Breach 3.2

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The words were barely out of my mouth when the rabbit Briar Girl held leaped from her arms.  By the time it hit the ground, it was ten times the size.  A wolf, almost as large as a horse, but with feathers instead of fur.  The patterns, length, and direction of the feathers were reminiscent of flames curling in the air.

Rather than the wolf’s ferocious snarl, however, the demeanor was more fitting for a bird of prey or a reptile.  Cold, still, and emotionless.

When I looked at the individual details, they weren’t fitting, either.  The wolf’s claws were more like talons.  The teeth too narrow and clean to belong to a real wolf.

“Saying that was a mistake,” the Briar Girl said.  “My companion thinks we should kill you now.”

“Let’s talk it out first, and then we can mutually decide one way or the other,” I said.

She looked at her familiar, and then seemed to come to a decision.  “Perhaps.”

“Behaim is the local powerhouse, with the Duchamps not far behind.  You, Johannes, Maggie and I, maybe even Mara, we’re stuck on the fringes.  Conservation of ninjitsu isn’t in effect here.  Those families are big.  Lots of practitioners, who’ve grown up into power, who have been handed everything they have.  They’re scary.  A fucking kid, half my age, give or take a couple years, tried to off me, just yesterday.  I get it, if you’re too scared to go up against them.”

The Briar Girl smiled.  “You’re so transparent.  Appealing to my pride?  I have little.  Look at me.  I forage in the snow for edible plants.  I hunt for my food, and I clean it myself.”

She thrust her hands at me.

“With these hands, I’ve cleaned a deer.  Hung it, bled it, removed its hide.  I washed the shit from its guts with my hands and freezing water from a creek, so I could use them.”

She gestured towards the bird-mask things.

“For the feorgbold, I had to dig up and barter for the corpses no one would claim.  I walked from here to Toronto and back, a full day and night to get there, longer to get back, dragging the body in a suitcase behind me.  I purified them, I washed them utterly clean, I decorated them with care, and I gave of myself to bring them forth.  Are you so power hungry that you imagine all of us are itching to depose the current powers?”

I didn’t really have a response to that.

Rose did.  “More accurate to say every practitioner we’ve seen has been power hungry.  Laird may have misled us on that front.”

“You’re bargaining from a position of stupidity. Ignorance.  That does not bode well for you, Thorburns.”

“Thorburns, plural?” I asked.

“I know who she is.”

“How?” Rose asked, without hesitation.

For an instant, I thought maybe she’d given it away.  Then I remembered that the Briar Girl couldn’t lie.  That was one obvious trick from the playbook that didn’t work in this world.

“I live here?” Briar Girl asked.  “In these woods.  I’ve watched the Thorburn family for almost six years.  Hoping, waiting.  I can see the ties that bind you to the house.  If you are not one of the Thorburns, you’re of the Thorburns.”

“I’m guessing she can probably smell it on you, too,” I said.

The Briar Girl smiled again.  I noticed her teeth weren’t stellar, and there might have been one missing among the back molars.  “Now it’s my turn to ask how you might know that.”

“If I were living in the woods, hunting and foraging for my food, probably selling what I could to buy creature comforts like clothes, I might try to wrangle the same thing,” I said.  “I can’t help but notice the cold doesn’t bother you, either, so you’re doing some things to make life easier for you.”

Not to mention that your familiar might demand something along those lines.  I glanced at the thing, and it huffed hot breath into the air, where it fogged around the snout and the intense yellow bird’s eyes.

If I didn’t have experience through Rose, I might not have even considered that the hot breath was purely for show.  A spirit didn’t need to breathe any more than a vestige did.

“I’ve made a good few changes,” the Briar Girl said.  Her attention flickered to her familiar, as well.  “Not enough, it seems.”

“Your… partner, wants you to be stronger?” I asked.

“You’re back to discussing power,” Briar Girl said.  She spread her arms.  “Look at me, Thorburn.  I gave up my power for this.  What are you going to tell me that might change my mind?”

I don’t know, but I’d better figure it out before you decide to have me torn limb from limb.

“What’s ‘this’?” Rose asked.  “What did you give your power up for?”

“A place in the world,” Briar Girl said.  “This place, specifically.”

“Why this place?” Rose asked.

“Because this is where my friends are.  When I left civilization, I came here first, and this is my home, this is where they are.”

“What if we moved them?” I asked.  “Hypothetically.  Would you and I be able to get along?”

“Try it.  Try to move every spirit, elemental and Other to another forest.  I would like to see it.”

Rose said, “To move the spirits, you’d have to move every single one of the trees and animals here, that the spirits are attached to.  You’d lose ground if the animals returned to their old habitats or if trees started sprouting from the ground.  I don’t even know you’d begin to move the elementals.  You’d probably have to bargain with the Others on a one-on-one basis… it would be a lifetime of work, if it was even possible.”

“The voice is clever,” Briar Girl said.  “And she’s right.”

“Would it help?” I asked.  “You seem poised to treat us as enemies so long as we own this land.  Would we be able to get along if this wasn’t an issue?”

“No,” Briar Girl said.

I sighed.

“Your kind is dangerous.  Even you… you stink of something foul.  I can smell it and they can smell it.”

“When I’ve barely interacted with anything?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Briar Girl said.  “Can’t you see it?  The animals don’t like you.”

I looked over the crowd of spirits that had surrounded me.  The animal spirits… they were bristling, alternately retreating and advancing, trying to look aggressive.  Their snarls were small, barely audible, but constant.

“Once upon a time, when humans weren’t much more than animals, we relied on our dogs to scare off the Others who wanted to prey on us and do mischief.  Cats hunted and fought with the lesser Goblins, returning to owners with torn ears or small injuries.  They still have those instincts.  To destroy things of darkness, foulness and blight, before rot can set in.”

“Rot?” I asked.

“The way I was told it,” Briar Girl said, “Many of the worst of them were architects.  Call them spirits, or divine servants of the god or gods who put the world together, or lesser gods.  Doesn’t matter.  They put things together.  Stars in the sky, mountains, oceans, they gathered the animals and gave them the instincts that each species would pass on to others of their kind, and to the species that came about, later on.  But things reached a certain mass, and a counterweight was needed.”

“Some of these builders switched roles,” Rose said.  “Doing the inverse of what they’d done before.”

“Like the one the lawyer mentioned to us,” I said.  “Put the stars in the sky, now calls them down.”

“Meteor showers or something,” Rose said.

“Meteors?”  Briar Girl asked.  “No.  The stars are sources of light and energy.  A being like you describe would be powerful.  A leader of others of its kind.  Meteors?  With one action, he might bring fiery death down on your enemies, but the world would pay a cost.  Every light humanity uses might be dimmer.  Every source of fuel and energy might be a fraction less effective.  Food, fuel, electricity.”

“People would notice,” I said.

“Never when they were looking,” she said.  “No.  A general or a duke, whatever he might be, this being you speak of, he should be a commander.  Imps, you might call them.  If he brought a darkness to the world, he would do it by scattering imps across the world.  These imps would work as spirits do, but with intelligence.  Ensuring that a flashlight grew dim when it might reveal a murderer or rabid animal.  That a car ran out of gas where it might carry a sick man to a hospital, spelling his death.  One action on your part, fire and devastation, but you never see what comes out of it. Hundreds of incidents a year, for decades or a century, before the imps are dealt with or spent of their power.”

“The rot sets in, so to speak,” Rose said.  “Humanity fights back, maybe unknowingly, by having dogs beside us, or good luck charms, or other things.”

“Which is why your kind is dangerous,” Briar Girl said.

“The books went into some detail about the origins you just talked about,” Rose said.  “They also said that particular story was disproved.”

The Briar Girl shrugged.  “It’s what I was taught.”

“And some of the things that are in the books aren’t devils and demons, or anything that devours the world.  Some are particularly nasty goblins, or other things we don’t have labels for.”

Another shrug.  “Close enough.  It’s about taint, about rot.  Once those things get hooks in the world, the world starts coming apart at the seams.””

I frowned.  “Says the girl who takes homeless people’s bodies and turns them into…”

Feorgbold, life vessels,” the Briar Girl said.  “Recycling.  Death, consumption and rebirth are parts of the cycle of nature.  Some of my favorite parts.  I could do what I do a hundred thousand times over, and there would still be balance.  Your things, they are not balanced, not in any way we want to deal with.  Never simple death, but oblivion, annihilation.  Helping the universe to reach zero, with screams, darkness and pain every step of the way.”

The nature spirit bristled.

“Which is why,” Briar Girl added, as if she were translating, “You should give me this territory.  If someone will use it to give them a foothold, don’t give them the chance.  Give it away, at least the parts you haven’t already tainted by association.  Curl up into a ball, make yourself insignificant, and don’t touch a thing.”

“Laird said something similar.”

“Laird isn’t wrong,” Briar Girl told me.

I frowned.  “Those aren’t words I want to hear out of anyone’s mouth.  Negotiation has to be possible between us, or you wouldn’t have agreed to hear us out.”

“Agree to give me the territory, and I won’t kill you right now.  There.  Negotiations done.”

“You know it’s not that simple.  I’ve already gone into why.  I don’t own the property yet.”

“You want flexibility from us, you flex on that,” the Briar Girl said.  “We can start with you signing an oath by bloodline.  If you die, one of your line gives me territory here.”

“That’s asking for a lot,” Rose said.  “I don’t think anyone is pretending Blake is long for this world.  Giving you a guarantee?  Or as close to a guarantee as you can hope for?  That’s big.  Making a promise that might not get fulfilled, one that could easily be beyond our power to fulfill?  That’s bad karma we’re taking unto ourselves and giving to our family.  Not to mention the biggest thing, which is that we’re removing any incentive for you to help keep Blake alive.”

I’m pretending I’m long for this world,” I protested.

“We need guarantees,” the Briar Girl said, “If we’re going to put ourselves out in the open and risk retaliation from Laird.”

“Okay,” Rose said.  “Let’s turn this around.  Blake, tell her what you want.”

I could see what Rose was doing.  I silently approved.

“I want a helping hand,” I said.  “Some specific knowledge, some power.  You’re at no risk, and it shouldn’t really point back to you, so long as we cover our tracks.”

“What knowledge?  What power?”

“To start with,” I said, “perhaps some information about the bonds between Others and practitioners.  Controlling it, using it.  You have a close connection to your familiar.  I’d like to use your expertise and example to prevent dangerous connections to Others.”

