winter II”
                This is from Hanno’s POV:

                Still, there was something about Arnaud Brogloise that had him itching for the coin. A sense of wrongness that only the judgement of the Tribunal would truly be able to settle in his mind. Yet that would have been… unwise. If given reason he would without hesitation, but he had not yet been given reason.

                Hanno’s instincts were telling him there was something really fucked up about Arnaud (namely that Arnaud is a cold psychopath that has everyone fooled into underestimating him, and with infinite patience has been positioning himself into a place where he can do what he believes is better for Procer) yet Hanno chose to go against his instincts and not summon the Coin of Judgement, which was a pretty convenient moment for him to decide to do that, considering he had called the Coin and killed a noble before when they asked him to arbitrate a dispute.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Well, the difference is that they ASKED him to arbitrate a dispute. Nobody asked about Arnaud, and he has not given reason. Hanno chooses to not be disruptive, and it IS his own moral choice.

                  Choosing to flip a coin is a moral choice, every time. From his conversation with Catherine we know he is fully aware of that and owns that. HE makes the decision of when someone is done something worthy of judging. HE puts people in front of the court. He is not only the court bailiff, but also the prosecutor.

                  Just not the judge.

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. See my reply to caoimnh below.

                This “paperwork” is 99% of what he actually does. He holy smites the undead (notably without flipping a coin for each one) and enemy soldiers (same), and occasionally also drags people before the Tribunal to be judged, and then carries out the sentence, whatever it is.

                His agency is very much expressed in when he flips the coin and when he doesn’t.

                Like

              3. Oh, and re: his own opinion on who deserves damnation and who deserves salvation, see in Winter I his arbitration of dispute between heroes (where he threatened (!) to use the coin when one of them was being obstinate about it), and see his conversation with Nephele afterwards. See his explanation to her of what he thinks of her.

                “They’re all good dogs, Brent”. He doesn’t judge because he, as a person, genuinely doesn’t. He sees everyone’s point of view, and he sees himself as incapable of declaring someone to be in the wrong confidently, because he could not even condemn his mother for calling down a curse of Below’s upon government officials, nor condemn those officials for certain.

                His opinion is that some people deserve damnation and some deserve salvation, but he is himself not qualified to decide. That IS a decision. “I choose not to answer” IS an answer. It is his choice and it IS an expression of his agency.

                And the reason he chooses not to answer is that he sees good in everyone, and it. Is. Amazing.

                Liked by 1 person

  9. sammax

    Okay so, Kairos did in the end win, didn’t he? And he kinda knew how it would play out or at least believed in it. Which would make his “I win” not a lie. But if Mercy hadn’t punished him for it then he wouldn’t have won and it would have been a lie. It seems to me like they should have had a choice whether to punish, even with such a strong story, because of that unresolvable ambiguity.

    I wonder if there will be a consequence for punishing him for something that turned out not to be a lie (apart from the consequence of not being able to stop the Hierarch), and if that consequence is lesser or greater than the consequence of not punishing him for speaking his lie would have been.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. laguz24

      This is kairos we are talking about victory for him is not at the end but it is a state of being as a villain. Every breath beyond his prophecized death is a victory for him this is just his bow at the end not the victory dance.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Vega

      To be fair Kairos did say “I win” rather than “I won” and he did in fact win it’s like in chess where you say I win in 6 moves or whatever except in this case Kairos needed to roll nothing but 6’s to actually win.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lie is defined by intent and not by whether it’s determined to be true in retrospect which the person couldn’t have known at the time. When Kairos went on his monologue he STILL didn’t know if it would even work.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Ιούλιος Καίσαρας

      The People of Bellerophon do not worship. They solemny affirm the Functionary’s job as well done and voice their expectation that he and his peers will keep up with the standards.

      Liked by 8 people

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

    That chapter was magnificent.

    On a side note, i am now *Wishing* we get to see ,in a few months time maybe, a man getting smote by the choir of judgement and as he is dying, he hears the voice of Hierarch sentencing the choir for that act.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. copaceticcockroach

      Let’s see EE make us cry in the final chapter. Catherine’s wish, peace, is finally made true. And Hanno judges Cat in God Knows Where. And a weary Cat, in what she thinks is her final seconds, hears:
      “The people find you not guilty.”

