Chapter 37: Trying

“A man should beware of praying for justice when he truly wants vindication. He might just get what he asked for, and it is never a pretty thing when we all get exactly what we deserve.”
– King Pater of Callow, the Unheeding

There were too many parts in motion for me to keep track of them all, and I did not like the feeling in the slightest.

Late in the night Lord Yannu Marave arrived in the Arsenal, though given the hour I elected not to reach out to him until morning. Now that the representative for the Dominion was there, the right amount of high officer for the Grand Alliance had gathered and the trials could begin. A round of messengers sent to all involved saw me get answers as I broke my fast with Vivienne just before Morning Bell, the two of us catching up over warm pastries by Hakram’s bedside. The necessary official talk we’d gotten out of the way the day before, at least when it came to getting me up to speed about all she’d been up to, so we’d allowed ourselves the luxury of an hour or two for ourselves. It ended up being less than that, inevitably, as the last messages came while she was on the tail end of a rant about living so close to the seat of Proceran power.

“If I receive another subtle yet suggestive poem from a secret admirer, I’m going to start setting the Jacks after them,” Vivienne told me, at least halfway seriously. “I’m actually pretty sure two of them actually hired the same poet to write for them because the rhymes were suspiciously similar.”

I answered with an amused snort.

“Any fish work hooking in there?” I teased.

“Please,” she dismissed. “Like taking a Proceran to bed wouldn’t be horrible politics even if those trying their hands weren’t either ambitious fools or spies.”

“Terrible politics,” I agreed, without the faintest hint of irony.

I’d been taught by some very fine liars, after all. And it had truly been that to dally with Frederic, admittedly. Terrible, delightful politics that did that delicious thing with their hips. I seemed to have gotten away with it, though, so I’d not get greedy and ruin it by dallying again even if the thought was occasionally tempting. A knock at the door was followed by another messenger being allowed in, passing along a written response. Hanno had been the last to answer, not by lack of punctuality but by being the hardest to find. His agreement to the first trial – the Hunted Magician’s – being held half past Noon Bell was dropped by Cordelia’s impressively prompt one and the Lord of Malaga’s slightly slower answer.

“So?” Vivienne asked. “Are we starting today?”

“This afternoon,” I replied. “All agreed.”

In the wake of wrapping this up, I’d spring on them the Concocter’s own punishment. None of this was supporting Hasenbach outright, but prompt and severe consequences for my Named who’d stepped out of line ought to make it clear the reins were still being held. As long as the trials for Above’s didn’t end up spoiling the brew, anyway. The Mirror Knight had not tried to escape imprisonment and the Severance was back under seal, but my polite inquiries had made it clear that Hanno did not see a trial as something to discuss in advance. I’d expected as much, honestly, given that I was dealing with the Sword of Judgement. I still didn’t like that I’d be going in blind there, but there wasn’t really anything I could do there – under the Terms this was the White Knight’s show, and no trespass of mine there would go without swift and severe answer.

“Yannu Marave’s considered a pragmatist by his countrymen,” my dark-haired heiress said. “Not aggressive by nature, though he’ll be extremely thorough in answering slights. So long as you don’t end up touching the Dominion’s bottom line, though, I don’t see him being trouble.”

Hasenbach had intimated as much, but it was good to hear the same talk coming from a source I could trust wholeheartedly.

“The crowns do matter,” I admitted, “but it’s the White Knight that’ll be the keystone.”

The Terms were, ultimately, a treaty between Named. The nations that’d signed on did so mostly as guarantors of rights and privileges, not legal authorities – Procer, Callow and Levant all had a seat in the tribunals but in the end it was the White Knight and the Black Queen that passed sentences. It’d have a lot more of an impact if Hanno had issues with my rulings than if nation did.

“True as that is,” Vivienne calmly said, “what is left to do now, save pulling the trigger?”

I’d never won much arguing with the truth, so I let the conversation end on that.

Putting the staff together for this hadn’t been all that difficult, since the members of the Arsenal could serve as a ‘neutral’ entity to draw people from. Not the Named, of course, but the scholars and mages and priests. I’d decided to avoid any trouble by drawing on scholars for the scribing work, and from Vivienne’s own staff for the rest. The ever-useful Lady Henrietta Morley – these days no mere landless aristocrat but instead Viv’s own private secretary – was recommended to me as someone capable of handling details and timing, so I put her in charge of handling transcripts and evidence.

For all that this was a formal trial under the Terms, it appeared somewhat haphazard at first glance. At the high table the tribunal sat, with Vivienne representing Callow and the rest as expected: Cordelia Hasenbach for Procer, Yannu Marave for Levant and Hanno for the heroes. They’d all been provided with a list of the accusations laid at the Hunted Magician’s feet earlier today, which weren’t actually all that numerous. ‘Aid to an enemy of the Grand Alliance’ on one count, for having cooperated with the Bard against the Arsenal, then one count of ‘unprovoked assault on allies’ for the gas canisters he’d opened in the Stacks and one count of ‘accessory to attempted murder’ for the illusions he’d woven when attempting to help the Red Axe get Frederic killed.

I’d spoken with the Concocter, who would have had a right to lodge a complain considering the gas in those canisters had been her work in the first place, but she’d declined to pursue the matter. Through me, anyway. No doubt she’d be making a deal of her own with the Magician without my being involved. Of those charges the ‘aid to an enemy’ was the most severe, the deceptively mild wording mostly a result of it not being possible to call it treason when there were so many different crowns and jurisdictions involved. It was still considered just as severe, though, and it’d be the driving force behind the harshest part of his sentence.

The Hunted Magician had come dressed soberly but smartly, having put on an embroidered pale green vest over a white long-sleeved shirt and loose dark trousers. Like most the times I’d seen him, he looked more like a wealthy nobleman in casual clothes than any sort of mage. It was all well-cut without being ostentatious, which was halfway clever of him: it was a shallow thing, but people tended to favour those who looked well. Look too rich, though, and pretty or not that appreciation tended to turn to antipathy with some. He’d straddled the line well, which only had me further convinced that he was highborn and not from a lesser line. In Procer in particular, the difference between those who dressed well but subtly and those who were garish with their wealth was one of the ways to tell apart those whose ‘nobility’ was an old thing, often preceding the Principate itself, from those who’d risen to higher station more recently by sword or coin.

I’d already been on my feet when the Hunted Magician had been escorted in, made to stand on bare stone as behind a set of wards and guards the assembled high officers of the Grand Alliance sat and watched him approach, so I only needed to limp a bit before I stood by his side. The man turned dark eyes on me, face blank, and I leaned in a little closer.

“Keep your head,” I murmured. “They’re not out to get you but no one here wants you to wiggle out either, least of all me, so take your lumps and walk away.”

“I helped your man,” the Magician murmured back. “Do not forget it.”

“I forget little, Hunted Magician,” I coldly replied. “And never aid given to my enemies. Best you don’t forget that either, yes?”

He’d been well-taught enough not to grimace at the reminder that even the help he’d given Masego when it came to Quartered Seasons hardly made up for the hand he’d had in the storm that’d swept over the Arsenal. A great deal could have been mitigated, if he’d not decided it would be the height of cleverness to make a deal with the Wandering Bard. Mind you, if Tariq hadn’t insisted we hedge our bets when it came to her such a deal might have smelled of the noose enough the Magician wouldn’t have dared. Past a certain point, fault became such a many-faceted thing there was little practical point in pondering it. I turned away from my charged and faced the tribunal. Cordelia was unreadable, Hanno lightly frowning and Yannu Marave looked already bored. Vivienne, clever thing that she was, was spending more time looking at the other members of the tribunal than anything else.

“I’ll not trouble you with an excess off ceremony,” I said. “You’ve all already been made aware of the breaches of the Terms the Hunted Magician has been accused of. For the sake of formality, I will list them once more: aid to an enemy of the Grand Alliance, unprovoked assault on allies and accessory to attempted murder. As representative for the villains under the Terms, these are the charges I will lay against him. Do any of you intend to present further charges, or contest those I have laid down?”

“I do not,” the First Prince calmly said.

“No,” the Lord of Alava bluntly said.

Vivienne silently shook her head, but like me her eyes were on the White Knight.

“Yes,” the White Knight said.

My fingers clenched around the length of dead yew in my hand.

“Elaborate, White Knight,” I said.

“Your charge of ‘accessory to attempted murder’ would attaint the Red Axe of said attempted murder before she’s stood trial of her own,” Hanno said.

Which was, I grimly though, actually a good point. Sure any idiot could tell I was right to call it that – there wasn’t a lot of room for interpretation in the act of hacking a sword at Frederic’s neck – but the Terms functioned because I passed judgement for villains and Hanno for the heroes. Neither of us could or should trespass beyond that boundary.

“I’ll not withdraw the charge,” I said, “but I would offer assurances that I would not consider the Red Axe in away attainted by it.”

“Callow agrees with such a compromise,” Vivienne calmly said.

It was a cheap trick, agreeing with me quickly to put the pressure on others, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be effective.

“Levant agrees as well,” Lord Yannu dismissed.

Cordelia’s cool blue eyes were slightest bit narrowed in thought, but she did not hesitate as soon as she was satisfied she’d parsed out the implications.

“The Principate is in agreement,” she flatly stated.

Eyes went to Hanno, whose frown has deepened ever so slightly.

“I am wary of influencing opinion in another trial even with such a compromise,” the White Knight said. “Yet I can recognize that opinion is not bound to be settled by law, and so it should not be objected to on such grounds. Under such an assurance, I withdraw my objection.”

Well, first hurdle passed. From there, it was mostly a matter of presenting to the tribunal what I was making my own judgement on. By Henrietta Morley’s practiced hand my witnesses were brought in one after the other, those made to present in person at least. Unprovoked assault was the easiest to prove, so I started with that: two scholars who’d been made unconscious by the gas, a healer to certify none of those affected had any lasting consequences – which would have made it more than mere unprovoked assault – and the Magician confessed to the theft of the canisters and their use when pressed.

“If the canisters were stolen, why is theft not being laid as a charge?” the First Prince asked. “I believe those were property of the Principate, as well.”

The Concocter had made those as a possible tool for Cordelia to quell riots bloodlessly, apparently, and created them using Proceran coin. But I’d known about this in advance and prepared for it.

