Chapter 38: Tantamount

“A diplomat without a general at his back is just a polite man no one heeds.”
– Exarch Acantha of Penthes

Within an hour I received a formal message asking for my agreement to hold the Mirror Knight’s trial tomorrow. I sent back said agreement immediately and I must not have been the only one to be prompt, as within an hour of that the White Knight sent along the formal charges that Christophe de Pavanie would be accused of. I narrowed my eyes at the paucity of them: assault of an ally and insubordination. That was it. No mention of the fact that he’d kept the Severance at his hip long after the crisis had passed, though Hanno might make the case that since no formal demand to return it had been made of the Mirror Knight it hadn’t actually been a breach of the Terms for him to keep it. It wasn’t even unprovoked assault of an ally, I noted with distaste, but instead a lesser sister-charge.

I’d reserve judgement – no pun intended, Sisters preserve – until the trial took place, but I wouldn’t consider this an auspicious beginning.

Intriguingly enough, I got a third message in the wake of the first two and not from someone I’d expected to be reaching out. After I’d sat down with Vivienne to go over the possible outcomes of tomorrow with a cup of wine in hand, our talk was interrupted by a message from Lord Yannu Marave. He was overseeing the sparring of his sworn swords in the Revel’s arena, and he’d invited me to come have a look. It was a threadbare excuse to have a private talk, but that he might want that talk at all surprised me. I shared the thought with Vivienne.

“They call him Careful Yannu, back home,” she mused.

My brow rose.

“He did not strike me as all that careful a man, during the trial,” I said. “Juniper has some respect for his skill as a general and I’ll not argue there, but he’s not particularly impressed me otherwise.”

“The Dominion doesn’t do politics like we do, Cat,” Vivienne reminded me. “They often duel, when they disagree, and they’re cautious with risking their honour. He didn’t particularly care about the trial because by Levantine ways he shouldn’t have been in the room – villains are yours to discipline, as your ‘sworn men’.”

My forehead creased in thought as I considered him again with fresh eyes. He’d spoken in favour of death, when the time came for recommendations, but to Levantines things like betrayals tended to be seen as matters of honour. Honour was usually settled by blood on the floor, back in Levant, so for a lord of the Dominion to express surprise this didn’t start and end with putting the Magician’s head on a pike made a brutal sort of sense.

“Careful Yannu, huh,” I murmured.

I wasn’t entirely convinced, but best to watch my step anyway. There were damned few situations where it wouldn’t be a good idea to do that, so what was there to lose?

“There’s an emerging pattern of the Dominion reaching out to us amicably,” Vivienne thoughtfully continued. “When they suggested we arrange formal ambassadors I thought it might be leftover goodwill from your saving the Pilgrim, or perhaps courting your support in keeping their villains from making trouble, but now I’m not so sure.”

“They’ve been wary of making deals with me,” I slowly said, “but at the highest rungs of Dominion leadership they’ll be aware of my eventual abdication. You’re a lot more palatable, from their perspective.”

A former heroine with some impressive deeds to her name, nobly born but not afraid to get her hands a little dirty? That sort of reputation would go over very well, down in Levant.

“They also remember how quickly Proceran gratitude fades,” Vivienne murmured. “And how a First Prince can withdraw from the treaties signed by a predecessor. A treaty of mutual defence between our realms might appeal to their Majilis.”

“I’d think it more likely they want an informal alignment within the bounds of the Grand Alliance,” I told her. “They don’t want it to become a vessel for Proceran interests any more than we do.”

“They’ll be in no hurry to seal a pact, regardless,” Vivienne noted. “Bargaining done with an ally is expected to be gentler, and the negotiations over the Accords is the greatest leverage the Dominion has over us at the moment.”

True enough. More than once I’d wondered if Procer and Levant were actually drawing those talks out so that they could bribe me with ‘concessions’ when they wanted something from me. Not a pleasant thought to entertain, but even if it turned out to be true there honestly wasn’t much I could do about it.

“No reason not to take up Lord Marave on his invitation, then,” I said, draining the rest of my cup before rising to my feet.

No reason to waste time, either, so I got to it.

I wasn’t one to complain when offered up the sight of two dozen very fit men and women half-naked and laying hands on each other, but it lost some of the charm when they were doing their best to pummel each other unconscious. I’d been in a few brawls myself, back in the day, so I could tell that no one was taking it easy down there: those blows weren’t being pulled in the slightest. If the personal sworn swords of Yannu of the Champion’s Blood had been ‘sparring’ with blades instead of fists, there’d be corpses on the sand by now. As it was, I saw only blood and broken bones. A pair of young Levantine healers – who amusingly enough wouldn’t be considered real priests in the Dominion even though they used Light, as unlike the Lanterns they did not battle against evil – mended the fighters during their breaks, but did not otherwise involve themselves.

Yannu Marave himself sat besides me on the rafters, drinking deeply from a waterskin. He’d been down there fighting with the others when I got there, and only come up after one of the healers set a broken finger and bathed it in Light. The Lord of Alava was still barefoot and clad in only loose trousers and a sweat-soaked tunic, neither of which hid the fact that the man was a towering slab of muscle. He was tall, for a Levantine, and unusually for one of their men close-shaven instead of bearded. His colours were not currently on his face, but instead discreetly painted in intertwined threads around his wrist. After emptying what must have been half the skin, the Lord of Alava sighed in pleasure.

“I thank you for your patience,” Lord Yannu said.

“I didn’t send a messenger ahead to warn of my coming,” I dismissed with a shrug.

There’d been others up here when I first came, who’d invited me to take a seat on the bench where I still was, but they’d withdrawn when their lord came up. Now he glanced back at them meaningfully and they reached within the leather bags at their side, fiddling with something within. A moment later the small tingle of a ward coming down over the area passed over my skin, and I eyed the men speculatively. They wore armour, both of them, which was rare in mages aside from those in my army and the Legions – and even there it was a lighter kit than that of the regulars. They might not be mages at all, though, or just practitioners with a meagre Gift: it did not take much to wake the wardstones the Blood used. Gifts from the Gigantes, they were a wonder to behold and one I remained deeply envious of.

“Hiding stones,” the Lord of Alava said, noting my interest. “We will not be heard, not even by the men carrying them.”

“Useful,” I said.

Hopefully it wasn’t too obvious on my face that I’d trade the Blessed Isle for a reliable way to get those. Not that I currently owned the Blessed Isle, but that’d never stopped me before.

“I will not waste our time with small talk,” Lord Yannu said. “We both know what this is.”

I hummed, inclining my head in unspoken agreement.

“We’re not happy with Procer having an ealamal,” the tall man said.

“I’m not familiar with the term,” I said, “but I can guess what you’re referring to.”

“The angel-corpse, you have called it,” Lord Yannu said. “That is the word for such a thing in Murcadan.”

Ealamal, huh. It had a ring to it. Less ungainly to keep mentioning, too.

“Understood,” I said. “I’m not happy about it either, as you already know.”

“I do,” he said. “And the heads of two lines of the Blood vouch that your word has weight, so now we speak. Procer is a great but dying beast, and I do not advise forcing its lair, yet for that same reason we must act. An animal bleeding out cannot be trusted with the likes of an ealamal.”

He paused there, as if to invite me to speak.

“I’d prefer the weapon scrapped,” I admitted, “but I agree that no good will come out of pushing the Principate too far. The reasonable compromise would be having people of our own near it, so that it can’t be used without our agreement.”

The tanned man nodded.

“I speak for the entire Majilis when I say this,” Yannu Marave said. “We want the ealamal to be made a weapon of the Grand Alliance, like the Severance.”

“I don’t see Cordelia Hasenbach going for that without assurances,” I said. “At a guess, Procer keeping the most boots on the ground around it and maybe even controlling who has access.”

Rubies to piglets that the First Prince would cut off a finger before letting Masego anywhere near her angelic doomsday weapon.

“We’d agree to limiting Bestowed access,” the Lord of Alava said, “by making it subject to a vote needing to be unanimous. But we want Binders and Lanterns there, so that we can know the nature of the threat. I will not accept our first warning being a tide of burning light on the horizon.”

“Preaching to the choir there,” I grunted back. “I’d agree to limiting Named under those terms as well, but I want your support in pushing for the Rogue Sorcerer to have a look.”

Roland was in that narrow category of people who were both likely to understand what they were looking at and then share that information with me. The Lord of Alava studied me closely.

“Agreed, if you support the same for the Forsworn Healer,” he replied.

I hid my surprise. The man was from Atalante from what I recalled, not Levant. And he served up in Twilight’s Pass, where no Named from the Dominion had been assigned. There were Levantine troops up there, though, led by Itima of the Bandit’s Blood. Might be there was a tie there that’d slipped me by: there were few of my lot in Lycaonese lands, and none I was close to. Either way I had no reason to refuse his terms.

“Bargain struck,” I replied, offering up my arm to clasp.

“On my honour,” Yannu Marave agreed, taking the arm.

Good, that tended to be reliable in Levantines.

“All that’s left is deciding how we approach her,” I said. “It will have more of an impact coming from Levant, I’d say.”

“If Callow is the one to approach her, she will sound us out and find the door closed,” the Lord of Alava replied. “A softer creep, yes?”

“If she doesn’t already know we’re talking, I’ll put up my crown for auction in Mercantis,” I snorted. “Besides, soft won’t get this done. It needs to be made clear to her she’d standing alone in this, and that her allies are not pleased.”

“A common front, then,” Lord Yannu said. “Wearied comrades coming to her together.”

Interesting. He really didn’t want to be the one to swing the sword on this, did he? Worried about the appearance of siding with a villain, or some of the undercurrents of the Dominion’s own politics tying his hands? It was a shame that the Jacks knew so very little of the powers that moved Levant, but given the distance and the youth of their organization it would have been foolish to expect them to have spread their net that far.

“That could work,” I conceded, sensing pushing for more would get me nowhere. “A dinner tomorrow, after the trial?”

“No point in letting her dig in,” the Lord of Alava agreed, sounding amused. “I will make the arrangements, Black Queen, if you have no objection.”

“I entrust my honour to your hands,” I replied, nodding.

Surprise flickered across the man’s face, and though he tried to hide it the courtesy had obviously flattered him.

Lord Yannu of the Champion’s Blood would be less flattered if he knew I’d learned the words from the Barrow Sword, I suspected, but I had no intention of telling him.

I’d expected to derive some pleasure from this, to have to hide it, but when the time came I found that I got no joy from the sight of Christophe de Pavanie being pilloried.

Metaphorically so, that was. Aside from being unarmed and heavily guarded the Mirror Knight wasn’t bound in any way. He still looked like a beaten dog as the Sword of Judgement briskly went through the charges laid against him, face bleak as he remained silent unless spoken to. No one wanted to drag more Named directly into this, so the testimony of heroes had been offered in written form instead and the entire affair took no more than a quarter hour. The White Knight made his case methodically, laying no accusation that could not be proven and justifying his charge of ‘assault on an ally’ instead of ‘unprovoked assault on an ally’ by specifying that there’d been some fighting between heroes and that he himself had not done as much as he could have to prevent violence from erupting.