      Liked by 9 people

  11. copaceticcockroach

    That was insane. This Interlude streak is beautiful, but now this Kairos thing has blown over I guess we’re going back to normal chapters. I wanna see how Cat responds to this.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Naeddyr

    There’s a special place in Hell waiting for Kairos.

    I assume nubile young gargoyles feeding him grapes while the beautiful sounds of a burning city surrounding him harmonizes with the lyre he plays.

    *clap*

    Liked by 16 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I don’t know, I think the lyrics fit our favorite Tyrant well.
        Let’s take a look at the lyrics in english:

        “To every thing there is a season
        and a time (Kairos)
        to every purpose under the heaven.
        And a time
        And a time

        To be born, to die;
        to plant, to reap;
        And a time(Kairos), and a time(Kairos)
        to kill, to heal,
        to break down, to build up;
        to weep, to laugh;
        to mourn, to dance.
        And a time (Kairos)
        And a time (Kairos)

        to cast away stones, to gather stones together;
        to embrace, to refrain from embracing;
        to get, to lose, to keep, to cast away.

        And a time(Kairos)
        And a time(Kairos)
        to rend, to sew,
        to keep silence, to speak;
        to love, to hate;
        A time of war, and a time of peace…

        And a time(Kairos), and a time(Kairos)…”

        Plus the album is called Requiem for my friend, so…
        yeah I think it fits.

        Thanks for sharing that piece of music!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Lord_GM

      At his heart, Kairos has always been an commedian and the applaus of the audience his live’s goal. He could have had grapes and burning cities in live, and certainly had his share, but his ideal afterlife would be a stage.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Naeddyr

        Just thinking of comedians, I don’t know why but it feels like Kairos is a villain for the masses, while Cat might be a villain’s villain? Like one of those comics who goes so meta that they’re the most funny thing another comedian sees?

        Or it is the complete opposite??

        Liked by 3 people

        1. > Just thinking of comedians, I don’t know why but it feels like Kairos is a villain for the masses, while Cat might be a villain’s villain? Like one of those comics who goes so meta that they’re the most funny thing another comedian sees?

          So Cat is Norm MacDonald and Kairos is… Jay Leno?

          My god. He truly was the greatest monster of his age.

          Liked by 4 people

  13. Silverking

    “They say it’s all been done but they haven’t seen the best of me.
    So I got one more run and it’s gonna be a sight to see.”

    The Tyrant tricked the Choir of Mercy with his own curse, consigned Judgement to being deadlocked for the forseeable future, and he went out on his own terms and on his own feet. Rest in Hell, you beautiful bastard.

    Liked by 10 people

  14. NerfGlaistigUaine

    Guys, can we give this fic some more love on tvtropes? It’s pretty impressive already, especially for a webfic, but with how trope overdosed this story is there’s definitely more we could add. The Awesome page alone should go on for miles. And not having a Funny page is a travesty. I mean, doesn’t the story about stories deserve a great site on the site about stories?

    To anyone who didn’t know what Tvtropes was and has decided to visit after reading my comment, I’m so very sorry and may God have mercy on your productivity.

    Liked by 14 people

  15. ALazyMonster

    Damn. What a way to go. I look forward to seeing the wonderful aftermath of this.

    I think it would be kind of interesting for Cat to actually permanently take on of the Tyrant’s aspects, wish in particular, in the aftermath. If nothing else as some weird parting gift from Kairos and his own attempt to see what he wrought. It would be amusing if Below just sort of passed it along, like “um, here he left this for you in his weird metaphysical will. We’re not sure what to do with it either.”

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Andrew Mitchell

    That. Was. Magnificent!

    Seems like a fitting finale for this book. Probably just a few chapters left before EE takes a well earned break before the final book.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        I’ll deal with it like I usually do… by doing a full re-read.

        Actually, I probably don’t have time for a FULL re-read. To many other things happening IRL. But I’ll certainly re-read this latest book.

