Interlude: New Tricks

“Surprise is not a fixed quality. Yesterday’s coup is tomorrow’s blunder.”

– Theodosius the Unconquered, Tyrant of Helike

Princess Beatrice Volignac of Hainaut believed in being honest with herself even when it was painful to do so.

Particularly when it was painful. Even when back when she’d only been the sister of the ruler of Hainaut, she had known that there would be great dangers in refusing to look the realities of Creation in the eye. It was why she did not bother to pretend that she was anything but fat, even when her high birth meant that flatterers offered up sweet lies insisting otherwise by the basketful. She was fat and she would not slim up. It was the way of things, something she did not like but would have to live with. Allowing herself to indulge in a fantasy world at the expense of reality was just being childish, and childishness in a woman of her rank was the road to an early grave.

And now she was not a mere princess’ sister anymore, she was the Volignac. Julienne had gone off and chased a death worthy of song, leaving Beatrice with two grieving nephews as well as a crown she’d never expected she would have to wear. This was Procer and here blood mattered – especially when it was as old as that of the House of Volignac – so Beatrice was still being treated as royalty, but she had no illusions about what she truly was: the leader of a large armed gang, dependent on the charity of the high throne and foreign powers for her survival. She was royalty only so long as no one cared to challenge it, and should the army she’d salvaged from ruin perish it would be the end of Hainaut as a realm. There could be no return when one’s rule extended only to ashes and refugees.

And so Beatrice had thought herself cleverer than those Langevin whoresons in Cleves, at least, whose smidgeon of safety had deluded into thinking that they could afford to plot when the very end times were at their doorstep. The staggering stupidity of Gaspard Langevin’s manoeuvering still surprised her – had the man truly forgot that more than half the forces defending his lands were foreign, that some of the very same Firstborn he wanted to slight had bled for Cleven grounds? It’d been a comfort, cradling that knowledge. And yet now, as Beatrice Volignac’s fingers tightened around her lance, she was forced to acknowledge that in some ways she had been a fool as well.

Queen Catherine Foundling of Callow was an easy-going woman. That temper was legend, true, but it was not easily provoked and when in a good mood the young queen was both amiable and impulsively generous. She was free with honours others in her position would have clutched tight. The Queen of Callow’s obvious lack of schooling in the mores of one of high birth was an occasional figure of fun in Proceran circles, for she was cunning in the way that a peasant or a tradesman was cunning – without polish, without elegance. Beatrice was not fool enough to consider the Black Queen of Callow a mere savage, but between the cordiality and the lowbrow habit she’d come to forget who it was that she was dealing with.

Then hills were cracked open, the sky opened and an army was smashed by celestial deluge all in the span of an hour.

Beatrice remembered the stories, then, of the Battle of the Camps. Of the Doom of Liesse, of what Callowan veterans fondly called the ‘Arcadian Campaign’ – as if it were not utter howling madness, to have invaded the realm of the fae – and at last of the Princes’ Graveyard, where sport had been made of her kind as none had dared since Theodosius the Unconquered. The Black Queen did not bother with the proper courtesies, Princess Beatrice remembered, because after the Graveyard there was not a living ruler left who could demand them of her. The Princess of Hainaut let that sink truth sink into her bones, breathed deep of it. It would not be forgot again, she swore.

Princess Beatrice let the fear settle down, reminding herself that this once the horror was on her side, and turned her gaze to the enemy. Already the Third Army under its canny fox of a general was advancing at a brisk pace, red-painted shields locked tight in a shield wall. The waters had not yet finished flowing, but they’d slowed and would soon die out. Behind them would be left muddy grounds and a roiling mass of undead, an unprotected and hindered formation that the Army of Callow was already punishing with sustained artillery fire. The rumoured ‘copperstones’ fired by the Sapper-General’s ballistae burned with bright Light where they hit, incinerating bone and unmaking necromancy.

The battle plan, as it currently stood, dictated that the flanks of the coalition army would wait a span before advancing as well. Beatrice understood the purpose, for she had made some study of war: it was hoped that the enemy reinforcements already pouring out from deeper in the pass could be drawn back into the water-emptied caverns by the Third Army’s hasty advance, in an attempt by Keter to pincer that force as it pulled ahead of the rest of the coalition army. This was a risk, on the surface, but in truth it was the Black Queen’s attempt to limit casualties on their side as much as possible. She wanted, in Beatrice’s opinion, to draw the dead into fighting her at the mouth of the pass.

There, where Keter’s number could not be brought to bear as they would in a broader field, the Queen of Callow wanted to eat up an army of one hundred thousand one bite at a time. The battle lines would stabilize once the flanks caught up to the Third Army, and when they were the artillery could be brought to bear on the massed undead facing the coalition. In a very real sense, the Grand Alliance soldiers would not be the executioner’s axe but the chopping block: their purpose would be drawing out the enemy and keeping them in the artillery’s killing field, not necessarily to do a great deal of damage themselves. The young queen’s art of war was not famed without reason, though the Princess of Hainaut did not believe it would be quite so simple.

It never was, with Keter.

Yet blind worries were no reason to stand paralyzed, so when Princess Beatrice Volignac received the word from their supreme commander she passed down the order to her captains. Trumpets sounded, a bright clarion call, and the drumrolls began as the last army of Hainaut began its advance intermixed with companies of fantassins. To the east the Levantines mirrored her advance, and just as the Third Army reached the edge of where the waters had touched – where the dead had been swept up – the march of the flanks finally began. The Queen of Callow’s plans were proceeding nicely so far, Beatrice saw. A stream of reinforcements had hurried out of the deeper pass to prevent the Third from just sweeping through, and when finally it made contact with the shield wall of the Third Army both forces slowed in the morass of mud and steel that the water had made. The undead did not have sharp enough teeth to smash a Callowan shield wall, though, so the stream split.

The caverns, torn open for al to peer into them, were beginning to fill with undead attempting to go around the enemy’s shield wall. Instead of just fighting in front, the dead were trying to bring their numbers to bear by attacking on the flanks as well – for now only splashing harmless at the sides of that stout eastern square formation, but the undead were gathering numbers to mount more serious assaults. The enemy was moving too quickly, Beatrice thought as she watched with narrowed eyes. Light skeletons, without armour and barely armed, had been sent out first and en masse as they were not so prone to getting stuck in the mire.

The Princess of Hainaut sent for one of her captains and ordered that the roll of the drums be quickened, setting a quicker march. If she waited too long, she feared that the Third Army might be entirely surrounded before reinforcements arrived. That would be a disaster, especially should the well-armed Callowan soldiers rise in the service of Keter. No wonder Callow was bereft of all beauty, she sometimes thought when looking at the pristine armaments of the Army of Callow. All the wealth there had gone into war. Would that Julienne and their father before her had practiced that same folly, which in these dark times was no folly at all. The House of Volignac had more use for plate than palaces these days.

The Princess’ eyes drifted to the hills in the distance, beyond the fighting, where she had been told that a great siege engine still awaited. It had yet to fire a single shot, but as far as she knew the Chosen had not destroyed it. What was Keter waiting for, then?

 —

“We’re through with the easy part now, ducklings,” Sergeant Hadda growled. “Shields steady and mind your right. Don’t get smart, it doesn’t pay off against the skellies.”

Edgar breathed out, feeling the usual tremor of fear going down his spine. He’d be all right when the shield wall made contact with the enemy, but until then he knew from experiences the nerves would stay with him. Orders had come from above for the fourth cohort – of which Captain Pickering’s company was the second company – to move to from the back to the left flank, to prevent the enemy outflanking the army. Felt odd to be turning his back to the dead in front of them, coming out of the Hollow, but then Edgar was just turning to look other undead in the face wasn’t he?

“Liked it better when we were just smashing the downed bones,” Edith muttered at his side. “Like a dangerous chore, but still better than the fucking shield wall.”

Edgar snorted. A dangerous chore had been a good word for it. The Black Queen had called forth the tides to smash the enemy’s hidden army, and when it’d washed up in a sea of mud and roiling undeath the front ranks of the Third Army had sent forth the priests of the House Insurgent. Streaks of blinding Light had hit the struggling skeletons and ghouls, carving smoking furrows into the mud, but it’d been the task of the legionaries following behind them to shatter any bones they saw sprouting out. Not harmless work, this, for sometimes skeletons played deaded than they were and nasty surprises of mud and steel came at you from below. But like Edith – surprisingly sensible, for a Liessen girl – had said, still a damned sight better than the shield wall.

There, sometimes luck just meant you didn’t get back up in the Enemy’s service when you died.

The company moved into place as smoothly as was possible on muddy ground, a line of twenty moving to the front. Edgar’s own line made up the second rank, which meant they’d see fighting before long. Over the shoulder of a shorter soldier, he saw pale bare skeletons with only spears in hand deftly going through the mud. Companies filled in to the side of Edgar’s own, broadening the shield wall before the enemy could sweep around it, and he breathed out quietly. If he’d been in the first rank, he wouldn’t have dared to take his eyes off the enemy even when he caught movement above. In the second, though, he risked a glance.

It wasn’t the Summoner and another Named engaging vultures up in the sky, as now that the flood gates had closed they’d fled. Too low, anyway, and too quick. It was with quicksilver surprise that Edgar realized he was looking at artillery fire. Some sort of enormous spear had been fired, or perhaps a pillar? Whatever the truth of it, a great length of dark stone fell into the back ranks of the Third Army, killing a dozen with the impact. Edgars’ fingers tightened with fear at the tight, for the black stone was glowing with runes. A heartbeat later, there was a crackling sound and a burst of sorcery followed by screams, half a company dying in a heartbeat in a mess of lightning.

Another pulse, and the dead rose.

The companies in the back of the Third turned to face the fresh threat – and while another pillar was shot at them, it burst in midair as if artillery fire of their own had somehow caught it – but the pulses kept coming. Always the same two, lightning and necromancy, but it was a potent combination and the streaks of Light and sorcery thrown at the pillar did nothing. Edgar of Laure breathed out and looked away. Fear ran in his veins as the distant sound of great drums began to thrum, but he could no longer afford to look anywhere but forward. The first wave of skeletons charged forward in utter silence.

Dauntless,” Sergeant Hadda screamed.

Dauntless,” they howled back, and for a moment the boast chased away the gloom.

Gods, Indrani grimly thought. That’s a new one.

