Damages 2.6

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“Stop,” Ms. Lewis told me.  “Look.  Our destination.”

The building sat across the street.  Squat, unimpressive, with some large windows showing bookshelves on the other side.

“The library?”  Rose asked.

“A government institution.  If you find a lost driver’s license, you can leave it in a mailbox, and the post office will take it where it needs to go.  Leave a note clearly labeled for the police at a library…”

“And they’ll take it to the police,” Rose said.

“Why did we stop?” I asked.

“Two reasons.  Both having to do with attention.  First of all, I think it would be a damn shame if you were to put all this time and effort into this, only to see it shoved into a drawer and ignored because it is inconvenient, or thrown into the trash.  Give some thought to how you label it.”

I nodded, but my mind wasn’t feeling as sharp as usual.  I didn’t think it was blood loss, I hadn’t bled nearly that much, stabbing my hand, but I had suffered from blood loss before, and the symptoms weren’t so different.

“Something blatant? Rose asked.

“Something blatant.  Remember, presentation is tied to effect.  Be dramatic.”

“Something like, ‘For the eyes of the RCMP only: Contains information about the Molly Walker murder‘?”  Rose asked.  “Get the library people talking, word spreading, people asking about it?

“That’ll do,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Mr. Thorburn?”

I hesitated.  “Am I missing anything?  We’re about to leverage the supernatural stuff to try to ruin his non-supernatural life.  There’s no way this doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.”

“We’re declaring war,” Rose said.  “But there’s nothing special there.  They declared it first.  We’re just responding.”

“Ms. Lewis?  Is there a factor I’m not paying attention to?”

“The rules about secrecy were established for everyone’s mutual benefit.  Inducting too many people into this world carries too much danger, too much weight.  There are no hard rules about doing this, but there are very, very few people who would be willing to, knowing the kind of enemies it makes, and the confusion and chaos it causes.”

“So…” Rose said, pausing for a second, probably to gather her thoughts.  “This isn’t one of those situations where a rule becomes law and law becomes natural law?”

“No.  I must say I’m wondering why you returned the familiar to its master and showed some restraint, only a few minutes ago, but you are responding in this fashion to a more indirect threat.”

I sighed.  I wasn’t in a state to offer an articulate response.

“He’s fucked up,” Rose said.  “Laird is.  He’s crazy, and he seems to be spearheading this whole thing against us.  Those kids, they were acting like they were following orders.  Going to some dance class, they saw us, they attacked.  I get the impression we changed their minds a bit.  I don’t think Laird is ever going to change his mind about us.”

“That’s a fair assertion,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Is this going to do enough damage, for the kind of response it’s going to get?  He is going to retaliate.”

“Probably,” I said.  “But how much worse can it be than him trying to kill us?”

Ms. Lewis said, “Individuals like him, typically, have effectively stocked up on good karma, so they might spend it in times of crisis.  I have a good idea about what’s happened, even if my information is incomplete, and I think he may have been holding back.  Acting upfront, informing you as to why he’s attacking you, being honest and helpful.  Inviting compromise.  Tempering himself.”

“And he’s going to stop?” Rose asked.  “Start going into debt to take us out?”

I glanced back the way we’d come.  Nobody following.  “He’s been holding back because he’s trying to decide if I’m a threat or someone who will happily sit back and wait until he’s ready to actively kill us.  I’m not sure if he’s made that decision yet, but I have to assume it’s sliding towards the latter.”

“Is it?” Rose asked.  “If you take the Duchamp thing just now into account, word is going to spread about what we did.  Shouldn’t we seem less threatening than we did?”

“You’re making that a question, and not a statement,” Ms. Lewis noted.

“It feels like a question,” Rose said.

“I agree.  It doesn’t feel like a certain thing,” I said.  “I’m more inclined to be paranoid, I’m betting they won’t tell the full story.  If only half the story gets told, then people in the Duchamp family are going to notice that the familiar is injured.  They’re going to know there was a fight.  That is going to reflect badly on us.”

“I agree,” Rose said.  “Yeah.  Well said.”

I nodded.  “Yeah.”

“So it’s settled.  You’ll send the letter, clearly marking it for what it is, so they can’t ignore it.  That raises the second point of interest.  The anonymous note loses its impact if Blake Thorburn, new to the area, is seen on a security camera, dropping the letter off.”

“I don’t see a camera,” I said.

“Are you looking?” Ms. Lewis asked.

Right.  I looked.  Connections.  Where was attention being devoted?

I couldn’t see anything.  Things were unfocused and unclear.  I could barely make out the spirits against the gentle snowfall.  “I think I’ve spent a bit too much of my personal power.  Rose?  Can you see?”

“I don’t think so,” Rose said.  Too fast a response.  I looked down to make sure that the mirror was dangling outside of my jacket.

“How come?” I asked.

“I just can’t.  I… don’t think I can see spirits, after all.  I was confusing it with something else.”

I frowned.  “Need more info than that.”

“…Later.  We’ll figure it out?”

“Right.”  I was too tired to argue.  “Fine, but that still means we have to figure this out.  Or we just ignore the cameras and deal with it.”

“You can do it,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Take your time, Blake, don’t focus too much on the particulars.”

I wasn’t happy, shouldering the burden here, but I did as she’d said.

Rose’s voice interrupted my observations.  “How much longer before you have to go?  We can’t take too long or we’ll wind up walking back without you.”

“We can’t,” Ms. Lewis said.  “But I did promise I would see you home, as safe as you allowed me to be.  I feel confident Blake can get a good grasp of this.”

“But you won’t do it for us,” Rose said.  Still talking when I was trying to focus.  “You can’t… except you had that box, and you were prepared to do something.”

“I do.  I was willing to violate the spirit of one oath to keep the letter of another.  I’m glad I didn’t have to.”

I tried to focus on the spirits, letting my vision blur to help ignore the snow.  Focus on the things that were rising.  I could see little clouds of fog around vents, where buildings were being heated.

Was I looking at it wrong?  The snow had its own spirits, as did the vents.

I relaxed a little.   The walls had their own spirits.  The cold air did.  I was trying too hard to see past things, and in the doing, I was missing the forest for the trees.

Taking it all in was easier, when I was as tired as I was.

The world had a pulse of its own.  Things flowed.  If I let myself get swept up in it, then I naturally saw the various things at play.  The direction the wind moved, the temperature, the weather…

Every time I got a grip on what I was sensing, I was already feeling my attention slip to the next.  There.  Cameras.  I could see the focus they were devoting to an area.  Almost like spotlights, as if I could see the outline of their field of view.  Some more focused than others.  A traffic camera here, a static and blurry image there.

I could see the areas people traveled, when the day was at its height.  The aftermath, the lingering emotions, almost like the community left a ghost in its wake.  A mood.

Blake.”

I stirred.

“You haven’t been responding.  You okay?”

“My vision is swimming,” I said.

“Don’t get too deep,” Rose said.  “That’s dangerous.  Maybe you’re more vulnerable because you’re tired.”

“I think I am,” I said.  “I’m going to turn it off for now.  Keep from draining whatever charge is left in the battery, so to speak.”

“Were you successful?” Ms. Lewis asked

“I think I saw it.”

“Then please lead the way,” Ms. Lewis told me.

I did.  I didn’t have the benefit of the sight to make out where the cameras were, but I did remember their general locations.  I crossed the empty street, tracing a lazy ‘s’ on my way to the library.  The drop-off box was similar to a dumpster, only half the size, and had a sign in a plastic sleeve inside, explaining what it was and the pick-up hours.

“May I suggest saying a few words?” Ms. Lewis asked.  “Gestures and words can both lend weight to actions.  There is always something listening, after all.”

“I’m not up to much,” I said.  “I’m feeling pretty drained.  Is this usual?”

“No.  No it isn’t.  But your situation is a unique one.”

“You mean Rose.”

“I mean your relationship to Rose, yes.”

“I have questions,” I said, “But we should get this over with.”

“If you’re not feeling up to it, I can try saying something,” Rose said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Laird declared himself our enemy when we first met, acting against us, misleading us into thinking we had safe passage, and abandoning us.  His actions were in accord with the letter of the law, but not the spirit.  We now tender our retaliation, in keeping with letter and spirit of law, to the best of our knowledge.  Those who are witnessing us, beings of law, justice, and right, help guide this to the right hands.”

She glanced at me.

“Help guide it into the right hands,” I said, feeling just a little lame, that I couldn’t expand on the flowery, stately language.

I dropped the letter into the slot on the side of the book return box.

“Well said, Ms. Thorburn,” the lawyer said.

“Thank you,” Rose replied.

“You just pulled that out of your ass?” I asked.

“I’m not bad when it comes to that stuff,” Rose said.

“Most definitely not,” I said.

“The letter is delivered” Ms. Lewis said.  “You’ll want to be returning home, I expect?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “I feel like I could sleep for hours.  This is the vestige thing, right?”

She smiled, “‘The vestige thing’, yes.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Cool.  Which raises a few questions I’ve been meaning to ask.”

“Keep in mind I’m here in a teacher capacity, not as your lawyer.”

“Sure,” I said.  “But this vestige thing-”

“I can’t tell you the particulars of the deal we made with the late Rose Thorburn.”

“Speaking hypothetically?” I asked.

“I won’t answer questions about a hypothetical situation so close to my real-world knowledge, lest I give up some information I shouldn’t.”

“Okay, speaking generally then, what advantages are there, to having a vestige partner?”  To making a close copy of someone?  Can you use that to get around contracts?”

“You can.”

“Rose can’t use magic.  Is that usual?”

“That’s more of a question of environment.  If Rose wanted more details on that, we could start billing you, and see what we could arrange.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.  “Environment?  She’s stuck in the mirror, but she’d have power elsewhere?”

“She’d have more power in virtually any other situation, if you’re talking about faculty, the ability to act.  If I wanted to say more than that, I’m afraid, again, I would need to bill you.”

“Again with the billing,” I said.

“Everything has a price, Mr. Thorburn.  Even a leisurely walk and talk with me.”

“What’s the price there?” Rose asked, a note of alarm in her voice.

“It gives me time to convince the latest diabolist of the Thorburn line, in ways both subtle and overt, to join us.  You two are growing to like me, just a touch, because I’m one of your only allies in a sea of enemies.  You’re growing to trust me, because I’m more or less trustworthy.  My knowledge can be granted in exchange for your trust.  Knowledge I deem valuable enough to exact more of a cost comes with a price tag.”

“You’re not going to share the knowledge on vestiges,” I said, “because you know it’s something big?  Something we need to figure out if we’re going to survive?”

“In part.  But, as a suggestion, perhaps we could go for a walk.  We’ll take a detour on our way back.  If I give you material you can use to find your own way, instead of giving you the complete, more costly answer.”

“A walk to where?” I asked.

“A bit up the main road here.  We’ll make it back in time.”

“No trick?  Nothing conniving here?” Rose asked.

“No.  Only an illustration.”

“Sure,” I said.

She smiled, pointing the direction.

It was only half a block before we reached the main road.  One four-lane street that ran north-to-south down the middle of Jacob’s Bell.  The buildings on either side were typical for any of the regular places between one of the major cities.  Fast food places, a big gas station that stood out as much as anything, a strip mall set off to one side, with a parking lot as large as all of the collected stores put together.  Here and there, there were other businesses, more for locals than people stopping in for a coffee and donut or to fill up their gas tanks.  A vet’s office in a repurposed old residence, fitting in the same general era as the Hillsglade House.  I made out a hospital off to the side, just off the highway.  One of the largest buildings here, and Hillsglade House was visible on the other end of the small town, looming over things.

We approached the highway.  The road dipped in a very deliberate way as it passed beneath, like someone might be overly cautious in avoiding hitting their heads on an overhang.

