Chapter 2: Enlistment

“My lords and ladies, have I not always been a firm believer in second chances?”
– Dread Empress Malevolent II, announcing her second (and penultimate) invasion of Callow

This would be the fifth one I brought in, so to speak.

The first time I’d come across a new Named was maybe two weeks after the first proper battle that’d followed Callow entering the war, which one of my own soldiers had jauntily named the ‘Scrap at the Gap’ only to see the quip tumble down into the pages of history. It’d been our first use of a pharos device, and the proliferation of gates out of the Twilight Ways had allowed us to take the dead flatfooted. The soldiers under Volignac and Papenheim had rallied with burning rage in their bellies, and we’d turned the chase around on Keter: we’d forced the dead to retreat and even dented the Grey Legion.

At the time we’d believed we could reclaim all of Hainaut if we struck out  aggressively enough, so we’d concentrated on reclaiming the roads and strongholds of the western region of principality: the aim had been to establish a solid defensive line all the way to the border with Cleves and after solidifying root out the dead as we moved north in a Hainaut-wide curtain. No one had expected there to be anything still living in the region, for Keter had had the run of it for months, which was why when the Tartessos scouts had begun finding the remains of small undead raiding packs we’d expected a monster and not a half-feral woman in her seventies.

The Stained Sister had shattered Hakram’s shoulder and nearly blinded him when we’d gone out to find what might be lurking in the hills. She’d been one of Hanno’s, not mine, for even three days buried up to her neck in the corpses of everyone she’d ever known had not been enough to break her faith in Above. She’d listened anyway, when I laid down the law as it had been agreed on: so long as Named were willing to take up arms against Keter, they would fall under the aegis of the Truce and Terms.

Amnesty was offered to all willing to join the war against extinction, and peace would be kept between villains and heroes until the Dead King was no more. For those who were sworn to Above, the White Knight stood as representative in councils and first among equals. For those that dwelled in Below’s shadow, the same duties fell to me. It was a simple enough arrangement, in principle. In practice it’d been as about as horribly complex and strenuous a state if affairs as I’d expected it to be, and it’d been a very long time since I was last called an optimist.

I’d picked up two more during our offensive to take back the capital late last summer, the two of them pretty middling villains – one lowlife gambler who’d managed to survive by stealing other people’s luck and using it to avoid and escape the dead, the other a hedge mage who’d slit open her own brother’s throat to fuel an enchantment that made her invisible to Dead King’s armies but was now beset by his furious shade. Half-starved and almost pathetically grateful to be given shelter, the two of them had accepted the Truce and Terms without batting an eye. Unsurprisingly, getting them to toe the line afterwards had been more difficult.

The Pilfering Dicer now had nine fingers to illustrate the point that stealing the luck of my soldiers wasn’t something you could talk your way out of, but at least I’d pawned off the mage to Indrani for her roving band and gotten only praise about her since. The Dicer I’d sent instead to the First Prince, as his talents were best suited for the sort of battles she was fighting on our behalf. The fourth had been both the easiest and the worst, in some ways, for though he’d come to me instead of the other way around it would be very much a delusion to claim I had any sort of control over the Beastmaster.

As I could not help but be reminded when the man opened his eyes, breathing out deeply.

“There are still a few,” Beastmaster said. “Three or four. Less than earlier.”

I looked at the great blaze across the half-dug dry moat and grimaced. It was rather surprised anyone but the fresh Named was still living.

“And you didn’t consider helping them flee when you first noticed?” I replied, tone curt.

“And risk the ire of a green Named who could already do this?” Beastmaster snorted, gesturing towards the village.

The falcon that’d flown over the nameless village returned to its master’s shoulder, undisturbed at having leant him its eyes while it was still up there. The Named at my side might not be anywhere as proficient a combatant as someone like Indrani or Hanno, but his talents were surprisingly broad in application and it’d be a rough affair to put him down if it came to that: I’d seen some of the creatures the Beastmaster used as mounts, and none of them were beasts to take lightly even without a rider on their back. More than anything else the man had proved his worth as eyes up in the sky even in regions where scrying might be disrupted, as was becoming increasingly common. His stable of birds of prey currently had a better record at tracking people than our sorcery, since even young Names could sometimes disrupt scrying ritual. There was a reason I kept the man close, and it wasn’t his charm or sunny disposition.

“If he meant to kill them, they’d already be,” I said, tone grown sharp.

Matted hair pressed against the side of his eyebrow, thick with filth, the man shrugged apathetically. I wasn’t sure whether Beastmaster had been born a prick or he’d been taught the ancient ways of prickery by one of the finest practitioners of the art alive – the Ranger herself – but his utter unwillingness to risk so much as the tip of his toe for another’s sake had a way of raising my hackles. Even when Indrani had been fresh out of Refuge and the Lady’s tutelage she’d not been this… savagely unconcerned with everything that went on around her.

“Fine,” I said. “Tell my knights where the survivors are, they’ll help them out. Where’s the boy?”

“The House of Light,” Beastmaster said.

If this was going to be one of the religious ones, I really hoped it’d made it this far north that the Salian Conclave had struck down its decree naming me the Arch-heretic of the East. If I was lucky, they might even have heard that instead the Dead King had been proclaimed Arch-heretic Eternal. Lucky, huh. That’d be the fucking day. I whistled loudly, Grandmaster Talbot riding up without missing a beat or betraying irritation at the somewhat undignified summons.

“Beastmaster had eyes on survivors,” I told the knight. “Have some your people get them out. Our healers are fresh?”

“Good as, my liege,” Brandon Talbot replied. “Though I’ll caution once more they are not the finest of that trade.”

Yeah, the House Insurgent did tend to have that little defect. You couldn’t learn to burn with Light without missing out on the deeper secrets of healing, apparently. The Grey Pilgrim had once told me it was more a consequence of mindset than a hard limit of ability, but then there was no one alive who could use Light the way Tariq Fleetfoot did – not even Hanno, who had the shade of near every dead hero up in the library shelves of his head.

“Have them do what they can,” I grimly said.

Burns were nasty way to go.

“I’ll be seeing to the hero,” I added a moment later. “Hurry with the survivors, Talbot.”

