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WIP A Practical Guide to Evil by Erraticerrata - T - Original Fantasy

Discussion in 'Original Fiction' started by DvorakQ, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. Koalas

    Koalas First Year Prestige DLP Supporter

    Sep 3, 2007
    High Score:
    This is the Tenth Crusade. Callow is always the battleground for the two sides, whether they join or not. It's also been implied that occupying Procer has done some pretty Praes-level shit to the occupied Callowans. It doesn't really surprise me that the people known to hold grudges said 'fuck both of you'.
  2. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Jazz Hands!!!

    Sep 16, 2007
    They kind of have, though? Even the limited awfulness recently was only because Black spent all his time in Callow threatening everyone into line, and they still sucked ass. Everyone in Praes hated that restraint, and the moment that he was gone? The governers made a grab for power. And Black still killed literally hundreds of thousands of Callowans, besides. As is, Malicia is planning to ruin Callows economy in the short term and kill it's leadership in the long term. Also, Liesse is flat-out gone. Praes has killed the better part of 500k Callowans in two decades, counting solely the big stuff.

    Monty Python has a funny skit about 'What have the Romans ever done for us' which kind of brushes over the whole 'What have they done to us' part, which includes a whole bunch of shit.
  3. Mutton

    Mutton Unspeakable

    Feb 20, 2011
    So the fundamental thing that I believe the author is getting at here is that Cat is fairly blinded by her biases; the whole speech about Good being a slippery slope is a big giveaway, but the fact that she's lamenting someone else throwing Callow into the cauldron of war in order to shore up their political base is definitely an intentional irony.

    This book seems to largely be Cat and co winging every larger crisis in such a way that it'll probably make everything worse. Her basic underlying idea is that you can't really throw off Praes because their food issue means they'll build up and find a way to invade in a generation. Joining Procer is a no go because they will wipe out Callowan culture and use them like a piggy bank. So she wants to stick with Praes as Callow gets a relatively free hand while Malicia tries to build new Praesian institutions.

    But frankly, that's not really true. She's emotionally attached to Praes due to Black, Malicia ain't doing shit to build long lasting institutions, Black isn't being allowed to so he's off doing his whole tantrum against heroics and Good. Look at her talk with the Pilgrim; it was entirely "what you can do for me" instead of talking with him before Cordelia and trying to figure something out.

    She's a villain, and she's not thinking ahead about the consequences of her actions more than they affect her. Which is part of why it's interesting; she's is explicitly a villain.
  4. Teyrn

    Teyrn Professor

    May 23, 2014
    Frozen North
    The other thing is Procer is apparently fond of launching Crusades against Praes. This is the Tenth Crusade, don't forget.
    And given that Callow sits right in between, it's almost always the battlefield those Crusade's are fought on.

    And considering the Prince(ss)'s leading the northern invasion force were already plotting how to divvy up Callow amongst themselves/their followers, it's obvious this Crusade isn't for Callow's benefit.

    Honestly, Cat's goal seems to be Callow no longer being used as a battleground for every conflict between Procer (Good) and Praes (Evil).

    I can't personally find any reason to think less of her for that.
  5. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Jazz Hands!!!

    Sep 16, 2007
    That's not true at all, actually. It's important to remember that Crusades aren't just against Praes nor are they just led by Procer--five* of the Crusades were directed against the Dead King. 'Crusades' are just what it's called when a bunch of Good-Aligned nations team up and roll out to try and smack around some asshole or another. The First Crusade was actually declared by Callow, before the Principate even existed, and used to take down Triumphant. The next three actually occurred in pretty quick succession; after the First Crusade, the Good Nations broke Praes apart into a bunch of Kingdoms and the Praesi eventually rose up in revolt, but the Second Crusade (also lead by Callow) crushed them all over again. But they revolted again a few decades later, this time lead by Terribilis, and he crushed the Third Crusade, which was also, seemingly, a Callowan Crusade--and in Callow's weakened state after the defeat, the young Principate occupied it.

    There was another, Fourth, Crusade waged sometime after that, like within twenty years if I remember correctly, intending to crush Praes again, but Terribilis crushed that shit so fucking hard that a Crusade never turned towards Praes again until this one, the Tenth Crusade. After that, the next five Crusades were aimed at the Dead King.

    So yeah, as far as we know, Callow's beef with Procer is a thousand years old.

    Also, Amadis plan was doomed from the start; Procer can't survive making a land grab right now.

    *Or four? Or six? Most chapters say five, but Hearsay says six and Will's chapter, Prise au Fer, says four. Regardless, the math all adds up to five.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
  6. Lamora

    Lamora Definitely Not Batman

    Jul 10, 2009
    Wild blue yonder
    I don't have a problem with the way Cat's character has been developing, or how the story has, for the following reason:

    (this is gonna be a long post, fair warning)

    Cat is being a hypocrite, big time. But that's not a problem, because Cat has never been anything but a unreliable narrator. The entire point of the story is her trying not to be - it says so right on the front page of the website.

    The best way I know of to describe the story thus-far is, not unsurprisingly, in tabletop terms.

    The first book established the world, the characters and who Cat was, including her own style of Evil and how she went about being Named. It was an entire book of character creation, essentially.

    The second book saw Cat, now developed and in her own power, ply her newfound resources and developed skills against the actual opponents of the Lone Swordsman and Heiress. This was the first campaign - it established that Cat was effective, introduced every member of the party, and stood up Classic Good and Classic Evil against her. Cat's views clashed with both, but were not really challenged in any real way. The most significant part of this book was Cat defying the Seraphim (and by proxy, the Gods) - the ones who 'write' the 'story' of creation. In tabletop terms, Cat the 'player' gave the DM's cage and story a solid rattle - Cat was supposed to turn around and pull a redemption story, as the cycle intended - Callow Good, Praes Evil. Whether the Lone Swordsman or Squire won was irrelevant, so long as balance was restored.

    The third book is the most important, and in my mind is becoming better and better as I stand it up against what's happening now in how well things have been set up.

    (That's not me changing my mind on the quality of the pacing or structure in book 3, mind you - that remains utter shit, IMO the absolute weakest Errata has ever been in writing this story.)

    The third stood her up against Classic Evil, and Winter, who were noted in this thread and the story as essentially the Prototype of Evil. In my mind, this is extremely deliberate - Cat, the Evil villain who has denied the story, has had her own side set against her to bring her back into line. The goal is not death, but re-alignment, and it shows in how they affect Cat.

    Winter infects her and starts trying to make her traditionally Evil. This is an effort that is still happening in Book 4, and is without a doubt in my mind the most important hand the Gods Below have in play right now in Cat's story. Akua's ghost, the paragon of Classic Evil, is literally woven into both Winter and her cloak, a literal weight on her shoulders.

    Classic Evil's attempt to put Cat back on the rails in Book 3 is completely successful until a last, single moment. Cat's been brought onto Malicia's side regarding flying-fortress style Evil. Then, the Wandering Bard convinces Black to make the whole destruction of Liesse for nothing (the Bard, who is the servant of stillness. In my mind, it's very likely she's neither Good nor Evil, but simply a servant of Above and Below, as shown by her willingness to be chummy with Tyrant, for instance. She doesn't care who wins the story as long as the story goes the way it's supposed to.).

    Cat, the Squire, is put in a tent with the Black Knight, her mentor, and a knife between them, just like when they met. Squires to become Black Knights kill their mentors to do so, it's what they do - this is a hardline convention of Evil, and Evil has been swinging for her to do it since the start of the story (the daughter killing father Fae story, Akua trying to set it up, Black literally starting to stagnate in power the second Cat becomes Squire). Black fails and betrays her in every possible way that triggers on Cat's weak and sore points, and then they're put in a room together.

    And then Cat doesn't fucking kill Black.


    You have to understand the paths the story was supposed to take.

    One) Akua wins and Classic Evil is restored instantly. Smoked by Good later, Callow becomes Good again.

    Two) Malicia wins and Classic Evil returns again in form if not in character as a Black Queen and Dread Empress reign using an army of fucked up demon ghosts and a hell portal-gun. They get sword-gied to death by heroes. Callow is Good again.

    Three) What happened happened (as the Bard intended), Cat kills Black, instantly inherits the name of Black Knight, and either gets killed by the Calamities (Evil devouring itself) or the White Knight, who has been noted by Black to be designed to withstand him (a pattern of three not developing) and ruthlessly counter Cat (Black commenting he'd win 6/10 times, his literal character of I do not judge being a retort to justifications only matter to the just). The Empire and Callow are defeated, Good, cycle restored, yadda yadda.

    But none of that happens. Cat breaks the story, so hard she literally loses her Name - which as we can note has never been mentioned to happen before for a Name, besides in literal death or transitioning to a new one.