What the Hells was that pillar? She recognized the stone from their trip into the Crown of the Dead a few years back – she’d never seen that exact tone of black anywhere but in the deepest reaches of the Dead King’s fortress – but it was the first time she’d ever seen this particular breed of nastiness. It was a pretty simple setup, but the alternating pulses had already chewed through two companies and all attempts to handle the situation ended up turning into oil tossed at the flame. Not that she could afford to spare much time looking. The enemy’s siege engine was still firing the damn pillars, and there were only so many heavy arrows in her quiver – three, actually, and she was already on her last. That would mean three pillars swatted out of their trajectory, at least, but somehow she doubted Keter would be running out of ammunition the same time she did.

Nocking the last heavy arrow, Archer suppressed a grimace as she saw another blackstone pillar let loose. She breathed out, steadied her aim, then drew and released. Indrani didn’t even bother to watch if she’d hit, already knowing she would. Normally she’d have a few more heavy arrows, but today Cat had sent her out to handle constructs so it was unravellers she’d loaded up with. Useful things, those, but unlikely to dent a pillar. Pickler’s copperstone ballistas were still chewing up the undead coming out of the pass so the Third wasn’t in danger of collapsing anytime soon, but casualties were already mounting and that slippery eel General Abigail had left Archer behind at some point.

Glancing ahead, Indrani found that beorns were massing in the pass. House-sized abominations resembling bears, damned hard to put down and surprisingly agile for their size. They also carried bellyfuls of undead soldiers, which made them a bloody plague for regulars: it was like a living battering ram spewing out soldiers. Archer bit her lip. She couldn’t anything more about the pillars, it’d have to be one of Catherine’s contingencies that handled it. She could begin hammering away at the constructs, though, so even as another pillar was shot in the distance Indrani reached for an unraveller and nocked it.

In that, at least, she could tip the scales.

You have no assignment, the Black Queen had told him. Follow providence where it leads you.

Balzer, who men now knew as the Sage, had done so without qualms. Even the Peregrine had been burned by that villainess’ wiles and he would not gainsay them when they stood on the same side. So the Sage had retreated into himself, closing all shutters so that nothing might obscure the sensation of the slight nudges of Fate. And Fate had led him not to stand with the Dominion’s warriors, with whom he shared blood, or the Procerans he had sworn to protect from the Enemy’s attentions. It was with this strange Third Army that his steps had taken him. Not even to fight on the front, though Balzer knew many secrets of destruction beyond those of his fists, but to stand at the back.

He understood why only when black stone fell from the sky as a pillar and death bloomed around it.

Balzer had learned many secrets, for which some called him wise and others had decreed him a sage – even Sage, in time. But enlightenment was not a shared road, it was the struggle within: lonely, endless, forever reaching for unattainable perfection. So he was not surprised when the priests of the House Insurgent molded their faith bright and threw it against the black stone to no avail. No candle could light up the ink-black sea. And what could sorcery do, be it flame or thunder? Only a fool sought to beat a devil at devils’ tricks. In this, though, he could lend aid. The Sage waded through the fresh undead, smashing skulls through helmets as he glided through their ranks, and before long beheld the pillar from up close.

“What a malevolent thing you are,” the Sage murmured, eyes narrowing.

Kill, the black stone sang. Take. Kill. Take. Its insistence washed over him like morning mist, even the touch of lightning – the Light within him was greater than what the Enemy’s work could bring to bear. Balzer pressed his palm against the stone, disliking its feverish warmth but not lingering on such ephemeral things. Like the river, he must flow and never cease. It was the opposite with this thing of stone and dread, for it was a shell hosting pulsing hate and greed and nothing more. Shells always had weaknesses, and the Sage found this one’s before long. Undead grasped at his back, but he was swift and his oneness with Light blinded their eyes.

“Begone,” Balzer ordered, and struck.

In his right hand he held the power to Destroy, learned from years of studying the lingering wisps divine wrath had left behind on this world, and it was this he unleashed against the work of Trismegitus. The black stone shattered under his fist, revealing a howling sorcerous heart, and this he snatched and snuffed out. For a moment, when it died, he thought he had heard a word. Not enough to Divine anything from it, but perhaps with meditation… The sky above spewed out another pillar of black stone, falling among soldiers to deliver thundering death. Ah, opportunity. The Sage smiled.

Today was a good day, he decided, and sought the next pillar of black stone.

Lord Razin Tanja of the Binder’s Blood threw down his shield, for the javelin might not have punched through but it’d made it good as useless anyway. That was the third shield he’d gone through since the battle began, and he’d already had two horses killed under him: Keter was in fine form today. His sworn swords, which had served as the vanguard, were holding steady ahead of him. Malaga was upholding its honour today, though it was Aquiline who was adding deeds to the Rolls for her Blood – she’d taken a few slayers and Lanterns to kill a Tusk that’d passed by the Archer’s punitive barrage, giving the killing blow herself.

It ought to put her in a better mood, wiping away the disgrace that’d been getting wounded on the first real day of fighting of the campaign.

The dead were holding firm under the assault of the Dominion, the Lord of Malaga found when he scrutinized the battle lines. The warriors of Levant weren’t making enough of a dent to push back the enemy, though they were themselves in no danger of losing ground. Much as Razin would have preferred a more glorious bent to the battle, he could not deny that the Black Queen’s plan was working: the copperstone ballistas of the Army of Callow were tearing through entire companies of the enemy as they poured out of the pass to reinforce, focusing on the centre in front of the Third Army.

It was not a great honour for his warriors and Aquiline’s to be used as mere hooks keeping the metaphorical fish from wriggling out of the ballistas’ reach, Razin Tanja thought, but if it led to victory he would make his peace with it. The Procerans had been tasked with the same on their wing, anyhow, so there was hardly a surfeit of honour to go around – only Abigail the Fox, that ruthless and cunning general who’d bled his binders so starkly at the Graveyard, had claimed any by being given the pivotal role of the day. Still, there was no reason for the Dominion not to try to seize a better position. Razin sent for his captains and ordered a push at the very edge of the right flank, led by Lanterns and axemen. One of his sworn swords brought him his fourth shield of the day, and the Lord of Malaga pondered whether he should rejoin the ranks. The men fought better when he fought with them.

The decision was stolen from him when Keter acted first. From the broken ceiling of the caverns a great cacophony came as a devilry kept back was suddenly unleashed: the surviving swarms from the first day, birds and bats and insects, flowed out like a tide with ear-breaking shrieks. The Lord of Malaga swallowed a curse. Of all the armies of men, the Dominion struggled with these horrors the most.

“BINDERS,” Razin Tanja screamed. “BINDERS, ON THE SWARMS.”

The Summoner snorted derisively when he saw those Dominion savages fumble around with their so-called sorcery. Half-baked diabolism was what it was, this use of souls as anchors for bodies made of their surroundings – in this case, largely mud and stone. Not all the binders could forge flying creatures, either, further proof of their fundamental incompetence. Cedric reminded himself that not all could equal his own mastery, but it was a half-hearted thought and almost more a boast than a commiseration.

“You are certain your creature is capable?” the Concocter asked.

Beneath them, his summoned wyvern batter of her wings as she sped towards the undead swarms. The Summoner cast his colleague a scornful look.

“A little late for asking, yes?” Cedric sneered.

She rolled her eyes, the insolent wretch. Gods, but the Black Queen simply did not recognize his worth – always she used him as a horse-handler for some inferior Named, when he could have done it all on his own.

“My concoctions will work as promised,” the Concocter flatly said. “The only possible point of failure here is your work.”

The Summoner scoffed.

“My works is always beyond reproach,” he said. “It is why I have been judged too valuable to send to the Arsenal, unlike some others.”

She probably would have argue with this self-evident truth, so Cedric ordered his summon to bank hard upwards and leaned closer to its neck. The containers the Concocter had loaded its belly with made the construct less manoeuvrable, but he’d learned to compensate. It would not matter, anyway, he thought. Unlike what his colleague believed, the containers would not simply be spat out. Cedric manipulated his summon to constrict its ‘stomach’ when they neared the edge of the swarms, breaking a container even as it opened its mouth. Like the old dragons of legend, his summon breathed out a gout of something – though it was a gas instead of fire, rather lessening the effect.

The gas did its work, the Summoner was forced to admit even as he began leading the wyvern into making a long pass through the mass of undead creatures, spewing out clouds all the while. The brew attacked the necromantic constructs almost as holy water would have, eating at them and disrupting the spell holding them together – it was particularly lethal on insects, but even the birds collapsed after a heartbeat of exposure.

Yet another victory to be laid at his feet, the Summoner thought with smug satisfaction.

General Abigail figured this must be a little like how a chicken would feel, if it were still alive when you put it on a spit to roast.

Just enough movement to give you the illusion that you might make it out, when in fact you were just spinning around so that you could be roasted more evenly. Sadly still on her horse, the general hid another wince as she watched another pack of ghouls leap over the shield wall at the front and land atop the shield panels of the mage cabals, then wiggle through a weakness in them. The Third Army was being made to stand and take the bloody hits to the Sapper-General of Callow could pound the enemy into dust with her ballistas, a strategy that Abigail would admit to herself she would have been very fond of if it didn’t involve her standing so close to the killing field.

Boots, that bloody horse, seemed to have grasped that they were in it together at least until the end of the battle – it was cooperating, and had not tried to bite her in at least an hour. From that unfortunately dangerous vantage point, General Abigail watched the field. It’d been hours since the battle began, long enough that some of the mud was beginning to dry, but for all the efforts on both sides it remained a stalemate. Revenants had tried to smash the front lines a few times, but Named had met them head on and gotten the better of them. Most the time, anyway. Some devil in pale plate had killed a villain and only retreated when the band under the Silver Huntress reappeared to force him back.

It’d be a while still until sundown, Abigail figured, but there would be no clear winner today. The trouble was that even with rotations he people were getting damned tired, and the Procerans likely had it worse on their flank: half of them were mercenaries, and unlike the Dominion on the right they didn’t have the numbers to be able to keep back a reserve. It might all turn nasty, if they weren’t careful, and even with the Second Army still being held in reserve a lot of damage might happen very quickly if the left flank went sour. The trouble was that, when it came to what she could actually do to help prop up the left flank, General Abigail saw only the one option and she wasn’t exactly eager to take it.

“Might not be as bad as what happens if we wait, though,” she muttered at her horse.

