Interlude: Kingdom

“Fifty-seven: the greatest of powers is not an enchanted sword or cataclysmic spell, it is simply to be in the right place at precisely the right time.”

– “Two Hundred Heroic Axioms”, author unknown

The Black Queen’s own favourite trick had been turned against the Fourth Army, and the results were a bloody ruin.

At least two thousand dead in less time than it took to boil a cup of water, that much again in wounded and even worse: siege engines, as well as the sappers who manned and built them, had been pulped by the great sheets of waters that had fell like a wave of stone from the Heavens. The Dead King’s sorceries had been aimed foremost at the positions above the rebuilt gates of Hainaut, the siege platforms Sapper-General Pickler had ordered built before the enemy came, and there was not a soul left alive there. The results of that were immediately disastrous, for though the Fourth Army was hastening to reinforce the lost grounds the enemy had not missed the opening: beorns were already there and emptying their bellyfuls of soldiers, as great snakes of dead flesh bit into the wet stone and opened their maws to make themselves into siege ladders.

Worse, a pair of wyrms had landed atop the siege platforms and was terrorizing the attempted reinforcements. They monstrous dragons of flesh and bones, magnificent examples of what the greatest necromancer to ever live could achieve at the peak of his skill, were shrugging off Light and sorcery alike. It would take concentrated volleys of either to drive them back, and the Fourth was still on the backfoot: with so many officers dead, it was struggling to move priests and mages where they needed to be. It was a miracle, General Zola Osei thought, that the Fourth Army hadn’t outright routed. Nearly every other army on Calernia would have, after seeing nearly half its number killed or wounded in so short a span. But the soldiers, first hardened on the grounds of Arcadia and then against the horrors of the Folly, held.

For now, at least. How long would that last? General Zola Osei of the Second Army of Callow let the urge to wince pass through her, refusing to indulge, for it would not do to show weakness to her staff when disaster loomed so tall. She set down the Baalite eye, choosing her words carefully as her staff tribune and senior mage awaited her opinion.

“If we do not immediately reinforce, the gate is lost,” General Zola said.

“If fully commit, we risk losing the gate anyway and being swept away entirely in its wake,” Staff Tribune Adnan frankly said. “I would argue in favour of ordering the Fourth to retreat while we fortify the entrance to the city and prepare for battle there.”

“Should the Dead King hold the gate, the city’s wards are at risk of collapsing entirely,” Senior Mage Jendayi replied, shaking her head. “I won’t pretend that it will not be bloody to take back the gate, but even on purely tactical grounds it is the superior decision.”

They were disagreeing, Zola considered, because they were starting from entirely different premises even if neither had stated as much: Adnan considered this battle lost, and was now looking to mitigate, while Jendayi still believed victory achievable and so was willing to spend lives to reach that end. General Zola herself was not yet certain which way she leaned, though she was aware a decision needed to be made urgently. Already she had sent her two senior legates to prepare the grounds behind the city gates in case of a breach but now she either needed to send companies into the stairs leading up to the siege platforms, which the dead were certain to turn into a meat grinder of brutal proportions, or send messengers to the Fourth before it overcommitted. And the truth was that, even beyond tactical considerations, Zola was not certain if the Second had the stomach for the kind of fight taking the gates back would mean. Not since Maillac’s Boot.

The general had always admired the Black Queen’s almost alchemical knack for transmuting battles into loyalty, but the Boot had left scars in the Second. Losing General Hune had been a blow, even for Zola herself, but the casualties taken that day… Many still had nightmares of the hordes that never ceased coming, of the things crawling out of the much and in those dreams the gates into Twilight always closed too early. If Her Majesty had been there with them, perhaps, but now? The rumours had spread. The Black Queen was wounded, unconscious, and now her armies were wavering. Catherine Foundling had never been defeated on the field, but that legend did not apply to the Army of Callow when it stood without her. If I don’t give the order to take back the gate, General Zola thought with cold clarity, then I have declared this battle a defeat. It will not be possible to win, afterwards.

Before she could speak, however, she caught sight of strange movement atop the gates. An eddy in the flow of the dead. Zola’s grandmother had been a Mosa, and though the blood had since thinned she could still perceive motion uncannily well even in the dark. She pressed the Baalite eye against her face again, the enchantment lending her better sight through the dark, and started in surprise.

“General?” her staff tribune worriedly asked.

“Mad,” Zola Osei softly said. “Utterly mad.”

Goblins, it was goblins. At least a cohort’s worth of them, maybe more, but it was not a battle they had come from. Zola saw as they climbed atop the great necromantic constructs – the beorns and the snakes and even one of the wyrms – as lesser dead clumsily tried to pursue. Nimble and utterly fearless the sappers, for those bags they bore could not be mistaken, spread out and every heartbeat a few more of them died from being shaken off monsters or caught by undead. And still they went, until a horn was sounded and like candles in the darks the monsters lit up. One after the other, matches struck and devices triggered as jets of green flames burst and Keter’s great beasts screamed.

Robber’s Marauders were not a legend without reason.

“We go forward,” General Zola Osei said, throat tightening. “The Second will take back the gate.”

The Army of Callow had not yet bent the knee to even odds overwhelming. It would not break that custom on her watch.

Like most great catastrophes, Adjutant thought, it had not been neatly done. The Grey Basin – le Bassin Gris, to the locals – had occupied maybe a fourth of surface of the plateau on which the city of Hainaut had been built, an uneven oval that began south where it ended on a waterfall over the edge and went up the middle of the capital until it ended at the beginning of the great district facing the city gates. The basin had been a major boon to the city, for both sanitation and drinking water purposes, and it’d been kept full by both underground aquifers in the rock below and regular rainfall. It was also, as of a half hour ago, entirely gone.

It had been expected that the undead would dig under the city, for it was one of Keter’s favourite tactics and one of the few weaknesses of the city-fortress, and the Firstborn had been the natural answer to such an assault. They too were familiar with fighting underground, Night was well suited to such skirmishes and unlike humans they could see perfectly in the dark. And as far as Hakram could tell, when the dead had finally dug their way up into the city the fight had gone overwhelmingly in the favour of the drow. On all fronts they’d either held or outright beaten back the dead, in some cases even counterattacking deep below where the dead were massing for their offensive. And then it had all gone horribly wrong, somehow.

Sve Noc had been caught in a trap, of which the nature and purpose was still unclear, and it seemed that to free themselves from it the Crows had made sacrifices. Swaths of dzulu had suddenly fallen unconscious, and even Mighty had seen their powers suddenly falter. Worse, the angry throes of the goddesses had shattered the bottom of the Grey Basin and the water had poured into the tunnels dug by Keter. They too had broken, in some places too fragile, and it had begun a disastrous chain of collapses that’d essentially hollowed out the heart of the city. Now where the Grey Basin had once stood there was a sheer drop of a at least a hundred feet instead, with massive rubble and the corpses of both drow and broken undead strewn everywhere.

“Hard to tell how many died,” Secretary Amelia said. “The Firstborn are shit at coordinating with other forces, they never told us how many they sent down into the tunnels.”

“Concentrate on finding the Losara,” Hakram said, leaning on his crutches. “They are most likely to have numbers for us.”

“The curves of the cliff seems to curve inwards,” Secretary Prattler noted, crouching at the edge with an interested look. “Dangerous. The plateau’s structure became unstable.”

“And the tunnels?” Hakram asked.

“They didn’t go anywhere,” Prattler, once a lieutenant in the sappers, replied. “If the dead climb the side of the drop, they’ll be able to access them and enter the city by other paths than the edge. We need to close them as soon as possible.”

“Send word to the sappers,” Adjutant ordered. “Save for the situation at the gates, this is the highest priority.”

“Won’t be many left of us, but I’ll see what I can do,” Secretary Prattler saluted.

The reports from his phalanges were increasingly staggered, but the flow had not yet been impeded. The difficulty at the moment was keeping the Alliance high command informed, and Vivienne in particular. Irritatingly, the situation with the Firstborn remained unclear. The nature of the consequences of what had happened save for a fourth of the plateau shattering were still to be determined. Night had weakened, observably, but was that it? Answers came when his picket informed him that Masego and the Pilgrim had strolled out of the dark, that overly ambitious creature Ivah with them. Hierophant looked invigorated, the Pilgrim wearied, and neither wasted time on niceties as the ‘Lord of Silent Steps’ stood in the distance and seemingly entranced.

“The Dead King laid a trap for Sve Noc in a cavern below the city,” Hierophant said. “And through the sister he captured, he attempted to siphon the Night.”

Hakram’s jaw tightened. That would have been too disastrous for words.

“Did he succeed?”

Hierophant shook his head.

“I was invited to use one of my aspects onto the Night through one of the sisters,” Masego said. “What Trimegistus seized, I ruined.”

“Along with most of the Night itself,” the Peregrine quietly added. “The Crows hid away a portion of their power in a mortal receptable beforehand, but most of the Night itself was unmade.”

“It was a measured action,” Hierophant calmly said. “It will have hit dzulu the worst, as they had reserves of Night but none of the protections of the Mighty. Nisi will have gone entirely unharmed.”

“And Mighty?” Hakram asked, licking his chops.

“Weakened,” the Pilgrim said. “Significantly so.”

Then the Gloom that defended Serolen was likely gone as well, Adjutant thought. Dark news.

“When will the Sisters return to the field?” he asked.

“That is why we are here,” the Pilgrim admitted. “You are, as always, the man who can find the needle in the haystack. The Sisters cannot reclaim their power, Hierophant tells me, until their imprisoned half is freed. Else we risk simply resuming the disaster on a smaller scale.”

Hakram blinked.

“One of them’s still trapped?” he flatly said.

“Yes,” Masego said. “The ritual was quite comprehensive, though I expect it was primarily meant for a godhead shard and not the possession the net caught. It allowed the halves of Sve Noc to keep communicating.”

“It is,” the Grey Pilgrim said with grim face, “still down there.”

