Winter IV

“One must admire the thriftiness of Callowan war-making, given the cost of arming bold orphans with enchanted swords compared to that of crafting undead plagues and flying fortresses. They even get to reuse the sword, most the time, if rarely the orphan.”
– Dread Empress Prudence, the Frequently Vanquished

The silence was how he knew it’d all gone wrong.

Hanno of Arwad was no longer a green boy in the ways of Named, if well short of the priceless experience someone like the Saint or the Pilgrim could rightfully boast of, but he’d been allowed to learn the lessons of others. The softest touch of Recall saw them all drift to the surface, the parade of kindred memories. The Noble Corsair stepping onto a ship still and dead, the Shining Princess finding the great hall of Denier empty as the night sky, the Silent Slayer finding a clearing in the Brocelian without a single sound to mar its almost oppressive hush, a hundred others.  A thousand. The aspect was best used scarcely, when reaching for patterns, for it was so easy to get lost in that endless sea of memories. Easier still to realize the smallness of what Hanno truly was, but a single speck of light within a great and ancient star. Such silences were the herald of dark news, of ambush, of the Enemy having struck. No surprise marred the brow of the White Knight when he reached the narrow stone corridor that led into the Lower Keep and he found splayed before him half a dozen corpses. Cleves soldiers, the prince’s own men, in good ring mail and wielding long halberds. Steady sorts, Hanno knew from having fought at their side on the walls, and skilled at war.

They’d been slaughtered like helpless children.

Some manner of long blade had slashed through the mail and broken both bone and metal with the sheer might it was being swung with. The crudeness of the wound a second glance revealed was undeniable sign this was the work of a Revenant: the blade had not been sharp enough to warrant cutting through good armour, which meant either strength beyond the reach of mortal men or some other manner of power. It was useless to attempt recalling with so little to go on, the White Knight decided, and would lose him time besides. He bowed his head to the dead as he passed, apologetic for not lingering long enough to close the eyes of the dead. Hanno would seek to keep the living alive before giving honour to the dead, though his lengthening stride as he left was poor repayment for the loyal service these men and women had kept to while they still drew breath. The Ashuran set the guilt aside for now, instead considering the wounds as he sped forward. Too lengthy and broad to be a longsword’s work, closer to a broadsword or greatsword. Both were popular weapons with Proceran fantassins from the northern Alamans principalities. Those few soldiers of fortune who could afford one, anyway.

Most likely a Revenant borne of the Principate, then. Or else one so old as to make the current preferences of weaponry among Calernian peoples irrelevant. Even the former was unfortunate, given how few of those lives he’d explored in depth. Proceran heroes – and villains as well, from what he could tell – rarely left the principality they’d been born in. They tended to be called by places as much as stories, in truth. Even Christophe, perhaps the most potentially powerful Mirror Knight in the history of that Name, had been called to his fate by the need of the Elfin Dames for a defender of their sacred waters. Often heroes from the Free Cities and Callow were more useful to learn from by simple virtue of having more often fought and encountered greater breadth of opponents, and when it came to the affairs of wilderness there was simply no matching the Dominion’s many heroes. Hanno had also called on the memories of the legendary founder of the Valiant Champion’s bloodline to learn his delicious garlic lamb roast recipe, which admittedly some might consider an abuse of his powers. Not that any of his companions had ever complained when it was his turn to cook. Theft of recipes aside, Hanno was coming to realize that in the way he’d chosen to look through lives he’d left a gap in his understanding of Proceran ways. It would have to be remedied to, should he survive the day.

The Low Keep he was moving through was little like a castle as they were built these days, instead as much a shelter and a tomb as it was a fortress and a home. Those who had raised it, thought to be either eastern kin to the western tribes that grew to be the Lycaonese or another people entirely that’d been ended by Alamans northern expansion, had preferred digging below to raising great walls. Yet they must have been a people used to being besieged, for the Low Keep’s looping corridors ended in narrow chokepoints and were curved in a way that would allow the defender to strike behind the shield of an attacker. The first of those narrowing points he encountered had seven dead soldiers, the second a full twenty scattered beyond a broken door and barricade. The third had a thick steel grid keeping corpses up against the wall, having been blown off its hinges and straight into the soldiers. A Revenant with great physical might, Hanno thought, as he’d earlier speculated. But not one with an aspect that’d allow it to cut through the likes of steel, as he’d also speculated, else that grid would be cut through instead of repeatedly hammered until it broke out of the hinges.

