Chapter 67: Isolani

“Kill a man and they will call you a murderer. Kill a hundred and it is a massacre, slaughter a thousand and it will be war. But kill a hundred thousand, a million? That carnage is the sole province of gods. Ancient Keter revealed this truth for all to see: apotheosis is simply bloodshed beyond mortal ken.”

– Kayode Owusu, Warlock under Dread Emperors Vindictive I and Nihilis

I slept through the beginning of the Battle of Maillac’s Boot.

Adjutant’s prediction of the first enemy skirmishers arriving by Early Bell proved to be somewhat optimistic, as the first skulkers were caught half past Midnight Bell instead. Ghouls out front instead of skeletons, a sure sign that something with brains was planning out the offensive – they were significantly better at keeping out of sight. Pickler’s wall on the peninsula was done and the palisade raised to the south but the fort guarding the northern shore had not yet been finished and so it was there that the ghouls tried to slip in. They got caught by goblin legionaries, fangs and claws proving no match for knives and crossbows when they came attached to a pair of eyes that could see in the dark.

It was only the first of the enemy’s probes at our defences under cover of night, which my commanders had well known. Watches were doubled and magelights brought out as lone ghouls turned into packs swimming through the muck and skeletons began to march at the bottom of the swamp. An assault on the palisade was handily thrown back, though worryingly enough the ghouls had been more interested in clawing at the wood than climbing up to assault my soldiers. The Boot itself was only tried more cautiously, ghoul packs revealing themselves several times in the distance in an attempt to bait out fire from our engines.

Pickler’s boys had better discipline than that, thankfully, so despite their efforts the enemy were kept in the dark about our range and the nature of our engines. One of Hune’s legates, who went by the name of Paltry, had been in command at the time and he’d requested the Order of Broken Bells to send patrols along the shoreline just in case. They found no enemies, however, and the dead bade their time with only a few more minor attacks under cover of dark. The first genuine assault came halfway past Early Bell, and even if I’d not already been breaking my fast while reading reports the ruckus of it would have woken me.

I hastily scarfed down the rest of my eggs – weren’t as good now that Hakram wasn’t the one cooking them, no one else got the seasoning quite right – and snatched up my staff before limping out in to the cold morning light, running into the secretary from the phalanges that Adjutant had sent to speak to me. An assault on the palisade, the young woman told me, by skeleton mages and ghouls.

“Reinforcements were already being sent in when I left,” she said, tucking back a curl of dark hair just a little too long to be allowed under Army regulations.

The adjunct secretariat weren’t part of the Army of Callow, though, I reminded myself. They were Hakram’s and no one else’s, though he’d often drawn on my armies for recruitment.

“The assault will have been driven back by the time we can arrive, Your Majesty,” she continued, “so the Lord Adjutant suggests that you finish your breakfast instead of-“

“I left a mug of tea in there,” I mused, “have it brought to the palisade, would you?”

I tore open a gate into Twilight and stepped through, the warmer breeze of that journeyer’s realm a pleasant change from the clime of Hainaut. While limping my way there would have taken me too long and there was no denying it, I had a shortcut at hand. Wasn’t hard to make it there, the starlit compass guiding my steps, and I limped out of a portal to the sight of a dozen crossbows and twice as many swords pointed at me. I smiled approvingly at the sight, eyes scanning our surroundings for a threat.

“At ease,” I said.

I’d aimed to come out at ground level, since there might be fighting on the palisade walkway, but there was no sight of the dead there. Wasn’t hard to hazard a guess as to why, given that the Grey Pilgrim was up there and healing a captain whose eyes and cheek looked like it had quite literally been bitten off. I left him to that for the moment, instead looking for an officer among the crowd just now beginning to put away their weapons. There was a sergeant, stout orc lad with dark green skin and the kind of vivid scar across his nose that his people highly prized as display of strength.

“Sergeant, your name?” I asked.

“Alvar, ma’am,” the lieutenant hastily replied, throwing in a formal salute.

His example was followed by the rest of the line, as if they were only now remembering they were in front of a queen.

“Sergeant Alvar, report,” I ordered.

“At least two hundred ghouls and a tenth of mages, ma’am,” the orc said. “Ghouls came out first, to draw fire from our mages and crossbows, then the skeletons popped out to lob fireballs and rot curses at the palisade. The Grey Pilgrim popped up to smash them, though, took barely a moment.”

My eyes narrowed. Had Keter narrowed in on here being the weak point of my defences, then? Ten mages wasn’t a large amount, in the greater scheme of things, but the generals of the Kingdom of the Dead were not usually prone to tossing their like into the grinder without purpose. Mages were a lot harder for the Dead King to get his hands on than footmen, and in some ways they formed the backbone of his armies.

“How’d the palisade hold up?” I asked.

“Our sappers say the wardstones dulled the curses but the fireballs scorched the wood some,” Sergeant Alvar said. “If this place weren’t so wet the wood might have caught fire.”

“Lucky us I picked this miserable hole to fight in, then,” I drily said. “We’ve got swamp water enough to drown the work of a hundred mages.”

“Wouldn’t mind fighting on a sunny Free Cities beach one of these days, ma’am,” a soldier called out. “Just saying.”

“You and me both, soldier,” I snorted. “But if the Enemy was smart enough to head there, wouldn’t it be smart enough to avoid fighting us in the first place?”

That got a few appreciative laughs along with blades on shields. Bravado was always a hit with my rank a file, and it wasn’t like they’d not earned the right to brag. What other army of our age could boast campaigns to match those of my Army of Callow? I clapped Sergeant Alvar’s shoulder and sent the soldiers back to their duty, as from the corner of my eye I saw that Tariq was done healing my captain. Good, hadn’t wanted to get in the way of that. If the man could get treatment from the finest living wielder of Light instead of one of our own priests, far be it from me to spoil that. Fine healers as the priests of the House Insurgent were, they weren’t the Peregrine.

It wasn’t a long walk, even hobbling, and I wasted no time. When the freshly-healed captain began to head my way I shook my head, having already gotten as much of a report as I needed to. Tariq didn’t even look like he was out of breath, ever spry for his lengthening age. I broke the silence first.

“My thanks for healing my people,” I acknowledged.

“Would that I could do more,” the Pilgrim said.

In most people I would have called it a courtesy, a formula, but when it came to the old man I suspected it was entirely sincere.

“The tide’s pulling in,” I said. “Our foe took the bait.”

“So I’ve heard,” Tariq murmured. “Scourges, too?”

“Drake and Mantle,” I said. “But there’ll be more Revenants.”

There always were.

“More of the Scourges as well,” the old man said. “A third to round them out, that is the Enemy’s way. Varlet or the Archmage.”

Right, heroes insisted on calling Tumult the ‘Archmage’, as if that description didn’t also fit quite a few of our own finest practitioners. I’d grant them that the Revenant in question had an uncannily broad arsenal of sorcery to call on, but his particular fondness for large-scale workings that caused chaos in the ranks meant my own people’s name for him seem more apt in my eyes.

“I’d say we’ve seen no sign of Varlet,” I sighed, “but that’s rather the point with that one, isn’t it?”