She considered the risks. Gods, much as she hated to admit it doing nothing might be the more dangerous of the two. The Volignac soldiers were a hardy lot, but the mercenaries didn’t have the same stomach for the right. If some started running… Abigail still held back on doing anything until she saw the first fantassin company break, cursing and giving orders to her general staff even if the mercenary company managed to rally and return into position. It was only going to get worse the longer she waited, and with Abigail’s luck everyone up here was going to pull a runner except her own damned army.

After dismounting she gathered as many companies of heavies as she dared to pull to her and arranged for a wedge. She sent for the Third Army’s standard, picked some poor bastard to carry it into battle and waited for the orders she’d given to trickle down to the House Insurgent and the mage cabals. The change was noticeable, when it happened: from defensive to offensive. The priests struck out with mass volleys as shields winked out and were replaced by great spears of flame either.

“Gods,” Abigail faintly muttered. “How bad could it really have been, being a tanner?”

Too late to back out now, she knew. After pulling all those heavy companies to her, if she gave the command to someone else they’d turn on her for cowardice. Ah, she realized with a start, but there was a way to avoid fighting. She found the poor bastard she’d given the army standard too and sent him back to the ranks with a smile, taking it up herself. See, with that thing in hand she wouldn’t be able to use a sword so no one could expect her to – shit, Abigail, realized, she could no longer use a sword. And Keter might go after the standard to hurt morale. She’d made herself a target again.

“Are you ready, general?” Krolem asked.

They were all looking at her, Abigail saw, waiting for her order. The swallowed a whimper, which came out sound a little like a giggle. Some of her officers looked impressed.

“Forward,” General Abigail ordered. “Into the breach, Dauntless.”

For once, she was lucky: the answering roar of approval drowned out how shrilly terrified her voice had really been.

181 thoughts on “Interlude: New Tricks

  1. Big I

    Hahaha, Abigail the Fox. Sounds like she’s got a song in her future.

    Just remember Abigail, you’d have had to marry one your cousins if you were a tanner, and they all look like ferrets.

    Liked by 35 people

      1. shikkarasu

        Didn’t Cat narrowly avoid a Fox related Name that WB was trying to force on her? Wonder if that Name will settle somewhere nearby…. Y’know, with someone who has a similar reputation to Cat and with whom Cat occasionally commiserates/teaches.

        Liked by 7 people

      1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

        And after she stands in judgement over it and readies herself for the killing blow, Abigail the Fox, seeing an opportunity to finally flee, will in her panic go in the wrong direction, and she’ll trip on a corpse and bash the Revenant’s head in with her standard.

        Liked by 16 people

  2. I honestly believe there’s at least one god for both Above and Below just waiting for that one little bit of something extra to give Abigail a Name. I’m also pretty sure if that did finally happen, Abigail would cry (out of despair, but everyone would interpret it as happiness or pride), and eventually accidentally become the most potent Named to ever live.

    Liked by 20 people

    1. mamm0nn

      Doubt it. Though she may be lucky and even fate-guided, Named are inevitably about willpower which she lacks. Combine that with her being a little Catherine when the big one is still alive and others like Robber also not getting a Name despite all the shit he manages to pull, and a Name becomes unlikely. EE doesn’t hand those out like candy, especially not to characters already known.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Named aren’t inevitably about willpower. Sabah was born to hers, not a lot of willpower in a newborn baby. Willpower is a common component to stories, but not a necessary one.

        That said, yeah I don’t think Abigail’s getting one.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. mamm0nn

          Please, we all know Sabah came out fo the womb with JoJo face, scaring her parent with her menacing aura. Plus, as both naturally born with some extra and a culture that would nigh certainly see her pray to Below, she actually had patrons where Abigail wouldn’t make a champion for either side.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. thearpox23

          Sabah was Cursed, a Name driven to cause misery and destruction by a long-dead sorcerer. And pretty much every circumstance I can think of where the bestowal of a name isn’t dependent on willpower of the receiver is some sort of a curse, (*ahem* Sleeping Princess,) or at most a ‘blessing’ of being the chosen one because of blood ties or something.

          To me at least, mamm0nn’s argument seems entirely valid.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. thearpox23

              Ah yes, The Reticent General, with aspects such as “Be misunderstood unless I am talking to Catherine,” and a slight luck/providence bonus to not get sniped off a horse. I am sure that in a different story, perhaps with a more comedic bent and some fourth-wall breaking shenanigans that could be a thing. Unfortunately, we are reading this story, and a curse that can be broken by a resignation letter and a quiet discharge the moment there is a break in a campaign isn’t a thing. (Because let’s be honest, Catherine isn’t going to execute Abigail if Abigail snaps. She’d want to keep everything hush hush to prevent riots and present this as an illness or a secret mission.)

              I ask the same question again: What would a name change for Abigail. What would it help her accomplish?

              Because she isn’t gonna get a name that would make her a melee powerhouse, or one to make her sword shoot lasers into the sky. And she doesn’t need a Name to command her troops, no more than other general. The only things left are her absurd luck and charisma, but she’s been benefiting from them now for years because she fills a role and so is favored by providence, things which we have learned are often confused with but not dependent on being Named.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. A Name DOESN’T categorically change things about a person, actually. It amplifies what’s already there, and for heroes, provides convenient tools for them to not fail at the story that should be theirs for embarrassing reasons (Hanno’s lack of mount as a Knight, Tariq’s complete inability to read people etc).

                That said, I do agree Abigail isn’t going to be Named. It’s fun to speculate about specific factors that go into it though.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. thearpox23

                  >I ask the same question again: What would a name change for Abigail.
                  >A Name DOESN’T categorically change things about a person

                  I wasn’t referring to it changing her as a person, but what tools what it provide for her. Thief desperately needed a way to Stash her loot, both Tariq and Kairos to see the truth of people, and even Poisoner wanted excel in her craft.

                  By comparison, every advantage I can think of that Abigail would be handed from a name is something she’s already got and have had for years. It’d be like Kairos receiving his name AFTER uniting the Free Cities and leading his army through the Whispering Woods.

                  Like

                  1. Do you mean why it would happen in-universe or why it would Erratic do it?

                    Because neither of those depend on “what advantage would it give the character” necessarily.

                    It’s only about whether it will make a more interesting story. And, well, I think it’s “no” to either, but it’s still not about what Abigail gets out of it.

                    Like

                    1. thearpox23

                      In-universe rules.

                      >Because neither of those depend on “what advantage would it give the character” necessarily.

                      I struggle to grasp what reasoning led you to believe this. Names exist to give people advantages. Aspects exist to give people advantages. When people don’t need the advantages of a name, they don’t get it. When they have a different source of power (hi WinterCat) they can also skimp on it.

                      Hell, it’s pretty much explicitly stated that heroic Named generally have that shore up their weaknesses while villainous Named have ones that let them fulfill their ambitions.

                      Oh, and
                      >It’s only about whether it will make a more interesting story.
                      Even if you weren’t confusing the intent behind the creation of the system with the system itself, a power-up actually being relevant is something of a necessity for a power-up scene to make it into a good story.

                      Like

                    2. > Names exist to give people advantages. Aspects exist to give people advantages. When people don’t need the advantages of a name, they don’t get it.

                      …Especially Cursed?

                      Names don’t exist for a purpose, except maybe entertaining Gods. They’re a “why”, not a “what for”.

                      And yes, they GENERALLY help. That’s a consequence, not a prerequisite.

                      You are absolutely correct about relevance being required, but “relevant” and “helpful” are not necessarily synonymous 😀
                      (why yes, I’m evil. All writers are, didn’t you know?)

                      Like

                    3. thearpox23

                      >> Names exist to give people advantages. Aspects exist to give people advantages. When people don’t need the advantages of a name, they don’t get it.
                      >…Especially Cursed?

                      Are you being pedantic on purpose? Because if I didn’t know you any better I’d think you were trolling me.

                      Yes, exceptions exist. There are curses, ancient prophecies, gods, et cetera. In cases of a curse the advantage is given not to the receiver of the Name but to the giver of the curse, even if that ‘advantage’ is petty cruelty.

                      >Names don’t exist for a purpose, except maybe entertaining Gods. They’re a “why”, not a “what for”.

                      No, stories exist to entertain gods. Names exist to give mortals/some immortals a leg up, so that they don’t get crushed, and can generate stories. They prop up when a community encounters something they can’t handle by mundane means. Notice how Mercantis doesn’t get (many?) villainous Named because mundane business cut-throatry is enough to get the job done. How Procer was noted to get by without Named for the most part even when grappling with Praes or Callow. How the drow don’t have conventional Named because they are already so inundated with the Night that any advantages from a Name would just get overshadowed.

                      Ergo, if you can get by fine without a power boost, you’re probably not gonna get it.

                      >And yes, they GENERALLY help. That’s a consequence, not a prerequisite.

                      No, it is a prerequisite. The only question is WHOM they help.

                      >You are absolutely correct about relevance being required, but “relevant” and “helpful” are not necessarily synonymous

                      I know, and I made the word choice deliberately, something which would have had more of an effect if I want in the habit of skipping words and then being unable to edit.

                      Helpful is something that improves the chances of the designee. (+3 longsword to upgrade from my +2! Yay!) Relevant is something that doesn’t get overshadowed by other advantages. (Catherine not immediately getting a name because anything common would get overshadowed by her position as the First Under The Night.)

                      >(why yes, I’m evil. All writers are, didn’t you know?)

                      No, you are randomly pedantic, and are skilled at misinterpretation. The only writer I recognize as evil is Herman Melville. He promised me a book of sea adventures, and instead I got a wikia on early 19th century whaling. The famous confrontation between Captain Ahab and the Whale was just Melville getting bored because he ran out of things to catalog, and not wanting to spend any more effort on the narrative.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. > No, stories exist to entertain gods.
                      I’d say what entertains the Gods Above and Gods Below is opposite enough they would not set up for each other’s fun. No, stories exist for a purpose they actually share – which is to say, settling the wager. They amplify the effects of mortals’ actions and choices, making it easier to track whether Evil or Good is doing better at… whatever metric they use to measure all of this.

                      You can’t just say the Name of Cursed is a grand exception. Hierarch wanted the exact opposite of his Name, too, and Dread Emp has been described as curse-like on many occasions, notably by the claimant theme song.

                      > In cases of a curse the advantage is given not to the receiver of the Name but to the giver of the curse, even if that ‘advantage’ is petty cruelty.

                      I’d say this is tortured logic. In that case, Abigail getting a Name that won’t help her with anything is an advantage to Catherine who is always looking for more Named to join her cause and wanted to badass Abigail up in the first place. Dilemma resolved!

