Damages 2.2

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I could see the looks on their faces.  The adults had damn good poker masks, but even they were showing that my words had had an effect.  A woman in the Behaim circle reached for her husband’s hand, without taking her eyes off me, as though she thought she were the only one reaching for a measure of security.  Except almost everyone had a little clue like that.  The kids most of all.

I’d give three groups safe passage.  Somehow, with the how of it to be negotiated when I’d done more research.

It was interesting, to see how they all reacted to that tidbit.  I tried to take it in, taking note of who’d reacted the most.  Who was most insecure?  Who was more secure?  The responses they offered and the scale of those responses told me a lot.

The Duchamps were good at hiding their emotions.  Even down to the eight or ten year old girls sitting beside their mothers, they showed less of a reaction than many of the Behaim adults did on the other side of the aisle.

Johannes was still smiling, and the girl Maggie was leaning forward now, clearly interested.

The girl Laird had referred to as a terrorist and the guy I wasn’t supposed to interact with under any circumstances.

“Hey, that sort of sounds like a threat,” a girl said.

I turned my head to see the witch hunter.  She held a gun.

“No, Eva,” the boy said.  “It wasn’t.”

She pointed the gun at me.  I was so focused on the forces arrayed on the benches and around the edges of the room that it took me a moment to process what that meant.  A slight pull on the trigger, and I was gone.

Fuck, she had her finger on the trigger.

“Someone say the word,” Eva said.  “Threatening people, could be out of control.  Say the word, tell me he’s too dangerous to leave alive.”

“No,” Laird cut in.  “Not with the things Rose might have put in place.  If there are special measures at work, we can’t act.”

Eva dropped the gun to point it at the floor.  She smiled at me when I looked up at her face.

“Are you assuming he’s telling us the truth,” the Duchamp family’s leader said.  The blonde woman I’d seen talking to Laird.  She looked like the sort of person who would be the queen bitch at PTA meetings.

“I can’t lie,” I said.

“That doesn’t mean you’re telling us the truth,” she said.

“I’m pretty sure that’s what it means,” I said.

“What you’re saying and what you’re telling us are very different things,” she said.  “Why are you focused on your seat?  You left something behind.”

Right.  Enchantress.  She could see the connections between things.

“I have help,” I said.  “Help my grandmother left me.”

I could see her eyes studying me.  Roving over my body, my clothes, and very pointed locations around me.

“Yes.  A companion.”

“A vestige,” Laird said.

Vestige?

“Of Rose?” the North End Sorcerer asked, his eyebrows raised.

“Yes,” Padraic spoke out loud, at the same Laird said, “I don’t think so.”

I could see a few glances being exchanged at that discrepancy.

“There is something else out there,” she said.  “Back in the house.  It’s not cooperating with him at this point in time.”

Damn.

“That’s not reassuring,” Johannes said.  “Just the opposite.  A mad dog running rampant is often scarier than a dog on a leash being set on targets.”

“It depends on who’s holding the leash, doesn’t it?” I asked.

The Sorcerer dipped his head in a single nod, “It does.  Which is why I said often.  At this point, from the sense I have of you, I would be more concerned about an unleashed dog than an attack dog at your control.”

I was very, very aware of all the eyes on me.  Many of which were inhuman.  One small disparaging remark, but there were a lot of ears to hear it.

“I’ve said most of what I needed to say…” I told them, trailing off as I tried to collect my thoughts.  I thought of what I’d seen in the visions.  The way Laird had talked about sitting back, there being no need to act.  In the end, it had been someone else that had set those bird-skull things on me.

They were cooperating.  Taking turns, negotiating with each other.

I needed to put a stop to that.  Or throw a wrench into it.  And I had to think of Molly.

“…I’m making one more offer.  An altered version of the deal I just gave you.  I’m willing to do what I can to protect you against any of my grandmother’s demons that happen to run rampant, and I’d still give you free reign to come after me.  I’ll protect an enemy, if my condition is met.  Identify the person responsible for my cousin’s death.  This deal, obviously, is off the table if you did it.”

Cops in cop shows liked to do the whole thing where they’d put two perps in different rooms and let them sweat over whether the other guy would turn them in.

Maybe I was disarming myself, on a level, but I still didn’t want to use the devils.  If I could ratchet up the paranoia or turn them against one another, it was worth it.

I took in the crowd.  Now that the alarm was fading, my chance to see any more tells was gone.  I could only lose out by standing up there any longer.

I walked down the aisle, and I took my seat on the pew.

Laird took his position at the front.  He was still wearing the longer coat, hands in his pocket as he half-sat on the stage or chancel or altar or whatever it was supposed to be called.

“Well,” he said.  “Let’s get this out of the way.  Who’s interested in taking the deal?”

Wait.  What?

“Not seeing any raised hands,” Laird said.  “It’ll be good if we get this out of the way, before it gets messy.”

Negotiating here?  Now?  I’d hoped for more backstabbing, a little more chaos.

“Maggie, was it?  You perked up when he made the offer.”

“I sort of am,” she called out, from beside me.  She glanced at me, but she looked a little concerned.  “I’ve seen how things go bad, if you let them.  And that was only goblins, I think.  So how bad are these things?”

“They’re very bad,” Laird said.  “There have been cases where small towns disappeared after one got loose.  Outsiders were called in, the offending Others were dealt with, and the areas were written off.  One big symbol was drawn out in each area, to drive away the surviving locals and any visitors.  They made some efforts to erase the areas from the books, and they became the towns you pass by on road trips, but never visit.  Presentable when seen from a distance.  When this happens in bigger cities, well, you can erase a great deal of evidence with a large enough fire or a natural disaster.”

That was a little more serious than anything I’d read about.

“I’ve seen something like that happen before,” Maggie said.  “But it wasn’t… whatever you’re talking about.  Small spot, bit of a disaster, everything cleared out.  Now there’s an entire area of town people avoid.”

“I believe many of us know what you’re referring to.”

“Well, why is this so much worse?  That’s a rhetorical question.  I get that it’s a big deal, from the way you’re acting, and because I can sense that much.  But I’m curious about the why and how.”

“Let me help you understand.  Many of us here have discussed options, with the Thorburn family in mind.  We’ve grown up with this danger in mind.  I’ve talked about it with my wife,” Laird said.  He paused for a second, glancing at his wife.  I could see her move, her arm going around her children or relatives.  Two boys, two girls.

Laird drew in a deep breath, then told Maggie, “If it came down to it and Blake Thorburn sent something like that after my family, if I didn’t have measures in place, or if I didn’t feel my measures would hold, then I would use gun, knife, bludgeon, or whatever I had at my disposal to kill my family before that thing could reach them.  Because I love my family too much to do otherwise.”

There was near-silence, punctuated only by some sniggering from some of the things I took to be goblins.

“It’s a big deal then,” Maggie said.  “Why aren’t you taking the offer?”

“Because I do have measures that should be effective.  I told Mr. Thorburn as much.  Successfully managing this situation and ensuring that things progress smoothly means safeguarding the bit players.  I have the means to protect myself, I can give some to the Duchamp family as a pre-wedding gift, if they’re willing.  If Crone Mara, you and the woods girl take the deal, most of us are protected.  Blake Thorburn is rendered impotent, or he makes a mistake and removes himself as a threat.”

“And destroys us all?” Mrs. Duchamp asked.

That is something we can work on, but it’s a risk nonetheless.”

Maggie sat back, propping one of her winter boots up against the book-holder on the back of the pew in front, where the bibles and hymn sheets or whatevers were held.  “This sounds an awful lot like a trap.”

“It is,” Laird said.  “Primarily for Mr. Thorburn, removing all possible leverage he might hold.  I feel the risk to you if you take the deal is far smaller than if you don’t.”

“But it’s still a little trap for me.  For us,” Maggie said.  “And I’m betting that when all’s said and done, you come out ahead.”

“Yes.  Alongside the Duchamps, in keeping with our alliance.  But we’re all better off, Mr. Thorburn excepted, and he would be largely removed as a threat.”

“No.  Drat that,” Maggie said.  “Drat you.  I’ll do what I want.”

Her way of swearing seemed odd.  It had in the vision where I’d first seen her, too.  I felt a measure of relief and concern.  She wasn’t an ally, per se, but at least she wasn’t playing Laird’s game.

Laird said, “I thought I was being polite, including you.  Johannes, Crone Mara, and the girl from the glades, then?”

“I seem to be your last pick among the local practitioners,” Johannes said.  When I craned my head to look, he was smirking.  “I’m mildly offended.”

“Offended or not, are you interested?  We might as well settle this now.”

“I’ll hear what the Briar Girl and Mara have to say, before I make any decision.”

The Briar Girl shifted position.  She was plain, her hair a mess, with a twig stuck in the back somewhere.  Her winter clothes were layered, a little scuffed at the edges of the sleeves and pant leg.  She was wearing pyjamas beneath the jeans.

The spirit walked along the back of the pew with a coyote’s legs, until it stood directly behind her, leaning in to whisper in her ear with a beaked mouth.

“When the house’s occupants are gone, the woods and marshes there are mine,” she said.

“In what sense?” Laird asked.

“In every sense.  I want it like Johannes has the north end.”

“You want it uncontested as your demesnes, you mean.”

“Yes.”

“A bit too steep of a price, I suspect.  You’re not paying attention to the context of this situation.  We need to drain the marshes to let the city expand, which is something we require to further all of our interests, yours included.”

“I am paying attention.  I don’t care,” the Briar Girl said.  The spirit’s beak was partially open still by her ear, serrated with sawlike teeth.  One of its large yellow eyes were fixated on Laird.  “The city will expand all the same, but it will expand slower.  More expensive for you.  It’ll still get where you want it to get.  When it does, I’ll have all those woods and marshes.  One way or another.”

“I see.  Then there’s no use in asking the others,” Laird said.

“I doubt I would have accepted, in any case,” Johannes said.  “Just saying.”

I glanced at Mara.  She sat alone, eyes fixed in front of her, hands in her lap, very still.

Nobody had really talked to her yet.  Did she say or do anything?

Laird was nodding, frowning.

“My rose has done what she aimed to,” Padraic said.  “You’ve offended two of us, Aimon Behaim.  Johannes and me both.”

“I’m not Aimon, my name is Laird,” Laird said.

Padraic looked a touch annoyed at being corrected.  “Aimon, Laird, Lame Airhard, no matter.  You’ve wounded me, ignoring me in this critical moment.  I have far more to lose than you, don’t I?  An immortal lifespan, against, what, thirty more of your years?  Twenty of your wife’s?  Sixty two of one daughter’s, fifty one of another, one of a son’s life?  Add them together for your family as they are now and you have, what?”

One of his companions I hadn’t yet met said something under his breath.  The numbers Padraic had given were eerily specific.  Laird didn’t even flinch, hearing them, didn’t glance at his children.

“Eight hundred and seven years, for your extended family?  Paltry,” Padraic said.  He made a face, “In terms of the years I’m expected to live, I’m much more important.  Yet you dismiss me.”

“I’d planned to make offers to you and many of the remaining Others, to ensure everyone was on stable footing before proceeding,” Laird said.

“Well,” Padraic said, leaning back, “What would you offer?  I’m going to be insulted if you don’t make a good suggestion, now.”

“Despite the fact that we’re no longer negotiating?”

“Exactly so.  It’s a question of my pride.  How do you value my remaining lifespan, Behaim?”

“I’d thought I might offer to talk to the Queen that exiled you, and see if I could offer to make you a familiar to one of my grandchildren.  I could fund him or her, so they could travel, freeing you from your imprisonment here for a time.”

“She wouldn’t accept, and the offer is weak at best,” Padraic said.  “Putting the rest of my life at risk for a mere forty or so years of mild adventure?  Try again.”

I clenched my hands in my lap.  Had I set Laird back, here?  A small success?

“Your kind aren’t in my realm of expertise.  Sandra?  I apologize for asking, but-”

The Duchamp’s leader nodded, all the way in the frontmost pew.  The blonde PTA-bitch woman stood as Laird sat down beside his wife.  She composed herself, then said, “What would you ask for, Patrick?”

“That’s cheating.”

“I’m still asking.  I’ll try to make you a counteroffer.”

“One of Laird’s generations.  Grandchildren, grand-nieces and nephews, and the children of his cousins.”

“That has the unfortunate consequence of ending his line.”

Padraic smiled.  “I could return them, more or less in one piece.  Let them age up to twenty or so, educate them.  It would be novel, and if we kept some in reserve and staggered out when and how we returned them, we could amuse ourselves for hundreds of years.”

“I see,” Sandra Duchamp said.  “Here’s my counteroffer: what if I offered a messenger?”

“The Queen won’t listen,” Padraic said, sighing.

“To other banished Faerie, in other cities and towns.  Until our family line ends or the Queen is replaced and the court dynamic changes up once again.”