He pointed down below, into the field of soaked rubble, and for a moment Adjutant’s mind went blank. Saving someone down there? Impossible. Not, he adjusted, merely impractical. Which meant… mhm, perhaps he would be able to Find a solution after all.

“The Second Army has engaged at the gates,” General Bagram grimly announced. “It is gaining steadily, but there is no telling the outcome of the engagement.”

“And your Fourth?” Prince Klaus Papenheim asked.

“We’ve stabilized the flanks and are focusing on evacuating the wounded,” the orc replied. “The situation is stable.”

Vivienne let out a long breath and spoke the truth no one else seemed to want to.

“It has been confirmed that the Grey Legion is approaching the gates, the defences of which are still in enemy hands,” she flatly said. “I am the least seasoned military leader at this table, but it seems to me that those gates are about to be smashed open.”

Just a few soldiers of the Grey Legion, hulking masses of moving steel that they were, were enough to serve as a battering ram. The entire frontline of that silent army hitting the seven gates as once would be worse by an order of magnitude.

“We can still hold,” General Bagram insisted. “So long as the walls do not fall, the enemy can be bottlenecked in that district.”

“The east holds,” Captain Nabila said. “No beachheads remain and we have mastery of both rampart and bastions.”

Proud as Vivienne was of the Army of Callow, she had to admit that in the battle for Hainaut the Dominion that had distinguished itself. Almost half the western rampart, held by Alamans troops, had collapsed after being struck by Scourges until Catherine had led the Woe – and Akua Sahelian – to slay one and drive away the other. Unfortunately, the reinforcements led by Princess Beatrice had never materialized as instead they’d run into enemies in the streets of the city. They’d won that clash decisively, at the price of the Princess of Hainaut being wounded, and at the moment it was Prince Arsene of Bayeux that was theoretically the commander of that flank.

The man was not here, however, having instead sent his niece Lady Marceline to speak for him.

“The Brabant levies broke and ran,” Lady Marcelline frankly said, “but we’ve contained the breach to a single bastion. Captain-General Catalina survived the attentions of the Archmage and she’s leading the local effort while my uncle oversees the norther stretch of the rampart.”

“Anyone would have buckled, hit by that kind of magic,” General Bagram said with rough sympathy. “But can the mercenaries clear the enemy’s foothold? If they’d don’t, this all falls apart.”

“Perhaps if Chosen were to lend their strength the matter could be settled more easily,” Lady Marceline leadingly said, turning her eyes towards Vivienne.

It rather amused the heiress that even though she had not held a Name in years, by simple virtue of having once been the Thief people believed she still had influence over Named. As if even Catherine – Vivienne’s heart clenched, but Indrani had promised she would survive – Catherine, with all her strength, did not struggle to keep their kind in even a semblance of order. The privileged information that Vivienne Dartwick did hold in regard to their kind was not a consequence of her thieving past at all, but of Hakram Deadhand being fiercely meticulous even when calamity was at the gate.

It was not sorcery but regular messengers, which admittedly some might argue were harder to arrange in a city besieged.

“They’ve had heavy casualties,” Vivienne said. “On the Silver Huntress survived out of her band after they were caught in that ambush, and only barely. It might be possible to request the Headhunter and the Rogue Sorcerer lend a hand, but they have been highly mobile so mustering them may take time.”

It’d been a slaughter, according to the report she’d gotten. A well-crafted ambush by what had appeared to be a half a dozen Revenants in a narrow street had taken a lethal turn when the Prince of Bones had torn through a wall and pulped the Young Slayer’s head with a single blow. A black-feathered arrow had taken the Summoner in the throat almost simultaneously, and the rest had been overwhelmed. The Grey Pilgrim and Masego had arrived in time to save the Silver Huntress’ life, but both the Silent Guardian and the Rapacious Troubadour had been lost.

All that with nothing to show for it, aside from a few destroyed lesser Revenants. The Prince of Bones had managed to retreat into Arcadia under fire by both the Peregrine and the Hierophant, indifferent to even their harshest attacks, while the Hawk had been long gone by the time those two arrived. The gate the Prince of Bones had used had been found and closed by the pair, but it was expected by everyone in this room that the Scourge would be back to lead his Grey Legion when it breached the city. Lady Marceline made a moue at Vivienne’s answer, displeased.

“Perhaps the band of the Barrow Sword instead?” she asked. “The Blessed Artificer alone-”

“The survivors of that band are already tasked, by order of the Adjutant himself,” Vivienne mildly said.

The mildness was not one that invited further argument, and with ill-grace Lady Marceline accepted the help on offer instead of the one she’d wished for. Vivienne sent out the messenger promptly, even as argument resumed as to whether or not the battle for Hainaut could still be salvaged. There was some optimism that it still could, so long as the drow managed to rally and help the Lycaonese keep walls of the pit created by the collapse of the Bassin Gris from being climbed by the dead. For now the sheer quantity of rubble and water was making it effectively impassable, but it would not last forever.

“The Neustrians could reinforce,” Lady Marceline said, “at the moment they are not-”

It was like an itch, Vivienne thought. Or perhaps simply the slightest of pressures, tickling like a feather. Not the first trick of the sort she had learned, back when she was the Thief, but the first she had been taught. That was almost nostalgic, in a terribly dangerous kind of way. Vivienne Dartwick kept her breathing steady, concentrating as the talk of the commanders washed over her, and listened to nothing save the sound of her own breath. In, out. In, out. There, the itch again. The… weight. She had not been wrong. Idly, the heiress-designate to Callow pushed back her chair seemingly to make room for her legs as she reached for a carafe of water. Leaning covered one of her arms from sight, gave her free hand, and a heartbeat later she was moving.

The knife flew, perfectly thrown, and would have caught the hooded figure in the throat if it’d not been parried by a serrated dagger.

Prince Klaus, who’d been about to get his throat slit, was the first to draw his sword. General Bagram was but a heartbeat behind, and even as Lady Marceline backed away so she’d have room to draw her rapier Captain Nabila palmed a throwing axe. Vivienne, though, had already leapt atop the table with a fresh knife in hand. The Revenant flickered, as if made of heat mirage, and for a moment her eyes stung but she focused through the pain and flicked a second knife. It was parried, but the flickering ceased.

“Varlet,” the Iron Prince hissed, striking hard.

The Revenant turned the blow aside, punching the old man in the stomach hard enough it emptied his lungs, but Bagram hacked at its shoulder and it was forced to step back. The orc’s blade bit into the Prince of Hannoven’s shoulder but only shallowly, and Vivienne reached for the back of her belt where she kept a pouch even as she finished crossing the table. Captain Nabila’s throwing axe was swatted aside and General Bagram’s charge ended badly, the Varlet sweeping his legs and tossing him at the table. Vivienne’s fingers closed around a handful even as she leapt, the table flipping below her as Bagram stumbled into it, and she watched as the Iron Prince’s swing was not only parried but riposted with a vicious cut that ripped across his face.

And the Varlet turned to her, even as she flew through the air, but Vivienne Dartwick smiled unpleasantly and threw a handful of golden dust into her face.

The Scourge hastily retreated but it caught her anyway, the Revenant screaming as the Concocter-made compound burned at the dead flesh and glowed brightly. Let her try to disappear with that. Vivienne tumbled into the animated corpse, the two of them landing in a sprawl, and as she slid out a third knife the other tried to slice open her throat. She caught the wrist in time with her free hand, struggling to keep the blade from going into flesh, but she was losing in strength and she had to abandon her knife to help with her second hand. She was losing anyway. Fortunately, the Iron Prince then kicked the Varlet in the head.

She fell to the side and Vivienne snatched up her knife, stabbing into her foe’s wrist even as the Revenant tried to punch through the back of Klaus Papenheim’s knee. She nailed the dead flesh, preventing the blow, and by then Captain Nabila had joined the fray with a war axe. Vivienne backed way so they’d have freer hand, getting back to her feet as General Bagram brushed past her to lend his sword to the cause of keeping the Revenant from rising. Lady Marceline, though armed, was staying far away from the foe. Vivienne threw her a scornful glance, passing the fallen table to snatch first a magelight globe from the wall and then a candle from a candlestick. She deftly turned back just in time to see Bagram rip through a wrist and then hold down the limb.

“Keep her from moving,” Vivienne ordered.

“She-” Captain Nadila began.

“Do it,” the Iron Prince grunted, hacking at the hood.

They managed, barely, and even then Vivienne had to dodge a kick as she approached.

“You will-” the Varlet began, but the words were interrupted by someone shoving magelight in her mouth.

“I could sneak better than that at eighteen,” Vivienne Dartwick scathingly said, pressing the candle’s open flame against the magelight globe. “You ought to be embarrassed.”

And after five heartbeats exposed to fire, exactly as Masego had shown her it would, the Jaquinite magelight exploded with a loud pop. The tongues of flame exploded outwards, incinerating the Revenant from the inside as a jet shot out from her mouth and Vivienne avoided it by reclining her head to the right. The heat licked at her face, but she did not close her eyes. The Revenant, head mostly consumed save for charred bones, stopped moving.

“Decapitate it to be sure,” Vivienne said, drawing back.

Captain Nabila did, rather eagerly, and the corpse fell listlessly. Feeling the eyes of everyone in the room on her, Vivienne cocked an eyebrow. Had they believed her harmless because these days she wore dresses instead of leather? She was able to fit more knives in a gown than she’d even been able to in trousers. I spent my fighting years as one of the Woe, Vivienne thought, matching their gazes. Does even a single one of you grasp what that actually means? She picked up one of the knives she’d thrown, carefully placing it back against the hidden strap.

“General Bagram, I leave this in your hands,” she said. “I’ll be heading out.”

The orc slowly nodded.

“Where to, my lady?” Bagram asked.

“Where the hammer will fall,” Vivienne replied. “The gates.”

Amusingly enough, the Barrow Sword was the only member of his band who turned out to be useless to the purposes for which it had been sent for.

