Breach 3.4

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The steady ‘tock, tock, tock’ of the diagram was joined by confident voices, speaking in time with the ritual.  Each jerking movement of the ‘hand’ of the diagram was accompanied by a ‘tock’.  Less a sound, I realized, than a vibration, reaching through the floor and house.

I needed to know more.  What was the ritual, what was the goal, and how the hell was I supposed to disrupt this without revealing myself or getting them to hunt for a culprit?

I searched the room.  All eyes were riveted to the scene.  As I circled around, pretending to be in search of a better look at what was going on, I looked at tables, cabinets and shelves.

One glass case had an assortment of trinkets, wands, a staff and a spike-studded scepter.  Primarily, though, there were watches, hourglasses, and other timepieces within.

Al mamlakah,” Sandra Duchamp spoke, startling me a bit.  A loud, clear woman’s voice in the midst of the more baritone chanting.

Al mamlakah,” the other Duchamps inside the circle replied, in unison.

Past the gaps in between people and in between legs, I could see the diagram shifting, as if it were an intricate device, tumblers falling into place, gears turning, components interlocking.  A ‘tick’ joined the ‘tock’.  Higher, faster, jarring my concentration.  I could see the connection Sandra Duchamp had made.  One word, an agreement or affirmation, leveraging some tie she already had to the grand scheme of things.  She’d been the ‘crown’.

If each of the Duchamps had a part to play, that meant they were one fifth of the way through already.  If I was lucky, there would be more tacked on at the end, or the Behaims might have their pieces to add.

If I was lucky.  I didn’t want to stretch my luck.  Not with this much on the line.  My well being, the family…

How to deal with this?  Priorities were information, tools I could employ, and getting out with my skin intact.

I looked up at all of the adults who held the pads of paper outlining the ritual.

The simplest solution was often the most effective.

I selected my position carefully, so I could be sure to be out of sight of anyone who saw the two kids playing under the foosball table, and I walked up to one of the Behaims.  I tugged on her sleeve, insistent.  She looked down at me.

“I wanna see the paper,” I said, loud enough to be annoying.  One of the Behaims and two of the Duchamps in the circle gave me a dirty look.  Apparently they didn’t appreciate the interruption.

The woman shushed me, simultaneously dropping down to a crouching position.  She held out the paper so I could see.  It was already turned to the second page.  Words were written out like a sermon, written out in what I presumed was Arabic, with a phonetic transcription.

Being a child, I was allowed to be a little graceless.  I moved the first page, very deliberately rustling it, and held it straight up so I could read it with my head tilted to one side.

An illustration of the diagram, minus the clutter in between the key parts, with lines drawn out from each section to the respective labels.  Crown, coin, tome, sword, and cup.  There were points of power on the outer rim, where the Behaims stood.  Other labels marked the diagram as sectors and rings.

Further down, there was elaboration.  The rings were marked with terms like ‘clockwise’, ‘counterclockwise’, ‘influx’, and ‘corridor’.

I could get the gist of it.  Power of a particular type, directed inward, given direction by the inner circle.  Astrological symbols on the outer rim, and then, as Laird had said, the realm, the space.  Community at the center.

The picture of the circle didn’t have all of the details.  When I looked, however, I could see a grid of lines, each with words running along them.

Sydenham.  Glade.  McArthur Crescent.

Street names.  The ones around the house.

Temporal distortion, centered on the house?  No.  Not the house, exactly.

The rings alternated from clockwise to counterclockwise, counterclockwise again, then clockwise.  Feeding into other diagrams, with the endpoint forming a ring-

“Where’s Leanne?” the woman whispered in my ear, interrupting my thoughts.

Leanne?

Oh.  ‘My’ cousin?

I couldn’t lie, but I was pretty sure there weren’t any rules about gestures.  I shrugged and pointed at the far side of the circle.

She turned the page, and in the doing, pulled the page I was holding up out of my grasp.  I couldn’t read the page with the details and the opening of the ritual without looking strange.  At my age, I wasn’t even supposed to be able to read it.

Husam,” one of the Duchamps spoke.  The first word at the top of the new page.

Husam,” came the chorus, from the other four.

The vibrations that were emanating from the circle took on a harder, harsher quality.  Where I’d felt it against my body before, like a speaker with the bass turned up, I could feel it running through me, now, resonating in my bones.

