Interlude: Terms

“The doom of carefully laid plans is two unfeeling sisters by the names of mishap and surprise.”
– King Pater of Callow, the Unheeding

“She’ll be here in two days, we believe.”

Masego thoughtfully peered down at the blade, insofar as it could truly be called that.

Though Helmgard had eventually been able to forge a sheath for it, an ornate affair of enameled steel, even that skilled heroine’s finest work had not proved sufficient for full containment. The sheathed blade was being kept in a deep pool of ice cold water so that the power it constantly emanated would be dispersed, though to his practiced eyes it seemed like there would be need for more liquid: as matters stood, the surface of the pool subtly stirred as if touched by winds and the Hierophant believed that someone dipping a finger into the water was near certain to lose it. The aspect that Catherine had extracted of the Saint of Swords’ corpse had been a temperamental thing even before seven Named and one had lent their hand to making a proper artefact of it. Masego was careful not to stand too close to the edge of the pool, for the edge of his robes would be no more immune to the power than flesh, and he frowned. Though the capacity of what had been forged here could not be denied, he suspected that he might well be scolded for the unfortunate impracticalities of certain aspects of it.

The odds were at least six in ten that anyone drawing the blade would die, after all.

“And you’re not listening to me in the slightest, are you?” the Rogue Sorcerer sighed.

“Perhaps if we made a suit of armour,” Masego considered. “That allows one to withstand using it.”

Though in principle he supposed use would be ‘withstood’, if at the likely loss of limb and or head. It was all a matter of defining the acceptable boundaries of loss. It would take significant time and effort to create such a suit of armour, however, and a wielder for the blade would have to be decided upon first. Such matter, to his admittedly half-hearted understanding of the politics involved, might become somewhat contentious.

“You could at least deny it,” the Rogue Sorcerer complained.

What were they talking about again? Hierophant vaguely remember talk about hearings, and beliefs. A trial of some sort, he decided.

“I agree,” Masego said, which usually got him out of these situations.

A heartbeat passed.

“Yet we should discuss it in greater detail with the others,” he cunningly added.

It would not do to accidentally approve of another bout of foolishness like a wine cellar being added to the Workshop, even if acceding to that request had ended up making the Hunted Magician unusually agreeable for a few weeks. Either that or drunk, Masego could sometimes find it hard to tell.

“You only ever say that when you haven’t been listening, Masego,” Roland said. “It’s the single most transparent evasion in an arsenal made of particularly thin air.”

Hierophant’s brow furrowed. He’d been seen through, then. Fortunately, Indrani had taught him how to escape this sort of situations flawlessly. Pushing down his general dislike of physical contact with anyone but a few, he laid a hand on Roland’s shoulder and put on a sympathetic expression.

“I am flattered by your interest,” he said, “but I do not reciprocate the attraction.”

Roland looked down at the hand, then back up at him. It would probably take a few heartbeats to work, Masego mused. Referring even obliquely to sex made people skittish, which made sense as it seemed like a lot of trouble for middling returns. It wasn’t like children couldn’t be made with the proper alchemies, either, though admittedly the lack of soul might be off-putting to some.

“It is important to me, my friend,” the Rogue Sorcerer slowly said, “that you understand the Archer is not an appropriate person to take cues from.”

Masego’s brow rose, loosening the silken blindfold before this glass eyes.

“In what context?” he asked.

“In any context,” Roland feelingly said.

That sounded rather dubious but then, for all his intelligence and learning, the man was a hero. And Proceran as well, which some of the bolder treatises about bloodlines from the ninth century considered to be a birth defect. Masego withdrew his hand, having left it there quite long enough.

“As you no doubt already knew,” Roland said, tone rather pointed for some reason, “Queen Catherine has reached out to one of the boundary stations and informed the garrison that she will be arriving within two days.”

It would take the better part of a day to get to the Arsenal proper from any boundary station as well, Masego knew. He’d never known the translocation to happen in less than six hours, and it had to be initiated at the proper time besides.

“It will be good to see her,” Hierophant agreed.

“It will,” Roland sighed, then muttered under his breath about herding cats.

That was a notoriously difficult activity, Masego knew, which meant the other scholar had likely reached a dead end in one of his research ventures. Hierophant could sympathize, given that proving his Quartered Seasons theory had become increasingly difficult. If there was truly a fourth realm of power out there, or even the husk of one, it was resisting his best efforts to locate and measure it. Yet Catherine’s return, he thought with a brightened mood, would – as if often did – open up the option of using overwhelming brute force against a complex problem.

“Is this why Tomas and Helmgard have been holed up in their private workshops for two days?” he suddenly frowned. “Catherine wouldn’t insist on running them ragged to finish the last touches on the Mirage, she’s always found the Observatory quite sufficient for all her needs.”

Masego allowed himself a degree of pride over that last truth, for he’d known granting his request to built in those first months after her coronation had been ab extension of trust on her part. It was deeply pleasant to know he’d not failed that trust. Besides, while she knew neither the Blind Maker nor the Bitter Blacksmith he doubted Catherine would want them to face consecutive sleepless nights on her behalf.

“It’s not for her personal use, it’s for a full council session of the Grand Alliance’s highest officers,” Roland said, as if he ought to already know this. “Twilight’s Pass sent the Kingfisher Prince to speak in its name, but neither Princes Rozala nor the Iron Prince will be able to make the journey. That means the Mirage will have to be fully functional or we’ll be relying on constant scrying-chains.”

Hierophant idly wondered if he should start paying more attention at the daily evening briefings of the Belfry. Maybe, since he’d had no notion of any of this. Would he? Probably not.

“The Order cadres in Salia would prove sufficient for the task, when it comes to Vivienne and the First Prince,” Masego said.

It was a little unseemly, resorting to such slick wiles to ascertain if either of these would be coming. Yet to do otherwise would shatter the illusion he’d been maintaining that he devoted his full attentions to any part of those meetings that was not about funding or the attribution of staff.

“It won’t be necessary, with both of them here in person,” Roland replied. “Mind you, there might be as much as a week between Queen Catherine and the arrival of the rest of them so we’re not out of time quite yet.”

“It would be best to be ready ahead of time in case of any surprises, though,” Masego caught on. “That is reasonable. I’ll take a look at the complex myself.”

“That would be appreciated,” Roland said, inclining his head.

Hierophant briskly nodded but cast a lingering look at the sheathed sword within the waters. When the other Named moved he willed one of the glass orbs within his skull to pivot and watch him, noting the short-sleeved cloth shirt and simple trousers the other man wore. Tinkering clothes, the kind that would not get caught on things and would not be a significant monetary loss were they irreparably damaged. The shorter Named strode up the five steps to the edge of the pool, only there ending his advance. Out of politeness Masego kept an eye on him, even if he did not turn his head.

“We still haven’t agreed on a name for her, have we?” the Rogue Sorcerer mused.

“It is not a sentient artefact, it cannot have a gender,” Hierophant noted. “And I remain in favour of Severance.”

Severity has the better ring to it, as far as I’m concerned,” Roland replied.

“It hardly matters,” Masego said, “unless one adheres to that Pelagian nonsense about term resonance.”

Though Procer’s sorcery was largely of the unfortunate Jaquinite mold, there were several enclaves in the Arlesite territories where older methods were at work. The Pelagian theory of magic was a child’s mimicry of what the Gigantes could to with Ligurian methods, liberally seasoned with ignorant mysticism and rites more religious than magical. Pelagia herself had been famous in her time for her splendid enchantments, and some of that talent still remained in those who claimed to be the inheritors of her ways, but the few shards of truth to be found there buried in a sea of drivel.

“I do believe in it,” Roland reminded him.

Ah. He’d quite forgot that, admittedly.

“Naming something cannot stabilize its ‘nature’, which is a rather dubious concept in any case,” Masego bluntly said. “There has been no dependable evidence of this being the case.”

“When it comes to most things, I would agree,” the Rogue Sorcerer said, then he flicked a glance at the blade in the water.

Ever-roiling, as if waiting for the hand that would wield it.

“But there are bodies in Creation that obey different rules as the rest,” he said. “How can I not believe that, having seen it with my own eyes?”

“We are all ignorant children trying to piece together the truths of titans,” Masego said, “but the moment, Roland, that was we are satisfied with an explanation we are lost. Observation is not understanding, and is there anything as hateful as willfully lingering in your own ignorance?”

The other man’s lips quirked.

“You’ve a surprisingly poetic bent, on occasion,” the Rogue Sorcerer said. “But in the end, my friend, you are a scholar of the Gift while I remain a mere practitioner. If I only ever used what I understand, I would use nothing at all.”