It’d keep the Mirror Knight from more severe consequences, but even as I watched the First Prince’s face subtly harden I decided it’d been a strategic mistake on Hanno’s part. Admitting to heroes brawling amongst each other only helped make them seem less reliable in Hasenbach’s eyes, damningly enough not without reason. That my own lot was looking better in comparison was darkly amusing, considering they tended to be significantly worse people. They were, however, much better at hiding their misdeeds. The most fire that was squeezed out of the Mirror Knight was when he was probed over his reasons to have acted in such a manner by the First Prince.

“I sought only to prevent the scapegoating and execution of a Chosen,” Christophe said, voice defiant. “I took the wrong path in seeking this, I’ll not deny it, but the intention itself I will not apologize for.”

Cordelia warmly thanked him for his candor with a smile and he looked both surprised and rather charmed. I wasn’t fooled, myself. I knew that glint in her eye, as it was cousin to one that’d often gleamed in my own. The First Prince of Procer was looking at a Heavens-ordained victor still insisting even now that his own half-baked sense of justice should trump laws and treaties, and finding indignation rising within her. I suppressed a wince. Those two sentences had probably done as much damage as the rest of this trial put together. Now she had to be asking herself how many heroes like Christophe de Pavanie there were, for each one like the White Knight.

I could only begin to imagine her horror at the thought of that sort of strength and ignorance bolstering the position of some Highest Assembly cutthroat.

With the charges fully presented and little doubt left as to the truthfulness of them, Hanno asked if the tribunal wanted to deliberate. I was still gauging the risk of being seen as overstepping if I pushed for that when the First Prince voted in favour. I quickly added my vote for to the tally and the Lord of Alava belatedly voted that way as well, looking more curious than anything else. With a majority secured the Mirror Knight was sent out of the room to a nearby one where he could wait until deliberations were finished, and within moments of his departure Arsenal mages put a privacy ward over the room. Cordelia opened the dance without being coy about it, much to my pleasure.

“Before punishment is decided by the White Knight, I have relevant facts to present to the tribunal,” the First Prince said.

“By our own rules of procedure, these cannot be charges,” Hanno told her.

“They are not, Lord White,” she calmly replied. “If I may?”

The dark-skinned knight nodded.

“Christophe de Pavanie has involved himself with the royal family of Cleves, the House of Langevin,” Cordelia said. “He has taken for a lover the daughter of Prince Gaspard Langevin and become associated with the plots of that line, though his exact degree of awareness there has not been made clear.”

The drow hadn’t seen him backing the plot to knife them in the back, that much was true – if Sve Noc had that kind of leverage, they would have given it to me. But he’d not outright refused either.

“Neither taking a lover nor the plotting of others is something that the Mirror Knight can be castigated for,” Hanno replied, just as calmly.

Yeah, no one was going to get anywhere trying to get the Sword of Judgement to spice up a sentence according to political necessities. You might as well ask Archer to settle down or the Pilgrim to deal in casual cruelty.

“Ignoring the full circumstances when passing the sentence would be dereliction of duty,” I said instead. “You’ve clearly established the man to be lacking in judgement through your charges, his association with known schemers has to be taken into consideration when addressing the consequences of that lack of judgement.”

“Well said,” the First Prince of Procer added. “Justice dealt without thought to consequence is no more than the arithmetic of law.”

A little rich coming from a woman famous for her mastery of using the Highest Assembly’s procedural laws against her rivals, but I’d not answer wind in the sail by poking a hole in the damned thing. Yannu Marave’s face had gone cold, though I noticed only when he leaned forward.

“You both seem in agreement that Gaspard Langevin is scheming,” the Lord of Alava. “What is the nature of this scheme?”

I cast a look at Cordelia, silently ceding her the right to speak. I was the closest thing the Firstborn had to a representative in this room, but the House of Langevin was her headache – and a little goodwill gift now and then helped grease the wheels of this relationship, anyway.

“Designs have made on lands that were promised to the Empire Ever Dark for its contributions to the war,” the First Prince said. “Though the plans remained imprecise, and no concrete measures were ever taken.”

If the Lord of Alava’s expression had been cold before, it was now freezing.

“That such an honourless man still lives, much less still wears a crown, is repugnant,” Lord Yannu spelled out with excruciating care. “With this scheming against allies he dishonours not only Procer but this entire alliance.”

I said nothing, less than inclined to take that bolt for Procer when I pretty much agreed with the man.

“Measures are being taken,” Cordelia evenly replied.

“Then let them be taken soon,” Yannu of the Champion’s Blood replied. “I will not lead my captains in the defence of such a man and his holdings, First Prince. We will not die by the hundreds so that your hungry princes can sink their teeth into new lands.”

It would have been inappropriate to let out a whistle there, but I was tempted. The Lord of Alava was being heavy-handed, but given how much honour mattered to the Blood he might be genuinely offended by what he’d learned. Or, I mused with Vivienne’s words in mind, Careful Yannu might just be preparing the grounds for our common offensive at dinner tonight. He was in full face paint today, which made reading his expression rather harder.

“We have strayed from the purpose of this deliberation,” the White Knight said.

With that call to order we let the subject drop, though it would not soon be forgotten. I’d said what I’d wanted to and the First Prince had proved true to her word by actually addressing the Langevin troubles, so when the deliberations were called to an end I did not argue against. The Mirror Knight was brought back in and Hanno called for recommendations to be made by the tribunal.

“A public lashing and four fingers,” Lord Yannu flatly said.

The Mirror Knight paled but did not speak.

“Reassignment to Twilight’s Pass until the end of the war, subordinate to another,” the First Prince suggested instead. “After his deeds being made known among all Named and a month in a cell.”

He made an uglier expression at that than the prospect of losing fingers, which I supposed said much about how other heroes would respond to his action. A month was a fairly specific length of time to ask for, though. I suspected that it would line up very well with a sentence under Procer law, by mere happenstance of course.

“I’ll second Twilight’s Pass and the subordination,” I said. “As for the rest, I’ll trust in your judgement.”

A month in a cell would be a waste, so I’d not argue in favour of it, but I was actually in favour of making it known Christophe had tried his hand at a coup. It would bottom out his reputation while the way Hanno had handled him would gild his own. Given the silence of the Choir of Judgement, the occasional reminder that the White Knight was not someone to fuck with had its uses. I didn’t want to be seen arguing for the public shaming of an opponent, though, so it was best for Cordelia to be the one doing that – not that I’d missed she was trying to send her inconvenient native hero up in Lycaonese lands, where her support ran strongest, and squarely under the Kingfisher Prince’s military command.

My eyes stayed on the White Knight, though, whose serene face I found unreadable.

“Christophe de Pavanie’s breaches of the Terms will be made known to all Named,” Hanno said. “He will offer apology and restitution to all those harmed by his actions, after which he will be apprenticed to the Grey Pilgrim for the span of a year so that he might learn from his mistakes.”

My brow rose. Was that all? I was relieved when he began talking again.

“After the year has passed, the Grey Pilgrim will give his opinion on whether further action is required,” Hanno asked. “If he believes it to be so, this tribunal will be assembled again so that appropriate sanctions might be considered.”

I breathed out shallowly. Fuck me, but he’d stepped in it there. From the corner of my eye I saw Hasenbach’s back go straight as a spear, and the fact that her anger was that that visible meant she must be furious. From a Named perspective, Hanno’s sentence was solid work: Tariq, for all his flaws, had mentored dozens of heroes over the years and had an aspect that would allow him unearthly insight into what needed to be mended in Christophe. Honestly, after a year under Tariq I fully expected the Mirror Knight to come out of the experience a better man. But the Grey Pilgrim had also butchered an entire village of Proceran civilians in order to catch Black, back before the Salian Peace, which Hasenbach still despised him for. Now a brewing threat to her authority was being sent to learn at the foot of the same Peregrine. It… wasn’t a good look.

“Wisdom was shown,” Lord Yannu commented.

Yeah, none of the Blood were going to argue with a sentence that put the Pilgrim in charge of a problem child. He had a steady hand with those. Was this enough for me, though? From the corner of my eye I watched Cordelia and saw clouds looming on that horizon. Time to throw her a bone, maybe.

“I give no objection to this, so long as the Principate is also satisfied,” I mildly said.

The First Prince glanced at me, accepting the gesture for what it was – a largely symbolic one, but not entirely without meaning. If she wanted to fight this, I’d lend a hand. Within reason. A long moment of silence passed, the Mirror Knight visibly getting uncomfortable the longer it lasted, until the First Prince finally spoke.

“I will accept this sentence, if the Grey Pilgrim sends monthly reports to the high officers on the subject of this ‘apprenticeship’,” the fair-haired princess said.

Hanno mulled over that a moment, then nodded.

“That is reasonable,” he replied. “It will be so.”

And so the trial of the Mirror Knight came to a close, having lasted not even a half hour from beginning to end. It didn’t take long afterwards to agree that the Red Axe’s own should be tomorrow, though late in the evening.

And yet, for all the smoothness, I could not help but feel there was the scent of a storm in the air.

It was an amusing novelty to be more at ease in a diplomatic situation than Cordelia Hasenbach.

When the Lord of Alava had said he’d make the arrangements to receive us for dinner, I’d not expected him to actually throw what looked like a genuine Levantine meal. One of the nice halls put together in the Proceran manner had been stripped of its decorations, painted shields having been hung up in their stead. The heraldries had been skillfully painted, I found. My own Crown and Sword had been perfectly presented in black and silver, while the golden towers on blue of the House of Hasenbach drew the eye with their neat arrangement. The colours of the Valiant Champion’s Blood were red and orange, but to my understanding the pattern changed from ruler to ruler. Yannu Marave’s own was simple but elegant, bold strokes of orange evoking a helmet with a smiling slice beneath it.

The First Prince was clearly familiar with Levantine ways, so she’d come dressed in a fine brigandine of Rhenian colours with a sword at her hip and her hair pulled back in a long three-strand braid. I’d kept to a simple grey tunic myself, though paired with bracers and greaves, and brought a short blade at Vivienne’s recommendation. Hasenbach was the first to hand over her sheathed sword to the Lord of Alava when he welcomed her, only to have it handed back as gesture of trust, and though she did not fumble handling the weapon I’d noticed she was not used to having it at her hip when she walked. My own blade was returned with the same formula of ‘your honour is known under this roof’, which while mostly symbolic was still nice to hear.

Unlike the elaborate affair of when the First Prince had entertained me over dinner, this was to be a simpler arrangement. Levantine ways in some ways reminded me of those of the Taghreb, in the sense that hospitality mattered a great deal to them and that courtesy was demonstrated personally instead of through formal etiquette. It was an honour, for example, that there would be only the three of us at the table and no servants to pour or serve. The Lord of Alava would do so for us himself, showing much more respect than if a stranger were doing it in his stead. The fare was simple but tasty: slices of dried pork ham, a mix of beans, chickpeas and eggs touched with spices and oil, good white bread with some sort of tomato paste.

Lord Yannu was generous in pouring wine, strong red stuff from southern Levant, which did wonders for my appreciation of the meal. Conversation started light and stayed there for some time as we dug in.