    Now, one Nameless woman running around still wouldn't be a problem for the Gods...if not for the fact that Cat is running around with a gigantic chunk of stolen Named power, IE, Winter, because of how incredibly hard she fucked up Arcadia. It cannot be understated how important the marriage of Arcadia is, in narrative terms - Arcadia is the origin, Ur-story for Good and Evil in Creation that has been running since Creation began, and Cat just fixed it.

    Cut to Book 4, and current events now.

    There's one specific thing that the Gods Above and Below want, which has been stated directly and indirectly - the continuation the wager called 'Fate' between Good and Evil. For them to do this, the story has to continue cyclically - Good beats Evil, Evil rises again, and so forth. The Wandering Bard is emblematic of how they want to just keep doing it over and over again.

    The story of how this has begun to break down doesn't start with Cat. It starts with Black and Malicia. They create a Evil that is firstly not how Evil is supposed to work - they get rid of orc Names and the Chancellor. Then, secondly, they set up shop and start living way longer than Evil is supposed to. Evil is supposed to rise and fall, not rise and put 70 odd heroes in shallow graves. The cycle isn't continuing, and at a certain point, even Evil is starting to want to kick out Black and Malicia, which is shown by them constantly birthing Chancellor candidates and finally Heiress onto the playing field. Evil wants to refresh the cycle as much as Good does.

    Black and Malicia, the deviant programs in Evil's code, then kick out an even greater deviation in the system - Cat, a villain Squire from a Good country, serving an Evil one. It's no coincidence that this is the same time the Wandering Bard, the Gods debugger, shows up in Callow. The Gods want Praes reset. The Lone Swordsman tries to start a Crusade via Seraphim right on their doorstep to do just that, and when that and Cat's redemption fails, the failures in Good and Evil start cascading as the story continues to deviate.

    Winter suddenly doesn't want to do Winter stuff anymore, all of a sudden. The Tyrant begins to cultivate the Hierarch (who is a deviation along the same lines as Cat). The system more and more begins to break down.

    Book 4 is an example of what it looks like when the story falls far the fuck off the rails, with Gods Above and Below trying to push it back on. An unnamed Cat with stolen Name power is running around fucking with the story, the Hierarch just deleted (at least temporarily) the Wandering Bard.

    Good is trying to solve it their way by sending the heaviest hitters it has to kill the deviations (Black and Cat, since Malicia has more or less come back to the fold of Evil) - the very start of the book is the fact that Good has apparently crapped out something like half a dozen heroes in less than a year to send after Cat, the rest is about the fact that Good has magically and suddenly resolved all their differences so they can come together and squash them, with every conceivable way for there not to be a Crusade all being headed off as soon as they appear.

    Evil is trying to solve it by yanking Cat as hard as it can back into a proper Name and pushing all the traditional Evil it can (most bluntly in the form of Tyrant's nigh-invincible plot armor from doing Evil the way it's supposed to be). It has Winter Akua trying to take over and tempt her back. It has previously dormant Dead King ringing her up to do an Evil alliance. And waiting in the wings, we have the reigning champ of Evil, Triumphant, about to return to ensure Evil is Done.

    Book 4 isn't going to end with the Dead King and Black Queen vs Grand Alliance smackdown, I think. It's going to end with Cat having to smash the paradigm completely, and create (or at least kickstart) the Neutral alignment somehow by wedding Good to Evil, as foreshadowed by her solution for Arcadia. The Gray Pilgrim is the most likely suspect for who will be meeting her in the middle on this (Gray being a very unsubtle hint to this).

    Minor, secondary predictions include: Cat will have to get rid of Winter+Akua somehow and cast off the proverbial, metaphorical and literal weight of Evil (my personal best guess is using the heavily Chekhov'd demon of Absence to delete them somehow). Cat will likely gain a new, never-before seen Name at some point - since Names are not exclusively a function of the Gods, as evidenced by Tyrant being able to create Hierarch, Hierarch being able to rebel against both, and Black being able to choose his own Squire.

    Finally, I think Cat will be able to subvert or even ignore dying to the Pilgrim's redemption story - either by virtue of gaining a Neutral Name (and thus not being beholden to Good or Evil narrative tropes), casting off Winter and Akua and ducking it as a complete Nameless, or simply by subverting so many tropes that her ability to subvert them becomes a trope she can use. I think if she manages to do so, it will set her up to slam Good with it, it the same manner as the second book's ending: she might be able to fuck with the rules, but Good can't help but follow them.
  7. CaffeineAddict

    CaffeineAddict Seventh Year DLP Supporter

    Nov 25, 2008
    Minor nitpick - they didn't get rid of Orc Names, that was the Miezens when they crushed the Orc civilisation and enslaved them all.

    My thoughts align a lot with yours @Lamora. I especially like your point about the fact that Cat basically flipped the board over regarding the Fae and that she's set a precedent for breaking Fate.

    This last chapter was immovable object meets unstoppable force. Cordelia is doing what real world European kings did during our own Crusades, by which I mean manipulating a so-called holy war for political gain in the name of the Greater Good all while pretending her actions are purely altruistic. She's more of a hypocrite than Cat, especially when she mentions that Cat's only claim to legitimacy is conquest, which is a bit rich considering the fact that she may have been 'elected', but it was at sword-point after she stomped everyone else, all to save the Principate.

    Cat was willing to compromise on a lot, but the fact that the rest of Calernia are being a bunch of Johny-come-latelys regarding Callow being under the boot of Evil mixed with long national memories of Proceran occupation and she's understandably unwilling to just hand the kingdom over to a bunch of foreigners invading under flimsy pretext. Would this be the smart, less destructive play? Probably. Does that mean literally anyone in Callow would be happy about it (aside from that one northern baron)? Probably not. She already notes that surrendering would mean the desertion of the entire Callowan contingent of the army and likely wide-scale popular uprisings, which would just bog the crusaders down having to settle a very hostile kingdom. Possibly taking long enough for Malicia to pull something moustache twirlingly Evil out of her bag of unspeakable horrors to make everything even worse. And Black is running around in the Proceran heartland with the architects of the conquest. That's not going to end well for Cordelia.

    Honestly, it's hypocrisy all the way down. Cat is only now realising that compromise isn't a mortal sin but it's too late to come to terms with Good.

    Good are a bunch of raging assholes even when Cat is basically willing to give them the basics of what they want.

    I find the hypocrisy of the Proceran generals legitimately hilarious in their reactions to having a lake dropped on them - yes, it was a brutal tactic, but you don't get to complain about your dudes getting killed when you invade a country to kill all of their dudes. Welcome to total war, don't dish it out if you can't take it, and don't back the nascent Queen of Air and Darkness into a corner.

    Even the Grey Pilgrim is being an absolute wanker when he basically says he wants to offer up Callow as a sacrifice so the rest of Calernia can have 'peace in our time' while offering up lame apologies. Which, while pragmatic and arguably an objectively worthy goal, is not the sort of thing Good supposedly stands for based on their PR.

    And don't get me started on that Bard. She's the real villain of the story.

    All that having been said, allying one's self with the next best thing to the Lich King is a Bad Idea.

    I admit myself curious to see what the interaction between Cat and the White Knight will be like. The fireworks should be entertaining at least.

    TL;DR Go team Free Will.
  8. Lion

    Lion Denarii Host DLP Supporter

    Jul 8, 2009
    That place
    I just wanna know Black's plan for fucking Procer's shit. The Dead King is going to be interesting and I liked the negotiations, but I wanna see Black and my boy Catastrophe fuck some shit up. It's been too long since someone has died to dragon fire. I think we can all agree the story should return to its draconian roots, and have some Catastrophe burning shit interludes.
  9. Lamora

    Lamora Definitely Not Batman

    Jul 10, 2009
    Wild blue yonder
    Frankly, the more I look at the behavior and tendencies of the Gods Above and Below, the more I become convinced that they aren't the deities of Good and Evil, and are actually the gods of Law and Chaos masquerading or mistaken as such.

    I mean, look at their behavior and tendencies. 'Good' has a set, unchanging number of angels. 'Good' is the team that grows stronger playing into conventions. 'Good' demands obedience, is the one that inflicts inviolate rules on Creation, not really seeming to care for being kind so much as being right. The Gods Above don't really have any qualms about doing any of the things considered Evil, such as murder, thievery and so on, so long as they are done obediently and according to the rules.