The man nodded, and after a nod to the Beastmaster – who bothered himself to return it, though seemingly with great effort – I rode out. This place must have been a nice little village, once upon a time. How many people had lived here? One hundred, two hundred? Couldn’t be more than that. There was rarely such a thing as a proper street in places like this, even a dirt one, and this village was no exception. There were a tighter cluster of once-thatched houses now blazing up trails of smoke surrounding what might have once been a village market, but aside from that houses and shops had been raised rather haphazardly. They were scarcer on the outskirts, with the house nearest to the unfinished ditch standing entirely alone.

Zombie did not even need to jump over the trench, as a quick walk around the edge of what had been dug accomplished the same result rather less dramatically. It’d been poor sense, trying to dig a dry moat in so wide a circle. The villagers would have done better trying the same further in, or better yet raising a palisade instead. There was no way the work could have been finished in time to repel the dead, not with the numbers they had. What I’d been looking for was a mere three steps away from the edge of the finished ditch, slumped and still. I slowed my mount, frowning as I leant down to turn the corpse with the tip of my staff. At first glance the killing looked like it’d been done with Light, a hole torn right through the chest of the still-living woman, but the edges were too blackened. Charred.

Light was cleaner than this when used on living people, even those corrupted by curses and sorcery. Light and fire threaded together? Unusual. I would have thought someone more prone into coming a Name apt to wielding that if they’d been forged from a great fire, not the source of one. Hooves sounded against the ground behind me, a belated escort of knights. It was still a reflex for me to argue against the necessity of one, but there’d been twenty-three different assassination attempts against me in the last year. Few had even come close, but I’d been taught the virtues of having eyes other than mine and armoured bodies in the way of harm.

“I’ll be entering the House alone,” I spoke without turning. “I’ll not have numbers spooking our friend.”

“If you so order, my queen,” Grandmaster Talbot replied, the genteel disapproval in his tone clear.

I rolled my eyes. If the boy who’d done this still had fighting on his mind it was a lot more likely I’d end up protecting my escort than the other way around. I let the body I’d been examining slump back against the ground and spurred Zombie onwards. We passed through the outskirts briskly, though I slowed once more to verify the sort of injuries on other corpses were the same as the first before heading deeper in. Towards what should have been the market, as well as the small dirt path beyond it and led to the sole building in the village that was tall stone with a tiled slate roof: the House of Light. There the Named would be waiting, I knew, though I would not cross the threshold before figuring out exactly what it was I was dealing with here. Whether the boy was a hero, a villain or of those whose Role tread that narrow path where circumstance could cast you as either did not matter so much as the fact that he’d seemingly butchered an entire village.

If he was a hero, as the use of Light to kill would imply, he was unlikely to be the kind I got along with.

We closed in on the market, where the roar of the flames was almost deafening. Wary of entering the central grounds, where heat had hardened and cracked the muddy grounds, I led Zombie into lingering at the edge of the circle in one of the larger gaps. There’d been an inn among the lot of them, I noted, though it was hard to tell exactly how large it’d once been. It’d been hit hardest of all the village: the walls had been torn through with great blasts of Light, then the ceiling had fallen and caught fire. Even that rubble, though, was not enough to hide the sheer number of corpses there’d been inside. Those the flames had not yet devoured were close to the door, some even just out into the ‘street’. They, I saw, had been hit in the back. The Grandmaster of the Order of the Broken Bells caught up to me as I sat studying the burning inn, face betraying utter disgust what he beheld.

“Gods,” Brandon Talbot rasped out. “Even the children.”

Only one of those was untouched by flame, pale brown hair fanning her face like a veil but doing nothing to hide the black-rimmed hole that’d torn through the middle of her back. There were bones I could see in the embers and flame, though, that even blackened could not me mistaken for those of a grown man. And yet. Gods, and yet.

“Do you still remember that skirmish just a week away from the capital, last summer?” I quietly said. “What happened to that company of Volignac outriders, when they found that little village tucked away in the reeds.”

“The dead wearing the guises of children,” the bearded knight said, tone sickened. “I’d heard. I do not blame them for fleeing, Your Majesty. I am not certain if I could have done it myself, striking down infants with knight’s steel.”

And so Neshamah’s abominations would have torn you down from your horse and clawed out your throat, I thought, the way they did too many of those honourable outriders. Honour has no place on this field. Not against the kind of foe we face. My voice came out cool, a warning under the swirling columns of smoke.

“This is not a war, Brandon Talbot, where hurried judgements thrive. Do not forget that.”

Yet sometimes I wondered if that was not Below’s game, lurking behind everything else. Even if we won against Keter what kind of creatures would we have become when we emerged from the crucible? Already I’d grown wary of castigating the slaughter of children without knowing more of how it’d come to be, and we’d yet to even step into the Dead King’s lands. There was an old saying about the dangers of looking into the abyss that most peoples of Calernia held some form or another of. It’d been taught to me at the orphanage as ‘beware of matching horror’s eyes, lest it gaze back into yours’, one of those Old Miezan sentences turned into proverbs only nobles and priests ever seemed to quote. The thing, though, was that horror wasn’t sickness. It wasn’t something that tainted you from watching it or fighting it, like ink or filth or oil.

Horror, horror was a pit.

It was a deep dark hole the world pushed you into, remorseless. Sometimes the only way through was to wade through the deeps of it, do whatever it took, and there lay the trouble: even if you got to climb out, after, who you’d been in that pit would never leave you. Gods, it’d be reassuring if it was a taint that’d made the decision for you, but it wasn’t. Not really. It was just you, when you were scared and cold and desperate and didn’t want to die. That tended to be an uglier sight than devils, in my experience. Nowadays Calernia was being dragged into the pit, one inch after another, and there were nights where that thought kept me from sleeping. Lessons learned in the deeps of pit were long in being unlearned, if they ever were at all. What kind of a world was it, that Cordelia Hasenbach and I would end up raising out of the ashes of the old?

“I sometimes wonder if even heroes are worth it,” Grandmaster Talbot softly said, “if they must always be born of such grief.”

“Men murder men,” I said. “They rob and cheat and lie. From all I know we’ve done so since the First Dawn and will keep on doing it until the Last Dusk. Don’t blame the blade for the heat of the forge, Talbot.”

I bared my teeth.

“Blame the fucker who lit the furnace.”

Though in this case, I thought, the two might just be the same. My gaze had moved on from the inn, swept across the rest of this would-be marketplace, and a story had unfolded before my eyes. It’d begun with the inn. There had been a gathering there, with perhaps as many as a hundred packed tight inside. The Named had let loose his power, moved to violence by something, and then the nightmare had begun. The villagers had been packed too tightly: panic and stampede began to kill them just as much as the power unleashed. The place had caught fire, smoke and heat further stirring the pot, and even as some tried to escape through the back the Named had left by the front to strike down the few that’d successfully escaped. The relief inside was short-lived, as the roof collapsed not long after.

