Chapter 71: Eschatology

“An enemy may suffer a hundred defeats yet avoid being defeated; seek not victories, only victory.”

– Extract from the ‘Ars Tactica’, famed military treatise of Dread Emperor Terribilis the First

I’d barely set foot back in Creation and already I was itching to return to the Ways.

The Second’s outriders had run into a patrol of Prince Klaus’, bringing back the uplifting news that the Iron Prince had crushed the dead in a decisive engagement. Soldiers had named it the Battle of the Pools, as it’d been fought near a dry bog where the mud had hardened and stagnant water remained trapped in pools. Way I heard it told, Old Klaus had baited the dead into open grounds with bold skirmishing by Dominion slingers and then forced a clash of shield walls while his cavalry went to hit the flanks. It’d been a close-run thing even so, before the reinforcements I’d sent under Princess Beatrice were found by the White Knight and led into a charge that hit the enemy in the back and completed the encirclement. That’d secured a full wipe of enemy forces, which had numbered more than thirty thousand. It was the kind of clean successes that came rarely in this war.

It’d brought some cheer back to the Second Army, as had the prospect of soon being reunited with the rest of the coalition forces. Klaus Papenheim’s reputation as one of the finest military commanders of our age had been proved as well-deserved once more, considering he’d led his beleaguered army in securing two major victories against numerically superior enemy armies – and the first time the dead had even been entrenched! I’d expected that it was a triumphant war camp we’d link up with, perhaps even with ale rations having been let loose in celebration of the victory. Instead, as the Second Army began to cross back into Creation, the word that trickled back to me was that of a somber, tense camp. The fantassin companies with the Iron Prince were, I was told, on the verge of mutiny. They were refusing to march until officers that had been arrested were returned to them.

There’d been trouble, it seemed, within the other column. I got the lay of the land before crossing, wary of putting forward my foot without a good idea of what it was I was headed into. Apparently the Battle of Juvelun, where Prince Klaus had pushed the undead out of the eponymous village where they’d dug in, had been a rough affair for the fantassins and gotten Prince Etienne of Brabant killed. The dead had retreated from the defeat with some semblance of order and began to muster further into the valley for a counter-attack, which had forced the Iron Prince to strike at them before they could mass enough to prove a threat. Except part of his army had balked at the order. The mercenaries felt they’d been ill-used and might be once more, while the Brabantine conscripts weren’t eager to march out tired into another bruising engagement when they’d lost their prince in the last one.

There had been stirrings of unrest, so the Iron Prince had arrested or slain the potential mutineer officers and promptly forced a march against the enemy before the situation could further worsen. It’d worked, at least to the extent that this kind of measure could work. They’d fought, for lack of allies or other options, but the moment the dust had settled the mutineer sentiment returned – only twice as hardened, as they’d been browbeaten last time and were wary of a repeat. The conscripts had been settled somewhat, temporary Lycaonese officers having been forced on them while their formations got mixed – to prevent cliques sticking together – and separated in different parts of the camp. It’d not entirely worked, though, as some clever soul had found a loophole in Proceran desertion laws. It was, technically, no such thing if you signed on with a fantassin company sworn to the same fight. There’d been an influx of fresh ‘recruits’ after word was spread, which had only raised tensions.

Still, while I saw the sense in some of the grievances voices my sympathy was significantly dampened by the fact that the fantassins had effectively slowed Prince Klaus’ march west to a crawl for several days before refusing to march entirely. What little time we’d managed to gain on the enemy through bloody losses and use of the Twilight Ways had been effectively lost. Even if we began the march on Hainaut city this very evening, we wouldn’t arrive there more than a few days before the dead. I’d been hoping for a significantly larger margin so that we might repair the defences of the capital as much as possible before Keter besieged us there. Even now, every heartbeat wasted limping through the muddy camp grated at my sensibilities. Each beat saw the dead grow closer, saw our lead narrow and our hopes of victory dim.

The chatter died when I hobbled into the pavilion. I leaned on my staff, step after step, and felt the eyes of all assembled fall on me. I saw the Iron Prince first, at the end of the long table: the white-haired general had risen to his feet and he offered a short bow, to which I returned a nod. The Heavens had their men as well, a tired-looking Hanno of Arwad on his feet besides Tariq. Their greetings were silent and I returned them just as quietly. The last man at the table seemed like he’d aged a decade since I’d last seen him, as if some capricious god had kicked the vigour out of his bones, but the dark hair and elaborate moustache of Prince Arsene of Bayeux could not be mistaken. He did not seem pleased to be here, I decided, as was only fitting.

Old Klaus had raised him to his war council with the understanding that the Alamans would be able to handle his own people, even the fantassins, and in that duty he had failed most utterly. Little of this reflected well on him, in either our eyes or those of the officers he’d stood for. The Prince of Bayeux had been able to keep his soldiers and reputation off the chopping block in this war, until now, but it seemed that at last the blade had pricked the skin. He wasn’t going to get out of this without losing a few feathers, I thought, though it was not my place to go pulling at them.

My eyes then swept to the rest of the men and women in the pavilion, of which there had to be at least forty. None of them were seated, though neither were they shackled as I’d half-expected them to be. There were a few Lycaonese guards around, but not many – I supposed there would have been no point, with the likes of Tariq and the White Knight in the pavilion. The arrested officers did not look like they’d been mistreated, the only bruises I found being faded, and though they were visibly filthy I saw no trace of sickness among them.

“Your Majesty,” the Prince of Hannoven greeted me. “Your return is a pleasant turn.”

“So was the news of the victory at the Pools, Your Grace,” I replied.

Only two of my guards followed me in, looming silently behind. I turned a steady eye to the assembled prisoners, noting several bowed.

“Yet this was not,” I mildly added, “how I expected my time to be spent after our hosts joined again. The request I received was rather mild on details, in truth. If one of you would elaborate?”

“Your Majesty,” the Prince of Bayeux spoke up, calling my attention with a bow of his own. “If I may?”


“At the behest of these officers in the service of the Grand Alliance, I carry a plea for your judgement,” the prince said.

He had a nice speaking voice, I thought. Practiced, but the smoked honey in there was a natural gift. Didn’t make me like what I was hearing from in the slightest. I cocked an eyebrow.

“It was my understanding that the Prince of Hannoven, who held command, already passed judgement on them,” I said.

“This is true,” Prince Arsene agreeably said. “However, no formal trial was held and as both the supreme commander in Hainaut and high officer of the Grand Alliance your authority supersedes his.”

Meaning they didn’t like what Old Klaus had decided, so they were coming to me in the hopes of a milder sentence. If not an outright amnesty.

“In principle that is correct,” I noted, then glanced at Hanno. “White Knight, a question if you don’t mind?”

