Chapter 39: Transliteration

“A sinking ship knows no captain.”
– Ashuran saying

I wondered if Hasenbach was getting as tired of this as I was.

Probably not. Ruling in Procer involved a lot more wrangling than it did in Callow, or at least the Callow I’d risen to rule – one where most great nobles had been stripped of their lands, and the armies of all but the crown had been severely curtailed. Outside her own Rhenia, the First Prince of Procer’s authority had rarely ran further than what she could sway others to grant her. Which must have made it all the more galling that, after years of staying one step ahead of her opponents at home and abroad, she was now getting cornered again and again by a bunch of yokels with swords. I supposed if I’d been fuller of myself than I was I might have started to believe that Hasenbach was losing her touch, or that I was a fine schemer indeed.

I was not so deluded, thank the Gods. The First Prince was being forced to give ground again and again because the Principate was collapsing under her, not because she’d proved to be blind or a fool. The crushing pressures within her realm where simultaneously forcing her to take unwise stands – like trying to claim the Red Axe – while robbing her of the clout that a First Prince with Procer firmly behind her would be able to wield. It was a deathly downwards spiral I’d begun to glimpse, one where to keep her head above the water she had to risk ever taller waves and even one grave misstep might be enough to see her drown. Still, she was not the only one who had demands made of her. There were matters I could not compromise over.

Trying to keep to that while preventing Procer from bursting open like an overripe fruit was why I’d sought Cordelia Hasenbach out for a private audience and insisted that the White Knight come along. Hanno’s dedication to trials under the Terms being treated as genuine exercises of justice was laudable, if occasionally inconvenient, but even he knew that worrying too much about appearances when the hour of need was upon us could only be a recipe for disaster. And so the White Knight had agreed to discuss the upcoming trial of the Red Axe, if not her sentencing, and to try to find a compromise with the First Prince. He was a reasonable man; it’d not been hard to exact that promise from him.

But I also knew that, like all Named, Hanno of Arwad would have lines that his very nature would not let him cross. Hasenbach and I, ultimately, were practical creatures. Our lines were born of practical concerns, either the feasibility of the Liesse Accords or the salvation of the Principate. The White Knight, on the other hand, was a principled man. The lines he would refuse to cross were moral ones, and while I could not find it in me to look down on that neither would I pretend that it did not make him unpredictable to deal with.

“This is nostalgic,” Hanno smilingly said, setting down his cup of tea. “I’ve not had this brew since I was a boy.”

Oh, good. Then if I got lucky I might never again have to force a smile after having a sip of this stuff. Even the Firstborn made better tea, and their version of it involved no leaves as well as more fluorescent snails than anyone should be comfortable with.

“I have an appreciation for Ashuran leaves,” the First Prince smiled back. “Though I will confess this particular sort was tricky to obtain.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Hanno snorted. “Few Ashuran merchants would willingly sell copper tea. It’s not a true leaf, you see. They make from the leftovers and low-quality batches of harvests that can be sold abroad.”

“Even your copper tea would sell for more than its weight in gold, back home,” I shrugged. “Luxury is in the eye of the beholder.”

While by the look on his face I suspected that Hanno would have genuinely enjoyed a conversation about this, it wasn’t what we’d come for and so after a few more courtesies the cups went down – mine only lightly touching my lips once more out of politeness, though I did not actually drink – and we got to business.

“Neither of us is blind to the damage the Red Axe’s trial could wreak on the Principate,” I calmly said. “And no one wants the situation to get out of hand. We’re looking into way to mitigate the issue.”

I wouldn’t back giving the heroine to the Highest Assembly to try, even the series of recent diplomatic reverses Procer had suffered weren’t enough to get me to consider such a thing, but I’d meant it when I’d told Hanno that Hasenbach needed to be given something. The question now was what she could safely be given, and while I had my own notion of what that compromise might look like it would be… contentious. I wasn’t sure either Procer or the heroes would go for it. Better to let Hasenbach out one of the contingency plans I did not doubt she had up her sleeve. The First Prince’s glance at the White Knight was measuring, in the heartbeat of silence that followed.

“The Terms cannot be twisted or turned aside,” the dark-skinned knight said. “That would be a severe breach of faith. Yet, as the Black Queen has said, I am aware of the difficulties this trial poses to Procer. I would not cause undue harm if there is a way to avoid it.”

There, what she’d wanted: confirmation that this wasn’t just me dragging Hanno in by the ear so that he might go through the motions of making nice with her. Not that she’d been inclined to think poorly of him, I believed. I’d never deeply discussed either of them with the other, but to my understanding there’d always been a degree of mutual respect there. Not closeness, though. The White Knight encouraged heroes working with the authorities, but never to the extent of becoming part of them.  Even the little I knew about the Thalassocracy told me where he might have gained a taste for that distinction. As for Hasenbach, she was understandably wary of the armed Heavens-blessed demigods traipsing around her realm that considered themselves only loosely bound to its laws – and so she must be wary of their leader as well, regardless of his general amiability.

“The trouble in in the primacy of the Terms over our laws,” Cordelia said, “even when applying to individuals of Procer who committed crimes against other Procerans.”

The Red Axe was from the southern outskirts of the Principate, it was true. The Wicked Enchanted had been Proceran as well, and Frederic still was. All three were also Named, though, which complicated things a great deal.

“The matter of the attempted regicide, in particular, will be a contentious matter,” Cordelia continued. “If even rulers anointed by the House of Light can suffer assassination attempts without Procer being able to give answer, there are some who might argue that we have all been made subservient to the Chosen.”

“The Highest Assembly approved of the treaties establishing this,” the White Knight reminded her.

“Those treaties were approved when it was believed that the Chosen would not resort to attempting the murder of princes,” the First Prince flatly said. “We have been… disappointed, in this regard.”

Harsh but fair, I thought.

“Middle ground can be found, I expect,” I intervened. “The Terms were not made to last, and we did not expect they would stumble into such challenges. It’ll require everyone to bend a little more than they’d like, but that’s the nature of compromise. I’m sure you have suggestions, Your Highness, as to what my ally the fears of the Highest Assembly. I’d be interested to hear them.”

I found her hard to read, in the moments that followed, as she studied us both. Hesitating, or gauging how far she’d be able to push this?

“As the concerns come from the forced impotence of Proceran law, I would suggest that the Red Axe be made to stand trial before the Highest Assembly,” she said.

My brow rose. She wasn’t a fool, so that couldn’t be all of it.

“The sentence passed would, undoubtedly, be death,” Cordelia said. “Its application could be suspended, however, until she has also stood trial under the Terms.”

Ah, there it was. If both Procer and the White Knight condemned the Red Axe to death, who was to say what sentence was being carried out when the blade was swung? If Hanno did the deed, or a Proceran executioner, then the balance would be made to swing either way. But there was a candidate to keep the weights even, as it were.

“You’d make Prince Frederic do it,” I quietly said. “Since he straddles both worlds. That way everyone can go home with a win to tell their people about.”

It’d eat up the man inside, though, I thought. He’d wanted to avoid taking her life. But while I liked Frederic Goethal, his peace of mind was not worth what it would cost.

“A compromise I could live with,” I said.

Some of the more paranoid among my charges would smell a rat, but with the Red Axe dead at the hand of the same hero she’d tried to kill I shouldn’t get too much pushback. There would be some who’d have wanted me to bleed the heroes dry over this, but they’d be few and not popular among our kind – the likes of the Headhunter and the Red Knight were powerful, but usually without many allies.

“What is being suggested,” the White Knight coldly said, “is not just.”

My fingers clenched under the table. Hanno’s face had gone hard as stone.

“I will not promise a sentence or an executioner before a trial has been held,” the White Knight said. “This is not a compromise, it is a perversion of the oaths we all swore. It does not matter what the Red Axe has done: she has rights under the Terms, and among these is a fair trial.”

A steady look was fixed onto the both of us.

“What you are speaking of,” he slowly said, “is not a fair trial.”

And that was that, wasn’t it? As far as he was concerned that settled the matter. And for all that Hanno had gone cold, I thought, the look on Cordelia’s face was no warmer.

“Compromise requires both sides to give, Lord White,” the First Prince of Procer said, frigidly polite.

“There is no justice to be found in denying the rights of one to safeguard those of another,” the Sword of Judgement evenly replied. “All that is accomplished is the shifting around of injustice.”

“If a right is abused, then the abuser is no longer deserving of it,” the First Prince said. “Else it becomes a tool of oppression.”

A little rich coming from a princess of Procer, that, but most of the time I still liked that lot better than Above’s so I’d let it slide. At nineteen the scene unfolding before me would have me giddy: the Principate and heroes, both bitter enemies of mine, were at each other’s throat. But years had passed, and these days I had too much use for both to be glad of this.

“A mechanism has been established to deal with such abuses,” the White Knight bluntly said. “It has yet to fail, in my eyes, and so your treatment of it strikes me as unwarranted.”

He wasn’t going to give an inch on this, I sensed. It just wasn’t in his nature to give that inch over something like this, when he knew himself in the right and all those involved had taken the oaths with open eyes. And Gods, part of me agreed with him. The fucking Principate was quick to cry foul about the rights of its peoples being ‘trampled’ these days, but that conscience had been nowhere in sight when it’d been Callowan freedoms on the line. And even now that half the continent had gathered to keep it from burning still it insisted on throwing tantrums over gift horses, never mind looking them in the mouth. Hanno was looking after his own, people whose calling and service he respected and honoured, and aside from all the greater considerations he simply wasn’t going to dent his principles over something like princes being uneasy.

The White Knight did not believe it his charge to soothe princes, and so he’d not sacrifice things that he did consider his charge in order to do so. It was a fair way of looking at it, if you were a hero.

I wasn’t, though. I’d been one of Below’s since age sixteen and more importantly these days I was a queen. So while the White Knight wasn’t wrong, I did not believe that the First Prince was either. She wasn’t throwing a fit over this for pleasure, or even for principle – if Hasenbach’s objections to this were personal in nature, she would have stowed them away by now. This wasn’t a winning fight for her, and the fact that she was still picking it anyway meant that she was afraid of what would ensue if she didn’t.  More afraid than of the consequences of the mess before my eyes, too, which was more than a little worrying. If the First Prince was coming out swinging this hard, then at a guess I’d say word about Frederic being bled had already leaked to the Assembly. There’d be pressure at her back to do something about this, and while I doubted that unseating her was in the cards there were other ways this could all go to the Hells.

If southern principalities started ignoring her orders because they no longer believed her to be a worthy leader for Procer, the Grand Alliance was in trouble. Weakened as it was, the Principate was still the main source of coin and goods for the war effort and those sure as fuck weren’t coming from the war-ravaged north. And while it might have been years since Black torched the heartlands, those lands had never truly been allowed to recover: continued conscription, high taxes and rationing meant some of the richest lands in Procer had never actually gotten back to their old prosperity. No, Hasenbach wasn’t worrying about things like authority and legitimacy because she was some over-proud highborn twit. She was worried about those things because if she lost them then Procer might start coming apart at the seams.

If she didn’t come through for her princes, if she damaged their privileges and all the while made heavy demands of them, then why should they keep listening to her? Especially if she lacked the means to force them to.

Sentimentality had me on Hanno’s side, but sentiment had to be left a door in matters like these. The needs of the queen took the victory once more, as Akua might have said. And if these two weren’t going to reach a compromise by themselves, if there was no pretty stainless solution to be had, then all that was left was the cheap tricks that’d been my trade since long before I put on a crown.

“Procer could be allowed to dispose of the body as it wishes, at least,” I said, and sighed when Hanno began to respond, “In the eventuality that there is a body, yes, not to make assurances either way. But if there is a corpse, White Knight, can it not at least be ceded to the Highest Assembly?”

“It would be a petty thing for a heroine’s corpse to be parade like a trophy,” the dark-skinned knight said, tight-lipped.

“Petty’s not unlawful,” I said. “So unless your feelings have become rules…”

His lips thinned even further. It’d been a hit below the belt, but then if the Gods Above had wanted me to fight clean they should have shelled out for another five inches at least.

“In principle, I would have no objection,” Hanno eventually replied.

It would have been undiplomatic of Hasenbach to point out that this was such a paltry concession as to almost not be one at all, especially given that I’d secured it on her behalf, but from the cool serenity of her face I got the message anyway. She wasn’t going to be appeased with a few metaphorical coppers flipped her way. If she didn’t get meat to throw her princes, it would be on her they turned their fangs. I angled my face so that Hanno wouldn’t see and cocked a brow at her.

“It appears we have reached the end of what can be settled today,” the First Prince calmly said. “I thank you both for calling on me, but I believe there is nothing left to say on this matter.”

“That seems to be correct,” the White Knight said, tone regretful.

Not enough to bend his neck, though, so what did regret matter?

“While I have your ear, Your Highness, I had a few questions about the issues Mercantis,” I idly said.  “If you’re willing, it shouldn’t take too long.”

Hasenbach considered it for a moment.

“I had anticipated a longer conversation,” she said. “I have the time to spare if you do.”

Hanno cast me a searching look and I shrugged. He and I had already talked about Mercantis some, and he’d made a suggestion I was warming to – sending the Painted Knife’s band there to keep the merchants honest – but Named arm-twisting was only a small part of the matter and he had little to do with the rest. It wasn’t his wheelhouse, and if it grew to concern him I’d make it known.

Not that I actually intended to talk about Mercantis.

I gave him nothing to work with, so the White Knight made his courtesies and left. In the silence that followed his departure I glance at the cup of tea I’d barely sipped at, choosing my words as the First Prince’s expectant gaze found me.

“There’s a way for you to get what you want,” I said. “Though I expect you won’t like it.”

Blue eyes found mine, unblinking.

“Yet here I am,” the First Prince of Procer calmly said, “listening.”

Murder of an ally. Attempted murder of an ally. Aid to an enemy of the Grand Alliance.

The Red Axe would stand trial accused of those three breaches of the Terms, and that the equivalent of a treason charge was the least of the three meant the affair begged for a blood end. The Wicked Enchanter had been an unrepentant monster, but until he stepped out of line again he’d been under protection: his killing must be punished, and as the representative for the villains under the Terms there was only one punishment I was willing to accept. I still had the smoldering remnants of sympathy for the heroine on trial, but she’d known how this would end before she took her first step down this road.