“Springtime,” Padraic said.  “Mm.  That would have been a good offer.  Paved the way for an insurrection of sorts.”

“Perhaps,” Sandra Duchamp said.  “That would be dangerous for my family.  I was thinking of maintaining some connection to the courts, in a peripheral manner.”

“Nonetheless, I’m pacified.  I no longer feel slighted.”

“Then,” Sandra Duchamp said, “Thorburn’s offer remains open, I will know who accepts it, if anyone does.  Let’s set that matter aside so we’re free to move on.   The murder of Molly Walker?”

Laird responded without standing, “It’s largely under wraps.  The investigation will hit a dead end on its own.”

“Any assistance needed?”

“No.  I’ll keep an eye on things.”

“Good,” Sandra said.  It seemed like she was leading things, now.  Was leadership exchanged so easily?  “In terms of more mundane business… Toronto is currently in the dark.  Provided there aren’t any further interruptions, my family should be able to divert attention for the time being.  I’ve had a short discussion with the Lord of Ottawa, and she is on board, keeping her subservients at bay.”

“The smaller towns in the GTA?”  The Briar Girl asked.

“Stable, expressing no interest and exerting no pressure.  I see only three or four individuals or groups that might make make an active play, and they are doing no such thing.  The remainder would sell us out to Toronto’s Lord or try to sell us out to Ottawa and inform us.  For the time being, we’re the only individuals in play, here.”

There were nods all around.  I saw some of the Others leaving.  Apparently those were the only major points they were interested in hearing.

“Next order of business.  I’m obligated to call it to a vote.  Flagrant use of one’s practice in public, acting against the local powers.  Maggie Holt.”

The witch hunter girl at the front perked up at that.  So did Maggie.

“Excusable use,” Maggie said.  “Nobody even thought it was anything suspicious.”

“To sanction the use of the Jacob’s Bell witch hunters to execute Maggie Holt, please vote,” Sandra Duchamp declared.

The Briar Girl raised her staff.  One member of Laird’s family, a teenage boy with brown hair, raised a golden disc, held between crossed index and middle fingers.  He looked back at Maggie, and she rolled her eyes.

Nobody else in the room raised their implements.  Not even the woman who called the vote.  What was the proper course of action if we didn’t have implements to raise?  Raising our hands?  Or were we not allowed to vote?

“Two yeas, the remainder of the votes are nay.  The execution is not passed,” Sandra Duchamp said.  “Be careful.  You have very few friends here.  When we’re not following so soon after one execution, we may prove more willing to vote against you.”

I saw Maggie sit back a little.  She was a little relieved, or she’d hidden the tension well.

The discussion continued, along the same lines.  Outside players, minor internal disputes over who was doing what, and all of the other details that went into maintaining the balance of power.

“…And with that, the meeting is called to order,” Laird Behaim said.  He’d taken over again when Sandra’s voice had started to give out.  He opened his pocket watch.  “Seven forty-four.”

That seemed to be the end of it.  The remaining crowd picked up and got ready to leave, pulling on winter clothes, gathering implements and tools.  I was among them, getting my jacket on before pulling on the backpack of weapons and tools.

Many of the Others were gone.  Most of the ones who remained were still human in appearance.

Nobody seemed interested in talking to me, so I made my way outside.

“Not exactly the result you wanted,” Rose murmured, as we passed outside.  The mirror was still sticking out of the top of my backpack.

“Not a bad result either,” I said.  “Do you object?  Bad plan?”

“No.  I would have liked more time to consider it, but there are worse ideas.  What was with that bit at the end?  You won’t use devils to attack someone, but they can attack you?”

I nodded.  “I needed some incentive.  I didn’t have time to stand there thinking about it, so I went with the most obvious thing.”

“Right.  Well.  Thoughts?”

“Getting home, seeing if anyone expresses interest, get more reading done.”

“Shopping?  Food?”

“Stores close in twelve minutes, and I don’t want to dally.  If it comes down to it, I can live off what’s in the house now, at least until next month.”

“Grim,” Rose said.

“Tell me about it,” I said.  “Remind me of this idiotic call, a little while from now.”

“Will do.”

“Something else we need to talk about,” I said, “Is this vestige thing.  It’s the… second or third time I’ve heard it, and I’m pretty sure you referenced it, one of those times.”

“Talking to yourself, Mr. Thorburn?”

I wheeled around.  Rather than stop, I kept walking backwards.

Johannes and Maggie.  North End Sorcerer and the girl with the checkered scarf.

And, I had to note, a small contingent of goblins.  The dog walked alongside Johannes, through slush and snow, the long hair not getting wet or dirty.  Johannes wore a white coat, and it was pristine.

Maggie, by contrast, had specks and spots of gray-brown grime on her leggings, with circles of wet spreading around them.  Her skirt and hair blew around in the wind, and she hunched over, hands jammed in her pockets, as she trudged on.

Most of the goblins were children, paying very little attention to us as they hopped onto nearby cars or walls.  Two were large.  Gorilla-like things, ugly as hell, stark naked, their faces bent in permanent scowls.  A child-like goblin jumped on the shoulders of one of the larger ones.  A moment later, it was seized and smashed against the nearest lightpost.

“I’m talking to my companion,” I said.  Might as well admit it.

“Yes.  You are,” Johnannes said.  “I’m liking how quickly you’re picking this up.  The language, turns of phrase used to redirect, to mislead.  You’re talking to your companion, yes, but you’re not denying that you’re talking to yourself.”

He knew?  Even Laird hadn’t made any obvious connections.

“You’ve been watching?” I asked.

“Yes.  Everyone has, to some degree.”

“You up for the deal?”  I asked.

“Didn’t you hear?” Johannes asked.  “Behaim wants us to take the deal.  It leaves everything in the hands of the two more powerful circles in Jacob’s Bell.  Chaos is minimized, and they can take whatever action they need to in order to remove you.”

“Why not call an execution against me?” I asked.  “Seems easy enough.”

“Laird promised you safety.  He’s walking a fine line, trying to keep you in a position to threaten others while ensuring you’re manageable and that the situation stays stable,” Johannes said.  “It’s most advantageous to him, because it lets him present traps to Maggie, the Briar Girl, Mara and me like he did tonight.  He’s secure enough that any trouble you cause will set others back more than it sets him back.  If you fail in that role, he kills you and finds an equilibrium with the next heir.”

Maggie said, “It’s like he lives his life by the ticking of that clock of his, orderly, tidy, neat, but he thrives on controlled chaos.”

“If-” a voice started behind me.  It cut off when I turned.  Rose.  “If the execution was only stayed today because of the promise he made, what’s stopping him from doing it next month?”

“A very good question, miss…?” Johannes let the question hang.

“I don’t know if I should answer that.”

“Miss Mirror.  A good question,” Johannes said.  “The obvious answer is that he won’t call for an execution if you’re useful to him.  He can use the threat you pose as a distraction or a tool, apparently.  He’s not worried, because he seems to think he has an answer to whatever you might send his way.  How is that?  How would he know what you have at your disposal and how to respond?”

“Aimon,” Rose said.  “She was close to Aimon, once?”

“Well, that’s one idea,” Johannes said.  “You can then give some thought to a way around it.  If you were to get your hands on a dark Other of horrendous power, is it possible that Laird might not have an answer to it?”

“Depends on what the answer is,” I said.  “Could be some contract she made with every Other in her books.  Could be a tool, or some excerpts from the books.”

“Very true,” Johannes said.  “So?”

“So,” Rose said.  “I’m wondering why you’re ‘helping’ us.”

“Are you wondering?” Johannes replied.  “Mr. Blake Thorburn, why do you think I’m helping?”

“Maybe because it’s a danger to Laird, and you lose nothing if I fail.”

“If you fail badly enough, I could lose everything.  In order of severity, there’s failure where you’re ineffectual, failure where you get yourself killed, and greater failure still where you might get everyone here killed.  But yes.  I lose nothing of substance by helping, and I could see Laird Behaim unseated, removed or disconcerted.  I like that,” Johannes said.

“Which brings us back to what we were talking about before,” Maggie said.  “How do you mess with Laird?  I’m thinking, if he’s got his protections, he either has them on his person, which is unlikely since he’s protecting his whole family.  They could be more abstract sorts of protections, or he’s set them up somewhere.”

I nodded slowly.  “Abstract meaning something like my grandmother made a promise to Aimon that the Behaims would all be safe, then signed deals to put it into motion.”

No.  It didn’t make sense that she’d leave me something like that if there was no way to use it against Laird.  I didn’t say that out loud.

“And?”  Johannes asked, cutting into the silence that had followed my statement.

“The prepared protections,” Rose said, “Are protections that are arranged already.  Safe ground?”

Johannes nodded.  “It could be barriers, weapons, wards, or other safeguards.  He prepares them in advance, then pulls his family back to safety if he expects you’re going to attack.  It’s likely it would be somewhere accessible.”

I said, “That means I’d have to find his place.  If I disposed of the safeguards and prevented him from erecting any more, he loses his bargaining chip.”

“That would be the natural conclusion,” Johannes said.  “Getting into his place to do anything would be the real difficulty.  His home is his demesnes, and any protections he has against demons, devils and infernal things might be supplemented with protection against the practitioner that might command them.”

Over and over again, there were these dead ends.  Couldn’t get a familiar, implement, or demesnes without other assets.  Couldn’t attack Laird.

“You’re not really thinking about doing this, are you?” Rose asked.  Asked me.

“No,” I said.  “I don’t think it’s doable.”

“I don’t either,” Johannes said.  “Returning us to the question of how you protect yourself.  From a vote of execution or otherwise.  You most likely can’t scare him into submission, you won’t be able to maintain the balance he wants indefinitely.  Which would only be delaying the inevitable, by the by.  That leaves you two options, as I see it.”

He had a tone to his voice.  As though he was waiting for me to ask what those options were.

Why?

I’d ask and he would…

“You want payment, in exchange for you sharing what those options are?”  I asked.

“Or you can name them yourself.  I’m not picky,” he said.

We walked on in silence, boots squeaking and crunching in the snow.

“When we first saw you, you offered help.  For a price,” Rose said.

“That’s one of the two options,” Johannes said.  “I’m suspicious that any price I ask would be minor at best, compared to what you’d have to pay one of Rose Thorburn’s Other acquaintances.  If you know what I mean.”

There was a moment of silence as we considered.  Johannes seemed content to enjoy the silence.  Maggie was quiet in general.

I asked, “They’re both allied against me?  The Behaim Circle and Duchamp coven?”

“Most likely.  They’re united by the marriage that is coming to pass.  It makes them powerful.  Not as powerful as me, but powerful.”

I nodded.  “And I can’t stop the marriage?  Split them apart?”

“I don’t imagine you could.  The idea I had was a simpler one.  Think.  What’s the issue you face?”

The issue?  Me being in Maggie’s shoes, seeing those hands go up, and the witch hunter with awful trigger etiquette.

“If the danger is a vote of execution,” I said, “We could theoretically win over enough people that they couldn’t get the majority.”

“Do all members of the family count?” Rose asked.  “There’s no way, if they do.”

“The senior member of each family unit gets one vote,” Johannes said.  “All put together, that is three from the Duchamps, and four from the Behaims.”

“Seven,” I said.

“Myself, Maggie, The Briar Girl, Mara, Padraic, two Others, at a minimum,” Johannes said.  “You might want more, in case any Others decide to vote against you.  A slim chance, but you have one month.”

“Except I can’t step outside for that one month,” I said.  “I do, I have to face down whatever spells or traps they’ve laid for me.”

“I’m hated,” Johannes said.  “Why am I free to roam?”

“You’re powerful,” I said.  I glanced back at the goblins.  “And you’ve got help.”

Another catch-twenty-two.  Get powerful so I could go outside, but I needed to go outside so I could get more powerful.

It all came down to power.

“If it’s not a vote of execution you face, having any or all of the named individuals helping you would still protect you against the family.  Win each of us over, use us.”

“Be used in turn,” Rose said.

“Naturally,” Johannes said.

“Speaking of.  You have the one measure that was put in place,” Rose said.

Measure?  I turned my head.

Oh.  She was talking about what I’d brought up at the meeting.  I’d been talking about Rose, but I’d let them think I was talking about something else.  Something that could release the barber if I was hurt or killed.

Would fear work?

“I do,” I said.  “I’m not really a fan of any option that works only after I get brutally murdered.”

Leading Johannes and Maggie to believe that there was a safeguard in place.  But the truth was, I wasn’t a fan of that sort of option.  Generally speaking.

“Food for thought,” Johannes said.  He pointed at a busier road, though ‘busy’ was a misleading term, when one referred to sleepy Jacob’s Bell.  A car every minute or two.  “I’m going this way.”

“You’re not taking the deal?” I asked, again.