    Meanwhile, 'Evil' does not always seem to cleave towards evil behavior, nor does it seem to have to - elsewise Cat and Black would not be possible. The Hells have an infinitely expanding, changing number of devils (AKA, entropy). Evil certainly has conventions, but almost all of them are conventions regarding their downfall - the only hard, definite one in their favor I can think of is the 'first part of their plan always succeeds' one - and we have no idea if it is the Gods Below who enforce said conventions instead of the Gods Above. For all we know, the Gods Above are the ones who enforce and create all rules, where the Gods Below are the ones who eschew and find new variations. Frankly, we can't even be sure their relationship is antagonistic - they're both incredibly powerful, obviously, but if the Wandering Bard really is sort of a dual-team referee then it's proof that they are willing to collaborate on certain things in the interest of prolonging the cycle.

    We have the quote about the wager of 'Fate' from the prologue of Book 1, but consider - every part of that is a quote from the Book of All Things, AKA the Bible of Good, and thus is inherently a biased narration. The brief bits we gleaned from the conversation between Hierarch and Bard are much more telling for the actual nature of the Gods.

    The Gods being of Law and Chaos would also really work as a snub at the narrative conventions of such, where Lawful is generally considered Good and Chaos generally Evil. It would also fit the current story that the Gods Above generally force the narrative to remain the same duality, where the Gods Below only demand that one find variation - in this interpretation, Black and Tyrant are equally loyal servants of the Gods Below, as Black creates Chaos by eschewing convention and Tyrant is Chaotic by being incredibly erratic and random within the bounds of it. It would also explain why Dread Emperors and Empress's plans such as Traitorous's absurd strings of betrayals work in the short term - as long as they are new and Chaotic, the Gods Below support them whether they are technically Evil or not (such as in the case of the sentient tiger army, which was definitely weird, but not Evil in itself until he presumably had them start killing people). What kills Dread Emperors and Empresses is becoming predictable.

    The Tyrant of Helike's invincibility is the example I come back to again and again - the consistency in his actions isn't being Evil, it's randomness. He's told he's going to die at 13 (ostensibly by the Gods Above), so the Gods Below throw him a bone in the form of a royal coup, and that starts his career with Chaos. He conquers half the Free Cities, then abdicates it to his own prisoner. He constantly betrays and turns on people - fights White, saves White from Black, allies with Evil, betrays Evil. Even creating Hierarch is a symptom of this. As long as he continues to create discord, he continues to live. I wouldn't be surprised for Tyrant's end to come (from becoming predictable in some way) and it be revealed that underneath it all is something of a mirror to Cat, where he is simply a young boy who didn't want to die and 'Evil was the only game in town' for that.

    If I'm right about Above and Below simply being Law and Chaos, Cat realizing and somehow revealing as such might be the catalyst for the creation of neutrality - I can't imagine Named on either side taking it well that the constant bloodbath between Good and Evil is simply an enforced narrative by two groups of divinities trying to run an experiment, and that Good and Evil are really the province of mortals.

    @Caffeine Addict: You're right about the Miezans making the orc names dormant, but it was Black and the Calamities that permanently killed the Name of Warlord, which has been stated to be sort of the prime name of orcs (the Warlord being the orc of orcs) - specifically, Captain, who killed and ate it at Broken Antler Horde when she learned to control the Beast, rather than taking it up as it was offered (the visions of that choice suggesting she would bring back the old glory of the Horde, and by extension, maybe the other orc names as well).

    @Lion: Big same. I will say that I can't see Nekheb surviving this many heroes at once - Champion in particular given her personality is likely to be salivating over the thought of being a dragonslayer, which would be hefty bait for Black to get some well earned vengeance for Captain. Silver Huntress is also a decent chance given she's shot the dragon twice - one more shot makes a set of three, and you know how stories love those.

    Frankly, my biggest hope is that Ranger shows up in Procer and the legendary Evil power couple gets back together. The conditions are definitely ripe - Ranger is implied in the Prologue to have fucked off directly after the Field of Streges (the effective end of the Conquest), perhaps as a combination of what was interesting to her being over and some frequently mentioned friction with Malicia and Black's dream of the Empire. With Ranger and Warlock both hinting that she's still interested in him and getting back together, and Black now having broken ties with both the Empire, Malicia and Cat (even becoming younger as evidence of his new lease on life), it's not bad odds that Ranger shows up to that fight what with the scale of scrap that's about to happen, since we know Ranger likes fighting gods just for the fun of it.

    Ranger showing up to kill Champion especially and specifically would make a very neat circle, since we know she liked Captain, and Champion killing and skinning her is unlikely to sit well. If the Dead King also gets let out to come to the fight, I'd say the odds of Ranger showing up shoot straight through the roof. Who gives a fuck about the dragon when we can maybe see Ranger throw down with Saint?
  10. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Jazz Hands!!!

    Sep 16, 2007
    Which I think this is a cool post, you're making a lot of somewhat odd assumptions here and a fair bit more doesn't seem to have a lot of basis--just to start with, Cat's been playing into Classic Evil conventions harder than ever before lately, from using strategies that depend on doomsday weapons to now preparing to betray people before even meeting with them, so I'm not really sure how she's been deviating from the story much at all this Book. But even beyond that:

    1) There's nothing implying that the Bard's been deleted any more than usual when she's not active; as was stated by the Saint, she doesn't show up until the time is right.

    2) Praes reset itself; everything Black and Malicia worked for in Praes is tumbling down as we speak, hastened by their break up, and caused by the fact that while Black's ideas and views are effective, they aren't considered attractive by anyone involved, to the point that he had to spend twenty years killing people that defied it and it wasn't enough. Remember their conversation at the end of Book 3?

    3) Cordelia's been setting things up for a Crusade for years now, before Cat was even around, and was planning to make agreements with her border countries to begin with because the constant wars are kind of screwing over her people in the north.

    4) Kairos is actually 100% on board with the Gods Below. He's not trying to end the Age of Wonders; he's bringing that shit back and thinks what Black's doing it both pitiful and stupid.

    5) I don't think Bard's aim was ever to have Cat kill Black, because the thing is, if Cat had killed Black, it would have worked out according to his plan. Bard destroyed the Name of the Black Queen before it was even born and, worse, destroyed everything Black and Malicia had worked for.

    6) Cat's less free than ever, actually, because she's bond as a Fae.

    But more importantly, a lot of that works as a pretty unsatisfying explanation for how the story has been bending over backwards to allow things to go in Cat and Black's favor, lately.

    Not true at all, actually. To begin with, Cordelia only went to war to rule Procer after spending most of a decade sitting out of it, investigating the causes and finding out that Praes was funding it, writing to everyone involved about it and pleading for them to stop, and being ignored. And when she had the power to do everything she wanted? She didn't. To quote:

    Cordelia's response to being able to do whatever she wanted was to sit down and let people argue with her. She went to war to make people shut up and listened, but then let them talk back. Cordelia's hardly spotless and as Cat notes immediately afterwards, there are a number of people in Procer she's actively working to undermine in pursuit of her own goals, but the fact remains, sitting down and talking to people is the name of her game, even when it actively works against her. Which is a big part of what sets Cordelia apart from, say, Cat, really--she honestly believes the world should work the way she's making it work, rather than despising the methods she has to work with but using them anyway in pursuit of some vague ideal.

    And the thing is, Cat is willing to compromise, to a very questionable extent to anyone who's not her, because compromising beyond that completely shatters her rule. That's kind of the thing; being seen to negotiate from a position that's not absolute power will break her, because she built her rule in Callow on absolute power.

    And the jab at the Pilgrim is kind of silly--what Cat asked him to do boils down to 'Light your country on fire for my sake.' Which of course he's not going to do, why the hell would he.

    Also, Cat's not really on team Free Will--at least, not for anything but being free to do what she wants, and that hasn't been going great lately.

    I'm really, really, really not, though more of the Dragon would be fun. Since he basically did everything to resolve all of Cat's problems with Akua at the end of Book 3, Black's kind of become a problem for the story in my eyes, wherein he's just a force that magically solves/caused problems some how--which he was before, but it's become kind of egregious since he started pulling consequence dodging tricks. As is, he's making what should be terrible moves; if logical or narrative traps mattered in the slightest to Black, he'd be dead a dozen times over by now. Remember, he's literally marching a Legion of Terror filled with Orcs, Goblins, Zombies, a Dragon, and assorted assholes into the heart of a Good Nation, while literally murdering and pillaging innocent villages along the way just to sustain it, with no supply lines back to Praes, no possible path of retreat, and a long, long history of mass murder and worse, while willingly leaving his greatest mage behind and after sacrificing most of his mage support besides. Even just basic logistics say that Black, or at least his entire army, should be dead by now.

    But the worst part is, I'm not worried about him at all. He'll win somehow anyway, because he's Black, because he choked the narrative to death with his dick or something. Stuff like that only matters or screws over people fighting against Black, because it's less the force it was originally painted as and more this kind of vague technobabble that Black and Cat use to justify things working or failing lately.