The Red Axe herself seemed utterly unworried when she was brought in. Unlike the Mirror Knight when he’d stood in the same place her hands were bound by shackles and she was chained to a steel ring set in the ground. Masego and Roland had personally traced the wards that would keep her out of the back half of the room should she get free, though it was a lot more likely that the crossbowmen and armed guards surrounding her would get to it first. It would have been counterproductive to gag her, I knew, but as I looked at her calmly expectant expression I found I itched to have it done anyway. There were few things more dangerous in life than someone with nothing left to lose.

I’d expected some ceremony out of Hanno, given his years as the champion of the Choir of Judgement, but instead he was brisk and business-like.

“The charges against the Red Axe have been made known to you,” the White Knight said. “Do any of you intend to lay further ones, or contest those I will pursue?”

Denials all around. Mine was barely more than a mutter, my eyes remaining on the heroine.

“Then I will proceed,” Hanno calmly said.

The Red Axe laughed.

“Gods, but what a pretentious waste of time,” she said, her Chantant lightly accented.

The White Knight looked unmoved.

“Do you understand the charges laid against you under the Terms?” he asked.

“To the Hells with your Terms,” the Red Axe said. “They’re expedience made law and just as ugly as that sounds. I renounce them, and for you fine people who think you have rights over me, I add this-”

She spat on the stone, offering up a hard smile.

“Are you requesting that the protections of the Terms be withdrawn from you?” the First Prince calmly asked.

Not surprising. Hasenbach would definitely try to get her hands on the heroine outright, if she could at this late hour, regardless of any deal she and I had made. What I’d offered was barely palatable, while this would smack to her of a clean win. Wouldn’t work, of course. I wasn’t a fucking idiot, so I’d told Hanno of my conversation with the Red Axe and made sure he spoke with her as well.

“Whether she desires this now or not is irrelevant,” the White Knight said. “She agreed to the Terms as made understood to her by the Archer and had not renounced them when she committed the breaches for which she is now being charged.”

“Your rules never meant a thing to me, Sword of – sword of what, these days, I ask?” the Red Axe said. “Not Judgement, and nothing I see in this room makes for a good replacement.”

“That your word means little does not mean you are exempt from holding it,” Hanno replied without batting an eye.

Cordelia glanced at me, but there wasn’t a lot of hope on her face and I didn’t add any with my own bland expression. Procer would get no help from me if she made a play for snatching now, and Lord Yannu did not speak a word to deny the White Knight’s claim. Hasenbach let it go, and we moved on. The first hurdle had been passed.

“Given the number of eyewitnesses to the killing of the Wicked Enchanter, I saw no need for spoken testimony,” Hanno continued. “I’ve selected and now provide thirty different written accounts, which should prove sufficient. If there are any doubts among the tribunal, there are more that can be sent for.”

I’d already read some of those parchments and the facts were not in doubt, so I offered the writing only a few looks before setting it aside.

“I confess,” the Red Axe said.

A moment of silence. Eyes went to the heroine, which only seemed to encourage her.

“I confess I put down a monster,” she said. “ That I killed a rapist, a murder and something worse. I confess I would have made it slower if I could, that-”

“Guards, please silence the accused until she is called on to speak again,” Hanno said.

Spells wouldn’t work on her, so it was a gag they had to use. She fought them, and the sight sickened my stomach – all those men in armour around a girl, alone and unarmed and tied up. Named, I reminded myself. One who’d done things that might yet kill thousands, in full knowledge of the risks. The White Knight continued to make his case, as if never interrupted. The Kingfisher Prince’s personal testimony was a written one, as he’d decline to stand before the tribunal, but witnesses among my soldiers and the Levantines gave damning account of the attack on the Prince of Brus. The Sinister Physician came in to speak as to how dangerous the wound had been and was followed up by two priests who’d handled the later parts of Frederic’s recovery.

With attempted murder of an ally solidly grounded in proof, it was ‘aid to an enemy’ that was approached. Proof was difficult to establish, when it came to the Bard, and while I recounted my conversation with the Red Axe it wouldn’t be enough to damn her. Fortunately for Hanno, once relieved of her gag she was eager enough to handle that herself.

“You want to accuse me of working with the Wandering Bard,” she said, amused. “It’s a crime now, is it? I didn’t. She worked with me.”

The Red Axe shrugged.

“I wasn’t tricked, if that’s the story you want to spin,” she said. “I knew what I wanted, and she wanted me to get it too. None of what she told me was even a secret. It was just names and places, that’s all.”

“To be clear, you admit to collaboration with the Wandering Bard?” Hanno asked.

“She talked and I listened,” she said. “Sometimes I talked too. Call that whatever you will. Not like it’ll make a difference in your little puppet show, is it? You’ve already got what you need for blood.”

Lord Yannu let out a harsh bark of laughter. Well, she wasn’t wrong. In principle even just killing the Wicked Enchanter would be enough to get her executed, much less the rest. With yet another confession on the record, the trial was effectively at an end. Hanno asked us if we wanted to deliberate, but there were no takers. Recommendations followed.

“Death,” the Lord of Alava said.

“Death,” the First Prince of Procer said.

“Death,” I echoed.

The Red Axe mockingly laughed. She’d not been gagged, I supposed because of discomfort at the idea of ordering this woman’s death without letting her speak in answer to it.

“Half the world clamoured for her death,” she said. “What an eulogy that will make.”

She wanted, I felt, someone to answer her. To engage. This was the culmination of her story, wasn’t it? The moment where she was sent to her death because of her principles, where defiant and dry-eyed she cursed the wicked kings doing her wrong. But no one answered. Because to the rest of us the Red Axe wasn’t a righteous heroine about to shame us for our misdeeds, she was the woman who’d endangered one of the treaties keeping the Dead King from winning this war and sweeping over Calernia in a tide of death. No one here was enjoying this, I thought, but ashamed? No. We were a long way from that. So instead of a cruel jest or a justification, as she would have gotten in a story, the Red Axe got silence and then Hanno passing her sentence.

“Death,” the White Knight echoed. “By beheading, to be carried out by my own hand tomorrow at Morning Bell. The accused will be granted a night to make her peace with the Gods Above, but kept detained until then.”

“Pathetic,” the Red Axe said. “You’re all-”

Hanno called for her to be gagged again, and as soon as it was done asked for the comments from the tribunal. Lord Yannu agreed, sounding largely indifferent, but when it was my turn to speak I had more to say.

“I am satisfied with death,” I said, “but today’s proceedings should be put under seal instead of made known.”

“On what grounds?” Hanno frowned.

“On the grounds that the details of this will make it known to every Named that has issued with the Terms that they’ve got an ally they can plot with,” I said.

“The Wandering Bard is to be declared an enemy of the Grand Alliance regardless,” the White Knight said. “What is there to hide?”

“That the Bard is after the Terms themselves, instead of the ringleader of a plot against the Arsenal,” I said. “If she just helped thrash the Arsenal, no one will see her as an ally. If this was all a plot against the Terms, though? That’s a banner, and those always gather people.”

The White Knight cast a look at the other two members of the tribunal, who did not seem to object. I could see him weigh the costs of refusal here and then decided it wasn’t worth it.

“Agreed,” the White Knight said.

“I am satisfied,” the First Prince calmly said.

The Red Axe, even gagged, was laughing convulsively. People did get more perceptive, when standing in the shadow of their gallows. Had she figured it all out, or just that Cordelia and I were acting in concert? Didn’t matter, I thought.

It was already too late.

I’d not slept well, even with Indrani sharing my bed, and rose early.

I left Archer to sleep and slipped on my clothes, learning when I limped to an early breakfast that it was just shortly past Early Bell – there were still about three hours left before the execution happened. I asked for porridge, the bland but filling kind that remained a Legion staple to this day, and silently sipped at an herbal infusion that’d soothe my leg. It was an odd mood that’d taken hold of me, but I did not fight it. It’d pass soon enough, I knew, and I owed it to the woman I was about to see killed to at least look what I was doing in the eye. I ended up wandering away afterwards, eventually coming up where the killing was to be done. These were not, I thought, awe-inspiring grounds. More abattoir than gallows: a stretch of naked stone, an executioner’s block and a few seats on raised platforms.

Yet for all the bare bone nature of the place I found it carried a sort of cold, impersonal dread to it. Not unlike the Terms themselves, if one chose to look at it that way. The Mantle of Woe pulled tight against me, hood up, I tucked myself away in a shadowed nook and lit a pipe. A stream of wakeleaf gently rose, and I allowed my thoughts to drift. I wasn’t sure how long I stayed like that, absorbed in my silence, but when the sound of steel and leather boots came reached my ear I did not need to guess who it was that’d come. There were too many guards for it to be anyone but Cordelia Hasenbach. She approached me without escort and I flicked her a look from beneath the hood.

She’d dressed in dark colours today, if not outright black. They did not suit her well, but cosmetics and jewelry hid the fact decently enough. She came to stand by my side, reflecting my silence with her own. I’d worn no crown, and she only a simple circlet of white gold. My eyes were on the block, and without turning I somehow knew so were hers.

“She is right about one thing, at least,” Hasenbach murmured. “It has been an ugly affair.”

I breathed out smoke, letting it rise in curls. It was a calming sight, familiar.

“I’ve made a lot of ugly choices, over the years,” I said. “I believed them necessary, when I made them. More often than not they truly were.”

“It is the exceptions that stay with you,” the First Prince said. “A hundred victories will fade, but that sole stinging defeat will sink its hooks.”

I smiled bitterly.

“Can’t save everyone,” I said. “And if you try to, usually you don’t even get to save most.”

Nauk. Ratface. Farrier. Anne Kendall. There was always a price to trying to make a change. And keeping it standing, when it got done? Oh, that was even costlier.

“Duty is a bed of thorns,” Cordelia quietly said, “but someone must lie in it.”

“Oh, there’s not enough kindness left in me to flinch at this I don’t think,” I mused. “I was just wondering at how things change, over the years.”

“How so?”

“The first two lives I ever took were those of a rapist,” I said, “and his accomplice.”

She said nothing.

“I wonder if I’m still the one holding the knife,” I murmured, “or if another role does not suit me better, these days.”

There was a word, for those who protected the likes of the first man I’d ever killed. Accomplice.

The silence held until the room began to fill with the few dignitaries who needed to be there. The Red Axe was brought in after the White Knight had already stepped up to the block, a longsword at his hip. She wore only a brown shift, walking barefoot, and though escorted to the fore she went freely. Unafraid. The White Knight gestured for her to kneel, but she refused.

“On my feet,” the Red Axe said. “To the end, on my feet.”

The White Knight slowly nodded. The heroine turned towards us, gaze lingering on my hooded and smoking figure besides the First Prince’s dark-clad paleness.

“I go with all my accounts settled,” the Red Axe said. “And no regrets.”

She did not close her eye, even when the blade went through her neck with a flash of light. A clean cut, made that way by the searing Light on the edge of the blade. She wouldn’t have felt a thing. The head fell, neck burnt on both ends, and the body toppled. Hanno caught her and laid her down, unclasping his cloak and laying it over the corpse. His expression was tight as he rose to his feet, eyes searching for Hasenbach and finding her. His stride was quick.

“The corpse is now passed into the custody of the Principate, as was asked,” he stiffly said.

“We thank you for the courtesy,” the First Prince replied.

He grimaced.

“What will you do with it?” he asked.

“That is no longer your concern.”

Hasenbach’s tone was not harsh, but neither was it one that would suffer further questioning. The White Knight’s eyes went to me, but I did not meet them. I breathed in the smoke, spewed it out, and waited until he’d left. The room slowly emptied, in the end leaving only the First Prince and her guards along with me. Leaning on my staff I limped up to the body veiled by the White Knight’s cloak, Hasenbach keeping pace with me. I laid down a hand on it and hummed. Yes, it could be done.

“Step back, if you don’t want to leave the room,” I said. “It won’t be easy work raising her coherent enough to stand trial before the Highest Assembly.”

230 thoughts on “Chapter 39: Transliteration

  1. Hmm, reanimation as undead?
    Presumably, anyways, since true Resurrection is supposedly restricted to Above.

    That’s … an interesting approach.
    And I’m not sure how bringing Red Axe back to execute her again is going to play with the Heroes.
    Or, considering it’s almost certainly going to be an undead Red Axe, not a living one, how it’s going to play with the Princes/Princesses of Procer.

    It’ll probably play worse with the Heroes than the Procerans, though. And might well cause problems with some of the Heroes.

    I admit, reanimation as undead in order to bring Red Axe to trial before a Proceran prosecution was not something I saw coming.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. Sir Nil

      They built it up as well. With the raising of the Wicked Enchanter and that bit about the Barrow Lord still being able to be tried under Procarian Laws. Also Cat specifically mentioned that the details of the Red Axe’s trial be kept secret. So there’s a good chance most heroes won’t hear of this, well at least till one of the Princes slip up, which tbh probably means its definitely going to happen.

      Liked by 20 people

      1. Oshi

        That won”t matter so much. It might actually help. The Princes can say they can get the Heroes even in death to bend to the law of Pocer. The heroes will be quietly pissed, the villians will smirk and the Princes won’t give a damn. They got what they wanted.

        Liked by 16 people

      2. I don’t think the sentence is being kept secret.

        Just … the details of Red Axe’s offense and involvement with Bard. That’s what’s being kept secret.

        The sentence of death can’t be kept a secret, not and be of any use – you violate the Truce and Terms, you die … even if you’re a Hero.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. KageLupus

          I think you are right. The play here is to keep things mysterious enough that there is some plausible deniability. I would imagine the Proceran trial happens very quickly and also has the details sealed.

          At the end of the day you have two trials that only a very few people know about, and the number that know about both is even smaller. Both trials have the same outcome, the Red Axe being executed for her crimes. Most people who hear about it are going to hear that she was given a trial and executed. If Procer claims it was their trial and execution and the Named claimed it was theirs then you have some confusion. But that can all be played off as politics since everyone knows there really was a trial and the Red Axe really was executed.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Cicero

            I think a big thing to remember is that the Procer Princes are the audience that needs to be appeased, not Procer as a whole. So even if the general populace doesn’t believe that the Highest Assembly executed the Red axe, the fact that the Princes will be appeased is sufficient.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Miles

      It just seems like such a bad idea. Every thing that can go wrong is another hook for Bard to use against the principiate and the terms.