“Ah.  Keeping the rot out?”

“Among other things,” I said.

The Briar Girl was an example, to be sure, but she was a bad example.  I wanted to figure out what not to do, among other things.  Like I’d told Rose, I believed the Briar Girl might have some sort of information we could use.  Information that might be invaluable, if Rose was infecting me somehow, taking me over or transforming me.

By phrasing it this way, I hoped to make it hard for her to refuse without admitting weakness.

“What else, Blake?  Let’s lay it all on the table,” Rose said.

“I’d want some tricks, and I don’t see myself making these Feogrund things.”

Feorgbold,” the Briar Girl said.

“The Vessels,” I corrected myself.  “But a lesson or two, or a gift I could use more than a few times, I think that’s S.O.P. for practitioner dealings?”

“It’s how most have traditionally gathered knowledge,” the Briar Girl said.  “Apprenticeship, servitude, favors, or being born into the right family.”

“Gotcha,” I said.  “We already talked about you changing yourself, but I’m leery of that.  I don’t want to weaken myself if some rot sets in and starts changing me.”

Or if this change with the tattoos continues.

“Depending on the effort you put in,” she said, “It could make you stronger.  Learn to control your body’s shape, and you can flex that muscle when something else tries to.”

“That so?” I asked.  “Thanks for the info.  It could weaken me, too, I presume?”

“Anything could,” the Briar Girl responded.  “It looks like something or a lot of somethings already have.”

“It’s been a rough few days,” I admitted.

“My partner thinks we should let you die, or help you along on your journey,” the Briar Girl said.  “No deal is going to see fruition, when you’re this weak.  You have very little power, for the most recent member of a very long, very learned lineage.”

It kept coming back to that.

“The ones who come after me aren’t going to be any better,” I said.  “Do you want to know why?  Let me think.  What was the order?  Kathy was next.”

“Kathy’s the oldest of the possible heirs.  She’s hard as nails, mean, ruthless and greedy.  A chef in a restaurant, ex-businesswoman, a parent of one, best described as a ‘mother bear’, with helicopter tendencies,” Rose said.

“That’s pretty much it,” I said.

“I don’t see the problem,” the Briar Girl said.

“If she were here instead of me,” I said.  “I think the home would have been turned over to the lawyers already, or she would have struck some deal to try and return to her everyday life.  The only way it wouldn’t work out that way would be if my grandmother put some measures in place to twist her arm.  In which case she’d be stubborn, mean, and she’d never give up the territory.”

“I agree,” Rose said.  “I know her better than Blake does, and it’s true.  Briar Girl, if you got five words out of Kathryn that weren’t insults, I’d be surprised.”

I waited.  Let the Briar Girl sit on that.

“So we kill her before she gets a chance to sell the place.  Move on to the next.”

She was so casual about it.  She’d raised her hand to vote for Maggie’s execution, hadn’t she?

“Probably,” I said.  “Which brings us to…”

“Ellie,” Rose said.

“Career criminal, and not in an impressive way.  Never worked a day in her life, she was staking everything on getting the house, I figure, because it was the only way she’d be able to get by.  Zero impulse control, hates everyone, especially those who give any clue they’re smarter or better than her, which winds up being pretty much everyone,” I said.  “Not because she’s dumb, but because she interprets anything as an attack.”

“She’s not dumb,” Rose said.  “I remember her getting up to an awful lot.  Surviving on schemes, jobs.  There’s a certain cunning that comes with living the life she’s lived.”

“Right,” I said.  “But I don’t know if she’d need a good excuse to send demons after people.  She’d need any excuse, even one she made up.”

“She’d be one of the scary kinds of diabolists you hear about,” Rose said.  “Bringing us to Roxanne…”

“I actually don’t know her that well,” I said.  “Only that she’s spoiled, she’s twelve or so, and comes with all of the problems that entails.”

“When Callan’s girlfriend wound up in her classroom as part of getting her teaching certificate, Roxanne made accusations that ended the woman’s career,” Rose said.  “No telling if her mom and dad put her up to it, but she doesn’t strike me as the moral and conscientious character who’d be polite and reasonable in dealing with devils, or neighbors.”

I could only imagine Rose’s face in the mirror that hung around my neck, giving the Briar Girl a pointed look.

“My sister,” I said.  “Is two.  Good luck with that.  You want to wait for access to the territory so you can get the Demesne?  Waiting for Ivy could mean a seventeen year wait, if not longer.”

“And Paige would be your last chance,” Rose said.

“Another amoral person, to help me build a picture of who you are?” the Briar Girl asked.  “All set to call demons into this town on a whim?”

“No,” I said.  “She was my friend, I respect and trust her.  And I honestly think you’d have a harder time negotiating with her than you would with me.  She’d see the long line of deaths that preceded her, and she’d play it smarter than I could, I think.  I don’t think she’d give you anything, especially when you tried to kill me.”

“But you’ll cooperate with me?”

“I’m not in a position to hold grudges,” I said.  “I meant what I said.  I want to remove Laird and the Duchamps from their positions of power.  I want to hit them in their powerbase, I want to scare them, I want them to suffer for Molly’s death.  I’ll hurt them physically, if I have to.”

“That doesn’t matter to me,” the Briar Girl said.

“What if, theoretically, I could remove them from power, and I could move away?  If I could shift my powerbase to another location.  I could try and see if it’s possible to move the house or the essential contents to another location.”

I could see the interest, even as she tried to hide it.  “Not possible.”

“Who knows?” I asked.  “Let’s open negotiations with that.  You agree to help me against Laird, I agree to take the time to verify whether it’s possible to move away.  It’s information you want, and it’s something you could use against any of the ones who come after me.  Trick them, deal with them, whatever.”

“I let you walk away alive, you agree to take the time to investigate,” the Briar Girl said.

“I walk away alive and unharmed,” I clarified.

“With no deleterious magics, workings or malfeasance at play,” Rose added.  “We leave freely and unaccompanied, unmolested in body, mind, possession or emotion.”

The Briar Girl thought, then nodded.

“Deal,” I said.

“Deal,” she said.

I felt a wave of relief.  With those simple words of agreement between us, the Others seemed to react, dropping away from the vantage points where they’d been poised to attack me.

“Give me some tools or knowledge I might use,” I said, “Instructions on how to perform shapechanging, or give me a power source, and I’ll cede you this square of territory right here, if and when I’m able.”

“Double the size,” the Briar Girl said.  “And promise to double it again if Laird discovers my involvement.  I don’t want any trouble from him.  He’s a bastard.”

“If he discovers your involvement and it’s because I made a mistake,” I say.  “Nothing from you.”

“Or yours,” Rose added, quickly.  “No summoning or orders to a minion to tell him so he finds out.

“Nothing from me or mine,” the Briar Girl said, frowning a little.

She was totally planning something like that.

“And if you can’t give me the territory?” she asked.

“I’d promise a good faith effort to give some other form of repayment for the gift,” I said.

“There’s only one form of payment I want,” she answered me.

“Take it or leave it,” I said.  “This is the closest you’ve gotten in a long time, I’m betting.”

She considered, then looked at her familiar.  “Okay.”

“Deal?”

“Deal.”

“Okay,” I said.  “So… what can you give me?”

“Before we get into that, I want to suggest something else,” the Briar Girl said.

“What?” I asked.

“In exchange for me not alerting Laird about what you’re planning… double the territory, to start with.”

I stared at her.  She smiled, her teeth just slightly yellow, strands of hair having escaped her hood to brush against her face.  In that instant, she looked more animal than her familiar.

I didn’t have a ready answer to that.  I was already short on bargaining chips.

“What do you think, Rose?” I asked.

“I’m thinking about Demesnes, the book.  The rules.  Since it’s related to what the Briar Girl wants.”

I thought about the book, my mind running through everything it had said.

“We should claim the forest,” Rose said.  “Or part of it.”

I could see the Briar Girl visibly tensing.  The familiar bristled.

No rush.  We’d been promised safety.  I allowed myself a smile.  “We could take something smack dab in the middle of it.  Once it’s taken, it’s taken, right?  You can’t have something for your demesnes if someone else has already claimed that ground.”

“It’s the most convenient location.  Close to the house.  Secluded…

Briar Girl’s familiar growled.

“If you keep talking like that, there won’t ever be another negotiation between us,” the Briar Girl said.

The words had a power to them.  It was damn close to being an oath.  It was a statement.

I shut my mouth, stood straight, and waited.

It was good to let the idea hang there, terrifying to her, a way to interrupt her plans.  We could take a part of her territory from her forever.

The wait extended.  I could see the Briar Girl shifting her weight.  Periodically glancing at her familiar.  No doubt communicating by some means.

“Agree to rescind the threat,” she said, “and I won’t tell Laird.”

“Excellent,” I said.  “Deal.  It’s good to do these things in threes, isn’t it?  Makes it more powerful?”

“Close enough.  So I’ve got to teach you to change your form.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Get the still-warm blood of an animal, as much as possible.  Strip yourself of all clothes.  Douse yourself, slowly, to allow yourself to feel the power instead of having your wits dashed from you.  Put power into the parts of it you want to keep.  Gorge the spirit, and draw the spirit into you.  Fail to exert enough will and focus, and the power inherent in the blood will bleed over into other parts of you, you might physically change, you might experience other side effects, or your mind might slip away until it fades.  If you don’t exert enough power, you’ll get far less effect for what you have spent.  With practice, you learn how much to put in, and where your attention needs to go.”

That was… somewhat more perfunctory than I’d expected.

“Where do I draw the power from?” I asked.

“There are hundreds of possibilities.”

“How do I apply it to the shapechanging rite?” I asked.

“Depends on where you draw the power from,” she said.

“Can you give me an example?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered, “But I’ll demand other things before I do.”

Meaning she considered her end of the bargain met.  She’d told me what to do.  Given me instructions.

“That’s unsporting,” Rose said.

“No,” I said.  “Nevermind that.  Look, Briar Girl…”

I pulled off my glove.  I held up my hand, showing her the locket.

I could feel the attention the locket got.  As the eyes of a number of Others and the Briar Girl fell on it, the hair extended, winding around the chain and pulling it tighter.

It’s fragile, I reminded myself.

“Can you at least tell me if I power it with glamour?”  I asked.

She frowned a little.  “Glamour isn’t the province of humans.  It must be freely given.  It is too fragile to handle otherwise.  Too personal to each Faerie.”

“That so?” I asked.  “Huh.”