“You are deepening your faults beyond the reasonable,” Hierophant informed him. “Though on occasion you act more like a collector than a mage, you’ve also used sorcery from every extant theory of magic without going stark-raving mad.”

That was, as far as Masego knew, largely unprecedented. At best one of the Gifted would borrow insights from other approaches to sorcery, as delving deep into another after already being taught tended to learn to severe mental sicknesses as well as deeper spiritual weaknesses. In this matter Hierophant suspected that it was one of the Rogue Sorcerer’s own aspects that shielded him from the backlash inherent in genuinely believing often fundamentally opposing facts about magic, the same that allowed him to flawlessly wield any sort of magical artefact he touched: Use, simply termed for how frightfully deep the waters of it ran.

“Collector’s accurate enough,” Roland quietly said. “Though I like to believe myself a principled specimen of the breed.”

The man was in an odd mood, one Masego found it hard to decipher, so he decided to press forward.

“Would you accompany me to the Mirage?” Hierophant asked. “If I find defects in the work, I’ll have to seek you out regardless.”

“If that is agreeable,” Roland replied. “Shall we?”

Masego nodded. A few steps took them away from the pool where the blade that once been an aspect lay sheathed and seething, and the pulsing runes carved into the otherwise bare stone walls shone brighter as the pair of them left the room before winking out. Behind them, enchanted doors barred themselves shut and they continued across the granite walkway leading them further from the cube they’d been inside of. The holy water within, regularly blessed by priests, swept over the walkway the moment their feet reached the other side: the wretched Blessed Artificer, though utterly unpleasant in most regards, had been somewhat helpful in providing mechanisms that would allow the walkway to rise and lower without relying on sorcery the blessed water might disrupt. The precautions were, in the end, warranted: that blade was, so far, the closest to a weapon capable of destroying the Dead King the Arsenal had come to making.

Another set of enchanted doors closed behind them as the pair entered the Depository proper, which Masego tended to think of as an overly grandiose name for what was in effect a glorified warehouse. There were parts of it more protected and restricted than others, the one they were leaving most of all, but the least secure parts were typically large rooms full of crates awaiting shipping out and not some mysterious maze of wonders. The nature of the men and women the two Named encountered after passing another three protective chokepoints reflected this. There were few of the scholars in red, white or bronze – Gifted, priests, academics – that were everywhere in the branches of the Belfry. Instead it was armed guards, handpicked from the different hosts of the Grand Alliance in equal numbers, and workers that they came across. Most bowed, though unlike scholars they tended to aim the courtesy more towards Roland than himself.

Masego asked of his companion’s latest venture, a runic seal meant to be able to impress that same rune into cloth or wood and have it magically functional, as they walked and found himself engrossed in the pleasant conversation as they made their way out of the Depository, through the curling hallways of the Knot and through that oft-messy and crowded crossroads up warded stairs and into the silent hush of the Chancel. There only a few were allowed entry, and the wards guarding the sanctum had been of his own design. Though the Chancel was the smallest section of the Arsenal, it held within its walls several matters of variable importance: the central warding array, the restricted stacks and the offices of the Arsenal treasury. It also held the reason the two Name had come: the great enchanted room called the Mirage, which Masego suspected might just be the first example of the sorcery that would come to replace scrying.

The lower level belonged to the treasury and the restricted stacks, the latter of which being warded and guarded, but the Mirage and the central warding array were further above and even more heavily restricted. At least the Mirage was not the furthest level up, where the array awaited: the guards here, heavily armed and armoured as they were, were not allowed beyond the first checkpoint. The second gate would open only for a drop of the proper blood, fresh from the body, and would fill the hallway with hellflame should it not be provided quickly enough. The last and seemingly third gate was kept closed unless one of a limited set of keys was used, though depending on which was another action was required beyond it – else a mounting accumulation of power in a hidden enchantment would grow to trigger an alarm ward. The Mirage was meant to be used, however, and restricting access too much would be inconvenient.

A series of comprehensive checks and another set of wards were all the two Named had to wait through before entering, though the guard captain supervising notified them there were already people within.

“Scholars?” Roland asked, brow rising.

“Chosen, Lord Sorcerer,” the soldier replied. “And one of the Damned as well.”

Masego strode pas the two of them, mildly curious but rather more interested in inspecting the latest refinements of the Mirage. The room itself was not so large, a circle of a mere two hundred feet in diameter, but it had still taken a colossal amount of work to ensure that not so much as speck of the floor, walls and ceiling would offer magical interference with the delicate sorceries meant to be worked within. For that reason the great round table at the heart had been made of stone as well, as materials that had previously been alive had been judged risky, though the parts worthy of admiration were not these. Around the table, exactly twenty armchairs of stone had been placed within boxes of glass just slightly apart from each other. Linked to the scrying pool hidden beneath the table, ropes of a dozen different purified metals – including grey adamant, which only the Gigantes knew how to make – connected to different parts of the ritual arrays hidden under the floor of the seats, connected to the glass of the boxes through a superbly clever bridging enchantment of the Repentant Magister’s invention.

The result was a nearly perfect illusion carried by the glass: with the proper preparations made on both sides, anyone seated at the table of the Mirage would be within an illusion perfectly mimicking the immediate surroundings and individual of whoever was being scryed by the central ritual. When Catherine would claim her seat here, she’d be able to converse with the likes of Rozala Malanza and the Iron Prince as if they were all truly in the same room. The difficult part had been creating the portable kits that’d allow the illusion to carry from the other side, and there imprecisions remained in need of fixing. But an elementary kit for connection had already been provided to all three fronts, and at this point the burden of work was largely on the Arsenal’s side: it was the room here that needed to be flawless so that everything would function. Which was why Masego’s lips thinned when he saw that one of the glass boxes had been opened, the seat within removed and the tile of stone covering the hidden arrays taken out.

Of the three people already in the room, two were kneeling and digging into the entrails of the array while the last was on his feet and looking down with apparent indifference. The Hunted Magician, as the only one not occupied, was the first to notice Hierophant’s entrance. The dark-haired man in ornate court dress took a bow.

“Lord Hierophant,” the Magician said. “An unexpected pleasure.”

The sound of boots scuffing stone informed Masego that Roland had caught up, and the Rogue Sorcerer answered before he bothered to.

“Magician,” Roland said. “Shouldn’t you be working on a replacement wardstone for the Army of Callow?”

The distaste between those two had been instant and instantly shared, which Hierophant found a waste given that they were the two finest Proceran practitioners he’d met.

“Have my hours suddenly become accountable to the likes of you, Sorcerer?” the Magician nonchalantly replied.

“A pleasure to see you as well, Lord Magician,” Masego finally replied.

If he was lucky, his intervention might even end the bickering before it truly began.

“Roland, kindly abstain,” one of the kneeling pair called out. “I was the one who requested his assistance.”

The Repentant Magister rose to her feet after speaking, smoothing down her robes.

“Assistance with what?” Masego asked.

“Worry has been expressed that the Black Queen’s mere strength in the Night might serve as a disruption of the Mirage,” the Hunted Magician said. “And so there was a need to get at the lower arrays for testing.”

The Proceran villain had been the one to design the enchantment that kept the stone tiles in place, so both his presence and the way he’d merely been waiting around when Masego entered were explained in a single stroke. Yet a question was begged by what he’d been told.

“And when it comes to matters of Night,” Hierophant said, turning his head towards the Magister, “you did not come to consult me?”

“She didn’t need to,” the last person in the room said, rising to her feet.

The Blessed Artificer smiled tightly in his direction. Her dark skin and golden eyes, the signature of Wasteland highborn of the oldest and most powerful lines, were always jarring to behold when paired with the truth of what she was: a priest with a blacksmith’s hammer, an ignorant meddler of the worst sort. Masego was not Roland, to let his irrationally strong dislike of the other Named affect his judgement, but neither would he deny that something in him always itched to crush her work utterly whenever he caught sight of it. It was quite distressingly visceral a reaction.

“After all, she already had an expert on hand,” the Blessed Artificer said.

“You have never even encountered Night,” Masego replied in clipped tones. “And you hardly have the proper academic frame to even begin to conceive of it.”

“You’re a Praesi miscarriage of a person,” the Artificer smiled. “You’ve no proper frame to conceive of anything at all.”

Her hand slipped into her tunic, fingers closing around some half-seen device, Light bloomed and then Masego saw nothing at all. Not that he’d fallen into unconsciousness, but rather that some sort of device was interfering with the sight of his eyes. How deeply unpleasant of her.

Adanna,” the Rogue Sorcerer reproached.

Witness, Masego thought, and his Name sang. His eyes burned behind the blindfold, with Summer flame and something entirely his own, and in the Artificer’s grasp he found the whirling device of steel and Light she’d used to blind him.