      Princes find out she’s a zombie full of explosives? They’ll throw a fit that they didn’t get the trial they wanted and got played for fools twice. First with the trial and second with the green fire.

      Heroes find out she’s a zombie full of explosives? They’ll separate into sides and have yet another hero on hero conflict. Also explosions and green fire.

      Hanno finds out his executor was undone? He won’t trust cat again, and probably won’t find the explosions and green fire amusing.

      Cat finds out about the explosives and goblin fire when they blow all around her? Well she’s gonna survive but she really should have known the Bard would leave those there. After all, Bard helped that reputation get started.

      Also this is the beginning of a proper villain story for Cat. Before, her powers came from wanting to protect people, this time they come from wanting to meet a personal ambition. Time to start counting the death flags.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Probably not goblinfire and explosives — that’s Cat’s own schtick. But making her undead could give her another round of agency… or worse, could open the door for the Dead King.

        And they never did compare stories about the attempt on Frederick, which is worrisome.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      No. No it is not! This is the biggest mistake we’ve seen her make!

      Oh the execution is clever to be sure, but consider it: This woman was beaten, her overall plan snuffed, and her death quickly and quietly dealt with, by her enemies amongst them a top villian.

      And now, for purposes of prolonging her death and execution, the villian is RESURRECTING HER.

      This is ANOTHER CHANCE. You never, ever give somebody like this another chance! Because it has to stay secret long enough to be pulled off, which means incredibly high risk of discovery! Puppetering her corpse would be one thing, but actually letting her come back? i’m sure Cat will have some control over her but that’s just until she hits a full Heroic Resurrection, which again, she now has a shot at!

      You never bring back your own enemies, ESPECIALY when “It’s too late.” Cat fucked up.

      Liked by 12 people

      1. erebus42

        It depends on how cognizant she is and how many openings are provided. This could very well end up as another trickster story depending on how things play out rather than a revenge/rebellion from beyond the grave.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. erebus42

        Depends on how cognizant she is, how on the ball Cat is, and how many openings are provided. This could very well end up as another trickster story as apposed to a revenge/rebellion from beyond the grave depending on how things shake out.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Salt

          Funnily enough, the Priests would agree that this is just unholy mimicry of life by the echoes of a deceased spirit, rather than any resurrection; while the Praesi would argue that this is resurrection in every sense that truly matters, with the soul actually being pulled back from the afterlife and the soul being what really matters.

          The point is that she’s being raised to a semblance of agency and definitely to a point of sentience and cognition. That has some potentially ugly consequences, and not just from the Red Axe herself.

          Liked by 7 people

          1. Nah, the Praesi would 100% argue she’s now undead which is a distinct state in which she’s not entitled to [a long list, fought over through many bitter civil wars].

            The problem here is, the Red Axe MIGHT cause trouble, but the trouble if this is not done is kind of MORE ASSURED.

            Liked by 10 people

            1. Salt

              They might if she was being raised as some sort of standard necromantic construct. But then there would be both no point and no question of whether it’s possible or not, which is contradicted by Catherine commenting on whether or not it could be done. And warning people to back up, which is generally a story tell for doing something extreme or impressive.

              What Cat is likely to try to do here is something that far surpasses making of a zombie and approaches what the Dead King does with his revenants – actually calling the soul (or the echoes of the spirit, if it offends the priests I guess), back and binding it so that the Red Axe is for all intents and purposes able to properly be tried by the highest assembly. Something approaching the kind of pseudo-avoidance of death that is the golden promise for aspiring necromancers everywhere.

              … which is partially where the trouble comes from. If you do something that makes said zombie enough of a revenant that it is sentient and can be questioned in a trial, then said abomination is likely going to also come back with its sentience intact, including any malicious intents associated. Possibly even part of its power.

              The other part is the actual accomplishment of raising a Named dead to a degree of completeness rarely ever seen. Rarely, with the exception of… the dead king. Not the best association to have at the moment for a Villain, especially if some malicious entity releases the truth that the hidden horror appears to be strangely fond of Cat, almost treating her as a very young peer rather than an Enemy.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. mamm0nn

                All this nonsense discussing what kind of dead she is and won’t be any more, when really only one thing really matters: How many sharpers will Cat shove into her?

                Liked by 4 people

              2. It’s not actually that rare – Catherine got herself raised as an undead at First Liesse, and this was portrayed as a fairly normal contingency for a villain to have. Akua also had a contingency to bind her soul if she died, which is how she ended up in Cat’s cloak. It’s not just something necromancers aspire to, it’s something that Praesi necromancers do so often that they have laws about it.

                The only unusual thing here is that Cat is reviving her without any prep work beforehand, but I guess Night is particularly good at this sort of thing.


              3. Miles

                If she manages that she might be coming into a name that let’s her use her enemies’ powers. Not just once like with **Take**, but permanently and with powers. Done tight, she might even come out with a better set than ranger, learning-mastering-surpasding not skills but Nameds’ abilities.

                In short she could become a Power Ranger.


      3. Sir Nil

        Perhaps, but Cat made the point that while it might seem that way from her perspective, from the perspective of the wider world the Red Axe is a short-sighted fool who threatened the institution keeping Calernia from getting glomped by DK. Which story takes precedence really depends, but Cat has the Bard shard in her so she probably knows what she’s doing.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah that’s … that’s not something to laugh about.

      For all that the Red Axe has frustrated the protagonists of this story and for all the harm she could have done, let’s not forget who she is. She is a woman who killed her rapist in an attempt to bring down a system which protected that rapist and others like him, knowing the cost of that act would be her life.

      Her death may be warranted under the oath she forswore and to forestall worse consequences, but who she is, what she did, and why are not things which deserve mockery.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. masterofbones

        That system exists to save the world. She intentionally chose her own petty revenge with the *gleeful* intent to cause the world to be overrun. That’s a pretty unforgivable crime. Rape hurts one person. She tried to cause worse than rape to the entire world, leaving herself safely executed.

        If she thinks 1 rape deserves execution, she deserves execution a million times over.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. > with the *gleeful* intent to cause the world to be overrun

          Pretty sure that’s not what she intended. She just didn’t think the risk was all that great, which was stupid of her, not malicious.

          > If she thinks 1 rape

          One rape? Really?

          Dude, the Wicked Enchanter had been… making his way through countryside village after village.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Zggt

          She thinks that a future founded on ugliness is not worth fighting for. The Red Axe knew from the start she deserved execution for this, she is not stupid. In her view, her not acting on this would have made her complicit, and she’d rather die. It is selfish of her, but her nature as a Hero was to fight to the death for what she believes in, similar to the other more extreme heroes. By any measure, I’d consider her just as much a culpable madwoman as the Tyrant was in his crimes, but there is a moral depth that separates them quite clearly.

          We can assume that while something as personal as vengeance was involved, Above’s influence subsumed that. They don’t seem to be nearly as keen on the whole “free will” thing as Below.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Correction: Above does not override the free will of its Chosen in any case ever seen so far, though it does occasionally traumatize them into being more obsessed with what was already their core motivation than they would have otherwise been.

            Red Axe is not noted to be associated with a Choir, so her desire for justice subsuming any urge for vengeance is all her, unaugmented.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. mamm0nn

              You don’t need to take away one’s free will if your priests and your people have made trust in the Above absolute and unquestionably by propaganda from birth. Also, Named are at least a quarter derived from their free will by their providence and such, we’ve seen them also mentally and in decision-making influenced by Story.


              1. Providence and story are a feedback mechanism echoing decisions made in the past. People have agency in SHAPING it for the future as much as they themselves are influenced by shapes from the past.

                And I would dearly love to see the world you describe where everyone actually functionally follows their religion 100% of the time. Be it in-universe or IRL.

                Oh, and all the religious doctrine is actually shaped by the priesthood, not the decrees of the Gods themselves, which priests have been repeatedly roasted for by heroes. Again, mortal agency.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. mamm0nn

                  And yet here are heroes that are so consistently believing themselves and Above to be the absolute right and all those of Below being evil for being with Below at all.


                  1. I mean. Above and Below’s selection mechanisms work as overall very effective filters for who goes where. You get a scattering of exceptions, moreso in Evil nations than elsewhere (which characteristically heroes from Good nations would have very little knowledge of), but overall the rule DOES hold.


      2. Aotrs Commander

        The moment she decided her desire for revenge was more important than other people’s lives, she became every bit as bad as the villan she killed. Bad in a different way, but just as bad.

        She deserves nothing BUT mockery.

        Being a victim does not in ANY way excuse your for your own crimes, not at all.

        If she wanted to wait until the immediate crisis was over and gut the dude like a fish, I’d have been right there beside, her holding the knife ready, having already pinned him to the floor by a spear through his genitals (and so, I think, would Cat), ready to set his screaming soul on fire for infinite pain forever.

        But she *didn’t* do that, and for that she deserves no sympathy, mercy or regard. Death is the very least she deserves.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. She did not directly kill people with her actions. She disturbed a delicate system in a way that would probably eventually lead to more deaths, but given how she was not privy to the intricacies of it – you know, NOT being part of the leadership of the Grand Alliance – I don’t think it’s quite equivalent.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Salt

            Agreed. It’s not as if Catherine herself had any conception of national level intricacies before sitting in that seat. Someone with zero experience ruling might wrongly assume that there IS a better way than the GA and the terms precisely because they have zero experience ruling. That’s a failing of utter stupidity and inexperience, not a failing of malice towards life on the continent.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Yeah.

              Ultimately, what she’s guilty of is oathbreaking. The oath was asked for for a reason, and just because she’s unaware of that reason doesn’t mean she’s not beholden to keeping her goddamn word.

              Liked by 2 people

          2. Shveiran

            Pardon, but that’s a load of BS. The continent has been at war for years. Everyone and their aging aunts knows that.
            To realize that to break the coalition that is fighting the enemy to a stalemate is AT LEAST EXTREMELY LIKELY to cause the enemy to win, is not a revelation that requires a public office or a degree in history to achieve.

            “Not privy to the intricacies of”, come on. This isn’t understanding how Mercantis could mess them in the money bag, that is someone nearly everyone cannot understand. This is pretty damn different.

            She decided to throw a stick in the wheel of the cart treading on the edge of the slope, because she didn’t care for the cart.
            We want to say her personal history makes her sympathetic? All right.
            But let’s not pretend she didn’t understand that trying to collapse the Terms would at the very least hamper the war effort, or that losing the war means death for all Calernia.

            She got it. She just thought that’s as no good reason to stay her hand.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. “break the coalition” is not an obvious necessary consequence of her actions. It’s not obvious how necessary the villains are to it, it’s not obvious what they even do at all, and it’s not obvious how they’ll react to something like this.

              Pretty sure her idea was to change the Terms (phoenix rising from the ashes), not collapse them and anything like them for good.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Shveiran

                Nearly half the coalition is led by murderous villains. How? Just… how could that possibly work without an amnesty. Because that is what she took a swing at.


                1. A more conditional amnesty? Amnesty decided on a case to case basis? That seems to be an obvious thought for someone who doesn’t really have to organize the logistics for bringing villains in in the first place.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. masterofbones

                    Gotta get villains to agree to that. Having a tenth, a quarter, or a half of their number get executed just to satiate the heroes isn’t gonna fly with them, especially the ones who are borderline, and might be at risk in the future. Nah, if the two sides don’t get treated as peers, the side treated as inferior isn’t going to join at all.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Shveiran

                      Is it though?

                      Who could possibly think “these guys were our enemies until yesterday, but now that we are fighting a common enemy, they should have no right to attack us but we should be able to decide who of them gets to live and who gets to die.”

                      I mean, that’s an angry revenge wet dream, not someone anyone expects to actually work. I fantasize about going to work, tell-off my boss and being put in charge in his stead, but I know it’s not actually going to happen.


              2. Agent J

                You’re arguing a lot in favour of ignorance where the woman in question has done everything to fight that stigma.

                She had no intention of changing the Terms. She wanted them gone, said so herself. She told Cat that they had to do better.

                If they don’t, they all die. An ultimatum she is not too stupid to understand.

                I don’t believe it’s stupidity or malice that are fuelling her. I believe it’s fucking selfishness, but it doesn’t matter.

                Intent does not outweigh action. Her actions are atrocious and have the potential of destroying a content. And, as this argument seems to have started on the premise of “who she is, what she did, and why are not things which deserve mockery”, I have to hard disagree.

                Liked by 5 people

                1. Actually I’m not arguing in favor of “don’t deserve mockery”. I’m always down for a good round of mockery of characters I have sympathy for.

                  But she IS ignorant no matter how much she wants to insist she’s not. She believes a “better” is just around the corner, they just need to try. She doesn’t KNOW the detailed stategic situation of the Grand Alliance. She has no way to.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Shveiran

                    I guess what the disagreement between us boils down to is that “she has no way to”.

                    For you (I think?) she lacks information, she is not a head of state, she is likely not very educated (I think she comes from a village?) and so she has no way to know how impossible a solution is to the problem she poses. And thus while you may or may not excuse her action, you find that she herself is deserving of some sympathy.

                    (sorry if I got something wrong)

                    The thing is, I don’t disagree too much: she had no way to know the details, at least. But I do believe everyone, no matter how poorly educated, has the means to understand that they do not, in fact, understand something.
                    All it takes is for you to stop for a few moments, think really hard about what you know, and sum it up. That is something I believe everyone is physically capable of doing.

                    And so, I believe that not doing it is a choice.

                    Could the Red Axe understand the details? No.
                    Could she realize she was hacking at the foundations of what was keeping the continent above the waterline, with no real understanding of what was load-bearing and what wasn’t? Without a plan or a layman understanding of how the pieces were linked?
                    Yes. I do believe she could.