                      > Helpful is something that improves the chances of the designee.

                      Chances at what? Villains are notorious for not outliving average human lifespan despite being technically immortal in the ageless sense. Alll Below’s Names function a little like curses, increasing the bearer’s propensity for violence through a chain of Pavlovian incentives.

                      By “writers are evil” I was referencing the basic premise of “no good story without conflict”, and the frequently-following conclusion that it means needing to throw your protagonist into ever more danger. And that IS how Names function – most heroes don’t live to be elderly, and I’ve already talked about villains. Names are a monkey’s paw, a double edged sword, and those who seek them out accept the tradeoff, but that doesn’t mean their PURPOSE is helpfulness. I’d argued against the premise you offered at the very start because it rings wrong to me, but to the degree that it’s true (which is certainly some) – yeah, Named are basically scapegoats/sacrifices.

                      (Writers are evil because they drink the tears of the audience, as is well known. Among writers, at least)

                      Like

          1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

            On a serious level I respect that, but I still like my absurd theory (which I may or may not have shared in the past) that all goblins are Named and the reason they age is that they’re secretly all heroes rather than villains. Also I think Robber should be the next Dread Emperor, which of course was never a thing that could happen.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Crash

        Honestly the only name that makes sense for her is Fortunate Fool or whatever that weird dude in the Vales campaign name was.

        But no, our girl is 100% normal human and absolutely unwilling, the magnificent character that she is.

        Honestly she’s a lot like the non-bender characters in Avatar, and that’s great.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. Crash

            I don’t think he’d be, to be honest. Someone like Ty Lee sure, but Sokka is about a 1:1 on Abigail on buffoonery made heroic/competent.

            He did have dreams of grandeur though

            Liked by 2 people

              1. Crash

                I don’t know, man. I just like the idea of people having Roles but not Names.

                Call me a contrarian, but I like it when ordinary folk are competent as fuck and completely mundane in a world where a random extremely powerful thing exists (Names, bending, etc).

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Yeah, that’s what the Badass Normal trope is about.

                  Unfortunately, since Guide’s Name system is meta, it gives out power proportional to narrative importance + badassery. All tropes are Roles, and Badass Normal is no exception.

                  I feel you, I really feel you. Sokka just isn’t it. You want unnamed engineers who made cool shit in the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom, maybe?

                  (Having a significant Role and no Name is a situation that comes from there being no folk hero cultural archetype corresponding to what you’re doing. Sokka is in no way NOT a folk hero)

                  Like

            1. The Bumbling role type, and the fact that there are roles for the non-Gifted, come together to show that Sokka is very much an example of a Named. He’s Badass Normal – and sure, his setting is geared further towards that being an exception than Guideverse, but he’s absolutely a typical Named. He’s part of a Band of Five for fuck’s sake – it might not have been exactly five people, but the number being that precise is a guideverse gimmick anyway, the Gaang is exactly that trope at its core.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Crash

                Yeh, I see your point haha.

                I was kinda trying to shoehorn him into a Vivienne type situation, where she is a part of the band but also mundane. ( Though she was Named in the past.)

                I’m using Sokka as a substitute for Abigail in this and I really, really don’t want her to be Named so I went with Sokka being un-Named as well, even though he is actually very much a great fit for it.

                Liked by 1 person

    2. Miles

      What she lacks is a desire for power. Regardless of which side, they both always pick someone who wants the power. Abigail always just wants to leave and let someone else handle it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Frivolous

    Poor Abigail. Slippery eel, Archer thinks of her, which is astonishing given how Indrani is Named and not one to compliment much. Abigail the Fox, Razin Tanja calls her, which is also astonishing given he’s a Lord of the Dominion and she’s a Callowan commoner. I’m amazed he’s giving her a complimentary epithet like that.

    She’s famous no matter what, and that’s a really bad thing if you want a quiet life. The possibility of her gaining a Name increases, I think.

    Also, Cedric remains a complete jerk. His only virtue seems to be that his jerkiness is merely social, not physical much, and that will end once he gets even a smidgeon of authority.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. I’m pretty sure “slippery eel” is high key NOT meant as a compliment, and Indrani is actually one of the people who sees exactly how much of a coward she is (and unlike Cat, doesn’t have absolute certainity that she’ll stay loyal and do her job regardless).

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Frivolous

        I don’t think Indrani could have possibly lost the Third Army, of which Abigail is the very visible General, since she’s the one on the horse.

        I think Abi somehow just managed to sidle away from Indrani when Indrani was distracted. Yes, while Abi was on a horse and Indrani being Archer, with the enhanced senses Named have. Which is a bit scary, really.

        Abi wasn’t a slippery eel because she slipped away from the battle. She just didn’t want to be near Archer, because Archer scares her.

        Liked by 11 people

  4. Frivolous

    I wonder which villain had been killed by the White Knight Revenant. It doesn’t have to be one of the attendees at the hill meeting, right? That was a while ago and far away.

    I do hope the deceased is not one of the more interesting and engaging villains. I’m okay with Headhunter or Red Knight or Summoner dying. I’d prefer that Beastmaster and Barrow Sword and Harrowed Witch live at least a little longer.

    Liked by 10 people

      1. AceOfSpade

        I don’t think the Rapacious Troubadour is much of a frontline combattant. If I had to hazard a guess I’d say the most likely victim is the hulk-style villain… I think she was called the Berserker?

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Dexapocalypse

        I dunno, circumstance can force a name on someone so Abigail could get something like The Unwilling General – a leader by necessity and skill rather than ambition or desire, analogues would be the farm boy who ends up leading an army, the retired campaigner brought out to lead a revolution, or in this case the assistant left alive and forced to take on the leading role

        Liked by 5 people

  5. Thanatoss

    Great chapter as always!
    Which villain died damn, I hope noone fun. I bet on Berserker, she was that kind of stupid.
    Also this Revenant White Knight, I can see it being big stepping stone for Cat, however no idea if it will be big grand duel or she will somehow trick him and “casually” slay him, both of this results would propagate her “undefeated” legend. Hmmm interesting

    Liked by 8 people

  6. Frivolous

    Noticed just now that Abigail is referred to as a fox by not just Razin but also Beatrice.

    That kind of acclaim tends to lead to a Name. Look at how Akua became Diabolist by repeatedly using devils and demons, and letting others know about it. What Akua did deliberately may be happening to Abigail by accident.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. LarsBlitzer

      Not as “accidentally” as it may appear. Cat’s been quick to recognize Abigail’s talents if nothing else and has been “rewarding” her appropriately: with greater authority and opportunities to test them in the field. I’m not nearly so sure she’ll get a Name as easily as we seem to think. None of the other Legion generals or marshals have them. It would have to be something spectacularly amazing, foolhardy, or heroic/villainous to get the attention of Above or Below. This is the right time for it though.

      Liked by 12 people

    2. Oshi

      Akua already had a name and shaped the story. This is more mundane. Names need more than acclaim. Every named no matter the person behind it has one thing in common. They seek to shape the world. Abigail does not.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Frivolous

        I think I disagree about the seeking to shape the world part.

        Augur didn’t. Adjutant didn’t. Grizzled Fantassin didn’t. Poisoner didn’t. I seriously doubt Concocter wanted to shape the world, either.

        I think it’s enough that a person be exceptionally good at her Role, that the Role be important somehow, and that she be well known for it. Even the well known part might be negotiable; Agnes Hasenbach was a wallflower before and after she became Augur.

        Liked by 13 people

        1. Velrix

          Adjudant want to give a better place to Orcs in creation. He’s the founder of a chess game where you steel bricks to build your tower. And said that he isn’t a player but a follower because Cat’s the best bet to see the world that he want.

          If Catherine die, he will become the Warlord.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. thearpox23

          Both Poisoner and the Grizzled Fantassin were local names with little reason to act internationally before the war with the Dead King. “Shaping the world” in their case concerned their own little corner that they were very passionate about.

          Abigail, for her part, doesn’t have any ambition or her main point of interest seems to be her retirement fund. Even if you were to grant her a name, I struggle to think of one that would fit her, any aspects she would actually find useful. Everything she does she already accomplishes fine without a name, with no aspiration waiting to be kindled by a pivot.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. > Both Poisoner and the Grizzled Fantassin were local names with little reason to act internationally before the war with the Dead King. “Shaping the world” in their case concerned their own little corner that they were very passionate about.

            Newborn baby Sabah.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Abrakadabra

            What about something that would Tell the tale of the gneral WHO wants nothing more, Than retire, retreat, but instead continually advance Both in battle and the ranks? The unvilling advancer. 🙂

            Like

      2. > Every named no matter the person behind it has one thing in common. They seek to shape the world.

        Ah yes, especially Berserker, Concocter, and my favorite counterexample to any “all Named” claim, newborn baby Sabah.

        Names need a story. They need a story that’s well-known and considered a thing as such, and that is actually true about the person. It doesn’t necessarily need to be known that it’s true about the person – no-one but Vivienne knew she was the thief when she got the Name for it, and she didn’t realize she was about to become Named either. It just has to match up, pattern match.

        Is there a culturally significant story on Calernia about a hypercompetent coward becoming known as a brave soldier despite their efforts otherwise? I don’t get that impression, because 1) more people would have caught on to what Abigail’s like by now, 2) Cat would have commented on it.

        That said, it’s possible Abigail can match some kind of “shrewd war leader who can weasel themselves and their army out of any kind of shit through trickery and risky moves” story out there with her cowardice being irreelvant to it – and she genuinely is cunning. The “Fox” moniker is a good point, as it is a good match there.

        Either-or. I lean towards “not”, but it’s not impossible.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. IIRC there’s past precedent for that kind of Name being viable in the pre-Imperial Taghreb Names. And I think at least one of those Names involved “Fox”.

          More recently? We haven’t seen or heard of any such Name, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such Names. Although, to be fair, there might well be cultural variations that support or degrade the chances of such a Name arising.

          Cat might or might not be arranging things to improve Abigail’s chances of getting a Name … but either way, I’m pretty sure Cat sees that Abigail gets results, even when things go badly, and a story could be being built around that, and, if nothing else, it’s a theme that is worth encouraging and supporting.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Yeah.