“The north end,” Rose said.

Right.  The expanded city, above the highway.

“The notes said we shouldn’t come here,” I said.  “Explicitly forbidden.”

Ms. Lewis said, “You’re with me, and I’m not going to let you enter the dangerous area.”

“The dangerous area?” Rose asked.  “Johannes’ area?”

“Yes.”

We made our way up the inclined that followed after the dip in the road.  As we crested the top of the rise, Ms. Lewis said, “What do you two see?”

It was the upper end of Jacob’s Bell.

“I’m not seeing anything special,” Rose said.  “Maybe I’m missing something.  Things get indistinct as they get further from the mirror Blake is wearing.  There are some reflective surfaces, but it’s kind of muddled.”

“Rose, I would suggest you look beyond the scope of the mirror.  Focus on the city in the distance.  Blake, use your sight.”

“My sight isn’t much better than my regular sight,” I said.  “I burned myself out during that fight.”

Try.  This isn’t very hard, as these things go.  Fact is, I suspect it will be hard to ignore.”

That was ominous.

But I looked.

Through the sight, it was all different.  The sky was cast in red light, and I could see the crimson highlights on the clouds, as if the sun was in the midst of setting.

At five or six in the morning?

The buildings were twisted, the street more winding and narrow, the rooftops changing.  All towards one peculiar, oddly cramped aesthetic.

I could see people there.  Vaguely, from a distance, but they were people.

“It’s all lit up,” Rose said.  “How did we not see this before?”

“This is an illustration,” Ms. Lewis said.  “I can give you answers, but-”

“We’d have to pay for them,” I cut her off.  “Right.  You want us to reach our own conclusions?  I think it’s based on proximity.  We get closer, we’re stepping more into… there.”

“Well said.”

“It’s all lit up,” Rose said, again.  “Why?”

“Why do you think?”

“You don’t get it, Rose?”  I asked.  “Remember what Johannes said?”

“Yeah,” Rose answered me.  “He said I’d find myself in good company.  Maggie said it was because I was an Other, and this is some kind of amusement park for Others.  But that’s not it.  All of that stuff we’re looking at…”

“Vestiges,” I said.  “Or it’s one vestige.  A big one.  How’d he do it?”

That is a very good question,” Ms. Lewis said.

“One that would be very costly to buy an answer for, I’m betting,” I said.  “Right.”

“He took over an area,” Rose said.  “He made it a demesnes… and this vestige is some kind of reflection of that demesnes.”

“Or he made the vestige,” I said, “And made that vestige some kind of territory he could base his demesnes on.”

“More likely the former than the latter,” Ms. Lewis said, “But I don’t think you’re too far off base.”

Rose spoke up, “He took over an area and then copied it.  But it’s different.  A vestige degrades with attention and stress, so maybe he’s shoring it up with something?  Some kind of power source that would twist it by association?”

“Or,” I said.  “Like other amusement parks, there’s a cost to visit.  A lot of little power sources.  Each one has a general influence, twisting things in a certain way when it fills in the cracks and gaps.”

“Oh god,” Rose said.  “Oh.  Maggie said it was a place for Others to relive the old days, before mankind got its footing.  I thought maybe it was scaring people, picking off one every few months or so.  But it isn’t.  If the people were copied over too, if they aren’t real people, then what’s to stop Others from hurting them all the time?  Openly hunting them down and eating them?  Making it a constant, daily thing?  Those people would be stuck there, like I’m stuck in the mirror.”

“Except they have company,” I said.

“I think we’ve gleaned enough from this little case study,” Ms. Lewis said.

I nodded, a little numb.  Rose didn’t say a thing, and I couldn’t see her to know what she was doing or how she was reacting.  Going by her tone of voice just a moment ago, I was guessing she was horrified.

We collectively began our trek back to Hillsglade House.

“What do you think I wanted you to take away from that?”  Ms. Lewis asked.

“A place can be a vestige,” I said.

Ms. Lewis smiled, “True, but that isn’t the answer to my question.”

“Vestiges can be twisted into something else,” Rose said.  “And… I’d have power there?”

“You have power anywhere,” Ms. Lewis said.

“I mean I can have magical ability there.”

“Again, you can have magical ability anywhere, Rose,” Ms. Lewis said.  “But that’s not the issue you’re trying to address.  Your concern is the here and now.  Right now you’re in a world of mirrors, largely powerless.  Blake was asking how you could achieve more faculty.”

“And now we know,” I said.  “You can go to a place with more people and things to interact with, Rose.  I’m not sure you’d want to, given what’s going on over there, but you could.”

“I could,” Rose said.

A short answer, noncommittal.

“So this psycho guy builds up this huge demesnes, converts it into a kind of feeding pen for Others,” I said.  “But how do we do the same thing?  I’m getting the feeling we’re in dire need of these three big power sources.  Tool, familiar, demesnes.”

“You do what you did today,” Ms. Lewis said.  “You claim power where you can, then you make a play, using that power.  Look at what you’ve accomplished already.”

“An ice-hatchet and a lock of hair,” I said.

“The hair was an interesting choice,” she said.  “Why did you choose it?”

“Because I didn’t want to hurt her while she was down, I didn’t want to mess with her clothing because that’s a little creepy, and I don’t want to carry around some broken piece of metal from the sword… there aren’t any other things I could grab.”

“There are a great many other things you could have taken.  Many more abstract than the physical things you’re focusing on.  But you chose the hair.  You said you’d take some power, when you talked to her.  Did you break your oath?”

“I… honestly don’t know,” I said.  “I said a lot of things, right then.”

“If you lie,” Ms. Lewis said, “You’ll suffer for it.  You’re already drained.”

But she said it with a small smile.  As if she already knew the answer.

“I don’t think I lied,” I said.  “I didn’t feel like my vision got that much worse between when the fight started and when we dropped off the letter.  When I said that stuff, I spoke from the heart.  No deception, being direct, being blunt, like you said.”

The smile widened a small fraction.  “And?”

“And… I said I’d take power.  I thought, taking the hair, well, if a Faerie uses glamour all over the place, where are they going to use it more than in their personal appearance?”

“You thought all that through?” she asked.

“No.  I barely thought.  I was focused more on the fact I’d just puked, and barely being able to stand.  I mean, my actions make sense to me, looking back, but it wasn’t a big thing where I outlined it to myself step-by-step.”

“Well, your instincts were good.  Some Faerie give tokens to their favored humans and practitioners.  Little objects, trinkets, scraps of cloth.  Objects infused with glamour.  These objects carry a kind of charge, an influence.  A coin infused with a glamour that it’s lucky.  An earring that’s infused with another sort of glamour, granting an ability.”

“And the lock of hair?” I asked.

“Is only a lock of hair, infused with a small glamour to keep it lustrous and pretty.  But it’s infused with glamour, nonetheless.  In the old stories, there are tales of people given gifts, to use at certain times.  Throw this hairbrush down, and it becomes a forest of trees.  Throw this ribbon down, and it becomes a river.  One big glamour, expending an item.”

“This is the same thing?” I asked.

“It can be either.  A simple object with a simple benefit, or a charge of glamour to be spent.  Whatever you do with it, you’ll want to cultivate it.  Give it your attention, make it a part of your routine, and it will gradually get stronger.  Be careful, however, that you don’t get used to it.  Glamour is innately elusive, subtle, and misleading, images striving to slip from the conscious attention to the unconscious attention.  There is a reason we don’t have troves of these infused objects lying about.  In the majority of cases, they become a part of the scenery and routine, they lose importance, and they seize on that to become unimportant.  The fortunate coin is unfortunately lost, you see.”

“You said everything has a cost,” I said.  “What’s the cost, here?”

“A very good question,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Tell me, how does it go in the stories?  A woman gets the favor of a family of brownies, provided she rubs ointment on the brownie child’s eyes once a night.  She’s warned she should never use it on herself, but she does, and she gains the ability to see the brownies as they go about their business in the city.  She is discovered, and as punishment, they strike her blind.”

“Ironic punishment,’ Rose said.  “Karma.”

“The universe seeks balance, and it can be heavy handed.  You might earn the earring that gives you an uncanny ability to listen, and this is tolerable, because you earned it.  But when the earring is lost, balance is restored, and-”

“You might go deaf,” I said.  “Or you could lose the ability to hear kind words, or you could get the ears of an ass and your ass-ears can’t understand everyone’s mocking whisperings behind your back.  I think I get the drift.”

“You do.  Think of what you’re willing to lose before you turn that lock of hair to a purpose.  Should you misuse it or treat this little thing of power poorly, you’ll pay a price equal to what you gained.  But for the time being, I recommend you take time for it.”

“If nothing else, it’s a hair grenade,” I said.  “Pull the pin, throw it, make a spiderweb or something.”

“I don’t think it’s a suitable thing for fighting,” Ms. Lewis said.  “You won’t get as much effect out of it there.  It could even backfire.  Keep in mind that it was and is hair, and it lends itself to similar purpose.”

“Right,” I said.  Hair’s purpose?

We were approaching Hillsglade House.  Only a few minutes away, now.

“Where do I go looking, for a familiar?” I asked.

“Where do you go looking for a date?” Ms. Lewis asked me.  “You’re looking to make a long-term commitment.  You don’t leap into it, you put yourself out there, in the sort of place that you might ordinarily like to spend your time, doing what you do best, or doing what you enjoy most.  You introduce yourself to those of similar interests.  Get to know them.  See how compatible you are.  Only after some time do you make the investment.”

“That kid just now found a familiar at thirteen or so,” I said.

It was Rose who answered me, not Ms. Lewis.  “Arranged marriages exist even today.  Even in Canada, they’re happening.  Not so hard to believe a family would set something up with familiars, given how backwards this community seems.”

“Exactly,” Ms. Lewis said.

“Okay, then forget familiars.  Implement?  I mean, we read the books on this stuff, but-”

“But you’re lost.  The implement requires a more intimate knowledge of yourself.  Who are you, and how do you address the rest of the world?  Some people find this an easy decision to make.  They know they are warriors at heart, or thinkers.  For others, it’s a very nuanced choice.  A small few rush into it, and they find they’ve crippled themselves.”

“Haste makes waste,” Rose said.

“Hm?” I asked.  “That sounds familiar.”

“Romeo and Juliet?” Rose asked.  “Last year of high school?”

“I didn’t have a last year of high school,” I said.  “I left home.  Still sounds familiar.”

“One of the things we read,” Rose said.  “Idea’s the same.  We rush into this thing, getting one of the big three power sources, we could wind up crippling ourselves.”

“Except the Duchamps are giving kids this stuff.  Setting them up with deals.  Aren’t they kind of making waste with haste?”  I asked.

“Making waste with haste?” Rose asked me.

“It sounded better before I said it out loud,” I said.

Ms. Lewis said, “They’re making a sacrifice on one front for assets on another.  Children raised in that fashion may struggle in some respects, but they’ll have a foundation of having grown up in this world.  Experience and knowledge.”

“Well, I don’t have experience,” I said.  “I don’t have time, either.”

We reached the block where the hill and house sat inside the short wall and fence.

“I don’t have the time, ability, or inclination to go into too much detail about why,” Ms. Lewis said, “But I would recommend you hurry, Mr. Thorburn.  Haste might make waste, but as you say, you don’t have time.”

Rose asked, “So what do we do?  We can’t afford to spend too many days doing what we did with the ghost or picking fights.  We won’t make it.  We can’t get real power without having power to start with.”

Ms. Lewis said, “To clarify, you do have power.  You simply aren’t willing to use it to its full effect.”

“I don’t want anything like the barber as a lifelong companion,” I said.

