Chapter 30: Quarters

“Admittedly, it was my fault for not specifying the flying fortress had to be able to fly in directions other than up. Oh, it can fly down as well? Splendid. Guards, drag the Lord Warlock beneath my fortress. It’d be a shame not to use it at least once.”
– Dread Emperor Inimical, the Miser

“Walk me through it,” I said, then added, “metaphorically speaking.”

Masego’s mouth snapped shut. His quarters were larger than I’d expected, but I was rather familiar with the way it got filled from our years together. It was unusual, by Wasteland standards. Given how sorcery tended to come with some degree of wealth and influence, at least in Praes, the rooms of most mages I’d seen tended to be tasteful and well-furnished. Many even had a corner set aside to receive guests and a few impressive-looking magical trinkets to impress the uninitiated. Research or actual practice of sorcery would take place not there but in workshops and mage towers, behind heavy wards and away from the prying eyes of rivals. Masego, on the other hand, had never seen sorcery as something he practiced. He was a mage first and foremost, even without his magic, so in his mind there was nothing to separate his living quarters from a workshop. Our surroundings made that exceedingly clear.

Where my own quarters in the Arsenal had a parlour to entertain guests, he instead had a neat and well-organized library whose shelves went from floor to ceiling. A comfortable scribing desk – I’d actually seen cushions like this one’s on Alcazar furniture and the red didn’t match the wood, so Indrani had probably stolen it – with enough leg room for him to sit reading without feeling cramped was the only concession to this being somewhere actually lived in. The same couldn’t be said of the larger room deeper in, where I found the mixture of lazy chaos and almost rigid orderliness to be a nostalgic sight: like his tents out on campaign, or his rooms in Laure.  While dirty clothes, plates with half-eaten meals on them and the blade cleaning kit Hakram had gifted Indrani a few years back had been strewn around without a care, it actually only served to contrast with the parts Zeze did care to keep clean.

Like a long table with half a dozen leather-bound manuscripts, the sole open one revealing Masego’s finicky calligraphy in ink, also boasting several reference books I dimly recognized from my continuing lessons on sorcery with Akua. All were laden with bookmarks, though none more so than the heavy tome titled Metaphysics of Realms from some ancient Warlock by the name of Olowe. Stacked scrolls and carefully folded parchments along with a nice leather armchair told me this was likely where Zeze sat to work, and there was not a single crumb or speck of dust on that table to be found. Another nook looked like a small alchemy lab, another like an enchanting table and yet another was covered in glass domes constraining pulsing luminous mushrooms. Experiments, I rather hoped. Around those islands of order even the wood shavings from the wooden carvings Indrani had carelessly sown around everywhere else seemed reluctant to enter.

I wouldn’t but it above Masego to have warded them.

The large bed in the corner, which evidently neither he nor Indrani had bothered to make, seemed to have been placed there almost like an afterthought – fitted in there after the important stuff had been, half-heartedly wedged in where there was still room. My suspicions that he might have forgot to put actual furniture in there at first were deepened by the way the dressers were on opposite sides of the room and the closet was awkwardly close to a cupboard opening the opposite way. It went from suspicion to standing assumption when I noticed that the small table where they ate meals – by the amount of dirty plates – was clearly Archer’s work by the look of the carvings. Zeze was not particularly fond of tapestries, so I assumed the few hung on the walls were there at Indrani’s addition, but the sheer amount of magelights and candles was all him. Beautiful and elaborate carpets clearly from the Wasteland – no one wove those quite like the Taghreb – added a splash of colour that livened up the room into a place where it might actually be pleasant to live.

Yet it was a small room behind all this where we stood, though, behind a steel door warded tightly so none of the influences from the other parts of his quarters could drift in and contaminate the workings. Here the walls were bare stone and even the tables and chairs polished granite, with only his work on the Quartered Seasons breaking up the stony monotony. Half a dozen copper boxes with glass lids and water held in crystal spheres – an improvement on the traditional scrying bowl, though significantly more fragile – revealed shifting colourful shapes from places beyond Creation, while on the left wall a great slate covered in markings and formulas depicting the secrets that the Hierophant had successfully teased out of the Pattern. I’d been invited so sit on one of the granite chairs but instead elected to stand at his side, looking at the slate.

I gestured for Hierophant to begin, and with sharp nod he moved closer to the slate. He found a corner of it without writing, then paused and turned towards me. With his full body not, just his eyes, which got my attention.

“I will begin by noting that the Hunted Magician’s information was the definitive factor in this success,” Masego said.

My brow rose. I’d suspected that it’d be useful stuff, but this was much stronger praise than I’d anticipated. Hierophant was in no way shy about claiming intellectual successes when he believed himself their author, and to this day still utterly disinterested with politics, so if he was talking up the Magician then every word spoken was true.

“I hear he’s come across some trouble under the Terms?” Masego continued.

“He worked with the Bard, among other things,” I said. “I’m not eager to press for an execution, given his uses, but letting him off with a slap on the wrist isn’t in the cards.”

“I’ve little interest in those matters,” Masego admitted. “But since you told me he gave what he knew as part of an arrangement for leniency, I’ll specify that his information saved me possibly literal years of work. I was looking in entirely the wrong places.”

That’d weigh on the scales, though less than Zeze might expect. The way I saw it, the Hunted Magician couldn’t be allowed to buy his way out of consequences no matter what he offered up. All that he floated us and ended up panning out, though, should be put together as a case for why certain punishments should be sought instead of others.

“I’ll pass that along to his tribunal,” I said. “And I might need you to put it in writing at some point.”

He nodded.

“Duly noted.”

From the look on his face, he was already tossing the entire matter into the pile of things he felt no particular need to remember. To my eye it was still an improvement that he’d bothered to speak to the subject at all instead of simply assuming I’d handle it, so if anything I was rather pleased.

“The crux of the matter is a question that concerns one of the few commendable books on sorcery to come out of the Principate, Madeline de Jolicoeur’s work ‘Essences of the Fey’,” Masego said, charmingly taken by his subject.

He drew a small circle on the slate, his long fingers deft. It was always heartwarming to see him genuinely in his element. I frowned a heartbeat later, though.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that name before,” I told him.

Where? Obviously it was from Proceran history, but my studies of that had been rather skewed. I’d focused on the major wars and turning points, along with Cordelia Hasenbach’s rise and reign. Considering the sheer size of the Principate, even though the state hadn’t even existed for half the time Callow had that still meant a staggering number of things would have slipped through the cracks of my learning.

“I believe she was also known by her contemporaries as the Fey Enchantress,” Masego said.

Ah, her. Leave it to Zeze to primarily remember the villainess that’d taken over most of Cantal and Iserre only to fail at toppling Salia and the Highest Assembly for her apparently impressive magical research.

“Lady Madeline was part fae herself, and familiar with the Courts of Arcadia, which eventually led her to ask the question of what happens when fae are killed,” Masego said. “Her work was the first to suggest that fae cannot truly die, and that the changing of the seasons is the mechanism through which the Courts renew themselves.”