The White Knight was not overly familiar with the Low Keep, as he’d mostly fought in the city proper and atop the walls, but from memory he should not be far from what the servants called the Old Hall. Once the banquet hall of the rulers of ancient Cleves, nowadays it was more often used as a wine cellar for its natural coolness. The bottles and barrels had been moved early in the siege and the Old Hall instead been made into the bastard child of an armory and a war room, for though the Old Hall was too small for a great council of royalty and Named it was fit for private talks between those who had already been given duties by the greater council. The princes and princesses who’d escaped the scuffle above should have retreated there, given that the Old Hall’s ancient and crumbling wards had been entirely overhauled by Princess Rozala’s mages according to the Rogue Sorcerer’s design. Roland had allegedly been rather embarrassed to put these to ink, calling them a ‘sloppy, faulty mimicry’ of those used by the Army of Callow to protect its war camps, but even Antigone had admitted that the Praesi wards were usually half a century ahead of everyone else’s. At least in lesser patterns, for she maintained that in great workings no one had yet to so much as touch the feet of the Gigantes.

Hanno has walked the airy streets of Orseis as a young man, where stone flowed like water under the guidance of songs, where great columns of moonstone decreed the very lay of winds and clouds, and so he’d not argued this. It was not without reason the Gigantes were also known as wonder-makers, even though they named themselves nothing but a pale shadow of what they had once been.

Regardless of all else, the wards on the Old Hall ought to keep the least of the dead from entering and hinder even the likes of Revenants. Given the number of soldiers that escorted Proceran royals even here in the depths of Cleves and the alleged presence of the Repentant Magister, he might not be too late in arriving. Nephele had left behind the destructive sorceries she’d learned in Stygia along with the other dark teachings of the Magisterium, but that hardly meant she was defenceless. Hanno’s steps slowed as he entered a low, downwards-sloping gallery. It could be no longer than thirty feet, though the span of it had been swallowed by darkness: save for the two torches behind him and the two outside the door on the other side, there was no source of light. A few years ago, the White Knight would have let his Name augment his sight and seen through the dark without missing a beat. He’d been taught better since, by a green-eyed killer who’d delighted in brutally punishing his every bad habit. If darkness had been laid here, it was not because his opponent had expected him to be blinded by it. It was because the moment his sight adjusted a nasty surprise was to be sprung on him. From memory, the gallery was no more than six feet wide and the footing deliberately tricky so that bowmen and spearmen able to strike into the gallery through narrow slits in the side walls might find easier prey.

“Physically strong Named rarely bother with tricks,” Hanno noted out loud, “save for those used to fighting creatures even stronger than them.”

The White Knight timed the sequence of his movements closely, first snatching out one of the torches at his side and tossing it out into the dark before adjusting his footing: one foot horizontal, as if prepare to thrust out with a slender blade, but instead a flicker of Light went down the back of his leg and Hanno propelled himself forward at inhuman speed. The last part of the sequence, strengthening his eyes against light, came the moment he caught a glimpse of a silhouette within the dark. A fraction of a moment later there was a loud bang and a flash of burning light – the kind that would have seared his eyes powerfully, were he adjusting them to see in the dark. Instead it merely stung and stinging he could suffer through without batting an eye. Even as the torch he’d thrown arced up, Hanno caught sight of a tall and broad man in ornate bronze armour plate. Of a helm, too, depicting some snarling creature, but before he could make out which his opponent was moving. A greatsword swung, aimed to carve through the still spinning torch, but as the initial heartbeat of the fight ended Hanno’s movement trick ended with him under the very torch.

He snatched it out again, thrusting it towards the helmeted head of the Revenant, and his opponent aborted his blow before silently withdrawing into the dark. A mere moment later, there was no sign left of the undead Named at all.