Laird’s chant continued, a background noise, intense and constant.

The lights above us were more intense, but that light didn’t reach nearly so far.  The room grew dimmer, but the lines of the circle remained as bright as they had been, effectively standing out.

The ticks and tocks continued incessantly, shuddering their way through me, resonating in my bones for the one and a half seconds it took before the next one hit me.  I was left just a bit breathless.  The woman next to me had to shift her position to keep from falling.  I had the advantage of a lower center of gravity.

But, at the same time, I was smaller, and that informed my perspective.

Okay.  More than a little unnerved, now.

I played the part, wringing my hands in front of me.  I was a little boy, insecure, and without filters or guile.  It seemed like the thing to do.

A hand settled over mine.  The woman next to me.  She leaned closer, whispering.  “Go and stay with Leanne, okay?”

She shifted the paper to one hand and started to rise to her feet.

I acted without thinking.  An opportunity sighted, a weak point I could target.

“But I’m scared!” I cried out.  Loud, again, to distract.  To justify the other thing I was doing.

I threw myself bodily at one of her knees, wrapping my arms around her thigh.

She teetered, struggling to catch her balance or stand upright, center of gravity thrown.

I released my hold, just as she tipped toward the circle’s perimeter.

A Duchamp woman standing next to her caught her by the upper arm, holding it high.  They very nearly fell into the circle together, but the Duchamp woman was taller, strong, and managed to plant one foot in front of her, not a half-inch from the edge of the animated circle.  Swinging from her rescuer’s grip, the Behaim woman very deliberately pulled her hand back and away from the circle, avoiding contact.

One strong jerk back on her arm sent her falling back onto her rear end, safely away from the circle.  The Duchamp woman straightened, and remained there, stone-faced, vaguely condemning of her rescuee and me both, not offering anything further in the way of a helping hand.

The chanting continued, Laird doing the lion’s share, but all of the occupants of the diagram were directing dirty looks this way, now.  Those looks, however, were focused on the woman who’d very nearly fallen.  She climbed to her feet, successfully this time, her face red with some mix of anger and humiliation.

Before eyes could turn to me, I put my hands to my mouth, my eyes wide, and scampered from the room.  The kid who knew full well he was in deep trouble.

Damn.

I’d failed.  If I got up to more shenanigans, they might get curious about the errant little boy who’d interfered with the ritual a second time.

I found myself in the living room, still littered with empty wine glasses and plates.  Nobody was hurrying to follow, which was good.  I wondered if they’d be making whispered excuses to one another, that the little boy was scared, it was an accident…

It didn’t matter.  I didn’t have long.

I felt like a weight had been lifted from me, now that I was clear of the room.  Every step away from the circle had diminished the volume of the ticking as if I’d taken ten.  Being in the living room, I could barely feel it.  With the second sight, I could make out the movements of the spirits, as if they were caught up in a current, fighting a headwind.

Okay.  Interruptions were bad.  The ritual was relatively delicate.  The participants could be distracted, and the diagram could be interfered with.

Which didn’t make this easy.  It was an exercise in problem solving.  The problem being that I couldn’t interfere directly.  Even being one step removed from the interference would be dangerous.

What was S.O.P. for being a guest?  If I couldn’t poison them, what was I allowed to do when they were trying to fuck with me?

I might have to bite the karma bullet, I thought.

Fire alarm?  No.  Breaker?  No.

I needed help.

I had the goblins, but… they were a dangerous kind of help.  Help I couldn’t count on as being untraceable.

Rose couldn’t act.

Couldn’t get Maggie involved.

My eyes traveled over the room.

I spotted the phone in the front hallway.

With a child’s fingers, I hit the numbers.  Nine, one, one.

“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”

The cordless phone in hand, I made my way up the stairs and out of earshot.  I nearly tripped on the stairs.  Nearly tripped, mentally, trying to figure out how I was supposed to tackle this.  “I- um-“

“Honey, did you mean to call nine-one-one?”

“Yes.  It’s where I’m supposed to call when there’s something bad happening?”

“Yes it is.  Are you in any danger right now?”

“Not unless they find me.  I’m scared.”  Which was truth, if I admitted it to myself.

“Where are you?”

Where was I?

I kept my voice quiet, sitting at the L-bend in the stairs where I could see downstairs, while remaining mostly out of sight.  “I don’t know the address.  But I’m in Laird Behaim’s house.  He’s in charge of the Jacob’s Bell police.”