            I just feel like there’s not just quantitative but also qualitative aspect to getting Names – there can be different degrees of matching the pattern, and there can be different degrees to the weight of the story. If the weight of the story is high but your pattern is not very well-matched you might still get the Name; if the weight is low but your pattern fits one to one you might still get the Name; but if the weight is low AND your pattern fits only vaguely? You’re not getting it.

            (I figure it’s multiplicative, not additive – you can’t skirt by on just one if the other just THAT low, they both have to be at least mediocre)

            Liked by 3 people

            1. True, though the “clever general/war-leader/battlefield commander that pulls success from the jaws of defeat” is a relatively broad concept, and is relatively culture neutral.
              So while Abigail may be less directly aligned with any one specific cultural Name, it’s likely that the combination of a lot of people from multiple cultures seeing her as roughly aligned with their clever warleader concept is something that can add up and compensate for the lack of an exact match. And/or contribute to the development of a new, less culturally specific Name aligned with the concept.
              Especially if Cat is encouraging it, either for the purpose of encouraging Abigail to get a Name, or just because it’s a good theme for a general to have and for the troops to believe in.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. > clever general/war-leader/battlefield commander that pulls success from the jaws of defeat” is a relatively broad concept

                Ah, but that’s the problem: being non-specific means it gets less concentrated story weight that’d birth a Name.

                Liked by 5 people

            2. Crash

              Which is interesting because Cat matches Bardic Names on that “they’re harder to kill than cockroaches and have an understanding of the way Creation works Archmages can barely grasp at” but it still doesn’t feel quite right with her “justifications matter only to the just” and standing in judgement over creation, fighting for her peace.

              Liked by 2 people

        2. JoshuaS

          I agree. Its like everyone’s just straight forgotten that we’ve literally seen a hero who’s entire shtick was being a lucky idiot: the Bumbling Conjurer. Not too much of a leap to have a lucky coward as a story concept. (Tbf, it was an easy character to forget).

          Hell its the kind of post modern, ironic trope that the world seems heading towards, what with the Tyrant “killing an age” and all that. She’d fit right in from my metatextual understanding.

          But I dont think its likely either, if for a different reason that she doesn’t really have an character arc. She’s the same character now as she was in the beginning, character wise. So if she is going to get a name based on that personality, she would have already gotten it at this point.

          So not really all that likely baring some major character motivation shift, in which case would she still be the fun character who only cares about survival then? And if not, then what is the point of her specifically getting a name?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Crash

            It’s like everyone just straight up forgot you can say NO TO A GODDAMN NAME.

            I would love to know what the fuck y’all are reading when Abigail is literally going off about how much she hates the very concept of being necessary for anything important at all, ever, in her life.

            Which part of that sounds like someone who wants to be Named? In the middle of a war were they’re very Important and with the Accords looming over the corner no less.

            If she has a Story to fit into or not, that doesn’t even matter. She would never make the Choice. A Name isn’t exactly something that can be forced on someone, outside of very specific scenarios like being literally born Cursed. I don’t see how Cowardly General or whatever would fit that.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. JoshuaS

              In the extremely unlikely chance it does happen, EE will probably just pull a bait and switch, kinda like with the standard bearing in this chapter.

              Like a “I’m about to die, I need this name to survive, oh wait shit I wasn’t actually in danger and now I’m stuck being an important character” thing. Lame and predictable, but explicable.

              Like

            2. One can absolutely be forced into a Name.

              A Name does not depend on the person’s One Big Choice To Have It, that’s not a thing. A Name depends on a sequence of a person’s choices on how they act in a particular situation, and if that sequence matches the Role (or if other people’s actions match the Role, with the Hierarch), bam, you’re it, no additional question on top asked.

              Vivienne didn’t realize she was Named until way into it. Tariq was actively against being Named but changing it would require no longer doing the thing that was making him be Named (listening to angels and going where he was needed to help people) and he wasn’t willing to do that.

              Cordelia would not have been given a chance to say no to her Name if Agnes hadn’t fought the Bard for control of the story to give her the convenient pivot where 1) she had time to notice what was going on, 2) saying no didn’t mean her death or the death of her entire country or anything else she wouldn’t have been willing to trade.

              Like

              1. Crash

                I understand this, and probably should’ve worded my comment better it’s just that this literally does not apply to Abigail. At all.

                Cat is directing her in a sort of hands off way towards climbing up the ranks but this is mostly due to Abigail’s own skills and not in the very pointed way in which Kairos guided and strong armed both Anaxares and the other rulers of the Free Cities into electing him.

                There’s no pre-made role to be filled here, Cat isn’t wink wink nudge nudge Abigail into some kind of Role. She’s trying to get a Callowan, a talented one, to a position of power on the Army of Callow. If this, later on becomes the groove for a Name? I’d find that very believable. But it’s not the point of it right now.

                I see your point about how, if given the opportunity for a Name, she might not be able to refuse and I raise you the following:

                I do not believe there will be an opportunity at all, because there is no one shoving her up into a Role, currently, and she doesn’t have a vested interest in forcing one onto existence.

                One might argue for something that just happens due to enough repetition, i.e. Grizzled Fantassin, but if so, she’s not quite there yet either.

                Let the non-bender character be awesome on her own.

                Like

        3. Abrakadabra

          I think there is a case that a general is generally seen as incompetent but quite good, the only one WHO defeated theodosius the unconquered. I dont remember the exact name, something the Mad?

          Like

          1. Isabella the Mad?

            You didn’t finish the sentence though.

            (If you’re comparing her to Abigail, I’ll note that Abigail’s entire thing is that she is actually exceedingly competent. Her luck is in surviving stuff outside of her control and in catching Catherine’s eye in doing so, the rest is just her complaining)

            Liked by 1 person

        4. I will note that Abigail is not in fact cowardly. She’s often afraid, but quite reasonably so given the dangers she’s facing.

          Bravery is not about never feeling afraid — it’s about feeling afraid, and going ahead anyway. And that is exactly what Abigail does. In this very chapter, she’s all “damn, that gonna be dangerous, but it looks like not doing it will be worse”. That’s not cowardice, that’s thinking under pressure!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. YUP.

            Abigail is a paladin, immune to fear effects. No-one appears to have ever told her that people sometimes panic, she seems unfamiliar with the concept.

            An absolutely delightful character in every single way ❤ ❤ ❤

            Like

    3. mamm0nn

      Akua was also one of the foremost experts on the subject aided by centuries of collected contracts and names, and she had a transitional Name. Her being involved with devils and demons helped a bit but was hardly a deciding factor.

      Don’t assume that people get a Name just because they get a bit of help from fate or are awesome, Robber would’ve been Named if that were the case. Abigail is already doing what she does without a Name so it’s unlikely for Below to grant her one while Above is unlikely to grant one to the Black Queen’s get when she’s both a mirroring of Cat and unlikely to rebel against her to seize Callow back. The soldiers wouldn’t even follow her, either.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Akua being involved with demons and devils and known for being such WAS the deciding factor according to her – at the very least, it was fuel to the fire and last straw on the camel.

        That said, Names aren’t an exact science, and it’s more lots of factors piling in until the pile’s high enough than strict requirements.

        That said, Above and Below don’t personally pick who gets Names based on deep strategic plans, Providence is blind and automatic. Names go to whoever’s pile’s high enough, and the criteria for what constitutes high enough come from the culture they’re in, not directly from the Gods.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. mamm0nn

          A certain swordsman who’s preferably all alone disagrees with the idea that all Names are automatically granted by a non-sentient Providence. In fact we haven’t seen much proof of Providence having much pull in granting Names at all. Perhaps in enabling those with a claim or opportunity to survive or get it more dramatically, but nothing like what you suggest. And considering there’s multiple accounts and versions in-story that actively contradict this claim, I have to completely disregard this theory of yours.

          It’s been all but explicitly stated by herself, though indeed that may not be an absolute truth, that the Wandering Bard is at least indirectly responsible for picking and shaping Named. Only certain exceptional cases like the Hierarch come into being without her say-so, though it’s unknown how much her “You’re not one of mine.” comment suggests that she is at least partly responsible for creating or endorsing all other Named. She has suggested a bit of that at other times including her conversation with imprisoned Black too. Thus the idea that Names are granted by Providence or automatically is folly.

          But even if that wouldn’t be the case, what you’re saying about piles is not something I’ve read even remotely suggested in the story itself. We have heard from various Name-experts including Pilgrim, Cat and the sisters that Above and Below are actively plotting and intervening with the other getting an equal reaction when they do, and that has never been said to not apply to making Named.

          In fact, Black has been stated to be one of the foremost experts in Named lore of this century, so when he had a conversation with Malicia about the Wandering Bard perhaps being Above’s counter-Name to Triumphant, that means that at least as far as highly influential and intelligent practitioners and historians of a wealthy nation are concerned, the Gods are in fact responsible for making and choosing Named and likely with active scheming and consideration granting Names to more than ‘the one with the biggest pile’.

          Like

            1. “Neutral” Names are really just Names that aren’t exclusive to one side.
              They are Names that can be empowered by Above or by Below, depending on the particular iteration of that Name and the person who has it at any given time.

              Transitional Names are very often such Names.

              “Thief”, “Ranger”, “Archer”, “Hunter”, “Squire”, “Apprentice”, e.t.c.

              As opposed to “White Knight”, “Black Knight”, e.t.c.

              Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s a term that originated with the fanbase, not something that was used in the story.

              Like

            2. mamm0nn

              There might be. If the Choir of Contrition can just grant a Name, then it’s likely other lesser gods are equally capable of it. The sisters, the Dead King and Arcadia are probably able of it too, though of course not creating the tier of Named of Cat’s (opposition and allies) rank at, that’s only for the big ones Above and Below. There probably are also neutral lesser gods.

              That said, I’m not saying that the Gods are solely and directly responsible for granting Names with intelligent intent. I was contradicting Liliet’s claim that Named are always granted by Providence in an automatic and non-intelligent system that ‘can easily be gamed’. There are going to be a few that come to be by grooves or acts, but that’s not the only way or even norm.

              Like

              1. Being chosen by particular entities – like Choirs – grants you a Name through narrative mechanics, because that’s a significant Role. It can also work with regular mortals – election as a Hierarch grants it as a Name, through the same mechanic. If being chosen for something already constitutes a strong start of a story, then it gets you a Role, and a strong enough Role generates a Name automatically. It doesn’t mean that whoever’s doing the choosing has admin privileges, it means they found the right button to press on the vending machine.