“We’ll see.  There’s no rush,” he said.  “We really should talk again.  You know where to find me.  Ask politely before you come, and there should be no issue.  Miss Mirror?”

“Yes?” Rose asked.

“You would find yourself in good company, should you visit.”

With that, he walked off, his familiar beside him, goblins following, darting into shadows as cars passed down the road.

Leaving me with Maggie and the two largest goblins.

“Good company?” Rose asked.

“You’re an Other,” Maggie said.  “That place is like an Other’s amusement park.  There, it’s like the old days, before the Seal of Solomon.  Before humans were really able to fend for themselves.”

“This is sanctioned?” I asked.  Hard to imagine there hadn’t been a vote against Johannes.

“No,” Maggie said.  “What does it matter?  The area is his.  Purely his.  The only person who gets a say is him.”

“That doesn’t sound like my kind of company,” Rose said.  “Killing people, picking them off…”

“Maybe he meant something else?” Maggie asked.  She shrugged in answer to her own question.

“We’re walking this way,” I pointed.  “You?”

“Same.  Straight all the way down to the lake.”

“Same direction for a bit, then turning off to one side,” I said.

Maggie looked back at her giant goblins, said, “Come on.”

We walked together.

“You’re friends with Johannes?” I asked.

“Not really.  I mean, some common ground.  Acquaintances, but not friends.  Neither of us are big fans of the old guard.  But, you know, you can’t really interact fairly with someone when there’s this big an imbalance in power.”

“No,” Rose said.

I didn’t have anything to say to that.

“Blake is a member of the old guard,” Rose said.  “Just so it’s clear.  Old family, old knowledge.”

“But you two are clueless,” Maggie said.  “You don’t know jack.  You just got awakened, you just got introduced to this whole shebang.”

“Give us time,” I said.  “We’re working on it.”

“The rest of those guys out there?  They don’t want you to have time.  They’re going to use you, get you killed, then do the same for all the rest of them.”

“And you?” I asked.

“And me.  I might be happier if you stay alive.  That way there are more chances to use you.  I don’t get much from offing you.  Bit of a boost in raw power, but that only puts the grand kibosh on all of this.  The guys in charge stay in charge, and us runts stay on the bottom.  What’s the point of moving everyone up five rungs on the ladder, if you’re still going to be three rungs below the next pleb?”

“I think that depends on your motivations,” I said.  “If you’re trying to achieve something, then it’s good.  If you want power for power’s sake, then no, it doesn’t help.”

We had reached the street I turned off at.  I stopped, and Maggie stopped too.

“What do you want?” she asked.

I thought back to the oath I’d made while awakening.  “Freedom, safety, I want to help my family, past, present and future.  I want to help my… companion here.”

“Yeah?” Maggie asked.  “Huh.”

“What do you want?” Rose asked.

“I can’t put it to words.  I feel dumb if I say it out loud.  But power helps everything.  Knowledge is power.  I want knowledge and power.”

“Where’d you get knowledge in the first place?”  I asked.

She reached for her bag, rifled inside, and retrieved a small binder.

“All here,” she said.  She hugged it against her stomach with both hands.

The way pages stuck out, how some of them seemed like newspaper, some like printer paper, and some clearly lined, it seemed more like a scrapbook than what it really was.  A tome, a spellbook.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked.  “Or… how did you make it?”

“Started off with a bit.  Long story.  Gathered the rest myself, piece by piece.  Dealing, trading, competing for it.”

“Want more?” I asked.

She raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve got a whole library of books,” I said.  “But I need help.”

“You want to deal?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I said.  “If my companion doesn’t object and-”

“I don’t object,” Rose said.

“-and if you can clarify what Laird was talking about, when he referred to you as a terrorist.”

“I hate that word,” Maggie said.  “It’s so overused.”

“Is it inaccurate?” I asked.

“No, but that’s because it’s vague.  Using fear to achieve political aims?  Define ‘using fear’.  Define ‘political’.  That Behaim guy is a terrorist.  So is Sandra Duchamp.  So is Johannes.  So are you.”

“I’m using fear so I can survive,” I said.

“You’re raising your status in people’s estimation.  That’s political.”

“That’s pushing the definition,” I said.

“So is Laird!  You want my answer, on why he’d call me that?  There you go.”

I frowned.

“What?” Maggie asked.  “It’s the only real answer I can think of.”

“I need more information before I can make a call,” I said.  “But I’m going to get back.”

“There are still hours of safety,” Maggie said.

“There are.  But my bag is getting pretty heavy, and I’m not sure I trust the general definition of hours, with Laird around, or the definition of safety, with, well, just about anyone I’ve met here.”

“You’re leaving me hanging?”  Maggie asked.  “If I could say anything crude, I’d say it now.  I… can’t even allude to it.  Blue.  You’re leaving me blue.”

“Sad?” Rose asked.

Maggie groaned in frustration.

“We’re going to meet again,” I said.  “For now, though, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m overly cautious.  I seem to recall you saying something about the noobs being easy marks.”

“You heard that,” Maggie said.

“We can meet sometime this week, maybe negotiate a deal.  After… my partner and I have slept on it.  My info for your backup,” I said.  “If I can find a way to safely leave Hillsglade House, and if I can feel a bit more confident about working alongside you.”

“How bad could I be?” Maggie asked.

I looked at her, framed by the two monstrous brutes that were following her.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Let’s not find out.  I’ll talk to you later?”

She shrugged.  “Maybe.”

I turned to go.

From the main road, it was only a little ways to get to the Hillsglade property.  The only hassle was the uphill nature of the walk.

“Watch my back?” I asked.

“Sure,” Rose said.

I trudged along until the house came into view.

“We okay?” I asked.

“I’m not sure how to answer that,” she said.  “Generally?  No.  I don’t think we’re okay at all.  We’re probably going to die.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Are you okay?  No.  Am I okay?  No.”

“Now you’re intentionally misunderstanding me,” I said.  I added a quick, “I think.”

“I am.  Are we okay as a pair?  No.  We aren’t.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I get that.”

“The mirrors are nice.  I appreciate the mirrors.”

“Good,” I said.

“But we’re still not in a good place.  Could a black slave be friends with his master, back in the day?  Sure.  I imagine there were some slaveowners who were pretty cool, didn’t beat or punish their slaves, were generous and kind…”

“That analogy is pretty damn unfair,” I said.  “I didn’t choose for you to be like this.”

“Child of the slaveowner, then?”

I would have reminded her that she was supposedly playing ball.  At the same time, I was glad she was arguing with me.  It beat the utter defeat she’d showed me earlier.

“I want to do what I can to free you from your prison, my metaphorical slave,” I said.  “I swore it when I did the ritual, just like I told Maggie, back there.”

Rose was quiet, now.  I didn’t hear a response from the mirror.

“What was that bit, before, about vestiges?”  I asked.

“We were interrupted,” she said, quiet.

“What was it?” I asked her, again.  I didn’t want to get distracted from the topic.

“Vestiges.  They’re… like shadows.  A simulacrum is an effective double of another individual, a near-perfect simulation.  You’ve got dopplegangers, Others that copy a person’s appearance, hiding inside a simulacrum.  A reflection of a person, but with something different and frequently malevolent at the core.  Erasing a person so they can take over their lives.  Usually ending in disaster and murder.”

“Sure,” I said.

“There are glamours and illusions.  Images, but little more than that.  Living, alive, pretendings.  Ghosts, which are usually emotional or mental impressions made on the world.  Trauma, powerful ideas, they leave something behind, that you see out of the corner of your eye.  Tied to some glimmer of the person that was, at the time of death, twisted by time and a degrading memory of their self.”

“And vestiges?”  I asked.

“Fit somewhere in the middle.  A flawed simulacrum, or a ghost that left a deep enough impression in reality that you can use that impression as a mold.  Memories, complex thought, they’re flexible.  There’s a book on vestiges in the library.  They’re interesting to work with because they can be altered.  Strong enough that you can mold them, without them being too rigid.”

“Molded?” I asked.  “As in… changing a gender?  Memories?”

“Exactly,” Rose said.

“You know what you are, then.”

“Not even a copy.  You want to know the reason for my big turnaround?  Why I’m accepting my fate as a tool?  That’s it.  I know what I am now.  I know the built-in limitations.”

“Limitations?”

“Read the book,” she said, from the mirror, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I had an ugly idea of what she was referring to.

“Rose,” I said.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.  “Later, Blake.”

“I wanted to ask about-” I said.

But something told me she wasn’t there.  Except for the crunching of my boots, there was only silence.  She was gone.

I made my way up the driveway.  Once safely inside, I locked the door, checked the windows, and then headed for the library.  I didn’t see Rose in any of the mirrors.

I searched the shelves until I found the book she’d been talking about.

Vestige:  Glimmers and Gasps

The title only reaffirmed the ugly feeling I had in my gut.

I scanned the table of contents.  The title of one chapter pretty much gave it away.

Duration.

I read the entire chapter, first leaning against the railing, book in hand.  Then I read some sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Vestiges were flexible, like Rose had said.  They could be molded.

But Vestiges were impermanent.  Sand castles.  Given time, given external pressures, they started to degrade.  Over time, the degradation got worse, to the point that it took more and more effort and energy to keep them intact.

What was the power source that was driving her?

How much time did she have?

I finished the chapter, then closed the book.  The cover had a silver image of half a mask, pressed into the leather.  The other half of the mask was black, without any eye, nose or mouth.  Half real, half shadow.

When I looked up, my eyes roving over the room, I saw Rose in the mirror, sitting in the chair at the desk.

I joined her on the lower floor, book still in hand.  Next on my reading list.

“Before we left for the meeting, I thought you said there wasn’t a book to explain you,” I said.

“I said there wasn’t a book to explain why Grandmother summoned me.”

“Ah.  Why didn’t you say any of this before?”

“Because you were focused on the meeting?  Because there were two ways this could really go?  You’d either get upset or distracted, and that would throw you off your game, or you wouldn’t, and that would throw me off mine?”

“If it helps,” I said, “I’m feeling pretty off my game.  I feel pretty horrible.”

“Yeah?  Well now we’re more on the same page,” she said.  “Question is, what do we do about it?”

“Can I just spend a minute or ten feeling like a shitheel?” I asked.

“You can, but we’ll need to figure something out after that.”

“We will,” I said.  “Fuck.

I stood there for a minute, in the middle of the room, so I could see where Rose sat at the desk.  I felt the weight of the book in my hand.

“I’m here for a purpose, Blake,” Rose said.  “And I’m only here for a little while.  We need to figure out what that purpose is.”

“Fuck that,” I said.  “I made a promise I’d help you.  That doesn’t mean using you and throwing you away to fall apart.”

Again, looking at her, I could see her withdrawing, a trace of anger in her expression.  As if me speaking out on her behalf was somehow worse than me being a jerk.

I didn’t get it.

“What, then?” she asked.  She was managing to hide the expression, now.  “What do you do, if you’re so bent on helping me?”

“Like Maggie said, knowledge and power.  They’re one and the same, and they go a long way.  Let’s figure something out.”

“I don’t need rescue, Blake.”

You do, I thought.  But I said, entirely honest, “I need help.  I meant it, and I need your help above all else.  I’m going to do what I can to keep you around.”

“That’s just selfish enough I can believe it,” she said.

“Good,” I said.  “So, let’s talk strategies.”

“Strategy?”

“Tell me how this sounds.  If you like the idea, we’re going to hit the books, and we’re going to make sure it won’t come back to bite us in the ass.  Dear Mr. RCMP Officer, you should know that Laird Behaim was at a function at the church last night.  He has admitted in earshot of several people that he knows something about who murdered Molly Walker and how.

“There are a hundred ways that could bite us in the ass.”

“We’ll double check each one,” I said.  “What are they going to do?  Try to kill us more?  He wants to use us as leverage?  We throw something other than horrifying hell-beasts his way.  Question is, what do you think?”

“I think it’s something.  Provided we double check the rules, make sure we’re not getting ourselves executed.  You want to attack his position?”

“Throw him for a bit of a loop,” I said.  “We can build on it.  Get some people pulled in for questioning.  Put them on the spot, see how they do when they’re interrogated and can’t lie.”

“Kids,” Rose said.  “Get the kids in that interrogation room somehow.  They won’t be as savvy.  They’ll let something slip.”

I thought of how the Behaim kids had done a poor job of concealing their fear and surprise.

“It’s dirty,” I said.  I smiled some.  “Dirty is good.”

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228 thoughts on “Damages 2.2

  1. God I really hope you know what you’re doing, Blake.

    Also, kudos to people who guessed the “your days are numbered” thing.

      1. They are, aren’t they? It doesn’t help that both major circles want him to take the door that reads “Curl up and die.”

  2. Dirty is good.

    And necessary.

    The usual expression is that ‘youth and skill’ lose to treachery… and age.

    He doesn’t begin to have experience.

