Chapter 85: When It Rains

“Kill an enemy,
Make another
How dreadfully
We do usher!
Killed; enemy
To another.”
-Extract from ‘And So I Dreamt I Was Awake’ by Sherehazad the Seer, Taghreb poet

“You’re certain?” I asked.

“As can be,” Vivienne replied. “Our own people have intercepted reports and the Scribe’s agents confirm it.”

“Then send for Pickler,” I said. “We’ll need someone navigate the implications of that.”

I paused, and the other Callowan caught my eye with understanding.

“Robber as well, then,” the dark-haired woman said.

She dipped out of the room long enough to send out messengers and returned as I poured us cups of wine. She took it when offered, and we both sipped in silence. Lost in our thoughts. It’d be better with the two of them, and I was glad she’d realized it. While it could not be denied that Senior Sapper Pickler’s upbringing as the daughter of a Matron leant her insights into the ways of goblinkind that a nobody like Robber wouldn’t have, neither should it be ignored that she was, well… horribly unsociable. Even with other goblins. Special Tribune Robber, on the other hand? He somehow seemed to know every other greenskin we came across, and though goblins were clannish in the extreme amongst themselves they gossiped with relish. Robber would have his finger on the pulse of things in a way Pickler would not. Gods, and to think I’d believed it would be quiet after the disaster in Lyonceau. Showed what I knew.

Midnight had come and passed, though it would be more than a bell still until dawn came, and no part of that span had been calm. I’d not returned to Salia, after the Dead King’s chilling farewell, for it would have been unwise. Riots were beginning again, though this time not as a tool of conspiracy: word had spread that the war against Keter was resuming, and in terror and impotent anger the people had taken to the streets. Given that there’d been killing of foreigners last time, it’d been judged cautious for the delegations not to return to the capital at least until the day after. If not longer. The First Prince had admitted that she’d rather not soldiers – even solely her own – to put down the turbulence but that she might not have a choice. Should it come to that, though, no other member of the Grand Alliance could be seen intervening even if only to help. It would feed the rumours from the coup attempt that’d not entirely died down, that the First Prince was in league with foreign powers that wanted to destroy Procer.

As Salia roiled and the rest of us kept to our camps, surrounded by soldiers, the last stretch of day into the night had been filled with fervent activity. For one, the two Named that’d been effectively keeping the League of Free Cities together were gone. The Hierarch perhaps not yet dead, as Masego had insisted, but undeniably he was in no place to rule. Not that he’d ever done that even when he was actually meant to. There’d been accusations of assassination from some cities, Penthes leading the charge, but it was hard to argue with a town covered in ash and two heroes stuck in bedrest. The League delegations had hastily withdrawn to their camp under a heavy escort of Proceran soldiers, howling mobs of Salians tossing everything they could get their hands on at them. I had Archer out and keeping an eye on them, though with strict instructions not the kick the hornet’s nest. That Penthes had been so aggressive earlier was a good indication that Hakram was right about Malicia having sunk in her hooks there, but there was no telling where much of the League would fall. Helike, in particular, promised to be a mess. Kairos Theodosian had no formal successor, and rumour was he’d pruned minor branches of the Theodosians quite enthusiastically after usurping his nephew. It was not impossible that the royal house of Helike was dead, and there was no telling if some other nobles would make a play for the throne or some distant relation was about to be produced so they could ‘rule’.

And now, like we didn’t have our plates full enough with the south, north and west trouble was coming from the east as well. The affairs of the Confederation of the Grey Eyries, the fledgling goblin state that’d risen in rebellion against the Tower and declared independence before going a step further and taking Foramen, had always been opaque to outsiders. The Council of Matrons had ruled the goblin tribes under the Empire and it still did under the Confederation, but to my understanding the alliance between the tribes was a loose thing even at the best of times. The Matrons were nominally an ally to Callow, for Hakram and Vivienne had backed their bid for independence with dwarven gold and foodstuffs, to be repaid in goods we needed: goblin steel and munitions. A blockade of the Hungering Sands by the loyalist Legions of Terror had made deliveries of these highly sporadic, though they’d not entirely ceased, but the Matrons were making visible efforts to keep their word.

I’d believed that to be a promising sign, and though the goblins were said to have committed atrocities against Taghrebi nobility when they took Foramen, the loss of the Imperial Forges and yet another great city of Praes had been a hard blow to Malicia. The Confederation was riddled with practices I despised, and the Matrons were generally speaking about as trustworthy as a nest of vipers, but as a counterweight to the Tower in the southeast they’d been an invaluable asset. Just the fact that they’d tied up the loyalist legions down south had been worth its weight in gold, since it meant I didn’t have to worry about those same troops securing the Empire for Malicia – or marching on Summerholm, for that matter. There was the promise of a long-term partnership there as well, with the Snake Eater Tribe having settled in my lands near Marchford. It’d allowed Juniper to recruit goblins to fill the ranks of the Army of Callow’s sappers and scouts, and more abstract benefits as well. The relative harmony with the locals had been both a proof that Callow might be able to handle greenskin settlers and a tie to the Council of Matrons themselves.

The generous income that rent of their tribal lands brought didn’t hurt either, given the until recently dreadful state of my coffers.

Some parts of it in particular: Pickler’s mother, Matron Wither of the High Ridge Tribe. Who’d been trying to push Pickler into retiring and becoming Matron of the Snake Eater Tribe since the moment it was settled on Callowan grounds. I’d been more amused than anything when I’d first heard, for trying to get Pickler interested in anything that wasn’t engineering was like pulling teeth, but given the fractious nature of goblin politics I’d found it shockingly impressive that Matron Wither has succeeded at ensuring no other matron was appointed in the wake of her daughter’s refusal to retire and take up matronship of the tribe. Guards knocked on the door and jolted me out of my thoughts, Vivienne calling out to allow entry as I took a sip from my now near-empty cup. The two goblins came in together, for a moment allowing a glimpse of the difference between them – Pickler was, I realized, growing significantly larger than Robber. Half a head more now, and where the male’s skin was beginning to wrinkle in some places as he approached his kind’s middle age her own was the same as when I’d first met her. Matron lines, it was said, were as a breed apart from the rest of their kind.

That did not strike me as the kind of thing that came about naturally.

“Boss, Princess,” Robber greeted us, scuttling in and sliding into a seat.

My brow rose as I glanced at Vivienne.

“Since I was designated your heiress,” she admitted. “It’s exactly as annoying as you’d think.”

Oh, Vivienne, why would you ever admit that out loud? There was no way he was ever going to stop, now.

“Catherine, Dartwick,” Pickler greeted us, slightly more deferentially.

She waited for me to invite her with a gesture before taking a seat, at least.

“I’ve need of your insights into the Confederation,” I admitted. “There’s been news.”

Amber eyes wary, Pickler watched me without blinking.

“I’m not corresponding with my mother, Catherine,” she said. “And even if I was, she would not share secrets with me. Nor I with her, if that is your-”

“Not in the slightest,” I interrupted. “But you were raised about as high as can be, by my understanding, and you know your mother better than anybody else we’ve got.”

“And I am here to speak for the common goblin, I assume,” Robber grinned, pearly needle-like teeth gleaming. “Allow me then to present our demands: first, we would like larger cookpots. The ones we have can’t fit a full Proceran child. Second-”

“Robber’s here because he hears gossip even Hakram doesn’t,” I said, pretending to have heard none of that.

“His ears are too high up,” Robber agreed without missing a beat, “it’s like someone carved an ugly mug onto a tree, Boss.”

“Matron Wither has seized control of the city of Foramen and, along with what seems to be another few tribes, evicted the Confederation from the region,” Vivienne calmly said.

It was like someone had dropped a sheet of ice-cold water on the two goblins. Genuine surprise, from the two of them.

“Was blood spilled?” Robber sharply asked.

Vivienne handed me the scroll carrying the latest summary report and I tossed it across the table. He caught it and passed it to Pickler without hesitating, eyes remaining on me.

“As far as we can tell, all forces within the city that didn’t belong to the High Ridge or their allies were taken by surprised and killed,” I said. “There were a series of skirmishes afterwards that droved back Confederation warriors into the Grey Eyries. Maybe four to five thousand dead, all in all.”