        Liked by 4 people

      1. Agent J

        I want the next chapter to be an epilogue. Let this book go out in style. Sitting back down for another round of peace treaties would cheapen this. Kairos Theodosian claims to have ended the Age of Wonders and, while I’m dubious of that, he definitely deserves to end this book.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Agent J

            Fucking Malicia.

            She is so frustrating. So loathsome. So brilliant. I hate her. I respect her. I want her diediedienowplease&thankyou.

            I… think she’s the new Akua. What with old Akua being such an absolute delight now. Also dead.

            Liked by 1 person

      1. There were originally supposed to be only five, but then Book IV went long, EE realized that he couldn’t fit everything he wanted into it without it becoming insanely unmanageable, and made an executive decision to extend the Guide to six books so he could split things back up into more reasonable book sizes.

        Liked by 3 people

  17. Ιούλιος Καίσαρας

    So in essence Anaxares achieved apotheosis. It surely fits with Ancient Greek stories of someone becoming a God of what was doing in excellence while alive, for example Asclepius the mythical doctor who became a Deity of Healing.
    And, let’s not forget, stories have strength 😉 .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        Even through Night’s darkness? Maybe, maybe not.

        Don’t get me wrong, I WANT Masego to have witnessed it ALL. I just think there’s doubt about whether he actually did.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. Frivolous

    I’m pretty sure at least one Seraph is dead, because Cat and Kairos were talking about finding out what would happen if Judgement were dead.

    Having said that, I an not at all sure that a Judgement-corpse is what they’re dredging out of Lake Pavin. Winter I extra chapter makes it clear that the lake is full of Dead. An angel corpse like the one near Liesse would have turned the lake into holy water, which should destroy undead.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Frivolous

      On further thought, I believe what is in Lake Pavin is a demon from one of the lowest-numbered Hells, because Triumphant was known to use demons.

      Whatever it is, it’s so very nasty that it killed an angel and also overcame even the residual holiness that should have blessed the water.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Frivolous

        Could even be Triumphant herself, like a clone or something. Maybe she invaded the mind of the Seraphim and made it kill itself, and what waits in Lake Pravin is the desecrated corpse of an angel possessed by Triumphant.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Mary Gentle

          (Covers eyes with hands)

          You just HAD to say that, didn’t you?

          I don’t know what the actual mechanism would be, but in a story of stories, a character about whom everybody says “may she never return”? — She’s coming back. For sure.

          OK, yes, I’d just like to see her on stage! It’s getting to the point where it would take someone like Dread Empress Triumphant to overcome the Dead King. I’d back her against the Bard, too, probably.

          (Dread Empress Triumphant’s sad fangirl slinks offstage…)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Triumphant won’t come back, not until we’re fighting gnomes at least. We’ve also had a Dread Emperor who became the moon maybe and one who’s probably a spider now, immortality and the striving to be Dread Emperor eternal are common trends. Especially in Book 1 when that lore was still dropped more often and easily as part of EE’s writing style which since developed a bit more away from those things.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Frivolous

            It isn’t Triumphant in Lake Pavin. So my theory about a Triumphant-possessed undead angel is dissolved.

            On the other hand, you’re right, Mary Gentle, Triumphant is coming back at some point. Praying someone never returns guarantees her return.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. mavant

      Aren’t those two different lakes?

      The dredging is happening in Lake Artoise, per Kairos in https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/chapter-7-fellowship/

      and the Dead were in Lake Pavin per https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/winter-i/

      which are in the middle and north of Procer, respectively, per this map (which is the most up-to-date one I could find):

      Liked by 5 people

    3. I think those were two different lakes, one located deeper within Procer so they can dredge something up without dead interference, and the lake from Winter I was part of the border with Keter. That bonus chapter happened a while ago, when the waters between Keter and Procer were still their borders.

      Liked by 3 people

  19. mavant

    It finally occurred to me in this chapter that Bellerophon is called that because it literally means “to slay by throwing projectiles”. Stoning people to death is right there in the NAME.

    Liked by 5 people

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