    Trying to bring in an IA investigation against the local chief of police, who also happens to be a practitioner… won’t work. Or it will, but only by bringing in the Lord of Ottowa or Toronto or some similar heavyweight, which would make for a much bigger mess.

    Laird’s belief in his own, and his family’s, immunity explains much of why he’s willing to cause chaos. I do think he must be confident in his defenses, or he’s the stoniest bluffer to ever live.

    Still wondering if he thinks that Behaim blood runs through the veins of Blake, and that that would give him some possible advantage.

    Interesting that only the children took the threat seriously, and suggestive that no one will find Blake particularly formidable until Blake can manage something under his own power.

    1. An Internal Affairs audit on him would actually be a bit more of a nuisance than it would be for any normal cop. Being a practitioner will probably make it more problematic than if he were a simple mundane cop, seeing as an investigation has a chance of exposing his other job. Meanwhile, devoting energy to fighting that off leaves him vulnerable to the numerous other parties who would capitalize on the opportunity to bring him down a notch. Seeing as Laird has already tried to kill him once and is actively undermining him, I don’t really see much to lose for Blake.

      I could imagine the disruption giving Maggie Holt the opportunity to retaliate for the execution vote Laird brought against her. Padraich might cause some grief simply because he’s bored, and I imagine Johannes would find it a bit easier to make a power grab.

    1. No, it went better than expected.
      Blake’s being careful not to let the enchantresses see what he’s doing.
      If he’s smart, he’ll get MORE careful. Mix hatred (active) with friendship…
      Let brew.

  3. I’ve been thinking. . . Blake should become a blue mage. That way, as long as he survives the attacks against him, he will constantly, and easily, be building up new skills for himself.

        1. Yup. An FF blue mage. Seriously, even as a novice, if Blake casts just one L5 death, he can end a good deal of his enemies probably.

  4. Aim for the kids, Blake. After all they are the future.
    And Padraic telling Laird that one of his boys only has one year left?
    Dang

    On another note, poor Rose. Now Blake has to worry about her fading away too.

      1. I personally suspect that the enchantresses will kill the chronomancer groom after their blushing bride has conceived an heiress of the Behaim blood.

  5. Hmm. Johannes is precisely the kind of smart, chaotic neutral character I adore. Obviously not at all one of the good guys, but certainly at odds with the lawful “good” templars guys like Laird think they are. As an ally, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, but as an enemy of an enemy, he’s perfect.

    Maggie is, for lack of any clear alternatives, the apparent love interest, and will remain so until and unless the notion is jossed or another non-relative, non-Other age appropriate female is named. So far her only possible competition is Briar Girl. I think that’s… Unlikely, but if anyone wants some ship-to-ship combat, bring it on.

    A thought occurs on the desmasne/familiar issue: Can the lawyers provide some level of assistance in laying a claim and dealing with challengers? Secondarily, can Blake afford such assistance?

    I must note I really enjoy seeing Blake finally interact with people. It feels like its been a while, and characters like Padraic and johannes are just fun to watch at work. Laird was about was genuinely scared of Padraic, clearly implying that even as an outcast, he’s a top tier player… And that Laird’s defenses against Thorburn demons are only against Thorburn demons.

    But, allegedly, not against Barbie. Pride goeth before a fall, ja?

    More thoughts to come, assuredly.

    1. I think that relegating Maggie to the role of “love interest” is a pretty limited assessment of the breadth of potential in her and Blake’s interactions. I mean, she’s made it pretty clear that the only reason that she’s not into killing him is that the power she’d get out of it would be minimal in comparison to effort and the potential gains she could reap by leaving him alive so that she can use him, but that’s not really a recipe for romance. And why is it necessary that a female character must first be evaluated as a potential love interest, as opposed to primarily evaluating her as a political player and practitioner, with romantic interest, provided compatible sexualities and mutual interest, being a distant third?

        1. Interesting to note how either nobody knows who killed Molly, or they’re all scared enough of whoever did it that they’re willing to turn down guaranteed immunity to anything RDT might have left in store. It must have been a heavy-hitter or someone good enough to keep it quiet, given the apparent lack of any outside players. My bet is on Johannes, personally.

          1. Huh, that’s weird. I meant to post this to the bottom. And it lost my reply to Meister, as well. Ah, well. I’ll wait till morning.

          2. After a recent execution was mentioned at the meeting, I just assumed Molly was voted against and thereby executed, I assume that by the Witch Hunters.

            1. It is definitely a possibility.

              It also explains some things, like why she was outside. I see it happening like this – she tries her best for the first few months, but clearly felt her usefulness was reaching its limit. Guessing that she would be killed at the upcoming session, she tried to run for it beforehand…

              … or something else entirely. Investigating it as a subplot would prove interesting. And I really like the fact that Blake makes it personal.

            2. They must have had help from a Practitioner though. The Witch Hunters chase her out and then a Practitioner kills her seeing as Laird said that there had been evidence of Tools being used on Molly.

        2. Because some of us are hopeless romantics who love heartwarming love stories? Though we may be in the wrong place. But we do have that damn marriage clause… And if that one can’t gender switched it might be a bitch for Blake.

      1. I don’t think it’s so much that she’s relegated to the role, as that she’s the only character yet introduced who would seem to potentially qualify. Way too early to make predictions though, especially with all those Duchamp ladies.

        1. Also that. Though I think a LOT of things will have to change before a Behaim or Duchamp would accept such a proposal. Not impossible of course, as changing things is Wildbow’s stock in trade here, but nonetheless unlikely with the current status quo.

          Of course, the Duchamps are all about relationships, and as I said during last chapter, a lot of demons can compel “love.”

          Glassware, Mayhem, please understand I’m only projecting based on available information synthesized with the usual tropes and laws of narrative causality. One of the reasons I like Wildbow is because he is one of the few authors I’ve come across who can actually surprise me. Suffice to say, I treasure novelty in my novels. Being right is great. Being wrong, orgasmic.

          Let that mental image sink in for a while. Yeah.

          Yeah.

          1. The primary issue being that the tropes and “laws” you’re drawing upon are terribly, hilariously sexist.

            I do agree with you that shipping is fun, but I believe that a character should be evaluated primarily on their own merit as opposed to their value as a love interest.

    2. Uh, why are we assuming that Blake’s going to have a love interest? I mean, sure, romance COULD come into play at some point, but it’s not mandatory.

      Pigeonholing female characters as the ‘love interest’ at their first appearance simply because they’re girls is pretty tacky.

      1. If our protagonist was female, the proposed love interest would have been Johannes. It’s not tacky, it’s hetero, and hetero is probable.

        1. Johan would make a good love interest. Quirky, unpredictable — and dangerous.
          Maggie? not so much.Too naked, too overt in everything… lacks subtlety.

          1. A Blake/Johannes marriage made for purely political and inheritance reasons might be interesting, it’s true. Blake’s made it clear that he’s not gay, though that doesn’t necessarily imply that he is straight, but I doubt it would be the first loveless marriage made by a Thorburn for ulterior purposes. The family goes back a long way, after all, and the idea of marriage as being purely motivated by love is something that only really became mainstream relatively recently.

            Johannes even fits the requirements-he’s definitely vile, from what Maggie’s said. Though I’m not certain how good he would be at emotional support. The marital vows would be key.

          2. Too naked, overt? What, as a character or as a practitioner. Maybe I’m overlooking something obvious, but can you elaborate, please?

            1. Bit of both, really. It’s reasonably certain what she wants:
              Power.
              She’s showing too many cards, too quickly.

              Also, she’s not pulling off the “dashing” the way the love interest in
              Monsieur Charlatan does (Magda. Girls can be dashing, and daring.
              Magda does plucky very well).

          1. Well all our current suspects have humourous potential in bed.
            -Rose-Turns out there’s something Blake is into that she isn’t and vice versa.
            -Maggie- Just imagine her trying to talk dirty.
            -Johannes- Turns out the dog gets to watch.

      1. The obvious choice. Maggie is the only character who seems like she could be an actual friend, rather than a very-powerful-very-dangerous-trickster-who-finds-our-hero-amusing, is too far gone to relate, or just hates him too much. Rose is the girl who he’s going to spend the rest of her life with anyway, so he might as well formalize it. Also, calling it now, Rose was the actual Practitioner who R.D.T. handed her position to, Blake is just how she interacts with the world. Which means she’s the one who needs to get married.

  6. “You’re leaving me hanging?” Maggie asked. “If I could say anything crude, I’d say it now. I… can’t even allude to it. Blue. You’re leaving me blue.”

    “Sad?” Rose asked.

    Maggie groaned in frustration.

    BWAHAHAHAHA

    Oh, Bonesaw, I missed you.

    …….
    Poor Rose.
    ……..
    Wait a minute. This isn’t a solution to their problem, but…..
    Rose isn’t a vestige.
    The mirror world, her included, is a vestige. It has an independent existence from Blake’s world, as demonstrated by the lack of ongoing causal influence between worlds. It has been molded, as demonstrated by the changed spellbook. Her world is an echo–a vestige–of the world as it was when RDT died.

    I don’t really know what this means, though I keep coming back to the purpose of Rose’s altered ritual. Perhaps something that will increase her lifespan by enabling her to draw more magical energy (or to use less, perhaps shut off parts of the vestige she’s not using?), or something that will give her the ability to transfer her consciousness out of the vestige and into something physical (regardless, it has to be something that she couldn’t’ve just been created/molded with by RDT, and possibly something that she wouldn’t’ve been willing to do by choice if she’d really known what it was)–or perhaps even something to prevent her from prolonging her life, forcing her to consume power at a rate sufficient to maintain full faculties right until the moment she runs out, instead of staying alive but unuseful for a longer period of time.

    Then comes the question of what created the vestige to begin with. If the vestige were in fact just Rose, I’d believe it was RDT’s death (though that leaves the bigger problem of who molded it), but assuming her entire world is a vestige, it has to be a bigger deal than that.

      1. No, it’s a reference to blue balls. And the Bonesaw part was just about her affected distaste for cursing (whereas Maggie obviously has a potty mouth but can’t use it anymore because shenanigans).

    1. The fact that the different elements in the ritual were holly and iron makes me suspect that it’s a gender thing. If Rose’s mirror world causally branches from reality before Molly awakened, then maybe Rose got holly because Molly got holly, but the lawyers replaced the expended reagents with the male version for Blake?

      1. Molly got iron. Blake’s iron stores were lower than Rose’s, while their holly stores were the same. This is also the reason we know the mirror world predates Molly.

    2. Hmmm. If the mirror world is a vestige… Frankly, the entire comparison to sand castle gives me this – sand castles stand for as long as they are wet. They crumble when they dry out.

      Then again, there are other things that have variable cohesiveness when wet, when dry, when tempered, and that can be moulded. Like clay, and pottery made of it. Isn’t tempering it supposed to make it more permanent – if immune to further moulding? Rose herself, might benefit from finding an in-story magic parallel to this comparison.

      And if the mirror world itself is a vestige as well… What stops Blake from creating a second one, and relocating a tempered Rose inside?

      Now, for Laird. What we people need now, as it becomes obvious, is that it’s necessary to go back to the scenes when he described the other practicioners of the area. And look for attitudes. If we can look into his words, like when he described Maggie Holt, we can see which ones are the ones most inconvenient to him. It will be something to think of, to sit on.

      Now, to execution (Chiro, Algol and Megafire a bit down below). I do not think it was Molly. Why – because she was apparently beast-torn. Execution, from what I gathered, implies that it’s the witch hunters who will do the deed. Perhaps they have methods that make it similar. Perhaps not. I am, quarter sure that execution was a method of disposing of Molly’s murderer. Of cutting the loose end.

      For Padraic speaking about one of the Laird son’s lifespan. I think Laird might have known beforehand. His family deals with time, they are chronomancers. Perhaps knowing their remaining lifespan, is part and parcel of their specialty. Also, if Padraic’s info is correct – he knows he has decades to live. This is part of why he’s not too worried over Blake.

      @ Sengachi. What does Springtime refer, in Padraic’s speech? The answer for me, is the changing of seasons, changing of courts. Of Winter Court, to Summer Court – I think that’s how Unseelie and Seelie interpreted sometimes, right? It’s a change in rulership. Or, if done by exiles, a different name is fitting. Rebellion. Revolution.

      1. That’s a pretty interesting take on it.

        Then Blake’s little book of who’s who should have a name in it that is no longer around.

        It’s unlikely, even then, though. Meetings take place once a month, and Molly died a while after the previous meeting, so they can’t have executed either her or her killer during that meeting.

