Chapter 54: Animus

“Men should always make grand plans. What better way is there to please the Gods than to make them laugh?”

– Louis Merovins, seventh First Prince of Procer

Ater had been deeply wounded by the siege that brought about the fall of the Tower.

Praes’ capital had not been sacked – though the Clans had cheerfully helped themselves to all the riches in the camps of the High Lords outside the city – but the battle within its walls had arguably been more brutal than your average sack was. The destructive brawls between Named and harsh street-to-street fighting between Praesi defenders and my Army of Callow had been damaging enough, but then my father had unleashed the giant spiders and the High Lords had answered by emptying their arsenal of horrors to turn the tide. When I left Ater for Salia, the number floating around was about a quarter of the citizenry dead and large part of the city uninhabitable.

It wasn’t a bad a butcher’s bill as the Doom or the end of Thalassina, but it had still been a cruel day for innocents.

Still, like most of the many Praesi tragedies it had not come without attendant opportunities. Corpses were raised to lend a hand to the rebuilding, devils summoned to clear out the last spider nests, spellfire unleashed to clear the streets. That’d been only the small part, though, because the finest mages in the once-Empire had been tasked with raising flying fortresses for the war on Keter and given the forbidding of human sacrifice they’d gotten… inventive. With a clear path into the caverns under Ater, the Praesi had gone in and hemmed in the spiders with wards before sacrificing them by the thousands. It wasn’t as good as humans would be, I was told, but quantity had a quality of its own.

The first wave of ‘fortresses’ had been chunks of Ater ripped from the ground, mostly towers and gatehouses. After that it’d gotten trickier, the mages having to gather the sacrificial power before moving it out of the city for a second ritual. There were, to my absolute lack of surprise, a bunch of mostly empty fortresses around Ater whose purpose was largely to wait around until someone would set them aflight. The War College had used them for war games occasionally, though most of the time they’d simply been used as fortified storehouses for whatever Dread Emperors had wanted to keep outside the city.

All in all, there were thirteen flying fortresses that the newly minted Confederation of Praes had brought to the siege. The three largest, the ‘Old Mothers’, were essentially massive flying castles with full garrisons and mage contingents. After that we got the three the rank-and-file had called the ‘Sisters’, smaller castles with strong curtain walls that’d been built explicitly to be raised as flying fortresses. The last seven were nameless, cobbled together from the ruins of Ater. I’d used one in Salia when having my… polite disagreement with Cordelia and the heroes, and two more had been along, but the last four had been slower to follow.

That was because High Marshal Nim and the now-reinstated General Sacker had gotten together to think about the siege of Keter before beginning their march, and they’d come to a realization: about nine tenths of the traditional Legion arsenal was going to be useless when attacking the city.

The Crown of the Dead had a moat in the form of the gaping chasm, but that bloody thing was miles deep at least. Unlike a river moat or a pit a few feet deep, there was no way we could fill it. We weren’t going to be starving out undead, either, which left siege weaponry as the way forward. Only those walls were thicker than any other city’s on Calernia, because the Dead King had nothing but hands and time and enemies to prepare against, so while chipping away at them with catapults and trebuchets was technically possible it would be… difficult.

We had the range, it was true, but even regular city walls took long to crack even under concentrated fire. It would take months of bombardment, if it worked at all, and we didn’t have months to spare. That was without bringing sorcery into the mix, since those walls were all warded to the Hells and they’d be defended by dead mages. No, if we wanted to take the Crown of the Dead before doom came calling then we’d need to storm the walls. More precisely, the gates: the four stone bridges across the chasm were the only ways in and out of Keter.

They were also, naturally, the most heavily defended parts of the ramparts.

Nim and Sacker had considered what an attack on those gates through four funnels with overlapping siege weaponry positions and waiting mage nests would be like and I’d felt their wince all the way from Salia. It’d be a fucking slaughter, exactly the kind of killing floor that Neshamah could use to erode our army into nothing. Their solution to that, instead of finding a way to force the gates quickly, had been to broaden the assault. Which was how I’d come to stand looking at the four constructs the Jacks told me legionaries had taken to calling the ‘Ugly Cousins’.

When not in flight the things looked like some sort of botched stone corridor, but when they began to rise their purpose was suddenly clear: they were siege towers, the kind only Praesi could make. Only since the moat was so wide and deep, they’d ended up looking like some sort of oblique, upwards-sloping hallway. I laid my palm against the stone of the one I stood close to, feeling the sorcery pulsing within even when it was grounded. 

“I am told they take almost an hour to get up in the sky.”

I’d heard Chancellor Alaya coming. I’d even heard her dismiss her guards when she got close, though it was only now that she’d addressed me directly I was bothering to turn and face her. She’d gotten older, that was the first thing I noticed. Her once perfect skin had gained some crow’s feet, but it was more than that. Malicia had always been immaculate, perfectly put together even when it was absurd she should be, but that’d been the Name. Alaya of Satus, who was Chancellor of Praes but not Named, was just as mortal as the rest of us.

That meant dust stuck to her clothes now, that light didn’t always offer her the most flattering of angles and the tailored green dress she wore was just that. Tailored. Not cut for her by the very hand of fate. She was still one of the most strikingly beautiful women I had ever met – more beautiful than Akua, even, honestly compelled me to admit – but it was no longer supernatural. She was beauty, now, not the beauty.

“We still have to keep them grounded until the assault,” I replied. “We’ve got the power to spare to keep them in the sky, sure, but up there they wouldn’t be under the protection of our wards.”

And I had no doubt whatsoever that the Dead King would begin taking shots at them the moment he could.

“So they remain asleep until tomorrow,” Chancellor Alaya said.

I grunted, agreeing but displeased about it. I’d told ordered Juniper yesterday to prepare for an assault today, and she had, but that was the Army of Callow. The Legions were able to prepare quickly enough to follow suit, but most other armies were not. For once it wasn’t even Procer that was the worst foot dragger, since the despite Empress Basilia’s best efforts the League armies were still a fucking mess. Their command structure was unified in name only, and apparently Bellerophon’s generals took to instructions like cats to water. Tomorrow morning that was what I’d gotten back.

Frustrating, but going in half-cocked against Neshamah would cost us more than just time.

“So they will,” I said. “I hear the Confederation will be taking the lead on the storming of the walls.”

“We have the assets to make the attempt and High Marshal Nim believes it is sound tactics,” she replied. “Besides, to be the first to bleed will wipe away some of the blemishes on our reputation.”

Blemishes you put, I almost said, but bit my tongue. It was true, but what point was there in saying it?

“You don’t think the assault will succeed,” I noted.

An eyebrow was cocked at me.

“Do you?” she challenged.

“No,” I admitted. “And it’ll be a costly butcher’s bill for the first to poke their head in.”

“So my generals agreed,” the chancellor said. “But someone must take that first step regardless.”

I considered her from the corner of my eye.

“And I’m sure that it’ll be just a coincidence that your auxiliaries take the front,” I said.

