Chapter 75: Desolation

“My dear Chancellor, I am most disappointed in you. If she escapes the crocodiles before the rope snaps, then of course she will go free. What does it matter, that she will oppose us again? Only the fearful insist on winning every game of shatranj they play.”

– Dread Emperor Malevolent I, the Unhallowed

I didn’t know which part should rightfully be considered the miracle: that we’d managed to cram this many Named into one hall, or that a brawl had yet to ensue.

“Some among us call them the Scourges,” the White Knight said.

The tone had been calm, unhurried, but the words alone were enough to kill every whisper in the ruined basilica where we’d gathered. There were nearly thirty Named were here – twenty-seven, if you counted my own coalescing claim – but Hanno had the undivided attention of every last one. Revenants were never pleasant surprises on the battlefield, but most people here had run into one of the Scourges at some point. Some had walked away with scars or dead friends, and even those who’d gotten lucky to be spared either now knew better than to believe the Dead King was without champions of his own.

“That is not without meaning,” Hanno of Arwad said. “You all understand, as few ever do, that names have power. That they bind us to Creation and bind it in return.”

The dead had not been kind to the Basilica of Perceval Martyred. Neshamah had made sure that no holy grounds remained in the capital after taking it, and it would take long before the priests were able to consecrate this place again. The defilement had been… thorough. Dust, soot and ash now painted once-pale walls, and there was hardly a single pane of tainted glass that’d not been shattered. An entire hunk of wall had been ripped out to the side, reduced to rubble, and the front gates were unusable from the bell tower that’d been smashed down against them. Even the ceiling had not been spared, some kind of great horn piercing at it, and so sunlight came down in dusty rays on the tall terrace where the White Knight stood.

Below the rest of our Named were gathered in small gaggles in gangs, keeping to circles of their owns even within the greater allegiance to Above or Below – however loose it might be – and seated on the same ornate stone benches where the mighty and wealthy of the city of Hainaut had once sat to be lectured by priests now long dead. I stood above on the terrace as well, leaning against a sloping arch with my staff of dead yew resting against my shoulder, but I liked the coolness of the shade better. I’d looked like a right idiot if I had to pull down my hood because the sun was getting in my eyes, and I could only be amazed by the way that the White Knight could stand in a sunbeam and apparently not mind in the slightest.

Truly, his powers were beyond the reckoning of mere mortal such as myself. Hanno glanced at me, either smelling out the sarcasm or to indicate I should pick up where he’d left off. We’d not planned this out in great detail, but it was true in a way I had more experience with this part than he did. I pushed off from the arch, limping to the edge of the terrace.

“Naming them gave them weight,” I said. “Part of that was in your minds, holding up as something to be dreaded or fought, but what truly matters is the weight it gave them on Creation. A Revenant belonging to their number is no longer simply one of the Dead King’s stolen corpses, it is now a Scourge.”

I let the word ripple out, enjoying the way it reverberated in the hall even now that there was a gaping hole in the wall. Say what you would about Alamans, they knew how to build temples.

“That story will be as wind in their sail,” I said. “They’ll be harder to destroy because of it, a little luckier and a little sharper. More than that, they’ll find it easier to kill you.”

No one argued with what I’d said but I found some faces growing blank or, for the less practiced, outright skeptical. Mostly on the heroic side, as my lot rarely needed much convincing that the world was out to get them, but the Berserker and the Headhunter stood out in their almost-derision. Irritated, I struck at the stone with my staff once and let the clap jolt half of them.

“Don’t be fools,” I said, tone grown sharp. “You think you survive falling off cliffs and make it through blood-curling curses because you’re just that good? As Named we are not only subject to the common rules of Creation, but those of our kind as well. Sometimes that is a shield, but if you act like a strutting boy it will bury you.”

I swept the crowd with a look and this time found a more receptive audience. Good. I wasn’t going to tolerate our losing Named just because the world had not yet gotten around to beating some measure of humility into their bones.

“If we raise the Scourges above our other foes, as we have, then Creation will follow,” I said. “And the least of the ways they’ll be raised is in the way that all those little fortunate turns, all those coincidences in your favours? They’re gone. ‘The Scourges can kill Named’. That is the very bedrock of the story we made about them.”

I flicked a glance at Hanno, who took back the torch, and retreated back to my more comfortable nook as he stepped into the light again.

“Yet we can kill them as well,” the White Knight calmly said. “Names, Bestowals, Choosings – however you would call what we are, it is a nature that thrives when overcoming adversity. All that the Scourges represent is an adversity to overcome.”

I almost cursed, since that kind of ‘life is a trial we are destined to win’ attitude being reinforced by the fucking Sword of Judgement was the last thing we needed before this scrap, but I was pleasantly surprised after a moment.

“Make no mistake,” Hanno continued, “the Black Queen did not misspeak. Fail to heed her warnings not only at your own peril but at that of everyone here, and millions more across Calernia. Yet in raising our opposition higher, we have also given ourselves deeds to strive for.”

He smiled, face serene.

“Great foes are overcome,” the White Knight told them. “That is the shape of such stories.”

Well, that or you died. I could see how that wouldn’t be the greatest speech to give on the eve of battle, though, so I’d let it slide. I stayed back and let him keep at it a while longer. We’d already tended to the few complaints under the Terms there’d been, which for once hadn’t mostly been backbiting between his folk and mine. My armies hadn’t been the only one to enjoy a night of drinking and festivities, after the Fourth arrived, and in the drunken celebration that’d ensued a great deal of… indecorous behaviour had ensued. It was worth hearing them out just for the petty pleasure I’d felt at Hanno making the Page admit that the ‘desecration of his affairs’ he was talking about was some drunk Volignac trooper taking a piss on his saddlebags. The mood had been pretty lighthearted, even through the inevitable amount of sniping that ensued when Named were forced to sit in the same hall, but moving on to the meat of the reason we were here had doused that. Revenants were rarely a laughing matter, and the Scourges never.

“- by joining the combat and eyesight reports, we have determined which of them are likely to be participate in the coming battle for Hainaut,” Hanno said, then paused. “Our thanks to the Adjutant for this work, as it was him who saw to the work and found signs of the Tumult having operated on the outskirts of Prince Klaus’ column.”

There were some murmurs of appreciation, several grudging, and stone silence from others. I drummed my fingers against the side of my staff, committing those faces to memory. One of them had me sneering: like I’d needed more of a reason to dislike the Valiant Champion.