Wrest,” the Hierophant coldly said, raising a hand.

The Light ripped out of the device, uncontested for the lack of will behind it, and it formed into a ball above the palm of his hand. He closed his fingers into a fist. When he opened his palm again, it was to reveal dispersing wisps of Light.

“You broke my device,” the Blessed Artificer harshly said.

“Be thankful it was not your spine,” the Hierophant replied, just as harshly.

Both eyes on the heroine, he did not catch sight of the sculpture until it bounced off the side of his head with a perfect bopping sound.

On most days, Indrani was all for the amount of pretty people in this room getting all red-cheeked and flustered but sadly this looked a lot more likely to end up in the Eleventh Crusade than clothes hitting the floor. Something had to be done, so Archer turned to a method that had never failed her: throwing things at people until they did what she wanted. The wooden sculpture she’d been working on over the last wander just because it made Alder and Aspasie embarrassed bounced off Zeze’s head magnificently, catching the eye of all five other Named in their secret hush-hush magic room.

“Is that a naked woman?” the Repentant Magister asked, cocking her head to the side.

“Is that Catherine?” Masego asked, sounding rather curious.

Bless his soul, Indrani fondly thought, he no longer even bothered to comment on her tossing things at him.

“You’ve seen the Black Queen naked?” Roland asked, sounding shocked.

Indrani swaggered up to her paramour, throwing an arm around his shoulder so he’d be too distracted to mention it was the faint scar carved across the belly and not the nice ass that’d revealed the identity of the woman she’d been carving.

“He’s been in her quite a bit, Ro-ro,” Indrani told the Rogue Sorcerer, wagging her eyebrows.

“Quite regularly, during the Tenth Crusade,” Masego agreed absent-mindedly, which was just perfect.

The Repentant Magister – Nephele, wasn’t it? – cast a look at her carving that bore curiosity of more than merely academic nature, so Indrani almost patted herself on the back for being such a good friend. The Stygian heroine was quite the beauty, with those curls and curves, so one might even argue she was being a very good friend. Indrani’s intentions to keep stirring the pot for entertainment and also the sake of peace, she supposed, were neatly waylaid by utter surprise when Masego turned and put a hand on her shoulder. He stood almost a head taller than she, Indrani froze when he leaned down and pressed a soft kiss on her right cheek and then the left. His lips were soft. He smelled of ink and cool stone.

She was not blushing.

“Welcome back, Indrani,” Masego warmly said.

“Er, yes,” she said. “Lovely to welcome you too. Back. You know what I mean.”

“Not particularly,” Masego cheerfully admitted.

He extricated himself from their embrace and she let him – she’d known from the start it would be best to let him set the boundaries of their involvement, when it came to physicality – only after they’d separated tugging down her tunic.

“You can keep the sculpture,” Archer told the Magister, winking. “You know, for comparison purposes.”

The Stygian reddened, speaking a denial in tradertalk that shouldn’t fool anyone with any sense.

“What a delight to have you among us once more, Lady Archer,” the Hunted Magician smiled at her.

Ah, yet another pretty one. That one was all about the chase, though, as Alamans tended to be – the way he was simultaneously pursuing the Bitter Blacksmith and the Blessed Artificer spoke to that. Both of them looked they wanted to cave in his head, on most occasion Indrani had seen, but also there seemed to be a lot of feeling reluctantly flattered. Right on time, the Blessed Artificer shot the man an unimpressed sideways look.

“Same, Mags,” she drawled. “Brought in a new girl for you lot, so put on your fairday best.”

“I would not dare to disappoint, Lady Archer,” he drily replied.

“New girl, you said. A mage?” Roland asked.

He looked all hopeful now, which made it all the more a pleasure to crush his happiness. In her defence, Archer wouldn’t have kept picking on the man if it wasn’t so fun.

“She’s called the Red Axe,” Indrani grinned. “And she screws with magic just by being around it.”

“That would be interesting to study,” Zeze agreed, blind to the disappointed look on Roland’s face.

“Brought in the rest of my band too,” Archer idly mentioned. “Rest and recovery, until we head out again. Magister, you know the Vagrant Spear right?”

“We fought together in Cleves,” the heroine agreed. “Though I would not consider us closely acquainted.”

The way Indrani had heard it Nephele had been pretty much a twat up there in Cleves, before she got her shit together, so she wasn’t surprised to hear it. Then again, Cat did like the catty ones so it checked out.

“You’ll be staying for some time, then?” Masego asked her.

“At least a week,” Archer shrugged. “Why?”

“Catherine will be arriving in two days,” he told her. “I’ll have your affairs moved to my quarters.”

Indrani suppressed a smile. It was pleasant to sleep in the same bed, and even more so when he seemed to enjoy that intimacy as well.

“You could buy me a drink first, at least,” she said, fanning herself.

“A wine cellar has been added to the Workshop, so that shouldn’t be necessary,” Masego revealed.

Indrani flicked a look at the Hunted Magician, whose lips twitched, and she bestowed upon the man a nod of solemn approval. It was heartening to see at least one of these people had their priorities straight.

“That’ll be fun to break into,” Indrani mused, the eyes the calmed situation in the room and decided that if she left all the ingredients here the brew was likely to start boiling again. “Come with me to have a look at the Red Axe, would you? I want to know if the poor girl will be locked into a room for the rest of this or if she can wander around some.”

To her appreciative surprise, Masego not only agreed but offered her his arm. Considering she’d made it clear that he shouldn’t offer physical contact unless he wanted it, a lesser woman might have been chuffed by how unhesitatingly he extended the unspoken offer. Not Indrani of course, unless you squinted a lot in the right light. She threaded her arm through hers and offered the rest of the Named a nonchalant wave, allowing herself to be escorted back out.

“So, is it me or do you have even more Named kicked around than before?” she asked as the began their way down the stairs.

“It isn’t you,” Masego replied. “The First Prince got her hands on the Forgetful Librarian, but we’ve added two since your last visit: the Blind Maker and the Doddering Sage.”

“Heroes?” Indrani idly asked.

“We are not certain for the Sage,” he admitted. “His moments of clarity are rare, if incredibly useful. We’ve also a guest in the person of the Wicked Enchanter, though he’ll not be staying. He’s more a hedge mage than a true practitioner, even if he has mastered some lesser arts, so his value outside the field is limited.”

“Anything fun?” Archer said, mildly curious.

“Mind control, though rather imperfect,” Zeze replied. “Some elemental conjuring as well, but his arsenal is essentially varied methods of domination.”

Indrani’s steps stuttered.

“The Wicked Enchanter,” she slowly said. “Where did he come from?”

“Valencis originally,” Masego said, “though he spent some years in Helike and lately in –”

“- Orense,” Indrani finished. “He was in Orense, where he slew and robbed and raped his fill in the villages around the outskirts of the Brocelian.”

“You have heard of him before,” Masego realized.

“I just spent two months travelling with the heroine he made,” she grimly replied. “So we best hurry and keep them apart, or there’ll be blood on the floor.”

They were too late.

Archer realized, with a sinking feeling, that she might just have helped make a very large mess.

172 thoughts on “Interlude: Terms

    1. Shveiran

      On one hand, damn right he does.

      On the other…
      this is a mess. It is a blatant breach of the Truce and Terms.
      Now Cat will either have to ask for the head of (what could realistically turn out to be) a rape victim that took revenge on her abuser after the system let him go scot free, or suffer an emhorrage of Villains.

      It’s… not a pretty picture.

      Liked by 12 people

      1. Maybe not necessarily head. There’s got to be SOME demonstrative reparations demanded, enough for villains to feel like heroes do in fact have a strong incentive to NOT touch them under the new system.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Shveiran

          In theory, I can agree with you, yet what reparation could possibly be enough? This measure is meant to reassure people that superpowered zealots that could have both personal enmity to them and a divine mandate to clean off scum like them won’t harm them.
          It is either that, or any villain offered to join for an amnesty plays along only so long as they think they can’t make a clean escape and make the horoes lose their tail while the white cloaks are very much occupied.
          I don’t think there is much that could work besides an unbending rule.
          After all, Heroes are often all about personal sacrifice for the greater good. If there is a penalty to pay to get the bad guy, they’ll pay it. Death may be harsh, yet… what else may suffice?