The former private armies of the High Lords still had very dubious loyalty to the new regime, for all that their owners had agreed to the dissolution of the Dread Empire and the birth of the Confederation. Even if they were brought into the fold of the Legions of Terror, their loyalties would never be certain enough for the chancellor’s tastes. Bloodying them by making them the first to try Keter’s defences would thin their numbers to something easier for Alaya of Satus to handle.

“Unexpected talk, coming from the woman who brought back forlorn hopes to Callow,” the dark-eyed woman mildly replied.

My jaw clenched.

“You wanted to talk,” I said. “Not show me the fortresses, however impressive. So talk.”

I was pretty sure I knew what this was about, but I saw no need to make it easy on her. The chancellor sighed.

“Your talks with the Procerans have the Council of Matrons up in arms,” she said. “And they are not yet aware that treaties were signed: the talks alone were enough for them to threaten civil war.”

Good on the Jacks for catching that, I thought approvingly. In the report I read while eating breakfast there’d been a note that observers from the Matrons had been hounding the chancellor for meetings over the last week.

“Tragic,” I replied, entirely unsympathetic.

Her face tightened and I got a sliver of satisfaction from having gotten under her skin.

“It is not an empty threat, Your Excellency,” Alaya said. “When tribes begin to migrate, they will fight to preserve their power.”

“And they’ll lose,” I bluntly replied. “Which will only accelerate their decline. The smart ones will realize that and stay out of it, find other ways to keep their tribes under their thumb.”

My bet was isolation. The tribes that lived in the Grey Eyries would close their borders and clamp down on internal trade to prevent word from spreading. It would only work in the short term, though. Sooner or later the seal would break, and then the Matrons would be facing the same dilemma: be less fucking awful or have the people they’re awful to run out on them. Truly the thorniest moral conundrum of our age, with no obvious and easy solution.

“They will not begin with civil war,” the chancellor warned. “First they will send out the Preservers.”

“Right, their little killing squads,” I snorted. “Good luck with that.”

“They will begin by stirring incidents between the settled tribes and the locals, Your Excellency,” Alaya said, “not attempting wholesale slaughter.”

“And when we catch the first lot, Vivienne will have them drawn and quartered in a Laure public square before sending word of it to every ruler on Calernia,” I patiently replied. “What you don’t seem to understand, Chancellor, is that I’m not fucking afraid of the Matrons. Neither are Vivienne and a hardened soldier princes who live on the other side of the continent from the Eyries.”

My gaze hardened as I met hers.

“If they step out of line,” I coldly said, “they will be stepped on.”

If the Council of Matrons needed me to bring down a mountain or two on the heads before the lesson sunk in that they did not own their entire race, then I’d bring down a three just to be sure the message was crystal clear.

“How lightly you think of civil war, when it will not be yours to settle,” Alaya bitterly replied.

“Coming from you,” I pleasantly replied, “that’s a little rich.”

And then I scoffed, because now she’d gotten me good and angry and for all her flaws the Chancellor of Praes was not a stupid woman. She wouldn’t do it by accident.

“Now tell me what it is you actually want,” I continued, “and figured that riling me up first would help you get.”

Her face went blank, like a mask of clay, and I almost laughed. I wasn’t seventeen anymore and she wasn’t the only schemer I’d ever had to deal with. Cordelia had also made it a point of angering me when we first started talking, since it made me more impulsive. Akua had been the one to pick up on it first, but I’d not forgotten.

“A concession,” Chancellor Alaya said. “So that I might split them in half before conflict erupts.”

“I already threw you a bone,” I replied. “No munitions to be made in Procer, it’s in the treaties.”

“Which as, Princess Vivienne pointed out, will allow Praes and the Tribes to keep control of these goods,” the dark-eyed woman said, then paused. “Or it would, if a workshop was not being built where Liesse once stood whose purpose is to make goblin munitions.”

I kept the grimace off my face. Even after the purges they’d suffered in Callow, the Eyes remained uncomfortably good at their jobs. While the knowledge of how to make munitions was strictly keep within the Grey Eyries and we hadn’t gotten our hands on it, we had sappers that believed they were on the track of how to make them. They wouldn’t be the first, since Akua had once told me the Sahelians were pretty sure devils were one of the ingredients, and Vivienne had agreed that this was very much worth funding. The Army of Callow would lose bite without the munitions and it was a bad position to be dependent on Praes for the providing of them.

Besides, if we did crack the recipe we would crack a monopoly along with it. Callow could make pretty coin, selling the stuff to Procer for use against the ratlings and the dead.

“That would break no treaty,” I said.

“It corners the Matrons enough that they will likely attempt secession again,” Chancellor Alaya said. “And though you have no sympathy for me, Your Excellency, it is not only my legacy that such a thing would threaten.”

My fingers clenched.

“I’m getting tired of repeating myself,” I bit out. “What do you want?”

“Are you familiar,” she said, “with the term ‘cartel’?”

I frowned.

“It’s what you call it when merchants band together to fix the price for something,” I said. “A consortium, only with full control on the goods they’re selling.”

“I would ask that all sales of goblin munitions beyond the Legions of Terror and the Army of Callow be handled entirely by a common trade company,” Chancellor Alaya said, “whose profits would be shared among the owners.”

So that was her angle, I thought. She’d throw parts of the ownerships at a few of the strongest Matrons so they’d get rich and continue backing her against other tribes, turning the goblins against each other instead of all the Tribes against her. A classic Malicia play, especially the part where her office would be one of the owners and would rake in gold as well with very little effort needed to be put in. And the worst part was, it was a good deal for Callow as well. Not only did it help stabilize Praes while it was trying to reform, if the only two existing sources of munitions agreed on a price when selling outside then we couldn’t be played against one another. And with both the chancellorship of Praes and the crown of Callow having a direct stake in the company, even other nations would be wary of trying to strong-arm the company.

It’d make the trade even more profitable than we’d anticipated.

“I’ll consider it,” I said. “Vivienne will be handling that long after I abdicate, so she would need to agree as well.”

But she would, I thought, and from the glint of triumph in Malicia’s eyes – Alaya, I reminded myself, Alaya – she knew it as well. I was only refraining from telling her as much because I still hated her to the bone.

“You know,” I said, “I’d wondered if anything would change when I saw you in person again.”

If I’d hate you less or more, I meant. If I could still look at you and see anything but the reason he got himself killed.

“Did it?” Alaya asked, her indifference too airy to be true.

“No,” I admitted with a soft laugh. “Not a goddamn thing. It’s like we’re still standing on those fucking steps with the Tower burning behind us.”

I clenched my fingers around my staff until the knuckles turned white.

“It’ll always be like that, I think,” I said. “Some hatreds don’t burn out.”

The dark-skinned woman met my eye unflinchingly.

“Oh,” she softly said, “but I understand exactly what you mean. It took two of us to kill him, after all.”