The Thief of Star had been like Vivienne back in the day, befitting the common root of their Name: unnaturally skilled in stealth and infiltration, but not all that difficult to deal with in an open fight. The Varlet, as we called that grey-cloaked thing, had clearly been more on the assassin end of the sneaky Named scale. It would have been a fucking headache to deal with even if it didn’t drench everything it used in particularly lethal poisons. At least we shouldn’t be dealing with the Hawk anytime soon. After she’d handily lost an archer’s duel against Indrani the Dead King had sent her out east instead, to be Rozala Malanza’s headache instead of mine.

“They will come for you, Queen Catherine,” Tariq quietly said. “You have become one of the keystones of the Grand Alliance, since the Peace of Salia. Your death would damage it deeply.”

“They always come,” I shrugged. “I yet draw breath anyway, and I’ll not tremble at the shadow of dead Named.”

“I meant no offence,” the Pilgrim said, “only that wherever you make your stand, foes will be drawn.”

“I planned with that in mind,” I assured him. “Which brings me to a request.”

“I’m listening, Black Queen, though I make no promises,” the old man said, faintly smiling.

 I somehow got the impression he was having a laugh at my expense, though I couldn’t quite pinpoint how.

“I want you to stay here, during the battle,” I said. “I know you like to wander and that the real blow might just fall elsewhere in our defences, but your presence would anchor this flank.”

“In matters of war, I am at your disposal,” Tariq frankly said. “I have never led armies, while your skill in such endeavours is well-known.”

I nodded my thanks, but before I could speak I caught movement from the corner of my eye. Ah, I thought. Timing’s about right I suppose. A dark-haired young woman hastily made her way up the ramp, the skeletal hand she wore as a pin revealing her rank among the phalanges, and with a relieved expression pressed a steaming mug of herbal tea into my hands.

“Just in time,” I smiled as she bowed. “Thank you.”

The Grey Pilgrim cast me a look that did not know whether it wanted to be impressed or disbelieving.

“Always one step ahead, Tariq,” I lied, and sipped at my tea.

The dead had begun massing in significant numbers halfway past Morning Bell.

Skirmishes had kept happening along our defence lines – mostly the Boot and the palisade  so far – even as I sat in on a meeting of the Second Army’s general staff, letting the well-oiled machinery that General Hune had turned them into go through the necessary motions. The Second was my force that’d stayed closest to the original mould of the Legions of Terror, both because of Hune’s personal leanings and because a lot of its high officers were originally from the Legions of Terror. And not the Fifteenth, which had come up with me, but those legions that’d joined me after the Folly. The rank and file were much like that of other hosts in my service, a backbone of legionaries bolstered by larger numbers of Callowan recruits, but the culture among the officers here was still very much that of the Legions. It was at once familiar and discomforting, like seeing an old friend in a nephew’s face.

Indrani helped me put my armour on, something that still felt half-wrong. I’d likely never return two wearing full plate, much as I occasionally wished I could, but I’d managed to strike a balance between protection on compromise. Over an aketon I kept to a cuirass and upper vambraces, with a long tasset and a pair of good greaves. An open-face barbute with slightly gilding evoking a crown over my brow finished the set, without even a gorget to link the breastplate and the helm. Any more weight than what I wore and my limp would start becoming a hindrance. The Mantle of Woe closed over my shoulders, hood down and with an affectionate kiss on the side of the neck Archer left me to my duties while departing for hers.

A bare hour before Morning Bell, under bleary morning light, the dead began their advance. I’d drifted towards the miraculous wall built by my sappers on the shores of the Boot so that I might have a better look at the enemy’s offensive, and the walkway there did not disappoint. Wherever the water was low and mud shallow, skeletons in arms could be glimpsed marching through the mire. Where the bottom was deeper sometimes all that could be seen was the tip of spears and helms, dragged forward against the muck. The attack came in three prongs, I saw the advance continued. The largest of the forces was coming for the Boot, straight at us, but another was headed south towards the palisade.

The third looked ready to skim the ‘sole’ of the Boot so it could dip down into the shallows between the peninsula and the northern shoreline, which had me grimacing. Our fort there was finished but I’d been hoping the roundabout route to there would convince the enemy to focus their efforts on the better-defended Boot instead. The enemy general was not unskilled, then. Still, I saw no reason to leave my position at the moment. With the Pilgrim bolstering the palisade and the Blessed Artificer at the fort, or flanks should be solidly anchored for now. It was only when the opposition got serious about cracking our defences that the real trouble would start.

“Ma’am, it looks like the enemy’s in range of our mages.”

I glanced at the captain addressing me, a young woman by the name of Jules Farrier – no relation to the man who’d once been the commander of my Gallowborne, I’d asked – and cocked an eyebrow.

“It’s your command, captain,” I said. “I’m only here to keep an eye on things. The order’s yours to give.”

“Yes ma’am,” she stiffly replied.

I left her to it, eyes still on the dead approaching through the swamp. Captain Farrier had been right, now that the skeletons were reaching swamplands where the depth left their upper body visible it was time for the fireballs to begin. All along the baked brick wall that Pickler had raised, incantations rose and fire bloomed. It was a work of art, the fireball formula that the War College taught. Masego liked to rag on in, but he was coming at it from the wrong direction. He saw one spell being used for a variety of purposes improperly when he knew a spare formula more apt to each purpose, but then he was the Warlock’s son. The former Apprentice. Even among highborn mages, nine tenths would not get an education to equal his. The Legion formula was, on the other hand, simple enough that every mage in the service could learn it yet flexible enough that it could be adapted to dozens of different situations. Fighting skeletons, fire itself was only of limited use. Scorching bone and armour accomplished little.

Yet the formula could be tinkered with so that the fireball grew dense, the impact more powerful, and that made a dent into the Bones.

Like a wave of fire the spells went out, smashing into the skeletons and splashing into the scum water with hissing vapour. The enemy’s advance staggered, but we had too few mages and there were too many enemies: they could not be stopped like this, only slowed. It was still enough to set up a good killing field for our siege engines, our copperstone ballistas beginning measured fire into clumps of skeletons. Given how many undead we’d be facing before day’s end, we couldn’t afford to just shoot at every shadow.

It would have been easy to see the casualties mount on the enemy side without them even getting close enough to swing at our walls and take it as the herald of overwhelming victory. I knew better. For one, it was telling that even in such small numbers – there couldn’t be more than three thousand divided between the three offensive – we couldn’t outright dam the tide. More and more skeletons were slipping through our fire with every heartbeat, coming ever closer to the walls. But beyond that I knew well that in war there were precious few absolute advantages, mostly comparative ones. Our advantage here and now, the walls and the terrain and the preparations, they weren’t something to sneer at.

But they were needed to make up for the overwhelming numbers and tirelessness of our enemy in the first place, to make this battle more than a ceremonious suicide, so those initial beats of the battle when our advantages came into play and the enemy’s hadn’t weren’t to be counted on. This was going to get ugly when the bolts ran out, when the magics fizzled and my people were exhausted from hours of hard fighting. Anything before that was just our attempt to inflict enough damage on the enemy we got to survive the hard part. By either luck or fate, the first skeleton to make it to the bottom of our wall started scaling it not even a foot to my left. Liming to the edge of the rampart, I pointed my staff downwards and offered a rueful smile.

“Bad luck,” I told it, and let loose with Night.