“The Legions haven’t moved,” Pickler slowly said.

“They have not,” I grimly said. “Even our allies in the Eyes are certain. I’m not all that familiar with Marshal Nim, but I’m told she’s the most aggressive commander among the marshals. She would not miss an opportunity like that without a good reason, I think.”

“The Tribes have always turned on each other when rebellions turn sour,” Robber said, “but this is… wrong. Too early. They’re winning, too.”

He did not, I thought, sound even slightly disapproving of the goblin tribes beginning to sell each other out to the Tower at the first hint of defeat. There was something in me that was disgusted by the notion – Gods, what kind of Callowan would sell out their own just because the going got rough? – but I forcefully reminded myself that goblins did not see the world as most humans did.

“No rebellion against the Tower ever lasted more than five years,” Pickler quietly said. “My mother told me this, once, when I was a child.”

“The Long War did,” Robber argued. “It took fifteen years for them to put down Matron Trifler up in her hidden fortress.”

“Trifler led one tribe and the castoffs of the rest,” Pickler said. “After three years the rest of the Council had submitted to Sulphurous, and for the twelve years that follow it was a war of raiders against raiders.”

Much as the Wasteland’s history could be interesting – and I was pretty sure Dread Empress Sulphurous had actually died to the first known Shining Prince after cornering him out in the Fields of Streges – and the parts of it involving the goblin rebellions as bloody as they were fascinating, I’d not brought them here to speak of it.

“Why bring this up, Pickler?” I said. “The Grey Eyries haven’t fallen.”

Nor were they likely to, in my opinion. The reports of the Eyes made it clear that Matron Wither and her allies comprised less than a third of the tribes of the Confederation and that surprise had been the deciding element in her victory against her former allies. She might even be able to hold Foramen, given the wards and walls on the city, but if she tried to take the Eyries she was in for the same bloody slog Praesi armies went through every time they put down rebellion there. And unlike the Empire, she didn’t have the numbers to simply take the casualties inflicted by constant vicious ambushes and keep advancing. Her people would know the grounds, sure, but so would the enemy.

“Because I do not believe my mother intends to go back to the Grey Eyries,” Pickler said.

“She doesn’t have the strength to fend off both the Confederation and the Empire,” I slowly said. “To be honest, I’m not sure she has the strength to fend off either if they put their back into it.”

“Malicia cannot tolerate losing the forges of her war machine to an independent power, from a practical perspective,” Vivienne noted. “Not even one at war with her enemies. And it would see her overthrown by the High Lords, besides.”

“Which she’s gathering in Ater,” I pointed out. “Where she has the Sentinels, the one force of soldiers that she can be assured the loyalty of.”

They were hardly an army, mind you, and more like the personal guard of the reigning tyrant. But within Ater they were undeniably the largest stick around, even if I wouldn’t bet on them against the household troops of most High Seats beyond those walls.

“It seems highly unlikely for her to attempt so risky a purge,” my successor said. “Especially when the aristocracy is bound to come down firmly in her favour when the Carrion Lord comes for the Tower.”

“You’re missing the point, Boss,” Robber quietly said. “Pickler’s saying her mother doesn’t think this can be won. So all she did was get her hands on goods to bargain with.”

I blinked in surprise. This was, on the surface, madness. The Dread Empire was largely without allies at the moment. Sure, the Empress had probably made pacts in the eastern Free Cities, but none of them would be willing to march to war for her. And the Dead King had most the continent arrayed against him. Crusades with lesser forces than those gathered in Salia had driven him back into Keter, so why would Wither choose now to change sides? The Matrons were a cautious bunch: they’d waited until Thalassina was dust, half the legions were in effective exile and Callowan support was secured before finally striking. Why would Wither not wait a few more months before making her decision, at least to see how the Grand Alliance did against Keter?

“And what might she trade the return of Foramen for?” Vivienne asked.

“Rule over the rest of the Tribes,” Robber suggested.

“That wouldn’t hold,” I said. “It solidifies goblins around a single ruler, even if it’s a hated one.”

And once the Tribes began to unify, a thousand years of Praesi work would begin to unravel. A coalition of tribes nudged into constant feuding by breeding restrictions and strictly limited trade was something the Tower could comfortably believe itself to be able to put down if it rose in rebellion, even with the difficulties inherent in campaigning in the Grey Eyries. An effective goblin queendom, though? That was a whole other kettle of fish. Even if the throne changed dynasties with every season, a common army and the ability to mobilize workforce from all tribes would make even a fledgling goblin state an utter nightmare to put down should it rebel. It would be much unlike Malicia to trade a short-term gain for a long-term disaster, considering she likely intended to reign until the long term came to pass. Especially when she could simply have waited until the goblin armies had bloodied each other then forcefully taken Foramen from whoever came out the victor.

I wished Akua was here, for her insights into Praes would have been welcome, but she had duties just as pressing. Someone needed to get in touch with our armies before they came out of the Twilight Ways, and though Masego still had the know-how he no longer had the sorcery. I’d told him to double down on exploring his theory, besides, with the help of the Rogue Sorcerer whenever he could be spared. If the Dead King was truly about to start flinging around a few millennia’s worth of accumulated nastiness, we needed anything that might truly be able to make a difference.

“Agreed,” Pickler said. “Nor is my mother a fool. If such an offer was made she would not have trusted it.”

“Then what did she bargain for?” Vivienne asked. “The current situation is untenable, Senior Sapper. Her seizure of Foramen has been the death knell of our supply routes for steel and munitions. We’ve enough in Callow to fill the Army’s stocks once more, but after that the well is dry.”

And that was without even speaking of the Legions-in-Exile, who after a year of campaigning had expended the vast majority of their own stocks. Marshals Juniper and Grem had combined their stores while they were fighting together in Iserre, but fought they had. There wasn’t much left in those common stores, now. Much of the Army of Callow’s war doctrine came from the Legions of Terror, straight from the Reforms, and that meant the sappers had a major role as both combat units and siege engineers. Losing one of those for lack of munitions to furnish them with would be a blow, and an ill-timed one if we were to fight Keter in the coming months. Against the hordes of the dead, goblin munitions would make a massive difference. One we badly needed if we were to have a prayer of holding the northern fronts.

“Poison Tooth,” Pickler said, quoting the scroll I’d handed her. “Bitter Stride, Clay Sun, every single tribe listed here – they are all face-tribes.”

Pickler,” Robber hissed.

“That is not preserved knowledge, Robber,” she dismissed. “The Taghreb figured out that much centuries ago. And even if it was, what would the Preservers do?”

“The Preservers,” I slowly said.

“There are some among our kind that are tasked with the preservation of secrecy,” Pickler said.

Robber, never one to miss an occasion to be grisly, slit his throat with a finger.

“Loose tongues lead to open throats,” Robber said. “Even a child knows that.”

“And the Legions allow this?” I frowned.

“Not openly,” Pickler conceded. “Yet Marshal Ranker did not join her entire tribe to the Carrion Lord’s cause without requiring concessions, in the days before the Conquest. As for the days before the Reforms, well…”

What did your average Dread Emperor care for goblins killing each other, she meant. Not a lot, most likely, and they’d have to know that trying too hard to get at goblin secrets would mean a rebellion. I doubted that the common assertions that only goblins spoke the goblin tongues was true, but then Black had taught me they regularly changed their spoken language so that it could not ever truly be grasped.

“I made no such concessions,” I flatly said.

“They would have sought them form you, in time,” Pickler said, hissing through her teeth. “Made sale of steel and munitions contingent on them.”

“Allow me to be perfectly clear,” I said, tone clipped. “In choosing to serve in the Army of Callow, you have become citizens of Callow. With all rights and protections so afforded.”

“We do not make exceptions to this,” Vivienne said, voice as offended as I felt. “And if the old crones think they can twist our arms over such a matter with trade, then they will be taught otherwise harshly.”

Robber looked, to my deep unease, almost helpless.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “It is… you, we… We just don’t spill secrets, Boss. It’s not what we do. It’s not what a goblin does.”

“Matrons talk,” Pickler said, tone embittered. “All else hold their tongue. That is our way.”

We had, it seemed, tumbled into a deeper pit than I’d thought. It would not be bridged tonight, I thought, and there were prior callings. Best move on.