And I wanted to break these perfect white teeth, so rip out her heart and let it fry under the sun, but I still remembered what it had felt like when the knife sunk into him. It was her that’d paved the road to that moment, I would believe that until the day I died, but I wouldn’t deny that in the end it was my hand that’d held the blade. Even if she owned every step that had led us to that murder, it was my hand stained in red.

We were done here, I decided.

“I’ll see you around, Alaya,” I said, eye cold. “Don’t die before I come to collect.”

I’d voiced my opinion on war councils that got too large more than once and it seemed that others shared it, since there were relatively few of us around the table. Two for each power, more or less. Lord Yannu and Aquiline Osena for the Dominion, Rozala Malanza and Prince Otto for Procer, Empress Basilia and Nestor Ikaroi for the League, Chancellor Alaya and Hakram for Praes, General Rumena and Ivah for the Empire Ever Dark, myself and the Hellhound for Callow. Twelve people were a lot when you were trying to fit a group to a table in a tavern, but it was positively austere for the war council of a continental alliance. Once upon a time Hanno and Ishaq would have gotten seats as well, but that era was over. I was the Warden, now. There was no need of another voice to speak for Named.

It was a colourful assembly, fit for the stories that would one day be told of this siege. Almost like a painting, I thought.

Careful Yannu Marave looming tall and broad over slender, deadly Aquiline as dour-faced Otto sat excruciatingly careful not to even brush against First Princess Rozala’s swelling pregnant belly regardless of the steel breastplate fitted to it. Empress Basilia and Secretary Nestor leaning close as if scheming, a plain-faced woman of warrior’s build that had carved out an empire and the old, tattooed scholar trying to trap her inside it. Ever-beautiful Alaya of Satus, soberly dressed in green, and the Warlord at her side: a hand of steel and a hand of bone, neither half as dangerous as the mind behind Hakram Deadhand’s calm eyes.

Ivah, a cold flame in the Night whose face was silver on purple, and stooped old Rumena in his obsidian ringmail who’d be able to kill most people in this room without even using a Secret. And to finish it all Juniper and I, the tall marshal in her Army’s plain armour while I kept the Mantle of Woe pulled tight around me.

It was as worthy a company as any, I thought, to chart the course that would either save or bury Calernia. I was not the only one to feel the weight of that on our shoulders, and so there was none of the politicking and pleasantries that would usually accompany the presence of so many influential people in a room. Instead we sat in sparse silence, drinks of cool water being passed, and once everyone was ready the talks began. Rozala spoke up first.

“Reports from our outriders paint what we believe to be a picture of the Dead King’s plans for this campaign,” the First Princess of Procer said. “In every direction undead are gathering streams from the outskirts of the Kingdom of the Dead, forming into massed armies.”

She paused.

“At the moment we have counted four such armies in the process of assembly,” First Princess Rozala said. “One, to our northwest, is a mere forty miles away.”

“Numbers?” I asked.

“Somewhere between thirty and fifty thousand,” Prince Otto briskly replied. “A true army, not the rabble that was routed yesterday.”

“They are gathering around a Crab,” Rozala added. “Perhaps the only one left in the entire Kingdom of the Dead.”

An uplifting thing to hear, until one realized that just meant all the rest were with the armies ravaging Procer. The massive fortress-constructs were rare and we’d thinned out the numbers over the course of the war, but not anywhere near a wipeout.

“I have something in mind to handle the Crab,” I said, earning raised eyebrows. “Our trouble is that those armies need to be pinned down while we take a swing at Keter.”

The Dead King’s plan, as the First Princess had said, was hardly impossible to figure out. Neshamah was going to keep tossing those armies at our camp whenever we tried an assault on Keter and otherwise stay back. Why should he even try to kill us when he could wait us out instead? Every passing day got him closer to victory, as another mile of Procer was devoured and our army’s strength waned from tiredness and growing hunger.

“The other three armies,” Empress Basilia said, “are they fighting fit?”

“Not for days yet, perhaps as much as ten for the largest force,” Rozala replied. “More importantly, all of them are at least two days of march away.”

Considering undead did not need to rest and could walk through the night, closer to one in practice. It was still a significant distance in the sense that none of them could realistically arrive in time to reinforce another if it gave battle near our camp. As a general some part of me was hungry at the potential defeat in detail that the position represented, but that was thinking about this wrong. Sure we might clear them out through a series of pitched battles, but to accomplish that we’d have to abandon the protection of our camp for several days and weaken our forces for only a minor gain.

Beating those armies meant nothing, after all. The only thing that mattered was taking Keter itself and those undead hosts were just expendable distractions.

“So part of our force gives battle,” Basilia said, “while the rest storms the walls.”

Like most Helikean commanders, the empress had an aggressive bent to her tactics. It came from Helike usually being assured of having the better army when fighting with the League or Procer, which made it tempting for its generals to seek decisive battles so the war might be won hard and fast. It was the way she’d waged war to cow her enemies in the south and it’d worked out well for her, though if she tried the same tactics against professional soldiers like the Army or the Legions she was likely to get her teeth kicked in instead. It was not a coincidence that she’d preferred to make a deal with Stygia than try to beat the Spears on the field.

In this case, though, her instincts were spot on.

“Agreed,” I said. “We should take the initiative to catch them in the field instead of letting them come to the camp.”

“The camps are fortified,” Prince Otto pointed out. “With walls and siege artillery positions.”

“We can’t afford to let the Crab get too close,” Lord Yannu replied, shaking his head. “Its presence has the reek of a trap.”

I grunted in approval, receiving a nod of appreciation from the Lord of Alava and returning it. Lord Yannu was a cold customer, but he probably the finest general in the Dominion. Juniper had considered him as much of a headache as Rozala Malanza, when the two of them had been pursuing her in Iserre.

“There’s a reason the Dead King left that particular Crab behind,” I added. “It can’t be needed for army upkeep, not with Keter and its forges so close.”

“It’ll be meant for war,” Hakram agreed, bone fingers clenching. “Best to break it before it gets anywhere near our wards. You have that in hand, then?”

I nodded.

“I’ve been keeping some surprises up my sleeves,” I idly said.

I was a little flattered by the number of wary looks that got me.

“Then we must only choose the forces to send out into the field,” Lady Aquiline said. “I would claim that honour for Levant.”

The other Blood flicked a glance at her, then nodded.

“Our skirmishers will be of no use forcing a wall,” Careful Yannu said. “The Dominion would best serve in battle.”

“Levant’s captains alone will not be enough to face fifty thousand,” Prince Otto said.

Which was the upper bound of what our scouts believed to be gathering to the northwest, but it was not senseless to plan for the worst case. Lycaonese had been taught the hard way to never count on luck tangling with the Hidden Horror.

“Then the Clans will march with them,” Hakram gravelled. “The Confederation’s forces will be key to the assault, but my warriors will be of no use until the city’s cracked open. I would take a third of number lead them out with the Dominion.”

The Clans had sent a little over seventy thousand warriors, all of them fine if somewhat undisciplined foot, so he was proposing to add twenty-three thousand or some to the Dominion’s remaining twenty-seven. About a match in numbers, I noted, though too light on cavalry for my tastes. Basilia seemed to agree.