“A wolf,” the White Knight pensively said. “Yet in bronze, not iron or finer.”

Not so with the greatsword, which was well-made steel. A more recent weapon, which was interesting. It meant the bronze armour had been kept even with steel plate likely available and that would hardly be without reason. Even more interesting was that he was being met in battle here, in what Hanno could only term an obvious trap, while the undeniably better prize would be the lives of the Proceran royalty within the Old Hall deeper in. The White Knight was being delayed, which implied another entity was already after those lives and the intelligence behind this entire affair believed that other entity capable of breaching the defence of a heroine, wards and soldiers if given long enough. Likely a second Revenant, then, though some manner of specially crafted monster was not impossible. It also meant that Hanno needed to pick up the pace.

“Your hiding trick only works when you have darkness to work with,” the White Knight spoke out loud.

The dark-skinned hero genuinely believed this to be true, though that was not why he’d revealed his conclusion to his foe. It was an unusual scene he’d been presented with. The Revenant’s former Name must have been geared towards physical might, for him to make use of a greatsword and so swiftly, yet he was not behaving as most Named of that bent would. Hanno was not the kind of fool to dismiss those Named inclined to the strength of bodies as duller than others, but it was true that the breed tended to be more inclined towards recklessness and swift advance than other heroes. As they should be, given that their Names usually rewarded such audacity with luck and power. Rafaella was a good example, for though clever and apt in tactics she tended to prefer throwing herself into trouble with only limited planning. It was where and how she thrived, for that was her Role as a Champion. Yet the Revenant he now faced had preferred laying an ambush, using tricks that many heroes would outright consider beneath them and was even now lying in wait instead of seeking battle. Used to fighting stronger creatures, Hanno considered, though it did not feel like a full explanation. Unfortunately, given that the Dead King’s grasp reached across several centuries and lands now considered quite tames had at times been considered more dangerous than the Brocelian, this did little to narrow the scope of possible identities. Torch still in hand, the White Knight began to stride towards the other end of the gallery.

Bronze armour, and a helmet like a snarling wolf. The Lycaonese were the ancient enemies of Keter and they did have a strong cultural association with the beasts, Hanno thought, but they were hardly the only ones. And they’d been one of the first human ethnicities in the west to begin using iron, too, which would make the bronze armour odd. Or would it? Iron hindered many lesser sorceries, he remembered. The darkness trick, and perhaps even the light that had blinded him, might not be faded aspects but instead enchantments woven into an armour. One made in bronze, a metal that the ancient peoples of Calernia had favoured above all others when it came to laying enchantments. Nine steps, before Hanno reached the end of the gallery and the second part of the ambush was sprung on him. It was the light trick that’d given it away, and it was the same reason the White Knight had been unsatisfied with his guess of the Revenant’s former purpose. The trick had been woven to specifically hurt a Named fortifying their eyes, which meant his opponent was used to fighting other Named. And that meant the light at the end of the gallery, the other two torches, was a second part to the trap.

Why even leave them, if the Revenant had advantages from the dark? The coming ambush had been obvious enough even with only part of the gallery shrouded in darkness. The Revenant had left a sanctuary at the end of the obvious danger because it allowed him to dictate where Hanno would be moving without lifting a finger. It was, the White Knight decided, a cunning killer he was facing. One whose life might be worth learning from, should he learn enough to tell it apart from the rest of the sea. Three steps now, and timing would be everything. On the first step, the White Knight breathed in. Light, never far from his grasped, stormed through his veins. On the second step, the White Knight breathed out. He grasped the Light by the reins, shaped it and directed it. On the third step, the White Knight acted. He tossed the torch forward again, even as from a dead angle’s shadow the Revenant emerged and snuffed out the two torches flanking the gallery’s gate simply by clenching his armoured fingers into a fist. The stretch if corridor ahead went dark, for all the other torches were too far to cast light.