“So how many are we in for?” Roland asked.

“Eight,” the White Knight calmly said.

Yeah, that did little to raise spirits. Each of those Revenants were dangerous on their own, but several became significantly worse when they were paired with proper allies – the Hawk and the Mantle in particular. The Berserker let out a low whistle and grinned.

“Eight out of ten,” she said. “Keter really wants us dead, looks like.”

“Eight out of nine,” I corrected, pushing off the arch. “The Firstborn got the Stitcher up north.”

That was well received. The Tumult was more of a danger, practically speaking, but the Stitcher’s tendency to turn up in a dragon’s worth of animated dead bodies was more of a horror to behold than the Tumult’s own preference for tossing storms at soldiers.

“The Seelie is missing,” the White Knight said, “but we believe her to out east, leading the assault against Princess Rozala Malanza. Every other known Scourge has been encountered by one of our columns as they advanced, and they should all be within marching of when we believe the battle in Hainaut will happen.”

I smiled, beginning to methodically stuff my dragonbone pipe with a packet of wakeleaf.

“So now we talk about the pleasant end of the business,” I idly said. “Namely, how we’re going to destroy them all.”

Even coming from the – former, thank you Cordelia – Arch-heretic of the East, that won some cheers both sides of the gallery. Hanno picked up the thread as I passed my palm over the bowl, lighting the leaf with a small flicker of flame, and I breathed in the smoke with a small pleased sigh.

“We have some knowledge of the abilities of all eight, and will speak of them in order,” the White Knight said. “Beginning with the Wolfhound.”

There was a beat of silence, then I cleared my throat.

“Hierophant,” I prompted.

Masego started, as if surprised. My eyes narrowed and I threaded small tendrils of shadows along the arches going up the ceiling. He’d not had an open book in hand, no, but looking at it from above… that sneaky little shit. Three rows back there was an open book in Mthethwa, which I was pretty sure he’d been turning the pages of discreetly with wrested magic. He’d been using the clairvoyance of the glass eyes to look through the back his own head and the rest of the things in the way, reading without even giving a visible hint. I gave him a look making it clear we’d be having words about this later even as Indrani, seated at his side, snickered in amusement at his expense. She did deign to tell him whose likeness had been asked for, at least, and Zeze had an illusion of the Wolfhound up in the blink of an eye.

It was pretty obvious why the Revenant had earned that sobriquet: a sculpted helmet of iron in the shape of that animals head had been its signature since its first appearance, though he also seemed to prefer using a sword a board when it had the choice. Armoured from head to toe, the Wolfhound’s face had never been seen, though he’d spoken with Named on occasion.

“Most of you will have encountered the Wolfhound at some point,” Hanno said. “He is, by our reckoning, the Scourge with the fewest deaths – Named or not – to his name. That is because he is rarely out alone.”

“He’s a bodyguard,” I bluntly said. “And one of the better Revenants when it comes at taking a blow. He seems able to see through illusions and able to partly shrug off aspects. As I understand it, the Mirror Knight experience this firsthand.”

Christophe the Pavanie, seated near the back of the heroic side and with only Tariq sharing his bench, looked surprised to have been called on.

“I did,” he replied. “We’ve clashed… six times, now? One of my aspects allows me to reflect the blows of my enemies, to turn them back, but it did not affect him the way it should have. The strength was weakened before it touched him.”

“It has been the same with magic,” the White Knight added. “He is not immune to spells, but they do seem to weaken when turned on him.”

“Weaknesses?” Roland called out.

“We haven’t found any,” I admitted. “He doesn’t seem to have any great offensive talents, but when it comes to the defensive he doesn’t seem to have any great flaw. It’s why we usually see him partnered with another Scourge, they’re expected to be handling that aspect.”

“The Twilight Ways would destroy him,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

I nodded.

“They would,” Hanno agreed. “For those of you who are able to open gates, it is a valid tactic. Still, as with all Revenants I would warn you of mobility – even the slow are quicker than they seem, and they appear to be able to feel the forming of a gate into Twilight.”

Which did make an unfortunate amount of sense. Creation liked balance: the Ways were deadly to Revenants, so the Revenants could smell them out. I would have appreciated the Gods suspending that rule until the lives of everyone on Calernia were no longer on the line, but deities did tend to be inconsiderate shits. Except for my own splendid and flawless patronesses, of course. I felt Andronike’s unamused touch brush against my mind, the divine equivalent of a half-hearted glare.

“We do have some other talents we believe would go through his defences,” I said. “Among them, the Rapacious Bard is capable of affecting souls. That should ignore the protection.”

“Overwhelming physical strength works as well,” Hanno said, a tad drily.

Between the Berserker, the Champion and the Mirror Knight we had that covered.

“The partner is usually the trouble,” the Barrow Sword pointed out. “Whoever runs into him needs to expect a hard knifing.”

“Colourfully put,” Hanno said, “but essentially true. So far we have seen him paired with the Hawk-”

I saw the Mirror Knight winced, as if still hurting, and Archer smile unpleasantly. She’d not liked that the Hawk had gotten to escape from their duel in the slightest.

 “- the Mantle and the Varlet,” Hanno finished. “We should not dismiss other possibilities, but Keter does tend to favour certain sets of tactics.”

I pulled at my pipe, blowing smoke upwards. The White Knight was right. It was, I suspected, because Neshamah was undead. He couldn’t really learn anymore, even when infusing himself with the knowledge of his latest acquisitions. So instead he let his Revenants find approaches that work and then used his wits to make openings for that knife instead – a skill he’d mastered while still alive.

“We burned two aspects of the Varlet’s at Maillac’s Boot,” I announced. “So I won’t count them out, but they’re got a lot less of a bite now.”

“It’s the sneaking aspect that’s left,” Indrani said. “So watch for daggers in the back, it’s what it has left.”

It was a spirited decision that ensued, moving through one Scourge after another. The Hawk, deadly at range and harbouring an aspect we believed have her the simple ability to ‘kill’. It was why her arrows, even though often made up of mundane material, could wound even someone like the Mirror Knight: there was nothing that she could not, in principle, kill. She was weak up close, though, and tended to leg it when Named closed range. The Drake, though very difficult to kill by most villainous means, fared poorly against Light and Tariq had teased out of him at Maillac’s Boot what we believed to be his last survival trick. The Mantle shared the weakness against Light, at least great quantities of it, but was capable of hamstringing practitioners the same way she did me.