“Do you actually know how to use that?” I eventually asked Hasenbach, flicking a glance at her sword.

She’d kept drinking, bound by the rules of courtesy, so I believed the flush on her cheeks to be entirely genuine.

“I can hold a wall, if need be,” the Lycaonese princess replied, “I am a Hasenbach. My skill is middling, however. I was always better with a bow.”

Didn’t have the callouses of someone who shot regularly, though, I couldn’t help but notice. Probably didn’t have the time with her duties in Salia.

“Good bowmen are always useful,” the Lord of Alava said in approval. “It is unfortunate they are not as useful against the undead as the living.”

“Swords for the Dead, arrows for the Plague,” Hasenbach quoted. “There is a proper use for all things.”

That was as good a segue as we were going to get, I suspected, and I wasn’t the only one to figure that out.

“Some weapons are best left in the sheath,” the Levantine lord said. “And there are some who even sheathed cause the wise to be wary.”

The First Prince wasn’t an idiot, and not interested in pretending otherwise, so instead of playing off the comment she dabbed her lips with the cloth and washed down the last of her pork with a small mouthful of wine. Only then did she answer.

“There are many wise in Levant, I imagine,” she said.

“I have known this to be true,” Yannu Marave said, face pleasant but eyes cool.

The First Prince glanced at me.

“I don’t claim wisdom,” I said, “but wariness is dear as a sister to me.”

“It pains me to see my allies troubled,” Hasenbach mildly replied. “Though I am wary, myself, of troubling the princes sworn to me.”

“Your princes trouble me,” the Lord of Alava replied, dispensing with the pretence. “I have broken bread with Gaspard Langevin, never knowing he was plotting betrayal of an ally. I will never share a table with any of that line again.”

Godsdamn, I thought. While I was fairly sure he was feeding the flame some, the spark at the heart of it struck me as a genuine thing. The twist of those lips was just a little too tight for it to be otherwise.

“You’ve expressed concerns about the reliability of Bestowed,” I said, “and perhaps not without reason. You can understand, then, our concerns about an ealamal possibly falling in the hands of less honourable elements within Procer.”

She didn’t like it, I could tell, but she couldn’t afford to antagonize Procer’s only two allies by brushing us off. It must not have been a pleasant turn, I thought, to be the one on the outside for once. I was rather enjoying being the one with backing, though. I could get used to this.

“Let us discuss then,” Cordelia Hasenbach said, “how all our concerns might be allayed.”

After that, all that was left was bargaining over terms.

177 thoughts on “Chapter 38: Tantamount

  1. Beadsu Richar

    This is off topic, and probably will never be relevant to the story, but what happened to Assassin? He was a cool character and i might be mistaken but I thought only a simulacrum of his was destroyed in Akua’s Folly, and not really him. Anyway, an amazing chapter EE, Thanks,

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Laguz24

      Yeah, last I heard he was in ashur. Though I think he will be making a return sometime, or he’s already in the arsenal. Or he lost his name since he is no longer under the employ of the empress since that was his role (blade of the empire) and he no longer has it. Just like amadeus lost his name as the black knight after he stopped serving.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Darkening

          Black thinks to himself at one point on his trip through the twilight ways, “assassin was gone, if not from calernia than at least from his service.” So I doubt assassin is still around, but I suppose he could have come back during the time skip.

          Liked by 7 people

        1. Salt

          The Black Knight losing his Name had nothing to do with his defeat at the hands of a Hero. He lost his Name because he was at the end of the Story of the Black Knight, and was transitioning into the Role of a Claimant for Dread Emperor. Ruler instead of Ruled.

          This wasn’t a natural part of his Role either. Turning him into a Claimant from a Black Knight was orchestrated directly by the Bard. She said it outright when she dropped by to gloat after manipulating him into accidentally kill Captain during the fight with the White Knight.

          > The Wandering Bard leapt down from the rooftop, half-falling. She came close, kneeling at his side.

          >“Go home,” she said. “Murder your little friend in the Tower and reign until someone puts a knife in your back. You’re not as good at this game as you thought you were.

          After Black was captured by the Pilgrim, she once again intervened to push him into becoming Dread Emperor, by directly convincing him to become a Claimant.

          > “I am,” Amadeus said, “no longer the Black Knight.”

          >“You don’t fit that groove anymore,” Marguerite said. “Powerless you ain’t, Maddie. You know what you are, deep down, you just think it’s beneath you.”

          >His fingers tightened under the knuckles were white.

          >“Claimant,” the Wandering Bard said. “You can have your second shot at it, you’re owed that.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. You are correct, and he was mentioned since. Black sent him to Ashur to assassinate their leadership, without contact and specific plans to avoid detection by the Augur. This seems to have bitten everyone in the ass – the plot being finalized was mentioned in Cordelia’s POV at the peace conference, where Augur had finally seen it and told her, but it was too late to do anything. And Black soon after – in the Epilogue, I think, it was his own POV – mentioned Assassin being either out of Calernia or at least out of his service.

      No status updates since.

      Liked by 7 people

    3. Big I

      He was sent to assassinate the ruler of Ashur (Magon Hadast I think his name is? ) so that his son, who has ties to the Tower, could take over. That was before Thallasinnia though. Since then the only mention is from an Amadeus POV where he thinks that “Assassin is gone, if not from this world then at least from his service”.

      Liked by 9 people

    4. Oh I suspect it will be very, very important at the worst possible time. There is a character famous for nigh-impossible to survive, who is nigh-impossible to kill, who can be literally anywhere in the story, who had terrifying abilities hinted at yet not explicitly spelled out, who acts at the behest of someone known for picking the *worst* moments to twist the knife in, and whose Empress wants the Grand Alliance to hurt fighting the Dead King.

      And the Grand Alliance is a house of cards barely keeping itself afloat.

      The only case in which I can see the Assassin not busting in at the worst possible moment is if the Assassin already *has* and is the Red Axe somehow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. > who acts at the behest of someone known for picking the *worst* moments to twist the knife in, and whose Empress

        unconfirmed, which is the closest to a silver lining here

        Like

    1. Alexis

      My own input was returned with the same formula of ‘your votes are known under this roof’, which while mostly symbolic was still nice to hear.

      Like

  2. I’m not sure Tariq is really the best person to oversee Mirror Knight’s “rehabilitation”, as I’m pretty sure Mirror Knight is also one of the people who thinks Tariq is under Cat’s influence/sway, which would likely complicate Tariq’s efforts.
    Also … Tariq needs to confront the fact that Bard isn’t who he thought she was.
    Plus … Tariq is somebody who doesn’t exactly have a promising perspective on the relative value of secular values and authorities relative to that of the Ophanim.

    Mirror Knight’s trial went more smoothly than I expected it would.
    The lightness of the charges is a potential problem.
    But now Yannu knows about the Langevin plotting and he is not pleased, as expected.

    The question of the Angel corpse went surprisingly well.

    Red Axe’s trial is gonna be a mess. Or, rather … the aftermath. Especially if she outright says that she lied about accepting the Truce and Terms. Major consequences for the reliability of Named, especially Heroes.
    Also, if she lied, Cordelia could also try to use that as a lever to get her out from Hanno’s jurisdiction and into hers, which might complicate things.
    Huh. Hanno is going to need to be careful about what charges he lays against Red Axe. That’s another potential problem.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Ninestrings

      Very few Named have the patience to deal with his stupidity, and the power to slap him down if necessary.

      Also The Blood really like that guy so denying him custody on the basis of distrust to The Grey Pilgrim may be taken as an insult to them.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Salt

        Not to mention that the Mirror Knight’s main problems is his stubbornness in defending a vague idea of virtue at all costs, lack of experience in worldly matters, and lack of any sort of nuance in matters of judgement.

        Tariq as a person has strengths to match all of those three flaws, and has a Role/Story almost specifically designed for teaching young Heroes what they’re lacking. He’s nearly tailor made by Above for this kind of Role.

        It probably won’t hurt either that the Grey Pilgrim was one of the few people brutally principled enough to draw genuine respect for them Saint of Swords. You’re never going to be held in such high esteem by Laurence de fucking Montfort without an ironclad set of virtuous principles that puts most Heroes to shame. Christophe will respect that about the “kindly” old grandfather, if nothing else.

        Liked by 13 people

        1. Yeah, this. Tariq has the advantages of:

          – his Role being that of a teacher, personally speaking if not necessarily that of his Name;

          – knowing EXACTLY why people listen to the Black Queen and trust her personally speaking;

          – understanding clearly the balance of power behind the Truce and Terms;

          – having Behold to make up for Christophe’s inability to communicate clearly;

          – not being Proceran and so having the perspective Christophe lacks for how his people come across to everyone else, but also being old and wise and patient enough to not just end the conversation the first time Christophe blurts out something horrifically offensive;

          – being, indeed, universally respected and personally more or less beyond reproach;

          – having been friends with the Saint of Swords and so both having respect for uncompromising stances and being intimately familiar with their downsides.

          (Though, honestly, I don’t think Christophe is a lot like Laurence. Her uncompromising-ness came from an excess of practicality – she already knows what’s best and what will happen if who does what, and listening to other people / giving villains a chance is a cute idealistic thought she’s no longer into based on extensive life experience. What ideals she did hold once upon a time that got beaten out of her might just be the opposite of Christophe’s to the degree them both being Above-bound allows.)

          Liked by 7 people

          1. KageLupus

            Of all of those points, Behold is the one that I think makes the most sense. We have seen Christophe’s point of view, and so we know that his biggest hangup is that he sticks his foot in his mouth almost constantly. He is always feeling like his words and his intent don’t line up, which makes him feel awkward, which leads to more poor interactions.

            Having a kind old grandfather who can see your intent clearly is exactly what someone like that needs to start getting over their issues. Tariq has the Aspect that will let him act as a therapist and mentor, and the years of practice to make him a good one. More than anything that is what Mirror Knight needs to stop being a pain in everyone’s ass.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Y E A H

              One of Cat’s biggest issue with Tariq was that he tried to act like a kindly old mentor figure to her AND SHE ALREADY HAD ONE OF THOSE THANKS THE SLOT IS FILLED.

              While Cristophe’s entire problem is that it’s not.

              Liked by 3 people

      1. Salt

        I don’t know, I’m a little worried that Hanno is not the right *type* of careful, considering that the danger is primarily a politically related one instead of one that has to do with Justice and the Law. This chapter just showed that he is basically a perfect robot with the latter, but aggressively gives no shits about politics if they’re not directly related to the trial at hand.

        We got some… troubling foreshadowing here where Hanno perfectly dealt with the Mirror Knight’s trial as far as the letter and the intent of the law went, but basically stomped on Cordelia’s toes in the process by ignoring political ramifications/personal grudges, for the sake of the most lawful and Just resolution.

        It’ll have to be Cordelia who’ll need to be very careful about how she pushes her agenda for a Proceran trial to prevent a riot in the highest assembly, because Hanno is basically going to plow ahead exactly as his view of legal correctness and “Justice” demands. If Hanno sees her as attempting to subvert the Law under the Terms here, she’s going to find out exactly what Catherine was thinking about him being a sharp rock under water.