“It isn’t as grave a thing as you’re imagining, Mr. Thorburn.  I’ve tried to equip you with what you need to defend yourself and defend Ms. Thorburn in the mirror there, but taking on a lifelong companion you don’t have any fondness for is a very small compromise, when your life expectancy is as short as it is.”

“I…” I started, but I found myself lost for words.

“I’m telling you the truth, Mr. Thorburn.  Look at me.  You’ll see I don’t hesitate, I won’t glance away, my eyes don’t waver.  You know I can’t lie, but I am telling you an utter truth.  You are not long for this world.  Barring exceptional circumstance, and I do mean exceptional, you are going to be replaced by the next heir.”

The words hit me hard enough that I reeled a bit.  I wasn’t quite up to par, I was a bit wobbly.  Still, it still said something that I found myself stepping back, reaching for the painted-iron railing so I could hold on and keep from landing ass-first on the sidewalk.

She continued, relentless, “Maybe in weeks, maybe in months, and maybe in years.  There is a good chance it is going to be horrible.  It might be violent, and if it is, that will be merciful, because the other sorts of horrible are worse than mere violence.”

“I-” I started, but the words weren’t coming out.  “I- You’re kind of less likeable than you were ten minutes ago.”

“You might not like me for saying this much, but you’ll respect it, and I think that, provided you last long enough, you’ll see the honesty in it.  You have options.  Our firm is one such option. You’re callow, you’re new to this, and your value to us is particularly low.  But we can negotiate with you and Ms. Rose here, and I think we can find a way to keep you both on board.  Reaching out to things like the barber is another option, power at a high price, power you could use to live.”

“I’m not so sure those are options,” I said.  Giving something that evil and fucked up a foothold in reality?  Letting them prey on others?  Or making deals, and risking a mistake that resulted in the very thing the Duchamp and Behaim families were worried about?  Hell on earth?

“The third option, the most noble of your options, would be to make the most of your time, fight every step of the way as you fought with that Faerie, and come to accept your reality for what it is.  Make decisions, hurry, make errors in the process, but take the power you need, and use that power to pave a way for your successor, remove her enemies from the world, and pray that your work means she doesn’t have to do the same for her successor in turn.”

I thought of Kathryn.  The next in line.  The oldest of us cousins.  A woman with a husband and newborn kid.

I couldn’t see it.

“Is this some trick?  Some fancy wording to scare me, kick my ass and get me into gear?”

“I can’t lie, Blake Thorburn,” Ms. Lewis told me. The words were uncomfortable, heavy, and they took the wind out of me.

“That’s… not fair,” I said.

“I can only tell you how things stand.  No, it isn’t graceful or pretty.  You aren’t liable to be as happy or powerful as you would be in a world where your grandmother and the ones who came before her weren’t diabolists.  You need to complete those rituals, because the fourth option, meeting a stupid, pointless end?  It’s a very real, very likely option.”

“And me?” Rose asked.

“Your future is tied to his.  His success is your success.  His failure is your failure.  Work with him, find a balance, and help him, so he might help you.  Now, I’ve given the two of you a great deal of information and a great many answers.  Hopefully that sets you on a more productive path.  I’m hoping that path is one that leads to us, when you’re stronger, more knowledgeable, and more useful to us.  If it supports your family, however, I’m nearly as content with that end result.  But please, don’t die a pointless death.”

“Sentiment?” I asked.  My voice was a bit clipped with anger.  I’m not sure if I would have toned it down if I’d known it would be before I’d opened my mouth.

“Yes, sentiment.  I’d hate to think my time here accomplished so little, helping two novices who summarily got themselves murdered.  That’s a large part of the sentiment, if not the largest.  I did, I admit, enjoy your company, and I enjoyed having some time to relive my earliest days as a practitioner.  New to this world.  That’s another part of it.  But it’s mostly business, not sentiment, and I can’t do much work with dead clients.  One of us partners will see you shortly, to see how far you’ve come.  With my advice here in mind, I’m going to hope that you have one of the rituals complete, Mr. Thorburn.”

“You’re setting a deadline?” I asked.

“I am.  Decide for yourself.  Do you know where you want to be for the rest of your life?  The kind of place you would make your home?  The kind of place that is as comfortable with you as you are with it?  Find a Demesnes.  Fight for it, and if you’ve picked the right place, that fight won’t be so hard.”

“There isn’t a place I want to be,” I said, “Except somewhere that isn’t here.  There’s my apartment in Toronto, but even that’s more about the people than the place itself.”

“Do you know the company you’re willing to keep?  You need to know who you are to know who or what you might spend the rest of your life with.  Do you have interests?  A passion?  Find an Other in keeping with those ideas, and make them your Familiar.”

We’d stopped by the gate.

Lifelong companionship?  I couldn’t even wrap my head around that.  I was only barely learning to trust friends, and they were adapting to me in turn.  Those were friends.  Exceptional, rare, people.  Finding a familiar, among a sea of cunning and conniving Others who wanted to murder me?

“No,” I said.  “I don’t think I can do that.  Not in a month.”  Not in a year.

“Then it’s a question of direction, of focus, figuring out how you’ll address the situation you’re in, how you address any situation.  A cup, a container, to store power?”

Useful, but no.

“A weapon, to fight back?”

I thought of hitting the Faerie with the pipe.  The sound of meat on flesh.

I shook my head.

“A defensive object?  A symbolic one?  A personal one?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I’m sorry.”

“You have a little under a month to find out.  Now, I should be going about now, and I think you have a guest waiting for you.”

I turned to look.  A girl in a checkered scarf, sitting on the stairs by the front door.

“Maggie,” Rose said.

“Shall I walk you up to the door?”

“I don’t think it could hurt,” I said.

We made our way up.  Maggie gave Ms. Lewis a wary look as we reached the bottom of the steps.

“Problem?” Ms. Lewis asked.

“Nope,” Maggie responded.  “Who’re you?”

“An acquaintance of the late Mrs. Thorburn,” the lawyer said.

I could see Maggie’s eyes widening.

“Oh…” she said.  She made a face, like she was trying to get something out and couldn’t.  A stutterer mid-stutter.  “…Golly.”

“Golly,” Ms. Lewis responded, deadpan.

I let myself into the house, then turned around, standing just inside the doorframe.  Safe.

“Is that all, Mr. Thorburn?”

“I think so,” I said.  “Um.  Ms. Lewis.”

“Yes, Mr. Thorburn?”

“I’m not feeling too articulate.  I’m a little wrung out, metaphorically speaking.  But… thank you.  Sincerely, thank you.  All of that information, even the talk about me dying, it helps.”

It helped, but it didn’t make it easier to swallow.

She smiled a little.  “Good on you.  Manners matter.  I’m glad if my advice helps you, even the less pleasant bits.”

I watched her walk away.

“You okay, Blake?” Rose asked.

“I nearly forgot about mirror-girl,” Maggie said.  “Hi there, mirror girl.”

Her lighthearted tone was very much in contrast to what I was feeling.  Ms. Lewis had waited until the last minute or two to lay the heaviest stuff on me.

I sighed, running my hand through my hair.  I wanted nothing more than to shut the door in Maggie’s face and then collapse and sleep for the next ten hours, but I couldn’t offend a… whatever Maggie was.  Not an ally, but not wholly an enemy either.  At this point I was willing to settle for an enemy pretending to be a friend.

“Hi, Maggie,” Rose said.  “We might have to talk to you another time, if possible.”

“Sure,” Maggie said.  “I just woke up extra early so I could see you guys before school, but whatever.  No pressure.”

Only a teeny bit sarcastic.

“We were just talking about some pretty big stuff, and we nearly got killed in a fight,” Rose said.

“Sure.  I get it.  I’ll bug you another time.”

She hopped to her feet, rubbing at her legs and rear end where she had been sitting on the cold stairs.

Before she could go, I called out, “Maggie.”

She turned.

“You have an implement?  Familiar?  Demesnes?”

“Yes, no and no.”

“Can I see?”

She bent down, reached into her boot, and withdrew a small knife in a sheath.

When she pulled it free, though, I saw it wasn’t a knife.

The little dagger had a funny blade, wavy.  It looked more decorative than useful.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Kriss-style athame.  It’s used a lot in Wicca, but that’s more because this one guy was a blade aficionado.  I like it more for its roots as a sacrificial blade.”

“You do much sacrificing?” Rose asked.

“Nah.  But I like the old stuff, the mysteries, the biblical stories about God as a deity of sacrifice and blood.  It resonated with me.”

“That’s not reassuring,” I said.

“I’m not the reassuring type,” Maggie said.  “Why do you need reassuring, anyway?”

“I was thinking-” I started.  Then I stopped.  I didn’t quite have the wherewithal to say everything that needed to be said.  To outline the key points, to make sure we were careful.

“You want to invite her inside?” Rose asked.

I felt a measure of gratitude.

“Yeah.  But I need you to do the wording thing.”

“Do you agree to do us and our property no harm?”

“Heck yeah.”

“You enter with no ill will in your heart?”

“I’m loving the old-school wording.  You guys are inviting me inside and maybe giving me a peek at something new?  You’re my new best friends.  No negative intentions to speak of.  No cunning, hostility, tricks, traps, lies, deceptions, distractions, violence or any of that intended.”

“You’ll take nothing of ours unless you have express permission, and take nothing you learn inside these walls to our enemies?”

“Heck with those guys, your secrets are yours, and I’m not stupid enough to tank my karma by betraying hospitality and stealing.  No, if you need me to actually say it, I won’t steal and I won’t tell anyone.”

“You accept that this invitation is this one time only?”

“I accept.  Except I gotta leave in, like, twenty minutes.  School.  I kind of promised the dads, and they know about this magic stuff, even if they aren’t into it, and they aren’t above squeezing promises out of me.”

Rose had gone silent.

“Alright then,” I said.  “The house is getting cold with the door open like this.  Come on in.”

Maggie practically skipped in her hurry to come indoors.  The door shut heavily behind her.

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219 thoughts on “Damages 2.6

    1. Tight writing this time, I only found one, and had to use Ctrl-F to find it:

      I relaxed a little.
      Three spaces after this sentence.

    2. “Okay, speaking generally then, what advantages are there, to having a vestige partner?” To making a close copy of someone? Can you use that to get around contracts?”
      Extra quotation mark.
      (Yay! My first comment to any post by Wildbow!)

    3. There’s an extra quotation mark in the middle here:
      “Okay, speaking generally then, what advantages are there, to having a vestige partner?” To making a close copy of someone? Can you use that to get around contracts?”

    4. I agree. I found hardly any typos, either.

      Typos:
      – “We made our way up the inclined that followed after the dip in the road.” -> ‘incline’
      – “there aren’t any other things I could grab” -> ‘weren’t’
      – “and it can be heavy handed” -> ‘heavy-handed’

      Unclear:
      – Blake asks “Sentiment?” in response to something the lawyer said, but she didn’t say anything like ‘sentiment’. Is that refering to ‘I’m nearly as content with that end result’?

    5. After the “pipe hitting metal” in 2.5, here we have the “sound of meat on flesh”.
      Faerie glamour is scratching the fourth wall something fierce.

      1. All the typos are in the one thread. It’s really not that hard to just skip past them, even on a mobile phone.

        And it’s hard to see how it could be done otherwise – you’d have to wait until after everyone else has posted to create the typo thread. Then everyone who had a typo to report would have to remember it, and come back later to the chapter they’d already commented on to report those errors.

        The current system isn’t perfect but it does the job and it hardly ruins the comments.