Hanno slowly nodded.

“Did these officers refuse to obey a direct order from their lawful commander?” I plainly asked.

The White Knight looked like he’d wanted to grimace but held back.

“They did,” Hanno admitted.

“Then the matter is settled,” I coldly said, eyes returning to the prisoners. “Hang them all.”

There was moment of utter surprise in the room, until the officers began to clamour. I picked our pleas, in Chantant and Arlesite, but also curses and insults. Some even tried to argue, yelled that there had been a mistake, but all I saw when I looked at them was three days lost. The deaths that the time pissed away would cost us. I mutilated the Second Army for you, you fucking vultures, I thought. And now you want to mutiny and wiggle your way out? I’d slit the throat of every last one of you and not lose a wink of sleep over it. The yelling continued with no sign of abating, even the guards tried to restore order, and I lost what little patience I had left.

Shut up,” I Spoke.

With a snap their mouths closed, like puppets whose strings had been pulled. I felt the gazes of both heroes in the tent move to me in surprise, which surprised me in turn. The Pilgrim, at least, should have known I could now Speak again. I had disciplined the Silver Huntress using the talent. Yet after a glance their way, I saw that it was not the Speaking itself that’d startled. His mouth had wavered. Just for a heartbeat, I figured, but for the barest of moments my words had had an effect on the Grey Pilgrim. It was me who was astonished, as I’d not tried to exert my will against him in the slightest. The rules behind Speaking were opaque even to me, but usually it only worked on people weaker than you. Even then it wasn’t a guarantee, some sort of claim to authority over them tended to make it easier. And I’m not much stronger than the Grey Pilgrim, I thought, if I am at all.

What that implied…

I withdrew any strand of will lingering against the four men at the table, freeing them of struggle. The Prince of Hannoven looked wary, but Prince Arsene was outright gasping. He rasped out a breath.

“Your Majesty,” he got out. “This is a mistake. You did not…”

“I see no reason to change my judgement,” I mildly said. “Mind you, it was never formally requested or given. If this talk of appeal was revealed to be only a tasteless jape…”

I shrugged.

“Then I would walk out of this tent and leave this in the trusted hands of Prince Klaus Papenheim,” I said. “I imagine you could appeal to him for mercy, were he in the mood to grant it.”

I glanced at the prince in question, raising a questioning brow. He gave a discreet nod, to my mute surprise. So he was willing to find a use for this lot that didn’t involved feeding crows. Fine. They were his, and his to deal with as he wished.

“Perhaps,” Prince Arsene said, “that would be best.”

I watched him, saw how now that his breathing was in order he was once more mastering himself. Saw how he was looking around trying to look for an angle, for a way to still come out on top. And maybe on another day I would have said nothing. Let it go. Procer would be Procer, and not even the end of times would make saints out of princes. Instead I found my fingers drumming against my leg the first few beats of Stars From the Sky, and I ground my teeth. I could almost smell the mud and blood and ash, hear the screams as the Second Army retreated foot by foot under bloody onslaught.

“Say it,” I quietly ordered.

The dark-haired prince blinked in confusion. I met his eyes, unsmiling.

“Your Majesty, I do not und-”

“Say it,” I repeated, and my tone was cold as ice.

His lips thinned.

“It was,” Prince Arsene of Bayeux got out, “a tasteless jape.”

I let silence linger a moment so that the embarrassment could properly sink it.

“Don’t ever waste my time like this again,” I said.

I turned and limped out of the pavilion without speaking another word.

It wasn’t a formal war council in the sense that we wouldn’t be tactics or arrangement tonight. When it came to that, the crowd of captains and commanders involved would require a far larger tent than this. Instead it was the keystones of the various forces within the Grand Alliance army defending Hainaut that’d been assembled for the talks. For the Dominion stood Lord Razin Tanja and Lady Aquiline Osena as well as the commander the Lord of Alava had sent to lead his warriors, Captain Nabila. For the Principate three royals had come: Old Klaus for the Lycaonese, Princess Beatrice of Hainaut and Prince Arsene of Bayeux for the Alamans. For the Firstborn, both General Rumena and Ivah had shown up. Rounding up the hosts, Calm-faced General Zola stood for the Second Army while I held claim on both Callow and Below.

As the heroes had sent both the White Knight and the Grey Pilgrim, I’d also called for the Barrow Sword to stand for villains – as far as I was concerned he’d proved himself as a lieutenant during his tenure as part of the Iron Prince’s army, and I fully intended to keep using him in that capacity. In other circumstances such a gathering of the prominent would have led to an inevitable amount of chatter and hobnobbing, but not this evening. All of us felt the cold breath of Keter against the back of our neck and it had cut through the usual practices. Already skirmishing with undead warbands was starting, a sure sign it was time to get the Hells out of here and into the Twilight Ways before we had another battle on our hands. One we might not win, this time. I cleared my throat to call for attention, the panoply of warlords and royals granting it.

“We’re all here, so let us begin,” I briskly said. “No one in this room requires introduction, so we’ll directly attend to the matter at hand.”

Adjutant had arranged for our maps of the principality of Hainaut and its outskirts to be sent, and attendants had artfully displayed them on the great table around which all of us were arranged. Much of where the enemy was shown by markers to have armies was now guesswork, considering three battles had been fought in quick succession over the last week – General Abigail’s assault on the Cigelin Sisters, the Second Army’s holding action at the Battle of Maillac’s Boot and the Iron Prince’s fresh victory at the Battle of the Pools. We still didn’t known if Abigail had taken the Sisters, but given her forces and the reinforcements involved she ought to have succeeded. Casualties involved on either side were unknown, while the Second hadn’t exactly had the time to count corpses as it retreated into the Ways at the end of the battle.

By now the great valley of central Hainaut, a great bowl in which the capital of the principality stood near the centre, would be a tumultuous mess of warbands and marching columns and smashed undead armies. Out east the great undead army of at least two hundred thousand that’d pursued the Iron Prince since his ill-fated march on Malmedit was gaining on us, likely past the village of Juvelun by now. Our reunited army needed to get moving and fast, if it wasn’t going to get stuck between the great force coming from the west, which the Second had bled to delay, and the even greater army pouring down the heights of Juvelun. The only question that remained to be answered was where our coalition army should march to. I believed the right answer to that was the city of Hainaut, the capital itself.

Yet while in principle I had the authority to simply give the order to march and expect to be obeyed, in practice trying to cram my plan down the throat of the people in this tent was only possible if they were inclined to swallow. That meant convincing them, or at least settling their most pressing objections.