It was mostly luck that I was in the fort when the attack hit.

The fighting at the walls had remained steady but the peril was not great: between the concentration of mages and the rotations of fresh soldiers, we were keeping the dead at bay handily. I’d gotten a report that it’d been trickier at the palisade, but between a company of heavies being brought out and the Grey Pilgrim intervening they’d kept it under control. The assault from the shallows had been comparatively easier, the numbers of the attackers having been thinned by fire from the Boot before they got there. It was the sole front where I’d never gone, though, so I’d elected to have a look. More for morale purposes than because the fight needed me, but morale would count for quite a bit in the coming hours.

The fort itself was of classical Legion layout, square with a forward palisade and a bastion deeper in. Gates on four sides so that legionaries could quickly deploy and in our case two smaller barricades had been added on the sides so that scorpions could be raised on heights and pointed at the shallows. There was some fighting on the shores when I stepped out of a gate within the fort, but nothing all that threatening – the dead were just keeping up the pressure by tossing corpses at our shield wall defending the shore. The Blessed Artificer had stepped in to bring down a great lighting strike of Light at enemy mages, but not involved herself since. I could only approve, given the finite nature of what she could contribute to a fight, and told her as much.

“It seems callous not to use all that I can,” Adanna of Smyrna admitted. “There have been deaths, and some of these I might have prevented.”

My opinion of her character went up a notch.

“They know the risks of their trade,” I replied, not hiding my pride. “They’re Army of Callow, they understand sometimes you have to bleed early to win the fight.”

The dark-skinned heroine looked unconvinced, but not even her remarkable amount of gall would allow her to argue with a queen about her own soldiers.

“If you sa-“

Her answer was interrupted by crashes and shouts coming from the shoreline, both out heads whipping about. I couldn’t see it all from where I stood, even with the front gates open, but I could see that some sort of large snake construct had just emerged from the shallows and was now unhinging its jaw.

“Later,” I cut in, already limping forward.

Legionaries parted for me as I made my way out of the fort, even when they were hurrying out as reinforcements, and I hastened to take a better look. I cursed in Kharsum. A new kind of construct, by the looks of it: much smaller than the great snakes used in the sieges of Twilight’s Pass, but built along the same lines. More a carrier of troops and battering ram than anything else, but no less dangerous for it. Half a dozen had hit the beaches simultaneously and were now pouring out skeletons into the gaps of my shield wall. These were made for the swamps of Hainaut, I thought. An answer to both the difficulties of the terrain and our growing advantage at range. We hadn’t been the only ones to prepare for this campaign.

“Hazaak,” the Blessed Artificer snarled, raising a short copper spear.

She’d caught up to me without my even noticing. Not to be outdone, I drew deep on Night even as Light bloomed around the short spear. Where the Artificer struck with burning might, a great crackling spear of roiling Light falling on one of the snakes, I instead took a more measured approach: shadows slithered along the ground and suddenly thrust up, threading through the open maws of three of the constructs and forcefully snapping them shut.

“Priests, on the three bound,” I calmly said, pitching my voice so it’d be heard.

The House Insurgent dutifully obeyed, Light begin to tear at the wiggling great snakes in sharp spears even as Adanna reached for another of her instruments. I began to shape a great ball of blackflame so ram down the maw of one of the remaining snakes when I caught sight of flicker of movement to my left. Instinct had me redirecting my fire there and I caught the Revenant in the stomach, scorching its thin frame as it stumbled on the ground. It looked like any other Bone, little more than a corpse in ancient armour, but none of those would have withstood the quantity of blackflame I’d just tossed at it.

“Revenant,” I noted. “Won’t be the only one.”

Already I was weaving a follow-up, threads binding the legs of the down Revenant together as I prepared a larger mass of blackflame above its body – which exploded, a curse tearing through them.

“Mantle,” I snarled, eyes flitting about.

I found her in the water, only the upper half of her armoured form above the mire. The dull, black plate steel plate set with emeralds and silver inscriptions couldn’t be confused for anyone else, not the thick green cloak whose hood obscured the visor of her helm. Another snake went up in a pillar of white flames, the Artificer striking without hesitation, but during my heartbeat of distraction the Revenant on the ground had broken its bonds. With surprising fluidity it struck out at the heroine, shortsword arcing for her neck, but my hand was steady and my aim true – my own blade caught it in time, an inch from biting into Adanna’s unprotected flesh.

Gods, would it kill the woman to wear some fucking armour?

“I will take the fallen priestess,” the Blessed Artificer mildly said. “I take offence the use her powers have found.”

“Be my guest,” I grinned. “I’ll handle our little friend here.”

The Revenant withdrew its blade and took a step back, but it’d forgotten this wasn’t a duel and it was behind my godsdamned lines: two big orc heavies smashed into its back with their greatshields, making it stumble, and I took the opening. I struck high and in a heavy chop, which it caught with its blade and deftly slid so my momentum dragged me into its guard, but before it could rotate its wrist and disarm me my deadwood staff smashed into the side of its head. Though beyond paid it still stumbled, and with a grunt I drew back my blade to strike again – weaving Night along the length. With a clean cut I sent its helmeted head rolling, even as Adanna was wreathed with blinding light.

I shielded my eyes with my hood, offering a grin to the two heavies that’d come to help.

“This one counts as half-yours,” I told them. “Tell your lieutenant you’re up for commendation.”

Both grinned back like big ugly green cats, returning enthusiastic calls of Warlord, but even as I bumped shoulders against them in a friendly manner I was already taking in the few bits of fighting I’d missed. Mantle had ripped up my working on the snakes, though I’d been too distracted to noticed, but the fight with the Artificer wasn’t going well for her at all. She’d already been forced to pull out a globe of smooth, mirror-like darkness I’d only ever seen her use when hard pressed. Meanwhile, between the Artificer and the House Insurgent there were only to great snakes left and the mages were focusing their efforts on plugging the breaches so that the heavies could fill them. With a triumphant cry Adanna crushed a glass baton in her fist and a rain of Light spears fell on the globe of darkness, shattering it with a keening scream. Under it there was no trace of Mantle, who must have legged it when the attack began going south.

I glanced at the Blessed Artificer appreciatively.

“You’re definitely worth keeping around,” I said. “She’s a tricky opponent, for me.”

Adanna of Smyrna straightened proudly.

“It is my duty to-“

In the distance, to the south, a few gouts of red went up. Signal spells, asking for reinforcements. Shit, they must have hit the palisade as well.

“Later,” I amusedly told the Artificer, opening a gate and stepping through it.

The first thing I heard stepping out of the Twilight Ways had an involuntary shiver going up my spine.

Shine,” the Grey Pilgrim coldly said.

I shielded my eyes with the flat of by blade, but not quite quickly enough the terrifyingly bright light I glimpsed did not blind me. I cursed, head ringing and eyes burning, and almost stumbled into a soldier. I must have come out near a formation. It was too long for comfort before I could see again, but when I did what my restored vision showed was a mixed bag. On one hand, there was a gaping hole in the palisade about ten feet wide. Broken logs had been brought forward to plug it, but the undead were trying to push through the opening and only narrowly being held back by a hasty shield wall. On the other hand, the smoking skeleton at Tariq’s feet that was still holding a familiar claymore could not be anything but the Drake.