“I know, honey.  What has you this scared?”

“I don’t know who else to call.  I came for this family party and a lot of people left, but the people who are still here are talking about getting rid of somebody, and I think it has a lot to do with the girl who got murdered.”

“At Laird Behaim’s house?”

“Please send police,” I said, injecting some emotion into my voice.  “Please?  With sirens on?  I want them to stop now.  I don’t want to listen to any more-

Dahab,” one voice spoke out from the back room, just loud enough for me to hear.

Dahab,” four other voices answered, muffled by the intervening walls.

“-any more of this,” I finished.  Balls.  What was that?  Three out of five?

“What’s your name, honey?”

Double balls.

“If I tell you, I’ll get in trouble.  You can’t tell them I called, or they’ll hurt me.  Please send police.  Or fire trucks, ambulances?  Anything loud?”

“They’re already on their way.”

“If they knock, and people don’t answer, it’s because everyone’s in the back room.  It’s Laird Behaim and Sandra Duchamp, and other family members…” I thought for a second.  “And one of them was saying… he said Mister Laird was talking about killing somebody.  Murder.  And now they’re all being grim and scary.”

“I understand, honey.  Help is on the way, don’t worry.  Why do you think they would hurt you?”

“Because…” I paused.  What to even say?

“Honey?  It’s okay.”

“Before, a few days ago, he said he’d get rid of me.  He… said he wouldn’t enjoy it, but I was dead already.”

A fractional pause.  “Are you somewhere safe?”

“No.  But if I hide, won’t they realize I called?”

“Maybe, honey.  But if you wait until the police come, they can make sure you go someplace safe.”

Problematic, in a way, but a good escape option.

“Some man was saying they make some of their kids get married to people they don’t want to marry, for favors and to get in good with the right people.  Maybe- maybe if the policemen come, they can ask the girls?”

“Maybe,” the woman said.  I wondered how she was parsing all of this.

“And the room they’re in is weird.  It’s at the back of the house, and…” I thought for a second.  “It’s got this glass case with all these sticks and things inside.  One of them had spikes on it.  I know he’s going to try to keep the policemen away from the room and convince them it’s not important, I’ve seen him do it before.”

“What happened before?”

Restless, I stood.  I made my way to the bathroom, and I saw Rose in the mirror.  “…He took me out and then he threatened me a little and left me to walk home in the dark.  Some Other people stopped me and they would have hurt me, but a friend of mine made them leave me alone.”

What the hell did it say, that even with the oaths we’d made, the one thing I’d told the emergency dispatcher that felt closest to lying was the bit where I called Rose a friend?

“This is Laird Behaim?”

“The head policeman,” I said.

I could hear the sirens.

“They’re coming,” I said.

“Stay near the door.  When the policemen answer, I want you to go to them, okay?”

“If you ever let them know I called,” I said. “They’re going to try and do bad things to me.  Please.  I’m safer so long as you stop them and you don’t say there was a call from this house.”

“We need to get you somewhere-“

“-If they find out I called and something happens to me,” I said, injecting a bit more emotion into my voice.  “It’ll be your fault.  Make them hurry.  There’s no time.  Hurry.”

That said, I hung up.

My heart pounded, even in the aftermath of the call.  I could hear the sirens drawing closer.

“Hell of a gamble,” Rose said.  “You never said you could act.”

“I-” I started.  My voice hitched with emotion.

A moment passed, Rose and I both silent.

“You’re not acting.”

“I’m… I don’t know,” I said.  I did what I could to get my voice under control.  Fuck, fuck… couldn’t afford to let something slip, to show my distress to the Behaims and Duchamps.

“You’re drowning in glamour,” Rose said.  “The act is becoming real.”

“O-okay,” I said.  I was unnerved at how much I sounded like a little boy, when I wasn’t putting on the act.

“Hey, you wanted a partnership?  This is your partner telling you to get out.”

“I can’t leave right away,” I said.  I cleared my throat, then said  “As soon as I’m able.”

I wasn’t able to keep the full tremor out of my voice.

“Soon, Blake.  If it’s rooted deep enough in you to sway your emotions, it’s going to be hard to change.  If the glamour breaks it’s going to hurt.”

“Okay,” I said.

“And don’t layer anything on top of it, or you’ll have to dig deeper to get to ‘Blake’.”