From there, the tale grew murkier. I’d wager that the noise and escapees had moved those few villagers with a weapon to try to kill the Named, and he’d reacted… harshly. I’d yet to catch sight of him going for anything but a killing blow. From there it looked like the boy had swept through the village, heading to wherever he saw movement and killing until there was no one left save for a handful of hidden survivors. He’d then limped back to the House of Light, either exhausted or wounded or both. I breathed out, almost comforted by what I’d grasped. I was not dealing with coldblooded thrill-killer or a broken bird grown dragon’s claws: wildly wandering around striking down those who moved in a panic was a mark of lapsed control. Lack of premeditation, too.

This was too much fear and too much power, not the first atrocity of a great monster in the making.

“You seem grieved, my queen,” the knight quietly said, voice almost drowned out by the blaze.

“Better it had been a monster, Talbot,” I tiredly said. “One of those I would have been able to use without guilt.”

Zombie pulled ahead, answering my mood before my knee gave the order. The breeze shifted: like raking claws, threads of smoke were blown across our path. We rode through and broke the ghostly shackles, flanked by the unforgiving blaze on both sides as my mount’s hooves broke the hardened mud beneath them. And then, quick as a stolen kiss, the heat and smoke were gone. We tread then the path to the House of Light, where flame had not reached. Yet blood had, for it was smeared over the wooden door left slightly ajar. I dismounted smoothly, though not so smoothly that I did not hiss in pain when my bad leg touched the ground, and lay a light slap against Zombie’s rump. She left to wander, gait unhurried, and a last look over my shoulder quelled any thought my knights might have held of following me inside. The Mantle of Woe trailing behind me, leaning on my staff of yew as I limped forward, I cracked the door open just enough to slip in and entered the temple.

There was a skylight. That was the first thing I noticed. Though a village like this was too poor to afford glass windows and so the walls had been full stone, a clever trick of architecture had allowed for the making of a skylight in what I’d taken to be just a lightly angled roof. And it had been cleverly done, too, as it was carved to allow for the sun’s journey through the day. The stone floor had been painted with scenes from the Book of All Things and different times of the day would see light fall on different parts. It had been most ingeniously built, for a temple in the middle of nowhere. Procerans: so much to hold in contempt, so much to admire. Light fell from above on the painted scene of Gods in black and white standing on both sides of the wan silhouette of a woman, theirs hands held out. A choice offered.

The drying trail of blood that’d trickled down all the wat to the woman was one of those vicious little ironies Creation was so fond of offering.

My staff struck the floor as I limped up, sounding obscenely loud in the silence of this place. At my sides roughly hewn benches, some of which had been toppled by struggle or negligence, only made it more palpable how empty the House was. At the very back, behind the painted scenes and the light, two bodies lay slumped. One was that of a priest, still clad in his pale robes. He was dead, a long cut-like wound opened from one shoulder to the opposite hip – and though it still bled blood, all the way to the painted stone, the outer edges of it were charred. Eyes wide open and unseeing of the sun pouring through the skylight, the back of his head lay against the altar he’d once tended to. Against the other side of the altar, bloodied and burned, lay the young boy who’d butchered more than a hundred souls beyond the gates of this place.

His face was a charred ruin. Stories, when they spoke of burns at all, delighted in telling of villains whose burn scars were disfiguring marks warning of wickedness. In a few there was even shoddy symbolism attempted: a face half-burned, the duality of a man’s soul, Good and Evil at war. The boy’s face just looked like someone had held it down against a fucking fire, and there was nothing elegant or symbolic about that. It was just pain and ugliness and pus, having devoured an uneven two-thirds of the face of a kid who couldn’t be more sixteen. It’d taken an eye with it, or close enough, as it had grown a clouded grey instead of whatever colour it’d once held. On the right side, on the part left untouched by fire, a lone blue eye and closely cut black hair were almost incongruously healthy compared to the rest of the young Named.

The boy wore a leather jerkin and woolen trousers, both so worn as to be near rags, and his shoes were little more than leather strips wrapped around a flat wooden sole. The wound I’d suspected he might have proved to be a knife slash on his leg, though not near anything that’d kill him. It’d still gone untreated and soaked the wool red. Not that infection was likely to kill him, now that he was Named. It was exhaustion, pain and horror keeping him down.

“Are you to be my punishment?” the boy rasped out. “I have sinned and do not deny it.”

Gods, I thought, stricken. He sounded so very resigned.

“Have you?” I said, making myself sound only mildly interested. “Tell me about it.”

“I am-”

“That is yet to be determined,” I mildly said, cutting in. “Tell me about the killings.”

The Alamans boy – and he must be that, for his accent in Chantant had that lakeside twang to it – forced himself to focus. His blue eye fluttered and the cloudy one turned to me as well, some thought returning to the gaze. He watched me and I returned the look, leaning on my dead staff of yew.

“You are not,” the Named said, “an angel.”

My answering smile was thin and sharp.

“Not,” I agreed, “in any sense of the word.”

“Who are you, then?” the boy rasped out.

“The judge, child,” I said. “And if comes to that, the other two as well.”

The Named laughed, though the convulsion twisted him in pain.

“A fitting end,” he said. “I took their lives, stranger. I blinded and burned until nothing was left. How do you judge that?”

“Sloppy,” I said, tone cool. “The inn was the correct place to begin, but to let loose while you were still inside? Sloppy is almost too kind a word. Packed that tight, all it took was a stroke of luck and any one of them might have caved your head in. You should have left, barred the doors and only then started the flames.”

The boy’s face twisted with rage at my indifference.

“I couldn’t know if they were all-”

He stopped, biting his tongue. Ah, I thought. There it is. He’d wanted me to splatter him across the stones, justice swiftly done and harshly meted. But there’d been something more about this, a part still obscured. And where gentleness would unearth nothing this wounded child wanted buried, calculated callousness might just bait it out.

“You’re not from here, are you?” I mused. “You’ve got that lakeside twang, like you’re always chewing. It’s a long way south, for a boy of no great means.”

Lack of boots meant his family had never been even remotely wealthy. Refugee, it had me guessing. From one of the later waves, long after soldiery had ceased escorting civilians south.

“What does it matter?” the boy asked.