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Also remember the last conversation between Cat and the Barrow sword, so long as is practical to the war effort she will do what is encesary, thing is that part of it is the witnesess, even if she wants to and its the most practical aproach she has to respect the letter of the accords if not the spirit (wich is what she prefers to do, follow the spirit of the accords that is), but i know this will actualñly be used for the benefit of the accords, i mean do you people seriously think something liek this wasn’t thought of? There must be clauses and whatever to deal with messes like this………..if there isn’t a name for lawyers already there will msot definedtly be one soon enough xD

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Shveiran

              Rules lawyering this won’t work. I’m pretty sure there are rules about this sort of things; I’m also pretty sure those rules involve the death penalty.
              Of course someone must have considered the possibility, but that doesn’t change the fact that loopholes won’t cut it: saying “look, we don’t want to execute this kid” or “aha, but this word in this line actually refers to the ancient arlesite precedent of the Renowed Twat, and thus raping made on Thursdays are exempt from the amnesty.”
              It won’t satisfy the black shirts watching; if you ruleslawyer the T&T, they will do so themselves; they’ll skirt the line of duty, they’ll leave people to die, they’ll curb their initiatives until you come back crawling to them because Villains do that shit better than the opposition. And Cat will have no ground to call them out on it because she would have done it first.

              It doesn’t matter if a clause exist; using it means a white cloak gets away with it, and once that happens there is no placating the fear that she was just the first instance.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Yeah, there are basically only two ways that Red Axe would get to walk away from killing Wicked Enchanter.
                Option one – there’s some sort of loophole in the pardon system, ie you only get pardoned for stuff that you selfreport or otherwise own up to and Wicked Enchanter left some significant stuff out. This is … unlikely, because if you’re getting an automatic pardon for anything you say you did, there’s effectively hff a zero point in leaving anything out. Especially if leaving something out would be grounds for you to not be covered by said pardon.
                Option two – the Wicked Enchanter just did something in this encounter to seriously provoke the Red Axe in such a way that a lethal response is warranted, even under the Truce and Terms. This is perhaps even more unlikely, as that is both an incredibly high bar, and remarkably stupid.

                Basically the best chance for the Red Axe to get away with killing the Wicked Enchanter would be if the Red Axe had witnessed the Wicked Enchanter having dealings with the Dead King or Malicia, or more likely an envoy or scrying link.

                However, I fully expect that the Wicked Enchanter managed to push just about all of the Red Axe’s buttons, but I also expect that he limited himself to verbal provocations and perhaps crude and/or suggestive gestures as provocations – or, in other words, staying clear of anything that could be grounds under the Truce and Terms for the Red Axe to attack him.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. There exists in the world a legal concept of “fighting words” – as in, a sufficient verbal provocation that the person who said it first counts as starting the fight.

                  Like

                  1. Shveiran

                    Sure. However, including such a cause in the Truce and Terms would be ridiculous; this many cultures rubbing each other the wrong way? We saw heroes nearly drawing on each other, the T&T supposedly held for years without Named on the opposite sides snuffing one another.
                    Anything close to a “fighting words” clause would be abused to no end.

                    Plus, didn’t Cat say to Tancred that grievances had to be reported, not acted upon?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. “Fighting words” is one thing, “fighting touching someone you’d previously raped” is another

                      and yes Catherine did say that, but there are different degrees of offense

                      Like

      2. Alex Straughan

        I don’t see that villain as a volunteer.
        He was likely forcibly and violently conscripted into the army to fight undead on pain of death.
        That’s hardly ‘scot free’.
        And describing the Truce and Terms, as the system is a little disingenuous. It’s not a court, it’s a desperate measure to prevent an ascended lich from eating the continent.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Shveiran

          Sure.

          But try to step in Red Axe’s shoes. Granted, we know next to nothing to her, but her story is closely bound to that of a Killgrave style enchanter that uses his skills to “kill, pillage and rape” as per Archer’s description.
          She is not necessarily a rape victim or the fiancee/sibling/friend of one such person, but since her Name is based on disrupting magic and bloodied weapons, I think it is a safe bet that that her coming into her Name was closely bound to that of the Wicked Enchanter.
          She’d see him as a monster. The monster, maybe.

          And now, rather than putting him out of his misery… the system tells him “if you fight the good fight, the slate is clean”. Basically, from a heroine point of view, in exchange for doing what any decent living Named ought to do in the first place, something she may see as a moral imperative, he gets to be forgiven?

          I think the T&T are the right idea, the only idea; but let’s be real about it: the amnesty is always going to be an hard (if necessary) sell.
          And though it is easy to recognize it as a necessity when you are not involved, that’s harder when the monsters played a partin your own tragic backstory.

          Liked by 2 people

  1. Darkening

    Roland and Masego are a really fun contrast in a lot of ways. The man that can cast any magic, but doesn’t really understand them, and the man that can’t cast any magic, but understands them deeply. A hero and a villain, the fact that roland seems to be a decent people person and masego is decidedly not… The list probably goes on lol. On another note, if that hero killed a villain that’s going to be a delightful clusterfuck. Looking forward to seeing how the Terms are going to be enforced there. Does a hero killing a Villain mean the White Knight is obligated to kill the hero?

    Liked by 19 people

    1. Oshi

      It’s a quieter part of Catherine’s success. They are writing a story too. It’s one of those subtler things I’ve noticed. Each time we see the glimpses of how the Accords are working you notice patterns of villains/heroes who complement each other along wwith ones who oppose.

      Liked by 16 people

    2. RoflCat

      Doubt it, to kill one for killing another would be a waste of manpower.

      Furthermore, if she killed him out of personal revenge, it means she is unlikely to do it again since the only target of her revenge is now dead.
      Which to be fair, it’s surprising it took this long for this to happen considering it’s a pretty well established fact by now that villain presence in an area will give birth to heroes, as Black can testify with all the ones he buried.

      I think the most likely option is extra harsh deployment or something, though obviously after she’s been trained enough she wouldn’t ends up being +1 Revanant for Dead King.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. hakureireimu

        But if the sentence isn’t harsh enough; that will be the end of the Truce and Terms, as no new Villain will join, and some of the existing ones might leave also.

        Liked by 7 people

      2. Flameburst

        Your points are entirely irrelevant. Not killing her sets the precedent that under the terms heroes may kill villains. That will immediately lead to the majority of villains abandoning the war.

        Basically, if the terms are to be upheld, Hanno has no choice but to have the Red Axe executed. Problem is, that would feel like injustice to him, making it anathema to his core beliefs. And if he doesn’t do it, cat can’t either, or it will be seen as a villain killing a hero in retribution. A real catch 22…

        Liked by 4 people

        1. On the other hand, the Wicked Enchanter would have aligned onto the Truce and Terms/proto-Accords … which explicitly includes a pardon for all previous crimes. Maybe there’s a loophole there that you can only get a pass for stuff that you self-reported, and the Wicked Enchanter left something out that directly involved the Red Axe.
          But … I think as much as Hanno dislikes the necessity of giving blanket pardons to Villains, even when they’ve done straight up terrible things that under other circumstances would get them murdered even by other Villains … Hanno would recognize that once they’ve been pardoned for past acts, doing anything or allowing anything to be done to them over those same past acts that they’ve gotten pardons for isn’t justice for them.

          This is an absolutely ugly situation that’s a harsh test of the Truce and Terms and people’s commitments to them.
          If the Red Axe has killed the Wicked Enchanter … however justified she might have been, however repulsive his actions were, it’s a blatant and severe violation of the Truce and Terms … and it can only end with the Red Axe being executed for that violation.

          There might be a bit of wiggle room if he can be resurrected somehow (unlikely), or if he did something specific to provoke her in this most recent encounter.

          Liked by 4 people

                1. Shikkarasu

                  Make her into an Akua-style puppet. Perhaps bound to something other than the Mantle of Woe so other Heroes could summon her into the fray.

                  Pros:
                  • Is a severe punishment
                  • Relatively small loss assets
                  • Isn’t an end to her existence
                  • Why is the holy-warrior ghost not a trope? People were buried in the floor/walls of churches for that exact reason! It’s like the coolest thing real world lore that we just aren’t using in fic… A-hem, I mean, potential for Name growth

                  Cons:
                  • Something that Winter!Cat would do
                  • Justifications -will- matter to the Sword of Justice

                  Liked by 2 people

                    1. Not exactly.
                      I’m pretty sure neither of them will emotionally want to execute the Red Axe for killing the Wicked Enchanter.
                      But they won’t have a choice.
                      Barring clear and convincing reasons to the contrary, Red Axe will need to be executed for such a blatant violation of the Truce and Terms in front of lots of both Heroic and Villainous witnesses.

                      Maybe, just maybe, if this had happened without so many witnesses, they could try to rules lawyer around maximum punishment for the Red Axe. But in the circumstances under which her attempt to use lethal force against a Villain covered under the Truce and Terms? They can’t. Cat has to be seen as standing up for the rights and protection of Villains who are abiding by the Truce and Terms. For that matter, Hanno has to stand up for the principle that Heroes keep their word once given, and enforce the principle that if Villains are abiding by the Truce and Terms, the Heroes have to too.