“So fae don’t die,” I said. “You told me that several times in the past, and I’ve seen the proof of it myself. What’s useful about this?”

“When the physical body of a fae is slain, they are not destroyed,” Masego said. “We know their essence continues to exist, as it will be spun anew into another fae come the changing of seasons. Where, then, does that essence go?”

Huh. I’d not considered that, actually. Fairies didn’t have souls, so it wasn’t like they’d pass into beyond and then be resurrected when they were needed by their endless cycle again.

“It could lapse back to the crown of their respective court,” I eventually said. “Some fae are dukes one cycle and princes another, so we know there’s a variance in power to some extent. It might be the ‘crown’ is a system for apportioning that power into different fae.”

Masego turned burning eyes towards me, noticeable even under the eyecloth.

“Akua has been very good for you,” he seriously said.

Words to make half of Callow faint in rage, but I decided to let him finish his thought before settling on a reaction.

“You’ve always been clever,” Zeze continued, “but now your instincts are grounded in knowledge. I am glad she has been tutoring you, even if your closeness makes Vivienne unhappy.”

“More than just Vivienne,” I reminded him, and left it at that.

He shrugged, unconcerned with the broader ramifications. Most days I wished I could be as well, given how much simpler it’d make my life.

“A return to the crown was my first theory as well,” Hierophant told me. “Which led to the creation of the copper eyes. Through a process you are not educated enough to understand even if I explain, I created power that would behave similarly to Spring or Autumn and released it in different places with the aim of tracing it back to the crowns.”

This part I’d known about, though not the reasoning behind it. The ‘copper eyes’, the scrying boxes in the room with us, were meant to follow the power he was releasing into the wilds and so find the location of the crowns. They were linked to measuring devices that’d been put out in different layers of Creation and adjoining realms, with great difficulty, but for all the trouble last I’d heard that avenue had proved to be something of a dead end.

“It didn’t work, though,” I said.

“It worked perfectly,” Masego contradicted. “It simply found nothing. My theory when facing those results was that I was simply not releasing the power in the correct places, which was not improbable given the size of Arcadia alone – much less the full spectrum of the search.”

“So what changed?” I asked.

“To understand that, first consider a more recent theory introduced by my own father,” Masego said, drawing a second circle on the slate. “Namely, that all of Arcadia – even the fae themselves – are of the same fundamental matter, with the differences between a stone and a duchess being essentially cosmetic. Father suggested that fae cannot truly die not because of an effective immortality of essence, but instead because they are not truly alive.”

He spoke of Warlock with a tinge of wistfulness, but the grief had visibly faded. I wasn’t too surprised. When the Dead King wasn’t riding in the back of his head, Masego actually tended deal with his emotions better than most of the Woe. I set that aside and considered his actual words instead, the theory the Sovereign of the Red Skies had put forward. I wasn’t quite sure I bought it, not after some of the things I’d seen.

“If the fae were entirely self-contained in their story cycles, I’d agree with that,” I noted. “But that theory doesn’t explain Larat.”

Who had walked away from kingship Twilight and become something else. If fae were not more thinking than a trebuchet or a water wheel, merely more complex, how could his actions be explained?

“A fascinating contradiction,” Masego warmly agreed. “Are Larat and your former Wild Hunt then the first fae to have ever lived, or by virtue of living do they cease being fae at all?”

“Which links to Quartered Seasons how?” I asked.

“It doesn’t,” Hierophant replied without missing a beat. “I simply find it a gripping mystery.”

I, uh, should have seen that coming. Honestly it was a sign of how engaged he was with this subject that he’d only ended up going down a side path the once.

“Returning to the theoretical framework,” Masego happily said, “if we believe both Lady Madeline and Father we are led to a particular state of affairs. Fae are not destroyed when their body is slain, return cyclically, and are not fundamentally distinguishable from the rest of Arcadia.”

My eyes narrowed.

“A return to the earth,” I said. “That’s what you’re getting at. Like Arcadia itself is a pool of water, and when they ‘die’ the water just returns to the pool.”

Precisely,” Hierophant grinned. “From there I draw not on the work of others but on my own, if you’ll forgive the intellectual vanity.”

“I’ll magnanimously deign to do so,” I replied.

He eyed me sideways, knowing there’d been sarcasm in that sentence but with little interest in deciphering where and why. He still drew a third circle, below and in between the first two.

“My own Quartered Seasons theory was built on the back of the two older theories I’ve introduced you to,” Masego said. “Madeline de Jolicoeur suggested that the changing of seasons was a way for the courts to renew themselves, but I would venture to go further. The existence of the seasons themselves is a mechanism for that very purpose, allowing a set of two seasons to be active while the other two become ambient and begin condensing into their coming shape. Your own vision, Catherine, made it clear that the transitions between seasons were not instantaneous. Given Arcadia’s otherwise loose accord with creational laws, there must be a mechanical reason for this to be so.”

“You’re losing me,” I admitted. “I thought that your theory was about the separation between a court’s ‘crown’ and its ‘power’.”

“It is,” Masego said. “Think of Arcadia as the pool of water you mentioned.”

He drew a large circle in the centre of the space.

“Each Court is, for lack of a better term, a smaller pond that will be filled through a canal at regular intervals.”

His hand moved again, depicting four lines leading out of the large circle and leading into four smaller circles.

“All power is limited,” Hierophant stated, idly filling in the large circle with ‘water’. “I believe that, for reasons of stability and coherence, only two ponds can ever be safely filled from the pool’s water. That leaves two ponds’ worth of power returned to ambient Arcadia, slowly shaping themselves into the coming seasons. If all four ponds are filled…”

“The pool would be empty,” I frowned. “And so Arcadia would grow thin. That seems dangerous.”

“It would be, which is why I believe a deeper mechanism ensures that only two ponds can be full at a time,” Masego said. “The decay in victory of Winter or Summer until they become Spring and Autumn, which you saw in vision, would be the visible part of that mechanism in action.”

“So the water is the power, that I get,” I said. “That still leaves out the crowns.”

He nodded, pleased, and methodically drew little crowns above each of the four smaller circles, the ‘ponds’.

“The crowns are, in effect, simply the shape of the pond the water is poured into,” Masego said. “Given the cosmic scope of these ‘waters’, however, this had still made them godheads in every meaningful sense.”

I watched the slate board, fingers clenching an unclenching. He’d not kept talking, which meant he’d given me the rules of this as he knew them. It also meant that I might be able to figure it out, at least in part. It was a sloppy habit to have all this explained to me all the time, one that might come back to bite me in the future, so I forced myself to think.

“When the King of Winter and the Queen of Summer wed,” I said, “neither of them lost their crown. They didn’t stop being royalty, just became the royalty of something new.”

“Correct,” Masego said.

He drew a line through two of the found crowns. On opposite ends of the pool, as Hierophant was nothing if not precise even in his doodles.

“But I know they didn’t get to keep the power of Winter, because I got my hands on it,” I said. “And then Sve Noc ate it, to stabilize the Night into something that won’t destroy their entire species if it collapses.”

He drew a line through one of ponds already bereft of a crown.