“As all of you can seen, the valley of Hainaut is swarming with undead,” I bluntly said. “Soon there will be a strict minimum of about four hundred thousand corpses running around the region. Remaining where we are now encamped is a recipe for disaster, as it would ensure we would be harassed and ultimately encircled by a massively superior enemy force.”

None argued the fact, as it was plainly on the maps and markers to any eye practiced in the trade of war. I swept the council with my gaze.

“More concerning is the fact that we are now running low on supplies,” I said. “The column under Prince Klaus was entirely cut off from its supply lines for over a week, so it burned through its entire reserves. The forces I brought north will be sharing our own supplies, naturally, but that’s not a solution – it’s throwing a cup of water at a bonfire.”

And that was after we’d even cheated a little when it came to supplies. Unlike us General Abigail was still going have access to the supply line coming up from our defensive lines to the south, so I’d stripped the larders of the Third Army and its fantassin helpers dangerously bare before marching north through the Ways. It’d felt like kicking her in the ribs at the time, but I was now rather pleased I’d decided to play it safe.

“The adjunct secretariat, after collating the numbers given by all you, believes we have around six days before rationing becomes necessary,” I said. “After that, we have perhaps a week at half-rations before our larders are empty.”

“And if we begin rationing from the start?” Prince Klaus asked.

“Three weeks, maybe a little more,” I replied.

Half-rations, though, meant that our people wouldn’t be at their sharpest. Given that our main advantage against the dead lay in the qualitative superiority of our rank and file against theirs, that was a bold gamble to make.

“We must act, and act now,” I told them. “That much can’t be argued with. What must be done, however, deserves a degree of argument. The floor is open to any who wish to speak.”

There was a beat of hesitation, as if no one was quite certain they wanted to be the first to put a foot forward.

“You will have a plan, Losara Queen,” Ivah said. “As is ever your way.”

“I do,” I agreed. “But this council is meant to be a fair hearing for any of you with an answer to give.”

Captain Nabila, who I could not help but notice was only a few inches taller than me – if significantly broader and more stockily built – cleared her throat.

“I was told that Abigail the Fox took the Cigelin Sisters, along with the forces we had held back until now,” she tried.

“We can’t be sure she did, but the odds are good,” Prince Klaus told her.

“Then we should thrust westwards, towards Cigelin,” Captain Nabila said, tone firming. “The dead are in disarray, and we have great numbers. We can smash lesser warbands on our path, and when we arrive at the Sisters supplies can flow in from the south again.”

The Princess of Hainaut stirred.

“They’ll tarpit us if we try that march, Captain,” Princess Beatrice said.

“I do not understand your meaning,” the painted Levantine frowned.

“They will fight like barrowmen,” Aquiline Osena clarified. “Throw corpses at us to slow us down until they gather a great enough force to slay us in one stroke.”

The captain hummed in understanding, nodding decisively.

“If we stay in the countryside we’ll be going through bogs and swamps,” Princess Beatrice added. “We’ll be moving slow regardless. And if we cut to Julienne’s Highway as quickly as possible, our line of attack becomes glaringly obvious.”

And predictable tended to get costly, when you fought Keter.

“It seems wise to cede the grounds,” Razin agreed, eyes narrowing. “We cannot take or hold them. Yet the westward march itself is a sound idea, I would argue.  If we retreat to the Cigelin Sisters through the Ways, we can muster with the forces of General Abigail and prepare for a decisive engagement there.”

“Keter will not grant it,” General Rumena said. “It will withhold the blow and leave hunger to disperse us without a single blade being raised.”

Razin, I thought with a degree of approval, had good instincts. If smaller armies had been involved, his answer would have been a good one. The problem was that, as the Tomb-Maker had pointed out, we wouldn’t actually be able to feed that army if it was gathered together. It was one of the reasons we’d split our offensive into two columns in the first place – the force I’d originally advanced with, some seventy thousand soldiers, had been stretching the limit of what our logistical train was physically able to provide for. All armies involved had taken losses, sure, but at the end of the day we’d still be asking of that same apparatus that’d struggled with my column alone to now also handle the second column and our reserve on top of it. No, Razin had good instincts but it showed that the Levantine wars he’d been raised to fight just didn’t involve the same scale of armies being dealt with.

“Turning back towards Juvelun would be suicide,” Prince Arsene said. “No doubt our pursuers from Malmedit have already restored the fortifications there. We would have to take those grounds from a larger army once more, only this time while being struck at from behind as well.”

“Juvelun is lost ground,” Prince Klaus agreed. “And it no longer has strategic value even if we did take it – we forced that gate to be able to march into the valley, but it’s too late to try and keep it closed for the army that pursues us.”

“We could still attempt a strike at Malmedit,” General Zola said.

That got the attention of most everyone here, including myself.

“If the burden of numbers is too much for our supply train, we must split our forces again,” the dark-skinned general said. “A large detachment can be sent to strike in surprise at Malmedit and collapse the tunnels, as was originally meant, while we consolidate the rest of our forces at the Sisters. If this draws the dead to us at the Sisters, as seems likely, that same detachment can then march in haste to Juvelun and seal the valley around the dead.”

There were some murmurs of approval, and I cocked my head to the side. It was the answer of a classic War College general, I thought. Strategic goals had been sent and were to be met, using our relative advantages – mobility by the Twilight Ways, in this case – over the enemy, and concentrating strength at where we were weakest to negate the enemy’s advantages. It was the kind of war that Black and Grem One-Eye liked to fight, measured and clever and very well-organized. Her answer, however, was also wrong. General Zola Osei understood war through the eyes of a professional, so it was only natural that it was the complete opposite that would find the fault in her answer.

“That’s a dead end,” Aquiline Osena said.

Surprised eyes turned to her, several disapproving. The Dominion had impressed with the bravery of its warriors, during the war, but not the acumen of its generals.

“She’s right,” I agreed.

Aquiline offered me a smile that might have passed for grateful, if you squinted a little. I winked back.

“It’s a clever trick, but it doesn’t win us anything,” the Lady of Tartessos said. “The tunnels at Malmedit are useless now, there’s no army left to go through them – we know where all of them are. Even if it works and we close the valley by holding Juvelun, what does it get us? The dead are already where they want to be.”

“It’s an approach that tries to mitigate the damage, not achieve victory,” I agreed.

If we were trying to mitigate though, it was a solid plan. It would secure us a very advantageous position for an offensive next year and ease the burden of our defense by giving us chokepoints to defend instead of a long line in the lowlands. The issue was that the payoff would come next campaigning season. See, Black and Grem they’d taught a generation of officers to fight their way – as I’d thought earlier, measured and clever and very well-organized. Except that we couldn’t afford to fight this clean, this careful. If that bride up north got built, we’d be losing Hainaut. We needed to win the campaign now, before winter came, and that meant we’d have to take risks. The same kind of risks that my father abhorred, that would have gotten him killed if he’d tried them against a hero at my age.