Ishaq took it in good humour, proving to be in a rather amenable mood overall. His successes before members of the Blood, his usual foes, had put him in a fine mood. Hakram spent little time speaking with the man, instead guiding the efforts of the rest of the band. No one was inclined to climb down, especially now that dead from the plains below had begin to crawl all over the rubble, but the Harrowed Witch was the solution to that: the bound soul of her brother, which she could sometimes force to obey her commands, had been sent instead. With the help of Hakram’s own aspect the place where General Rumena was buried had been found, which had been when the Vagrant Spear moved out.

Passing through Twilight, as she was a fair hand at sidling, she emerged even as the Blessed Artificer began raining down Light on the dead in a hail of javelins. Striking with Light and the power of her Name she’d quickly pierced through the mass of stone, allowing a haggard Mighty Rumena to stumble out. The first stumble was an appearance by the Hawk, who from her high perch atop a vulture let loose an arrow. Aimed at Mighty Rumena, Hakram discerned, but it was not to be. Another arrow hit it mid-trajectory, Archer having finally found trace of her prey, and before a second could be loosed both the drow and the Vagrant Spear disappeared into Twilight.

The Firstborn could see to themselves, then. He had done what he could. An opinion seemingly shared by Masego and the Grey Pilgrim, who had lingered talking to each other quietly but were not clearly intent on leaving. Hierophant absent-mindedly bade his goodbyes, mentioning he was headed towards the gates, but the Peregrine stayed for a longer conversation.

“The Firstborn situation seems as settled as it can be,” Adjutant said.

“We but tied a bandage over a gaping wound, but it is better than nothing,” the Peregrine quietly replied. “I am simply glad that we were able to free Sve Noc.”

The tired-look old man, Hakram considered, had been fully prepared to kill the two goddesses rather than let them fall in the hands of the Dead King. Soberingly, he seemed to believe he would have been capable of the act.

“Losing the Firstborn entirely might have lost us the battle,” Hakram warily agreed.

There was a long pause as the old man studied him, those rheumy blue eyes piercing in ways that were beyond simple sight.

“The Ophanim believe the battle is lost regardless,” the Grey Pilgrim murmured.

The orc’s pulsed quickened.

“And do they care to share their reasons why?” Adjutant calmly asked.

The situation was not favourable, to his knowledge, but it was not yet disastrous. The walls largely held, and though the gates were threatened they were yet to fall. In the longer view the great pit that had replaced the Grey Basin was a liability, but salvaged sigils and the still-fresh Lycaonese should be able to hold them. The battle had certainly grown more arduous, but it seemed to early to write if off.

“There is a Crab,” Tariq Fleetfoot said. “It nears. They can feel it approaching.”

Hakram froze. The massive necromantic creatures were as moving small cities that the Dead King used to keep the armaments of his armies in fighting fit. They were a massive resource investment, and so jealously guarded that few had even been seen, but one had been seen earlier in this campaign. The Rogue Sorcerer, when scouting Lauzon’s Hollow, had believed he’d glimpsed the spells keeping one invisible to the naked eye. And though it was not the purpose of that construct, given its sheer size it would represent not so much a siege tower as a siege fortress.

“Masego and yourself are both capable of destroying constructs of that scale,” Hakram finally said.

And perhaps the Blessed Artificer as well, or Catherine were she awake, but there were not certainties with either.

“A monster, yes,” the Pilgrim sadly smiled, “but a city, with wards and protections as this Crab will have? No. Already the Ophanim tell me their influence is being restricted by some working of the Enemy’s. The battle is lost, Adjutant.”

His bone hand clenched.

“You want us to begin a retreat,” he said.

“That I leave to military minds,” the Peregrine said. “But I say this: we cannot leave a twilight gate in the hands of the Dead King.”

“We can’t afford to lose this battle either,” Adjutant growled. “If we do, Hainaut collapses. Perhaps all of Procer with it.”

And if Procer fell, the rest of Calernia would not be far behind.

“There is a way,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “It would be ruinous, but there is a way.”

Adjutant’s brows knotted.

“What is it you want of me, Peregrine?”

“We need to wake up Catherine Foundling,” the Pilgrim said. “And for that I require your help.”

They had taken the gates, inch by inch.

General Zola had watched as the army already bloodied at Maillac’s Boot bloodied itself anew taking the same wide stairs that Callowan sappers had built but days earlier, tight ranks of legionaries heaving and screaming and they drove back the howling dead. Nothing was held back. Sharpers were thrown freely, shredding the enemy’s tightly packed hordes, and fireballs struck in volleys as spears of Light tore into the side of massive monsters. And the Second Army, living up to the excellence for which the Black Queen had honoured it, bled and won. The bodies fell, until all that was left was green flames and corpses no longer moving. Zola gave her orders, connecting her lines with the Fourth Army’s and evacuating the wounded through the twilight gate. There were no longer mages to spare to send them back into the fight, as too few healers.

Then the gates broke.

The Grey Legion strode through the wreckage, ranks and ranks of silent steel bearing thick shields and great weapons. Light barely bit into them, sorcery was useless, but munitions made a dent. Goblinfire most of all, though the dead simply made some of the legionaries lie over the flames so they would not spread and walked on. Through traps and pits, through caltrops and spikes, lumbering but indifferent. And when the Grey Legion reached the barricades, the lines wavered. Thousands of pounds of stone and wood were shattered in moments, and then great swords and hammers scythed through the frontline of the Second, but still the Second Army held. Zola Osei rode up and down the line, sending heavies into the gaps and ordering concentrated fire from the priests. Ineffective as they were, they still fared better than swords.

It tightened her stomach, watching orcs and humans and goblins pile themselves on the steel-clad dead to topple them and die and drove to destroy even a single one. Spells and Light came down in volleys from the ramparts and even the burning gatehouse, lines from the Fourth having dared to venture there, but it was not enough. The Grey Legion was pushing them back, slowly but surely. Blood and guts flowed down the street until the pavestones were so slick her men tripped on the entrails of their comrades, until smoke and ash stung their eyes to weeping and munitions slowly began to run out. A barricade collapsed entirely, a street routed, the shield wall collapse and then as if by a spell the breach was closed.

The Mirror Knight had come.

General Zola had heard the man called a fool by people high and low, but in that moment she felt only awe. That sole silhouette, marred by smoke and dust, smashed into the Grey Legion as if a cliff had decided to turn back the tide. He shone brightly, glimmer of Light, and as he advanced the enemy bent around him. Steel shells cracked, armoured dead went flying and an army of one sent the darkness howling back. Zola shouted herself hoarse organizing volleys to support him, sending in heavies to hold the ground taken back. Gods, they could still win this. They could still turn this around. Slowly, one at a time, the numbers of the Grey Legion were dwindling. The Second Army would not bend before they did. And forward the soldiers went, screaming their songs in defiance.

Then the Crab came, and the hope went out of them like a candle snuffed out.

Every gain made over hours of fighting gone, just like that. The monster-fortress stood above the ramparts, ramps coming down with iron hooks to disgorge undead atop the gate wherever the goblinfire had not spread. The shape blotted out even the sky, a tall shadow belching out acrid smoke the mage lines of the Fourth fled but not always quickly enough. The spell volleys sputtered out, and below the Grey Legion smashed into the ranks with fresh ferocity. The Mirror Knight was, before too long, a sole island of resistance in a sea of steel. And he fought on, but he could not win the war alone. Perhaps before Maillac’s Boot they would have been braver, Zola thought. Perhaps if the Black Queen had stood with them, as she had through the last nightmare.

But Maillac had happened, and the Black Queen was not there. The Second Army broke.

It was a retreat, at first. Almost controlled, soldiers edging away from the enemy. But the panic spread like a stain on lace, and steps turned into a run. And once a few had begun to run, thousands did. The Grey Legion were terrifying even as part of a shield wall, who wanted to fight them without it? The streets and barricades clogged with soldiers trying to flee, and in the wake of the Second breaking the remains of the Fourth Army broke as well. The only saving grace was that the Grey Legion were too slow to capitalize and that the streets were too narrow for the rout to make it far. The same barricades meant to be held against the dead instead bottlenecked fleeing soldiers, the blind panicked stampede killing hundreds.

General Zola had ordered spells fired into the broken ranks to turn them around, at first, but it changed nothing and she would not be party to butchering her own soldiers like animals. She tried to organize two fresh lines of defence but both buckled under the sheer mass of the routing soldiers who were in no mood to listen to shouting officers. There was, she bitterly realized, little she could actually do. She’d lost control over her army. They might as well be utter strangers now, for all the sway she had over them. Should she arrange for a more orderly retreat? The battle was good as lost now, but perhaps she could still salvage an army out of this. The sun shook out her out of her thoughts, absurdly enough. The sun, in the middle of the night.

And still there it was, hanging in the sky above them, red and burning and casting golden light. A miracle, Zola thought, and remembered the strange lights that burned under the eyecloth of the Hierophant. They were, she thought, eerily similar to what now shone above her army. Which slowed in its flight, confused and worried. And slowly, as General Zola watched, something changed. One of the barricades being toppled calmed, and when she sought the sight with a Baalite eye she found that a banner had been raised. The Crown and Sword, the Black Queens own, but it was not the Black Queen flying it. Lady Vivienne Dartwick, armed and armoured and mounted as the Order of Broken Bells rode around her, headed into the fray.

And wherever she went, under that burning sun that somehow had the Grey Legion buckling, the terror turned to shame. And shame turned into determination, soldiers streaming behind her.

 The tide slowed.

The tide halted.

At last the tide turned around, and as the broken armies headed back into the fight General Zola Osei thought that while Callow might only have one queen this night it had gained a princess.

201 thoughts on “Interlude: Kingdom

      1. ruduen

        I had to double check.

        In Book 3 Chapter 45, that’s the last time the sun is on screen, with Cat threatening to destroy it, and stating that it would be returned if there’s agreement.

        There’s a blank spot in what we know of the immediate aftermath. That being said, it’s mentioned in the extra chapter Ye Mighty that summer did get it back as a result.

        So, we’ll have to see what details get revealed as we continue.