“I am still uncertain whether the lack of corresponding crown to go with the power you inherited is what kept you largely sane or was instead the very reason for your troubles with principle alienation,” Masego admitted. “Regardless, it is undoubtedly why you were only ever able to command but the barest fraction of that power.”

“If your ‘deeper mechanism’ was working right, when the newborn Court of Arcadia Resplendent was formed there would have been two ponds back in the pool,” I slowly said. “The power of Spring and Autumn.”

His lips quirked. I’d underestimated how much and how long he’d been wanting to talk to someone about this, I thought. The secrecy meant neither of us had brought in even the Woe fully, though Hakram knew some things and no doubt Indrani had gone looking through everybody’s papers as was her wont. Masego drew lines through two ponds, the same who still had their crowns.

“Given that in this state their very purpose is to be shaped anew for a coming cycle, it would explain the ease by which this unprecedented Court of Arcadia Resplendent was formed,” Masego agreed. “And we look at two crowns’ worth of control for two ponds’ worth of power, which would lead to a highly stable arrangement explaining why we’ve not heard of collapse in Arcadia since.”

“Winter’s power went into Night,” I said. “Which means it has to be Summer that went into Twilight, it’s the only pond of power that was still free. Except we had no call on that power, Zeze.”

“We did not,” Hierophant agreed. “Yet you struck a bargain with the Prince of Nightfall, who did.”

What I’d promised him was seven mortal crowns and one, though, and while we’d undeniably both been at war with Summer at the time neither of us had held a right to its power. Although hadn’t the imprisoned Princess of High Noon gone spare when I’d told her about the bargain with Larat? She must have seen something looming on the horizon even that far back.

“I can’t see how we got our hands on it, even then,” I admitted.

“Though I cannot be certain, I believe it to have been a matter of blind mechanics having worked to our advantaged,” Masego said. “Larat was fae, and so his ritualized apotheosis called to power of a fae nature. It made the water go down the canal, so speak, and there was only one pond’s worth of water left to flow.”

“And the seven crowns and one?” I asked.

“When trying to force such a powerful mechanism to work, some manner of power must be spent,” Hierophant suggested. “It is telling that the same fae who escaped the foundation of united Arcadia asked for this specific bounty, among all those that could be asked.”

That many crowns would have a weight to them, undeniably. Was that what the Princess of High Noon had seen and panicked about? Not necessarily that Larat would eventually use up the very stuff of Summer, I doubted even fae could be that farsighted, but that he was aiming to make a Court of his own. It fit, I had to admit. If there was a recipe to make a Court, it made sense that royalty on both sides of the fence would be at least vaguely aware of it.

“So that leaves the crowns of Spring and Autumn up for grabs, like we thought,” I said. “Where were they, that the Hunted Magician was able to help you – wait, actually, what about the fae we fought here in the Arsenal?”

My brow knotted. I’d almost forgotten those, but they were a stick in the wheel of what had been explained to me so far.

“They were Autumn,” I said. “There shouldn’t be an Autumn left, Masego, by your theory.”

“The answer to this was obtained by Roland, though unknowingly on his part,” Hierophant said. “He captured alive one of the fae, whose physical body it turns out we’ve destroyed before. The Duke of Green Orchards, who was slain in Dormer, though he now goes by Count of Green Apples.”

So I’d not been wrong, I thought, when I’d noticed an eerie similarity.

“I saw him,” I admitted. “Noticed his face. So you’re saying all those fae that attacked the Arsenal are, what, salvaged corpses?”

“Those entities whose bodies were slain can never be made anew with a new Winter or Summer, as there will never again be either of these,” Masego said. “That leaves them existing, yet purposeless. Some must have bound themselves to the crown of Autumn to acquire that purpose. There will be some of other natures, kept into existence by outside ties like contracts or debts, but I imagine much of the roster will be those killed in the Arcadian Campaign. For all those that anchored themselves to Autumn or Spring, I expect ten times as many went wild and are now partaking of sundry powers on Creation or elsewhere to sustain their existence.”

The Prince of Falling Leaves, then would have continued existing because of the Hunted Magician’s unpaid debt. That had a sharp little irony to it I could not help but find amusing – that man really was prone to shooting himself in the foot, wasn’t he? Actually, now that I was considering this, was my pact for the crowns with the Prince of Nightfall what’d allowed him not to become one of the subject princes of Arcadia in the first place? Larat, I thought with reluctant admiration. You cleverest of foxes.

“So fae fell through the cracks of our mess and now suckle at whatever they can find, including Autumn,” I summarized.

That sounded like it’d be an issue in the long term, fae loose in the world and grown hungry, but right now we had more pressing cats to skin. And it was now occurring to me that if the dead fae from my old campaign were excluded from the newborn Court that’d followed it, then most of Winter and Summer’s royalty had been removed. The very same kind of entities that might be rivals for whoever sat the newborn thrones.

Somewhere, I suspected, the creature that had once been the King of Winter was smiling.

“More or less,” Masego agreed. “And to answer the question you never finished asking, what the Hunted Magician provided was not exactly a location. There is, if you’ll forgive the metaphor, no buried treasure to unearth. That was what he clarified for me, that I could not find a crown because in a very real sense it does not currently exist. What he gave us is a set of circumstances that will coalesce the crown of Autumn into being. More specifically, a ritual to be used in a particular place and alignment.”

“So when you said you found the crown of Autumn,” I leadingly said.

“An artistic flourish,” Masego proudly said. “I have merely confirmed the ritual will function and located an appropriate ritual site and date.”

I let out a noise of appreciation.

“Well done,” I said. “What kind of a timeline are we looking at?”

Considering how much about the fae had to do with seasons, I’d guess somewhere around a year. Maybe the autumn solstice or something else along those lines.

“Thirty-one days,” Hierophant said.

I blinked in surprise, lapsing into a stunned silence.

“I could make the attempt tomorrow,” Masego said, misinterpreting the reason for my quiet, “but to both travel and prepare for the ritual over so small a span would significantly increase the chances of failure.”

“That…” I began, almost at a loss for words. “That changes things. The location, the resources you need, it’s all set?”

“I’ll have to significantly empty the Arsenal reserves of gems and precious metals as well as require of the services of at least two hundred mages – three hundred would be more comfortable, it would allow for replacements and adjustments – but in principle all needed is at hand,” Masego said.

Noticing my surprise, he smiled.

“You have helped create one of the grandest magical sites of learning and magic on Calernia, Catherine,” he said. “Do not then be surprised that it serves that purpose with distinction.”

I coughed, slightly embarrassed.

“The ritual site itself will be familiar to you, as the Princes’ Graveyard was fought near it,” he continued.

“The Mavian prayers on the hill?” I asked.

“Indeed,” Masego said. “There are other locations with perhaps more precise alignments, but this one benefits from being the seat of a permanent Twilight gate. The logistical benefits are obvious.”

I could definitely believe that tumulus would work as a ritual site, at least. I still remembered walking the tall raised stones and feeling the echoes of long-faded might, the call they’d made to the last wisps of fae power in me.