    6. “The letter is delivered” Ms. Lewis said. –> needs a comma with the apostrophes

      If I give you material you can use to find your own way, instead of giving you the complete, more costly answer.” –> no ‘then’ after the ‘if’, really unclear

      She smiled, “‘The vestige thing’, yes.” –> needs a period after ‘smiled’

      and I couldn’t see her to know what she was doing or how she was reacting. –> might need better wording

  1. Oh man. So I had my brother come to stay and I’ve been sick, and I totally slacked on thanking people for their donations & updating the tracker.

    Sooo… let’s get underway.

    Thank you, Lauren, Richard, Omar, David T, Gabriel, Paige, Eric, Etienne, Alan, Nedailko, Sebastian, David W., Jochen, George, Christopher, Daniel F, Dejan, Cameron, Edan, Machiel, Geoff, Robert, Neil, Anoop, Claudiu, Matthew E, Romain, Eduardo, Conner, Matthew K, David M, Adrian, Nate, Simon, Stephen, Michael L, Henrik, Andrew S, Tristan, Diane, Marvin, Nick, David P, John D and Michael D.

    Extra big thank yous go out to the generous Andrew B, Daniel Ei, Eric, Henno, Daniel Er, Adam (!), Timothy F, Daniel S, Julia, Michael H, and Glenn.

    You guys are all awesome. That’s two donation chapters and change. I’m blown away, and I feel horrible that it’s taken me so long to get to it.

    Now to start with the Thursday updates. Anything you guys want in particular? Glimpses at texts? Interludes for background characters? I’m wondering if I even want to do interludes, but your pushing for it could make the difference.

    1. I’d personally would like to see more of this world. How do 2 experienced practioners face off against each other? What’s going on with the rest of the Thorburns? Will news of Blake’s mockery of the Fae reach the ears of the faery queen?

      Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter as you’re a skilled writer. I hope that you are feeling better, by the way.

    2. I’m liking Maggie. I’m sure she’s creepy, horrifying, and willing to kill for power, but I’m liking her anyway.

      I get the impression the dads got her to promise not to swear. Using the magic restrictions for parenting that way is adorable, and such a contrast to poor Rose.

      1. I don’t trust Maggie, but I do see possibilities for her gaining a Familiar by turning her Implement into one by bringing it to life using Javanese Empu rites & traditions.

        1. Hey look at some of Taylor’s best friends in Worm. Tattletale was a devious manipulative bitch who loved mentally breaking people. Bitch was violent, antisocial, and turned people into chew toys for giant mutant dogs while they begged for mercy.

            1. I was using how an outsider would view those two… And I totally forgot to say that, didn’t I? Anyways I was using them to show how someone looks when you don’t know them is a lot different than when you do. The Devil is in the details as they say.

    3. I dunno how much a vote I get as a poor non-donator, but if I may be so bold, methinks a history of the Thorburn line would be most interesting.

      At least a note on their names, implements, familiars, and desmenes, as well as their deeds, misdeeds, and how they died. Similar genealogies could be done for the Duchamps and Behaims, or done instead of, should such info on the Thorburns be too spoilery. Suffice to say, I really wanna know how and why they pissed the whole universe off at them so much… And if it might have been worth it, to them.

      A justification is that Blake and Rose really could use some grounding for their situation. Past familiars could be up for helping the new heir, an understanding of how their ancestors operated could educate on what mistakes to avoid, as well as plenty of tricks they could try themselves. And maybe, perhaps, give him some insight on what he wants.

      Something a bit more normal might be a POV from Johannes, Maggie, or one of the Duchamp sisters from last chapter. Just how well does the younger sister get along with Letita? She seemed pretty torn up at the state Blake left her in. Maggie seems a heck of a lot nicer than she did last time we saw her, but I had thought she was a runaway or something. If her dads aren’t practioners themselves, how’d she get in on this?

      And Johannes. Just… Johannes. ‘Nuff said.

    4. Different texts, please. Stuff you want to load into the C-gun for later, a different author’s take on the karma stuff you’ve established, stuff from Dark Names, anything and everything.

      Interludes don’t seem to fit this story as well as they did Worm, IMO.

      1. I know that as a non-donator ( I really wanted to give something but let’s say that, uh, it would have been difficult lately) my request counts little if not nothing, but I’d like to second the excerpts from texts.

      2. probably because in worm they were actual story posts, just from another point of view.

        these all seem to be extracts from books, which while good for world-building, doesn’t really draw one into the story.

        (I STILL want more faultline!)

    5. I’m super excited for glimpses at texts but I have kind of a metatext fetish. Like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, I love fake footnotes and imaginary references.

      1. oh also it provides a really good format for “boring” exposition that people can skip if they want to but those of us who get excited by extra detailed worldbuilding can read, as well as gives us a taste of what Blake and rose have to go through with all their reading. It also lets you let them make offhand references to things to each other without having them explain texts to each other!

    6. I would love to see more from any of the books in the library. I enjoy that the reader is learning about the world at the same pace Blake is, and interludes with other characters that he wouldn’t know about doesn’t seem fitting.

    7. My preference is standard chapters, just more of them – with the occasional teaser from different perspectives. I was fond of the setup you had in Worm of interludes following the chapter ends.

    8. I’d like more excerpts from texts, just because I love worldbuilding. More excerpts from diaries would be just as good, for the same reason and also because I like what you can glean about a character from how they write in a diary.

    9. All I can say is that the Interludes were a wonderful addition in Worm, both to get us out of Taylor’s head for a little while and to have our awareness of the world expand just as Taylor’s awareness of her surroundings increased as well.

      Point being, they fit the story Worm was telling almost perfectly.

      I have no idea where you’re going with Pact and what sort of additional chapters would work to support the story, though, so I don’t think I can give you any specific advice here, except that I hope you find something that works just as well as the Interludes in Worm.

      That said, if you were to do Interludes, I would definitely look forward to them.

      1. Haven’t donated yet, so I really shouldn’t ask for the Interlude. Still I’d like to see someone else in towns reactions to things that are going on, Blake’s arrival and all that. I think Maggie is going to be a major character, so maybe she should be held off. Maybe one of the Duchamp kids?

        Probably I’ll try and donate sometime in the summer.

      1. I assume glimpses from texts would be like what we saw from Grandmammy Rose’s journal, or maybe from the books in the library, etc. Personally I’d love to see some of those.

    10. I’d like to see something from Barbatorem’s perspective. Perhaps that of other demons as well. I imagine their thinking is quite alien, and having a window into their motivations could be interesting.

    11. I agree, too early for an interlude, and they might not be useful at all in this story, when so much relies on secrecy. Maybe a short story set in another town, inside the faerie council might be cool, or something historic. Maybe something from Molly

    12. I’d appreciate reading about Molly’s time in the mansion, but you might already have that planned further down the line, so… some retelling of the few events we went through from another perspective ?

    13. I’m up for a game of Who’s That Pokémon with minor OtherDex entries or basic rundowns of the spellcasting traditions practiced by the local &/or international powers

    14. First, let me just say I’m blown away by the quantity and quality of the writing here. I quite enjoyed binge-reading worm last month, and I’m excited to see where this new work goes, especially given the crazy-fast update schedule.

      Second, my suggestion for donation work would be whatever makes the best story. If that means spending the time to plan out pacing or foreshadowing rather than writing an extra chapter, than so be it. Obviously I’m eager to read more, and if an interlude or even just a bonus ordinary chapter bests drives the story forward, that’d be awesome, but I’d vote to leave it to authorial discretion.

    15. Having only just donated, I feel partial to excerpts from texts, since it doesn’t look like the characters are gonna stop talking about them anytime soon

    1. Where are you seeing the swear? I ctrl-F’d a few I thought of off the top of my head, but couldn’t find any that were Maggie’s lines.

  2. In the words of Mart McFly, “This is heavy!”

    So what are the chances our protagonist ends up being “exceptional?”

      1. And that the costs to becoming exceptional – to himself, to Rose, to innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders — are also fairly high?

      2. Honestly, the first thing I thought of when you said this was all the ways the story could continue if Blake didn’t turn out to be the main protagonist. And honestly, a lot of those possibilities excite me. I don’t think Blake needs to have so much plot armor that we can’t worry about him, and if the story was told a little less sequentially than normal, it wouldn’t even mean saying goodbye to him as a character in his current role.

        I’m a sucker for non-sequential storytelling, though, so maybe don’t mind me.

        1. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Blake Thorburn would remember the day his lawyer took him to discover libraries.”

          Buffy died, and look where it got her! Maybe it’d be a good career move, you know?

        2. True. It would be interesting if Blake turns out to be a decoy protagonist or the story somehow continues from Blake’s prospective after his inevitable, horrible death.

        3. The phrasing “You are not long for this world” set off all kinds of alarms in my head. I’m sure there are many many potential ways to satisfy that line without a literal death.

      1. Hey, Taylor was exceptional. There’s a reason the Godzilla Threshold moved so d**n fast in that story. And I want to argue against that hollow feeling, but anything I say is a massive spoiler, so I will refrain.

        1. Yes. Taylor was execptional. But in the end… Well if you read the story, you know the good and the ill. Now lets see if Blake can be the right kind of exceptional.

  3. Another great chapter. I get the feeling that we’re getting a lot of information, but we can’t understand it’s importance yet, since we still lack a lot of knowledge. I can already see myself coming back in a couple of months and going “oooooh”

    That said I think Blake should make an implement first. Barring an extraordinary event getting a familiar would be really hard, and defending a demesnes doesn’t seem possible at the moment.

    Maybe he’ll be able to find an oblique answer. I hope I get surprised, because Blake’s situation is really bleak.

  4. I’m thinking Lewis lied.
    She didn’t set a time frame on Blake’s death, not for definite. He could very well die years from now, say sixty of them. And she didn’t explicitly mention who the heir would be. It could be who Blake thinks it is, or it might be one of Blake’s children. Just that it’s an heir.
    She mentioned she can’t lie, sure, but she didn’t lie. She was using the old Practitioner trick of ‘say one thing and get them to think another’. I’m willing to guess that she thinks or knows he’ll live quite a while, but just wants to light a fire under his ass.

    1. Oh please. The deck’s stacked against him high enough as it is. Becoming exceptional is “Plan A.” Anything else will result in “Plan B,” joining Mann, Levinn, and Lewis, “Plan C,” unleashing the 2 last resorts he has at the moment and going out in a Carrie-inspired rampage, or “Plan D,” being warped and murderized.

      Prophecy doesn’t come into it. The ambiguous wording just removes the last shred of lie that her speech could possibly contain.

    2. Lewis didn’t lie, she just presented the truth to Blake in such a way that he sees his only options in the tone that she and the firm can manipulate him best with, self-interest &/or good intentions (you know, road to hell and all that).

      The four options she stated are true but she slipped up, she mentioned “Presentation is tied to effect. Be dramatic” This presents the Fifth Option in which Blake can walk the path of the Demonslayer.

      P.S. I cant help but to think that the four options are a Shout Out to Fullmetal Alchemist:- http://www.batoto.net/read/_/7324/fullmetal-alchemist_v23_ch92_by_shinratensei/15

      1. Presenting things in a biased light with intent to sway or mislead is tantamount to what lying is in non-Practitioner society. As I stated.

        1. Have you looked up on advertising law and election campain promises? Those don’t fall under lying or misrepresentation of truth, those fall under engaging in deception (technically) the basic premise of Practicioner/Other “Society” IS Rules-lawering and Exact Words..

    3. I’m thinking less that she lied, more that immortal Others see a human lifespan as being very tiny. I mean, what’s seventy years compared to millennia? Literally?

  5. So, claim a demesne, get power so long as you beat everyone who comes. The obvious solution is to claim a demesne that no one else can enter. Say, building high thick walls around it then claiming it as your own. Better yet would be to do what Blake’s forebears did and claim a demesne within the house, surrounded by other demesnes that stop stuff from just going through.