                      Remember, none of this is happening in a vacuum. The Truce and Terms are helping to lay the groundwork and precedent to support the Accords.
                      Plus, there’s still that matter of the apparently existential war against the Dead King – and if the Villains think that the Truce and Terms aren’t going to be enforced when a Hero violates them, they have little reason to stick to the rules themselves.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Here’s the thing: if something sounds Very Wrong about the situation that will likely be exceedingly common in the long run, then it will continue to sound Very Wrong in the future as well.

                      I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a literal exemption for sufficiently harsh personal scores – with a promise of protection but no promise of punishment.

                      Like

                    3. Thing is, the Truce and Terms after going to be of finite, albeit unspecified, duration. Until some amount of time after these war is over and the Accords can be negotiated and implemented.
                      At which point, as long as you stay within the constraints of the Accords, it’s open season on other Named.

                      The Truce and Terms are about making sure everybody works together to defeat the Dead King. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with that objective. And if someone doesn’t have the self control to prioritize the war against the Dead King over personal issues (however justified), they’re both a liability and an active threat to the war effort and the Truce and Terms.

                      I very much doubt that there’s an exception in the Truce and Terms for nemesis-related acts.
                      That runs counter to the very concept of “sign on and you’ll get a pardon for past misdeeds and protection from other Named for the duration of the war”.

                      Liked by 2 people

            1. If the Red Axe has actually killed the Wicked Enchanter, and he didn’t do anything to specifically provoke her *in this specific encounter* (that is, after both are signed onto the Truce and Terms), she will have violated the Truce and Terms in order to kill a signatory of the Truce and Terms.

              That’s effectively a soldier murdering a fellow soldier in a warzone. That’s a death sentence in real life.

              More to the point, if she doesn’t get executed, the enforcement clauses of the Truce and Terms will not have sufficient teeth to both satisfy the Villains that they are actually going to be safe from the Heroes if they follow the rules, and convince the Villains that they should follow the rules and that they won’t be able to get away with murdering Heroes who are subject to the Truce and Terms.

              If Cat and Hanno are lucky, there’s going to be a loophole in the pardon system (ie, you only get pardoned for stuff you selfreported and the Wicked Enchanter left some nasty stuff out) or extenuating circumstances of the moment that they can use to mitigate the punishment, but … the enforcement of the Truce and Terms has to be strict and impartial.

              Just like in real life, if a rape victim killed their attacker three months after they were attacked, nobody would like it, but they’d still have to charge the former with the murder of the latter, barring extenuating circumstances in the encounter when the murder happened (ie, the attacker tried to do it again, or some other grounds for self defense).
              Admittedly, in real life, the original rape victim would probably have decent odds of being able to get a sentence on the lower side or a reasonably favorable deal from prosecutors, or so one would hope.

              It’s an ugly situation, at best.

              Liked by 5 people

              1. I don’t think the pardon requires reporting stuff.

                However, I expect him to NOT have behaved perfectly without stain towards her, and there being some kind of “provocation” argument insertable.

                Yep. It’s ugly as fuck 😀

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Shveiran

                  Provocations short of assault won’t be enough. And given how he is being presented, that doesn’t seem likely.

                  If you can kill signatories and live to tell the tale, this won’t be the last incident.

                  Liked by 2 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      No.

                      Do I expect them to keep their sword in their pants while everyone is feuding on the Megalich and the living are treading in a house of glass?
                      Yes.

                      That is what the T&T are about.

                      It’s a temporary truce while a grave situation persists. And the thing about a truce is, they can break; if you don’t stick the course, if you shelter those that don’t, it all falls down.
                      One can emphatize with Red Axe, most certainly, but she screwed up; she pulled a nega-Carrot and decided (possibly just in that moment of rage) that personal meant important.

                      This won’t be the last time? Possibly. But that is beside the point.
                      For the Villains to trust the system, they need to know that the culprits will be dealt with most harshly, every time; this tells them the system has tehir back, and they need to watch out for just looners with a vigilante agenda.

                      It’s either that, or lose half your Named man-power.

                      Liked by 1 person

              2. > Admittedly, in real life, the original rape victim would probably have decent odds of being able to get a sentence on the lower side

                That’s a pretty recent development, and even now its not such a sure thing. And there’s still a lot of women serving life sentences (or the moral equivalent) for killing their abusers.

                Liked by 3 people

              3. > Admittedly, in real life, the original rape victim would probably have decent odds of being able to get a sentence on the lower side or a reasonably favorable deal from prosecutors,

                Extending my other reply: In fact, women are still sometimes prosecuted for killing someone who was actually trying to rape them, or preparing to do so imminently. There’s at least one of those currently in the news.

                Like

        2. 1) With the silence of Judgement, Hanno is learning to do more than just kill or walk away.
          2) The amnesty applies to organized punishments and force-of-law stuff. Responding to personal victimization is likely to warrant more sophisticated response.

          Bluntly, they’ll have to do something, but not necessarily kill the Red Axe.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Shveiran

            Imagine if Squire Catherine and Swordsman William joined under the truce and terms. Heck, let’s say Diabolist did after Liesse (yes, yes, I know, but play along), and Laurence with her.

            These are the kind of enmities the Truce and Terms need to regulate. Named have stories and stories have MORE THAN ONE CHARACTER. Red Axe’s situation is unlikely to be unique.
            Several of these Named may have crossed path before, and chances are that happened in strife.

            What penalty short of death would have ensured that this hypotetical Catherine would not try to kill Diabolist? What penalty could have stayed William’s hand or that of teh Saint fo Swords? It could be argued even death is insufficient.

            Either the Terms are inviolable, or they are nothing. There is no wiggle room, not for something this new, this unprecedented, this fragile. Not for something many Villains likely already want to wiggle out of: fighting the DK is not fun, and some of them are not interested in glorious combat.

            If you’s argue other options could work, please provvide one. I do not wish to be pedantic, but I feel the burden of proof lies on your side this time.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Note that a large argument for villains to join up is “you do that or we kill you”.

              Sure, there’s also deliberately set up incentive for those who would join on their own, but fucks at the level of Wicked Enchanter? This was basically Gallowborne equivalent for him.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Shveiran

                These are Named.

                You can conscript them at swordpoint, sure; but you can’t make them stay unless you convince them that they are better off sticking to it.

                If the amnesty doesn’t hold, the villains will leg it as soon as they are able.
                If they are watched, you can’t deploy them effectively because they can’t be alone, and as soon as they can shoot their guardian in the leg and leave them to the Revenants, they will.

                Most of the Villains are not overly powerful. No incentive is worth sticking in the war if you know the likes of the White Knight or the Gray Pilgrim can slit your throat in your bed without the Black Queen flipping the table for it.
                It’s a sucker’s bet, it’s a martyr’s sacrifice, and these are the VILLAINS. I’m not completely sure CATHERINE would accept this kind of bullshit.
                It’s not about the Wicked Enchanter not being a monster, is about the amnesty being a guarantee or not. It’s about a heroine killing a villain under truce and surviving.

                Maybe a few, like the Barrow Sword, will go “come and get me, bitches”, but most will flee. I have my doubts even on him, frankly, and he is fucking Levantine.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. The amnesty is from the government and from the officials of the Grand Alliance – Black Queen and Grey Pilgrim indeed.

                  There’s a hell of a distance between that and ‘a heroine this villain literally made by his actions’.

                  I wonder how detailed the Truce & Terms are 😀

                  Like

                  1. Shveiran

                    You’ll have to explain this one to me a bit more, I’m afraid.

                    A heroine signed the terms.
                    A Heroine broke the Truce.
                    That heroine must be executed, or everyone will see that the truce and terms both don’t prevent them from acting out if they wish to and don’t protect them from being attacked by their temporary allies.

                    What does Red Axe not being a head of state means? The T&T are also about Named, and she was a signee!

                    Liked by 1 person

          1. Consider the two named attacks on Catherine herself — the guy who tried slipping into her tent to slit her throat got “made an example”…. But for the straightforward one, who was open about trying to kill his way to the top, she just kicked his butt.

            Liked by 2 people

        3. RoflCat

          Because death is a release. The ‘criminal’ learned nothing, repent nothing, repaid nothing, they’re now ‘free’ from the crime they committed.

          That’s why Cath is still keeping Akua around with some kind of plan for her ot eventually repay for the 100,000 souls she killed.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Shveiran

            You are arguing for sanctions as a re-education of the convict.
            For domestic crimes, you’d be right (or at least, you’d have several philosophers arguing the same point, as well as my own much less impressive approval).