“I would offer the kataphraktoi to round out the force,” the Empress of Aenia said. “General Pallas has experience working with most of you, she can have the command.”

And she’d officially returned to the fold of Helike, now that Basilia had caught up to her. There was a round of agreement around the table, from Rozala most of all. Between serving as outriders and yesterday’s battle, her own horse was being run ragged. General Rumena caught my eye, but I shook my head.

“We want to keep the surprises up our sleeves as long as possible,” I told it in Crepuscular.

Besides, if the assault went south we were likely to be hit hard in retaliation during the night. If that came to pass we would need the Firstborn at full strength to defend the camps. I received a nod and that was the end of that. The talks continued for another hour, details and plans being laid out, but the bare bones were there.

Tomorrow, the steel came out.

Happenstance had offered me one more night than I’d planned for, one last evening before I plunged into war, and I would not waste it. I had given my word and meant to keep it. There was never time, so it would have to be made. I got my hand on a couple of rabbits and put them to roast, sent one of the phalanges to get their hands on few bottles of aragh – not the good stuff but the rough, throat-burning fare that the rank and file drank. Then I sat in the dark and waited, until I heard a gait almost as odd as my own coming close. Hakram came out of the gloom and into the fire’s light, slowly coming to sit by my side. I took out a spit, the rabbit still half raw and entirely without spices, and offered it up. He took it.

Silence hung in the air, thick enough to choke.

“So I hear you’ve fought another god in Serolen,” Hakram suddenly said. “And here I thought you’d finally kicked the habit.”

And just like that, the silence was dead. My shoulders loosened.

“If we’re going to talk about that shitshow,” I said, “you’re cracking open the bottle first.”

He laughed, taking a bite of his rabbit before groping blindly for the aragh.

“So hear me out,” I began, “say you’re a drow looking to become a god instead of your current gods, then the Dead King comes to offer you a hand. You know, just because he’s such a good friend. What do you answer?”

The Warlord mulled on that.

“Pull the other one,” he sagely answered.

“That sort of answer is why you ran out of hands, Hakram,” I reproached. “But hey, at least you’re smarter than someone who called themselves the fucking All-Knowing.”

I got a laugh, a brutal crack about how he hoped they’d taught me how to dodge so I wouldn’t run out of eyes like he had hands, and just like that I knew it was going to be a good night.

I went to bed smiling, even knowing what was ahead of me.

79 thoughts on “Chapter 54: Animus

    1. Someperson

      I dunno, I doubt Cat will die permanently given that she’s the main character and also has an established pattern of defying death.
      But as for Hakram, well he could die, and it’d be especially sad because he and Cat are actually starting to be friends again and because he has a whole future as the first orc Named in possibly literal ages and all of what that signifies.

      Shit.

      Dunno if EE would cut that many story threads short, though. Would be a bit of a departure from the deaths that have happened up until this point.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. arcanavitae15

    Nice chapter, good to see that Cat’s happy also with her getting to banter with Hakram. I love how everyone at the table are intimidated by Cat saying she has a couple of contingencies that along with the Alaya show how far she has developed as a schemer.

    Liked by 10 people

  2. Mirror Night

    Yeah I gotta say this reminds me of something I don’t like.
    Why is it only the Black Women who must pay prices for War Crimes cause they wronged Cat? Malicia needs to get killed by Cat and Akua should guard DK for all time cause they messed with Callow?

    General Basilia was massacring civilians including women and children to badly float towers while working for Kairos….if its about settling grudges of old surely Hanno and Champ should get to run her through. But she is enjoying a rather free pass.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Urgh, nor this shit again… being black has nothing to do with it.

      1) They aren’t paying for war crimes, they are paying for hurting Catherine on a personal level.

      2) Basilia’s actions during that siege where they used flying towers were under Kairos’s orders, so the responsibility falls on him.

      3) Hanno and Raphaella have no grudge towards Basilia.

      There are also a lot of practicalities involved on why certain grudges can’t be pursued, and those have been shown clearly during the various chapters, like how Cat didn’t kill the Cataphracts that were killing the Army of Callow, and instead chose to break their hands, or why despite how much it hurt Callow during the Tenth Crusade, the Kingdom must still keep good relationship with Procer and Catherine even had to fight while minimizing Proceran casualties.

      Catherine exacting her Long Price from Alaya and Akua is a different matter, and even then she is forced to postpone killing Alaya for years.

      So maybe look at things beyond the characters’ skin color, things will make sense if you go beyond seeing only skin-deep.

      Liked by 16 people

      1. Mirror Night

        You know what a certain famous trial after a certain world war said about just following orders?
        She was a high ranking general not a foot soldier lol.

        Sure it might not because they are Black Women but I see only Black Women paying any long price in this series.

        Karios, Basilia, Black and the Calamities got to of their friends killed. Was Basilia a major player in that no but she was a factor so that seems rather personal to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Regret

          Was every female main character’s skin colour mentioned? I don’t remember. Then again, I rarely remember single skin colour in written stories except for when it is tied to a specific location and/or culture (i.e. actually relevant properties of characters). But that’s largely on my shitty memory.

          In my subjective experience (where skin colour is mostly absent (I am aware that is problematic in real life, but I don’t read to practice for real life, I read for entertainment)), I can tell you that in my perspective Cat is not acting absurd in specifically focussing on these two. It fits without skin colour, so Occam’s razor says that is the most likely explanation.

          Also, Cat hates herself at least as much as she hates Alaya for Black’s death and she hates Black for putting her in that situation. For your assumptions to be consistent (that only Black women receive Cat’s deepest hate) both Black and Cat have to be Black too, and Black has to be a woman.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. > Was every female main character’s skin colour mentioned? I don’t remember.

            We know the ethnicities. Soninke are black, everyone else isn’t.

            The only named Soninke women in the cast are Alaya, the Sahelians including Adanna the Blessed Artificer who is Akua’s cousin, and Abreha Mirembe.

            Before Adanna showed up in the plot (and before Akua’s explicit redemption arc in Praes) there was an even more awkward problem of every single black woman in the cast being Evil and also an awful person.

            Like

        2. Insanenoodlyguy

          Because the “personal” was on the other two instead. Who are both dead, incidentally, having paid that kind of long price you complain about not happening.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. Cpt. Obvious

          Trying to apply anything from our world to a place as different as the world of the Guide is not going to work.

          In Creation stories rule to the degree that the city state of Helike

          Like

          1. Cpt. Obvious

            [WP, go fuck yourself! This comment system is a Disgrace!]

            The entire city state of Helike will flip-flop between Good and Evil depending on who is on the throne. And it’s not a gradual thing either. When Kairos murdered his father and claimed the throne it didn’t take years or even weeks before the people accepted him.

            Under his father Helike was on the side of the Gods above, and so was the people. Yet the moment Kairos took the title of Tyrant they were suddenly on the side of the Gods below. And they cheered him in the streets.

