Interlude: Ietsism

“There is a natural order to the world and the peoples of the world must reflect it through law. Should all serve as ordained by the Heavens, all of Creation will be as a garden without sin.”

– Extract from ‘Ten Scales’, by Madrubal the Wise

They were not alone out here.

Leaning against the tall rock, the White Knight reached for the coin that was never far from his hand and palmed it, deftly sliding it between his thumb and forefinger. With a satisfying twang it went spinning upwards and for a heartbeat his heart soared before he mastered it. His fear was proved true a heartbeat later, as the coin ceased spinning at the apex and simply hung there as if frozen in amber. After a few heartbeats, it simply dropped down and back onto his palm. At no point did either the laurels or the swords take primacy, as the Hierarch of the Free Cities would brook not even the shadow of a verdict to be passed while he watched. Flicking his wrist with a defeated sigh, Hanno of Arwad disappeared the coin once more.

“Stern Singers again silent, huh,” Rafaella said, peering down at him from atop the stone.

“Anaxares the Diplomat is proving to be remarkably obstructive man,” Hanno replied with forced calm.

And on occasion he had proved more than simply that. That over the last three months the coin had begun to occasionally be seized instead of simply inert had been worrying enough, for not even the Grey Pilgrim knew whether it meant that the Hierarch was fading with a last hurrah or gaining ground against the Seraphim. Rather more troubling had been the word that’d come to Hanno that for the first year after the Peace of Salia, the heads of Bellerophans who had broken the city’s laws had taken to spontaneously exploding. Not for every infraction, but frequently enough that rumours had spread out of even the famously closed republic. The madman had succeeded at arrogating the powers of the Choir of Judgement, if only for a brief time.

“Bellerophon like bag of wet cats,” the Valiant Champion sympathetically said. “Never good idea to put hand in.”

“So I’ve been told,” the White Knight mildly said.

Catherine had graciously refrained from reminding him that she’d attempt to warn him off the course of action that had seen the Choir of Judgement sealed whenever they disagreed, but Tariq had not been shy in voicing his own opinions. Evil knows Evil in ways that we cannot, the Grey Pilgrim had chided him. To refuse expertise leant in good faith is not wisdom, it is vanity. Hanno had accepted the reproach for it was: not the lesson of a would-be mentor, which he would have cared little for, but the frank assessment of a peer. Few ever cared to offer those to him, which made such talks all the more precious.

“It seems our friends are not biting today,” Hanno added, changing the subject. “Any sign of the Hawk?”

“Just Wolfhound,” Rafaella sighed. “And he still boring loaf.”

Hanno cocked an eyebrow.

“Loafer?” he suggested. “Or perhaps oaf?”

“This too,” the Valiant Champion agreed.

Rafaella turned to look downslope, among the rocky expanse leading into the valley where central Hainaut awaited, and waved her greataxe eye-catchingly.

“Hear this, Wolfhound?” she yelled. “Fight me!”

The White Knight, though mildly amused, was now forced to admit that their little incursion looked like a wash. He’d thought it possible to bait the trickiest of the Scourges now that the camp was about to look vulnerable, but the Hawk had refused to bite. Even putting out the Young Slayer as well as the Valiant Champion had not moved to Revenant to try an attack. Hanno pressed against the stone to his side with his boot, and with a heave have himself just enough momentum he was able to leap out of the dip where he’d been waiting and join Rafaella atop the stone. Further downslope, the sculpted iron helm of the Wolfhound could be glimpsed among the rocks as the Revenant studied them unmoving.

He seemed unmoved at the notion of being alone around three Named with significant bite to them, not that Hanno was surprised. Of all the Scourges, that one had proved the hardest to put down save perhaps the Prince of Bones. Not that ‘Scourges’ were a formal band of any kind, mind you. They were, in essence, a loose designation for the Revenants that the heroes fighting on the lakeside fronts found to be the greatest threats. Each among the greatest of their kinds, they were considered to require either a full band of five or one of the greatest champions of the Grand Alliance to handle. Who actually counted among their number was the subject of lively campfire debate, though there were at least ten that all agreed on.

Nine now, Hanno mentally corrected, if word about the Stitcher being destroyed by the Firstborn was to be believed.

“Slayer,” the White Knight called out, “return. We’re done here.”

There was no sign of movement until the young hero seemingly popped out between stones, stalking towards the two heroes without a sound to his steps. The Young Slayer was tall for a Levantine and unusually slender as well, but the lithe build leant a grace to his movements that was almost fluid. Armed with a slayer’s arsenal, all hooked swords and darts and ropes, the dark-haired youth was among the more promising of the upcoming heroes. One of his aspects allowed him to most forms of armour as he cut, which had proved deadly against Revenants preferring close range. He was also something of a political headache, as it happened, which was why he’d been assigned to Hanno’s care.

The Young Slayer came from a family rival to the Osena, the descendants in Blood of the Silent Slayer, but had come into a Name that was widely considered to be the transitional one leading into the highly regarded Name of Silent Slayer. For the Osena this was something of an embarrassment, and though Lady Aquiline Osena had not proved outright hostile to the young hero she’d also made it clear there was no place with him in the ranks of the warriors of Tartessos. Hanno had promptly passed him into Rafaella’s care as much for the shared heritage as the fact that the Valiant Champion had managed to remain on good terms with Lord Yannu of the Champion’s Blood without being married into the Marave.

“Our hunt was fruitless, Lord White,” the Young Slayer sighed as he returned to their side. “For all we know, the Hawk is-“

Providence nudged at Hanno’s hand before his senses could, and he followed the current without resistance. His sword left the scabbard in a clean, crisp arc and cut through the arrow a hair’s breadth beyond the arrowhead. The Young Slayer flinched, the harmless steel arrowhead falling against his leathers with a slap instead of piercing through the back of his neck.

“Hawk still there,” Rafaella cheerfully noted.

“As a rule, it is unwise to tempt irony without being prepared to meet the consequences of it,” Hanno calmly told the younger man. “When you have come into the fullness of your might perhaps you will find the opposite tack to your liking, as it can prompt the Enemy to move at the timing of your choice, but until then I would advise a more restrained approach.”

The Young Slayer swallowed loudly.

“I understand, Lord White,” he feebly said, making the Mark of Mercy against his chest.

Promising but still so very young, Hanno thought as he sheathed his sword. There was still no sign of the Hawk out there, and now even the Wolfhound had disappeared into the rocks. Fighting against the Revenant he believed had been an Archer whilst she still drew breath had made the White Knight dimly grateful for having never fought the Woe in earnest. For all that the powers of the Black Queen and the Hierophant drew the eye the most, he suspected that it was Indrani the Archer that would have been the deadliest of the lot. The Hawk – named for the feathers she liked to fletch her arrows with – had certainly proved to be among the most lethal of the Scourges.

Christophe would have died during the taking of Juvelun if the Stalwart Apostle had not been by his side, and Prince Etienne of Brabant had died. The Hawk might not be as visibly destructive as the Archmage or the Unseelie, but she’d done more damage to the army than either so far. While Antigone fought the former and Hanno the latter, the Hawk had set about methodically killing her way through the captains and commanders of the Grand Alliance’s army. It was the Hawk’s head that the White Knight had been hoping to take today, betting on the disorder of the camp being enough to tempt her into an attack. Yet it seemed she was not to be baited into exposing herself.

The deadly arrows would resume when they went on the march, then.

“Back to camp,” the White Knight ordered. “We’ve lingered out here long enough. Best be gone before they bring in other Revenants and the hunt turns around on us.”

It was not a long walk, but it somehow felt like it anyway.

While Hanno had not reddened his blade today, the same could not be said of others. The pavilion had collapsed, its drapes drenched with blood. Half a hundred men and women, several bruised and cut, knelt outside in the mud surrounded by a ring of bared swords. Behind them Lycaonese armsmen, bearing the colours of Neustria and Hannoven, set to the work of dragging away the corpses with brisk efficiency. Few of the northerners had died in the ambush, having gone in fully armed and ready while most of the Alamans captains had kept swords and daggers but few bothered with even chainmail. Not a quarter hour had passed since the last of the steel was sheathed, but already the camp was like a kettle about to boil over.

Rumours had flown with swift wings, for the Iron Prince’s seizure and killing of the mutinous officers had been impossible to hide. Already two fantassin companies had holed themselves up behind their carts and hollered loudly at treachery and breach of contract, but they would not be the last. Lycaonese respected ruthlessness suborned to greater purpose, and in matters of law the Prince of Hannoven had been within his rights, but to southerners this was a grave overreach. Hanno had already sent the Balladeer and the Harrowed Witch, two of the more level-headed among his Named, to prevent that particular situation from spinning out of control.

Respect for the Chosen would stay hand and the Balladeer was highly popular besides, while the Witch had the means to quickly send word to him if need be. In truth, though, the White Knight did not believe that this would escalate much beyond the current trouble. The Prince of Hannoven had been hard-handed but also clear-sighted. There was no real support for the would-be mutineers among the broader army: the Lycaonese remained loyal to their rulers, the Levantines seemed to approve more than not and the Firstborn were either indifferent or amused. Hanno had spoken with their General Rumena on several occasions over the last month, and found the ancient drow to be contemptuously amused with what it deemed to be ‘human foibles’.

Its interest in the politics of its allies began and ended at their intersection with the interests of the Firstborn.

The Barrow Sword’s footsteps were not as quiet as the man believed them to be, but Hanno did not give it away until the bearded villain was almost close enough to be struck. Rafaella had twice warned him of how dangerous this one truly was, and she was not one to hand out such praise easily. She’d also had a few unkind words about the Black Queen’s protection of him, but then Hanno figured that the Barrow Sword would have had a few of the same to Catherine Foundling about his own protection of the Valiant Champion. That tended to be the way, with the Truce and Terms.

“Ishaq,” the White Knight acknowledged without turning. “Come to have a look?”

“Something like that,” the other man drawled. “Wasn’t sure the old man had it in him, truth be told.”

More the fool you, Hanno thought. The Lycaonese were a strange folk at first glance, but not so difficult to understand when studied in depth. In some ways their culture was more permissive than that of the Alamans and the Arlesites, especially when it came to privacy – though with the unspoken understanding that anything done in private could not be a danger to the community – and mores, but their land had made them a hard people. None of the northern soldiery had been affronted by the Iron Prince’s ambush today because, in their eyes, it was his undeniable right to act this way. They had never taken fully to Salienta’s Graces, up north, where instead it was strong rulers and hard choices that were trusted to get them through the dark.

The Iron Prince had never acted the tyrant before because he’d never seen a need to. It was as simple as that. Not all ruthless men needed to trumpet about their ruthlessness.

“It will be settled soon,” Hanno said.

The Barrow Sword let out a noise of disbelief.

