“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.
“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.”