                    In my opinion, that is why she is undeserving of sympathy. Mine, at least.
                    Because she either didn’t bother to, or chose not to care, while playing with the lives of millions.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. There’s another set of consequences that Red Axe ignored.
                      The Truce and Terms have put a stop to the further depredations of all of the Villains who signed on, at least for the minimum duration of the war effort, and now they’re known to Heroes if they start crossing lines afterwards.
                      Without the Truce and Terms, all of the currently signed on Villains would be free to resume any/all of their malign activities, and the Heroes are going to be too busy with the war effort to stop them – and if you say the Heroes/Grand Alliance can try to pull an Order 66 on them … they’re Named, they’re Villains, effectively none of them are going to go out quietly or without collateral damage, and almost all of them are at/near the front or at critically valuable installations such as the Arsenal, and any attempts to take them would have serious negative consequences for the Allied/Heroes forces they’re stationed at.
                      In addition, without the Truce and Terms, the Heroes are going to be way too busy with the war to stop the depredations of any newly spawning Villains anytime soon.

                      Plus … since Cat basically forced Procer and the Dominion into accepting the Truce and Terms along with her help, even if the details aren’t known, it’s got to be known that they happened more or less concurrently and since they didn’t a lot of time and effort making sure Cat was known to be a Villain ruling Callow … taking out the Truce and Terms could easily cause her and thus Callow (and probably the Drow) to stop helping fight the Dead King.

                      In short, taking out the Truce and Terms has major negative consequences that are pretty straightforward and obvious, above and beyond the direct and immediate value of the various Villains towards the war effort.
                      Consequences that Red Axe realistically had to have been at least partially aware of.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Mm, yeah, you summed up my position well.

                      I understand yours, too. I just see not noticing what you don’t notice as such a basic thing to human condition, it really doesn’t turn off my sympathy.

                      Even as I agree with the sentence completely )=


          3. Abrakadabra

            She did not kill people directly with her actions, huh? So the Enchanter is not part of the people? What about The Kingfisher Prince? Well he lived, sure, then it is no problem if his neck is shanked by some steel.

            Liked by 2 people

              1. Shveiran

                Of course he counts, that no one cares is another thing entirely. She still murdered him in cool blood, and thus claimed there was no need for tribunals: everyone who doesn’t like someone can bring an axe to their necks.
                That is of course very far down the priority list right now, but that is a thing she did still.
                Murder is murder. Saying “he was bad” doesn’t change the fact that enforcing that reasoning means everyone with a grudge is entitled to act on it. And no one gets to judge whether or not they were “bad” but the people swinging their axes.

                But seriously, she didn’t kill anyone with her actions directly? My god, if one step removed is all it takes I suppose Cordelia never killed anyone. She just gave orders, after all, people could have chosen not to follow them. And Tariq didn’t kill the Legion detachment following Amadeus, he just created a plague in a village, it was them who decided to go there and get infected.

                I suppose if you are in a lifeboat and I sink it, it’s just destruction of property and not murder: it’s the water and tiredness that drowns you, not me. If I tie someone in the woods and then set fire to the forest, well, it’s the fire that did them in, I just caused the fire. If I cover a car in gasoline and it only ignites when someone throws a cigarette, is it their fault because the fuel wouldn’t have caught fire without their intervention?

                No, sorry, I can’t agree with that. She decided to hack at the system. If the system breaks and drags everyone down with it, that’s on her whether she thought it likely or not.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Let’s not forget that the Truce and Terms has stopped the further depredations of all of the Villains who have signed on, at least for the duration of the war (or until they die fighting).
                  And that without the Truce and Terms, they can resume their malign activities and the Heroes are going to be too busy with the war effort to stop them.
                  Also, the Heroes are largely going to be too busy with the war effort to stop any newly spawning Villains.

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Stupidity and malice are often indistinguishable in practice, and often call for the exact same response, I cannot argue with that in any way. Still different things.


          4. mamm0nn

            “She did not directly kill people with her actions.”

            I feel there’s a certain Prince with a handsome neck-scar that questions your statement. If it were possible to kill him with his own sword, she would’ve struck down not just a person but a Named, a Hero, a hero and a Prince. All to take an axe to the Terms, not because of anything the Kingfisher himself did, only because his death would lend itself best to make it fall apart. That means she’s willing to kill a lot more people if that was what it took.

            Liked by 5 people

        2. Salt

          I think this is a bit too extremist. Being a victim doesn’t excuse you for your crimes, no, but that knife cuts both ways. Being a criminal doesn’t mean you no longer deserve the sympathy of a victim.

          She was wrong and deserved her sentence, she fucked up pretty badly. She also was a tragedy on a level that makes the background stories of most Villains look like sunshine and rainbows.

          It isn’t some sort of “they’re 100% terrible and bad” vs “they’re 100% justified and good” dichotomy. She can be considered both fully deserving of death, and worthy of sympathy for being a victim at the same time.

          Liked by 3 people

        3. Insanenoodlyguy

          No, she doesn’t.

          You assume she’s setting up the system for failure, but remember, this is a STORY. She honestly believes that a better way will be found, but it may well only be found at the darkest hour when no other options exist. It’s the sort of thing that drives Cat nuts, but it drives her so nuts because it does keep happening.

          Liked by 1 person

      3. Big I

        The Red Axe becoming undead is the perfect ironic reversal. I think that’s funny. Should I also not laugh at the absurd shenanigans of Irritant or Traitorous, or even Cat herself, because of the body counts involved?

        Traitorous masterminded his own coup attempts. What do you think happened to the other people he was plotting with?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Abrakadabra

        I call bullshit on that. Frederick has nothing to do with the rape, but was a convenient tool, to wchive her plans. So laughing at people WHO treat others as tools is Just fucking dandy as far as I am concerned.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. erebus42

      No he won’t, but he ceded her remains to them fairly. Much as his very nature prevented compromise around the trial it will also no doubt keep him from making too much of a fuss about this.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Salt

        Let’s be honest though, the way she mislead him to allow for this is the furthest thing from fair. It’s trickery borderlining an outright betrayal of Hanno’s trust.

        He thought he was handing over the remains for the sake of necessity – even if the desecration of her corpse was something he personally felt was utterly despicable – and for her part Catherine actively encouraged this implication. He didn’t allow it so that the Red Axe would be made to suffer a second time after having already suffered the sentence that was demanded for justice to be done.

        He might actually kick up a fuss about it, and he wouldn’t even be in the wrong to if he did. Cat knows this herself, which is why she wasn’t even able to look him in the eye. A technicality of the wording of their agreement doesn’t somehow erase the reality that the White Knight extended both reasonability and cooperation as far as his bottom line would possibly allow – without hesitation and to a Villain, no less – and Cat is about to return that gesture by more or less spitting in his face.

        For all the necessity of it, she knows full well that everything about what she’s doing here is ugly, and it shows in her own behavior. This is going to be one of the ones she’s not proud of, even if the needs of the queen demand it.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. It’s still for the sake of necessity is the problem.

          It’s ugly, it’s awful, it’s pretty mean towards the Red Axe, but it’s not unfair towards Hanno. He stood on the wording of law for this, not the spirit of kindness. That’s what he got in turn. Is it horrifying? Yes. Is it an abuse of technicalities? Depending on what you consider the intent of the law to be.

          One could argue that if he agreed to surrender the corpse, he agreed that the protection of the Terms is withdrawn upon death. That would in fact be reasonable and logical as a legal ruling – if there’s no sentence of “you’re now an outlaw and we don’t extend any legal protection to you anymore”, death sentence serves as that in a pinch.

          I think in the future it would be… reasonable to include the details of what will happen to the body after death right in the tribunal deliberation.

          But this one time… yeah. I hope Hanno agrees he surrendered this one fair and square.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Salt

            I don’t think anyone can argue that she schemed her way into being technically lawful in this. The point is that this is a win that really feels like a loss, because it is the definition of unfair for Hanno, who we all know deserved better. He didn’t surrender this outcome, because it was never brought up with him. A Villain he held in high esteem hid it in the fine print, when he was treating her as a decent enough person who could be trusted not to do such a thing to an ally.

            You know what Hanno wasn’t doing? Looking out for a scheme in the first place, because he was genuine in trying to negotiate with Cat in fully good faith. You know what he wasn’t thinking? That Catherine should be seen as an enemy simply because of the color of her cloak. He doesn’t somehow get redefined into someone who deserves to be sucker punched this way because his relatively flexible bottom line clashed with Catherine one time, especially in a complex situation where Cat herself partially agreed with him.

            So yes, she got the drop on him, when he wasn’t even on guard for this kind of a trap because he was negotiating in good faith from the start. Many cheers and celebrations.

            I’m not seeing this as a glorious victory for Cat for being clever, though. I’m seeing it as a rather sad loss where she’s forced to spit in the face of one of the few Heroes who ever really treated her with respect from the beginning. Something that results in a loss of trust from the kind of person that both Catherine and the comments section has been wishing for Heroes in the guideverse to actually be since forever.

            This is the kind of bad-faith negotiation that justifies people like the Saint automatically distrusting everything Villains say, as if there’s an inevitable scheme to be caught in for being stupid enough to fully trust Villains. This is something that is sad to be forced to resort to, because that lost trust is going to take a hell of a long time to come back, if it ever does at all.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Yeah, that’s what Cat meant by “down in the mud”. Sometimes, there are no good outcomes. She exploited the trust Hanno gave her, and I am not even sure it will accomplish the original task. Like, it already sucks to be Hanno, but the trust was betrayed not even for the surefire win, just a chance of one. The fact that Red Axe is gonna be tried is gonna be public, no doubt about it, but that would just raise pointed questions. From Hanno for one, but also, from every Named who will naturally conclude that if Red Axe was tried under Assembly, she was either spared under the Terms, or, well, raised as an undead abomination of everything good and holy. And sure, the latter will apease Villanous Names, or at least amuse, but that’s not gonna do any favors to the assembly itself.

              My guess is the trials under the Procer will also be a subject to the seal, but such a thing is near guaranteed to missfired in the world run on tropes in the best worse moment possible. Not to mention the sheer logistics of 23 (?) backstabbing schemers keeping a secret. You might as well try to use pure air as a bucket.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Yeah, I think this scheme has a lot of failure points.

                I don’t think Hanno considering Catherine his enemy forevermore is one. He’ll be offended, upset, angry, but he won’t think she’s the new Dead King / Tyrant of Helike for this.

                Liked by 6 people

                1. Shveiran

                  Personally, I hope he sucks it up and moves on.
                  He doesn’t have to like it, but he has to know that they stood on a precipice, was asked if he had a solution and said no, and then refused the solution others suggested.
                  So someone found an ugly solution not to jump in the precipice that went around him.

                  I trust Hanno not to act on this, because to act on it is to say you take issues with everyone not jumping in the precipice.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. Yup.

                    Hanno and Frederic acted in accordance with their own moral principles. Catherine and Cordelia let them, and if the actions they were forced to take as a result are worse than them breaking their principles would have been in the first place, well hey, they were warned and warned repeatedly.

                    And if it’s not worth and sticking to their principles was still worth it, well then, everyone wins except for Red Axe, prince Langevin and the Dead King, don’t they?

                    Liked by 2 people

            2. Catherine isn’t his enemy for doing this. She did her best to avoid infringing on his interests. She’s still on his side. Her “scheme” is for a purpose he’s perfectly aware of and agrees with and aware she’s working towards.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Salt

                She isn’t the Enemy, but there is a big difference in being an ally and a trusted ally. Roland, the Grey Pilgrim, and the Blessed Artificer are all “allies”, for example.

                At the end of the day, this IS something that at the least pushes his bottom line, if not necessarily crossing it – in that he considered justice to be fully accomplished by the lawful execution, and she’s pushing it beyond that.

                I think that people are somewhat overestimating exactly how binding a technical difference is for Hanno, especially since his agreement with Catherine isn’t some sort of general-purpose Truce and Terms law so much as just a one time concession based on circumstance.

                He is someone who became a Hero by spurning the laws of his homeland as being lawful but not “Just”. His view of justice is heavily intertwined with law, but it’s hardly something simple enough to be fully satisfied by a technicality of it.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. And I think you might be overestimating how important it is for him that Red Axe not be tried twice.

                  Oh yes, they kept it secret from him. You know such a thing exists as ‘plausible deniability’? He did not conspire with them and he did not agree that this would be done to Red Axe, he acted within the limits of his jurisdiction and those only. As is, it’s true and no-one can dispute it. If he’d known he might have been compelled by the letter and spirit of the law he believes in to fight this outcome, but he was not obligated to know and they were not obligated to let him.

                  It’s like how Frederic did not protest against Red Axe being executed in general but refused to do it personally because principles.

                  Catherine let Hanno play his role in accordance with how he believed he should act. She tried to push, he refused to bend, she backed off and let him have his perfect trial.

                  If he ALSO, SEPARATELY, wants to dispute the actions taken afterwards and the ultimate fate of the Red Axe, that’s a very different question than whether he’ll discuss sentencing ahead of time.

                  Not all withheld information is a betrayal.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Salt

                    In my eyes the fact that she had to hide it at all and the fact that she couldn’t even look him in the eye is plenty proof that she knew full well that it was a severe betrayal of trust.

                    Not to mention that Hanno isn’t a Proceran Prince. Justice isn’t some shiny label that he wants to be viewed as upholding – it’s something he believes in from the bottom of his heart. Catherine understands this, as she has similarly strong beliefs about other subjects, and for matters of the heart it’s not about plausible deniability. The guy truly does want everything to be as Just as he can possibly make it.

                    I think Catherine the Queen will do what she needs to do, but Catherine the person is anything but OK with pulling this on someone who has been nothing but genuine and respectful to her

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Yes, but sometimes the point of justice is what happens to the other person at all, and sometimes it’s what YOU do.

                      Justice is not a consequentialist framework, it’s a deontological one. It’s fine if a villain falls off a cliff to their death, but it’s not fine if you push them. The result might be the same but your actions were not.

                      And yes, Catherine is highly disturbed by what she did and by pulling things behind Hanno’s back. I believe that says more about what kind of person she wants to be than about her being terrible horrible no good as she is right now.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  2. SpeckofStardust

                    Honestly Hanno has to publicly react in full disapproval of this, cause otherwise the heroes are going to think that he wont defend them from being thrashed Via Black Queen, at the end of the day as long as the next trial doesn’t go off the rails Catherine just loses some respect from the Heroes. And that’s a acceptable cost.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Very true!

