Interlude: Paragons

“To offer forgiveness to the unrepentant is as the sheep embracing the wolf.”
– Hektor the Ecclesiast, Atalante preacher

Hanno had underestimated the depth of the troubles in the Arsenal.

It had already been an unpleasant surprise for providence to have failed him, not offering even the slightest of nudges otherwise when he’d decided to wait a few days before heading towards the Arsenal, but now it seemed that initial mistake had allowed several streaks of unpleasantness to take root. That Catherine would be as a scalded cat was only to be expected, given that she’d pitted her wits against the Wandering Bard and there was no victory to be had without a cost there. That could be worked around until it passed, which he trusted it would. That there would be distrust and discontent boiling up within the heroes as was not something he’d foreseen, at least not to such a grave extent. That Christophe de Pavanie’s name never seemed to be far behind whenever a spot of discord was there to be found was even more unfortunate.

It had become the White Knight’s habit to arrange for a great talk with all the heroes of a region whenever his travels allowed, so that they might vent their grievances before they could grow into formal complaints and frictions of character could be caught before they escalated, and it was without hesitation he followed the habit after coming to the Arsenal. There were nine heroes within these walls who bore Names, and most made good time when he sent for them. Still, extracting themselves from their occupations took longer for some than others. Hanno was not displeased by that, as them coming with waves allowed him to take a look at the currents binding them to one another. Roland, for example, came with the Vagrant Spear and the Forlorn Paladin.

The latter two of those three had spent more than a year as part of the Archer’s band, while the Rogue Sorcerer was perhaps the hero who best got along with the Woe in particular and villains as a whole. There were some who called him soft on Below because of that, though his distinguished record had ensured it was just idle talk. That the Dominion heroine would keep company with Roland and the Forlorn Paladin was interesting, however. If she had felt uncomfortable under the Archer, starved of respectable company or mistreated, she would not have chosen those particular companions. As for the Forlorn Paladin himself, though he remained improbably cheerful despite his Name it was clear that he felt lost and that the Vagrant Spear was serving as an anchor. Hanno sympathized.

He had more memories than any man alive, and their loss was something he dreaded like little else.

The White Knight spoke with the first three heroes to arrive, little more than small talk about what they’d seen and done since their last parting, but before long others began to wander in. Though the Kingfisher Prince was not someone Hanno had ever met in person before, the Prince of Brus was hard to mistake for another – between the fanciful Alamans clothing and the elaborate hair ribbons, there was simply no other hero he could be mistaken for. The man had a reputation for charm that must have been true at least in part, for the often-taciturn Bitter Blacksmith was laughing as some unheard jest as he gallantly opened the door for her.

Though Hanno did not particularly consider himself the host of this gathering – he had not fetched the refreshments himself, or done anything at all save requesting the help of messengers and attendants – he still welcomed the pair into the room, returning the Prince of Brus’ firm arm clasp and congratulating Helmgard for her impressive work on the sword he was not learning had been named the Severance. A shame. He’d been rather partial to the ‘Severity’, himself. It seemed a truer homage to the woman it had been forged from. There was hardly a ripple as the two Named joined the others, cordial smiles being offered up by those whose character so inclined them.

The Mirror Knight arrived rather late, considering that Christophe had been eager for a meeting like this one when they’d last spoken, but it was easy to see why. When the dark-haired hero arrived, it was with the Blessed Artificer and the Blade of Mercy at his side. He must have wanted the three of them to come together and so waited, though Hanno found that the Mirror Knight looked rather jittery underneath his attempt so seem calm. The White Knight almost frowned when he saw how uncomfortable young Antoine was, avoiding looking at the end of the table where Roland and the two heroines he’d come in with sat. Not, not Roland, Hanno decided. It was Sidonia in particular the younger man was avoiding looking at.

The Vagrant Spear did not gaze in their direction at all, as if noticing them was beneath her.

The Blessed Artificer strode forward with little apparent awareness of her companions’ discomfort, offering Hanno himself a nod before settling in the chair by the Bitter Blacksmith’s side. The two began to talk animatedly, and Christophe look almost miffed before he came to make his greetings. The White Knight took the time to speak with young Antoine for a bit, but the Blade of Mercy remained stiff and tight-lipped. Twice, in mere idle conversation, he redirected a casual question of Hanno’s to the Mirror Knight. The Ashuran filed that away, refraining from making assumptions but equally disinclined to simply ignore an oddity.

The Blind Maker was the last to arrive, the older man having been in the middle of delicate work when the messenger came and so unable to extract himself easily. He apologized, but no one felt slighted and so the matter was waved away. Hanno caught himself looking at the door, as if still waiting, and felt a pang of grief when he understood why. Nephele would not be coming, for she was dead. She’d perished in the fight against a demon, mere days ago, and so Hanno would never see his friend again. Hear her laugh, enjoy the sight of how she had come to thrive in the very place she had died defending. The dark-skinned man did not shy away from the grief, instead leaning into it. Let it pass through him.

The White Knight could not change what had been done, but he could keep Nephele alive within himself. Hanno’s mother had been fond of a verse from her homeland, one that claimed all were born to two deaths: one in the flesh, one in the memories of those left behind. It was not in the Ashuran knight’s ability to unmake the end of flesh, but in memory at least he could honour the woman who had been the Repentant Magister. Yet there was a time for grief and a time for the present, and now Hanno was called upon by the latter to set aside the former. He did so.

“I see were all here,” the White Knight said, standing at the head of the table. “I am not unaware that there are many demands on your time, and so I thank you for indulging my request.”

“We were long overdue a council of the Chosen, anyhow,” the Blessed Artificer said.

Adanna of Smyrna had spoken with characteristic bluntness and so Hanno knew better than to take offence, though that did not stop some from eyeing her with irritation. Or dislike. Heroes were not above the vagaries of human interaction in the slightest. They were, if anything, more prone to falling into them. A consequence of strong personalities, Hanno had often thought, which were those that tended to come into Names to begin with.

“A council over what?” the Forlorn Paladin asked. “The messenger never said.”

From the corners of his eye, Hanno saw that the Kingfisher Prince was carefully studying the heroes in the room. Looking, the White Knight suspected, for the invisible web of alliances and enmities that Alamans considered to be the foundation of all society. This one was a hero, the White Knight thought, but a prince as well. It would not do to forget that. The blue-eyed Prince of Brus caught Hanno’s own watchful eye, and with a quirk of the lips offered a wink.

“This is to discuss the fate of the Red Axe, obviously,” the Mirror Knight said.

“What is there to discuss, exactly?” the Rogue Sorcerer flatly asked.

“These talks are meant to allow you all to air grievances and worries,” Hanno cut in as he sat down, voice serene. “If such worries concern the matter of the Red Axe, you are of course free to voice them.”

“There’s grievances enough for twenty to be aired,” the Blessed Artificer said. “Most of them about the Black Queen’s atrocious behaviour.”

Hanno cocked his head to the side.

“The reports I received must have been incomplete, then,” he said. “For I have read them and found little to fault her with.”

That made a stir, though not a large one. He’d hardly said anything incendiary, besides. If Catherine had genuinely been at fault, it would have been his duty to act on it. If he had not, the reason why ought to be self-evident.

“This is ridiculous,” Roland said. “We heroes in our little hidden room, discussing the Black Queen like we’re some sort of secret cabal. If it came out, we’d be a laughingstock – or worse.”

“You worry too much of how things might look, Rogue Sorcerer,” the Mirror Knight said, contempt clear in his voice.

“You don’t worry enough, Christophe,” the Bitter Blacksmith sneered. “I don’t care if she stepped on your toes, she’s also sent troops to fight up in Twilight’s Pass. You don’t get to fuck that just because no one bothered to beat humility into you as a child.”

The Mirror Knight looked not only surprised by Helmgard’s words, but almost hurt. They were friends, the White Knight distantly recalled. But right now the Bitter Blacksmith was just seeing yet another Alamans posturing while her people died in droves, and that pulled on an older and deeper loyalty that anything friendship might earn of her.

“I choose not to believe that expecting civility of each other is being too ambitious,” Hanno calmly said.

The Blacksmith looked away, but not without embarrassment first painting itself across her face. Christophe looked pleased and almost vindicated, though, which had not been Hanno’s intent at all. It worried him that the other man seemed convinced that there were sides to take instead of disagreements to be had. The difference might slight, at first, but the longer the path was the starker the difference would grow.

“Impugning each other’s character is no more civil than insults,” the White Knight plainly said. “I will add, however, that expecting Catherine Foundling to withdraw the aid she has offered because her actions are being questioned is not a defence of her. It is, in fact, the contrary.”

The Kingfisher Prince cleared his throat.

“Considering grievances have been mentioned, I am curious to hear them,” Prince Frederic Goethal said. “I was part of the defence myself, after all.”

“You failed to hide the Red Axe from mere guards, then were laid down by your own ward,” the Blessed Artificer said. “Hardly a participation.”

Every single Alamans at the table looked appalled at her words, Hanno noted, though not necessarily because they disagreed with them. The Prince of Brus had an impressive martial reputation in the north, but he’d worked with few other Named and his showing during the assault on the Arsenal had been lackluster by some ways of looking at it. Hanno’s esteem of the man had raised at his restraint when faced with bare swords and threats, but even on the side of Above there were some who measured success largely through body counts.

“Adanna, you’re being insulting,” the Bitter Blacksmith told her.

The golden-eyed artificer looked surprised.

“I meant no insult,” she assured the prince. “Only that-”

Mercifully, Helmgard elbowed her before she could launch into an explanation that Hanno suspected would offer several additional insults. The dark-skinned man actually sympathized with Adanna a great deal, since he understood exactly where her occasional maladroitness came from: it was rather typical of Ashurans in general and citizens from higher tiers in particular. High Tyrian was a highly blunt language, compared to some on the continent, and most Ashurans who learned a second tongue had to unlearn habits that made them come across as very rude. Those born to higher tiers were also raised into believing that criticism of lower tiers was a civic duty, which could combine in unfortunate ways with other Ashuran customs. Captains, traders and diplomats were naturally taught how to avoid those pitfalls, but the Blessed Artificer was unlikely to have rubbed elbows with any of these in Smyrna – she would have moved in different, higher circles.

“No offence was taken,” the Kingfisher Prince said, and it he was lying he hid it well. “Yet my question stands.”

“I am curious as well,” the White Knight said. “Though I want it to be clear that you are all free to speak, and I will not take you words as a formal complaint under the Terms unless you explicitly state otherwise.”

“I was threatened with execution,” the Blessed Artificer said.

The Rogue Sorcerer laughed, and not kindly.

“Tell them why,” Roland said.

“It hardly matters,” Adanna said. “The threat is the reason of my complaint.”

“She nosed about an Arsenal project the Grand Alliance is going out of its way to keep secret, and then tried to bully the Black Queen into speaking about it in front of what turned out to be at least two traitors,” Roland his aggressively even tone making it clear what he thought of the entire affair. “The specific threat then involved first gaining the approval of the Grand Alliance for your execution by the lawful means, as I recall.”

Hanno’s brow almost rose. It had been a misjudgement on Adanna’s part to believe that the Black Queen would respond to this sort of a pressure, and an even greater misjudgement to resort to this sort of thing against an ally at all. He’d expected better of her.

“I can confirm there are projects under such stark secrecy that exist,” the Kingfisher Prince said, “though I am not conversant with their exact nature.”

The Blessed Artificer’s lips thinned, though she did not argue.

“I have a complaint of my own,” the Mirror Knight said.

Eyes moved to him and the dark-haired man smiled thinly.

“About the Rogue Sorcerer, and how he might as well be the mouthpiece of the Black Queen in this room,” Christophe continued. “Go where you belong, Sorcerer. Go sit at her side, and let us get on with our duties at last without your help.”

Roland’s fingers clenched at his face paled in anger. Hanno genuinely could not remember ever seeing the mild-mannered man this furious.

“I do not know you, Alamans,” the Blind Maker calmly said, his thick Arlesite accent tinging the words, “but your words fall well short of the chivalry your Choosing boasts of.”

“That was ill-said,” the Forlorn Paladin agreed, face grown serious.

Some were less courteous in their chiding.

“Fuck you, Christophe,” Sidonia hissed. “I’ve been with the Lady for more than a year now, does that make me traitor too? Who the Hells are you to tell anyone to leave?”

Hanno pulled on his Name the slightest bit, then slapped his hand against the table. The sound was like a thunderclap in the small hall, and it drew shocked silence from all in it.

“Civility,” the White Knight reminded them. “Be clearer on the nature of your complaint, Mirror Knight. Are you accusing the Rogue Sorcerer of having fallen from grace and become one of the Damned?”

That would, in fact, be a valid reason to ask for Roland’s exclusion from this meeting. In practice it would be difficult to prove either way, but it hardly mattered since Hanno doubted the Mirror Knight would pursue his hasty words to the end. It was a profoundly serious accusation and there would be consequences to using so frivolously. That the Principate had used such methods frequently against heroes of opposing nations was one of the reason it had such a poor reputation with Named, and for a Proceran hero in particular to be seen using the same means would see him made a pariah among their kind.

“I did not speak those words,” Christophe de Pavanie stiffly said.

“Then you should be more careful when you address others,” Hanno frankly said. “If you did not mean to make that accusation, then all you did was offer an insult.”

The Mirror Knight looked like he’d been slapped, but then he’d offered the same to the Rogue Sorcerer with intent nowhere as kindly meant. He must be made to understand that he should be choosing his words more carefully, not blurting out offences and then apologizing for them.

“Everyone knows the Sorcerer’s thick as thieves with the Woe,” the Blade of Mercy spoke up. “It’s not a crime to say that, is it?”

“No,” Hanno serenely replied. “Though neither is it a crime to have a cordial rapport with an ally, Antoine.”