    Claiming a demesne that’s completely inhospitable to life or immensely difficult to access could work too. (An astronaut who tried to, say, claim the entire moon with nothing on it might not face any challenges)

    Another option to consider would be to claim a mobile demesne. The Earth is moving pretty fast so you can’t really call any demesne stationary. That said, magic seems to work by concepts and associations. Words make things matter, the feel of it helps. I’d imagine that a car is probably out of bounds, but a mobile home seems like it might slip through.

    To that end, Blake could construct something inside the house, claim it where he’s safe, then move it outside.

    Another option would be to try to create an abstract demesne. Instead of claiming a literal physical place, claim a conceptual one. We saw that the vestige world can be tied to a demesne so Rose’s mirrors become a possibility (Albeit they may be attackable especially if they open it up with a claim, and they’re so empty and devoid of life they might not generate much power). You could try to designate. Again this doesn’t really seem done usually, at least not as far as we know from Blake’s very limited exposure.

    Depending on how closely tied a demesne is to a physical area, Blake could start tearing down walls of the house and hoping to change enough to free up some space, but this might erase his best protection.

    The other option would be to try to claim something completely conceptual like “My happy place”. Again probably impossible.

    1. I get the feeling that spirits contest the demesne, not just practitioners and Others. So there’s no such thing as a truly uncontested demesne.

      But didn’t the lawyer mention that one possibility is creating a vestige and then making a demesne out of it?

      1. You’d have to get the power for it somewhere, and I don’t know what would happen if your demesne was destroyed because it’s fragile, as vestiges are…

        On second thought: What DOES happen if someone’s demesne is destroyed? There have to be negative consequences, or people would just “level up” by using lesser demesnes as stepping stones to greater power.

        And I just realized I’ve been pronouncing ‘demesne’ as ‘de-mens’.

        1. I thought it was pronounced “de-MEE-nuh,” although I could be wrong about that.

          And I thought of that exploit ages ago (level-grinding demesnes and implements), and I agree, there has to be a greater consequence to letting go of one in a deliberate attempt to gain power. At the very least, it could possibly constitute a broken vow, and we have yet to see the nasty consequences of that particular type of backfire. At the most, though, I would wager that claiming a place as “Home” the way Ms. Lewis described, claiming a symbol as “You” the way she described, and then giving it up would constitute some form of identity loss.

          1. /dɨˈmeɪn/ di-mayn; from Old French demeine ultimately from Latin dominus, “lord, master of a household”

            Wikipedia says it should probably sound something like “domain”

  6. Just because its inhospitable to life doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inhospitable to Others. I’m pretty sure the moon spirits may not take too kindly to someone trying to claim it.

    An abstract demesne… Might work. Might not. Remember, you have to issue a public claim and challenge all comers for the right to possess a demesne, so I’m sure Laird or somebody will step up just to try and deny him that, if it’s at all within their power to do so.

    Ostensibly, getting an implement is probably the easiest and safest thing to do. Blake has an incredibly defeatist attitude here though, which I think is really doing more harm than anything else here. Certainly, he’s not in a happy place, but the idea that Lewis is trying to light a fire under him is likely not far off the mark. Several chapters ago, I drew up a big list of possible ideas for an implement, and others have put forth their own suggestions. Blake has shown he can play the badass, so I think a snap-out slap may be in order just so he can pony up and start giving all those assholes the bizness.

    1. Defeatest! The reason Archeops doesn’t do better.

      I think Mrs. Lewis gave Blake an incredibly useful bit of information. You can get a stronger Implement, familier, or demense if you have a connection to it. In short there is a way to get better returns with a small amount of investment capital.

  7. I’m just curious about the whole conversion to Levin, Mann, and Lewis works (by identity, did they mean lose everything? How you look, talk, etc?) And the possible uses of a lock of hair, although I think that’s pretty obvious.

    Presentation, appearance, distraction,enhancement, pride maybe. It sounds like it could actually be used for a lot of things, one of them being the bluffed you referenced when you first started in peer.

    Although hair seems lighter, so I think it might lose some of its power for that.

    Its an interesting concept at least. Might give him connection to getting a familiar among the faerie?

    1. I highly doubt a Fae familiar would fit for Blake. He’s too practical, too crude, and hates their emphasis on appearances.

      There are plenty of noble demons in mythology, even in the Ars Goetia. They aren’t all interested in death, violence, and destruction, and a handful are described as genuinely nice and trustworthy.

      I reiterate, getting some info on his family’s history could prove very helpful.

    2. First thing I thought was, hair is for warmth and protection. Then again that might be a bit too… crude? I mean, that’s what hair is for biologically speaking, but it’s not what human hair does these days,

      Maybe he could weave it into an invisibility cloak or an unbreakable rope.

      1. I’m sure there have been all sorts of applications for hair in mysticsim over the milleneia. I know of at least one very squicky one the Japanese Imperial army had in WW2, and I am not saying any more on that one.

        Then there’s the symbolism in how he got the hair. He beat a supposedly unbeatable swordswoman (Well that’s what she claimed). Perhaps use it to make a bracelet that makes you more skilled at fencing?

          1. No, that’s not it. Sigh… Okay it was an good luck charm/amulet… And the hair used was not from the head. It also ties into some of Imperial Japans war crimes. And now I need a shower.

  8. Implement first, obviously. It’s weird that he seemed so uncertain of it in that conversation–his understanding of and centeredness in who he is is probably the only thing he’s got going for him other than Rose, and it’s definitely why RDT chose him.

    Not, mind you, that I know what his implement should be, but I’m pretty sure that when wildbow tells us, we’ll all immediately know it could never have been anything else.

    (Hmm, if Worm characters were in this universe….
    Taylor: demesnes: her territory, familiar: Atlas, implement: spiders
    Tattletale: implement: laptop
    Bitch: demesnes: her territory, familiar: her dogs, implement: leash
    Regent: familiar: Shatterbird: implement, scepter-taser
    Imp, Grue: ???
    Coil: demesnes: his lair, familiar: Dinah, implement: …gun?
    Accord: implement: his books, familiar: his staff)

    1. The main point of a familiar is as a power source, and Rose drains power just by her existence – I suppose he could conceivably marry her, though marrying an arcane mirage of your alternate self seems both unnecessarily complicated and sqidgy, but she cannot be his familiar

    2. Is it? In some ways Rose is an awful choice. A familier is supposed to be a source of power, and a useful ally. Rose is a drain on Blake’s power, and she has little to no useful abilities. What’s more, as a vestige Rose is gradually fading. It’s like being in a tag team wrestling match, and your partner is a quadrapaligic midget you have to carry on your back. And I get the impression familiers are a one time deal. You only get one in your whole life, and you can’t replace them if something happens to them.

      Now if Rose could somehow be powered up into a better state…

      1. Yeah, she’s a drain on his abilities now, but will she continue to be so once he makes her his familiar? Remember, the familiar bond is for life. Remember how the faerie mentioned that he’d be sacrificing immortality for 40 years of freedom if he became a familiar? Who’s to say it wouldn’t work the other way around as well, with a short-lived Other like a vestige having its life extended as long as its master remains alive.

        1. “Putting the rest of my life at risk for a mere forty or so years of mild adventure?” (2.2)

          The way I read it, it wouldn’t be a straight sacrifice – he risked pissing off the one who exiled him, which might result in his execution. The implication that familiars might die has been stated elsewhere:

          “Going out of her way to experience mortality” (2.5).
          “they gain a chance to be mortal, even if it is a small mortalhood” (1.3)

          But none of those say it is an automatic death sentence. The way I interpret it is the chance to experience pain and possible death is attractive to thrill-seeking bored immortals in the same way extreme sports are attractive to some people.

  9. No pressure, Blake. You’re just very much likely to fail and get horribly killed (or worse) but no pressure. Did you get our card?

    Man, we knew that Johannes was very likely a monster but what we learned here puts it all in perspective. Sort of. I can’t wait to learn more about him.

    I like Maggie. I even liked Ms Lewis.

    So, Blake has to find at least one of the big threes, soon. Probably the implement first. And he’s got a lock of glamour end hair. I wonder if, aside from whatever intrinsic use he can find for it, it could be used to bargain with other players.

    1. Blake should consider lending Maggie a few books, in exchange for a possible cease-fire agreement between the Thorburns (Blake and Rose) and her.

      He might even be able to game the system, since Rose seems to have copies of all (or most) of the library’s materials in the mirror, so they would still have access to whatever tomes they lend to Maggie.

      It would probably be a good idea to include a stipulation that Maggie could keep the books for as long as she likes, but if/when Blake dies, she promises to return them to the new heir. (Kathryn?) Even if the books Maggie borrows wouldn’t be any of the really valuable stuff, it would still be foolish to potentially cripple the next Thorburn by losing any assets.

      1. I think Rose only has access to the book reflected in the mirror.  If that’s so, she wouldn’t have any that Blake loans out.

        1. It’s already been established that Rose’s world has a separate continuity that diverged from Blake’s sometime before Molly did the awakening ritual (since Rose’s side of the mirror had more iron than Blake’s). It’d still be there.

  10. I’m still kind of irritated that, allegedly, Blake can’t claim the house as his desmesne. Still doesn’t make sense that rooms being taken by his predecessors means he can’t inherit it. You’d think that’d be the point.

    Now I get that he apparently doesn’t feel its right for him, that he doesn’t feel utterly comfortable and safe there. But… Dude, you keep complaining about trust fund mages, and yet you really are one, yourself. The only person stopping you from picking it up is you.

    I’m positive those books represent a degree of power that’s hard to come by without them, even if you don’t start summoning demons all willy nilly. I would bet real money people would slaughter each other just to possess one of Granny’s books. Blakey boy has all of hers and everything else his family has collected over the decades. USE THEM

    1. Well the problem with using them is that they seem to be automatic negative Karma to use, plus dangerous to use if you don’t know what your doing.

      1. I don’t think they are automatic negative karma quite so much as they are somewhat indiscriminate when used directly as weapons and therefore tend to act beyond what is warranted.

  11. For some reason the Pact site has a problem with working on both of the browsers onn my phone. It might initially load just fine but often when I try to scroll down the page the text just disappears and the browser halts and I get treated to an empty page. Sometimes waiting fixes that, sometimes even refreshing the page doesn’t help.

    Anyone have the same issue? I mostly use the mobile version of the opera browser.

  12. So, I think I figured out part of why diabolists are so feared and hated.

    It has been heavilly implied that the line between Practicioner and Other is blurry and that Others are merely highly advanced Practitioners.

    It has also been stated that most of what Practicioners do is to draw on the power of Others.

    But if Practicioners get their power from Others and Others are just Practitioners… where did the power come from? It makes no sense… unless there is an outside source of power. A kind of Other that is not and never was human.

    That’s why everyone is terrified of the Barber. It’s not just an Other, it’s one of the original Others. And not only are they incredibly powerful, but if you try to fight one you may find yourself facing the original source of your own power.

    1. Some Others might be just Practitioners, but not all. A ghost, the spirit of a pencil, those little motes of light to move objects etc. Those aren’t humans. Some might come from humans more or less directly, but they aren’t.

    2. Well, SOME Practitioners may have ‘ascended’ to Other-esque beings such as the lawyers, but they aren’t actually Others. The ‘real’ Others seem to be the fae, goblins, etc, which are actually from a different plane of existence, apart from normal humankind; those like the lawyers aren’t actual Others, but they’ve been drawn into a contract that gives them the extended lifespan & such that make them seem similar.

      I don’t know where ghosts come into the equation.

  13. I wonder if it would be possible to use the hair in his implement to add more power? Maybe weave it into a friendship bracelet, or a wrapping for an instrument or something.