            This is not a domestic crime.

            Sanctions have also a different objective: to discourage the repetition of the infraction through the fear the sanction provokes and to make the convict unable to commit the infraction twice.

            This is an international treaty.

            Re-educating the convict is not a priority, here.
            The priority is enforcing sanctions that force partners to keep playing nice and prevents them from sinking the boat.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. RoflCat

              Well, if they set precedent of killing = death, guess what, it might actually have OPPOSITE effect.
              Because if you know you’re going to die after you kill one, what stops you from just going on a rampage and killing more while going out in a blaze of glory (applies to both Heroes and Villains btw)?
              Is the side that suffer going to demand your side sacrifice unrelated people just to balance the scale? Unlikely since that’s going to raise a whole different issue.

              If Cath want to keep the Named in line, the punishment can’t be severe enough to tilt them over the edge.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. The Red Axe has to be turned into an example.

                This means an execution, and probably a brutal one, not something clean like beheading. But it still has to be quick enough that Aspects or other Name tricks can’t be used to escape. So maybe beheading after all.
                Her corpse may or may not end up getting nailed to a cross after.

                Especially since the Red Axe committed a major and blatant violation in front of all kinds of witnesses from both sides and people from all members of the Alliance.
                And, because this is (presumably) the first such incident.
                Examples have to be made to deter repeats.

                And, sure, it’s possible that a sufficiently determined Heroic type would consider the cost worth it and/or take the mandatory death penalty as motivation for going to kill multiple Villains in quick succession.
                However, that is not going to be the normal response.

                Plus, it’s not just about how the Heroes react – the Villain reaction is equally important, and they aren’t going to accept anything less than the death of a Hero who breaks the rules to kill one of them who was (presumably) following them.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. RoflCat

                  Yes she need to be an example, one that doesn’t cause that blaze of glory death story down the line.

                  >However, that is not going to be the normal response.

                  Except Named are NOT normal.

                  It does not matter if it’s rare, as long as that option exist, it WILL happen eventually, and when it does the whole Accord goes out the window when one person pull that mass killing before dying thing.

                  Heck, even before the Terms exist we had example in Saint of Swords already, and we’ve also seen Names trying to skirt the edge of what’s allowed from both sides.

                  Like

                  1. The point of the Accords is to lay down rules of engagement and the equivalent of the Geneva Conventions for Named conflict. Enforced by everybody uniting to come down hard on anyone who breaks the rules.

                    The point of the Truce and Terms is to both lay groundwork and foundation for the Accords after the war, but also to keep everybody pointed at the Dead King during the war.


                    You’re missing the point – sure, a single Hero trying to kill as many Villains as they can before they get stopped hard (or vice versa), is not going to be the standard Named reaction to ther Accords/Truce and Terms.
                    That is an extreme outlier scenario, and would be resolved with extreme prejudice, ideally by a unified team of Heroes and Villains working together to stop the offender. And the offender would be turned into an example, most likely ending up dead, if not worse.

                    And as long as that kind of action remains an extreme outlier scenario, and gets dealt with firmly by both Heroes and Villains in unity, the Truce and Terms, and ultimately the Accords, will hold up.
                    The Truce and Terms prohibit Hero/Villain conflict during the war against the Dead King (and presumably also in the inevitable intervention against Malicia), not forever. After the war, the Accords will allow for Hero/Villain conflict, as long as it falls within certain conduct constraints.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. RoflCat

                      And surely executing someone for breaking it will TOTALLY keep everyone in line….because controlling through fear always go well…..

                      Seriously, we’re this far into the series and your first thought was execution? Is EE such a boring kind of writer?

                      Other options, that has been shown in the series, that everyone else would see as pretty severe punishment that isn’t execution includes:

                      1. Since it just got mentioned, Severance/Severity. Basically have Red Axe be the test dummy for whatever method they plan for getting someone to be able to wield the blade.

                      2. Related to above: Have an Aspect ripped out of Red Axe and turned into an artefact for use in the war. She’ll live, but a loss of an Aspect is definitely something both Heroes and Villains can see as harsh.

                      Like

                1. Shveiran

                  insufficientyly harsh ones, however, fail to guide behaviors.

                  We are talking about rules needed to prevent Named individuals that may have strong personal enmities focused on the big bad for as long as it takes. Considering imprisoning them would be costly in resources (again, Named) and likely to fail, what punishment could possibly be effective as a deterrent, not a logistical nightmare and non a slap on the wrist without being death?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. RoflCat

                    Well, since it just got mention in this very chapter: Ripping out an Aspect and turning it into an artefact.

                    The ‘criminal’ will forever be a crippled Name-wise, while the item will be useful for the war.

                    Losing an Aspect is definitely something both Heroes and Villains can agree to be a very severe punishment.

                    Like

                  2. A simple and reasonable punishment I have come up with:

                    An oath of service / obedience (to someone specific, willing to take the responsibility, from the other side) / non-aggression for a limited period. Serves as well as confinement for limiting unwanted behavior in the future, does not present logistical difficulties if the person being punished is willing to go along with it and there is someone willing to take responsibility for them (which both of the above need to be the case for execution to not be the only reasonable solution, yes), the likes of Mirror Knight and Blade of Mercy would avoid like the plague, serves the Red Axe situation as long as she’s willing to put her money where her mouth is and pledge herself to Indrani (or Masego or Catherine if Indrani isn’t villain enough for this) in a non-optional way.

                    Like

                    1. Her word isn’t going to be worth anything to the Villains. She did after all just break the oath she’d sworn to obey and uphold the Truce and Terms (presumably).

                      Swearing new oaths as punishment isn’t useful as punishment since her sworn word is in doubt.

                      Like

    3. Alex Straughan

      How have people not caught on to the Rogue Sorcerers deal yet?
      He does not and never has had the Gift. He’s a Named that is pretending to be a wizard using Aspects.
      He can take and control the magic of others but can’t cast any spells of his own. Hence his love of artifacts.
      Tyrant: “What’s another lie at the heart of who you are?”
      Himself: “Collector is accurate.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Konstantin von Karstein

        So he would have managed to fool everyone in the Belfry (a magical research center) while participating to the research’s during months? It seems unlikely.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Alex Straughan

          It’s a fine distinction. He can use magic and control that which already exists but he cant cast it.
          There are lots of clues though. Remember when he applied that ointment to his and Archer’s eyes that let the ungifted see magic?

          Liked by 4 people

        2. He straight up says he’s no scholar. And he has tricks at his disposal that are useful. Note that Masego doesn’t currently have the ability to produce sorcery either and that doesn’t get in his way.

          Liked by 4 people

  2. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    extracted of > extracted from
    Such matter > Such matters
    this glass > his glass
    as if often > as it often
    he suddenly > He suddenly
    to built > to build it
    ab extension > an extension
    there buried > there were buried
    that was we > that we
    tended to learn to > tended to lead to
    last and seemingly third > third and seemingly last
    strode pas > strode past
    as speck > as a speck
    she, Indrani > her; Indrani
    Archer,” the > Archer.” The
    looked they > looked like they
    Axe,” > Axe.”
    week,” > week.”
    the eyes the calmed > then eyed the calmed
    through hers > through his
    the began > they began

    Liked by 2 people

  3. erebus42

    Well that was a delightful little exchange.
    Good gods the Blessed Artificer seems like a real asshole though. I guess you can take the named out of Praes but you can’t take the Praes out of the named. Though arrogance and hubris are just as much heroic flaws as villainous ones so I guess there’s that too.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. hakureireimu

        The Blessed Artificer smiled tightly in his direction. Her dark skin and golden eyes, the signature of Wasteland highborn of the oldest and most powerful lines

        She’s Praesi

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Huh. Missed that somehow.

          She’d pretty much have to be descended of expats/exiles, then. Otherwise she almost certainly wouldn’t be a worshiper of Above or a Hero, nor is it likely that she’d still be alive.
          So … of Praesi descent, but almost certainly born and raised (and Named) outside of the Dread Empire. Probably Procer or the League.
          And probably at least the second generation away from Praes.

          Culturally, I don’t she can count as Praesi in such a scenario.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. Jago

      A little more than an asshole.
      1) She attacked another member of the Alliance, a violation of Truce and Terms;
      2) Where she has got the time and money to make her artifact? As its workings were aimed specifically at Masego I doubt it was part of the approved projects. I would suspect misappropriation of found for a personal project. Again one aimed at another member of the alliance.
      So we have a hero attacking a villain. If, as implied, the Red Axe has attacked another Villain we have the basis of a huge crisis.
      The Wandering bard had a meeting with some Heroes and prepared a crisis for the Alliance?