In truth, it would be a poison to this alliance if heroes came to believe that being on good terms with villains was a sort of betrayal. Perhaps if bands of five had remained entirely Below’s or Above’s it could have been borne, but that had not been the case for some time now. The ability to forge a band out of Named of all allegiances was simply too potent a tool in the war against Keter to be easily discarded, and that meant heroes and villains must be able to maintain a degree of respect for each other.

“I have a grievance of my own, as it happens,” the Rogue Sorcerer coldly said.

The anger was still in him, the White Knight saw. That boded ill, for Roland was sharper with wits and tongue than many were with steel.

“Why is Christophe of Pavanie still strutting about with the Severance?” Roland asked. “More than half a dozen of us worked on it, and a fortune was spent forging it. The peril has passed, Mirror Knight, so why do you still carry that priceless artefact with you like some ceremonial blade?”

“I am safekeeping it,” the Mirror Knight harshly said.

“We’ve found no one else capable of using it,” the Blessed Artificer shrugged. “Where else should it go?”

“It’s an artefact meant to kill the Hidden Horror,” the Bitter Blacksmith disagreed, “it should be under lock and behind wards, not lugged around.”

“It hasn’t been observed since it was taken up, has it?” the Blind Maker mused. “It should be, or we will not know how it takes to being used.”

“It was taken up in a battle against great foes,” the Vagrant Spear said. “And used worthily. It would be a grave dishonour to claim it back now.”

The Mirror Knight threw her a look as surprised as it was grateful.

“Hear hear,” the Forlorn Paladin said. “It is not a deed to be lightly gainsaid.”

“Seven demons were slain with the blade in the Mirror Knight’s hand,” the Blade of Mercy fervently reminded them. “Seven. What fool would now give it to another, or put it back to rest?”

“I agree that Christophe is most fit to wield the Severance, given its temperament and his own talents,” Hanno said. “I have already informed the Black Queen as much.”

There was a moment of stillness in the room. Dismay on the Rogue Sorcerer’s face, triumph on the Mirror Knight’s – or was it relief?

“It must be returned, however,” the White Knight continued. “It was taken up during a crisis for laudable reasons, but the crisis has passed. Until it is formally bestowed upon someone, it belongs to the Grand Alliance.”

The scene of a moment earlier, reversed. Nothing about this, Hanno thought, ought to be taken personally. Diplomacy was setting the beat to the tune, not lesser and pettier considerations. He knew better than to believe it would not be taken personally regardless.

“The First Prince shares that belief,” the Kingfisher Prince said. “I do as well, for that matter. You’ve fought mostly in Cleves, Mirror Knight, while the sword might be needed elsewhere. That front is the mildest of the three.”

Christophe cast the prince an unfriendly glance, then turned to Hanno.

“Is this an order, White Knight?” he challenged.

He wanted, the dark-skinned man sensed, a confrontation. To make this about the two of them. That was disturbing, considering the White Knight had no enmity towards Christophe de Pavanie and had believe the opposite to be just as true.

“No,” Hanno said. “I have told you my opinion. It will become an order if the signatory members of the Grand Alliance so decide, likely by vote. I expect the Severance will be assigned in the same manner.”

The Vagrant Spear laughed.

“Should have been more careful who you insulted, Christophe,” she said. “Even if your First Prince takes a shine to you, that’s two out of three who’d rather burn than back you.”

“I am sure Her Most Serene Highness will see reason, when properly made aware of the facts,” the Mirror Knight said.

There was a certainty to his voice that Hanno would have found admirable were he not certain it was unwarranted. Though the White Knight had not lost the respect he’d found for the First Prince during the defense of Cleves, he’d since tempered it with appropriate caution. He could respect Cordelia Hasenbach without losing sight of the truth that she loved Procer more than she did most anything. It was why she now wanted the Red Axe to stand trial before the Highest Assembly, ignoring the protection promised the heroine by the Terms. The First Prince would not find many allies in this, unless he’d gravely misread Catherine so at the moment she was also highly unlikely to take a chance on championing Christophe de Pavanie.

“The Hasenbach will do what needs to be done,” the Bitter Blacksmith bluntly said. “Whether it pleases you or not. That is their way.”

There was an undertone of pride to the words, not quite hidden. Christophe looked upset, which led Hanno to suspect he had come into this hall expecting that Helmgard would support him in all things. The Ashuran was not the only one to notice.

“Is it because you’ve been fuckin Damned that you’re so traitorous?” the Blade of Mercy bit out.

There was a beat of silence, the half a dozen people started talking at the same time. Sidonia was loudly laughing instead, Hanno noted, while the Kingfisher Prince was looking rather interested even as he kept his silence. The White Knight struck his palm against the table once more.

“Order,” Hanno said. “Antoine, please apologize.”

“I think not,” the Blade of Mercy coldly said. “What did I say, save the truth?”

“So she took the Hunted Magician to bed,” the Blessed Artificer replied, dismissive. “What of it? He’s a comely man, and rather skilled in bedplay.”

Several of the heroes choked in surprise. Hanno did not share their shock, benefitting from the perspective of a shared homeland. Adanna of Smyrna would likely equate having sex with a villain to a citizen of a higher tier doing the same with one of a lower tier, and so see nothing there to raise an eyebrow over. Considering marriages across tiers were exceedingly rare such affairs were usually purely physical, and the Blessed Artificer would be highly insulted should someone imply her judgement  – or that of a friend, which Helmgard was – might be affected by such a thing.

“Is he?” the Vagrant Spear asked, leaning forward eagerly. “Elaborate.”

The White Knight could not blame the Archer for that behaviour, sadly. She’d been this way since they first met and actually tended to be significantly worse when Rafaella was around for them rile each other up. The Dominion spirit of competition did not exclude revels.

“Adanna?” the Mirror Knight said, sounding horrified.

“I took up with him myself, for a while,” the Blessed Artificer said.

“He thought we didn’t know,” Helmgard grinned. “We kept making appointments at the same time, you should have seen him panic and make those tortured excuses.”

The White Knight cleared his throat.

“How any of us choose to share our beds is not anyone else’s concern,” Hanno said. “And not to be subject to insult. Antoine, apologize.”

For the first time that day, his voice hardened. The younger man froze at the sound, eyes going wide.

“He meant no insult, Helmgard,” the Mirror Knight said, addressing the heroine directly.

The Bitter Blacksmith spat to the side.

“Only a boy needs others to speak for himself,” she said, but curtly nodded.

Hanno caught her eye, raising an eyebrow in question, but she shook her head in denial. If she was satisfied, then he would pursue the matter no further.

“Are there any further grievances?” the White Knight asked.

“The Black Queen should not be a high officer of the Grand Alliance,” the Mirror Knight flatly said.

The entire room went silent, as if breathing in simultaneously.

“That is not a grievance,” Hanno noted.

“She’s corrupt,” Christophe de Pavanie said. “She made a deal with the Hunted Magician to let him off-”

“The Hunted Magician is to stand trial within the week,” the White Knight corrected. “I am to be a member of the tribunal.”

“Don’t be obtuse,” the Mirror Knight insisted, “she alone gets to decide the sentence, and she was arrogant enough to take her bribe while I was in the room. She thinks herself untouchable, White Knight.”

“She alone stands as judge over the Damned, by the Terms we all agreed on,” the Kingfisher Prince said. “To argue against that is to argue against their very existence.”

Which by the way his tone had cooled, was not a stance that would endear anyone to the prince.

“What meaning is there in the Terms, if the one enforcing them on villains abuses her office?” the Mirror Knight said. “We’ve offered amnesty to a parade of rapists and murderers but the Damned holding their leash is just as corrupt. Is it any wonder that the likes of the Red Axe strike against us?”

Christophe de Pavanie rose to his feet, animated and angry. The emotion did him no favours with some at the table, but it caught the attention of others. There had been doubts about the Terms from the beginning, after all, and two of the heroes who’d most stringently argued against their current form were in this hall – both Adanna and Christophe had been deeply opposed to the principle of villains policing themselves through the Black Queen. Enough that they’d threatened to walk, though it’d been an empty threat. It had been a point of principle back then, however. It’d since grown into a genuine belief for the Mirror Knight, it was plain to Hanno’s eyes.

“We are losing the mandate of the Heavens,” the Mirror Knight warned. “Every time we care more about the letter of a treaty than doing good, we lose ourselves a little more.  That is Below’s subtlest scheme: to make us embrace one evil in seeking the destruction of another.”

Hanno had heard many people claim they understood the designs of the Heavens, over the years, and what their mandate for their children was. It was unfortunate that no degree of certainty seemed to prevent them from error, or mutual exclusivity in their claims. His attention, beyond the words being spoken, was on the heroes in the room. Some were skeptical, the White Knight thought as he studied the Named, but others were visibly in agreement. The Blade of Mercy, the Blessed Artificer. Reluctantly, the Bitter Blacksmith. Given the deep enmity she had with her brother, Hanno suspected that her leanings there were personally driven. She must be troubled by the thought that the reason she’d refrained from fighting her brother to the death, the Terms, might have been some trick of the Gods Below.

“Horseshit,” the Vagrant Spear said. “The Red Axe killed the Wicked Enchanter. He was an animal of the worst kind, but what does that change? She gave her word. We all did. And now you’re trying to wriggle out of it, like a worm on the hook.”

“She got Nephele killed,” Christophe de Pavanie hissed.

“No,” the Blade of Mercy burst out.

Astonished, the Mirror Knight turned towards the younger man.

“I was there, it wasn’t like that,” Antoine insisted. “She lost soldiers, too, and it was the Hierophant who caught the demon. Not her, not us, him.”

“Hierophant hasn’t enough interest in people to get them killed on purpose,” the Bitter Blacksmith grunted. “And he liked Nephele, I remember.”

“Praesi hide their intentions skillfully,” Adanna said.

She then withered under Helmgard’s skeptical gaze.

“It is perhaps unlikely,” she conceded. “And though she is a vicious brute, I’ll admit I have some doubts the Black Queen would have attempted to arrange the death of an ally in the middle of a fight with a demon. She is a practical sort of monster, and more careful with her life than her cavalier manners would make you believe.”

On the account of the pragmatism and cavalier manners, Hanno tended to agree. Catherine was also savagely protective of those she considered in her care, whether they were objectively deserving of that protection or not, so that she might have arranged for Nephele to die was… improbable. Not impossible, of course, and he was willing to hear out Christophe, but he was more inclined to believe in a misunderstanding than a conspiracy.

“What leads you to believe that the Repentant Magister was the victim of a plot?” the White Knight asked.

The Mirror Knight blinked, biting his lip.

“A library was burned, and in it there were two false Revenants who attacked us as we tried to rescue the Doddering Sage,” he said. “It must have been the Black Queen and one of her servants, who else could it have been?”

“Even if you were right, how would that lead to scheming Nephele’s murder?” the Rogue Sorcerer asked.

“She lied to us,” Christophe said. “Do you not see?”

The Blind Maker cleared his throat. The Mirror Knight’s face tightened with anger.

“And now you mock me, just as she did,” he said. “Does no one else understand what she’s doing to us even now?”

Hanno chose his words carefully, but perhaps too slowly. He was not the first to answer.

“So here we are,” the Rogue Sorcerer quietly said. “The truth comes out at last. Nephele died and your pride was hurt, so now you’re throwing a tantrum painted over with righteous speech. The part that disgusts me most, Knight, is that you are pretending you actually knew her. The way us here at the Arsenal did, we who shared years with her. You swagger around arrogating the loss of others, as if it makes you important and worth listening to.”

Roland cast a look of icy contempt at the other hero.

“All it makes you is the most despicable sort of braggart,” the Rogue Sorcerer said. “Have the decency of silence, Mirror Knight, and sit in your fucking chair.”

Roland,” Hanno sharply said. “That’s enough. Being insulted is no reason to return the treatment in kind, not amongst allies.”

“You’re a disgrace, Sorcerer,” the Blade of Mercy spat.

“Swallow your tongue, boy,” the Bitter Blacksmith harshly said. “You have already given away your right to speak.”

“I will not speak to the Rogue Sorcerer’s anger,” the Forlorn Paladin said, “but his doubts I’ll admit to sharing. You cast grave accusations, Mirror Knight, but offer no proof. Even a villain is due more than that.”

“This is all pointless talk, anyway,” the Vagrant Spear exasperatedly said. “Even if every word you spoke was true, Christophe, what is it that could be done? You want to spank the Black Queen’s bottoms until she learns about virtue? The moment one of us – any of us – attacks her, the Kingdom of Callow‘s armies will leave and let Procer burn to the ground.”

“They have a duty,” Christophe tightly said. “And I do not speak of forcing her to abdicate her crown, Sidonia. Is Lady Vivienne Dartwick not her heir? Let her replace the crooked queen as representative for the Damned, then.”

“That is enough of that,” Hanno said.

Eyes turned him.

“We do not rule the Grand Alliance,” the White Knight evenly said. “We do not settle its affairs for it, much less meddle with its constituent crowns. We are servants of the Gods Above who have sworn an oath of war against the Hidden Horror.”

Hanno swept his gaze across the room.

“We must remain aware of our limits,” the White Knight said. “We are not deciding the fate of the Queen of Callow between us, or the fate of the Severance, much less who the representative for villains would be under rules that we have already given our oath to observe. If you have concerns, I will hear them. I you have grievances, I will act on them. But do not delude yourselves, not for a moment, that we can dictate terms to half of Calernia bound in alliance.”