        Liked by 8 people

          1. Vyran

            could it be an adaptation of the banners Viv stole from the imortals (Summers elite guards that were ultra hard to kill until their glowing banners got taken) back during the arcadia campain?

            it would fit with the glowing sun over a raised banner, used to rally and buff their soldiers.

            Like

  1. Frivolous

    Hope Pickler and Robber survived, but I’m almost sure one or both of them died. First the Lakeomancy, and then the suicidal charge by sappers – one or both of them would have been involved in that.

    =======

    EE – possible discrepancy: The orc’s blade bit into the Prince of Hannoven’s shoulder but only shallowly…

    Is that correct? It makes it sound like General Bagram attacked Klaus, though I guess that could have happened accidentally.

    =======

    Yes! Vivienne rules! I love that she led the others in slaying Varlet.

    Agree that Vivienne got a Name again, what with the last word being princess? That Shining or Sun effect seems to indicate that, although it could have been Masego’s.

    =======

    Losing Berserker earlier and now Rapacious Troubadour and Summoner means 3 villains have died so far.

    So far only 2 heroes have died, and one a transitional – Young Slayer and Silent Guardian, and we know almost nothing about SG since she doesn’t talk, haha.

    =======

    This situation strongly resembles the Battle of the Camps, what with Catherine being unconscious and those she loves besieged and in peril both times.

    And once again the important goal is getting her to wake up.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Tom

      > Is that correct? It makes it sound like General Bagram attacked Klaus, though I guess that could have happened accidentally.

      > The Revenant turned the blow aside, punching the old man in the stomach hard enough it emptied his lungs, but Bagram hacked at its shoulder and it was forced to step back. The orc’s blade bit into the Prince of Hannoven’s shoulder but only shallowly

      Varlet punches Klaus and then steps away from Klaus when Bagram comes in swinging a sword, which means Klaus is still easily close enough to get more sword from Bagram than was intended.

      But was it Klaus’s functional shoulder or the shoulder for his missing arm? 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Mennolt van Alten

      > Agree that Vivienne got a Name again, what with the last word being princess?

      Disagree. Why? Because Cat specifically has her as heiress-designate because she does not have a name and she is ‘less important’ than her so people won’t go for her as much. If she gains a name that will jeopardize all that they worked for in the last years to make other leaders know here etc. If she was forming a name she would proabably try to snuff it out and murder it like the name of the leader of the principiate a while ago.

      Like

      1. agumentic

        >Because Cat specifically has her as heiress-designate because she does not have a name

        No, Cat has her as an heiress-designate because Vivienne is a good fit, Name doesn’t come into it. Cat is not going to revoke that status if Vivienne does get a Name here.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Snappy

          Yes because her desire is the accords, which state that none of the named will rule a country. Which is why she was regretting Cordelia getting a name. It would put her in an awkward position if her heir got a name

          Like

          1. magesbe

            As has been stated on multiple occasions, preventing Named from ruling is likely just not going to happen. Catherine desires that no Named be rulers in a vacuum, but she doesn’t like in a vacuum. At the very least the Dominion will completely refuse to sign them unless that clause is taken out.

            Liked by 4 people

      1. Matthew Wells

        Heroes don’t need direct sponsorship. The first time Viv got a name was because she fit the role, not because the Gods had a place for her.

        Like

        1. RoflCat

          She was a Callowan doing thievery as ‘revenge’ against the occupying Praes, that’s pretty much a free ticket to Heroic Name.

          Hell Catherine herself probably was on the list of consideration until Black intervened, much like how Assassin went to recruit Viv at one point.

          Like

  2. I guess that was Viv and Masego working together at the end right? Otherwise Vivienne gained a new name probably, maybe even if Masego was helping (gained a princess, sounds too fitting to not be a name).

    Plus how she discovered the Valet, i mean that was a sign of her emerging name or a vestige from her old one, the former is more likely since she has aged a lot and too much time has passed.

    And just what does Pilgrim plan to sacrifice to get Cat back? His live comes to mind but i am not sure how that would work…..

    Will need to reread the chapter tomorrow xD

    Liked by 7 people

        1. Huh i had forgotten that, my train of thought was that she couldn’t accesss anything from her vault/space/whatever thief stash after losing the name, like if there was anything it was released at a certain location, lost forever or slowly released into creation at ramdom (i imagine a % of maggufins found in lost ruins are created like that xD)

          Liked by 2 people

            1. shikkarasu

              I love the idea, though, of some Thief gaining Hold 20 years from now and being all “WTF is in my Name-pocket? A Callowan barge, 2000 old Preasi Denarii, a similar amount in the oldest Callowan coinage since the revolution, an empty coin purse with the name ‘William’ on it, IS THAT THE ACTUAL SUN!?!?!”

              Liked by 14 people

              1. She gave Arcadia’s sun back! That was part of the deal for Summer to yield, leading to the Resplendent marriage. She probably didn’t keep any of the barges either. On the other hand, there’s certainly quite a bit of the palace silver, and probably stuff she stole earlier from the nobles and Praesi that she was robbing in the beginning.

                Liked by 2 people

                    1. shikkarasu

                      Oh, to be clear I doubt any of these were actually kept, canonically, and I know that the sun was given back. The mental image just tickles me.

                      Like

    1. mamm0nn

      The prickling in the back of her neck isn’t a Name or power, it’s what Cat always used to notice Thief when she was trying to sneak up on her. She taught Viv how she kept noticing her, and thus how to sneak up on her unnoticed, and Viv thus also learned how to notice other rogues sneaking about.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. That was a Name trick. Cat describes it as part of the instincts that come with being Named.

        “You know how when you came into your Name there was this set of instincts just under your skin?”

        The brown-haired woman cocked her head to the side.

        “It felt more like a hand guiding mine,” she said.

        “Close enough,” I said. “When you’re about to get wounded or killed, you’re going to get a tingle just like it.”

        She nodded slowly.

        “I had no intention of striking you,” she pointed out.

        “Yeah, but you were looking at me,” I said. “It does the same thing just… fainter. Black had people following for weeks back in Ater until I learned to pick up on it.”

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Miles

          Doesn’t say you need the name to sense it. There’s no expenditure of power with it either. She learned it from the instincts but once she knows there’s no reason to forget.

          Pretty sure Black used nonbold “name tricks” too after he lost his.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Frivolous

          beleester: Thank you! Very much appreciate your finding the relevant quote.

          If Catherine is any authority and if she was speaking correctly, then the sense-invisible trick only works for Named, as only Named have those instincts.

          But that means Vivienne had a Name even in the tent, fighting the Varlet. In fact, the Varlet may have triggered the Name.

          Like

    2. Drunken Dwarf

      I think it is Viv and Masego working together. Masego has done stuff with Summer before and the whole banner holding Viv is doing seems eerily similar to those Summer Elites that buffed themselves with banners. Then again Viv could have also just taken that one Calloween Name, Shining Princess.

      As for Pilgrim’s plan, another form of ruinous I’m thinking of is…what if the Pilgrim and Mercy helps Cat become a representative of one of the Choirs? Giving a Villain (especially Cat) access to a Choir and Light would certainly be considered ‘ruinous’ by the Grey Pilgrim.

      Liked by 7 people

  3. dadycoool

    Wow, what a big chapter. It’s a little overwhelming, so I’ll focus on the last part. Vivienne never gave the sun back to Arcadia, did she? And where the Woe go, their enemy Breaks. Especially when they take advantage of a Trope, like the “First light on the fifth day” she just did.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Konstantin von Karstein

      She gave it back, it was part of the bargain to force the marriage between the Queen of Summer and the King of Winter. But Masego Witnessed it, and so can imitate it.

      Liked by 16 people

        1. Zggt

          I believe there’s an underground front where the Dwarves are already doing their damage. Their plan from the start was to use the rest of the sapients to tie up as much of the army as possible. It’s been working swimmingly so far.

          Like

    1. mamm0nn

      Escalation gains a return favour. If Below aids their champion, so can Above. And generally, whomever escalates first will see the opposite reaction being greater and more devastating.

      It’s like a Named battle. You never use your Aspects right away, you try to bait out their Aspects and use yours to counter theirs or if at all possible bait out and counter them with power and skill. Especially for Villains, you only use Aspects to counter the enemy’s Aspect or when you really need to use it to survive. One of Black’s basic lessons.

      The Dead King too would know this basic lesson, and not use demons and all his other nightmares until the situation warrants it. If he escalates, then the sum of it all will lessen and aid and surprise reinforcements will be greater. Grey Pilgrim even said as much before. For example a surprise reinforcement of the elves might halt the Crab, but had DK sent in a legion of devils and demons then that same force could’ve been the tide-turner against this much greater foe.

      Liked by 9 people

    2. Snappy

      He wouldnt use them cause that would probably push the “good” side to get loads of buffs and get angels involved. So he is waiting till he has to use it.

      Them winning her isnt game over. A cruasade once got to keter and was turned away.

      The crows are weakened till they can live without night so that front is open.

      Dwarfs are still undecided weather or not to continue the fight .

      And rest will be so bloodied after this fight that it will take time to get into shape.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. JediJuliet

      It’s been mentioned that he can’t escalate like that without suffering consequences in his opposition, that sort of nigh-permanent endless warfare (especially since demons permanently impact creation) basically mean that the opposition WILL be given further tools to permanently and negatively impact him, possibly even allowing his defeat by some hero shouting platitudes down the road.

      Like

  4. Matthew Wells

    Definitely the return of the Shining Princess name. She’s been unable to access her hammerspace without a name, and Masego hasn’t replicated the Sun miracle that we know of. Also the whole ‘routing soldiers turn into a charge’ has been mentioned a couple times to be a standard ability of martial Heroes.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Konstantin von Karstein

      Yeah, it’s the heir to the throne of Callow leading a charge of knights against the Enemy, and we know the Shining Prince(ss) led the charge against Black. And you’re right, giving hope and courage back to fleeing soldiers is definitely Heroic. Guess we know why the seers were sure Hainault would fall without Vivienne.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Matthew Wells

        Just reread that- he did indeed, but this doesn’t appear to be the same miracle- he wielded it offensively, generating it directly in the enemies’ path, while here it’s being used to empower allies.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. On the contrary — remember that part of *why* Thief stole Arcadia’s sun, was that the Queen of Summer could never be defeated under the Summer Sun. Masego has used that to give Vivienne a similar buff for her troops.