    I agree with Mayhem that Blake should not have too much trouble finding a suitable implement. Maybe he’s just too tired to think straight, but that definitely seems like the place to start.

    1. I don’t think he should involve the hair in his implement. I don’t know, though; the hair carries with it the association of glamour, and that’s pretty much anti-Blake – he doesn’t hide his nature behind pretensions. Unless you mean he should use it sort of as a badge of his success and a memory of the fight itself, but that still doesn’t seem like his character.

      Like the lawyer said, “The implement requires a more intimate knowledge of yourself. Who are you, and how do you address the rest of the world?” How does Blake? I dunno.

      1. Maybe he should burn it as a part of his enchantment ritual, as a way of symbolically saying “fuck pretensions”. That would be very Blake.

  14. Johannes, Ms. Lewis, and Maggie are all awesome.
    Props on revealing details on characters via thrown-in lines like “I kind of promised the dads”. I approve.

    The rule on ‘no lying’ is awesome, but I’m still confused about the particulars. For instance, Rose calls Laird ‘crazy’ – is this sufficient to count as a lie? Or, put differently, who decides what kind of truth value that assertion has? Is Rose’s subjective impression of Laird as ‘crazy’ enough to keep it from being a lie?

    Awesome lines:
    [The dialogues in Pact so far have delivered tons of memorable quotes each chapter.]
    – “So…”“This isn’t one of those situations where a rule becomes law and law becomes natural law?”
    – “He is going to retaliate.”“Probably,”“But how much worse can it be than him trying to kill us?”
    – “You’re making that a question, and not a statement,”“It feels like a question,”
    – “I don’t see a camera,”“Are you looking?”
    – “I was willing to violate the spirit of one oath to keep the letter of another. I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
    – “Cameras. I could see the focus they were devoting to an area. Almost like spotlights, as if I could see the outline of their field of view.” – Heh. Reminds me of stealth video games like Beyond Good & Evil, Commandos, or Mark of the Ninja.
    – “May I suggest saying a few words?”“Gestures and words can both lend weight to actions. There is always something listening, after all.”
    – “His actions were in accord with the letter of the law, but not the spirit. We now tender our retaliation, in keeping with letter and spirit of law, to the best of our knowledge.”
    – “Everything has a price, Mr. Thorburn. Even a leisurely walk and talk with me.””It gives me time to convince the latest diabolist of the Thorburn line, in ways both subtle and overt, to join us. You two are growing to like me, just a touch, because I’m one of your only allies in a sea of enemies. You’re growing to trust me, because I’m more or less trustworthy. My knowledge can be granted in exchange for your trust. Knowledge I deem valuable enough to exact more of a cost comes with a price tag.”
    – “Try. This isn’t very hard, as these things go. Fact is, I suspect it will be hard to ignore.” That was ominous.
    – “Look at what you’ve accomplished already.”“An ice-hatchet and a lock of hair,”
    – “There are a great many other things you could have taken. Many more abstract than the physical things you’re focusing on.”
    – “Think of what you’re willing to lose before you turn that lock of hair to a purpose. Should you misuse it or treat this little thing of power poorly, you’ll pay a price equal to what you gained.”
    – “Where do I go looking, for a familiar?”“Where do you go looking for a date?”
    – “They’re making a sacrifice on one front for assets on another. Children raised in that fashion may struggle in some respects, but they’ll have a foundation of having grown up in this world. Experience and knowledge.”
    – “I don’t want anything like the barber as a lifelong companion” -> The mere idea…
    – “You are not long for this world. Barring exceptional circumstance, and I do mean exceptional, you are going to be replaced by the next heir.”
    – “Now, I’ve given the two of you a great deal of information and a great many answers. Hopefully that sets you on a more productive path. I’m hoping that path is one that leads to us, when you’re stronger, more knowledgeable, and more useful to us. If it supports your family, however, I’m nearly as content with that end result. But please, don’t die a pointless death.”
    – “Oh…” she said. She made a face, like she was trying to get something out and couldn’t. A stutterer mid-stutter. “…Golly.” — Poor Maggie =(.
    – “I wanted nothing more than to shut the door in Maggie’s face and then collapse and sleep for the next ten hours, but I couldn’t offend a… whatever Maggie was. Not an ally, but not wholly an enemy either. At this point I was willing to settle for an enemy pretending to be a friend.”
    – “That’s not reassuring,”“I’m not the reassuring type,”“Why do you need reassuring, anyway?”

    1. The rule has to be knowingly lying. Otherwise, someone could do the old, “lie to find out random truths” trick. For example, if you didn’t know if an enemy was dead or alive, you could have one person they are living and one person say they are dead, and then see which person lost their powers.

  15. I have to say Blake is not using his background enough. As far as his human enemies go, they are all upper middle class magical Canadians. Blake lived on the streets and has been beaten, threatened, raped, and then learned how to avoid all of those things. He has ways of dealing with people and exerting and resisting leverage that his enemies won’t know how to deal with. Right now, they’re scared of him because they think he might summon demons but they really should be scared of him because he’s seen and endured the worst parts of non magical society.

    1. At the same time, he might have non-magical experience on his side, but they have way more experience in the realm of summoning things. Sure, he beat a teenager’s familiar (with a demonic lawyer by him), but look at how easily Laird messed him up (without breaking his word) with the temporal shenanigans. Still, his street smarts have & will undoubtedly help(ed) him get by.

  16. If I was a practitioner my implement would be …
    a flashlight.

    If I was a practitioner my familiar would be …
    an octopus.

    If I was a practitioner my demense would be …
    a server room.

  17. Blake should claim the mirror dimension as his desmenes. It gives Rose power, and should he learn to enter it, a sanctuary for him.

    1. This idea I like. I suspect there are multiple practical difficulties, one of which you mentioned (how to enter), but it is the right kind of sideways, Kobayashi Maru thinking he is going to need to pull off something powerful without having to fight too damn hard for it.

    2. Imagine the terror the local practitioners would feel when they would suddenly realize that Blake now had the ability to watch them through practically any reflective surface out there, and they would have much difficulty challenging his claim.

      1. But if he, as an uninitiated amateur can enter the mirror world, imagine how easy it would be for experienced practitioners to do it.

        1. And given the ease with which the Others reached through the mirror and the fact that Others are allowed to challenge demesne announcements, I’d say it’s not really a safe thing.

          1. But if he claimed the demesne while inside the safety of his house, with all the protections therein then any Others would have problems getting in. I think that it was the same trick that Johannes used to claim such a large domain in the first place.

    1. I think that Rose as his familiar would be a bad idea. I mean, her whole thing is about sapping power from him; familiars are supposed to SUPPLY power. And she’s already working with him anyways. No, methinks they need to add something else.

      1. Unless, of course, she stops draining him of power and starts supplying it to him once he forms the Familiar bond with her.

  18. What Blake should probably do in regards to his ritual deadline is follow Laird’s example – have his familiar and implement be one in the same. Pick the barber as the familiar and the shears as the implement, and do it in such a way that Barbatorem can’t leave the shears but Blake has access to the demon’s power set plus whatever benefits come from having shears as an implement. This should give Blake a better degree of control over the situation, allowing him to mitigate whatever problems could come with having a demon familiar.

    1. That kinda sounds like a horrible idea. I don’t think the Barber would be one so easily taken as a familiar. Granny Rose did lay out many instructions just for trying to communicate with him. Blake would probably end up like the Briar Girl or worse.

      I also don’t see how shears would fit for Blake. A bad choice in implement could also bring disaster.

      1. Ms. Lewis seems to think it’s doable. Granted she’s not an entirely reliable source, but she does want Blake to power up so that he’s a person worth adding to her firm, and if he ends up like Briar Girl that isn’t going to happen. Briar Girl also is still described as a girl in spite of having been in the community for six years – most likely she was really young when she made the deal, and was tricked into the bad position she’s in. If Blake makes sure he is careful in how he makes the contract I don’t see that happening to him.

        As to how easily it is done, keep in mind that Blake has leverage – Barbatorem is his prisoner. The barber will never be able to leave that circle so long as his keepers follow the instruction manual. Given that the barber already has a warped sense of time, a human lifetime trapped inside a pair of shears for the option of returning to wherever it is demons normally live wouldn’t be a bad deal.

        As to shears fitting Blake, they might fit. The barber uses them as a weapon, and Blake is certainly a fighter of a sort. Of course, shears can be used as a tool to help make things too, and Blake has assisted his artist friends in that regard. Given the broad utility they could have, I doubt the choice would be bad a bad one even if it’s not a perfect fit.

        1. As someone mentioned in an earlier chapter, shears sever connections. And they don’t do it cleanly. I would be very scared of a Blake who decided that would be his implement. I would be even more scared of a Blake who fit those connotations.

  19. Loophole thinking on demesnes:

    Claim a mobile demesne. A room on a cruise liner, a mobile home, a houseboat, an airplane, a submarine, a car, an entire aircraft carrier, something. Move it to where there would be few challengers, claim it, then move it wherever you want. There has to be something mobile that nevertheless can be claimed. One major problem is this runs into resource issues for Blake. At one limit of this idea, claim your body as your demesne.

    Pull something akin to Johannes and claim a created world, e.g. Sir Fuente’s suggestion of using the mirror world. If you create it, I bet it is way easier to defend it. Of course, if he uses something other than the mirror world, this runs into the need-power loop: need power to create a world so you can claim it for power. And if he claims the mirror world, hopefully it doesn’t drain its power too badly.

    Why can’t demesnes of deceased owners be accessed? Several commenters have asked that question (Meister in this chapter). There has to be a way to … unpower, deconsecrate, release claims … whatever the correct wording is. Otherwise the world would be getting awfully restrictive after thousands of years. Of course, if they easy way is end the family line then Blake has a problem, but there is almost certainly some way to do it. Then, claim a demesne inside the house.

    Claim a demesne that will grow. This may have been Johannes’ trick. Claim “the next legally annexed area of Jacob’s Bell”. Right now, area = 0, but when the town does an annex, it is yours. Claim a garden area and then plant a larger garden. Anything that can naturally be expanded.

    Claim the tower room as a demesne. I strongly suspect that Barbatorem is not sitting in someone’s demesne, so there is part of the house that is unclaimed. However, I bet Barbatorem gets to fight the claim and there are probably other practical difficulties. Upgrade to this idea: release Barbatorem in return for power, or for his protection while Blake claims the tower room. And the demon lawyers would likely be highly appreciative of releasing a demon.

    Transfer ownership of a demesne. If a high-end enchantress can steal someone’s familiar, it should be possible to steal a demesne. Combined with the “demesnes are not eternal” idea above, transfer ownership of a dead ancestor’s demesne. Second iteration: transfer ownership by mutual agreement. For example, find something Johannes wants enough that he will deed part of his domain over to Blake. Third iteration: claim a demesne as a prize in a fight … or just by flat out threat, e.g. threaten to send Barbatorem after someone if they don’t cede part or all of their current demesne. Problem: most of the non-consensual options here are karma black holes and the consensual options require something that others are willing to buy.

    Claim a joint demesne – who says more than one person can’t claim an area, as long as they agree? Offer Briar Girl the area she wants as a joint demesne, subject to the limitation that it is only fully hers once the Thorburn line of practitioners is dead and that she will agree to a non-aggression pact with all family members. That would bring Briar Girl and her powerful familiar over to his side and they would help defend the demesne claim. Problem: the lawyers might disagree. On an easier side of this, make a claim with Maggie.

    Any others?

    1. He could convert his personal space into his demesne. That’s everything within arms reach. Inversely, he could claim everything within his “aura” the electromagnetic field surrounding him.