“O- okay,” I said.  “No more changing?”

I turned my head.  I could hear the siren, trace it back to the cars… and see the cars arriving.

“That look on your face.  They’re here?” Rose said.

“The ritual might have finished,” I said, whispering the words.  “That took too long.  It’s still taking too long.”

“Did you feel the ritual finish?”

“No.  But I’m not feeling much of anything, outside of that room.  Is Granny’s- grandmother’s house safe?”

“Let me get back to you on that.”

Then Rose was gone.

I left the phone where it was, covering up the connection with glamour.  That wasn’t using glamour on me, right?  I descended downstairs.

There was no chanting.

The quiet was eerie.

There was a pounding knock on the door.  I jumped.

I was physically shaking.  I felt nauseous.

Why the fuck did it feel like I was vulnerable to everything?  Giving too much blood had spent far too much of myself, June had chilled me even through the protection of the circle, I’d totally fallen for Laird’s trap…

The knock came again.  I could see police officers circling around the house through the bay window in the living room.

A moment later, there was a knock on a window at the side of the house.

Behaims and Duchamps emerged from the back room as a group.

I still had the hair.  Where had I put it?  The boy’s hair…  I’d had it in my hand.

I found it in one pocket, with the paper goblins, sensed the connection, and found the boy.

He was taking the same path I had.  Back room to kitchen to living room.  I ducked into the hallway and headed towards the dining room, so we were at opposite ends of the house.  Being seen at the same time and place as him would be disastrous.  More than just about anything else.

At the same time, however, it meant I was moving in the general direction of the incoming Behaim and Duchamp family members, I was shaking, I was about five seconds from bursting into tears, and I looked guilty as fuck.  Try as I might, I couldn’t tap into the stuff I was supposed to know, about hiding guilt and acting normal.

Worse, I still couldn’t lie.

I came face to face with the woman I’d nearly shoved into the circle.

Well, face to bellybutton, but the point stood.

They loomed around me.  Doubly imposing for the size difference.

Think, Blake Thorburn, I thought.  Fucking think.

“Are you mad?” I asked, in a hushed whisper.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“The police came, and it’s because of me,” I said.  I felt the tears welling out.  “I almost knocked you over and ruined everything.”

Both statements true, but not as connected as I was implying.

“Police?” Laird asked.

“I saw them outside the window,” I said.

He brushed past me, his wife and Sandra Duchamp in tow.

I very honestly thought I might throw up, I was so…

What the fuck label did I stick on this hot mess of emotions that were filling my six year old frame?

So discombobulated?

“The police aren’t your fault,” the woman said.

I nodded.

I stepped back to get out of their line of sight as Laird opened the door.

“Mark,” he said.  “What’s going on?”

“Chief Behaim, sir.  Listen, something’s come up.  It’s awkward.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t want to make a fuss, especially not with your family here, but-“

“There’s been another accusation?” Laird asked.

“No, sir.  Not exactly.  It’s more serious than that.  If you come with me, I can explain.”

“Explain now.”

“We’ve been led to believe that a crime was or is in progress.”

“Where?”

“Here, sir.  Please understand, we’ve got to do this by the book.  All indicators suggested we needed to act immediately, which is why you got us.”

His own police officers, arresting him?

I suppressed my smile, best I could.

“I think I see,” Laird said.  “Can I ask-“

“Sir?  If you could please come with me right away, without any questions?  The RCMP has been called, but I need to bring you into the station, without delay.”

“No delays,” Laird said.  “Alright.”

“We’ll also need to see… Sandra Duchamp?”

Peeking, I saw Sandra momentarily purse her lips, then nod.  “I’ll come.”

“And, with permission, Nathan and Ed are going to take a look through the property and talk to a handful of your guests.”

“Mark, we were having an engagement celebration.”

“I understand, sir.  But…”

Mark trailed off.

“But you’ve got to treat me like a suspect,” Laird said.  “I’ll be very interested to hear the background to this when it’s all cleared up.”

It took a minute for Laird and Sandra to get ready.  Two officers came into the house as they got jackets and boots on.

I caught Sandra gesturing at people I couldn’t make out in the living room.  A moment later, I could see the spirits around the cops being manipulated.  Distracting the cops.

Two girls, roughly my age, or the age I was supposed to be, passed through the kitchen to the back room.

There was no way to control this.  No way to really counteract the cover-up.