“There’s four companies barricaded now,” Ishaq said. “And there’ll be more, mark my words. He only sent a few envoys there to inform them their officers had been arrested for high treason and they must set down their arms before letting them stew. He’s lucky they didn’t lynch any of them. Not the wiliest of schemers, our Prince of Hannoven.”

Hanno glanced at the other man, whose neatly-trimmed beard and elegantly subdued facepaint were both twisted by a jeer as he watched the bodies being stripped naked and dragged to the disposal pits. The Levantine villain did not seem to share the enmity much of his countrymen held for Procerans, but his general callous disregard for life meant there was little difference in practice.

“Not a schemer,” the White Knight agreed. “Yet not a fool. Where are the rest of the Hannoven armsmen, Barrow Sword, if they are neither here nor forcing the fantassins in line?”

Pale brown eyes flicked to him, narrowing in thought.

“Ah,” the Barrow Sword exhaled. “The conscripts. Not a fool indeed, while I have been yapping my jaw like one instead.”

Hanno bent his head in acknowledgement. The Prince of Hannoven had, correctly he believed, decided that the conscripts would be easier to get in line and so focused his efforts there. It went with the way Brabantines – and many Alamans armies – appointed their officers. A prince would usually name most his relatives and closest highborn allies to a command, but when the stock of those and trusted career soldiers were exhausted it was tradition for levies and conscripts to elect their officers from their own ranks. Given the high rates of attrition and the realities of raising an army by conscription, it had in truth been mostly lowborn captains who’d been in the tent.

And so by seizing or killing the Brabantine captains in the tent, Klaus Papenheim had effectively removed all the men and women who would have had the popularity and leadership to rouse the conscripts into organized resistance against him. His actions would still breed deep resentment and involved killing trusted officers shortly before seeking a pitched battle, but for now though the conscripts were mutinous they were a disorganized sort of mutinous. The kind that could be herded into companies and forced to prepare for a march west by Lycaonese soldiers, as was currently taking place while the fantassins failed to realize they were being isolated.

It wasn’t that the Iron Prince was unaware that a third of the camp now despised him, Hanno mused, but that in the old prince’s eyes that mattered little if no one here was alive to hate him in a week. He was not wrong in this.

“I take it we’re not going to intervene either way?” the Barrow Sword asked.

Hanno almost smiled. The man’s reason for seeking him out finally became clear.

“There will not be a need,” the White Knight said. “I have sent Antigone and Christophe to oversee the capitulation of the conscripts, and anything other than our visible presence would be interference beyond our mandate.”

The Barrow Sword turned to study him for a long moment.

“Huh,” Ishaq idly said. “Thought you’d be up in arms about all the killing, White Knight. It seemed like the kind of turn you might flip a coin over. So to speak.”

Hanno turned to level a calm stare on the villain, who met it defiantly. He said nothing, simply waiting in silence until the other man looked away.

“No offence meant,” the Barrow Sword said.

“Of course,” the White Knight mildly replied. “A good evening to you then, Ishaq.”

The bearded man balked at the implied dismissal but did not contest it. It would have been easier, Hanno suspected, if they had fought. It would have allowed the Barrow Sword to place him as the more powerful among them, and so end the incessant challenges that uncertainty in this matter drove him to attempt. Yet Hanno was a high officer of the Grand Alliance, and the Barrow Sword was not one of the Named in his charge. Duelling the villain, even if Catherine would likely end up excusing the matter, would be an act with repercussions. Gods but there were a great many of those, these days. His world had grown increasingly complicated since the inception of the Truce and Terms.

Duties had grown like weeds even as old certainties now passed like sand through his fingers. Hanno reached for the coin that was never far from his palm, though it had never been found by another, and closed his fingers around the silver. Laurels on one side, crossed swords on the other. The only verdict the Seraphim ever cared to give. Watching the corpses be dragged away in silence, the White Knight casually flipped it. It spun, a blink of silver, and landed on his open palm without anything beyond Creation’s laws having moved it. A relief, almost. At least it was not a spurt of the Hierarch’s madness again. It still left him feeling unpleasantly blind.

It was not that the White Knight believed himself to be unschooled in matters of law or in matters of right and wrong. He knew better. His interest in both matters – sometimes aligned, sometimes opposed – had begun early. As a boy, Hanno had once been a court scribe for the Outer Tribunal of Arwad. The courthouse of Halan District had been a minor one even among the lesser of the Thalassocracy’s two tribunals, but it had often deal with foreigners and their laws, as well as possessed a surprisingly large scrollhouse that the senior scribes and archivists had been lenient in allowing a young Hanno to use.

These days, when looking back in search of the first steps taken in becoming the man he was today, the White Knight had often lingered on that alignment of coincidences as a likely source. He had learned of many laws while quite young, not only those of his native Ashur but also those of Free Cities – Nicae and Delos, mostly – as well the southernmost of the Proceran principalities. He had also seen judgement given day after day, the law measured and applied by the tribunes of the courthouse for which he had kept records. It had fostered in him an interest in justice and law long before injustice slew his father and befell his mother in the wake of that death.

He’d read the famous treatise on Ashuran law, the Ten Scales of Madrubal, as much out of curiosity as because he had nursed ambitions to one day become an archivist at the courthouse. That same abundance of knowledge had come close to leading him astray, when he had sought the Riddle of Fault and earned the attention of the Seraphim, so in a sense it was not without peril. It was all too easy to become drunk your own learning and confuse it with wisdom. Yet Hanno had continued to learn, over the years that followed, for though it was not his place to judge there was rarely virtue to be found in willful ignorance.  And so he had sought knowledge of the laws of Calernia, sifting through them in search of wisdom.

He had found sense in some places, be they the graces the Principate granted to all from princes to beggars or the shrewdly even-handed way the Tower collected taxes, but always it had been… situational. Impermanent. Nothing at all like the timeless wisdom of the Choir of Judgement. And more often Hanno had found the laws twisted and turned into a tool of oppression by those who made them. The Magisterium of Stygia made property of men while calling it a godgiven right, Callowan nobles inherited the right to pass judgement along with their titles and Ashur in the same breath condemned slavery while buying foreign criminals whose sentences would be spent labouring in the Thalassocracy’s mines.

Watching soldiers in mail drag butchered naked corpses way, Hanno considered justice. Law, it could not be denied, gave the right to Prince Klaus Papenheim. Yet justice was not the same thing, and it rarely nested on the side that dragged corpses into mass graves – for all that the appellation of ‘disposal pits’ tiptoed around that words, that was what they were in truth. No, Hanno would not put blind trust in laws. Men were flawed and that imperfection bled into all that they made it was the simple way of things. Even laws. Especially laws, perhaps. So the White Knight had observed those that he could while pursuing what he knew to be right, and ignored those that he must while doing the same.

It was a straightforward path, in a way. While he was as blind as anyone else on Creation, he’d had the light of the Choir of Judgement to heed and follow instead. That had removed uncertainty. Allowed for purity of purpose, if not always action. Hanno had been blessed enough to benefit from the wisdom of the Seraphim since his first breath as the White Knight, and in a way the coin that represented it had become as much a part of him as his hands or feet. Even when he had not called on the judgement of the Seraphim, not tossed the coin, that he still held it at all had been a reassurance. A sign that he had not lost his way, that as the instrument of Judgement he still brought good into the world.

Now all that was left was a coin more silver than miracle and the growing awareness of his own imperfections.

Hanno’s hand went to trace the stumps of his missing fingers. He had not grown to question the worth of that bargain, but there had been other doubts that crept to his side under cover of night. The end of the troubles at the Arsenal had been no such thing, simply a transmutation of one form of trouble into another. And though the White Knight knew better than to linger on the attribution of fault, he had wondered much over the last months of how the parts of the blame there should be assigned. Some of it was his, but how much? Hanno had refused to bend on the principles at play because those principles simply could not be bent if the Truce and Terms were to remain worth enforcing.

But he’d not conveyed this properly to the First Prince and the Black Queen, and so they had joined hands to work around him.

It had stung. Not that they’d treated him as an obstacle, for he had absolutely been one. But rather that two women he’d held in high regard had so utterly failed to understand that the Truce and Terms were already a compromise on principle and they’d been asking him to compromise those even further. Behind all the talk of necessities and dues, what they’d wanted of him was to go back on the rights and protections promised to someone in his charge, with little more justification for it than ‘the fears of the Highest Assembly require quelling’. Which, while likely true, was not a valid reason to break half the oaths that made up the foundation of the Truce and Terms.

It was as if they’d believed he was being inflexible for the pleasure of it rather than because it was the only morally potable stance to take in that position. Even from a long-term perspective, a willingness to discard any Named that became inconvenient at the first… Hanno breathed out, reached for the calm. He would not fall into the trap of the backbiting, into the inherently losing game of beginning to think of this in terms of victory and loss. Yet he’d allowed the eminent reasonableness of the foremost villain of their age to lull him into a sense of comfort, and that was an illusion that must be discarded. While the trick with the corpse of the Red Axe had been disgraceful, it had mostly served as a reminder of a simpler truth.

Catherine Foundling did not have lines in the sand that she would not cross, if she thought it necessary. It did not erase her virtues, but neither must Hanno ever allow himself to forget that all that stood between the Black Queen and atrocities was the perception of need.

It was Cordelia Hasenbach’s complicity that had most troubled him. The White Knight was not an utter fool, he grasped that regardless of her character her position would make demands of her. Yet Cordelia Hasenbach had, once, been on the verge of being Named. The Heavens themselves had measured her being and not found it wanting. He’d honestly not believed, deep down, that she was someone who would put political needs over doing the right thing. He’d been wrong. The grim theatre of the desecration of young girl’s corpse, a trial that was a farce going back on the Principate’s own word – that Named alone would stand in judgement over Named – had proved otherwise.

 Cordelia Hasenbach had and would place the preservation of the Principate of Procer above all other callings, no matter how wicked or virtuous they might be.

It had been a disappointment. One less person he could trust among a number already exceedingly small. And there were even fewer he could both trust and be challenged by. The Grey Pilgrim was one, but Tariq was deathly afraid of stepping back into the role he had as a younger man and that made him… hesitant to speak up, sometimes. And so few of the other heroes ever cared to question Hanno’s actions, his reasons, save for those that questioned them badly. Or worse, for the wrong reasons as Christophe de Pavanie once had. The trust that had grown strong between the keystones of the Grand Alliance at the beginning of the war was fraying, slowly but surely. It was, Hanno had found, an unsettlingly lonely feeling.