    And that's just kind of where we are right now in the story. Let's not kid ourselves here and say there's any logical reason Black should be able to win this fight, but let's not kid ourselves on whether or not he will, either.

    Neutral names already exist, actually. They just don't tend to matter as much because, well, they're neutral. And Cat's not aiming for Neutrality in the slightest; she literally said she just wanted to be the lesser evil.

    No, that was just some lower case g god. The Name was utterly broken by the Miezans, because the culture around it was utterly crushed.

    Friendly reminder that Captain was a mass murderer--her death was well earned, even if I like her.

    Honestly, I'd prefer if Black had some actual difficulties or setbacks on-screen, myself. The only one that's happened so far was Captain's death, which occurred off screen due to narrative and language reasons we had to have literally explained to us after the fact.

    This is entirely possible, but I really hope not. A lot of Practical Evil's victories lately have boiled down to 'Be overwhelming better than your opponent' rather than any actual skill or maneuvering on their part, and this would just add to that.
  11. Stealthy

    Stealthy Slug Club Member

    Feb 21, 2014
    Law and Chaos thing is definitely legit. The series opens with it.

    It’s where Good and Evil really came from. The “Good” gods think that humanity must be given rules to follow. The "Evil" ones say do as you will. Evil's evilness reflects free will being abused, and allows for selfishness. There are no rules on Evil's side, and that lets people be terrible. It's how you know that - even though she isn't officially part of any aligned nation and gives no fucks about the Wager - Ranger is a villain. She serves no one. It's also why there's no Evil Church. It's the antithesis of what the Gods Below are all about.

    Meanwhile Good imposes standards, but in doing so demands obedience and subservience. Although honestly, I think the "morality" bit is propaganda from the Gods Above. There've been a few remarks about how the original Heroes were pure murderhobos, until religion civilized them. Angels clearly don't give a fuck about humanity's well-being, so their original commands wouldn't be about selflessness and whatnot. They just want to smite Evil. Ultimately, that's limited in endearing humans to follow your set of gods. So they invented priests to go around and say "convert to the Gods Above, and they'll send a Hero to go stop those assholes across the river from pillaging you". Which they can do, because they control their Named, while the Gods Below don't and can't. The angels may not actually care if you kill your neighbor or not, but the anti-murderer platform is gonna be pretty popular among people who aren't murderers, and so it became part of their rules. The Gods Below can only respond with "we'll let you do what you want, but that also goes for the guy trying to stab you".

    This is why Bellerophon is Evil. It's not so much about the morality, but because of its democratic ideals (as it claims. The kanenas seem to be their secret Wicked Oligarchs). They refuse to surrender their Free Will, and instead quietly follow the Gods Below, who are more than willing to let them rule themselves.

    Kinda horrifying that "Good" is about giving that up, but that's clear in their Heroes. The series makes a consistent point that they aren't self-reliant like villains must be, but instead are guided to what they need to be "Instruments of the Heavens". It's what makes Good win all the damn time, and built those stories. Easy to win a fight when you've got deities in your corner handing you exactly what you need so long as you do what they want. That goes double for the ones that are claimed by Choirs. Hell, Hanno's third aspect seems to be him literally channeling the will of the Choir of Judgement. And look at Black's monologue to the White Knight a few chapters ago:

    The White Knight lacks Free Will. He traded it to the Gods Above for power, because that is what the Heavens ask, and trusts that they will make the right decisions and guide him properly.

    This whole deal is why the Gods Below probably love Black, despite him eschewing classic "Evil" and breaking the rules. He wants to prove that he - a mortal - can beat the Heavens, and prove the Gods Below right.
  12. Xarlor

    Xarlor First Year

    Mar 6, 2014
    Yeah he had little setbacks on the field of battle. But didn't his best friend Malicia betray everything he stood for in book 3? He lost Cat as his successor and everything he has build in Praes is kinda breaking apart right now. Wouldn't those count as setbacks?
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  13. Lion

    Lion Denarii Host DLP Supporter

    Jul 8, 2009
    That place

    First, you're totally right about Good and Evil not really being good and evil. They're celestial beings who made creation to have a pissing match. Someone on Reddit put it as Stasis vs. Change, which fits your Laws vs. Chaos theory pretty well. They want to see whose argument is better and "Good" just had some better marketing and roll out strategies.

    Ranger showing up would be cool, but I don't think their's a big enough threat to draw her attention. Saint is still traveling through Callow with the other Crusaders. Pilgrim is in Callow. White Knight probably wouldn't survive her unsheathing the first sword, let alone the second. Killing Champion for Sabah is something I could see her doing, but more as a passing matter. Like hey I was in this area anyway and you skinned someone I like so I'm gonna skin you real quick. And believe me when I say that I'd be the most excited to see Ranger again. I just finished rereading chapter 32: Close, of book three. Those few paragraphs at the end are some of my favorite parts of the story, because Ranger is a boss. Her coming to Procer for like 60,000 humans and some second rate heroes ain't gonna do it though. If anything she'd swoop in just to save Black and leave the rest to die.

    More importantly though, put some respect on Catastrophe's name. Those bitch ass heroes have nothing on or scaly overload and thinking about them defeating him should give you hives. Catastrophe is amazing and powerful and will eat all of them. Those not chosen for his divine breakfast will be burned. The Grey Huntress will die for dare piercing his magnificence with her accursed weaponry. They should all be grateful to be given the chance to fill his belly and sate the flames. I eagerly look forward to their screams as he cleanses them with his holy flame and destroys their pathetic lives. Amen!

    Logistics don't matter in Black's battle. He's not concerned about supply lines or extraction because that's part of the plan. You basically spelled out the narrative that Black is going for. No supply lines, no possible retreat, no heavy hitters, and about to be surrounded by forces who utterly hate them. If that's not an underdog narrative being formed then I don't know what is. Let's not forget that most of the Crusader forces are still trying to break into Callow, which might give his trapped and lost army narrative some weight. I'm not sure if we know exactly how many heroes are with the pursuit forces but I'd wager it's too many. Black's plan is totally gonna be some bullshit about last minute saves with Warlock coming to save the day and wipe out their armies or something.

    So you're basically right in saying Black has choked the narrative with his dick. It's his specialty and logic should be thrown out of the window because of it. Plus this invasion thing is probably just the first step in his plan.
  14. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Jazz Hands!!!

    Sep 16, 2007
    Neither of those mattered at all, though? He lost Cat as his successor as Black Knight, but she's pursuing a new path that he seemingly finds just as good, and he hasn't actually lost Cat's support, because she's ready to rescue him if need be, if only because of Masego. They continue to fight for pretty much the same goal, besides.

    Everything he built in Praes is crumbling, but Black hated Praes and merely intended to use it as a tool for war, which he's still able to do, and he in fact abandoned Praes and found it liberating to be done with them.

    Malicia betrayed what he stood for and he destroyed the doomsday weapon, forcing things back on track to get his way regardless. They're now pissed at each other, but Malicia is still supporting him and is determined to keep him safe.

    So none of that really set him back at all? I mean, I guess you could say that Akua gutting five armies was bad, but it turns out the Crusaders are punk ass bustas, because he and Cat wrecked them on both fronts regardless.

    Underdog stories are only supposed to help heroes--this is part of why Black considers the game rigged and it's supposedly bad enough that Terribilis made it a literal law not to engage heroic groups when it seemed impossible for them to win. For villains, they're first step works, and then they're kind of on their own, supposedly--and in a battle between a weaker villain and a stronger one, the lesser Evil tends to suffer.

    Of course, what we've seen doesn't actually support that much at all, which goes back into how a big deal gets made of the narrative, but it only ever benefits Black and Cat. Like, with the Hedge Witch was fighting Warlock, it was as uphill a battle as can be and Warlock had literally just rigged the Tyrant's ritual to murder her sister and she still never once had the edge in that fight, even though we're that told overpowering heroes like that is supposed to be dangerous. None of the heroic turn around or huge biases in their favor ever actually seem to occur, making Black and Cat look kind of whiny, because in this chapter, Cat might say:

    But that sure as fuck never happened during the Crusade or against William.

    What's more, Black's situation isn't the odds biasing against him to begin with. He intentionally cut off his retreat, removed himself from supplies and reinforcements, and is now preying upon innocent townsfolk besides. His army was not trapped or lost; he led it into this situation and, in fact, it was the first step of his plan.