“The ritual could fail,” I said.

“All rituals can fail,” Masego pointed out.

“Allow me to rephrase that,” I said. “If the ritual fails, what are the consequences?”

“The ritual site will be obliterated, a significant portion of the mages involved will die or go mad, the fabric of Creation on a regional scale will be weakened for several centuries,” Hierophant calmly listed.

My fingers clenched. That was not negligible losses.

“The Twilight gate?” I made myself ask.

“Three in five odds of withstanding the damages and keeping full functionality,” Masego said. “No chance of destruction, or that partial functionality will not remain. We did not craft a fragile artefact, Catherine.”

Considering the sheer amount of Night we’d wielded that day and the way he’d come into an aspect halfway through, I was not inclined to doubt him.

“Odds of success?” I pressed.

“Tomorrow, perhaps one in five,” Hierophant mused. “Likely a little less. By my suggested timeline, I’d say somewhere between seven and eight in ten. Closer to eight, by my calculations.”

“If we wait longer can you bump that up?” I asked.

He frowned, staying silent for a long moment.

“With another two months, perhaps a little over eight,” Masego finally said. “With a full contingent of Wasteland mages and a month to teach them we could near nine in ten, though I believe that Dread Empress Malicia might be disinclined to lend us these.”

By the tone of his voice, that was very petty of her. I suppressed a smile. Indeed, how dare international politics and all these wars get in the way of one of the great magical feats of the century?

“I’m currently inclined to wait the three months and get all the sureties we can,” I said. “But I’ll discuss it with our allies, since Quartered Seasons is starting to become a genuine war asset.”

If nothing else, having this kind of a tool in our pocket would greatly strengthen the case of those commanders among the Grand Alliance who favoured the defensive strategy to this war. Princess Rozala and Prince Otto Reitzenberg had been arguing from the start that so long as we held our defensible borders, time would be on our side – either because of the amount of Named we’d accrue, or because the Arsenal would eventually produce a weapon capable of turning around the war on a strategic scale. The crown of Autumn might just qualify, since while it had no real use against field armies it could potentially allow us to deal with Neshamah himself. Not destroy him, mind you, that’d been what the Severance was for, but neutering him as a threat was more important than outright destruction.

“Assuming you successfully coalesce the crown,” I said, “will it be a physical artefact?”

Masego nodded.

“One not unlike the crown of Twilight when it was formed,” he said. “Though the strength of the godhead is in the concept and not the material.”

“And once we have the physical artefact,” I said, “you can begin shaping it.”

“I’ve had the appropriate workshop for the work built in the Arsenal for some time, though it is currently sealed,” Hierophant said. “It is difficult to estimate how long it would take me to shape the godhead, as even the Dead King’s work in Keter bears only passing similarities for me to draw on. It is safe to assume at least several months.”

I hummed. We wouldn’t need the crown to take back Hainaut, anyhow, which in my opinion was a prerequisite to taking a swing at Keter itself. We simply couldn’t afford to thin land defences against his armies the way we’d need to in order to make a serious crack at the Crown of the Dead, the risk of collapse was too high. Pushing Keter back beyond the lakes would allow us to dig in, though, and muster the armies properly for an assault on the Hidden Horror’s capital next spring or summer.

“We can afford that,” I said. “Especially if it wins us the war, which it will if we can make him lose control over the undead.”

That was, after all, what lay at the very heart of Quartered Seasons. Something like the Severance, an offensive artefact, it could be resisted. Which was why we wouldn’t be attacking the Dead King, we’d be giving him the crown – not in a way he could refuse, but still as a gift of godhead. That’d slip right through the overwhelming majority of his defences, by Masego’s reckoning, and Hierophant had spent most of the year with Neshamah riding in the back of his head. He knew the Dead King, understood him in ways most of us could only dimly grasp. The trick was that we wouldn’t just be tossing him the crown of Autumn, Hierophant would be shaping it first. It had to remain powerful, or it’d wiggle out of the groove of being a gift, but we’d get to choose what power was given. And what strictures accompanied it, of course, because the mantle of godhood could hardly come without costs.

I was more than comfortable making the Dead King physically indestructible if that power came at the expense of, say, his ability to command the dead.

I jolted myself out of my thoughts, since there still remained a question I’d forgotten to ask.

“Spring’s crown will still be out there,” I said. “That strikes me as a dangerous thing to leave simply lying around.”

Not the highest priority, but given my personal role in shattering the old order of Arcadia it’d be irresponsible to simply hide my head in the sand when it came to Spring.

“I agree,” Hierophant calmly said. “And since me might not have need of it for the war efforts, I’ve been considering how else it might be used.”

My lips thinned. I knew where that was headed. It wasn’t like Masego had ever made it a secret that he still intended on apotheosis, though he’d set those pursuits aside temporarily in deference to the horrors currently trying to sweep over the continent.

“I’m not sure I have the pull to allow you to get your hands on that,” I admitted. “Not after that mess in Iserre before the peace. I’ve been having trouble with heroes as well, so to be frank your pursuing godhood might end up the proverbial match in the munitions warehouse.”

“I believe that power is even less in your hands that you know, Catherine,” Hierophant said. “I attempted to narrow down possible ritual locations for Spring’s crown, so that I might test them for essence resonance, but out of the five locations I scried three repelled my spell.”

I breathed in sharply. While Masego might not currently have direct access to the Observatory, arguably the finest scrying facility in existence bar none, he was still one of the finest living practitioners of that art and sitting on a treasure trove of resources. There weren’t a lot of people, of defences, that could just repel him.

“The Dead King?” I asked, tone gone grim.

If Neshamah got his hands on a godhead, he’d make anything we might make out of one look like child’s play.

“No,” Masego sad, shaking his head. “On the third attempt I was ready for the opposition and salvaged a glimpse before my scrying sphere was shattered. I’ll show you.”

Walking over to one of the granite tables, as I watched he opened a compartment and took out what appeared to be a small sphere of silver glittering with sorcery. His aspect pulsed and he wrested it out, weaving for my eyes an illusion. The background was unclear, though I thought a tall streak of grey might be stone and the muddled green perhaps a field, but the forefront was crisp. A tall, slender and inhuman shape turned and watched with too-large eyes. It did not move, but the spell broke less that a heartbeat later. Silence held the room for a moment before I let out a long sigh.

That, unfortunately, had been an elf.

114 thoughts on “Chapter 30: Quarters

    1. Rabbit-eared sure, But considering the setting and the character of the Elves of the Golden Bloom sissies are not the word I’d use. Genocidal Supremacists with no small capability to make good on their threat on the other hand…

      Or: What the Thalmor wish they could be.

      Liked by 17 people

          1. Because the non racist Elves are off on another continent.

            The Elves of the Golden Bloom are the only ones known with a permanent presence on Calernia.
            They’ve also been sitting around doing almost nothing.

            Both conventional logic and story logic point to it being the Golden Bloom, rather than the non racist Elves from another continent.