And so now it was alone that Hanno of Arwad looked at the last of the corpses being dragged away, knowing he had tactically allowed this to happen. Veitland, Princess Mathilda of Neustria had succinctly asked. A cliffside village halfway through Twilight’s Pass, where Iron King Konrad had once shamed fleeing armies into turning around and facing the enemy. Hauptberg, Klaus Papenheim had just as succinctly replied. A small dip into Recall had been enough to confirm what he’d already suspected, that there the bloody birth of the Iron Crown had begun in murderous treachery. Even the Barrow Sword had sniffed out the nature of what was coming, giving a warning about Captain Nabila being a skilled captain but green to the Dominion’s bloody politics.

“It was lawful,” Hanno murmured, eyes lingering on the streaks of red trailing the ground.

But was it just? His hand itched for the coin, but the coin was just that now. A coin. The White Knight why this had been done, and that some restraint had been shown. He agreed with the Iron Prince that if the army stayed here, it would most likely perish. The Dead King was too canny an opponent to give them the kind of hopeless battle that they would end up winning. Which meant they must win in the mundane, in the dirt, and that meant marching west even when thousands among this army were unwilling. Leaving the mutineers behind would not have been possible, Hanno also knew. They would have been eaten up in a day and risen as soldiers in the service of Keter. These, the dark-skinned man knew, were all good reasons.

That this had been necessary was, in truth, difficult to deny. But had it been just?

No, his heart whispered. It wasn’t.

There had been better ways. If he had stepped in, involved himself regardless of authorities and restraints and how it would be seen as overstepping, there might be fewer corpses in the pit. Or none at all. And the heart was just as blind as the rest of him, but these days what else did Hanno have to follow? It would have been a mistake to step in. It had been a mistake not to step in. If he had acted, lives could have been saved. A simple answer. If he had acted, the potential ramifications might have killed rather more than fifty people. A complicated answer. Hanno knew himself to be in the right place, for he was the White Knight and doom was creeping across the land. Between it and Calernia was where he must stand

Sometimes, though, he wondered if he was there right man to be standing there.

The thought came lightly, and left just as easily, but it was not far. The White Knight eventually forced himself to look away, for soon the fantassins would be called to heel and he intended to be there to keep an eye on matters personally. Likely, he thought, the Prince of Hannoven would try to begin an early march west so that the mutinous soldiers felt like there could be   no turning back. The afternoon air was chilly and so Hanno called Light to him, letting it warm his bones as he had learned from the life of a Paladin long dead.

It came slower than it used to.

177 thoughts on “Interlude: Ietsism

  1. Oof. When it comes to moments like this, I think we’ve seen these ‘last trials’ result in the loss of a name more often than not. It’s possible that this would lead to a transition to something other than White Knight or a re-affirmation that reconnects Hanno, but even so, now’s a dangerous time for a Name to be in shaky waters.

    Considering the Heroic Axioms stating that powers are more likely to return once a lesson is learned, I guess the key will be just what Hanno’s learning or what he’s willing to learn.

    Also, do the thing!

    Liked by 26 people

    • I think the lesson he needs to learn is that Not Judging is the same as declaring everyone innocent- there’s no such thing as a neutral stance when lives are on the line.

      Liked by 23 people

    • I think the lesson Hano has to learn, is either that he was right all along and humans really are inherently flawed and Justice can only be found in the eyes of the divine (which would be appropriate if it was Gods Above who made the rules), withstanding the temptations of using his own petty morals to judge the world, or to be the guide for the Seraphim in the new era where rigidness of principles is not a virtue (although whether or not it is and to what point is a subject of a heated debate, brought to you live by the comment section), becoming a partner rather than a child holding hand. Exploring this new Age together, one showing the other what he cannot see, another sharing with others what They cannot comprehend (due to not being mortal). Perhaps something along the lines of “just because you are correct doesn’t mean you’re right” and “have a little empathy you jerks”. Although now I am mixing my own bias in here.

      Which is why the final lesson would probably play into the theme of the series and align according to Erratic’s own moral beliefs. However, as to what they are, the judgement will probably also differ. Not like he will answer us directly.

      Liked by 11 people

      • > Which is why the final lesson would probably play into the theme of the series and align according to Erratic’s own moral beliefs. However, as to what they are, the judgement will probably also differ. Not like he will answer us directly.



      • I think the chapter title is a clue here (look it up on Wikipedia). It may be that the lesson Hanno needs to learn is that the Choir of Judgement is ultimately just another authority, and not necessarily right by definition. (In short, Anaxeres’ lesson!)

        Liked by 7 people

        • I don’t see how that would possibly follow from any premise Hanno has to work with here tho.

          I think the chapter title refers to Hanno believing that there is an Objective Justice Criterion that the Choir of Judgement can access directly and he can imperfectly approximate by thinking about things / listening to his heart. The opposite statement to “there is no justice, there is just us” and “not a single molecule of mercy in the universe”.

          It’s an obstacle, but more of an obstacle is how he doesnt know HOW to approximate it better. He never tried, always dismissing complicated judgements as something he shouldnt even try doing and doing simpler ones easily and automatically because he’s really smart actually (think gifted kid in school cruising on no effort until they hit uni and suddenly find out they have no idea how to study).

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          • Heroism almost by definition implies deferring major morality calls to the gods (or the angels, their representatives). Hanno just had a particularly literal version of that.

            But I’d say Hanno has surprising wisdom despite his frustrated dependence. Certainly his political and story-fu abilities are still strong. The question is what happens if and when he gives up hope of the Choir returning.


            • > Heroism almost by definition implies deferring major morality calls to the gods (or the angels, their representatives)

              Where’d you get that?

              Most heroes aren’t on tap with Choirs, Choirs don’t provide full feedback on their decisions if any at all (William got 0 feedback), and Gods don’t provide any whatsoever.

              It’s physically impossible for most heroes to defer ANY morality calls to gods/angels/whatever.

              Liked by 2 people

              • The Gods Above don’t speak directly, but there are plenty of humans willing to speak for them, and various books purporting to recount their commands. That part works basically like our own world….

                And the point is that Heroes consistently defer to at least the idea of commandments “from above”. Compare that to Cat’s response: “Woe on us all, but if the Gods demanded my home be ashes then the Gods will burn.”


                • Heroes are consistently at odds with the House of Light actually specifically because they don’t respect their claim to be speaking for the Heavens.

                  > And the point is that Heroes consistently defer to at least the idea of commandments “from above”.


                  Heroes defer to the idea of giving Heavens room to help them, possibly at the expense of taking action on their own, which pisses Cat off but actually works for them, see Providence literally guiding Hanno’s hand to save another hero’s life this chapter.

                  Commandments, they just don’t receive. Not even the Choir heroes. Maybe if they did they’d defer to them, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to describe heroism as doing something thoroughly hypothetical at the moment “by definition”.


                  • I have phrased myself poorly, my point here is that still defer to whatever their idea is of what the Heavens want. If a hero strays from their laid-out path, they eventually stop being a hero.

                    When young Tariq didn’t do what his Choir advised he stopped being able to hear his angels for a while… I’d originally thought that was just manipulation, but now I’m thinking it was more story-mechanical: “The Grey Pilgrim is guided by angels”, so when he refused their guidance, his ability to hear them wavered — not by their action, but because he was drifting off-script. But that’s still a pretty solid incentive to do as the angels “advise”!

                    EE made it clear that the Heroes are indeed being guided:

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • > I have phrased myself poorly, my point here is that still defer to whatever their idea is of what the Heavens want.

                      And their idea of what the Heavens want happens to be what they want, usually, because that’s how the mechanic works.

                      > When young Tariq didn’t do what his Choir advised he stopped being able to hear his angels for a while… I’d originally thought that was just manipulation, but now I’m thinking it was more story-mechanical: “The Grey Pilgrim is guided by angels”, so when he refused their guidance, his ability to hear them wavered — not by their action, but because he was drifting off-script. But that’s still a pretty solid incentive to do as the angels “advise”!
                      > EE made it clear that the Heroes are indeed being guided:

                      This is accurate! But they aren’t being guided very closely.

                      > Liliet The Adorable Nerd:
                      > How much input did William get from his Choir on… anything he did during his career?
                      > EE:
                      > William did not have the kind of relationship with his Choir that Tariq does with Mercy
                      > Contrition is more formative than guiding

                      And that’s a Choir hero!


          • The choires are all wearing blinders. They only care about their single aspect. Justice knows law but doesn’t care if the law is just. Neither does it know, understand or care for mercy or malice. Justice applies law and Judge strictly from that. Hanno says that he doesn’t judge, but at the same time he did choose when and whom Judgement would judge. Knowing that almost everyone has done something that breaks the laws of Judgement, even if it is something as simple as being born in some cases, Hanno was providing moderation to the choire of Justice.

            Now he is starting to doubt that Justice is perfect, he has doubts about the laws always being just and right. And I think he’s starting realize that he has effectively been passing judgement every time when he chose to throw the coin or not.

            So he either is going to lose this name by losing his faith in Justice, or the realization that he’s in fact very much a participant in the the process of passing Judgment instead of just being its instrument will strengthen his Name. Perhaps he will transition into the White Judge…


            • Judgement does not base their judgement on any mortal law actually, and Above doesn’t have laws for Judgement to follow, they really do go for actual justice as best they can.

              Hanno’s entire backstory is finding out that laws are not always right, that’s how he CAME TO Judgement. He used to be a court scribe and then


    • Knight of the Free, baby! sworn sword of Bellerophon, most beautiful of the Free Cities, may she reign forever!

      All Hanno has to do is murder the second bird god and say a sweet fuck you to Stygia, fuck knows they deserve it.

      Time to die, and offer Redress. (Or would Retribution be more fitting is this mad situation?)


  2. Heh.
    Blind dependence on the Choir has left Hanno increasingly adrift and indecisive.
    Plus for all that he’s said he doesn’t judge … he’s judging people for the actions they take. It’s just a different kind of judgement he’s making, with different consequences than the life or death Coin Flip.

    He might be drifting away from his current Name … which could be incredibly bad.

    Hanno … you have an incredibly narrow and short sighted perspective. This is a bad thing for someone on your position.

    Klaus’s decapitation of the would be mutineers and deserters? What the hell else was he supposed to do?
    Besides, don’t you always say you don’t judge?

    Your monomaniacal focus on “Justice”, especially since you delegated all decisions on the matter to the Seraphim in a life or death Coin flip, leaves you blind to other factors. Especially the fact that sometimes there are no good options, only bad and worse ones, and leadership requires taking the least bad long term path.

    To be fair, how Klaus’s move here plays out in a slightly longer timeframe has yet to be determined, but he couldn’t realistically just ignore the problem, and he had to make a decision when no good decisions existed.

    You cannot let the perfect be the downfall of the good enough. Nor can you allow a perfect plan implemented tomorrow to prevent a functional plan executed now.

    Liked by 19 people

    • I mean, at least he’s not the Mirror Knight?

      Chris would have gone in and defended people, hopefully by inspiring everyone to join together in holding this position, but he probably would have had to kill the Iron Prince to do it.