    3. It was stated that rose came into her mirror-state the moment molly died. whe found the lawyer cleaning up in the house, so properly molly got freaked out something the lawyer said or did. which made her leave the premises with known consequences.
      So, how did she get into existence? The original rose stated that only a granddaughter might inherit the place. So we can assume promises or otherwise binding words are null and void once one is dead. Or mirror rose is a loophole for exactly that.
      Anywho. I do not think mirror-rose is exactly a vestige. it makes sense that the others state or perceive it as such. But there is most properly a loophole prolonging roses existence, properly bound to the house (since she can exist in its mirrors if blake is not around). This can properly tied to the barber.
      the barber. can exist in reflections but is currently indefinitly tied up in that shears in the magic circle. mirror-rose should be able to see through the shears. What if she is acutally a demon tied to blake, or more precise, to the house and blakes reflection?
      more rambling which makes no sense

      1. Yeah, Grandma seems to have been planning for Blake to be around for at least five years aand Blake’s birthright lapses without Rose. So one can only assume Grandma built significant longevity into her.

  7. I’m curious about the rules of repossessing demesnes. RDT says that the whole house is unavailable to Blake as a demesnes due to all of it being previously claimed, but the enemy practitioners seem to be pretty chill about taking it over the Thorburns’ bodies. Plus it seems like there’d be no reason trying to oust Johannes if he’s permanently marked the north end even after death. So is Blake’s inability to claim anything else in the house just because not reusing the space is key to the protections the house offers to any family members, and it doesn’t apply once those protections are destroyed? Or are there more complicated rules about how locked up a demesne becomes after death?

    1. Damn good questions. Another one I’ve been pondering is why only individual rooms have been parceled out between generations, rather than the whole thing going to the head of the family, perhaps with the bedrooms granted to the children after awakening.

      Possible implications:

      Raw, innate power is not typical of the Thorburn line. Rooms were parceled out over the generations because they couldn’t hold any more than that. This further implies that summoning, binding, and bargaining with demons requires comparatively little power in and of itself.

      Alternatively, and more scarily, Barbatorem is not the only demon bound to a given room. Perhaps unlikely, if all demons require similar arrangements, but… Maybe some don’t?

      Thirdly, as you suggest, inheriting desmasnes requires more than the passing of the last generation, or agreements were made forbidding it for some reason. Another clear benefit of coming from a family that can establish a magical trust fund.

      Socioeconomic mobility? What’s that?

    2. My guess is that it’s linked to bloodlines. So long as a bloodline is active, an ancestral demesne is already claimed by a bloodline and confers some benefits. Those benefits aren’t the same as those of being the demesne’s actual owner, but they also can’t be contested or challenged in the same fashion as the demesne of a living person can. I find it probably that all familial claims are rendered null and void once a bloodline is ended, so if all the Thorburns die off then the house will no longer be a sanctuary and anyone can enter it freely or even perhaps claim it as their demesne

      On a related note, Briar Girl wants to claim the marshes and woods near Hillsglade House for her demesne, but she hasn’t tried yet. I would guess that because that land is the Thorburns’ legal property that means that they would have a rather strong challenge to any claim she tried to make to it.

    3. I’m also wondering if all three parts of the practitioner’s trifecta (familiar, implement, demesne) are equally binding. Say, if you get a minor implement, and use that to carve out a demesne, then use the power there to make an even better Implement, and so on until your demesne is the size it needs to be, your implement is of a similar power level, and you can get a matching familiar.

      1. Seems like you’re stuck with your first of each. This is the problem Blake is facing – it’s difficult to get a good one of any of the three to start because he doesn’t have either of the other two. If he gets a low level one of any of them so he has a foundation to get the others, he’s stuck with it. If he could just power them up later on then there wouldn’t be a catch 22.

        It might be possible that if your familiar is killed or your implement is destroyed that you could get another one, but I imagine either would have some rather dire consequences for any practitioner that it wouldn’t be worth considering doing it on purpose to power up.

        1. Do we know that? Or is it just a loophole that we don’t know people have tried, yet? Or worse, a loophole that comes with dire enough consequences that people don’t use it?

          I would point out, however, that things and places are much less likely to become offended than, say, Others.

  8. The IA investigation against Laird sounds risky. Since he was at the meeting, chances are they’d try and drag Blake in for questioning. Which means either leaving the saftey of the house, or refusing the police. Bit of a rock and a hard place scenario there.

    1. To be fair, they don’t have much choice. And given Laird’s actions otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if Laird wanted Blake safely starving away in his cage.

  9. “When we’re not following so soon after one execution, we may prove more willing to vote against you.”

    So… who was executed last meeting? That sounds kind of important.

    1. Possibly Molly? It’d be one explanation for why the Laird assumed everyone knew who was responsible for her death (and, hence, could take up Blake’s offer).

      1. Yeah, Molly was my guess as well. This, of course, means they’re all complicit in her death, which makes me feel a lot less awful about Blake going after Laird’s kids.

        1. Can’t be molly. otherwise they’d all know Blake’s threat was just that, a threat.
          He can’t have safeguards that would get loose if he dies… if they didn’t go when Molly did.

    1. Not entirely sure how. Vestiges need power, apparently, and they become… Less efficient over time. Ostensibly, they would eventually reach a point where Rose needs more power than Blake can provide. Demonic bargaining… Might work. Might not. We just don’t know enough.

      Personally, I’m more interested in how much time Rose is projected to have.

      1. That would likely be crippling for Blake, though, unless Rose has some kewl powerz we don’t know about yet (actually, that seems probable, but not in the way that would make her a good familiar). A familiar adds to your power, gives counsel and serves as a messenger/bodyguard/weapon, right? Rose is only okay counsel because she doesn’t know more or have more experience than Blake, and nothing we’ve seen would suggest that she adds to his power, and she only exists in mirrors in his presence.

        1. In his presence, and in the house. Maybe binding her would give her the ability to do rituals / magic on his behalf, allowing him to be out and about AND preparing stuff at the same time. Anyone messes with Blake and all she has to do is walk upstairs and release the barber.

          1. All I have to say is that Rose would end up making Blake more or less subservient to her, she is far far better than him. I hate to say it, but if she were made his familiar it would end badly.

            That said, can a familiar be released? I assume not, as they’re meant to be bonded for life. Still, if the possibility were available, it would allow Blake some leverage to perhaps free her from the mirror realm and not be stuck with her as a slave.

            1. I wouldn’t say Rose is Blake’s super mega superior. As shown in the last chapter Blake is fairly good at thinking on his feet, and as evidenced by Rose’s urging to become a Witch Hunter Rose is prone to fleeing/hiding/protecting herself instead of doing the offensive approach, and the offensive approach is actually better than CRIPPLING oneself in the feeble hopes that doing this will make the opposition not bother with you.

          2. Her world only exists in the presence of reflective surfaces. I’m pretty damn sure you don’t want reflective surfaces in the presence of the barber.

        2. True Rose might not be powerful but she would be more loyal then any other he might find. Just having a familiar could boost he’s power. She is already giving Blake counsel. Being able to move though mirrors would help her as a messenger. As for bodyguard/weapon we do not know what everything Rose can or could do. Being Blake’s familiar might give Rose a power boost to. All in all I think rose would be Blake’s best choice for a Familiar and a wife.

  10. Lot’s of interesting info.

    Johannes seems like a cool guy. He could be both the amoral ally or one of the principal antagonists.

    Maggie is obviously prevented from swearing hence her using words like drat. Shades of Bonesaw?

    Padraic telling, in front of everyone, that one of Laird’s sons has only a year to live? Ouch. And Laird takes it with stride. At least on the exterior. I feel sorry for him, unrepentant dickishness notwithstanding.

    Padraic is obviously the “chaotic neutral” of the band. And he might be plotting an insurrection among the exiled.

    We now know what Rose is. Double ouch. Though there might be a way out. We know The Lord of Montreal was a ghost who became a MORTAL who became a god.

    Presumably she is Blake’s vestige what with Johannes’ pun of Blake talking to himself and Padraic said it was of Rose because of his trouble with passing generations.

    Hmm.

    Lots of meat for thought, wildbow. Great update.

  11. So, Padriac has just done his best to spoke Laird’s wheels.

    Laird, apparently, believes that he has appropriate protections to protect his family against Blake.

    Padriac, by indicating that Laird’s son has only a year to live, is telling Blake, and everyone else there, including Laird, that it’s very possible that Laird is wrong about the protections he has in place.

    Padriac also has apparently thrown another wrench into the works by only mentioning the lifespan of one of Laird’s ‘sons’, when in the same sentence he mentions the rest of Laird’s immediate family.

    This sounds like Padriac playing the neutral part. Laird is gaining in power and Blake is weak, and Laird is making him seem weaker, so Padriac finds a way to strengthen Blake slightly, and weaken Laird a bit.

    Maybe one of Laird’s two ‘sons’ is actually some sort of Other which is actually the protection for his family that he has arranged for. A homunculus, or doppelganger, or whatever, which would intercept threats against his family. And Padriac has just told Laird that it wouldn’t work. Not for his whole family.

    And now I’m wondering if there was supposed to be mention of two sons, but only a death timer given for one, or if I’ve just stumbled across an author mistake. LOL.

    1. Doubting the Other connection because Padraic would have known about the Otherness – if he can look at a chronomancer and tell him how long he has left to live, he surely would be able to tell if someone was an Other.

      Additionally, even if what you say is true, the “one year” bit only went for that one son, so if he was an Other tasked with protecting Laird’s family, it would seem that it succeeded as the son is the only one dying early, according to Padraic.

      1. Hrm, Padraic never mentions a second son. That’s why I think there might not be a second son. Unless it was a typo.

        Or maybe Padraic knows there is a second son, but intentionally does not mention the second son.

        Or maybe Padriac is telling Laird that one of his sons is illegitimate, if for some reason it would be hard for him to know this.

        The whole thing about Laird having what looks like two sons in the church, but Padriac only mentioning one son when he tells how many years everyone else in the family has to live…

        Either Wildbow got something mixed up, or he did it on purpose. Knowing Wildbow I’m more tempted to believe it was intentional, and we won’t know why for another six months.

        1. Darn, I didn’t even catch that. I wonder who the other kid is, then? I don’t think it’s a son with 0 years left, since Padraic strikes me as a fellow who would say “less than a year” instead of just ignoring him.

          1. I haven’t read the most recent chapter yet, but it’s possible we’ll get an answer to this soon. Blake thinks he knows how the Behaim chronomancy works now.

  12. Blake allowed himself to get distracted, arguing with Maggie about what constitutes “political aims”. Instead of debating semantics, he should have asked Maggie what exactly her “political aims” are.

    1. Her political aims at this point seem to be rebelling against the ruling powers. Who knows what else she’s got going on, though.

  13. Typo thread.

    Typos:
    – “Getting home, seeing if anyone expresses interest, get more reading done.” -> Mixed tenses. ‘getting more’ or ‘get home”see if’ and ‘get more’
    – “North End Sorcerer and the girl with the checkered scarf.” -> ‘The North End Sorcerer’
    – “If I disposed of the safeguards and prevented him from erecting any more, he loses his bargaining chip.” -> ‘he would lose’
    – ““Except I can’t step outside for that one month,” I said. “I do, I have to face down whatever spells or traps they’ve laid for me.”” -> ‘If I do, I have to’
    – “Another catch-twenty-two.” -> ‘Another Catch-22.’
    – ‘dopplegangers’ -> ‘doppelgangers’

    Possible typos:
    – “Get powerful so I could go outside, but I needed to go outside so I could get more powerful.” -> ‘I needed to get powerful so I could’, or something. Both ways are awkward.
    – “It beat the utter defeat she’d showed me earlier.” -> ‘she’d shown me earlier’

      1. “…And with that, the meeting is called to order,” Laird Behaim said.”
        The phrase called to order is for the beginning of meetings, not the end.

  14. Awesome chapter: tons of great lines; insane town politics; genuine introspection by the protagonist; first steps towards making allies…

    Speculation:
    – It seems likely that Blake will end up dealing with devils (or similar) to save Rose. Maybe that’s why Rose senior summoned her – to give him another motivation in addition to self-preservation.
    – Here’s hoping Blake finds his equivalent to the Undersiders. Imagine Tattletale bargaining away her ability to swear (like Maggie) :).