Few looked like they wanted to object, and none who dwelled in the Arsenal. They understood best, Hanno thought, the actual scale of something like the Grand Alliance. They’d seen it at work, when this unearthly place had been carved out of nothing in less than a year. The others knew only their front, their battle, their struggle. It was human nature, Hanno knew, to reduce things to something that was easier to grasp. That did not make you uncomfortable about how very small you were. The Seraphim had stripped him of that, among their many gifts. The White Knight perfectly understood how insignificant a speck of dust he truly was, and that had allowed him a certain… clarity of sight, in some ways.

“You’re going to kill the Red Axe.”

Hanno turned a calm gaze to the Mirror Knight, whose green eyes had gone cold.

“I am,” the White Knight agreed. “If a law cannot be borne, let it not be borne. I will not worship at the altar of our imperfections and pretend it is infallible. But if it is to stand, if it is to be heeded, there cannot be exceptions.”

Hanno did not judge, for that was not his place even bereft the guidance of the Seraphim, but he was neither blind nor deaf. He would act as he must, knowing his actions to be blind and imperfect. Christophe de Pavanie rose to his feet. Slowly, inexorably.

“No,” the Mirror Knight harshly said. “I will not allow it.”

Those were not, the White Knight thought, words that could be taken back.

270 thoughts on “Interlude: Paragons

    1. Christophe de Pavanie rose to his feet. Slowly, inexorably.

      “No,” the Mirror Knight harshly said. “I will not vote.”

      Those were not, the White Knight thought, words that could be taken back.

      Liked by 21 people

      1. thearpox23

        It is always a little weird to me when there is a request to vote on a website I never use for a purpose that’s never relevant to me.

        I don’t ever use topwebfiction. I only heard of it on this blog. The other works there don’t particularly interest me, and if I am ever searching for something to read I won’t ever be using it for recommendations.

        You’d think the rankings would be decided by the userbase. If I were to actually vote I’d feel like that guy that goes into a cafe, fills out a survey for what drinks they prefer, then never actually buys anything or visits it again.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. It’s more of a reminder honestly. As if, those who want to vote, but may have forgotten will click the link and those who don’t want will not. Everything is very much liberal, you do what you think is right.

          Liked by 5 people

              1. Tom

                You can vote for more than one story. You could vote for every one on the page if you wanted. 🙂 I’m pretty sure it was put together that way so that you don’t have to choose a single favorite.

                Like

        2. aisard

          Mayhap the purpose and relevancy is only in how it effects apgte’s popularity and thus monetary compensation.

          Topwebfiction only exists as a platform that ties together disparate blogs and sites that host their own fiction anyways. By reading apgte, you are in fact the user base Topwebfiction is aiming for.

          Either way, it’s more like going to vote in a poll organized by a Coffee Lovers organization whose sole purpose is making coffee polls. Hoping that your vote will boost the sales of your favorite local cafe. Benefitting the people who actually follow the polls, whilst also expanding their reach.

          But also at this point its just a good meme :p

          Liked by 1 person

        3. You’re reading this wonderful story for free. It’s not an unreasonable hardship to suggest that you promote the story if you’ve enjoyed it.

          Whether you use topwebfiction or not, plenty of other readers do. A high ranking on that page makes it more likely that some of those users will come here, read the story, and become fans in turn, thus building the market for EE’s eventual commercialization of his work.

          You sound like Mr. Pink explaining why he doesn’t tip the waitress in the diner.

          Liked by 7 people

          1. thearpox23

            Voting inherently implies making a choice. Picking a favorite if you will.

            And without reading or even glancing at the other works, I don’t know if the Guide is better than them. It feels disingenuous to simply go to some site and engage in a shouting match of ‘my thing is better than the other things’ when that is my only relation to that site.

            Abolish tipping.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Your entire argument can be dismissed with the observation that you can vote for as many stories as you like. Voting does not express a preference for one story over another, it’s simply a recommendation that *this* story is good. You don’t have to decide anything about whether other stories are worth reading, much less whether they’re more or less worth reading than this one, in order to make the simple recommendation that this one is.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. thearpox23

                “Your entire argument can be dismissed with the observation that you can vote for as many stories as you like.”

                You say that like it was obvious.

                Then it’s just an overly complicated way of having an ‘most popular stories this week’ datamine, where instead of monitoring traffic you’re monitoring a dedicated subset of fans. (And my assumption is that the ratios of the these are going to be similar across the stories.) Kind of like novelupdates activity stats and reading lists, except that the novelupdates actually has the series description, releases history, reviews, et cetera. You know, where the website has actual usability aside from being a shouting room.

                Honestly, we should just petition novelupdates or some similar website to open a web fiction section. Because when I compare the two, novelupdates does all the things topwebfiction does but better and in a less awkward way.

                Like

                1. Please stop lol. Nobody really needed you to pontificate about why your opinion is so special and different, and why you don’t want to support a free story that I can only assume you enjoy.

                  Just don’t vote and leave it at that. Your replies are starting to look kind of crazed and desperately defensive.

                  Liked by 4 people

                  1. thearpox23

                    Doesn’t telling someone to ‘please stop lol’ after the discussion has probably already ended achieve the opposite purpose? You sure discouraged me from replying by throwing a bunch of stuff I disagree with at me. And nobody really needed you pontificating about why my pontification is you get the point.

                    For my part, I actually enjoyed expressing my dislike of the whole process and of the website’s relative worthlessness, even if WonderDuckie ultimately put his point forth much better than I did mine. If you mind my statements crazed and desperately defensive that funny, but that just means I’m not very eloquent. Something best fixed with practice.

                    Liked by 1 person

            2. KlatnYelox

              There is a difference. You can vote for as many web fictions as you want on that list. Its more of a statement “I like this one” than a claim that “this one is the best.”

              Liked by 1 person

          2. heffalumps

            or you could go contribute to the author’s Patreon, which is linked in various places from this website, which does actually give money to the actual author directly, instead of constantly banging on this damn “go vote!” drum, which might make some money for the author… somehow? in some abstract way? maybe? *without actually giving any money to the author, or to anybody at all*?

            I come to the comment section to read comments about the chapter I just read, and I get damn tired of having to wade through a score of screens about “go vote!” “don’t tell me what to do!” “this is equivalent to giving the author money!” before getting to anything actually relevant.

            (and for the record, I am contributing actual money to the author’s actual Patreon, and I have never voted in the pointless poll and never will.)

            Liked by 1 person

        4. WonderDuckie

          Not to mention topwebfection is a relic of a bygone era of armature web novels. It has extremely low user traffic now a days. Mostly just bot’s or people from this specific website. To be honest I see no glory in reaching the number 1 spot on a largely inactive poll that barely anyone realizes exists anymore outside of a few tiny circles.

          That being said there is nothing wrong with voting on it if that’s what makes a few readers happy. Tho if your reason is “it shows my support for the novel” then go support their pateron. Something that actually makes a meaningful impact for are beloved author. No one seems to ever encourage readers to do that in the comments for some reason.

          Liked by 3 people

        5. Vortex

          I found practical guide to evil and dozens of other stories on that website. Even if you do not use it, surely you can see how it would be helpful to the author to increase traffic to your site.

          Also if you are looking for high quality fiction to read, topwebfiction is usually a pretty good source.

          Liked by 7 people

  1. Jordan Leighton

    I did call that the Heroes side would be the side to fall apart. Fits too well with the tone/theme of the story for anything else.

    Curious about how Hanno will handle this one.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Salt

      I’m actually not sure if Hanno would even be willing to compromise at this point. I mean he’s generally one of the most moderate of the lot, but he is still the Sword of Justice. He’s by nature as completely and utterly uncompromising as the Pilgrim or the Saint, when it comes to his most prized principle. Him being so normally reasonable makes it easy to forget that this dude used to walk around flipping a coin and beheading civilians without batting an eyelash, if the Seraphim said they were Unjust enough to warrant it.

      The fact that he gave a flat answer for pushing for execution, especially with such an absolutist phrasing, makes me suspect that of all things it’ll be the Mirror Knight’s *inconsistency in following the laws* that’s going to be the roadblock. Not the insults, not the immaturity, or the arrogance, or plain being a pain in the ass, just the fact that he’s taking a stand against what Hanno thinks is Just.

      Liked by 13 people

        1. Salt

          Ah, sorry typo, you’re right.

          Although, to be honest I’m not sure there practically is a difference as far as Hanno is concerned. Canonically we know the deepest desire of his heart is to be Just, and he’s outright stated in the past that he considers the “judgement of power” to be evil because it isn’t Just.

          Like

      1. ThatOneGuy

        When you spend a good amount of your life working as the blade for the angels in charge of JUSTICE you learn a thing or two about what is right and wrong.

        It may not be pretty and some methods seem heavy handed to even seemingly giving up one’s own free will… But White Knight stands by his beliefs and his actions.

        He may not like it, but that is what justice and the law demands. Mirror Knight on the other hand… Stands by what he says when it suits him. He really didn’t care for the reformed villain turned hero in his party and only took offense by blaming her death on someone he didn’t like.

        He took claim of a valuable sword, planned war on his own allies during a war, and now takes issue when he doesn’t get his way.

        Some heroes are brash, some blunt, and others… Hard to work with.

        MK is just like lone swordsman. Willing to preach about good, honor, and insert line… But just as willing to brainwash everyone around them to become suicidal soldiers when he doesn’t get his way.

        MK has not done it… But he might cause a bigger blunder if he tries to kill White Knight and take claim of the position of “leader of the heroes”

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Agent J

          You’re selling William short. Where GP is about No Unnecessary Suffering and SoS was about No Compromise with the Enemy, Billy’s core principles were simply Free Callow, as his sister desired, and Atone for My Sins in the doing. Everything else was heroic dressing. He was, honestly, more similar to Saint of Swords in his willingness to bring great harm to his own countrymen in accomplishing his core principles. And, Hells, even the Grey Pilgrim is up for a minor spot of genocide in the pursuit of his.

          Mirror Knight, by contrast, is not fighting for the Red Axe because of any such principles. That could have been argued when she killed the Wicked Enchanter, but all arguments flew out the window when she try to murder the Hero and Prince who’s only job was to protect her from harm.

          Right now, he’s fighting for her to massage his own bruised ego. “I was wrongfully manipulated like she was. If I am innocent, so is she. If she is not… what am I?”

          Even William was better than that.

          Liked by 7 people

      2. Not the insults, not the immaturity, or the arrogance, or plain being a pain in the ass, just the fact that he’s taking a stand against what Hanno thinks is Just.

        I would argue that judging based on just the facts and the law, rather than your personal dislike of the person being judged, is the *definition* of fair judgement.

        One of Hanno’s major character traits is his willingness to obey civilian laws, even to his detriment. He doesn’t simply believe in his own judgement, or the judgement of the Seraphim, he believes in Law – the idea that society should have rules that apply to everyone equally. Like all Named, he’s not going to budge on that principle, but it’s very much his own thing, not the Seraphim speaking through him. The Seraphim don’t have laws, they only judge “is it better for this person to be alive or dead?”

        (If anything, this principle is what *stops* him from calling on the Seraphim – you don’t face judgement without committing a crime.)

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Salt

          Ah, but there’s the mistake. All choirs focus on a single virtue, and as good as each virtue is, they’re not all encompassing or fully correct on their own.

          I’d argue that Judgement as we’ve seen it does not care a single whit about “is it better for this person to be alive or dead”? That’s Mercy’s way of thinking. Judgement seems to care about “is it justified for this person to be alive or dead”, which is completely different in that it focuses on the principle of the matter rather than Mercy’s consequentialist view of ethics.

          Are the Seraphim perfectly Just? I wouldn’t doubt it. Is being perfectly Just the same thing as being perfectly Good? Not in every situation, not by a long shot, even if it is still quite Good in many.

          Hanno has his own blinders. He’ll be the one most often correct when you ask him if the law was followed, and how it should be followed. He’ll be the one most often useless when questions such as “what matters more, the outcome or the law?” get raised – which is where the other choirs come in for the many myriad other ethical basis that go into making a decision.

          The point of what I was trying to say isn’t that Hanno is unJust. The point was to caution that for all his temperate likability as a character, when push comes to shove he is a character who by Role sees the world through a very particular lens.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Fate

            So far as his particular lens: keep in mind, Hanno has been blessed by enduring karma blindness.
            Speaking practically, much of his ability to collaborate with Catherine over the past few years originates from his cautious ambiguity towards Judgement. This is diametrically opposed to the standard interpretation of his Name; the catch is, Hanno has always been ambiguous on judgement, and took on the role atypically with the use of his trademark “leave it to fate” rituals granting him the certainty other Knights have by nature.
            While he had Judgement at hand, their relationship was much more ambiguous, and more or less predicated on Catherine being the least of pressing evils. Since they’ve been blinded, he can’t consult the Choir, and he is forced to make his own calls based on his humility, his experience, and his ability to reason, turning him from the fateful zealot into a veritable knight of ‘practicality,’ the same practicality that runs deep in the current Black Knight (thus completing yet another mirror, like the White ‘Prince’ / Black Queen parity that was just reinforced a few chapters ago.)
            This strain of practicality and humility is exactly what has allowed Hanno and Catherine to transition from “temporary allies, fated enemies, but friends” into “enduring allies, fated rivals, but friends” for years and years, fighting off the Hidden Horror. Even once the Choir returns, that change will be challenging to reverse.
            Actually, Hanno may be at risk of losing his Name entirely, or transitioning into a new one. His consistent understanding of fallibility and the consequences of his actions may indeed have him questioning the virtues of Judgement for the sake of Judgement, especially if the fallout from the Choir doing its job “right” is the horrific situation that the continent is currently trapped in.
            Actually, have we divined what Choir the Bard supposedly answers to, if any?

            Like

          2. The Seraphim *explicitly* judge “Would it be better for this person to be dead or not?” When Hanno first becomes the White Knight, the Seraphim give him the Riddle of Fault and show him all the consequences that unfold from each possible decision, both good and bad – the lesson being that no human can predict all the consequences of their actions, but the Seraphim can, and therefore only they should pass judgement. That’s consequentialism, not deontology.