            Plus, I’m pretty sure that Masego has previously commented on the localized nature of Arcadia, that Calernian Arcadia has major differences from the Arcadia of other continents, and vice versa … that they’re distinct enough that the changes to Calernian Arcadia have little or no affect on non-Calernian Arcadia.

            Liked by 4 people

        1. ValhallaGH

          That is simply untrue. The presence, or absence, of a thing has no bearing on your attitudes and power structures towards a thing.
          Do you have a zombie plan?
          Zombies do not exist but that question has meaning.
          Same principle.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. LordSchulz

          Racism is the strong believe that there are races in existens and that they are distinguishable by traits of any kind.
          An actual existens is not required.
          See humanity.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Cuckoo's Hatchling

            Technically, we’re mixing racism and specieism here. Humans on our world are racist, Elves on Calernia are simply highly specieist. The latter is slightly more defensible than the former, species are far more fundamentably different than races.

            Like

            1. Humans do not have distinct races. The term is just a holdover from back when people actually beleived that we were all different species, or different breeds. What we tend to call “Other Races” are not genetically distinct enough to qualify in any litteral sense.

              Don’t look into it unless you want to scream at your monitor. We truly live in the dumbest timeline.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. Ninestrings

    Well with the drow coming into play it was only a matter of time before creation brought in the regular elves as a countermeasure.

    This universe does love it’s binary opposites.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. erebus42

      That it does. I’ve been rather looking forward to a Drow V. Elf smackdown. Mainly because from what we’ve seen of them, the Elves seem like the worst sort of arrogant assholes and in need of a good and thorough humbling.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. erebus42

          Eh maybe not, but for me a sanctimonious misplaced sense of self-righteousness has always been far more odious than simple malice or sadism. Also the Drow are cooler than the few elves we’ve seen so far so they’ve got that going for them.

          Liked by 13 people

    2. Aeon Diablo

      I’ve always considered the binary opposite of elves to be the ratlings rather than the drow. Although this is based mainly on how both elves and ratlings get stronger the older they get, and seemingly live until killed

      Liked by 3 people

      1. CoyoteSpeaks

        I agree. Ratlings and Elves seem to be dark reflections of one another, in the same way the Drow and Gigantes are both “conditionally immortal beings kept alive only by soul-manipulating ritual”.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Velrix

          Ok…. So Nemesha no longer need is breeding farm in hell, he now possess the largest breeding farm on calernia. The chain of hunger.
          Fu**

          Like

  2. They’ll need to be very careful with what powers they shape the Autumn Crown into providing the Dead King before they give it to him. And, preferably, have a way to permakill him afterwards, because if he’s immortal or unkillable, he’ll eventually become a threat again.

    Well … the Elves were bound to come back into this in some way.
    I’m not sure of their antipathy towards Bard will help or hurt.
    I bet they’re trying to get their hands on Spring in order to counter the curse they’ve been under since conquering and genociding the ancient Deoraithe out of their lands.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Salt

      Their rivalry with the Bard probably won’t be helpful so much as convenient in a the-enemy-of-my-enemy-isn’t-my-friend-but-it’s-nice-to-see-someone-else-get-fucked-by-the-Bard-for-once sort of way

      We know the Bard still holds a grudge against them for not taking a side and playing at being a poor man’s Anaxares, back in Triumphant’s day, when they temporarily evacuated the Golden Bloom to Arcadia. She probably won’t be enthused that they’re trying to do the same this time, except while also trying to steal a piece of the pie while they’re at it. She did, after all, warn them that the next time they tried to meddle in her game she would make them “rue the day”. That’s actually a pretty severe threat for a genre saavy character like the Bard, who knows exactly how much of a double edged sword an ultimatum can be.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dadycoool

    I almost feel like Masego is EE’s Author SI. He knows so much lore about the world, magic, and the workings of both, and has been itching to be able to share with everyone. Thing is, for me at least, it’s so complex that it sails right over my head for the most part. Maybe when I eventually reread the whole thing I’ll be able to wrap my head around it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. zenanii

      The dilemma of making a world that is complex enough to be interesting, yet simple enoug for the readers to follow.

      The take-away from this (as I understood it) is that there are four eternal sources of power that makes up arcadia, and after Cat (and the king of winter) permanently broke arcadias cycle all four sources became up for grabs.

      Cat got Winter which she later gave to Sve Noc
      Cat later forged Summer into the crown of twilight, which was then used to create the twilight ways.

      Masego has tracked down Autumn’s power which he and Cats plan to use to override the dead kings power (for instance, instead of making him the king of th dead they could give him a crown that would make him the king of increadibly tasty bagels).

      The power of spring is currently unclaimed, but it seems the elves are after it.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. Ok, so here it is: there are total of four pond of power, and Arcadian pool that is also Arcadia itself always holds two. At the moment of formation, Arcadia held power from Autumn and Spring ponds, while Winter and Summer ponds were semi-independent. When they married, they took control over those bonded ponds from Arcadia itself, while leaving Winter and Summer leaderless. The Crowns of Winter and Summer belong to Arcadian court, so do ponds of Autumn and Spring, but they are formless. Masego tracked Autumn Crown, not Autumn power, which is basically a “right to rule”, without an accompanying pond. There is currently no available free pond of power, they were both used for Night and Twilight, but there are still two Crowns up for grabs.

          Liked by 7 people

          1. edrey

            In the end there was one point that wasnt clear, the elfs had taken spring before the new arcadia was formed? Then it would be two crowns controling one pond, because spring was already taken.
            and the wild hunt from where its power come from, a lesser pond? So even when the four are taken it wont colapse the next second

            Like

        2. Matthew Wells

          They retained their raw magic, represented in the metaphor as water, and gained entirely new crowns through the sheer weight of the story Cat forced on them.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Matthew Wells

              I mean to say that they retain crowns, but those crowns are now the crowns of Arcadia Resplendent- made of the same metaphysical stuff, but no longer capable of shaping the water into the ponds that are Summer and Winter.

              Liked by 2 people

  4. alele

    If Masego and Cat can swing this into Spring vs Autumn eternal fight they get an extra “cork” on the Dead King. Switch their curse from being barren to an eternal fight against the and Undying Dead King.

    Liked by 10 people

      1. erebus42

        Compound that with the fact that they’re apparently pretty OP (at least compared to normal humans). I do hope some Drow can be spared to ruin some of their days.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. Konstantin von Karstein

        And they’re ninja-terminators. According to Cordelia (not really prone to exaggeration), 12 Elves can kill a company (100?) of humans soldiers without casualties, and an Emerald Sword (whoever they are) can do the same by himself.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. Konstantin von Karstein

            It was a Named, the Spellblade, who was the Forever King’s son. I think they are more of an elite unit, they were sent to kill Ranger.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. They kill everyone except Heroes who get within bowshot of their borders.

      Also, they got the forest by genociding the ancient Deoraithe, who still hold a grudge and want their forest back. Said genocide also caused the land to curse them with infertility, and so they haven’t had any kids for millennia.

      Also, they sent two high level Elves to take out Diabolist before she could pull anything, but Bard stopped them.