    Great lines:
    – “They’re very bad,”“There have been cases where small towns disappeared after one got loose.” -> Okay, that sounds more like a nuke.
    – “they became the towns you pass by on road trips, but never visit.”
    – “I would […] kill my family before that thing could reach them. Because I love my family too much to do otherwise.” -> Wow.
    – “An immortal lifespan, against, what, thirty more of your years? Twenty of your wife’s? Sixty two of one daughter’s, fifty one of another, one of a son’s life?” -> Amazing. Eerily specific, indeed.
    – “What would you ask for, Patrick?”“That’s cheating.”
    – “To sanction the use of the Jacob’s Bell witch hunters to execute Maggie Holt, please vote,” -> Oh. Wow.
    – “If you fail badly enough, I could lose everything. In order of severity, there’s failure where you’re ineffectual, failure where you get yourself killed, and greater failure still where you might get everyone here killed.”
    – “I’m suspicious that any price I ask would be minor at best, compared to what you’d have to pay one of Rose Thorburn’s Other acquaintances.”
    – “the witch hunter with awful trigger etiquette”
    – “I’m not really a fan of any option that works only after I get brutally murdered.”
    – “That place is like an Other’s amusement park. There, it’s like the old days, before the Seal of Solomon. Before humans were really able to fend for themselves.”
    – “But, you know, you can’t really interact fairly with someone when there’s this big an imbalance in power.” “No,” Rose said. I didn’t have anything to say to that. —> Very appropriate.
    – “I’m not sure I trust the general definition of hours, with Laird around, or the definition of safety, with, well, just about anyone I’ve met here.
    – “If I could say anything crude, I’d say it now. I… can’t even allude to it. Blue. You’re leaving me blue.” -> AWESOME. Poor Maggie. I guess this is one of the more harmless things you can lose in deals with Others.
    – “How bad could I be?”“I don’t know,” I said. “Let’s not find out.”
    – “You know what you are, then.” “Not even a copy. You want to know the reason for my big turnaround? Why I’m accepting my fate as a tool? That’s it. I know what I am now. I know the built-in limitations.”
    – “Again, looking at her, I could see her withdrawing, a trace of anger in her expression. As if me speaking out on her behalf was somehow worse than me being a jerk. I didn’t get it.” -> I really approve of Blake’s introspection here.
    – “That’s just selfish enough I can believe it,”
    – “What are they going to do? Try to kill us more?”

    1. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.

  15. Oh Zombie Jesus, Maggie traded her ability to curse. Do all Others make these horrifying deals, or has Maggie dabbled in diabolism, too?
    And can it really be that the witch-hunters just kill people that everyone else votes to kill? It’s complete tyranny of the majority. And isn’t their job to keep the peace and masquerade or something? It just reminds me of that episode of Kino’s Journey where an entire country committed suicide by constantly executing whatever minority the majority didn’t like.
    Blake could offer Barbatorem’s life-extending services to Laird’s kid.
    “throw something other than horrifying hell-beasts his way”. Use hell-beasts to throw non-infernal beasts at Laird.

    1. Not sure if the Barbie skin deal will help if the death is not due to natural causes, which it almost definitely is not.

    2. I got the impression that any trade with an Other requires you to give something away and that only minor trades are made over impermanent things. Big trades, for any significant amount of power, require permanent sacrifice.

      That said, anything which takes away your ability to swear sounds more angelic than demonic to me.

    3. There does seem to be some accountability in the process. Laird had to accuse Maggie of having broken the masquerade (which she apparently did do, even if only in a minor way) before he could request her sanction.

      It’s pretty much the local version of the United Nations as far as I can tell. And, like the UN, it’s a jury of self-interested peers where some have a lot more clout than others.

      Incidentally noone, including Laird, seemed surprised or bothered that the sanction was voted down. I’m guessing that whole thing wasn’t about Maggie at all, but rather intended as an object lesson for Blake.

  16. I’m revising slightly upward my estimation that Rose is going to make an attempt on Blake’s life.

    Evidence:

    She’s a vestige, which is a “flawed simulacrum”, and a simulacrum is “A reflection of a person, but with something different and frequently malevolent at the core.” Not a great metaphysical pedigree.
    She seems bothered every time Blake tries to be nice to her rather than being pushy. If she’s planning to steal his skin, that would explain why she seems happier when he’s acting like he deserves it. “Again, looking at her, I could see her withdrawing, a trace of anger in her expression. As if me speaking out on her behalf was somehow worse than me being a jerk. I didn’t get it.”
    The slave metaphor implies a certain degree of resentment. She might feel justified escaping slavery and her own death even if it meant hurting Blake (the slave-owner’s son in the analogy).
    She says “I don’t need rescue, Blake.”, which seems to imply that she has some plan to escape on her own.
    Her practitioner oath involved ended with “-than a vestige”. There’s lots of things that could mean, but I think “more than a vestige” is a reasonable guess, as in “I want to become more than a vestige.”, or “I want to steal Blake’s life and take his place.”. (Actually, typing that out it sounds like a stretch.)
    Rose escaping the mirror realm and taking over Blake’s live would arguably satisfy the “must be a daughter” requirement more convincingly.

    1. “More than a vestige.” Perhaps. Or perhaps. “Other than a vestige.” One is a vestige, but more. Other is fundamentally different. Better or worse, but different.

      Words have meanings.

    2. A simulacrum doesn’t have the “different and frequently malevolent” core – a doppelganger is a simulacrum plus that, a use to which a practitioner might put a simulacrum. We know Rose is not a doppelganger.

  17. No one else seems to have noticed the reference to the previous execution. It seems the reason why nobody wants to cough up on who killed Molly is because they all ordered it. Or something along those lines.

    Blake is pretty dense as to how Rose is feeling. What a terrible existence for Rose.

    1. It seems likely. So I figure probably not ‘cos, y’ know – Wildbow. xD

      I don’t think Blake’s oblivious to Rose’s feelings, there’s just not a lot he can do about them, especially given all the other pressures on him at the moment.

    1. Is he? (that’s not a rhetorical question, by the way)

      I mean, maybe I’m crazy, but I have a certain amount of sympathy for Laird.

      I mean, sure, he’s pursuing a course of action that may eventually get Blake and his entire family killed, but I’m not entirely certain that that would be bad.

      I mean, the Thorburn family seem to have a history of working with some seriously bad mojo. Given the power and knowledge that is passed down through the generations, it might honestly be for the greater good if the entire family were wiped out. I’m certainly not opposed to someone burning down their manor (especially the library… or at least certain portions of the library) and paving over the ashes (assuming of course, that that does not set loose all sorts of nasties).

      And really what has Laird done that was that asshole-ish? He’s been a touch rude to Maggie “the terrorist”, who may or may not deserve the title (I’m a little suspicious of anyone who is after power for its own sake), and Laird has been rude to Johannes, who has apparently declared open season on humans in his demesne….

      So yeah, I kinda want Johannes dead (despite the fact that I think he’s pretty cool), so I’m okay with him receiving some rudeness.

      On the whole, Laird seems to be interested in keeping the peace and improving the town economically. Admittedly, that course of action will benefit him a great deal, but it benefits everyone (except perhaps the Briar Girl and Mara. I’m guessing they might have some times to nature that could be damaged by increased urbanization).

      On the other hand, Laird is allied with the Duchamps, who might be an entire family of mind-rapers…. so… yeah… I’m not convinced Laird is a good guy.

      Hell, so far, I haven’t really seen enough of any character to be confident that /anyone/ in this story is a “good guy” (there are several people who might be good, but I just don’t know enough about them yet to say one way or the other)

      1. Notwithstanding his passive aggressive strategy to get Blake killed, which, as you justly point out, is understandable from his point of view, Laird is clearly guilty of abusing his power as police officer, despite claiming he takes his job seriously. As evinced by his obfuscating of Molly’s murder scene.

      2. It’s like Laird said. He’s like America. Now I am an American. I love my country. But we have done dumb things. We have done immoral things. We have justified things that betray all the nobelest principles the country was founded on.

        Let’s look at it this way. Let’s say a dictator dies. His succesor is completly different from him. Want’s to reform the country. Free elections. Open it up to trade. Get rid of all those chemical weapons. Hell his personal hero is George Washington! Sounds like this guy should be America’s best friend, right? But America is going to have him killed. See his country has a lot of resources, and American companies want to exploit the hell out of it, and the new leader won’t let them. Better for America if they get him replaced with a corrupt goverment that treats it’s people like shit, and lets the highest bidder do whatever they want. What could possibly go wrong?

    2. Forget Laird, the whole magic community is just one dense singularity of asshole-ness. The whole situation Blake is in combines the worst aspects of bullying and callousness. How can people live like that? Every word you say to someone will be measured and if possible used as a weapon against you. Sheesh, it’s almost impossible to imagine the children in this community to just hang around and play Playstation together. Rather, I picture them as Wednesday from Adams Family.

      1. I’d guess that’s part of why Grandma Rose made the family into such a petty and nasty snake pit, to make sure her heirs were well adapted to the environment. Funny that the one who dodged all that is the protagonist, and that he seems to be doing just fine anyway.

          1. Wait, are you implying that Grandma Rose might have orchestrated Molly’s death from behind the grave to open the way for Blake?

            1. I’d say it was more win-win. If Molly worked out, so much the better. If Molly died, then Blake could step in and give it the old college try. As soon as it got past them, however, the Thorburn coven was screwed.

  18. I have several thoughts about two main topics:

    1) Padraic technically never actually stated that Laird’s son had one year to live. The exact quote was:

    “An immortal lifespan, against, what, thirty more of your years? Twenty of your wife’s? Sixty two of one daughter’s, fifty one of another, one of a son’s life?”

    His estimates of the Laird’s family member’s remaining lifespans are all presented as questions, and they’re prefaced by the word ‘what.’ To me, this suggests that Padriac may have just been tossing out numbers as examples of how long they might live, and those examples aren’t necessarily accurate. His words may technically be a rhetorical device and not actually lying.

    Also, do we really want to trust a being’s ability to accurately estimate remaining lifespans of the members of a family when that being has displayed difficulty distinguishing between members of a family?

    Even if Padraic can somehow know how long a person has left to live, he may have mixed up which lifespan went with which family member. This might explain why he only referenced the lifespan of one son, despite Laird appearing to have two sons.

    Padraic referred to Laird as “Aimon,” if Aimon is Laird’s father, Padraic may have actually meant that Laird himself had only a year to live.

    2) This may be a stupid question, but does anyone know what Maggie did that was “Flagrant use of one’s practice in public, acting against the local powers.” ?

    1. The main point against Padraic just guessing is that the numbers are eerily specific, as Blake noted. the whole “what”/”let me say” smacks of obfuscating stupidity or Padraic playing up his ditzy faerie persona.

    2. By Jove, I think he’s got it.

      Let’s face it, Laird himself states that padraic’s primary motivation is entertaining himself until his banishment ends. As a fey prince, messing with people’s emotions and goading them to unwise choices is to him what a game of tic tac toe is to a child. I suspect the only reason he hasn’t been killed or driven is because nobody is able to (and considering how much Laird trips over himself to avoid ticking him off, that’s a real possibility), or his hijinks have remained sophomoric in nature. Petty, malicious, and even deadly or torturous on occasion, but not on any scale or against anyone who mattered to the community.

      Or hey, maybe the kid just has a completely mundane but no less tragic death. Others don’t have to be the cause of all human suffering, ya know?

    3. Yeah, I’d want to know a bit more about how accurate Padraic’s life-span-sensing thing is before I go believing it unreservedly.

      Telling the future was more complicated than that in Worm, why would we expect it to be foolproof here? If nothing else, that’d make people with future-telling abilities crazy powerful.

  19. Well, I have no idea how Blake could make Laird (police chief) or his kids target in this investigation. He has years of manipulating system to his advantage, while not telling one lie.

    But overall – another excellent chapter!

  20. So we are told that Rose is a vestige. Laird clearly says ““A vestige,” Laird said.”

    Rose seems like a vestige to the other practitioners. But look at what Maggie says to Rose:

    ““You’re an Other,” Maggie said. “That place is like an Other’s amusement park. There, it’s like the old days, before the Seal of Solomon. Before humans were really able to fend for themselves.””

    Apparently a Vestige is an Other. But guess what? Rose is NOT an Other. Remember the whole 2+2=5 bit? She “gave up” the ability to lie. Others can’t lie. Rose could. She still can if she is willing to lose access to her non-existent power for a little while.

    But everyone thinks she is an Other. She is trusted. She can say: “If Blake is killed demons will come and kill all of you. They will track you down in the afterlife and drag you to hell if need be.” Or she can say “Laird is working with us. He swore too do XYZ”

  21. Not really sure what to make of this chapter, other than that the magical world seems overly disconnected from the non-magical. It’s a strange thing, I had no suspension of disbelief issues with Worm (except very slightly for The powers of Jack, Greyboy and Nag) but I’m struggling with Pact. It may be because the world seems closer to ours, but the magic seems to overt and the Duchamps have trump powers that, on first sight at least, seem destabilising to say the least.

  22. Also, If Barbie really is as good at getting through defenses as Granny made him out to be, slicing through those defenses might put the Fear of Blake into everyone’s hearts. Especially since Laird made it clear how bad those things are.

  23. There are a few interesting things I picked up here.
    -The locals don’t want the lords of the big cities looking into what they are doing. Wonder what it is that they need to hide?
    -The long time established powers are probably more hostile to Blake than the newer ones.
    -A lot of people likening Maggie to Bonesaw, but Laird is reminding me a bit of Armsmaster.