The Tumult – or Archmage, as heroes insisted – was a spellcaster on par with both Masego and the Witch of the Woods, meaning if we didn’t want casualties to start shooting up the moment it showed up we needed to field either against it immediately. Its fondness for using storms and weather meant most of our fighters struggled to close range. Indrani couldn’t do shit to him even using See to aim. The Axeman, as they called the Pale Knight, hadn’t been encountered frequently save by those who’d served in the Cleves front. While he was just as frustratingly hard to scratch for everyone as I’d found him, the Headhunter pointed out that the way he’d always avoided the Myrmidon and the Red Knight in fights meant he must have some weakness to his armour. The Mirror Knight noted he seemed to often serve as leader among not only Revenants but the lesser dead, a tactician as much as champion. There was little to say on the Varlet, save that not even our finest wards seemed entirely capable of stopping its sneaking about, which left us with only one left.

The Prince of Bones.

“Light can make a dent,” Hanno said. “Though only so much.”

His stance had loosened over the length of the conversation, first going from calm to easy and then all the way to him sitting at the edge of the terrasse. I was, myself, leaning against a half-broken stone pulpit and pulling at my second packet of wakeleaf.

“He can close Twilight Gate, if they are still forming,” the Witch of the Woods flatly said.

I cocked a brow. She’d not taken off her painted clay mask, but I gathered that under it she was frowning.

“Mine as well,” the Pilgrim agreed. “Though not quickly, and it can be fought.”

“Sorcery doesn’t work either,” the Harrowed Witch volunteered. “Mine, anyways. I can dent if I put my full strength into the spell, but think we’d have to strip him layer by layer to get anywhere.”

I didn’t seen an obvious solution to the Prince of Bones either, to be honest. The illusion of him Masego was providing made it clear why: we were dealing with, essentially a corpse encased in what had to be a few hundred pounds of steel. It looked like armour, but it wasn’t. Just layers upon layers of metal, moved by the necromancy buried safely deep within. Worse, that steel was layered with enchantments and whatever devilries the Dead King could muster. Running away wasn’t usually an issue, the Prince was slow on the move, but when you couldn’t run? Even the Pilgrim hadn’t been able to put him down, and the man had a Choir whispering tricks in his ear.

“The Firstborn tell me it’s essentially the same with Night,” I offered up, having never fought him myself. “And he usually sticks with the Grey Legion, so he won’t be easy to pick off.”

“We just need to crush him head on,” the Berserker insisted.

“Crush what, solid steel?” the Barrow Sword mocked. “No, what we need is the right blade.”

A few looks were flicked the Mirror Knight’s way. The Severance hadn’t been a secret since the incident at the Arsenal.

“We mean to use it for the Dead King alone,” the White Knight said, “lest he find a way to overcome its edge.”

“If it comes to that, we’ve been able to bury him before,” I said. “The Witch of the Woods has done it. It’s not a killing stroke, but we can keep him out of our hair long enough for enough Named to gather something will stick.”

It wasn’t the most confidence-instilling of suggestions, but at the moment it might genuinely be the best we got. And, to be honest, if we could deal with the Grey Legion for good the Prince would be much less of a threat. I pointed out as much, which Tariq backed to the hilt.

“Alone he is a slow, lumbering monster,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “Much of his power comes from his legion – the Hashmallim believe some of his Bestowal is invested in his soldiers, and that they in turn empower him.”

“If it comes to that,” I finally said, “I’ll authorize the last of our goblinfire to be used.”

That cheered some but other less. Not only because the green flames were notoriously prone to spreading out of control but also, I realized in a startling moment, because some of the people here believed the Prince would actually survive the fires. Most of them had never encountered the substance, I reminded myself, but I still found myself shaken by the skepticism. The conversation stretched out for another hour, mostly when Named were willing to share particular talents that made them well-fitted to fighting one of the Scourges, but eventually we called the council at an end. I kept Ishaq back, as the Barrow Sword had essentially been confirmed as my lieutenant among villains when I kept bringing him to war councils, while Hanno was instead accompanied by the Pilgrim.

“Some bands seem like natural fits,” the White Knight said.

“Agreed,” I grunted. “Troubadour, Summoner and Guardian?”

The Silent Guardian had signed that she believed she’d be able to handle the Wolfhound, due to an aspect of hers, so the Summoner for mobility and the Troubadour for the killing stroke were the obvious additions.

“Either Huntress or Sidonia with them,” Hanno replied, nodding in assent.

“Huntress,” I said. “I know for a fact she’s not only competent at range but trained herself in tactics against archers.”

By which I really meant Archer, but it’d work against the Hawk as well and she could imbue her arrows with Light so that’d be trouble for Mantle too.

“The Young Slayer with them,” Tariq suggested.

I cocked a brow, but Ishaq was stroking his beard in agreement.

“As a spotter and a skirmisher both, the boy has talent,” the Barrow Sword said. “If you desire the Huntress to be one of the strikers, then you need a replacement.”

I glanced at Hanno, who after a moment nodded.

“Sold,” I said. “Mirror Knight for the Prince of Bones?”

“There’s no one else who would be able to take a hit from him,” the White Knight replied. “Who to pair him with is the issue. I would argue against a full band here.”

The Barrow Sword, I saw, was watching us both like a starving hound being shown into a larder. Why? After a moment I realized that even as I thought the question, Ishaq had asked it out loud.

“Because Hanno doesn’t think we can kill the Prince of Bones,” I said, “which means investing a full band there would be a waste. A partner, though, is pretty much a precaution to keep the Mirror Knight alive.”

“I do not understand what makes him different from the Wolfhound,” the Barrow Sword slowly said, “save perhaps greater strength.”

“The Prince of Bones is a hammer,” Tariq calmly said. “We can dull the blow, but it will fall. The Wolfhound, and whoever will accompany him, are blades we can break.”

“It’s going to go the usual,” I explained. “You know, the beats – we win, we lose, we win again. Only with Wolfhound and partner, like Tariq said we have a good change of rolling those two Scourges up outright. Kill them clean. We don’t have that with the Prince. Instead we use those beats to pull out the Mirror Knight when this goes south on him, and we just need a partner for that. Not a full band.”

The Barrow Sword looked at us, smiling in glee and yet somehow almost frightened.

“Is it always like this?” Ishaq asked. “Battles between Bestowed. Like… shatranj for the mad, with half the rules unknown and the rest shifting?”

I cocked my head to the side. In my experience?