        Liked by 12 people

        1. Lord Haart

          I think you may be misreading Hanno here somewhat. Recall his thoughts during the heroes’ meeting, he is less concerned about Justice than about the best outcome. He knows that few people could wield the Severance and he’s trying to make sure that if they need to rely on MK for that (which no one else would like but which may be required in the end), that door remains open. Which is actually very pragmatic, really

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Salt

            Nah, I will have to disagree. While the law by itself isn’t the only thing he looks at, at the end of the day there’s absolutely nothing in all of Creation that Hanno is more concerned about than Justice. When the Tyrant viewed him with Wish, what he saw was “at her side that boring little thing the White Knight tread, all desires his own faded while that horrid thing intertwined with the Seraphim – I wish to be just – tainted everything.”

            Which is rather in-line with his character background, since Hanno’s equivalent of Catherine taking up the knife for the sake of peace, was going to the temple to seek the Face of the Just. Actually his entire origin Story – and the reason he’s even Named the White Knight at all – was about him realizing that mortals weren’t capable of determining Justice in the first place. He was anointed by the Seraphim because he had such a fervent wish for Justice that he was willing to almost completely give up his own agency for the sake of being Just.

            Hanno is not the Hero who cares mostly about outcomes. That’s the Pilgrim, who is blatantly willing to commit lesser evils as long as it results in less suffering, let his Sister’s killer live – fully admitting that it was the unjust thing to do – because it would result in less suffering, and killing his own adopted son because the outcome otherwise was an entire war worth of suffering.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Hanno cares about justice AND about outcomes. If the outcome of justice done is disastrous, was it really justice in the first place? The Seraphim seemed to say “no” to that in Hanno’s initiation vision.

              Like

    2. LizAris

      I actually feel pretty good about giving Mirror to ol Tariq—
      It’s true he is fully in line with his choir and depends on them for judgment much in the same way Hanno used to (whispers in the ear etc), but as far as secular authorities he knows where he stands and where that power needs to be.
      He never wanted to rule Levant (even though they’d literally hand the crown to him); he’s always been very open to careful consideration of enemies turned allies (he’s one of the heroes most okay with joining forces with Cat, even happily sat down to talk to her when they first met, which is the kind of foresight and consideration Christophe wouldn’t recognize even if it sat in his lap). He entrusted the safety of Aquiline and Razin to the Black Queen, which is definitely saying something about his respect for politics and power in Calernia, and how he didn’t want his home to be left behind. All in all he’s not a stupid guy and I think he’s ESPECIALLY fitting for Christophe given how well he once dealt with Saint, and how much Mirror mirrors (ha) a more flawed version of her.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. 'Ladi Williams

        “Sat down and happily talked to her”…. Yeah. You do realise that was him trying to set her up for a redemption narrative where she loses her head at the end of it right?
        If not that Cat was story savvy…she wouldn’t have dodged that bullet.
        And he kept trying to off her even after that without batting an eyelid. He only gave up and truly listened when it became obvious he couldn’t beat her story wise…
        That said. I still agree with you that he’s a good choice to put some sense into that hard head and has the required power to beat it into the said hard head.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Salt

          To be fair, even after Catherine came back from the Everdark she still believed he was being genuine, despite his active attempts to kill her.

          Not to mention that, if his argument with the Saint during the Princes graveyard is to be believed, Catherine was far from the first Villain to act like she had good intentions. As in he tried compromising with Villains similar to Catherine quite literally dozens of times and got burned for it every time without a single exception, before deciding to try again with Cat.

          Tariq vs Laurence, from Concord:

          > “Tariq, how many of these ‘turnabouts’ have you seen over the years?” the Saint hissed. “How many Damned made their apologies, swore they’d never meant to hurt anyone, said that they would help you keep the peace instead.”

          >“Dozens,” the Pilgrim said.

          >“And how many kept their word?”

          >“None,” the old man tiredly said.

          > “And still you want to make bargain with her? The battle’s not done, Tariq. It’ll get ugly, true enough, and thousands will die. Likely one of us too. But we can still win, and though we’ll be a ruin after we’ll be a ruin that can recover,” the Saint harshly asked. “But if we compromise, here and now? There’ll never be any recovering from that. The taint will be in the cause until it runs its course. So why?”

          >“Because we are not animals,” Tariq softly replied. “Because we do not shy from compromise simply because it has burned us before. Because if we are willing to break armies for a point of theological purity, then that it is us that deserves the breaking. …

          Liked by 7 people

        2. Oh, this meme that Catherine herself started in-universe when she did not believe there could possibly not be a catch. She asked the question of “how exactly could this be an assassination attempt?” and lo, it was possible.

          That doesn’t mean it actually was one.

          And Tariq’s first conversation with Catherine that’s being referred to here, the one at the campfire before any battles, was never referred to with anything like that, and was pretty civil and productive – they discussed what the fuck Crusaders were doing there and what Tariq could and could not do, and agreed on rules of engagement – no angels, no devils and demons, no sacking cities, no torturing prisoners, respecting surrender, etc.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. LizAris

          Oh there was all kinds of underhanded bullshit happening at that little talk, 100%. Perhaps “happily” was a bit sarcastic, but point being a lot of heroes wouldn’t even sit down. I’m sure saint would’ve been just as happy slicing off Cat’s head and walking away. The thing about Tariq weaving a story for her, is that she can still think her way out of it, and he leaves her room to prove herself. Tariq never WANTED to kill her as a first priority; it almost felt more like a test– if the villain can make her way out of this story, we will either definitely have to kill her or we will work with her. (on the other hand, if she can’t get out of it this kills her anyways.) Ultimately he was open to working with her if that ended up being the better choice.

          Liked by 2 people

        4. ninegardens

          >You do realise that was him trying to set her up for a redemption narrative where she loses her head at the end of it right?

          I’m not sure how far I buy this argument.
          For two reasons:
          1) The only one who has the “Redemption=murder” in her head is Cat.
          2) Cat is pretty much doing EXACTLY the same thing to Akua. And no ones complaining about that.
          3) Pretty sure that for Pilgrim, Redemption is the GOAL. Redemption is dangerous and Risky, but he was never TRYING to hurt her. He was trying to redeem her. Even if the net result was the same (Redemption =death), the intention matters. In particular, if she had “redeemed” herself in his eyes, it seems likely that he would take great personal risks to protect her. Its still kind of patronizing, but it is very different to attempted murder.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Frivolous

            I don’t agree with your idea that the -only- one who thinks “redemption = murder” is Cat. I think Tariq himself believes it.

            Quotes here, from Interlude: Death They Cannot Steal and also Interlude: And Pay Your Toll:

            It was a bitter irony that the deaths of soldiers had been the balance’s harsh swing in his favour yet the true burden he must bear had been of no consequence at all. Catherine Foundling had given the slip to every story that could bind her to an ending, and so left herself only one path: reign eternal, consumed and consuming, a herald of long prices and hard measures having made mantle of the woes of Creation.

            If there was even a single chance that Catherine Foundling would be the keystone to the death of Calernia, Tariq must ensure it would not come to be. And so now Tariq was forced to countenance this hour of barren deaths, lest a thousandfold worse might be allowed to pass.

            It was a draw that would take Tariq where he needed to go, arm him with the only blade left that might still be capable of killing Catherine Foundling should it prove necessary.

            Analysis: Note the phrasing of ‘the only blade left that might still be capable of killing Catherine Foundling’.

            To use the word ‘left’ implies that there have been other blades capable of killing Cat, but there are no more. Redemption is therefore clearly indicated to be the blade he tried to forge earlier, with the intention to kill her.

            Therefore Tariq indeed tried to use Redemption = Murder on Cat before.

            Agree?

            Liked by 2 people

            1. “Bind her to and ending” =/= “kill her”, in this context. Remember that heroes die of old age and villains are potentially immortal. A necessary thematic tie exists in-universe between morality and mortality.

              And this was a “if I cannot get a way to kill her right now, no-one will ever be able to” situation. Normally “a blade that can kill a person” is anything from heroic sacrifice to time passing. Catherine becoming exempt from one after another was not about previous murder attempts, it was about her previously being mortal, period.

              Grey Pilgrim didn’t even necessarily need to kill her with the pattern of three, just get a way to do it. MAD doctrine and all.

              (…and then Catherine was proven to be 100% not immune to heroic sacrifice after all and there went any residual worries lmao)

              Like

      2. > depends on them for judgment much in the same way Hanno used to

        Actually absolutely not. They give him information, but they don’t give him decisions, it’s the opposite of Hanno’s deal if anything. We have one instance of him actually trying to ask them for practical advice (Prince’s Graveyard, when he got Catherine’s letter of surrender), and all he got was “we trust in you!”

        Mercy is Extremely Unhelpful in the way exactly proportionate to how active they are in his daily life. Balance and all.

        (Hanno, on the other hand, did not have any communication with the Seraphim at all beyond the ‘kill/spare’ answers of his coin)

        And yeah, Tariq’s the embodiment of grim practicality to the point of being Amadeus’s effective mirror in many ways.

        Liked by 3 people

    3. mamm0nn

      I agree, for all that Tariq might be a good mentor in the traditional sense, he’s still a Bestowed that MK will likely defer to in judgement. Once the apprenticeship ends, MK will perhaps be less of an idiot or a defter hand but he’d still be a Bestowed with his ideals and shortsightedness fundamentally there.

      He might even be more dangerous because of it, waiting until opportune moments to damn or trouble all evil perceived by him instead of blurting it out immediately. And doing the dance of politics and hierarchy just a bit better to not step on everyone’s toes when he makes accusations. However I don’t see Pilgrim fix the issues that caused the problem to begin with; in the end MK will probably still be that idiot that sees his ideals and his own sense of justice above everything else with no sense of the broader picture.

      If anything, Pilgrim might only make that worse, looking at his own history with Cat and Villains. Being mollified towards a single Villain does not mean being inherently changed in one’s teachings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 'Ladi Williams

        Especially after said villian beat you all around the continent…then saved your life when your best friends stupidity got you killed while on special ops…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. > in the end MK will probably still be that idiot that sees his ideals and his own sense of justice above everything else with no sense of the broader picture.

        Extremely not seeing that.

        Tariq is known among heroes as The Big Picture One, if anyone at all can teach Christophe what he needs to understand about cause and effect and long-term consequences of actions, it’s him. It’s basically what Mercy is the Choir of, at least at his side.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. mamm0nn

          Hm, him showing up to invade Callow with Procer after it was liberated from the Wasteland doesn’t suggest he’s idiot-proof. He would’ve known the precedent that set, and given his stubbornness afterwards his character as suggested should’ve waited for a different chance or politically pressured to change the invasion to not be a Proceran invasion under a thin guise.

          My point however was that Pilgrim might teach MK a thing or two, but in the end I don’t think MK’s fundamental problem of being that hero that sees his own ideals and opinion over everyone else’s and realistic rules and restrictions to be resolved. If anything, it may even flare up stronger if he no longer feels like an idiot in other areas that tell him he may not know the whole picture. When he encounters something that ruffles his feathers after a year of mentoring, he may just press for something heroic stupid again.