                      That’s why Catherine’s going to keep this under wraps for as long as it takes for him to only be able to express disapproval and not actually sabotage it.

                      Liked by 1 person

          2. Decius

            I don’t think the protection of the T&T is withdrawn upon death, but I think that the protection can be repudiated by the protected. Hanno only claimed that repudiating it wouldn’t stop that trial, because it was based on events that occurred while under T&T.

            But that trial ended with an execution, and only an execution. It did not end with a ruling that prevented the use of necromancy on the corpse.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Well, the problem is not so much the necromancy as that T&T seem to more or less explicitly include “and you will not be tried by the Highest Assembly for crimes against Procer as long as you’re subject to these laws instead”.

              The necromancy is a separate problem lol


            2. Shveiran

              Honestly, if even Praesi don’t consider undead an acceptable state of citizenship, I feel like it is a fair assumption to say that the Terms’ protections end with death.
              Pretty much all legal system do, after all. Crimes like graverobbing are not punished to protect dead people, but the mental ease and “sense of propriety” of their relatives and loved ones.
              As the Terms are just the skeleton of a system born for war time, I doubt they include that kind of scope.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Plus, they’re fighting the Dead King.
                Who is known to have a habit of reanimating Named as Revenants in his service.

                I find it likely that the Truce and Terms explicitly not protect someone once they’ve been killed and reanimated as any kind of undead, otherwise, if the Dead King killed and reanimated someone, putting them back down would constitute a technical violation if death/undeath do not void the protections of the Truce and Terms.

                Liked by 2 people

      2. 7ime1ock

        I doubt Hanno would face much Narrative backlash if he were to break his word here, since this is a perversion of the sentence he dealt out to a Heroine. Especially since he did not make that promise with full knowledge of what she intended with the corpse aka he did not go into it with ‘open eyes’ .

        Furthermore, Hanno is a representive of the Heroes in the GA. If he let this go without a word, it would establish the precedent that anyone with the political will can mess around with the corpses of Heroes and perhaps even their Heaven’s ordained afterlife. There is no way this is going to go over well with that lot.

        Honestly, this might in a round-a-bout way accomplish Red Axe’s goal in breaking the Terms.

        But, I’ll admit I’m biased here since I truly want Cat to fail and lose for what she just did and have this whole situation come crashing down. Honestly, what she did really rubs me the wrong way.


  2. ruduen

    “‘Graverobbing is not a particular concern of the Seraphim,’ the White Knight replied, sounding almost amused.”

    I mean, she’s not even stealing it this time. Is there anything more specific available regarding how they treat Necromancy?

    Liked by 7 people

    1. erebus42

      Hey they were given legal right to do with her remains as they will. I dont know about specific but it seems like while it’s not outlawed by the Grand Alliance and is probably employed in certain areas and situations it’s probably not looked at particularly fondly overall. They mentioned that being undead is technically illegal under Heresy laws in the Principate. I kind of want them to get a Necromancer or other death related Named who would be able to employ their own undead or be particularly good at dealing with the Dead King’s legions and servants.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Ninestrings

    So next chapter is a Weekend at Bernies style comedy of Cordelia and Cat marching the Red Axe’s corpse around with a nice scarf on to hide the scar?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ninestrings

      I also am vaguely hoping that her brain gets scrambled to some extent and shenanigans ensue.

      Cordelia: You have been charged with Treason, how do you plead?

      Red Axe: Cantaloupe

      *Cat at the back of the court frantically making “Wrap it up” gesture with her hand.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Salt

      The Red Axe could end up getting a few victories for herself with this kind of a second chance to be fair, albeit while still being dead.

      … which would make this a Red Dead Redemption for her

      Liked by 6 people

          1. Ninestrings

            I mean the golden rule of necromancy is “Don’t raise up what you cannot put down” Red Axe isn’t so big a player that this should be an issue.

            The undead abomination stuff tends to go haywire for villains when their reach exceeds their grasp.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. laguz24

    I wonder how the red axe is going to react when they bring her back. Probably something pithy about once not being enough. Also I really want to know what terms they agreed to regarding the ealamal.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. masterofbones

      Proper response: “well if one rape merits one execution in your eyes, trying to cause the entire world to be converted into unwilling slaves to be experimented on by the Dead King deserves *at least* a few more.


        1. Myriad

          Nah. Any law will equate act with reckless disregard. That is, you are not allowed to hide behind the fact that you didn’t specifically intend to harm someone, even if you ended up doing so, to evade punishment if you had to act by refusing to consider or blinding yourself to the obvious consequences of doing so.

          So if someone is pulling you up from a cliff to save you from a mortal fall and if someone else rightfully or wrongfully kills that person saving you, causing you to fall to your mortal death or serious injury, the law will allow your representative to pursue wrongful death or damages against the murderer even if that murderer had no specific ill intent to you in particular.

          Similarly, here, it really doesn’t matter if Red Axe had no specific intent to damage the fight against the Dead King. It was an obvious consequence and that the Red Axe intentionally and willfully disregarded that consequence does not mean she cannot, legally or otherwise, be held responsible for it.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Shveiran

              This varies from legal system to legal system, but in general, the distinction matters (and usually doesn’t absolve) for crimes consisting of simple acts where the will of the individual can easily be determined. And when the consequences greatly get out of hand IN A WAY THAT COULDN’T BE PREDICTED BY A REASONABLE PERSON.

              You call me names, I punch you, you fall and break your neck. Breaking one’s neck is not a reasonably expected consequence of being punched, so I am not charged with murder (though I am charged, and not just for the punch).

              I decide to burn down a house at night. Someone inside burns alive. The risk is something I couldn’t not have taken into account (whether or not I did is irrelevant: I should have) so I’m charged as if I had wanted that result.

              Again, this is the general principle: every country has it a bit different.

              Liked by 1 person

                  1. See, unlike the “just don’t fucking skin people, didn’t think I needed to spell this one out for you” (as a random example, I’ve got nothing against Raphaella personally), this doesn’t really generalize. People always act in ignorance of SOMETHING. Like… all knowledge to be possibly had in the universe is infinite, people’s knowledge is finite no matter how much effort they pour into learning what they need.

                    And like “in her case, she should have poured more” is a valid judgement and I’m right there with you.

                    But “if you act before you’ve learned EVERYTHING you’re a rotten radish” is functionally a call to inaction, to everyone, ever.

                    Knowing when you need to shut up and listen and when you need to act is a delicate balancing act, not an absolute moral rule.

                    Red Axe failed hard. I’m right here judging her. I’m just also here sympathizing with her because, like, people, y’know?


            2. Sure, our legal systems have a range of charges covering “you killed someone” for various circumstances, and blind accidents or accidents caused by neglect are included.

              Red Axe, however, killed Wicked Enchanter and tried to kill Kingfisher Prince knowingly, intentionally, and of her own volition, attacking the Truce and Terms providing the Grand Alliance the coordinated backing and support of almost every Named on Calernia in the war effort against the Dead King … which has been grinding on for at least two years in what is effectively a stalemate, though they’re selling hopeful victories and progress through their propaganda.
              Her killing of Wicked Enchanter would fall under premeditated murder, and conspiracy murder, and probably conspiracy treason, and conspiracy espionage.
              Her attempted murder of Kingfisher Prince probably couldn’t be proven to be premeditated, but it was definitely an knowing and intentional act. Might have a hard time adding conspiracy charges to the attempt on Kingfisher Prince, though.

              At best, Red Axe fully bought the propaganda, and thinks the war is going much better than it actually is and that the Villains aren’t actually needed, useful, or contributing to the war effort, far less how vital they’ve actually been, although, I would expect that somebody probably told her that the actual state of the war wasn’t as rosy a picture as the propaganda when she was found and recruited.
              At best, she vastly underestimated the value of the Truce and Terms to the Grand Alliance and the war effort.
              She still committed murder and attempted murder, not manslaughter or anything caused by neglect.

              Even if we ignore the value to the war effort, the Truce and Terms have also put a stop to the depredations of the Villains who have signed on … and without the Truce and Terms, they can all go right back to whatever they were doing before … and all the Heroes are going to be way too busy with war to put a stop to any of their malign activities, and the Heroes are also going to be too busy to stop the depredations of any newly spawning Villains.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. What are you even arguing about? I never contested that she did murder and attempted murder. I argued she didn’t GLEEFULLY CAUSE THE SLAUGHTER OF MILLIONS.


                1. She gleefully attacked the Truce and Terms.
                  The immediate consequence of ending the Truce and Terms is to the war effort. It’s effectively providing aid and comfort to the enemy, only worse.
                  However, the Truce and Terms also put a hold on signatory Villains doing Villain things to the Proceran/Levantine/Callowan people. And ensure that there are Named tracking down and bringing onboard any freshly spawned Named, cutting short their malign activities.
                  Without the Truce and Terms, the signatory Villains can bail on the war effort and resume their Villainous and malign endeavors against the Proceran/Levantine/etc common folk who are away from the battlefront, and the Heroes will be too busy fighting the Dead King to stop them, or any additional newly spawned Villains.

                  And, y’know, without the Truce and Terms, Cat, and thus Callow, (and probably the Drow) are likely to bail on the Grand Alliance, what with Cat being a Villain and all.

                  Plus, Red Axe almost certainly got told more about what’s actually going on with the war when Archer’s band found her and while traveling with them.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. The secondary effect of villains being in the Truce and Terms INSTEAD OF doing something else (and instead of needing to commit heroes to stop all that) is not obvious either.

                    And you seriously think Archer and Co gave her geopolitics lessons, rather than telling bawdy stories?


                    1. Villains going back to doing Villain things is somehow not an obvious consequence of ending the Truce and Terms that pointed them at the Dead King instead of doing Villain things?

                      Also, while Archer and company probably did tell a lot of stories … I fully expect that they also told Red Axe at least a little about the realities of fighting the Dead King’s armies and that every Named was needed because the truth wasn’t as good looking as the propaganda said things are.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Archer and Co haven’t been on the northern front actually as best I can tell. And they’re none of them strategists. Well, Archer can be when she focuses, but I strongly doubt she would, especially when it comes to Not Contradicting Official Propaganda.

                      And no, it’s not obvious. Who’s to say it’s the Truce and Terms that keep them there in the first place? Maybe they’re looking to get something and the T&T is just what they negotiated themselves in the meanwhile (NOT obvious that there’s nothing to get there; if nothing else, Cat herself had an ulterior motive to aligning with the Grand Alliance from the start). Maybe they’re already threatened/mind-controlled into compliance and have nowhere else to go. Maybe they’re not complete idiots and understand that the continent is where they keep their stuff so they shouldn’t let DK eat it.


      1. Salt

        She just executed a girl for doing exactly what she herself did at the same age, under Terms that she herself admits are ugly and horribly unjust, while betraying the trust of her colleague to a degree where she’s too ashamed to even look him in the eye, for the explicit purpose of executing someone twice.

        As far Catherine herself is concerned, this is the kind of hypocrisy that would have had a younger Catherine Foundling want to kill her for. It’s reminiscent of how Black Spoke at her to force her to watch him hanging Callowan traitors. Except nowadays she’s not just executing traitors so much as executing them and raising from their rest so they can suffer execution a second time.

        It’s a Necessary Evil, sure, and she’s not exactly cackling in glee about it, but let’s not pretend that this isn’t blatantly evil rather just a really mean way of being good.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Catherine killed those two
          1) with the implication from the Black Knight that they’d be back on the streets doing the same thing in 5 or so years if she did nothing (probably a blatant lie, he’d have filled in if she didn’t, but she didn’t know that and had no way to guess);
          2) NOT during a war for survival of the whole continent;
          3) …with the personal approval of about the highest authority to be found in the entire country at the time.

          This is about as different from the Red Axe’s situation as going home from work is different from deserting in wartime. It’s not the act itself that’s the problem in this case, it’s the context and implications, and consequences if it is unpunished.

          > betraying the trust of her colleague to a degree where she’s too ashamed to even look him in the eye
          I mean, Catherine’s not all that shameless overall. She’s a shameless liar, but she doesn’t have all that thick a skin when it comes to actually ugly deceptions. Yeah she feel guilty about this. That doesn’t mean it’s the worst crime ever committed. This is Catherine, not Indrani.

          > for the explicit purpose of executing someone twice
          Unpleasant? Yes. A horrifying evil? I’m not seeing it. Not any more than a death sentence ever is, period.

          > As far Catherine herself is concerned, this is the kind of hypocrisy that would have had a younger Catherine Foundling want to kill her for.
          I’m not seeing it.
          Younger Catherine Foundling sparked a war so she could get promoted and hopefully do good. Her moral standards if anything rose with time.

          > It’s reminiscent of how Black Spoke at her to force her to watch him hanging Callowan traitors.
          …Which was a pretty necessary and timely lesson about 1) the consequences of her actions for other people, 2) facing and owning them. Not one administered in a particularly gentle way, and it was the method itself that Catherine perceived as a violation – the Speaking – but the making her watch thing? That was entirely fair.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Salt

            You seem to be confusing admitting that the morals of her actions are lacking as some sort of disapproval of the practicality of them. They’re not the same thing. You can understand and agree that she chose the only road available to her, and still be aware that the only solution available to you is anything but a moral one.

            Honestly, this reasoning you’re putting forward seems far too close to the kind that demands a pat on the head for being gritty rather than a realist understanding that it’s nothing more praiseworthy than undertaking the burden of committing necessary evils so that others aren’t forced to.

            Having to choose the lesser evil doesn’t somehow whitewash the action into not an evil at all – the fact of the matter is that “Necessary Evils” are called Evils for a very good goddamn reason. They’re not Necessary Super-Gritty Goods That You Should Feel Fine With Because Justifications Never Matter

            There’s a reason she attempted every other possible method before being FORCED to resort to it; it’s not as if Catherine is somehow delusional enough to seriously believe that the approval of the Black Knight – who she herself outright calls a monster even as she loves him like a father – somehow makes it any less morally wrong.

            The fact that her first murder was under the explicit approval of the authorities means less than nothing when said Authority is the Black Knight. Amadeus is the one who Catherine stabbed and told to reform himself into someone deserving to live in a better world, not some paragon of morality to look up to. She’s trying to be better than him, not the same.