“Means either you came with someone,” I said, “or you were capable of making it alone.”

“Did you not see my work outside, stranger?” the Named mocked.

Confirmed, then, that the power wielded there was something he’d had for some time.

“I saw your convulsing terror burned across a few hundred people,” I agreed. “So what is it that had you so scared, boy?”

The Named grit his teeth.

“I am-”

“Meat, until I deem it otherwise,” I interrupted once more, tone gone cold. “So speak, boy.”

I saw anger, in eyes both blue and clouded, and anger was an anchor. I knew that as bone deep as I knew my limp and the sound Liesse had made when it broke. It would keep him grounded in the here and now, at least long enough for our talk.

“It was too late,” he snarled. “The disease was in them, same as it was in Maman. And I told them, told them I could see it and they needed to send for a real priest, but they just wouldn’t listen-”

His mouth closed with a snap.

“I do not beg for my life,” the boy said. “I do not quibble nor defend.”

And it fell into place, just like that. The ditch begun but abandoned, the way so many of them had been gathered in the same place.

“They were going to leave,” I said.

I saw I had the right of it in the boy’s eyes, even if he denied me an answer. A makeshift caravan of some sort, most likely, headed further south for one of the great refugee camps. When I’d last gotten a report on the seeded plague from the Grey Pilgrim, he’d mentioned his worry that there might yet be carriers in who the disease would be sleeping. Lying in wait. He’d caught the infiltrators headed for Brabant himself, but not even heroes could be everywhere. If the boy was right and the villagers had slipped further south without being caught? Thousands dead, should we be lucky. And we’d be putting out that fire for months instead of heading north as we needed to, losing a good chunk of the war season. This might not be the only village where it was attempted, I thought. If it was attempted all, I also considered, and the boy did not simply go mad with enough will it became… more.

I’d need Akua to study the bodies as well few survivors we’d pulled out. More than that, if this was the plan within the Dead King’s plan then I needed to put out a warning there might be other villages like this oute there. Villages that’d not had the mixed of luck of being stumbled upon by a Named.

“I couldn’t let them,” the boy said. “And they weren’t real miracles, I know the priests said so, but they worked.”

My gaze moved to the priest, dead and cold, the wound that was bloody but hardly mortal. If you could heal, anyway, use the Light. The boy was no natural wielder of Light, I realized, smiled upon by the Heavens and bestowed some manner of searing holy flame. But he did have a power he’d been born with. An eye for recognizing a magically seeded disease, the ability to wield highly concentrated light and flame in short bursts while losing control of it upon release? Those were the marks of a wild talent, a born mage. And one of great power, to have torn through a village while so unschooled. How badly you must have wanted to be anything but a mage, I thought, for the only magic you ever used to be such a close mimicry of the Light. It was heartbreaking. That he’d been warped into this, that he’d been broken after even that and then forced to look a truth in the eye: he had the power to fight back against horror, just this once.

So long as he was willing to make a horror of his own.

“It was,” I mused, “an easy mistake to make.”

The blue eye fixed me with burning contempt.

“It was not,” the boy replied. “And so mistake is either too feeble a word, or entirely mistaken.”

“I was speaking,” I replied, “of the mistake I made. I came in here, you see, expecting you to be one of Hanno’s.”

The Saint of Swords come again, my mind whispered. Necessity that bleeds the grip, the hard deed that keeps the night at bay. The bottom of my staff whispered against the stone as I limped forward and the young Named tensed, though truth be told he’d be too exhausted to put up a fight if taking his life was my intent. Instead, leaning against the yew I knelt in front of him – and, miracles of miracles, the pain in my leg was barely a whisper. Meeting the mismatched gaze, the clouded eye and burning blue, I reached out and gently tipped up his chin.

“My mistake,” I quietly repeated. “No, from the beginning you were one of mine.”

The gentleness, I thought, was what unmade him. A shiver went through his frame, turning into a tortured convulsion and only then a ragged sob tore its way out of his throat.

“I’m a monster,” the boy wept. “Gods forgive, oh Gods forgive me.”

My hand went down to his shoulder, comforting.

“Of course you are,” I gently said. “That’s what makes you one of mine. We’re the wicked ones, you see.”

“I don’t want to be wicked,” he rasped. “I just- I just couldn’t…”

“We never can,” I softly told him. “That’s how we end up wicked, I think. Because we can’t stand to be good, if it also means we must let it go.”

“I didn’t want to kill them,” the boy whispered, “but what else could I do? If I’d had the Light, the real one, I could have healed them. Helped them. Instead…”

I drew back my hand and leaned on the yew I’d received in the depths of Liesse, born anew under twilit sky. I rose, the light behind me drawing the eye to the snaking crimson blood of the dead priest on painted stone. You are a child, I thought.

“That is not the gift you were given,” I said.

“My gift is death,” he spat.

“Aye,” I said. “So it is. Either accept that truth or die under the weight of your utter inconsequence.”

The boy-Named flinched. He had, perhaps, expected comfort. Maybe a better woman would have offered it.

“The corpses smouldering outside were good, as much as most people are ever good,” I said. “What do you think sets you apart from them?”

“Death,” he said.

“Will,” I corrected. “The belief, deep down, that you know what is right and you’ll see it done.”

He hesitated.

“It is the mark of Named,” I said. “And why, even now, some part of you wonders – wasn’t I right? Didn’t it need to be done?”

“Did it?” the boy asked, prayed, pleaded.

You are a child, I thought once more, almost ashamed.

“What’s your Name?” I asked.

“I am Tan- no, that is not the sort of name you meant at all, is it?” the boy whispered.

His fingers clenched.

“I am the Scorched Apostate,” the boy said.

I nodded in approval.

“Come along, then,” I said. “You have much to learn, and this war won’t fight itself.”

I did not wait for an answer, simply turning around and limping away without once looking back. One, two, three heartbeats: the Scorched Apostate dragged himself up to his feet and followed behind me, quickening his steps to catch up. You are a child, I thought once more. But we’re in the pit, now, and if Keter is to fall then this is the least of the horrors I’ll need to stomach.

We left the House of Light to its dead priest.

Neither of us looked back.