          The very issues that led to MK being a problem, I don’t see Pilgrim resolve. If not because he’ll just teach MK more of the heroic fundamentals that are known to cause the very issues that we saw him cause here, then MK might just be mollified and deferring judgement for a year only to start thinking for himself again after a year. Which doesn’t necessarily mean having improved anything during that time.

          I know there’s no suitable mentors available and Cat is way too busy to do it, but I think MK should’ve been mentored by a Villain or at least Neutral for a year instead. To hammer it in that his teachings of above are not the only thing out there and when they should be more malleable. A Villain teaching him that not all Villains are complete chaotic evil would be better than a goody Pilgrim trying to teach him rigid restraint.

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          1. the thing is, even if MK will keep the ability to be a problem in the future, as far as t&t and this war go, Grey Pilgrim can just directly teach him these things. Like he might not be able to teach MK to think right in future complicated situations, but this one right here? Worst case scenario MK’s inflexibility gets flipped into defending the t&t and the Black Queen with his life.

            Like

            1. mamm0nn

              Doubtful. Pilgrim even after all that happened still turned out to be a stubborn old fool that expected Above to get the whole cake at the end of the last book, and with but a single warning not to mess with her Cat set back their whole relationship again because he apparently didn’t like ‘We’re people to, and don’t defer to your expectations of Above getting everything, you old sod.’

              Don’t forget, Pilgrim isn’t the wise and practical man that we may remember him as after not having seen him for a while. White Knight is, but Pilgrim is and has consistently remained a flawed fool favouring Above with little realism about the shades of grey.

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                1. mamm0nn

                  Ah, last book halfway ending. Chapter 69: Repute. Read from “Well, they were certainly the easiest kind to live up to.” onward, though reading the whole chapter may prove better to jog the memory of where you are. How the Pilgrim in his stubborn heroic ways that lay in him the same foundations as MK that led to him inevitably causing conflict with whatever Villain tries diplomacy without deference or subordination.

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                  1. I unfortunately cannot see Pilgrim’s logic in that chapter as wrong in any way. I can follow Catherine’s if I squint, but he’s not wrong.

                    Cat’s indignation over how self-claimed bad people are not treated with automatic trust and respect is…

                    Well, I didn’t like the speech she gave in that chapter. Notably she’s 100% not even thought of going through with that threat now that the condition has been triggered. Because it was stupid.

                    I mean she has a point about how Bard was being an asshole with that “test”, but if she gets to say “yeah well they’re MY assholes and I trust them even if they’re occasionally turds” so does the Pilgrim?

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                    1. mamm0nn

                      Much of the issues of this book lie in the way that Heroes do things. They rally people on empty platitudes without a plan for keeping the country or governing it, they strike at what they consider injustice or not good enough without coming up with an alternative themselves, and they allow a lot of evil to fester or even enforce it’s continued existence, because it’s not Evil but just human corruption or nepotism.

                      If the Heroes were actually able to carry their message into reality, then sure your argument wouldn’t be wrong. But now, Heroes are fallible demigods that see fit to decide the faith of thousands or stick true to their ideals as seen by them even when these are in reality infeasible. Even if they have a Choir on their shoulder, they’re still acting as a Judge and Executioner just like the Villains. But unlike the Villains, they believe themselves righteous to keep preaching their own opinion in the name of something higher until they get what they want.

                      This issue is strong in Grey Pilgrim as well, and his insistence to snuff out or chain the Black Queen went on for much too long given Cat’s actions, because of this. No, what made MK falter and be punished here, is present in Pilgrim too. As such, I don’t see him teach MK to fix it.

                      Like

                    2. Heroes are correct in what they do 90 times out of 100.

                      The book is focused on the other 10, yes. That doesn’t mean heroes are wrong as a whole.

                      At the time when the Pilgrim was worrying about having a way to kill the Black Queen, the last time he’d seen her (into her) was the time when she had given a killswitch to Vivienne with this exact worry. BECAUSE SHE WAS SLOWLY TURNING INTO AN ERRATIC FAE QUEEN OF ICE AND DEATH AND IT WAS A REASONABLE WORRY. (And she never told Pilgrim about the killswitch, so he didn’t exactly have reason to think the issue was being handled already)

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      3. I disagree. Mirror Knight’s core ideals and intentions are specifically NOT a problem.

        His problem is how he goes about upholding those, as well as a consideration of what is and isn’t an effective way to achieve it. I have exactly nothing against someone politely, diplomatically and legally arguing that (this is current MK picture of Red Axe atm) rape victim killing her rapist in the heat of the moment followed being manipulated and coerced into attempting to kill another person is not, in fact, someone deserving a death sentence.

        Now is it a pain in the ass to deal with for the protagonist? Absolutely. But a polite, non-violent, diplomatic discussion adhering to the letter of law is ideal even if you vehemently disagree with your opponent.

        Really, ironically, just like Saint, what Cristophe needs to learn most is to Listen. To others, to the world and to himself. If he will just get a correct and reasonably full picture in his head, it will solve half his problems. If he will be taught how to address the issues without swinging his sword around, but twice as effectively, it will solve another half. Since Pilgrim is a walking definition of “bigger picture stuff” guy, I can’t comprehend your objections. This is quite specifically what he did for his entire life.

        I genuinely lold at a bit about putting your ideals above everyone’s else’s. This is something everyone does, otherwise they wouldn’t be called ideals. God damn it dude. Now he will benefit from being more flexible and open-minded, but his ideals are ok. Quite a lot of his crimes is caused by misapplication of his ideals due to ignorance, not a failure of the ideals themselve. But I may be wrong. Can you provide an example of which of his ideals do you consider to be inherently bad? Also why do you think those are his ideals.

        Thank you for reading my wall of text regardless.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Salt

          > I genuinely lold at a bit about putting your ideals above everyone’s else’s. This is something everyone does, otherwise they wouldn’t be called ideals.

          This pretty much sums up my reaction exactly. I mean it’s even established in the very first chapter that Named are people who have “The belief, deep down, that they know what is right and that they’ll see it done.”

          Strongly believing that their ideals are more correct than anyone else’s is the only defining characteristic of Named in the first place, meaning exact same accusation applies to every single person with a Name who ever existed. This includes the Villains, several of which have already attempted to murder Catherine for power or just reputation.

          Its not as if some of the Heroic biases against Villains are actually unjustified either. Catherine outright admitted to herself in this very chapter that her own lot are generally terrible people compared to the Heroes, and that they’re just better at hiding their crimes.

          Cat hasn’t somehow proven everyone wrong, over the years, that Villains are just a bunch of tortured misunderstood souls. It’s rather the opposite – being put in charge of managing a bunch of them has made her realize that, yes, most of them actually are a pack of giant assholes. There’s a good reason that Catherine has to manages most of Below’s lot with fear and threats, while Hanno usually manages Above’s by… sitting them all down around a table and reasoning with them, with his typical unsalted mozzarella levels of mildness.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. > I mean it’s even established in the very first chapter that Named are people who have “The belief, deep down, that they know what is right and that they’ll see it done.”

            > Strongly believing that their ideals are more correct than anyone else’s is the only defining characteristic of Named in the first place, meaning exact same accusation applies to every single person with a Name who ever existed.

            Yes, definitely, all Named ever, especially the babies.

            -points finger at Sabah, unsubtly-

            There is very specific category of Named who are all about believing they know what’s right. It’s wide, and yes it includes villains too (hello Fallen Monk, out of the latest set), but it is by no means ALL NAMED.

            Amadeus was, er… overgeneralizing.

            (I agree with everything you’re saying, I just cannot help but nitpick this one)

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        2. mamm0nn

          As written, neither the rape victim nor the ideals are like that for everyone thing apply to this story.

          EE wrote from (White Knight’s perspective no less) that MK saw Red more as a similarity to him and that her exoneration would resolve his guilt as well. As well as the whole ‘She’s a Bestowed, so while we should have the right to kill a dozen Villains you guys are evil for trying to kill a single Hero.’ standpoint that MK almost directly preached. I don’t recall him even mentioning the specifics of her act and motivation, just that she was a Bestowed and him seeing a plot to kill her with some narrative similarities to him.

          Ideals are the most important for a lot of people, but I was talking about the issue that Cat mentioned bitterly before:

          “Because that just wasn’t how he saw the world in the end, was it? Heroes – the Chosen – were honourable and good, so even us wicked Damned must recognise these qualities and believe in their word when it was given. It was a shade of the same sentiment I’d so deeply despised in Tariq, that bedrock assumption that only the mad and the lost could ever choose anything but service to the Gods Above. It was a way to see the world that simply did not allow for disagreeing equals.”
          Chapter 26: Palaver

          ““I don’t want an apology,” the Red Axe said. “I want all these swords and oaths to be defending something worth defending. You spawned a monster that cares nothing for the past and looks hungrily at the future, Black Queen. Maybe it was the best you could, for all your famous cleverness.”
          She laughed, the sound of it bleak to my ear.
          “So think of me as the voice Creation uses to say that this is not good enough,” the prisoner said. “Your Truce and Terms will break, and you’ll either do better or be cast aside.”
          Just another hero, lighting a torch and declaring it wasn’t enough without ever offering another way. There was an echo of so many I’d faced in that voice, in that castigation. The Lone Swordsman, willing to make our home a wasteland so land as it was our own banner flying above it. The Grey Pilgrim, willing to choose war over peace because it wasn’t the peace he’d wanted. The Saint of Swords, eyes hard as she decided to risk the death of all Iserre rather than compromise. I’d heard this refrain before, sung by different voices or with different words.”
          Chapter 29: Conviction

          Both of these fit MK to a tee. He is inherently flawed with both of the Guide’s issues regarding heroes: He considers Above to be absolutely good and therefore every shade of grey evil or to bend to his goodness if he speaks about change and morals. And he shouts about what’s wrong and needs to change, without offering a better alternative himself. Both of these lay at the foundations of his flaws and his folly during this book, and both are flaws that Pilgrim still has himself and likely cannot fix even if he didn’t have them. He didn’t fix them in Saint, and only begrudgingly changed his own for Cat and even that to only the mildest degree without doing so sufficiently or equally.

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          1. The Mirror Knight has never spoken to the Red Axe. He has no idea she’s got ideology about this, he thinks she was tricked into attacking Frederic and killed the Wicked Enchanter in a fit of trauma induced panic or something like that. (That’s also what my first thought was when I heard about the murder, for the record, and the information contradicting that that I’ve received since, Mirror Knight didn’t) There’s no need to mention she’s a rape survivor every time she’s brought up, it’s already what everyone knows. It’s kind of the default background hum to the whole Red Axe thing.

            And Catherine’s own perspective is not perfectly unbiased, which she knows full well, what with periodically acknowledging that her ‘flock’ is by and large terrible people, where heroes, well, aren’t. She complains periodically about there not being “equality” but well uh yeah there isn’t. When one person has committed mass murder and the other hasn’t you don’t get to cry oppression when the first one is… passed by for opportunities. They aren’t exactly discriminating by ethnic origin (admittedly, in the case of Praesi they occasionally might as well be, but that’s pretty niche for Proceran and Levantine heroes). They’re not even discriminating by religion, though at some point “my religion is Evil” maybe kind of does warrant a sideways look – they’re not discriminating against orcs and non-Named Praesi, Catherine’s complaining about them being oh so unfair to, uh, VILLAINS. “I’ve made a pact with dark powers that love murder and betrayal, what, why are you looking at me like that”

            Disagreeing equals my ass, and Catherine knows it. She just doesn’t care about always being 100% correct, unbiased and accurate in her inner monologue when she’s annoyed.