            My point is that with a Tyrant in Helike personal choice is pretty much not on the table for the population. The Tyrants commands will be followed enthusiastically no matter how evil they are.

            Now if his father had issued those same orders then he’d had been met with refusal.

            It’s hard to apply our morality to something like that.

            Like

      2. zenanii

        Nah, let’s just ignore all the world building, Cat’s complicated relationship with these characters, and the way the story has developed to lead us to this path to instead focus on what really matters.

        Liked by 12 people

        1. 'Ladi Williams

          Lmfao…very apt answer.
          I’m black. But it amazes me to no end the way people (mostly white) tend to lose all sense of reasoning and rational deduction when skin color comes in.
          Very real and believable world building and politics has shown why some people cannot be touched right now…but no! It’s easier to bliv EE is racist instead.

          Liked by 17 people

    2. Letouriste

      I don’t get how you managed to go so far in this story while understanding so little about it.

      All your points have been answered by others but let me tell you something: i completely forgot they were black.
      That’s how little their skin color matter in this story.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. 'Ladi Williams

        Exactly! Me too. A few chapters ago when we were talking about making a live action of this book or not…when people were discussing casting and race came up, I was like what! Couldn’t even remember the humans were of different skin colors till that came up and I was like oh yeah yeah…Amadeus was….cat is….lol.

        Liked by 6 people

    3. Konstantin von Karstein

      With that logic, as a gay man I should be offended that the only gay couple on-screen was killed.

      Except that one of them was a complex, well-developed character who wasn’t reduced to his sexuality, and who died saving the life of his son.

      In PGtE, characters aren’t just they’re orientation/skin colour/whatever. And sometimes people from minorities die, or commit atrocities. Given EE‘s track record, I don’t think there’s any sexism where you think there is.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Let’s also mention how one of those gays was a cruel evil warlock who is basically Dr. Mengele with magic and another a literal demon. Or how the most well known evil country is inhabited by fantasy African people. Let me rephrase that: an Evil Empire of people of heavily implyed African descent is fought against by a Good Kingdom of Whites. Or how the most evil person in the series, the one whom the rest of the world gathers up to kill is fantasy Jewish! OMG, dogwhistle found, EE is literally a Nazi.

        Like

            1. Snappy270

              Duh just wondered if there was truth to such accusations, didn’t know that about the language. Stuff like that just makes me smile (the use of real world languages rather than anti semitism)

              Liked by 1 person

    4. ohJohN

      I wasn’t gonna engage, but then I noticed the irony of saying “why does this story hate Black women, they should kill this trans character instead” and so I figured I’d mention that

      Liked by 8 people

    5. PatchworkKnight

      I think it’s less about them being black women as much as it is the unfortunate side effect of Praes being based on some African cultures (west African, iirc). Praes is going to naturally produce the most enmity with Callowans due to the geopolitics of their relationship. Combine that that with the fact that EE has made a habit of putting many women in positions of power in the setting, and you have a recipe for black women being statistically more likely to earn a long price from Catherine.

      I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the situation, and I don’t think there’s a good way to avoid this situation without entirely rewriting the story to change Praes’ cultural analogues or shoehorning additional enmities to try an even it out.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Mirror Night

        Your analysis is essentially correct in my book and the only insightful response to my comment. I think its more an accident then any real malice on the part of the author. Cat turning on Praes was always going to lead to this issue. I suppose you could have made Akua or Malicia Taghreb but does having it occur to Arab and West African Women only really make it better? Don’t especially think so.

        The other issue is I don’t think Cat’s hypocrisy on Long Prices is being played as a negative. Or to put it another way I don’t think most of the Fandom thinks it is a bad thing she is hypocrite. Everyone else has to put aside grudges to make this system work (primarily the Heroes) but Cat does not. She gets to have her cake and eat it as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          And yet, believing you no malice aforethought and recognizing that it’s far too late to change the characters current paths, you keep bringing this up. Which says to me your reason is very simple: You want to keep having this low hanging fruit of an argument. That’s my insight.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Mirror Night

            I don’t like it and I believe in free speech that allows for me to say I don’t like it. As for your insights if I cared about them I respond to your comments.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Insanenoodlyguy

              It’s not that you dislike it or should or should not dislike it, it’s how you keep bringing it up. The why you continually exercise that free speech right you have in this particular instance (you don’t have free speech by the way, you have the terms and conditions of WordPress on this particular forum of conversation, though admittedly you still effectively have it for this purpose and I’m just being pedantic), is what I am commenting on.

              Anyway, I apparently made you care about my insight, so I consider this discourse fruitful.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. I think Mirror Night is not wrong to comment on it every time. It remains accurate after all. And would take up a lot less bandwidth if people would stop dogpiling it with “well we didn’t even remember these characters were black!!!” and “are you calling EE racist?!?!”

                Like

          2. Zach

            This sort of thing is basically the end result of most US liberals (and politically engaged people in the US in general) viewing politics as a form of self-expression. Since actual material change is out of the question (and not something that mainstream politics will ever support), all that’s left is nonsense like policing media and defining yourself in terms of your opinions about said media. There is nothing beyond the culture war.

            It’s just kind of depressing and pathetic. People endlessly arguing about stuff as trivial as “whether a web serial is problematic” because, on some level, they realize that any actual meaningful political change is out of the question.

            Liked by 3 people

        2. Sinead

          I do agree thst the cultural analogues used for Praes as the source of the starting conflict does mean that there are issues that arise over time regarding who is the antagonist to be punished.

          However, I do not think the story makes Cat’s Long Price mentality a good thing.

          I know I have a poor memory, but the only people I can think of that were given such an attitude were Akua and Alaya. Everyone else was politics dtiving it one way or another. The cavlary in Book 5 got just a broken finger because Cat needed the actual buy in, ehile the Praesi Trueblood mages in Book 3 were executed as brutal politics surrounding the Doom. Cat may have some vindication in those acts, but it’s not personal grudges.

          My understanding of Akua is that Cat couldn’t have just killed her in Book 3 in part because of Cat’s oath to Akua, which has now turned into Akua being a better person than Cat. And Cat’s own mentality led her to kill her own father.

          Considering that the story is seeming to lean towards rehabilitative justice over punative justice, I still hold out that we may yet see Cat lose control of this second Long Price as well.

          No comment on the fandom reaction. Wasn’t thrilled with the reaction around Malicia’s response to Wolof for example.

          Liked by 5 people

        3. caoimhinh

          Looking at it accurately, the only one really paying a Long Price is Akua, as Catherine is planning to have her keep the Dead King prisoner for eternity.

          Alaya is just going to get killed, and if you consider getting killed a Long Price then all of the other characters that have been killed have suffered the Long Price and thus it is not something that only happens to black women.

          Also, you accuse Cat of being a hypocrite for not compromising to make the system work, yet the very fact that Alaya is alive right now and keeping a position of authority over Praes for the next 8 years is already proof that you are wrong, and Cat kept Alaya alive exactly because Alaya was needed to make the system work.