151 thoughts on “Chapter 2: Enlistment

    1. New coming of the Saint of Swords, Cat said. Granted he’s not wielding Light, but neither was Saint.

      I think everyone in-universe is growing increasingly confused about what villains even are, if this one’s pegged as one.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Indignantpup

        A hero would have been given the tools needed for the situation or possibly just tool, a Villain can and will lose. A hero might have saved them, but a villain can only make a large loss into a smaller one.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Or maybe he really was a new Saint, and she cleverly nope’d that with a few Story strings tugged and the Narrative subtely diverted to turn this would-be Grim Hero that would become a new Saint into a Villain instead to avoid that hassle.

          Liked by 7 people

            1. Ahad Mahmood

              Whilst you can’t change them immediately, Vivian and Indrani had semi heroic names. Vivian specifically was clearly a hero and whilst her journey with Cat eventually led to her relinquishing her name, such a journey could equally have led into a different name etc.

              Liked by 4 people

            2. Shrödingers Cat. If he previously said his Name and no one relevant is around to hear it, did the fallen Hero really make a sound? Before a Named or otherwise relevant Role observes and concludes whether he’s a Hero or Villain, perhaps he’s both and neither at the same time. Perhaps Cat didn’t allow him to say his Name before twisting the Narrative in the right way, because with all who knew his Name being dead or irrelevant what he is wasn’t yet defined until she’d define it.

              Liked by 6 people

          1. Insanenoodlyguy

            No, just an echo. Tyrant told her the “villain because they do what must be done as others flinch” was a groove she was carving into the world, and that it would spawn consequences. How fitting the first such one cat sees echos Kairos in the eyes as much as the ears

            Liked by 7 people

      2. The difference between the two was never an idea of good or bad, though it came to appear to be that eventually due to the effect of the Narrative. Good was about faith, trust and accepting the will of the Gods Above and obeying their mandates. Evil was about free will and choice. This named had will, he made a judgement and exercised his will by his own choice. That’s what made him a Villain.

        Liked by 9 people

          1. Chancellor

            The Name he took was the Scorched Apostate. The definition of Apostate is “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.”

            He wanted an actual priest who could use Light to show up and went to the local House of Light for help but the priest there was a fake, which is why he stabbed him and told the fake priest to heal himself. Everything we know about the Apostate so far is that he wanted to be able to use Light to heal more than anything but instead he was born with the Gift. He had the gift for a while but instead of using it, he sought Light to cure this illness. Up until he learned that the town was going to go elsewhere and spread this sickness. The will of the Gods Above can be seen in the lack of both the fake priest and the Scorched Apostate ability to use the Light to heal. And Scorched took his name from renouncing the idea that the Gods Above will provide and taking matters into his own scorched hands.

            Liked by 7 people

        1. Did he have a will, or did Cat phrase it as such? As she was likely the first relevant and surviving to hear his Name, what he was, a Hero or Villain, might’ve been undefined. She might’ve taken this clear providence from Above to land a Hero here to stop the plague and birth a new Saint, and after the act of providence was done nope’d him telling her his Name until she changed the narrative of their conversation to make him a Villain instead. Being one that threads the line, the power of such a powerful and defining Name* like Cat to be his mentor could’ve been a big if not sole decision of what he’d truly be.

          *I know her being Named is still a point of contest and yet to be re-Named.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. The difference is that he didn’t ask for help. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what to do, he knew what he needed to do and acted on the choice put to him regardless of how horrible it may have been. He didn’t decide that a higher power should make the call for him such as the old woman Hero mentioned earlier in the chapter, he made the decision on his own. That’s the whole point of what below endorses.

            I feel you’re trying to read too deeply into Cat being able to read and manipulate the Narrative here. You’re also assuming Cat wouldn’t want a new Saint, a monster to throw at the Dead King. She seemed pretty upset that this was ultimately just a kid she’d have to train up and involve in this whole affair.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Josh

              A sense of right and wrong is in a very literal sense in this universe, a higher power. Most of the heroes we’ve seen came from a place of defiance to what is for what could be, and only after the initial act do the Gods take notice and make a bid for the person. I could easily see this going the other way and the kid receiving a bid from Contrition and him latching on in an attempt to justify his actions to himself. Its the same putch Cat gave, but instead of at the end mentioning that he should live with who he is, its he should live with being who he needs to be.

              The second point is that he didn’t ask for help before he made his choice, but he was begging for help and a reason to justify what he did afterward from Cat. Like in the everdark I think it was when Akua and Cat were talking and Akua said something along the lines of “that’s who you are.” And Cat reflected that asking Akua who she is would be giving Akua hella power over herself to define whatever she wanted.

              Also I think it’s significant that it’s only after he mentions his name did he “leave the house of light to its dead priest” as an apostate. Beforehand he was begging for forgiveness at the altar of the gods that he supposedly already abandoned? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

              At the same time though, Cat mentioning that he was always one of hers seems an odd way of manipulating him into a Villian. She coulda said that solely for the sake of the kid and lied through her teeth, but I don’t imagine that if she did have the ability to shape a new Named that she really needed to lie to him about that. Could have skipped that part and went directly into helping him come to terms with his atrocity.

              But I’m pretty convinced right now that the commertors are right that she did something to shape the kid into being evil.

              Hell, I was going to end this on a bad pun about her being a “guide to evil” for this kid, but can’t find the exact words.

              Liked by 3 people

        2. “The difference between the two was never an idea of good or bad”
          WOG says otherwise.
          The issue is that what the Gods are like doesn’t map directly onto what their followers are like, only vaguely corresponds through arcane criteria.

          Like

      3. Tenthyr

        He was willing to murder a village because he knew what the plague would do if unchecked. Cat and the Saint are two sides of the same coin: Cat does the horror because she wants to make a better world, Saint because there is no compromise with the Enemy.

        It it wasn’t obvious, the reason Cathrine hated the Saint so easy is because she saw herself.

        Liked by 10 people

          1. Unoriginal

            I always felt that the comparison between Tariq and Catherine was much more compelling. In another time-line Catherine could have easily been blessed by the choir of mercy. She acts towards the perceived benefit of many at the expense of the few, oftentimes sacrificing or risking on a personal level to see it through. In many ways the Pilgrim who’s primary goal is to reduce the amount of suffering in the system and works under the same paradigm. Sacrifice the few for the many, no hesitation in regards to personal sacrifice or suffering.

            Liked by 3 people

        1. jamesc9

          It took me two more episodes to work out what I think that the good plan was.

          I don’t think that he had the credibility to achieve it, but here goes. They agree to stay together, and keep others with them who accidentally join. He goes ahead to warn the refugee camp, so that they have a welcoming party of actually effective healers.