    I do agree that he'll probably pull some bullshit about last minute saves, but you seem to interpret this as a good thing. You say 'It's his specialty and logic should be thrown out of the window because of it.' And if this was true, I might agree--but Black and Cat haven't been winning because they were clever or because they used intelligent tricks to bias things in their favor; they've been winning because everything is working out their way for no reason. The Narrative Replacement trick has now resolved two major issues for Black with no cost and without issue and we don't even know how the hell that's supposed to work and everything worked out for Cat not because she overcame the odds but because the heroes proved laughably ineffective.

    Black and Cat winning hasn't been intelligent. It hasn't be clever or fun or cool. it hasn't even relied on Practical Evil as we know it--Cat literally ignored Black's warnings against Doomsday weapons, took a nap, and had her body traded over to the person who murdered 200K Callowans in cold blood with no consequences that even vaguely matter.

    If Black was making the narrative suck his metaphorical dick and winning that way, I'd applaud. But he's not--the narrative is just going down on him for free and that makes all the difference. Just like it sucks that Cat and Black aren't winning because they're using their intelligence and skill to stack the odds in their favor--the odds were in their favor to begin with and they're basically just waltzing through things casually.

    And it's kind of a load of shit because literally three books of build up have been working up to this Crusade and the Crusade is utterly toothless.
  15. mmm

    mmm First Year

    Oct 7, 2015
    High Score:
    My bet is that Black is going to employ Tyrant's approach of using "this is the first part of my plan" all the time.

    The crusade's strongest point is still Augur imo. She renders any protracted war against the coalition pointless, especially since the Empire would be on the defensive and the Good side could choose their engagements. With Augur they can vet what to do and over time accumulate more wins than loses. If Black stayed on the other side of the Vales it would have been certain defeat though probably drawn out by a couple of years.

    Instead, he chose to capitalize on Augur's known weakness - she doesn't do very well with unplanned and random events. So, go on an offensive and wing it. It's a slim chance of victory but at least it's better than a slow and grinding defeat. I think this is somewhat supported by his speech to White Knight: the whole "you blindly believe in providence so I'm going to cheat" applies equally well to the Augur.
  16. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Jazz Hands!!!

    Sep 16, 2007
    This would be more convincing if, again, both of the attacks on Callow hadn't been colossal failures. Like, I'd actually find this idea interesting, if it was a desperate move to triumph over an enormous, looming threat via a long-shot plan--but that idea comes off as kind of weak when the Crusade actually had two heroes that could see the future on their side, the Grey Pilgrim and the Augur, and yet they got crushed on both fronts. I really can't emphasize this enough--Cat took a nap for a day and left Juniper to fight eleven goddamn heroes with Archer as literally the only Named on their side, and the Crusades still couldn't get results.

    If this situation felt huge and dangerous enough that it was forcing Black and Cat to use unconventional tactics to have any hope of winning, I'd think this was cool and exciting, but it's really hard to buy that when they Crusaders have yet to actually accomplish anything.

    Well, except killing cannon fodder, I guess, but the issue with that is that the story keeping telling us how many faceless nobodies have died, but has yet to actually make any of that matter. The issue I have with being expected to care about the Army of Callow or the Legion is that we get it made abundantly clear to us that the only sense in which they matter is in whether or not there are enough of them, and somehow or other, there always seems to be enough of them. They don't matter in any capacity beyond that--the story keeps trying to to make up for any actual consequences or threat on the heroes part by pointing to the number of random soldiers they killed off-screen, but we don't give a shit about any of those guys and, worse, the story doesn't seem to, either. We never run into any consequences to drafting up this many soldiers; even though demons and the fae ran wild in Callow's bread basket and they've been drafting entire armies worth of young, able-bodied men, there's no concern over how they're going to feed the country or what's been taken away from other places, because all these young people weren't, you know, doing anything. There's no real concern for how losses to this extent look to Callow as a whole or why people are still so eager to volunteer themselves into a service that seems to function as a death sentence for expendable people or even what consequences might come from all these conflicts.

    Like, just on a random note, the military runs Callow right now, because Cat doesn't give a shit about and repeatedly undermines the nobility. Right now, your political rank as a Callowan is decided entirely by your usefulness to the Crown, which means your position in the army. But even though Legionaries are dropping like flies, there's no real need to worry about what might result from, say, a peasant getting a battlefield promotion to Lieutenant and suddenly being in the upper echelons of Callow. Nor is there seemingly enough concern about personnel that Cat has to eat crow and give the Nobles a major in by asking them for the talented personnel she needs to replace important parts of her ranks. Nor does the high turn-over rate in Callow's army seem to in anyway meaningfully effect how things go. Callow and it's army are just a prop here, even though there's a war going on.

    Hell, when Juniper mentioned--after the fact, of course--the extremely heavy but non-crippling losses that Callow's army suffered, she also mentioned that she'd 'broken Legion triage doctrine, which emphasised keeping as many legionaries alive as possible, in favour of getting as many men able to fight as possible. The deeply wounded had been allowed to die, or put out of their misery when requested.' This was in addition to nearly a third of the army dying, by the way. But while Proceran levies flee in the night, there's no concern with moral in Callow, even when this is something like the fifth slaughter in two years. And they can recoup these losses in six months, because everyone is going to go home and speak stunningly about their paychecks instead of going to bars and looking shell-shocked, I guess. Even though Callow's also running out of money, so how much are they paying these guys, anyway?

    But stuff like that doesn't matter. These guys were born to die and they all know it, because while everyone knows that Praes loves Callow's apple trees, they never mention the real prize, because it's under the Tower's Seal--they found Callow's legendary Nobody Trees that bear fully grown but faceless men that just wander around doing nothing all day until they need to be recruited for a war they can die in without anyone feeling bad about it later.

    Hey, do you have a better explanation? Because these guys have better moral then the zombies. And don't even get me started on the Legion, holy shit--those guys are down for war no matter what, apparently. Warlock left a thousand soldiers to literally rot in hell as a part of his strategy just awhile ago and these guys are cool with him being there.

    TL;DR: It's hard to buy the idea of desperation tactics, because thus far there's been absolutely no feeling of desperation.
  17. Lamora

    Lamora Definitely Not Batman

    Jul 10, 2009
    Wild blue yonder
    Ryuugi, I feel like you've basically caught a scent of a thing you dislike - real or imagined - and nothing any of us is going to say is going to dislodge it.

    Which is fine, because it's not impossible what you're describing is just bad writing. None of the stuff I posted is stuff I think is irrevocably true, just stuff I think would be interesting if it was true.

    I love Guide, but I think it suffers heavily from 2 things when it comes to deciphering it's quality.

    1) The episodial format. When you're waiting days for the next installment, naturally you begin to question the character's actions in the moment that they're frozen in. Book 3 was a prime offender of this - it is a much better read when it's all there at once. I don't know if I would choose waiting for each whole book to come out, mind you, but I do think Book 4 deserves a review both in-progress and as a whole, and if the last Book was any indication we're not even halfway through it yet.

    2) The meta-on-meta plot. It's a story about stories, essentially, which is twisty enough - but it's also a story written by a RL author about a world in which stories are written by bad writers (IE, the Gods), to the despair of the people all the way on the ground level (the characters). And to add English on the very end, neither the protagonist (Cat) or the deuteragonist (Black) are traditionally heroic characters. In this, it can be hard to distinguish between an incidence of bad writing happening to the characters via the author or deliberate bad writing inflicted on the characters via the Gods.

    At the end of the day, I choose the explanation that is best and most interesting to me; the major conflict of the story not being between Cat+Black and other characters, but between Cat+Black and the Gods+Bard - and nearly all of the seemingly nonsensical tropery and conditional invincibility happening at the moment are a result of the latter being in the process of whipping the former's ass, at the moment. Black's conditional invincibility is not something I see as a good thing, but instead as a very dangerous thing, which we've already lost a Calamity over being too arrogant about.

    All of the stuff you're bringing up about Black's moves not making any military sense are absolutely correct - for a given value of normal, realistic sense, which has never at any point been king in this story.

    Just a few chapters we had basically the re-enactment of Helm's Deep, with horses going down insanely sheer slopes, arriving 'just in time' and being immune to anti-cavalry weapons just because the Gods Above thought it would be a better story to have them crash through a pike line that very much has been trained to repel them.

    Military sense has never been typical in Calernia, and frankly, none of the losses I've seen in Guide would be out of place in vanilla fantasy books, and are treated a lot more seriously in most cases. You complain about the soldiers being faceless, but we've had numerous interludes from soldiers with no Name on both sides all the way back to Book 3.

    I agree with you about the feeling of desperation not being there, but Black's never been a desperate sort of character, and neither are a lot of the POVs in the 15th Legion as a result of their bone-deep faith in Cat. Cat on the other hand is getting very desperate, and has been desperate for a while, and if you think otherwise I have to ask if we're reading the same book.

    tl;dr. It's a good story, Bront.