          Like

  5. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    worse: siege engines, > worse — siege engines —
    had fell > had fallen
    They monstrous > The monstrous
    out of the much > out of the muck,
    of surface > of the surface
    of a at > of at
    gates as once > gates at once
    the Dominion that had > it was the Dominion that had
    norther stretch > northern stretch
    On the Silver Huntress > Only the Silver Huntress
    backed way > backed away
    had begin > had begun
    orc’s pulsed > orc’s pulse
    screaming and they > screaming as they
    as too few healers > as well as too few healers
    die and drove (should this be “die in droves”)
    glimmer of Light > glimmering of Light
    Black Queens > Black Queen’s
    The tide slowed. (extra space)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. 'Ladi Williams

    I’m scared of what the Grey Pilgrim regards as ruinous.
    Because what are they going to sacrifice to wake Cat up if not GP himself?
    And Cat without an eye and scarred!
    Why….? EE….why?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Reader in The Night

      Well, to any of us losing an eye would be a horrifically crippling wound. To a Named Villain… It’s actually pretty much a power-up?

      Cat already had a Red Right Hand in the form of her limp, but that was mild and could go away at will. A distinctive facial scar and an eyepatch, though? That is Tier One in terms of Villain Recognition Value, and in the Guideverse, with Recognition comes Power.

      Even more, a Villaim that is physically disabled is 200% more likely to be a dangerous plotter, and so Cat’s various schemes are a bit more likely to stick. It seems weird to plot better because you’ve lost an eye, but them’s the story beats.

      In an unrelated note, I think the Peregrine is going to force Catherine’s Name to consolidate, thus damaging it or crippling it’s potential. Catherine having her Name fucked with is a common theme by this point.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Tom

        > In an unrelated note, I think the Peregrine is going to force Catherine’s Name to consolidate, thus damaging it or crippling it’s potential. Catherine having her Name fucked with is a common theme by this point.

        I had completely forgotten about the way her Name got messed with previously, but you’re 100% right.

        Alternatively Cat might already be in the middle of a Name dream brought on by her injury, and Pilgrim’s going to screw it up because they need her to be awake more than they need her to have a Name.

        Or maybe Pilgrim’s choir has informed him that Cat’s having a Tankred style dream. TWINS they were.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Insanenoodlyguy

        The thing is, Pilgrim says whatever it is he’s going to need Hakram’s help. If the ruin is specifically on Catherine, It doesn’t seem like he’d be willing to give that help unless it’s literally “this or Cat dies” last second stuff. I feel like it has to be a broader ruin, though probably something Cat herself will be really, really unhappy about.

        Like

  7. Okay, so it wasn’t a full destruction of the Night. Still pretty bad, but it didn’t turn the shock troopers into tribal conscripts.

    I know it’s inaccurate to say a goblin did something heroic, but Robber just did something damn heroic. Leading his Marauders in that suicide attack on the constructs was essentially identical to what really sparked Kingfisher’s Name. I seriously doubt he earned a Name himself from that because of goblin culture, but if he could become Sapper Jesus and spawn an aspect for unlimited ammo, that would be really useful right about now.

    And Vivienne has to have gained a new Name in this chapter. The story beats are just too perfect for it, and if Cat did come into her new Name, it would mean the Woe being back to full strength just in time for the final arc. My only hesitation there is that Hakram may have just sacrificed himself to jumpstart Cat. It’s not an absolute, but it’s definitely not an outside possibility.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Morgenstern

      I’m not sure “bad” revenge does always count as “good” vengeance, especially when it comes to a pseudo-romance of two goblins. Pickler was probably with her precious machines =/
      Forget about the Troubadour, why did *she* not get a death scene? Or are we to presume instead of yet another off-screen death (hidden in an on-screen wave of death), she somehow escaped _that_, as a Non-Named?

      Like

      1. Matthew Wells

        She has a habit of finding someplace to watch from, and without a new toy to set up she doesn’t have a reason to be on the front lines.

        Like

    2. Insanenoodlyguy

      Robber already had a Name. It was Robber. Goblin named, unlike most of creation, are intentionally kept secret. He did a very good job.

      Like

  8. NerfGlaistigUaine

    NO not the Troubadour! I liked that one 😦 Hoping he’s somehow still alive, his power’s got something to do with souls so its possible, but I doubt it.

    Wish he’d at least gotten a death scene.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. AceOfSword

      Barrow Sword’s power also has to do with souls and he was able to use those to cheat death… But he’s a martial name. The Rapacious Troubadour is a killer, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to warrant him having such a trick…

      Though Assassin seemed to have a “come back from being killed” trick too..

      Liked by 2 people

  9. laguz24

    Hmm, interesting. But what is the ruin of the sun that the grey legion has. But also, I think that ordinary people can sense a pivot, it just comes so rarely that they don’t know what it is. Viv has merely been attuned by her time as a named, plus she still somewhat matters story wise. But I am voting for shining princess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanatoss

      No, Viviene will probably not get Name.
      Remember we are witnessing END of Age of Wounders and start of new age, probably Age of Mortal, so yes it was VERY fitting that Generals just killed Scourge without any Named backup.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Vivienne sensed that through a trick that Cat had taught her, to detect someone looking at you.

      And with that said, it’s beautiful that Vivienne says specifically that she could sneak better than that at eighteen – before eighteen, she got caught by Cat every time the same way XD

      Liked by 8 people

  10. Anomandris

    I’ve used the term before and I will again – this chapter was sheer Malazanesque writing. Those descriptive yet short paragraphs. A roller coaster of emotions – you go up and down often. A bird’s eye sort of view of everything. Punchy, short sentences with the full weight of the plot behind them.

    I have not been this awed by fantasy battle writing at least since The Crippled God.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Crash

    Oh boy. That’s one hell of a Chekhov’s gun you got there, buddy.

    There goes Hakram Deadhand, off to try and get dismembered again. This time, with incentive from a Choir. What a guy.

    Liked by 8 people

  12. ninegardens

    So… that Sun Vivi has….

    She no longer has her bag of **HOLD**ing, so it probably not that (and got returned).
    It… may be the Pilgrims star? He does have **SHINE** as an aspect, and we haven’t seen that deployed yet.
    Or it could be Masego doing Sun Fae mimicary?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Zachary A Sloan

        I feel like EE would have used capital-P Princess at the end of this were the case.

        Also, Vivienne getting a name seems to sort of cheapen the whole idea Catherine is going for, with making Named less relevant to the ideal post-War Calernia.

        That being said, the evidence someone else posted of the “feeling an itch when someone is looking at you/about to attack you” being a Name trick is fairly persuasive, unless Catherine was just wrong and it was a trick mortals could also learn (or ex-Named could use).

        Like

        1. Sinead

          It could be that this isn’t the moment she gets her Name, but rather in the moments after this sortie. This is only the start of her final arc to a Name. She is a “p”rincess on route to become a “P”rincess.

          Cat doesn’t want Named rulers because she wants to deescalate conflicts to individual level, rather than a national level. It was already sounded as it was something that isn’t possible even without Cat’s own succession plan being complicated by it.

          However, if Vivienne responds to this by creating a set of laws in Callow that bind the crown of Callow itself (think Great Britain’s Magna Carta), that can be a compromise that resolves this issue for the best way possible.

          Like

    1. TeK

      It is the one she stole, but she accessed it through a different name. I wonder if it’s literally Shine. Pilgrim’s star is, er, Pilgrim’s star, so the sun is out od question. And while Masego could probably manifest the sun, this sounds like an abhorrent waste of power for some superfluous reason. So not him.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Tycanor

    Viv won’t get a name back, if she does she cannot rule by Catherine’s terms right? Same reason she was happy Cordelia didn’t take the Warden name when it came along.

    Like

    1. Vivienne getting a Name or not is not something her or Catherine are likely to have a say in, alas (where by alas i mean fucking best).

      But also the Accords have thrown out the “no Named rulers” clause, it was never workable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Crash

        Not so much thrown out as Cat has been very strongly told it’s not happening due to it being the literal foundation of the Dominion lmao

        She’d go for it, given the chance it’s just that the others are currently refusing.

        Like

        1. It’s not just the Dominion. Like, the Dominion is just an illustration of a more general principle.

          Rulership and Names are inevitably intertwined. You can have non-Named rulers, but it might change any moment either due to a charismatic leader taking over (imagine if Accords said Kairos cannot be Tyrant of Helike. Poor Accords…) or due to a ruler growing into their competence and importance during a crisis to the point of getting a Name (and not everyone has an Augur to story-fight for them).

          When a new nation forms, it has a Named or a band of Named forming it more often than not. When a nation throws of a foreign yoke, it has a Named or a band of Named leading that more often than not.

          It’s just HOW ROLES WORK.

          The idea was always stupid. Cat’s ideas are usually pretty good, but this? This was not one of those.

          That she still wants it is… not a sign that there was ever a chance that it would work -_-

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Crash

            Oh I’m not saying it’s a good idea or that it will work.

            Just that she will fight for it becomes absolutely, completely impossible. Like if her heiress became Named. That’d fuck everything up because there’s no substitute for Vivienne.

            Until then, Cat will continue to be stubborn about it. It’s what she does haha

            Liked by 1 person

  14. Frivolous

    I’m a little surprised that Andronike and Komena are not embodied again. I figured that was what it meant when Andronike invested most of the remaining Night into Ivah and also appeared to Masego as a woman with a silver mask.

    I mean, she was prepared to lose most of Sve Noc’s godly power, and Masego was able to touch her. I figured she’d retreated to her meat body.