But I wasn’t him, and the war I was fighting wasn’t the same either.

The Iron Prince sighed, looking at the maps.

“Agreed,” he finally said. “If we don’t win this campaign now, we might not have the warm bodies to do more than hold come next summer.”

Grim, but he wasn’t wrong.

Can victory still be achieved?” Princess Beatrice calmly asked.

If anyone else here had spoke those words, I thought, half the people in the tent would have marked them a coward. None dared, though, when the woman speaking them was the princess of this very land we stood on. Few of us here had more burning hatred for the dead, or lost more at their hands. Idly I wondered if she was asking the question because she had genuine doubts, or simply because she’d recognized that if she didn’t ask it no one else would dare to.

“Yes,” I calmly replied.

“Then where is that that you would have us march exactly, Black Queen?” Prince Arsene impatiently asked.

“Hainaut,” the White Knight quietly said. “The capital, that is.”

Hanno had remained silent for so long I figured half the people in here had forgot he was even there. As for Tariq, as far as I could tell he’d spent more time using that nosy little aspect of his to have a look at the insides of the people than actually listening. I smiled mirthlessly at the hero, knowing that it wasn’t military learning that’d led him to the conclusion. After all, it was not only strategy that’d led me to decide the capital was our shot at winning this.

“The capital is where I would have us march,” I agreed. “As soon as possible – tomorrow at least, tonight if at all possible.”

“Would the issue of supplies not remain?” Razin Tanja asked. “The grounds between the Cigelin Sisters and the capital are still in the hands of the dead, and I had thought it impossible to arrange a supply line through the Twilight Ways.”

“It is,” General Zola frowned. “Your Majesty, I have seen the same numbers as you. We simply do not have enough mages and priests for this – past a certain distance and a certain amount of soldiers, the amount of wagons we are able to send at the speed we can send them mean keeping the force supplied is not possible.”

“That is true,” I said, “so long as you need individuals capable of making gates to actually take the journey.”

Meaning, if we had to send a priest or mage with every wagon – more realistically, a few priests and mages with every caravan of wagons – then there came a point where, if we kept sending wagons, all the available priests and mages would be in the Twilight Ways. Either headed to the place getting supplied, or heading back to the place where the supplies were being sent for. If the army was small and where it was camped close to where the supplies came from, that wasn’t an issue. The journey was quick, and you could either avoid having a stretch of time where there were no more supplies coming in or make it so short it hardly made a difference. The trouble came when the army was large, as ours was, and the distance between the origin of the supplies and their destination was large. This was, unfortunately, also the case.

You got rid of that problem, though, if the gate-opened didn’t actually need to make the journey. If the wagons could simply get there on their own.

“But that is needed, my queen,” General Zola said.

“Unless we open a permanent gate within the capital,” I said.

The room went still. It would be a risk, I’d not deny it, because if we lost the capital afterwards then the Dead King would have a gate into the Twilight Ways to study. On the other hand, the capital of Hainaut was probably the single most fortified city in the principality and once my sappers got to work it’d become even more defensible. We’d also be able to feed a significantly larger force in the city than our physical supply train would allow for. All we needed for the journey was for someone to open a gate near wagons somewhere in Procer and thread into it the destination of the ‘Hainaut gate’, and those supplies would get to the capital eventually. We wouldn’t hold the road to the capital but it wouldn’t matter, because so long as you had a mage around everywhere was a road to Hainaut.

“Those are difficult to make, I was told,” Prince Klaus said. “Could we even make one quickly enough?”

“Us, I’m not sure,” I admitted. “But you might remember we have fresh allies, since our summit at the Arsenal.”

“The Gigantes,” Princess Beatrice breathed out. “Is that why you sent them with my forces when we relieved the Iron Prince?”

In part, though I’d also been worried about exposing them to the dangers the Second Army had been about to face – or leaving them with General Abigail, where there would be no Named to pull them out of the fire if Revenants attacked in surprise.

“The Dead King might not assault the walls even if we seize the capital,” Prince Arsene said. “A long siege to grind us down would suffice.”

“A siege with its back to the army at the Cigelin Sisters,” Klaus Papenheim replied. “And all the while we could sally out at will through the Ways, with strong walls to return to after. We can only hope they will try what you suggest.”

“They will not,” the Grey Pilgrim said, breaking his silence at last. “Mark my words, and that of the Choir I am sworn to: once the gate is opened in the capital, the enemy will know no rest until that city is razed to the ground.”

No one, I noted with grim amusement, saw fit to argue with that. There was some more talking, afterwards, but I had them and most of the people in the tent knew it. By the hour’s turn I had the agreement of everyone there. So on we went to Hainaut, to the last flip of the coin that would decide whether this summer was the dawn of the Grand Alliance’s victory or defeat.

That in the city doom awaited none would deny, but like everyone else I rather wished I could know ahead whose doom it was going to be.

117 thoughts on “Chapter 71: Eschatology

  1. That’s an ugly status report.
    And that’s going to be a long and brutal battle at the capital.
    On the upshot, being besieged and under assualt by overwhelming armies of the dead is prime Story material, especially for the Heroes.

    Yeah … asking Cat to override Klaus’s judgement was a terrible idea, and they should have known it was a terrible idea before they tried.
    And Hanno knew what her answer was going to be, which is why he really didn’t want Cat asking him what happened, because he’d have to tell the truth.

    Huh. Cat is wicked strong at Speaking if she can affect Tariq (and presumably Hanno) when she’s not even aiming at him.

    Liked by 21 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      It’s more alarming then that. The idea that a villian at their height having Speaking like that, that’s an old thing. Plenty of peak villians have historically gotten those sorts of power levels, it’s actually a sign they will fall soon.

      Plenty of peak villains.

      Cat hasn’t even got her new name fully formed yet and she’s this strong.

      Liked by 19 people

      1. ruduen

        I don’t think the implication of strength is what would draw their attention. Rather, it’s the implication of authority. To heroes, it would be concerning that Cat’s in a place where she could Speak to someone in the role of the Grey Pilgrim, and have creation interpret her as having the correct authority to have that order followed, even if it’s a ‘mild’ order.

        Liked by 32 people

        1. dadycoool

          Yeah, there’s no way a Claimant coming into her name is anywhere near a Mentor Hero in terms of strength. It occurs to me that this is really shaping into a Black Queen v. Dead King Story, with her having authority over everyone on her side by various reasons including trust and diplomacy and him having authority over everyone on his side for obvious reasons. Very Black and Grey Morality here. “I want everyone dead so I can rule them all” and “I just want everyone to get along, even if it means slicing a few thousand throats in order to get them to bite their tongues”

          Liked by 13 people

        2. erebus42

          Yeah, I have to agree it seems to be more a matter of authority as apposed to raw power. Meta-authority over Named does work pretty well thematically considering her proclivity towards manipulating and extracting aspects as well as maneuvering Named and stories.