    I looked through my old posts, which were scattered and bit incoherent, and I decided to put everything I think is going on in the series in order of importance in terms of the Larger Picture.

    The Bard (and the Gods Above)

    These are two forces either in close collusion or direct alliance. Bard doesn't seem to create heroes herself or instinctively know their stories, but she seems to have a supernatural sense of where they are which she can use to find them and help (via advice on navigating the narrative). In layman's terms: the Gods Above set the tropes, the Bard writes them down and leads the heroes to them, and the heroes walk them in to achieve victory. She's apparently been doing so longer than the Golden Bloom has existed at the very least.

    Knowing what she wants in the long term can be seen firstly from her own POVs and opinions stated (to non-enemies, like William), secondly from her actions, thirdly from outside sources (such as Tyrant and Black).

    Bard seems to feel the strongest sincere opinions not about being Good or Evil, but sticking to one's side/having a side, role and the sort of correct behavior for heroes and villains. Heroes are sad and glorious and always win, and Villains are cackling and vicious and always lose. Bard ensures this happens because she implies it happening this way avoids a worse way. Bard supports Good, but can enjoy Evil as long as it's Evil acting the way it should. Examples of this include:

    Her being sincerely angry and threatening at the Emerald Swords, Forever King and Golden Bloom elves for apparently having completely dipped out of the story and fight during the time of Triumphant.

    Her talks with William about the nature of Good, and why Malicia, Black and Cat need to go despite being Reasonable Evil. In this same chapter, she talks about why Good is ultimately winning by ensuring Evil stays ridiculous.

    Her admiration and friendliness with the Tyrant, who is playing Evil straight to a tee, which she apparently doesn't mind.

    Her anger with Hierarch, who is refusing to choose Good or Evil.

    Bard talking about why Heiress is a better alternative to Squire because she's destined to lose.

    Bard's actions reflect a desire to maintain this paradigm of Good winning and Evil staying essentially a cartoon that is always defeated (and return to it, since Black is threatening to upset it by permanently suborning Callow.)

    Bard's limitations are most knowable firstly by admissions by her personally, then by observations.

    Bard seemingly can't be killed (at least by violence), but can be silenced by Speaking (told to Shut Up by Cat) and by dispelling her multiple times - confirmed by her admission to the Ashen Priestess that the Calamities doing so hindered her and that she has rules. Hierarch has also apparently dispelled her using only a charge of treason and court arraignment, and she has not been seen since - something she was surprised by or was unaware of being possible. This costs her in some physical way, which may be related to her drinking.

    Bard can appear where she's needed/wishes and possibly compel people to pay attention to her. Distracts Warlock long enough for the Lone Swordsman to escape, then again to attempt to allow Hedge to escape but only managing Tyrant's escape - according to her (talking to Black, questionable) due to Warlock's prowess.

    Bard can 'look at the script' somewhat (said while talking to enemies, questionable), and has personally admitted she gets limited portents, like knowing that individuals are coming but not when (to the Ashen Priestess, stronger evidence).

    Bard can possibly create or at least strongly influence the birth of Names, such as in the case of Hierarch Propia Lakene, which she claims was a 'mistake' when she 'didn't know better'. Her mistake in this case seemed to have been to make being elected a requirement of receiving the name, since only Propia Lakene managed to become elected, and 'once her tongue was gone, so was the name'.

    Bard possibly may not be in Creation when she is not actively doing something or dispelled - instead being 'nowhere'. Black also suspects this.

    What Bard wants from an outside perspective is pretty sparing in terms of what is actually plausible. Tyrant is the most believable source here, purely because he's been the most successful against Bard. Tyrant's portents are vague, but he claims essentially that the 3 most important players are Bard, Black and (unsuprisingly) himself in terms of the larger picture.

    Bard is a functionally immortal, non-violent version of Black on the side of Good and the Gods Above. She's not a complete obeisant servant of the Gods Above, admitting they use their heroes sorely on occasion, but is on their side most likely because they are the best option for overall Good, AKA the Greater Good. For all her experience, she is in fact a regular Named - just an incredibly experienced one. Bard, essentially, is Practical Good.

    In the same way Black began sort of Evil-converting Callow to prevent the rise of heroes and create a Evil that wasn't constantly the same thing, Bard has been shaping the whole of Calernia for an unknown amount of time - specifically to funnel all Evil into a single recurring loop of stupidity and self-destruction, so that they are predictable and easy to destroy. Bard herself admits she rose at least in time to watch Triumphant rise - if Black and Scribe are right about the balance between Gods Above and Below, she is possibly the 'equivalent response' of the Gods Above to the Dead King - this is underscored by the fact that despite Dead King being the same sort of Evil as Tyrant, she's never once spoken well of Dead King the way she does of Tyrant (the closest she's come being in her talk with William in Prise au Fer).

    Bard does what she does both to steadily and permanently improve Creation in the direction of Good and avoid some unknown effect of Practical Evil winning. Triumphant is perhaps an example of this happening and Practical Evil winning. She speaks about 'patterns not being able to distinguish between black and white' - most likely, Bard's goal is to prevent Practical Evil (which she has claimed is weakened due to not having a pattern) becoming the pattern of villain behavior, as opposed to self-destroying Classic Evil (which currently is empowered by the pattern). This would explain why she was not present for the 20 years of Callowan occupation with a single generation of Practical Evil, but almost immediately showed once Catherine was raised the Squire in the tradition of Practical Evil - twice is the beginning of a pattern, after all.

    Bard possibly attempted other solutions before her current one - she claims she created Hierarch in a time before she knew better - such as creating neutral Names, or perhaps experimenting with Practical Evil being the only kind to exist rather than Classic. Her creation of the name of Hierarch is possibly a reason by Anaxares the Hierarch is able to affect her by charging her with treason. Another possibility is that she simply made herself vulnerable by fact of her new regeneration being that of a Nicaean, which Tyrant exploited.

    Bard's win condition is the maintenance of Evil as a self-destroying force and the gradual and continual victory of Good until Good is the norm everywhere. To that end, the removal of either Black or Catherine fulfills her win condition, since they need the two in a row to make a pattern and without them both Callow and Praes return to normal. This is the reason why she allows and even supports Classic Evil villains such as Tyrant.

    Bard's loss condition is the breaking of her pattern. Currently, Practical Evil runs against the grain, making it hard for Practical Evil villains to succeed because they have no patterns to empower them. If a pattern of Practical Evil is established, it gets stronger and stronger - It doesn't have to the Practical Evil of now that is actually Bad (Bard admits that Malicia's reign has been good for Callow overall) - it's the Evil afterwards that inherits all that Practical Evil accomplishes and is suddenly horrifyingly strong. The strain of Evil that Bard has ensured exists and stays is actually the one she dislikes and fears the most, but she is able to control it by ensuring it is the only one that exists, with no Practical Evil to achieve lasting results.

    Tyrant (and the Gods Below)

    Tyrant serves the Gods Below in full, but possibly not out of steadfast loyalty. Tyrant's main goal is spiting the Gods Above, and possibly also simply wanton destruction. He has stayed alive past his prophesied death via their support. Tyrant's goal could very possibly be the overall victory of Evil in the same vein as the Bard's desire for overall victory of Good - but in that case, the hatred for Black does not make sense, as they are both Evil. It is more likely his goal is the destruction of Good more than it is the victory of Evil - his upbringing caused him to despise the Gods Above. To that end, Practical Evil, which is once described as working because it apes Good practices, is likely repugnant to him for that reason. He also may dislike Practical Evil because it endangers the 'juggling act' of betrayal which keeps him alive and constantly winning in the way it endangers the pattern which empowers said convention/trope.

    Tyrant's desires are somewhat erratic to pin down; he doesn't want a single thing so much as a preferred end state of total destruction. Tyrant follows the Bard's artificially designed Evil, but seems to realize it's a cage constructed by the Bard - he relates a story about a lion in a cage getting out and slaughtering everything. He also wants a return to the Age of Wonders (which is possibly a time before the Bard was around/had successfully corralled Evil). This is the closest thing he admits to a desire that isn't most likely him completely fucking around.

    Tyrant's limitations aren't very hard-defined, due to him constantly invoking the 'first step of the plan' pattern. His known Aspects are Rule and Wish.

    Rule allows him to at the very least control weather in a certain area to destructive effect. It is also possibly the Aspect which allows him to catch and corrupt every single spy sent by Scribe to Helike, as Black (an expert on Name lore) guesses it's Aspect related.

    Wish can be used as a finite resource to escape, as demonstrated in the fight against Warlock. It also allows him (according to him) to hear other people's inner desires and wishes.