            Like

            1. Salt

              The seraphim showed him both the cause and the effect of each action. They went backwards in time as well as forwards. Consequentialism doesn’t place heavy emphasis on motive like the Seraphim do. You can’t just ignore half of what they showed him. See below:

              > The impossible lay of action and consequence, of motive and result. It was too much.

              They showed him how even his “good and faithful actions” were flawed precisely because of the prideful, selfish, and lustful intentions behind them. See below, you’ll notice that a majority of what they consider contemptuous about Hanno aren’t that his actions hurt people so much as his ugly intentions and beliefs – ones that could be found behind even Good Actions like showing kindness “for his own pleasure”

              > Who could see Creation with eyes instead of scrolls. Disgust and fear at tierless beggars. The ugly press of reassurance when violence was dealt to make them leave his sight. Pride at his skill with a quill, at his cleverness and memory. The unadmitted contempt for those less blessed. Kindness offered only for his own pleasure, for the thrill of knowing himself good. Taking bread from his father’s portion, telling himself he had earned it more.

              I don’t even understand how you can interpret him as a consequentialist character when his entire backstory is based on ethics regarding justification of fault despite consequence. His eye opening experience was realizing that he wasn’t qualified to judge people who did things that were plainly harmful – like needlessly sending his mother to the quarantined district and causing grief by not properly laying his father to rest – because he couldn’t consider the full lay of motive, intent, and history that led up to the action.

              His answer to the riddle of fault wasn’t based on a consequentialist interpretation of how bad the result of the maid and noble woman’s actions was, it was a value based interpretation that says the king is incapable of administering justice because he cannot understand the full intent and history that led up to the crime.

              Nearly everything about Prosecution I and II denies pure consequentialism as a sufficient standard for a system of ethics

              Like

      3. Cicero

        Justice is blind, and judges by the scale, not by personal preference.

        The Mirror Knight has essentially declared his intent to subvert justice. Also, he intends to enforce it by stealing the sword meant to kill the Dead King and using it to smite everyone he thinks deserves it.

        Yeah… White Knight is going kill the Mirror Knight.

        And a majority of the heroes are going to side with the White Knight.

        In fact, right now I think only the Blade of Mercy will side with the Mirror Knight.

        Like

  2. Oh, fuck.

    This isn’t going to end well.

    Hanno probably should have had private meetings before the group meeting. He might have been able to come up with a plan to deal with Mirror Knight.

    And Mirror Knight pushed a lot harder and faster than I expected that he would. And on factors and issues I didn’t expect him to push on.
    I’m starting to doubt that he’s truly just clueless dumbass who got played.
    He might have decided to fully throw in with Bard’s agenda. Or some variation thereof.

    Kingfisher Prince might have to change his mind on charging Red Axe for trying to kill him in order to hold the Heroes together. Which is something I’m still not entirely sure why he decided against in the first place.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      After killing Seven Demons in one day, the perception of him by the others, named and mundane alike, changed. Which means his story is changing. Which means HE is changing. Not necessarily for the better, but I put forth the idea that for all his ineptitude, he’s actually smarter and more capable, at least of expressing and having his own opinion and direction, then he was before the battle for Arsenal.

      Liked by 13 people

      1. dadycoool

        He just has a, if not simply wrong, then at least unrestrained and impatient opinion. Sure, bribery is bad, but there are things he refuses to see that make it a usable course of action, especially for someone who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and acknowledging how dirty they are, unlike some people.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. It’s not even bribery. It’s a plea deal in order to avoid an automatic death sentence.

          On the other hand, Mirror Knight has no knowledge or experience with how the judicial system, government, ruling, and/or leadership actually works.

          Liked by 20 people

          1. dadycoool

            For someone who wouldn’t fathom the concept of a plea deal, I guess it would look like bribery. Of course, he also refuses to understand anything beyond his narrow view and pats himself on the back for refusing to see.

            Liked by 15 people

            1. thearpox23

              A plea deal IS bribery. It is just that we have long since internalized the long and complicated argument for why it can be a good practice. I suppose thinking “It’s not bribery” is easier than “it’s a subset of bribery that can be beneficial”.

              Liked by 13 people

              1. That. I actually agree with the sentiment very much. It’s ironic because “it’s a bribery but a good one vs it’s not a bribery” is a discussion of nuance vs monochrome, which very much applies to Mirror Knight himself.

                Liked by 6 people

                1. Eh, I’d argue that a plea deal is sufficiently different enough in degree that it effectively constitutes a difference in kind.

                  Like … the difference between a holiday fireworks launcher filled for a fireworks display and a multiple launch rocket system loaded with live artillery rockets.
                  Technically they’re the same sort of thing in the same sense that a plea deal is bribery. In practice, however, they are very different and not the same thing at all.

                  Like

                  1. That was kind of an extreme case and not an equivalent analogy at all, but I’ll let it slide because I like to do exaggerated analogies too. Both bribery and plea deal can be reduced to “provide us a reason why we shouldn’t apply to you standard of justice we apply to everyone by default”. Only difference is while in plea deal “us” is the society as a whole, in bribery “us” is a small group of people with power to change said standard of justice.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. thearpox23

                      And by “society as a whole” half the time it is: The lawyers who wants a good record, The judge who doesn’t want to work overtime, and the defendant who has to go to work tomorrow.

                      And while there are many ways a plea did can work in practice, what Catherine did with the Hunter Magician was very much a bribe to the Grand Alliance in the form of the Crown of Autumn.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Shveiran

                      This isn’t a small difference at all.

                      Bribery is the exchange of money or other benefit so that a public servant will act against his duties and in the donor’s favor.

                      A plea deal is the accused renouncing part of his rights in exchange for a lesser sentence, with the system being the scale used to measure whether or not the balance is beneficial or not.

                      There is just no comapring the two unless you only go skin deep, because a bribery is about the bribed benefitting at the expense of the system and a plea deal is the system choosing between different possible benefits to itself.

                      Comparing the two is not unlike comparing self defense to premeditated murder: you are still shooting someone, but when you look deeper than that there aren’t many similarities to be found.

                      Like

              2. That was my first instinct too, but upon consideration, no: bribery is the most charitable interpretation of plea deals, only applicable if you presume guilt. If your “justice” system presumes innocence, it’s actually extortion, threatening the risk of a much harsher sentence if one doesn’t plead guilty.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Depends on the nature of the plea deal.
                  If it’s just “plead guilty for a lighter sentence than if you go to trial and get convicted” … it can be that if and when the system isn’t working right and an innocent person thinks that they are in serious danger of being falsely convicted if they go to trial. Which, admittedly, happens way too often.
                  But the system is nominally supposed to be aligned towards it being better to let a hundred guilty people go free than falsely convict one innocent. In theory, anyways, in practice it doesn’t work out like that far too often.

                  If, however, the plea deal is about “I’ll give you the evidence I have on someone who did something worse than what I did or other information the court will find valuable in another case, or otherwise cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for leniency on the stuff I’m guilty of and believe that you have more than enough to convict me on” … then not so much.

                  Liked by 5 people

                2. thearpox23

                  The enforcers are engaging in extortion. (When operating maliciously.)
                  The victim is bribing them off.

                  Both things can be true at once, and the guilt isn’t necessarily a factor. The intent of enforcement is independent of whether or not you’ve done something wrong.

                  Liked by 1 person

      2. LarsBlitzer

        I agree that it seems his story is changing. He pulled a magic sword from a pool in a time of great crisis. You can’t ask for a more iconic footnote from Joseph Campbell. I fear he won’t be up for the task, but no, he’s not stupid. Intelligence isn’t his dump stat; Wisdom is though and that spells disaster. The showdown will come next chapter and it will be a doozy.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          Oh absolutely. I could have been clearer, I completely agree with you. He’s gotten some bonuses to intelligence and Charisma checks, but his wisdom penalty is as prevalent as ever

          Liked by 1 person

    2. dadycoool

      I think he refrained as Prince Frederic helping the First Prince, not as Kingfisher Prince.

      MK seems to me to be like Bitter Blacksmith said, simply too arrogant, also too much of a young Saint of Swords, which is likely why she chose him: she saw a kindred spirit who mistakes fighting Evil for doing Good and refuses to entertain the concept of grey areas.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Except by Kingfisher Prince not pushing to punish Red Axe for trying to kill him under the Truce and Terms makes things more complicated for Cordelia, Cat, and (now) Hanno.

        If Frederic charged Red Axe under the Truce and Terms for trying to kill him, that’s sufficient grounds to execute her by itself, which means the other Heroes (ie Mirror Knight) don’t have room to say she shouldn’t get executed because Wicked Enchanter was a Villain who did terrible things before the Truce and Terms, and the issue of trying to kill a Proceran Prince gets subsumed because Red Axe already has a death sentence for violating the Truce and Terms, and she can only get executed once.

        Red Axe getting tried by the Assembly helps Cordelia in the short term (driving a wedge between Mirror Knight and his Proceran noble allies) but complicates things for the Truce and Terms and the Accords in the long run.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. dadycoool

          Sounds like a battle between two long terms. The long term of not having Procer burn to the ground regardless of DK and the long term of lasting, meaningful peace across Calernia.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Nay, I say there isn’t much difference between Saint and Mirror beyond pure superficial ones. Saints ardent believes were forged after actually offering forgiveness and trying to coexist and being burned time and again, after fighting and facing the vilest and darkest parts of Below for so long, she could no longer unsee them even in more moderate Villain. Her believes may have been wrong, but they were grounded in precedent and decades of experience, and still she recognised that failing in herself, acknowledged it and deferred to Pilgrim for most of the decisions because she knew she had bias.

        That is far, far more than I can say about Cristophe at the moment. It is a haughty mix of arrogance, ignorance and self-righteousness. Nothing else.

        Still, I can’t miss the obvious parallels between Saint and Mirror and Pilgrim and Hanno. They are too numerous to count. I hope that Christophe will learn to trust Hanno’s judgement and will grow more mature. I kinda hope they will be successors to Laurence&Tariq tag team. They worked very well together all things considered.

        Liked by 8 people

          1. Salt

            Agreed. The Saint in her latter years was a stubborn ass and jaded beyond belief, but she was also the furthest thing from a fool.

            We know for a fact that her early days involved actively sparing Villains like the Salutary Alchemist simply because she believed they had the best of intentions. A slap on the wrist, a promise to avoid crossing lines, and if Tariq is to be believed she left it at that and actually just trusted the kid when he nodded and promised to be a good boy. If anything, the young Saint of Swords from the Pilgrim’s memory seems more like a Rogue Sorcerer or Vagrant Spear than a Mirror Knight.

            I suspect that the Severance chose Christophe precisely because he’s nothing at all like a young Saint of Swords. It chose him because he’s in some ways strikingly similar to the elderly Saint of Swords – uncompromising and distrustful of Villains to a ridiculous degree. Whatever’s left of the old bat sees a kid who probably won’t make the same “mistakes” she made by attempting to trust Villains.

            The problem is that the stakes right now do not make for a safe learning environment. The best case scenario here is Hanno whipping humility and moderation into him. The worst case is “character development by ruinous mistake of your own making”, which tends to be followed by either a sharp redemption or going even further off the rails. Considering the situation, I don’t think it takes much to imagine how bad that kind of fallout could be.

            Here’s hoping the kid learns a necessary life lesson by way of getting his ass handed to him.

            Liked by 5 people

    3. I think the rush is that he is smart enough to notice he was losing the argument, so he went all manchild coupled with the need to make a stand (and the inability to admit even to himslef he is wrong)

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Ninestrings

        The more we see of Christophe, the more I am struck by how incredibly childish he is.

        I know he gets basically launched at monsters for a living but emotionally he’s been coddled way way too much.

        He seems to be confusing beingh physically capable with being emotionally developed.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Abrakadabra

      I guess he is taken over by the Severance. He is acting exactly like the woman it was made of. No compromise on the smallest things even if the world would suffer for it.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Nairne .01

        I’m inclined to agree. Names have power, literally in this story. And it is the Severance. Coupled with his natural predispositions it is itching to sever what he doesn’t like. It is an aspect made manifest. And he is too immature to keep it in check.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. KageLupus

        I don’t think it is anything as esoteric as that. This is just the result of the Wandering Bard being extremely familiar with the nature of Named, and setting up Mirror Knight for conflict.

        Everything that is happening right now is due to the constant feelings of inadequacy that Mirror Knight has. The man fumbles every social interaction that he finds himself in, and is aware of it after the fact every time. He is not entirely wrong in thinking that people only keep him around because of his Name and the power it gives him.

        Those feelings came to a serious head when he was talking with Catherine and realized that she was only engaging with him because he had the Severance. So once again his only importance comes from the power that he wields and nothing personal to himself. Cristophe has decided to lean into that role, in an admittedly childish manner. If all he is good for is power, and he has all of this power, then he might as well use it to push for what he thinks is right. Which in this case is saving the Red Axe from the wicked Black Queen.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The most unrealistic thing about this chapter is how alledgedly bad at social stuff Cristophe has all the cool lines and never once was like “I uh, have, uh, like, uh, well, you know, I mean I don’t think we should, uh, well, like, uh, trust the Black Queen, you know?”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Agent J

            How often do real people stumble and stutter during regular speech? Misspeak or forget a word they wanted to use and struggle to find it? Nevermind when tensions are this heightened. Have we seen that ever in this series?

            I’ve a running theory that everyone in Guide is made more eloquent in speech, because what kind of shitty dialogue has people fumbling over their words all the time? Who wants to read that shit?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Cicero

            Christophe isn’t bad at social because he speaks poorly, or lacks charisma.