    But what with Andronike not reappearing in this Interlude, and only Rumena being Found by Hakram, I guess that means Andronike had only been an apparition, not a flesh and blood woman.

    =======

    Could someone please help me out by showing me where it says or does not say that you need a Name to detect an invisible person the way Lone Swordsman did and the way Vivienne does now?

    I can’t find any reference to it except in Heroic Interlude: Attaque au Fer. It’s really bugging me that I don’t know and can’t find where Vivienne learned Willy’s technique.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matthew Wells

      William didn’t have that trick; Cat taught it to her after she joined the Woe. Sometime between the Battle of Four Armies and One and Second Liesse, if I recall correctly.

      Liked by 9 people

    2. Andronike and Komena don’t have meat bodies at this point as best I can tell. They ARE Night. They can create avatars to embody themselves, like the crows or the apparition Ivah saw, and that’s as close to a “true body” as it comes for them.

      Like

    3. Cicero

      I don’t think it requires a Name. It’s just much like other instincts that are heightened by generic Name powers. It’s not that ordinary people can’t have those instincts, just that it takes a lot more effort and experience to train those instincts to work. I mean, Cat says she got her skill of noticing assassins by being followed around in secret for a couple weeks. I’d guess that for an ordinary person it would be more like a decade or two being at war, or in constant danger.

      Of course, retired Named folk probably are able to retain the experience of using those instincts even if they don’t have Name powers juicing them anymore.

      Like

      1. Frivolous

        Cicero: I’ve been reading from the start trying to isolate when and from whom (if she did not learn it on her own) Catherine learned to detect invisible people.

        My guess, you see, is that the trick Cat learned can only be used by Named. If someone reliable like Lord Black claimed the same, then it may be Vivienne used a Name trick, which means she was the Shining Princess even in the tent fighting Varlet.

        But it’s just a guess. Still reading through old chapters.

        Like

  15. mamm0nn

    Mirror Knight: Don’t worry, everyone! I’m here to save the day!
    Random 4th Legion soldier: You suck!
    *2nd and 4th immediately rout*
    Robber: I’m one of those random goblins that fought the Vultures before and rallied you all to fight with courage again, wanna fight with me?
    *2nd and 4th stop routing*
    Viv: Also I’m here, and I brought the sun! Look how silly that Crab looks when you can actually see it! That thing can only scare someone when it’s a large looming shadow!
    *2nd and 4th rally and fight back!*
    Viv: You’re in the way, Mirror Knight! Get lost!
    Zeze: I too am here, to remind you guys that there is goblinfire over there. We might want to not go back into that direction.
    *2nd and 4th immediately stop running towards the undead to kick their ass, to start orderly retreating.* Thanks, Masego.

    Liked by 9 people

  16. Magicturtle

    Im kinda starting to find this war a bit stale… While the writing is top notch as usual, you can only take so much of the same before it gets a bit boring. The alliance wanna do something? Kether fucks it up. The battles just starts to feel the same after a while. I might just be salty cause i have been waiting so long for cats name to come though😅

    Like

      1. Rohit Ramesh

        That said, it’s a bit of a low point in the *serial*. When we get a few chapters a week it’s harder to stay attached to this book because of the pacing.

        There’s more than enough goodness to keep someone engaged when reading it through, but right now it’s a slog. I can’t see why others are getting annoyed.

        Honestly, I expect it to read much better as part of complete book series or binged than it does right now.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Morgenstern

          I can attest to that, as I binged the chapters of the last week. I’m not annoyed in the slightest, but only sad that I reached the end of the binge right now.

          Like

  17. Captain Amazing

    RIP Summoner. You were an asshole with Eridan Ampora levels of oblivious overconfidence and more ambition than sense, but I never got the impression you were a sociopath, which is saying a lot by villainous standards. Cross my fingers for necromancy solutions.
    The Troubadour won’t be missed, and the Silent Guardian was almost set up as tragedy fodder, no offence. Dunno about the Slayer as there wasn’t enough screen time.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Frivolous

      Captain Amazing: Is it possible that his name being Cedric was a sign he was going to die?

      Cedrics aren’t known for their longevity, are they? At least since Harry Potter.

      Like

  18. I think Grey Pilgrim is going to force Cat into a Name dream, like what Black did at the very beginning and what Masego helped with in Marchford. He’s an old hand at Namelore and as a mentor figure he’ll know how to jumpstart Names. Especially since conventional sorcerous and divine means of waking her up didn’t work. Leaning on the narrative is the last option remaining. Anyway, I’m glad we’re not stuck in a limbo with regards to her status.

    Not sure what to think about Vivi getting a Name. It fits culturally and narratively, what with the last charge, but it spits in the face of the overall themes of not needing Named to save everyone, new world order, etc. Either way the development is pretty interesting.

    My crazy prediction is this: the story of the battle of Hainaut is not the last stand against the Dead King. Instead, it’s a story about who will fill in the Role of the Choir of Judgement. Sort of how the First Liesse was a story about Callow’s soul and Cat was the synthesis of the new (Praes) and the old (Callow). This battle will be reframed as a story about the nature of judgement, with Cat being the synthesis of the divine (the Tribunal) and the strictly human (Anaxares).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nicholas Koenig

      I really like the idea of Cat becoming a replacement for the Choir of Judgement but I think she will do it as a villain. What have we heard again and again about the Gods Below. They Listen. They Remember. They Pay Their Debts in Full! What is that if not a concern for justice. I can see Cat replacing the Choir of Justice as a villain with the authority to ensure that everyone gets their due.

      Like

        1. Nicholas Koenig

          I agree capitalism isn’t the essence of justice. But what the Choir of Judgement was doing wasn’t either. Replacing one incomplete vision of justice with another is not unreasonable.

          Like

            1. Sinead

              To m, the issue with Judgement is the fact that mortals cannot access laws like that and consistently apply them to their actions even if they wanted to. Same with Mercy, but for the opposite, utilitarian view. And as has been pointed out, most people would be spared under Judgement rather than executed. Also, considering that Hanno gets a compulsion to flip a coin when around certain people, and he has never mentioned having such a compulsion around Cat, makes me curious if Cat has been deemed successful so far in threading the needle since Book 4 (thinking of her talk with Edward about “abdicate once you are no longer needed, lest you spoil everything you have bled to bring about.”

              I think my issue with Judgement is more the fact that they never advise, they only judge. Mercy is the opposite in that they only advise, but never judge. If the Choirs took a role that brought their mandates into a less heavy handed role, they wouldn’t be this often maligned force that they are often portrayed as. Perhaps that would come in time through the nature of the Accords.

              This may also mean that the Ashuran mystery cult becomes the dominant face (hah) of Above’s practise, if the idea of accessing the various facets of the Mandate of Heaven becomes a thing.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. > the fact that mortals cannot access laws like that and consistently apply them to their actions even if they wanted to. Same with Mercy, but for the opposite, utilitarian view.

                I get the impression Judgement is also somewhat utilitarian in its “laws” – it applies only the most basic criteria of “will the world be better without this person based on their actions so far”.

                I think Hanno gets not so much a compulsion as an… itch? It’s his personal thing, not externally opposed. He wants to get an answer, it bugs him. It’s a curiosity/uncertainity/anxiety thing, not angels nudging him. Note that that guy (Arnaud of Cantal) turned out to be “on his side” – supporting Cordelia in her campaign to get people to actually work together and stop being a crab bucket.

                Like

                1. Sinead

                  > I get the impression Judgement is also somewhat utilitarian in its “laws” – it applies only the most basic criteria of “will the world be better without this person based on their actions so far”.

                  Fair point! I think I was making the distinction between the two because I have understood Mercy “flexibility” to be the nature of utilitarianism compared to the more common deontological approach of the other Choirs. It’s the basis to how most Choirs impose a structure, while Mercy advises Tariq but he still makes the decision.

                  Then again, I see mortal approach to both of these systems ultimately converging, since perfect application of both _should_ bring you to similar places (“The Right Thing”)

                  > I think Hanno gets not so much a compulsion as an… itch? It’s his personal thing, not externally opposed. He wants to get an answer, it bugs him. It’s a curiosity/uncertainity/anxiety thing, not angels nudging him. Note that that guy (Arnaud of Cantal) turned out to be “on his side” – supporting Cordelia in her campaign to get people to actually work together and stop being a crab bucket.

                  Also a good point. I have always read Arnaud as someone with a pretty dark past who is working to get out under the shadow of it, which may be the bias I am picking up from other people observing him.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Arnaud is CURRENTLY known as a rapist, and appears to have deliberately adopted that as part of his reputation for what he does RIGHT NOW (well, at the time before he blew the cover, anyway). Now it can be argued whether he really did the thing or pretended he did without actually doing it, but “getting out from the shadow of a dark past” is high key NOT the vibe he’s giving off to me. More like “hiding in the shadow of a dark present”.

                    Like

                    1. Sinead

                      That’s fair. I had understood that there was more to the rumours than may have actually be present in the text.

                      It doesn’t help that Arnaud just rubs the wrong way in most interactions on screen. I recognise that it’s an act (and an effective one), but it still makes him not my favourite character. That then bleeds into the rumour mill effect.

                      Liked by 1 person

    2. hakureireimu

      > overall themes of not needing Named to save everyone

      Is that even a theme? Do you think Cat will reject her new Name? Do you think Arthur should have rejected his?

      Like

  19. Shveiran

    Ok.

    Ok.

    1) This was awesome.

    2) No, I mean it, this was fucking awesome.

    3) … With that said, what the fuck? Vivienne still has Summer’s sun?

    … Since when?

    That… I want to say “that makes no sense”, but by this point I know better. This series is absurdly good at being consistent.
    Still, this need explaining. How did Vivienne store it without being the Thief?

    And why oh why did she never use it before? She went through a lot of dire situations while also struggling with immense feelings of inadequacy; and all the while, she was sitting on something like this and didn’t use it?
    Why didn’t she bring it out in Keter, when Catherine was bound and the Empress was in sight? She had no way to know that Catherine was going to bring in the Wild Hunt with Call, and her plan was to shoot dozens of Sentinels with a crossbow she was no good at using.
    Why didn’t she use it during the Battle of the Camps, when Catherine was unconscious and she was struggling to come up with any possible alternative to unshackling Akua Murderhobo Sahelian?