All that was left was the flickering flame of the torch he’d thrown, arcing up and forward, and even as the Revenant faded into the darkness the White Knight smiled. And stomped his armoured boot onto the ground, releasing Light in a wave. The Revenant’s looming silhouette reappeared, seemingly startled, and Hanno idly confirmed that his guess had been correct. It was the armour that allowed him to disappear, that same armour touching the stone floor he’d just shot Light across. Modern sorceries might not be so easily disrupted, but this was ancient magic: it shattered at the slightest touch of Light. Without pausing, as the reflected light of the arcing torch flickered across polished bronze, Hanno called on his aspect without so much as a whisper. Ride, he thought, and Creation echoed of it. And now the White Knight used a second refinement on the aspect he’d devised since the Red Flower Vales. Namely, that while the aspect usually helped him form Light to use this was not, strictly speaking, necessary: he could use Light already at hand. Such as the one he’d just released across the floor, snatching it up before it could fade and shaping it for swiftness. His arm extended, he rammed the forming lance of light through the weakness in the Revenant’s armour, the slight space between helmet and cuirass, and felt the Light searing its way through like a hot knife through butter.

Amaranta Viegle, long ago the Sage of the West, had spent a lifetime studying the Light. She’d been a major influence in the shape the Lanterns took in the centuries after and died at the age of ninety-three, fighting a dragon with her bare fists. That last brawl had made it into Levantine legend, but it had been not the many duels of her early and late life that Hanno had found most useful but instead the stretch from her fifties to seventies. During those decades she’d experimented with applications of the Light, and though most of what she’d set down of those studies had been lost to flame during the Scouring of Vaccei the White Knight had sat through the revelations of those years with her over long hours of mediation within his aspect. Like, for example, the evening where she had grasped that with enough concentration the initial movement ascribed to Light could still be changed when it had been set in motion. All it required was the addition of fresh Light, as for some reason beyond the comprehension of mortals even a speck added to the initial Light would be enough to turn even a pre-existing sea of the power into a completely different working by the Light’s own laws.

And so, even as the White Knight’s aspect saw Light emerging from his legs to form into a mount, he added a speck more. In the fraction of a moment that followed he seized all the Light that’d been made, and without missing a beat slammed the lot of it into the lance already in the Revenant. The upper half of the dead Named vaporized, and he formed a bladed edge along the lance’s length so he could slice through the lower half outright. He’d had only a single opening, but these days that tended to be all that Hanno needed. Ahead of him the torch he’d thrown clattered against the stone, and without a word the White Knight resume his advance towards the Old Hall. The Repentant Magister ought to have lasted this long, he thought even as he quickened his steps, and with a turn under flickering torchlight found himself stepping into the narrow hallway where the Old Hall’s gate awaited. Corpses were strewn over the length of it, savaged enough it was hard to tell how many bodies there truly were. The grisly scene reeked of blood and excrement, and the White Knight pushed down a grimace when he saw the heavy oaken doors that should have protected the Old Hall’s entrance had been ripped open.

He could not tell the state of the wards, but that boded ill. As did the silence that was all he could hear coming from what should be a hall crowded with soldiers. Sword in hand, he prepared to – the sound that interrupted him was deafening, like someone had balled up together a hundred screams, distilled them and unleashed them all at once. A thin silhouette was blown out of the Old Hall and smacked against the wall opposite its gate before nimbly rising to its feet. Long claws of steel had been affixed to the Revenant’s hands, and it bore a now half-shattered mask of clay painted in shades of grey and green. Sound resumed from within the hall, most of it cheers. Before the Revenant could even decide whether to flee or attack again a small painted clay tile, no larger than a pair of fingers, was tossed onto the ground in front of it. The Revenant hissed in anger and tried to back away the opposite way from the White Knight – who noted with amusement he had yet to be noticed – but the moment it took a step an intricate rope formed of what appeared to be small interlinked shield panels emerged from the tile and snatched its foot, dragging it back.

Even as it tried to kick away the tile the sound from the hall cut out again, as if swallowed whole, and the Repentant Magister emerged from the Old Hall. Loose robes trailing behind her as she advanced in silken slippers, Nephele was holding up a hand and within it was a golden device spinning so swiftly on itself it seemed almost a sphere. It was sucking up noise and sorcery like a hungry whirlpool.

