The Abbot is back - remember her? She’s meditating when she declares “it has begun”
That is never ever ever good.
Things are heating up with the Widow’s camp. She’s been brought back to her roots by the whole execution rebellion last week; Gaius of the cheekbones points out that executing rebels is kind of what a Baron should do but she remembers that the whole point of these shenanigans was to stop maintaining the status quo - not to create a status quo empire.
Which means she’s also having doubts about the whole army surge thing because throwing away the lives of your soldiers is a very baronish thing to do. Instead she’s decided that she, Gaius-of-the-Cheekbones and Tilda-remember-her? Will lead a raid on Castle Whitebone and assassinate Baron Chau
While the rest of her army is fights to distract led by Nathaniel. Still lots of death but probably not as much.
Since it’s the eve of battle we have the necessary sexy romance and pledges of devotion because this is what one does before war. Gaius pledges his sexy loyalty to the Widow forever and ever and they kiss
And Nathaniel and Lydia have a thing too, talking about the future, kissing, sex and Lydia deciding she is coming to the war as well because a) she’s good at strategy and b) if the Widow should unfortunately get stabbed or something they may need an inspiring leader to take over
At this point Lydia is just following the Widow around waiting to jump into her shoes before they’re even cold. I imagine scenes like the following happen a dozen times a day
People: the Widow has fallen from her horse!
Lydia: Good people, fear not; though the noble Widow has fallen, I, your new Baro-
People: She’s getting up! She’s fine!
Lydia: TOTALLY LOYAL TO YOU WIDOW!
So it’s off to the wars and a really pretty fight scene with lots and lots of conveniently placed pieces of burning wood for people to fall on and be all dramatic. Also they have artillery because we need explosions despite the general sword aesthetic. Also also, absolutely no-one fought wars like this. Except for a few Big Damn Heroes everyone else is literally pairing off. It’s like a gazillion neat little duels. Also also also, I’m going to introduce pole-arms and fighting in rank and file and own this whole damn Badland.
Nathaniel, before going into battle with the vanguard tells Lydia that she must hold the line with the rear guard as they’re literally the only troops between Chau’s forces and the sanctuary and everything else. No matter what she must hold the line
Time for some Epic
Nathaniel charges through on horseback slicing and dicing as he does - and is hit by a crossbow bolt
Lydia holds the line
Nathaniel, injured and off his horse continues to fight several times his own number of men in obviously dazzling style. Several times he is severely outnumbers and nearly overwhelmed
Lydia holds the line
Nathaniel is injured again and drops his sword. A man moves in to behead him, Nathaniel seems to give up and I’m all ready to mourn him. And Lydia shoots the attacker with a crossbow. She also leads her forces in a counter attack that wins the day and makes me think Nathaniel kept waaay too many troops in reserve. Including cavalry. Why are cavalry holding your line Nathaniel?
Victory! And Lydia helps Nathaniel back to safety and healing… but plot twist: Lydia is the injured one and may actually be dying....
But these guys have just been here for distraction purposes and the true attack as Widow, Gaius and Tilda launch their assault against way too many guards through hidden passageways only Gaius knows. Tilda quickly drops back out of the way to fight some random guards while Gaius takes on and murders Chau’s Regent leaving the Widow to face off with Chau - we knew this would happen. The fight is brief and more flashy because of awesome costumes than anything and comes to close when Chau leads her into an ambush of a gazillion crossbowmen which is totally cheating. With the upper hand she takes a moment to gloat that the Widow is just another of Gaius’s flings which doesn’t shake the Widow at all because, c’mon, we’ve seen the guy’s cheekbones. He doesn’t need to declare loyalty and fight in a war to get him some.
Chau orders her men to fire… and all the crossbow bolts freeze in midair. Then fly back against the people who fired them. The Abbot has arrived and apparently she is basically god. She needs the Widow to face the big bad that’s coming, so knocks her out with a little touch to the forehead to take her with her
Y’know this whole massacre war seems a little more sad when you realise there’s someone out there who could walk through the battlefield and simple stop all these shenanigans right now. I also want to know how Abbot power compares to Pilgrim power
Speaking off - let’s get to Pilgrim and that big Big that’s coming. Sunny and Bajie arrive at the camp and Bajie is clear from the beginning that he’s not having any of this nonsense, mocking all of the followers as sheep. This is a timely reminder that Bajie was a true believer in Asra but believes he was thoroughly conned by Ankara and basically wasted his life on the whole thing. He is bitter and not remotely subtle about showing it
And we run into MK who sees Sunny and decides it’s time for some vengeance - not that Sunny knows why. While Sunny is, as always, an awesome fighter and some times even seems about to win, ultimately a Dark One always wins and Sunny is about to be turned to chunky salsa when Pilgrim intervenes and flicks MK’s off-switch.
Yes, reunion. It seems Pilgrim and Sunny - or Sunzo - knew each other as small children and Sunny and his sister even managed to save Pilgrim from those scary Black Lotus people who the River King knew who run around with very impractical melee weapons. They are apparently all prophesied and awesome and Cressida calls them “Asra’s chosen sons”
Bajie tries to derail all the chosen one speeches by making it clear he was the one who summoned them by stealing their precious items - but Cressida just puts that down to fate because it takes more than that to derail a true believer
Sunny is vaguely interested but his main concern is Henry who is getting worse and worse. He has a brief aside with MK to see if he can trust Pilgrim - though MK reveals that Sunny killed his mother and Sunny admits he’s killed so many people he can’t even remember any more. He tries to make a speech about being different people now which… was nice and kind of worked with Nathaniel… but MK? Sorry but it’s nothing but shady for the criminal to absolve himself to his victim.
Back to Henry - Pilgrim can work a temporary fix - but he can’t cure him without going through the whole Asra shininess
Which will also allow them to become gods and remake the world in their image
Bajie has a very Hard No on this one.
Especially as the minions find the Iridium Chamber, the entrance to Asra they’ve been digging for. Inside which is a combination stone circle and computer system which Pilgrim and Sunny need to turn on.
Bajie is so not amused - he sees Cressida and Pilgrim as just a new con-artist like Ankara… at least initially. But he can also, to Cressida’s surprise, read the word of Asra and we get some world building. This chamber is where, 500 years ago, the Gift was first unlocked. How shiny
500 years ago is also when the world ended and we got this dystopia. Bajie puts 2 and 2 together and comes up with Oh Fuck No. Cressida is convinced Pilgrim can control the unleashed power which, to Bajie, is a shiny way of saying “control an entire army of Dark Ones” which is a double Oh Fuck No. Cressida rubs it in by praising him as the man who made it possible.
After a brief appeal to Sunny in which Bajie realises there’s no way Sunny could ever choose anything over Henry, he tries to grab some explosives and sabotage Asra himself
It does not go to plan.
Captured he gets a front row seat to them turning on the big, shiny, stone-circle-rune-and-80s-computers thing. With compasses, as one does (still easier to work than Linux), and surprisingly Henry was cured
I’ll admit, I expected him to be sacrificed or eaten or something
And Pilgrim… is a Dark One with a super super super super ominous voice. Godking Dark One I think...
I’m going to assume this is a bad thing. Echoy voices always mean bad things.