                (Like Black with Cat)

                Like

          1. “Providence” is just a word for narrative force. The thing that made sure Black bumped into Cat in that valley, the thing that powers Aspects, the thing that let Cat snatch a resurrection from the Choir of Contrition, the thing that forbade Praes from digging its way out of the hole they found themselves in.

            It’s also the thing that automatically “balances the scales” whenever one side (either one!) gets an advantage. That’s what “counter-Names” are about: they’re generated automatically, not in some sort of chess game.

            The one time Kairos gave as a chess metaphor, it was about how Gods cannot actually control what happens on the board. And if they could bestow Names selectively, they as good as could: just pick the guy who will only do what you want him to do, what control issues?

            Yes, characters keep talking AS IF Above and Below intercede directly. Pilgrim also talks as if he knows exactly how afterlife works, even though we have specific WoG that no-one actually knows that and it’s all faith/speculation.

            Hanno specifically pointed out that Above never actually communicates with their church. To the point that there’s been a fucking war before our own eyes on the page where both sides had priests capable of doing miracles. Like, fucking what? If the Gods don’t even do that much, what do they ever do?

            (The answer we have is “direct the Bard to do things”. That’s the one lever they are stated to have and use, and they are stated to have and use it to counteract the unpredictability of the rest of the mechanics.)

            The one time a resident expert was convinced was the Gods’ direct intervention on-page – Thalassina – again has WoG explicitly stating that’s not exactly the case.

            The Wandering Bard can pick and shape Named, and frequently does. So can any other character – Black did it with Cat, Kairos did it with Anaxares. People’s stories can be influenced and directed if you have the leverage for it, and Bard has made it her thing to make sure she has a finger in every pie. That’s not an inherent thing to the mechanics, it’s just what they allow for.

            There are specific mechanistically known ways to get a Name. For them to work you don’t need to know what the Gods are plotting, and never once in the history we know of did Gods go “okay yeah this claimant to Dread Emperor won the war but they’re not who we want so they don’t get the Name, this other claimant over there does”. Warlock, Dread Emperor, Black Knight, Chancellor. Dread Emps APPOINT Chancellors for fuck’s sake.

            Oh, and we have WoG that the reason the Name Grey Knight does not exist on Calernia is the lack of cultural impetus for it. Not the Gods not wanting it to, but the MECHANISTIC SYSTEM not having the prerequisites.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. mamm0nn

              Yet nothing of this properly supports your claim that Named are automatically generated by Providence, generated without any intelligent design to it at all, or that the one most likely would get the Name. You’re making a claim but I see nothing that makes it stick.

              Providence is not ‘balancing the scales’. The Gods Above and Below can exert a lot of influence but then the other get a similar reaction of equal power. Very explicitly Good and Evil of the divine kind, not Providence or balance.
              We’ve been told this many times including by the Sisters after ascension, so even if we just go with your “Oh those people don’t know what they’re talking about.” on my previous argument which is honestly not a strong counter, then in this case absolute nope that the Sisters too would be ill-informed. Providence is not evening the scales, the Gods Above and Below have been stated very explicitly to invest power and intent themselves.

              And you’re seeing what you want to see in Kairos’s words. That can go both ways, here’s his chess analogy to support my claim just as strongly and with just as much assumption as yours: What he said is that free will and people’s petty desires are troublesome for the Gods to understand, predict and work with. It needs someone who gets them to use them. Ergo, he directly contradicts your point that something automatic like Providence would be a solution to this.

              With the Wandering Bard, we’ve seen her directly speak for the gods and complain to the gods for not letting her finally die when Hierophant killed her. The latter they may not have been listening or caring, but what we’ve been shown makes a strong case that she was made by the Gods rather than Providence.

              Plus, she’s a bard. Where Book 1 Cat may have thought they were cute but weak because they only know stories, it’s probably their Role to know and influence stories. She’s not just the Intercessor, it’s likely part of her Name and Role to have more power and influence over Stories than others of martial or magical roots.

              That needs not be Providence, though. You are making a presumption that the Named power pools and powers are the same as Providence. That this would be one big pool that isn’t the Gods as its centre. That following the groove of the Knight choosing a Squire or a Hierarch being elected by all Free Cities willingly, just means that Providence did a thing and granting power and weight to the biggest pile. As if those could be repeated or followed textbook. No, grooves make the trick more rigidly exploitable, but not absolute.

              Yes, there are some grooves so deep that they become pretty absolute. That’s not at all a point in your favour or contradicting mine, as it perfectly follows Below’s mantra: Might makes Right. No Dread Emperor was ever a push-over, they got their Right by Might. Or they got replaced quickly by someone who was worthy. And that the Councillor was always Named even when they only kept office for a few months is an assumption, not an established fact. It’s quite possible that assigning someone incapable and spineless would yield just a councillor. The Gods’ philosophy supports the Tower’s Named, and there are no equivalents on the Good side of just earning a Name by having a position.

              Meanwhile the orcs are a great counter-argument. If we’re talking about the biggest pile like you said, or that it’s just Providence so there has to be some kind of control to be gamed by for example having an entire steppe of orcs to make new stories and legends or still believe in THE Warlord, then there should’ve been orc Named. But when we’re adding the Gods Below choosing the Named and the orcs being a cowed and beaten race not having the Might to give them Right, then no orcs reappearing until they’re independent and proud and worthy of a Named is supported.

              Now let’s take a look at your argument which you’re not supporting: That counter-Named just pop up as a guarantee and that Named are therefore created by Providence.

              Have we seen or heard it explicitly stated that this happens? No. Is there any proof that it is Providence rather than the Gods that do this? No. Have we seen cases that are actively the opposite? Yes.

              Where’s the equal reaction Named against the Dead King in his lore? By your argument his careful plans should’ve still yielded Names to counter him when it was explicitly stated that he craftily avoided this.
              What Named would Cordelia’s ascension be a reaction to in the moment she came to be? Oh wait, there were none in Salia and there are already better counter-balances in place against DK while we saw no repeat attempt in the last five years if another leader Named was deemed necessary to balance the scales.
              Was the plague that birthed Pilgrim a Damned?
              Are there tons of anti-dwarves Named popping up to counter the dwarven Named, unchallenged superiority and secrecy of their civilisation?
              Did a new equally powerful Hero show up to stop Winter Cat, or very powerful Villains to deal with Saint and Pilgrim a decade past?

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              1. > Yet nothing of this properly supports your claim that Named are automatically generated by Providence, generated without any intelligent design to it at all, or that the one most likely would get the Name. You’re making a claim but I see nothing that makes it stick.

                …The fact it’s abusable by Kairos?

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                1. (Also Kairos’s claim that Gods cannot control the board is weak evidence, as I described above)

                  (Also the fact that Catherine and Amadeus are villainous Named is imho weak evidence, but that’s a different question entirely)

                  Like

                2. Also the fact gaining certain Names by killing the previous holder reliably works in Praes???

                  Also the fact we have WoG that a particular Name cannot come into being because there isn’t a cultural impetus for it???

                  This is making my head hurt. How are these not strong evidence?

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                  1. mamm0nn

                    Because you’re going around not saying it’s your opinion. You pretty directly reacted to several comments with ‘You are wrong, I am right there is no argument about me being correct in this.’ only for you to then not have strong closers. Nothing you gave as an argument is a case closer nor did you manage to prop up your argument or debase mine with anything but adjacent and only possibly related instances and precendents. Nothing sticks.

                    Remember, because you are going around telling others that your argument isn’t an opinion but fact, YOU need to make a very strong case. This is not an equal playing ground, unless you rephrase your initial comment to reflect it’s an opinion, you need to come with a lot more than what you’ve got now. I mean, you even made it a song as if the other is stupid for not understanding this ‘fact’ meaning you don’t act as if it’s an opinion you hold.

                    None of the WoG are on this topic specifically, and all your precendents are open to interpretation. Right now, you are peddling an opinion but chastising others as if you are proclaiming an in-universe established fact.

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                    1. Can you remind me again what is NOT the in-universe established fact? That people can gain Names deliberately and reliably by following a particular strategy they can either carft themselves or copy from others? That people can give OTHER PEOPLE Names by this method?

                      Or are you disagreeing that it follows from the above that the Gods do not deliberately pick each Name individually?

                      It’s just that, I really do consider my case entirely closed and proven. I’m having trouble understanding what, exactly, is the part you disagree with.

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              2. > Providence is not ‘balancing the scales’. The Gods Above and Below can exert a lot of influence but then the other get a similar reaction of equal power. Very explicitly Good and Evil of the divine kind, not Providence or balance.
                We’ve been told this many times including by the Sisters after ascension, so even if we just go with your “Oh those people don’t know what they’re talking about.” on my previous argument which is honestly not a strong counter, then in this case absolute nope that the Sisters too would be ill-informed. Providence is not evening the scales, the Gods Above and Below have been stated very explicitly to invest power and intent themselves.

                WoG that even the flashy intervention at Thalassina was not what everyone in-universe thought it was?

                Why would the Sisters be any more better informed? We’ve seen them rise to their current station from mortals. It did not involve, uh, insights.

                > Meanwhile the orcs are a great counter-argument. If we’re talking about the biggest pile like you said, or that it’s just Providence so there has to be some kind of control to be gamed by for example having an entire steppe of orcs to make new stories and legends or still believe in THE Warlord, then there should’ve been orc Named.

                No, actually, orcs are an illustration of how it works mechanistically. No orcs managed to actually be important enough to step into the shoes of any story that the whole orchood, let alone people outside of the Steppes, would have cared about.

                > That counter-Named just pop up as a guarantee and that Named are therefore created by Providence.

                No, they sometimes pop up when that’s what the story is. Not literally every single time, I never claimed that.

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                1. mamm0nn

                  It has quite literally and directly been stated that the Sisters now have an understanding beyond mortals that Cat cannot hope to learn or match, and that they grant her this understanding during her miracle-weaving. This is not an opinion but hard stated by EE that the Sisters are now of understandings and insights beyond mortals. See several chapters of the beginning of Book 4 in Iserre.

                  For the rest, you are peddling your opinion as if it’s fact. There’s no point to that. See my other comment, either rephrase your initial comments or realise that others don’t consider your opinion a fact just because you do.

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                  1. “Understanding beyond mortals” and “understanding of the Gods Above and Below” are not, uh, necessary synonyms. “Not mortals” encompasses a wide reference class consisting of lesser deities, of which the Sisters are one, Neshamah is another, that orc god Sabah killed that one time is one, the Deoraithe gestalt is one as well.