“Yeah, pretty much,” I shrugged.

I turned when the heroes chuckled, met with almost fond looks.

“The Black Queen has sharpened herself against exceptional opponents,” the Pilgrim said. “I have known few Bestowed, either by Above or Below, whose knack for stratagems was stronger.”

The Barrow Sword had the gall to look kind of relieved, the shit.

“If this practice is to be considered an art,” the White Knight said, “in all humility you might be considered to stand before some of its finest living practitioners.”

Compared to the Intercessor we were all rather lacking, but then I supposed that was rather his point. I cleared my throat.

“I was thinking Stalwart Apostle,” I said. “I’m told she’s worked with him before, and though she’s hardly a veteran-”

“I must disagree,” Hanno said.

“Indeed,” the Pilgrim said. “Christophe is a remarkably enduring young man, but the foe is not one to underestimate. The Forsworn Healer would be a more appropriate partner.”

“That leaves you as our primary healer, Tariq,” I said. “Which is a fucking waste, considering your striking power.”

“More lives will be saved by your hand red than pale, Peregrine,” the Barrow Sword said.

There was a challenge in the tone, but Tariq seemed disinclined to address it.

“We can revisit,” the White Knight said, correctly ascertaining I wasn’t convinced. “For the Axeman – the Pale Knight, if you insist, though we seem to have a profusion of knighthoods these days – the Headhunter and Vagrant Spear seem like our finest foot forward.”

I mulled that. The Headhunter knew their way around fighting the Pale Knight, and Sidonia had a knack for killing things she shouldn’t be able to. Neither were good at taking hits though.

“Needs muscle,” I said.  “Berserker?”

“I had thought to leave them a pair,” Hanno admitted. “If we use bands to go aggressively after the weaker elements at first…”

“That’s a recipe for bodies on the floor,” I grunted. “Two pair against two of the Dead King’s heavies? We’re losing at least one of those for sure.”

“The Hierophant against the Archmage seems a match all can agree on, at least,” Tariq stepped in.

I inclined my head to the side.

“I was considering going after them with the full Woe, actually,” I said.

“Not Lady Dartwick, surely?” the Pilgrim asked.

“No,” I said, “we’d need muscle instead. I have candidates.”

One was by my side, but the downside to taking Ishaq was that he was a natural captain: he’d be a lot more useful as the head of a band of five. That left two other options, each hard to swallow for different reasons. The Valiant Champion was honestly probably the finest shield left, with both the Guardian and the Mirror Knight already assigned. I just happened to despise her. And the other was, well, the Squire. Between Arthur and Indrani we’d be able to hold a line up close if we had to, while Zeze and I could slug it out with the likes of the Archmage without missing a step. The issue, though, was that Arthur Foundling himself might be a threat to our lives. His story was not one that seemed all that friendly to the continued survival of the Woe.

“I would agree in principle,” Hanno slowly said. “The Archmage is the Scourge I would like dealt with soonest.”

It was all haggling after that, were I began to discern different strategies. Ishaq was fresh to this sort of planning so he tended to fall back to the Levantine conception of a band of five, the same that’d founded the Dominion itself: Champion, Slayer, Binder, Brigand and Pilgrim. Which wasn’t a bad instinct, in most circumstances, but he needed to wean himself off it. When facing the unknown balance was useful, but when planning the destruction of a known quantity it was better to tailor the band to the foe. Tariq, on the other hand, was coming at it from another angle entirely: he was setting things up to keep Named alive. Not because the old man was a soft touch, although when he could afford to be he was, but because in the Pilgrim’s experience if heroes fought an enemy for long enough they won.

I wasn’t going to argue with that too much, but there were risks to that kind of thinking. Both sides of the fence were playing here, and I’d proved at the Battle of the Camps that some calibre of foe time wasn’t enough to overcome. Yet theirs, were in away, the old conventions of Named warfare. Hanno and I had been raised by our teachers to approach those fights differently. The difference between us, I began to notice, was that he seemed much more inclined to take risks. I chalked it up to the habit of having providence on his side, at first, but eventually I was forced to concede otherwise. I was just used to planning from the starting position that I was going to lose something before it was all over, while the White Knight had known the kind of full-throated victories that’d been so rare in my career. He’d known them pretty regularly, too, with the defeats at Black’s hands being pretty severe departures from the norm. We settled what we could for today, agreed to speak again tomorrow and broke off.

Except he didn’t leave and neither did I, because I’d noticed something and he’d not tried very hard to hide it.

“Witch of the Woods,” I said. “Valiant Champion. Stalwart Apostle, and last of all the Merry Balladeer.”

Names he’d been careful never to let drawn into an assignment, along with his own. A pretty neat band of five, though the Apostle was young and Hells if I knew what he wanted out of the Balladeer. No Named was every truly without strength, but as far as I knew she was a bardic Named without any standout talents.

“I did not mean to hide it,” Hanno said. “It was simply not a discussion I wanted to have with company.”

My brow raised, as did my wariness. I’d already sworn oath to Tariq that I’d not meddle with how the White Knight overcame his doubts, and that meant not letting myself be drawn into too pivotal a conversation.

“It’s a band of five,” I acknowledged. “I’m simply not sure what you mean to do with it.”

North, to end the threat of the bridge that was still looming tall in the distance? Or to lead them here in the city, a blade against the Scourges. Hanno chuckled, though the days where the sound would have carried that undertone of serene amusement seemed pass. Whatever certainties it’d been that’d lain at the heart of the calm, they had been shaken. Shit, I thought, Tariq’s right. I’d still half-believed, deep down, that the old man had been exaggerating. Not so much, looking at the unease on the White Knight’s face now.

“I was not so certain myself, when I woke up this morning,” Hanno said. “But it is going north, Catherine. It must be the north.”

I slowly nodded. It was what I’d wanted, only now getting it was making my fingers twitchy. Unsure if a mistake had been made or not.

“The bridge at Thibault’s Wager must be broken,” I finally said, choosing my words.

“How carefully you speak around me, these days,” the White Knight wanly smiled.

I did not answer. I knew a dead end when I saw one.

“I do not know,” Hanno finally said, “how much good I can truly do here in Hainaut. You are a capable leader and tactician, seasoned in leading Named.”

“Your departure would be a loss,” I honestly said. “And not just because of your skills in combat. But I still believe it to be a necessary one.”

“I imagine you do,” the White Knight said, “though that is not what moves me to go.”