          Liked by 12 people

        3. RoflCat

          The lesson ol Kairos would be gleefully giggling over his….prediction? coming true.

          >It was a superb thing, the way the Black Queen could so address a Choir and expect to be obeyed. She’d survived so many close calls with angels she’d somehow come to believe she could match them, and through that utterly crazed belief become something that could genuinely give a Choir pause.

          >How long would it take for them to grasp that every time she got away with that, she came harder into the story of someone who could get away with that?

          But yeah, her Name being able to influence even someone on the level of Pilgrim is definitely huge, even more so because it’s not through raw power (i.e. the typical Villain thing that would likely lead to heroic rebellion for their downfall) but rather authority.

          Liked by 16 people

    2. Darkening

      She seems to be speculating in this chapter that it’s not because she’s stronger than Tariq exactly, though she might be, but that she has a form of authority over him, which would fit nicely with the theory kicking around that her forming name deals in moderating and standing in judgement over Named.

      Liked by 13 people

      1. LarsBlitzer

        If that’s the case then imagine her glee when the Drake shows up when she’s close to the fullness of her power and launches into his usual line of patter but then “[b]Shut up![/b]” stops him in his tracks.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. NerfContessa

          He, oh yes, looking forward to that.

          Drake regenerates from black flame Ball. For the 7th time in that fight.

          Cat is aggravated, and shouts/speaks “Stop doing that you prick!”

          Drakes regeneration…. Stops.

          Liked by 5 people

              1. Even with King Edward, freeing him from DK required a major miracle and some negotiation with DK himself.

                It’s certainly possible that Cat is developing generic authority over Name, but DK’s authority over his Revenants is much more specific and active.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. yeah but there are lesser degrees of power than “free permanently, no strings left attachable”

                  it’s very plausible for Cat’s Speaking to work on them IMHO, DK or no DK


            1. caoimhinh

              More like it is unlikely because Speaking won’t stop his inherent ability of regeneration, whether it is born from an Aspect or otherwise.


  2. nimelennar

    Is this the first time that we’ve heard Abigail referred to as “The Fox?”

    And is she going to be getting the Name that the Intercessor was trying to fit around Cat’s throat?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure she is, actually. As I’ve said before, she thinks she’s a coward, but she’s no such thing — her capacity to come up with creative ways to save herself and her people is starting to look more and more like a drive. I could easily believe a Name of “The Fox” or some variation.

        I think the pivot here will be when she learns to accept her own power and ability.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Matthew Wells

          Even if she thinks she’s a coward, we’ve already got one cowardly mage villain for her to team up with. Imagine Cat’s glee at Abigail having to figure out how to put down a ghost so her mage can focus!

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Even if Abigail gets a Name, it will 100% not be the one that Cat was circling around. The Role attached to the fox association is entirely different: a cunning general vs a one-on-one Named-wrangling trickster.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Frivolous

    Asking Catherine Foundling to override Klaus Pappenheim in a matter fully under his jurisdiction was always foolish. As was asking Cat for mercy.

    As I recall, Cat only rarely shows mercy, and then only when a trusted subordinate asks for it, like when Masego asked to spare Fadila because she was useful. This is the same woman who ordered hundreds of crucifixions.

    A second successful Speaking, first to Be Silent, and second to Shut Up. Silence could derive from Catherine’s Wish for peace, I guess.

    First Speaking was to Bestowed only. Second was mostly to regular soldiers, but it affected Bestowed.

    Still no Name, even. Scary. I guess we have to wait until the Battle of Hainaut for it to emerge.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. More importantly than the mercy question, Catherine does not override her subordinates unless they fucked up badly. Klaus did not fuck up badly; she would absolutely not undermine him even if she DID have a better idea.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. It is interesting that both times Cat has Spoken, it was to tell someone to STHU. And the second time there was bleed to boot. AFAICT Cat hasn’t previously made a habit of silencing people, or I’d be worried that she might blow an Aspect on that…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The first time Cat ever Spoke was to tell some heads to shut up too…

        Mind, a similar ability of one of the characters in Harrow the Ninth (which I have just been rereading) is also revealed in a “EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP NOW PLEASE” moment, so honestly I think it’s just a common use for the power for anyone who ever has it XD

        Liked by 1 person

      2. (The thematic difference between using the ability for mind control vs for crowd control – if you’re Malicia, shutting people up is not going to be on your list of interests, but if you’re someone whose authority is Reasonable and borne of people actually listening to you as an individual choice, organization is likely to be a relevant matter)


  4. dadycoool

    “Oh, you think the Iron Prince was harsh? You really think a servant of Below, the Black Queen of Callow, adopted daughter and heir of the Black Knight, each known to be very fond of cold, calculated, and final solutions, the one person that your own religion specifically named Heretic of the East, will give you a better answer?” They really didn’t think that through.
    Also, she Spoke and her assumed equals were compelled to obey? What kind of Name is she getting?

    Well, if you wanted to know where each and every single undead is about to head shortly, I think GP just gave us the answer.

    Liked by 13 people

      1. dadycoool

        Oh, I wish he could piggyback off that Story. A battalion that half-worships him as their savior the way her Gallowborne did? It’s too bad there are simply too many differences for that to work.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Yeah, that’s a climactic fight if there’s ever been one. From a story weight standpoint, getting the gate up and running effectively declares the region as won, with a time released lock preventing recapture for decades, if not centuries. Pretty sure we’re going to see the five Scourges that’ve gotten screentime in a dark Band of Five, at least three main character deaths, the new Squire either saving or being saved by Cat, and maybe even Abigail coming into a Name, if she’s grown enough of a spine. Also probably Hanno’s next step in his character arc.

    I’d put more money on some of these than others, but still.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. > From a story weight standpoint, getting the gate up and running effectively declares the region as won, with a time released lock preventing recapture for decades, if not centuries.

      I don’t get that impression! Getting the gate up only gets them access to supplies – and reinforcements, granted, but where the fuck would those come from in decisive amounts? There’s no Rohan that hasn’t joined the war yet.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Recapturing Hainaut pushes the frontlines, so forces can be relocated from other fronts into the offensive.
        Plus, there are some “Rohans” that haven’t joined the fighting yet, besides the 20 thousand or so Helikean that stayed under Cat’s authority, the League of Free Cities hasn’t joined, and the Dwarves have yet to really fight, so far they have only provided material support.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. The dwarves are intending to commit when they launch an offensive on Keter itself, they won’t come to defend Hainaut or they’d have committed ages ago.