      Like

    1. Shveiran

      To be fair, the mess happened on her watch but not because of her. She brought the Red Axe here as she was meant to, then left her alone for half an hour. It was, unfortunately, enough for a story to grab her.

      Liked by 7 people

  4. I just love seeing Zeze and Idrani, the genuine love we see is hearthening, and i just know more than a few heroes that witness it for the firts time have their mind boogling, and villains too, i mean they are wicked and all but so sweet and innocent at the same time that they give me caries xD

    And my god Erra you almost gave me a heart attack at the end of Masego’s POV, like i thought “betrayal” then “shit Roland not only was there but in position”, glad i was so wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. * by any other name

        Well, for one, I’m pretty sure it means you can’t stand to be good, if it also means you must let it go.

        For another, it means you are a monster – and thus one of Catherine’s.

        It’s all there in the manual. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      1. TBF all of this might have worked on people who know him less well. The attraction thing is hilarious and would have worked in most situations on most people, by my estimation.

        Just… tough crowd.

        (He should not be trying to fool Roland, specifically)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well, the thing is, one of the classic weaknesses of spectrumites is dealing with context — identifying the current context, adapting to it, recognizing when it changes. That’s exactly what he was so spectacularly failing at here, using individual responses that might have done for a party, in a workshop discussion, and not picking up when they weren’t working.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I have acquired a near instant dislike for the Blessed Artificer. She is immensely fortunate that Masego listens to Cat and knows that Cat wants the various Heroes and Villians to get along. Masego has quite literally killed people over less than what she just did. Remember the Interlude where Masego boiled the blood of two Praesi for insulting the Woe (and For Science!/Magic!)?

    And Aspect ripping from the Saint of Swords is confirmed. Gonna be a bitch to wield that artifact, though. And will probably need to be a Hero, lest it react poorly and/or trigger the “vital artifact fails” trope.

    And, whoops. Red Axe and Wicked Enchanter … at least one of them is probably probably about to end up dead, or at least severely injured. And I’d say the Red Axe probably has the advantage, between being a Hero and becoming a Hero to oppose the Wicked Enchanter. This could easily elevate to a major Accords dispute, especially since the Wicked Enchanter will have signed onto the proto-Accords, and the Red Axe has presumably also been informed and signed on.
    Fortunately, Cat and Hanno will be arriving soonish.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Shveiran

      The wicked Enchanter has the story trope “sly villain gets away after being defeated” though. regardles, my interpretation of the “too late ” line is that WE is already dead.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Not gonna lie, we’ve seen a lot of villains with mitigating motivations/backstories, but I’m really hoping this Wicked Enchanter is dead and in little pieces. I’m not seeing much use for a rapist whose only real powers center around dominating humans in a fight against the undead, except to show what a badass the heroine meant to counter him actually is.

    Liked by 8 people

  7. Zgggt

    … why could someone blind Masego and get away with it? Other than the clear slight of Cat in that action, it’s wartime and such acts should clearly be tried as at best assault of a superior officer if generous, treason at worst.

    Cat really fucked up if the authority Masego represents is such a joke. I mean, even if this is a part of a grand conspiracy involving the biggest names, this is humiliating disrespect. It creates a narrative in which the Woe are done as a power, and are about to be butchered just as much as Black’s cohort once people stopped thinking of his reach and just how terrifying they are when attacking his friends.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Konstantin von Karstein

      He just break her toy without any effort, and he could not kill her because she is too useful for the war effort. I think it’s a bit stretching it to think it’s the beginning of a Story where the Woes are slaughtered.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. To be fair, Masego broke that right back, and I don’t think if he didn’t others would just stand by and not stop her. This is more of a shitty-ass prank than anything.

      I AM very much impressed by Masego’s restraint and sweetness, considering he thinks his dislike of her is irrational. I mean I believe him that there’s an instictive Role-driven component to it – likely why SHE did that – but holy shit separating that out and restraining himself when she’s like THIS? Hot dang.

      I don’t think the issue is the lack of authority. Note that Masego did not try to assert any only to be ignored, or anything. Just… someone can be both your subordinate and an asshole to you. Catherine did not teach him the best of habits alas XD

      Liked by 11 people

    3. As Liliet pointed out, this was basically a nasty prank, which Masego slapped down hard and pointed out that he could have done worse. On the one hand, we readers see villains showing far more forbearance than heroes, but then we’re mostly following the villains’ POV.

      The flip side is the point that someone like the Wicked Enchanter was actually allowed to survive by anyone — running into one of his prior victims without supervision, was his bad luck.

      Liked by 7 people

  8. …well I am excited 😀

    Important facts we learned this chapter:
    – Roland and Masego are both trying to herd cats as best they can, even if Masego doesn’t call it that;
    – heroes can be ASSHOLES holy shit and Masego is sweet as fuck actually;
    – Indrani’s sense of humor is as horrible as ever, god bless her;
    – Indrani absolutely ships Catherine with everyone in sight and considers it being a good friend and BLESS;
    – Nephele is no longer a twat, apparently ❤
    – Masego and Indrani EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE;
    – oh yes Indrani is nOT aro no matter what Catherine might have wondered;
    – SO MUCH COOL SHIT IN THE ARSENAL;
    – Mirage is like Star Wars tier cool;
    – no but Indrani carved a naked sculpture of Catherine and – oh my fucking god I wonder if Catherine ever learns of this;

    – ah yes, the perils of recruiting villains 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  9. ninegardens

    So… just to be clear here… Archer totally just waltzed past ALL the wards they have on that place- yes?

    I mean, I know that she is apparently Expert tier user of the twightlight ways, but um…. that still seems like maybe a bad sign regarding the ward levels?

    Also, like….. phone calls are nice, but it seems weird that one of the main artifacts they are working on is an improved teleconference lounge. Given that they ALREADY have scrying connection, it seems… odd.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Darkening

      Seems like this is a direct connection instead of needing to have a chain of mages extending the scrying links, so maybe it’ll free up manpower from communications to go do other things? As for the wards maybe she slipped in right behind Roland and Masego before the wards went up again?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. ninegardens

        …..

        Admittedly, given her sudden arrival, and general propensity for being sneaky and ambushfull… I had not even considered the possibility that she had gotten in legitimately.

        I’m honestly not sure if this is is more or less horrifying. Just imagine lounging on Cat’s shoulder while she’s on a conference call to Klaus and Cordelia.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Yeah, it’s odd. But I guess what they mean to do is to have a multiple scrying connection instead of a 2-ways one.

      They are basically going from phone calls to group chats in Discord.

      Liked by 5 people

  10. Onos

    After that lovely conversation about how Hanno can’t mimic Saint’s tricks, we have her aspect lying around in the form of a magical sword….kind of like the one Hanno used to wield, which fell under the “associated artifact” trope rather than the “turns at the last moment” trope. 3 guesses as to who gets Severance.

    An (in Masegos opinion) ignorant, unpleasant, living, Light-wielding Sahelian (surely) on one side, an educated, charming, dead, Night-wielding Sahelian on…well the same side technically. The Blessed Artificer ought to be interesting.

    The Mirage surely has higher security and range than ordinary scrying, otherwise it does seem like a bit of a waste of resources. If Nessie can’t spy on their leaders having conference calls though that’s pretty handy.

    Rampant speculation aside, I seem to have missed something regarding Zeze’s Quartered Seasons theory if anyone could clarify? Winter was given to Night, Summer became Twilight, yes? Yet Masego is looking for a *fourth* Season. Did Spring/Autumn get involved at some point and I completely missed it?

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Darkening

      The king of winter and queen of summer married and formed a single, unified court formed out of spring and/or autumn. That’s 3, and he’s theorizing there’s a 4th out there somewhere. Cat speculated the new court might be made of both when she was talking down Sve Noc from taking the Twilight Crown, but it’s entirely possible there’s a whole other realm out there somewhere.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Draylen

      Spring and Autumn Courts technically stopped existing in book 2, if I’m remembering right, when the King and Queen wedded and properly joined Winter and Summer into a single Court.

      Which means there are six known Realms, and Zeze is theorizing a seventh (which makes a lot of sense). We have:
      Heaven
      Earth
      Hell
      Arcadia (United Courts)
      Night (the hollowed corpse of Winter)
      Twilight (the hollowed corpse of Liese stuck inside Maybe-Summer and solidified by the exKing of the Wyld Hunt being just, the most wonderful terrible trickster to exist)
      Unknowable (the antiArcadia?)

      We also had a couple blink-and-miss-it scenes when Cat was still the Last Sovereign and she went through a couple of the joined Fortresses. I think the last one was on the way up to Neshamah? But that I dont remember so well. I might have to reread it.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. caoimhinh

      Quartered Seasons doesn’t necessarily mean that it is related to the 4 seasons nor the 4 Courts of the Fae. I think that’s a failed train of thought that keeps people looking the wrong way.