It looked like getting a blast of the Peregrine’s most powerful aspect from up close was too much for even that monster’s regeneration to take, because while some specks of flesh were reappearing on the bones it was nothing more than that.

“Your Majesty,” Tariq mildly greeted me. “If you would handle the breach, I am not yet finished with this one.”

“Hey, I’m not one to argue with a smoking corpse,” I shrugged as I began to gather Night. “Do as you will.”

I was in no way inclined to keep to subtle means when dealing with an outright breach, so this time I simply began to gather a few dozen great balls of blackflame above the undead trying to mash through my shield wall. Impatiently I struck at the ground with my staff, the balls smashing downwards and exploding in great gouts of black fire. Immediately the pressure slackened and my soldiers pushed the enemy back, enough that sappers were able to bring out panels and began repairing the breach. I tossed another great gout of fire at the dead to push them back in the water long enough for the holes to be plugged, then let the captains in charge to handle the rest. I glanced at Tariq, who’d nailed the remains of the Drake to the ground with nails of Light and was now opening a gate into the Twilight Ways beneath him. That might actually do the trick, I mentally conceded. A sudden contortion had the skeleton’s skull snap upwards and something that glinted in the light flew. A tooth?

I immediately wove Night to catch it, even as Tariq kicked the skeleton into Twilight and the bones turned to dust, but someone else beat me to it. One of my soldiers, a young man who grinned at his own swift reflexes. He twitched, a heartbeat later.

No,” I snarled.

The soldier smirked at me and winked, then ran for it. I sent a javelin of Night into the back of his knee, my soldiers crying out in dismay at the sight of one of theirs getting shot in the back. But though the soldiers stumbled the shredded flesh grew back in a heartbeat. The Pilgrim’s beam of Light incinerated armour and muscle alike, but it wasn’t enough. Still burning with pale flames as he deftly avoided the Night harpoon I threw at his back, the reborn Drake threw himself over the edge of the palisade and into the mass of undead. I went up the ramp and took out my anger on the undead in a storm of black flames, but the bastard was in the wind. Again. My fingers clenched around my staff until the knuckles went white.

My soldiers gave me a wide berth, but Tariq was less wary of the dark mood laid bare on my face.

“It’s not the last of him we’ll see today,” the Grey Pilgrim simply said. “And we know the trick, now.”

I made myself breathe out, reaching for calm, and looked up at the sky. The sun had risen higher than I’d expected, we must be close to Noon Bell by now. Gods, barely noon and the fighting was likely to last until dark. Above the Boot, streaks of yellow went up. Constructs sighted. I squared my shoulders.

“Next time,” I agreed, and opened a gate.

As always, there was to be no rest for the wicked.

114 thoughts on “Chapter 67: Isolani

  1. That is a nasty – and ridiculous trick for Drake.
    And ridiculously overpowered. Is he fucking whatshisname, the 40k fallen Astartes who just turns you into him if you kill him? Except worse.

    Blessed Artificer isn’t wearing any kind of armor? What the hell is wrong with her?

    Liked by 11 people

    1. erebus42

      You’d think someone who’s basically a Smithing cleric would have a better appreciation for armor. Idk though maybe she’s pulling an Exiled Prince and feels it’s “unheroic”- and we all know how that worked out for him.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. caoimhinh

        To be fair, she is more of a scholarly-type.
        She is not really a smith, the “Artificer” part of her Name comes closer to an enchanter than a smith or a heavy mechanic-kind of craftsman.

        Liked by 9 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Well, most Named have a theme in their clothing and equipment, and some aren’t flexible in that regard. Mages and Priests wear robes while fighter types wear some sort of armor. You will never see Masego wearing plate armor, and Tariq literally can’t wear anything without it becoming gray for some reason or the other.

      What I found funny was that Cat complained of Adanna having an unprotected neck, but so does Cat, and her excuse is that the limp would bother her, yet she can always get rid of the pain with Night.

      P.S: a friend told me that there’s a guy called Drake Merwin from a saga of books (the Gone Series) whose power was regeneration even from the smallest part of him, given to him by some sort of alien evil being. Maybe this Drake is a reference to that guy?

      Liked by 6 people

      1. > and Tariq literally can’t wear anything without it becoming gray for some reason or the other.

        Is that a textual fact or just a very reasonable theory? I don’t remember.

        Like

        1. shadw21

          Textual fact from his thoughts back in the Perigrine extra chapters I believe. Specifically whatever robes he wears I think, but I think he was wearing those most of the time anyways. They always turned a particular shade of grey during his journeys to wherever by the time he got to his destination, no matter what color they originally were.

          Liked by 6 people

      2. > and her excuse is that the limp would bother her, yet she can always get rid of the pain with Night.

        Night is a limited resource, and Cat wears SOME armor. Notably she added a helmet since the last outing where she wondered why the fuck she wasnt wearing one XD

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Practicality

          IIRC Indrani called her out on it, that the sisters could have easily healed the limp, but Cat said something along the lines of needing the reminder.

          (i believe it happened during a tavern scene after Indrani slugged Cat and told her that a year ago she would have easily caught that.)

          Liked by 5 people

        2. KageLupus

          I don’t think the issue is that Night is a limited resource, but that it only masks the pain so that Cat can move around without the limp bothering her. But it still causes her trouble. It is like walking on a sprained ankle. You can do it, but it will make the ankle worse in the long run.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. JBeari

            Not to be combative, but I’m pretty sure it was addressed earlier on in the series when she was still Squire.

            Basically it being the same reasoning as not using a magical weapon, that in a crucial moment it will fail you and cause your downfall. Like she gets used to not feeling pain, but then a pivotal moment when she can’t use Night anymore and trips up at the sudden resurgence of the pain.

            Im starting to doubt myself now though. I could sworn that that happened, right?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. 'Ladi Williams

              No, you are right. She said she wants to remember the pain to keep her grounded and humane…but more importantly Providence would ensure she runs into a hero who would counter the hight she’s using to keep the limo from bothering her at the very worst possible time for her…which would surely spell her doom.

              Like

        3. caoimhinh

          I mean, she is not wearing the gorget, the part that protects the neck, because supposedly it would add her too much weight.
          Even as far as Book 1, the importance of that particular piece of equipment has been remarked upon, with Cat even mentally mocking enemies when she kills them by slicing their throats or stabbing their necks.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yeah I’m… wondering about that one.
            Currently my guess is that the breastplate and the helmet both actually provide protection for her neck, she just doesnt wear the piece that would connect the two and remove gaps.

            Like

          2. Shveiran

            I’m kind of an armor enthusiast, and I must say I don’t see a contraddiction here: cat used to mock people not wearing a gorget or an helmet when she was the Squire, sporting full plate armor made in goblin steel and still being able to outrun an athlete with ease.

            Now she is wearing a breastplate and a bit of limb protection, plus an helmet. That is obviously better than a tunic for the purpose of protection, but it is still a far cry from a suit of plate. I don’t think she is wearing a suit of chainmail underneath (since that would be the heaviest piece by far) but that still means that her joints are vulnerable. So is (possibly) the back of her leg and her feet (depending on the kind of armor she is wearing there, but again, considering she isn’t wearing plate I doubt these areas at least are not exposed), her groin, her face (she seems to be wearing a barbute, so a stab in the opening is a possibility) and her hands, since gauntlets were not mentioned.