          Nobody is asked to let go of their grudges, but everyone has to refrain from acting on their grudges because they need to work together to survive.

          In fact, multiple times we have seen Catherine rein herself in, not acting on her grudges because of the greater good. This is a fact, and that mindset guided her strategies during the Tenth Crusade and was the prime guideline for the Princes’ Graveyard: beating her opponents without killing them because despite their many differences and conflicts, they are needed.

          This also applies to a more personal level too, as Catherine greatly hates the Valiant Champion, yet Cat hasn’t killed her.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. ohJohN

          I think calling it an “accident” — with the implication of ‘bad but unintentional’ — is still a weird take.

          One of the things I really enjoy about this story is how so much of the setting is based on the historical real world, but a lot of our modern expectations are subverted — the story starts soon after fantasy-Africa colonizes fantasy-England; color discrimination is only a big structural problem in fantasy-Africa, against greenskins; gender discrimination is only a big structural problem in the Tribes, against men.

          So, sure, Akua and Alaya are Black women whom the protagonist holds particular enmity towards, and I understand how that could be harmful if handled poorly — though I think it’s mitigated pretty heavily by them being well-written, complicated, frequently-sympathetic, fully fleshed out characters following their own goals and incentives like everybody else.

          But they’re also representative of irl historically shitty behavior that makes such harm a concern in the first place. Akua, a rich noble from the occupying empire, is granted governance over occupied territory for political reasons and genocides 100k civilians. Alaya is one of the most successful imperialists in Praes’s history, tacitly allowed that genocide, used Still Water herself, and started backsliding on the Reforms that had begun to raise an oppressed population above ‘expendable subhuman’ status.

          (It’s also notable that Cat herself has darker skin because she’s half-Daoine, a fantasy-Native American/Irish people — both of which irl have, uh, historically not had great experiences with England and its colonies.)

          I just think it misses the point to claim that it’s bad, even without “any real malice on the part of the author”, that these antagonists are Black. They’re not presented in a way that reinforces or encourages irl prejudice, and it seems like a generally anti-racist message to condemn them for the same sort of imperialism, oppression, and genocide that contributes to irl racism.

          Sexism is handled similarly, and I get the sense that’s less contentious: Cat hates the Matrons because of their treatment of male goblins, yet it’s pretty obvious the lesson is not ‘women are bad’, but instead ‘gender discrimination is bad’.

          (Analogously, it would seem strange — whatever other problems you have with Disney’s Aladdin — to complain ‘ugh, of course they made the villain an Arab guy 😒’)

          And it’s not like Akua and Alaya are the only ones she’s planning cruel ends for. DK and WB are definitely on that list — and DK’s Long Price seems strictly worse then Akua’s, as they’re materially the same (stuck in the Ways together, forever, as enemies) except Akua would be entering willingly. The rest of that list is already dead, frequently at her hands.

          As for Cat’s “hypocrisy”, I don’t really see it. Cat absolutely does “put aside grudges to make this system work”: she delayed Alaya’s execution — who killed some of her closest friends, is partly responsible for the current existential threat to the continent, and is wanted dead by many other heads of state for various atrocities — for the sake of the war effort and the long-term stability of Praes.

          I think it bears stressing that those two are responsible for exceptional atrocities: their uses of Still Water alone are likely among the highest-casualty mass death events in centuries (the only confirmed contender is the Contrition Crusade, which Cat is similarly, uh, not super jazzed about).

          It’s not hypocritical for Cat to focus on them: they’ve objectively done way more harm than Basilia, and they’re responsible for the deaths of Cat’s loved ones and subjects. She’s not the Platonic ideal of morality, but her fierce loyalty to those she feels responsible for is not one of her faults.

          Liked by 6 people

        5. Abrakadabra

          Insightful comments you want? Here it is.
          You are an asshole.
          Why, you might ask? Because you are actively try to ruin others enjoiment of the story by dragging real world politics into it.
          Q.E.D.
          Your asshole status is confirmed and proven.
          Congratulations.

          Like

  3. arcanavitae15

    I liked to see the Cat and Alaya scene and that just confirms that she hasn’t changed much, and Cat is still going to murder her. Cat casually finding out what she’s doing and then dismissing most of her plans is just something that is really cool and contrasts their earlier relationship back when Cat was still the Squire.

    Liked by 10 people

  4. SpeckofStardust


    “So hear me out,” I began, “say you’re a drow looking to become a god instead of your current gods, then the Dead King comes to offer you a hand. You know, just because he’s such a good friend. What do you answer?”

    Bard is that you?
    No that’s not the answer to the question but my response to reading this.

    Liked by 13 people

  5. Megaprr

    Time and time again I see this shit being brought up. No. This has nothing to do with race or sex. The guide has gotta be the most inclusive story I’ve ever read. By far. The explanation here is a simple one. Basilea has no serious, personal relationship with our protagonist. Alaya does, and so it’s much more meaningful and impactful for her to take this role. Whether or not Basilea should be punished shouldn’t even be up to Cat either. It’s a foreign country. Stop trying to shoehorn earth issues into this. They have no place in this story given how clear EEs messege has been of morality, competence, and other contrasting qualities being completely independent of race/sex/sexual orientation. Cat has had other non-black/women enemies too, and most have been hit with pretty terrible consequences too yet I don’t see any complaints there. And if your problem is with positive representation of minorities, the main cast literally has everyone being a different race, and more than half are women.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. 'Ladi Williams

      Representation of minorities and political correctness is slowly being the death of Hollywood…. I don’t see why every story has to include minority that has no right being a major cast in a story just to satisfy small minded people anyways…

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Lol Wut

        First of all, your comment is basically entirely irrelevant for a lot of reasons and also shows you have some deep biases you should probably address.

        To actually respond to what you said…political correctness in Hollywood is something that comes from a long history of movie makers trying to appeal to the widest possible range of people without offending anyone. If YOU are offended that businesses that make their money on mass appeal aren’t willing to alienate large portions of potential audience because you think it’s unfair people judge other people for their actions/what they say/the media they produce then…good for you, I guess? It’s pretty ridiculous but if you want to be offended about stupid stuff then by all means, continue being wrong
        The idea that political correctness has ‘ruined’ Hollywood is pretty ridiculous. Very few ‘classic’ films would become less good if they didn’t have the sort of minor offensive elements that political correctness usually deals with. Most of such things are pretty small, despite how offended people get at them. Much of what is called ‘political correctness’ by people attempting to argue against it is actually that they have a prejudice they don’t wish to have to hide and take issue with people judging them for it. That’s what the phrase means, adhering to the common socially acceptable opinions/vernacular as a veneer because your prejudices mean you don’t actually believe it. Your post is an example of someone only partially doing that, though, so at least you’re semi consistent

        This brings us to your mention of minority representation. The idea that a minority needs to have “a right” to be written about/portrayed as part of a main character makes it pretty clear you devalue anyone who is not part of the dominant cultures you identify with. This is mostly not political correctness, although you could have just come out and said “I don’t like seeing minorities represented in works because I think they’re lesser than me” but didn’t, presumably because you knew you would be judged more harshly for saying it explicitly rather than just implying it.
        Again, this is not something which has “ruined Hollywood.” Very few scripts really and fully address the issues of discrimination, sociatal pressure and the various other impacts of being part of a minority group. This is largely because most people don’t like having to confront the realities of societal inequality when they’re trying to enjoy themselves. This can itself be problematic, but in many cases scripts are written as if in a somewhat idealised version of reality where these things are only somewhat an issue if they exist at all, and thus having a diverse cast doesn’t really affect anything negatively for you unless you have a prejudice against said type of person.
        Forced diversity can be problematic if the writers don’t know how to write diverse characters, but that’s a writing flaw not a flaw in the idea of diverse casting. Stop accepting mediocre writers who can only effectively write very narrow types of people or put them on a more capable writing team.