He looked up at the ceiling, where the afternoon had turned the lay of the sun. Shadows gone bright, light swallowed up by the shade.

“There are goods I do not know if I should strive for,” Hanno of Arwad said. “If I can achieve, even if I did.”

He breathed out.

“So I will start, perhaps, with the good of which I am certain,” the White Knight said, meeting my eyes. “It will be north, Catherine Foundling, and the light that still lies within my grasp.”

90 thoughts on “Chapter 75: Desolation

      1. Unless this is all according to the Bard’s plan.
        In which case he’s not only going to have to overcome whatever the Dead King has lying in wait for him(which I now expect to include the missing Scourge up near the bridge), but also a looss of the power of his Name, and random swings of narrative causality against him, like that thing with the reflection off the Mirror Knight’s bracers making it clear that he was appearing uncaring.

        Or? the whole plan is to get him to spend more time off in these small strike teams because he has faith in the righteousness of working with heroes to end a great evil, but less so in the righteousness of making uncertain morally but goal-directed compromises in service to a military campaign.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. Sinead

            I can see that being the plan. What would be interesting is if there is an interlude where Hanno’s talking to Rafella, and it comes up what Cat’s relation to Sabh is. Or perhaps why Cat reacted poorly to the Staltwart Apostale. Hanno has Cat’s perspective on those two. And I would argue that his role as a leader also involves helping mediate conflicts, of which he will now have two Heroes that have personally started a feud with Cat, and they potentially do not know why.

            People keep saying that Rafella should know why Cat is angry with her, but 1) Cat is rendered to speechless fury upon seeing her, and 2) everyone else sees this as not their problem to deal with.

            As for Pascale, I don’t know if Cat ever addressed her issue with her at the time.

            Also, while that could be the plan, it can also be the pivot that defines the Accords and the functioning of Names being assigned where they are the most effective. And as pointed out, Cat is the actual general. Hanno is a warrior, not a soldier.

            In short, there could be a plot, but I can also see this just further cementing in the power of the Truce and Terms, especially if ther is Heroic discussion around the terms

            Liked by 2 people

            1. > People keep saying that Rafella should know why Cat is angry with her, but 1) Cat is rendered to speechless fury upon seeing her, and 2) everyone else sees this as not their problem to deal with.

              That is a very apt summation of the impression I thought their relationship was giving off when it came up, well put -_-

              > As for Pascale, I don’t know if Cat ever addressed her issue with her at the time.

              Considering Cat’s general mood and wellbeing at the time, I’m confidently betting on “not”.

              You have such a good point here, damn.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Sinead

                I generally find this story to be a fairly optimistic story overall, so I really expect the best from all parties involved. It’s why I get _really pissed_ with the more nihlistic takes on the story.

                I blame the grimdark of the 90s and then Game of Thrones. People just expect the Varlet to pop out and cut everyone’s throats and forget that while this is free at the moment, EE has plans to refine and _sell_ this story in the end. If they divebomb the story, they ruin 6 years of work along with any attempt to trying to turn this into a publishing success.

                As far as more character expectations, I do think Hanno has the right shape of this. Cat surprised him at Arsenal around the Red Axe, but he also recognises that a) she is juggling an equivalent work load to him with her lot + his on top of being a ruler, a general of an international coalition, a religious leader and representative of the Firstborn, and b) she is someone who takes her people under her dark wing and will pull goblinfire on those that go after what is hers (a “goddess of impossible victories” cannot gain that loyalty without extending it in kind).

                Not saying that Cat did not over react in her reactions to Rafella and Pascale (both Hanno and Hakram have pointed out as much). However, Hanno is someone who really can have the perspective to aid reconciliation.

                I genuinely like Hanno. I think he works better as a priest/guide/guardian than a politics/logistics leader. So I think his choice here is the right one. It doesn’t set aside the “other goods”. It just acknowledges that Cat is probably the single greatest asset to oversee a seige, while he is best suited for a sortie and a “full throated victory”. Besides, if he finds this sortie clears his head, he may be better off when he comes back “at the first light of the 5th day” (hell I think he actually comes from the east too…..)

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Sinead

                  Correction to the last point: The bridge is to the North, yes, but I think in terms of return strike, the battle front makes coming through a flank would be better.

                  Plus I like the imagery of Hanno’s cavalry charges. Wouldn’t it be neat if he does something where he turns Recall into a Light based equivalent of the charge of the Oathbreakers in LoTR. Manifestations of the Heroes of the Age of Wonders where he doesn’t have the absolute judgement of the Choir, but he has the ages of wisdom of centuries of Heroes. I’m not sure if Hanno’s able to do something where he “wakes” the memories into a shade that can discuss/debate/offer advice (as much as undead who cannot really change overmuch) and thus synthesise a path forward. If possible, this would be Judgement’s ‘Will of the People” to balance out Hierarch’s demands.

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Hanno does still need to catch up to what Cat’s reasoning was exactly wrt the Red Axe issue, because last time he reflected on it, he thought Cat did it for political gainz with Hasenbach, which is. not how that went

                  I’m with you on every single point tbh

                  Liked by 1 person

              2. Earl of Purple

                I think Hanno would have gone to Pascale after he met with Cat after their first meeting. To reassure her that the greatest villain of her generation wasn’t Pascale’s lifelong enemy.

                Cat wouldn’t, it’s not really her place- Pascale is a hero, not one of Cat’s, so an explanation or a one-on-one chat isn’t really appropriate for Cat- and she doesn’t have the time to do it herself, anyway. But Hanno *does* know the story, because Cat told him, at least enough that he can go to Pascale and say ‘Cat’s not angry at you, really. She’s upset at herself, because there was another. A young lad who would have been your rival. She wasn’t able to save him, and seeing that you were saved, with a Name so similar, was a reminder of that’. Or… Something that reassured her without making Cat seem quite so human.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Sinead

                  The only thing I would disagree with there is that Hanno at the time would not have any reason to think that he should not humanise Cat. That doubt may have arisen post Red Axe Trial, but not in the time before. He still may have had some discussion with her, but it would be easy enough for the spectre of that first impression to still be lingering.

                  However, Hanno’s seems to be not that great with intra group mediation, which is why I think in terms of more coming out in this raid away from the GA army. Think of how he didn’t handle the heroes meeting in Arsenal because he couldn’t handle the intra party stresses that were showing up in interparty issues. That is why I think something more coming out of this raid than saying that things are already in their end state at the start of the journey. It would be interesting if Hanno gains perspective he needs through helping others with their own struggles.