            Why does this matter? Because acknowledging the fact that what she did is still morally wrong even if it was practically necessary is the exact kind of thing that stops you from sliding down any slippery slopes. It’s what proves people like the Mirror Knight wrong, when they claim that her Necessary Evils are some sort of slow corruption into madness. Remembering it is what let’s you avoid choosing the wrong road, when in the future you do have a choice and the less morally correct choice is by far the more convenient one rather than a necessary one.

            Her Terms, her enforcement of them, and her latest resurrection of the Red Axe was not just, nor fair, nor kind, nor anything resembling good. It was Necessary, and not an inch more. Catherine being strong enough to look the truth of this in the eyes instead of hiding behind “oh but it’s not really evil because I was desperate” is what makes her a damn adult.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ok, gotta disagree on something here. You divide necessity and evil, as if there is some objective morality. There isn’t. We all uphold our own personal hierarchy of moral values, and it just happened that “killing rapist” never was an outmost value in Cat’s worldview. Which is fine, I guess, but really, she didn’t do anything noble, she does not martyr her concience or something like that. She made a choice, because she values one thing above another, that’s it. Everything else is emprty words.

              Because morality is not universal, and we all value different things differently. And yes, sure, we more or less agree that some things are bad, but the badness is relative. I think murder is pretty bad, and life is valuable, but if my life is threatened and there is no other choice, I would rather choose someone else dies. Look at that, I tried as hard as I could to not spell out “morality is relative”, but guess what.

              Acknowledging that you did a moral wrong even if it was necessary does not stop you from a slippery slope. The opposite, if anything. Once you had found yourself a convinient justification, you can ignore your concience entirely.

              I agree with Black on that one. You should just be honest with yourself about what you do. What you choose. I would rather not have a fastfood burger than get morbidly obese, but by the same token, I would rather eat a burger than starve. It does not mean I consider eating fastfood good or bad, only better or worse.

              So if Cat chose between not getting a nice dinner and letting Red Axe go free, I am pretty sure she would let her go. But unfortunatelly, nice dinner is not on the table, on the table is the fate of millions.

              See, I wrote all this, but I had a hard time articulating quite exactly what I disagree with. Necessity in the context you use sounds like nothing but justification. It’s an excuse. It’s an exception. The moment you use exception at all, the entire system falls, the precedent itself is enough for you to break your own values on a fucking whim. It is better to have a solid established hierarchy of values that you can adhere to every day. That way, you abolish the very concept of exception, and it’s no longer about “well it’s bad, but one more time”. Either it’s an acceptable trade, or it’s not.

              No exceptions.


              1. Salt

                I also have to disagree, because it comes perilously close to equating practicality or necessity with morality.

                As if ideal is defined by what you have to live with, rather than defined by what you should strive for despite what you have to live with.

                Practicality is simply ONE of the many considerations to take into account when determining morality, not the only consideration or even the all-important one. For heck’s sakes, it’s “the practical guide to evil” not “the practical guide to not-evil because it’s not evil when practicality determines ethics”.

                Here’s the thing – the discussion of moral ethics in casual discourse (and generally as shown in the guide verse for the Good-side of the spectrum) are based on three factors. Character, correctness of action in moral law, correctness of action in outcome. Loosely translated into virtue ethics, deontological ethics, and utilitarian ethics, if you want to open up an academic can of worms. Some interesting characters/entities take one of them to an extreme at the expense of others (like the Pilgrim), but generally it’s a mix of the three.

                This, and the truce and terms in general? Still fully within the bounds of outcome as a basis. It’s almost completely outside the bounds of moral law as a basis – whether you include Catherine’s own morals or that of greater society – especially considering that she herself finds value in many of the same moral laws that the Red Axe does, if not necessarily in the same order of precedence.

                Virtue? It’s a bizarre mix of cold blooded ruthlessness and bleeding heart empathy, with varying degrees of mercy, cruelty, fairness, and unfairness given the situation.

                So could you consider her and her actions as less Evil than someone who would gleefully partake in this? Sure. Could you say it’s not wholly Evil, since morality isn’t something so simple as to be fully black and white? Sure.

                Can you say this could be anything approaching ‘good’, ‘moral’, or not significantly evil, overall? Absolutely not, in my opinion, unless Catherine really is starting to turn her back on all of her old values virtues and moral laws, in favor of outcomes. Something like that would be THE definition of a slippery slopes

                When the ugliest needs of the Queen override the wants of the woman, that’s not too far off from walking the thin line that she’s always been. When those same ugly needs of the Queen are no longer opposed by the wants of the woman, that’s when she really starts to become an Evil that needs to be put down.

                This is why Black is such a monster, he has no moral laws to ascribe his actions to. He has little in the way of personal virtues. It’s exactly why Cat needs to NOT follow in his footsteps no matter how painful it is, because at the end of the day the Black Knight is every tiny bit the monster that Catherine has been calling him, even if he is a reasonable one.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. >equating practicality or necessity with morality

                  Yes, that is, in fact, exactly what I do.

                  >As if ideal is defined by what you have to live with, rather than defined by what you should strive for despite what you have to live with.

                  I classify practicality as striving to the best possible outcome in accordance to your ideals. No contradiction to me. It’s not a desirable outcome, but you still chose the one you desires the most out of those available. You wouldn’t be able to make that choice without some form of ideals.

                  >For heck’s sakes, it’s “the practical guide to evil” not “the practical guide to not-evil because it’s not evil when practicality determines ethics”.

                  I laughed out loud on that. Good one. Though I imagine it is more of a catchy title, because “Practical guide to what is considered by common morality to be evil, even though all morality is relative” is quite a mouthfull.

                  I think you misunderstand deontology a little. A person who just wishes to attempt to kill everyone he meets is still deontologically ethical, because the outcome doesn’t matter, only actions do.

                  That being said, I get where you are coming from, and I agree with your point about Black. Still, the moment there is an exception, deontology (and moral law) is no longer applicable. If the rule is “killing is bad*” with an asterisk the size of War and Peace, it’s no longer a moral law, it’s a passing fancy.

                  Black is a monster not because he ascribes to mostly consequentialist ethics (oh god, that is some mighty stretch). Black has virtues, albeit most of them are born out of practicality, and he also has rules, although again, born out of practicality. But the virtues and rules are never created from a thin air, so you either take it from another person, society at large, or create on your own in accordance with your goals. And don’t you dare imply that creating virtues and laws for yourself is somehow inherently more evil, because those are fighting words.

                  The problem with Black is WHAT values he has, not that he has values about outcomes instead of actions. Or to be more precise, what makes Black EVIL is how his highest value is to WIN. His vision will be put into the worlds, whatever it takes. It is, mostly, outcome based, but what matters is WHAT outcome he is aiming for.

                  I am genuinely suprised how you argue that looking only at the outcome is evil. Or maybe understand something. I need to take some time to process that, I can’t coherently represent my position atm.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Salt

                    Practicality by definition is simply the exercise of considering feasibility *rather than* theory or ideals. Not some flawed reality in attempting to strive toward ideals. I’m wondering if this entire debate doesn’t stem from your using a rather strange definition of “practicality” in the first place.

                    In academia this is why ideal and practicality are treated as two entirely different things, with ideal sometimes taking practicality into account but never ever ever ever being conflated with it as an equivalent.

                    Morals are far more ideals than practicality. Ethics is the field of study regarding what SHOULD be acceptable or not, rather than what we need to currently accept or not.

                    Morals are not defined by what is attainable, as far as current knowledge allows us to determine. They are simply what should be attempted to attain, regardless whether or not it is currently possible.

                    I’m arguing that virtue ethics, deontological ethics, and utilitarian ethics are all competing theories, but it is generally agreed on that none of them (ignoring the many many sub branches of each) fully encompass the needs of human ethics as a whole. As a result, in real life and apparently in this setting, it’s usually a mix of the three that gets used as an actual system of morality – individually or on a larger scale.

                    Meaning that yes, I do consider that a character who is only justified in a consequentialist sense (and debatably at that) and not at all justified in a deontological or virtue ethic sense – as seen from the viewpoint of most of the characters in the story, if not said specific character himself – is pretty much severely immoral.

                    I am also not going to try seriously debating radical relativism vs natural law or any other form of objective morality here, especially since it would require about a ten page dissertation of the common arguments for and criticisms against before we can even have a halfway functional discussion on that. Not sure where you’re getting that radical relativism is either an inherent truth or academically general consensus, but at any rate we will have to agree to disagree.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. Yeah, I got off tangent on that one. I am not sure what position exactly I was trying to defend, and I feel like I don’t have the necessary education to actually debate it now. I guess I’ll go educate myself, as well as brush up on the proper meanings. I retract my disagreement with you until then. All I am currently is confused and slightly embarassed.


                  2. (I have a very specific position on what exactly is the outcome Black is aiming for, how his WIN dereferences at its base (if not necessarily in all situations, because he’s still a person and sometimes just wants to have been right all along). If you are interested in talking about that, just give a signal)


                    1. Salt

                      I might, if you don’t mind linking to this discord channel you’re talking about. WordPress is a terrible platform to have a conversation on, even in text.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. I feel like we’ve talked about it. You wrote about it on reddit and invited me to Discord, but I never actually joined. But if you can refresh my memories, I would be grateful.

                      Liked by 1 person

                2. P.S. he has no moral laws to ascribe his actions to. He has little in the way of personal virtues.

                  Just marking this with a “LOL”, contact me on reddit or discord dm’s or hell even in this convo for more details.


                  1. Salt

                    Key word is “moral” laws, and “moral” virtues, not laws and virtues at all.

                    I’m not really sure why it’s “LOL” to say that a character who blatantly doesn’t care about whether his actions or intentions are morally considered right or wrong, is immoral. Especially when it was outright spelled out in the early books, while he was still being fleshed out.

                    The Bard’s description of the moral difference between him and Catherine was

                    >“She won’t, though,” the Bard replied. “That’s not her nature. She’s the very worst kind of villain, you see – the kind who thinks they’re doing the right thing. In that sense, she’s even more dangerous than her teacher. He doesn’t labour under that impression.”

                    As in he quite literally thinks he’s not doing the “right thing” and just doesn’t care. Not sure where the idea that he’s in any morally justifiable is coming from, since he’s characterized as knowing that he isn’t a moral person at all, even by his own standards.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. > who blatantly doesn’t care about whether his actions or intentions are morally considered right or wrong

                      Who blatantly insists he doesn’t care about that, you mean. All while brooding to his best friend that he’s made himself a liar, a cheat and a murderer, insisting to his student that he’s a morally terrible person she shouldn’t emulate, and actually attempting to construct a moral argument for why attacking Proceran infrastructure was totally morally okay in the same sentence as denying he’ll do that (that last one was a fucking gem).

                      Amadeus high key cares.

                      > the kind who thinks they’re doing the right thing. In that sense, she’s even more dangerous than her teacher. He doesn’t labour under that impression.”
                      > As in he quite literally thinks he’s not doing the “right thing” and just doesn’t care

                      Yees, that’s definitely why he told Catherine in chapter 1 that Named are defined by “what do you think is right and how far are you willing to go to achieve it”.

                      Amadeus is far more critical and cynical towards his own actions than Catherine, but not because he doesn’t care. It’s because he does that he defines himself as morally unjustifiable, otherwise he’d just make up whatever ethical system was convenient for his argument at the moment to insist he’s perfectly right. If he didn’t have standards, he wouldn’t have had trouble living up to them.

                      I’m not saying he’s justifiable*, I’m saying he cares.

                      *not saying he’s unjustifiable either. There are a lot of different lines one can draw for what is justifiable or not, and Amadeus uses multiple at once, which is what results in the unpleasant “I believe that what I am doing is horrifying and immoral in every way but I also consider it unjustifiable to stop doing it as long as I live” result.


                    2. Salt

                      If your argument is that Amadeus considers himself morally reprehensible but thinks that his justifications are rational and that he intends to follow them, I don’t think I disagree at all.

                      My point was that Cat’s is right about her actions being immoral here, and that Black’s approval doesn’t matter at all since he’s someone who is blatantly immoral.

                      Practical/necessary and moral aren’t the same thing. She can be simultaneously correct that her action was necessary and also correct that it was immoral


            2. Unlike Catherine though, Red Axe holds “kill the rapists” as a supreme ethical value. Hence her actions. There is no hypocrisy happening, Catherine never betrayed her ideals.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. I threw in Amadeus’s approval for one point only – consequences.

              There’s no divorcing morality from consequences. Is it moral to push a button? That damn well depends on what the button does, doesn’t it?

              Oh, the Terms and the enforcement of them isn’t moral per se. But it’s not immoral either. It’s – amoral. It’s Lawful Neutral. It’s just, if not necessarily fair, because justice is always limited by what can be done. Catherine is doing justice towards the soldiers fighting in the north and the refugees whose lives depend on how well they fight.

              I agree that this is a probably bad idea, and that it does harm and potentially even more harm.

              I disagree that this is Evil, or evil, any more than any punitive justice system is ever an evil.


              1. Salt

                There is also no divorcing morals from ideals, either. Practicality doesn’t somehow retroactively change the ideals to fit the action, especially when the Character’s own personal moral ideals and the setting’s moral ideals both pretty much say her actions are about the furthest thing from good.

                Even Catherine doesn’t think she’s some sort of neutral “can’t be judged either way” character. She outright compared herself to the accomplice of the rapist that she killed in THIS chapter. By her own set of standards she’s actively questioning whether she’s still the one holding the knife.

                I’m always a little flabbergasted at the comments section wanting to believe that Catherine never does the morally wrong thing. Half the story is about doing ‘evil’ things for totally rational reasons. Protagonist-centered morality is a powerful drug, man.

                Morals are never limited by practicality, they’re by definition the ideals you strive for. How well you CAN adhere to them is limited by practicality, but this doesn’t retroactively change the ideals themselves, nor does it change your failing to adhere to them.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Well, I consider every execution of a deserter Catherine ever authorized to be a failure to live up to her ideals.

                  …when they are taken to the highest extreme.