“Who gave it to you?  The only unbound Faerie here are the exiles.”

“Answer my question first.  Can I use it?”

She frowned.  “Give me the power, and I’ll give you another power source.”

“I’m partial enough to this that I can’t see myself giving it away,” I said.  “Answer my questions, I’ll answer yours.  Otherwise, I think I’ll be leaving to go plan against Laird.”

“Yes, you can use it to power the shaping, but you shouldn’t.”

“Why not?” I asked, momentarily concerned.

“If you want to change your form, using the glamour itself is enough.  More flexible.  More fragile, but I don’t see you fighting each and every member of Laird’s family, and if you’re in a position to have a glamour broken, you’re also in a position to have your shape stolen from you, leaving you in your ordinary form, helpless and naked.  I would use glamour by itself, in your shoes.”

“I don’t have much of the glamour,” I said.  “It grows, but not fast.”

It’s growing now, though.

“Use all you can.  Layer it on thick.  Render it into a form you can handle, dilute it, powder or paint yourself with it, mold yourself, and avoid letting that mold break. It’ll wear over time, as it’s challenged.  Every doubt is a crack, and you can repair the cracks with power.  Good illusionists can wear the same glamour for years, if they attach it to some power source.  Some never change their clothes, only changing the glamour.”

I made a mental note of that.

“Who gave it to you?”

“It was fairly taken, after a duel.”

“What would it take for you to give the original piece to me?”

“I want to ask a question, before I answer that.  What are the limitations?”

“There are few.  My teacher told me many Faerie take refuge in audacity.  Keep the rules of the change simple, without too many twists and turns, and you can paint any sort of picture.  Your power and the glamour’s power is only truly expended if the glamour breaks.  Cracks, frays, fades, peels, or breaks entirely.  You’re deceiving reality, and reality can only make you pay for the sheer difference in forms when it finds out.”

“Okay,” I said.  “That sounds far more workable.  Can someone look at the connections, break it that way?”

“Not if you’re careful to mold those as well.”

“Okay.  Opposite question, then.  What if I deceive reality too well?”

“You don’t.  You leave a tell.  A key, if you will.  Something deliberately wrong, often something that calls back to you, specifically.  Anyone who notices it will see through the glamour, but you can notice it to do the same.”

“Like?”

“Eyes the wrong color, or you’re flipped left to right, like an image in a mirror, or you keep an old scar.”

I nodded.  “To answer your question, it would take a hell of a lot for me to hand this over, but ask me later, and we could maybe negotiate.  I have ideas on what I want to do with it, right now.  That is, assuming we can negotiate in the future?”

“Don’t threaten me, and it’s possible,” the Briar Girl said.

“Excellent,” I said.  But no promises.  “On the subject of questions and answers… can I ask who or what your teacher was?”

There was a reaction to that.  Surprise.  Annoyance.

“No,” she said.

“Okay,” I said.  “Do you have another question you’d like to ask?”

“None that I’d be willing to exchange an answer for.  We’re done,” she said.  She waved her hand, and the remaining Others began leaving.  She paused.  “I hope you fail.  But I hope you don’t fail so badly you die.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “I’m going to aim for one of those two.”

She frowned a little, but she walked off.  I turned to trudge through the deep snow to get back to the house, pulling my glove back on.

When we were well out of earshot, I groaned.  “I can’t believe I washed that ink off my hands.”

“You didn’t know what to do with it.  It could have been dangerous.”

“But it was useful.  Fuck me, I left the mortar and pestle sitting on the bottom of the sink while I washed my hands, I rinsed away the remaining ink.  I could have used that.  Maybe done my hands.”

“Why?  What are you thinking?  And please don’t make this one of those things where you only explain things at the last second, in general terms, and leave it up to me to say yes or no.”

“I’ve only done that once, haven’t I?”

“Just now, you mean?  Or when you were dealing with the bird-skulls and you threw the stone onto the ice?  Or when you went up to the front of the church and announced your deals?”

“Damn it,” I said.

“Given the state you’re in, I’m betting you want to swear you won’t do it again.  Don’t.  But keep it in mind, especially if something comes up, and the tables are turned?”

“I think I could do that,” I said, speaking slowly and carefully.  “Why do I feel like you already know what that something is?”

“Because I do.”

“That’s ominous,” I said.

“How does it feel, Blake?  Not fun, is it?”

“When I do it, it’s not intentional,” I said.

“This was.  But we’re aiming to trust each other more, and this is one step in that.  It’s something we need to test, and that test might distract from whatever you’ve got going on in your head right now.”

“It might,” I said.

“So let’s hammer this out, first.  No more sudden announcements about what we’re doing.  Where does all this lead?”

“We’ve got Briar Girl on our side, pretty much.  She doesn’t want to kill us.  We could probably negotiate for a vote against execution, in a pinch.  The door’s open.”

“Yes.”

“In terms of Laird, well, I’m thinking we need to pay a visit to Maggie next.  You’re right.  She was the middleman.  Talking to Briar Girl was a bit of a test, as it wound up.  Dealing with the girl who tried to kill me.  Kill us.  I’d like to think I handled that pretty amicably.”

“Better than I might have,” Rose said.  “I never had many friends.”

“Well, now we can deal with another person who’s done a reprehensible act against us, only this one deceived us to our faces.  We’re going to get Maggie’s help.  Then maybe we talk to Mara or Johannes, if we can wrangle it.  I don’t know where they are or how we could get in contact with them, and I’m not sure they’re the types where I want to shout their name and see if they answer.  My gut tells me that’s the wrong way to go about it.”

“You’re talking to the outliers.  Why?  Where does this lead?”

“Laird said he was aiming to do something tonight.  I’m aiming to stop him.”

“Stop him?”

“Somehow.  Interrupt the ritual, distract him, I don’t know.  But this glamour thing is useful, because it’s a way we could maybe navigate the city.  No connections tracking us, a different face… maybe I get closer to Laird.”

“Oh boy,” Rose said.  “There are so many ways this can go wrong.”

“Which is why the next step is getting my face on,” I said.  “Then we talk to Maggie.  We need soldiers, and those paper goblins are sounding awfully good right now.”

“You’re expecting a fight?”

“I don’t know what to expect.  How does a guy like Laird get revenge?”

“He doesn’t seem like the type for violence,” Rose said.  “Is violence the answer?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “But I wouldn’t mind dealing with him outside of his element.  He probably knows his way around most of the scary stuff we could throw at him, but you don’t try to out-scheme the schemer.  You do something like send twisted midget psychopaths to stab the schemer and leave him unable to think straight.”

Midget is offensive.”

“I don’t think political correctness matters when you’re talking about goblins.”

“Point,” she admitted.  “You really want to murder Laird?”

“Something like sending goblins to kill him.  I’d settle for a little bloodletting.  Or something to remove him from play.  But we need him out of the picture.  We need to destroy him, on some level, and we need to do the same for his family.  You get that, right?  We’re on the same page?”

“I hate the word ‘destroy’.  But yes.  It’s destroy or be destroyed.”

“Well said.”

“Hm,” Rose answered.  “While you’re figuring out the glamour stuff, I might get to reading a book on it.  Go in with our eyes open.”

“Good idea,” I said.  I opened the door, and, without thinking, I held it open for Rose.

Nevermind that she wasn’t here.

“You keeping up with the reading?” she asked, apparently oblivious.

“Pretty well.  I’ll need to sit down tonight to get more done, or devote a full day to it tomorrow.”

“Good,” she said.

Back in the kitchen, I went through all of the tools, getting the mortar and pestle, and emptying the residual, very diluted ink over my hands.  I rubbed it into my arms.

I cut off all of the hair that had reached beyond the confines of the locket itself, and ground it up before creating a fresh batch of ink, but I balanced it out with more hair, rendering it thicker.  I rubbed it into my face and rolled up my sleeves to get it along the length of my arms and get full coverage on my hands.

“I just realized I’m going to need your help on this, Rose,” I said.  “I can’t see myself in the mirror.”

She was gone.  Finding the book, no doubt.

I ran my hand along my arm, so the skin that stretched between thumb and index finger dragged along the surface.

I willed it to change.

The effect was minimal at best.

What had Ms. Lewis told me about the Faerie?

Self delusion.

I did it again.  This time, I relaxed and let myself believe it would change.  A leap of faith.  I visualized my hand peeling away the paler skin, revealing my normal skin tone beneath.

It was eerie, seeing it take hold.  My tattoos as they’d been before, less beautiful, but still gorgeous and entirely mine.

I’d heard two things from two people.  The Briar Girl had told me I could use shaping to teach myself to deal with any hostile incursion or infection.  Ms. Lewis had said something else, warning Rose about the fragile nature of glamours.

If this broke apart, would I lose ground in this war against whatever was going on with my body?  Some spirits or some part of Rose that was bleeding into me, taking advantage of the personal power I’d spent?

I ran my hands along my face and over my hair.  I couldn’t see the change, but I didn’t doubt it had worked.

That doubt could be dangerous and costly.

I checked the closet, and started rooting through it for anything I could wear.  My grandmother’s coats, spring jackets, rain jackets, umbrellas…

Nothing.

I was debating wearing my winter jacket when I heard Rose.  A yelp.

“What?”

“You startled me.”

“I look different?”

“About ten years older, dark haired?  Yeah.”

“Good stuff,” I said.

“It’s supposed to be harder than that,” she said.  “Pretty sure.”

“Good thing you didn’t tell me before I tried anything,” I said.

I ran my hands along my arms.  The skin color changed to black.  I left the tattoos intact.

I did my face and head.  When I ran my hands along the top of my head a second time, I found my head shaved as I’d imagined it.  I scratched it and found all of the nerve endings responded.  I could feel the stubble, the tiniest details.

“Crazy,” I commented.  I ran my hands down the length of my throat.  Then said, in a different voice, “Crazy.”

Definitely supposed to be harder than that,” Rose said.

“Stop saying that,” I said.  “If I believe it, it might become true.  Ignorance is power, in this case.”

I could see her frowning at me in the reflective side of the toaster.

“Maybe it’s an advantage,” I said.  “I’ve expended personal power, there’s more spaces for it to get traction?  There’s less of me to modify?”

“I don’t buy it,” she said.  “Remember, all power has a price.  What’s the price for that little tidbit?”

“I’d like to think nearly getting killed by the faerie swordswoman and beating her in a duel was a pretty fair cost,” I said.