I watched Laird and Sandra leave, saw the cops head in the direction of the room with the circle.

A murmur ran through the collected group.

“The Thorburn boy?” a man asked.

“Very likely,” another Behaim practitioner commented.

“Is it okay?  The circle?”

“They’re the best of the new generation, when it comes to glamour,” a Duchamp matron said.  “Not to worry.”

“So… does that make this two points for Thorburn?” I heard someone ask.

“I think it’s safe to say it’s two points.  Another point in this department, and he’s earned three.  A great deal more profound.”

A point for me… but the ritual?

The murmurs quieted as the door opened.  Another officer.

“Mrs. Behaim?” he asked.  “I’ll need you to write down every guest you have here.  Sort them by family unit?”

Identifying the children?  Trying to find the caller.

My counterpart was at the front of the house.  I slipped back towards the kitchen, peeking to see how things were going in there.

The diagram was gone.  There was faint music playing.

Glamour?  So fast?  Masking an area like that?

It’s not real, I thought.  It’s fake, it’s a trick.  There’s a circle under there.

I could have blown things up, shattered the glamour, with just a few words.  I could have gotten away with it.  Theoretically.

But I couldn’t get over the fear that had seized me.

Fake fear.  Glamoured fear that I didn’t dare mess with, lest the entire thing fall to pieces.

I watched Penelope and Jo talking.  Low voices, looking concerned.

“The RCMP is going to need to talk to some people,” the officer said, “Quite a few, really.”

“We won’t be able to continue with the party?” someone asked.

“The evidence we received was serious,” the officer said.  “We could do this by sending people home as we scratch them off the list, or we could bring the family units in question to the station, so those who remain could carry on.”

I backed away, sticking close to the woman from before.

“It depends on how many people you’ll want to talk to?”

“The families of Layton, Peter, Donald, John, Andrew, and Annabelle, please.”

I saw heads turn.  Connections forming.  The people at the center that I could make out…

All families with little boys.

“It sounds like you need to go with your mom and dad, okay?” the woman told me.

Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.

I headed towards the kitchen, rounded the corner, and stopped.

Wait… wait… catch my breath.

I needed to figure out what the fuck I was doing next.

A girl my height came to a stop right in front of me.  Auburn curls, a nice satin dress with a lace collar…

Leanne.

It took a second for something to click, for the mental gears to shift and click.

When they did, when she met my eyes, I felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to my face.

Couldn’t see. My vision was distorted, as though I needed glasses to see and they’d shattered.

The rest of me…

Unchanged.

“Huh?” I heard her say.

“Shh,” I shushed her.  “If you keep it a secret, I’ll show you later.”

I saw her head move.  I could only assume it was a nod.

Stupid, stupidPromising.  I reached out, fumbling, and grabbed her hand.  I pulled her in the direction of her waiting mother.

I was pretty sure it was her waiting mother.  What had just happened?

“Back already?” she asked.

“Can I spend the night?” I asked.

“The night?”

“Sleepover,” I said.  My heart was in my throat.  Still couldn’t see.  “Everyone might have a long wait at the station with lots and lots of questions.”

I stopped there.  I was speaking too excitedly, not breathing in enough.  I was a hair way from hyperventilating.

I could see the doubt on her face.

“Please,” I panted.  “Please, can I come?”

“Please?” Leanne joined in.  “Please can he?”

This is a mess,” she said, to the nearest Behaim.  She looked at me.  “I’ll need to talk to your mom.”

I can go ask,” I said.

“Go ask, then.”

I headed for the kitchen, rubbing at my eyes.

I felt the glamour rub away, instead of shifting into place.

I could see, but I was seeing out of a different set of eyes.

My own.  Were they the wrong color?

Were they too old, as eyes went?  Did I have bags under my eyes from recent nights with no sleep?

I touched the hair, found the boy.  Through him, I found the parents.  All in a tight group, two parents, son and older sister, the dad’s hands on the son’s shoulders.

“We’ve decided what we’re doing!” Laird’s wife called out.  “I’m sorry, but we’re wrapping things up for tonight.  If your name wasn’t called, we’ll have to bid you farewell.  We’ll have another event, sometime next week.”

What did that mean?  Had I bought myself a week?

Had I stopped the ritual?

People were heading for the front hall, to collect boots and jackets.  When the mass formed a kind of traffic jam, the various families broke into clusters, to have hushed, intense discussions, eyes on the police and the front door.