      Also, Bard pointed them at the Dead King and got the Elven Crown Prince killed and turned into a Revenant.

      Liked by 13 people

    2. zenanii

      They’re supposedly increadibly powerful (although I can’t say I was super impressed with th revenant that Cat fought twice, who was the prince of elves.
      Also they’ve been trying (and failing) to kill Ranger for her whole life.

      Apart from the super speed/strength package they have the ability to ignore one creational law (interpret that as you will)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Konstantin von Karstein

        It’s only the older Elves that can ignore a law. For exemple, they can decide that Creation doesn’t show them, and become undetectable.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yeah, but I’m pretty sure that all the Elves of the Golden Bloom are old enough for that trick.
          Since, y’know, they were all born on another continent before they invaded the Golden Bloom, and none have been born to them since then.

          Now, there are definitely non-genocidal Elves back in the multiracial empire they have on another continent that aren’t old enough for the ignore a law of Creation trick, but they don’t really count for this.

          Liked by 5 people

      2. How were you not impressed by Spellblade? The guy spank the Woe so hard they barely manage to escape with their lives! He was killed by Saint true, but I think the death she got really underwhelmed how fucking terrifying of a grandma Laurence was.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. thearpox23

          Apparently if you can’t solo Ranger you’re not impressive, because this is DBZ. And if you can’t even go solo the Dead King and his 5000+ Revenants and survive then *pft* what kind of weakling are you I can’t even.

          Liked by 1 person

    3. Tenthyr

      The elves of Calernia are residents of the golden bloom, a home they gained by genociding the original dioraithe inhabitants and forcing them to flee. Unlike the elves of the main continent these ones take the idea of Good to a disgusting level and consider all mortal races irredeemable filth. The elves are sort of like day in that they’re in tune with stories and are extremely powerful.

      The only thing that basically holds them back is that the Golden Bloom cursed them with complete infertility in response to murdering the Dioraithe. Something that could be negated by, say…

      The Godhead of spring, season of renewal and birth.

      Liked by 3 people

    4. mamm0nn

      From what we’re told about the Emerald Blades, they are effectively as powerful as a middling Name considering the amount of soldiers they were claimed to be able to kill without a sweat isn’t something to scoff at in this series. No- I mean less extreme- inverse ninja law here. The likes of Cat or Archer can likely slap around two, maybe three, but they might be as strong as the Radiant Blade or even our Kingfisher Prince. (Who’s stronger in a purely physical spar, but hardly equal to Cat in a real fight.)

      Of course, those are the elites of the elves, and the Revenant prince we’ve seen is a Named of a higher tier. But still, that combined with their immortal infertile issue suggests that they are as powerful (or more powerful but less numerous) than the drow. And the drow Mighty were scarily powerful and numerous, if you recall book 4.

      Like

      1. Salt

        If the Bard is to be believed, the elves in the Golden Bloom burned the Everdark to the ground before genociding the Deoraithe

        “ Armada of white ships lands under the Everdark, pretty little elves burn it immediately. You go into the woods and genocide your way through the Deoraithe until you own the land. I told myself ‘old girl, these ones mean business’.”

        If we assume the current Empire Ever Dark is roughly on par with the heights they were at back then – most of their old culture/techniques lost, but with a godhead behind them and alliances aboveground – the Golden Bloom presumably is still capable of easily winning in an outright brawl.

        This goes double since Cat mentioned Night is more suited for stealing of power in victory than actual combat, and tends to lose against both Light or Sorcery in a 1:1. The Drow will have to be flexible, rather than strong, likely in the “Below always gets their due” style as a mirror to the Golden Bloom’s “Above always wins” line

        Liked by 1 person

  5. agumentic

    Oh hey, elves. Last time we heard about them, I believe it was that they were still hiding in their pocket dimension. I wonder what caused them to come out?

    I guess kicking their ass would be one way for Cat to restore her relations with the Daoine.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. erebus42

      From what we’ve heard about their relationships with literally anyone who isn’t an elf my guess is kicking their asses might just win her points in everyone’s books.

      Liked by 10 people

  6. Giving the Dead King a tainted apotheosis is the kind of logic adjacent plan that gets the heroes up in arms against the villains. It’s of the type that the heroes end up going “Oh, wait, that’s actually the right thing to do, our bad”, but this is really feeling like it’s going to end up with Cat dramatically begging her new heroic lover, Kingfisher, to trust her and let her finish the ritual as he and Roland do their best to hold back the Mirror Knight in order to give her a chance to explain.

    I like the mental image, but it’s still worrying.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Big I

      Cat making the Dead King invulnerable to harm is exactly the sort of thing the idiot brigade (i.e. the Mirror Knight and his posse) will mistake as being her Evil Plan (TM) All Along.

      Liked by 6 people

  7. Big I

    So the Golden Bloom elves probably want the crown to cure their infertility, which makes thematic sense since it’s the crown of Spring. I’ve been hoping that Catherine kicks those pricks out of the Bloom and returns it to Daoine, that’d be great.

    Reading this chapter it struck me that Catherine’s hopes come down to a Crown and Sword, like on her personal banner. Which sucks, because on her banner the sword outweighs the crown. Damn you Mirror Knight. Damn you foreshadowing.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Letouriste

      How exactly ascending to godhood would give them their fertility back?
      Don’t get me wrong, now you said it i can feel this is the reason but I struggle with the logistics.

      Like

      1. Well … Spring is traditionally the season of birth/rebirth and new growth, e.t.c.. A season of new life.
        There’s plenty of potential there.

        They may or may not have a concrete plan for how to go about breaking the curse the land put on them.
        They probably have at least some ideas.
        But also, there’s a lot of power backing even a single Court. They might figure they could just brute force their way into breaking the curse.

        Alternatively … the Elves are after the Crown of Spring because Bard told them to go after it, possibly telling them out could be used to break the curse, which may or may not be entirely accurate. And even if true, it’s highly doubtful that Bard told them everything they needed to know to do so.
        Bard does, after all, apparently know at least something about the existence of Quartered Seasons, and may or may not be aware that the intent is to put a crippling Crown on the Dead King as opposed to putting an empowering Crown on Cat/someone of Cat’s choosing. And that Hunted Magician knew stuff about the Autumn Court, so they’re likely to use the Autumn Crown.
        And prepping the Elves to go after Spring as a contingency to counter Cat gaining control of Autumn would probably be right up Bard’s alley, despite their antipathy towards her.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. edrey

          Well, there is also the possibility that they already have the crown with them and they made their little corner of arcadia with it, they cut a part of arcadia with the crown. The curse should be something like you can only have children with humans and not with another elf, Ranger exist after all.

          Like

        2. mamm0nn

          That’s actually pretty logical, considering they now have the narrative balance of Winter having been used to stabilise the Night as Cat said this very chapter. Where before they couldn’t do this, now Spring might be able to return them to their fertile glorious selves and stop being isolationists, due to the drow doing it first.