Rose seemed to internally debate the idea, before saying, “Maybe.  Point taken.”

I started spreading the stuff over the rest of my neck, shoulders, and beneath my shirt.  “But if this proves to be more useful than that duel was dangerous, I agree, we should be suspicious.”

The glamour was really fucking useful, as it turned out.  Damn it.

I waited outside of the school as the students filed out.  All grades, kindergarten through twelve, were present.  Children who still wet their pants and young adults who were working their first jobs, all in the same general mob.

Behaims and Duchamps of various ages passed me without a first glance, let alone a second.

I joined the parents who were waiting for their kids.  An ordinary, unassuming guy.

Maggie came out, headphones on, a bag slung over one shoulder.  The checkered scarf was in place.

I walked over to the exit and fell into step beside her.

She stopped right away.

“Sorry,” I said, in a stranger’s voice.

“No need to be sorry, Mr. Stranger Danger.  Why don’t you walk away?” Maggie suggested.  “Go find a nice middle aged woman to sleaze on.”

She was so casual, so everyday.  I wondered if she’d lost any sleep after ordering her goblins to tear Molly to pieces.

“You don’t hold back,” I observed, burying the surge of emotion.

She jammed her hands into her jacket pockets, shoulders hunched forward, defensive, one glance going over her shoulder, as if she were checking her escape routes.

I knew full well that she was getting her hands on a weapon of some sort.  The glance would be to see if people were looking, which they were.  Kids and teenagers still milled around us and between us.

“I mean you no harm,” I said.  “Please don’t stab me.  Or throw a goblin at me.”

I could see her studying me.  Was she identifying flaws or tells in the disguise, picking it apart with her eyes?  Or was she reinforcing it, feeding into it?

“Who the drat are you?” she asked.

Yay, I thought.

There was a freedom to this, a high, almost.

Her eyes moved to something or someone behind me.

I turned before they could touch me.  A man, dark haired, heavyset, wearing a flannel button-up shirt.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

I looked and I saw the connection between him and Maggie.  For someone who’d just moved to this city, for that connection to be that strong…

“You’re Maggie’s father?” I asked.

“Yes, and you know my daughter how?”

“We have a mutual friend,” I said.  “I believe Maggie knows of a girl with a thing regarding mirrors?”

I saw Maggie go still, surprised, confused.  Her eyes darted over me.

Trying to find connections?

“This is funny business, isn’t it?” her father asked.

“Yeah,” Maggie said.  “Funny.

I glanced at her dad.  He knows.

That made things simultaneously easier and more tricky.

“I have a message for you,” I said.  “Forgiveness won’t be particularly easy, nor fast, not for either of us, but help is needed.”

“No need to be impossibly cryptic,” she said.  “I tell my dads almost everything.”

“Almost?” her dad asked.

“So dish,” she said.  “You want to mess with the Thorburns?”

I hesitated.

“What if I did?”

“I’d tell you I’m done with that.  Fool me once, and all that jazz.”

“If you’re trying to embroil Maggie in something else like-”

“No,” I said.  “No.  Because I have… I won’t say I have no quarrel with the Thorburns, but I’m looking to help the family.  If Maggie wanted to make amends for what happened to Molly Walker, I could use a hand.  A loan of resources.”

“The dead girl?” her father asked.

So he didn’t know.  I could see concern on her face.

I decided to pull her ass out of the fire, here.  Karma, if nothing else.  Or did it not count if I recognized it?  “More about what happened yesterday, when we last talked.”

I saw a glimmer of a connection.  She was figuring it out.  Only so many people I could be.  Maybe she suspected me of being the lawyer in another guise?  Easier to figure out, easier to explain?

“This would be a hell of a lot easier if you told us who you were,” her father said.

“Can I walk you to your car?” I asked.  “I could explain there.”

“You can explain right here,” her father said.  “Or you can walk away.”

I sighed.

Hopefully I’d reinforced the glamour enough it could take a hit.  If not, I could derail all of my plans.

Glancing around, I verified nobody was looking, and then unzipped my jacket.  I revealed the bike mirror pendant I wore.

Maggie’s eyes went wide.  “Blake?

“A mirror?” her father asked.

“It’s Blake,” she whispered.  “Blake Thorburn.

Each time she said my name, I could see the connection striving to appear, hammering at my glamour, like a battering ram slamming into a heavy door.

Her father’s continued confusion helped.

“Stop,” I said.  “Enough.  Can I walk you to your car?”

Maggie nodded, pulling on her dad’s sleeve.

As we walked in silence to the car, I tried to gauge the damage to the glamour.  I could use blood to fix it, but that was suicidal, at this point.

Better to let it mend on its own.

“Don’t say my name,” I said.  “Do let me know if I can borrow some goblins.”

“They’re work to get under control,” she said.  “Not easy.”

“I’ll settle for goblins in paper prisons I can’t control,” I said.  “I’m making a move against Laird.  Soon.”

I saw her chew her lip.

“Maggie?  I’ll need you to explain,” her father said.

“I’ll try, I promise,” she said.

I felt the impact of that statement, saw the connection form.

I blinked to clear my field of vision.  Couldn’t rely on it too much.

“Three paper goblins,” she said.  She pulled her hands from her pockets, depositing three folded papers in my hand.  “And a whistle.”

“A whistle for who or what?”

“He’s called something I’m not allowed to say,” Maggie said.  “It’s written on the whistle.”

Dickswizzle.

“Here,” she said.  She took the whistle back, then blew.

Something hit the car.  Heavy.

A goblin.  Hairy, bearded, lurking in the shadows.

“He obeys the holder of the whistle,” Maggie said.  “Try.”

“Crud,” Rose said, a murmur.  I could see Maggie’s father react.

“Dickswizzle, come,” I said.

He didn’t budge a muscle.

“Dickswizzle, come,” Rose said.

Dickswizzle approached a few paces.

“That thing I wanted to talk to you about…” Rose murmured.

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

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185 thoughts on “Breach 3.2

    1. If you are not one of the the Thorburns, you’re of the Thorburns.
      Duplicate ‘the’

      If you die, one of your line
      gives me territory here.
      Unexpected line break.

      Nevermind that.
      Usually never mind, but modern usage sometimes concatenates the words.

      outscheme the schemer.
      Usually out-scheme or out scheme.

      We need to to destroy him
      Duplicate ‘to’.

      “Blake?“
      “Blake Thorburn.“
      Both quotations are opening quotations instead of an opening and a closing one.

      She pulled her hands from her pockets, deposting three folded papers in my had.
      Missing ‘i’ in depositing and missing ‘n’ in hand.

    2. “I don’t even know you’d begin to move the elementals.” => “I don’t even know how you’d begin to move the elementals.”

    3. More typos:
      – “perhaps some information about the bonds between Others and practitioners. Controlling it, using it.” -> ‘Controlling them, using them.’
      – ““No summoning or orders to a minion to tell him so he finds out.” -> The closing parenthesis is missing.
      – “Self delusion.” -> ‘Self-delusion.”
      – “dark haired” -> ‘dark-haired’

      1. Correction:
        – ““No summoning or orders to a minion to tell him so he finds out.” -> I meant the closing quotation mark is missing.

    4. Another typo:
      – “Hopefully I’d reinforced the glamour enough it could take a hit. If not, I could derail all of my plans.” -> ‘it could derail’ or ‘that could derail’

    5. First typo thread post of the new story!

      “I don’t even know you’d begin to move the elementals.”
      Should be “know how you’d begin”

    6. I don’t even know you’d begin to move the elementals. –> know ‘how’

      that particular story was disproved –> disproven

  1. Oh Blake, recruiting people. Trying to get their loyalties. Its like Mass Effect 2 all over again!

    Now that I think about it, that’s not a bad thing. Keep it up, Wildbow.

    1. Except for the part where the people helping you slowly and grudgingly begin to show you respect until in the end you are a real team.

      I believe this will be that kind of story where sentences like “I will help you as long as you are useful to me” are not the beginning of a badass friendship but a dire warning.

  2. An ice hatchet. A stink bottle (possibly a poison mist). Active camouflage. A paper Pokeball with a goblin inside. A whistle to summon an ogre. He’s collecting quite the bag of tricks, isn’t he?

    1. I like the way you put it, i grew some impression that blake is the deranged version of Ash, oh wait, probably Ash is the deranged version of Blake?

      In turn, it developed in impression that somehow, pokemon in general, is a world of familiars, basically ‘questionable’ familiars… at least to me now…

      1. So if your a Diabolist type trainer what Pokemon do you use? I see things like Darkrai, Giritana, Yvetal and Spirttomb.

          1. Made the mistake of looking up “demonic pokemon” online, to see if others had had the same discussion. Unsurprisingly, most (i.e. pretty much all) of the results were about Pokemon being the work of Satan. (Does that mean Satan is Japanese? Pretty sure Cthulhu must be, considering the amount of tentacle-critters in the ‘special’ Japanese cartoons.) 😉 Some of it is pretty darn funny, though, like this list of the “Top 8 Most Satanic Pokemon” from: church DASH of DASH illumination DOT com SLASH pokemon DASH satanic DASH top8(deliberately not typed as a link, so people won’t accidentally click it if they don’t want to visit). Some direct quotes:

            “8. Alakazam – Look at the shape of his head! It is the exact shape of a pentagram. It is also a Psychic Pokemon and encourages the practice of Witchcraft.”

            “5. Aerodactyl – This Pokemon is a Dinosaur and Evolves from a Fossil. True Christians know that the dinosaurs were put on earth by Satan in order to Deceive us.”

            “AND THE MOST SATANIC POKEMON IS: 1. Ho-Oh – Ho-Oh is rainbow colored which is prominently used by Homosexuals. This Pokemon is encouraging children to be Gay. It is also an extremely powerful and rare Pokemon so children may think that by becoming homosexuals that they will also become powerful and special as well.”

            :-O

            …On a related note, it would be pretty interesting to see a PokéDex entry for some of the Goblins in Pact:

            “Dickswizzle: This Thumpy-Type Goblin likes to dry-hump cars and is known to associate with power-hungry teenage witches. It’s name is not an abbreviation of Richard.”

            1. Hoo boy the stupidity. I’m torn between laughing and crying.

              Seriously, they’ve dubbed a phoenix a satanic symbol. Because it’s rainbow colored. What the hell.

              At the very least, you’d think there’d be some sort of color scheme involved.

            2. I’ve looked around that website a bit, and I’m pretty sure it’s a parody. I don’t think they’re actually claiming pokemon are satanic.