“The canisters remained the Concocter’s property so long as they were in the Arsenal, and she’s declined to lodge any grievances,” I said. “Lady Morley?”

The noblewoman had a signed statement by said Concocter backing up my words brought forward, and after it was made clear that the loss of the canisters and their content would be folded into the repair budget for the Arsenal after the raid instead of forcing Procer to pay for the same goods twice she had no further objection. We moved on to the slightly trickier one, accessory to attempted murder. Two officers – one Levantine and one Callowan – were brought to describe the illusion woven, which had been of the Prince of Brus acting and speaking aggressively. Marave spoke up for the first time, just to make sure his countrymen would face no retribution for baring steel on a prince of the blood, and lost interest as soon as he was reassured this was the case.

My case for this was weaker, and in truth some would have folded it into ‘aid to an enemy of the Grand Alliance’, but I was actually doing the Magician a favour here. By making him part of someone else’s attempted murder, in this case the Red Axe’s, I was preventing him from being accused of having tried the same thing only on the Bard’s behalf. Trying to get a prince of the blood – and hero – killed for the Intercessor would warrant steep consequences, while helping a heroine in her own fumbled attempt was not quite so grave. He wasn’t a fool, and he obviously knew the Terms in and out, it was almost eagerly that the Hunted Magician confessed to an act I had only moderate proof of him having carried out. After Yannu Marave watching out for his fellow Levantines I got no interruption, and we swiftly went on to the last of the charges.

“First, I want to remind you that even at this very moment the Wandering Bard has yet to be designated an enemy of the Grand Alliance,” I said. “It was not a breach of the Terms to have dealings with her when the Hunted Magician did. What was a breach, however, was how information like the location and inner dealings of the Arsenal – a secret location – were revealed to an outsider. It was when the Bard then masterminded an assault here that the Magician’s actions became ‘aid to an enemy’. In this light, it seems appropriate to water my wine.”

“Traitors should only know one kind of mercy,” Yannu Marave replied.

Most people in the room knew enough about the Dominion that he didn’t have to slide a finger across his throat to actually spell out what he meant. That he didn’t bother to do it anyway made him a fairly subtle man, by Levantine standards.

“It is not appropriate to speak of the sentencing before the trial is finished,” the White Knight cut in, tone even. “Is there a reason for it, Black Queen?”

“Informing deliberation is part of her responsibilities as representative for Below’s champions,” Vivienne coolly replied. “Failing in that duty would truly be inappropriate, unlike what you’re currently fretting about.”

The Lord of Alava let out a chuckle, looking more interested than he’d been in the better part of an hour.

“Fighting words,” he approvingly said.

I cleared my throat.

“I spoke to this to make clear that I believe the Hunted Magician’s breach of the Terms was done not out of malice but out of ignorance and incompetence,” I said.

The man stiffened behind me but had enough sense not to argue my words.

“Indeed?” the First Prince of Procer said, eyebrow quirking.

I suspected that, after the last few weeks, Cordelia was rather enjoying watching one of we troublesome Named squirm in discomfort.

“Absolutely,” I told her. “The Magician’s fault came as a result of wildly overestimating himself, when in fact his arrogance and simplicity allowed a genuinely malicious entity to make use of him as a tool.”

The Magician twitched at my words but kept his mouth shut. Maybe he wasn’t entirely beyond salvaging, then. Evidence over his conspiracy with the Bard was sparse as wheat fields in the Hungering Sands, but that was seen to by the simple magic of having told him in advance that if he took his fucking lumps and confessed I wouldn’t need to treat him as a liability. Through gritted teeth, the Proceran confessed to having had dealings with the Bard. He left out as much as he could, as I’d expected, but even the bare bones were damning enough. His saving grace here would be that he hadn’t actually killed anyone here directly, which hadn’t actually been all that difficult to prove: all our dead and wounded were accounted for, the reasons for their state more or less clear. His responsibility there was indirect, which left me some wiggling room even with the gravity of the aid charge.

I‘d finished making my case, so without further ado I asked the tribunal if they wanted to deliberate before recommendations were made to me. Hanno did, but no one else was in favour so he conceded and we went on straight to the tribunal offering its recommendations.

“I trust in the judgement of the Black Queen,” Cordelia said, opening the game with a measured smile, “and I expect that her sentencing will be fitting.”

Easier to say, I supposed, when you already knew what that sentence was. Still, she’d left herself some room to manoeuvre just in case what I’d told her I’d pass as a sentence wasn’t what I’d actually say now.

“We should be fitting his head for a pike,” Lord Yannu said. “But if he’s just an idiot, as you say, it’d be a waste. Levant will settle for flesh instead of a skull, Black Queen.”

I nodded. Not exactly a push for moderation, that, but it was signaling that the Dominion would be satisfied so long as the punishment stung. The details of that punishment, though, they hardly cared about. Vivienne did not speak, since it would have been quite the empty game if she’d pretended she had the right to speak with Callow over me, so it was Hanno that spoke next – but only after a long silence spent carefully choosing his words.

“There must be visible consequence to aiding a common enemy,” the White Knight eventually said. “And given that the breaches seems to have been committed on personal grounds, the consequences should be personal as well.”

Mhm. He’d been careful not to actually suggest a sentence – knowing that whether I then followed his suggestion or ignored it there’d still be trouble from some quarters – but it was clear he wanted a few metaphorical fingers broken. Nothing permanent, I meant, but at the very least lasting pain. The tribunal would have the right to comment once more once I’d offered the ‘draft’ of my sentence, and I suspected he was keeping his comments limited until we got there. Nothing I’d heard now went against what I’d planned, so it was a simple thing from there: I simply shared the sentence I’d already told Hasenbach I planned to hand down. Loss of the right to refuse assignments, then a fine equivalent to the sum of the damages done to the Arsenal repeated for every signatory member. Pensions for the families of the dead got a grunt of approval from Lord Marave, but otherwise he seemed skeptical of the punishment until I specified the fine could be repaid in work.

The prospect of Levant having access to a highly-skilled Named enchanter brightened his eyes, especially considering that with the established debt there wouldn’t be a need to pay that enchanter.

The Hunted Magician himself looked appalled, at first, but as the initial surprise passed he looked thoughtful. He’d figured out the advantages for him, then – ties to three crowns, and good reason for each to ensure he stayed alive after the Truce and Terms ended and the Accords replaced them. Satisfied he wouldn’t be a stick in my wheel going forward, I returned my attention to the tribunal. The First Prince, content I had kept to my word, gave her seal of approval promptly. The Lord of Alava was not far behind, and mostly symbolically Vivienne agreed for Callow. The last to speak was once more Hanno, and he was studying the Hunted Magician closely.

“It is a measured punishment,” the White Knight said, “but it lacks consequence.”

My brow rose. I’d been pretty severe already, so I wasn’t exactly inclined to bite there.

“Coin is coin,” Hanno said. “But such a failing should not be kept under wraps. Let his breaches be made known to all Named. Let sunlight burn out the rot, so that something wiser might replace it.”

Mhm. Well, it’d be a humiliation for the Magician but it wasn’t like the specifics of the assault on the Arsenal were going to stay secret forever. He couldn’t lose respect the heroes already didn’t give him, and my own lot would be more inclined to mock a failed plot that condemn it on moral grounds. I could actually kind of see what Hanno was going for, there: if the Named under the Terms became a community, then reputation would start being worth a lot more more. It’d become something worth taking small losses to preserve, if it was actually useful, and serve as an incentive to keep one’s word. It was worth encouraging, and not unreasonable to ask.

“Agreed,” I said. “The breaches and sentence will be made known to all Named under the Terms, if not the details of the trial.”

He nodded in thanks, and another round of consultations got me the unanimous seal of approval from the tribunal that I did not need but had definitely wanted. This had, to my surprise, actually gone pretty well. The Concocter’s own punishment wouldn’t require a trial like this, but I’d wait until later to make it known to the high officers seated in the room – there was no need to muddle the waters by doing too much at once. A semi-formal occasion sometime this week would do just as well, with an opportunity to voice issues should there be any. This wasn’t like hitting a tavern with friends, so when the business was done we all parted ways after the proper courtesies were offered. I’d intended on thanking the staff I’d borrowed personally, including Vivienne’s own, but the White Knight lingered long enough to catch my eye so I passed that duty along to Vivs and accepted the implied invitation to go on a walk.

Considering Hanno had made it clear he wasn’t going to be discussing the trials in advance, I was pretty curious about what it was he actually wanted. I was doing a lot of limping in hallways with important people these days, I mused, to discuss all sorts of concerns. I was going to have to see about getting some of this done seated, or else I’d need to arrange for more of the brew that made my leg sufferable without drawing on Night.

“Your leg is paining you,” Hanno said, eyes narrowing as he studied me.

Not the start I’d expected, but true enough.

“That’s what legs do,” I dismissed.

“I will refrain from small talk,” the White Knight told me. “We can slow, if you prefer.”

“Thought you said we wouldn’t be doing small talk,” I grunted back.

I’d never learned to take pity all that well, even when it was kindly meant, and I was starting to feel to old to try. The dark-skinned hero didn’t even blink at my bite. I supposed he was used to it, by now.

“The First Prince has approached me several times now,” Hanno said. “She has several intentions, but foremost among them is securing agreement for the Red Axe being tried under Proceran law instead of the Terms.”

I didn’t bother to fake surprise. Even odds he’d be able to tell even if I did, and we were largely on the same side besides.

“I’ve heard the speech as well,” I said, then after mulling it over threw him a bone, “from both her and the Kingfisher Prince.”

The White Knight did not look all that surprised, but he nodded in thanks anyway. Yeah, I wasn’t surprised that the First Prince hadn’t tried to win him over through Frederic. The Kingfisher Prince was his subordinate, in a sense, and it would have tripped a lot of those Proceran unspoken law to bring attention so clumsily to the divided loyalties of Prince Frederic of Brus.

“I would not impugn your character,” Hanno delicately said, “yet I imagine a diplomat of Cordelia Hasenbach’s skill would have not prepared an offer easy to refuse.”