          The League of Free Cities is busy fighting itself, unfortunately.

          And recapturing Haunaut ALLOWS THE FRONTLINES TO BE PUSHED, not redraws them automatically.

          It’s a signfiicant strategic advantage, but it’s not a win button.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Reader in The Night

      The problem with Abigail coming into a Name is that the “reluctant general, cowardly genius” narrative is typically Above’s, since it operates by leaning heavily on Providence. If Abigail came into a Heroic Name, you’d have the same problems as with Squire, only magnified a thousandfold because she’s the commanding officer of one of Callow’s Armies. The chain of command and authority straight-out goes to hell, not to mention Heroes possibly out-muscling Catherine from her own country.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Cicero

        Maybe, but such a name like “the Fox” would probably be able to suit it’s Role to serving under a villainous Queen – if that villainous Queen is better than the alternatives.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. The problems with Squire are specifically 1) high ruling name potential for this Name specifically, 2) the Pentitent’s Blade.

        I don’t think Abigail is in much danger of having plans for the throne, it’s why Cat cultivates her in the first place.

        And tbh I feel like she’d have a Neutral Name if any at all. Skill-based without a spice of Doing The Right Thing sounds like Neutral to me.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Not necessarily.

        Barring explicit indicators of being a Hero, ie tossing around Light, it is more likely that any Name Abigail gets would be assumed to be a Villainous Name, or at least a Villain iteration of a Neutral Name.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Dammit, wasn’t done yet.

          Besides, Abigail’s Story, as percieved by almost everyone except the Woe and probably Tariq, isn’t that of a reluctant general or cowardly genius.
          She’s an excellent commander on the conventional measures, and backs that mundane expertise up with a mad and cunning genius, and probably an uncanny foresight, and possibly an uncanny amount of luck to cap it all off.
          Plus she’s Cat’s handpicked military protege.

          The Callowan Fox, perhaps.

          Liked by 5 people

    3. Frivolous

      I don’t believe Revenants can form a band of five. Catherine’s words in chapter 48: Hilltop, imply that the undead have little or no story weight.

      The corollary of that is that bands of five don’t work for Revenants in any useful manner.

      Quotes here:

      … but it won’t be a great uplift like it would be with a living army. Undead armies already don’t tire and don’t have to worry about morale, there’s just less for providence to give them.

      “We might not have a story we can ride,” I elaborated, “but we’ve got a lot of godsdamned heroes to weigh in on our side of the scales. That counts. Believe me when I say that, because unlike everyone else here I’ve fought armies with that many heroes attached before.”

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Right, and that’s part of the story. They’d be a bastard band without the power of friendship that comes with a normal band of five. They’re five extraordinarily powerful Revenants that have gotten a large amount of screentime in this book and given everyone excessive trouble. It’s very likely that whatever actual band is set to counter them will have members that mirror but are at a slight disadvantage to one of the Scourges individually, but cover each other as a team.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Frivolous

          Burlyraven – You know, it occurred to me just now that, under normal circumstances, the obvious and logical thing for Keter to do would be to send the Scourges en masse to kill Catherine and the other Named.

          I mean, if one Scourge is a nightmare, then the more the better, right? Or worse, from the Grand Alliance’s point of view.

          I now suspect that the reason Keter doesn’t do that, and instead uses Scourges in small numbers of 1-3 at most, is that to send too many at once is to tempt Providence and/or Above to gift the heroes and maybe even the villains with the tools and luck they need to defeat all the Scourges.

          This reasoning exactly parallels why Keter doesn’t send demons and devils.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Also conservation of ninjitsu. Notice how with two or three Scourges together they slaughter soldiers but otherwise don’t hit any plot markers… but when Varlet showed up by himself, he was able to kill arguably
            the top non-Named figure on the scene.

            Liked by 2 people

    4. Nope, as Liliet notes, getting the gate up just gets them supplies — and as Cat and Pilgrim note, it raises the stakes considerably. From that point on, they need keep that city permanently, with every undead within range attacking, followed by every undead DK can ship to the vicinity.

      They should probably get those Gigantes to raise their wards first, because once that gate goes up they’ll be using it to GTFO.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Sortale

    why is the 2nd army crossing back into creation? since they have to go back into the twilight way anyway, isn’t it better for the 2nd army to wait in the twilight way while Prince Klaus army crossing in?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I want to think it’s because they wanted to bolster the forces of Klaus’s column in order to secure the location in case of attack, but honestly it could be anything.

      The concerns around why they can’t feed the whole army put together but can feed it separated into columns are dubious, too. They seem to be based on real-life issues regarding the transport of supplies for armies during wars, but most of those don’t apply with Twilight.

      While in real life there are concerns around transportation going through a single road, making traffic of supplies slow, like how it is easier to send supplies to various Theatres of War and war fronts than taking them all to one front because there simply wouldn’t be enough railways and trains for the supplies to make the trip in enough quantity, those concerns should not apply to the Twilight Ways. The whole realm is made to facilitate pleasant and quick travel, the Grand Alliance doesn’t need to handle all the concerns that any company, country, etc. would face while shipping large quantities of goods through thousands of miles of road.

      They don’t even need to gather all goods into one caravan, but from various locations. Different goods probably come at different times because they need different measures of preservation, handling, etc. Like, their munitions supply don’t come from the same place, the food, the coin, and the materiel also come from different places, and while there are advantages to gathering various goods in a single caravan, there are also advantages to sending different caravans of goods, and considerations related to the preservation of goods and their demand which changes priorities and decides schedules.
      As an example, Concocter’s supplies from the Arsenal wouldn’t go through Salia, but the capitals of the Principate and key locations of the farmlands are likely used as “nodes” where various food, drinks, clothing, and other stuff is gathered before being sent as part of a caravan.

      Also, physical gates can be used too, further boosting capacity.

      A similar question is why does Cat (and the people who run the numbers and logistic exercise of running supply trains through Twilight) believe that “if we kept sending wagons, all the available priests and mages would be in the Twilight Ways. Either headed to the place getting supplied, or heading back to the place where the supplies were being sent for”.
      Can’t they just have the gate-openers in the places of arrival?

      If you can scry into Twilight and back to coordinate the timing for the opening of ways, why waste the manpower of priests and mages taking the trip? One mage is enough for a whole caravan as the Communications Officer, and the priest and mages that are with the army can open the gates for the caravan to enter Creation.

      And why does Cat imply the supplies can’t arrive at the place where the armies are camped but somewhere close but still some distance away from the camp?