            He’s bad at social because he speaks well and has a lot of charisma, but fundamentally struggles with empathy – particularly with those unlike him. Which leads him to continuously attribute malicious intent to others because what other reason could they possibly have for disagreeing with the obvious and right course of action?

            You saw he repeatedly make that same mistake during this meeting. Assuming that others must have bad motives if they don’t agree with him.

            The reason he gets along so well with the Blade of Mercy is that Antoine has the same flaw, and so unlike most others, Christophe can actually empathize more with him than he can with others.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I agree. But it is still weird to see someone like Christophe to not stumble and remain so well-spoken under such confusing and tense situation. He was utterly surprised quite a few times, yet it did nothing to his speech.

              Like

              1. Cicero

                Not really. Have you really not known someone who was good with words, and was well spoken, but for some reason never said the right words?

                Instead their eloquence makes things worse, because it’s so much harder for them to take it back later by pleading confusion and shock.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. True. I meant it more as a broader statement applying to everyone in the series, I just took Cristophe as an example, and I shouldn’t have.

                  Like

                  1. Ahad Mahmood

                    A potential explanation may be people less articulate, like Antoine in this case, choosing not to articulate themself. There have been incidences of characters being spoken over or being silent and whilst that doesn’t inherently prove anything, it can imply that in a high pressure enviroment the characters that struggle to articulate themselves pick silence. There have definitely been accounts of characters blushing or becoming flustered and then becoming silent so that may be a possible explanation. I do agree that the lack of stammering is quite noticeable in hindsight.

                    Like

        2. Salt

          It could honestly be both, I don’t think it has to be one way or the other. If the weapon did have such an effect on mindset, for the Bard a person with that kind of stubbornness to begin with would be the ideal target to give it to.

          They wouldn’t resist the effects since it’s in like with their tendencies anyway, and people wouldn’t immediately be suspicious at someone being “more stubborn than normal”, whereas someone being “stubborn when they usually aren’t” would raise alarm bells immediately.

          Not dissimilar to hiding a poisonous mushroom among the edible stock of mushrooms, rather than in a pile of carrots.

          Liked by 1 person

    5. Salt

      No, no it’s not. If Christophe really tries to force a pardon through, Hanno is going to see that as outright evil. He may have just crossed the singular hard bottom line that Hanno actually has.

      I think the vision of himself doing what Christophe is doing, from the Seraphim’s initial test of Hanno’s character, says everything we need to know about how well he’s going to react to the Mirror Knight trying to get his way by force.

      > I charge you, he heard himself say, with cruelty and indifference. I charge you with choosing law over right, with embracing blindness. As as his eyes shone, they could not weather the Light that came with it. Blindness embraced embraced them in return. He left that courtyard a righteous man, and brought that righteousness to all of Ashur.

      >“No,” Hanno said. “That, too, is evil.”

      >The boy he watched bore power, but he was not just. To mete out retribution upon those he found at fault was no different than what he had despised, in the end. It was only the judgement of power. The rule of strength, bereft of equity. There was no sin in law or the defiance of it, but to clothe retribution in the guise of justice was a thing of evil. What justice could there be, in the blind exertion of violence? To do such a thing would make him unworthy of the very strength being used.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Point Point

      I think it’s too late for the Prince I change his mind. Now, the Mirror Knight would just see it as him siding with Hanno.

      Like

      1. Eh … not unless Mirror Knight already knows that Kingfisher Prince had decided against charging Red Axe under the Truce and Terms. Which he probably shouldn’t.

        I think it would be very difficult to argue that Kingfisher Prince can not or should not charge Red Axe under the Truce and Terms, and likely equally difficult to argue that she shouldn’t be punished for that.
        Well, argue successfully, anyways. Mirror Knight might still try, but he’ll look like even more of a dumbass as he fails to convince anyone.

        Like

      1. nimelennar

        We are, all of us, bishops and patriarchs! We are all successors of the apostles! If you are first among us, you are first among equals as a mark of respect for the history of your bishopric! You are not above us, and we will not be treated as if it were so!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. mordered

          Bishops and holy men do not speak for me, let the voice of the people rule supreme! If the gods want to have a voice they better send an envoy to parliament to sit with the representatives of the people!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Jordan Leighton

    I find it super interesting how the pre-quotes seem to apply to chapters afterwards. Like MK in this scene is representing all the reasons why the previous chapter’s quote about Bring Good but not Speaking for who is true.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. dadycoool

      Yeah, it’s like “Where is your evidence?” “I just know! She uses different methods than us and she couldn’t possibly have good reasons for any of it! I’m too much of a hammer to see subtleties and she’s a Villain, so she couldn’t possibly have good intentions!” “You’re being emotional.”

      Liked by 17 people

    2. nimelennar

      It’s also a matter of, well, we can’t really blame Christophe too much for being a dick to Catherine. He’s a hero, she’s a villain, and he has some legitimate grievances about the way she runs things.

      When he treats other heroes, especially Hanno, the same way, though, there’s really no excuse. Especially when we can see the kind of negative influence he’s having on the Blade of Mercy.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. True, although I actually think we’ve overestimated how much influence he really has on BoM. Granted, the younger hero looks up to MK, but he definitely doesn’t see Christophe as infallible, and I get the feeling that he’s heading for a broken pedestal moment pretty soon. His harsher comments towards the other heroes seems less like Christophe’s influence specifically, and more Antoine being young, naive, and in way over his head with this whole “politicking” and “working with differing viewpoints” thing

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Salt

          Absolutely. The Blade of Mercy seems less inherently arrogant and more just shaped by growing up around a particular mindset.

          Him being willing to both support Christophe when he thinks he’s right and directly contradict him when he thinks he’s wrong, all in the span of the same conversation, speaks volumes about his innate character.

          I mean, consider this for a second. The guy probably lived most of his life around people who genuinely believed that the Black Queen was the most treacherous treacher to ever engage in treachery. His first impression of her was shaped by fighting a murderous Winter Catherine, followed immediately by fighting Akua fucking Sahelian pretending to be a murderous Winter Catherine. That’s about as shit of a first impression as you could realistically get.

          A single direct interaction that proved otherwise, and the kid is already starting to show signs of reconsidering if some of his assumptions were wrong. He might be low-key a very respectable character, although we’ll have to see if he can break out from the shadow of Christophe and establish himself as a proper Hero on his own merit.

          Liked by 4 people

  4. dadycoool

    Well, things seem to have officially boiled over. This Heroic infighting will be interesting to see, especially since the nine of them are the only ones that can participate, otherwise whoever joins will be considered intruding on an internal affair.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Salt

      Wait. What if the external interference isn’t with the conflict or any of the people involved? What if this is shaping up to be a Story that lets someone set Judgement loose from the Hierarch, right in the middle of the whole mess? Such as certain incredibly important character who’s close to regaining their Name?

      You’d have a Narrative where the gods damned Choir of Judgement is showing up at the last minute in both a moment of dire crisis AND a landmark trial, to help their chosen champion deliver a Just sentence. It’d be made more possible just by being an incredibly fitting narrative, and conceivably would be one of the few things that could confront a Mirror Knight wielding his sword from the lake in a fight.

      Hanno with the Seraphim back on his shoulder becomes at minimum an equal candidate to wield the sword, Catherine would have a massive vested interest in him winning both for the Terms and a way to mitigate the potential disaster of the Judgement corpse being used while Judgement is out of commission, and it remains an Above-only internal spat for political purposes. No Hero could seriously file a complaint about a wicked Villainous plot to… set a literal choir of angels loose from their prison.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. agumentic

        Dead King mentioned that Judgement corpse not being used when Judgement was online actually saved everyone from some yet unspecified catastrophe – and I am inclined to believe him, it wasn’t a situation where he would lie easily.

        Like

          1. “Actually, wait, there are multiple Foreign Despots present in the arsenal. We must first vote on a means of ensuring they cannot influence the vote, and then we can… wait, where are you going? We’re all on the same metaphysical plane here, don’t think you can just walk away! THE PEOPLE DID NOT VOTE TO ABJURE!… I’ll just put you all down as ‘abstained from voting,’ then.”

            Liked by 4 people

  5. Nooo. I hoped against hope that Christophe will learn from his mistakes and be better, not double down on them once critique was offered. But that seems less and less likely, and now I kinda lost hope. Why do you have to make it so realistic EE? I want some fantasy in my fantasy, not a grim portrayal of the reality of a human nature. It is a Bard striking out against the Alliance, and she was hyped up enough to make that believable, but fuck.

    Although, to be completely fair, I doubted that Christophe will learn his mistakes without fucking up and causing deaths of a hundred thousand people. He is hardly that smarter than the Catherine. I still hope that in the end he will see the light and understand the stupidity of his youth, if too late at that.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. And obviously I hope that he loves and repents and strives to be better. That not only will he recognize his own failure, he will own up to that and will make it his lifes mission to recognise that failing in the young Heroes and help them to avoid it where he failed. Maybe even becoming a teacher in the Arsenal, with a heavy shadow forever weighing on his shoulders.

      I do not want him to be discarded like a wooden prop after he served his purpose as a source of conflict in the story. I am way too invested for that. Although he can also be stopped before he causes any real damage, I highly doubt that would really be the case.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Salt

        For real. Catherine really started understanding “how few problems get solved by having a bigger hammer” at the end of the Tenth Crusade. That’s even as an exceptionally sensible Villain with an exceptionally good teacher. It took the doom of Liesse, getting turned into a Catherine-shaped-imprint in the mantle of Winter, winning a war with said mantle of Winter, and finding out that everything is still on fire and terrible, even though she finally had a big enough sword to win any brawl.

        But hey, Above’s side tends to have things a bit easier sometimes. Let’s hope his lesson involves a firm hand by Hanno, rather than succeeding in overthrowing Hanno and having to personally experience the incredible fallout that’ll result from this latest bout of stupidity. Maybe providence will go easy on how harsh his lessons needs to be, it’ll be a mercy for everyone involved.

        Even Catherine probably won’t complain about how heroes don’t have to pay long prices for their mistakes, if it means tens of thousands of people don’t die for the sake of Christophe’s growth as a Hero.

        Liked by 5 people

            1. Salt

              Everything Procer* thinks Above wants in their servants, at any rate.

              Many other regions’ opinion on the Proceran interpretation of Above’s intentions can be accurately summed up by Sidonia’s very nuanced and elegant argument of “fuck you, Christophe”.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. You mean that some backwater barbarian provinces have heretical views? Go figure.

                Joking aside, I meant more abstract traits that are really summarised by Aqua:”Above liked it’s pawns strong but rather dim.” And by Black in “blindness and certainty, I always wondered what’s the difference.”

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Salt

                  Don’t let the Levantines hear you say that.

                  At any rate, I’d take those descriptions with a grain of salt, considering they come from a man who spent most of his career primarily motivated by a personal vendetta against Above, and the gods damned Diabolist. Trusting Akua’s view of Heroes is like trusting the Saint’s view of Villains. Not entirely wrong, but uh, with some heavy personal bias mixed in.

                  I think it’s safe to say that Christophe’s utter lack of nuance is actually not a great representation of what it means to be ideally Good, when the criticisms in this chapter aren’t coming from Villains so much as a literal room full of Above-fellators – one of which is directly endorsed by a choir of Above.

                  Liked by 1 person

  6. superkeaton

    Damn good chapter, and with minimal grammar/spelling errors too! Hanno’s discovering the miserable joylessness of being an online forum moderator.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Yeah, I mean he certainly is someone deserving of death, how dare he not only disagree with main character, but also be overall unpleasant and bad at social stuff? Not like Aqua, who is pretty and witty and smart and look those cheeks, how can you punish someone like that?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Agent J

        People like the witty and charming fictional character more than literal sandpaper? Shock! Gasp! What a strange and terrible fanbase. Better snark them to death.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was arguing against advocating for death of people terrible at social interactions. But you are right, we should just kill him, not like it is something people can learn and grow out of.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. True. But calling for death of someone who can be taught better and wishes to be better is far far worse. I do not disagree with most of the critique on Mirror Knight, and I think a good beating may be for the best. But I am appalled at people calling for his death.

              Like

              1. Thing is, I’m not sure Mirror Knight actually can be taught.
                Also, his view of how “better” is defined does not seem to be in line with pretty much anybody else’s.

                Mirror Knight isn’t going accept being taught by someone who he views as lesser than him (which is damned near everyone) or who he thinks is wrong, mistaken, or otherwise disagrees with him. And certainly not anyone who isn’t a clearly Above Aligned Named. And anybody who he thinks is somehow influenced by a Villain is also going to be disqualified.

                Especially since he’s throwing down a gauntlet with Hanno over Red Axe standing trial and the inevitable mandatory death sentence.
                And I’m pretty sure that Mirror Knight is one of the people who thinks Tariq got compromised by Cat after the Prince’s Graveyard, which means the experienced mentor-Hero won’t have any sway with Mirror Knight either.

                Liked by 1 person

  7. LizAris

    I wouldn’t be upset at Christophe getting killed. He’s the old brand of heroism that the Saint of Swords was, and we know how far that got her. Catherine’s whole shtick and the “peace” wish depends on completely overhauling his way of thinking, and there’s an incredible amount of deeply ingrained villain-hatred there that’s more instinct than logic. On the other hand, if EE can turn this character around I will be surprised and happy to read it.

    Thank the gods above and below for Hanno. Love this dude, surprisingly the backing of a choir made him more clear sighted than a lot of his contemporaries. And as always go Roland! He’s been opposed to Christophe’s brand of stubbornness since Liesse 3.

    Spear calling Archer “the Lady” makes my heart sing ugh SOO cute.