“Face-tribes,” I said. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Tribes who represent us with outsiders,” Pickler said. “The High Ridge learn and speak with the Taghreb, by custom, but under my mother the Banu of Foramen were the humans cultivated. No doubt the secrets she stole and traded helped the Confederation take the city from the Banu and helped her take it from the Confederation.”

“And all the other tribes she allied with have similar purposes?” I pressed.

“The Bitter Strides are a dark hand by custom – they hurt in concert with another tribe that speaks sweetly – but they too know well the peoples of the Hungering Sands,” Pickler said.

Suddenly Pickler’s assertion that her mother did not intend to return to the Grey Eyries sounded more believable. Matron Wither had assembled allies that could navigate the Wasteland and only that kind, which implied those were the people she had a use for.

“Fuck,” I said. “She’s trying for nobility, isn’t she? With so many nobles dead the Empress can find her a holding somewhere, and she’ll take in her allied tribes as retainers.”

“Thalassina was obliterated with sorcery, but it has a strategic location and great prestige as a holding,” Vivienne said. “A worthy reward, perhaps, for one returning Foramen to the Tower.”

The knock on the door saw my irritation rise sharply, but I mastered it. A young Callowan soldier – fair-haired, likely southern of birth – entered, face anxious. He was bringing, he said, word from Lord Hierophant and Royal Advisor Kivule as well Lord Adjutant. Contact had been made with the Army of Callow. My brow rose, since Akua had told me it was unlikely to work until we were much closer to dawn. Hierophant’s presence must have helped more than anticipated.

“Noted,” I said. “You may leave.”

He looked like he wanted to twist his hands anxiously, but he spoke up again.

“Your Majesty,” he said, “your presence has been required.”

I frowned.

“I left Lord Adjutant with them to see to anything that might require my presence in the first place,” I said.

“And it is he that sent me to you, Your Majesty,” the boy said. “I am to tell you that the Army of Callow has left the Twilight Ways, and is now encamped in northern Bayeux.”

It took me a moment to place the principality in my mind – it was south of Arans, where my army was meant to march, and had commanded one of the two paths into the Red Flower Vales before the passes were collapsed. Well short of where they should be.

“Are the Legions-in-Exile with them?” Vivienne asked.

The boy shook his head.

“My lady, they left,” he got out. “And Marshal Juniper has placed herself under arrest, along with almost third of the officers in the army.”

155 thoughts on “Chapter 85: When It Rains

          1. stevenneiman

            TZKS has a lot more where people take a quote from the post and change it to be about voting, but that’s because it has shorter posts which I think make it easier to remember quotes.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. And the typo thread. Geez, it’s like y’all want Malicia to win. You know she’s the one who sneaks in typos.

      I’d found it shockingly impressive that Matron Wither has succeeded at ensuring no other matron was appointed
      Change has to had

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Big Brother

      It’s not that there aren’t, it’s just that there’re no known Named. Names are born from the culture they appear in, and with a secretive culture like the goblins, all their Named could be like Scribe where your attention just slides off of them and you forget they were there.

      Liked by 17 people

      1. Zggt

        A pet theory of mine is that “Saboteur” is a Goblin family of Names (like Knight), and as such no one ever assumes it’s a result of a Name since a great act of sabotage is, after all, untraceable.


    2. superkeaton

      Presumably because there’s got to be a Story for it first, and goblins are so secretive that their Named, if they have any, might manifest in more subtle ways.

      Liked by 5 people

    3. Darkening

      Yeah, I just went to double check and in chapter 15 of book one, Black theorizes what everyone’s saying about Names being a reflection of the cultures that spawned them and that the obsession with secrecy that goblins have, goblin Named would be incredibly subtle and hard to notice. The whole thing with Chider was odd though. Though she was also orange if I recall and I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten an explanation for that. Anyways, it’s either that or they just never leave the Eyries except in cases where they can slaughter *everyone* that might possibly witness their existence. There’s no excuse like with the orcs where their culture was destroyed, the goblins might have a messy, chaotic culture, but it *is* a culture. If nothing else there’d be some kind of archetypal matron or something.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. RandomFan

        Chider isn’t that weird. Squire was selecting which narrative of “integration with Praes” it was going for, I suspect. Two outsiders were candidates, this time. Two traditional Praesi from different tribes, each whom probably sought their own narrative tied to the thing, but I bet Chider was, like Cat, trying to make Goblins better off through working with Praes- or at least that that’s a theme her narrative would have contained. The fact that Chider even could become a Squire is already a sign that Goblins were “Of Praes”- worth reminding that Orcs haven’t had a name since they were a seperate culture, so I bet you have to be part of a culture to claim its names.

        There might be backstory reason that don’t make it about Goblins, but the reason Chider was publically going for a Name is because Chider was going for a Praesi Name as a Praesi citizen. It doesn’t require that goblins don’t have Names.

        Liked by 11 people

      2. Just putting it out there so far the Calamities were composed of:

        A Prostitute who became a ruler
        A werewolf who became a captain
        An Apprentice who became a Warlock/Father/Lover how did this become my favorite book romance
        An Elf that became a Ranger
        A ? who became a Scribe
        Why not a Goblin who becomes an Assassin(it so secretive no one can discern the face of the creature, each Calamity has a counterpart or connection with the woe his was Vivienne a thief who gave up her identity)

        I am guessing a Goblin of royal descent appeared at the Black Knights tent. He or she was doing there job silencing one of his own for revealing a deep secret about goblins his second tak was to kill Malicia before she takes power. The Black Knight of course wanted to execute the goblin but Malicia stepped in and was able to convince the goblin to do more for his tribe. His skill with murder could be used to take out more than just Goblins for instance Praes royalty and provide his clan a place at the table. She of course does this all while looking away from him allowing him to keep his identity a secret.

        This would solidify his allegiance to the empress who wanted assassinations to send messages. Hinting at the thiatricall way people were taken care of. Also it gives credence to Goblin secrecy, his name would cause him to give up his very face in order to assume a thousand different bodies to both assasinate and keep his identity, as a goblin a secret from even his allies.

        Liked by 3 people

            1. Jarthon

              Well, except in cases where they need people to think that it wasn’t Assassin. He does whatever is necessary to get the job done as Black implied in one of the earlier chapters or as when the glass was poisoned after Hanno fought the calamities.

              Liked by 3 people

    4. Cap'n Smurfy

      It’s entirely possible there are Goblin Named and in my own opinion very likely given their strong culture. But since Goblin’s value secrecy so much their Named would be hidden and secret. Black proposed that theory, in Book 1 or 2 I think.

      Liked by 6 people

    5. stevenneiman

      Pick your favorite
      -Goblins are super paranoid and secretive. Named paragons of goblin culture even more so to the point that they are able to keep their very existence secret at least from non-goblins
      -Goblin culture was too damaged by being conquered by the Meizans and then made a client state of the Dread Empire. Their old Names were lost and they haven’t developed any new ones.

      Liked by 2 people

    6. There are also no goblin mages, until it was revealed that those were taken deep below the mountains to never see the light of day, presumably to summon, bind and disect demons for green fire. Goblin Named are likely the same secret ones, or the Matrons.

      Liked by 6 people

    7. caoimhinh

      We have Black’s theory that Goblins have Names but they are very secretive.
      ALSO, there is evidence of the Bard interacting directly with a Goblin, even before interacting with the known Named humans at the scene.

      In Book 2 Chapter 32 “Draw”, right after the fight with the Demon, Catherine and Akua confronted and Heiress pushed for a draw (solidifying the Pattern of Three), then Wandering Bard appeared in the middle of a line of sappers, she made her presence known by throwing a bottle of liquor to Akua.

      The interesting part is that the current working hypothesis for everyone (both in-universe and outside) is that the Intercessor can only act through Named, but she clearly interacted with at least one female goblin, Lieutenant Rattler, before throwing the bottle, as shown when Robber asks why that line of sappers wasn’t attacking the Bard, Rattler answers that the Bard had bribed her and she would give half of it to Robber.

      When the Bard disappears right as the goblins detonate the tiles of the roof over which she was standing, Lieutenant Rattler is shown biting one of the coins the Bard had given her and cursing as she noticed it was fake.