      And then, right after he’d gotten everyone together and built the defense of this place….the Dead King would just sit there, everyone would starve, and Chris would likely end up running out to fight the entire army himself and eventually he’d die.

      Hanno at least has considered the long term and decided that it was a choice between everyone dying or those people dying and that, since it was legal, he wouldn’t stop it.

      Honestly, I think the real question is, was there another way? Maybe? A sufficiently charismatic Named might have been able to convince everyone that this was the only option, but then you’ve got mind control allegations going on. Alternately, if you had someone who could miracle up supplies, staying for a day or two to let everyone recover might have been feasible. But if they had someone like that, they’d already have factored that in.

      I feel like this is going to end up having been a bad idea on Klaus’s part, somehow, but, based on everything he knows, going out to fight now is going to keep more people alive than staying behind. And, while I feel the waste of those lives, I cannot exactly disagree with him.

      Liked by 10 people

      • Saying that there would be idiots that take the easiest path leading to a worse end is not a good endorsement of the actions of those less foolish. Mirror Knight already is both out of story and in the Story the designated fool that makes the shortsighted bad calls loudly, using him as a measuring stick is hardly a good means to endorse White Knight.

        Liked by 9 people

    • Regardless of anything else, it was a mass murder. Dude, come on, don’t act like you can’t see that Hanno perfectly understads the “necessity” and all that jazz, you are being willfully dishonest.

      We see a conflict between deontology and consequentialism, and Hanno had the unfortune of having his deontological beliefs being divinely ordained. Now they aren’t and he, like the rest of us mortals, has to find a different foundation for his beliefs or abandon them in entirety. I kinda wish someone introduced him to Kant’s categorical imperative, I wonder what he would’ve thought.

      On a sidenote: God, but am I glad living in the world where I have such an abundance of knowledge at the tip of my fingers. It is truly a blessing.

      Also, I don’t think he is casting judgement. He is stating the facts. It was a mass murder. A mass murder he could’ve possibly prevented. It was necessary. But it was still a mass murder. And for him, necessity does not justify mass murder. And yet he still tacitly allowed it. And yet it was a mass murder of largely innocent, even heroic people. And yet if they didn’t die, many more would’ve. And yet, it was a murder of a scared, lost, confused people. You can’t deny all of those things. How can you say he is blind to many factors? He sees it all.

      I would maintain however, that he does not judge. It is similar to late stoic philosophy. He is not ascribing good or bad to other people actions, nor to the happenings of nature. He just acts according to his own principles, consequences be damned. Because, the outside world cannot be controlled, and it’s a folly to pretend that it is. What we can’t control should be ignored and we should focus on what we can control. Our thoughts and ojr actions. While accepting the happenings of fate without judging.

      He does not judge. He never called actions of Cat, or Cordelia, or Klaus as either good or bad. He does not ascribe a moral value to other people or their actions. He just tries to see the things from many possible angles. He tries too keep in mind all the facts, without ignoring or discarding the facts because they are uncomfortable to admit. He is the opposite of blind.

      Liked by 14 people

      • Mass execution.
        For those who intended to lead and organize a mutiny and/or mass desertion of their units in the face of the enemy in time of war, and who did not surrender. Possibly also of lower ranked people who were involved and didn’t surrender.

        There’s a difference, and in this case, it’s important.
        Armies are not democracies. They cannot function as one. They are autocracies.

        Think back to Cat’s footing of the Gallowborne – had she not formed the Gallowborne, each and every one of the initial membership would have been executed.

        Unfortunately for Hanno “Justice” is not a concept that is fully compatible with armies fighting wars.
        Officers will have to give orders knowing that following those orders will mean that at least some of their troops die, and sometimes it will be most or all of them who are expected to die. Those troops don’t have much choice about following orders, even if they think those orders suck and will probably get them killed. Because not following orders is not something an army can tolerate.
        None of that has anything to do with “Justice” – simply military imperatives.

        There usually are not clear cut options, and it’s looking a lot like Hanno is having increasing trouble coping with the shades of grey that most people, especially leaders, have to deal with on a near daily basis, rather than purely black and white situations.

        Liked by 18 people

        • I’m not sure why you’re framing it like being uncomfortable with having to choose a lesser evil is a bad thing.

          It SHOULD be something you’re uncomfortable with, and getting numbed to it is a shitty part of reality, not something to be praised for. Any respectable person would feel like absolute shit for having to kill those people, and it’s a sentiment Klaus and Hanno almost certainly share. Klaus isn’t lounging on a sofa patting himself on the back for being an edgy, teenage-angsty executioner of the cowardly, the dude hated having to do it as much as Hanno hated having to stand back and let it happen.

          Realistically, Hanno is being pretty sensible here. Having to put up with a shitty reality – which he did just now – is no excuse to be satisfied with only being able to put up with awful and worse for options. He’s wanting to do better and find a way to not be forced to choose between awful and worse next time, which is the correct mindset.

          If anything, a lot of the other characters should take a leaf from Hanno’s book, not the other way around.

          Liked by 7 people

        • Hanno (and I) never denied that it’s lawful. The “do not retreat” order back in WW2 was also lawful in the Soviet Union — and if not for it, perhaps many more lives would’ve been lost. But it is not, not even remotely, just. And yet it was necessary. Maybe. The opinions differ. But the guys who made the order thought it was necessary.

          Klaus didn’t exaust every other option before resorting to this. He didn’t exaust any other option for that matter. He called them to talk and then stabbed them in the back. It might’ve saved the campaign and hell, I might’ve done the same on his place, but it does not absolved it of what it is. A cold-blooded murder of decent men, without even an attempt to reason with them first.

          He treated them like animals for the slaughter and sure it’s army and it’s war, and it was his lawful right to do so, but it merely puts the facts into perspective, it does not erase them.

          AlsoHanno never stopped having a problem with the shades of grey. His is very dilemma of a ln idealist encountering a flawed world. He had a magical crutch in a face of eldritch abominations that may very well be ideal, but it was also taken away from him. And now he is faced with no choice but to live with his own imperfections, oh the folly of men.

          See, the fact that Hanno needs to grow up does not somehow invalidate all his concerns. They are perfectly valid, it’s just that we have no option but to live with them.

          Liked by 7 people

          • Minor correction: Klaus did, in fact, try to reason with them. After confirming they weren’t listening, he went ahead with it.
            Granted, he still acted and there may have been other things he could have tried first.
            It is a small thing, but a meaningful one, I feel.

            Liked by 8 people

          • TeK –

            I think the above argument is mistaken. I present as counter-argument these paragraphs from Theism:


            He spoke clearly and concisely, avoiding frills and japes out of respect for the grim deeds he was asking for, but twice he was interrupted by a challenge from a captain and more often than that by jeers.

            “To stay in Juvelun is death,” the Prince of Hannoven told them. “We will be surrounded and destroyed.”

            “And where would we go instead, bloody Keter?” a woman called out.

            “Retreat,” another voice called out. “We must retreat.”

            “We must go west,” Klaus roared, his voice rising above the din. “General Rumena has reported to me that the remnants from the defenders of Juvelun are gathering in the valley, and we must strike west to disperse them before they can mount a true threat.”


            So Klaus did try to talk to the Brabantine captains. They wouldn’t listen, and I think Klaus decided that further argument would only waste time and not change anyone’s minds.

            Liked by 9 people

          • Calling it mass murder and saying he treated them like animals feels a bit disingenuous when he gave them the option to kneel and be arrested instead of dying. Sure, it’s a chaotic situation and a lot of them are probably confused, but he *did* have the option for them, and we do in fact see some people being dragged off afterwards with that having happened. The folks that died are implied to have drawn blades and resisted the soldiers coming to arrest them, and when people draw weapons on people trying to arrest them there tend to be consequences to that. Sure, Klaus knew going in that’s how it would go and he could have done it in a way that intimidated more of them into surrender, but that doesn’t strip the captains of their own free will to choose their own fate. And if he’d tried to be gentler about it, the lack of surprise might have meant more of his soldiers died facing the mutineers, which would be unfortunate in a lot of ways. I dunno, there probably was a better way to go about this, but no good ways.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Lol, I think the thing about taking “I do not judge” started out as a facetious joke and it just flew over some peoples’ heads as an actual legitimate argument.

        The phrase quite obviously is just a paraphrasing of his answer to the riddle of fault – it just means he doesn’t consider himself worthy of wielding the authority to judge objective right or wrong.

        It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t /have/ any opinions at all on things like whether someone is trustworthy, or if raping and killing people is wrong. It just means he thinks his flawed mortal opinion isn’t good enough to be an objective measure of whether someone is Just or not, so he refuses the action of standing in Judgement over them based on those mortal opinions, as much as he can.

        It’s honestly kind of hilarious to see people seriously giving him shit for it, since most of the comments section from the first four or so books had a very angry circlejerk about self-righteous Heroes who considered their opinions to be made of gold or something, and treated said opinions like some sort of objective truth.

        Enter a Hero who strongly believes that his own flawed opinions are unworthy of being used to stand in judgement of other people, and now “Heroes R Bad” because… he doesn’t think his opinions are made of gold?

        Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess.

        Liked by 6 people

        • I think the gut reaction of some of the commenters (myself included) steemed from the fact that Hanno’s perception of his own flawed ability to judge did not, in fact, stop him from trying to carve the world into a better place one bloody swing at a time.

          In practice, he was still making a choice each time, and it kind of sounded like he didn’t really realize it.

          Liked by 7 people

          • That’s sort of the problem though.

            When he doesn’t do anything, he gets lambasted for being “indecisive”, naiive, or shrugging off the responsibility of making a morally grey choice when forced to.

            When he does do something, he’s “trying to carve the world into a better place, one bloody swing at a time”. It seems rather strange that even in this very thread of comments, we’re seeing two mutually exclusive standards.

            As for how much it makes sense to take “I do not judge” as a sign of naïveté or hypocrisy for not being literal?

            I’ll be honest, I think it’s pretty simple to recognize a protagonist-centered bias on the side of some of the comments section there, when you consider that “justifications only matter to the just” has always been interpreted very leniently even though Catherine has cared heavily about justifications from the beginning of the story, while “I do not judge” is taken as a rather literal rule that needs to be perfectly adhered to, else be considered some large degree of dimly unaware or hypocritical.

            One line catchphrases like either of those are very loose/simplified summaries of a more complex ideology, and are therefore always going to be some degree of inaccurate in a literal or technical sense. How much they make sense is going to be dependent on how intentionally lenient or harsh the reader is with the interpretation, just as much as how well it’s actually followed.

            Liked by 5 people

            • > That’s sort of the problem though.

              > When he doesn’t do anything, he gets lambasted for being “indecisive”, naiive, or shrugging off the responsibility of making a morally grey choice when forced to.