                  Honestly, my guess is that Rafella doesn’t think in terms of Sabah really being human, since the shape shifting monster is still a monster no matter the shape it takes. The fact that Lykaia (Antigone’s companion) is of similar description as Sabah, and is seen as almost a reverse role to Sabah (a big beast that is elevated mother figure, while the mother figure is reduced to a monster due to side they are on).

                  I am not saying that Rafella is being deliberately cruel, but I genuinely don’t know if she has the perspective to realise that while Cat walks around with the banners of the hosts she have fought, Cat sees Rafella as walking around with a flayed human skin.

                  (I know that Pascale was the main point of your post, but I just find the complexity around Rafella so damn tragic)

                  Liked by 2 people

  1. Taking Squire as a temporary part of the Woe might just be the single worst idea to come out of this. I know Cat was opposed to it, but even that fact that it was considered is concerning. If he absolutely *must* be around Cat or any of the others in the Woe, really, it should be as a duo. Hell, put him as a roving resupplier or reinforcement, because at least then it only puts a death flag on Hakram (see ammo kid in 3rd Matrix movie/Spiderman in Endgame for my mental image of his role). Otherwise just keep him with Apprentice or one of his established tutors like Huntress or Roland.

    Also: oh look, a female alcoholic themed bardic Name pops up that absolutely no one is suspicious of despite no one seeming to know anything about her. Nothing suspicious at all there.

    Liked by 22 people

    1. Cicero

      The Squire taking Viv’s place inside the Woe?

      It could be bad, but it could also be very good. I’d classify it as a high risk high reward tactic.

      It increases the ties the Squire has to the Woe, to Cat, and even to Viv. If successful, it makes it less likely that he will lead heroic opposition to Viv, and more likely that he becomes instead a heroic tempering of Callow as made by the Woe. (Something Cat would not object to).

      It creates the room for a romance to naturally develop between him and Viv (assuming he is bi, which can not be dismissed – after all he parallels Cat who is bi).

      It also emphasizes a mentor role for Cat, along with all the possible death flags from it. And the possible death flags for the Woe as a group – protecting the youngster is always a threat to an established band,

      And it creates potential death flags for the Squire as well. As youngster with the vets dies is a trope.

      Auka might the one in the most danger though. She’s got a big “redemption equals death” flag around her, and Auka of all people protecting the Squire of Callow? Ii has all sorts of symbolism to it.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. Yeah, well, I’m pretty certain it’ll be fine.

      Leaving aside how we still have a whole book left so Cat’s not dying for good… actually that’s a pretty important part of this, as a reader I’m fairly certain of her survival… taking risks for the common good has been Catherine’s best strategy so far. Remember when she literally got her head cut off because “it would be cheap at twice the price”? And how that ended up for her? Yeah, this is one of those. Cat needs to put on her big girl pants and take a personal risk, and that’s exactly what she’s doing.

      The thing about the Squire is that he doesn’t really have the apprentice-dooming-the-mentor Role. Catherine is stepping way from Callow as soon as this war is over, so she’s not in his way in any way, shape or form. She won’t be looking after him. Vivienne will, and the story relationship between the two of them is quite different. If Cat teaches him? They’ll be both her students and successors, as a pair rather than rivals. That’s a story that’s VERY good for them and VERY bad for whatever obstacle decides to stand in front of them.

      Also, he’s a Foundling and Cat feels kinship with him and I want to see more of him on screen with her SO MUCHHHHHHHHHHHH

      Liked by 13 people

      1. Oh, see, I’m very much in favor of Cat taking Squire under her wing, I’m just adverse to him joining this battle. I don’t see Cat dying either, but she’s coming into a powerful villainous Name, and the combination can result in a lot of deaths for other characters surrounding her.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. agumentic

      Taking the Squire as a part of the Woe has certain story risks, it’s true. On the other hand, not doing ones’ utmost against the Scourges runs into another bad story Cat pointed out – namely, “You weren’t prepared enough and the Scourge killed you all”. I think this one has a much worse and is much less open to the kind of story manipulation Cat can pull. So, taking him as a part of the Woe doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to me.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. dadycoool

    Love how they’re divvying up the Named for the upcoming battle. Poor Ishaq, “Is it always this insane?” For basically everyone else, it wouldn’t be, but Cat has taken peeks behind the curtain and is able to discern shapes and patterns on the other side, with lots of practice honing that skill.

    All the candidates for a fifth Woe member are bad in their own way. Looking at Squire, taking a kid along doesn’t sound quite right. I’m half convinced that he’ll become the Black Knight, but that seems like a very long shot.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Cicero

      It’s not a serious suggestion… but I had the stray thought that one of the ways to lessen the threat of the Squire to the Woe would be for Viv to participate as a member of the Woe, and then claim the Squire of Callow as her bodyguard. So the Squire isn’t acting as a replacement in the Woe, but rather as an accessory to Viv who is a member of the Woe.

      It would leverage Viv’s role as heir designate to the throne of Callow. Emphasize the Squire’s links to Callow, while diverting him from the link to Cat. And with Viv as a retired Hero it also lessens the hero messes up the villains threat.

      It just puts Viv in a dangerous situation. On the other hand, the story would suggest her survival…

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I think it’s going to work that way on the narrative level anyway. Taking Squire instead of Vivi puts him in the role of her… deputy? partner? equal. He’s stepping into the shoes of “the Woe’s hero recruit”, where Vivienne has already moved on to “Catherine’s apprentice and successor”. Which is exactly the role Catherine is worried about him taking on, as well. But with him substituting for Vivienne here while she’s busy with duties she’s a better fit for and has more affinity for? Where the combat role he’s taking is not one she ever liked or wanted?

        Yeah, this is good setup for the two of them working together, IMHO.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Sinead

          That being said, 20 gold that Vivienne ganks Varlet who attempts to assasinate the leadership of the Army. Full on knife fight.

          She then dusts herself off and gets back leading the army

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Sinead

              I see that I accidently ended up double posting on the same idea. Whoops, my apologies.

              The reason why I would like Vivienne succeed here is because Varlet is reduced down to just hiding, which was Vivienne’s specialty. She also made a point to _not_ lean on the skill overmuch, so her spotting a strike coming and just _dealing_ with it when she is seen as the least of the Woe would be great.