    2. Maybe to un-make a demesne, you’d have to make it not that be place anymore. If you claim a garden, and then the garden gets paved over, presumably the house that gets built over it isn’t your demesne anymore, because you claimed the garden and the garden no longer exists.

      So maybe Blake would have to demolish the house to reclaim it. Or gut it and divide it into new rooms – which reminds me. Presumably Granny Rose’s demesne, the library, wasn’t always a secret room – it only needed to be secret once she had family around she’d sworn to keep magic away from. Plus, there was an unclaimed room there for her, but not one for Blake? Is Blake’s generation just unlucky enough to be the ones who ran out of space?

    3. Claiming your own body as your demesne sounds awesome, but you have to wonder what sort of advantages it would give you. It’s the place where you’re most powerful, sure, but what does that mean in practice?

      Interesting idea, all the same.

      1. It would mean you stab yourself with stakes for the ritual.
        Then, you don’t have to fight anyone unless you’re possessed
        but you have to allow Others to possess your body if you want them to give you power/tributes

        If my analysis is right, (the above) then I would expect the person who does that also chose a large rock for their familiar as well as implement. (pet rocks!)

  20. A place can be a vestige? CALLED IT. ………….Did not quite expect to find out in so horrifying a fashion, though. Here we were thinking Johannes might not be such a bad guy!

    …And that explains why he’s never, ever to visit.

  21. Final thought for now, then back to work. As far as extras, I vote for one from the perspective of an Other, maybe even a demon. Sympathy with the devil, anyone?

  22. Various things.

    First off Blake needs to get some sleep so he can be in a less exausted state, and actually understand what Mrs. Lewis told him. It’s easier to get the big three if they are something your compatable with. That symbolically connects to you. Lets look at these.

    Implement- I think this has the potential to be the easiest. He needs an item that symbolises him. Something you’d associate with him. A representation of who he is, and what he does. Maggie explained her Kriss. Laird’s watch keeps making more and more sense to me. Going the other way, we have Jo’s buckler, which makes sense as her familier is a swordswoman. So what is Blake’s little Monopoly item? A mirror? Seems to fit for Rose better. Blake isn’t that self introspective. Or narccistic. I’ll admit, after his awakening ceromony I’m in the Key’s camp. But he’d need his own keys, prefferably from his motorcycle. Keys have meaning to him. They also have symbolism. Key’s lock and unlock things. They open doors. And they can make things go. Of course I might be all wrong here. But the more it fits him, the better the implement is.

    Familier- A lot of people have said Rose. I put my feelings about that up above. But other than that, what else did I take away from Mrs Lewis? Get a familier you have common interests with. Love swordfighting? Get a swordfighting familier. Want to live in the middle of a forest? Get a Dryad familier. If you share common goals and interests, you can probably get a more powerful familier easier than if you try to force something that you have nothing in common with.

    Demense.- Here’s the hard one. You need a place that you feel great attachement to, and that you can call your own. It’s no surprise Grandma Rose picked the Library, full of books she grew up with, and that she wrote. There is no where on the property Blake feels that way about. Hell, I doubt there is anywhere he truly feels that way about. He’s still coming off of being a runaway, and a vagabond. He hasn’t settled down. He has no me space. Damn, but it seems like Practicioners have to settle down pretty badly.

    Seems like Maggie isn’t going to be that much help, if all she has is her implement. On the other hand she would really benifit from even the most basic tomes in the library. She may not be a strong ally now, but with help she could be, and one that owes you. I wouldn’t even call her a terrorist at this point. She’s someone waving a stick around in the dessert, screaming obscenities. But Grandma apparently felt she warrented a mention in the who’s who.

    I got more, but this post is long enough as is. later.

    1. Blake has a number of keys that could work, and each one has symbolic meaning.

      The Hillsglade House key – this key opens the door to sanctuary, but also seals it so others may not enter. Potential uses include opening the door to any house or building, opening any sanctuary to Blake, or locking a door magically so that others may not enter.
      The Library key – Opens the library. Perhaps it could be used to open paths to knowledge, or close them other others.
      Motorcycle key – Obviously one that’s important to him. Perhaps it would let him access any and all vehicles that use a key to lock and start?
      The key to the barber’s tower – Now this one has some real potential. It symbolically opens and closes the gates of Hell. It can potentially both unleash the demon and seal it away. Perhaps it could do so for other Others as well? This key could be very useful in controlling Barbatorem should Blake take the demon as his familiar.

      Of course, other keys could do other things. For instance, handcuff keys as an implement might allow you to get out of any restraint or make other things into restraints. There’s nothing to say that Blake has to only choose one key either – Johannes has a set of antique pipes as his familiar, so Blake could hypothetically have a set of keys. Maybe making a key ring his implement would be better. A key ring lets you add and remove keys, so a key ring as an implement could give Blake a certain amount of power to empower keys he puts on it with – fewer keys on the would have more power individually than having a greater number, but having more would have the benefit of having a greater number of utilities to pick from. If it would work that way, that would give Blake a flexible implement that would let him pick and choose how he prepared for a confrontation. Though that may not work out since he’d have a better connection with specific keys than to a key ring he could add any key to.

  23. Hair is not a weapon?
    Just goes to show that people are confined to their upbringings.
    Hairmonsters are a traditional Japanese thing.

    1. A very good question that I am itching to see answered.

      (Also, I’m both really glad that this episode hints that Rose will be in a better state later, and that she got to actually take a bit of a more active role this episode.)

  24. On the Others/Practioner connection… Yeah only the more powerful Practioners come near that. Like Mara. Or perhaps Johannes, given time.

    Other than that, all Practioners are somewhat Other, but not all Others were Practioners. Its important not to confuse the two.

  25. Okay, some more thoughts.

    Symbolism- It’s not just for others. There was some symbolism for people in what Blake did to Letita. He beat her in self defense. But he didn’t truly harm her when he took his prize. I doubt his cutting her heart out and eating it would have done her any favors. But instead he gave her back to Jo. And that I think is a major part of why Penelope let him go, and got her mom to let him go. The scary evil diabolist… Was nice. He could have serously handicapped Jo for life if he had done worse to Letita. It’s like you knocked your ball into that guy your parents always told you would eat you, and he gives it back to you, even though you hit him in the head with it. Maybe Blake will end up causing a youth rebellion amongst the practicioners of Jacob’s Bell.

    Is it just me, or does saving up good karma so you can fuck someone over without reppercussions seem double douchebaggy?

    Johannes-Well this certainly sounds bad. But I remember in the first chapter he said not to believe what they would tell Blake about him. In short, what’s Johannes side of the story? Yeah he’s got a giant vestige where Others can run amok, but how bad is it? Do the Vestiges that live there actually suffer? Are they even sentient enough to suffer? June is a lot less aware than Rose. Or is it like the damned in Terry Prachet’s Eric?
    Vestige- “Naw, it’s not bad. Yeah, I have to spend my paycheck at the company store, but honestly where else am I going to spend it? And I get weekends off. Oh sure I have to sound convincing and scream about how it hurts, and why are spiders coming out my eyes, but it’s not like I feel anything. Anyways I get off at 11. What time do you get out of the mirror?”
    So we need to learn a little more there before we decide Johannes is an inhuman monster. Though he may be.

    1. “Is it just me, or does saving up good karma so you can fuck someone over without repercussions seem double douchebaggy?”

      No. No it’s not just you. There’s a reason very few people here like Laird now.

    2. The thought about Johannes is good. What if his demesne actually is like an amusement park for Others. All of the vestige people are just park employees. The Others then have to pay a fee to enter and have fun. Nobody is actually hurt.

      Perhaps Johannes is just a victim of propaganda and misinformation. Even Granny Rose didn’t have that much info about him or his rise to power. Perhaps after Blake meets his inevitable, horrible end, it will be revealed that Johannes is the true hero after all.

      1. Minor flaw, pretty sure vestiges can feel pain/be affected by Others, like Padriac contacting Rose. I, too, am a fan of the anti-hero-y persona (I mean, just look at Taylor) but… making copies of people who Others can torture for their amusement in order to increase one’s power? Well, I suppose it’s better than just setting the Others on the original humans.

        I don’t think that “yeah, you can pretend to hurt this person, warp their reality, and torture them but they aren’t actually being hurt” would go over well with the Others who’re paying the entry fee.

      2. That goes into an idea about robotics, which is if you can simulate pain and emotion perfectly, what’s the actual difference between it and real emotion. It looks like pain but is it pain if the recipient isn’t technically real?

        1. It’s a very difficult question to answer because we still don’t really understand pain. We know that nerves are sensors, and if you injure them they send a signal which is processed in the brain as pain. We can read physical responses and determine that pain is occurring. But those are causes and symptoms, not pain itself. How that translates to the subjective experience of feeling pain (or for that matter, consciousness in general) is as big a mystery as ever.

          Until we understand that, we can never know if a machine is feeling pain, or just simulating being in pain.

  26. So where would Blake find an truthful barbarian spirit? What sort of implement?

    Ooh. A crow? Crows are obnoxious and very smart, but sometimes foolish if there’s something interesting involved. Blake going up to look for Barber just screams crow to me.

    Implement. Hrm. A magnifying glass? Used to find the truth – or start fires.

    Or am I misrepresenting Blake here. I’m seeing him as the truthful barbarian, not always actually really truthful, but he tries. Most of his lies are just from not thinking before speaking, and that habit will change a lot faster than his basic personality will, I’d think?

    1. I don’t think of Blake as a barbarian. From what I understand, he took the barbarian role purposefully to counter the fairy the faiery Letita, who would have a weakness to that.

      If anything, I think of Blake as a rebel. He seems relatively idealistic to have a sense of justice so perhaps a revolutionary.

  27. A few chapters ago, somebody (I forget who. I’ll reward bonus points if somebody can give this person credit as reply.) mentioned Blake using his tattoos as his implement. The more I learn about this world and the rules, I believe that this is the best option.

    One would assume that Blake would have carefully chosen his tattoos. Even if he didn’t, They are already a part of him. I suppose technically the ink would be the implement, but it should work nevertheless.

    1. I dunno; they can’t be directed much. Maybe if it was a specific tattoo on a wrist or something, but… I’m sure there’s a good reason most mages use smallish physical objects.

    2. Did he choose the subject matter? I know two of his artist friends inked and colored it as a favor, but did he have any input? Because that could be the greatest implement he has.

      Also he can wave his hands around impressively, which could be high on the showmanship points.

      1. 1.5 gives us a little bit of insight into the tattoos. Evidently they are of white birds flying off of branches. Perhaps this shows that Blake has a natural inclination to try to flee or escape his problems. He could be a supernatural escape artist, paying off his Karma and using his power to escape when things get difficult!

    3. But that’s the great thing about tattoos as an implement. There’s easy room for expansion. If he wants his tattoos to do something specific, he can get a very detailed new one. He’s got a lot of real estate left on his skin. I think the magical laws would even allow it since tattoos, even the non magical ones, are the perfect example of satisfying the desires of moment by incurring an uncertain but long term consequence.

    4. I posted about it but I am not sure I was first.

      More speculation:

      We are not yet sure if an implement has to be a separate physical object. That’s why tattoos might work – they are a physical object (the ink) but not separate. The drawback of tattoos is that they cannot be used as objects – Maggie’s kris can always be used as a knife, implement or not, but tattoos cannot be. See Carpe Jugulem, Pratchett, for why this is important (the axe). An axe, whatever else it is, is always an axe.