        Also, I’m not sure what you meant by those who want diversity being ‘close minded’ people. Studies have shown that having more diverse role models actually tends to increase one’s openmindedness, empathy and creativity, so those who consume quality works with diverse casts and don’t immediately engage in hateful kneejerk reactions reap only benefits from it.

        If you don’t want to practice moderation in your language or see minorities existing, that’s your right. It’s not your right to impose those wishes onto anyone else. You are entirely free to limit your contact with the world/consumption of media to ensure you aren’t exposed to such things, you will miss out on a lot of very good stuff but that’s a choice you have to make. You are allowed to act in whatever manner you see fit provided you aren’t inflicting harm on other people, there’s no law to stop you being an ass. It’s the rest of the world’s right to judge, exclude and mock you for it if you act ridiculously, spread false ideas, and are so insecure you can’t handle the idea that maybe, just maybe, people who aren’t like you are equally as worthy of existence and representation. If you want to continue engaging with the world as it is, rather than being a relic of past myopic views and antiquated social structures, then I would suggest you take some time to genuinely learn about the issues involved with an open mind. Because this sort of toxic thinking damages you before it damages anyone else.

        Or you could just be a hatemongering troll, lol. Because seriously, who reads a fantasy story about a mixed race, bisexual, powerful woman if they are genuinely against any form of representation. There are tons of trashy, self insert, white male power fantasy stories that suit such views far better

        Like

      2. DD

        While I’m not at all convinced there’s enough pattern in this story to justify the argument raised above, your own comment betrays itself. Saying “minority that has no right being a major cast in a story”? That is a concept that only makes sense if we assume that any deviation from the real-world majority (in whatever place you live) must be justified.

        But if people who happen to be cis, het, white, abled, et cetera automatically have “right being a major cast”, and everyone else doesn’t have it in the same automatic way? Yeah, that’s a problem. One that people who object to inclusive representation in media usually haven’t had to experience, and therefore find it easy to ignore or deny.

        Like

    2. masterofbones

      The “downside” of accurate representation is that minorities get villain roles just like everyone else.

      This naturally leads to certain types of people complaining that the story is racist/sexist/whatever.

      This in turn leads to the modern trend, where minorities in stories aren’t allowed to have flaws or be weaker than any male/white character in any way, meaning that only white men are allowed to have actual personalities.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. 'Ladi Williams

        Thank you very much.
        Minorities and political correctness forces script writers to include casts that probably won’t have been included or have no bearing on the plot and story line just to ensure “inclusion”.
        No single major movie can be about something anymore…has to include whites…blacks…asians…aliens…and the alphabet soup whether it has a bearing on the movie or not.
        Luckily EE does not give a damn…and has just written a damn good story

        Like

  6. BargleNawdleZouss

    Pardon me if I’m being overly detail-oriented, but I would like a roster of all the Named present at the siege of Keter. I’m hoping that some of the ones who’ve been mentioned but not actually appeared “on stage” are shown in action, such as the Stained Sister.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 'Ladi Williams

      I definitely do not know all of them…add yours to this till we build a comprehensive list.
      1. Cat 2. Hanno. 3 Mirror Knight 4. Archer 5. Vivienne 6. Hakram 7. Masego 8. Barrow Sword 9. Bitter Blacksmith 10. Blessed Artificer 11. Rogue Sorcerer 12. Akua? 13. Concocter…
      That’s all I know of definitely

      Liked by 2 people

        1. BargleNawdleZouss

          Here’s a list of Heroes and Villains whom I believe are likely in the siege camp. I am not including non-combat Names such as the Forgetful Librarian, Sculptor, or the Doddering Sage, who almost certainly would not be part of the armies. Nor have I included Akua Sahelian or Hye Su the Ranger, as the former is not Named and the latter is not present…yet(?).

          Some of these are guesses, as the characters have been mentioned but not appeared “on stage”; I’m guessing it’s likely that if alive, they’ll be present at the final battle. Please do mention other characters I missed, or those that have been killed.

          VILLAINS
          1 Warden Catherine Foundling
          2 Warlord Hakram of the Howling Wolves
          3 Archer Indrani
          4 Princess Vivienne Dartwick
          5 Hierophant Masego
          6 Barrow Sword Ishaq
          7 Red Knight
          8 Harrowed Witch Aspasie
          9 Pilfering Dicer
          10 Hunted Magician
          11 Concocter Constanza
          12 Bitter Blacksmith #2 Helmut Bauerlein
          13 Headhunter
          14 Royal Conjurer
          15 Black Knight Nim Mardottir
          16 Skinchanger
          17 Grave Binder
          18 Affable Burglar
          19 The Marauder

          HEROES
          1 White Knight Hanno of Arwad
          2 Witch of the Woods Antigone
          3 Rogue Sorcerer Roland de Beaumarais
          4 Silver Huntress Alexis
          5 Mirror Knight Christophe de Pavanie
          6 Kingfisher Prince Frederic Goethal
          7 Blade of Mercy Antoine de Lange
          8 Knight Errant Arthur Foundling
          9 Apprentice Sapan
          10 Blessed Artificer Adanna of Smyrna
          11 Bitter Blacksmith #1 Helmgard Bauerlein
          12 Augur Agnes Hasenbach
          13 Vagrant Spear Sidonia of Alava
          14 Painted Knife Kallia
          15 Valiant Champion Rafaella
          16 Page Gaetan Rocroy
          17 Myrmidon
          18 Bloody Sword
          19 Forsworn Healer
          20 Silent Guardian
          21 Stained Sister
          22 Grizzled Fantassin
          23 Forlorn Paladin
          24 Swaggering Duellist
          25 Daring Pyromancer
          26 Stalwart Apostle
          27 Wise Astrologer

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Snappy270

            Wasnt there a duelist that was sent to protect cordelia during the first stage of the war. A Villan I think.

            And the Posioner that was part of the band of 5 in Mercantis, I know she probably isn’t combative but could have stuff in her options that could help. Also the relentless magistrate no idea where they went too.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. BargleNawdleZouss

              I didn’t include Poisoner or Relentless Magistrate; Poisoner _might_ have something to contribute in a military scenario, but Magistrate would not.