I decided to be amused instead of insulted, after a beat. He was asking whether or not I’d been bought by whatever it was Hasenbach had offered me for my agreement, in this case Procer’s seal of approval on the Liesse Accords as they currently stood.  Hanno had been right in both suspecting an offer would be made to me and that it’d be a very tempting one, so I’d forgive him on account of that and the delicacy of inquiry.

“I didn’t bite,” I bluntly told him. “My priorities haven’t shifted, White Knight. First is winning this war, second is establishing the Liesse Accords. Most everything else is noise.”

Not entirely true, since my neck would bend some when it came to the preservation of Callow, but in essence I stood by my words. I’d rather fight this war in Procer now, even if it got ruinous to my kingdom’s treasury, than on Callowan borders in a decade with fewer allies and resources to call on. It wasn’t going to make me popular, but I could live with that: there was a reason my abdication was set in stone.

“I believed this would be the case,” Hanno admitted, “but I had to ask. The intensity of Procer’s overtures over this worries me. It smells of desperation, and despair makes for a poor councillor.”

“She has reason to be worried,” I admitted. “We both had traitors, White. If it’d been only my lot she might have been able to write it off as Below’s usual perfidy, but yours have arguably been making more trouble with her. Add to that the three fingers calling the Mirror Knight to heel cost you, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. We’re not looking all that reliable.”

And, in an ironic twist, for once it was the heroes who were looking like the problem child. Between killing villains, bleeding princes and dabbling in coups, it had to be said that Above’s champions had not come out of the last month looking pristine. My lot looked better in comparison, amusingly enough, but much as it pained me to admit it that might not necessarily be a good thing. Villains weren’t the ones bringing the trust to the table, when it came to nations backing the Terms. A risk had been taking on Below’s folk in large part because I was riding herd of them and I’d shown a lot of goodwill to the leaders of Levant and Procer. That and I’d established early on that I was perfectly willing to kill villains if they stepped out of line. In the end, though, it was the heroes that brought trustworthiness to the Truce and Terms. It was their reputations, their record, that justified all the twists and turns and compromises that were being had to keep Named mustered and pointed at Keter.

If they were no longer trusted, we had a problem.

“I have worries myself,” Hanno frankly replied. “Most urgent among them the First Prince keeping the remains of one of the Seraphim. Even were she not attempting to make some sort of sordid weapon out of it, I would be troubled: such a thing is not to be trifled with.”

I grimaced. Glad as I was that the White Knight shared my misgivings there, there were risks to making common front. We were already refusing Hasenbach over the Red Axe, and then we’d be trying to pry what she probably saw as her weapon of last resort from her hands. I was pretty sure Levant could be convinced to back us over this, through Tariq if nothing else, but I was wary of going through with this. Like Hanno had said, Procer was starting to smell of desperation. I’d heard in Frederic’s voice and seen it on Hasenbach’s face, so I was wary of pushing the Principate when it already felt cornered.

People did stupid things, when they felt cornered.

The hardest lesson I’d learned since putting on the fancy hat and eating a season had been that just because you could win a fight didn’t mean you should be fighting it. There was already too much fighting going on among people who should all be on the same side, and it was like the assault on the Arsenal had shone down a light on every fracture that lay at the heart if the Grand Alliance. They were growing bigger, I could feel it, and yet caution was stilling my hand: a hasty move, now, could do untold damage. And yet waiting too long will do just the same, I thought. We needed to finish those trial as soon as possible, then tie up Mercantis and the Gigantes. Gods, all this trouble and we’d yet to even begin the godsdamned war council for the actual fucking war we were fighting.

“Give her time,” I said. “She’s a pragmatic creature, there’s only so many bridges she’ll be willing to burn over this.”

“It will have to be addressed before our time at the Arsenal ends,” Hanno said.

“Agreed,” I reluctantly said, then cast him a dark look. “And you need to get your house in order, quick, before we lost more trust. I doubt Procer will try to outright axe the Terms, but there’s lesser measures it can take. They could restrict access to cities, assign escorts – Hells they could just begin funding Named on their good side and only them. This isn’t a flip of the coin, White Knight, they have more than two options.”

Poor choice of words there, I realized a heartbeat later with a wince, but he did not comment on it.

“Then the Mirror Knight can stand trial tomorrow,” Hanno offered instead.

“Good,” I nodded. “Once that’s out of the way, we can sit down with the First Prince and find a way to settle the trouble over the Red Axe.”

“I will not discuss sentencing, Black Queen,” the dark-eyed man flatly said. “I have already told you this.”

Gods save me from heroes, all prickly as cats and half as sensible.

“Then don’t,” I sharply said. “Talk about how we arrange this so she doesn’t have to deal with a revolt in the Highest Assembly, something that we cannot afford. I’m not great admirer of her princes, White, but your girl cut a prince of the blood that was trying to protect her from harm. They’re right to be on pins and needles about it: nobody wants a young Regicide walking around, only this one protected by treaty. I won’t argue to throw her to the wolves, we have to clean our own houses, but we have to give them something.”

The White Knight considered me for a long moment.

“I do not see what we can, Black,” he finally said.

“Then pray, hero,” I said, baring my teeth. “And I’ll see what I can get done down in the mud.”

152 thoughts on “Chapter 37: Trying

    1. “I won’t argue to vote on the webfiction, we have to spread the word about this novel, but we have to give EE something.”

      The White Knight considered me for a long moment.

      “I do not see what we can, Black,” he finally said.

      “Then pray, hero,” I said, baring my teeth. “And I’ll see what I can get done down in the Patreon.”

      Liked by 20 people

  1. Ninestrings

    If we’re talking patterns (And in this story we always are) we know that these trials should form counterpoints to each other.

    So this trial going well, as expected, with a plaintiff who takes his lumps with relative grace and humour…..

    Obviously the Mirror Knights will also go totally fine with absolutely no clusterfucks at all.

    Liked by 21 people

      1. Ninestrings

        Oh interesting point.

        I was assuming this was just going to be a contrast between Hanno and Cat’s management styles but it very well could be a patter of three trials.

        Liked by 7 people

      2. KageLupus

        Not really how that pattern of three thing works. It has to be a part of direct conflict between Named, and specifically Named that have a narrative link with each other. Cat and Tariq danced around it in the last book, but there is nothing like that going on there with the trials.

        Cat and Hanno are both on the same page. Named broke the rules of the Terms and need to stand trial for it. Cordelia is pushing for the Red Axe to be tried under Proceran law, but since she rejected her Name she doesn’t count when it comes to patterns of three.

        You could maybe say this is all a plot by the Bard, but I don’t see the trials as counting in that fight either. If you look at direct conflict then the events in the Arsenal are more likely to be part of the pattern, where Cat and the Bard put their scheming skills against one another. I would even say that Cat won that round since the Bard got killed and the Terms are still standing so far. But that is part of the trap, since getting caught up in a pattern by someone like the Bard means you are dancing to their tune. More likely Cat sidesteps that pattern altogether same way she did with the Pilgrim.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There are other threes than the rivalry pattern, and importantly the rule works on the meta level too. It’s just a tidy way to arrange the story, like picking a protagonist who doesn’t die halfway through and following a cause-effect chain for plot instead of a string of unconnected random events.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Salt

            In this case, less of a rule of three and more of a rule of “the readers might be pretty exhausted on legal calamities after the climax”, which means that the least contentious trials likely come first to just avoid really disjointed flow in terms of storytelling.

            It’s also very convenient to set up background/remind readers about old critical details relevant to the main trial by using the simple ones to show-not-tell how the proceedings are supposed to work.

            Which means that these sort of buildup chapters are actually rather interesting, after realizing how much this story loves to throw innocuous-seeming foreshadowing out there so you can have a “why didn’t I see that coming” moment later on.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Miles

              Like sending Axe on a suicide mission as punishment under the terms, and she’s to leave immediately after her proceran trial, with the proceran punishment to be carried out upon her return.

              Nah this will never work but if the proceran executioner-assassin kills her with fire then the punishment will have been done by Cat by default, so everyone can just shut the fridge up and be happy with the result.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. flashburn283

      So, who will the MK try to murder, Hanno, Cat, or Yannu? The Bard has to be going to set off the holy nuke, I can’t think of anything else that will fuck over the world as much besides reviving the Saint.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. mamm0nn

        Saint died by old age, and Heroes cannot be revived from that. Even if revival after several years were possible, Cat killed Saint specifically in a manner that Pilgrim couldn’t undo. So the same probably goes for Bard and all Revivers out there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Miles

        I still suspect he’ll be back to his old self and plead being under the influence of Saint’s personality bleeding through her aspect sword sword aspect.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Miles

          Saint’s aspect sword’s sword aspect.

          Also Saint forged herself into a sword that cuts all who don’t share her hard line stance against Evil long before the story started. The fact that the piece of her that was turned into an actual sword continues to do so is fitting, but not necessarily a coincidence.

          What I’m saying is that Saint’s strength of will was so strong that her aspect is able to influence at least the weaker-willed individuals who wield the sword.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Salt

            It’s especially possible since “No truce with the Enemy” isn’t even something unique to the Saint. Free Willy had that as one of his catchphrases back when he was playing the gritty Heroic rival to the Squire, all the way at the beginning of the story. It’s a very popular sentiment for particularly angry or hardline character types.

            These things tend to be much easier, narratively, if it’s amplifying or pushing along an existing tendency, rather than being something new. Especially true if you’re the kind of semi-sentient artifact sword that chooses its wielder and still actively holds a grudge against Catherine.


    2. Hmm, While the trials are certainly interconnected, I’m not so sure the Pattern of Three fits in well here given we don’t really have a single rivalry spanning the trials. Also, all three of them are likely to represent convictions, the question is just a degree of severity and negotiation over the jurisdictions.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Salt

      The Mirror Knight’s I think will be pretty interesting. It was mentioned via internal monologue that his power is “the reflection of Evil against Evil, the conception of the snake biting its own tail.” way back during the kaleidoscope chapters in the Tenth Crusade. I’ve had a personal theory for a while that some or the Mirror Knight’s personality issues are partly Name-powered in the “reflection of Evil upon Evil” sense, which would mean that the MK’s cooperation in settling this peacefully will largely hinge on how well each representative in the trial holds themselves back from letting their personal flaws/agenda get in the way of a fair trial in the first place.

      IE everything hinges on how much or how little Evil you show for him to “mirror” at all.