    Tyrant isn't invincible, but juggles 'first steps' to be constantly successful against the White Knight and his heroes and functionally invulnerable to defeat. It is possible he is vulnerable to other villains - especially ones close to his form of Evil, as demonstrated by Warlock (who basically just follows Practical Evil because his friend is Black) blowing up his throne and forcing him to use a resource.

    Outward observations are mostly useless except in the Bard's case - and even hers are suspect considering she gets hoodwinked by him. The Tyrant is a lot of things, but stable is not one of them.


    Tyrant is taking Evil one step further - he wants to win using the Bard's Classic Evil, in a mirror to him beating a rigged game with living past 13. He cares less about winning for Evil than destroying Good, who he despises due to his upbringing.

    Tyrant is possibly vulnerable to other Classic Evil villains due to the 'evil-eating-evil' trope, which could serve as an explanation for why he hasn't moved against Praes (or Callow recently, since Cat is being forced into Classic Evil at this point).

    Bard was a target of his from the very beginning, as she would undoubtedly engineer Tyrant's downfall once he became too successful. Choosing Anaxares to become Hierarch was a way of baiting her, as he knew Anaxares' refusal to choose a side would bring her out. It is even possible he knew the way Anaxares would dismiss Bard - Nicae (the city the Bard claimed to be from) was one of Tyrant's military targets on campaign, and the Strategos was slain without being replaced, which possibly has some significance.

    Choosing Anaxares as Hierarch also has the consequence of binding the League of Free Cities together for war. Tyrant can now invade Procer ostensibly under the command of Hierarch, perhaps avoiding dangerous patterns by doing so, or even invoking heroic ones by serving his 'liege' if Hierarch is a inherently Good name. Since Anaxares refuses to order for or against, he is free to act under heroic sanction without being contradicted, which would disallow his use of said convention.

    The Tyrant's next move is very possibly the repulsion and ravaging of the 10th Crusade with the Free Cities behind him - possibly coming to even Black's aid, as Helike is in the same direction that Black's invasion of Procer is proceeding. A pretext for doing so might be that they believe the movement of troops to be a cloaked invasion of the League. With the elves having left and Bard MIA, there is nothing to stop them from going through the Waning Woods, besides Refuge, where Ranger is also likely to come to Black's aid. Here's a map of Calernia for reference.

    It was already mentioned recently that Tyrant had scouts working their way through the Waning Woods for an unknown purpose. If the Tyrant smashes the Crusade, Good loses hard - especially if the Dead King has been let out by Catherine.


    Black and Malicia(Practical Evil)

    Black's original mission statement was the desire to change the constant tendency of heroes always and inevitably winning. He wanted solid and lasting ideological victory over Good, purely for winning's sake, by his own admission. This is the primary difference between Black and Malicia, which later causes their rent - Black wants to win against the Gods and Good. Malicia wants to win for Praes and her rule. The Empress points this out in their fight - Praes to him is just his 'war camp for his pissing match with the Gods'.

    Later on now, as Black is now invading Procer, he seems have doubled down on that belief after having it clarified. He has told Grem that the Empire deserves to fall and be remade - it is possible that he intends fully for that to happen. Another element of the battle which was his specific goal was seeing if he could cheat 'providence', the power of intuitive heroic prophecy. This may be an extension of the Empire's ongoing effort to find a way around the power of the Augur - something that could be a reason for why he's headed towards Salia. Since Hasenbach (and the Proceran war effort as a whole) follows the portents of the Augur so closely, if Black can actively avoid or mislead her, he can lead the Crusade around by the nose depending on how long it takes for them to understand what he's doing - something that may not be immediate.


    Black's current goal is unclear. He could be trying to mislead or capture the Augur (who has been said to be the only thing stopping Assassin from collecting Papenheim and Hasenbach's heads). He could also be playing into his strongest Aspects. In any case, the 'most dangerous man alive' is definitely not simply invading Procer for no good reason.

    In specific response to Ryuugi in regards to it being a terrible idea, however, consider the following:

    Two of Black's aspects lend themselves directly to mass combat; Lead and Conquer. Conquer makes him stronger and gives him more power whenever he's 'conquering', and Lead directly empowers soldiers under his command, most specifically in war - enough so that the Legions under his command go like a knife straight through Diabolist's forces, devils and all, in an hour at Second Liesse. Whether the degree that Lead empowers them also includes somewhat ignoring logistical concerns such as fatigue and supply trains is uncertain, but Black has been very specific about not directly leading in Red Flower Vales, maybe to sucker the Crusade into thinking they're weaker than they are later.

    The Legions of Terror specifically keep lighter supply trains and move faster due to the orcs enrolled practicing cannibalism on enemy bodies. There's also little supply cost for the Legion full of necromancers who can also march unendingly.

    Speaking of X Terribilis. It's probably a stretch to say that they can count themselves as effectively twice as large as they are, but their troop strength should definitely be considered larger than their flat numbers - especially if are able to march through a few old battlefields and do something with the bodies there, of which Procer has more of than any other country on the continent.

    Provided Warlock isn't dead and does show back up, he has an entire box full of horrors that have yet to be used under the Dark Days protocols. Granted, Black's refrained from using them before specifically to avoid drawing Heavenly attention, but they are still an option available to him - and his blatant invasion in the middle of the 10th Crusade seems to signal to me he's not worrying so much about the amount of hero attention he draws anymore.

    All of this without drawing on any random, unknown story elements. However, being as it is that Black's whole shtick is ducking under the decapitations the Gods Above line up for him before turning around and using those very same stories to lead heroes into traps where they can safely be killed, I'd be astonished if he doesn't have some angles he can work there too.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2018
  18. apoc

    apoc The Once and Ginger King DLP Supporter

    Aug 24, 2012
    People's Republic of California
    Lamora if you're gonna write a full chapter you can at least make it for a fic.
  19. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Groundskeeper

    Dec 21, 2011
    Theory time: his goal is to 'white-out' Augur's prophetic capacity. By moving directly to attack her, the Augur will become less (or completely un) able to see anything but the threat to her own life. Since his assault is superliminal - march a mid sized army straight at her - her prophecies won't be overly useful in blocking the attack but while the attack is in progress she won't be predicting other stuff.
  20. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Jazz Hands!!!

    Sep 16, 2007
    Before saying anything else, I just want to note that Lamora and I spent a day discussing this whole thing in IRC and so if any of my thoughts seem disjointed, it's probably because we discussed it elsewhere, but I'm going to try and keep my stream of consciousness nailed down.

    Honestly, my bigger issue is just the fact that I have no idea how anything works, and so when a plan comes together, I have no idea how to react to it or how to feel, which is 100% bad writing. I shouldn't necessarily foresee what happens next or how someone resolves a problem, but it should be possible to do so, based on what I know. In a lot of ways, being surprised by a plotline is overrated when it comes to long term stories, simply because people tend to examine things in detail and hash them out, much like we're doing here, and so sheer odds tend to mean that someone will guess correctly. When no one does, it's usually not for a good reason.

    Take Black's escape from the White Knight--Hanno challenges Black to a duel before the Heavens which is then said to be a big deal, before it's immediately proven not to be so. Like, that's it. A plot point was introduced literally moments before Black was revealed to have already dodged it retroactively, because he saw it coming. I, however, couldn't see the challenge coming, because it was never mentioned prior to this supposedly pivotal moment, and couldn't see Black's solution coming, because it was never implied to work that way before and we know nothing about why it works now. I don't feel like it's impressive when that happens, because I literally had no idea it was a thing that mattered and Black immediately proved it wasn't. I didn't even spend a minute worrying about Black before he was retroactively never in danger.

    And they keep doing this--introducing what should be major issue and either retconing reasons why they aren't a threat or having them resolved off-screen in ways that have nothing to do with the main character's actions--and that's also absolutely bad writing, because Black and Cat are meant to be smart and clever, but what they do doesn't come off that way, especially when the excuses are made after the fact or shoved in.

    And this isn't a problem unique to Book 4, which just makes this worse, because it's becoming a trend. Now, I'll leave aside the conflicts with the Fae that got resolved with plot shenanigans that worked except when they didn't. I'll forgive Ranger somehow knowing and managing to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, with her bizarrely varying capabilities from chapter to chapter. I'll even forgive Masego getting a new Name with the exact powers he needs exactly when he needs them in time to take down a Fae Princess with his even more wildly varying capabilities--and that's a big damn concession, because Masego wobbles between being a god and unable to resolve any problems at random.

    But what I won't forgive is how Cat resolved the problem she was faced with. She was in a dark as hell moment, with no way to deal with the Winter King or Summer Queen and thus no apparent way out of her problems. So what happens? Does she use her powers, her knowledge, her ability to escape the situation?