              As for the Duellist, see #24 above in the Heroes list; please let me know if he’s actually a Villain.

              Can you think of anyone I left out who’d be combat-ready or combat-adjacent?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Snappy270

                Sinister physician ? Was at the arsenal as a doctor. So could help out and protect the injured.

                Merry balladeer ? Lots of bands of 5’s have bardish roles to help troops act.

                And swaggering duelist is a hero.

                Liked by 2 people

          2. KiltedBastich

            The Princess is a Hero, not a Villain. That was explicitly addressed between Vivienne and Cat, and they concluded it changed nothing between them. That conversation wouldn’t have been necessary at all were she a Villain.

            It makes sense, too. She earned her name by following a Role of being a leader and (literal) shining example to follow.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Juff

    Typo Thread:

    I left Ater > I’d left Ater
    large part > large parts
    a bad a > as bad a
    honestly compelled > honesty compelled
    was beauty > was a beauty
    told ordered > ordered
    the despite > despite
    morning that > morning — that
    a hardened > the hardened
    the heads > their heads
    down a three > down three
    strictly keep > strictly kept
    so rip > to rip
    sat excruciatingly > sat, excruciatingly
    he was probably
    luck tangling > luck when tangling
    of number > of our number
    steel came > steel would come
    on few > on a few
    be smiling > bed smiling

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

      Nekheb spends a very large amount of time sleeping, and is only vaguely beholden to mortals. They’re probably leaving Nekheb to snooze for fear that the dragon would simply murder a few dozen people and then migrate to a safer continent or something.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. > They wouldn’t be the first, since Akua had once told me the Sahelians were pretty sure devils were one of the ingredients,

    I entirely forgot that it wasn’t just demons

    https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/chapter-12-cambre/
    >“You believe they’ve never dabbled in diabolism?” she said. “My dear, the Sahelians have known for decades that one of the primary ingredients in munitions is powdered devil. Our alchemists never managed to reproduce the process involved, but it is a certainty. Now, consider that goblinfire burns all things born of Creation. What do you think *that* recipe involves?”
    >
    > My heart clenched.
    >
    > “You can’t be serious,” I said. “They’re using demons? How would that even work?”

    Liked by 3 people

  9. > “Oh,” she softly said, “but I understand exactly what you mean. It took two of us to kill him, after all.”
    > […] It was her that’d paved the road to that moment, I would believe that until the day I died, but I wouldn’t deny that in the end it was my hand that’d held the blade. Even if she owned every step that had led us to that murder, it was my hand stained in red.

    I just realized
    – Malicia’s survivability
    – Catherine’s knife
    Their themes. He choose them

    To their horror

    Liked by 3 people

  10. fictionfan

    Good god. Its a fictional story set in a world made up in EE”s head. EE has the right to put the story in any way she wants. She kills off a character or redeems it. its up to her.

    All this idiocity about “oh no a Black/white/hispanic/trans” or whatever is your personal b is just that. Idiotic.

    Enjoy the story which is going amazing. If you feel have reached this far in the story line and are still ‘offended’ that a certain character, who may or may not be black, died; stop right here and don”t read further.

    Every couple of chapters we got some twits who come out with this again and again.

    Like

    1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

      This story has gotten some weird criticisms from time to time, ones that I agree aren’t really worthwhile. However, your “love it or leave it” attitude is counterproductive.

      Firstly, it is counterproductive in the sense that the people here who come up with these weird criticisms obviously aren’t going to be placated by your openly hostile tone, so that hostility doesn’t accomplish anything.

      Secondly, it is counterproductive in the sense that people can and should discuss negative aspects of a work. EE is already great, but encountering reasonable criticism will result in further improvement.

      In conclusion, if you like the story, you should avoid actively bullying people into avoiding reading it.

      Like

      1. Abrakadabra

        Why should they be placated? Why should be their bullshit addressed at all? Bullshit should be swept off the table, swiftly and decisively, not being analized while everyone is forced to smell the stink!
        Stop humoring these people, that is the correct answer in my book.

        Like

        1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

          By “placated” I mean that they’ll stop. My point with that was that your tactic to drive them off is completely ineffective and might even make it worse by giving trolls a target with which to sustain their interest, further clogging the comments with nonsense the rest of us have to wade through if we want to interact with each other. And like I said earlier, if you manage to drive anyone off (highly unlikely, of course) it won’t necessarily be the people you want to.

          Also: without analysis, it is not always clear what is or is not bullshit. Your personal gut reaction carries no authority whatsoever– it is well within your capacity to take exception to something you shouldn’t, as we all do. I don’t even disagree that the previous arguments we’re talking about were bullshit, but your attitude about them makes it abundantly clear that you don’t understand WHY they’re bullshit. The “why” of it is rather important.

          The bottom line here, to me, is twofold: you’re being unnecessarily aggressive, and I don’t respect that approach in a context like this; and EE has, on one occasion, stepped into the comments to tell someone off for giving bad feedback. Ergo, he demonstrably does not need your salty self to defend him and his work.

          Like

  11. 'Ladi Williams

    I fi d the way you started your response and the tone generally very offensive… “the universe doesn’t like that”
    If I had issues with anyone’s sexuality or race, I wouldn’t rate The Guide as one of my best books of all time.
    That said, the comment was in response to the one above talking about positive representation….that shit kills good stories…just let the story be…don’t include people and ideas that aren’t needed just for positive representation.
    If a story is about a black bisexual cripple…let it be about that…but don’t include a black bisexual cripple just bcos it would appeal to a wider audience and it’s in vogue to do so…
    That is my point. Understand?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. KiltedBastich

      You keep missing the point. Any random person you meet might be a black bisexual cripple, or an Asian trans person, or a genderfluid biracial person, or **anything at all**.

      So why shouldn’t some random character in a work of fiction also have the possibility of being anything at all? It doesn’t detract from the work of fiction, **it makes it more like reality**.

      The only way, the ONLY WAY, for this not to be true, is if you are starting from the assumed position that everyone should be cis/het/white and that being otherwise makes them unusual, noteworthy, or out of place. That learning they are just who they are is somehow an imposition on you.

      Why do you believe that a random character in a work of fiction being other than cis/white/het “kills good stories”? Does it offend you that random strangers in real life are not cis/white/het?

      If the only time that a character can be a black bisexual cripple is if it’s somehow important to the character, that’s **literally** tokenism. It’s saying that ordinary people are **not** supposed to be black bisexual cripples.

      This is implicit bigotry in action, even if you aren’t aware of it in yourself. Your unspoken assumptions are that ordinary random people are supposed to be cis/white/het, instead of, well, whoever they actually are. You can’t make that be true in reality, but you get upset when it’s not true in fiction. Why? Why should random background characters only be, quote, “normal”, unquote? Why isn’t it perfectly reasonable for random background characters to be any damn thing at all?

      That’s something in yourself you should take a long hard look at, because it’s frankly a deeply unattractive way of thinking.

      Liked by 2 people

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