      If that is the case, the trial will likely proceed fairly smoothly if each representative shows total impartiality and avoids attempting to use it to further their own ends. Otherwise, any attempt at subverting Justice for their own ends will likely be mirrored via equal and opposite hostility from the Mirror Knight, and it could become a shitstorm very quickly.

      I’m most worried about Cordelia fucking it up by pushing too far, with Christophe deciding that the best response is “an eye for an eye”.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Laguz24

    I love the return of black and white’s banter and conversations. Though seriously this red axe bit is not getting solved. Or why couldn’t the sentence for the truce and terms be to be tried by proceran law? She still ends up dead or gone either way.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Salt

      National sovereignty and jurisdiction of authority, mostly.

      If she’s sentenced to death under Proceran law, for the crime of attempting to kill a prince, that means that the Terms don’t truly protect Named from political circumstance outside the Terms. It sets a precedent where future crimes under Proceran law could be grounds to overrule the terms and hang a Named, even if the representatives under the Terms object. It makes the Terms essentially toothless when signatories are involved, making them far less lucrative to sign up for, and for anyone who doesn’t trust the Principiate (read: nearly everyone), it’s like a hanging sword above your head.

      If she’s sentenced to death under the terms, it means Procer is giving up its right to hold people accountable for trying to murder its own royalty. Imagine someone killing a congress member in the US, and the US having to let him potentially walk without punishment just because some European council said so. Now just replace US Congress with “prince of Procer” and “European council” with “the Truce and Terms”. The key isn’t that the Red Axe is likely to get executed here so much as once again setting a precedent where it could happen – frequently – down the line.


      a Proceran trial = Proceran laws override the Terms, thus the Terms are effectively worthless, and Named desert.

      Terms trial = Procer allows the Terms to override their own legal system, and the whole country implodes on itself in rioting/potential civil war.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Yeah, that’s the gist of it. Nice explanation, by the way.

        My problem with Cordelia’s demand is that she knew it would be like this and it is something she signed for. She is now trying to back off from it not because of the “creating a precedent of Procer’s laws losing strength” but rather because she wants to use the Red Axe’s trial in Procer as a political tool to secure her reign.
        She is in the wrong here and she knows it.

        P.S: Another way to see it, though using a bit of a tortured metaphor, would be to say it’s a U.S woman, more exactly an agent of the Interpol (Truce &Terms are an international force, after all), who tried to kill a U.S Congressman while collaborating with a terrorist attack on a UN Headquarters, and she is not being tried by a European Council, but rather an International Court. The U.S President is now making demands to have the traitorous agent on trial in U.S Courts, but the international treaty already states how the trial must be carried out and the U.S is a signatory of it. The President simply wants to execute the criminal through U.S laws to earn popularity for the incoming elections.

        Liked by 13 people

          1. Salt

            It wouldn’t work if the point of the treaty is that agents would only be tried by the Terms of the treaty, not by potentially any set of laws of any nation that signed them. Trying them under US law at all all, instead of only the terms of the treaty, will show the world that the treaty is toothless the moment a powerful signatory gets annoyed.

            As for why said signatory even signed the damned thing when they knew this is a potential problem? Probably some combination of desperation, arrogance, and oversight from too many nights without sleep Who knows.

            Liked by 7 people

            1. But if in practice none of the charges made by US court would be carried out, would it not be a legal fiction that appeases both sides? Or is the point is inability to trial at all, not just to carry out the charge? I thought that T&T acted as a temporary diplomatic immunity, not as some kind of legal invincibility. So the trial can be held, and charges passed, just they won’t be active until/unless the person loses their immunity, either due to leaving the Terms or through not being qualified to participate under them.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Salt

                Not sure if that would make sense, since the Terms are meant to be temporary, while the legal immunity for actions carried out during the duration of the terms is not temporary.

                It wouldn’t be very appealing of a call to arms if it was “the Terms will protect you until the dead king is slain, after which you will be swiftly executed for previous crimes that weren’t crimes up until the point the Terms expired”.

                You might make an argument for the “held” charges under Proceran law being considered null and void if the Named doesn’t run afoul of the terms until they come to a natural end by the end of the war on Keter, but the optics of that would still have Proceran Law being superseded by the Terms. If they keep to the Terms until the Dead King is beaten, they’re still essentially untouchable by Proceran Law in any way that matters, putting us back at square one and not actually resolving the problem.

                Liked by 6 people

                  1. They cannot, because they are ridiculous in scope and untenable long term. Making Named exempt from earthly laws is the opposite of the point of the Accords, that the Terms do that is a gesture of desperation more than anything.

                    The amnesty is going to carry over. That’s tense enough already.

                    Liked by 3 people

              2. caoimhinh

                That would work if it were the Truce&Terms as initially described to us: a cease of hostilities between Named, stoping of criminal activities, and amnesty for previous crimes in exchange for service in the war against Keter, with Catherine and Hanno as supervisors responsible of keeping their respective sides in line and reining them in to obey the agreement.

                But more recent chapters expanded on the T&T and showed it as having its own court of law where Catherine and Hanno are judge, jury, and executioner for Villains and Heroes that breach the agreement.

                As initially shown, Cat’s responsibility would be to watch over the Villains to make sure they didn’t step out of line, but would handle them to the legal authorities of a nation if they were to break its laws after they joined the T&T. But as it currently stands, Catherine is the only one who can cast judgment and carry a sentence over a Villain, and the Grand Alliance knew that and signed for it.

                So Cordelia can’t come now to judge the Red Axe through different means that what was established in the agreement, doing so would weaken the T&T and show all Named that Procer can break the treaty, which would cast doubts over if the T&T can really protect them from their previous crimes. That would make lots of Villains walk away, and it’s why Catherine can’t back down on this.

                Liked by 1 person

          2. caoimhinh

            No, because there is political bullshit on the way.

            If they were acting like mature and practical people, the Red Axe would be killed and that would be the end of it.
            But they aren’t just people operating in a vacuum, they are institutions and representatives of nations, so there are bureaucracy and legislation to consider, settling of precedents, and a dozen other things that ripple out of this.

            There is ambition and greed at play too, with political repercussions depending on how it is handled.

            Continuing with the metaphor, the legislation and treaty that applies is quite clear. Obeying the signed agreement of where the trial must be held enforces the treaty and gives legitimacy to the institution.

            The T&T are in the right, because Cordelia already signed for this, she is trying to back off now and it is too late to be trying to pull that off.

            It is only her selfish reasons that are causing trouble here. This is not for Procer, this is for Cordelia. She can’t come to pretend now that Named had been accountable to nations before. Named have always been dealt with by Named.

            Anyways, she needs to just swallow her objections as they are nothing more than her wish to get out of responsibility to use this for political gains. But you don’t get to simply back off of a treaty once the time to enforce it arrives. She is just pushing now because she wants to use the trial to strengthen her own reign (like every single other thing she gets her hands on). The trouble is that she is growing desperate, or rather, has been increasingly going that path for quite a few years actually (if you check her POV Interludes, it shows).

            Liked by 4 people

            1. I don’t think it’s just Cordelia being selfish, she isn’t, period. If she and Cat think Assembly might revolt and back out of the treaty, that is not some paranoid delusion.

              In the international court, the US would have a say in the fate of the Interpol agent, but under the T&T they have no legal power to do anything. That is a perception that they need to avoid like plague.

              I think…

              Liked by 7 people

              1. caoimhinh

                I wonder why Cordelia sees that guy as such a huge threat, she seems quite paranoid. She wants to kill the Red Axe through Proceran Law to show him that the Mirror Knight can also be killed through Proceran Law. But that seems like an unnecessary worry, since other Named would rein MK in and stop him if he were to start acting out in a irregular manner like supporting a revolt.

                Plus, how is that Prince supposed to overthrow Cordelia? Did he somehow gather the support that Amadis and Malanza couldn’t get? That seems unlikely.

                And if he did, he doesn’t need the Mirror Knight to get the votes to overthrow Cordelia, right? And also executing the Red Axe wouldn’t stop him from getting the votes in his favor.
                Asserting Proceran power lets Cordelia earn political points in the Assembly, but that’s hardly what sways them.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. You are getting really hung up on the idea that there is only one prince opposing Cordelia in the Assembly. And how is Mirror Knight is involved? The issue seems pretty self-contained to me.

                  Liked by 4 people

                  1. caoimhinh

                    I’m not hung up on being only one guy opposing Cordelia. I just pointed out my surprise on him doing what Amadis and Malanza, couldn’t manage (that in itself implies the power block that opposed Cordelia). And I mentioned the necessary support being gathered.
                    I know it is not just one guy. What I’m saying is that for Cordelia to be worried about him, that means the guy has assembled huge influence behind him. It’s strange that he managed what other big players couldn’t (well, Amadis already gave up his crown, so he can be counted out, but still the point stands).

                    The Mirror Knight involved was mentioned and implied by Cordelia and Frederic when they were talking to Catherine chapters ago, when trying to convince her to let the Red Axe be tried through Procer’s Court.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Malanza heads what is basically the wartime loyal opposition party.
                      That is, people who realize that while they have policy differences with Cordelia, the middle of an existential war with the Dead King is not the time to have a struggle over power, and that the deals Cordelia makes in Procer’s name in order to survive and win the war need to be honored and kept afterwards, even if/when Cordelia loses power.

                      The group of assholes that Mirror Knight is in bed with do not believe in keeping the deals that Cordelia makes.
                      In addition, they have a joker in the deck in the form of one of the most prominent Proceran Heroes – Mirror Knight – being onboard with their plans and agenda. Malanza and her faction do not.
                      Plus, I got the impression that one part of their plan, or a relevant contingency, might be to secretly attack the drow and drag the rest of Procer in behind them and their goals when they call the drow retaliation “an unprovoked attack that must be responded to”.
                      Also, they’re pulling that out that classic and ever popular Proceran tradition – expansionism at the expense of their neighbors.

                      Liked by 4 people

            2. > This is not for Procer, this is for Cordelia.

              Mmm, no. Cordelia’s at the point where her interests = interests of the state, because all others she discards the moment they contradict those.