          Yes, it’s brittle as anything. Would anyone like to turn it into a reliable plan?

          Like

      4. Dr.D

        From the very start, some of the earliest discussions Cat had with Black centered around whether Heros and Villains really correlated to Right and Wrong, or even Good and Evil. Black argued that a Villain could do just as much Right (practically) as those claiming to be a Heros, and that a Hero could do just as Wrong while claiming to be Good, and everyone on that dubious “Good” side would just nod along in agreement purely because of their Name being Good or Evil. The fact is that often times the Hero’s actions have cost more lives, and caused more suffering than the Villain’s – in reality, some Hero’s actions were Wrong.
        The Pilgrim’s creation of a plague that killed an entire lakeside coastline to capture Black come to mind. He might have done it for with Good reasons, yet no one debated tat what he did was Wrong. Cat never worshipped any God’s and yet apparently the gods below bestowed her with an Evil Name, and yet all she ever wanted was Good for others, right from day one.
        So much of what Black did was to make things better for people of Calernia (as he saw it) and he actively pushed Cat to take it further. He knew he was limited and trained Cat to break the story, to push the boundaries of her Name, of what it meant to be a Villain, to make things better for others, to be a Good Villain; to be practically Evil not for Evils sake, but to do Right and to not let people suffer needlessly (unless they were nobles!).
        The crusade is a good example. Cat was finally getting things better for people, the first prince selfishly decides it would be good for her politically to start a crusade, screw all the people in Callow, and every Hero jumps on the bandwagon, even while knowing this whole thing, including Cat being made the arch heretic was for Wrong reasons that to my mind that smell decidedly of… Evil.
        Good does not necessarily mean Right, and Evil does not always mean Wrong.
        I know I’d rather see things put right even if the reasoning behind it is a little “ends justify the means” like Cat’s.
        But yeah, b
        Black and Cat are an exception to the rule. Most Villains are Evil for Evils sake, as Akua springs to mind.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Eh, to be fair, the domestic political advantages Cordelia thought a Crusade would generate weren’t the only reason she wanted a Crusade.
          As I understand it, she wanted a Crusade to liberate Callow from Praes, knock Praes down for a while, and restore Callow as a buffer state against Praes … which would allow everyone else to go after the Dead King. That is, Cordelia’s endgame when it came to the Crusade was going after the Dead King with as much of Calernia united in that goal as possible while not needing to worry about the Dread Empire or other Evil-aligned nations.
          So, I probably wouldn’t hammer Cordelia too harshly over wanting a Crusade – just about how she went about it.

          Liked by 1 person

      5. stevenneiman

        Distinctions I’ve seen:
        Heroes: serve something greater, with the authority to decide right and wrong.
        Villains: know what they think should be, and let any who disagree try to stop them

        Heroes: Triumph in the pivotal moment.
        Villains: hold unbeatable power until the pivotal moment, and if they’re lucky achieve their aims even after the inevitable defeat

        Heroes: Have the power to do what needs done
        Villains: Do what needs done to have the power

        Heroes: Conquer their flaws before conquering the challenges before them
        Villains: revel in their flaws, or hone them into weapons.

        Heroes: Lean into stories, knowing that the proper story can carry them through any hardship
        Villains: Twist stories to their favor, hoping to turn what should doom them into a sort of salvation.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Thanks for posting these distinctions. Although I could quibble here and there, what you’ve written captures the broad essence of the difference.

          Like

    2. Right now it looks like he might be best served with having some time with masego, given how he still is the most learned Mage-Scholar of Calernia.
      Knowledge in Aboves and Belows Working could really help the Apostate get control a bit more

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Shikkarasu

        And maybe even learn more of the Light, since Zeze was able to craft Miracles without being a priest. They have very different reasons for it, but Scorch and Hierophant have similar goals.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Ahad Mahmood

        Whilst you can’t change them immediately, Vivian and Indrani had semi heroic names. Vivian specifically was clearly a hero and whilst her journey with Cat eventually led to her relinquishing her name, such a journey could equally have led into a different name etc.

        Like

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          That means nothing. It specifically said most of them hadn’t come close. This is background stuff. She didn’t say “My last year out here in the field” or anything. She’s probably counting a lot of attempts that the Jack’s found and dealt with in their infancies.

          Like

          1. With the new (old) timeline evidence rounded up on discord, it turns out erratic WAS keeping track of the timeline/Cat’s age the whole time. So if she said she was 23 last chapter, it’s worth assuming she IS 23, and there’s been… a three year time skip. Because in the spring of the truce, she was 20.

            And because the truce started at the end of winter, lasted three months, and now’s spring, it couldn’t have been less than a year. “Last summer” speaks to that, too.

            Liked by 6 people

          2. zenanii

            “I’d picked up two more during our offensive to take back the capital late last summer”

            When Cat is talking about named, further supports the two year timeskip idea.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. erebus42

      Or dare I say a possible apprentice…? (Not necessarily with a capital A mind you, just the normal kind. One to learn your dark teachings and stand with you looking ominous.)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        Nah, she’s got a great example in Grey for this. She’s going to be the type that is helpful and pop’s in with advice, but does not become a permanent fixture in his life, in order to insure she doesn’t doom herself with a mentor story.

        Liked by 7 people

  1. Zggt

    Yeah, named should be popping up everywhere for a huge clash of Good and Evil. Good to see Cat is on the ball in using every tool available, first of all because it’s important to show she needs to do this to not lose horribly, but mostly because she’s offering people what she had always wanted: a clear way to *help*. Villains can really use that.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. OMG I was wondering why more named werent popping up. Guess like a snowball they needed more time to gather.

      Supper stoked to see the five new named can’t wait to see these five maybe develop bands within bands.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That does fit the drow part of her current leadership as First under the Night, their leaders tend to be called Matrons too. But as I don’t think Erratica puts much emphrasis on that nor bases the story on D&D that much, I actually doubt Cat will become Matron as opposed to something more important to her as a main character as opposed to a support/mentor. She has been one to do things herself rather than delegate it to others, after all. Protagonist, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. nick012000

    Cat gets an apprentice? Neat. It looks like the mark she’s carving on Creation is already bearing fruit. I wonder if he’s going to get his own Band of Five, as well.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. WealthyAardvark

        A few more from the same rough paragraph:

        I’d need Akua to study the bodies as well few survivors we’d pulled out. More than that, if this was the plan within the Dead King’s plan then I needed to put out a warning there might be other villages like this oute there. Villages that’d not had the mixed of luck of being stumbled upon by a Named.

        as well few survivors

        like this oute there

        the mixed of luck

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Unless this greater number of inexperienced and not as Story-important Named will inevitably lead to the Dead King gaining more Revenants and/or proving to be unstoppable in the second act. Nothing as dangerous for a hero and villain alike than a more powerful and beloved hero or villain with greater ties to the Story, and compared to Cat and other already defined Named either these new Named or the barely introduced Heroes under Hanno should be wary.