            3. For the record, although I think the website is a parody, I don’t think that parody is in very good taste. Some of the other pages appear to be going for shock value in a rather crude fashion

            1. “Oh and mr mime. Tell me that didn’t come from hell.”
              No, that came from the darkest corners of HP Lovecraft’s imagination.

              “AND THE MOST SATANIC POKEMON IS: 1. Ho-Oh – Ho-Oh is rainbow colored which is prominently used by Homosexuals. This Pokemon is encouraging children to be Gay. It is also an extremely powerful and rare Pokemon so children may think that by becoming homosexuals that they will also become powerful and special as well.”

              Uh, I guess he doesn’t know that Ho-Oh is a Chinese phenoex. Seriously, names the same and everything.

  3. Is this the third time that Rose’s words have power, while Blake’s don’t? I have to admit that I haven’t been reading carefully to pick up any other scenes or significance. Guess it’s tiime for a reread!

    2.3:
    “June,” I managed, panting for breath after the screaming. I tried to stay calm, even as speaking her name seemed to fan the fires. But June wasn’t responding.

    Rose tried, instead. “June Burlison. Do you remember what happened before you went to sleep by the fire?”

    Abruptly, she was standing. Hugging her body with her arms. Her injuries had taken a leap backwards in severity, and her clothes were more intact.

    3.1: “Leonard,” she said.

    I could feel her connection to him. Was it stronger than mine, or was she piggybacking off of what I’d set up?

    3.2:
    “Dickswizzle, come,” I said.

    He didn’t budge a muscle.

    “Dickswizzle, come,” Rose said.

    Dickswizzle approached a few paces.

    1. Good catch. Perhaps their practitioner power is split. Blake has the sight and all physical powers while Rose has the actual control or power with regards to making pacts. Could it be that Rose is the true heir, and Blake is just a way for her to interact with the world?

      1. Thanks! Rose also seems to notice this pattern by the end of the chapter, so I guess we might be able to get more details on it next chapter.

        That’s an interesting theory! With all the talk of glamor and deceiving reality in this chapter, I almost expect Blake to disguise himself as Rose at some point, maybe so that he can have the ‘full’ power set. Or maybe so the barber demon can recognize him as a member of the Thorburns, since being female is their family’s distinguishing trait (the grandmother mentions this in 1.3). Is there some kind of power in family pedigree, besides Others recognizing the family?

        Also, token late night epileptic trees speculation: Blake is shown to be absurdly good at glamor. His reflection is Rose. Maybe it’s so easy for him to perform glamor because he’s been doing it his whole life! Maybe Rose is his subconscious lady emerging, now that he’s officially heir! Blake is totally a lady in disguise. (note: Blake is probably not a lady in disguise)

    2. Agreed – good catch. I think we saw an example of this already, in a different form. Tromos had power over spirits, while Annabelle had power over the material. Perhaps Rose has power over Others?

      1. Well, we at least know of two instances where Others responded to Blake’s words: When he summoned the lawyers (I checked, only he said “Mann, Lewis and Lewis”, not Rose), and when he started summoning ornias and felt a connection.

        So while it’s a very nice catch, I think it’s going to turn out to be something more complicated than “Blake has no soul and Others don’t listen to him”. Except if summoning someone wy saying their name is different enough for speaking with an Other.

        1. Agreed. Insufficient evidence to form a consistent explanation at the moment. Something unusual is going on, Rose does have more influence than Blake in certain circumstances… wait a minute… typing often activates new thoughts…

          Is this consistent with known data?

          Rose is a shaman. If it comes to binding powers to objects or using objects with bound powers, she is better. Is there a bound object that Rose clearly had less influence over than Blake? Is there another form of magic that Blake clearly had less power than Rose?

          If this is the case, then Blake/Rose can specialize in two forms of magic, especially since they can study separately, and eventually become real powerhouses (collectively).

          1. Nice idea! Blake seems to have a talent with his glamour. However, that doesnt explain how Blake fails to get a response with the whistle, Im leaning towards a split in powers/abilities that are a result of rose’s existence.

        2. Oops… I just realized that’s technically a spoiler… Could some mod please delete both those comments? Thank you in advance.

    3. Yeah, didn’t notice that, thanks for the catch. The end left me wondering though, so naturally (for me at least) I hit the comments section.

      Looks like dealing with the barber just became that much more difficult.

      1. not really, i mean rose is just needed to speak to him then, she just needs to be in audible range, which can still be in another room/ on the other side of the house depending on how loud she is

        1. The Barber is a mute–the family communicates via hand signs, though I’m really not sure how well that works out when you can’t even look at him properly without him being able to jump into your eyeballs.

          I also found it interesting that you can’t bring anything reflective near the Barber, and Rose can only interact via reflective objects…

    4. I think it has a lot to do with that one small difference in their awakening rituals. Blake used iron and Rose used holly and holly berries. Blake’s component was very physical, whereas Rose’s was more symbolic.

      We know that an implement shapes how a practitioner’s craft, so it likely is the same with the awakening ritual. I’m guessing that Blake’s version of the ritual enhances his abilities when it comes to actions while Rose’s version gives her words more power. It may even be the case that because of their connection, they have pulled a lot of the power to do their own specialty from the other, leaving Blake’s words weaker than they would otherwise be while the effects his actions are even stronger, which could explain why he could use the glamour so easily on the first try. Since Rose doesn’t have the capacity to act outside of words, making the strength of her words more powerful increases her usefulness. Essentially that arrangement would make them weaker in one respect as individuals (Blake more so than Rose, obviously) but as a team that kind of specialization and division of labor would make them stronger on the whole.

  4. This is a hilarious pattern – goblin names are composed (partially) of swear words. I wonder if a practitioner who swore creatively could accidentally summon them. Or, more useful, keep making up combinations until they felt a connection, thereby revealing the name.

    1. Butler- “sorry sir, but we are all out of deviled eggs.”

      Rich practitioner – “Oh Crudbuckets! Not the eg- what is that!”

      (Enter Crudbucket with a plate of hashbrown. It promptly uses said plate to ruin the party.)

      1. There NEEDS to be a Pact/South Park crossover now. Or maybe Archer?

        Anyway, kinda nifty that BG is probably more gnarly than anybody else in her age bracket. Raw experience combined with a way powerful familiar and a dash of not-give-a-crap definitely makes her scarier than Maggie. I wonder if there is a practical difference between shamans and druids here, and which one BG better qualifies as.

        Also, I find it both amusing and irksome that we have a better picture of Blake’s glamformation than we do of he himself.

        But hehe, I AM amused that his go to glamformation was a black bear. And then he goes to a school and starts talking to a girl who, to an outside observer, clearly doesn’t know him and does not want to know him. Christ Blake, I’m with everybody else laughing at how you just suck at considering how things look.

        1. Blake started spreading the stuff over the rest of his neck, shoulders, and beneath his shirt. “But if this proves to be more useful than that duel was dangerous, I agree, we should be suspicious.”

          He unzipped his trousers and pulled out the hem of his boxers, peering inside.

          “Huh. As it turns out, that glamour is really fucking useful. Dayum!”

        2. Cartman counts as an episode of blood, fire, and death just by his normal actions. Make him a practitioner and put that swearing to use and he would displace diabolists as the #1 most hated in moments. And goblin involvement explains Kenny’s problem far too well.

        3. Re: South Park/Pact crossover:

          Oh yeah, if South Pact ever becomes a thing, there’s already a theme song for it:

          (Mostly for the ‘Blame Canada’ bit, not so much the butt-related ass-pects.) 😉

      1. Unlikely, it seems that Maggie can’t swear, not won’t. I blame Padraic thinking it’d be funny. You know, Maggie giving up her ability to swear in return for info or something. Or come to think of it, a trick of some sort like Blake almost fell for with the fae exile who wanted Blake’s apologies, all of them.

  5. Blake is different from Taylor. But he shares two very noticeable flaws:

    He’s quite bad at realizing when what he is doing looks terrible to outside observers.
    And he has a tendency to think of a person as his current enemy, and then move immediately to how to take them down, hard.

    Interestingly, Rose does not seem to share these problems, despite being more ruthless… Or at least more cynical… in some other areas.

    1. At least the 2nd of those “flaws” seems to be the result of being genre savvy in a Wildbow universe.

      We’re still waiting for “blood and fire” and don’t know where its coming from. Wildbow has already proven that he has the guts as an author to do horrible things to his protagonists, their families, their friends, their worlds, etc.

      I don’t think its a flaw. Its probably gonna keep Blake alive.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the first flaw, though. When will Blake stop doing things that look creepy, scary or dangerous to the outside observer?

      1. Still waiting? A mysterious practitioner just walked up to school as it was coming out, made contact with Maggie, and is trying to get involved with goblins.

        Anyone want to start casting bets on who’s going to be the Goblin Queen, who’s going to be the Innocent, and who’s going to be the Practitioner Sacrifice?

        My money is on…
        Goblin Queen: Laird, in his action against Blake. He’s set this up to get Maggie indebted to him for removing a cycle of the prophecy – AND he can get Blake killed!
        Innocent: Maggie – the same as the first time.
        Practitioner Sacrifice: Blake. He’s already fitting into the archetype. What I expect is that he will search for a way out other than sacrificing himself, though – there are more practitioners around this time, which means more potential options for dealing with Blood and Fire.

        1. Ooh, I like the idea that the roles will be repeated as well. It’s like a play, with the same basic story/premise, only different actors and even different interpretations. Only it’s from hell. Possibly literally this time.

  6. This is my favorite chapter so far.

    I like the Rose-Blake interaction, which is the best relationship in the story so far. Then there’s the building up of alliances and powers, which is awesome.

    But most importantly, Blake’s using real magic in this chapter. I mean, yeah, ice hatchet is alright, but actually changing your entire appearance? That’s awesome.

    Also hints that Rose is far more than a regular vestige.

      1. I’m pretty sure that Rose has to have been more than a vestige all along; she represents far too much time and (likely) power investment from RDT Senior to be merely a vestige. I’m thinking bound or created/reshaped demon or demonic entity, especially as of this chapter with Briar Girl talking about Blake being “tainted” by demonic essence.

  7. Does Blake being able to use glamour so easily mean that he IS glamour in some form or for some reason?
    Either he is the Familiar of Rose already or maybe his grandmother traded part of his soul/spirit for something earlier in life? I can’t help but think that Rose is the real current timeline or soul as far as the universe is concerned and that Blake is somehow the vestige or glamour born?