          Like

  8. Big Brother

    I LOVE when Masego gets technical. It helps me understand this world more on a fundamental level, compared to the political level we see through almost everyone else. Interactions between subrealities and the underlying currents of their very essence tells a great deal about the main reality they’re branched off of.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. I loved the back and forth discussion Catherine and Masego had here. It’s difficult to make this kind of exposition into something engaging, but you definitely did so here.

    “I was more than comfortable making the Dead King physically indestructible if that power came at the expense of, say, his ability to command the dead.” This had me delightedly cackling out loud.

    Also, uhhhhhh. Wow. Okay. The immortal racist ninja terminators are going for apotheosis. Frankly the Dead King is such a threat and the Dread Empress operates on such a high level that the thought of a adding a third threat apocalyptic threat to the mix hadn’t ever occurred to me. I mean, what on Calernia could possibly rival them?

    But yeah. Yeah the immortal racist ninja terminators getting access to Spring titles and a god would do that. The echo of one of their Named was a goddamn nightmare to fight, and the higher Fae titled play in the same leagues as three-aspected Named. A Prince and some Dukes/Duchesses were a credible threat to a five-man band of full-realized Named, even though they’re about as vulnerable to Named as anything in existence. Throw the Duchess or Princess titles on an elf and that’s …

    I mean. Okay. Elves and fae are both incredibly vulnerable to the Narrative. I feel like fae elves would be eaten alive by Calernia’s Heroes in due time. But uhhhhh …. in due time might not be on the table with the Dead King and the Dread Empress in play. And the time it would take for the right Named to be spawned against army killers like that probably has a cost measured in genocides.

    Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. thearpox23

      And with that every single faction on Calernia is now engaged. Uncork your champagne bottles and raise up a glass everyone, this is a moment of celebration years in the making.

      Mad respect to every other rumored to be more advanced continents for politely staying out of this and letting Calernia descend into total world war on its own. After all, would be a shame if the Elven Empire got dragged in due to the Golden Bloom overstepping their bounds and stretched this story by several more books, he he he.

      Speaking of books, I am growing more and more curious when the announcement that there will be an 7th book will come. This chapter, next, maybe in three months? Because let’s be honest, dealing with the Golden Bloom will take more than a paragraph.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. More advanced continents probably have their own more advanced world wars.

        Also we already got one book split in two, I think EE will just constantly use Interludes, so that he can justify enormously long book by saying “But we’re still only on chapter 41!”.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. khazan7

        Why is everyone forgetting the ratlings? I can still vividly remember the fight against the Skein, and he was just one of the Horned Lords. I am sure there are some more out there….

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    but it above > put it above
    wall a great > wall was a great
    invited so sit > invited to sit
    with sharp nod > with a sharp nod
    full body not, > full body, not
    tended deal > tended to deal
    kingship Twilight > kingship of Twilight
    empty,” I > empty.” I
    clenching an unclenching > clenching and unclenching
    sat the newborn > sat on the newborn
    since me might > since we might

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dadycoool

      Pretty sure the two sisters individually have their names, but together they have the “Name” Sve Noc. I put Name in quotes because it’s like saying the Choirs or Demons have Names. Sve Noc is the title the two collectively have, like the Choirs are made up of individual angels that may have their own names, like Heirophant. (I can’t remember his name, or I’d have used it.)

      Like

  11. I’ve been waiting for YEARS on those Chekhov’s elves finally paying off! By this point I frankly thought that bit about Forever King in summary was summarily ignored by everyone. Also, the community will be ecstatic at a chance to rant about how Above has literal Nazis on a payroll.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. edrey

    Now looking forward the talk of the forever king and his son via Wk
    Well, some theorical questions, since the new arcadia formed by crowns of S and W and with the power A and Sp that means the incompatibility of S and W was between the power and not the crowns, then all four powers return to the same pool? The nature of W didnt change with cat or the night and S was pretty explosive with W. Also you explain why there is A court but not the power, those fae were powerful and the other pools have owners. From where was that power?
    Thanks for a great chapter and the new magic theory

    Like

    1. Arcadia was always there, and it still is. The dimension itself is also the very pool of power. There are not four powers, there are four ponds and not enough water to fill all four simultaneously, which is why only two can be filled at any moment. Power takes shape of the pond, the same water in Winter pond will explode if it meets the same water from Summer pond. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s water. Think of pond as colored glass, and power as light, which is also water: the light goes through colored glass and becomes colored light, but it’s still light. Power is one, crowns are different. Crowns are shape and not the power. What Sve Noc and Larat used weren’t powers, it was a metaphorical shape of, respectively, Winter and Summer. New crown of Arcadia didn’t use either crown of Winter, nor Summer, nor any other season, instead just taking pure power and shaping a new pond for themselves. Which still uses power from the common pool, which is the dimension of Arcadia itself. Everything is in the manual, really.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thearpox23

        Seems like either way you twist it, you’re still stretching the Arcadia thin.

        Arcadia Resplendent is still using power from the common pool.
        Sve Noc is using at least a portion of Winter.
        Twilight Ways I have no idea actually. I assume proving fast travel for the continent isn’t non-negligible, but who knows.
        So I suppose because of that mess the Crowns of Autumn and Spring have been stuck in limbo on the edge of forming because there isn’t enough free power flowing?

        By forcing the two crowns into being aren’t you inviting the exact kind of mess that the whole system is explicitly designed to prevent?

        Like

        1. No, I was wrong in my previous post somewhat. So there are totally four ponds of Arcadian power. Two ponds worth must be in Arcadia itself, unless it destabilises. So there are at all times only two ponds allowed to be “independent”. There are also four crowns, which are basically give control over one pond worth of Arcadian power. King of Winter and Queen of Summer did not lose their Crowns, they just changed which two ponds of power they controlled. Winter pond and Summer pond were left leaderless, because proper procedure wasn’t followed, they did not take control of the other ponds. Instead, ponds were used by Sve Noc and by Larat. One completed apotheosis, another formed Twilight dimension. Crowns remain, but they are essentially powerless. Fae are finite and semi-sentient bundles of Arcadian power that are also shaped depending on a Crown they are attached to. But since there are still two ponds controlled by two crowns, technically the system is fine, and the mechanism that changes seasons isn’t triggered.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. thearpox23

            Wouldn’t be a point in giving someone a powerless crown, so my understanding is that the rituals Masego/Elves want to go through would give them access to a pool of power. At which point you would still have five independent entities simultaneously using Arcadia.

            DK(Crown of Autumn)
            Elves(Crown of Spring)
            Sve Nox(previously Winter)
            Twilight Ways(Crown(?) and pool of Summer)
            Arcadia Respendent (Pools of Autumn and Spring according to you.)

            Even if the system was sound before, this seems unprecedented.

            Like

            1. You misunderstand. The Arcadian power itself is shapeless. The Crowns are what shape them. So by giving DK a Crown, the plan is to shape him.

              The point is exactly to give a powerless Crown. Noone wants to give Neshie more power, but a Crown is akin to a colored glass, which gives shape to power. As Warlock put it, godhead is a trick of perspective. That is what apotheosis and crown is: a way to look, a perspective, a window. And if you change how Neshamah perceives the world, you will change who he is, because the two are the same.