                  See, ideals are like mountains. You can try to climb to the very top, but you probably won’t be able to. How high you manage to get is what ends up your result, and while Catherine believes she should be higher, I don’t beleive she’s so low as to be called “what child!her would have wanted to kill”.


      2. jworks17

        Salt already covered this pretty well, but working towards a greater good can very commonly be evil in instants. When the Grey Pilgrim killed that Proceran town to stop Black he was working towards a greater good, but what he did was doubtlessly evil.

        I think cat did what she thought was the correct thing to meet her goals, but executing a heroine for murdering a rapist, then raising her corpse to lose its head again in the hopes of decreasing political pressure in the high council is doubtlessly an evil act.

        It is a practical evil, but she rarely deals in genuine evil, she mostly deals in practicality. I find her to be at her best between good and evil, doing what makes the most sense without tipping the scale one way or the other.


    1. RoflCat

      I guessed for something slightly off, but still two ‘deaths’

      First death as a Named, removing all her aspects to be turned into artifacts under Grand Alliance to help with the war effort. Nothing as powerful as Severance, but even the ability that makes her immune to magic should be a great help.

      Then physical death.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lord Haart

        That would have actually been a great resolution… Even if Red Axe wasn’t executed by the Highest Assembly I think the loss of Name aspects would have been fitting given her Name was given specifically to stop the Wicked Enchanter, which she did. She may have even been able to argue that she stabbed Frederick due to an illusion from the Hunted Magician – who could say otherwise? It would be nearly as good as death in the eyes of most Named, too, so wouldn’t have threatened the T&T all that much. The main issue is that it’s a clear reinterpretation of the T&T which does so undermine or somewhat, which could spell danger.


  5. Frivolous

    Let’s face it: We shouldn’t be surprised. Catherine has a history of creative necromancy. It only began with undead suicide goats.

    The latest iteration will be Red Axe the Twice-Executed.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. RoflCat

          Clearly she should start with “decapitation? been there, done that”

          From Book 2.

          “You’re dead,” the Lone Swordsman said. “I cut your head off.”

          “Eh,” I shrugged. “I got over it.”

          Liked by 3 people

  6. I have to get this right way: i just read the quote and i am all like “Oh boy, this can’t be good….”

    And lol that last bit is right out of praesi culture xD. I can’t already see everyone but the praesi
    clamoring 2what the fuck?” while the praesi look at them like uncultured hick for never hearing of undead standing trial lol

    Also who was Farrier?

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Frivolous

    I think th best and most shrewd part of this necromantic and legal plot by Catherine and Cordelia is that it denies the Intercessor the opportunity to more easily make allies out of those heroes and villains who disagree with the Truce and Terms.

    I mean, it was smart for Catherine to insist on the terms of Red Axe’s T+T trial to be put under seal, but I don’t think it will have much practical effect, because the trial won’t be a secret to the Intercessor, and she can travel anywhere and talk to any hero or villain antagonistic to the T+T. She can spill the details to them, which means the seal won’t do any good. Not alone, that is.

    On the other hand, if the Red Axe is tried in public (and it probably will be public) by the Highest Assembly, the HA can broadcast far and wide that they executed the Red Axe for trying to murder Prince Frederic, but they don’t have to broadcast that she was an undead abomination at the time, if they even find out. And I doubt Cat and Cordy will bother to tell them.

    Which means that if the Intercessor tries to use the Red Axe’s story as a persuasive argument against the T+T, she’ll have to fight against the common knowledge that the RA was executed by the HA for attempted regicide, not by Hanno for violating the T+T.

    And best of all, Hanno himself agreed that he wouldn’t talk about the T+T trial, which means he is honor-bound to not blab about the RA being an undead abomination, which means he can’t refute the HA’s own story.

    Sure, he’ll be furious at Cat and Cordy for twisting and trapping him this way, but they won’t care.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What I’m worried about is whether it’ll undermine Catherine’s own efforts to keep the T&T’s legitimacy. If the intent is for everyone to think the Red Axe was in fact surrendered to the HA instead of the T&T trial, while the point of not doing so is so everyone would not balk at the idea, Catherine might have just outsmarted herself.


      1. Frivolous

        It’s only the villains and the heroes who would care that the Red Axe was given over to the Highest Assembly in violation of the Truce and Terms. No one else will, I think.

        Catherine can privately explain to the villains, and Hanno and the rest of the heroes will probably figure out eventually, that RA was an undead abomination when the HA tried and executed her.

        The villains will congratulate Catherine on her ingenuity. If Cat threatens them enough, they won’t talk.

        The heroes will be incensed, and they may talk, but Hanno can keep them in line if he wants to. It will help that RA tried to kill Frederic. and anyway, Catherine already has a reputation as a necromancer and she herself has been an undead abomination, so it won’t be news to them that she did it yet again.

        The real problem will be Frederic, who is both hero and prince. I have no idea how he will react to this plot twist. He should probably be the angriest of them all. On the other hand, he’s had sex with Cat and sex is known to make males lose their perspective.

        It will be quite odd for Fred to look at Cat later and see the woman whom he had sex with, who also raised his would-be killer the Red Axe as an undead, but who also saved the Truce and Terms and kept the Principate from imploding.

        Will he admire Cat for her ingenuity and political adroitness? Will he loathe her for her twisting and mutilating the rules so that the RA could be tried twice? Will he be gratified that she kept the Highest Assembly from losing faith in his idol Cordelia? Or will all that be ignored because Fred likes Cat personally and because he has been her lover?

        All I know is it could be really really awkward for Freddy.


        1. I think Frederic of all people will understand. He’s been kind of in the middle for all this – subordinate to Hanno and present for the disastrous meeting of heroes, Cordelia’s eyes and ears among Named, her deputy to Catherine, and the person who decided that his personal principles override practical concerns on this one because surely they can figure something out without making him break his own preferences in half.

          They did. And he’s partially responsible, just for that.

          The problem is, which details are going to be kept secret from whom? Catherine appears to want the very existence of the T&T trial kept secret, which is fucking wild. Or does she just want the fact that Hanno’s sentence was “death” and the rest was improvisation by her and Cordelia kept secret? With Hanno not allowed to clarify otherwise? Because that’s its own brand of nastiness, towards Hanno. Does she want it secret from the Highest Assembly, but will bring in Named on the logic of a need to know basis? Thaaat’s not going to hold for long, is it?

          Just… what.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I believe that Cat it’s interested in keeping the details about why and how Red Axe was working with Bard – specifically/especially working with Bard in order to overthrow the Truce and Terms – a secret.

            The sentence cannot be kept secret. For one thing, Hanno already told the Heroes that he was expecting that he would be executing Red Axe.
            For another, the villains/non-Heroic Named need to know that Red Axe got executed for violating the Truce and Terms.

            I think the theory Cat is running with is that they’re going to let people know that they executed Red Axe, but they’re going to leave out the details about Red Axe’s actions voluntarily being part of Bard’s efforts to bring down the Truce and Terms, as opposed to a Bard plot to attack the Arsenal and destroy the weapons the Arsenal is developing to fight the Dead King.
            That is … they’re leaving out the details about Bard’s plots as being primarily an attack the Truce and Terms, and everything else being just a sideshow to Bard, and letting the official/public interpretation be that Bard was primarily attacking the Arsenal, and any threats to the Truce and Terms were secondary effects.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. That’s what Catherine said.

              When looking at the Red Axe’s reaction, she also good as admitted that it was a trick that Red Axe might or might not have seen through, and that there was another purpose to keeping the proceedings secret beyond what she specified it would be for.


              1. Shveiran

                Personally, I think that IN ADDITION to what she said she wanted the seal for, she wanted the REASONS the Red Axe was executed to be put under seal.
                Not to keep them secret, but to keep them from being official. Ora at least, publically official in a way that can be brought up in a political play.

                My reasoning is, if the trial is under seal, the Highest Assembly cannot know for sure that the REASON the Red Axe died is not because the Highest Assembly herself judged her guilty. It is a fig leaf, of course, just like I doubt Cat’s necromancy will be so good as to fool anyone that the Red Axe is actually still alive (that kind of necromancy was never her forte and the only undead we saw who weren’t obviously undead are the DK’s infiltrators).
                It’s a fig leaf.

                But hey, fig leaves can matter.
                They allowed us to display statues and paintings of naked people in churches for centuries because the artists could point at them and say “Nuhu, he’s not naked, are you mad? There is a leaf. I never drew the naughty bits, that would be vulgar, THIS is art.”

                It can be a way for Cordelia to prevent a precedent being set, which was what she was actually afraid. It muddles the water.
                That can be enough to spare the First Prince a loss if she can milk it properly. And if Cordelia can’t, who could?

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Frivolous

                  If Cat wants to make Red Axe look like she is alive, she doesn’t have to rely on her own necromancy. She can just get Ivah to glamour the Red Axe into looking like she’s alive and breathing.

                  Does that make sense?


                  1. Shveiran

                    She could, admittedly. Yet I still fail to see why she would want that. That secret is coming out, and what Cordelia needs is a way to save face and avoid a precedent. A technicality works better than a lie, cause a lie can be revealed at a later date.


                    1. Yeah … pretending Red Axe is still alive is of dubious value.
                      She needs to be known to have been executed when it comes to Named.

                      As for the public … she violated the Truce and Terms, and tried to kill a Proceran Prince and fellow Hero … then got tried and executed for her crimes. Unless the Procerans try to drag out their trial overlong, it’ll simply be a matter of fudging and/or blurring the dates and timeline of events for public consumption.

                      Cordelia isn’t worried about the public with respect to Red Axe’s actions … she’s worried about Proceran nobles. Red Axe being undead for her trial means that they’ll see that the Heroes are willing to kill their own to keep them in line – which itself is an important thing – but also that Cordelia has the connections to get Red Axe in front of them for her attempt to kill Frederic even after her execution.

                      Liked by 1 person

  8. edrey

    For once i think this all part of the bard plan, at least cat should read her memories about the bard. If the WK found out its going to be a mess


  9. dadycoool

    Ooh, putting an undead corpse on trial? This might actually be a good precedent to be made, given DK. I can’t remember if Praes has ever put a corpse to trial, but it’s only a couple steps between this and putting one of Cat’s goats on trial, like the Tapiers.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Dread Emperor Revenant? I think it was.

      The one who was already Dread Emperor, died, and returned as undead to resume being Dread Emperor.
      Also, the reason why undead aren’t allowed to become Dread Emperor/Empress anymore.

      Liked by 4 people

  10. Holy shit lmao.

    It does make sense though. The one way to get someone out of the jurisdiction of the Terms after they swore to them… death.

    Hanno is not going to love this, but, well. He got all the forewarning there was to be had.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jack Reader

      I think Cat’s play here might be to get Cordelia to seal the records of the trial on HER end, and with the records double-sealed, all the information that will be publically available was that Red Axe stood trail and was executed.

      Sure, Hanno will learn of it, and Mirror Knight also might through his Principate connections, but as far as the Heroes and Villains and procerans at large are concerned, Cat and Cordy will be able to fudge the sequence of events until it fits the necessary narrative and and call it a day.

      Of course, this is basically handing ammunition for Malicia/The Wandering Bard/a progressively more desperate Malicia that cut a deal with the Bard to screw them over at a later date, but borrowed trouble is better thsn present trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Huh, yeah. If they just keep everything secret from anyone and answer all requests from people who weren’t present for a part of it with “well she’s dead”, and all requests from people who WERE part of it with the same, that might actually fly.


    1. Yeah, it settled her accounts under the Terms. As a walking cadaver, she is no longer a Named, so she isn’t under the protection of the Terms. So she is just a Proceran citizen accused of attempted regicide.


        1. That depends on whether death officially releases you from oaths and negates your citizenship and all other shit.

          A ruling can go either way, and Hanno’s agreement to surrender her body… well, implies.


  11. masterofbones

    Ah, the classic weirdness of the death penalty in a world with resurrection magic. Do executed people get a second chance? Do they get re-executed? Weird questions for a weird situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Necromancy, not resurrection. Cat’s not undoing the White Knight’s sentence. The Highest Assembly can sentence her to a lifetime of servitude to Frederic as an alternative to execution* and Cat will be like “haha, yeah, about that” and put her right back into the grave as the “lifetime” is already over.

      *Hypothetically. I am well aware of the 100000 reasons why they would not do that lmao

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Okay, um, so.

    If this goes public (to Named) the way it happened – the White Knight sentenced and executed Red Axe under the Terms, then surrendered the body as it was no longer under their protection – and then as a consequence of said execution and subsequent lack of protection she stood trial necromancy’d before the Highest Assembly – that’ll work.

    If, however, the public impression ends up being that Hanno and Cat gave Red Axe over to Procer…

    Catherine might have just picked out of the two evils, BOTH.


    1. Shveiran

      I see where your concerns come from, but I personally doubt the Red Axe will rise as anything but a clearly undead individual.
      We saw only one instance of undeads that could pass for living, and they had to inhabit the body of living beings to do that anyway. Not to mention, it was the work of a much more experienced necromancer.
      The Red Axe will walk to the trial as an undead abomination. And anyone looking at her will be able to tell.

      That’s my prediction, at least.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Yeah, about what I had expected. I argued to do as much. But wouldn’t it still lower the Principate’s influence or something, since they were second to pass the judgement? I do believe similar argument was made already.

    Also, I wan to point out that practicality and principles are not polar oposites. I mean it is obvious deontology vs consequentialism, but I personally believe in neither. We all hold some values and principles as subjectively superior, and then act in accordance with said set of values. It’s both, if anything. We all hold principles on a basis of nothing more than sheer faith, and we all act practically in enforcing those, if not always smartly. That Cat holds a supreme principle peace, while Cordelia holds duty is no reason to dismiss those as dissimilar to Hanno’s justice. Or Red Axe to be fair.

    The fact that she is willing to potentially throw millions under the horse for the sake of principles, does not mean she is more principled than Cat, she just has different out, and, accordingly, act different. Well, at least I think that is the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salt

      I don’t disagree so much as finding this as not entirely accurate/complete if we’re going into the formal moral debate. The ethics of “Principled” good in this serial is a mix of deontology and virtue ethics, leaning more toward deontology, but two are decidedly not the same thing. Put very simply, virtue ethics defines morality as adherence to virtues and focuses on personal traits – your character. Deontology defines morality as adherence to normative moral laws and focuses on actions – how well you follow those moral laws. Utilitarianism defines morality as almost entirely based on the outcome – claiming that all goodness can be quantified into utility.