      So… either Lieutenant Rattler has a Name, the Bard can interact with non-Named, or this was made before EE had decided on the rule that the Intercessor could only directly interact with Named.

      Maybe something else?

      Liked by 5 people

      1. There is no rule Bard can only interact with Named and there has never been. You think William’s and Hanno’s bands would not have noticed that? When Bard first appears in the Free Cities after reincarnation she swipes someone’s bottle and briefly chats with the bartender before going to meet Hanno.

        What she cannot do, apparently, is appear places where there aren’t Named or other great story weight. She cannot just choose to manifest anywhere she likes. She can, however, go any places she likes on foot as long as she’s already there and isn’t being urgently called on for another duty.

        Oh, she also interacted with Barika Unonti, Akua’s helper, in the demon standard place. Threw sand at her.

        Liked by 9 people

        1. KageLupus

          Exactly. It’s not that Bard can’t interact with non-Named, she can’t *interfere* with non-Named. From a narrative perspective that is a very big difference.

          Bard can talk to normal people, and bribe goblins with fake money, and do any other activity that would look “normal” for a Named who wasn’t an immortal body-hopper.

          What Bard can’t do is stop a pair of Elves hellbent on murder from striking down someone without a Name. That would be messing with the wrong part of the story. Scaring the Elves away from Akua so she could go from Heiress to Diabolist is allowed though, since that is nudging the Story in an acceptable manner.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Yeah. She’s limited on meta level, not object level. She’s limited in her actions on the basis of what consequences they would have, not actions themselves.

            Mind screwy but hey the entire ‘narrative is an actual force’ thing always was.

            Liked by 5 people

      2. stevenneiman

        I think her interactions need to focus on a Named, but I don’t think she’s barred from interacting with other people in service of it. Bribing the sappers was clearly in service of shaping her interaction with Cat, so it was allowed.

        Liked by 2 people

    8. skovbenjamin

      I was wondering about this. The current main theory is that their names are super secretive. Names draw on stories of a culture but goblins are obsessive about not sharing things and that might even apply to stories. If everything is an advantage over the other tribes then why would you ever give them the chance to hear about an impressive member of your tribe by letting someone tell the story. The goblins might not have named because their culture lacks collective stories because nothing is ever shared enough to become a story. What kind of story would a goblin Named be part of, they can’t be part of a rebellion without revealing themselves or drawing in other Named to the story and internal goblin politics is intentionally small and casual. If the goblins have some sort of secret culture deep underground it might have stories but might not be large enough to sustain a narrative for a Named. Based on this they could have a single Named ruler or champion related to some ancient story that hasn’t ended but I think their culture and civilization isn’t big enough to have an entirely self contained narrative.

      The drow didn’t have Named either because their culture didn’t have stories anymore, Rumena and a few other ancient drow might recall old legends but collectively the drow don’t have strong cultural narratives in their current state. I would expect that in a generation or two for Named to begin appearing maybe even during the war on Keter but only once they have recovered or developed stories or as part of another nations narrative (like how Hakram has a non orc name).

      Bellephron also never developed Named because their culture rejects them but also possibly because their culture doesn’t supply any stories except for their founding legend because a story would glorify an individual over others or might even tacitly acknowledge the authority of a foreign tyrant.

      Overall I’m proposing that if a culture lacks well disseminated stories they can’t become Named without joining another culture’s story as well as that a narrative requires a large enough stage to occur and that goblins could lack these. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that goblins have become named in the past by becoming part of another culture’s story and just kept it a secret but providence would be very unlikely to permit that to play out without the secret being revealed eventually.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. naturalnuke

      Malicia has an aspect that lets her imbed orders in people’s brains to make sleeper agents. She’s spent the time to infect every officer graduate of the war college.

      I believe they just got activated.

      Liked by 10 people

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          I think it was in the chapter where she killed Akua ´s mother. She has Rule, and she can use it to boost her Speaking. It is possible for her to plant commands in others and activate them later, and she did so at least with all officer in the 3 Wastelands Legions. I don’t know if she did the same with other Legions.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Malicia secretly put mind control hooks into every high ranking Legion officer she could.
            The only question is where the cutoff lies. Though presumably there would have been some exceptions, such as officers of lesser rank with ties to the High Lords and other nobles.

            It’s one of the reasons people think Malicia has control issues and was never a true believer in Amadeus’s New School Pragmatic Villainy, and was always at heart a Classic Old School Villain who was only going along with Amadeus’s plans and practices while she benefited.

            Liked by 7 people

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              Officers with ties to the nobility would have on the contrary be a priority, they were at the most likely to betray her.

              I think Malicia is at heart practical. She was satisfied by owning only Callow, be at peace with everyone and disdained the grandiose projects of her predecessor. Even the flying city was never meant to be used. She used old-school methods only when she had nothing left.

              Liked by 6 people

              1. > I think Malicia is at heart practical. She was satisfied by owning only Callow, be at peace with everyone and disdained the grandiose projects of her predecessor. Even the flying city was never meant to be used. She used old-school methods only when she had nothing left.

                Indeed. You could, in a way, make an argument that her attachment to Practical Villainy was only ever… practical. As opposed to Amadeus’, which crossed over into ideological.

                Liked by 5 people

                1. Jacob McNeer

                  Yeah, it’s ironic that Amadeus is an idealist while Malicia is a Pragmatist, considering that one reformed the legions and the other put a super complicated, multi-layered plan into effect in order to get a mobile fortress city that can spit out permanent gateways to hell.

                  Liked by 2 people

  1. Insanenoodlyguy

    It is odd Juniper has placed herself under arrest. This is not her failure, even if she gave insult the legion would only move for black or malicia.

    My theory: It was Malicia. The hooks have been sunk in deeper then we thought, and not just in the legion. Juniper HELPED them leave. And in doing so betrayed both her Warlord and the Carrion Lord. Realizing after there is only one reason she’d have done that, she took herself and anybody else that fit her new definition of potentially compromised out of the chain of command.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Maybe. Or perhaps Juniper felt the order too and instead of obeying she put herself and all the other Army of Callow officers who were ex-Empire under arrest so they didn’t do anything Malica wants.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Shveiran

        If resisting the order is that easy, the aspect is unlikely to be a game changer. Juniper is not the only one with strong loyalties, and Malicia developed this to counter Black’s influence on the Legions he shaped.

        Liked by 6 people

            1. Crash

              If it was anyone else, I would agree. But this is, in fact, Juniper.

              She’s likely to go into a train of tought of “why am I doing this and is it actually useful from a tactical standpoint?” if the answer is no and the wish to do the thing does not go away, I’m pretty sure that’d trip all sorts of alarms in her brain.

              Now, I’m nto saying she resisted it, but I do think she would find it in herself to obstruct the possibility as best she could before trying to do it. So maybe Malicia said “Do A” and Juniper tought okay I’ll do A, but before I do that I’m just gonna place myself under arrest. And then from prison she goes “hey guys let’s do A” which is, of course, promptly ignored.

              Juniper is taking a nap right now.

              Liked by 4 people

            2. JJR

              I don’t think it’s quite that simple. Juniper is clever enough to do it sure, but I don’t think she’d be uniquely clever such that only she managed it and none of the Legion in Exile officers did out of loyalty to Black.

              I think part of the explanation is going to stem from the fact that the Army of Callow is no longer part of the legions. If the sleeper order was outdated in this regard then there’s an opening for Juniper that Legion officers can’t use. Something like, “return all legion soldiers under your command to Ater an and take any appropriate action needed to ensure you are unhindered.”

              Well, what do you know, turns out that arresting 1/3 of the officers of the Army of Callow will create exactly the sort of disarray the Legions could use to get away. That these are also the compromised officers, welcome to r/maliciouscompliance.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Crash

                Didn’t mean to imply she was the only one capable of it, I reckoned Marshall Grem had his own scheme prepared to spring on the way to/upon arrival to Praes. That said… This makes a lot of sense and I like it a lot more than the half baked tangent my brain went on about the story of the Army of Callow.

                Thanks, mate.

                Liked by 2 people

    2. Shrikne

      So… Does this mean Abigail is now the highest-ranking officer not under arrest in the Army of Callow, as she’s the highest ranking member not from the 15th if I remember correctly?