      Like

      1. Decius

        Gotta have secondary characters to provide the necessary narrative weight to the losses. Cat’s running out of parts of herself, and she’s already died so many times that it’s not notable anymore.

        Liked by 5 people

  3. Queen of Lost and Found indeed.

    Real interesting chapter here, i can hope they heal his burns somewhat, it could even represent him acepting what he did or something, because burns are ugly, in the sense that they could never really heal, soemtimes with pus always, etc.

    And a year since the last book? at least some months since the prologue.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Yeah, the timeline gets more confusing every chapter. Now Cat even mentioned that they made an offensive to take back the capital (of Brabant, I assume) late last summer, yet they are now in spring according to last chapter.

      So apparently at least a year has passed since their counteroffensive started (A.K.A when Callow joined the war against Keter). That or there was a mistake in last chapter’s mention of it being spring now…
      Or EE lost sight of the timeline (during the hiatus he was working on his coming project, so this could happen, even if it’s unlikely)and thus this confusion happened.

      Either way, a clearer establishment of the timeline and exactly how much time has passed would be nice.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. caoimhinh

          Could you share that timeline here, please? A screenshot or just a summary would be enough.
          How much time has passed exactly according to the official version given by EE?

          Liked by 1 person

      1. caoimhinh

        Yeah, although Names can change, so there might be hope. The scorching also doesn’t need to be literal to be meaningful and effective.
        A mark or scar is very likely to remain at the very least, given what we know about Names and their meaningful wounds.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          In some ways you want to avoid that. He will be scorched. Better to keep as much of it on the outside as he can, least the inside decide to compensate. Maybe he could get a functional eye or something, but trying to heal him completely outside of very careful situations (likely transition to another name kinds) would find him either torn up by his own “you don’t deserve to look human” guilt or some helpful new personal tragedy to keep the levels even.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. ruduen

    I’m not sure if I’m anticipating or dreading the day in which the Pilfering Dicer and the Fortunate Fool are put together in the same room.

    Probably dreading, given who probably has more control in that situation.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. erebus42

      I suppose it depends on the context. If they were apposed to eachother especially in a situation that their respective talents would lend themselves to (a game of chance for instance), you would probably get something like a game of Push from the Magicians (Books and TV series) where the laws of probability basically just start having a seizure. If they were collaborating on the other hand, you might get a situation where potentially infinite luck was shared between the two as the Dicer continously took from the Fool while the Fool’s luck continously replenished itself.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. Decius

      I don’t know, I think it’s going to make her fire-related reputation *better*.

      It used to be that cities burned in her wake; now, they burn before she even gets there!

      Liked by 8 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I think she actually meant that she had initially thought that, but then realized the boy wasn’t a Hero who made hard choices, but rather a Villain with good intentions.

      “…I came in here, you see, expecting you to be one of Hanno’s.”

      The Saint of Swords come again. Necessity that bleeds the grip, the hard deed that keeps the night at bay.

      “No, from the beginning you were one of mine.”

      Liked by 13 people

        1. RoflCat

          Story-wise.

          Heroes who made hard choices are rewarded/forgiven for their deeds. (see Pilgrim killing that village to capture Black)

          While villains with good intentions will pretty much always end with feeling of tragedies because the result isn’t something they intended and/or aimed for (heroes making hard choices aimed for those result)
          See: Cat’s history, or in this kid’s case his self-loathing at not being able to save those people because he doesn’t have the real Light to use.

          Liked by 3 people

    2. Or maybe he really was a new Saint, and she cleverly nope’d that with a few Story strings tugged and the Narrative subtely diverted to turn this would-be Grim Hero that would become a new Saint into a Villain instead to avoid that hassle.

      As she was likely the first relevant and surviving person to hear his Name, what he was; a Hero or Villain, might’ve been undefined. It probably was providence from Above to land a Hero here to stop the plague and birth a new Saint, but with the act of providence done yet with his Name untold Cat negated this by nope’ing him telling her his Name until she changed the narrative of their conversation to make him a Villain instead. As she said before in this same chapter, some thread a thin line with but decisions and acts deciding whether they come out a Hero or Villain. With her experience, Cat might’ve been able to manipulate this to her advantage.

      On the mage thing, this might be Shrödinger’s Cat. Until someone relevant narrates it in their internal monologue, is it Light or Magic? Until Cat opened that box by making a hard all, the fire-light might’ve been both. We don’t know how much Creation is fluent in this to allow for Providence to have it’s control and power over it, or for more realistic manipulation to practically the same, so perhaps she quite literally defined what happened simply by observing it and adding her own definitions.

      *I know her being Named is still a point of contest and yet to be re-Named.

      Liked by 5 people

  5. Burnsy17

    Creation and the Gods, crafting this Name: “Oh what a tragic life this young man will lead! Torn between duty and morality, to walk the line between cruelty and the greater good. What narrow path shall he tread between Good and Evil? And where will that path lead? To the tragedy of the fall and a just end at the point of a sword, or to the beautiful poetry of redemption in de-”

    Cat: “Dibs.”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Decius

      Masego lacks the patience or tact needed to deal with such a fragile person; he’d say something because it was true and the Apostate would end up killing himself either directly or indirectly.

      He needs someone who can understand what it’s like being an unrepentant mass killer, and how to shape someone’s psyche. And Akua is right there.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. superkeaton

        I suppose, but Akua tends to take more of a backline, administrative role these days. Still, it’s an interaction I’d love to see happen. I’d also like him to meet White, given that he’s someone Apostate so desperately wants to be like.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Darkening

    Gods, I just can’t get over how great EE is at setting a scene and enrapturing me. It’s always incredible to see these moments, these pivots for lack of a non story word to describe them. Seeing the moments in a life that will forever shape them into something new. Whatever happens to him, the Scorched Apostate will never be the same for having met the Black Queen, and I can’t wait for more.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Five new Named have appeared.