    1. “-A lot of people likening Maggie to Bonesaw, but Laird is reminding me a bit of Armsmaster.”

      Ha! Literally the first thing I thought after reading this chapter was “I bet wildbow will pull off an Armsmaster and turn Laird into a sympatethic ally after hitting us with his dickishness for a while”. 🙂 .

          1. Conveniently, Blake has access to a demon that explicitly does not kill its victims, indeed, it keeps them in the best health they could be in under the circumstances.

    2. “The locals don’t want the lords of the big cities looking into what they are doing. Wonder what it is that they need to hide?”
      Along to Laird, during the person=country analogies, they would be unable to win against one of the stronger forces outside town.
      So they lay low while increasing their powerbase. The Hillsglade thing would benefit whoever seizes the opportunity, and they don’t need a real big player to steal it from them right under their nose.

      Summon Bigger Fish could be Blake’s ultimate jerk move to the town, if it comes to that.

  24. i love the social dynamics here; it’s when every people trying to get pieces of you and yet you have to get by; by any means.

    No definitive bad or good guy, everyone just playing their safe cards; until someone throw a wrench onto the table

  25. I think the protections Laird has are incredibly obvious, and trivial to set up if you know what you’re up against, which, considering he knows he’d rather kill his family himself than let Barbie kill them, he must. It implies he knows about the belief that B can sever souls from the more pleasant afterlife entirely.

    It is believed that he can sever his target’s ability to access any higher plane, forever and irrevocably denying them whatever good things might await them after death, and he can remove any ability a practitioner has. He can pass into a demesne without needing permission, though he cannot enter an ordinary home owned by a non-practitioner (see Classifying Others, chapter four).

    All he has to do is keep a safehouse where his pet witch hunters, or some random uncool nonmagical cousins, live. To break the protection the owner(s) would have to die and leave it to their practitioner relative, or be lured into becoming awakened.

    1. Blake needs firepower, the biggest, most accessible form of firepower he has right now is The Barber in the attic; make it his Familiar to really get the other practitioners pissing their underwear?

      1. Barbatorem stands out to me as being even more powerful than the catastrophe of a familiar that Briar girl is stuck with, somehow I doubt Blake wants to end up being subservient to THAT.

  26. Interesting to see people so favorable towards Johannes; he seems like big time bad news to me. Unusually powerful, seemingly free to act independently of the traditional local powerbrokers, already taking over a big chunk of the area. Aside from the “nukes” RDT has stashed away he seems like threat #1 to the Behaims and Duchamps, who are drawn into an alliance at least in part to check him. He (possibly?) stands to benefit from anything that hurts them. Perhaps an enemy of my enemy can be a friend, but not one I’d trust or consider chaotic-good or even neutral. What are his goals? The hint about how others are treated within his desmense is tantalizing.

    1. oh, my yes. I’m convinced the offer to Rose was a complete trap.
      Johan is dangerous, amusing — and surprisingly helpful from the first.
      That doesn’t mean roses. That means honey-trap.

  27. Poor Maggie, man. Not having the ability to swear, or even say anything crude? Must be a pain in the ass, hope whatever she gave up was worth it.

    I’m digging Johannes, though I get the feeling he may have been the one to kill Molly. Maybe because it feels like a likely tweeeeest.

    1. If that were the case, and Laird knew about it, then I’m not sure that he would have not taken the opportunity to use that information to torpedo any possibility of alliance between Johannes and Blake, since Johannes and Blake teaming up seems like the sort of thing that would make one wake up screaming. Johannes notes that he’s stronger than the Behaims and Duchamps together, and with Blake’s ancestral knowledge I imagine he’d be quite dangerous.

      Laird may have confidence in his defenses, but he’d be remiss if he didn’t act to prevent Johannes from getting more power. So it would only make sense if he didn’t know who did it…

  28. So… Does anybody believe for a moment that nobody there actually knows who killed Molly? Nobody says anything because they don’t want to admit ignorance.

    Most of the town, with only a hypothetical exception in Jo, is motivated primarily by some combination of greed, spite, and not wanting to die. Fairly base, as motivations go. They don’t WANT any outside powers turning their gaze to the town… Because they are pretty sure such powers would not approve of what they see. Even the Others that we’ve seen so far aren’t so hot for them, if Padraic is the least bit representative and johannes is as popular as he’s implied to be.

    Yeah, I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be wholly surprised if Jacob’s bell isn’t very representative of the greater Practioner community. And as I said, they might not like what they find out has been happening there.

    1. On Molly’s Killer:

      The same buggers that got to Molly also tried to off Blake. Laird want’s Blake alive to distract everyone. Presumably his allies do too. That eliminates Laird. The enchantresses don’t seem like the type to be able to send waves of baddies like that.

      Maggie or the North End Sorc both seem to have minions, so that makes them good choices. But would they have let the town know? And more to the point why would they?

      But yeah, I get the feeling no one knows who did it.

  29. Another thing Blake has to deal with is the risk of crossing the moral event horizon. I mean the stuff you have to do to get some of these demons to show up might be pretty bad. The shit the demons actually do is probably a lot worse. Yeah, chucking them at someone threatening your life and your family might be in defense. Making the rest of their family, including the children spend eternity in horrific torment is another thing.

    And how long before we get some trolls complaining about how Blake isn’t like Harry Potter. Or Harry Dresden. Or… Uh, I’m out of magic using protagonists named Harry.

    1. I’m sure if Blake started acting like Harry Dresden he’d be dead within hours. Whether someone kills him for mouthing off or he tries that “human willpower” bullshit with the Others.

  30. Something has been bothering me:

    “I stopped, my hand on the doorknob. I regretted it the moment I paused.

    “When you first spoke to me, you said, ‘All due respect’. Did you mean it?”

    I didn’t look at her. “All due respect, you’re a festering old cunt? One hundred percent.”

    That said, I opened the door, and I slammed it behind me with enough force that pictures rattled on the walls.”

    You are a cunt … he said this within his gradmother`s desmene, where she can break the rules. I wonder, was there any reflective surface around? Was the doorknob reflective? Was he telling his reflection that it is female in some way?
    But the grandmother really called attention to the “with all due respect” which may have been the catch frase somehow.

  31. I just reread some earlier chapters. In the note’s Blake’s grandmother left him, the section on familiars was very explicit: do not allow your familiar to take the form of a rat or a dog.

    Johannes’ familiar has the form of an Afghan hound. I think that’s relevant.

    1. I forget the exact quote, but Laird also said he didn’t want a police dog as a familiar for vague reasons. Johannes may simply not be operating under the same restrictions the Thorburns are. But for two families that may or may not have a blood connection to have a similar limitation is… Noteworthy at the least.

      Granny laid down a number of requirements with the inheritance, but very little in the way of explanations for them. Might just be me, but figuring out why the rules are as they are tends to provide, at the least, valuable context.

      To refer to an old navy saying, what, precisely, killed those sailors then?

  32. You can change the rules in your demesne. If Rose makes a demesne of her mirror world, just how much could she change the rules? Maybe change the rules enough to stop her decay?

  33. To refer back to the marriage thing:

    Like it or not, Granny imposed a marriage edict on her heir. Regardless of whether you think its appropriate or not, he HAS to marry someone. Not just to keep the house, but to survive. The marriage doesn’t have to be for love, the relationship doesn’t even, strictly speaking, need to be healthy. It just has to be.

    Yes, many of the tropes and laws of narrative causality are sexist. Some of them go back centuries. That doesn’t make them right, and I enjoy seeing them averted and subverted. As I said, I’m only making predictions based on how things typically go, statistically. I only ship Blake and Maggie because she’s the first (human) girl he’s spoken to with a name that wasn’t a relative since this story began. And the first girl tends to win. If wildbow breaks that, cool.

    As for Mara… Unlikely. She apparently hates everyone else in the area, and is seemingly pretty close to immortal, what with predating the colonial period and all. I doubt Blake has anything she wants or needs or even likes.

    Compare to Maggie, who already has a sort of proto-date thing going on with Blake. Until and unless a challenger appears (and the whole situation is clarified by the lawyers), it is what it is: the only feasible option at present. I ain’t saying she can’t be deep or complex or multidimensional. I’m not implying she can’t become a villain. I’d rather not see her stuffed in the fridge, because that is a pretty cheap shot, narratively speaking… But its not necessarily unrealistic considering her current situation.

    Unrelated note: The idea that the Duchamp bride will kill her Behaim groom is… Not a bad idea. Though I doubt they make a habit of that, otherwise, well, the marriage wouldnt be happening.

    Unless… Everybody is under a whammy…

    1. There is a strong possibility that Blake will have to marry man though, seeing as Rose Sr. specifically says get a HUSBAND in the document. As has already been established this is the kind of universe that cares more about the letter of law than the spirit.

      1. On that note, I don’t recall the document specifying how long he has to be married.

        Couldn’t he just get married to a guy and then immediately get divorced? And wouldn’t that technically have satisfied the requirements?

        Also, are we certain that the document that we saw is the most recent version of the requirements? It seems possible that RDT made some last minute alterations with the lawyers and then died before she had a chance to get a copy of the newest rules for Blake.

      2. I’m pretty sure the only reasons for a practitioner to marry is
        1) to have children – which Blake can’t have with another man
        2) to have an ally
        Also, Rose mosty likely wrote the husband bit before she saw Blake in the first chapter, where she must have decided to put him second in line. I don’t see her writing a new letter just so Blake won’t misunderstand and marry a bloke.

      3. Presumably, the purpose of requiring her heir(ess) to marry is to ensure that the line will continue on; requiring a male heir to marry a man would kind of defeat the purpose of that. It’d be rather shortsighted of RDT to decide to include Blake in her line of successsion, and not also include a proviso somewhere in her actual will (recall, we’ve only seen the letter that she wrote to Molly explaining the terms of inheritance, not the actual legal document specifying them), modifying his marriage clause.

        1. Yeah, there is kinda an issue if an heir is the reason the marriage clause is in there. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Others recognize blood descent far more than they do adoption.

          Anyways if Blake doesn’t swing that way he shouldn’t have to be in a same sex marriage anymore than a gay man should be forced into a hetrosexual sham marriage.

  34. I have a theory about the ‘no dog’ rule for familiars.

    Could it be that RDT made that rule because Johannes has some super alpha-dog familiar, and any dog that Blake could bind as a familiar would naturally be subservient to Johannes alpha-dog? And that could have all sorts of bad consequences

    Just a shot in the dark

    1. Laird chose his familiar before Johannes arrived in Jacob’s Bell, and RDT definitely would’ve mentioned something like this in Johannes’ journal entry. There’s probably another reason that has to do with dogs and rats specifically – maybe the fact that they’re both pack animals?

        1. Grandma Rose was clearly a cat person. Now what two animals are a cats greatest enemies? The dog and the rat. So clearly Grandma just didn’t like the idea of her heir having one of those for a familier.

  35. Is this Maggie Holt the same Maggie Holt from Interlude 15(Donation Interlude 3) of Worm?
    Is Pact in the “Maggie Holt Series”?
    Does this story exist in the ‘wormverse’ as a novel/series of novels?

  36. I love where this is going.
    Could it be that Blake and the boy witch hunter will form a friendship or alliance in the future? Contrasted with Eve’s trigger-happy attitude, he seems much calmer and more rational. The kind of guy who is more interested in helping the community, than in senseless murdering of innocent people.

  37. Gosh, this story is really going places. Hopefully Rose can complete some rituals to make herself more powerful and self sustaining, perhaps even become a familiar.

  38. I’d say of the several dozen characters specifically or vaguely introduced so far, maybe a handful of them aren’t a)specifically out to get him or b)if he dies, they’ll go “meh, on to the next one.”

    You know, usually, I’d like to trade places with characters I read, sometimes. Even if he’s about a half second from death, still gotta be better than boring old real life. I didn’t feel that for the vast majority of Worm and less than half a chapter for Pact.

    Um…yay?

  39. I have been wondering is Blake really Granny Rose’s heir or is Rose JR the heir. Granny Rose said that her heir had to be a female grandkid in bonds 1.1 but nobody seems to be considering it.

    1. He is, but then, voila, by some kind of magic fuckery, another Rose which is stated to be Blake female counterpart came into action, didn’t you remember what happened in earlier chapters of bond arc?

      1. Yes I do remember. Granny Rose said that her heir had to be a female grandkid but Blake despite the magic what not Blake is still male. Rose JR being some kind of copy of Blake does not make him female. So I ask everyone why not Rose JR for heir.

        1. probably, why not her instead?
          well, it’s Wildbow we are talking now. He always save the goddamn surprises, only to pop up when we are least expecting; just wait and see what will happen next

  40. Well I did some re-reading, to check up on a few things.

    Okay, first off, I don’t think they can just spontainiously execute someone. They need to have some justification. Otherwise I suspect Johannes or Maggie would have been marked for execution some time ago. That said it is still a very political game, since it’s a majority vote. The Beihams and Duchamps both have the most numbers, and now that the families joining, they are almost guaruanteed to have a majority.