            I believe she is well aware of this, but it is simply a matter of not being strong enough to be able to wear full plate armor and not be so drained she can’t cast effectively or slowed down so much she isn’t fast enough to dodge what armor doens’t protect against.
            this is as much armor as she can afford to wear, and yeah, it leaves dangerous areas exposed to nameless skeletons, but it is as much as she can use without dying to a revenant because she is too slow.

            This could change when she gets her name, I guess? Though I’m starting to believe it won’t. She has been far from the front lines for a while now, and that is where she gained most of her fame.

            Like

      3. NerfGlaistigUaine

        Cat’s got some hypocrisy in her, she knows it and we know it. Cat says she keeps it b/c it reminds her of… it was either mortality or her mistakes or both. Anyway, she would justify it with something that sounds good to her… but Adanna would probably justify it as well and she probably thinks its reasonable too. We all sound so reasonable to ourselves and others simply seem so unreasonable – we have reasons for doing unreasonable things, others are just unreasonable. Crash course in fundamental attribution error 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    3. grzecho2222

      In same version of the myth, drake/wyrm Gorenicz can reborn/grow copies of himself from his teeth, also Iason had fought same kind of super warrior that grew from dragon teeth sown in the field of Ares

      Liked by 2 people

  2. NerfGlaistigUaine

    “But kill a hundred thousand, a million? That carnage is the sole province of gods… apotheosis is simply bloodshed beyond mortal ken”

    Boy, you underestimate our ken. No one does inhuman like humans.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. NerfContessa

      Indeed, my fittingly named friend and coworker, indeed.

      Also, regenerate as long as his tooth is left AND possession by tooth is insanely op.

      If that had been a hero he would likely still be alive, so I am guessing villain who fell for. The Invincible ploy.

      Like

  3. erebus42

    As much as I love these battle scenes (this story’s use of truly integrated fantasy war making is always amazing to read) I’m dying to see the results of Masegos’ and Akuas’ projects.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Man, that is a nasty trick of the Drake’s. Just an instant of contact with a tooth – supposedly through armor – and the victim is instantly killed, consumed, and replaced. Something that powerful feels like it has to be an Aspect, not DK tampering, and it’s somewhat terrifying to think about what the original Named might have been like in that case.

    Also, this defense is feeling all too easy and almost chipper. Cat’s dark mood sticking around might be the best case scenario, because I can think of a few stories that tend to go poorly when the defenders are bragging and scoring win after win. This is even accounting for the deaths stacking up.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. dadycoool

      Yeah, the “Bad luck” and “Nice job, boys” are some red flags. Not big ones, like “Whoo, we did it!” bit they’re having too good a time to last.

      That trick really is nasty. Only thing for it is to get him all alone and toss him in the Twilight Ways, I guess.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. grokkingstuff

      Imagine the practice the Dead King had, keeping the Bard alive & contained. Keeping the Drake for 50 years must have been a piece of cake 😀

      Like

  5. NerfGlaistigUaine

    Isolani: Isolated queen’s pawn. An isolated pawn is a pawn that doesn’t have any friendly pawns in the adjacent files. This means the pawn is in a very vulnerable and weak position. An isolated queen’s pawn is special because it provides control of the center, opens up better development, and can create a good position to launch a kingside attack, while retaining the normal disadvantages of an isolated pawn. Which fits really, b/c Cat’s force is isolated and vulnerable but she’s using it to launch a strong offensive to gain control of the board.

    Also, while isolani can be beneficial, if things progress to endgame in the same position then an isolated pawn is just a huge vulnerability and weakness.

    Feel free to correct me here, I haven’t played chess seriously since high school so I might have gotten some stuff wrong.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. LD1977

      Isolani is any pawn, not just on d file.

      Also it does not provide any prerequisites for a kingside attack.

      The main reason it is allowed is to have better piece play, and one of the goals is to force the other player to capture a piece protected by it (for example on e5 is the pawn is on d4), therefore unmaking the isolated position of the pawn.

      The only real advantage of an isolani is mostly in the endgame, when you have an isolani on a or h file which is also free to advance, therefore distracting the opponent’s King or tying down a light piece.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. NerfGlaistigUaine

        Er, you sure? B/c I did a quick Google search after reading your comment and pretty much everyone (wikipedia, chess stack exchange, chess24, etc.) says it’s isolated queen’s pawn (d file) not just isolated pawn. And there are tons of discussions on advantages/disadvantages of isolani and most suggest having it endgame is a bad thing. Can I ask where you’re getting your information from? It seems to disagree with, well, every source I know.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. LD1977

          Well I have read a lot of chess books and studied chess deeply. I have also known a lot of grandmasters use the term for any isolated pawn.

          The reason d pawn is mentioned most often is that its isolation happens in many openings, therefore it is in fact the most typical case. Opening books have always been the most popular, so authors probably first shortened the term into isolani while talking about isolated d pawn.

          Now, as we agree, isolated d pawn is a structural weakness that is a liability in the endgame. However, this is ideally balanced by free piece play (the real compensation), a bit quicker development and the outpost on e4/e5. I have personally always found that playing against it is easier than having it, but I am a medium level player (around 2150 ELO), so transitional advantages probably mean less than structural ones 🙂 I do hold my own well against masters, but IMs/GMs are a bit too hard.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. NerfGlaistigUaine

            Oh cool! You’re a lot more qualified then I am then to talk about chess strategies – I was only an amateur and ~1900 ELO at best. Thing I’m confused about is you say isolani is good for endgame and then in this response you say it’s structurally bad but has quicker development and outposts – which would be opening/mid-game stuff. Seems like you’re saying it can lead to better endgame but not better in endgame (unless it’s also passed pawn)? B/c by endgame, when all you’ve got is pawns and one or two material, seems isolani would be a weakness all other things even. Also, I was taught that having those outposts made a kingside attack more viable though, is that wrong?

            One thing I have to outright disagree about is I’m pretty sure the agreed upon definition of isolani is the isolated queen pawn specifically. I think your GMs are just more liberal in their vocab.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. NerfContessa

              Dang, up till 17 years ago I was a pretty successful amateur, somehow I had a confounding play style which made me win near all my first games with people over 200pts ahead of me.

              Later I sadly found out it was simply an actual flaw. I didn’t plan e ough moves ahead and so better ayers wasted their brain power a ticipating moves that never came.

              Suggs, but that’s the reason I stopped playing chess at age 24.

              Like

            2. LD1977

              Maybe I haven’t emphasized enough. Isolated but free pawn on the wing is useful in endings because it ties down opponent’s pieces far from the other wing, while isolated d pawn is not as good because it usually does not tie down the opponent far from the real action.

              True, could be that in literature isolani is specifically d-pawn. I checked too 🙂 probably people are a bit less strict when just talking and I just remembered that. I am way too lazy to go through the books I have handy to try to find an exception.

              Having an outpost is useful, however these outposts are normally challenged so just having a piece there is not the real point. What actually happens is that you try to use the development advantage to force the opponent to take the Knight on e5 –> you recapture dxe5 –> now you have a pawn on e5 that is not isolated anymore (plus ideally it hits Knight on f6 that has to move, therefore weakening h7) + you keep the more active pieces –> this together can spark a kingside attack.