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        3. Lord Haart

          MK clearly puts Procerans ahead of others, and denigrates the other nations that are helping to defend Procter. He’s not the only nationalist, but he’s one of the few who also claim to be on the side of Above.

          I have some limited sympathy for his stunted personality but ultimately his issues stem from seeing people as things. Even himself, for that matter.

          Hopefully Tariq can cure that. He’s probably one of the few who have a real chance to, but even there I have concerns. There’s now a parallel with Cat mentoring Razin and the other Blood, and while her influence has been more useful than not, it’s only had limited effect and so the same may happen with Tariq and MK.

          Liked by 1 person

    4. Miles

      His sentence was a mirror of the prior trial’s outcome.

      A ruined reputation along with an opportunity most [villains or heroes, respectively] would happily give all their gonads for.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Regarding the lightness of the charges against MK… Cat mentions his hanging onto the Severance after the crisis. But, considering his attitude during the trial, can you imagine what he’d have said if someone tried to call him out on that? I think Hanno dodged a bullet (or shoved Cat out of its way) there.

      Like

  3. Ninestrings

    I’d read a spin off that is just The Grey Pilgrim slowly and painfully beating sense into Christophe over the course of a year.

    I doubt The Grey Pilgrim would have the patience that The White Knight has with that idiot.

    Liked by 12 people

      1. dadycoool

        That might be a hard sell, considering the Dominion wouldn’t like their not-a-king sacrificing himself for a very Proceran Hero. Maybe if it was paired with or led up to a Final Battle or something that would end DK, Bard, or both.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. ninegardens

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Old Peregrine could single handedly hold back Nessie.
          Not *beat* Nessie, but just straight up hold him off for however long was needed.

          Liked by 2 people

                    1. Mhm. Honestly at this point Tariq exists in like. MLP-like trope space where bad things just don’t happen full stop and that’s that. EVERYTHING is fixable and everything gets fixed.

                      Mirror Knight is taking a vacation into small children cartoon land and honestly I hope it works exactly the way it would in a kids’ cartoon – i.e. he learns something new and internalizes it fully.

                      Also something something Tariq’s regular reports letters to Princess Celestia.

                      Like

  4. Sir Nil

    So far so good. Cat is furthering ties to Levant, MK gets a suitable slap on the hand while GP gets another Laurence to reminisce with, and Hasenbach is giving ground on the angel corpse. Unfortunately, this is all probably to contrast with when we finally get to the trial of the Red Axe.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. dadycoool

    Gonna need a broom for the rubble that once was a bunch of pedestals, on Cordelia’s part. It’s just been thrown in her face that the Bestowed consider their own judgement to be higher than the laws of the land, to the point of ignoring/blowing off the law. I bet she’s got a black eye from that.

    It’s cool how well Cat fits in with Yannu and the Dominion. The dinner was also a nice way to remind us that Cordelia is in fact a Warrior Queen of sorts, even if her hands are more used to silk than steel nowadays.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Pretty sure she knew this already, Saint of Swords existing and all.

      She just didn’t love the reminder.

      And hell yeah, the “I can hold a wall” moment was awesome.

      The Lycaonese, the Levantines and the Callowans have a few things to bond over :3

      Liked by 8 people

    2. Salt

      Callowan and Levantine cultures are very, very complementary now that I think about it.

      They’re both traditionally good, culturally martial nations who have an isolationist national policy and have made a history of fighting off invasion from ridiculously expansionist neighbors. The Dominion has duels with giant monsters as a pastime, and Callow is so militarized in culture that they hardly have artwork of anything but war and hunting.

      If anything, a Levantine and a Callowan would likely instantly bond over their mutual searing hatred of treacherous, backstabbing invaders.

      Liked by 12 people

      1. Meanwhile, Lycaonese and Callowans can instantly bond over the “yep, Evil is coming again, time to march to the wall protecting the backstabbing asshole neighbours who’re ignoring it again”.

        Lycaonese and Levantines… have less in common, as their martial-ness is almost exactly opposite in nature (with Callowans somewhat in the middle – they have both glorious knight charges and ‘down here in the mud’ lionized in their culture). Still both martial though.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. In a delicious twist of irony, those are also cultures that saw itself on different sides of Crusades IRL. Not that I would imply that Levantine culture was actually inspired by Levantine cultures. Since it is also heavily takes from Iberia to arrive somewhere about Al-Andalus. Which makes both of those cultures mutual invaders over the course of history. As well as invadees. Is that a word?

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Lord Haart

      Oh, good point – MK might go off the rails when he hears more about what happened SoS.

      Definitely not a low chance of him having a real go at Cat, if he continues to follow after Laurence. There’s a good story backing him there too – hero coming back to kill the villain who killed their idol, amplified by the fact that the Severance was enabled and fashioned by Cat’s directive – Villains always sow the seeds of their own destruction.

      I’d go so far as to say that if Cat dies (again) in this story, it’ll be after surviving beating Bard and DK only to wind up with Christophe turning the blade on her.

      Like

      1. Salt

        I think unlikely, since Mercy tossed around visions of the events to random people like a flower girl tossing petals at a wedding. One of the recurring visions was the climax, including Catherine killing the Saint, so I suspect pretty much everyone on the continent has a good idea of how she died. It was mentioned in Rozala’s POV, when she was having a minor headache because the Ophanim apparently didn’t give a shit about putting the visions in the right order before handing them out.

        I suspect that part of the reason the Mirror Knight is so hostile to Cat in the first place is because he knows that she killed the Saint. If anything, it might mollify him a bit to learn that it was a lot more complicated than the initial portrayal of a treacherous villain slaying a great hero.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The intitial portrayal wasn’t exactly that – the Ophanim didn’t care about putting visions in the right order, but they did care about getting across the idea that the Black Queen did nothing wrong (on that particular morning).

          Like

    1. dadycoool

      Would he be there? He wasn’t a witness in anything, nor can he provide and evidence for anything. It’s possible he’ll gatecrash or something, but don’t they have defenses against that sort of thing?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Go back and look at what it took for the White Knight to stop him, the Mirror Knight as explained is pretty much impervious to magic. You basically have to wear him down physically which means that very few things can stop him…guards and wards ain’t those things. So yes I do expect him to crash the trial because as shown in his own trial he still believes his judgement is better than everyone else’s. He has a hair up his butt, planted there by his lover, that Cat and the villains are going to kill the Axe for killing her rapist…which the villains were not going to do because they thought he had it coming to him. The problem is going to be that the Red Axe tried to kill the Kingfisher Prince and the Mirror Knight hasn’t even let that penetrate his skull yet, let alone think on the consequences of that. His crashing the trial trying to “save” the Axe is going to push Cordelia over the edge since it will be the last straw in her mind that the Hero’s can’t be trusted.

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        1. > a hair up his butt, planted there by his lover, that Cat and the villains are going to kill the Axe for killing her rapist

          No, he received a letter supposedly from the Bitter Blacksmith, who didn’t send it. His lover is not involved in this one.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Also it’s Cordelia (MK’s national ruler) who actually wants to kill Red Axe. The thing is, the whole business with that confrontation in the hallway is fishy as hell. But Frederic and RA are at least going to get the chance to compare stories at the trial, and who know what might come out of that? (And of course, this installment, the climax of the arc, is late…. Arggh!)

          Like

      1. He’s not under arrest. Hanno didn’t place him in a cell after the trial, he ordered that he has to apologize and serve an apprenticeship, the 30 day confinement was turned down by Cat.

        Like

        1. Prison and arrest are not the same thing. He was kept under guard since Hanno beat him down, Cat was also thinking she’s not sure whether she should trust the security of what guard Hanno would place him under – but ultimately she did decide to trust in it.

          Not being required to serve a prison sentence and being free to go wherever you like are not the same thing. Christophe’s going to have minders around him until he gets to the Pilgrim.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. If Yannu wasn’t known to be extremely honorable, I’d almost find his cooperation to be suspicious. It makes a lot of sense, but the number of motivations they have in common or at least in parallel are surprisingly high.

    Also, Grey Pilgrim mentoring Mirror Knight shares a lot of similarities to some very intriguing stories, and not all of them involve the Mirror Knight becoming a better man. Hell, with the power and arrogance he’s shown, it could even involve him pulling an Anakin and falling to the dark side. It’s be fascinating to see how Cat would handle that.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. erebus42

      Do you mean fall as in go rogue but still remain a Hero or fall as in become a Villain? The latter could potentially lead to some amusing scenarios like Cat just wanting nothing to do with him but now having yo work closer with him or the MK just refusing to acknowledge that he wasn’t a Hero anymore.
      “Cristoph, you can’t even summon Light anymore!”
      “Shut up you filthy Damned! I haven’t fallen, all of you have fallen!”

      Liked by 7 people

    2. IDKWhoitis

      The blood flowed away from the body, soaking the wooden floors. Christophe felt so tired, he felt as if his spirit had fallen far beyond what should have been possible. It felt like that day he recieved his Bestowal by the Dames of the Lake. He could barely even remember that day.

      His shield cracked, his face a ruin, Christoph despised the reflection of himself. He had failed. Even when the heavens should have seen fit to support his cause and lend their power, they had failed him.

      No, the thought had sickened him, for he had failed his oaths prior to that. His face felt hot with indignation. Then cooled in a moment as that sinking feeling returned that left him a hollow thing. Had the heavens forsaken him? Was he truly alone in this world? He had done everything within his might to make the world a better place. Whether it be opposing the Dead King and all his works, or even striking at the worst within his own ranks. How could the heavens not see the necessity in striking at the grasping devils pretending to be Princes of Prócer? They had lied and betrayed, poison to all they touched. When it was revealed to him that he had been made a fool of, to be turned into some tool for Gaspard Langevin machinations, he could not stop himself.

      His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of armored boots walking towards him, with a match being struck.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. IDKWhoitis

      I mean, if he falls, its likely that it’s because he can’t accept the will of heaven as the only reason to do things. This can still mean he is self centered and thinks very highly of what he thinks needs to be done.

      Of which, might make him a liability in Cat’s eyes, who will break him if she can’t use him.

      Liked by 3 people

    4. Lord Haart

      Hm. Probably too extreme, but maybe Yannu thinks he can “hack” the Ealanel to destroy most of Procer (and Keter) but leave Levant untouched?

      Still seems unlikely as he’d have to know Cat would likely figure it out and come after him.

      Or maybe he’s working WITH DK and his anger at treason is just projection?

      Like

  7. Frivolous

    I’m surprised that Yannu is clean shaven. I don’t remember reading that before.

    I wonder if Levantine men are hairy chested or smooth.