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Crash

        She absolutely is. Isn’t that great? She must be nearing a meltdown right now. It’s gonna be fun.

        I also hope that Hune somehow got out unscathed. I don’t recall her original rank within the legion but it might have been low enough to not warrant a Ruling. It’d be fun to have that foil and very different perspective to Cat in the council dealing with the biggest breach in the Army of Callow.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. She has always had second highest rank after Juniper – when Juniper was a legate she was a tribune, when Juniper was a general she was a legate, etc.

          I don’t think Malicia would overlook her, unfortunately =x


  2. Quite Possibly A Cat

    Ah, that Malacia and her mind control. It is a big single point of failure. I guess they really need to stab her now.

    Wait, is that why she’s gathering the High Lords? Mind Control? That’s certainly one way of getting the High Lords to behave.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Cat notes here that the high lords are almost certain to back Malicia vs. Black, but I can’t shake the suspicion she is gathering them up to slaughter them. Her energy is still dirtbag left angry barmaid, in my eyes. Like, her siding with the rich vs. Amadeus just doesn’t feel like a thing that might happen.

      I bet she uses them as a big sacrifice or something, probably after playing them off against one another with the offer of Chancellor.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ah, but in her eyes this isn’t a class struggle conflict. It is for Amadeus, in many ways, but he’s never put it like that to her and it’s not what she sees.

        She sees Praes struggling to survive, singularly, and Amadeus making mistakes and suboptimal moves (same as he thinks of her) – as she also is too proud to submit even if she knows that if she sided with him he’d win. A lot of her energy is also ‘a woman who was once a near-slave to a man and will not allow that to happen again’.


          1. I agree, but I feel like a Name that’s also a normal title should get an adjective to make it easier to distinguish from the normal title – Marshal Juniper really doesn’t sound that easy to distinguish from Juniper, the Marshal. But what adjective suits for Juniper? I rather like the Steely Marshal as a Name for her personally.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I’d argue The Marshal would suit just fine as a Name – we have Captain and Adjutant as precedent. Names are exactly that – titles and nicknames given additional weight, not unique identifiers. Even Hedge Wizard is an example – there was apparently a hedge mage guild in Callow.


        1. jonnnney

          She has the intellect for it, but lacks the passion required. The certainty that something is incorrect in the world and that they have the ability to change it. It is similar to why Robber remains nameless. They are both wonderful characters who are the best in their field, yet they come from cultures which can’t have names and are too subservient to the way things are done to break that mold.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. gingerlygrump

            It’s too bad, really. Juniper IS war. Robber IS the knife in the dark. They are both wildly passionate about those things.

            But- as you said- they’re conditioned to be followers. They kneel.
            Which sucks. I want a lot of things for our band of scrappy oddballs and misfits, but what I want most of all is for them to live through this godsdamned war. And those without Names are so fragile. Other than Cat, of course, but we’re not even sure what she is at this point.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. We know Aisha and Juniper live through this war, because future epigraphs :3

              I’d say it’s not so much followers/kneeling, as supporting Names exist (Adjutant, Captain, Scribe), as lack of clarity/weight/sharp point. Juniper is not making a name for herself except as an expert among experts. She’s a background player, and she stands among equals as far as those on her level are. She’s just not special enough, and I’d actually argue this spells better things for her life expectancy than if she got a Name. Currently, she’s not a target.


  3. Cap'n Smurfy

    It never rains but it pours. I know Malicia is particularly talented at Speaking, but this kind of hidden order contingencies reeks of Aspect tier power.
    Actually do we have any hints about what Malicia might have as aspects? As far as name powers go we’ve seen her projecting herself into others, speaking with incredible skill and appearing outright supernaturally beautiful. Maybe magic was involved in some parts but Malicia isn’t a sorceress. Any guesses on aspect names? Manoeuvre or Orchestrate strike me as possible social ones.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Death Knight

      I don’t know about her not being a sorceress. EE mentioned in a comment way back in Book 1 when someone asked if magic (necromancy specifically) will become a staple of Cat’s Name powers and he said that nothing Cat would be able to do would compare to what Wekesa or Alaya could do on a good day.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. You haven’t argued about it as extensively as I have!

            Also, WoG document is much shorter than the entire story and much easier to reread in its entirety… 9.9

            (Also, I recommend reading liveblogs. All the re-remembering of important details, much less time and attention span required!)

            (Also writing liveblogs. Once you’ve written your thoughts on something down, it’s much easier to remember. It’s kind of like taking notes in class, only more fun)


    2. konstantinvoncarstein

      It is a copy of one of my previous comment:

      She has Rule, and she can use it to boost her Speaking. It is possible for her to plant commands in others and activate them later, creating unknowing sleeper agents. She did so at least with all officers in the 3 Wastelands Legions. I didn’t know she did the same with other Legions.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. konstantinvoncarstein

      And the puppet thing is done by using a method created by Nefarious, so i suppose mages are needed for that. The supernatural beauty is probably linked to her Name, and maybe a spell cast by one of her mage.

      And Malicia is no mage, « only » a very good politician.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        The way it was described, she’s obscenely beautiful to start, her name enhances it with presence to draw attention and fill with awe/fear/lust, and her clothes further enchanted to get that attention to begin with.

        So she’s got a few buffs but even if dispelled she still has the highest CHA bonus in the room.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. She is also very specifically skilled at making the exact impression she wants to. This is the part that comes through through the puppet 100% – it’s unsettled Catherine in Book 3 and now it’s how she recognized when Malicia fully inhabited the body.


        2. So her native Cha is probably slightly lower than Amadeus’s and Catherine’s – beauty is not all there is to it, and she isn’t known for drawing followers to her cause just with the strength of passion the way these two do – but she makes up for it with goddamn expertise in persuasion, deception and perfomance.

          And Name-driven and enchantment buffs.


  4. Insanenoodlyguy

    The subreddit just floated this idea, so I can’t take credit but: if all the older officers of the war college who make up most of the higher ranks are for the moment compromised, then a new Marshall is needed for the time being. One who can be trusted, who has the pull and the respect, and who never went to college.


    Liked by 21 people

      1. TAP_M113

        EXACTLY! Above is trying to apply the cuckoo strategy!

        Gift an above-powered name fuelled by Comic relief and providence to a reluctant farmer girl dragged into a position of power, that bumbles its way to posts of responsibility, and that when her mentor (Catherine) tragically dies is comically dragged into Kingdom against her will?

        That story is a Tsar-Bomba on its own right, and it could very well work, since Catherine is too soft-hearted to kill any comic relief character that isn’t aligned to Evil, or that doesn’t have a hidden depth, or grounded in grim reality.
        I hope Cat’s entourage realizes it and has a serious talk with Abigail about meta-narrative, or she could unwittingly ruin EVERYONE` s work….

        You know you are going to die when the Heavens grant a comic relief name to somebody you slipped into mentoring….
        Gods, I dread and hate Abigail. Nothing personal, she is just made to get a whole lot of people killed, unless she sees the writing on the wall and seriously tends to her responsibilities.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. She’s not a farmgirl.

          You’re… reading way too much into this, dude.

          Also I’m personally still waiting for Shining Princess Vivienne. Now that would be a move on Above’s part worthy of Below’s finest tricks: “aand we are retroactively claiming ALL of this as having been in our favor all along”.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. TAP_M113

            Oh yes, that is the second prong on the offensive.

            But Vivienne would get it and reject the name.

            Abigail, of common birth, out of her depth and already idoliked by the rank and file?
            She doesn’t know anything about the dangers of metanarrative or how Catherine and friends want to craft a world without divine/narrative interference, and is desperate for ANYTHING that offers her an advantage to get out of this mess….

            She would take the name bait hook, line and sinker. And you kill people or reduce their narrative weight by getting them to mentor someone, a narrative mistake Cat already has done…

            Will it work that way? With a bit of luck, maybe not.
            Is it a sly and dangerous move? Absolutely.
            It would be a welcone test of maturity for Catherine to take that deadly situation and turn it around into an assett, that would be Amadeus-grade narrative Kung-fu.

            Maybe get Aisha or Juniper to act as her mentors? If she gets training and the comic relief goes away, that would relieve much of the danger….

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Jacob McNeer

              Several problems with this theory.