    Hearing the Artificer’s and the Blacksmith’s take on Magician (and how causal they were about it) was great especially since Cat thought that was such a bad idea. Also Frederic looking “interested” at the whole sleeping with a villain thing is hilarious.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Salt

      Lmao yes, my evaluation of the Mirror Knight dropped a few notches here but my opinion of the rest of the heroes rose a few instead. The Blacksmith might be one of my new favorites.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. So Mirror Knight is going to do something drastic, by the looks of things, but there’s a chance he’ll be standing alone, as even the Blade of Mercy isn’t a blind follower. That said, discontent with the alliance is growing among the heroes as a result of the gauntlet he just threw.

    I also wonder if Rogue Sorcerer and Kingfisher know they’re more or less on the same side yet. As it stands, they’re the two heroes meant to wade partially in the territory of Below, and they’ve bonded in their own ways with Catherine. If it comes to it, they may yet be forced into the role of devil’s advocates, and likely with drawn blades instead of words alone.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Salt

      Yep, mass discontent at a minimum. It might even get worse than that very quickly.

      Heroes might be as a whole better for average civilians/the general continent than Villains, due to their collective hard-on for Virtue, but that same quality makes them an even bigger pain in the ass when you shove a bunch of them in the same room without a common enemy.

      Virtue tends to be rather bad for unity when every single one of them champions different virtues to start with. If this little insurrection doesn’t get nipped in the bud, it could end up becoming a small scale civil war among heroes as they start aligning with each other by virtue.

      Like

  9. cyborgCnidarian

    Severence is exerting influence on Christophe. The Saint of Swords wasn’t known to have the most flexible moral framework, and it seems like her personality is influencing Christophe, amplifying his black-and-white morality. In his POV, we saw how he is unsure of himself internally, prone to questioning his speach and actions. Since taking up the sword, he has become even more stubborn and even more like the SoS. Her will lives on in the sword, and is vying to use him as a vessel to carry it out. He can’t even bring himself to separate from the dang thing.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. So you are saying a weapon from the Above corrupts it’s user’s will?

      Also that is a good point. I hope people around him will recognise that he is not entirely acting as himself.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Salt

        Considering Contrition actively removes your will, Judgement breaks your will, and Mercy asks you to give up your will, a legendary Above-oriented artifact having a degree of mental corruption doesn’t sound super far fetched.

        The Saint was unique not just because of her power, but because of how harsh the crucible that shaped her was and how incredibly singleminded she turned out to be as a result of it. It wouldn’t be out of theme for essence of Laurence in the shape of a sword to lend her… prejudices as well as her strength.

        Hanno wasn’t wrong, when he said “Severity” is a better description of the person that Laurence was.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Nairne .01

          The thing is, it is not Laurence he is talking about but the sword.
          Severity means “how grave something is”, “how important”.
          Severance is plainly removing connections, severing them.

          Names have power, and the artifact has been named to as a remover of connections. No wonder MK is being influenced in this way, what he is attempting to do is literally to sever connections.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. That is an interesting point. What if the process of a narrative growth for Christophe (let me dream) would be changing what he bears from Severance (as in, cutting ties with anyone remotely close to him through bruttishness and lack of tact) to Severity (a recognition of how his action affect the world as a whole and that his actions can have potentially dire consequences and he should always consider them before acting).

            Like

          2. Salt

            “Severity” simply means the state of being “severe”, which has two distinct meanings, not just one. It describes either how very important/intense something is, or how harsh/strict something is.

            Considering the Saint of Swords was primarily characterized by being a very severe person and severing things with her sword, I’m inclined to believe it makes far more sense to interpret “severity” it with the second common meaning of “harshness/strictness”.

            This would mean that Hanno preferring severity over severance implies he thought her rigid and uncompromising ideology was more fundamental to who she was, rather than her tendency to solve problems by cutting them down.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Xinci

          To be fair Salt, no agent of above actually removes will, rather they just influence it. Contrition for instance showed William the scope of all his actions and how they caused suffering. The angels seem to show an unveiled view of what impacts your actions have had, could have had, and may still have. Most people frankly, arent really prepared to understand how much hurt they cause by small actions, nor big. However, an aspect of human psychology is that if people know a result will be good, they will by far, be more willing to do it even in a hampered mental or physical state. So if you show someone the actions that may get a good result, it isn’t surprising that so many take up their cause. It’s just a difference in held information between their usual states and the ones their states once given perspective on a larger, more long term scale.

          Also yeah Severity would probably have the dedication/mental aspects more fit for making a hero who needed unbreakable mental and emotional fortitude against the worst horrors of the world.

          Like

          1. Salt

            True, you make a good point. I was thinking more of what calling contrition down on Creation would’ve done, but I guess that’s more of an exception than a rule. It would be less brainwashing and more a humbling-into-repentance in a sense for their Heroes.

            It’s interesting that Above seems to corrupt as much as Below, just in a very different way. Below has the standard kind of crossing lines and spiralling down slippery slopes that you’d normally expect, whereas too strong an influence from Above has you tunnelling too hard on a single set of Virtues at the cost of many others. It makes for Named with mental fortitude in ways that Below can never truly match, at the expense of being way too rigid when it comes to the particular set of virtues they’ve had their eyes “opened” to

            Which I guess is one of the underlying reasons that Heroes often see Villains as untrustworthy blights, and Villains often see Heroes as inflexible idiots. They’re both pretty correct when you look at it from their respective mindsets, if not necessarily objectively.

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Christopher Davis

        Ah, You were at my side, all along. My true mentor. My guiding moonlight. I can totally see Christophe going all Ludwig on us.

        Like

    2. agumentic

      For all the purported inflexibility of Saint of Swords, I would like to remind everyone she didn’t just accept Grey Pilgrim’s decision for the truce, it took her all of one journey with Catherine to say “Okay, maybe just this time truce with the enemy won’t backfire”. Let’s not forget that even when she started acting on her own, she did not aim to kill either Catherine or Archer. The greatest tragedy of her death is that I do not think she was, in the end, completely beyond reason. Maybe if Kairos didn’t decide to kill her for shit and giggles, she might have found herself living in a better world, like she hoped others would. Maybe not, but I feel the possibility was there.

      So, I think people are overestimating just how much the trace of the Saint of Swords in the Severance (Apropos of nothing, I agree that Severity is the better name) influences MK’s current shitbaggery.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Shveiran

        ==> it took her all of one journey with Catherine to say “Okay, maybe just this time truce with the enemy won’t backfire”

        Personally, I don’t think the sword needs to be influencing him at all; this development feels pretty natural for Cristophe.

        But this comment about Saint is not quite right. Or at least, it is incomplete. She said “ok, maybe this time it wouldn’t backfire BUT WE CAN’T HAVE ONE ANYWAY.”

        It’s… kind of a big difference. Saint would not have seen the T&T as a better world. It was just not who she was.
        Granted, if she had lived it was possible for her to change – but I personally find it very unlikely. She was old, and she had held on to her beliefs strongly enough for all her life that she could use them to have a Domain.
        Kairos may have ensured her death, but her taking that stand was an act of freely determined will.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. agumentic

          Who knows, at this point. I think moving from “Truce with the enemy will backfire in all cases” to “Truce with the enemy will backfire in 99% of cases” is already a significant movement that showed the possibility of Saint of Swords changing further. Maybe she would continue to stand on her position that continuing the truce will ensure worse future. Or maybe she could’ve accepted the current Truce&Terms as the one that won’t backfire, and then one more, and then one more until an agreement on rules of engagement wouldn’t seem like a sin.

          But the point is, I think Saint of Sword was a more considerate and thoughtful person than current MK, and so it’s unlikely that it’s the sword made of her that influences him to behave like he is.

          Like

          1. She never denied that some Villains can be cooperated with. She argued that ultimately such a precedent wasn’t worth establishing, because far more people would be hurt by Villains weaseling in under the pretence of cooperation and slowly corrupting the society from inside by abusing human inherent flaws to keep away from a heroic eye.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. agumentic

              She denied that before the Third Liesse. Her argument at the end of it was the one you just said, and, like I mentioned in my post, I think that opinion could’ve changed as well.

              Like

              1. I am going by my memory hear, but I don’t think she never discarded possibility that one in a thousand Villains can be worked with. She said there never should be a truce with an Enemy, not that there never could be one.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. agumentic

                  No, she was pretty insistent that truce with the villains will backfire due to their actions afterwards. It’s only after their journey she amended that to “It will backfire if we take the actions of the future generations into the account”.

                  Like

                    1. agumentic

                      Changing from “There are no villains we can cooperate with and not get burned” to “There are almost no villains we can cooperate with and not get burned” sounds like a change in views on cooperation with villains to me. It still lead her to the same conclusion, but they are not the same.

                      Like

          2. Also, Saint had such strong beliefs that they allowed her to replace the laws of Creation and you think that those beliefs could not possibly influence a young adult without any real beliefs in desperate need for clarity and certainty?

            Like

              1. Salt

                I think what he’s trying to get at is that the Saint having had such strong beliefs makes it more likely that the beliefs themselves are part of the Sword, not just her abilities.

                Like

                1. agumentic

                  I understand – Cat herself said that she felt something like a grudge from a sword, so a trace of Saint of Swords remaining in it is likely. I just don’t think that this trace bears much of a responsibility for MK’s behaviour.

                  Like

          3. Sam

            The sword isn’t Lawrence, though. It’s Sever. It’s the harshest, sharpest edge of Lawrence, distilled into a sword. It’s hardly out of the question that it’s missing the considerate, thoughtful bits of her personality, while keeping the harder aspects.

            Like

    3. 'Ladi Williams

      Lol. She isn’t influencing him.
      He’s just a weak willed indecisive waste of grace who’s power set and shiny armor made him have some influence on the younger heros that don’t know wassup…that is too dumb to even realise what he is.
      Now that he’s found a powerful sword. He bliv that validates all his delusions to grandeur and a way to correct every imagined slight he feels has been offered to him.
      He blivs might makes right and so bcos I have the “baddest” sword and shiniest armor…I must be right and and know the will of “above” and so therefore you must all listen to me and follow what I say.
      Unfortunately.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. To be fair, this is a world where narrative turns into a reality. “I was given power by luck therefore I am chosen by Heavens: is not such a ridiculous position when Heavens manipulating luck is an established fact.

        Like

        1. erebus42

          Fair, but there’s no sign of that being a sure thing so that sort of thinking like much heroic thinking can easily get very tautological. It makes me think of #34 of the Two Hundred Heroic Axioms, “It’s not grave robbing if it was your destiny to have that artifact, just proactive inheritance”

          Liked by 1 person

            1. erebus42

              Yes but what I’m saying is that we have seen luck change hands between parties with opposing goals and have had heroes who have worked at cross purposes so while things have worked out in certain ways it doesn’t neccesarily mean that it was the “will of the heavens”.

              Like

  10. laguz24

    I really hope that when Christophe plans on drawing the sword it remains stuck and he loses the one thing that gave him this delusion of grandeur. I also love Hanno being the voice of reason.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. MsEvildoom

      I wouldn’t hold out hope. If there’s any of Saint left in the sword, she will completely support anyone who refuses to compromise with Below, and damn the consequences. Actually, has anyone asked if the sword could be influencing its wielder?

      Liked by 4 people

  11. Wow, is this like watching a train wreck? At least we see most of them would side against MK in this, hell with that last low blow of using Nephele’s death he may have actually put more doubts into BoM’s head and lost him (also nice to see he at least has that much of a spine).

    Oh and i really wanted to meet Helmgard, and she didn’t dissapoint, her relationship with Adanna is funny as hell, and oh god Archer is so going to find out thanks to VS about how they led the HM around xD, i can see her and Cat’s reaction xD

    Liked by 10 people

    1. zenanii

      I would like to see MK trying to talk Viv into turning on Cat. She has already followed one idiot waving around a magic sword while spouting the virtues of righteousness, another one is not going to impress her.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Salt

        We might get to see him attempt talking “sense” into Cordelia Hasenbach as well. I’d be very much interested to see how the most practically competent First Prince the country has had in a hundred years, would react to a large child with a sword trying “educate her on the facts”.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Also, he really doesn’t understand how things work — Viv was a Hero who then lost her Name, and he wants her to be the judge and adjudicator for the Villains? he seems to be figuring that “she’s on the same side as Cat, therefore she’s obviously just as much a Villain as Cat, and everyone who disagrees with Me is obviously wrong…”

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Frivolous

    Hero vs Hero fight! Hero vs Hero fight! Hero vs Hero fight!

    There are more Proceran heroes that I expected. We already knew about the Mirror Knight and the Rogue Sorcerer, but the Bitter Blacksmith and the Blind Maker also appear to be Proceran.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. “She lied to us,” Christophe said. “Do you not see?”

    The Blind Maker cleared his throat.

    Very embarrassed I missed that joke first time around, assumed Christophe’s reaction was just him being an uptight idiot as usual. Granted, he’s still being an uptight idiot, but there was an actual joke there to misinterpret rather than just him flying off the handle at someone clearing their throat

    Liked by 16 people

      1. I have nothing to base this off of except that one quote, but I’m now imagining Blind Maker as an old, male Toph Beifong in terms of personality, who constantly finds himself surrounded by people who either don’t get his blind jokes or just get huffy over them instead of seeing the humor 😄

        Liked by 11 people

  14. nick012000

    Looks like the Mirror Knight is planning on being the heroic version of the “flying castle” Villains that the Accords are intended to put down by ganging up on them with a combined force of Heroes and Villains.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Nairne .01

      There is nothing heroic about him at this point. Sure slapping 7 demons around was heroic and brave, but now he is on the cusp of being an Oathbreaker. Good for him.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Frivolous

    It occurs to me that, if this meeting devolves into an outright battle between heroes, that Below is winning.