    Damn this stuff is addictive.

    1. My theory is that Rose is a vestige stuck in a mirror, but that Grandmother transferred Blake’s soul to her. And by soul I mean what makes the universe see you as a person.
      It wouldn’t make sense that all she needed to do to make Blake eligible to inherit was making a female vestige of him.
      On the other hand, Blake is obviously the one with a body and an actual history in the world

      1. That’s exactly the kind of brutally effective and morally terrifying thing that the Thorburns seems to be famous for. I like this theory.

      2. … that would explain some things. So, does that mean all the speculation on Rose being Blake’s familiar is wrong and Blake will be Rose’s familiar, possibly after Blake is possessed by a spirit?

      3. Do black men hanging out unaccompanied near a k-12 school normally pass unnoticed in small-town Canada? This is not a thing that would happen in small-town-USA outside black-plurality parts of the South.

        Good chapter, though. I’m liking Blake and Rose getting along better, I’m liking the hints with the tattoos and the glamour and the Rose-getting-the-goblin, and I’m liking finally meeting a bit of the rest of the cast. And even if it’s Maggie that summons slobbering monsters, it seems like Briar Girl is Pact’s Bitch.

        Also I’m being amused by how much karma in this series is like a pen & paper RPG mechanic. Like, Maggie has a minor Habit but gets a bit of xp every time she role plays it well, and every Oath you swear is backed up by the Wyrd which will interpret it, reward you as you keep it and punish you if you break it. …………This is not helped by Blake taking the first steps toward becoming a Changeling and getting hit with Mundanity.

        1. If you’re not in a sundown town (google it), then yeah. the local karma isn’t hostile to someone just minding their own business. [He becomes “visitor of someone” —
          not “drugdealer” or “villain”].

          It’s a little more sketchy being near the school, but unless he’s actively in a trenchcoat, or eyeing the girls, he becomes “acquaintance of one of the schoolkids, or a teacher”

        2. Re: Briar = Bitch, that works on two levels: Briar G. is an anti-social hard-nosed person, much like Rachel. She also seems to put a lot of effort and care into keeping her Others and Familiar happy, creating Slappy Birds out of corpses, and generally scraping together power through attentiveness, similar to Rachel’s love for her dogs; although Briar seems to be less motivated by love for her ‘pets’ than Rachel was – although that’s just based on a single conversation, so may not be a correct impression.

          Re: Pact as an RPG – absolutely. Blake just needs to go curb-stomp rats in someone’s cellar until he levels up. S.O.P. for RPGs, man.

            1. The Simurgh would be a beautiful boss in an FPS, though. Someone needs to make a Wildbow mod for Saints Row 4 or something.

            2. Aaaaand now I’m picturing myself beating a giant angelic monster with a purple dildo….

          1. 4th ed D@D has ‘The Bag of Rats’ rule specifically to prevent this. Demon Hunters says, ‘bribe your Gm’ (and is an rpg here My character got fed up with me playing by the ‘rules’ and did it himself.

  8. So, could you Glamor yourself into being powered by Hot-blooded Manliness, in the vein of a super robot pilot? I think that’d probably work quite well for Blake, given what we’ve seen of his personality, though perhaps not quite as well now that he’s already created this Glamour.

    1. Also, thinking about it a bit more, it makes me wonder what happens when you create a Glamour based off of an Anime protagonist trope, and part of your role is that people look at the insane shit you do and go “Impossible!”

      1. Feed the glamour – use it as cosplay and go to a con. Lots of adoring attention, plenty of willing suspension of disbelief.

        1. Just watch out for people with signs reading “FREE HUGS!”

          Wouldn’t t want that Faerie Ink to rub off, would we? 😉

      1. Thank you. (Was really just aiming for some visual potty jokes, but glad that someone, at least, is taking things seriously.) 😉

      1. Rest assured, plans are in store for illustrations of pale, overly tattooed Blake with his Ice Hatchet. 🙂

        Also, Letita – although not in the same drawing.

          1. Dude, if anyone ever tried to claim DeviantArt as their Demesnes, they would be facing a lot of Deviants who’d want to contest that claim. 🙂

            1. From Damages 2.1:

              “Funny, how many Others with the appearances of children were around Johannes.”

              “Hey, kids! Wanna pet my talking dog? He can talk, you know. Would you like to come over to my place and play? I’ve got this huge part of town that I’ve turned into an amusement park, but it’s only the special, magical children who can play there. Would you like to see it? I’m sure you kids are magical… or we can make you magical. Oops! Sorry, one of my body parts fell off. Don’t worry, we can still have fun with the bits that are left.” 😀

              Think about it – Johannes is a physically mangled dude with an exotic pet, who lives in a magical amusement park with all his ‘children’, and some hulking troll bouncers. He’s totally the Michael Jackson of Pactverse. 😉

              (…Too soon?)

  9. Ok if we’re going to get started on wild mass guessing I’m going to go with skidmark being responsible for the names of the goblins in this story.

    Now depending on perceptions….is god a possible glamour option ’cause he’s got belief to spare.

  10. It seems to me that Blake should now agree never to make himself look like Rose. What with everything the above commenters have said, it sounds like that would wipe him out of existence, on top of changing reality to make Rose’s history the real one, rather than Blake’s.

    1. We don’t know for sure that he didn’t to be fair, there was a scene change and some time passed in between without description.

  11. Now I’m just waiting for Blake to use Gradation Air powered by fairy hair.

    If everybody wants Blake to make himself insignificant and not touch a thing, the thing he really must do should be the opposite by screwing with EVERYONE’S plans, getting into everything and making himself significant and unassailable.

    Since Blake feels the need to secure himself from Rose’s unintentional bleedover, would it be possible for him to claim his own soul as his demesne since technically no one has claim to it yet?

      1. The only thing I can think of is “The Shadow”. Where the force of the mind controls the “knife” to move around and attack.

  12. I’m guessing that in this case, Dickswizzle ignored Blake, because Blake wasn’t Blake due to the glamour. He listened to Rose, because Rose is connected to Blake, and Rose is not affected by a glamour.

    1. That makes sense and would be related to that thing Rose wanted to talk to Blake about… given what she sees from her perspective.

    2. I’m not so sure about that. Even if Glamour Blake != Regular Blake, the Goblin is supposed to obey the holder of the whistle. Glamour Blake is holding the whistle.

      I think it has more to do with Rose. She can’t see spirits but they for some reason listen to her rather than Blake.

  13. Second thought. Wow. Maggie’s inability to curse is revealed to be quite a painful hindrance to her ability to summon goblins. She can only say half of their names.

    However, I would imagine that once named, a goblin stays named. There are probably many of them out there who have names which we wouldn’t even recognize as being curses. Unless you knew how goblin names actually worked.

    That would be interesting, to see if Maggie could say a name containing no modern curse word, but rather containing what she knew had once been a curse word, because it is part of the goblin’s name.

    Practitioner headaches must not be fun.

    1. Hmmm. Regarding this particular comment.

      The explanation that probably, this is entirely intentional. Either as a precaution for her NOT summoning Goblins she can’t control. OR as a hobble to prevent her from becoming too powerful. In fact, I can see Duchamps doing something like that.

      Also, Goblin names are also likely intentional, like when swearing one inadvertently empowers them somewhat. Entirely in-theme.

      Goblins are a bundle of mean. Saying a word that you know is profanity likely has this word charged with mean. Like attracts like, and we have a mean word attract a mean Goblin whose name includes that mean word.

      @ Unmaker. Your idea of comic con cosplay glamour has merit. But it also is hazardous, you can lose yourself in the character.

      1. All good ideas, I agree.

        The con idea was sort of a throwaway thought. I thought it would be dangerous because strange stuff happens at cons, so it would be easier for Others and practitioners to get close to you and mess with you in semi-public. The museum idea that someone else had is a much more controlled environment, and it and would explain much of modern art as jokes played by bored Faerie. 😉

        So the idea at the con is to come in second or third place in a costume contest. First place = too close to the character. Lower ranks = too little attention.

        1. On a related note – if Pact Goblins all have names that involve cuss words, and the theory that’s circulating in the comments here (that Goblins draw more power from swear words that are particular potent and/or popular) is correct; would that mean that the Psycho Goblin Queen’s name is Mother Firetrucker? 😉

    2. I think Maggie’s inability to swear comes from a promise to her fathers. She might not have thought it through after doing the awakening ritual, maybe she was being sarcastically compliant to their wish that she stopped swearing or something. Then: “Oh s**t, swearing now gives me negative karma.”

      1. She did say that she cannot even think the mean words so I believe there is more going on here. Perhaps a deal (= standard way of a practitioner to get screwed)

        1. Yes, but thinking in therms of frequencies: How often do practitioners make deals with Others who are concerned with swearing somehow (probably quite often when dealing with goblins, I’ll give your theory that)? And how often do the parents of teenagers ask them not to swear (I’m guessing a lot more often than any deal that specifically takes away someones ability to swear)? And the standard answer to parents in those situations is, in my experience, “Yeah, sure”, or some variety of that.

          Then again, Faraway-R’s suggestions seems likely in terms of how Pactverse works.

          1. Hmm, from what I see, a practitioner can break his promises and even his oaths. Had she promised not to swear, she would be able to do so regardless (and risk considerable power loss by breaking a promise or even oath). However, since she is not even able to think about swear words it looks more like a compulsion or curse imposed on her.

        2. I thought she said she couldn’t “allude” to them, not couldn’t “think” them. This was right before she said she felt “blue”, so maybe the ‘can’t think bad words’ was mentioned later and I missed it.

  14. If Maggie says a curse word she will summon a goblin.
    Blake does not own anything. The ogre obeys the owner of the whistle, since the owner is Rose …

  15. Does Glamour Blake still have the ice hatchet with him? If so, can we call this form Lumberjack Black? I say, make it so.