                    There is a difference between athmospheric flight and space flight.

                    And nothing about “maybe hypothetically the Sisters might know things” is a strong enough argument to stand against the evidence of Names working via locally predictable and mechanistic patterns?

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              3. …sorry for the multi-reply, but I’m thinking:

                Are you postulating that the Gods Below determine directly which candidate wins among Black Knight / Warlock / Dread Emperor claimants? How would you describe the process for these particular Names, in your view?

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              4. Also: no, Providence is not a “solution” to the problem of free will. It’s actually an extension of the problem, willingly made by the Gods to be such: it amplifies free will’s effects if anything, making people’s thoughts and desires matter a lot more than they would in a non-narrative-driven world.

                > You are making a presumption that the Named power pools and powers are the same as Providence. That this would be one big pool that isn’t the Gods as its centre. That following the groove of the Knight choosing a Squire or a Hierarch being elected by all Free Cities willingly, just means that Providence did a thing and granting power and weight to the biggest pile. As if those could be repeated or followed textbook.

                Yes, I’m making that presumption. One source of this is Akua’s explanation of Catherine’s trick at Liesse: “It’s not the Names that matter. It’s the Roles”. That’s actually the biggest exposition/speculation dump on how Roles and Names work that we have, and a recent Q&A had EE straight up tell the readers to refer to it for what Roles are.

                Here: https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/villainous-interlude-chiaroscuro/

                In that interlude, Akua talks about Cat’s narrative-based trick at Liesse, which was Cat using the fact that the system is mechanistic and predictable to get a result the Gods would presumably not have intended – getting a resurrection as a villain, and ties it with her own effort to get the Name she wanted, Diabolist, as working on the same basis. The mechanistic, predictable basis, that can be analyzed as people doing things wrong or right, which she does right there and then for the Empire’s current rulers. Her analysis is missing a lot of factual points, but the basis of it? Again, EE has pointed to it as reference material for theorists instead of answering questions in the Q&A because it’s all there.

                (Without WoG in play, we the audience can still infer Akua got the basic mechanics right because she DID get the Name she was aiming for by the method she was using)

                (And yes, it could be repeated or followed textbook. We’ve had PLENTY of people use that textbook, and when they criticize each other, it’s for using the textbook wrong, not for thinking there was a textbook at all. When the Pilgrim was considering the effects of Cat’s surrender on his Aspect at the Princes’ Graveyard, divine will did not enter his thoughts – he asked the angels on how things would work and what’s the right thing to do, but never once did he think “oh Gods will reach in and make sure everything works according to their will”. He needed to use the textbook, and the textbook was not getting overruled by divine entities not matter how much he wanted it to)

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                1. mamm0nn

                  Except Akua is a transitional Name who’s literally bound to either get a better Name or die trying. Not the same as saying that Providence gives all Names to normies, or even that Providence is related to this instance.

                  And with the Pilgrim, in the end it’s still a matter of many overlapping rules, chaos, free will and the gods Below countering the influence of the gods Above if they feel like it. Saying that it all comes down to a textbook system as you suggest it isn’t what they say in the chapter you linked. That’s just your interpretation of it.

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            2. Abrakadabra

              And what if, the Dead King stops pulling his punches, and becomes an even bigger threat? If that were to happen, it reasonablybcan be expexted, that a whole smattering of names áill crop up, to balance the scale, I think.

              Liked by 2 people

      2. Frivolous

        re: Robber not having a Name: Species is a factor.

        It’s possible that the Good and Evil for some reason don’t want to extend Names to goblins, just as they didn’t to orcs for a long time, until Hakram met Cat.

        In contrast, Abigail is human, a species often Bestowed.

        I do concur that Abigail is unlikely to get a Name if her Role is viewed as being too similar to that of Cat. But I’m not sure she and Cat have that much in common, really. Both are Callowan female humans. Abigail is considered ruthless and canny and foxy and a great general. Cat is viewed differently. She’s a terrifying monster queen with magic. Also Abi is scared of Cat.

        In Praesi terms, Abi is more like the Black Knight to Cat’s Dread Empress.

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        1. > It’s possible that the Good and Evil for some reason don’t want to extend Names to goblins

          Doesn’t work that way~

          Gods don’t personally pick~

          The process is mechanistic and hackable~

          It’s also culture dependent and we know fuckall about goblin culture but Black hypothesized they had secret Names.

          (Sorry for the song. I’m, uh… composing one for this very common and very obviously mis- conception)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. mamm0nn

            This right here. This comment is why YOU need to put stronger arguments than the ones you’ve been given when you’re going around telling people the ‘facts’ when what you really have are your opinions. Nothing you’ve said would be considered hard evidence by a neutral third party, just your take on it.

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        2. mamm0nn

          They both have a loyal orc lieutenant, they are both considered cunning and talented by everyone else while continuously considering themselves cornered and outclassed, and when we saw Abigail from a different perspective she came off as crass and confident. I mean, the only sentence I’ve heard her say that wasn’t from her perspective or her talking to Cat was:

          “Double wages for whomever puts an arrow in the shiny fucker!”
          -Abigail the Fox during the Battle of the Camps.

          Liked by 3 people

      3. Abigail is getting more than “a bit of help” from fate. Sure, she’s got some real tactical skills, but it’s been sheer luck that she’s been the only person available to take command on three separate occasions, not to mention that bit where she requested a bunch of knights (not expecting the request to be granted) and then they turned out to be exactly what she needed.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. I don’t think that requires “help from fate”. Statistically it’s very improbable for any one person, but with the sheer number of people – the entire army – it was actually perfectly plausible for it to happen to one person. And the fact it’s the person we’ve been following the PoV of is in no way, shape or form a coincidence any more than the fact we get PoVs from all the other plot important characters too. PoVs aren’t chosen by a lottery.

          Abigail genuinely just HAPPENS TO BE the person who got rapidly field-promoted to the top end, through being competent when she had the opportunity.

          Granted, there’s the part where two of her promotions were through events large enough to have Cat’s personal attention, which is less probable, but it’s still way short of implausible. Abigail was with the Third Army in position to take command BECAUSE of the first occurence, and Cat remembered who she was for the same reason.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean there’s no merit to measuring how big an impact narrative actually had as opposed to a hypothetical where the situation developed by our world’s rules.

              Like

  7. Cicero

    Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox, tail on her hat
    Nobody knows where the Swamp Fox ‘s at
    Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox, hiding in the glen
    She runs away to fight again

    Didn’t Callow actually have a Name in the past that had something to do with a fox?

    Liked by 11 people

      1. LarsBlitzer

        A nickname with a folk song, a local legend, and a Story that the Intercessor was trying to guide Cat towards so she’d be more predictable. That says a potential Name to me.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. nimelennar

    Abigail: Whoever is carrying the standard is “some poor bastard.”

    Abigail, thirty seconds later: Hey, I know! I’ll carry the standard myself!

    Abigail, ten seconds after that: Waitaminute… Aw, crap.

    Liked by 20 people

  9. dadycoool

    Abby, babe, you’re killing me here. I need to breathe at some point. I very much look forward to the perspectives and reactions to this latest stunt of hers.
    I very much like the perspectives we got this chapter, too.

    Liked by 9 people

  10. OMG the final part with Abigail killed me, is the middle of the night and i woke up everyone with my crazy laughter xD

    Who do you people think was the villain killed here? Or if it was even killed. Could be a fake out or aspect its waiting to strike back…….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. mamm0nn

      We haven’t been told yet, his true motives remain yet a mystery. What we do know is that these numbers he’s throwing away is inevitably just expendable bones and binds to him of little value. Even in the numbers used here. He’s not losing that much to this war, and stands to gain much. Though said much is still muddled in unknown.

      If it’s about land however, he already gobbled up several principalities so if he can hold on to even half of those by the war’s end then he would’ve gained much.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The analysis in-universe has been that as the rest of Calernia continues to develop and interconnect, it’s going to outpace his capacity for storing tricks. The longer he waits to war on them, the worse his chances, and if he waits long enough, they’ll come to him – Bard has made sure of that.

      So he wants to wipe out the living on the continent, or at least their capacity to wage war – and to organize to wage war in the future, too. Presumably the living on other continents are expected to ignore that much like the living on Calernia seemed to ignore the destruction of Sephirah.

      So he needs this war just to survive, whatever other long-term objectives he might or might not have.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. mavant

        I am somewhat inclined to wonder why keter really needs to be an enemy of the living.
        Consider the gnomes: they destroy anyone who researches agricultural technologies that might eventually lead to an industrial revolution, but don’t seem to mind magical agriculture.
        Couldn’t skeleton-based agriculture then be the way out of the population trap?
        If the skeleton donors consent, it doesn’t even feel ethically suspect to employ necromancy. And it could dramatically change the standard of living for the living.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Oh, Keter doesn’t NEED it for anything. It’s Bard’s little gift.

          May or may not be based on DK’s eventual long-term plans being hazardous to the world in general (he tried to take over a second Hell that one time).

          Liked by 3 people

    3. At the very least Keter needs to war with the living every once in a while to remain ‘narratively relevant’. He needs to be *the* threat, the unkillable annihilator that threats life on Calernia itself. Being so threatening and destructive that people just *know* how unkillable he is is a protection against some half-baked Heroic Name narrative killing him automatically.

      Also so long as most of the battles he engages in are ones where he can recover the corpses of his troops, he can even grow in strength by doing so, growing measurably stronger each time until finally numbers give him the weight to eat all of Calernia.

      And this time, he’s planning *something*. We’re not told exactly what, but there’s some win condition he thinks he can achieve here. The Wandering Bard seems to have been trying to sell him on the idea that this time he’ll take some land permanently, but really he has some plan beyond that he thinks is going to earn him a more permanent victory.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. mamm0nn

        While the narrative can aid, it’s hardly an absolute. The old rule that the world bends to your will when you’re powerful enough should still apply even in the nascent Age of Wonders.

        A Hero with one Aspect can best a Villain with one Aspect when it’s the third act because it’s the third act, or prevail because they get a new Aspect at the best possible moment to turn the tides. But if that one Aspect Hero goes up against a fully fledged Warlock on the field of Steges then it’s quite likely that the Warlock just zaps them dead in one shot because of overwhelming might. Even if the Hero would have some narrative means of prevailing.