              Yes, she’s fighting to stay in power, because her staying in power is the necessary condition of Procer’s survival. Her faction, anyway – I’m sure she’d abdicate to Rozala if necessary, which, it’s no coincidence Rozala isn’t pushing for that despite personal grievances: any kind of power shift would destabilise the system, and now is super not the time for that.

              The people who ARE pushing Cordelia right now are the arrogant idiots who don’t understand that, and also that they shouldn’t plot against the goddamn Black Queen in the middle of the war she’s fighting for them, on their territory. That drow episode wasn’t just worldbuilding fluff.

              This is an actual problem for the Grand Alliance as a whole, and it’s only personally Cordelia’s in that she’s expected to deal with it without inconveniencing the rest of them.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Salt

                Pretty much this. We have to remember that if Cordelia gets overthrown by anyone stupid enough to do so in the middle of a war on Keter, the replacement we’re getting won’t be Cordelia 2: electric boogaloo. It’ll be the live action remake of Amadis Milenan that no one wanted but the highest assembly decided to produce anyways.

                Liked by 3 people

              2. Frivolous

                Yep, agree. Cordellia’s strongest wish is Duty, specifically to Procer, although her understanding of the big picture and of nuances may be limited because she has no Name lore and little story-fu.

                I think that if Cordelia loses her position as First Prince, her successor will act in such a way as to cause Callow and the Firstborn, as well as many heroes and most villains, to stop supporting Procer. In which case the DK wins and Procer dies.

                The angel corpse might be a last resort weapon in that case. It may also be a bludgeon to threaten and frighten the Highest Assembly with, as in “If you screw up by usurping me, I’ll give the order to destroy the Dead King myself. Oh, and Salia and most of your principalities will go up in a mushroom cloud, too, but you’ve doomed them anyway.”

                Liked by 2 people

                1. For the record: that’s still not an option available to deliberately choose! The overcharge that would blast everything and also DK is what Bard could possibly have done had the plan gone off as originally intended with the Seraphim around. Now she cannot do that, and it’s unclear what the weapon even CAN do.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Salt

                    To be fair, it could still be a pretty effective stick to threaten people with, even if the exact effects are unknown. The properties of the effects were tied to the Seraphim, but the actual capacity of an angel corpse is likely inherent to the corpse itself. It’s still a huge bundle of power – potentially on the order of a continent-killing bomb – regardless of whether the tie to the Seraphim exists.

                    If someone threatens to drop a lake on you, that’s an effective threat. If what’s inside the lake becomes a mystery, it’s still a giant threat, on account of still having the capacity of a lake. It could be a lake of feathers or a lake of cupcakes, sure, but it could just as easily be a lake of anvils, a lake of acid, or a lake of goblinfire. Regardless, someone threatening to drop it on you still raises hairs on the back of your neck because a lake is a lake, and it makes you reconsider provoking them.

                    Liked by 2 people

          3. Miles

            Considering US politics is 90% just lies held up by the fact that the people about to vote aren’t interested in the truth so much as validation of prior beliefs (seeded by more lies) the best move for Procer is to just tell everyone at home that the trial under international treaty is the US exerting power to bring a criminal to justice, and not worry about what actually happens.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Salt

              The trial of the Red Axe is FAKE NEWS

              The great nation of Procer has brought THE BEST justice to the terrorist axe

              We are going to KEEP WINNING, by building a wall and making Keter pay for it


      2. nimelennar

        What they should have done is included a provision for extradition in the Terms. Red Axe would then get two trials: one, under the Terms, to determine whether she should be extradited to Procer for attempted regicide, and another, by Procer, for the regicide itself. Thus, neither the Terms nor Procer gets destabilized.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Yeah, there should be a “her sentence under the Terms is to lose the protection of the Terms, because that is the exact manner in which she fucked up”.

          It does unpleasantly soften the protection the Terms provide, but Red Axe didn’t just fuck up real bad, she also signed on in bad faith in the first place. Not the worst of precedents to set

          Liked by 2 people

      3. Abrakadabra

        Which is the heart of the matter. The arrogance of procer/ USA, that their laws are more important, Than that of other nations or even whole alliances of nations which they themselves are part of. In the case of Procer, they already agreed to the truce and terms, and NOW after the fact they want to renege on their Words. Because they are fucking procer and they presume too much.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable for the T&T sentence to include “since she has violated our terms, we rule that she has forfeited our protection and should additionally be tried by Procer”. The question is whether Cat & Hanno can get away with it wrt their respective crowds.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Cory

      If they try her under Proceran Law, it sets a clear precedent that the Truce and Terms (and, likely, the Accords to follow) are subordinate to Procer. This creates a big issue, because the Truce and Terms and Accords are meant to govern the behavior of Named across the whole of Calernia. They can’t be subordinate to the laws of any individual country, or they have no purpose.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Frivolous

    I love it when Catherine and Hanno call each other White and Black in private conversation. I wonder if they will ever do so in public, too, and what the reaction from their audience would be.

    I may have made a mistake in the comments section of Trepidation when I speculated that Cordelia threatened to use the angel corpse to bully the Named into behaving.

    I suspect now that the reason for the angel corpse is banal Proceran politics. The Highest Assembly may be agitating to replace her with someone who wants to do away with the current agreements.

    The angel corpse is a weapon she can show Highest Assembly to make them believe that she is strong, and thus keep them cooperating with Cordelia and the Truce and Terms. That is the only reason I can currently think of that would explain why both Cordelia and Frederic seem desperate while Catherine and Hanno are unaware of the reason.

    I don’t think the leader of the contrary princes is Rozala. Rozala is too aware of the current perils to try to unseat Cordelia at this time. It might be Gaspard.

    Liked by 11 people

        1. caoimhinh

          I don’t mean it’s just that one guy alone. But they do need to gather under one banner to overthrow Cordelia.
          After all, removal of the First Prince is not simply “you are no longer the First Prince” but rather “you are getting replaced by this person here”. Procer must have a ruler.


    1. From Cordelia’s perspective, the angel corpse serves to ensure Procer’s survival. It’s not for show. It’s misguided from Cath’s point of view but Procer is about to collapse and they’re grasping for anything that might help them make it through this calamity. Take the weapon away and they just might break. She might be persuaded though after the results of quartered seasons are presented to her.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Salt

        Rozala has no love of Cordelia considering they have some serious personal enmities, but she’s at the top of the list for “princes who are LEAST likely to stage a coup during the war on Keter”.

        The girl basically showed serious PTSD about the war on Keter during the princes graveyard, and was the only one of the seven who willingly threw in her crown without bothering to haggle. She actually considered the permanent loss of her own right to rule a bargain, if it meant getting Named on the caliber of Catherine on her side. “cheap at twice the price.” was her exact wording on the subject

        No, it’s definitely not Rozala that Cordelia needs to be concerned about. Rozala would likely have a physically violent fit of rage at the prospect of some idiot starting a war of succession in the Principiate’s hour of desperation.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. > both Cordelia and Frederic seem desperate while Catherine and Hanno are unaware of the reason.

      Oh, they know Procer’s reasons for desperation, they just recognize the larger-scale reasons why it’s still a Bad Idea.

      Liked by 5 people

  4. devildragon777

    Hrm. The Judgement corpse bit really does have to be handled carefully, it’s Bard’s unseen affray after all. I wonder if they should be reaching out to Auger, she’s not exactly a friend of WB and is someone who’d understand and might be willing to share with White and Cat why Cordelia’s keeping an unusually tight grip over it.

    Finangling the Red Axe’s trial to preserve the T&T, Cordelia’s grip on the Highest Assembly/Procer, and deal with the pressing issue of Judgement Nuke is…unlikely to be pretty.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. dadycoool

    I like seeing how the Tribunals work. “Here’s the charge. Any debates? Let’s haggle. Here’s the punishment. Any debates? Let’s haggle.” With Cat or Hanno being both the prosecutor and defense for the one being charged. It could very well be done in private, maybe with a dagger in the dead of night, but it’s public to give it transparency and legitimacy.

    Interesting continuation of their discussion way back in the beginning of the book, with her “Then pray, hero. And I’ll see what my I can get done down in the mud.”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. thearpox23

      It’s the beauty of leaning on a trusted authority figure to pass the sentences instead of the bureaucratic legalistic structures we use in the modern world. And it only works because the T&T are obviously temporary, and the cases where the trial is held rare.

      I’ve enjoyed the tribunals in action as well. It’s unique enough that I can’t immediately point to any parallels I’ve encountered before.

      Liked by 8 people

  6. I wonder if there is an option that the punishment of the trial could be stripping the Red Axe of her protection under the T&T to stand civilian trial. It establishes a precedent of Named voluntarily submitting to national-authorities, especially since many of the general crimes for the future will be against civilians more than Named.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Supposedly they can’t do that because the punishment for treason must be death. So they can’t leave the precedent of a traitor being given a light punishment, even if it’s ultimately to handle her to another court that’s guaranteed to execute her.

      There’s political bullshit at play that they need to be careful of, since future schemers can exploit such precedents.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. WuseMajor

        See, I think it could work. By her own admission, she entered the Terms under bad faith for understandable reasons. Allowing a measure of sympathy for her plight, it really feels like the “fitting” punishment should be that she be stripped of the rights and protections of the Terms…and the understanding that, without said protection, Procer will exercise its own legal rights to try her for her other crimes should temper anyone who thinks she should simply be executed.

        The problem is going to be with anyone who wanted mercy for her. Since, well, by the same token, if you’re going to hand her over to a government that’s going to execute her, it’s hard to say that not executing her now is merciful. So….hmmm…. Possibly you could require that Procer give her a formal trial and allow the White Knight to be her advocate? The potential of a lesser sentence being found might be seen as merciful, even if she ends up being executed.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          But she can’t play the “I was always an enemy agent so it’s no treason” card here. If you join an institution and break the rules of it then you get the punishment of the institution, and if the deserved punishment is death, then just throwing her out leaves a precedent of someone walking away from the treason trial easy, even if it’s done under the supposition that she will be killed in another trial.

          The precedent within the institution is what matters.

          The purpose of the Truce and Terms is to serve as foundation for the Liesse Accords, so they can’t be weakened by bending over to Procer after Procer already signed them.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. The key is that she wouldn’t be walking away freely. She would be explicitly handed over to civilian authorities who have asked to try her. Now, she might get let off there, but she would also forever be stripped of her protections under the T&T, assuming no Story was undertaken to make amends.