      Meaning that Catherine is in many ways virtuous, and if you squint a little she could be considered utilitarian. Her standing in terms of “Principled”, in the deontological sense, is pretty shaky. She breaks far too many normative moral laws, both her own as well as that of greater society, to actually be considered adhering to principle in an action-focused view.

      Which is largely where the disconnect is coming from – because generally deontological principles work better for the individual and utilitarian ones work better for many people. She started out as the Squire not having much issue on the deontological end as she could keep a fair majority of her actions as both high in utility ANd deontologically principled as she was only beholden to herself and her few close relationships. The “needs of the queen” end up causing her to have to choose between the two – which ends up being the obviously more fitting option of utilitarianism for the role of a Ruler.

      She’s upset about becoming less principled and more evil because, in terms of at least the deontological framework and (to a lesser degree) the virtuous framework, she actually IS becoming less principled and less evil. Not less practical, mind you, or less well intentioned, but good intentions and practicality are two pieces of a puzzle that has many many many pieces, if you’re only looking at ethics.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, basically her dilemma is “good actions do not always produce good results” and “bad actions sometimes produce better results”, and so now she actually has to pick and choose, which one she values more, actions, or consequences. She can’t combine the two anymore.

        Although she actually can. You don’t really have to pick one side. You can choose a set of rules as pretty moral, and the set of outcomes as pretty moral, and then rank them in the list of personal importance as she feels it. For example, killing is bad, unless it’s a killing of a rapist, unless in endangers lives of millions. See? Pretty simple, ain’t it.

        I would argue with you whether the term “less principled” is really applicable to the choice here. I mean, I would concede evil, at least from the point of common morality, but I don’t think Catherine becomes less principled. I personally think she becomes more principled, because she explores her own moral system in depth on the testfield of actual moral dilemmas. As in, she understands her own principles even more, so she can act even more in accordance to those principles, which in turn, nakes her more principled.

        I would consider a “less principled” person the one who doesn’t know what he wants, and so values one thing above another in one moment, and the same thing beneath the same other thing the next. Who doesn’t really know why he makes the choices he makes, and what choices he will make in the future. Who is as much in the dark about what he will do, as an independent observer.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Salt

          Mostly agreed, although that use of “principle” is dangerous.

          If we are purely considering it principle as in having any principles at all – having some fundamental basis that determines behavior – then in that sense every Named who ever lived is extremely principled, and most of the common folk besides.

          In the context of a moral discussion, principle becomes a fundamental basis for *ethical* behavior, at which point Catherine is not ethically principled, favoring practicality instead.

          It is not so “killing is bad, unless it’s a killing of a rapist, unless in endangers lives of millions.“. There is no such thing as “unless”, for the ethically principled.

          For ethical principle, it’s three separate things: “killing is bad”. “rapists are bad”. “endangering the lives of millions is bad”.

          Some people decide to attempt follow as many of those rules as possible despite practicality, this makes them principled but not sufficient for necessity’s calling. Some people decide to forsake some of those rules in the name of practicality, because “if not us, then who”, which makes them in many ways ethically unprincipled, but necessary.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I guess we are near the area of playing definition game. For me, yes, principle is just a proposition of value that guides behaviour, so most people have it. i’d argue, everyone has it, really. What I consider to be a principled action, is, well, an action according to ones own principles, which necessitates really only one thing: a self-awareness of what your principles entail. As well as an ability to distinguish what your principles are, and what is momentary whim or outside influence. And, obviously, to fight those whims and outsiders off.

            I guess I am a tad biased, because I don’t see being ethical as following a specific set of rules commonly accepted in western society, but rather, following any set of rules at all. The word “unless” can be used in regards to principles if there is a hierachy of those, or in other words, if some upholding some principles is more valuable than upholding others.

            In the end, I mainly argue that principles and practicality are not mutually exclusive, nor could they really be. You don’t just decide what action is practical from nothing, you decide it based on the outcomes you consider desirable, and you decide which outcomes are desirable based on the moral values you hold. Following that logic, truly practical action necessitates principles by it’s very nature.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Salt

              Honestly the only part I have issue with is the very strong assertion of pure relativism

              In my views, that’s not a big issue. Catherine’s own set of “ideal” ethics and common ones found in society are pretty similar, in scope if not in actual order of precedence.

              The very fact that she does feel so distraught about often being forced to do things that both she AND society thinks is wrong, pretty much answers the question of whether she can be considered deontologically moral.

              If she becomes character whose innate morals were starting to deviate from that of society/her own at the beginning of the series, rather than one who is very upset even as she is forced to violate them, I’d outright say she’s already fallen down the slippery slope.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Honestly, I am a supporter of a pure relativism, if it’s a thing. I think that we have largely similar rules of behaviour because we are largely similar and because we live in largely similar environment, not out of some, I don’t even know, mandated by heavens morality?

                I agree with the rest, but for different reasons, I feel. For me, she feels distraught not because of the actions she took, but because life handed her a really crappy choice of what she could do. So naturally, she felt crappy, as you would if you had accidentially stepped with a sneaker into what you can only assume was a dog poo, thought it was just a dirt and tried to scrape it with your hands only to get your hands in it, while getting progressively LOST IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING SUBURBS, AND YOU ARE LATE TO THE JOB INTERVIEW AND YOUR PHONE LOST ALL CHARGE AND THE SUN IS SLOWLY MELTING YOUR BRAIN AND WHY THE FU~

                Sorry, got off tanget again. The point is, she felt crappy because she was handed a crappy choice, that left her no choice that would’ve fit in what she considers acceptable action.

                And well, I am not sure again what I argue for. I’m gonna lie down. Sorry.


  14. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    realm where simultaneously > realm were simultaneously
    deathly downwards > deadly downwards
    They make from > They are made from
    home,” I > home.” I
    into way to > into ways to
    try, even > try — even
    such a thing, > such a thing —
    in in > is in
    Enchanted > Enchanter
    what my ally > what might allay
    respond, “In > respond, “in
    to be parade > to be paraded
    issues Mercantis > issues with Mercantis
    I glance at > I glanced at
    blood end > bloody end
    a murder and > a murderer and
    “ That I (extra space)
    an eulogy > a eulogy
    has issued with > has issues with
    then decided it > then decide it
    an herbal (for UK, it should be “a herbal”, because we pronounce the ‘h’)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Salt

    I don’t disagree so much as finding this as not entirely accurate/complete if we’re going into the formal moral debate. The ethics of “Principled” good in this serial is a mix of deontology and virtue ethics, leaning more toward deontology, but two are decidedly not the same thing. Put very simply, virtue ethics defines morality as adherence to virtues and focuses on personal traits – your character. Deontology defines morality as adherence to normative moral laws and focuses on actions – how well you follow those moral laws. Utilitarianism defines morality as almost entirely based on the outcome – claiming that all goodness can be quantified into utility.

    Meaning that Catherine is in many ways virtuous, and if you squint a little she could be considered utilitarian. Her standing in terms of “Principled”, in the deontological sense, is pretty shaky. She breaks far too many normative moral laws, both her own as well as that of greater society, to actually be considered adhering to principle in an action-focused view.

    Which is largely where the disconnect is coming from – because generally deontological principles work better for the individual and utilitarian ones work better for many people. She started out as the Squire not having much issue on the deontological end as she could keep a fair majority of her actions as both high in utility ANd deontologically principled as she was only beholden to herself and her few close relationships. The “needs of the queen” end up causing her to have to choose between the two – which ends up being the obviously more fitting option of utilitarianism for the role of a Ruler.

    She’s upset about becoming less principled and more evil because, in terms of at least the deontological framework and (to a lesser degree) the virtuous framework, she actually IS becoming less principled and less evil. Not less practical, mind you, or less well intentioned, but good intentions and practicality are two pieces of a puzzle that has many many many pieces, if you’re only looking at ethics.


    1. Salt

      Disregard this, meant it as a reply to another post… I wish I could delete posts when I fuck them up and post them in the wrong place.


    1. Frivolous

      I don’t think I agree. It’s too useful to preserving the Truce and Terms for cremation to be allowed, unless Hanno gets really upset and demands that it be forbidden.

      I do wonder how many times a body can be raised as a zombie. It’s known that magic or an aspect can repair things that should not be repaired, so technically a zombie ripped to pieces can probably be put back again. But can it be reanimated again? I’m not as sure.

      I mention this because it might come to pass that a Named might violate the T+T and the laws of more than just one nation. It might therefore become politically expedient to be able to execute someone 3 or more times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The important legal sticking point here is whether or not death means one’s ties with the T&T are cut. Or is it not just death but a death sentence specifically? A death sentence carried out? Being raised as a necromantic construct? Being raised as a necromantic construct after a death sentence is carried out? Being raised as a necromantic construct after a death sentence is carried out only if the representative for your side agreed to surrender the body? There are so many fun distinctions possible here!


  16. IncognitoMe

    I’ll just leave this here:

    Interlude: Kaleidoscope

    “Spoken like a man I’ll have raised from the dead just to execute a second time.”

    Dread Emperor Malignant III

    Liked by 3 people

  17. IDKWhoitis

    Something about a necromatic construct in the presence of the Highest Assembly strikes me as a stupid idea. I’m not saying the Dead King is guaranteed to ursurp the reins on the Red Axe, but there are many storylines that can exist, and not many that don’t result in the Red Axe becoming a problem down the road.

    A trial en abstinencia or bringing the corpse as is might have been more clever.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Bakkasama

    The real question here though is whether we get a sidestory about the MK escaping from the GP’s purview in order to stop the Red Axe from being unjustly executed by Procer, only to find out she is undead and assume that it was murder instead of execution.


  19. Daniel E

    Given that Red Axe had an extensive conversation with Wandering Bard, I wonder if this outcome was foreseen. An undead Heroine who hates everything about Truce & Terms might be end up being a lot more trouble than expected.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Daniel E

        Gods below I hate the lack of editing here. I meant to say, given that Bard anticipated her own demise, warning Red Axe of her fate doesn’t seem far-fetched.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Captain Amazing

    So the logic here is that she stopped being a hero when she became undead and the custody of the body was legally transferred? I want to see her come into a villain Name and then apply to the Terms again as undead. Her grey moral motivations cast as Evil instead of Good. How do they argue against it? If the Terms for whatever reason stopped applying to her then surely nothing would stop her from joining again once they do. It screws everyone over so hard and I love it.


    1. Shveiran

      Considering who the Grand Alliance is fighting, I seriously doubt there isn’t a clause that prevents undead from applying.


  21. Skidaddle Skidoodle

    Lets see, she gets to somehow resurrect completely and throw a wrench into the proceedings. Bard has something to do with it and spirits her away. Bard is very smug about the whole deal and Cat is frustrated as always. We later learn that it was all a ruse within a ruse and Masego or Roland (or Masego) or Masego put a very faint untraceable tracking spell on the corpse which they use to beat the bard once and for all at the end.


  22. trashdragon

    Fuckin’ hell, pathetic is right.

    Like, there’s no audience or jury here that can be swayed by her words. The only purpose the gag serves is to preserve the precious decorum ad the fee-fees of these powerful people who seem to have little to no interest in actually confronting the stark reality of what they believe to be necessary. Which to me makes Cat and Cordelia making mouth noises about feeling bad about it feel hollow, and make the Red Axe’s criticism of their little system feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    If they’re going to do awful things for what they’re convinced think is the right reasons the least they can do is suck it up and allow their victims a voice, and get in nose deep into what exactly it is they’re doing. For all that I don’t care for Black or his smug bullshit he was never this much of a moral coward.


    1. Konstantin von Karstein

      She said herself she didn’t intend to hold to the T&T even 1 second, and knowingly put millions of people in danger. She doesn’t get to criticise those who want to stop her.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. magesbe

      “Confronting the stark reality that” Red Axe is an oathbreaker and murderer who put the lives of half the continent potentially in jeopardy?

      No one at the trial doubts that they’re doing the right thing. Some may sympathize with the Red Axe; in fact, I imagine many do; but they all feel like executing the Red Axe is the right move to make, morally and practically.


  23. ohJohN

    This seems like a weird, overly complicated solution to the problem?

    Like, Hanno’s only objection to the “try twice, execute once” approach was that it precluded a fair trial:
    > “I will not promise a sentence or an executioner before a trial has been held,” the White Knight said. “This is not a compromise, it is a perversion of the oaths we all swore. It does not matter what the Red Axe has done: she has rights under the Terms, and among these is a fair trial.”

    And Cat is able to successfully work around that objection *during the same conversation*:
    > “Procer could be allowed to dispose of the body as it wishes, at least,” I said, and sighed when Hanno began to respond, “In the eventuality that there is a body, yes, not to make assurances either way. But if there is a corpse, White Knight, can it not at least be ceded to the Highest Assembly?”

    Why not apply that exact same logic to the original plan? Agree to give her a fair trial under the Terms, and if she happens to be sentenced to execution (as literally all of them expect), agree to assign Freddy as the executioner and set the execution date a month later, giving Procer time to hold its show trial.

    Even if Hanno’s concerns were explicitly about making *any* decisions before a fair trial could be held (which they weren’t, since he agreed about what to do with the corpse, should there be one), they could have made those decisions after the trial. Seriously, if the three of them had met directly after the trial instead of before, none of the arguments he made would still apply — nothing would have been decided before the trial or influenced its outcome, and their obligation to her under the Terms would already be fulfilled. I guess they’d have to formally revise the specifics of the sentence (“tomorrow morning, by me” to “in a month, by Freddy”) but that seems less like a miscarriage of justice than acceptable judicial discretion — death is the important part of the sentence, determining when and by whom should allow for practical considerations, to a degree.

    It just seems like an easy compromise to make, or at least worth discussing further, and it’s weird that none of them bothers — especially since Cat jumps straight to the necromanctic solution! Why take that risk before exhausting your other options??

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Satan

    Christophe is gonna be pissed when he finds out the proceedings of the trial are being withheld. Not to mention the whole resurrection business.


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