“I did not need them to learn right from wrong,” the Repentant Magister said, tone hard but somehow awed – as if even in the depths of her wrath she could not quite believe what she was doing. “And I will not return to their old lessons now like some cowering child.”

The Revenant smashed the tile and the rope vanished. Hanno did not move an inch. The Repentant Magister, with a snarl, clenched her hand around the golden device and the deafening blast from before sounded again, smashing the Revenant into the ancient stone and grinding it like some monstrous millstone of noise and sorcery. A ragged remnant of the undead Named fell to the ground, when the working ended. Nephele slowly stepped forward even as her palm opened and the device began spinning again.

“I am not defenceless,” the Repentant Magister said, glaring down at the Revenant. “I am not lessened by looking in the eye the evil I was once part of and choosing to cast it aside. And Gods take my tongue if I lie, but when this war ends I shall not be ashamed of how I fought it.”

Fingers clenched, sound and sorcery roiled, and the last remnants of the Revenant were ground to dust. Hanno thought of how Nephele had looked that night, weeping and afraid, and felt his heart clench with pride. You are your worst day, the White Knight thought, looking at the straight-backed and clear-eyed sorceress standing before him. But you are your finest day as well, and every single other one. Even those yet to come. It had been a dark day, this one, Hanno of Arwad thought. And yet it’d become a little brighter for the light just brought into it. This is how victory comes, the White Knight softly smiled. One candle lit after another, until we have chased away the night. Hanno sheathed his sword and stepped into the light, for the Enemy was still afoot in the city and there was work to be done.

If his steps were just a little lighter, well, who could tell the difference?

35 thoughts on “Winter IV

  1. DadyCoool

    A wise teacher knows when not to act, be that protection, comfort, or guidance. Sometimes the student, or whatever their situation might be, needs to do it themselves or work through it on their own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. beleester

      Hanno notes that his bronze armor is extremely outdated, so my bet is that he’s from a dead civilization – one of Keter’s contemporaries, perhaps. So I went back into the archives for the scene where Cat and Masego are looking at echoes of the kingdom. Sure enough, they briefly mention the “People of the Wolf” as the main enemies of the kingdom before it became Keter.

      Liked by 5 people

    1. Mitrhe

      Pelvic Laser, new aspect that is unique in that instead of calling the aspect he just shouts (very uncharacteristically) YEET!

      Damage is of course, based on how embarrassed he is afterwards. It’s not the first instance of time-fuckery we’ve seen am aspect use.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. dadycoool

      It really is. There’s got to be at least one cook that’s good enough that the whole party isn’t complaining. Not to mention, how many parties included a bar wench/waitress/whatever? Two come to mind immediately and one put a crown on the other’s head.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. khazan7

      The White Knight was motivated by how the Repentant Magister got through her trials on her own. The result of this is, that he was just a little quicker to arrive in Salia, thus preventing the forming of the Warden of the West name. So I believe that the Repentant Magister had just a little bit of help from the augur.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Typo thread

    Light, never far from his grasped, stormed through his veins.
    Change grasped to grasp.

    The stretch if corridor ahead went dark, for all the other torches were too far to cast light.
    Change if to of.

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  3. Hm, that suggests a MAYOR weakness in the entirety of Light. Just a small spark of it can reshape an entire construction of Light when used the right way, and they didn’t specify that it had to be Light casted by the same person?

    That sounds like when fighting Light with just a little Light yourself, say for example some stolen power pulled from felled foes or a cleric of some hypothetical Insurgent church, would allow you to counter even the most powerful constructions of Light. I wonder if this story has a devious yet short and badmouthed character that could do that to defeat any troublesome Light-throwing foes.

    And even if those two options don’t work, perhaps she can use that false Light that Tyrant coalesced into an item, which she may have taken from him during the off-screen period that preceded him being thrown through the roof of Twilight uncrowned. Or Hierophant figuring out a way to do it, usurping power as he does.

    The battle of Named was a bit disappointing. Before it was kinda cliche go-lucky in appropriate ways, but I expected the Revenants to be a bit more effective than this. That Bronze Wolf should’ve killed at least one Named before Hanno killed it, the awesomeness of its character deserving a win before the fated loss. And I felt nothing but urgh~ for the Repentant Magister easily winning like this, the second Revenant’s death was emotionally shallow. I guess you should’ve been there, but we weren’t so whatever.