    This was so, so awesome. I want it to make sense so badly. Someone please make it make sense again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a whole TWO answers for you, either of which could work independently but it’s probably both together!

      (No, Vivienne does not still have the sun, it was returned to Summer when Cat bargained with them at Dormer. But)

      1. Masego had Witnessed the sun, it was the birth of the Aspect and everything as you remember, it’s what he got his eyes from. Given a sufficient amount of power to draw on, he can therefore replicate it at need.

      2. Vivienne has long been speculated to be desined for the Shining Princess Name, and a sun sure is a shining thing 9u9

      Liked by 7 people

      1. agumentic

        > Masego had Witnessed the sun, it was the birth of the Aspect

        It wasn’t, actually. He got Witness during Woe’s travel to Keter when he and Akua were working on accessing echoes of the Bard and the Dead King.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Did he?

          Alright, Witness is not mentioned in the High Noon -> Close sequence…

          > “You demand the miraculous on the schedule of the shoddy,” Masego muttered, then paused.
          >
          > His saw his glass eyes turn to peer behind him while the rest of his body remained still.
          >
          > “Could it be that simple?” he said.
          >
          > “You’ve dealt with miracles before,” I encouraged.
          >
          > “I’ve vivisected and employed parts of them,” he corrected absent-mindedly. “But the gap is one of understanding, and I have a mechanism at hand to correct that failing.”
          >
          > I felt him gather power without ever chanting or drawing a rune. Not shaping it for a spell, I thought. Drawing it into himself. I opened my mouth to ask, but Akua discretely shook her head.
          >
          > “A mystery,” Hierophant muttered to himself. “In the technical sense. Foolish, foolish. I saw, when in transitioned. Quantification is anathema to higher sorceries.”
          >
          > His hand shot out and he clasped my wrist.
          >
          > “Yes,” he grinned. “They will not deny me, be they Gods or fathers. I will Witness.”
          >
          > A ripple passed across the world, and what it left behind was no longer an echo.

          …yeah, you’re right, he did THAT without even the Aspect. In my defense, he does reference his transition here, there are related themes ._.

          thanks ❤

          Liked by 6 people

    2. TeK

      I feel that the sun was hidden in the space of narrative potential. Not unlike a Thief of Stars, a Thief who stole the Sun is a significant enough event to be part of Vivienne’s legend, for a lack of a better world. As for sun being returned, well, given it wasn’t an actual celestial body (and we aren’t going to touch whether or not celestial bodies do even exist in the Guideverse) but a metaphorical representation of one. While it was “returned” the connection still remains. So when a Shining Princes needed to, well, shine, the Aspect replicated both the most shining thing Vivi had seen AND did.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I mean, she kind of had Masego right there. He’s an excellent healer.

            I will note Vivienne got extreme burns, specifically, approximately every time she was in a major engagement with the Woe. Five Armies: the hand(s). Dormer: got caught stealing sun banners. Liesse II: Cat set the palace on goblinfire. Keter: got lightning-fried by Malicia’s mages… Like holy shit. Vivi.

            Liked by 1 person

    3. Sinead

      I assumed that Vivienne is associated with the Sun after being the Thief of the Sun. So while they released it, holding it however briefly left it’s mark. Think of how Cat can still have influence on the Fae even after Winter has been devoured by Sve Noc. As such she can invoke an echo of it in this rising power as a Shining Princess (though I am hoping for a Dawn Princess -> Sun Queen personally).

      Callow has already had the Shining Prince(ss) Name, so this can be a reimagining of that Name in line with the rest of Vivienne’s legend as the Queen of Thieves. So she couldn’t do this before because she wasn’t the person she needed to be to do this before now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Crash

        That is not quite comparable I don’t think. Winter was devoured yeah but also Catherine became First Under Night, the exact thing that devoured Winter. Plus it’s not like Winter had no effect in the Night, Cat mentions the effects it had. It’s not a stretch to believe that this is a two-way street.

        The fact she used to be the Sovereign of Moonless Nights, a fae title is also probably helping out a lot.

        This legend as a Queen of Thieves is also quite a big stretch. She was queen of the thieve’s guild yes, but it wasn’t a big part of her. If anything, the fact she broke the Dark Guilds and folded them into her Jacks is much more important to her character; less thief, more spymistress.

        Her story here is not as a thief of any kind either. She is literally coming to raise the morale of her army at their darkest hour because there is nobody else who can right now, this is more Shining Princess, yes; but no thieving in sight. Unless you want to say she is ‘stealing the victory’ but that feels… weak.

        This may turn to be an Aspect of hers, if indeed she has gained a Name but I don’t know, still think it’s more likely to be Hierophant’s doing. The Sun isn’t really the important aspect of that Yoink, it’s that she delivered when she had to; that at the moment of extremely high pressure, when all her friends were depending on her she came through. It might easily have been a storm of fire that she stole, the attack wasn’t the point.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sinead

          Fair enough on all counts. My reason for a Sun related Name is more of an dualism to Cat’s own reign shaping the culture of Callow as it emerges from the Conquest and into the Age of Order. So a Black Queen/Crown followed by a Dawn/Sun would be an interesting motif. Basically a similar relationship as the Helike Kings and Tyrants.

          At the point I wrote that, I had missed that Hierophant had headed to the gate, so Vivienne was the only other source I could see.

          Like

            1. Sinead

              I presume that while the Name of Black Queen never manifested fully here, it still will exist in the Callowan cultural fabric to be the flip side of the Good Crown. I also just like the contrast between Cat’s main time ruling Callow as the last Queen of Winter (even if she never held that much metaphysical power) as Moonless Nights contrasted with her successor being an embodiment of an “enlightened era”. Callow now has refined this mindset of “hard monarchs who get the job done” through Cat, and this idea of it being followed by a restorative monarch.

              Whether it actually becomes the case that Black Queen->Dawn Princess->Sun Queen remains to be seen, or if this is just a once off. I just think the slight shift from the original Callowan tradition of Good Queen/King would be interesting considering the changes of the last ~25 years since the Conquest.

              Like

        1. Crash

          I’ve no idea what that emoji is supposed to convey haha is it a shrug?

          It’s a traditionally Praesi Name yeah but that’s why I find it interesting. Vivienne is very Callowan so that’d be kinda neat. It’s also one of the transitional Names which is why it being usually villainous isn’t that big a deal since she might well go into Shining Princess later and that’d be even cooler.

          That said I’m not convinced the Name itself is villainous, think it’s more like Squire, could go either way. It’s just that Praesi were, traditionally, the ones with a legacy they wanted to go into. Or, more likely, the usual heirs to the throne of Callow went straight into Shining Princess > Good Queen. They were never quite in the groove of the Heir to something entirely new, but more in the tried and true martially capable prince rides into battle one. Which doesn’t fit Viv, even though she is doing it this very chapter it’s not because this is her forte; it’s because someone has to. She’s not a general in that way, she is an heiress to Catherine’s new rules of engagement and do what we must mentality.

          Fuck I feel like that was rambly and still didn’t get my point accross. Ah well.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. yes, it is

            I said though that it’s PLAUSIBLY villainous, which is to say, unless she outright wields Light, everyone can say “of course, another villain of the Woe”. While Shining Princess is definitely 100% guaranteed or your money back heroic.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Crash

              Would that help any? Didn’t they have all kinds of weird stories floating about on how the Thief(which was apparently a heroic name, go figure) was overtaken by the ~evil wiles~ of the Squire? and corrupted by the Woe/had always been a villain anyway?

              Her having a clearly heroic Name won’t stop people from being all like “of course the Woe is evil!”

              Liked by 2 people

  20. TeK

    Holy shit. While I cannot shame anyone for running at that point, it does kinda lessen the cognomen Second Army had been given, if they broke ranks literally in the next fight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sinead

      The cognomen was based around the speech of “I am asking more of you than I have any right to ask, and I will continue to do that because you are all I have to see this done.”

      The story of the Second is the fact that they held without breaking, but also acknowledged that they have paid their dues. I think that they will be fine.

      There couldn’t be a Battle of Hainaut without a Battle for Malac’s Boot. And they buckled, yes, but those in leadership backed their faith and so they shall hold one more time.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. hoser2

      Yes. What will be ruined? How? And to what end?
      The ruin seems related to either waking Catherine or what Catherine will do when she wakes. I infer from the context that the ruin applies to an effect on the alliance, as ruining the Dead King’s stuff would seem to be a benefit.
      If the ruin is something Catherine does after she wakes, it could be her one time use of a stolen aspect. However, I am not aware of a relevant aspect on cooldown that could be looted and thereby ruined that way.
      Otherwise, her known tricks seem to be Speaking, use of Night, one-time use of stolen aspects and Gate-making.
      The thing that has to be dealt with seems to be the Crab, unless Vivienne has an answer for it. Gate-making seems like it could help with the Crab. Do you drop something from a gate onto it or have it fall into Twilight through a gate? Or is there a more elegant solution? Lakeomancy is such a cliche at this point that it becomes dangerous because it is expected and the DK could trap the attempt.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sinead

        I think it’s that it will cost a lot of resources that could be used elsewhere to get Cat to rise, and it might not work. Say using Tariq, Hakram and Masego as anchors in this ritual (though it might be that Masego is helping Vivienne with this Sun banner)

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Sinead

            I had forgotten that.

            I feel my general point still stands.

            I hope this isn’t Cat’s Name gets it’s spine broken again”. One, we have already seen that happen. And two, Cat has really anthropomorphised her Name to the point that I like the idea of a Name that has “learned” not to be hindered the same way again.

            In this case, I would find it interesting if it’s more that Tariq doesn’t want Cat to become Named, because he has dedicated his life to smothering out villains before they would have reached the heights she did. Tariq doesn’t actually believe that the Accords will succeed. He just thinks it’s better than the alternative and will at least by Calernia a few decades of reprieve.