I waded through the traffic jam, head down.

I was no less than ten feet from my double, the view of the two of us obscured by only a thin collection of people.

Through the connection, I could see that ‘Mom’ was more preoccupied, talking to another, heavy woman from the Behaim family.  I wrapped my arms around her leg, and her hand settled on my head.

“Do you love me?” I piped up.  One child’s voice in the din of conversation.

“Yes, of course,” she said, without even looking down.

With that done, I half-ran, half-skipped away, ducking between people’s legs to get back to Leanne and her mom.

“She said yes,” I said.

I received a tolerant smile in exchange.  “Alright.  We’ll make do.  Come on, let’s get you ready.”

It was slow going, wading through the crowd, staying out of sight, but I reached the piles of boots and shoes at the front door.

Through the boy’s connections to his belongings, I found the right stuff and got myself ready.

I could feel something else break as I tested the glamour.  Suspicion?

It dawned on me: I’d been too quick.  Too competent in getting myself ready.  I’d even done up my shoelaces with the kind of ease that came with twenty years of practice.

Reaching for my gloves, I saw the other telltale issues.

Cuts.  Scrapes.  A wound from a pen-stab to the soft bit beside my thumb on my left hand.  A strategic cut where I’d drawn blood.

And there… a dark hair, and then another, near my wrist.  Then five.

Dark, thick, adult body hairs on my hands and arms.

Time was up, it was all coming to pieces.  Rose had warned me it would be ugly.  Painful or drawn out.

I wasn’t sure how that would work in execution.  I’d been momentarily blind, and in rubbing it away, I may well have accelerated the breakdown.  What was next?  What did I face, in being disabled, inconvenienced or hurt, as the glamour fell apart?

I reached into my pocket and grabbed a paper goblin, then pulled on mitten with the paper nestled against my palm, ready in case something came up.  I yanked my hat down to help hide my eyes.

“I might have to duck inside,” Leanne’s mother said.  “Ask your parents if one of them can get your car seat out of their car.  Darn it, that’s going to take a while.”

“I don’t need a car seat,” I said.

“I think you do.”

“I was in a car a few days ago, and I didn’t have a car seat,” I said.  Pretending to be proud as punch.

I fucking drove a car a few days ago and I didn’t have a car seat.

“Your parent’s rules aren’t my rules.  And with my brother being chief of police…”

Was I going to be done in by fucking car seat laws?

“What if you drive real careful?” I asked.  “It’s not far.”

I saw her frown.

“It’s going to take a long time, with everyone there,” I said.  “If we have to go back in there and ask, we’re never going to get to your house.”

I saw her hemming and hawing for a moment.

“You look bigger.  Have you grown?”

I managed to stay stock still as I felt another hit to the glamour.  Another crack.

Bigger?

“He is!” Leanne said.  “It’s the first time he’s ever been taller than me!”

Ah, frick frack fuck.

“Yep!” I said, plastering a proud smile on my face.  “I’m all grown up!”

“You’re getting there,” she said.

“I’m a big boy,” I added, for good measure.  “I don’t need a car seat.”

“Okay.  Let’s get you two going, or you’re liable to be intolerable tomorrow.”

“Yay!” I cheered.

“Yay!” Leanne joined me.

As we climbed into the car, I could feel my shoulders straining against the stolen winter jacket.

I could feel the growing pains, now.  The extension of my limbs, the shifting of my spine.

It was like the Glamour had soaked into me, and the change back was affecting me from head to toe.

I was sweating bullets, and this time, I could feel the sweat wiping away the glamour as I sat there in the back seat, behind Leanne’s mom.

“Did the thing work?” I dared to ask.

“The ritual was stopped,” I heard.

There was nothing else volunteered.  We drove in silence for a few long seconds.  I tried to keep from smiling.

“I’m going to show you the house I made for Elsabelle,” Leanne told me.

“What did you make it out of?” I asked.

Magic, of course,” Leanne told me.

“No fibbing,” her mom called out.  “You know the rules.”

“…cardboard boxes, mostly.” Leanne amended.  “And I put all of my favorite music in there, and I put up pictures I drew, and I’m going to learn to sew and do dresses, so it’s all ready when she comes.”

Oh man, this was starting to hurt.