        The Dead King doesn’t need to worry too much about going out of fashion so much that some half-baked hero just smites him while out on a stroll. He still has massive amounts of power, assets and tricks, and the narrative can only do so much. Similar to how being the penultimate Evil of Calernia doesn’t mean that the strongest Heroes can just slay him because there’s no other height left, his life is not one to be

        Oh, and it’s possible that the Dead King is actually immune/no longer beholden to Providence and the narrative. While Heroes may get a little boost, he shouldn’t be dulled by the same effects.

        “The existence of death is the first lie we are taught. There is little difference between a corpse and a man, save the journey of the soul. They who learn to slip this noose find the threshold of apotheosis, for in the denial of passing they have taken themselves beyond the yoke of fate.”
        – Translation of the Kabbalis Book of Darkness, widely attributed to the young Dead King. Chapter 27

        Liked by 1 person

          1. The point is thought that his life is not one to be snuffed out on a whim *only so long as he periodically reminds Creation of that fact*.

            There is a big difference between being the entity responsible for the devastation of every family tree in Northern Procer just a few generations out of living memory, and being the old ancient evil driven off of Calernia that no one even remembers properly.

            Whether the Dead King can survive Providence and Fate being turned against him, that’s no excuse not to *get them on his side*. Regularly proving he is *the* existential unkillable threat makes it *harder* for Heroes to kill him, as they’re pushing against the Narrative every single Proceran (and everyone else to a lesser extent) teaches their children. That you do not fight the Dead King with any hope of lasting victory. You pray to survive him.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. mamm0nn

              Him coming back in force to remind the people will indeed aid his legend and reputation to bolster his side of the Story, sure, but my point is that the opposite side of that spectrum as you suggested isn’t true. If DK were to fade from memory it would do nothing to decrease his power and would only make it less likely that powerful heroes were to stumble upon him. Especially since he doesn’t seem to be getting much of said power from his Name pool rather than by sorcery and the old ritual.

              The Narrative isn’t everything. It can give you a boost, but it cannot win the fight for you. It still needs a powerful, cunning and proper Named to win their tale, the Story can only provide the opportunity and slight boost to prevail. To quote:

              “We’re Named,” Archer said. “That makes it different.”

              But it doesn’t, I thought. We’ve seen it, you and I. That when all there is holding up the choice is a story and the prediction of victory, the story fails. Because if all you do is pretend, go through the motions, then you’ve already lost what could have made it a victory in the first place.”
              -Chapter 17; Cloaks

              A Story can help but will not see to a victory by itself. Pilgrim doesn’t always need to lose first and the Order of the Hand and the Blessed Isle didn’t always fall to Praes because first act, and Villains don’t always lose in the end.

              Black should’ve lost several times in several battles, because he denies the Villain’s boons and plans against the Heroes’ gains. If it were up to the Story alone, he would’ve died several times. They even rubbed it in that by continuously winning, Providence was stacking his own victories into a Story that he was undefeated and thus undefeatable (as in, the bad kind for Villains). And yet he survived. And remember when Warlock killed the Hedge Mage despite him being the one that Wandering Bard wanted to die from her ploy? Raw power can beat even a Story woven by WB.

              Now imagine if you take a Black who has power far beyond yours, no blocs and politics and limits to force his hands, an entire country to turn into his bastion and the knowledge how to kill Named even when the Story favours them. That’s the Dead King. Even if he were to lie still for a thousand years, a few heroes just strolling into the undead lands will die to him. No matter the Story, his might isn’t to be just negated by lack of recognition.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Black was rolling the dice against every single hero he fought, and his odds got worse every time. No matter how skilled you are, there’s no cure against “the hero gets randomly teleported from Arcadia into your tent with a sword raised above you and already swinging down”, which is not even the worst one’s luck can get in principle.

                DK aims to live forever, Black didn’t. He was willing to accept eventually losing if he built everything the wanted first – as a matter of fact he was specifically AIMING to get killed by his successor after a certain point, because it made the story work out in favor of his plans.

                DK wants to take the bad kind of unbeatable and make it work.

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    4. Moodprint

      I think it has been implied, that as long as the Dead King sits in his kingdom, being the greatest evil alive, he runs the risk of a “Hero with the right story” emerging. Eventually Above will find a way to end him. And the Wandering Bard is looking for that story, so the Dead King wants to be proactive when he can. He has seen an opening, and is trying to seize Calernia, thus limmiting the possibilties of new heroes. Just like Black did in Callow, but on a way larger scale

      Liked by 6 people

      1. mamm0nn

        Being a special kind of undead, having avoided any and all Named counters when he was still alive and being the opposite of the Wandering Bard, it may also be possible that the Dead King is actually unbeholden to Story. That no Hero destined to defeat him can rise because he’s an absence by having done some questionable things with his life and soul.

        “The existence of death is the first lie we are taught. There is little difference between a corpse and a man, save the journey of the soul. They who learn to slip this noose find the threshold of apotheosis, for in the denial of passing they have taken themselves beyond the yoke of fate.”
        – Translation of the Kabbalis Book of Darkness, widely attributed to the young Dead King. Chapter 27

        That might be literal. As a Villain he would’ve had eternal life anyway, but the Dead King became undead because it means that for all that Heroes may still get a narrative boost he will not grow foolish and weaker as well. And that, if it weren’t for the Wandering Bard plotting, he wouldn’t even attract any Heroes and Stories at all.

        Like

        1. Nobody is unbeholden to the Story period, but it’s entirely possible DK did not in fact have A story laying in wait for his defeat when he first won, and Bard had to make one from scratch!

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          1. mamm0nn

            Even if it has been stated that Providence is absolute in every regard, which it hasn’t, I think that someone sacrificing their entire kingdom to become an undead god can be an exception. You and I, we both don’t know whether this is the ace up DK’s sleeve, because the story hasn’t gotten that far yet. Until then, I can have this opinion, as I’ve clearly stated to be one rather than hard fact, and you may have the opinion that I’m wrong.

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            1. I’m a little confused about what you are stating here. If DK was unbeholden to the Story, he wouldn’t need an ace up his sleeve – he has a sleeveful already and everyone knows that, the Story is the only reason he cannot use them. Devils, demons, etc, it’s just been discussed – he is forced to hold back because too rapid an escalation of force leads to a Story blowback.

              That’s what I meant? Unless you disagree with the assertion that THAT is an established fact by now?

              Oh, also we SAW DK lose to a Story – you know, back when Masego got snapped out of his mind control by Indrani’s self-sacrifice?

              Or do you think that wasn’t a Story thing?… And DK has another reason to be massively holding back in this war?… I’m kind of curious to hear another theory on this.

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            2. P.S. I think you might have failed to notice I was basically agreeing with your idea while nitpicking the phrasing. I believe the terminology is correctly used in a different way, but the basic premise you’ve stated – that DK did not have a story of his defeat baked into the story of his rise and had Bard not interfered he might well have avoided any flak from Providence/Stories/Narrative period, setting up his eternal kingdom of undead or whatever his complete objective is without any interference unless he managed to generate new defeat-inviting stories along the way (like, say, mind controlling someone who has a Named sweetheart willing to fight for them).

              Like

  11. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    when back when > back when
    deluded into > deluded them into
    sink truth sink > truth sink
    this once the horror > this horror
    for al to > for all to
    splashing harmless > splashing harmlessly
    to move to > to move
    played deaded > played deader
    couldn’t anything > couldn’t do anything
    batter of her > batted her
    works is always > work is always
    have argue > have argued
    bloody hits to the > bloody hits so the
    rotations he people > rotations her people
    for the right > for the fight
    The swallowed > She swallowed

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Heh. It’s always nice to see how other people view Cat.

    Abigail, never change. You’re not gonna get out of your job – especially since you like living.

    That’s a nasty weapon the Dead King just demonstrated.
    Fortunately the Sage is available to deal with it.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Hitogami

    Callowean soldiers: that was back in the Arcadian campaign…
    Everyone else: … You mean when the Fae invaded you?
    Calowean soldiers: no, after that, when we invaded the Fae.
    Everyone else: … Are you CRAZY?! Why would you do that?
    Callowean soldiers: Cat said it would be fun

    Liked by 13 people

  14. Frivolous

    Levantines in general and Aquiline in particular are absolutely crazy.

    Aquiline feels DISGRACED by getting wounded on the first day of battle. By what impossible Gigeresque reasoning does she travel from injury to disgrace?

    And then, even worse, instead of doing the relatively logical thing of avoiding getting wounded again, she decides that to undo the disgrace she has to attack and kill a Beorn. A deed very likely to get her wounded again, if not killed outright.

    The chance of her and Tanja surviving the war, to marry and have even one kid seem extremely low to me at this point.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Xinci

      Simple enough reasoning on the injury=disgrace. In a honor culture who live in a supremely dangerous environment like the Levantines, honor serves as a dictation of competency and thus trust. It is a disgrace as it shows her to potentially be incompetent and thus less likely to be trustworthy as someone to fight beside. Remember those hunting bands that Tariq found? Getting injured showed that you wouldn’t do well in one of those for example and may get your teammates killed. This is especially evident in their style of troop management, where their captains may decide how worthy they are to follow.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Crash

      You summed it up yourself, Levantines are madder than sappers.

      They’re gonna survive out of sheer improbability, to be honest. Like “couldn’t possibly lose” in reverse.

      That or one of them dies and the other one immediately goes berserk and gets a Name in spectacular game breaking fashion. Probably Osena.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Xinci

    Hm, I wonder if those pillars have been instilled with devil or demonic essence. Given DK had control over his hell and we only really heard of devils and such being in the screaming pyramid, it would fit that area being the place for such experiments. I suppose he could have tainted the material or it could already have held such properties, that he then instilled with sorcery.

    The Summoners perspective on Binding is interestingg. I still wonder if the first Binder usurped part of how Light works/figured out the method by observing priest, since Light holds what it means to be of Creation.

    So by taking parts of Creation they can make a construct that can hold a soul. It seems like the Binders and Summoner got at it from opposite ends, Summoner basically makes a spirit thats domain gradually gets shaped by Creation, while the Binders shape Creation to summon a spirit in a form that doesnt dissipate. It might be why not all Binders can have spirits that fly since those souls arent encoded with any such properties. While the Summoners summons can “learn” to do so, since they dont inherit any such limits uppon being created.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. His first PoV was at Sarcella during the two interludes, and I don’t remember if he had PoV again but Cat borrowed his helmet randomly before she stopped Rozala’s cavalry charge by standing in front of it and drawing a line on the ground.

        Liked by 2 people

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