  16. Criticism: I really liked the scene with Briar Girl, and the glamour stuff, but the scene with Maggie felt incongruous for lots of reasons:
    – I do understand that Blake doesn’t really have the time to hesitate, but his first steps towards reconciliation with Maggie still seem a bit too quick. (This kind of reminds me of a few scenes in Worm where Taylor had no time to grieve or regret, which sometimes weakened the emotional impact of these scenes for me. I won’t give examples for fear of spoilers.)
    – And even if I grant that, he’s way too quick to ask for and use goblins (as in “I’ll settle for goblins in paper prisons I can’t control”). Remember – when Maggie told him about them, he recalled one of the traumatic incidents in his past, and thinks some of his assailants were goblins. And now, one day later, he doesn’t even hesitate?! Implausible. I’d expected a more muted repeat of his screwup with Padraic when he reacted badly to an Other’s attempts to kiss him. This scene clashes with Blake’s notion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker”, too.
    – Similarly, while Maggie reacts with surprise at encountering Blake, there’s not a hint of the understandable fear she showed towards Blake’s impulsive violence in 2-07: “Maggie chose that moment to reach out, and I grabbed her hand, crushing it inside mine, hard enough to hurt her. I could see her reaction run through her entire body. Pain, fear.” No hesitation towards lending Blake goblins, either – she doesn’t even make him promise that he won’t attack her (or her dad!), e.g. with what she gives him… I do understand that she genuinely wants to make amends, but this behavior seems dangerously naive, and is in bizarre contrast to Blake’s caution when dealing with Briar Girl in this chapter, as in “No summoning or orders to a minion to tell him so he finds out.”.
    – Also, Maggie has no second thoughts about helping Blake even though Laird will know immediately from the ofudas and goblins. And then Laird could probably crush her easily. Couldn’t he also threaten to hurt her parents? Even if normal nonpractitioners are somehow protected (I forgot the details), her dads know about this world. When Maggie took a photo of a practitioner in her backstory, she lost (some of) these protections. The situation of her dads should be similar. Even if Maggie can somehow be sure that Laird won’t retaliate against her or her family, can her parents be safe while knowing about practitioners? In fact, shouldn’t they become practitioners, too? (That said, a common rule of Wormverse and Pactverse is basically ‘great power comes with getting screwed all the time’, so maybe that’s not such a good idea.)

    1. I partially agree with your points regarding Blake. He does seem to do a 360 with regards to Maggie relatively quickly.

      I think its worth keeping in mind, though, that this is the first time we’ve seen Blake with A) knowledge, a generally idea of the situation he’s in and what his options are, B) some degree of power and protection while he’s out and about, C) an plan where he can take legitimate action to achieve his goals, and D) a good night’s sleep, or at least somewhat rested. He’s had some of those at various times but not all together. We probably need to see more out of Blake under different circumstances to get a good idea of his personality.

      I disagree with the points about Maggie. What happen seems to be within character. Even before she was a practitioner she had an outward appearance of fearlessness. She was pretty defensive here. On my first reading, I thought that she worked with Blake so easily because of both trying to make amends and a healthy fear of Blake.

      Of course, I could be wrong.

    2. Maggie’s tool is a knife. She thinks directly, and probably really does feel badly
      about Blake’s cousin.

      Also, Blake’s pushing her — hard. He hasn’t forgiven her, but he is giving the opportunity to be forgiven.

    3. I’ve mentioned before that wildbow has a tendency to push too hard with the plot at the expense of characterization. Not that he hasn’t made it work for him: he does a great job at creating stressful scenes for exactly this reason. But it is something I wish he would devote more attention to.

    4. Maybe the glamour helps the situation along? It is working way to easily for him and it is supposed to alter/hide the connections(relationships) between him and others, so maybe it is altering his relationship with Maggie in response to his purpose for applying it. Maybe that is a good thing, or maybe it will bite him in the ass if he doesn’t notice.

  17. One thing that worries me is that the way the Dickswizzle scene is worded right now, Rose called the goblin towards them while Maggie was holding the whistle.

    Unless the whistle was handed back but that wasn’t mentioned.

    Unless Dickswizzle is actually being controlled by Maggie, and Maggie is about to have Dickswizzle give him a bit of a beating. She didn’t say that there was only one way to control him, only that the spoken word would work.

  18. “My tattoos as they’d been before, less beautiful, but still gorgeous and entirely mine.”

    OK. He’s using glamour, and he’s apparently good at it. His above statement indicates an extremely powerful connection to his tattoos.

    If there’s a way for Blake to use tattoos as implements, or spirits of body art as familiars, he really needs to look into that.

    1. Nah, that just means he made his tattoos his “tell” whenever he uses a glamour to minimise his exposure since he can cover them up.

      1. I agree that they are his “tell” but I don’t see how that reduces his obvious stated attachment to them. As far as I can tell, he cares more for his tattoos than just about everything else in his life, including his family. He is emotional about his tattoos. They matter.

        1. I agree. Blake showed the most emotion, next to maybe getting news about Molly’s death, when finding out that his tattoos were possibly being manipulated.

          If a practitioner can use piercings for an inplement, why not the tattoos?

        2. I guess Blake is so fond of his Tattoos because they remind him of his friends. But since we know nothing about these people other than they exist, it kinda doesn’t carry much meaning for us.

  19. Wow, and another thought. If Laird is generating a powerful working against Blake, and Blake simply disappears due to this glamour, what happens to Laird? What happens to his working?

    Simply by using a strong glamour on himself, Blake might have unintentionally created a lot of pain and suffering for Laird.

    If the glamour is powerful enough, will it trigger the succession? Probably not. The succession is likely triggered by something a lot more fundamental than appearances.

    1. The idea of glamour as a way to dodge spells is quite interesting. Can’t find them = can’t target them. We already have dire warnings as to what happens if demons are sent after a target and can’t get to it, which likely also applies to targets they can’t find.

      But the glamour-master faeries do get bound. So experienced practitioners must have a way around it.

      And I think we are going to see Laird’s strike hit home, just because swing and miss wouldn’t be nearly as intense.

      1. I would be careful saying that Wildbow can’t make a miss as exciting as a hit. If you miss something, it usually hits something else.

        The way around Blake’s glamour is pretty obvious. His tattoos. He specifically left them out of the glamour. Is Laird going to know that though? I doubt it. I also doubt Laird will give any credence to how good Blake is at glamour before he experiences it, if Rose’s reaction was a valid one.

        As for Blake’s ability with glamour? I suspect it’s at least partly due to his exposure to the hair charm.

  20. Tons of great lines in this chapter again:
    – ““My companion thinks we should kill you now.”“Let’s talk it out first, and then we can mutually decide one way or the other,””
    – ““More accurate to say every practitioner we’ve seen has been power hungry. Laird may have misled us on that front.””
    – “For an instant, I thought maybe she’d given it away. Then I remembered that the Briar Girl couldn’t lie. That was one obvious trick from the playbook that didn’t work in this world.”
    – “What are you going to tell me that might change my mind?” I don’t know, but I’d better figure it out before you decide to have me torn limb from limb.” – Brilliant.
    – ““The voice is clever,”“And she’s right.””
    – ““Your kind is dangerous. Even you… you stink of something foul. I can smell it and they can smell it.” […] “Can’t you see it? The animals don’t like you.””
    – ““The way I was told it,”“Many of the worst of them were architects. […] They put things together. Stars in the sky, mountains, oceans […].”“Some of these builders switched roles,”“Doing the inverse of what they’d done before.”” -> Oh, that’s interesting. But Rose later says that’s wrong…
    – “One action on your part, fire and devastation, but you never see what comes out of it. Hundreds of incidents a year, for decades or a century, before the imps are dealt with or spent of their power.”
    – “Recycling. Death, consumption and rebirth are parts of the cycle of nature. Some of my favorite parts. I could do what I do a hundred thousand times over, and there would still be balance. Your things, they are not balanced, not in any way we want to deal with.”
    – ““I’m pretending I’m long for this world,” I protested.” – I loved that line.
    – ““So we kill her before she gets a chance to sell the place. Move on to the next.” She was so casual about it. She’d raised her hand to vote for Maggie’s execution, hadn’t she?”
    – ““We leave freely and unaccompanied, unmolested in body, mind, possession or emotion.””
    – ““No summoning or orders to a minion to tell him so he finds out.”“Nothing from me or mine,” the Briar Girl said, frowning a little. She was totally planning something like that.
    – ““If you keep talking like that, there won’t ever be another negotiation between us,” The words had a power to them. It was damn close to being an oath. It was a statement.”
    – ““I hope you fail. But I hope you don’t fail so badly you die.”“Thank you,”“I’m going to aim for one of those two.””
    – “But this glamour thing is useful, because it’s a way we could maybe navigate the city. No connections tracking us, a different face…” – I like this development.
    – “I opened the door, and, without thinking, I held it open for Rose. Nevermind that she wasn’t here.” – Funny and/or foreboding.
    – ““I just realized I’m going to need your help on this, Rose,”“I can’t see myself in the mirror.””
    – “I couldn’t see the change, but I didn’t doubt it had worked. That doubt could be dangerous and costly.”
    – ““Definitely supposed to be harder than that,”“Stop saying that,”“If I believe it, it might become true. Ignorance is power, in this case.”” – Awesome.
    – ““I’d like to think nearly getting killed by the faerie swordswoman and beating her in a duel was a pretty fair cost,”“But if this proves to be more useful than that duel was dangerous, I agree, we should be suspicious.””
    – “I could see her studying me. Was she identifying flaws or tells in the disguise, picking it apart with her eyes? Or was she reinforcing it, feeding into it?”
    – ““This is funny business, isn’t it?”“Yeah,”“Funny.“ I glanced at her dad. He knows.”
    – ““Forgiveness won’t be particularly easy, nor fast, not for either of us””
    – ““Maggie? I’ll need you to explain,”“I’ll try, I promise,” I felt the impact of that statement, saw the connection form.” – Wow, she really trusts her parents. Making promises you actually keep gives you good karma, right?
    – ““A whistle for who or what?”“He’s called something I’m not allowed to say,””
    – ““Crud,” Rose said, a murmur. I could see Maggie’s father react.” -> Ahaha! And oooh: now that I read that line and think about Maggie’s situation, I see an interesting parallel to Bonesaw! One difference: In Wormverse, promises not to lie aren’t binding…

  21. So I am paranoid, did Mrs. Demon Lawyer not say..
    “You are not long for this world” ..getting overwritten/drawn into the mirrorworld
    “..replaced by the next heir” ..aka Rose
    so rightfully so?

  22. Why can’t Maggie say the name? I’ve been assuming she promised not to swear (probably promised it to one of her dads), and that was binding. But…it’s a name. She wouldn’t be swearing any more than if she were talking to/about a human named Dick. MY DESCRIPTIVISM INSTINCTS WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS.