              1: Narrative force doesn’t affect everyone equally. It seems to affect gods the most, then demigods (fey), then Named and then, after a huge gap, regular humans. One of the main reasons Cat delights in not having a Mantle or a Name is that there is no role forcing her to conform and she doesn’t have to worry as much about the story turning against her. (Can you imagine what would have happened if she had a Mantle or Name when she was bluffing the cavalry charge? “Arrogant Villain trampled into the dirt!”) She only has to worry about it when she is considering her friends, allies and enemies. This is why Cordelia was able to get so far despite not having a meta bone in her body, The Story doesn’t affect her because she is not one of the Named Characters. What I’m trying to say is that the story hasn’t affected Abagail to be the “crouching coward, hidden badass” comic relief character, it’s not some hidden trap designed by above or below. She’s just naturally that way.

              2: Most Named don’t have a choice about getting or losing their Names. Cat and Cordelia are the exception, not the rule. Black became the Squire in the heat of battle after seeing the previous Black Knight because he relied too much on his awesome power and not enough on common sense. Masego became Apprentice after becoming fed up with everyone’s inaccuracies and incompetence. Iridani became Archer after she was offered a taste of freedom. Vivienne became the Thief because she wanted to make every single Praesi pay for what they did to her mother and her country, and she lost the Name when she no longer felt that way. In every single example I gave they had no choice about becoming Named (many of them didn’t realize that they had become one until afterwards) and Vivienne had no choice about losing her name and if she did she wouldn’t have lost it because she was still really insecure at the time. Neither Vivienne nor Abigail would most likely have any choice in the matter if they became Named, it would be due to their will, longing and the way they see the world.

              2.5: While it’s clear that Vivienne understands why Cat doesn’t want Named leading Nations, we don’t know whether she feels the same way, especially since its basically an open secret that that part of the Liesse Accords is going to be bargained away. It is quite possible that Vivienne wouldn’t see anything wrong with becoming a Good Queen (I’m pretty sure that Shining Prince(ss) is a Procer Name).


              1. Amadeus actually deliberately chose to lay claim to the Name of Squire. It’s how Praesi Names usually work – ambition-driven, you have to be TRYING to get it. But that’s specific to a particular category of Names, not a universal thing. For most of them, yeah, you usually just get slotted into the groove without the pivot informing you what it’s about, if you even get one at all.

                Narrative actually affects regular people a lot, just… slightly, en masse. What is unusual about Named is more the disproportionate amount in which they affect the narrative. Where a regular person would be lumped in with everyone else in their broad category in, say, successfully repelling the Dead from their borders yet again, regardless of their personal choices, a Named has the story react to their every move, and that’s why they’re so vulnerable to making mistakes and prone to getting huge bonuses.

                That said, Above doesn’t guide narratives in the way described in the post above. What influence there is is subtle, there is just impression of much greater inteference in-universe because things tend to align narratively in the way Gods are assumed to like, and inconsistencies are faith’d away. Note how Cat was declared heretic after strong-arming angels in First Liesse – everyone can tell something went wrong, they just aren’t quite sure how.

                I think Abigail is a genuine supportive narrative to Cat, the same way Rat Company was. Back in Book 1, the story demanded that Catherine get a smooth ride to her first command, with a convenient ambitionless Ragtag Band of Misfits to win over. Now, if we infer from the convenience of Abigail’s rise just when and where her particular talents (deescalation of conflicts) are needed, the story is demanding that Callow not fall apart in Catherine’s hands, and doesn’t that have interesting implications?

                Liked by 1 person

    1. OH DEF

      Whatever the fuck it is that just happened (my theory was that Juniper helped Grem because of personal reasons and then placed herself under arrest cause she’s conscientous like that), Marshal Abigail is like 99% definitely a go.

      Welcome to hell, gurl.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. TAP_M113

      Oh shit NO. She lacks the qualifications, she is fully narrative-driven, she is fully powered by chance and luck…

      The army of Callow is going to be lead by a Comic relief-powered name. FROM ABOVE.

      Dear Gods, Abigail is basically made from magic swords. This is how Above kills Catherine in revenge for all her progress.

      How come she is not seeing Above` s dagger? When the Choirs want to murder you, they send the comic relief, ensure critical points of the plan and positions in your army are held by incompetents, and gift you magic swords.

      Abigail is all of those, laced with Cyanide and tons of goblinfire for good measure. Please somebody save Juniper, so she can deliver us from this grim fate

      Liked by 4 people

        1. This exactly. Abigail truly is the Ciaphas Cain of the Guideverse – she talks herself down constantly in her POVs, but that’s a self-image thing and not an actual competence thing. She is genuinely good at this and has the potential to succeed at handling even more responsibility, and she is so incredibly uncomfortable with that idea that her psyche subconsciously refuses to recognize it.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Great observation re: Ciaphas Cain. It is just that same energy. Abigail feels like an utter fraud and constantly talks up her desire to escape, but what she actually does is all the things a heroic callowan soldier would do.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. > Great observation re: Ciaphas Cain.

              Thanks! In the interests of honesty I have to disclose that I’m definitely not the first person to make that comparison in the comments, though – I was using it because it seemed super apt to me as well when I saw it.

              It really is that same energy though, right down to the dissonance between her internal monologue and what actually winds up happening being played up for comedic effect to the reader (while practically all the actual in-universe characters around her remain totally oblivious and in awe of her). And I guess here Cat would be filling the Amberley role, not romantically obv but rather in that she sees through both layers of Abigail’s facade – Cat can see through Abigail’s external facade and realizes that she sees herself very differently than others see her, and she can see through Abigail’s internal denial and realizes that she is actually genuinely competent/good at this. And she just chooses not to ever explicitly call Abigail out on any of it bc why fix what ain’t broken, right?

              Liked by 2 people

              1. I think she’s tried to help Abigail with her anxiety issues and realized it’s truly beyond her power. Or, well, to the degree that it’s working, it’s doing so very slowly.


        2. ChillyPepper

          I think people seem to forget she managed to hold her own pretty well against a surprise attack that killed her commanding officer and threw the army into a pit of chaos and instead focus on the sad anxiety narrative of hers.

          Liked by 3 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        When did you get the idea she was incompetent? Every one of her ideas has made sense. She is a person who’s moves work better then expected but she’s never made a move that only worked because pure narrative bullshit.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. I mean… we’ve seen her explicitly come up with plans that she’s like “I’ll ask for X, because I know they’ll say no, and then I don’t have to do this stupid plan” and “Oh god, I have to do something that is plausibly legit, but won’t get me promoted”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That happened one (1) time, and even then the luck component was only in that her requisition made for different reasons ended up being usable in her situation. That she saw how to use it and used it was no coincidence, only that it was there for her to use.


          2. I will also note that in requesting knights, she needed to make her request seem plausible, so that she’d get demoted for incompetence, not tribunal’d for sabotage. She requested something that she thought would in retrospect make sense for her to request, just something she didn’t expect to get granted anyway. Yes, that’s subtle line she tried to ride, and she fell on the ‘granted because plausible’ end of it. Juniper didn’t know what she was going to do with them but she believed it was possible she would do SOMETHING, because the knights really are a generally useful asset.

            And so, because of an unsuccessful politial play, Abigail ended up with a useful asset she didn’t expect to have. And then used to to brilliant effect when there was in fact an opportune moment for it.

            Would you really say no competence was invovled at any point in that chain?


      2. Ultimate_procrastinator

        Why do you keep insisting she has a name? She doesn’t, and even if Above offers her one, so long as she figures it out, it would be completely consistent for her to reject it because she doesn’t want the work of being Named


      1. TAP_M113

        Welcome to the commentariat, brother!
        Your application to second tier citizenry has been approved by the Ashur Thalassocracy. Enjoy the watch for new chapetrs with us!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Goobinator101

      This. Are they going to take the fight back to the Tower through the use of the Twilight Ways? He can keep Malicia busy while everyone focuses on the Dead King. A mind control aspect out of nowhere seems off.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s not out of nowhere, we knew about it from one of the extra chapters. And from pure Cat’s-view-narrative point of view, now is the EXACT time Malicia is pulling all her hidden cards out of sleeves. It’s perfectly fitting that she have a lot of those.