              Of course, what I want is for her to pull off some Sun shenanigans that is Light-like but specifically not Light (she held the Sun in a third of her soul for a number of days, that gotta leave some marks) to flush out the Varlet and then just end them quickly.

              …I may be too invested in this theory for someone who doesn’t have any input in this story in the slightest.

              Liked by 2 people

                1. Sinead

                  OK, yeah, that would be good. Especially if the narrative goes full ham, and she comes out of this dust-up with Varlet _spotless_. No dust, not a single mark on her.

                  Cat would be friggin _pissed_

                  Liked by 2 people

        2. Sinead

          I’m not sure if my previous comment got eaten (or is somewherd else in this comment section), but I really hope we get Vivienne take down the Varlet trying to assassinate leadership. As in they sneak past Squire on guard duty, and Vivienne just takes them out and then continues on with her other duties.

          This doesn’t require Squire to be on guard, but it would make a hell of an impression.

          Liked by 5 people

            1. Sinead

              Stand could be used to help make the final step (hah) to cyborc. Perhaps meditation with Find, rise with Stand, and then a full on Rampage?

              I know there is the whole thing of “do not rely so fully on your Name for things”, but that shouldn’t destroy progress I don’t think.

              Like

              1. shikkarasu

                There’s not relying on your Name, and then there’s working things into your Name. Hakram’s Dead Hand became part of his identity much like Cat’s Mantle of Woe. This can turn even a mundane object into something more. I am hoping that he can weave prosthetics in general into his identity and make them stronger in turn. Might be a use for Stand, or it might be a rare/previously unheard of case of one Aspect turning into another.

                Or heck, maybe just one of those OP Name perks like how Black Knight can manipulate shadows and perform limited Necromancy without the Gift, or how Lone Swordsman could detect lies. Adjutant is a new Name, so its still likely malleable.

                Liked by 3 people

  3. Sparsebeard

    So now, Cath is the undisputed autority on the front. I’d argue both for named as the only representative of the accords on site and militarily as the Black Queen.

    Hanno knows it might be “good” to stay as a balance of power but decides to give Catherine a chance.

    This is what Cat’s favor bought.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. laguz24

    You know, this sort of story leaves a great opening for a sort of lower decks episode where we get to see some more heroes and villains that aren’t as invincible and are still learning the steps of the dance.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    Named were here > Named here
    either now knew > now knew
    tainted glass > tinted glass
    Below the rest > Below, the rest
    their owns > their own
    I’d looked > I’d have looked
    holding up > holding them up
    tolerate our losing > tolerate us losing
    be participate > be participating
    marching of when > marching distance of when
    animals head > animal’s head
    sword a board > sword and board
    experience this > experienced this
    Christophe the Pavanie > Christophe de Pavanie
    Knight winced > Knight wince
    spirited decision > spirited discussion
    believed have > believed gave
    close Twilight Gate > close Twilight Gates
    dent if > dent him if
    didn’t seen > didn’t see
    something will > something that will
    were I began > where I began
    that some calibre > that for some calibre
    theirs, were in away, > theirs were, in a way,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mamm0nn

    Hm, another bard. Could be useful, especially for such a mission.

    I always assumed that Book 1 Cat looked at bards as lovable but woefully ineffective because they’re in stories already touched up by success in the end and plot armour by being past tense and retelling both. However, the true purpose of Bards being a greater understanding and control over Stories and Providence.

    Not as in, they’d have insight of things like Cat does, though that is indeed one of their powers, but that they have greater control over it. Cat can foresee a pivot or story and prevent it happening by direct act, the Bard can see a gap for a Story and insert it. They can see the groundwork for a treacherous lieutenant betrayal and urge the story to do it at a chosen point, or see a dead mentor story and twist things around by taking the pupil away so that it becomes a Hero overcoming all adversity again.

    Taking such a figure with them would greatly aid the odds of the Band of Five, as it would essentially make four much more lucky and effective fighters over five that can do a lot yet still stumble if the Story doesn’t go their way.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Hitogami

    Cat is so jealous that the White knight has had enough one sided victories that it’s affected his tactics.
    To be fair the enemies that she’s faced usually were powerful to threaten creation, but still, she’s jelly 😁

    Liked by 8 people

  8. ninegardens

    So… the dude wasn’t sure what to do this morning, and then woke up and decided “You know what my party of five needs? A *Merry Balladeer* that no one seems to have mentioned previously. And we’ll head north. Good plan.”

    😐

    Is that you WB? Are you doing evil things? Hmmmm……

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m pretty sure the Merry Balladeer has in fact been mentioned before! Let’s see…

      Hmm.

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

      > Respect for the Chosen would stay hand and the Balladeer was highly popular besides, while the Witch had the means to quickly send word to him if need be.

      https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2020/10/09/interlude-ietsism/

      Yeah, I think this is the same Named, Hanno is just used enough to her he shortened it, where Witch is not one of his so he didn’t (also, there are multiple Witches lol)

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Earl of Purple

      Wandering Bard always drinks from a distinctive flask, and carries the same instrument. They’re too much part of her to hide them. She can’t hide herself like that for long.

      Merry Balladeer doesn’t have either, I think. And if she’s been around for more than a year, she’s survived a WB face change.

      Liked by 6 people

  9. Frivolous

    I’m a little surprised that they didn’t run a hero lottery to determine which Chosen would be assigned to go after which Scourges. But I guess even heroes don’t trust Providence that much, even when there are so many heroes fighting on the same side.

    Or perhaps it’s merely that most heroes benefit from Providence equally, with only rare exceptions like the Fortunate Fool being lucky to a reliable and great degree. Therefore logic and tactics remain important.

    Villains, of course, can’t trust Providence very much, so they’d use logic and tactics almost exclusively.

    I wonder if the Page and Apprentice were assigned to do anything, or if they were even at the meeting. Maybe one or both of those transitional heroes was assigned to guard Vivienne during the battle.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Here’s a quote from Quora on the subject of hiw the selected the Venitian Doge:

      “For more than five centuries (from 1268 to 1797) the procedure to elect the doge (chief of state) did not change.

      Choose 30 members of the Great Council by lot.
      These 30 people are reduced by lot to 9.
      These 9 people choose 40 other people.
      These 40 are reduced by lot to 12.
      These 12 people choose 25 other people.
      These 25 people are reduced by lot to 9.
      These 9 people choose 45 other people.
      These 45 people are reduced by lot to 11.
      These 11 people choose 41 other people.
      These 41 people elect the doge.”