    When Blake has his dream in the first chapter, it seems like it happens right after Molly’s death right? Well we get looks at what the players were doing. Laird and the Duchamps were meeting to discuss the wedding, and noted RDT’s failsafes. A little upset they were there, but not surprised. But they don’t seem to be acting like they were behind it. The Witchhunters end up going out to investigate whatever knocked the Metronome over. To me that seems like whatever got Molly is what they are reacting to, so i don’t thing it was them. Mara and Brier Girl were doing their own things. Not ruling them out, but they seem to be removed from the power plays while doing their own stuff. Maggie I rule out because she is currently such a novice. She was with Padraic, and I do think Molly’s death would be within his capabilites, or his associates. I also wonder which one the vision was supposed to be of. Laird doesn’t even consider Maggie a player, but Grandma might have. And then we have Johannes… The only one to both notice Blake, and offer him help. Of course he is hardly trustworthy, so…

    Now about the Marriage stipulation. That set of the will was clearly written with Molly in mind. So it’s possible that there is no requirement that Blake marry a man. The other thing that I noticed re-reading that is that Blake isn’t supposed to make deals without running it through the lawyer. I would hope that doesn’t include laying out the offer for a deal. Like he just did.

    1. That is a valid point about what the opponents were doing at the probable point of Molly’s death – it certainly makes them look less likely to be suspects. But then it gets complicated. Padriac in particular knew the visions could happen during a major event and all of the others spotted and reacted to Blake’s viewpoint. It is reasonable to assume that most powerful practitioners knew that Molly’s death had at least the possibility of opening them up to observation. If so, then they could arrange to have Molly killed while they were clearly doing something else – every successful crook knows the value of a good alibi.

      I agree with you that Blake might not have to marry a man. My reasoning is different though: from what we know right now, there are so many loopholes in that requirement that it might as well be a colander. As a matter of fact, it almost feels like a red herring, something to distract from a more important point. In no particular order:
      -1- RDT’s instructions said “Find a good man to marry” but they also said “you may [emphasis mine] lose custody of the property if you do not address these tasks”. So if Blake does everything else right but doesn’t marry, he may be able to pass on that requirement.
      -1a- If Blake marries a woman this might still count as partially fulfilling the requirement.
      -1b- (courtesy of AlsoSprachOdin and taelor) Since the point is to continue the family line, marrying a woman fulfills the requirement better than marrying a man.
      -2- (partially from Ancusohm) RDT’s instructions are probably not the legally or magically binding document. We haven’t seen the same clause in the legal one and we may never know about the magical binding, if any.
      -3- If Blake is female enough to inherit despite the magical restrictions, then the same trick (appropriate gender visage, presumably) can allow him to marry anyone he chooses as long as someone can make an appropriate visage, bind it to the person he is marrying, and keep the visage alive.
      -4- The requirements do not forbid marrying Others. It is implied, but not stated. There are almost certainly gender-shifting Others out there.
      -5- (courtesy of Ancusohm) Fulfill the requirement, then get a divorce. Even the literal requirement doesn’t say he has to stay married.
      -5a- Marry an enemy and then kill him or arrange his death. Note: evil, dangerous, difficult, not in character, and maybe below the moral event horizon … but I bet there is at least one demon out there that requires the sacrifice of family.
      -6- Bargain away the requirement. Something or someone out there is powerful and/or authoritative enough to waive the requirement.

      Subject matter warning (trigger warning): the loopholes dealing with sexuality are below. No offense is intended – I put these in for completeness’ sake, nothing more. Also, one possible squick warning.

      -7- He can marry a man and then live with an additional person (or more) if he chooses. Heterosexuality does not preclude polyamory. And he needs all the help he can get.
      -8- It is clear that at least some Others and practitioners can alter minds in multiple ways. Blake could choose to become bisexual or homosexual.
      -8a- A powerful enough enchantress could make Blake love a man, without changing his gender preference.
      -9- Apologies to Meister and Mayhem in particular and the discussion board in general for bringing up a sensitive subject from last chapter comments section, but a transgender partner is a possibility. Some Others and perhaps practitioners can reshape people, so it doesn’t have to be the usual surgery and hormones (although I would trust a non-practitioner human surgeon far more). (squick warning) Barbatorem is a skilled surgeon.
      -9a- By combining options 8 and 9, Blake could decide to become a female heir for all practical purposes.

      1. About the alibis – remember that Johannes’ scene happened at sunset, while “the other scenes” were at night. Makes it pretty hard to know for sure when he saw each of them.
        He could ask Maggie, but she’d probably ask something in return.

    2. He was supposed to go to the lawyer before offering or accepting major deals. I think he was supposed to do so before awakening as well.

      1. Did I. . . Yup, responded to the wrong person. That was meant for negaDW.
        While here though, I’m pretty sure In Granny Rose’s instructions, Blake (or really Molly I guess) was supposed to marry for life. That’s why it is important to choose wisely.

        1. There are also differences between browsers. Firefox opens a reply window right under the comment, making continuity easy to spot. IE opens it at the end, so it isn’t obvious who you clicked reply to. I don’t know what Chrome does, and of course my observations may not match yours because browser version makes a difference too.

          1. Chrome opens it directly beneath the comment you’re replying to, unless you’re replying via email notification link and the comment you’re replying to is far enough down the chain that there’s no ‘ reply’ link available to click on.

  41. This whole episode adds so much information that the speculation possibilities open up substantially. Here’s one:

    Is Maggie’s binder/scrapbook her implement? If so, she has chosen an implement that, by its very nature, can be expanded. That is one way around the cycle of no power no {implement, demesne, familiar}. Blake can choose something similar. Perhaps his tattoos? We already have evidence that his current tattoo has some power, and he could expand as necessary (up to skin limits of course).

  42. Doh, how did I miss that Maggie’s scrapbook is probably her implement? Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve suggested a Keyring for Blake’s implement, since he used them in the awakening ritual, and they symbolize freedom to him, and he really values his freedom. The Tattoos would work too. And they would have one big advantage. It would be trickier to take them from him. You’d need to start cutting them off. If you think about it, a good pickpocket is probably a real threat to a lot of practicioners.

    I’m very courious to see how and what Blake gets for his Implement, familier, and Demense. But I think before that he desperatly needs at least one ally to help him, or he will have to cripple himself at one of the three. Blake really needs some allies. Taylor wouldn’t have made it long in Worm without the Undersiders, and i would say Blakes situation is worse.

  43. More speculation: We find out more about Rose, and very little of it is good for her or Blake.

    So first, Blake wants to do the right thing anyway, but he may be missing a major reason besides solid ethics to save her. It appears that Blake’s relationship to Rose is the way he can become a practitioner in a line that only inherits power through females. So if Rose dies, that loophole is closed, Blake is out of the order of succession, and he is probably dead shortly thereafter.

    How was Rose created? Unfortunately, there are no statements about how to create vestiges, so we don’t know from the library. But there may be a clue in the “Rose as an inheritance loophole” idea – the inheritance requires Blake to be female in some technical sense. In other words, some part of Blake is “female enough” to trigger the inheritance. Ergo, Rose was created from Blake. Other commenters have speculated that Molly’s death powered Rose and this still seems possible, but mold was most likely Blake.

    When was the mirror realm created? The changes that Molly did for her awakening were not mirrored, so presumably before then and most likely while RDT was alive, as she is the most likely suspect.

    When was Rose created? So far, people are assuming it was upon Molly’s death, but if Rose was created from Blake, that would have presumably been very difficult at a distance and it makes more sense if it coincides with the creation of the mirror realm.

    So, one possibility is that Rose and the mirror realm were created when Blake was at the house for RDT’s death. Rose may be hiding a major secret – perhaps Rose was awake in the interim before Molly’s death. We know she can lie (or could). Perhaps Rose is the cause of Molly’s death. This seems unlikely, but it does seem possible that, as others have speculated, Rose is plotting to take Blake’s place.

    Not that this brings any solutions to mind. Rose needing power to continue is yet another nail in the no-power coffin: need power for a demesne, need power for an implement, need power for a familiar, need power to save Rose, need power to bargain with practitioners and Others, etc. What a literally powerless situation.

  44. “I seem to recall you saying something about the noobs being easy marks.”

    When exactly did he hear that? I assumed it was during the visions in first chapter, but I checked and it isn’t there. At least not anymore.

  45. Quote: ” I don’t get much from offing you. Bit of a boost in raw power, but that only puts the grand kibosh on all of this.”

    Is there serial killer who collect “raw power” by murdering practitioners or Others? If not, there should be.

  46. I have to say I’m really skeptical that Rose is really a Vestige. She seems too powerful (with her ability to crack mirrors) and too sentient (independent cognition, plus the wildly divergent backstory) to be little more than a malleable ghost. Add to this the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be a point to putting all the effort that it obviously took to make her, if she were nothing but a bound Vestige, or, rather, if RDT were to bother spending the time it took to make a bound Vestige to help out Blake then she’d have done more to make it more immediately useful for him, at the very least by playing with the Vestige’s malleability to give it more knowledge or otherwise make it more helpful (specifically I’m thinking of creating something like Bob from the Dresden Files).

    I do, however, think that RDT made her up to seem to be a Vestige to all the myriad practitioners and Others that Blake and Rose come into contact with. I think she’s something far different, and possibly something far more powerful than either Blake or Rose realize. My vote is that Rose is a bound demon, possibly something similar to the Barbatorem, implanted with (temporary) bindings to keep up the ruse that she’s a mere Vestige and memories to tie her emotionally to Blake. This would rather neatly solve his chicken-and-egg problem: binding a real demon as a Familiar would probably give him all the power he would need for his demesne and implement. Further, I think RDT already planted clues for Blake to follow, though he’s so far been too dense and distracted to see there’s something to look for:

    1) the link between Barbatorem’s link to reflective surfaces and Rose’s inhabitation of a mirror world, indicating that Rose is possibly demonic in nature, and
    2) the nuanced disparities between Rose’s mirror world and Blake’s (the memories, the gender, the difference of one ingredient between her Awakening spell and his), indicating that there’s more going on with Rose than a simple Vestige.

  47. I’m liking this Patrick guy. Good fellow, getting on copguy’s bad side. Course, fae are fickled fellows, and I doubt he’s that merry wanderer of the night. At the very least, it’s clear he’s less against Blake than the copper.

    Said badger is a bit of an idiot in his own way, though. All this talk about maintaining the status quo, yet he’s doing almost everything in his power to make the various nukes look like more palatable options. I say we irradiate the shit out of this town. We’ll make it like the next Centralia, bitches! Burn all the babies! Use magic to turn Canada into Can’tada. Unleash hell. After all, that’s what diabolists are good at.

    What’s the worst that could happen? After all, what are they going to do, kill him harder? Make it extra painful? Hate to break it to people, but no matter how much magic you use, it’s hard to beat a punishment level of “excruciating death”. I may know one or two tricks for that though. Like that little magic trick I pull that requires a volunteer’s rectum. It starts off like this… “And for my next trick, I’m going to make my hand and this handful of orca dildoes…disappear!”

    Heh…joke’s on the audience…orca’s have HUGE dicks. I can only fit like one orca dildo in my hand. By the way, I know a guy, if anyone’s interested? No? How about dragon? Tiger? Rabbit? They make a variety, just don’t ask for the biggest of the horses. Thor’s hammer indeed.

  48. Rereading this, it’s interesting to see how Padraic’s internal logic works. It seems to me like he’s not just weird, but very clever and observant. He’s picked time as a way of showing value to the chronomancer when talking about his own life, and I don’t think it’s just because he values living. I think he figures that ‘time left’ is incredibly important to Laird as a chronomancer, to the point where I’m reading his quip about one year to be more along the lines of “one penny” rather than “you’re going to lose your son soon”.

    I originally read this as just him being weird, but there’s a lot more depth in this than I originally noticed.

  49. Okay. For me, these last two chapters have been the point where Pact really hit its stride. Up to now it’s been leaving me fairly cold.

    Over this last couple of chapters Pact has gone from “potentially interesting” to full-on interesting. Can’t wait to see where it goes next.

  50. Why is Rose worried about the demon thing, he clearly said his grandmothers demons and since demon’s are not possessions or alternatively none are his grandmothers anymore he’s fine

  51. ““Well,” he said. “Let’s get this out of the way. Who’s interested in taking the deal?”

    Wait. What?

    Oh shit. This is a thing you can do in a room full of people who can’t lie. That’s going to be difficult.

  52. “Be careful. You have very few friends here. When we’re not following so soon after one execution, we may prove more willing to vote against you.”

    Did she just admit that Jacob’s End killed Molly? As a community? o_o

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