            I just hoe we just get one last “Cat Name Dream” hurrah with her talking to Dread Empress Victorious and Good Queen Catherine the Great in terms of the fact that with her carving this new groove, she is standing at a momentous pivot.

            Liked by 3 people

              1. Sinead

                If her new Name is Neutral in Role (thinking of how Indrani and Hye are described as sometimes fufilling Heroic Roles), it might be interesting if instead of murder, she binds them instead. A spritual manifestation of a personal Accord

                Liked by 2 people

        1. hoser2

          Maybe. I know nothing.

          For me, “ruinous” implies harmful destruction, sacrifice or loss beyond opportunity cost, although opportunity cost could indeed be heavy. Someone suggested above forcing Cat’s name prematurely and losing some potency. That fit for me as a possibility.

          Like

  21. Xinci

    Well, under the Sun, Summer knows no defeat. What Cat saw was a overall pattern so I suppose the Name Shining Princess makes sense, even if it wasn’t exactly like this in its previous iterations. Doesn’t even need the Name if the pattern is that deep and recurring I suppose.

    As a side-note I wonder about how well the Army of Callow can make up for its losses in skilled personnel, in casualties, and in experience. The Night would be useful as a sort of last chance, method to save information and experience and transfer it to a part of ones societal construct but with what has happened to it, it is likely too fragmented for such use at the moment.
    The general also brought up the mental aspects of war and I wonder what techniques they have for processing and healing wounds of the mind as well as those of the body. In a environment of ever-coming conflict, societal constructs like Callow and Praes would have a lot of pressure to innovate methods that aid both the body and the mind not crack under the pressure of war. And with their current mingled interactions, its pretty likely a good bit of that trickled down to the army of Callow. Light with whats been shown so far may or may not be able to do it? It can be soothing but miraculous healing doesn’t harm what isnt natural, so its a question of time perhaps? A good amount of such mental injuries do legitimately have physical issues in the brain that can be healed naturally over time so I suppose there is a angle there. Sorcery could also do the same things as Light for some of that but that’s a question of knowledge. Admittedly I would assume the Praesi to have a pretty good understanding of biology in such things so the Army of Callow may actually have a pretty good level of skill in its mage corps for such things. Though given how badly their numbers have been butchered, that level of skill may drop rather shortly. Hopefully Cat and Vivien work on some contingencies to save, improve, and reiterate the methodologies that worked into Callow as a institution.

    With the Night as it is, the Drow and indirectly Cat, have potentially lost much of their ability to save and transmit information. Though I am still unsure, it was notable that they worked the Night together in the Everdark, so separated as they are and embodied in physical Drow, the efficiency of much of the Night may lower. They have lost a lot of the contained information I presume, though the notion of reclamation, and Ruin being a aspect of study does perhaps mean a good bit could be salvaged. Still the amount of new Night and how it will be processed, may result in a good bit of degradation for the Drow as a functional group, kind of like a weakening cardiovascular system impacting the rest of the bodies functioning. It is interesting to note that the Mighty had protections against such things, so hypothetically if Sve had a proper network of loyal Mighty like the Longstriders, she may have been able to better salvage herself this time. Perhaps almost like nodes of ranvier but made of a full on biological entity?
    It is in part rather lucky and somewhat understandable that the Dead King didnt craft the ritual with the thought of getting a full half of the Night.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. > Well, under the Sun, Summer knows no defeat. … Doesn’t even need the Name if the pattern is that deep and recurring I suppose.

      Ohhh! I think you may have something there, even if it’s Masego providing the “sun”.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. nipi

    Hmmm… We have not seen Cat drop a fortress out of a gate jet. Wonder if its an appropriate occasion to drop it on the Crab or near/around the gate to allow for a safe retreat?

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Sinead

    I literally cackled as Vivienne came into her own glory there.

    I call that 2/3 so far, with the 3rd to be confirmed.

    Great chapter, though I am curious as to what resources they will have to take on Keter.

    Cat may have to bring everyone else in line beford heading to Keter.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Nicholas Koenig

    I agree that we are witnessing the end of the Age of Wonders, which was really the age of the lone hero/heroine. Triumphant (may she never return) is probably the ideal type for the age, we don’t know the name of a single person who worked with or under her, unless you count the Dead King and he is more god then person.

    More recently though the decisive thing has always been groups, either long term bands of five like the Calamities and the Woe or nations under their leaders. The change we are seeing is not the end of the Named but the strengthening of society and the norms that make it work well. Named aren’t going away they are being placed under the law.

    As a result I think Vivian is getting a Name and she is going to end up being the model of what it means to be a Named in the new world that is coming into being.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sinead

      I wonder if this becomes both an ideal for getting the White Knight out of the picture both because he does have the power to lead a charge to break the bridge and also because he would be the wrong sort to rally the front. His presence would be similar to that of Mirror Knight, and they just need someone to help bring the Broken Bells to the fore and rally forces that Hanno would not have had the pull to do so. Named are still key, but they are not the improbable forces that Hanno represents, even if he also believes in empowering others.

      I wonder if we will see a scene between Squire and Vivienne in the aftermath. That would be neat, since he may see Vivienne as someone who would be key to bringing about the “spirit of Callow” as he sees it.

      Further rambling here.

      If Vivienne is coming into some form of Shining Princess, this basically means that she has been anointed by the Heavens as Callow’s spiritual guardian (and this isn’t Above’s knife at Cat. It’s the tradition of Callow prior to the Conquest). I kind of want to see Cat pass the crown to Vivienne in the denouement of this book. Then again, as stated before, I loved Cat’s moments with Edward, so it would be cool to see Cat on the other side.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Nicholas Koenig

        You mentioned both Squire and Callow’s traditions prior to the Conquest and that gives me a place to put what I have been thinking about what comes next. I don’t think Vivienne’s charge will be enough to rout the Dead. I expect the Dead King still has more tricks up his sleeve. What Vivienne’s charge does do (assuming we are correct that she has gotten one of Callow’s traditional heroic royal names) is make the fight for the gate into the classic Callowean story of the heroic stand to turn turn back evil at the gates. Vivienne has herself and the Army of Callow but to win she will also need a band with the traditional Callowean names.

        Isn’t in convenient that there are three transitional names wondering around in a group that we haven’t heard anything about in a while. I think it is time for them to show up and take their place with Vivienne. We have heard the name Wizard of the West dozens of times but never met anyone with that Name, I think apprentice is getting it. Arthur Foundling cannot get a Royal name if Vivienne is holding one but he is devoted to the Light and the Gods Above and is a Knight, I expect he will be either Paladin or Crusader (since White Knight is taken). When we saw the name Page in the past it was as support for the Exiled Prince, Page may keep his name or switch to an adult name that supports Vivienne. That leave Vivienne one short of a band of five, I expect the fifth will be a foreigner to represent Callow’s allies. If Page or Squire are killed then the fifth will be General Abigail possibly with a name like Stonewall.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hitogami

          The problem with Names is that technically it takes time to grow into them, even if it’s from a transitional Name. It’s never an instantaneous power up so much as a steady upgrade with a few thresholds for power increase.
          Even if those guys get a hold of powerful names, they still need time to properly grow into the aspects.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Cicero

            While that is somewhat true, the act of gaining a name usually does provide some immediate power boost that then fades back to a lower level, after which the progression you talk about begins.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Hitogami

              As I understand it that applies more to unnamed to Named conversions rather than progressing from a transitional Name. There’s a small boost in power if they get a combat-related name but they lose versatility from their previous aspects

              Like

    2. I would argue Dead King IS the perfect icon of the Age of Wonders – everyone else during it was trying to be him. Well, all the villains I mean, heroes were more reactive though so it’s still about his influence.

      Liked by 2 people

  25. Cicero

    Although it’s possible that this is just signalling Viv finally gaining the respect she needs as the heiress of Callow, the ending does strongly imply that Viv might have gained a Name again: Something Princess.

    Of course, the traditional Callowan name would be Shining Princess. But I don’t know how that flows with the Black Queen, First under the Night, and all the other night and darkness imagery around Cat and Callow right now.

    I guess Dark Princess is possible, or maybe something on the boundary of night and day, Dawn Princess?

    Of course, there is nothing preventing her from having more than one way of saying her Name. Just as the Grey Pilgrim is also the Peregrine.

    Like

  26. John

    Pilgrim says you can send a hero to kill a monster and have the narrative backing you up, but not a city. That crab is also described as a mobile fortress. What DO you send?

    Sappers crack open fortresses; Robber and Pickler are unaccounted for. Akua has far more personal expertise specific to mobile cities full of undead than anyone in the Grand Alliance.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Frivolous

        Cicero: I think I agree. Akua and Catherine and Masego and each been awesomely destructive at times.

        Akua killed a city once. Catherine did that trick in the Underdark where she dropped a whole room into Arcadia. Masego nearly destroyed all of Iserre.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. hoser2

    The Crab is a moving city. That much mass could never be lifted. Nor could it move faster than a glacier, change direction or stop. Magic has to be doing those things. Attack (or ruin?) that magic and it could self destruct.

    The fact that they have been so zealously guarded implies vulnerability.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Ohhh, now I see why Vivienne had to be here.

    If she hadn’t, high command would have been slaughtered by the Varlet and this rout would have just kept cascading. And in the absence of Catherine and with all the Named engaged elsewhere, there was no one else who could have stopped a Revenant assassin and rallied the fleeing Callowans.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Frivolous

      sengachi: True. Agree.

      Hmm. It just occurred to me now that it was awfully coincidental that Prince Arsene of Bayeux was absent.

      I now suspect that Arsene knew that the Varlet would attack the command tent, and he sent his niece Marceline there and told her not to interfere when the Varlet slaughtered everyone else.

      Like

  29. One thing I remembered: they have Gigantes with the army, since they helped open the gate, but they haven’t gotten involved yet. Seems like Ligurian sorcery would be a good counter to the Crab.

    Like

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