              > When he does do something, he’s “trying to carve the world into a better place, one bloody swing at a time”. It seems rather strange that even in this very thread of comments, we’re seeing two mutually exclusive standards.


              Liked by 1 person

            • Those standards are only mutully exclusive in a vacuum.

              I cannot talk for the others, but I personally criticize Hanno, and every other character, for the faults I see in their actions. If their approach varies, it is only natural that the faults may change as well.
              I disagree with this “he’ll be criticized no matter what he does” conclusion.

              Besides (again, speaking personally here), comparing mottoes and their interpretation by the reader like that is rather unfair.
              Catherine’s motto is bullshit. It has always – been – bullshit. For all that she had it sown on her standard, I have an hard time coming up with a meaningful moment that started from that reasoning and not her more general “I’ll do what’s needed for things to stop being screwed”.
              I mean, for fuck’s sake, MARCHFORD happened not long after the Blessed Isle.

              Meanwhile, for a long time we had very little to go on about Hanno aside from his motto.

              This isn’t “protagonist bias”, so much as “I don’t know as much compared to the protagonist about this guy, but I still want to talk about Hanno because the chapter I just read was cool”.


    • >You cannot let the perfect be the downfall of the good enough.

      Isn’t that more or less Cat’s entire issue with heroic idealism, that Above is all about anything short of perfection being bad.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Above itself does not express any opinions or make any judgements. We’ve repeatedly had comments that the church just makes things up because there’s no input from Above.

        So it’s more the opposite problem: they accept anyone who meets some very, very minimal standards (WILLIAM OF GREENBURY) and then people try to build on that with very. varying results.

        Like, Cat herself has a problem with Tariq not letting perfect be the downfall of good enough by SEEDING A PLAGUE.

        Liked by 1 person

    • This is why Hanno has always rubbed me the wrong way.

      “I do not judge” is my berserk button. You are fucking judging bud, whether you sugarcoat or have the cool angels telling you it’s fine or hide behind their skirts and say that you are merely following order, it’s a judgements all the same. Inaction is not an excuse, it is a choice.

      The fact he is still allowed to pull this bullshit speaks to the wild way Heroes are allowed to do whatever the hell they want because the Heavens say so.

      Imagine a villain coming out and saying they’re not responsible for any of their actions, it is simply the result of orders followed. Instant band of five.

      Him showing a bit of spine, excuse me, -doubt- this chapter was great.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hanno always judged. He was just in denial about it.

      The man decided when to flip a coin, knowing that it might result in the death of the person he was talking to.

      He was absolutely judging.

      Liked by 5 people

      • He was deciding whether to open a court case!

        And I think people who poitned out “I do not judge” was not literal are right: he was not in denial. He knew he was making decisions and he was taking responsibility for them. There was a cutoff of complexity though where he stepped back and either let it be period (bureaucracy in Delos) or asked the Choir if he considered it warranted.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Have to admit WK is sounding a bit hypocritical here, even acknowledges it faintly. While still more sensible than most heroes, he still has a sense of self righteousness that being the White Knight gives.


  4. Hmm. The White Knight is troubled by the absence of Judgement. The Heirophant had his native ability to work magic destroyed by the Dead King. The Grey Pilgrim is missing one of his aspects (because Catherine ripped it out of his corpse and used it to return him to life). The Black Queen’s army is stalked by a Revenant whose Aspect makes him nigh-invulnerable. There’s a band of extra-deadly Revenants hunting the forces of the Grand Alliance.

    And Catherine is coming into a Name that is about managing Named. My prediction is that she’s going to end up with an Aspect that lets her manipulate Aspects.

    Liked by 12 people

    • Considering that aspects are at the core of a Named’ identity and soul, I certainly hope not. That strikes me like an invasive procedure a la Taylor Herbert, and I certainly hope we don’t get to that kidn of scenario.

      “hey Indrani, Wander is at the core of what you are, right? Well, too bad, I need someone to lead this contingent, so you are about Marching now. I’ll change it back later… maybe”.

      No. Just… uhg, just no.

      Liked by 3 people

      • “Manipulate” and “control” are not the same. Cat’s already had an Aspect to manipulate Aspects once, it’s how she spent a book and a half running around like she had Rise.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Oh, definitely. If she gets a way to seal up Aspects as a sanction when she judges Named, I’ve got no beef with that.

          I thought Jason was picturing something more akin to her molding others’ aspects to what she thought was necessary, and thus “solving” issues like Masego’s crippling or, more importantly, Hanno’s crisis of faith.
          That is a much more risky territory, even when done for the greater good. It’s a power I’d rather she lacked, because she tends to use what she has.

          Liked by 4 people

          • I think you have something there. Each time she’s interacted with dead named, she’s thought of herself as a “thief of Bestowal.” I can’t help but think that this is going to be part of her Name, that she’ll have some sort of meta that affects Named and Aspects.

            It’d also be interesting if she ends up with a Name like “Thief of (foo). I wonder how Vivienne would react to that.

            Liked by 1 person

            • There’s also the whole “Queen of Lost and Found” business. She’s very much been representative of making hard choices and sacrificing things to forge her own path. So very likely if it relates to Names it will involve her being an instructor of sorts. A teacher, at a school perhaps. Or, if you’ll bear with me, a Guide. Something that’ll let her maybe not manipulate aspects or Names, but help people fill the roles they’re meant to, with a degree of control over who and how they do it according to her and her terms.

              Also side note: it’s very interesting how as the White Knight’s Name fades with his wavering will, Cat’s Name strengthens and involves judging other Names in some way.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. This is ominous….. So very ominous.

    Kinda like the doubts an important character feels before upcoming clarity that either leads to an antagonistic path; or a heroic Last stand.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. So Hanno’s power wanes as Catherine’s waxes, and both are marching towards what could very possibly be the bloodiest battle of this campaign so far. Considering Cat’s Name is oriented towards judgement and rule, and Hanno is desperate for guidance and losing his faith in the Heavens, there’s a story of corruption brewing, methinks. It’s still a few steps away from inevitable, but it’s there.

    Liked by 10 people

    • With the Black Knight role off the board for now (as far as we know there hasn’t been another claimant), and the White Knight in decline, it would be interesting to see the Black/White dicotomy end and Cat take up the mantle of the Grey Knight or something more neutral but significantly broader/further reaching.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’ve been eying the contrast between Hanno’s ‘I do not Judge’ catchphrase and Cat’s name seeming to be about standing in judgement with a great deal of interest. I highly doubt Hanno’s going to fall to villainy or anything, but I could see him being pushed too far by one of Cat’s Necessary Evils and doing something Unfortunate that leads to an ideological clash via mortal combat. It’s the only way to have a proper philosophical debate based on all the anime I’ve ever seen lol. Honestly, it would be a hell of a thing for Cat to come into her name by putting down Hanno. Like, holy fuck.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting view, especially since we keep being reminded people have opinions about how cordial they are/were with each other.

      Would also be an interesting funhouse mirror to Malicia/Black in some ways.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hanno’s either going to go the way of Vivienne, or he’s going to come to some life affirming epiphany at a climactic moment and reconnect with Judgement long enough to go out in a blaze of glory.

    Also, every single background detail of the greater war going on is so interesting. I want to see Hawk and Archer in a sniper duel immediately.

    Liked by 10 people

    • I don’t remember exactly, but isn’t Archer able to shoot things like other arrows out of the sky with her own shots? If both she and Hawk are capable of that…

      Liked by 1 person

      • It seems like Archer can hit whatever she can see. And her Name makes seeing things at just about any distance easy. It was even mentioned in an earlier chapter that Beast master loaned her the sight of some of his beasts and she was able to use that to hit targets that were out of sight from where she was. So yes I think it’s highly likely she can shoot arrows out of the sky.


  8. A thoughtful, philosophical chapter. I like it. Hanno’s problem is that he thinks the Heavens themselves are just. Even when using his power to Recall the actions of the first Iron King, he can’t accept that all his bosses’ superiors really care about is winning their bet.

    Two chapters sprang to mind when thinking about this one. First, the interlude where he became White Knight; “the fault was the King’s for thinking he could be just”. Second, the Tyrant POV at the beginning of Hanno’s trial where he used Wish, where Hanno’s was “I wish to be just”. The King’s fault is also Hanno’s and always had been.

    This chapter made me think that Hanno’s either going to die in this war, or transition to another name. Knight Errant maybe?

    Liked by 11 people

    • His struggle is precisely the cognitive dissonance of wishing something you believe is inherently unachievable to you. And not just a passing fancy like “I wish I could cast fireballs” but a life-defining desire like “I don’t want to die”. I can relate way too much.

      Liked by 6 people

    • I mean… whether the Seraphim are infallible is arguable, but it’s actually pretty sensible to believe that they are pretty much the closest thing to “Just” as it’s possible to get

      That kind of abdication to higher expertise happens all the time. No one argues that it’s silly or stupid for a random Proceran soldier to take Cordelia’s word for it on matters of justice – she’s more knowledgeable, experienced, and has a better understanding of context

      The seraphim? They have more knowledge on the subject of justice than any being currently alive, has all the experience from being fanatically devoted to the correct judgement of justice since the dawn of Creation, and has greater context than any living being on Calernia by virtue of being able to simultaneously see every single past action, every current circumstance, and every future possibility at the same time.

      So I guess the question is… what possible reason does anyone have to believe the bronze scaled birds are less correct on the subject of justice than any other character?

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I noticed that ten is becoming a significant number in the Practiverse. Ten Scourges, ten Firstborn generals, ten Emerald Swords. Maybe signifying that Sve Noc, the Dead King and the Forever King are all on the same tier, or are similar in other ways?

    Liked by 5 people

  10. “Fifty-five: if your powers are lost, they will nearly always return greater than before so long as the appropriate moral lesson is learned. With kindness and humility comes overwhelming martial might.”
    -“Two Hundred Heroic Axioms”, author unknown

    Hanno is struggling to learn the appropriate moral lesson. His name seems to be waning due to it.

    Liked by 13 people

    • Indeed, either he will learn a manner of finding problems in the frameworks/institutions he is acting in and rectifying them or he will be replaced. So it goes on the wheel of Creation

      Liked by 4 people

    • True, but what is the lesson to be learnt? To me it seems the very nature of his Name Ideology is so steadfast in carrying out justice based on action not outcome, any lesson learnt would be at odds with the beliefs that lead to his Naming. If he does learn a lesson and come back stronger im eager to see what the lesson EE has in mind because I actually have no idea here, does he learn that he HAS to judge because if he doesnt everyone dies to DK (which would be a 180 to his “I Do Not Judge” and would cripple his current White Knight Name)? Or is it something completely different that I just cant conceive right now?