    Oh no. Five new Named have appeared. Mirror Knight, all the Heroes with their great power, the Villains joining us, and now even more Named appearing? How f*cked are we if Creation deems that much necessary for what is to come?

    Liked by 3 people

              1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

                Very true. This gives me all kinds of terrible ideas. After all, there are works of fan fiction for this series; it’s only a matter of time before one of “those” kinds of fan stories pops up… 😉

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

                    No-one can save us from this. No protection can hold against this scourge forever. This is the true Hidden Horror our brave heroes and wily villains must unite against.

                    That’s a good idea about Recall, though. If I ever find myself at a point in life where I’d write erotic fanfiction I’ll have to remember it.

                    Liked by 1 person

  8. The timeline is fucking weird as hell.

    The Scorched Apostate. Now there’s an interesting Name. And a useful fellow – especially if his knack at using the Gift to emulate Light is not a Named-trick, and is instead something that can be learned by other mages. Even if it can’t be, another mage Named is going to be useful anyway.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m betting his ability to use the Gift will always be somewhat narrow, and focused on offensive, fire based magic.

      Like the Red Mage back in the Prologue of Book 4, who couldn’t use any shielding spells at all.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Whether or not he’s going to be much good at defensive or utility magics is yet to be determined.
        However, I will note that it’s indicated that he can heal people, at least of the supernatural plague, full extent of that ability is unknown.

        At any rate, it’s also worth keeping in mind that he has thus far been entirely untrained, and will likely recieve instruction from both Akua and Masego. The insights of the Heirophant are likely to be of great value to the Scorched Apostate’s emulation of Light. And the kid’s abilities are only going to grow and expand.

        Besides, even if the kid’s greatest value is as an offensive mage asset, he’s another Named Mage, and his biggest trick thus far is using his mage abilities to emulate aspects of the Light of Above. The first would be useful all by itself in any sort of war, and the second is going to be even more useful considering that they’re fighting the Dead King and armies of undead.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Ultimate_procrastinator

          He said he couldn’t heal them, and that if his magic were actual Light he could have. Maybe that’s foreshadowing of him learning healing later, but between his agreement with the priest that his abilities are “not real miracles” and the aside near the beginning about priests of the House Insurgent being worse at healing as a result of learning to burn with the Light, I tend to think it’s indicating that he is not a healer

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Alex Straughan

            So far only Heroic Names have put hard limits on magic. That seems like it might be an above thing to me. Below is more about breaking rules for power than submitting to them.

            Like

            1. Earl of Purple

              We’ve also seen more Heroic Mage Names than Villain Mage Names. And the Villains we’ve seen have all had Names that are quite broad about magic- Warlock, Apprentice, Hierophant and Diabolist are all either generalists or specialised as a personal thing, not a Name thing. Warlock was able to counter the Witch of the Woods quite effectively, and she’s noted to be the most powerful Heroic Mage in the Grand Alliance. Most Heroic Mages we’ve seen just aren’t that tier; we haven’t seen any Villain Mages that haven’t been that tier (except Apprentice, who had a Transitional Name).

              Scorched Apostate and this unknown hedge witch haunted by her dead brother are more powerful than Killian or other un-Named mages, but aren’t that tier (probably).

              Like

    1. The definition of a Villain and Hero in this story hasn’t been clearly stated yet. The closest we’ve ever got is “Which side gives you the power”, but then we still get people whose Names can go either way, e.g. Thief.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. konstantinvoncarstein

      No. Villains receive their power from Below, Heroes from Above. The exact criteria that makes one or the other give said power is not yet understood. But SoS and the pilgrim are definitely heroes

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Onos

      I’m wondering if the final push comes from the nascent Named’s own perception of their actions/motivations/whatever. Cat saw Heros get crushed by Black, so thought power to enact change came from Evil. Apostate is sickened by what he’s done and personally sees it as Evil, whereas Pilgrim sees the necessity in such an action and deems it Good.
      I would hazard that in these “borderline” cases the soul in question could reach out to either set of Gods in their defining moment, thereby setting their path. We already know that Named’s own perceptions influence their appearance and the manifestation of aspects so being able to influence the nature of the source of their power doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable.

      Liked by 4 people

  9. Ardea1210

    For everyone arguing about whether he is a hero or a villain, his name is the Scorched Apostate. An apostate is someone who defects, or refuses to follow a religion. Seems pretty villainous to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Daniel E

    Ask and you shall receive, I suppose. In the previous chapter, I was musing that we had not seen any side character Villains, while random Heroes were popping out of the woodwork (sometimes literally). Starting chapter 2 and we get a couple of low-life Named. Not exactly front line material those two, but still cool. I keep reading, and think that perhaps the nature of Villains is such we simply don’t get any heavy-hitters outside that generation’s core group.

    Cue end of chapter, and we’re presented with a powerhouse of a Villain, wielding a bastardized combination of Light & Magic (poor SOB, I actually feel bad for him). So minor characters as relatively major Villains are a thing. Book 6 is shaping up to be a fun ride indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Earl of Purple

    Really interested in that Pilfering Dicer. He’s the kind of villain that, I think, could probably escape notice pretty much indefinitely, if he played his cards right. I doubt he’s the type to play cards, or be cautious, but his ability to steal luck would make him pretty hard to fight, I think. Unless you’re a hero/villain capable of fighting through a bit of bad luck and still hitting somebody with good luck.

    Scorched Apostate’s another interesting guy; his bastardised Light- if it truly is Light, and not just particularly hot and glowy pyromancy- will be very useful, whilst simultaneously upsetting a lot of priests and true Light-using heroes.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Isi Arnott-Campbell

    I’m a bit rusty, hope this works. Also, thought I’d use the epigraph this time to see if it’d bother fewer people.

    “My lords and ladies, have I not always been a firm believer in voting for A Practical Guide to Evil?”
    – Dread Empress Malevolent II, announcing her second (and penultimate) vote for PGtE.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Exec

    I’m not sure if it’s a typo, but something about that Epigraph feels really off.

    “her second invasion (and penultimate) of Callow”

    Shouldn’t it be “her second (and penultimate) invasion of Callow”?

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Satan

    A hero like Saint would have believed deep down that they were acting for the “greater good,” while Scorch at best thinks he’s a “lesser evil.” Is it the righteousness that separates heroes and villains? The Pilgrim seems to be in between the two camps, which might explain his colour being grey instead of black or white. I suspect the Seraphim would never think of themselves as anything but Good, no matter how evil their acts.

    Like

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