      It’s like this chapter is trying to justify the underuse of Twilight, but a lot of these provided “reasons” seem to have a lot of holes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John

        The Twilight Ways don’t have a strict one-to-one correspondence with Creation. Without a permanent gate at the receiving end, a mage or priest simply can’t “launch” a group of unescorted mundanes for a different free-roaming caster to “catch.”

        Liked by 10 people

      2. Adding to John’s point about not being able to launch for another mage to catch, Twilight is big — I’m fairly sure that they can’t, say, send two different armies in from separate points and have them join up within Twilight. (Ranger finding Amadeus would have been riding a different story).

        Liked by 5 people

      3. To elaborate on the two previous answers,
        Rather than wandering a flat plain, think riding a train. You cannot just get on a random one then wait for your end station to be built, that will not get you to that end station. All trains are going somewhere specific; if there’s one going nowhere, it’s not the one you want.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Morgenstern

        It’s the same problem as it was with all ways back in Arcadia. You need someone who can find the exit with you, or you won’t find any at all (unless there is already a permanent gate you know and thus can send to). Also, the time the journey takes is different every time, as is the traversed space. There is no way to make the exit exact unless there’s a stationary portal; the way and exit point changes every time, as the whole space you travel through changes every time. Even at her height as Winter Queen, Cat herself could not make pinpoint exit points, they would always only as exact as “a few kilometers off, about here or there”.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Impaula

        I don’t completely understand how all the questions are answered by the replies above, so at the risk of repeating what was already implied, stated or obvious:

        There aren’t many mages outside the Order of the Red Lion who could scry (even with the Arsenal teaching scrying to any who could learn), or at least enough to be spared for a problem arguably of lower priority.

        To send goods from different locations, the army should open almost as many communication lines (the requirements have to be given for the right amount of supplies at least for the case of multiple smaller armies with varying amounts of supplies in different locations). The number of mages required will still be high, since scrying can’t be used for co-ordination. It may also make it more difficult for the Grand Alliance to keep track of everything.

        I’m not sure how physical gates would be useful, on the supplies side, because a number of mages are still required to open the other end (one mage can’t keep a gate open for long). A physical gate on the army side could work, as a few mages can regularly open gates at sufficiently frequent intervals and send the wagons to find their way to the Hainaut gate. The sender can either send a single steady stream (physical gate) or at frequent intervals (regular gates), but the receiver needs it either as a steady stream or with multiple parallel connections (several gates at once to receive).

        If scrying were to be a common resource, it would probably neatly solve most of the issues, with physical gates making Twilight use even more efficient. It would not matter how many locations the goods come from, as each mage and priest can open a gate of their own to receive the goods.

        As for the Second Army crossing into the Creation, I think the reason was clearly stated to be morale, besides many other possible reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. You have to remember, these countries and armies are primarily based upon ancient and classical age armies. Back then you didn’t have staggered resupply and separating your armies into groups was just starting to get used. The first time it was used in anything close to a modern context, as a reminder, was at the tail end of the Roman Empire, literally the end of the classical age. “Dark Age” armies where usually a lot smaller and used for a lot less time.

        The classical era concept of the supply train was carrying everything you needed with you to prevent raiding. Staggered resupply was developed during the early-modern era to cope with increasingly larger armies and faster firing ranged weapons.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think it’s got the same answer as caoimnh’s question – Twilight isn’t a “higher level in a platformer” that you can ascend to and descend from at will. They cannot set another exit point once they’ve entered, the path exists as a thread following a needle, and before making another journey they have to end this one. The rules are different for sidling Named, possibly, or random wanderings, but for a mundane army / large group of non-magical people that needs to get from point A to point B, they need to get off the train when it’s their stop.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Morgenstern

      As does the consideration that there might not be any (!?) Named with her to fight off Revenants, this chapter raised. Guess I have to go back and look that up. Did they really not leave *any* with her? That sounds like a very bad idea…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Big I

    I fully expect Abigail to either a) turn up with a last minute charge to save the day at the capital, or b) go off and burn the Dead King’s bridge while everyone’s focused elsewhere.

    Liked by 14 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Abigail gets blackout drunk celebrating the taking of the sisters, then comes to a day later on the march towards the bridge, having slurred out a plan so great everybody got behind it. She improves it twice over trying to improv through acting like she remembers any part of it.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. LarsBlitzer

        “What!? I never called myself that at all!!!”
        “You mean you didn’t come up with the ‘Bitch-Slap the Dead King’ plan?”
        “I think I’d remember if I did!”
        “But we’ve already smashed the bridge to flinders. See? The main host of the Dead are stymied. Hooray!”
        *Imposter syndrome intensifies*

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    clean successes > clean success
    and began to > and begun to
    grievances voices > grievances voiced
    was moment > was a moment
    our pleas > out pleas
    be tactics (missing verb)
    going have access > going to have access
    had been sent > had been set
    bride > bridge
    gate-opened > gate-opener

    Liked by 4 people

  9. edrey

    this feel like a trap, Dk is the most experience named so far, equal to the bard, there is no way he didnt know Hainut would be the last battle, its way too simbolic. the Dk make mistakes, sure, but so far in the strategic view he predicted everything. on the tactical level Cat had won so far but Hainut just feel like a trap to me

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It probably is. But, well, this is the Dead King. I strongly suspect that there was never any set of strategies that would get them through this war having only made secure and sensible decisions the Dead King hadn’t booby trapped.

      Beating him is a matter of luck, Providence, and doing enough back end work that you have an army physically capable of pulling out a victory when the time comes to march into the mouth of hell like they are now.

      Liked by 7 people

    1. dadycoool

      They can’t use the Twilight Ways. GP tried and almost succeeded in killing that BS Regen V guy by sending him through a Gate. It’s basically the single concrete advantage they have that he can’t simply overcome with enough time.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Kyle Wong

        They can’t *currently* use the Twilight Ways. I’m certain that if the Dead King gets access to a permanent portal to study that he will be able to create countermeasures against the realm. Even if he can’t find a way to allow his undead to enter the Twilight Ways, he might be able to deny its use to Cat’s armies. I could hypothetically see him creating zones where the Twilight Ways cannot be entered, a magical jammer that shuts any open portals, or making the land inside the realm impassably dangerous.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. > I could hypothetically see him creating zones where the Twilight Ways cannot be entered, a magical jammer that shuts any open portals, or making the land inside the realm impassably dangerous.

          The first one he can already do, as wards — remember Cat and her Drow strike force had to deal with that a few chapters ago. And while he probably can’t “close every portal in the vicinity”, both Revenants and Named have been able to break individual portals.

          The third is probably a no-sell unless he can overpower Twilight as a whole. Note that any direct attack against/into Twilight would probably require DK to risk at least a shard of his own soul — he really doesn’t like doing that, but the Ways are a big enough deal that he just might.