    Nope. Malicia figured out how to do all that for her, off-screen. And convinced the Winter King to go along with it, off-screen. Cat just followed her plan from there.

    Okay, so that's, uh...an odd way for a main character to escape a major, personal issue, especially one that resulted in both greater power for her and freer use of it, in the form of her full Mantle and the power to freely use gates to Arcadia, major, vital powers going forward. But it's a one-off, right?

    Then Cat fights Akua at the climax of the Book and loses, in one of the biggest wham chapters in the series. She stares into the eyes of defeat for the first time and is utterly terrified, because there's no way out. Just look at this:

    You see that and you know this is the moment that makes or breaks Cat, the moment that defines the story going forward, the biggest moment of her life--

    Except it's not, at all. Because Black saw all this coming down to the specifics of what would happen and prepared to resolve them all off screen, using a method he says he learned from the Bard. For the record, he couldn't have possibly learned jack shit from the Bard because she didn't tell him a goddamn thing about how she shifted the Ashen Priestess' narrative weight to apply to the Champion, didn't do so with methods at all like Black's, and he had no idea what or how it worked--but that's a rant for another time. Black replaced himself with Assassin and somehow shifted his entire narrative thereby, because apparently, this impartial narrative somehow sees Assassin transform and Black literally just wander off, work together with a bunch of Goblins, and even hold someone hostage, but it's still willing to go along with the idea that Assassin is Black and gives Cat a way to escape from Akua's trap due to the narrative weight of his capture. It also lets the fact that the narrative requires either Black or Cat to die apply to Assassin, even after he's revealed and doesn't meaningfully die. How the fuck did that work, much less resolve the central conflict of the entire Book?

    Hahahaha, don't ask questions.

    Uh, okay.

    So the next Book starts and we get told that Cat's going up against the two oldest and strongest Heroes around, plus ten others--well, twelve, but a Demon of Absence eats two of them. This seems like a big fucking deal and these guys get hyped up a lot. Hell, the first encounter with the Saint is intimidating; Cat doesn't suffer any meaningful injuries, but she ends up running for her life.

    It's all down hill from there, though. In the next fight, it's Cat vs. five heroes and she utterly wrecks them one-sidedly without a care. But wait, you ask--isn't that a terrible idea? Weren't we told that putting Heroes in hopeless situations or against overwhelming odds was a terrible idea? Didn't Terribilis literally make it illegal to do shit like that, so Legions would get the fuck out of dodge instead of dying in the turn around?

    Don't ask questions.

    Okay, so she crushes them casually and kills one, but then the Grey Pilgrim appears--and boy, this is a big deal. See, the Pilgrim has a rep and it's a bad one for villains:

    And this situation right here is literally his story line. It's time for an asswhooping.

    Or so you thought. Like, Masego drops a sun on him and he catches it--a sun that's burnt Demons into submission. A Summer Sun, theoretically Cat's weakness--and in a straight fight, that doesn't go well for Winter. Except he fails to accomplish anything with it? He throws it at Cat and she dodges it once, Masego remotely blocks one and splits another without effort, Cat dodges another, a fifth misses, and altogether accomplishes nothing; he literally doesn't even scratch Cat, even as she murders two people under his protection.

    O...kay. But the Saint shows up for a rematch and that's a big deal, right?

    Turns out it's not. Cat runs away from her for the second time and seven heroes prove completely incapable of stopping her or even slowing her down. She gets away easily and essentially unharmed. Well, I mean, Saint apparently cut her Mantle--that's a big deal, right? Might be more of one if it happening twice seemed to have any noticeable effect on her powers, in the short or long term, but it hasn't. As is, it's an undefined loss to an undefined source and had no effect on what happened.

    Cat gets back and completely disobeys Black's instructions to never, ever user doomsday weapons and spells. She gets punished for it, too. We don't see it, of course, but the Pilgrim destroys the portal and knocks her and Masego the fuck out. That's a huge deal, right? Thief isn't much of a fighter, Hakram's away, and that means their only Named left is Archer. Against eleven heroes, after Grey resurrects one of the dead ones. Holy fuck, how will they get out of this one!?

    Just fine, apparently. The enemy having nine young Named and two big ones doesn't help them as much as you'd think. Like they push Callow's forces back and stuff? But, like, slowly, over the course of two hours or so. Yeah, Saint can casually turn entire lines of soldiers to mist but she's not going to--we'll get a reason later and it's interesting, for all that it has no real effect on how dumb it is that Callow's army survives her; her being limited in shots per day doesn't explain her using no shots. And between Eleven heroes with thirty-three Aspects, versus an army half-filled with murderous Goblins and Orcs that are literally eating their dead comrades, they fail to even break the back of the opposing army.

    Juniper plan goes off without a hitch, even though putting hitches in plans is what Heroes are supposed to do for a living and her plan has at least three points of failure. The three hours they held off the Crusaders--an hour of them getting in place and two of fighting--gives her enough time to carve an artificial rivers that holds one side and they win on the other. Several Heroes get wrapped up in this and find themselves alone and horrifically outnumbered--a heroic story waiting to happen, right?

    No, they just die.

    Saint goes after Nauk, the leader of the enemy forces and the one immediately responsible. He's literally eating one of her men, laughs maniacally while fighting her, and talks loudly about cutting her up and eating her, while two the children under Saint's protection die gruesomely and permanently in the background. He fucking dies immediately afterwards.

    Hahaha, I kid. He escapes the Saint just fine actually. Archer appears to save him and she fights the Saint, alone. The Saint that Cat had no choice but to run for her life from. She dies.

    Hahaha, I kid again. Literally no one in Callows army with a name, uppercase or lowercase, is harmed. Archer's not even really hurt, but bruised and with minor cuts; she'll be fine for the next battle. Too bad the faceless nobodies in Callow's army don't; seven thousand are dead and while that number is laughably inadequate considering their opposition, it means they can't afford another fight, win or lose. This is a huge deal with lasting consequences.

    Hahaha, I kid again. Akua actually comes back and takes over Cat's body, which you'd think was a big deal, but isn't; she's immediately shut down. Thief and Juniper then talk about how the person who utterly broke their armies and nearly defeated them last time she was use is a potential asset, Juniper thinking she's just a weak coward despite her destroying everything in her way until Black retconed a win, and they use her as a villainous attack dog. Thief then repeatedly has her rip out her own eye, because when you're a villain and you have a pet monster, you abuse it; that never has any consequences.

    And indeed it doesn't! Neither do the deaths in her army, because Akua raises a fuckton of zombies effortlessly with Winter's power, all of them immune to normal zombie weaknesses, and they begin to slaughter the Crusaders. The heroes have to attack Akua, because they can't hold the zombies back.

    So they go and fight the person who killed 200000 innocent people and started this whole war and who's currently murdering their men with her zombie army and...Akua kicks their asses. All of them, simultaneously.

    Christ. Anyway, Akua gives control back to Cat and Cat's dropped into a completely unknown situation without warning, surrounded by nine heroes, including the Pilgrim and the Saint, while the zombie army raised from their dead comrades is off killing their friends.

    She immediately grasp and takes control of the situation, escaped them all unharmed, ends the battle in five minutes from an advantageous position, and kicks all the Crusaders out of Callow so long as she lives.

    Meanwhile, down in the Vales, Black spends a week winning on every front, slaughtering everything in his path, escaping narrative pitfalls via ???, and goes forth with his real plan unhindered and is implied to have the advantage despite destroying his only path of retreat, only way of obtaining supplies, losing most of his mages, and missing Warlock while being up against most of the heroes on the continent while engaging in pillaging, raiding, and murder, using tactics he's stated repeatedly would be the death of him.

    I predict he'll conquer Procer before the year's over, or at least make them the meat in a Dead King Sandwich. Because hell, when has there ever been meaningful narrative consequences for Black or Cat?

    Can you see why I'm growing frustrated? Masego got a new Name and punked a Faerie Princess in Chapter 33 and every major issue sense has been waved away--fuck, it's been nearly seventy chapters since a supposedly major issue wasn't solved that way, and I'm being generous by not counting anything further back then the fucking Bard pulling a retroactive narrative kill-switch out of her ass as the only meaningful defeat of the villains so far.

    And I feel like the fact that the major conflict we've been working up to for three books (and an extra thirty chapters on top) has had no payoff so far, despite two major battles happening, is a valid issue, especially with seventy chapters of handwaving problems away behind us.

    Can you see where I'm coming from here? I'm fine with Cat and Black winning all these fights, but I'd like them to do so on their own merits, and they really haven't been lately; either their problems have been waved away or all the threats they've faced have turned out to be toothless. Am I crazy here?

    By the way, you're break down of the major players is interesting and I'd like to give my own thoughts on it, but that can wait until another post.