              Sve Noc had their own perspective, they didn’t need a Crown, what they lacked was weight, because Night was finite and they couldn’t easily get more. That weight was provided by a pool of Winter, which was already colored by a Winter Crown, which is why it had Winter properties. The Winter power was already shaped, but that doesn’t make it inherently shaped.

              The realm of Twilight and it’s Crown were created, without a precedent, but they used the unclaimed pond of Summer, probably abusing the mechanism of creating new Seasons. And through doing that, the last bit of power was used. There is no free Arcadian power to give, even if it was the plan. But “the way to shape the power”, which is the Crown, and also “the way to perceive the world”, which is a trick of perspective, a godhead, is still out there, in a metaphorical limbo.

              To summarize: Court of Arcadia (two dormant ponds of Spring and Autumn that form Arcadia itself plus two Crowns of Winter and Summer), Sve Noc (former pond of Winter, already shaped by a Crown of Winter, but without a Crown), Court of Twilight (former pond of Summer plus a brand new Crown of Twilight), and two Crowns of Autumn and Spring, with Spring apparently being claimed by Elves.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. thearpox23

                Alright, this part: “The trick was that we wouldn’t just be tossing him the crown of Autumn, Hierophant would be shaping it first. It had to remain powerful, or it’d wiggle out of the groove of being a gift, but we’d get to choose what power was given.”

                The part where they stated that ‘it had to remain powerful’ led me to believe it wasn’t just a bind but an addition.

                But I can see the sense of what you are saying. So I’ll go with your interpretation for now.

                Like

                1. It is powerful in a sense that it is still a godhead. It is a “right to have power”, so to speak. For example, if Cat had such a Crown, she would be able to use all of Winter without any backlash, she would change the power, instead of being changed by the power.

                  It has to remain powerful in a sense that it has to be more than an empty set of chains, otherwise it would not fit the story of it being a gift, Dead King needs to gain something from it. It would just be not a raw power, but a higher degree of control.

                  Like Cat said, when talking to dwarves, she held power, but now wields it instead, and that made her more dangerous. Yet again, Dead King said that her trading more control for less power made her a potential peer to them. Bard was an example he used, for she holds not much power, but wields extreme control. Hierophant traded his own power for a right to wrest control any power.

                  It is a theme of series, again and again control was superior to power, for if the user does not control the power (as WinterCat didn’t), the power will control the user. Black traded raw power for control, Cat did the same, Warlock, mad lad as he was focused on pure control at expense of raw power, as did his son, and so on and so forth.

                  Crowns are a set of rules, but also a way to apply rules. Power is just power. Shaped by Arcadia it’s Arcadia, shaped by fae it’s fae, shaped by the Crown of Winter, it’s Winter. So if Dead King will be gifted a Crown, he will be shaped by a Crown. And those shapings can be all negative, or it would not be a gift, but there still must be a trade, and Cat can decide what that trade would be, getting a degree of control over Dead King. Compare it to Severance (and Mirror Knight), both hold power, incredible one, but little control over both. Christophe is bounced by the tidings of life, flowing from one confrontation to another like a log and a river, and Severity is a literal sword.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. 'Ladi Williams

                    I’m liking your explanation…. But it seems to me there would still be four draws on Arcadia at the same time.
                    Nessie. Sve Noc. Court Resplendent. Twilight. And now the spring crown.
                    Won’t that tear Arcadia apart?

                    Like

                    1. Nah. Sve Noc took her part. It’s devoured, it’s gone. Twilight does not draw on Arcadia, it draws on a Summer pond. Which is also had been used up to make up the Twilight realm. Arcadia is made up from two ponds, claimed by two crowns. Two different ponds from either Summer or Winter. On which neither Sve Noc, nor Twilight cannot lay a claim. Two crowns, two ponds, that is a simple system. Which is very stable. To contest that claim, someone would need to at least collect two other Crowns. Can it be done? Yes. Can Arcadia be torn apart? Yeah. But there is no draw. The pool is closed.

                      Like

                    2. agumentic

                      The new Court is the Court of *Arcadia* Resplendent. It doesn’t draw on Arcadia because in a sense it is Arcadia.

                      Like

  13. Anomandris

    This is going down paths so interesting…..

    Also, what’s happening with Black v Malicia? Seems so long that we’ve gotten news there. And seems strange that DK hasn’t made use of the praesi alliance…

    Like

    1. thearpox23

      We got an update at the start of the volume. For all the shenanigans not much time has passed since then.
      Looks like Erra is trying to keep the story focused, which I respect him for. When the authors try to keep track of every character of every expanding conflict it always ends up in a mess. I’m hoping for an eventual side volume.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonder

    Everyone has said almost everything I got to say( well the magical theory went way over my head so there’s that.)

    The Golden Bloom pricks want the Spring crown, Heirophant wants it.

    I want Sve Noc to aim for it so that they can use it to mitigate the sunlight weakness of their drows, though that would out Cat in a conflict of interests position , between helping a fellow Woe and her Patrons, though I guess She can just tell them to fuck off.

    Cat has been backtalking Choirs of Angels , and that is going to feature in her nascent Name, will the appropriation of Arcadia crowns also bear an Influence on her Name?

    Like

    1. Miles

      They’re really not that powerful just unusual enough that nobody knows how to deal with them yet.

      They’ll have figured it out by the end of the war.

      Like

      1. Konstantin von Karstein

        Re-read the chapter where Sve Noc shows to Cat what the Drows have to fight, they definitely are that powerful. And it’s called « Night », I doubt anything could make it resistant to sunlight.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. medd

    One of the ways you could pass sentences on heroes, is by imprisoning them for the rest of the war and writing down in history books that, when the nations were faced with ultimate destruction that, person/hero/fallen/named have worked against it.
    Making them unable to help cos they behaved badly is how you deal with self-righteous people.

    Like

    1. Shveiran

      It’s poetic, but also a resource sink to keep them contained or sand in the gears if you leave them free to do whatever (as Named will do something, likely throwing a wrench in the plans you made without them).

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Daniel E

    Dwarves have been in play for awhile now, the Elves are back in opposition to our cast. I’m really really hoping we get to see a surprise appearance by the Gnomes.

    Like

    1. Drunken Dwarf

      Maybe that’s how Black takes out the Dread Empire. They already received two Red Letters so the third isn’t out of the question.

      Like

      1. Ιούλιος Καίσαρας

        The gnomes don’t just dismandle a political entity that had send a third red letter.
        They glass the whole land it occupies.
        So, no he won’t.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Shveiran

            Possible, yet not certain. The one intervention we have on record is them nuking a civilization based on an island and their colonies. We have no clue whether they tried not to hit their neighbors or if said neighbors were simply out of the blast zone.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. thearpox23

              We also have no clue whether receiving the third Red Letter is actually meaningful. The civ that got nuked has famously ignored all three warnings, while Praes has actually been on the up and up. It could instead be like a website receiving a DMCA from a vindictive publisher, where you could receive a hundred of them to no legal repercussions so long as you remove the material.

              Like

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