      Super keen for conclusion to the Hanno dilemma.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It was nice feeling the narrative tropey feeling providence being close gives. Like a warm blanket instead of the freezing night that being without it can be like. Hm, justice as a concept in all truth could be broken down to finding broken parts of a system and rectifying them. Its finding a trillion little things and improving them, truly ceaseless work. The perspective of a angel might be on othe few things that could properly know when a improvement is a improvement. After all, everything does, so how do you know when deaths may end up with a better or worse result long term?
    Even so, if there is a natural order to the world, even a mortals view may have similarities that may be used to bridge perspective to higher levels? Perhaps Recall may aid in this, perhaps not. Creation is a wheel ever turning and if one cannot fill their Role, they will fall off and get back on or be crushed beneath its merciless tread.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. This can be summed up with 2 simple words: OH SHIT!!

    Unless he transitions (wich is unlikely) or this goes into a restoration of faith kind of character arc they are in deep shit, the whole thing depends too much on Hanno being a reasonable authority figure for the heroes to check in the idiots like MK or the zealouts, Pilgrim is too old for it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Huh, is this what the ominous foreshadowing around whatever the Bard was plotting around Cordelia and Hanno(as alluded to in their card game) was leading up to?
      Hanno loses trust in Cordelia, and thus loses trust in the idea that what they’re fighting to defend is Good, and thus loses his confidence that he is doing Good, and thus loses his Name?

      If Hanno loses his Name there’s not much to keep the Truce and Terms together from the Heroes’ end, no one can replace the guy.

      I think we need to start seriously thinking about what exactly would happen if the heroes lost their leader-figure and started a mutiny/started killing other Named mid-war.
      That’s certainly one way for heroes to foil the Villain’s(Cat’s) continent-spanning scheme at the last minute. Only problem is that foiling this scheme might kill all of Procer.

      And all this is completely aside from my suspicion that there’s an ‘evil turns on evil’, or a Dead King-driven ‘I have a better scheme and am willing to be more monstrous’ situation brewing up north, with the possibility that the Dead King might unleash his Demons into the force with a type-weakness against demons, and engage in some gunboat diplomacy, holding the possibility of their destruction by demon over the Drow to make them switch sides in the war.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Losing faith in the fact that he is doing good while defending life on the continent would be kind of ridiculous.

        What he is losing faith in is whether or not he is still trying to uphold justice in what he does, because that’s at the core of his Role.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The issue is that in Hanno’s mind good is indistinguishable from justice, while to the Grey pilgrim it is the prevention of as much suffering as achievable, and to Cordelia good is indistinguishable from duty.
          In the worst case it might be possible for him to come around to a perspective like the Saint of Swords, where he views the structure of Procer as incompatible with justice, ceases to really care whether it exists and even wants to tear it down and rebuild, and thus feels guilt for helping to preserve its injustices even as he remains enthusiastic about bringing down the Dead King.

          If he comes around to veiwing Procer as pirmarily evil(unjust) but is locked in to defending it by his oaths and desire to protect the people, well, his Name isn’t really supposed to be about defending the people or keeping to his duties, it’s supposed to be about punishing injustice.

          It’s the classic Id, ego, superego problem, the Id is problematic because it wants what it wants immediately with no ability to learn or reassess those desires, and both useful and problematic because it can be satisfied either by getting that thing or by imaginging it has gotten that thing, while even if the superego can learn to want different things, it is incapable of accepting anything less than perfection and will cause unproductive guilt at imperfections that a person has no ability to control.
          It sort of seems like both villains and heroes almost have to subordinate themselves to a particular Id or Superego drive to gain their power, but the problem is that the superego demands perfection, so a hero could potentially lose their power by failing to live up to the original drive(hence the whole ‘lose your power until an appropriate moral lesson is learned’ trope).

          Liked by 2 people

          • I’m not seeing it, honestly.

            Sure, Hanno’s core is justice, but… it doesn’t really matter if your hero is about freedom, love or protecting others: if you can lend a hand in an “end of the world” scenario?
            It’s… kind of a give you’ll do it.
            No matter what Hanno may come to think of Procer, he’ll not leave them out to die to the Dead King.

            His problem is one of self worth and purpose.


  13. I could be wrong, but I think the following is very similar to a quote from much earlier in the series about the Black Knight:
    “It did not erase her virtues, but neither must Hanno ever allow himself to forget that all that stood between the Black Queen and atrocities was the perception of need.”

    Who knows what name Cat will come into, but damn the character growth from her time as Squire, to the Folly, to now is really great.


  14. Three thoughts:

    First, does Hanno know about the plague that Tariq used to take down Black Knight? If not, that might be one fewer person he’d trust, given the attitude displayed here.

    Second, the point Hanno fails to grasp is that the Truce and Terms need someone alive to enforce them. Yes, compromising on them for the sake of political realities weakens them, but that same compromise, if not made, would have lost them a large chunk of the armies of Offer, and therefore the war against the Dead King, and /then/ what would have become of the T&T?

    Finally, I again have to compliment EE on how the chapter is structured. Last chapter, it led off with a lesson that the character had learned, which then explained and justified the actions at the end of the chapter. This one, it does exactly the opposite: it leads off with a lesson that the Grey Pilgrim was trying to teach Hanno, and, in the end, it’s the failure to truly grasp that lesson that is plaguing the White Knight. Evil knows Evil, as Tariq told him, and when all paths ahead are evil in one way or another, it will probably be a Villain who will have the best insight of which of those evils is the least. No one is arguing that it wasn’t evil to desecrate the Red Axe’s corpse the way they did, but every other path they could have taken would have just piled more corpses onto hers.

    Sometimes, if only rarely, putting practical necessity over deontological morals /is/ the right thing to do. And while that’s probably an attitude more suitable for a follower of the Choir of Mercy than Judgement, I think that, given time, Tariq will be able to hammer it through Hanno’s skull. And maybe when he stops judging people for doing just that, his powers (and maybe even his Choir’s) will be restored.

    Liked by 8 people

    • > First, does Hanno know about the plague that Tariq used to take down Black Knight? If not, that might be one fewer person he’d trust, given the attitude displayed here.

      I’m actually thinking that maybe realizing that Tariq matches the exact same pattern he accuses Cat of – anything in the face of sufficient necessity – might let him feel better. Like, if there’s literally no-one who can match the ideal, maybe he can just… stop holding people to it, and accept imperfection. It won’t be easy and it won’t be painless but maybe he’ll figure out a framework where he can hold onto his principles while also accepting these facts.

      Liked by 7 people

      • It’s possible, though I personally believe that Hanno’s harrowing comes from being unable to see a just path for himself to walk.
        in that vein, realizing no one seems to ever find it would just be disheartening, not liberating.

        Liked by 4 people

  15. Hanno’s powers are weakening because he’s losing faith in the righteousness of Justice without the angels there to help him out. I wonder what would happen to the Truces and Terms if he winds up going full Villain, akin to Two-Face from Batman.


      • He has never had any ability to act and make decisions. The man had never made a choice in his life as a Named. It was either Providence or the Coin.

        Now he has spent two years on his own and is having to grapple with the consequences of having to make choices that have repercussions and not having a neat and clean fallback of “the angels made me do it”, he is understandably buckling under the pressure. Not helped by the fact his Name was very much tied with the concept of Justice provided by the choir of Judgement.

        And that is my(very) uncharitable view on the matter.


        • > The man had never made a choice in his life as a Named.

          Yes, he has. Every single time he flipped the coin, he made the decision to flip it. It wasn’t slipping out of his sleeve all providence-like, he chose when to throw and when not to.

          Liked by 2 people

          • He chose to avoid making a choice, leaving it in the choirs hands. You could argue this is a choice in itself, which it is; but as far as Hanno is concerned that wasn’t him, it wasn’t his hand, his thought , his decision. He was simply the instrument through which the Seraphim worked.

            I doubt he’s take responsibility for any of that, before these two years.


  16. EE – a possible discrepancy:

    “I have sent Antigone and Christophe to oversee the capitulation of the conscripts…”

    ” Hanno had already sent the Balladeer and the Harrowed Witch, two of the more level-headed among his Named, to prevent that particular situation from spinning out of control.”

    Antigone is the Witch of the Woods and the only Christophe I know of is Christophe de Pavanie, the Mirrored Knight.

    The Harrowed Witch, on the other hand, is Aspasie.

    So are the 2 sentences above both correct and referring to separate incidents, or are they referring to the same incident, and thus are a discrepancy?


  17. Ietsism (– “somethingism”) is an unspecified belief in an undetermined transcendent reality.

    Well, that doesn’t sound like Hanno is just trying to grasp faith in Above but in his own special way to feel special while inevitably making all his opinions and judgements moot or flawed by trying just that.

    At least other Heroes that have a faith in the good book can realise when they’re wrong, very rarely but still. But when one has a faith that they haven’t even determined yet cling on to as righteous and proper, then they are just setting themselves up to sneer and judge on their whims without the foundations to know when they are wrong themselves.

    For all that Hanno repeats his old mantras, it seems like he’s about to make some foolish judgements without good foundations the moment he leaves this state of indecisiveness.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Hanno is having to develop his own value system after years of having his hand held by the Cherubim. It may weaken him as far as his Name goes, and it may get him and a lot of other people killed, but this is actually growth. The Cherubim were a crutch to Hanno. I’m glad he got to learn for himself what he values while he was still alive.

    I’m surprised a bit that one of the other Choirs haven’t gone to figuratively knock on Judgment’s door and lend a helping hand. I guess they can’t interfere in each other’s bailiwicks. Which seems lame, but whatever.

    Also, this quote by Masdrubal the (so-called) Wise really irritates me:

    “Should all serve as ordained by the Heavens, all of Creation will be as a garden without sin.”

    It advocates a caste system where people are nothing more than cogs in a machine. I hate it. Masdrubal was probably an authoritarian asshole.

    Liked by 4 people

  19. I’m having trouble writing my comment. Maybe this summary will get through.

    The White Knight, leader of the Heroes in the Truce and Terms, is a grown man who doesn’t know any wit about how Context matters when making a judgement. ‘Is it right?’ In a perfect world, this question matters. ‘Is it the best that could be done?’ This is the question that needs to be asked. The White Knight did nothing to solve any of the problems he’s whining about and blaming others for, in fact caused one of them because he thought his Oath to an Oath Breaker who took his oath under false pretenses specifically to hurt the rest of those under his protection and cause millions to suffer at the behest of an immortal for funnsies, and only now kind of sort of gets how mentally crippled he’s made himself?

    Why is he leading instead of the Grey Pilgrim? Fricking Dumbledore the Grey Pilgrim right now please and get this man child out of a position of authority. Make him your feel good customer service manager for heroes and put someone with some actual critical thinking skills at the head of one of the most powerful and important forces in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. “That this had been necessary was, in truth, difficult to deny. But had it been just?