            Remember that one of the major goals of the Liesse Accords is to allow groups of Named to work together to punish those who violate the rules. Merely being stripped of your rights under the Accords could be as good as death for most Named, and would deprive them of being able to rejoin civilized society. Being stripped of rights and then tried as an ordinary murderer would be even worse, but is arguably a precedent that Cat wants.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Salt

              All in all not a bad solution at all, but it would need a LOT of work involved to avoid setting potentially troublesome precedents down the road. The legalities here would get messy the way legalities are always want to do. We can’t treat the world of the Terms the same way as the world of the Accords, since the problem is the Terms granting legal amnesty from civilian consequences in a far-reaching way that the Accords simply do not.

              The problem that comes up, is that laws of the Terms and the laws of the Signatories – as well as the sentencing under each – are likely going to be very different. Meaning that the accused might be on trial for entirely different crimes of entirely different severity, and there may be cases where said crimes and punishments associated with the crimes aren’t even commensurable in the first place.

              At which point the obvious issue is potentially allowing for serious crimes to essentially be absolved in practice, or vice versa, by way of stripping protection of the Terms and allowing a civilian trial. It would also lend to possible corruption down the line, if a crown was to meddle with the civilian trial – directly or indirectly enough to avoid accusation – after the trial under the Terms was waived in favor of a civilian trial.

              You would necessarily need to establish some sort of equivalence in terms of crimes under the Terms vs crimes under a civilian court, then base this potential compromise around a requirement for said equivalence being in play. You’d need to do this to stop potential issues before they arise at all, instead of trying to find reactionary solutions as Cat & co are trying to do now. It would be a very messy, very contentious, and time-consuming effort, if even possible.

              For an example, what happens if a Named violates the Terms by killing a Villain simply for being overly vile, which is a severe violation of the Terms but a debatable violation of civilian law, depending on the signatory involved? What happens if they reanimate their dying body to stave off death, which is blasphemously illegal in certain countries, but not under the Terms?

              You’d need to make sure that this solution you suggest does not leave openings for signatories using it as common-law precedent to petition for trying said Named under their own legal system, for far different conditions than a trial under the Terms. The only way I see this being possible is if you manage to establish equivalencies of severity between each legal system and the Terms themselves, and only allow this backdoor to be considered if said equivalence is satisfied

              … which starts looking like a fairly convoluted legal system, not all that far off from the Principiate’s own labyrinthine set of laws. But I suspect that it’s how their legal system became so messy in the first place, and it’s hardly even a complex situation compared to real life courts.

              Liked by 1 person

          2. robertctaylorfamfrit

            Yeah pretty much this law and politics are incredibly complicated and messy things as its not just important what happens but how it happens, the appearance of both and what it may lead to due to public reaction, precedents etc. As an example in when i studied the American civil rights movement the first successful change from protesting was incredibly important because although it was pretty minor itself it set the precedent and became a source to build momentum from.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. > the first successful change from protesting was incredibly important because although it was pretty minor itself it set the precedent and became a source to build momentum from.

              And it’s worth noting that the beginning was very much jug-and-sword diplomacy — MLK and friends offering a peaceful option, with Malcom X &co. pointing out that things didn’t have to be peaceful.

              Liked by 2 people

    2. WuseMajor

      Hmmm… That actually could work as a solution… but the White Knight wants to actually have a fair trial, which means getting all the evidence out and all the speeches and everything, before sentencing is discussed. So, even if he’s considering that sentence as an option, he’s not going to allow the politics of the situation to sway what he considers the fair sentence to be and he’s certainly not going to SELL the sentence beforehand, even if it might get a nuke out of the hands of an increasingly unstable government.

      Possibly they could arrange things to have Cordy formally suggest that sentence (but that could be seen as bending to governmental pressure, so not doing it might be better).

      Regardless, the White Knight tries very hard to be a decent person as well as a realist and he’s pretty good at reading the room. I think he can thread the needle here, but he’ll only actually do it if he thinks it’s really the right thing to do. We can hope that Cordy will allow him the shot to do it and that he sticks the landing when he does.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Abrakadabra

        I still Say the Red Axe will be sentenced to exile for life, to live among the drow in the kingdom of the dead. Under pain of death or something if she ever returns.
        Especially if she really turns out to be Constance.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    amount of high officer > amount of high officers
    if nation > if a nation
    a complain considering > a complaint considering
    excess off ceremony > excess of ceremony
    I grimly though > I grimly thought
    Sure any idiot > Sure, any idiot
    in away > in any way
    were slightest bit > were the slightest bit
    and hero > and a hero
    one of we troublesome > one of us troublesome
    plot that condemn > plot than condemn
    muddle the waters > muddy the waters
    Vivs > Viv
    to old to > too old to
    Proceran unspoken law > Proceran unspoken laws
    would have not > would not have
    had been taking on > had been taken on
    I’d heard in > I’d heard it in
    finish those trial > finish those trials
    we lost more trust > we lose more trust
    not great admirer > no great admirer (or not a)

    Also, what a way to slip it in at the end

    Liked by 3 people

  8. If they put off Red Axe’s trial much longer, they risk giving her the kind of story that starts in a jail cell, and any one of us that’s played an Elder Scrolls game knows how crazy those can get. It’s unlikely to happen, but she’s already the right breed of vengeance hero that it’s still a possibility.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ninestrings

      My favourite part of that story is when the hero stands in the cell without moving and shapeshifts between variations of race/species/gender/sex for two hours before going back to the default.

      Liked by 9 people

        1. Raved Thrad

          Makes you wonder what sort of indoctrination Nords go through while training to be part of the Imperial Army. It must take a LOT of willpower to resist going, “So, I think it’s incredible that you’re still on the side of the Empire even after we decided to cut off your head for no good reason.” Especially for a Nord.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. nick012000

            The Stormcloaks were Thalmor puppets. If they won, they’d divide the Empire, and allow the Thalmor to conquer the continent and proceed with their plan to genocide humanity so thoroughly that they’d be erased from the Mythic. Regardless of the actions taken by individual Imperials, siding with the Imperials is the only sensible or moral course of action for the Dragonborn to take.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Raved Thrad

              Lol on my last (partial) playthrough I played a Nord, and was all “Skyrim for the Nords!” I especially loved running into goose-stepping Thalmor patrols, which I would proceed to ambush.

              I have yet to finish a full playthrough of Skyrim, though. So! Many! Side quests!

              Liked by 2 people

  9. Anomandris

    Would Cordelia be backed into such a corner if she had taken the Name? I mean, yes, that would have potentially furthered the Bard’s plans and had far graver consequences, but just from Proceran politics perspective, what would have been the result of all the shenanigans going on so far?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Salt

      She and Catherine (with Callow following in tow) would have a far more hostile and distrustful relationship, considering the Accords are currently pushing for Named not holding positions of rule. It would mean that Catherine is a direct and hostile threat to her and her rule, the moment the threat of the Dead King wanes.

      Levant would be outright hostile, in practice if not in name, at a Proceran Warden of the West making that country ever more powerful. Do remember than Procer is basically to Levant as Praes is to Callow – a pack of greedy invaders eyeing their people like cattle.

      There would have been a fairly large mess over whether she would be the Heroic representative or the White Knight would – not even sure how Principiate law would take to their First Prince being put under a neutral authority, especially since the agreement that causes the situation is partially a Villainous one.

      The Red Axe problem would be exactly the same, as it’s a legal issue rather than a story fight

      She may be more understanding of why a doomsaday bomb is so bad, if she had direct experience as Named.

      Overall it would likely be a hell of a lot worse, politically, had she taken the Name.

      Liked by 3 people

          1. I don’t think it was written, I think what he meant is that conversation with Black, where he pointed out how unfeasible the concept was and advised to keep it in for additional concessions.

            Liked by 4 people

  10. The trial for Haunted Magician went more or less as planned.
    Of course, he decided to cooperate with the process.
    Plus, he did far less direct harm, and only got involved out of ignorance of the true nature of the threat that Bard is, and Cat gave a sentence that provided significant benefits to the rest of the Grand Alliance.

    Mirror Knight is likely to be far less cooperative.
    In addition, Cordelia might well have an interest in adding to the charges against him, specifically his intimate involvement with those Proceran nobles plotting treason and betrayal.
    Plus, even if Cordelia doesn’t escalate the charges, she, Yannu, Viv, and Cat all have some level of interest in making Mirror Knight an example. And Cat needs something that she can show to Sve Noc.

    But the trial for Red Axe? On the one hand, Hanno said in the Hero meeting that he was planning to execute her for her crimes. I don’t think there will be objections to that from the Grand Alliance.
    Depending on how Hanno plays it, that might be enough to mollify most of the relevant concerns.
    Also the fact that Red Axe lied about agreeing to the Truce and Terms might be a loophole used to exempt her from their protection … but I don’t know if Hanno knows that she confessed to lying about agreeing to them, always intending to violate them as her part of Bard’s plan.

    Honestly, though, I kind of think EE is head faking us that the problems will come with Red Axe’s trial when they’re really going to start with Mirror Knight’s.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. No Cordelia would not add charges of treason, lol. It is a question of appearances. Mirror Knight can be construed like HM, a poor, misunderstood victim of big bad Bard. The issue here is that the Truce needs to prove that it can enforce a fair sentence on all it’s participants. And while MK has many grievances, few of them are severe, and the most severe one is Hanno’s fingers. The rest is not really serious, and both his accomplishments and a lack of malicious intent will prove the sentence to be mild.

      Of course, everyone knows that MK’s trial is also a tryout of Red Axe’s one, so they would have to avoid a lax sentence, less they convince others that Heroes can get away with stuff under Terms. But I personally think that yeah, MK’s trial would be a pivot for his personal development, and I hope it will go the right way.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Salt

        Cordelia might actually try for a charge of treason tbh, if only to let her make some other gain elsewhere. She’s definitely not above playing dirty.