              This is why the defender should never ever take on e5, but definitely try to exchange pieces gradually to defuse the initiative while keeping the d4 isolani alive (it gets weaker with exchanges).

              Anyway, in the context of the Guide, I am not sure there is a higher symbolic here. Author probably just means to emphasize the weakness of an isolated army.

              Like

              1. NerfGlaistigUaine

                Makes sense, but that’s very different from your initial response. What you left out was quite important to your message. You know a lot about chess (besides getting meaning of isolani wrong 😉 ), but your communication could use a bit more work, no offense.

                As for message, I like to give EE the benefit of the doubt.

                Like

  6. I love the rapport Catherine has with her soldiers. She has earned that. And the moment when two of her soldiers helped bring down that Revenant, without a second thought? She earned that too, paid for it a dozen times over.

    Liked by 9 people

      1. Adam

        Cat is a formerly supernatural priest of an eldritch horror and most Revenants were only “normal” Named even begore being diminished in death. The pain in the butt Revenants are ones who were abnormally powerfull in life and then were augumented by Trigemestus. An unnamed revenant will easily die to the Black Queen, Queen of Lost and Found, Last of the Winter Court, daughter and apprentice of one of the Calamities. Remember that all of the present Named are heavy hitters of the combined army brought together from the entire continent.

        Like

      2. No that’s the thing. She. Earned. This.

        Remember how easily Warlock tore through the Bumbling Magician at the beginning of the story? That’s Catherine’s power level, skill, and narrative status now. From the very beginning it was established that there are tiers of Named, from those who make narrow escapes and eek out victories against simple mortals … and those like the Saint of Swords and Warlock, against whom such Named might as well be ordinary mortals.

        And Catherine has clawed her way up those ranks throughout the entire story, to the point where this, all of this, feels earned. She gets to just roflstomp a lesser Revenant and not have it feel cheap because we know exactly what it took to get here and can cheer it on as a reward well earned.

        And with the soldiers coming to her aid, that’s the thing. Her Story right here, and her Role, clearly isn’t “Catherine the Lone Powerhouse”. What this battle is serving as a testament to is all the work, blood, and sweat she’s put in earning the loyalty and crafting the skill of those who follow her. When a low tier undead Named forgets it’s not an a duel and gets summarily tackled by two of Catherine soldier’s brave enough to get into a fight between the Black Queen and a Named, that’s not just an asspull. That is something Catherine has paid for, from the very moment she slit that rapist’s throat to join the War College as Black’s apprentice to the moment just before where she stood next to her soldiers on the battlements and joked that the Dead King should fear them.

        Easy battles are only a bad thing in a story when they’re not the glorious culmination of *work* we can be proud of.

        Besides, Catherine has emphasized so many damn times this chapter that this part of the fight is an easy prelude to the real grinding toll of it later that I think we’d know better than to call any aspect of it ‘too easy’.

        Liked by 9 people

        1. Thissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

          > Easy battles are only a bad thing in a story when they’re not the glorious culmination of *work* we can be proud of.

          this this this this this

          Guide does a very excellent thing where it doesn’t suffer from seasonal power decay/escalation – characters enter each new arc of the story with all the power-ups from the end of the previous one, and the environment does not reshuffle itself offscreen to match. And it achieves this effect partially through this – fights that aren’t trivial in the setting, but are roflstomped by the main character because goddamn it it’s book six and she never stopped escalating.

          It escalates the scope and the goalposts instead – Catherine could roflstomp all Revenants present and it still wouldn’t win her the fight by itself, and she still cannot roflstomp all of them, because the Dead King is bringing out the good silverware for this.

          Because at the end of the story, the Dead King will earn his names twice over, and how the fuck can Catherine achieve that if she cannot roflstomp his minions?

          Liked by 1 person

      3. KageLupus

        Nah, the Revenant was just some random dead Named that the DK threw their way. Chances are it was mainly meant to be a distraction for the Mantle and any damage it inflicted would be extra. Don’t forget, Cat has spent years honing herself in combat against Named specifically. She has enough experience with it that anything less than a Scourge or other Big Deal is well within her ability to take down.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Gibborim

        Cat is obnoxiously good at killing named and not every named the Dead King has raised can be a heavy hitter. I’m sure he has taken his share of Squires, Apprentices, and Random Assholes.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. LD1977

          All true.

          I just expected that even a weak Revenant has two aspects it can call on (I vaguely remember that getting turned into Revenant might damage/destroy an aspect), so just cutting its head off seems kind of too easy peasy.

          Like

          1. I mean some of them might have *none*. Heck some Revenants may have only been claimants.

            Remember the Squire murderfest in the first book? It’s not hard to imagine all those kids being thrown into a war with the Dead King (and dying), and they probably had the juice to at least merit “more Revenant than basic zombie” status”. So yeah, some of the Revenants may only have a Name trick or three, and not even an aspect yet.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Dredcor

            The destroyed/damaged aspect bit was specifically when the Dead King didn’t want them to have a specific Aspect, so he would intentionally destroy it.

            Though it was also mentioned that the Revenants only have Shadows of their names remaining. Though that might have been specific to names like White Knight which recurr.

            Like

          3. Darkening

            I mean, I doubt Scorched Apostate had more than 1 aspect at the very most, and he got turned into a revenant. I’m sure any number of rookie named have died to the dead king. Hell, Cat’s said in the past that a lot of heroes sort of make a point of keeping an aspect in reserve so that they can pull a sudden reversal of an opponent if they need it.

            Like

            1. LD1977

              True, true. I figured guys that go on a Crusade are more often the big boys, but yes they could be greenies with a single aspect too. I mean we saw some pretty bad mofos so far, even before the whole Scourge group.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Darkening

                I mean, there’s *already* an apprentice involved in the current war with Keter. It’s kind of an all hands on deck situation, even the rookies get dragged along lol. The folks that came after Cat at the battle of camps certainly weren’t especially impressive individually at the time, they’d probably have gone to war against Keter as well, given most of them are currently.

                Like

  7. Mmm for a moment i thought it trying to kill the Pilgrim with the tooth, this was cooler xD

    I am loving Cats exits, what is she? Batman? xD

    How many of the scourges have appeared or been mentioned? Including the one that was destroyed by the drow.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we’ve seen Pale knight, Mantle/Tumult, Drake, and Hawk, with Varlet being mentioned but not seen. I want to say there’s been a Wolf mentioned as well? That would make six, which seems appropriate; a Five-Man Band plus Sixth Ranger.
      Although considering that heroes and villains aren’t entirely in agreement, I suppose Wolf and Varlet could be the same Revenant. Wolves are stealthy hunters and Varlet is an assassin

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shveiran

        I don’t think the Pale Knight is actually a Scourge.
        It is definitely in that league, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think he is one of the official formation.

        As far as I can tell they are:
        Tumult/archmage
        Drake
        Mantle
        Hawk
        Varlet

        … though I’m not one-hundred percent sure there are five of them. I have this feeling they were six? If so, I think one is still in the dark.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. ohJohN

        From the recent “Interlude: Ietsism”:

        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.