    No, his heart whispered. It wasn’t.”
    Well, it looks like the heart of Hanno “I do not judge” of Arwad passed a judgement. Looking forward to more development on his side.


  21. “Catherine Foundling did not have lines in the sand that she would not cross, if she thought it necessary. It did not erase her virtues, but neither must Hanno ever allow himself to forget that all that stood between the Black Queen and atrocities was the perception of need.“

    Funny, that’s exactly what Cat thinks of the Grey Pilgrim.

    Liked by 10 people

    • I think this is probably the most accurate part. Hanno doesn’t realize that he and Catherine have something very much in common – they’re both very heavy idealists.

      Being OK to suffer with the state of Creation forcing you to choose between the lesser garbage choice is the mentality of Malicia, the Saint, the old Grey Pilgrim, who were all too busy asking “what is the best we can do with what we’ve got”, to remember to also ask “is it *right* for this kind of decision to be forced on us at all?”

      Cat has been on what is now a six book long crusade against Creation itself after asking that question, and finding it’s answer lacking.

      The mistake Hanno is making is misidentifying the difference between him and Catherine. It’s not that Catherine isn’t an idealist or that she’s less principled than he is. It’s that his vision of an ideal world is one that’s Just, and her vision of an ideal world is one that’s Peaceful. The two are, quite often, not the same thing.

      Liked by 9 people

      • I think the mistake he’s made here is misjudging the nature of the conflict / problem with the Red Axe situation. Well, scope more than nature, but these are the same thing in context.

        So he came to an erroneous conclusion from there )=


    • Catherine acknowledges that she’s this way also, though. Post-Everdark, Catherine doesn’t really have any major philosophical disagreement with Pilgrim; she understands why he felt that killing her is necessary given what he knows and has experienced, even though she obviously thought he was wrong about that.

      I think that Pilgrim’s goals probably align more with Catherine’s at this point than most other heroes (except for maybe Roland); he’s always been more of an “ends justify the means” guy, like Catherine herself.


  22. I wonder if Hanno is on the way to a new Name. Cat is his counter part and she’s coming into a new Name herself.

    Major events have changed his Role pretty significantly. Whether he doubles down on his principles or becomes a bit more grey, he might not be the White Knight anymore either way.


  23. If Hanno loses his Bestowal and is no longer White Knight, or is killed for some reason related to his angst, who replaces him as leader of the heroes under the Truce and Terms?

    To put the question another way, who do the heroes hate the least and is also considered tolerable by the other factions in the Alliance (villains/Catherine, Procer, Levant, drow, Callow)?

    I’m guessing Roland the Rogue Sorcerer.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Yeah, but I think Mirror Knight and Blade of Mercy were the major ones. After their humiliation at the hero meeting, I doubt they’ll try to speak up again.

        Giggles. Maybe the heroes can have an election! Vote either in person or by scrying network.

        Wouldn’t that be funny?

        Liked by 3 people

          • Is clout really an issue? I think organizational and administrative ability, coupled with inoffensiveness and the ability to convince others with logic, would be enough.

            Note the hero meeting that Hanno chaired and that ended so disastrously for Blade of Mercy and Mirror Knight. Hanno had to use moral suasion the entire time when arguing. He was more a manager than a real leader.

            I think Roland would be a good choice simply because he’s smart enough and gregarious and inoffensive. He won’t piss people off, and unlike Hanno, he isn’t likely to suffer a crisis of confidence anytime soon. His Name and Role are not as rigid or as brittle as Hanno’s.

            Valiant Champion could do the job, actually, but Catherine hates her. It would be difficult for Rafaella to represent the heroes when her opposite number fantasizes about murdering her.

            Liked by 4 people

            • Hanno used logic, but he did so while also being the White Knight.

              It’s kind of hard to judge whether or not one without clout could deal with, say, Cristophe or the Blessed Artificer just through logic. I’m unconvinced, myself, but I’ll agree it is far from certain.

              I agree that Roland would be qualified, but unless they listen to him, it doesn’t work.

              As for Rafaella… no? Just… no. She has no ability to consider who fits where and who can’t interact with whom. She just isn’t leader material.
              I mean, in a battle? Sure, maybe, she could fit that role and grow into it. She’ll never be a general, but she doesn’t have to be.

              But she is the Big Guy in a band, possibly the Heart in the right story, not the Smart guy or the Leader.


  24. >>>The afternoon air was chilly and so Hanno called Light to him, letting it warm his bones as he had learned from the life of a Paladin long dead.
    It came slower than it used to.

    Damn, it’s Hanno starting to lose his Name? Holy shit.

    Anyway, great chapter. I’m glad we got to see what’s going on in Hanno’s mind. I was very put out by his decisions in the Arsenal, and I’m glad we got to see what he is thinking on the subject.
    I mean, I still disagree with him, but I understand him a little better.

    There is a part of his reasoning that really stuck with me, though.

    >>>Catherine Foundling did not have lines in the sand that she would not cross, if she thought it necessary. It did not erase her virtues, but neither must Hanno ever allow himself to forget that all that stood between the Black Queen and atrocities was the perception of need.

    I was like… I mean, that’s true, but…

    … dude, before this Bone War business, wasn’t your shtick to go around and murder those the Seraphim deemed deserving of the sentence?
    That’s like… litterally the same. You are committing an atrocity (since I’m pretty sure Hanno considers murder to be an atrocity) because you perceived it as necessary (the Seraphim deemed it necessary and you deemed it necessary that their will be done).

    I mean, really… weren’t you about to do the same thing just now? You deemed it necessary not to compromise your principles, and I can sort of see your reasoning, but the consequences of it would have been atrocious and you were fine with it.
    I don’t mean “fine” like you didn’t mind, but then again I doubt you think Catherine enjoys her own atrocities?

    I think you are kind of lost, pal.

    Which may be the problem with your Name and the point of the chapter, of course.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Yeah, Hanno has failed to notice multiple inconsistencies in his beliefs, here. “It’s not an atrocity if it was ordained by the Choir” is a band-aid, not a complete answer.

      The problem is, there are multiple ways to reconcile these inconsistencies, and some of them are uh. Worse than others. Staying inconsistent is better than some of these options.

      Liked by 7 people

    • A big difference is cat or any one else is mortal and flawed and so can be wrong while the seraphim will always know what is JUST aka they can’t be wrong. It is basically the same trust traig has of the choir of mercy if they tell him to kill someone that it will 100% lead to less suffering and so is clearly the right thing to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, yes, of course.

        But if one goes with that logic, the only people allowed to make a call are those that are not in fact making it because they have a choir whispering in their ears.

        That is… rather narrow? I don’t think a choir can even have multiple chosen at a given time, but even if I was wrong on the subject most heroes still don’t interact with them… and heroes are a subset of the rare Named subset of the population to begin with.

        It’s… not a good parameter to use?

        Liked by 4 people

          • A thought I had if he think that since he became the white knight because of his believe in Judgment and pretty sure most of the above is the whole belief in the will of the heavens to be correct( or at least in something bigger than yourself)

            Some of the ways he could come to terms is that of below( aka the I know best) and so will cost him the name of white knight

            Also yeah the whole choir are the only ones qualified is a bit narrow but it pretty much comes from the exact same place as the page quote And the person who wrote that is apparently called wise

            Liked by 1 person

  25. Typo Thread:

    for it was > for what it was
    moved to Revenant > moved the Revenant
    heave have > heave gave
    them unmoving (should have comma, also unmoved is in the next line, so maybe reword)
    to most forms (missing verb. bypass?)
    daggers but > daggers, but
    loudly at (maybe of? about?)
    stay hand > stay their hand
    often deal > often dealt
    drunk your > drunk on your
    corpses way > corpses away
    made it was > made — it was (also, maybe the simple way > simply the way)
    of young > of a young
    Cordelia Hasenbach had and (extra space)
    Knight why > Knight knew why
    where he must stand (missing fullstop)
    was there right > was the right
    could be no turning (extra space)


  26. Cat’s name wants to pass judgement on Names and Hanno is losing his name.
    I suspect Cat’s new Name wants to make White Knight’s and Black Knight’s roles redundant for a while, starting the Terms and the Accords as the only handler for both Above and Below Names.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This was a neat chapter. It reminded me of the discussion between Black and the Pilgrim. And it reflects the waxing of Cat’s nascent Name with the waning of Hanno’s.


  28. I think Cat is going to end up killing the white knight.

    They are growing into archenemies, even if it isn’t apparent. Cat is growing a name based on judgement and Hanno does not judge. Hanno even makes it clear in this chapter that he thinks her judgment is wrong. What will happen when Cat comes into her name based on a Villain judging by her own accord, in the same place as the White Knight who lets the Heavens do the judgment he thinks himself unworthy to do? Nothing good.


  29. The Truce and Terms seem broken. The Red Axe did suicide by police to try to break it at a fissure. It seems possible for Hanno to realize that the Truce and the Terms can be fixed fairly easily.
    It isn’t just for imperfect rules to cause multiple countries to fall to the Dead King. The Truce and Terms as they stand contain a trap for temporal rulers. Hanno is himself somewhat responsible for not seeing and fixing it before it became a problem.
    So I see solutions for Hanno to grow and the timing could have Hanno growing at a vital moment. I like that Hanno is becoming more dimensional and look forward to what EE makes of it.


  30. Usually, a PoV from the heroes or those who are otherwise nominally opposed to Cat in a given moment makes them sympathetic.
    Not in Hanno’s case. Not really.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. As I was reading the comments I came to the conclusion that Hanno an argument to Hanno can be boiled down to two points.

    Point 1, the choir of judgement isn’t all knowing. Many commentors have said that they are so they should be the one to judge but we know they aren’t. Anaxares was able to keep them occupied for a long time and according to Hanno he may even be winning ground. If judgement was all knowing this wouldn’t have happened.

    Point 2, judgement must be judging by something. What I mean is that to judge you must value something over something else. They seem to judge based on if something is right or wrong based on some standard that the gods above set. We don’t even know what that standard is to my knowledge, so we can’t come to the conclusion if it is right or wrong. What we do know is there are entities of similar standing that dont share the same values. I am not talking about the gods below or their servants because I don’t believe that Hanno would accept them as a point against judgement. I am talking about Mercy, we know Mercy values the most good for the most people or the least evil. Mercy would commit an unjust action for a good end, I don’t think Judgement would. I would use these two points to talk two Hanno.


    • I disagree with you, judgment could see what was going on but was powerless to stop it due to their own nature and the nature of everyone involved. The hierarch would have judged the choir, Hanno would have attended the trial, and the choir of judgment would have judged. If not they wouldn’t have gotten there in the first place. Also the criteria I believe that the choir of judgment uses when making a decision is, “was/is it just”.