    I’m truly shocked that the Murcadan language has a word for the angel corpse. The only way that could happen, I believe, is if angels have been killed before in or around Levant, or else why have a word for their corpses?

    Traitorous and Triumphant may have been the only Praesi to have killed angels before, but maybe the Levantines have killed more angels than the Praesi.

    Ending of MK’s trial was rather anticlimactic, compared to Catherine’s heatedly saying she’d get down in the mud to solve Cordelia’s political problems with the princes. After mention was made of Cordy and Freddy’s desperation, I thought that the crisis was a lot closer in time than this episode of Tantamount shows.

    Either way, Hanno chose wisely the punishment for Christophe. Tariq will be good for him. Unless Christophe decides to kill Tariq for being an undead abomination, anyway, but Tariq will Behold any attack coming.

    I’m very surprised Christophe didn’t mouth off more than he did at the Hero meeting. He was bizarrely meek, compared to all the rest of the times. He didn’t even declare Catherine a corrupt monster and the Grand Alliance disgusting for associating with her. Why did he pick this time of all times to be polite?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. > I’m truly shocked that the Murcadan language has a word for the angel corpse. The only way that could happen, I believe, is if angels have been killed before in or around Levant, or else why have a word for their corpses?

      Or they could simply have word creation rules / traditions that play nice with combinging ‘dead angel’ into one word without even thinking about it.

      Honestly, considering their consistent and reliable necromantic troubles, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of their languages had a simple suffix/prefix for “-dead body of, being used for some purpose”.

      I also expect the connotation to be less than pleasant, for Hasenbach.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. As for how close the crisis is, keep in mind this is a setting where travel takes weeks or months – less than that through Twilight, but that’s new, and everyone’s thinking will be tuned to “if the crisis is looming in half a year, if you want to be in a specific place when it hits, you had better set out right now”.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. LizAris

      Not sure if it was politeness so much as coming a little closer to the realization that
      1) he done fucked up (even if he believes the intentions were still good) and
      2) he’s in the presence of his queen, and in that process
      3) he lost THE sword, is prob feeling a little rough about that and what it means if he couldn’t wield it well enough (aka he’s not the hero that artifact needed) to not get his ass handed to him by White

      Liked by 6 people

    4. Salt

      Considering that his POV chapters showed a disturbing amount of self-hate for his own mistakes/failings, his latest monumental mistake is probably causing him to be too busy despising himself to work up any zeal.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Yup.

        Bonus points if he picked up on how he was about to accidentally cause deaths of both Sidonia and Antoine if Hanno hadn’t given up half his hand to stop that.

        That’s… a pretty significant narrative detail, too: Hanno did not lose his fingers to Christophe attacking him, he lost his fingers to stopping Christophe from accidentally causing damage to his own loved ones.

        If Christophe realized what was going on, that’s going to be a deeeeeep well he’s down right now.

        Liked by 3 people

  8. erebus42

    You know the late Exalted Poet and Tariq in less reasonable moments aside, I do rather enjoy the Levantines. Their whole honor thing can be a bit much sometimes, especially when they murder eachother unnecessarily over it, but even it can be a bit charming in the right situations. Granted having the Procerans to contrast against certainly helps. Also, while a bit limited, their whole binding trick is super cool. I really kinda hope we get introduced to a cool named binder (preferably someone without their head too far up their own ass).

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Well, this was pleasantly common-sense and quick. And looks like Mirror Knight 100% learned his lesson about himself being a fucking idiot who should not be trusted with sharp objects around other people.

    I’m scared of the Red Axe trial already.

    Really loved the Levantine politics bits. Yannu is still highly unpleasant to me, but he’s definitely an excellent coworker for Catherine – straightforward enough to mean exactly what he says without the headaches she gets in decyphering reasons behind Cordelia’s displays of emotion, tricky enough to understand and respect her methods, respects and trusts her personally thanks to Tariq, generally aligned on long-term political prospects…

    And Cordelia the warrior princess, even if she’s not had the time to practice in probably a looong time )=

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Salt

      Yeah, the cleaner the other two trials go the more worried I get about the last one

      Not to mention that we’re not getting any clearer foreshadowing of a shitstorm inbound, than Catherine literally commenting about how she senses a storm coming

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Of course we’ve got a lot of plot incoming and only so much screentime with this being the last book. The storm might be the war council / Gigantes negotiations / whatever the elves are up to, not the last trial per se?

        Like

        1. Salt

          Might be, not entirely sure. The Red Axe trial has been a focal point for so many chapters that I’m near certain it’ll quite important, if not necessarily overly long, but aside from that I haven’t picked up on enough hints to have ideas of how the stuff afterwards will go.

          Then again, the books have been getting longer with every volume, so if the same trend continues, we’re due another 60 or so chapter before the end anyhow. It’s not as if anyone will complain about the volume being too long – anyone who’s spent the kind of time needed to read five volumes is going to be so invested already that they’ll care far more about the series being given a proper ending than the number of chapters a volume is supposed to have.

          Liked by 2 people

  10. LizAris

    Already anxious about Red’s trial (given Cat’s luck these things have gone entirely too well so far), so instead for our next chapter, I propose that Hakram wakes up (damn do I miss orcs) and we get a play by play of our First Prince showing off her martial skill. Can you imagine Cat having “swords and a chat” with Cordy instead of Fred??

    Liked by 3 people

      1. mamm0nn

        *Cat and Cordelia showing up on the Kingfisher’s doorstep and invite him for some ‘sword practice’*

        Kingfisher: Oh, we’re actually practising with swords. And why is my queen holding a bow instead of a blade? Why are you two smiling at me so viciously? If I may excuse myself, I think I’ll- Eep!

        Liked by 4 people

    1. James Felling

      Cat more or less won the first trial, drew the second, and now the third.

      I am not optimistic about the third in that pattern.

      Like

      1. Lord Haart

        At this stage I’m pretty sure that Hanno will not allow Red Ace to be executed – maybe sent to the front lines as a more practical death sentence, but not outright killed for her acts.

        The first two trials, he very clearly pushed for the precedent that breaking the T&T should result in the accused having their reputation tarnished, and then putting them in a position where they are both useful and no longer likely to be a threat. Both very PRACTICAL sentences, for a Knight of Judgement.

        And he tells MK he will execute Red Axe not because he means it (he does not discuss sentencing, right?) but because he needs MK to understand that Hanno might very well “be in his way” and he needs to learn to accept that.

        Like

        1. Salt

          He did discuss specifically that he will sentence her, and that the sentence will almost certainly be death

          “After a trial is held,” the White Knight calmly replied. “After I listen to the evidence, determine guilt, pass my sentence and carry it out. Which will be, almost certainly, death. That she killed the Wicked Enchanter and attempted to kill the Kingfisher Prince is not in doubt, it is established fact.”

          “Almost certainly” as he’s deliberately refusing to decide on a sentence until he’s heard all the evidence and arguments during the actual proper trial.

          There is some possibility of new evidence or argument that sways the sentence away from death – which is why he’s only speaking in likelihood’s about sentencing – but I think it’s a poor argument to assume that the character really means exactly the opposite of everything that he’s said, to be honest.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. > There is some possibility of new evidence or argument …

            And that’s the possible bomb in the toilet. As I said upthread, that whole corridor scene was fishy as hell even allowing for the Hunted Magician’s illusions. And now Frederick and Red Axe get to compare stories.

            Like

  11. Honestly i am not sure how to feel about MK sentence, on one hand i know he can grow up under Tariq, but on the other he already made a big mess and i feel liek this is coming too late (as in seriously they should have paired them together for some asignement or something).

    Rest of the chapter was ok, is nice that at least the angel corpse problem is being handled so fast. Next is the last trial, so we know something is going to go FUBAR, seriosuly they should know to not let that one for last, is like asking fate to be dramatic!!

    Oh and Cat still hasn’t shared the visions from the Drow battlefront right? i want to see the general reaction to that one, like “We must stop that idiot prince from fucking us all up”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Fate’s going to be dramatic no matter what they do, they might as well hold the reins.

      And I think everyone important already is thinking that. Yannu has very good reasons to be cross besides: Procer double crossing allies has rich and varied history, and LEVANT IS ONE OF THE ALLIES SUPPORTING IT RIGHT NOW. Not to be subtle about it, but he’s got personal offense to take to that.

      Liked by 4 people

          1. Oshi

            I’m really surprised at how pressed they are. Under normal circumstances I think Rozala or Cordelia would have just killed off the Prince or found a way to break him. This is the most unstable scheming I have ever seen…

            Liked by 1 person

  12. Konstantin von Karstein

    Hanno just sentenced the Grey Pilgrim to death. A difficult, impulsive and thoughtless pupil teached by an old mentor? The Mirror Knight will probably do something extremely stupid, Tariq will sacrifice himself to stop the catastrophe it caused and Christophe will learn his lessons while crying on the Pilgrim’s corpse.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Ordinarily, yes. But Tariq’s whole thing is that he survives the mentor role where others would be killed. Personally, I think he’d pull a master Shifu: looks like he’s dying, Christophe rushes to his side, begins to cry, and then…
      “I’m not dead, you idiot! Do you know how exhausting it is to use all my aspects at my age? Quit blubbering and let me sleep!”

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Konstantin von Karstein

        The death of the GP will probably be enough to makes MK achieve his character growth, and anything that can kill Tariq is bound to be very bad news. So MK will destroy it in his righteous fury and grief, helping the GA very much. The sentence will probably be annulled.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. > anything that can kill Tariq is bound to be very bad news.

          Unfortunately, “MK’s stupidity” is high on that list.

          > The sentence will probably be annulled.

          Even if Tariq’s Mentor Sacrifice was for MK’s sake in the first place?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Konstantin von Karstein

            MK’s stupidity alone could not kill Tariq, it would have to use a « proxy » to do it, and said proxy has to be quite dangerous.

            MK will have been changed by Tariq’s sacrifice, so the sentence will not be necessary (at least I think so).

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Lord Haart

              What if MK kills him as vengeance for SoS? Tariq was at least partly responsible there, remember Bard making him pause before he could stop her from damaging the crown?

              Like

              1. …where is this whole “MK is a fan of SoS” thing coming from? The only thing they have in common is being inconvenient for Catherine, and being somehow narratively related to the Severance.

                Like

                1. kinghaart

                  Well, that (Severance) is a pretty strong link – magical swords (or items in general) pushing their owner’s personalities into their wielders is a very, very old and established trope.

                  From the time he first sets foot in the Arsenal, MK acts and talks just like SoS. He may have no *personal* connection but a very strong ideological one.

                  I’m kind of thinking it’s like Ben Solo looking at Vader’s helmet. Never met the guy but the influence is profound.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. The only thing connecting their ideologies is “be a prick to villains”, and not even in the same way. “Gets in the protagonist’s way” is not an ideological link.

                    Saint was completely cynical and did not believe anything like this could work. MK is overwhelmingly idealistic and thinks of structures around him as universally enduring that will hold no matter what he does.

                    Saint was mildly sympathetic towards Catherine and understood her increasingly well (the distrust was more towards her story and influences she was under than towards her personally), but had absolutely no intention of turning sympathy into politeness – with no intention of insult either, she just talks like that. MK sees Catherine as a mysteriously ominous blob of evil plans but makes an effort to be polite until he doesn’t, which is fully intended as a deliberate insult.