      The first time this was mentioned was when Catherine decided she needed to kill the Wandering Bard, and there was no context nor previous mention about what it is about, just the implication that it would help them face the Intercessor.

      Now, as we just got another glimpse of it: It’s about “realms of power”, they know 3 but Masego has theorized the existence of a 4th, which has yet to be accessed.

      My current hypothesis is that the 3 “realms of power” currently known are:

      Heaven (where the Choirs of Angels reside)

      The Hells (where the Demons and Devils reside, also where the Serenity is located)

      Arcadia Resplendescent (where the Fae live, home of the Courts -now a unified Court after the union of Winter and Summer, preventing the appearance of Spring and Autumn- and a fragment of which was used to create the Twilight Ways)

      From those 3 planes of existence, power can be drawn by a practitioner, priest or Named, so they would fit to be called Realms of Power.

      Aclaration:
      -Light and Night are manifestations of the energies from Above and Below, not realms by themselves.
      -Winter and the other Courts of Fae were fragments of Arcadia, not proper realms, and were even constantly destroyed and recreated in the endless cycle that the Fae were trapped in (Winter vs Summer / Spring vs Autumn) until the Winter King and Summer Queen married.
      -The Serenity is a layer of Hell conquered by the Dead King, repurposed and terraformed to have people living there.
      -The Twilight Ways is a shard of Arcadia transformed to serve as a means of transportation.

      Now, the question would be what’s the fourth.
      My guess is that the 4th and unknown “realm of power” is the Nowhere.
      That place that has been referenced multiple times when mentioning the Bard and also the song “The Girl Who Climbed the Tower” is said to come from there. It’s also the place where the Intercessor goes to when not in Creation and what allows her to teleport across Creation (she also said she hates it).

      It would make sense that reaching out to the realm where the Bard goes to escape harm would be an effective way to truly harm her, and that being what Catherine wanted by financing Masego’s research of this.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Frivolous

    I wonder if perhaps the Mirror Knight could pick up Severity and survive; after all, he was very durable before, and he’s had 2 years to grow more indestructible since.

    Indrani would be more embarrassing if she made wooden replicas of a male Bestowed, especially if they were anatomically correct and to scale.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Shveiran

      You mean, Red Axe being dead and Wicked Enchanter surviving?

      Uh, it could be. Though it wouldn’t really be worse. The terms would be clear: either he did something despicable NOW after meeting her, or he would have been justified in his actions. Some may grumble, but there is no difficult decision: he was attacked, the hero is dead, things proceed.
      Some would grumble, but that wouldn’t really be worse than the conflict already ongoing.

      Having to kill the victim no one wants to off would be much more controversial, in my opinion.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. jbanastacio@yahoo.com

      I think that is not in fact the worst case.

      I think the Wicked Enchanter might have dominated some of the other denizens of the Arsenal, maybe even other Bestowed, and commanded them to defend him from the Red Axe. So Masego and Indrani would come across a pitched battle, with WE’s mind controlled minions on one side and the Red Axe and everyone else on the other.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Frivolous

      I think that is not in fact the worst case.

      I think the Wicked Enchanter might have dominated some of the other denizens of the Arsenal, maybe even other Bestowed, and commanded them to defend him from the Red Axe. So Masego and Indrani would come across a pitched battle, with WE’s mind controlled minions on one side and the Red Axe and everyone else on the other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tyckspoon

        If Red Axe really is the hero created to stop the Wicked Enchanter this would go exceptionally poorly for the Enchanter – Not only are Red Axe’s abilities going to be uniquely suited to defeat him, she’d be riding a story in which she is fighting to free/defend his unwilling victims.

        And then politically, there would be cover for reducing Enchanter’s protection under the Terms (he used his abilities to put innocent/uninvolved/non-Named people in danger and/or attacked another Named) or mitigating circumstances to Red Axe’s actions (she was acting to remove an active threat to others, not taking vengeance for the prior actions that Enchanter was already granted pardon for.)

        Liked by 5 people

    4. Morgenstern

      My “worst case” interpretation of this “oh shit” moment cut-off to the chapter was actually “oh noes…. they destroyed a lot of the stuff in the Arsenal and left a body count of ‘collateral damage’ aka bloodshed already?”. But yeah, I guess one of the two being dead, making it a political conundrum could also be a massive clusterfuck.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I find it interesting that they consider the Tenth Crusade to be over, not repurposed and aimed against the Dead King. Sure, their original target was Praes and Callow, but after turning around and marching North, I thought they would still consider it part of the same Crusade.

      If there’s one thing worthy of being called Crusade, it would be this war of nearly the whole continent vs the Kingdom of the Dead, right? Though Crusades have never before worked that much against Keter, so there’s that.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Maybe, but there’s something grand about the number 10. I had thought they would go for the narrative of “The Crusade that changed it all”, something along the lines of “the greatest Crusade, the one that united Heroes and Villains against the true threat to Calernia”.

          And also because the Crusade wasn’t over when the Dead King invaded, and all the parties involved in it are now going against Keter, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that the current war is the 10th Crusade reaimed.
          Though of course, the current Grand Alliance is vaster than the one before, when they first launched the Crusade.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Oshi

            Political not a good idea. You saw what happened to Cordelia when the crusade got out of control. Crusades are stories and not the ones where everyone works in harmony to defeat the Dead King kind.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Actually as I understand they’re exactly this kind of story. It’s when the enemy is not in fact Dead King tier of Definitely Bad and everyone is NOT in harmony that you get it falling apart with the narrative pissing on the ashes.

              Like

              1. Shveiran

                they aren’t successful stories, though. No crusade ever won.
                Though I suppose that depends on how you define winning, since the DK may have been forced back in the Serenity before.
                Mhm.

                Like

    1. What coincidences?

      Water flows downhill, stories happen around Named. Not all narrative fuckery needs Bard to facilitate it, especially when someone else (Catherine) is deliberately stirring the pot and putting all ingredients together.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. People are foretting the accords are big, think of it as a constitution with lots of clauses, with how Cat alone thinks not to mention the people that helped make them i just know this sort of situation is covered and there is a procedure to follow

    Liked by 4 people

  13. superkeaton

    I’m so glad Roland and Masego are friendly. They make for good buddies. The Wicked Enchanter sounds nasty, but in the face of annihilation, all hands on deck.

    Severity is functionally a nuke, or an equivalent to the Fellblade. Wonder who’s going to be sacrificed to make the strike?

    Liked by 2 people

  14. laguz24

    I have a problem with this chapter is the fact that there seems to be no direction beyond uphold the truce and terms and kill the dead king who is such a distant threat that he is rather uncompelling. I need a story here not just cat running around and keeping the entire alliance from falling apart.

    Like

  15. Mikasi

    I’m going to let everyone else have a go at the whole thing between Red Axe and the other guy.

    I just want to outright appreciate the relationship Masego and Indrani have. The fact that it’s about as pure ‘extrovert loving an introvert’ as it can be, along with all the other small things, like letting him pace the intimacy and physical touch, which shows that she’s so very *pleased* that he’s letting her touch him so much, and also that he’s growing more and more comfortable with it, if only specifically with her. God I love this bit, and I cannot get enough of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. AndromedaStar

    I know that part of it might be since this is Masego’s POV, but the Blessed Artificer really annoys me here. Acting like you’re some great expert on something you’ve NEVER EVEN SEEN because you have a personal grudge against the person who’s an actual expert? That’s the sort of arrogance that gets people killed when they try to use your devices.
    Also, having the audacity to be angry that he broke your device…. that you literally built to blind him!? Even somebody who’s not a “Praesi miscarriage of a person” would react the same way. What was he supposed to do?
    This type of Heroic arrogance really rubs me the wrong way. “We are just because we follow the Heavens, and they are just” and all that.

    Like

    1. I believe that she was referring to Archer when Blessed Artificer said they didn’t need Masego because they already had an expert.

      Admittedly, the way she said it is particularly prone to misunderstandings, especially if you haven’t noticed Archer is in the room already.

      So … not necessarily (officially) intended as an insult, but incredibly easy to hear as one, and perhaps leaving it so easy to take as an insult was intentional.

      But the blinding device … that’s definitely not acceptable. And Blessed Artificer is incredibly fortunate that Masego usually listens to Cat amf follows her lead when the subject isn’t magic/magic-adjacent, because he has quite literally killed over far less.

      Like

  17. nipi

    Wonder if Cat can rip out aspects out of living named without killing them. Would work as an effective deterrant/punishment. Probably not enough of one if a named just died though.

    Like

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