  32. Sadly, Hanno doesn’t see the mistake he made with Red Axe. He refused to talk. The lack of compromise wasn’t the issue, it was the fact that he refused to even discuss the best course of action.

    If you refuse to take part in the conversation, you are going to be left out. That’s not talking behind your back, that’s you plugging your ears.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Agreed, 100%. Had Hanno participated in the discussion with Cat, Cordelia, and the others, they may have been able to come up with a just compromise (e.g. having the Red Axe’s punishment under the Truce and Terms be that she is stripped of the T&T’s protection and handed over to Procer). Yes, the idea that they would only be discussing the punishment for “a hypothetical crime” would only be a fig leaf, but nothing they decided there would have bound WK to find RA guilty, or impose the sentence discussed, if the details revealed at trial turned out differently from expected. He could have participated by bending his ideals but not breaking them.

      Instead, Cat and Cordelia had to find a way to make all of the various factions happy, without Hanno’s input, but having to take into account what they expected his actions to be. Small wonder they came to a solution he didn’t like.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I still don’t get why they didn’t just say that since Red Axe had openly admitted she signed in bad faith and broke the terms, she had no right to the protections given by the treaty.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Because that’s not how law works. A person insisting that they don’t want to obey laws of the country they’re currently in because they’re an anarchist and all laws are unjust, won’t get shot in the back of their head by police because it means laws don’t apply to them then.

          There’s a difference between “law” and “treaty”, but Hanno is locked into a maximalist view, there.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hanno has locked himself into various positions that don’t work together, I agree. I would argue that that is his problem. But doesn’t his position as judge of the “good” Named require him to exercise judgement? Is he really locked into a maximalist view?

            I think there are multiple ways out, but they require him to change one of his currently fixed positions. If he figures it out, he will have grown into his promotion. If not, he will be another example of the Peter Principle.

            When the treaty is based on people joining it voluntarily, is it really the same as the laws that are imposed involuntarily?

            And making reference to who police kill and why is a contentious issue that I don’t want to go anywhere near, but I remember the names Taylor and Floyd, just to mention a few.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Okay yes bringing the police into it was a bad plan. I keep forgetting I don’t live in a world where things work the way they should )=

              Anyway, you have a point wrt treaty vs law, and Hanno should have had a discussion about Catherine about it. He should have done a lot more work in that situation period.

              I’ve actually written up a longpost about it on reddit:

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hanno’s position with the Red Axe thing isn’t as unreasonable as it might seem at first glance. The main problem with “holding to principles shouldn’t matter and you should only care about the outcome” is that, in reality, you can’t perfectly predict the future. As a result, it sometimes makes sense to make some principles absolute, since you can always come up with some justification for doing things and will only know in hindsight whether something was truly necessary. Catherine has made this mistake often herself in the past and even acknowledges this now (for example she acknowledges that letting the Lone Swordsman go free and seeking an alliance with Keter were both wrong and completely inexcusable, and both were done out of a wrong belief that they were necessary as a means to an end).

                The main thing that is wrong with Hanno’s position is that he isn’t appropriately weighing the evils of the alternative (and is also having the issue many Named have where they clearly value Named over regular people). People dying due to the Principate falling apart isn’t somehow less evil than raising the Red Axe’s corpse; it’s just more abstract and not tied to a specific Named person who Hanno knows and sympathizes with. Hanno is also obviously letting his own personal judgement factor into how bad “raising the Red Axe’s corpse” is; his reaction to Papenheim executing all those officers wasn’t as strong because he didn’t personally care about them in the same way he cared about a Named heroine.

                Liked by 4 people

                • Yep, agreed.


                  > People dying due to the Principate falling apart

                  is something he didn’t fully clue in was something the other option was about at all. Like Catherine pieced the implication of what would happen if they refused Cordelia from Kingfisher’s tirade (he did not talk to Hanno like that because of mixed allegiances, which seems like an increasingly stupid reason to me btw) and her understanding of Cordelia’s personality and incentives. Hanno has no idea about Cordelia’s incentives and his assessment of her personality did not account for any of this at all.

                  Hanno’s problem is that he’s, to put it bluntly, incompetent to be an equivalent to a leader of a nation (heroes are allowed equal voice in the Grand Alliance to actual nations).

                  Liked by 2 people

    • Hanno’s mistake, imho, stemmed from him not being used to / not realizing just how broad, impactful and high level his duties are.

      His mindset was “Cordelia can and should fix it without involving me”. This is normally accurate for heroes interacting with rulers, because heroes just don’t have that much authority / influence whereas rulers do. Heroes are not normally huge political roadblocks cutting off the entire course of action.

      Hanno is though, as a top-ranking officer of the Grand Alliance. And he doesn’t grok that, he doesn’t full understand what that means. He admitted earlier in the book that he let most of their shared duties fall to Catherine, and I don’t think he realizes that what duties he kept were STILL htat high level, and that in this particular case his job wasn’t JUST that of a judge, it was that of a diplomat and politician as well, and he really did need to put effort into fixing things for Cordelia. Not because it’s a judge’s job. He was offended at that implication, and fairly. It’s not a judge’s job, but judge is not his only role!

      And he just.. didn’t really process that.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Even if Hanno regains his powers, I suspect he won’t ever be able to trust them again – what if it’s the Hierarch passing judgement instead of the Seraphim?

    Liked by 2 people

  34. While we’re waiting for the next chapter – I was rereading old chapters and came across this, from Calamities II, spoken by Rafaella, the Valiant Champion:


    “Life is adventure,” the girl philosophized in broken tradertalk. “Kill many things back home. Much slaughter of other claimants.”


    So basically Rafaella killed the other claimants to the Name of Valiant Champion, just as Catherine did the other claimants to the Name of Squire. I thought that maybe killing other claimants was something only villains did, but apparently not.

    No one commented on it in the comments of Calamities II, but I bring it up now because I’m not sure now if heroes are actually that heroic, if they feel they have to go all Highlander on each other and murder the competition.

    I wonder how many other living heroes killed fellow claimants to get their Name.


    In relation to that – Hanno says that he cannot judge, and he gave up all agency in the matter to the Seraphim before they fell silent. Catherine says that justification only matters to the just, and her standard shows the sword outweighing the crown.

    Hanno must be moral at all times. He refuses to accept any compromise he feels is immoral, even if it endangers his long-term goals.

    Catherine has no line she will not cross if it means achieving her long-term goals, except maybe the deaths or betrayal of the Woe and Callow.

    Hanno is failing to live up to his own ideals. He is waning. His significance is not changing.

    Catherine is living up to her own ideals, mostly. She’s having trouble with Hakram and vice versa, but that’s all. She is waxing and gaining greater significance.

    If this were a competition, I’d say Evil is winning. I’m just not sure why. Is it because Evil is more dynamic and proactive? Is it because Good and Evil aren’t that different from each other? Is it because Evil is smarter, or more flexible?


    • If anything its because Cat is smarter and more effective than Hanno is.

      That said, “Evil is winning because it’s more powerful [in any respect]” is an invitation for Providence to come in and upset the scales.


    • Catherine ABSOLUTELY has lines she refuses to cross. In Book 4 we started a theme of “if I’m not seeing a way to make things better, I have to give up and abdicate”. She’s been grossed out by Black Knight’s and Grey Pilgrim’s actions since, and she has repeatedly taken steps to hold herself to higher standards than she did previously – see the Scribe recruitment thing. Catherine crosses a line, then crosses it back and redraws it so she doesn’t have to again. And yes, technically that does mean that what Hanno is saying is true – but what Hanno is saying is true for Hanno himself as well when taken to an extreme. He severly underestimates how rigid Cat’s lines really are.

      Wrt Raphaella, one version I can’t rule out is that “much slaughter of other claimants” might refer to competitions a la hunting in the Brocelian – it was happening around her, but she wasn’t the one doing the killing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • On the subject of Cat’s redefining of boundaries, I have to say that while it would need to be refined as a published story (and possibly broken into two books), I really liked Book 4 in the context of the series themes. It gave Cat the means to go Full Traditional Evil and have a Redemption = no rest for the wicked and change her course. She really holds her lines now (even if they form a shape that focuses on systemic goals over Justice) because she witnessed first hand what the end results of Traditional Evil is. Her lines are solid, just not where Hanno thinks they should be.

        Liked by 2 people

      • WRT Rafella, I don’t really see anything surprising in the idea that claimant to a Name of the Champion line got into honor duels to fix the issue, either. This *is* Levnat we are talking about.

        I also don’t think that’s quite enough to see that this is either standard or common or that there are no difference between Good and Evil, so it is avery minor point.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. So, I’m not even sure that Evil Names necessarily have to slaughter the other Claimants, they just need to win out over them: See Robber’s description of the competition between goblins to figure out which of them would join the legions, where at first they’re killing each other, then Robber gets disgusted with that and sets up a game where they bet the outcome.
    That sounds a lot like someone who isn’t allowed to say they’re Named describing their conflict with other Claimants as a hint. Or maybe like the sort of event that is defined by the same stories as the conflict between claimants, either creating those stories, or being created by the influence those stories have on probability.

    if the important factor that people win out over the other claimants, there may or may not be a requirement to win out over others in a competition with a discrete end point. But regardless of the specific mechanics I bet some Claimants for Chancellor have won by means of politically outmaneuvering foes without necessarily killing them.

    Some Proceran names might by decided by competitions of piety, or a bet, or a joust, or a formal melee, or by a group of people setting out on a particular quest to retrieve something, defeat a specific evil, or bring down a particular threat, and only one succeeding(whether the others die or return in disgrace).
    While Levantine Names might also be decided by a quest in the above format, or by competition to see who can bring down the biggest monster or survive the harshest conditions, or loot the most wealth(from ancient tombs? from Procer?)(for the Brigand Names), or by Colosseum-style games in which only one survives, regardless of whether they were killed by other Claimants, Levante is unstructured/adventurer-style about their heroism enough that I could even imagine them doing the same sort of free-for-all-death-match-unless-the-claimants-choose-rules-for-themselves.

    But I think based on her Domain(a colosseum that can isolate those fighting in it from the world and provide her an advantage), she probably killed the other Claimants for her name in colosseum combat.


    • edits:
      1) free-for-all deathmatch-unless-the-claimants-choose-rules-for-themselves that happens in Praes.
      2) But I think based on the Valiant Champion’s Domain


  36. > Yet Cordelia Hasenbach had, once, been on the verge of being Named. The Heavens themselves had measured her being and not found it wanting.

    It seems that Hanno doesn’t know that Cordelia was offered Names from both sides. And he appears to share the common misconception about where Names come from.


    • No, she had the base for a name which is the same for both above and below which is “the belief that they are right and the will to see it done.” It just favored above over below, I’m pretty sure if more heroes rejected their names at first, below would offer them one, and vice versa.

      Liked by 1 person

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