        TL;DR It’s a fuzzy category applied by the Grand Alliance forces for convenience, so there’s no real canonical answer, but by consensus ~10 Revenants are uncontroversially considered Scourges.

        Liked by 5 people

  8. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    out in to > out into
    There was a sergeant (later said to be a lieutenant)
    rank a file > rank and file
    seem more apt > seemed more apt
    Thief of Star > Thief of Stars
    return two > return to
    protection on compromise (sounds odd)
    slightly gilding > slight gilding
    hood down and > hood down, and
    I saw the advance continued (sounds odd)
    or flanks > our flanks
    rag on in > rag on it
    enemy we got > enemy before we got
    Liming (not sure what this should be)
    Light begin > Light beginning
    so ram > to ram
    of flicker > of a flicker
    down Revenant > downed Revenant
    plate steel plate > steel plate
    offence the use > offence at the use
    beyond paid > beyond pain
    only to great snakes > only two great snakes
    by blade > my blade
    then let the > then left the

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Xinci

    I do wonder if exposing the Drake to the Twilight ways would work due to its essence subsuming his Domain. Kind of like a Demon contaminating another being and turning it into an extension of its essence, perhaps the Domain with the greater authority may override the other.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, but most Named can’t regenerate from a scrap like that. A Domain would cover that capability.

        I do note that Pilgrim didn’t even try to use Twilight until the Drake was beaten down to 0 HP, which makes sense — as I said before, if it still had its full power and maybe a DK shard, it might well be able to attack Twilight itself.

        Like

        1. I got the impression that it’s more about mobility – he needs to not be able to dodge the gate to Twilight.

          And Domain is generally known to be another layer of reality that the person can interpose at will. Saint’s was an exception and there isn’t even a consensus that it was a Domain at all. Normally Domains are like what Skein and Catherine had, or Rafaella’s – battlefield control in a very literal sense. Regeneration is not particularly related.

          Most Named cannot regenerate from a scrap, but a lot of Named can regenerate period. We’ve seen a lot more unique and extreme abilities, for example Hanno’s Recall. Plenty of Named have tricks that can be described as “we haven’t seen any Named be able to do this [to such an extreme degree]”. It’s kind of a Named thing.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. IIRC it was either Saint herself or Pilgrim who described Saint’s “I am a sword” power as a Domain… but one which she’d focused on herself, to give her near-invulnerability. Drake’s regeneration has that same feel to it — an absolute capacity focused on a single capability, and limited to his own person.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Saint’s Aspect that produced the Domain effect was Decree. The nature of the Aspect was that she could make anything come true, and used it for making herself a sword. It’s not about an absolute capacity, Saint just… misused her Domain power for that.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. shikkarasu

                “Laurence Du Montfort is a Sword” was a self imposed limitation. By refusing to Decree anything else she focused it into a Demesne. She stated that using the Aspect for anything else would make it ‘less pure.’ Tariq confirmed that it was not a true Demesne for the first decade or so, but it became one.

                (speculation begins)
                I can’t find it in me to agree to calling it a misuse. Just like she was not being arrogant when she wore no armour and used an unremarkable sword. These self imposed limitations strengthened her Narrative. She does not need anything more than a length of sharpened steel, because She Is A Sword. It’s why Cat didn’t dare fight her fairly.

                I imagine it is a large part of why she became the Saint of Swords after her fight with Ranger. (speculation ends)

                Liked by 4 people

                1. Ah I don’t disagree, it wasn’t a misuse in the “shouldn’t have done that” sense, it was a misuse in the same sense that Cat getting a resurrection at Liesse was an abuse of the narrative mechanics.

                  And the way I read it was the other way around – it was always going to be a Domain, with the ability to Decree anything in it, but Laurence chose to focus it on herself, so her Domain was an odd kind.

                  Liked by 1 person

          2. Shveiran

            I guess a Domain could do this if it was over something related. Like, I hold Domain over my body or something like that.
            Yet I’d argue that if that was the case Drake would be much harder to hurt as well.
            I think it’s simpler to just say he’s like old style Wolverine?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Dredcor

              I think it is very likely that being undead makes him harder to deal with.
              I give it good odds that when he was still living, burning him down to the skeleton would kill him.

              But he is undead now, so no need for flesh to keep “living”, and thus his regeneration will continue to work even when he is naught but a skeleton.

              Otherwise how would he have been zombified, since he would be impossible to kill without reducing his body to nothing?

              Liked by 1 person

                1. caoimhinh

                  Well, he did mention it took 40 years to turn him into a Revenant, no? With the last 10 years being “inventive”, implying a great deal of suffering as he wished he had surrendered before it got to that point.

                  That makes me think that he really was just that hard to kill even when living.

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      When I read the part of “I glanced at Tariq, who’d nailed the remains of the Drake to the ground with nails of Light and was now opening a gate into the Twilight Ways beneath him. That might actually do the trick, I mentally conceded.”

      I thought “fucking finally, throw that bastard in! What’s taking you so long?”.

      Also, it seems like the thought of using a gate to Twilight to destroy the Drake simply hadn’t crossed Cat’s mind. Seriously, she requires only a second to open those gates.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. saithorthepyro

        I think the fact that Tariq had to nail the Drake to the ground first before even trying to get him sent through one indicates it might not be that easy to do.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Gibborim

          And if Tariq couldn’t do it quickly, on the fly, I doubt Cat could catch a decent Revenant with it either. Cat has more power adjacent to Twilight, but Tariq is who the realm was molded in the image of.

          Like

        2. caoimhinh

          Cat has been shown to open Gates to Twilight quicker than anyone else. She can do it literally on the fly, as fast as snapping her fingers.

          Tariq likely can slip into Twilight easily (as can Indrani, for example) but it seems it takes him a short while to open the Gate.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Shveiran

            Sure, but on the fly is kind of uncertain, isn’t it? I mean, now that I think about it, I don’t think she has ever used the portals to make someone fall into Arcadia, always to make someTHING fall out of them.
            So maybe she can’t quite do it fast enough that it is an effective attack? You know, I can clap my hands three times rather quick, but it’s easier to hit someone swinging a bat than it is for me to clap my hands over their nose.
            It could be easy to dodge, is what I’m trying to say.

            Like

  10. Wonder

    Oh dear , Drake Deadpool is such a fun nemesis for Cat to contend with.

    That phalange who brought Cat’s tea to her in time to look like providence was just so super.

    It got me thinking of a possible aspect for Cat;
    Making providence her bitch .
    The aspect gives people who Cat has given a task a healthy dose of providence to successfully execute the dread plans of the Black Queen Arch-Heretic Catherine Foundling.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. KageLupus

          Obey was something like “I can complete this seemingly impossible task because I was given an order to do so.” Imagine the same effect but external instead of internal. Cat would give an order to someone and they would get a push when completing it, but the effect would come from her instead of the person being ordered.

          That said, I don’t think any of Cat’s aspects are going to focus on that side of things. Anything related to ruling or leading has always been kind of incidental to Cat’s plans for the world. She took command of the army and then became Queen because it was the most direct way to get what she wanted.

          But if Names are a reflection of who a person is than I am expecting hers to be much more about fighting and managing other Named. Cat can make a plan and give soldiers orders without needing any extra power, but dealing with other Named is where she is going to need Aspects to help out.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. When Captain used it to fulfill an order, she gained physical power, but I’m pretty sure she also got a share of “unstoppability” — her story became “Captain has been given an order, and so she shall fulfill it come what may”.