      2. While the dead can’t use it, as the chapter say the Dead King will have a permanent construct to study. And if there is one thing we can be sure of is that Neshamah, one of the greatest mages ever, can atleast learn something about the gates.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Sinead

          Fun thought: Is it just Nemashah’s creations that cannot use Twilight, or all undead?

          If it’s the latter, that makes an interesting thought experiment about Zombie III…


    2. That’s the loss condition. Endgame. End of the story.

      I don’t think EE’s intentions for the ending of Guide are “just kidding, actual apocalypse happened”. Just… doesn’t cap off the dramatic threads quite right.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. In theory it might not be a loss, if the Named succeed at taking out the bridge and leave the enemy army in Hainaut stranded. But the book has dragged out for so long that I can’t imagine there’d be yet more battles after the siege.

        On the other hand, I’m not writing off the idea that Neshamah could find a way to turn the Ways on them in some way. Imagine, they’re forted up in Hainaut, the permanent gate is ready, they’re waiting on the first reinforcements from the capital… and then the Drake steps out in a Ways-proof suit of armor for a final boss fight. That would be a hell of a twist.


        1. It would not be a good twist, I would say.

          The thing is, the Grand Alliance’s side is already at a huge disadvantage logistically. Living soldiers tire, require food, etc. Technically undead have a weak point in their Bind officers that the living don’t, but even a living army will be at a huge disadvantage with their officers killed, even the Legions.

          The Ways are the only thing they have that’s even the reason they still haven’t lost the war. It doesn’t balance the scales so much as give them a remote chance in hell. If they lose that? That’s endgame. DK can simply portal his armies/Revenants wherever the hell he likes, and there’s nothing the living can do about it.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Sparsebeard

    With all the gates used last chapter and the fact that Cat wants to create a permanent gate in the Capital, I wonder if “Gate” won’t end up one of her aspects… she HAS been using portals for quite a while now (lakeomancy is a sub-domain of portalamancy).

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Or maybe Connect, or Bridge, or something similar. It seems like she’s growing into a diplomacy/authority/coalition-building Name, so I feel like any Aspects she get will at least pull double duty on that front.

      Liked by 6 people

  11. mamm0nn

    Wait, they left absolute no Named with Abigail? I thought they took along half, or most. But no one was left with her, and we expect her to have won the Sisters and not get killed when we know that there are several capable Revenants around there?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Aotrs Commander

    “If that bride up north got built…”

    I’m sorry, I know its a typo and exactly what was meant, but I suddenly had a vivid image of a cackling Neshimah assembling some sort of horrifiying necromantic-construct-robot-wife and going “soon, my dear, soon…” and it was hilarious,

    Liked by 6 people

  13. superkeaton

    Ca’s dominion over Named, some kind of arbitration or mediation it seems, is growing. I wonder if there’s a point where it would work on the Bard or the Hidden Horror.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Patrick Herke

      So the image that popped into my head was that of Cat forcing both to sit down with each other for couples counseling. And being like, “So I know you’re both terrible people, but lets go over your problems with each other. And maybe we can find a solution that doesn’t involve me removing both of you from existence.” (all with a smile)


  14. Tattletale

    Not sure if this is my paranoia acting up, but I find the fact that Catherine is referring to Tariq by name and Hanno by his Name in her inner monologue very fucking ominous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ohJohN

      Looking back through this chapter, the text refers to him as Hanno 5 times and White Knight 5 times (she also addresses him out loud once, as White Knight, but that seems more appropriate for the context).

      Conversely, there are 3 instances of Tariq and 5 of Pilgrim/Grey Pilgrim (Cat never addresses him out loud, but it’s worth noting that one of the GP instances is in literal-thought italics).

      I think it’s paranoia; EE makes a habit of varying how characters are referred to throughout a chapter (e.g. Black/my father/the green-eyed man) and based on the numbers it’s actually Tariq who’s referred to more often by his Name than his name.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. at least neither of them are the green-eyed man

        I cannot get over how fucking stupid addressing Black as that every other time is, especially when it’s meant to be “pale green” rather than “vivid green you can spot as such even from a distance”. Seeing his eye color through his helmet visor takes the cake though. Anime eyes Black / glowing eyes Black… ;u;


        1. ohJohN

          I like the variation — it keeps the text from getting too repetitive, and the descriptors are often helpful reminders of appearance/context for new characters or ones who haven’t shown up in a while.

          And, like, just because he’s referred to as “the green-eyed man” doesn’t literally mean Cat is able to see his eyes at that moment, you know? It’s a striking physical characteristic she associates with him, and it’s not like it’s liable to change without direct observation — same as how she can refer to Hakram as “the tall orc” when he’s not even in the room for her to check his height or race.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. HANNO

            anyway it’s just a little silly. deep POV writing means that the way narration phrases things is the way the POV character is thinking about them, and by that measure Amadeus HIMSELF regularly thinks of himself as a “green eyed man”.

            I do also appreciate the reminders of the characters’ appearance, do not misunderstand me. I am a great fan of anime as well.

            It’s just… fucking hilarious.

            Liked by 1 person

  15. Xinci

    Mhm, the groove gives you authority, be they gods or monsters.
    Anyway, Cat may have somewhat dropped the ball there, in that she could have framed it as a story so those mutineer captains could actually understand why they were doing what they were doing. She was caught up in her Name developments and her grief for the second army though, so she did one of her bad habits and lashed out at those who she saw as getting in her way instead of spreading out her perspective to their story as a group of people. Which if she did, she could probably come to a workable solution for the people there. Of course that may have infringed on Hanno’s contemplation of justice, so it may be good that she didn’t do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re not only in a military context, but in a do-or-die situation. As she noted, the delay they caused will cost lives, likely more numerous than the mutineers themselves. That noble’s lucky Cat let him walk it back at all.

      Liked by 3 people

  16. It occurs to me that Drake is probably going to be sent off to be somebody else’s problem, because at this point the protagonists have demonstrated they actually know how to kill him for good. He may have escaped by a trick the last time, but that’s not likely to work twice.

    And if he goes to bother Abigail, she may manage to kill him through sheer paranoia! “This is the regenerating guy? Ok, first nail him with a lucky copperstone, and have the priests keep bathing him in Light while we scoop up some acid from those constructs, and dig a goblinfire charge out of stores. Then use an unraveler for good measure.”

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “But that is needed, my queen,” General Zola said.

    “Unless we open a permanent gate within the capital,” I said.

    I’m definitely missing something regarding gate mechanics here. Why wouldn’t it be enough to have casters stay at either end, opening the gate each time a caravan arrives or departs? Maybe there’s no fixed correspondence between locations in the Nether Twilight Ways and the overworld Creation?


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