      Apparently the logic behind this was that god intervened through incidents of random chance, so they wanted to give god as many chances as practical to intervene in who would get elected as Doge.
      In a world where fate and providence demonstrably warps probability I could totally see this kind of system being popular.
      It might even work right here in this siege, because they’re riding off of a story of being the last stronghold with any real chance of stopping Keter from rolling over a big chunk of Procer and killing a great number of people. And of the heroes and their allies making a heroic final stand for the sake of Procer, where they’ll savage the enemy either before their defeat, or in a successful defence. So Providence should guide heroes into the places where they can do the most good more easily.

      Liked by 4 people

  10. ninegardens

    So… is it just me, or is Cat making a pretty significant Story error regarding The Severance.

    As in… she’s saving it up as a final weapon against the Dead King.
    Like… she’s treating it the same way villians treat a flying fortress.
    She is *relying* on a magical sword to save them or whatever. Like… I dunno.

    It just doesn’t feel like it has the weight for that. It *does* feel like it has the weight for cleaving the prince of bones, or taking down the bridge, but using it in the final push feels like a recipe for failure (or for DK to steal it, which is even more terrifying).

    Like… this EXACT kind of thinking is what had Black pissed off at Malicia back at the end of book 3: don’t rely on flying fortresses or magical artifacts. Just don’t.

    Now…. maybe she’s going to use the Severance for slaying some kind of gatekeeper or whatever at the entrance to Keter- sure, fine, whatever… but the idea that it has anything near the weight needed to roll DK seems laughable (especially when wielded by MK).

    Is there something that I’m missing here?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Flying Fortress thing is about sweeping all before you with your mighty weapon… if they did overuse the Severance, e.g against the Prince Of Bones and the other toughest Scourges, then they *would* be playing that story.

      The Ultimate Weapon that only gets used once against the Big Bad, that’s another story entirely, and a heroic one that’s more likely to succeed.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. ninegardens

        I can see the logic, and I get it but….
        I still don’t think it will work. I put strong bets AGAINST Severance being of use against the Dead King, and the reason is…. Its not tied to him? And its not tied to the hero using it?
        Its not “The mirror knight’s destined sword” and its not “The blade destined to kill the dead king”. If Tariq was using it it would be “a meaningful token from a fallen friend”, but it ISN’T that.
        At the moment, its just a very pointy stick. It’s a tool, a war asset, there isn’t any STORY imbued in it. Its the product of Name necromancy and industry, and heck, maybe that works, maybe that *is* the story of Cat’s new age of order (“Collaboration beats destiny”)…. but at the moment, according to oldschool story tropes, it just…. it doesn’t fit?

        I dunno, maybe if whoever wields it *isn’t* the mirror knight, and thus the sword bleeds them, then it will have the weight. The weight of blood being spilled, sure, but weight nonetheless.

        But at the moment, because it isn’t *personal* to any of the characters, it doesn’t feel like a heroic weapon. Its origin too industrial and impersonal, its path is too tainted.

        Heck, If Zeze was into revenge more, it could have been “the weapon of heirophant’s vengeance”, but he honestly doesn’t seem to give a damn about the sword, or vengeance, and is more interested in having fun with quartered seasons.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. “The mighty weapon prepared for the final battle” is a story in its own right. It’s weakened by not being secret anymore (and by having been used previously), but I think it can still be of some use, if the first time it appears outside the Arsenal is for that final battle.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Andrew Smith

          I mean Zeze did have that talk after the whole forming of the twilight ways with Cat on killing the dead king to sum up/quote him I saw how gods are made and so how they can be unmade.

          Magical heroic sword of bullshit power that has a only the worthy may wield effect( Hanno even brings up he can tell that the sword won’t let him use it thanks to it kinda being the embodiment of miss NO TRUCE WITH THE ENEMY.)
          Really it is kind of like an edgy master sword from Zelda

          That by itself makes it powerful(add in this sword took years to make by an experience hero since pretty sure it is Decree(think it was that aspect)
          Taking the sword that was the Saint of swords( who was thought of as someone who could kill the dead king) and using it to then kill the dead king is a story

          Of course it isn’t the only thing the war is riding on since quartered seasons was being made for the exact same purpose fucking over the dead king

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Sinead

          I think something to consider is that the Lawrence could cut _anything_, so a blade that cuts whatever it’s swung at is a solid war asset that is still a good thing to keep out of the Dead King’s sight to give him minimal time to try and adapt.

          Even if it doesn’t succeed at being a tool to break the Dead King (since Quartered Season seems to be a means to make the Dead King sealed Evil a can with no undead armies to make assaulting Keter easier), it’s still useful to only keep back as a tool used to respond to the escalation of taking on the Crown of the Dead.

          Granted, I tend to think of these things as less meaningful than the actual people behind them. The stories are more the _way_ these forces get applied. I think it’s all a lot more blind than it seems like on the ground.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Frivolous

      Mental Mouse: Possibly hoping to keep her ability to steal and/or destroy the aspects of others a secret, given it can probably be used against living heroes and villains as well. That capacity is a weapon, and Cat is too savvy and paranoid to brag about it.

      But she can’t or won’t keep it secret that the Varlet is reduced to just one aspect, either, as that would be tactically foolish. So saying ‘we’ did it helps occlude the capacity without intruding into folly.

      Because I sometimes forget smaller details about the Practical Guide to Evil: Can someone confirm or refute that Cat’s ability to destroy or steal aspects of non-corpses is known to anyone outside the Woe?

      I know that Tariq and Laurence were there when Cat used her capacity to steal aspects to help destroy the Spellblade, but Laurence is dead and I think Tariq is probably too cautious of angering Catherine to risk spreading that information.

      I can’t remember any other circumstance.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sailorleo

        The Ophanim gave everyone present at the Prince’s Graveyard visions of Cat using the ability to grab Forgive from Tariq and use it to revive him during the formation of the Twilight Ways.

        Like

  11. Someperson

    Feels like Hanno just decided his Role is more about going out and executing the tasks that undoubtedly need doing than it is about leading the Named front and center in the most decisive battle of this vaguely crusade shaped confrontation.

    Whether he meant to or not, it seems like he just granted a great deal of legitimacy to Catherine’s incipient Name, which appears to involve authority over other Named. If anyone would challenge her right to such a mantle of authority, it would surely be Hanno, who is both her equal under the Truce and Terms and the White Knight in a battle of Named against the hordes of evil.

    Like

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