      And now, the really interesting point: Blake’s tattoo was already magically active as soon as he awakened. Other objects are not necessarily so, even though they all do contain spirits. And we haven’t seen Blake look at his tattoos with his sight for more than a glance. Is it possible that the person doing the tattoo was a practitioner and put in some power already? Blake doesn’t know the acquaintances he made elsewhere are non-cognoscenti. Perhaps they saw this poor person who obviously did not know about the magical world but was somehow burdened with bad karma that was not his fault. They figure out he is not a bad guy, and someone decides to give him a minor protection to offset his problems, with the protection being the tattoo. That would explain why the tattoo was already active. And an already-powered gift that he chose would make a good foundation for an implement.

      1. Blake doesn’t know the acquaintances he made elsewhere are non-cognoscenti. Perhaps they saw this poor person who obviously did not know about the magical world but was somehow burdened with bad karma that was not his fault. They figure out he is not a bad guy, and someone decides to give him a minor protection to offset his problems, with the protection being the tattoo. That would explain why the tattoo was already active.

        Or maybe RDT’s been preparing him as a possibility for a long, long time.

  28. He is used to working with his hands. Everything he ever did or got, up until his inheritance, he got on his own. He has fought with his hands, built with his hands, destroyed with his hands. His hands have been the one thing he could rely on for years.

    The human hand is our best physical tool, by which all other tools are used. Hands can be strong, hard, and rough, but also, gentle, precise, and provide us with one our main ways of perceiving the world. A hand as a fist is our most primal weapon, and a hand can direct others to stop, come, go, or even communicate complex ideas and emotions with a simple gesture. There are entire languages based around what hands can do. Even the Ars Goetia includes a few gestures to deal with demons.

    Somebody else can go clean up your minds off the walls.

  29. The idea of tattoos as implements is very interesting, but they are part of him, so not sure if that would work. However there is body art that is not tattoo work. Does Blake have any piercings? Does he have any piercings in which he carries a piece of jewelry that means something to him?

    The idea of a spirit of body art as a familiar though. That. That has some very interesting possibilities.

    How many other people have piercings or tattoos? A spirit of body art would have a strong link to that person. A spirit of Body Art could also be potentially very powerful. Body art has existed a very, very long time, going back to scarification before people used the first crude inks.

    1. -involved with arts
      -interesting contacts with two exiled faeries under a week
      -going to die soon

      How about a Leanan Sidhe ?

      1. Or perhaps Acat, the Mayan god of tattooing, if they are weak enough after being mostly unworshipped for so long. Heck Acat’s entire universe was supposed to end in 2012.

        1. If Blake does decide to use his Tats for his implement, and votes at the meetings are done by raising your implement, I want this to happen…

          “Okay, and that takes care of the voting tonight. Mr. Thorburton, you can put your shirt back on now.”
          Various Duchamps make a sound of dismay and regret.

          1. Good one, I laughed! Of course, he’s mature but relatively young, probably in reasonable shape, a bit of a bad boy (by reputation at least, the tats help), and the Duchamps are all females … are we sure that Penny’s relatively nice reaction was just a calculated balance of karma?

        2. That’s a myth. The Mayan calendar expired in 2012. But that didn’t mean they expected the world to end then any more than us having a 2014 calendar means we think there won’t be a 2015. They would have just rolled over to using the next calendar.

          Acat is a good idea. I wonder if you’d have to have a connection with Mesoamerican culture to click with him, though…

    1. I kind of don’t get why everyone seems to think Maggie and Bonesaw are alike. They don’t really have much in common beside their not swearing and Maggie is clearly not doing hers by choice.

      1. They’re both the young member of their respective cast. I don’t think we’ve seen enough Maggie for a good opinion yet. I want to see more. I guess Saturday . . .

      2. They’re both labelled “terrorists” too. Whether Maggie deserves that label remains to be seen, of course. (Bonesaw obviously did).

        Personally I have too much respect for Wildbow to think he’s recycled a character, but there are similarities on the face of it.

  30. So, let’s recap what we know about Johannes.

    1) Unrealistically large demesne from which he can draw an unbelievable amount of power.

    2) Apparently broke the laws of taking a demesne as Grandma Rose didn’t hear his challenge.

    3) Completely amoral. He is responsible for the regular death and suffering of countless people. Well, countless sentients.

    4) He has the fealty of a horde of Others. Furthermore, they’re the kind of Others which go bump in the dark.

    5) His familiar is a dog! I can’t emphasize this enough. Familus was very explicit: do not allow your familiar to take the form of a rat or dog. Either Johannes has managed to avoid the problems this brings, or he just doesn’t care. I’m not sure which is more worrisome.

    6) His familiar is an archangel. A frakking archangel.

    7) This is largely supposition, but I think he has good karma. He gave Blake ready advice at no cost, both during the vision and after the council meeting. If his demesne truly works off of a fealty system, then he is beholden to his vassals. And seeing to the welfare of so many people/Others and seeing to the stability of such a large demesne is probably brilliant karma.

    8) From how Laird responds to the Briar Girl at the council meeting, Johannes control over the North End is completely uncontested.

    I think Johannes is Endbringer levels of terrible and we just haven’t realized it yet. Johannes has violated the fundamental rules of familiars and demesnes and his familiar and demesnes are orders of magnitudes stronger than anything anyone in Jacob’s Bell can muster. For all we know his implement is similarly overpowered and broken.

    And most importantly, while Johannes isn’t making an open play, I think he wouldn’t hesitate to fill a power vacuum. A power vacuum that Blake may be creating shortly.

    Blake, you think Laird as de facto ruler was bad? Wait until Johannes is the official ruler.

    1. Actually I think it was just Grandma’s will that said no dogs or rats. It might just be a problem for the Thorburtons.

      Also where are you getting number 6 from? Did I miss something where it was stated his familier is an Archangel? Though if that’s so, I can see how Blake could top it…
      “How? How could you get the devil to be your familier?!”
      “I just asked him a question. What would you do for a Klondike Bar?”

      1. The problem with that is that Blake doesn’t really have acess to the store to buy the Klondike bars. Perhaps if he summoned and binded a Klondike bar spirit . . .

            1. She’s in a hatchet! It doesn’t get much harder than that!

              As far as a soft center, well, she’s a bit lacking there.

      2. It may not be just RDT. Laird: “Unconventional, but a police dog was off the table, and I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life dealing with any Other that would need to take such a large and inconvenient mortal form.” 1.05.

        So, Laird wasn’t interested in taking a dog as a familiar either. He stated one reason – large and inconvenient form, but that was his additional reason, not his primary one.

        As far as #6, see my guess below (under LDWoodworth’s post).

      3. His familiar is a guardian of the seventh circle and exudes an aura of nobility and purity. Seventh circle seems to me to be referring to either the seventh circle of heaven of the seventh circle or hell, and the nobility aspect seems to indicate the former.

        The seventh circle is pretty high up there, so I said archangel rather than just angel.

        1. According to some (even most)classifications,archangels are actually the second lower order of angels,after normal angels.

          according to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_angelic_hierarchy, some of my Christian books and SMT games,they are,from lower to higher:

          Angels,Archangels,Principalities (or Rulers,but I,personally, have only seen them named as such on Wikipedia),Powers (or Authorities,I have seen them refered as both),Virtues (or Strongholds,but I,personally, have only seen them named as such on Wikipedia),Dominions (or Lordships.but I,personally, have only seen them named as such on Wikipedia),Thrones (or Ophanim,but I,personally, have only seen them named as such on Wikipedia),Cherubim and Seraphim

          If the seventh has to do with the orderof the angel (very possible),we are talking about,depenting on whether positions are according to an ascending or a descending order,a Principality or a Throne (a Principality would be strong,but ,I think a Throne would be a “you lose””card for anyone that has anything less than a powerful demon , a god , another Throne,or a Cherubim or Seraphim,as a familiar,at least if only familiars are compared.)

    2. Where did we learn Johannes familar is an archangel?

      I bet the unusual demense size and familiar are the related to whatever his implement turns out to be.

      1. We didn’t exactly. The knowledge from RDT indicated “Gatekeeper of the Seventh Ring (ref Astral Bodies: vol 3, and Prime Movers) as his familiar, named Faysal Anwar” 1.06.

        A Google search didn’t turn up anything obvious for all or part of that, but, going by Dante, the seventh circle of hell (seventh ring) is devoted to Violence, guarded by a minotaur. So, one possibility – an angel, but a fallen one.

        Dante also divided Heaven, but more confusingly, and equated the levels to the planets of the Solar System. I don’t have time to look up what technically the seventh would be, but they would more normally be called spheres, not rings.

        A lot of Abrahamic religions have a semi-formal idea of seven heavens, with the seventh being the final area before God.

        So, if there is any congruence with Medieval Christian theology, Johannes’ familiar is a guard for a ring of Heaven or Hell. And since it gets more powerful the further in you go, it is not a minor guard either.

    3. I think the dog thing is just that an Other that is so powerful that it needs such a large body would quickly overwhelm a practitioner who will probably have to get a familiar within his first two or three months.

      The cop mentioned the possibility of a police dog familiar at the start & stated that he didn’t want something so powerful as the reason why he didn’t get one

      1. Gramma said no dogs or rats so presumably it’s not just about physical size. Also there are plenty of small breeds of dog. Even though they’d be off the table for Laird specifically as police dogs, the prohibition seemed much more general.

  31. Hehe, very, very loosely translated, Faysal Anwar can mean something along the lines of “Stubborn Lights.”

    Not sure what to make of that, at the moment.

  32. “I don’t want anything like the barber as a lifelong companion,” I said.

    “It isn’t as grave a thing as you’re imagining, Mr. Thorburn.”

    After all, what did Blake just claim as his trophy from the defeated Familiar? Oh, right – a lock of hair. 🙂

  33. And so Buffy the Fairy Slayer invites Willow into his place. Nothing like a nice, quiet early morning at home with an eager and precocious young girl, your female self stuck in a mirror, and Mr. Freeze’s ghost hatchet after spending time with a woman who has you losing bodily fluids all over the place until you have trouble seeing.

    Didn’t anyone ever tell Blake that if he keeps doing that, he’ll go blind?

  34. Bookmarking this for now, love the story but at this rate i’ll be at the end of the current uploads and need to wait!

  35. So Ms. Lewis is simultaneously awesome and annoying. Possibly a semi-remorseful enemy down the line? And Maggie, so far, is creepy as hell, and all the better for it. It’s shaping up to be an interesting story.

  36. “‘You accept that this invitation is this one time only?'”

    Did she just accidentally screw them out of being able to invite Maggie inside in the future without either taking karmic backlash or dropping one of the conditions?

    1. No.

      [em]This[/em] invitation is one-time only. They’re free to issue another invitation with different conditions at any time.

  37. So I’m wondering at Ms Lewis’s words about Blake’s chances.

    • You are not long for this world. Barring exceptional circumstance, and I do mean exceptional, you are going to be replaced by the next heir.”

    Given that from her comments she also knows quite a bit more about the circumstances of Rose’s creation and everything else that’s going on I’m wondering if she already knows that circumstances are exceptional in such a way that an unusual outcome is to be expected.

    I mean sure that phrase being used here, and again earlier at the end of the meeting could be just standard cover your ass wording but I wonder if it’s not.

  38. Just finished rereading Worm, and finally decided to get started on Pact yesterday… Great story so far. Something that interests me about this one – these oaths seem to be very subjective/open to word twisting – for example:

    “Do you agree to do us and our property no harm?”

    “Heck yeah.”

    Did she just accidentally promise to essentially become a permanent ally (or at least not an enemy) of Rose and Blake? The faerie incident proved that oaths consider mental and emotional harm the same as physical. There was no time limitation on that one, and they specified the invite itself was one time only – Maggie did not limit her agreement to that oath of no harm, the way she could have by saying she wouldn’t do them harm on this visit.

    “Maggie if you don’t help us with this it will hurt my feelings.”

    “….Crap.”

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