                    Saint took practicality to matter above all, just had her own opinion of which means which lead to which ends. MK thinks things will sort themselves out as long as every individual decision is “the next right thing”.

                    Saint’s whole problem was excessive experience with a particular class of problem making her set in her ways. MK’s whole problem is overwhelming ignorance and inexperience.

                    They’re more like opposites than anything.

                    Like

  13. Jack Reader

    Wait, is it possible that wielding the Severance in the first place is what made Mirror Knight act so brashly? Not that he wasn’t an opinionated idiot before, but he was self-aware enough that he tended not to challenge more experienced heroes over it.
    Sure, having a sword of infinite murder is probably enough to get MK feeling bold, but what it there is some sort of mental bleed effect with Laurence’s personality when wielding the sword? Cat already told us that there’s enough Laurence left in the blade for it to hate her, so maybe MK’s insistence that the Black Queen needed to die and it needed to be now was Laurence metaphorically whispering in his ear. That might explain why he was so meek at the trial, after being striped off the blade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frivolous

      The following his half serious, half facetious:

      I do agree that the Severance might have been a factor in Christophe’s personality change, but I think it’s more primal and simple than Laurence’s spirit altering said personality.

      I think that wielding a mighty unstoppable expensive big sword made Christophe feel that his dick was bigger, and thus he would win any dick-measuring contest. Which of course made him Alpha Hero.

      In contrast, losing the Severance to another man, a man who never even drew his sword, may have caused him to feel his dick was really tiny, and thus he became meek and ready to wear an Alamans maid outfit and serve tea.

      The above may sound amusing, and I meant to entertain, but it may truly be simple as that. If Christophe somehow got his hand on the sword again in the near future, I think he’d revert right back.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Salt

        I think similarly, but that it had less to do with alpha masculinity so much as delusion that a magic sword was heavens-mandated proof that he was Worthy. I believe it was Hanno(?) who once called him “genuinely unambitious”, but we all know he has a major boner for virtue and worthiness and all that jazz.

        When he got the sword I wouldn’t be surprised if he took it as some Above-gilded appointment that he’s right about everything and is destined for greater things, while losing the sword was interpreted as some sort of proof/punishment from Above for being a total disappointment of a Chosen.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. PinkUnik0rn

    I am really starting to miss the time when Catherine approach on politics and diplomacy was a fucking arrow through the head or riping soul out of somebody. I know characters evolve and shit.. But I still hold a tiny bit of hope that she will put a fucking blade on her staff and show them why she is the Black Queen. (First pin someone to the wall, than interrogate.) I am afraid that continuing by this path, her name will be some utopist bullshit like The Equalizer, the first hero/villain, and her first aspect will be Bore to death. No disrespect. I love the story, will support the author and keep on reading it, just fucking miss the “Cat vs. the World” action.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. magesbe

      One of the story’s major themes is that no, power cannot solve all of your problems. There’s a quote from Book 4 in one of the last chapters, when Sve Noc was putting Cat through illusions of her past to get a better read on her.

      > “You have the power to make changes now,” the orc said. “Real changes. Necessary ones.”

      “Do I?” I said. “I could drown bastion in ice with a snap of my fingers, but what does that accomplish? So few of our problems can be solved with strength.”

      That hasn’t changed. This was one of Cat’s most important moments of character development. Learning that Might does not make Right, that having a big stick often cannot solve your problems. That Justifications Matter Only to the Just was a terrible motto to have.

      If you want Cat to start beating politicians up and taking names, I’m afraid that you’re reading the wrong story, because that’s not what this story is about anymore.

      Catherine is hardly toothless of course. When violence is the right solution she will use it without hesitation. But often, even usually, it’s not.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Salt

        Very on-point analysis, especially since that kind of brute-force solution for every problem is the hallmark of people like the Saint and the current Mirror Knight – who are often criticized for rather justifiable reasons.

        Where Cat is now as a character has actually been blatantly foreshadowed starting as far back as book 2. Building up to this has been a running theme since the very beginning, with one of her early lessons being that trying to kill every liability made for poor solutions.

        Quote from the Squire during the battle of Marchford (ch 26, Seek), who at the time hadn’t even popped her third Aspect yet:

        >“And what’s your solution?” I mocked. “Let’s kill everything that looks like it could be a liability and hope it turns out for the best?”

        >“I already told you how we stop the fires in our backyard,” the spirit smiled. “We cross the Vales, with a torch in hand. If everyone else is running from the blaze they’re not making trouble for us.”

        > This is why Evil loses, I realized. By overreaching, by thinking you could put all of Calernia on the the defensive and not be buried by the backlash. There had to be a middle way, one between fighting the Praesi and allowing them to plunder Callow. Black understood this, I knew. He’d marginalized the nobles of the former Kingdom and gone to work on the people themselves, tried to remove any reason for rebellion rather than crush those that formed. I couldn’t change Callow, I knew that deep down. I wasn’t sure I should. But I could change the system that ruled over it, one victory at a time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Lord Haart

          Wow, didn’t realize how directly Black’s rampage through Iserre was foreshadowed!

          Which makes it even more interesting that she goes on to say that he understood why that wouldn’t work. And he did, but he did it anyway – almost a mix of a heroic sacrifice to buy time for those he cared about (Cat and Malicia) and also because he was cut loose by the same people.

          Does anyone else think that Black isn’t in Praes at all? I feel like Ranger in particular wouldn’t sit back for 2 years. IMO they are planning something bigger. Like going after the Elves, or maybe off-continent (though that’d be a bit of a cop-out since it’s not really foreshadowed).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Salt

            That bit about him sacrificing himself for Cat seems quite correct, although never explicitly admitted to. He thought he only had a year or two left to live, after his loss to the White Knight didn’t start a pattern of three. He was (at the time) actively trying to clear away as many problems as possible before his “death”.

            We also know that Black outright admitted to Grem that it was suicide before going ahead with it – in Red the Flowers he commented that “No villain can survive the amount of heroic focus Bonfire would have brought. The initial stages would have been a success, but within a few months a band of heroes specifically geared towards killing her would have been grown or assembled.”

            Which is pretty much exactly what happened to him, with a few months of huge success before being utterly defeated and captured by the Pilgrim.

            Of course we know now that what ended up happening was the death of the Amadeus as the Black Knight rather than Amadeus the person, but at the time it was quite likely he stepped past the flower vales knowing he would probably return a corpse.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Mhm. Amadeus’s reaction to Captain’s death and Malicia’s revealed betrayal was to try to talk Cat into killing him, and I doubt that sentiment would have faded in half a year of stewing in a fortress when it’d been built up to by… since… well, he’d expected getting a Squire to kill him since he took one, so… yeah.

              Obviously it’d take a form of heroic villainous sacrifice, Amadeus isn’t so selfish as to try and take his own life without it bringing sizable benefits to people he cares about and also his people as a whole!

              This whole post might sound like a joke, and yet this is 100% canon Guide text.

              Liked by 1 person

        2. Actually it was a thing as far as Book 1, where
          1) Catherine did not intend to become a hero because a violent rebellion would accomplish zilch all useful
          2) Catherine rejected her Evil Twin in the Name vision

          Liked by 1 person

      2. PinkUnik0rn

        I understand and I said that I’ll keep trading it. I am not a total moron, but in last big battle our antihero just left the action. It was interesting, that battle of wits with intercessor, but my point is that it is like reading a comic but about Batman, who spends his time fighting crime by being diplomatic Bruce Wayne. I miss the action, love the story.

        Like

        1. Sometimes Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent can solve problems that their costumed alter-egos simply can’t fight. And the battle with Intercessor was a distillation of Cat’s story-fu powers — we’ve seen those developing over the previous books — now they are fully developed, and the basis for Cat to be a badass on a level beyond any bruiser or sorcerer.

          Like

    2. gingerlygrump

      What if Cat is turning into The Practical Guide to Evil? We’ve watched her grow and mature into a brilliant, scheming tactician and leader who’s bringing Villains to the table as true equals.
      If you want flash and bang and evil Cat, you’ll have to reread the books of her teenaged years. She’s an adult now, making adult decisions.

      Like

  15. ohJohN

    In two sentences, Cat drops “Bestowed”, “ealamal”, and “honourable”. Either she’s become suddenly infatuated with Levantine culture, or she’s rubbing Cordelia’s nose in their alliance against her.

    Yannu getting genuinely upset at the scheming prince eased some vague background plot tension in my head, and it took me a minute to place why: the Crows were, uh, *real* pissed, getting close to intervening (likely in a politically disastrous fashion), and starting to reconsider their general relationship with humans. If they can’t see this scene directly through Cat (given the pocket dimension) she can play it for them later, and maybe some evidence that Levant genuinely respects their alliance and has their back will help mend that rift. It kinda got lost under the mountain of more immediate problems, but keeping the drow — the Alliance’s advance force bearing the brunt of the casualties — and Sve Noc — the only godhead on their side and Cat’s personal benefactors — happy is *really damn important*. For both the war itself, and any chance at continental stability afterwards. Hopefully this buys humans some goodwill, and buys Cat some time to mud-wrestle the House of Langevin into submission.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. > Either she’s become suddenly infatuated with Levantine culture, or she’s rubbing Cordelia’s nose in their alliance against her.

      Ooh nice, I only picked up on the ‘ealamal’ thing and assumed it was Catherine picking up the word because it’s more convenient than two words.

      Bless this code-switching nerd some evidence that Levant genuinely respects their alliance and has their back

      Oh it’s a bit more than that: Levant and the Empire Ever Dark are in the exact same situation right now. They’re Procer’s allies committing resources to help it out in its hour of need.

      Red Ella has already demonstrated that Levantines don’t see a big difference between giving one’s word to a villain and to a hero as far as implications for one’s honor go. And they’re kind of… on the honor system here.

      It’s beautiful is what it is. Crows should be watching and learning how surface politics work!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. > In two sentences, Cat drops “Bestowed”, “ealamal”, and “honourable”. Either she’s become suddenly infatuated with Levantine culture, or she’s rubbing Cordelia’s nose in their alliance against her.

      On consideration, I suspect there’s also a strong hint here of deferring to Yanno –or at least making it clear that this isn’t just Cat recruiting Yanno to back her up, but both of them having a stake in the matter.

      Like

        1. kinghaart

          Definitely implied. But I also can’t imagine that he’d be able to convince Ranger to keep a low profile for 2 years.

          Could he have headed to the Golden Bloom to find the Elves for some reason?

          What about the Free Cities, where he could cause chaos for Malicia and block her schemes?

          Something still bugs me that it’s not “the Boy who climbed the Tower” for him – if he grew into power alone, that’s one thing, but for his whole life so far “the Girl” was Malicia, and recently perhaps Cat. Has that truly changed?

          Also, I want to know where Scribe and Assassin are. I’m concerned that Assassin is loyal to Malicia, though I suspect that if Black isn’t behind Sepulchral then Scribe is (who after all hates Malicia, presumably even after her dismissal).

          Like

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