    1. Maybe Maggie thinks that it is a swearword. Alternatively, the curse is an intrinsic part of the name, as in the curse gives the name/goblin power.

  23. Interesting theories out there! If Blake weren’t the real boy after all…Son many twists this could play out.
    Maybe Rose did get part of Blake’s soul. I’m not counting out the possibility that Grandma Rose put her soul into the vestige.

  24. I figured out how Blake could give Rose more power (outside of the obvious)! All he has to do is get something life-sized, like a big toy, blow-up doll, a corpse, or character pillow. Then, he just rubs some glamour juice on it to make it appear human, preferably a 20 year old woman. Then he seals Rose inside this “woman” and Rose now has a body!

    1. Which works until people start noticing the proverbial seams. Also, it probably wouldn’t work for keeping Rose around past her sell-by date, which Blake has sworn (twice now) to attempt, given that the vestige hasn’t gotten any new power.

        1. Fill the holes in the glamour with what, exactly? More glamour? Yeah, that’s a sustainable system right there. And Rose can’t exactly let it replenish like Blake can.

          1. “Fill the holes in the glamour with what, exactly?”

            Must… Resist… Urge to… Make single entendre… About blow-up dolls… 😆

            “And Rose can’t exactly let it replenish like Blake can.”

            GNYYYAHHH!

            Pant… Pant… So sorry, everyone. Couldn’t… Gasp… Hold it any longer. 😳

            Umm, does anyone have some paper tissue? Clean-up in aisle five?

        2. I find it interesting that of all of my suggestions on foundations for Rose, people focus on the blow up doll. What other lifesized humanoid could a 20 year old easily get access to?

          1. A willing volunteer or kidnapping (not that Blake has the heart to kidnap someone and force another being inside them). If animals and such can have consciousness, I”d imagine Rose might give up her form to hitch a ride on a bird or what have you. No different than the teacher in the bunny (I’m guessing).

            1. Remember the Borrowing that the Discworld witches practice? There’s a very important limitation wearing another creature’s form – do it for too long, and you’ll start thinking like that creature. The body imprints itself on the mind, just as much as the other way round.

              Would be pretty funny if Rose was stored in a hamster’s body, and starting using all the priceless Diabolist grimoires as nesting material. 😛

    2. “Are you ready, Rose? In just a few moments, you’ll be able to walk around in the real world, bound inside this inflatable sex doll! Hmm? Why are you looking like tha- Oh, the glamour? Yeah, umm, the thing is… The ritual requires that the caster looks like an even sexier version of Wesley Snipes. And, err, isn’t wearing anything except a spandex thong and lube. Trust me, I totally know what I’m doing.” 🙂

      MAGICAL SELF-WINCEST FTW. 😀

  25. Briar Girl talked about balance, and how the demons fulfilled the role of counterweight.
    I suppose there could be such a thing as too much light, as in, actual light. Why there would have to be a balance between fortune and misfortune I worry is going to be hard to explain.

  26. I think I just realized why Maggie can’t curse. Its because the Maggie Holt serious is intended to be read by both adults and children. It wouldn’t do well, at least early in the series, to have the protagonist have a foul mouth. The parents wouldn’t let their kids read it.

      1. “Welp, you should’ve stuck to saying ‘Blimey!’ and ‘Fluffnuzzle’, Maggie. Now that you’ve dropped the f-bomb and the s-bomb (not to mention the Q-bomb), it won’t be long befo- Ah! There he is. Hello, Mr. Soapthroater goblin, sir. Are you sure you have to scrub out Maggie’s mouth with water and soap? Couldn’t you just…? Ah. Ah, yes. I see. Yes, that’s a perfectly valid reason, of course.”

        SPLASH SPLISH GARGLE

        “Oh! He’s certainly very thorough. Are you alright, Maggie? Don’t choke on that soap – erm, it is soap, isn’t it? It’s certainly white and foamy, and… luke-warm…” 😮

        (…And then Maggie kills all the things, in revenge.) 🙂

  27. I can’t help but point out that after making a big deal about ‘making a deal’ not to betray him to Behaim, both Blake and Rose missed the fact that she never agreed not to warn the Duchamps. Tunnel Vision is bad.

    1. None of Briar Girl ‘and hers’ are to warn Laird. That’s what she promised.
      So, any Behaim who’s not Laird himself would be fair game, but probably weird karma.
      Doublecrossing is bad, but doublecrossing the gaping neg-karma pool might not be so bad.

    2. They’d have to make her a pretty sweet deal regarding the house, before she did that. Blake made it very clear that he was the best hope she had of getting any of the forest.

  28. “With these hands, I’ve cleaned a deer.”

    Cut to yesterday morning. She’s out in the wilderness, got a fire raging, sitting next to a clawfoot tub that’s sitting out there, scrubbing the back of some deer with a loofah. She adds some more bubble bath to the tub.

    I guess that’s to be expected from this story’s apparent equivalent to Bitch. She’d better hope she doesn’t have a briar heart too, or this is going to be a real easy battle. Well, for me, maybe, but that’s because I’ve got Sneak maxed out and am doing pretty good on Pickpocket. It even gave me Extra Pockets to hold all kinds of neat things. Ooh, a piece of candy…ooh! A piece of candy…Oooh, a piece of candy…Ooh, piece of candy.

    And shut up about your Fir Bolg. They may be cool pumpkin headed fellows, but I’m about to bust a Red Cap up in this B, Tuatha de Dannen be Tuatha de Damned. Yes, Blake, I know, I know. Damn you, damn them, damn your momma.

    world starts coming apart at the seams.””

    Too many quotation marks.

    By the way, midget psychopaths are fun. Especially when you open a portapotty expecting to find a nice big shotgun and instead a midget psychopath jumps out holding a nice big shotgun. They kind of have a one-track mind though. Usually it’s focused on killing you until you drop a hologram, turn invisible, and stab it from behind repeatedly with a corn cob.

    And that’s the magical story of where cornholes come from.

    Landis, Pencil-Monkey, I’ve heard of that particular group hating on Pokemon. You have to remember it’s a bunch Satanic Panic-style fundies who want to imagine back masking and real spells in Harry Potter. People like that really exist. People have actually had to go and burn their albums and so on before, though more so in the 80s.

    You know, given the naming conventions of the goblins, I am now convinced that what’s his name wasn’t really Deep Throat. The real Deep Throat was a goblin hooker working for that guy.

  29. Cleaned a deer, she said?

    “With these hands, I’ve cleaned a deer.”

    Cut to yesterday morning. She’s out in the wilderness, got a fire raging, sitting next to a clawfoot tub that’s sitting out there, scrubbing the back of some deer with a loofah. She adds some more bubble bath to the tub.

    I guess that’s to be expected from this story’s apparent equivalent to Bitch. She’d better hope she doesn’t have a briar heart too, or this is going to be a real easy battle. Well, for me, maybe, but that’s because I’ve got Sneak maxed out and am doing pretty good on Pickpocket. It even gave me Extra Pockets to hold all kinds of neat things. Ooh, a piece of candy…ooh! A piece of candy…Oooh, a piece of candy…Ooh, piece of candy.

    And shut up about your Fir Bolg. They may be cool pumpkin headed fellows, but I’m about to bust a Red Cap up in this B, Tuatha de Dannen be Tuatha de Damned. Yes, Blake, I know, I know. Damn you, damn them, damn your momma.

    world starts coming apart at the seams.””

    Too many quotation marks.

    By the way, midget psychopaths are fun. Especially when you open a portapotty expecting to find a nice big shotgun and instead a midget psychopath jumps out holding a nice big shotgun. They kind of have a one-track mind though. Usually it’s focused on killing you until you drop a hologram, turn invisible, and stab it from behind repeatedly with a corn cob.

    And that’s the magical story of where cornholes come from.

    Landis, Pencil-Monkey, I’ve heard of that particular group hating on Pokemon. You have to remember it’s a bunch Satanic Panic-style fundies who want to imagine back masking and real spells in Harry Potter. People like that really exist. People have actually had to go and burn their albums and so on before, though more so in the 80s.

    You know, given the naming conventions of the goblins, I am now convinced that what’s his name wasn’t really Deep Throat. The real Deep Throat was a goblin hooker working for that guy.

    1. What’s wrong with polishing your wild animal? Briar Girl’s affection for all the Mr. Mimes in the forest is wholesome and heart-warming, just like Amie’s.

      http://andykluthe.deviantart.com/art/The-Language-of-Love-409478842

      And stop picking up all that candy! If you collect too much, it stops being Rare Candy, and then it won’t make your Friend Safari level up. It just gives them diabetes. Rare Candy is wasted on your James Sudowoodso, anyway. Save them for your Tangellan Page – once she learns Sweet Scent, she can lure Wild Lesbians out of the tall grass and untamed bushes. Especially the latter. Just watch out that you don’t give her Hard Candy, or you’ll wind up drugged and tied to a chair, plus the secret stash of illegal photographs you keep in a floor safe will be scattered to the winds. Takes hours to clean up the mess.

  30. Now…that is a nice bunch of neat reveals. New sources of strength and new abilities for Blake, but…well…new problems. How much of the issue is the glamour, and how much is Blake not being himself?

  31. “Then we talk to Maggie. We need soldiers, and those paper goblins are sounding awfully good right now.”

    Oooh, you have been reading up on your urban fantasy, Wildbow.

  32. The game is afoot.

    Since there are canonically alternate timelines/worlds/worlds and physics in Wilbowverse,anyone else thinks Rose might be an alternate reality Blake,thus explaining the different memories better than the explanation given?

    On retrospect,since the story is over,stupid question.

  33. “Midget is offensive.”

    So is ‘psychopath’- it’s an ableist slur, and pretending it has even medical or technical relevance just helps dehumanize people with psych disorders.

    A better word for Blake’s purpose would be something like ‘assassin.’

    1. If you’re fighting with the characters, I will just remind you that they’re fictional. If you’re fighting with the author, I will remind you that you can’t read the author’s opinions from what their characters say.

      Notice that all uses of midget and psychopath are in speechmarks – they’re used by characters, not by the author.
      If you’re going to keep reading “fiction”, you might want to keep track of stuff like that.

    2. The clinical definition of a psychopath is someone born without the ability to feel guilt (and a couple of other things and qualifiers, but that’s the big one), and if that doesn’t perfectly describe the goblin’s we’ve seen so far I don’t know what does. OTOH, it was also clearly intended as an insult. I’m just a psych student, I honestly don’t know if that makes it immoral.

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