    2. He’s still right here in Salia, and does not possess independent means of quick travel, let alone isntanteneous.

      Well okay if Twilight gates are permanent he might have that. Still not instanteneous, and Cat would not let him go like that because that would be violating her agreements with allies and he knows it.

      Too stupid for him.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. I feel like there is essentially zero chance Black isn’t mind controlled right now. He has no Name, and we’ve already established that Named mind control utterly owns sorcery in the Cat/Lady Ime ‘I could make you kill yourself’ scene. Malicia talked to him in council, and we know she can Speak without actually Speaking from the interlude where she kills Talia.

      If he was heading for Praes with an army at his back it would be to fight for Malicia as a puppet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A necromantic puppet cannot channel an Aspect power like that. If Malicia were there in person this would be an entirely different story – one in which everyone who saw her was in danger, but one where she herself would be vulnerable to getting killed then and there in turn. Entirely differently balanced dramatic stakes.

        By using a puppet, Malicia keeps herself safe, but she is also unable to exert much of a threat through her mere presence – being, y’know, not present.


        1. I disagree, lots of evidence for Named doing stuff at a distance.

          1. Cat & Lady Ime conversation.
          2. Everything DK does is through a necromantic puppet.
          3. Cat animating her own corpse wasn’t impaired in using her power.

          It might be that Malicia can’t use her power through a puppet, but it would be a weakness unique to her, and a really weird one for her to have, given her specialty.


  5. Malicia: Wait for it…
    Malicia: Wait for it…
    Malicia: Bit of intervening in Salia’s coup, and then wait for it…
    Malicia: Wait just a little bit longer…
    Malicia: Wait for Kairos to stop monologuing his death speech…
    Malicia: Still waiting…
    Malicia: Gods Below damn it Kairos, would you jus- Ah there we go.
    Malicia: Just a little bit longer for good measure…
    Malicia: And Operation There’s-no-other-Villains-to-overshadow-my-play-so-it’s-assured-to-be-serious-and-devastating-without-finite-doom-kneecapping-me is a go! Mind control, activate!

    Dead King from the shadows: Foolish Dread Empress, by overshadowing my renewed invasion with your self-destructive plan you merely made the Heroes a target supported by Story to be defeated, while my forces are protected by the essential and Story-driven Heroes and Leaders’ attention being drawn elsewhere. My overwhelming forces will be successful without Story-intervention at pivots at every turn, and the bonus chapters will not suffice to stop my march.

    *Both Malicia and Dead King laugh maniacally*
    *Matron Wither, the final and most powerful Villain of this book series, stands in DK’s shadows rubbing her hands together and mumbling ‘Yes… Yes… Overshadow my villainry to enable me to further my plans unopposed. Yes…’

    Liked by 7 people

  6. laguz24

    Goddammit Malacia, you are trading short term gains for long term losses. You were already dead but this just leads to you guaranteed to be extra dead. Also if you are trying to mind control the entire Praesi court in addition to the goblin tribes then this is beyond stupid. You have no friends, all your ‘allies’ would want you dead at the drop of a hat, you are supposed to be smarter than this. Also if someone (not me) could find a full list of officers who would be affected that would be nice. Is marshal orim affected?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “Every officer stationed in the Wasteland of legate rank or higher”.

      If it covers the Callowan + Exile Legions, then yes it covers Marsham Grem (I’m guessing that’s who you mean, with Orim not being a Marshal). If she’s that bold. IDK.

      Also, she doesn’t actually need to mind control the court, just show she’s still in control and in power. They’ll submit as long as she’s clearly winning.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. TAP_M113

      Malicia has ALWAYS been smart.
      She is actually getting all her objectives:
      -Got the League as trading partners and allies, which are now THE naval superpower and under her thumb.
      -She can retrieve Foramen and the Confederation is kicked back to the Eyries.
      -DK is rampaging as intended.
      -Callow armies & legions in Exile seem heavily compromised.

      I bet she has a plan to always be a lesser evil and make her existence and rule acceptable to other powers.
      Malicia has never crossed the moral event horizon, and trying to remove her from Praes would cause more problems it would solve, because at the end she is the sole remaining rational actor in the Wasteland and a patriot.
      She knows it, and it is the cornerstone of her rule.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. TAP_M113

        At the end, the only dislikeable things she has done are:
        -Doom of Liesse. The only thing undeniably Evil she indirectly did, and it was a nuclear deterrent she can plausibly deny when the X crusade threatened Praes with invasion and the loss of Callow, which would have resulted in as many, if not more deaths by starvation amongst Praesi citizenry.

        -Ratface death, amongst other officials. Small change, modern countries kill each other agents far more often.
        Did not hamper Cat nor Callow, whose “de facto” independence Malicia was nice enough to indirectly endorse – Something easily ended with Assasin waving his little fingers.

        -Death King invasion: Second most damningrateful thing, until you realize that it could be a secret agreement with Bard to entice the Death King into a killing field. This could actually be an anti-villainous move; at the end, what better move to legitimate Praes in the international community that the DK head on a Pike after the Grand Alliance has been run ragged, and Praes unexpectedly saves the day?

        I like Malicia. At the end, she has seemingly neglected meta-narrative, but everything she has done comes from a good place and with far less loss of life than Amadeus methods would.
        It would be interesting to see Malicia making true their lifelong dreams for a new Praes from soft power, winning against Amadeus, then offering him the Chancellor post, with all the trust that comes implicit with it.

        Alternatively, Malicia has actually planned for her defeat at the hands of Amadeus, and the Wasteland Nobility is trapped between the incoming hammer (Amadeus) while carefully held in place by the Anvil (Malicia).
        At the end, there is no firmer chance of Victory for a Villain that the certainty of its defeat…Which means a Villain has quite a good deal of control and agency over it.

        It would be original and humbling, and humility is a virtue. If there is something that I always liked about this tale, it is its originality and that results have a morality of their own….

        Liked by 3 people

        1. That would be damn cool. Both the idea of Alaya setting up for Amadeus’s victory, and the idea of her having a secret agreement with Bard. I find the latter less credible than the former, and former less likely than her genuinely fighting back, but… Hm. I want that.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. TAP_M113

            Yes, I bet that Malicia wishes to win herself and keep her rule, but there is worse things in Meta-narrative and life to have your defeat condition be only a slightly weaker victory.

            Malicia is smart, and I don’t think she is going to go down in the narrative flames of old-school Evil as Amadeus seems to fear.

            Win or loose, she is more interesting and likeable than that.
            And having Wither granted nobility and goblins settled outside of the stifling pall of secrecy would be as great as a Strike for non-human rights and cause as the ones Amadeus did.
            Both of them coincided in many things when it came to goals, it is on the methods where their disagreements always arose.

            We laugh at Wither villainy, but that makes two big bold goblin emigration initiatives she has spearheaded.
            She is the Catherine of Goblinkind, and wants her people to climb out of the crab bucket the Eyries are for her kind.
            Goblins suffered a lot after the dwarves near-genocided them, it is logical they want to go out of their jail and explore their potential to the fullest. Wether this leads to a technological golden age for Calernia or a Malthus scenario followed by Gnome apocalypse remains to be seen…

            Liked by 3 people

              1. mamm0nn

                Why no technological golden age? Only thing the goblins have to do is put their sharpers in tubes with a metal ball, upscale that to ballista size, make it accurate and powerful enough, go through a fantasy WWI and WWII to refine their means with practice and full war-effort economy, and then hopefully not find that the gnomes are even more advanced than WWII tech. No biggie, they can handle it. And if all else fail, they could weaponise the power of friendship by channelling it directly from Robber who’s been bottling it up in the friend zone since book 1.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

                  The gnomes won’t politely wait for them to get there, they’ll send a Red Letter at the first sign of trouble brewing. I’m pretty sure that a goblin Red Letter would ultimately be a Praesi one anyway, and Praes is already out of warnings before Gnome-ageddon ensues IIRC.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. mamm0nn

                    Who said anything about politely waiting? Goblins, you’ve got… say… about three weeks? Three weeks to do all of the above. Get going.

