excuse me, the FUCK just happened
see the Akua thing I actually expected
I am not good enough a writer to construct a satisfying and not convoluted sounding fic of it in my head but I hoped erratic could and I was not wrong
Akua’s motivations were leading to this all along. “Everywhere, people bleed, but here we get the full value of it”. She’s never been shy to hurt herself for greater gain, and the gain in her eyes has always been about the fun, about the ride, about being greater than herself, about making the most magnificent story she possibly could.
And also about escaping her mother, which is probably a bonus to this sudden yet inevitable not-betrayal.
God, this is so good, I expected it but I didn’t really believe it? Even after Lest Dawn Fail, even after the canon poly of Cat/Indrani/Masego, I still couldn’t quite bring myself to fully put THIS much trust into erratic’s alignment with my personal specific taste.
And yet. And yet!
The best part of it is that Akua isn’t wrong on any level. The act of doing good is fully sufficient, and the power of friendship is I think actually genuine on her part: she’s liked Cat from the beginning, we know that from her interludes. Of course Catherine cannot fully pust stock into it, and yet…
And so the sound of my fragile mortal shell being ripped into signaled it was time for everyone’s favourite Wasteland game: backstab, help or both. Akua had grown on me, rather like the bubonic plague, so I was going to give her the benefit of the doubt and put my money on ‘both’.
Catherine is used to not counting her chickens even after they hatch, because Gods will shove them back into eggs just to spite her, but she can see that this one has certainly hatched 😀
The unsettling sensation of fingers squeezing around my beating heart was coloured by the unspoken acknowledgement this was a dark mirror to Second Liesse’s ending. And to think they said Diabolist didn’t have a sense of humour.
who the HELL said that
and I love the mirror
I love it because it signals that Akua really is free and unbound, coming into her own agency: of course this would be the first thing she’d want to do. Not to hurt Catherine, not to establish herself as an equal even – she knows who lost the game – but to express herself, to make her mark. This is me, hi. I’m Akua Sahelian!
Broken thing that I was, I’d been judged harmless and only a cursory eye had been kept on me. Bad form, that. It would remiss of me not to make her pay harshly for it.
And so Catherine’s POV recedes from ‘hysterically funny from start to end’ to merely ‘occasionally witty’. Erratic is going for keeping our attention on the actual events unfolding, after all, this time, rather than having them be merely the prelude and setup for the ultimate pivot.
And Akua continues to call Catherine ‘my heart’. Nobody will ever convince me she’s not genuine about this.
“Interesting,” I repeated. “That’s a word for it. Especially considering I don’t see your hat anywhere in the ring. This was your chance to get back on top, Diabolist. There will not be another no matter the outcome.”
This is the thing about erratic’s writing that I really don’t see elsewhere.
He does not leave those things unspoken.
Characters say what they think out loud, and they confront each other over choices and decisions, and every single leap of faith or selfless move will not only be noticed, but questioned and dissected.
This is the writing that my soul needs.
“Am I not in your service?” Akua said. “Bindings are formality, not essence.”
But of course evasion is inevitable, and this is the first and ultimate kind in this kidn of situation: did you ever expect anything else? The best defense is offense, after all. And Akua is defensive over this one.
“Don’t waste our time,” I said. “She’s nearly done with the knot.”
❤ ❤ ❤
The same woman I’d met under the Name of Heiress, who’d schemed her way into becoming the Diabolist and vaingloriously raised her banners against the entire villainy of the East.
It’s no coincidence how Cat phrases this. “The woman who vaingloriously raised her banners against the entire villainy of the East” – this is an accurate description, and it’s the key to understanding Akua’s decision here. Self-preservation is, in the end, really not her thing, and reiterated again and again with her soul being ripped out, her mind knowing how to handle otherworldly influence, her appearance being willingly surrendered for Cat to mold. Akua does not fear death, she has little fear in her overall.
She’d always been gorgeous. Even when I’d first met her, before I’d learned to truly hate her, I’d thought as much. This was not Akua as she was, but as she still saw herself, and I could not call her anything but the culmination of centuries of Wasteland breeding: as beautiful as she was terrible.
The ship is literally canon. Non-mutual crush on each other ❤
“I have grown tired,” she said, “of iron.”
On a less meta level, yes. On a higher meta level, this is still it. The loser deserves to lose, the winner deserves to rise. “Iron sharpens iron” lost, and so Akua abandons it like the awkward sharp-edged relic it is. She’s after glory and fun, after all, not after her mother’s legacy.
“There’s no walking back the Folly,” I told her. “Not even for this. I’m one life, Akua. That’s the weight I have on the scales.”
And Catherine gets at the heart of the matter that I’ve also pondered for this. Erratic does not leave loose ends, and erratic does not miss obvious questions.
And Catherine does not subscribe to Protagonist-Centered Morality ❤
“I consider myself something of a theologian,” she said. “And yet I still lack the answer to one question. Perhaps you can answer it for me. Which matters most, Catherine, when it comes to doing good – the conviction or the act?”
There was a beat of silence as the enormity of what she’d just said sunk in.
It wasn’t that dramatically phrased, really. In fact, Akua deliberately stepped back into theoretical far-removed terminology.