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    1. Snowy

      This all sounds reasonable, but when push comes to shove the Gods Above will handwave away any such weakness and make it a strength instead

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    2. The Repentant Magister was playing her own story (“Resisting Corruption”), of which w’ve only seen fragments. Hanno was just being a badass with centuries of other people’s experiences behind him. Can he actually get at the life of a hero taken by Keter? I seem to remember something of the sort from before, but it seems odd.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For the Repentant Magister, it’s like being shown the season finale of a show and being expected to cheer her on as much as someone who saw the whole show. It’s not that I wanted to see this tale, more that I don’t want to see this one scene suggesting I should be cheering her on. More a meta-critique to this scene being written this way: Trying to force more emotional weight and importance to a scene than it deserves is oft poor writing, and it’s sad to see Erraticerrata do this when he’s usually so capable of pulling us in as much if not more than the hype the story suggests you should be feeling.

        For Hanno, I’ve at least been sold on his character at this point. I agree that him drawing from Revenants is shady if not likely impossible at all. More likely he was trying to deduce which region and period this Bronze Wolf was from, in order to gaze into the lives of other not-revenant’d to learn of this foe or their general Name habits and properties.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. laguz24

          I think this segment of a mini-story is supposed to show us that for all the stories about Cat, Hanno, and Co. There are lots of other stories going around with named. Heroes especially, since heroes without a story are dead heroes which is why large groups of heroes are much less dangerous than a band of five; no story, or at least a weaker story.

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    3. Dredcor

      The Revenants, while still *technically* Named, wear their names like rags, barely there at all.

      And I believe some of the Revenants have had their Names reused since they died, so they don’t have strong connections to their Stories anymore.

      Also, it wasn’t supposed to be difficult to defeat them. These are Heroes at the Peak of their power, fighting against the greatest Villain ever born.

      Faltering against some disposable pawns isn’t in the cards.

      Also, if you remember, some of the Revenants have fallen to non-Named before, iirc, so clearly they aren’t as powerful as they likely once were.

      At least some of them anyways.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The Revenants are weaker but not necessarily that much weaker. In between the fights we’ve seen between powerful Named that we know and the Named sent at them: Ranger vs two, Cat ‘n group, Cat’s band of five, they’re not that much weaker. Maybe not even significantly weaker at all, just unable to grow stronger and gain new powers.

        Do you know any specific Name that since got reborn? I think the Fairfax might’ve had a Name that has resurfaced later, but I’m not sure. From what we’ve been told, a Name being turned into a Revenant might be a Name taken hostage until slain. Though the origins of a Name would suggest otherwise, the workings of the Name might prevent a Name being taken by now being undead.

        The Heroes weren’t supposed to win, not in the Dead King’s plans. Yes, Creation wanted to give them an easy win, but this was an easy win without hickups. The kind that DK wouldn’t just allow them to get while he’d only lose himself. As shown in Ranger’s extra chapter, he’s somewhat frugal with his Revenants when they aren’t a liability yet. These Revenants weren’t previously introduced or tied in a pattern with the Heroes as far as I know, so there’s no need to throw them away like this.

        So yes, for the Heroes this was meant to have been an easy win. And many good soldiers died. But (and I know we don’t yet know if there was any more meaningful collateral) it was too easy for the Dead King’s doing. A Revenant that tried to defeat the Repentant Magister with her ghosts of the past? No way the Dead King would make such a big and blatant mistake that could only end in his thrall’s defeat and RM growing stronger.

        There should’ve been more of a bitter aftertaste to this, the taste that the rot of the Dead King would cause. Especially vs paragon Good which he’s so accustomed to fighting. Something like a few of those nobles and royals meant to be protected being slain in the battle, a lesser good Named being slain by the Bronze Wolf, perhaps the Named that fought RM being that Named slain and raised to be sent ahead. Something like that. Something that warrants this whole operation for the Dead King. Because if he’s this easily deterred, he would’ve been beaten centuries ago.