    Below is winning not, as you may think, because it’s in the interest of Evil for Good to fight itself, but because (I assume) Good’s precept is that Right Makes Might. On the other hand, if a fight breaks out, , clearly the victors will set policy, and therefore Might Makes Right,

    That’s Christophe’s worst mistake at this junction. By turning a peaceful meeting into a battle where virtue does not matter and only the strongest prevail, he is unwittingly following Below’s precepts, not Above’s. He might as well be Praesi and believe in Amadeus’s saying of Only one grace, victory, and only one sin, defeat.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Agreed, though of course anyone who does believe that Right Makes Might will simply argue that the winners were victorious because they were the “true” heroes and thus were granted the power to achieve victory by providence/ The Gods Above. Isn’t it a lovely logical conundrum? Justifies pretty much anything for the hero who doesn’t think too hard

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Abrakadabra

        It is the same argument the British empire used in their conquest. We won, therefore God was on our side, because nothing can happen against his will. Which justifies the conquest itself. The same argument is used by a bunch of rich people nowadays, claiming that they are rich BECAUSE God is with them, and poor people therefore deserve their lot in life, since everything is ordained by God to be that way.
        That is predestination for you in a nutshell.

        Liked by 6 people

            1. Yes, though as Hanno states in this chapter, quite a few people make mutually exclusive claims about the will of the gods, and are often quite certain about it. Just because the gods exist doesn’t mean that whoever won the latest fight is automatically in their favor

              Liked by 2 people

    2. thearpox23

      >He might as well be Praesi
      no

      >and believe in Amadeus’s
      doubly no

      >saying of Only one grace, victory, and only one sin, defeat.
      The whole point behind the saying was that the methods do not matter so long as the proper outcome is reached. Alienating everyone is as far away as can be from securing a victory, and has nothing in common with Amadeus.

      He could maybe be compared to your standard Black Knight, but even then Praesi are well known for deriving strength to be deceit, and MK hasn’t coated his blade is nearly enough poison.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. KpaxMaJI

    He killed seven demons, sure. But, he is the one who brought them into the Arsenal in the first place. Why is no one asking him where did the demons come from? And frankly he is to blame for the Repentant Magisters death.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. WuseMajor

      Thanks to the Absence, no-one remembers where the demons came from and they keep forgetting to go back and try to figure it out.

      Though…..hmmm…. It’s at least theoretically possible that he’s blaming the Black Queen because if it’s HER fault, then it’s not HIS fault and this is the only way he can avoid falling into a pit of despair and self pity.

      Well, and the Bard is still playing him like her fiddle.

      Liked by 4 people

  17. Bart

    I honestly hate all this talk about wishing Christophe dead. That’s Black Knight thinking – if it doesn’t fit, kill it.

    The Mirror Knight is a representation of things that will be genuine threats to Cat’s dreams. Heroes who won’t abide by the Accords without being in control – heroes who won’t trust villains who’ve made explicit attempts to craft personas of trickery and violence.

    We get to see Cat from the inside. Hanno, Roland, and The Prince all have deep relationships with the Woe that let them understand the nuance. But Christophe only has his doubt, his fear, and his understanding that this is a Villain who seems to be able to let other villains off the hook for arranging an attack that left hundreds dead while a woman who killed her rapist is to be executed. Yes, he’s short sighted and yes he seems almost wilfully blind to what’s going on in the grand scheme – but that’s hardly his fault.

    If Cat can’t bring someone like Christophe on side, her dreams are dead on arrival.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Frivolous

      Cat’s dreams were always based on deterring the behavior of and eventually removing “from play” the villains and heroes that were too destructive, the ones who couldn’t play well with others.

      The Saint of Swords was clearly never going to accede to the Liesse Accords if she were alive. Christophe is turning out to be the same type.

      You could say that eliminating someone like Christophe from existence was her goal all along, though I don’t know if the intransigence and the willingness to burn the village in order to save it come from his mere personality or is a function of his Name.

      If it comes from his Name, Catherine’s goal would likely remove the Name of Mirror Knight from appearing at all.

      Reference: https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/chapter-75-analog/

      “This is more than rules of engagement,” the White Knight said, “this is a blade swung at the most callous servants of Above and Below. Within a few generations of grand gestures being harshly answered by all other powers, you would excise that entire manner of thinking from the Named on Calernia.”

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Bart

        Right – within generations. And Saint was only killed after she explicitly attacked Cat. Not when she was difficult to deal with, not when she disagreed, when she tried to kill Cat.

        You don’t get rid of a way of thinking by killing those who think it. You get rid of a way of thinking by proving it wrong. After the Accords are signed, that can include leading large groups of people who already believe the idea is wrong and striking at those who break the rules.

        But in the interim? She can’t use what will happen in generations to try and strike Christophe down. She can’t just kill him. He’s Big Shiny Leader With Artifacf Sword. That’s got so much power in it – and the story that others here will be twisted if Cat isn’t there to guide it. If she kills him, even with good reason, there will be lots of heroes who only hear the first part. Little Christophe’s who use that death as more evidence.

        But if they can get him on side, Christophe can help guide all the potential Saints down another path.

        Like

    2. Truthhut

      I personally don’t want MK killed, but I desperately want him humbled. Which is why much of this chapter has been very cathartic, at least to me. Wether or not MK can be remodeled into something actually useful, he stilled deserves a good smack upside the head.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Bart

        Humbled is good – but I want a humbling that’s productive, which I don’t think this was. Catharsis is what we want, but in our chase to get it we often forget what we need

        Like

      1. Bart

        When I said ‘almost willfully blind’ I could have found a better term.

        What I meant was it LOOKS like he’s being wilfully ignorant, but it’s more about his name/upbringing than him making the conscious choice of it.

        Like, I don’t think he says to himself ‘The bribe is probably an overall good thing but I’m going to ignore that’, and I don’t think he says ‘Cat is actually making the right choice by accepting the bribe in the big picture but I’m going to ignore that’.

        I think those things are just… Impossible for him to grasp without assistance that he’s not getting.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Nafram

    This here is the final Affray, the card that fell out of the Bard’s sleeve, the one neither Masego nor Cat noticed.
    And I hope that the abomination loses it

    Liked by 6 people

  19. Captain Amazing

    I think Hakram is going to wake up and talk Christophe out of doing something stupid. At the last hour the hero recovers and saves the day! Also, “Christophe” literally has Christ in it and is likely derived from it. This is interesting as I don’t think any other biblical names have been used such as Joseph, Luke, or Mary. These “gods” probably kidnapped people a thousand or so years ago and aped their beliefs; all the nonhumans have notably distinct appellations. Levant says we need to strive to serve the faith which is one of the pillars of Islam. Christophe’s name seems to be an outlier in this as it directly references older beliefs instead of the usurpers.

    Like

    1. I don’t think you need to bother about etymology in the word where principalities of Brabant, Hainaut, Aquitaine, Bremen, Bayeux and Tenerife are a thing, there are a towns such as Aksum and Kahtan in Praes (admittedly Praesi names are much less on the nose than Principate ones, well, at least he tried), there are polises of Nicae, Helike and in the Dominion of Levant (already a reference to a real world place) there are towns of Malaga and Alava, and so on and so forth.

      Name Catherine has very much Christian origins too.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Draylen

      As a point, while the name Christopher (and its derivatives, such as Kristoff – or Christophe, here – , a very common German name) does come from Christ, that wasnt a name. Christ was a title, or I suppose a Name, which translates to Anointed One, and mostly translated to Prophet.

      Of course, it probably has different etymology here, although it’s also fair to point out that Christophe was anointed by the Lady of the Lake and asserted other fae(?) Things. Point being, it isnt actually biblical here, so there isnt a major connection in that way.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Eh, that’s the same etymology problem that came up with the Tenth Crusade, where crusade relates to the Cross when there’s no indications of a major religious figure getting crucified in Calernia’s history. Seems less an intentional bit of world building and more just it being difficult to completely avoid words with etymologies based in Christianity

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shveiran

        That was justified, actually: the first crusade was born to fight Triumphant, and Triumphant crucified people. The Empress brought the punishment from Praes to the rest of Calernia.
        The cross was adopted as a symbol by the crusaders because of tha, which serves as a justification for the name “crusade”.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. EE even said that crucifixion was brought in by Miezans and it was a punishment for rowdy slaves. Given that Miezans are pretty much Romans, and Romans used that exact same punishment for mostly the same reason, well, guess what.

          Liked by 5 people

    4. But, if we are talking etymology, let’s look at his last name. De Pavanie. Hmm. There is a word in French (which is who Alamans are based on, and MK is Alaman) Pavane, which means “strut about”.

      Hmm…

      Liked by 5 people

    5. Abrakadabra

      I Just guess our tortured mutilated orc full with prostetics Just walks up to MK and sais to him: “Christoph, I am your father.”
      😀😀😀

      Liked by 2 people

  20. So much for getting The Severance back. I’m genuinely pissed off at the mirrored idiot to the point that I had to stop reading and walk around for a bit before I could finish. There are going to be some nasty twists to this story because of that moron.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, Christophe would argue that it applies to Catherine, while Hanno probably needs to see that it really applies to Christophe, who is being unrepentant in idiocy and intentionally destabilizing the Terms that he swore an oath to uphold

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Darkening

        It could also be referring to how, if they forgave the unrepentant red axe and let her go as Christophe wants, she would definitely start murdering more villains, like a wolf in a flock of sheep.

        Liked by 2 people

  21. Raved Thrad

    Ah, Christophe, Christophe, I so love to hate you. You may not be a Proceran noble, but you’re every bit as bad.

    If the Heroes were to break faith and Callow marched home, Christophe would be exactly the kind of person to sit wallowing in the ashes of Procer wailing at the injustice of it all, and how the people he’d insulted and offended should have stayed to back him up and die for him.

    Maybe this kind of stupid arrogance is a sexually-transmitted disease?

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Frivolous

      Speaking of sex… I think much of this episode could have been averted if Catherine had simply had the foresight to request a sexy girl villain to seduce Christophe and Antoine and fuck their brains out.

      Their self-righteousness is in part due to their priggishness. They might be much more congenial towards villains if a villain gave them orgasms. They could even have an MFM threesome. That way Antoine could gaze into Christophe’s eyes while screwing and thus fulfill his probable homoerotic ardor for the older hero.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Raved Thrad

        Unfortunately, I can see that ending in blood as soon as the girl’s Villain status was revealed.

        “What? What do you mean you’re a Villain?”

        “Did you actually think ‘Sexy Fucker’ was a Hero Name?”

        “You Damned whore!” *stabbity-stab with the Severance*

        Afterward, looking down at the mangled, dismembered body:

        “Aaaah! I have been tricked by Below! It can’t possibly have been my fault for being an arrogant, intolerant bigot! Aaaah! I MUST KILL EVERYONE!”

        Liked by 3 people

  22. framfrit

    Does anyone else find it amusing that Cat was just complaining about the Procrean policies for character besmirching what with the arch heretic and friend to the dead king stuff and here MK does the same with Roland WK sympathises and notes its one reason why they distrust Procer

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Drunken Dwarf

    Ok guys let’s stop bullying Mirror Knight for a second and just think about the chapter here. Like just wow. That was Mirror Knight with providence on his side.

    Like

    1. Oshi

      Not it very much wasn’t That was the Mirror Knight dooing everything in his power to make a play for the authority to lead the heroes. He wanted a confrontation with the White Knight. This is how he plans to force eevryone to break with th T&T. It was Bar’ds intent to make sure MK was as broken as possible before taking up the sword so he could break what Catherine made.

      Liked by 5 people

  24. WuseMajor

    I find it darkly amusing that Christophe is, arguably, the only living person (other than the Bard) who bears the responsibility for getting the Repentant Magister killed, seeing as he brought the Maddened Keeper there.

    Of course, no-one remembers that because of the demon, so he gets to be all high and mighty about it.

    I do wish that they’d go back over the timeline and events that happened in order to try to get some idea of what the demon might have erased, since that might actually pinpoint his involvement (without her skills there’s basically no way the Mirror Knight could have gotten here uninvited, and an exploration of that might trace things in a useful way), but it’s probably difficult to do when you keep forgetting that you need to handle it.

    Liked by 6 people

  25. Anonymous

    So, Hakram is probably going to save the day, isn’t he? And it seems we’re still due for the revelation that Red Axe is Constance.

    IIRC the Doddering Sage also hinted at the slow-cooking revelation that Catherine is actually the long-lost daughter of King Robert. Well, there have been a number of hints to that effect for a long time, one of the earlier (but not earliest) hints being Catherine drawing the sword from the stone, a story where the sword can only be pulled from the stone by the rightful heir to Callow, and the Black Knight’s claim wasn’t rightful by any means, but if Catherine was the unwitting orphan daughter of the late king, she would’ve come into that story extremely hard.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. grzecho2222

      I’m not sure about her being daughter of king, but there sure is some weird thing/ revelation about Cats family. From missing bell in Book 2 to strange interactions with duchess and her family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anonymous

        There have been a lot of hints to that effect, including multiple mentions of speculation that she might’ve been the daughter of Robert. And one of the blinding factors is that being the orphan daughter of the late king does not fit as a villain’s backstory, but she was originally seeded by Above to be the heroine who would lead the fight for Callow’s freedom. She took an unusual road and became a villain instead, but that only changes the present and future, not the past. She has a heroine’s backstory, not a villain’s.

        Like

        1. grzecho2222

          Still Kegan and others act very weird around her, in way that doesn’t looks like Cat is related to the late King, but more like she is somehow related to them, like her being Villain is a personal insult to them

          Like

          1. Anonymous

            Cat is half-Deoraithe. She is likely related to both of them, in a way that would give her considerable authority. She was originally intended to unify Callow beneath her banner.