The context gives it all the enormity it needs. Erratic relies on the reader to have followed the dramatic arc here.
No, I realized. Not redemption. The conviction or the act, she’d said. I hated to even think it, but it fit with how she’d always done things. I used stories as an arsenal, taking up and discarding what was of use to me, but Akua? She rode them into the storm like a warhorse. It had killed her, in the end, the flying fortresses and the monologues. But before it had she’d matched an entire empire blow for blow.
And I love that Catherine understands. That she can step back far enough on the meta to see the shape of Akua’s game and Akua’s story.
“I have learned much from you, darling one,” Akua Sahelian smiled. “I may fail, true. In my hour of judgement I may – most likely will – be unmade and cast into the deepest burning pits. But until then? Oh, what a glorious ride it will be.”
This, though? This, I cannot see the full shape of yet.
Akua Sahelian has yet to demonstrate, I think, how much she’s learned.
“Now, my dear Catherine,” Diabolist said, and there was joyous laughter in her voice. “Shall we save some innocents?”
At the very least, she actually understands the point better than Masego does!
(Although Masego is approaching the same point from a different direction: he cares, genuinely, he is kind, and he doesn’t need to have principles behind it to do the right thing when he’s presented with a choice anyway)
A savage joy took hold of me, sweeter than wine, and I almost laughed. Even if it was doomed, even if all was lost – I would not go quietly into the night. I would go out kicking and screaming, making an unholy mess of it. Not-lips splitting into a grin, I took hold of what remained of my mind. If you are the sea, then I am a needle, I thought. Slender and piercing and too slight to catch. Hold and release, and then the impact of our wills shook the entire web. I went through like a needle through silk, and sunk into darkness. The pressure of it was crushing, a mind so much greater than my own bearing down, and I balked. I am stone, I thought. The pebble beneath the coursing river, smooth and unmoving. I crashed at the bottom, but there I remained. Unbroken. I could do this, I thought. I was so much less, but what I was could change. Adapt. She was too large to be able to do the same so easily. The sea withdrew and I let out a relieved breath. The web was frittering, I saw. Parts that had been calmed grew riotous as Sve Noc exerted herself against me. Winter was not so easily tamed.
This, I did not expect.
I can never truly expect to fully predict someone who is genuinely a better writer than I am.
It’s always, always, always better than I think it’s going to be.
I had become unto stone, and so she became a chisel. She struck down, lumbering and unstoppable. She had become a chisel, and so I became wind: shapeless, coursing around the might of her. The chisel broke into a storm, taking hold of me, and so I became a bird. I rode the winds, and she turned into a hand. Fingers closed around me, but I was smoke and slipped through them. It was a game of riddles, where the first mistake would be the last. Smoke was inhaled by gaping maw, the maw escaped by a scuttling rat, the rat crushed by boot only for mud to stick at the bottom of the sole. Shape to shape we went, ever changing and never twice the same. I knew, instinctively, that repetition would be barred to me. Always forward, or there could be only death.
1) Guide would make an AWESOME cartoon
2) Cat’s plunged through metaphysical contexts until one where she has power, and I wonder what this is going to mean when she comes back. One doesn’t have a shapeshifting battle with a god without walking away with some spoils from the mere act of managing it, I don’t think.
There was a flicker, and I saw her long-haired silhouette again – with Diabolist stabbing away at her neck, dagger in hand. Taking your eyes off the Praesi, huh. Always a mistake, that. Akua was swatted away angrily, her shape shattered by the sheer force of the blow, but I was already moving.
Catherine’s taken her eyes off the Praesi, and it has been repaid.
Sve Noc, though? Sve Noc gets to pay the traditional price in full.
“Mortal, you meddling fucks,” I snarled. “To the end.”
I crawled into the gushing wound, spite warming me down to my petty core.
People are kvetching in the comments about Catherine getting depowered.
Where the fuck do you see ‘depowered’ here.
She’s claiming power enough to beat a god while still a mortal herself.
And then, of course, the sisters. Drow are people, no matter how snarled their culture, and the sisters truly cared once, and truly thought, and truly felt.
And the glimpse of drow culture before the fall.
And the love between the two of them.
I could have predicted the battle of mortal Catherine vs divine Sve Noc if I’d been willing to lean in enough into expecting the best of erratic.
But this? This is genuinely new, putting a new thread into the plot instead of drawing on old ones.
I don’t know what will happen, only that it will be every bit as satisfying as fairy tales are to children.
Her sister smiled, for just a moment, and it felt like dawn breaking over the room.
lest dawn fail, huh
“All it takes is a single mistake, and our entire people will pay for it,” the other drow replied, shaking her head. “There is always a mistake, ‘Mina. Always.”
A rule that’s always been known ❤
I froze. She’d not made a sound, until the moment she spoke. Not a breath, not whisper of foot on stone. I turned and there she was, standing at my side. The cloak I recognized, for she wore it in front of me as well, but there was no mask now. She had grown, I thought, beyond such petty symbols.
“Strange,” she said, head cocked to the side. “That even after all these years, I grieve that more than all the rest.”
“Andronike,” I said, meeting eyes of pure silver.
“Catherine Foundling,” the other half of Sve Noc greeted me calmly. “I believe you were looking for me.”
❤ ❤ ❤