        I suspect Hanno wouldn’t let it slide though. Justice boy is all about consistency and being unbiased. Letting the Hunted Magician off light as an “incompetent idiot” even though he willingly made a deal with the Bard, while screwing the Mirror Knight over by labeling him a “willing traitor” when he actually is just an incompetent idiot? That’s about as inconsistent and biased as you could get. It would be comically out of character for Hanno to just sit there and allow for Justice to be twisted for political convenience, instead of putting his foot down on the first squeak of it.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. robertctaylorfamfrit

        Let’s be real here how smoothly and well MK’s trial goes is directly dependent how how well he can keep his mouth shit which he’s not been good at so far as he tends to shoot himself in the foot during conversations

        Liked by 4 people

      3. Frivolous

        I wonder if Catherine or Hanno will ever mention that MK has been obstreperous towards Catherine and stated his intention to kill her.

        Cat might not bother to mention it because she can be a bit butch; she might think tattling a verbal threat is beneath her. Hanno might not mention it because he might think speaking of MK’s words is unjust.

        On the other hand, Cordelia and Yannu would probably be very alarmed to learn that MK wants to kill the Black Queen. They might insist on Hanno executing MK for that alone.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yeah … Mirror Knight’s statements and actions in the Hero meeting are something that Cordelia and Yannu cannot allow to be ignored or swept under the carpet.
          Especially the part where Mirror Knight effectively said he wouldn’t need to kill any other leaders if they agreed with him. Which is very easily reinterpreted as Mirror Knight implying that he was willing to kill any of the Grand Alliance leadership who didn’t agree with him. Yannu is a Levantine and has plenty of preexisting reasons to dislike and mistrust Mirror Knight … and Cordelia knows that Mirror Knight is intimately involved with some of her nobles who are plotting betrayal and treason.

          It’s not clear that Cat knows about those threats, but it’s likely that Cordelia does (most likely via Kingfisher Prince, though one or more of the other Heroes could have informed her as well), and a distinct possibility that Yannu has been informed by one or more of the Levantine Heroes who were present.
          And while Cat probably doesn’t know all the details (yet) she definitely knows that something serious happened.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Frivolous

            I had actually forgotten about the Kingfisher Prince. You’re right, Javvies: KP is probably more loyal to Cordelia than he is to Hanno or any notion of the Union of Heroes. Which means Cordelia does know of every act and every word that happened in the Hero Meeting.

            I’m less certain about Yannu knowing. Levantines are so honor-crazy that I have no idea whether the Vagrant Spear would tell Yannu about events.

            On the other hand, Cordelia and Yannu can rest assured that Christophe won’t target them first. He’ll try to kill Catherine first, so until that happens, they’re reasonably safe, hahaha.

            Oh, they’ll still be pretty mad that MK would try to kill the woman who is Queen of Callow and the First Under the Night, but at least they won’t have to worry about being -murdered- until she has.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. As nothing was mentioned about secrecy, I don’t think that Vagrant Spear or any other Levantine would necessarily feel that they were required to keep quiet about it, at least to Yannu.
              Especially since it is likely that one or more of them was requested to be involved in bringing Yannu up to speed on recent events inside the Arsenal.
              And I rather suspect that Yannu had questions about just what the fuck happened.
              It is, after all, not a secret that something serious went down at the Hero meeting, and White Knight had to beat down Mirror Knight in the hallways after losing several fingers.

              For that matter, it’s just as likely, if not more so, that the Levantine Heroes have, or will feel, an obligation to inform/warn Yannu that Mirror Knight verbally de facto threatened to kill him and the Seljun if they didn’t agree with Mirror Knight … and more broadly the stability/existence of the Grand Alliance itself. Most of them realize that the current situation would be a helluva lot worse if Cat wasn’t running the Villains in support of the Grand Alliance – better to share a room with a Villain than a Revenant, after all. Plus … they mostly don’t like Mirror Knight, and it’s probably gotten around that he has a habit of defending and promoting past Proceran atrocities committed against the Dominion (and others), which isn’t going to count in his favor when it comes to Yannu’s opinion.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Salt

                It’s likely going to end up as most of the jury members arguing against Hanno, for more severity vs more moderation, respectively.

                However, I think Yannu is actually the only one who is a coinflip on whether he’s hostile to the Mirror Knight or not.

                Cordelia has an ulterior motive for pushing for a harsher sentence, Catherine has an ulterior motive for appeasing Cordelia instead of pushing her into a corner (plus she hates the MK’s guts), and Vivienne is more of less in Catherine’s pocket.

                Yannu depends on how informed he is about the Mirror Knight’s association with the Langevins. The Principiate has historically been to Levant as Praes has been to Callow, meaning that encouraging destabilization of the Principiate is completely within the Levantines interests. If he’s well informed enough and savvy enough, he would know that it’s going to be a win for Levant no matter what – either a Proceran Hero gets some rather harsh restrictions and sullies their international reputation, or a Proceran Hero gets off easy and causes internal unrest in Procer to weaken them.

                Meaning the game he’s likely to play is how to squeeze the best long term benefit for Levant, which might be to initially push for a harsh sentence to get on the good side of Catherine, Vivienne, and Cordelia, after which he lets himself be “convinced” by the White Knight to settle on a compromise to also make inroads with Hanno, especially if said compromises happen to have some beneficial wording for Levant. This lets him paint himself as impartial and fair in the public eye, keeps him on the relative good side of everyone, and maximizes the benefit of the trial for Levant as a nation.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. No, I’m pretty sure Yannu is also firmly in the “fuck Mirror Knight” camp.

                  As for Yannu potentially seeing value in destabilizing Procer … at almost any other time, under almost any other First Prince, I’d probably agree – I certainly expect that there was little to no concern or tears over Procer’s long civil war in the Dominion.
                  However … this is very much not the time and not the First Prince to be destabilizing Procer.
                  The timing issue is obvious – a destabilized Procer is going to be very bad development for the war effort against the Dead King.
                  As for not destabilizing Cordelia as First Prince, that’s maybe a little less obvious, but still clear enough to someone like Yannu – Cordelia is Lycaonese, and has no interest in the traditional Proceran expansionism, which is good for the Dominion, and perhaps more importantly, Cordelia is going to keep her word on the deals she makes with the rest of the Grand Alliance and the drow, and isn’t going to try to screw them over unless she thinks she has no other option; she’s also not going to throw Procer’s armies at the Dominion after the war, while the Dominion has exhausted itself. Pretty much any other First Prince is going to be a far less reliable partner … especially if they’re dumb enough and aggressive enough to be trying to take out Cordelia in the middle of fighting the Dead King, and are already explicitly planning on betraying at least one of their allies in that fight. That’s not a faction Yannu wants to have power in Procer.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Salt

                    No, Yannu is in the “preserve the interests of Levant” camp, and his most likely course of action will stem almost entirely from that basis. I don’t think he personally cares half as much about the mirror knight as an individual as you seem to be implying. His station necessarily requires him to look into the future and mitigate the threat of the Principiate ahead of time – it’s too late once the threat has actually come.

                    There’s pretty much zero reason for Yannu to think that Procer under Cordelia would be any less expansionist than they have been for the last several centuries after the war on Keter. It wasn’t even a decade ago that Cordelia launched the Tenth Crusade for no other reason than political convenience, and one of the moves she made to prepare for it was bullying Levant into submission by a military show of force, so they wouldn’t be a threat at Procer’s back. It’d be rather illogical for him to assume she wouldn’t stab the dominion in the back at the first safe opportunity to expand her borders, after she quite literally stabbed the dominion in the back five or so years ago to wage an expansionist war on Callow.

                    I mean for heck’s sake, the guy comes from a country who was annexed by the Principiate longer than Callow was annexed by the Empire. Their five revered noble lines are Named who went borderline Villain in terms of viciousness, rebelling against Procer. He’s never going to trust a Proceran nationalist like Cordelia farther than his children could throw her.

                    To a Dominion ruler like Yannu, a ridiculously competent First Prince like Cordelia is an absolute nightmare. The best case scenario for Levant is having Cordelia outright overthrown by an incompetent, the moment the war on Keter is over.

                    Sowing seeds of discord in the long term for the Principiate? Yes please. His perfect-world scenario is a balancing act, where the Langevins remain just strong enough to launch a rebellion once the threat of the Dead King is bottled up – it’ll either cripple Cordelia for years, or outright get rid of her as a threat.

                    As far as the immediate war on Keter goes – if he truly is worried about the war on Keter, that’s all the more reason for him to not push the sentencing too far. The Mirror Knight is still one of the most powerful Heroes currently alive, which they’re in dire need of to begin with, and if Yannu is willing to accept literal murders, rapists, and a Hunted Magician who (out of “incompetence”) made a willing deal with the Bard, then there’s no reason for him to cripple a Hero who’s having problems following orders.

                    In a purely war-on-Keter scenario, the best case is an appropriately severe punishment that puts the Mirror Knight back in line, rather than outright estranging him from the GA altogether with some ridiculously heavy sentence, for the sake of petty vengeance for the annoyance.

                    Liked by 1 person

  11. ltormblessed

    I love how even though Hanno is shortening “Black Queen” when he talks to Cat, it is always delightful to see Catherine referred to as “Black”. Does Catherine see the symbolism there? Taking Black’s name but making it her own version – not the same thing but something new. Something inspired and raised by to be sure, but ultimately her own.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Ok, so I am a tad confused about legalities here. So the issue is that the victim is a Proceran prince, but the judgement isn’t done under the Proceran law. And the reasoning for the Proceran law taking precedence is because they allegedly afraid a second Regicide would be walking around? But how would the precedence of Procer judging the princekillers by their own law will prevent a new Regicide walking around? Unless they are afraid that the precedent established may later see princekillers walk around unpunished for said murder.

    But isn’t the problem there then a murder, not a murder of a Prince? If any killer would be able to walk away from the common law by abusing Name immunity, would it not already be enough of an issue, without bringing some misplaced national pride into the mix?

    And why Red Axe can’t stand two trials? Since Frederic is two legal entities in one, well, first of all, does it mean that Cat had a threesome, an secondly, why Red Axe can’t be judged as two separate legal entities? With the Proceran justice acting in effect in the area of Proceran jurisdiction?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Konstantin von Karstein

      Frederic has 2 legal personnalities, but it’s a legal fiction. He is still one person. And it so would still mean that the RA is sentenced by a Proceran tribunal for killing a Named.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But not as a Named, as a regular person. Which she still technically is. The ones who are part of T&T are the Named, not the people they inhabit. If someone loses the Name, they lose the protection of the Terms. So, T&T can act as a temporary diplomatic immunity, that does not disqualify someone from being tried, but only from some parts of the charge being carried out.