            Like

              1. As to how someone could have learned about Cat’s biological family origins … it likely would have been or would be simple enough for someone to summon another blood imp or whatever it was that Warlock summoned to identify the Deoraithe Cat and company captured after Lone Swordsman and idiots tried to burn down the city and Warlock’s tower to get a shot at assassinating Warlock.

                There may or may not also be other methods of magically determining lineage that would be applicable.

                As for who did it and why, that would probably be dependent on when it was done.
                I could totally see Amadeus as having Warlock do it when Cat was being healed after her first dabbling in autonecromantic ambulation, and then leaving that a secret to be revealed later.
                I don’t think Heiress/Diabolist would have done it because she likely would have attacked Cat more directly if she had a sample if Cat’s blood, although trying to track down Cat’s biofamily to use as leverage would also have been in character.
                Malicia could easily have had it done, which might contribute to her lack of trust in Amadeus’s plan for Cat and Callow.

                Like

              2. Anonymous

                Doddering Sage, at least. Maybe Augur too. Wandering Bard, if she was aware of it and up to weird shit, but I doubt that or she would’ve handled Catherine very differently. Scribe, if she’s been researching Catherine while offscreen. I feel like the Truce & Terms (as well as the Liesse Accords) would naturally attract her, but who knows. And in Callow, there are plenty of ways for someone to appear who has found out her genealogy. Maybe even the orphanage’s matron knows a concealed thing or two about her past.

                As for why, the legitimacy of Catherine’s rule is being tested and Catherine is about to come into her own Name. I mean this chapter gives us one solid scenario why. Mirror Knight sends into motion an effort to discredit the legitimacy of Catherine’s rule. Maybe Malicia will get in on that too.

                Like

                1. grzecho2222

                  True, Cat being revealed to be Lost Heir while MK is trying to kick her out would be funny, but still not seeing who could have reason to reveal something like this and potential ability to learn this

                  Like

                  1. Akua would have had motive to investigate Cat’s biological family back when she was Heiress or Diabolist.

                    Duchess Kegan Iarsme of Daoine has had plenty of motivation to investigate Cat’s biological family.

                    Amadeus and/or Scribe, could already know and just be sitting on the information until a useful time to reveal it.

                    Malicia could have found out, which likely would have contributed to her distrust of Amadeus’s plan for Cat and Callow.

                    Hakram could perhaps use Find to investigate Cat’s biofamily, if he wanted to or had some reason to do so.

                    As for how, remember how Warlock summoned a blood imp or whatever it was to find out that the Deoraithe that Cat and company captured in the wake of Lone Swordsman and company’s failed assassination attempt on Warlock.
                    It’d probably take someone with Praesi magical training – certainly nobody from the Above aligned places is likely to have the knowledge or training to summon a blood imp.
                    However, I would not be surprised to learn that there were other magical methods of determining lineage that others could more readily utilize.

                    Cordelia would be interested in the knowledge, though I suspect that none of her intelligence services could have found out, although Augur probably could have.

                    Tariq might have been able to find out via Behold and/or the Ophanim.

                    Bard would probably have tried to find out, though it’s not clear what kind of information sources she has access to, and she’s an incredibly unreliable source, and likely would not share that information unless it served her purposes somehow.

                    Like

                    1. grzecho2222

                      I know that there are several parties that can get that info, but I was talking more about reason for such reveal since it wouldn’t change situation a lot
                      Callow would still stand by Cat
                      Procer would be what – bit less rude maybe?
                      Praes wouldn’t care
                      Levant the same
                      Named – aside from Keeper, none seems to be from Callow (weird), so they also wouldn’t care

                      Like

      1. Anonymous

        >“It’s not for you, Constance,” the Doddering Sage told me. “You’re much too young, and this is a fool’s vice besides.”
        >
        >“Shit,” Archer muttered. “Not a good day.”
        >
        > […]
        >
        >“That boy of yours, the one with the deadly earnestness, he’ll be a terror one day,” the Sage said, “but he’s a few years short still. That’s why an old sack of bones like me are brought in even when there are all these swaggering youths. I can look, yes I can. But you’ll not hurt Constance, will you? Promise me.”
        >
        >His lip trembled in sudden emotion, and something in me clenched. He looked fragile, in that moment, though the truth of his fragility was hidden from him. Pity welled up, but I pushed it down. You could be playing me, I thought. And so I’ll offer kindness where I can, but never without keeping a knife in hand.
        >
        >“I won’t,” I said. “I promise.”
        >
        >“Good,” he muttered. “Good. You do remind me of him, you know. Robert. He was kind, but he was not soft.”
        >
        >I said nothing, for there was nothing to say.

        Chapter 16: Divine

        Liked by 2 people

  26. Oshi

    I’m not loving the direction this is going. From a narrative perspective it feels like EE is going to diminish the White Knight in order to get Catherine in enough trouble. I don’t think that’s good reading. I hope EE decides to go a different route but so far it’s exactly on track to where I thought it would be. *sighs*

    Like

    1. Letouriste

      Weird, I see it as the exact opposite. EE is reinforcing Hano. The part about him still trying to be just without his angels backing him and also him getting the Severance sword after this mess is dealt with. Would set a precedent where the Heroic leader wield the Severance and it get transmitted to each future generation.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. zenanii

    I would like to see MK trying to talk Viv into turning on Cat. She has already followed one idiot waving around a magic sword while spouting the virtues of righteousness, another one is not going to impress her.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Raved Thrad

      Also, he’s so Proceran that he thinks he can force Callowans to die for him and his country. Vivienne is patriotic and Callowan enough that I can see her trying to arrange for him to be assassinated just for that.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Salt

        Hilariously enough, Callowans would hate him because they’re just as rabidly nationalistic as he is. Any perception of a Proceran anything trying to push around anointed rulers of Callow would have every man, woman, and child in a frothing rage.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Honestly, I want Christophe to survive and have kids now, just so the epilogue can leap forward eighty years to his teenage grandson getting punched out by a random Callowan who heard about the crap MK pulled and decided “Ya know what? I’m just the person to answer that”

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Raved Thrad

              “Michel de Pavanie?”

              From where he was bent over inspecting the wheel on his wagon, Michel looked up to see a man, a foreigner by the looks of him, holding what appeared to be a rolled-up piece of parchment. Noticing the man looking on at him expectantly, he replied. “Yes, I am Michel de Pavanie.”

              The blow that laid him out on his back, head spinning from the impact, came out of nowhere.

              “Your grandfather was an asshole.”

              Groaning, looking up from where he had fallen, he saw the stranger make a mark on the parchment before he wandered off, muttering about finding the next person on the list.

              Liked by 3 people

          2. mamm0nn

            We haven’t been getting enough Long Prices for Small Slights lately. I actually expected a Callowan Hero that supports his queen Catherine, but who maintains that motto and thus causes political problems for her to have shown up by now.

            Liked by 1 person

  28. Aotrs Commander

    I think pretty ,uch everyone has already said everything that I would have said on That Moron, so I will instead focus on something else:

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Blacksmith and Artificer were winding up the Hunted Magician this whole time! That’s fuckin’ (literally) priceless!

    (Seriously, though, a few more heroes with some more mischief in ’em makes them more likeable than the failure of Certain Other Quarters. Who would be enough to make Superman want to punch them out. He wouldn’t of course (more’s the pity), but he gosh-darned well would want to…)

    Liked by 6 people

  29. Big I

    I can’t help but see Hanno as Obi Wan and Christophe as Anakin. I guess that makes the Blade of Mercy Ahsoka?

    So I guess Mirror Knight is going to challenge White Knight for the job of representative. If Mirror Knight wins it’ll be a godawful mess because he’s probably the least suitable person for the job, and every thing about it would frustrate him anyway. And if he loses, he stews in his own bitterness and insecurity. Either way he’s on the road to the darkside.

    I predict that the Blade of Mercy will be the one to take down the Mirror Knight when he goes full blown Tyrant.

    Like

  30. mavant

    Were there seven-and-one demons locked up inside the Maddened Keeper? 7 for Christophe and one for Masego?

    I feel like every time I see seven of something in this story there must be an “and one” not long to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. JackSlainXIX

    so, crazy idea about MK. Namely, that he might be getting screwed over by his own aspect in being made into an asshole.
    The logic goes like this: the heavens are said to be entirely static. The number of angels and choirs don’t change, and what they represent doesn’t change either. They also represent different kinds of ideals: Mercy is the Greater Good, Judgment is Justice, Contrition is Repentance, and so on. Light is the power of the heavens, made into a rawer and unaligned form handed out to mortals. That means that it’s nature is informed by the nature of the heavens. As an aside, this explains how Light based healing works and it’s limitations: it’s trying to bring an individual to a more ideal state of healthiness as understood by the priest wielding the Light.
    MK’s most important aspect is Dawn, which infuses his body with a small bit of light every day. My theory is that what that light is doing is less making him strong and more bringing him closer to an “ideal” form, as he understood it at the time the aspect appeared. It also makes him more resistant to deviation from that ideal, which is what makes him so durable: his ideal form doesn’t include injuries so his body resists those.
    The thing is, is that power always has a downside or flaw. In MK’s case, I suspect that the light isn’t just altering his body but also his mind, bringing it closer to what MK believed to be an “ideal” state of mind or mindset when he first started. He probably didn’t consider that part of the effect too much though, and therefore didn’t cover any personality flaws (like arrogance or not knowing how to talk to people). The real danger here is the resistance to change. As he grows in power, his mindset becomes more and more set in stone. Symptoms would include a growing inability to change his mind once a decision has been reached, inability to learn new things, and inability to understand or consider other points of view from his own.
    Of course, I could be completely off base and he’s just that much of an asshole.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shveiran

      Or, you know, he could just be an asshole.

      I don’t mean to put down your theory, honestly; but assholes exists. He could be one without any real metaphysical explanation being required.

      Like

      1. JackSlainXIX

        certainly possible. It’s just something that occurred to me because all the other asshole heroes we’ve seen so far have, in my eyes, at least an understandable aspect to the assholery/stupidity. The two main ones that come to mind are the lone swordsman and the saint of swords. William’s came primarily in the shape of his racism and no restraint, which I felt is at least understandable as the residue of centuries of war leaving behind attitudes (racism doesn’t disappear just because the environment changes, as in real life) combined with the view of “i’m damned anyway so no need to be overly moral” mixed with “no truce or surrender to evil”. The saint of swords has basically been dealing with heiress wannabes and lookalikes (metaphorically) for decades, and to be fair princes were kinda overly ambitious assholes before DK got moving (the two main demonstrations of assholery on her part from our perspective).
        MK however, doesn’t have either of those to explain his assholery here. There’s no background to him being so unreasonable as far as I can see (and feel free to correct me) beyond “I’m an overly self-righteous stereotype of procer and will not compromise just because”. And sure, it’s possible that he’s just that kind of asshole by character, but I feel that that would make him the first character in APGtE that lacks depth to his motivations.

        Like

  32. ninegardens

    So… its been mentioned that MK is like… super ultra indestructible…
    And also that he USED TO BE immune to glamours, until he broke his oath of chastity or whatever…..

    So I wonder, are any of his other power ups oath based? And if they are, which oaths are they based upon… and is *breaking* those oaths the way to bring him down?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that was an additional buff, in addition to, and not reliant upon, his Name.
      That is, a blessing from the Lady of the Lake to help him in his duties, so as to not require his Name to burn an Aspect or power on glamour resistance/immunity.
      There may or may not be additional such powers/defenses/blessings that he received that rely on him following certain behavioral rules.

      They would, however, be in addition to what his Name gives him. The biggest booster he’s got that we’re know of is his Dawn Aspect, which makes him a little stronger and tougher every single Dawn.

      I suspect that if he broke any other oaths/strictures governing any buff s he’s got he’d still be a powerhouse because of his Name.
      Unless said oath, stricture, rule, e.t.c was a prerequisite for gaining the Name Mirror Knight in the first place. Which probably wouldn’t be impossible … and might be related to why he’s so gung ho to trash things – he already broke the rules on not getting laid, he might be worried that if he doesn’t do what he’s doing he’ll break another, more serious rule, or cross some sort of threshold that would inflict greater penalties or loss of powers/defenses/blessings on him, possibly going as far as losing the Name of Mirror Knight.

      Liked by 2 people

  33. mamm0nn

    Just to put it out there: Evil’s mantra is Might makes Right vs good’s Right makes Might. And right now, Mirror Knight is using his Might to enforce what he considers Right and brute-forcing his due and opinion, instead of being aided and strengthened in Might by doing Right.

    MK is not just failing to see and work with politics, and can be excused because it’s all greys and complicated. He’s a Hero properly educated in how Chosen and Good work, but he’s ignoring the core principle of being Chosen. And by using his Might he’s by no stretch of the imagination just unaware of or overlooking his faults or can be excused for not understanding it, he’s actively putting his opinion and desires over principles and systems that he does understand.

    There’s no ‘Oh, he’s just an idiot.’ excuse for him any more, he’s gone too far into being in the wrong here.

    Like

  34. I can say many things about Erraticerrata writing, but the way s/he writes heroes to be so gut boiling aggravating shows enough about it.

    God damn it, man, why do you have to make me this angry against fictional entities?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mamm0nn

      Wait, I thought we only rubbed out hands menacingly and lisp ‘Yesss…’ for a couple of hours during these meetings while monologueing to one another? *Throws a questioning glance at chairman Hierophant who usually organises the Villain meetings*

      Liked by 2 people

  35. NerfGlaistigUaine

    Mirror Knight thinks Callow’s forces would keep fighting if heroes force the Black Queen to step down? In the defense of Procer? Out of duty? Good lord what has this man been smoking and where can I get some?

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Black Spiral Dancer

    Just passing here to congratulate. After some lukewarm chapters, this one had my blood boiling again as usual.

    Also very nice discussion in the comments, I would advise anyone to give them a read this time.

    Like

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