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        1. To be fair, the Dead King is still in play at least in part because getting to him is so damned hard. Heroes can be brought down by mundane means, or through exhaustion, and the Dead King’s defenses are such that getting through them without exhausting oneself takes an army, or being on par with Ranger (and even she stayed in Creation, and didn’t try to go to the Serenity), but armies are also a lot more vulnerable than Heroes are. Sure, there’d be a Story behind trying to overthrow the Dead King … but Stories are finite in how much they can swing things, it’s like when Cat had to duel the Duke of Howling Winds – she crafted a Story and so was Narratively Empowered, but she still had to put in the work and actually get the kill herself, the Story and Narrative gave her the opportunity, but she still needed to be able to take advantage of it herself. In other words, you can get the Story and Narrative to give you a window of opportunity to take a shot, but you still need to be able to make the shot so given, and the Dead King has worked hard to ensure that any Story/Narrative granted opportunities are still incredibly difficult shots, and functionally impossible to make.
          Plus, at this point, the Story of Crusades is that they ultimately fail to defeat the Evil they wanted to put an end to – basically the last time a Crusade worked was the rebellion against Triumphant … which ultimately failed to end the Dread Empire of Praes.

          While I agree that one normally expects that the Dead King’s efforts will be more effective even in failure, normally he’s not dealing with someone who learned from his mistakes the way Hanno does (and got hammered hard for relying on his Name) nor someone with an ability like his Recall Aspect. Against just about any other Hero, or even Hanno before his getting slapped around by Amadeus, the first Revenant would’ve killed them, likely at the beginning, and could then join the other.

          And I don’t think the Revenant the Repentant Magister took down was trying to tempt/seduce her back to Villainy/away from being a Hero. I think she was talking out loud to herself, convincing herself that she wasn’t lessened in her abilities by turning away from Below and seeking redemption from Above.

          That said … he does appear to be loosing Revenants far faster than he can get new ones.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Against a horde of Revenants with Names out of the past, Providence has supplied a hero who can tap both the powers and experience of Names from the past, and can no longer be overly dependent on angelic aid. Against overwhelmingly powerful figures like the Grey Legion, Providence has supplied a hero who literally gets stronger every day, with no apparent limit (the Mirror Knight). I’d bet more of even the heroes we’ve already seen, will turn out to be the exact things needed to counter various strengths and tricks of DK’s people, and we may yet see, f’rex, modern revivals of the other four Levantine founders.

            And against DK himself, Providence has recruited some of Below’s own pieces: A story-weaver to rival Triumphant and DK himself. A former mage who can’t be lured into sorcerous mistakes anymore, but can still strike directly at the powers of a god. An orc whose very name makes a place for his people to help with the fight — not as sword-fodder, but as canny fighters and savvy assistants. The master-race of dirty tricks, seige warfare, and alchemical weapons. An even savvier Dread Emperor to replace the Dread Empress whom DK had half-suborned. And coming with that last, a Named of legend who’s personally familiar with the defenses of Keter… and who’s running short of challenging opponents. And then there’s that whole species trained in fighting enemies as magically capable as themselves, with their own newly-risen goddesses to back them, many centuries of treachery filling their power-pool, and they’re fighting for a new homeland….

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  4. mindsword2

    What I was struck by was how similar White and Black are. This reads a lot like Black’s side of their fight. Careful, precise action. Hanno is built to fight Cat but his strategies are more like Black’s.

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    1. Remember, though, this is after Hanno got owned by Amadeus repeatedly.
      Plus, we also know that he will have lived through the experiences of every Hero who encountered either Amadeus or Cat that he can.

      He knows full well that going up against someone like either of them without a good plan and contingencies, and counter plans and counter contingencies is going to end in only one way – your ass getting handed to you, assuming you manage to make it out alive.
      And whatever anyone wants to say about them, they have a track record of survival and success – something about what they’re doing clearly works rather well. And the planning bit? That’s an obvious thing that can be learned that is broadly applicable and has nothing to do with what side you’re on or even being Named. It’s a highly useful skill … if one can learn and apply it.

      Liked by 1 person

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