        1. Truce and Terms are temporary indeed. If people are not protected by them from having a trial held, then the minute the war ends, all those hypothetical abusive sentences everyone’s worried about are suddenly due to take effect.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. jfstackhouse

    Why hasn’t MK nobly volunteered for some long-odds martyrdom by now? He’s a weaponized redemption arc.

    And a putz. Above’s mirror really highlights the warts, huh.

    (Also, hey all. Just binged my way to Now and loved the ride. One sin, one grace, happy to meet ya.)

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Personally I expect AA level of courtroom drama out of this one, complete with dramatic counter-accusations and parrot testimony. What better time for Mirror Knight to make his worries heard than before a council of representatives of the Grand Alliance?

          Liked by 2 people

  14. Dmitrii Suvorov

    Here’s a question: now that the Hunted Magician is no longer hunted by the Autumn Court (or will stop being hunted soon, when the Autumn Crown will be used for the Quartered Seasons), but is massively indebted to three major states, will his Name change to reflect that (Indentured or Indebted Magician, maybe)? Given that he is indebted to two definitely Good states, will he become more in-between when it comes to Good and Evil, like Ranger and Archer?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If he doesn’t pay up, and instead tries to do something stupid, such as legging it, he’s quickly going to become the Hunted Magician all over again.
      When your bad decisions get enshrined into a Name, I don’t think you can get rid of them that easily.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Captain Amazing

    No one seems to have mentioned Hanno’s addendum to the sentencing. He’s loudly proclaiming to all of the fretting Named that Catherine doesn’t just pardon villains under the Terms. He can directly tell the Mirror Knight about her forthright adherence to the law without stumbling over legal barriers. Hanno did her a major solid and Cat has no idea so it’s never mentioned.

    Liked by 7 people

  16. masterofbones

    I don’t get White knight’s aversion to talking about Red Axe’s trial. Preparation beforehand is useful and important – in the US all evidence has to be shared between prosecution and defence.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Salt

        Yeah, Hanno is being quite reasonable lol, while Catherine is actually being unreasonable as far as a court of law is concerned. What she did with the Hunted Magician – taking steps to decide the sentence before the trial even occurs – is pretty much the same thing as rigging the trial and proceeding with more or less a farce. She literally had 2/4 members of the jury in her pocket before walking through the door, with a third jury member being influenced by Cordelia.

        Convenient, and likely a solution in this particular case that everyone will be satisfied with, but it’s not actually how any sane court of law is supposed to function. Especially for potentially very contentious issues, which the Hunted Magician’s really was not.

        Hanno is… literally obeying both the letter and the intent of the law, by avoiding deliberating on the sentence until all evidence and arguments have been formally presented at time of trial. It’s exactly what he’s supposed to do, and the only thing his character background allows him to do without breaking character to a suspension-of-disbelief-busting degree.

        Granted, trials under the terms are more of a military tribunal than a proper established court, but it isn’t unreasonable for the Hero who literally grew up working for a courthouse to uphold the principles of a proper court as best he can.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Yep.

          Cat’s concerned with setting precedent for the result of a trial.

          Hanno’s concerned with setting precedent for the process of a trial.

          …they’re both right and doing good work, imho.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. …actually, rigging the trial has very little weight behind it as an idea when the judge, the defense and the prosecutor are ALL THE SAME PERSON and everyone else’s role is purely advisory. There’s just kind of nothing left to rig.

          In light of that, my guess at Hanno’s reluctance is:

          1) he’s not decided on the sentence because of missing some piece of information he believes might be key and that he expects to get either during the trial itself or right before it, and he actively doesn’t want Catherine or Cordelia sticking their noses into whatever it is;

          2) he’s got a plan and he knows they WILL NOT like it, but will have to swallow it during the trial itself. IMHO unlikely, given the general dynamic here. Hanno’s not the master politician and respects the ones who are;

          3) he’s got a plan that actually caters well to Catherine and Cordelia but he doesn’t want to give even a shade of appearance of being pressured into it.

          The trial is more of a thesis defense than an actual trial, and Hanno doesn’t want to give spoilers. Why? Gotta be a reason.

          …Alternatively, it’s just his past as a court scribe rearing its head and he just really WANTS it to be as proper as possible, even when that hardly does anything practically speaking. Given how much personal psychological pressure he’s under as the keystone of the Chosen… I could see that too tbh.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Aotrs Commander

    So, when Cat was addressing the Haunted Magician, was I the only one thinking:

    “Trust me, sir. My whole case hinges on proving you’re a dork!”

    Just me, then?

    Liked by 3 people

  18. As an idea that can potentially satisfy both Procer and the Named for Red Axe’s trial/execution. Allow Red Axe to be tried and executed under Proceran law, then have her soul be… requisitioned by Catherine indefinitely or until the war with the hidden horror is over.

    Procer gets to have their execution, and a traitorous hero gets a punishment befitting of a story.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. IDKWhoitis

    Wouldn’t have the Truce and Terms trial be fine if they just list “Attempted Murder (of some degree) of Allied Leaders” under the several charges they try the Red Axe under? It would still scrape a little sovereignty off of Procer, but hardly make it a precedent to allow a Regicide go free.

    Ultimately, someone is going to have to cede jurisdiction. By making the punishment of the T&T that Red Axe is excommunicated from the T&T, and subject to mortal law, Procer can still get their trial done. It would set the precedent that while the T&T are above mortal law, Named can still be called into account if their deeds are detrimental to the war effort/damaging to friendly states. Some Heroes and Villains would balk at being potentially forced to face a mortal court, but it would be a restraining factor on their actions in the future, not of the past. This ruling should be explicitly non-retroactive. Procer will throw a bitch fit at the ceded sovereignty but if all member states agree on it, its not as if Procer is being singled out. The other member states already afford their Names some degree of special privileges in this regard.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Notably, Procer DOES have a representative at the T&T trial. Oh sure their role is purely advisory, but that doesn’t matter if the advice is followed every time.

      Yeah, Cordelia is going to have to fold on this.

      Now, the more she puts her back into trying for the other outcome first, the more she can later make puppy eyes over an unrelated issue and go “but i made such a biiiiiig concession earlier, can’t you let me have this one?…”

      (No, her dignity is 100% not above that)

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Frivolous

    I think I can predict what Cat will do to fix Cordelia’s problems with the contrary princes of Procer.

    We know that all the contrary princes are outside the Arsenal, yes? And they’re probably far away and separated in Creation, too, so Cat can’t just gate to them. It would take too long, given she is only one woman and the trial of the Red Axe happens shortly.

    So what I think will happen is that Cat will delegate to Rumena and the Losara sigil, get those Peers and Firstborn to threaten the contrary princes into not being a problem. It will be tricky to do so without also ruining things for the Cordelia and the Truce and Terms now and the Liesse Accords later, but blackmail and extortion with plausible deniability are things Cat has experience with (see how she dealt with that High Lord and High Lady of Praes by threatening to remove the souls of their heirs and give them to the Black Knight).

    I’m reasonably sure that Sve Noc and Rumena and the Losara already know the identities of most of the problematic princes. They’ve been spying on the Mirror Knight, Rozala, and Cordelia for a long time by now.

    This action will reveal the existence of and some of the power and extent of the drow spy network, but it’s necessary.

    As for why Cordelia did not ask for Cat to do this all before, I believe Cordelia did not want to set the precedent of depending on Cat to deal with Proceran internal matters and to shore up Cordelia’s position. To do so would make Cat, a foreigner, the de facto ruler of Procer.

    Also Cordelia did not know of the drow spying on everyone and making the telepathic Night equivalent of celebrity sex videos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Salt

      If they wanted to deal with the Princes with force, they could just pretend the knowledge of the scheme was passed on from Cordelia, rather than the Sisters. No one is going to blink an eye if you claim that the first prince who has not one, but *three* major spy networks learned it from one of her spies, rather than a pair of psychic murder-goddesses. That way, the scope of the Sisters abilities don’t become public knowledge, and Cordelia gets a reputation for being unfathomably formidable in intelligence gathering, which works to her advantage.

      I suspect it wouldn’t work though, since Procer is such a land of laws that application of violence or unlawful threats are looked down upon, rather than looked up to like in Praes. If news of that kind of blunt strong-arming of the highest assembly – reminiscent of some authoritarian tyrant – got out, Procer may well riot on the spot.

      To be honest I think the best solution might be the simplest one: talk to the Mirror Knight.

      We all know he’s a colossal dumbass, so what are the chances that he doesn’t even properly understand the Langevins ambitions, or the potential international consequences to being in bed with them? Especially if this is a kid who just lost his virginity to one of their daughters, with said daughter intentionally showing him only one side of the picture as she whispers sweet nothings into his ear?

      Has anyone actually sat him down and, like, made sure he understands how much of a problem the Langevins actually are for everyone? Maybe someone like a First Prince of Procer who would automatically have his respect for being Proceran Royalty as well as Good-aligned, not to mention a candidate for Warden of the West as a Name?

      If she managed to convince his silly ass, it wouldn’t be hard for her to frame his previous association with them as a foolish noble house trying to use holy Chosen for base political intrigue, and said Chosen wisely reconsidering their relationship once their treachery became clear. She hits the Langevins in losing the Mirror Knight’s support, smudges their public image in the eyes of the highest assembly, and puts the Mirror Knight himself in her debt for saving his own reputation in the eyes of the greater Principiate.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. This.

        Everyone’s so worried about the Mirror Knight being involved with a plot, meanwhile dollars to donuts the man himself has no idea there’s any kind of plot around and would be the first on the frontlines when he learned about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Barrendur

    Personally, I’d really like to hear about how Amadeus of the Green Smirch has been stripped of all his illusions and driven to self-destruction by contemplating the extent of his failures and the wretched waste he’s made of his life, and of everything that was ever important to him. I detest the character.


    1. I’m pretty sure that’s canon as of pre-start of Book 1, considering taking a Squire was basically picking his future killer from his perspective, so… you already got your wish, technically?

      Liked by 1 person

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