                    From the upside, it’s quite likely that the goblins can keep most to all of their developments a secret because it’s all happening underneath the mountains. You can’t tell me that the dwarven tech and means are not yet red letter worthy, but they’re not letting the gnome sattelites or whatever see them. They make sure that nothing but those low-tech slayers and the occassional mercenary band with axes appear on the surface. That the goblins were found out once before is likely because they did something on the surface like venting a kind of smoke that showed what they were doing, not that the gnomes can actually see through their stone into their tight-lip communities.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. > From the upside, it’s quite likely that the goblins can keep most to all of their developments a secret because it’s all happening underneath the mountains

                      We literally learned about gnomes from that one time someone in the Eyries was playing with powders. We explicitly START with establishing that yes, what goblins are doing is visible to gnomes.

                      > You can’t tell me that the dwarven tech and means are not yet red letter worthy

                      Yes, I can. They use crossbows and ballistae, and magically bound familiars. Those aren’t subject to gnomish restrictions, and all dwarven tech we see is explicitly under Red Letter level. I’ll remind you that we see that underground, in their war against drow, which by your logic would be invisible to gnomes.

                      (But isn’t)

                      Liked by 1 person

                2. > and then hopefully not find that the gnomes are even more advanced than WWII tech.


                  They were at that level thousands of years ago. Their technological development did not stop there.

                  And munitions are too unstable to be used in place of black powder. They work on magic, not chemistry, and so aren’t quite so flexible and adaptable. Powdered devil, remember? Pickler is already flinging them with rope-powered siege weaponry, but a farming machine got a Red Letter.

                  Liked by 1 person

        2. (Oh, and even without secret agreement with Bard, I’m pretty sure she’s counting on DK being defeated either way – killed or pushed back. Him actually conquering the continent except for places she’s bargained for is not plan A)

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Notably, appointing Wither as goblin nobility would secure her a steadfast ally against the High Lords. Not against Amadeus – he’d confirm goblin nobility in an eyeblink – but the old schoolers? Wither stays as long as Malicia/Amadeus’s faction is in power and she knows it.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. TAP_M113

          Perfect analysis of the situation. Long-term, the output of goblin technology with the resources of Foramen would outstrip the power of the High Lords and solidify the rule of any Dread Emperor.

          So Malicia methods are solidifying her dream of a stable Praes without putting Praesi nobility to the sword, balancing them with an additional opposed economic powerhouse instead….unless the matrons would only take two generations to get recognised by the High Lords as a delightful source of rocket fuel to the bonfire, and Praesi politics discovering fractal-grade backstabbing after Foramen Matrons teach them how you PROPERLY backstab your Dread Emperor with the lessons learned from millenia of Matron Orwelllian rule.

          Everyone is gangster until the Matrons roll out the heavy scheming daggers…

          Liked by 3 people

          1. > unless the matrons would only take two generations to get recognised by the High Lords as a delightful source of rocket fuel to the bonfire

            …that’s what I would bet on.

            A good short-term shore-up, though!

            Liked by 1 person

    3. jonnnney

      She is not using mind control on the goblins nor is she planning on doing so to the high lords. Malacia isn’t trading short term gains for long term losses. Rather she is taking the next logical step in the Reforms, ie granting a noble title to a greenskin. By making a Matron a high lord she is fundamentally changing the story of the goblins from a group of warring tribes to just another faction of the Praesi Aristocracy and Malacia’s greatest strength as a Dread Empress is her ability to control the HIgh Court. Her actions today gives her a short term gain of defeating the goblin rebellion and long term gains getting the goblins to be more invested in the Empire of Praes and making them easier for her to manage.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. crescentsickle

    Catherine: Gods, what kind of Callowan would sell out their own just because the going got rough?

    Also Catherine: Man, it sucks that Praes owns Callow even though we hate that kind of thing for all eternity. But they will kill a bunch of us otherwise, so I better kill all these Callowans trying to rebel.

    I mean, really Cat. Come on now.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Crash

      To be fair she trapped herself into that narrative and also she used to be real good at not noticing her own hipocrisy, been getting a lot better on that front lately.

      However, I would like to say that she didn’t sell them out in any way there, she had a vision and they were her opponents to it, pushing foward an idea of revolution that she tought would led to mcuh more death than just putting them down would. I don’t know, I feel like it’s not really the same thing.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah, I’d strongly agree with this not being the same – selling out your people is when you join up with their enemy for personal gain. Even at the absolutely most flawed level of Cat’s planning, she has never been about personal gain. Remember “one life for a hundred thousand, that’s a steal by any measure”? Someone who would happily die to protect their people is not a sellout by pretty much any definition I’m prepared to recognize.

        And for that matter, Cat has never seen her entry into the Praesi power structure as joining up with Callow’s enemy – it’s been about making the Praesi into not an enemy, which is the only permanent resolution possible to the intergenerational Praes/Callow dogfight that has stunted both nations since time immemorial. That’s not a betrayal, that’s a vision.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. jonnnney

      She definitely sold out her people in order to gain the strength she needed. The difference is Callow had been conquered for 20 years while the goblins had only been rebelling for a few months. Her actions were a last resort while the goblins turned on each at the first opportunity.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Everything that everyone said above.

      1) Catherine was not ‘selling out’ her people, she was betting on one course of action over the other. She explicitly thought the rebellion was doomed, and her joining up would not bolster their chances, just increase casualties. There is a difference between “our chances have lowered, time to bail myself out at everyone else’s expense” and “this will literally have no positive effect at all and we need to do something else”, albeit admittedly often a subtle one. Note that a lot of former rebels after deserting from the rebellion’s army went straight to recruitment camps and requested placement with the Fifteenth.

      2) To the degree that she ‘sold them out’ by kicking off the rebellion in the first place, it was not for personal gain. Well, technically as the immediate first step it was, but just that – the first step, a pre-requisite to her then USING that gain for a long-term advantage to her people. Don’t forget that initially she also viewed getting a villainous Name as selling her soul – she was willing to do that for the very people some of which she later ‘sold out’.

      3) Even if she’d done it before, that wouldn’t have made her wrong about it being, well, wrong. Remember the reaction people had to her in Summerholm early on? She WAS despised for being a ‘sellout’, BECAUSE it’s something Callowans Just Don’t Do. This phrase does not mean No Callowan In History Has Ever Done That, it means “Callowans who do that are considered the lowest of the low by other Callowans”. Cat does self-burns on a regular basis.


  8. Fern

    … well, whatever happens I think we’ll get an answer for what happened to juniper’s mom. We already suspected it involved goblins, and this seems to be about the right time.

    That, or cat is about to be out maneuvered by malicia so we’ll be reminded just how dangerous she really is.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Uhhh that one where she bantered with Vivienne and Hakram in front of Juniper and Grem, to Juniper’s growing dismay and Grem’s utter indifference. Right after joining up with the biggest part of the Army of Callow, chewing Vivienne and Juniper out, and then having more of a talk with Vivienne. Right before finding out Arcadia gates were blocked by not-yet-Twilight and the bullshit in it, and then going to confer with the Grand Alliance (which ended with her being given Black’s body and having Rozala ask her to just… lose for show, but no other meaningful result).

      Either the chapter that had ‘try a foot first’ as its epigraph, or the one directly before that one.

      I absolutely don’t remember the name without looking into the table of contents.


  9. Do folks think Assassin is working for Malicia now, or still Black? I tend to think it has gone back to Malicia’s side (crack theory, it is just her) with the killing of the second tier citizen guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crash

      That might well have been an order sent while Scribe’s and Malicia’s wants were still aligned, in the timeframe of the Proceran attempted coup.

      I’m under the impression that where Assasin is concerned, Scribe has a lot more say than Black or Malicia ever will.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Jacob McNeer

        What if Scribe IS Assasin. It would explain how she’s never noticed and how we never see her and assassin in the same place at the same time. Also Black had mentioned in Book 1 or 2 that Cat had already met Assassin and just didn’t know it.


        1. Crash

          That would mean she enjoys talking in third person and reading orders in front of a mirror to watch her own face, as per the Interludes in Ater’s sewers.

          Assasin is a goblin and it’s actually Borer, pass it on.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. We also have had WoG specifically given in response to this theory (IT’S OLD AS GUIDE ITSELF) that one person can’t hold two Names.

          Oh, and we know explicitly and exactly what Assassin is doing right now. Assassinating Magon Hadast in Ashur. While Scribe is right here.


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