          Like

    1. shikkarasu

      Hot take: This phalange is the first (that I can remember) woman with curly dark hair to appear that has not been almost immediately confirmed to be the Bard. Cat doesn’t recognise her. I don’t trust her.

      Like

      1. At this point, I’m pretty sure Cat would be able to casually detect tampering with the tea or the courier, and if Cat didn’t, the Pilgrim would. And she did gate ahead while ordering the tea delivered to her destination. Wouldn’t be surprised if the rank-pin provided more than mundane authentication as well.

        Like

  11. JBeari

    Man, I just got hit with the obvious realization that Cat is not the good guy in this story, and actually I’m questioning if she’s even the “right” guy in this story, all of a sudden. That line where she proclaims that her army is proudly willing to sacrifice for the cause was giving me some major fash vibes, like Trump talking about his handsome generals or something.

    I mean, she already knows that at least one of her highest ranking officers actively hates serving but is only there out of fear of what Cat will do if she leaves. Seems insane and insanely out of touch for a “hero of the common people” protagonist to say something so confidently that is highly debatable at best. Hell, I can imagine a new spin off story focusing on a character like Cat that gets a Name to represent the common solider against a power hungry and deluded tyrant named Catherine Foundling.

    Even worse is if she’s not deluded, but correct. Thats some Starship Troopers “I’m doing my part” levels of facism to get that sort of unquestioning loyalty and willingness to sacrifice themselves.

    Made me also wonder, why exactly is Cat looking forward to getting a new Name? I thought she really appreciated the idea that she was able to shrug off the influence the gods have over her via her name, and she hated the idea of not being in control of herself when she was Winter. Seems a bit contrived to suggest that her revulsion of being manipulated against her will is specifically only for Fae stuff and not a general character trait. Don’t know too many people irl who hate authority but only highly specific types of authority and are all about every other kind.

    I might not be remembering something correctly but on reflection it seems a really ubrupt change from “Gods are bad and Names are bad because Gods control Names” to “I cant wait to get my name, hello personification of my Name that is a symbol of the influence someone else has over me, I missed you so much.”

    Like

    1. JBeari

      Although, having said that, I can imagine some clever 11th hour twist that reveals that the only reason she was excited was because she can use the super powerful moment of being Named as a sacrifice to fuel some huge victory, like Heisenbach did when she rejected her name but instead got the all the respect and political power she needs to stay in charge and wipe the slate of the ill advised Crusade clean.

      Tbh, that would be a really cool and meta twist and now I’m cautiously optimistic about that. Anime style massive powerups make for really awesome moments, but kinda bad overall stories in my opinion.

      Like

    2. > That line where she proclaims that her army is proudly willing to sacrifice for the cause was giving me some major fash vibes, like Trump talking about his handsome generals or something.

      Nope. Even in America with all our national obsession with personal freedom, the Armed Forces know that being a soldier means being ready to die for the cause — and that willingness to due for the cause is what sets a soldier apart from mere civilians. And Cat is a near-demigod leading her troops in a war against an existential threat to not just the people, but the nations and the very lands. We’ve already seen how cowardice is treated in the Army, and that wasn’t even Cat handling that. As for Abigail… as I’ve said before, she tells herself she’s a coward, but she’s no such thing. Where Abigail is thinking to herself “if I run they’ll hang me”, an actual coward would just be running already… not leading a charge. Bravery isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about feeling the fear, and going ahead anyway.

      And Cat has chased off a couple of Names that were just “the story of the moment”, which would have bound her into lesser Roles and stories — and which couldn’t form fast enough to keep up with her own transformations. This time, the forming Name is Hers, the representation of everything she has become. And this Name probably isn’t going to be some cliche like Black Queen, it’ll be a new Name, never seen before.

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      1. JBeari

        I understand that the bravery and service is how the Armed Forces market themselves, but let’s not kid ourselves that all or even most of the members are ready to die to the national anthem while an eagle flies overhead because they just believe in America and the mission so much.

        True, the types of wars that America starts are pretty different from this story. I imagine an existential threat with someone who is so obviously Evil is a lot better for morale than knowing you were sent to die alone in the desert because some oil tycoon wanted to save 50 cents on the price per barrel, or that the defense contracting industry needs to slaughter foreign civilians in the name of democracy so they can put together a pretty PowerPoint on why they should be funded even more.

        Granted. But you would still say that everybody that died because the artificer was saving her power wasnt at all bitter that they didn’t get help that could have saved them? You’d say that everyone in her army thats died so far has done so with a satisfied smile because they believe in the cause so much?

        Seems really far fetched. Real world history mostly shows us that no matter how strong morale is, soldiers still would prefer to live over a brutal and agonizing death. Or that they would have friends they made in the army that traumatize them to the core when they have to watch them get ripped to shreds on the front lines.

        War is rarely so neat as the propaganda tries to sell it as. To my point, the exception to that comes from the really fucked up societies that teach people that some ideal (usually racism) is worth more than any human life, and that its an honor, the only honor one can have, to die for dear leader.

        Either way, not a good look for our warlord friend here.

        Not that I blame the story or the author, mind you. This plot thread is a very old trope thats been sold to people especially hard in recent to justify a bunch of atrocities in real life, so its not difficult to accidentally slide into it if you’re not paying attention. My comment isn’t a criticism of the story, rather an interpretation that I wanted to share since it seemed novel and that might interest people to hear it.

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        1. Certainly the US’s modern wars are a lot closer to Procer’s prior adventures than to the Dead King fight — basically our last “moral” war was WW2. But even in the age of corporate war and state-sponsored terrorism, the essence of being a soldier is fighting and potentially dying at someone else’s orders, and the grunts don’t get to pick and choose.

          That’s much of what makes the bond among veterans, and among those who aren’t outright broken and/or alienated by combat, it can actually strengthen a soldier’s loyalty to downright obsessive levels; essentially, any doubt would call into question the value of their prior sacrifices, so no doubt can be permitted or tolerated.

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    3. Tom

      > Man, I just got hit with the obvious realization that Cat is not the good guy in this story

      Actually we got a view from Kairos’s perspective via his Wish aspect that indicates that she’s definitely “the good guy”:

      > The Queen of Callow still bore one of the strongest wishes he had ever seen, pulsing with her heartbeat: peace, peace, peace. It was like watching a flower bloom anew with every beat. Even now it was all he could do not to laugh until his throat bled, for what an exquisite jest it was that one of Below’s finest servants in the long history of Calernia was at heart one of Above’s!

      https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/interlude-wicked/

      Like

  12. Jack

    Damn, I feel really bad for that last dude. I thought he was gonna be a hero (small h hero) who saved the Pilgram from an enemy’s last ditch spite attack.

    Instead he got ganked.

    The orcbros with the greatshields were pretty cool though.
    Always nice to see a regular guy get a hit in on Named combatants.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Some of that. Cat has become the Mistress of story-wrangling, able to tap into both villainous and heroic stories. She’s not quite making Creation dance to her tune, but she can manage the rhythms of story and “luck” as she used to control the rhythm of a mere fight.

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