“When… when does she come?” I asked.  Keep her talking, keep her excited with her focus elsewhere.

Or she might notice that I had stubble on my face.

“You know when I get to meet Elsabelle.  I told you!”

Thwack.  Another hit to the glamour.

“In six years, four if I’m extra super good, I get to have a magical friend like Donny and Ian and Heather, and she’s going to be a fairy princess, and I don’t know who she is or what she’s a princess of, and I’m only calling her Elsabelle because I don’t know her name yet, but she’s going to be perfect and nice and sweet and beautiful and she’ll be my best friend forever.  Because all Faerie are noble and pure and Faerie princesses are extra special in all those departments.”

“Four years only if you learn not to fib,” her mother said.  “Even a little.  And you need to read the books.  And she might not be noble, unless you work hard enough to earn the attention of someone special.”

“Yes!  I will!”  Leanne pronounced.

“And no making promises!” her mother rebuked her.

It was all I could do to sit still, to avoid groaning.  This sucked.

Not everything was fixing itself in the right order.  My stomach was twisting, and my breath was short because my lungs felt too large for my ribcage.

I didn’t dare speak, because I was pretty sure it would be my voice that came out.

“Are you okay?” Leanne asked.

What did I even say to that?

“Need to…” I strained the words, to mask my voice.  “get to your bathroom.”

“I’ll hurry,” her mother said.

She was a practitioner, I knew.

If I fell to pieces here, I was screwed.  I’d be incapable of moving, and I’d have an angry practitioner looming over me.

We stopped, and I had my seatbelt off in seconds.  I yanked on the door handle.

Childproof.

A solid fifteen seconds passed, with me waiting for Leanne’s mother to get herself untangled and open the door.

I nearly fell as I climbed out of the car.  One leg shorter than the other.

She glanced left, then right, looking down the length of the neighborhood.

“House!” she said, in a stern voice.  “Open!”

I saw the connection, straight to the front door.

A demesne?

“Do you need help?”

I shook my head.  “I can go in?”

“Of course you can go in.  We’ll be right after you.”

I hobbled for the front door, praying she wouldn’t notice how my pants legs were two inches two short for one leg, a good four inches short for the other, or how I’d kicked off the small boots and I was walking through the slush in socks.

But her focus was on getting Leanne out of the car.

I went inside, searched the rooms, and found the bathroom.  I could barely move my arms, with the jacket being so small.

In the end, I tore off my shirt, sweater, and the jacket, pulling from the bottom of each and turning them inside out.

I dug my fingernails into the edges of my tattoos, and scraped.

Slowly, systematically, I clawed off the remainder of the crumbling glamour.  I could only hope it would be easier if it was deliberately removed rather than crumbling.

It wasn’t.  I spasmed, felt more things shift into their natural places.  Muscles tensing and stretching out.  Bones, too.

Connections appeared.  My connections.  And a prying eye would be able to see them, identifying me.

As I’d done with the line of blood to ward off Jo’s connection to me before and after fighting the Faerie swordswoman, I used the nearest power at hand to ward off the connections that emanated from me.  With palsied, twitching fingers, I surrounded myself with a loose ring of the shed glamour skin and glamour infused clothes.

When I was done, I collapsed onto my side, twitching, dry heaving, doing all I could to avoid pissing myself.

All I could think was about whether I’d fucking overdosed on the stuff.

I just needed to bounce back.  To get over this, and get out of the house.

Dimly, I heard a knocking on the door.

Leanne’s higher voice.  “Are you okay?”

No?

I gasped.

“Do you want me to get my mom?”

“N- no.” I managed, trying to keep my voice higher.  “Out soon.”

Another damn promise, in a moment of desperation.

Shit.  I’d even told her I’d show her what was up, if she kept my secret.

I waited.  Praying that the mother wouldn’t come in and find me.  Could she use a command to open the bathroom door, like she’d done with the front door?

I’d traded one dangerous prison for another.

It was a little while before I felt strong enough to stand.  I gripped the sides of the sink and used it to pull myself up.

Fuck me.  I looked even more drained.

I’d pushed this too far.

I reached out and grabbed the two toothbrushes from beside the sink.  One small one, pink, with a fairy on it.  One larger one, purple.

The circle I’d drawn out blocked the connections.

Tentatively, I stepped out.

The mother was upstairs with Leanne.

Reaching down, I grabbed my shirt and sweatshirt and pulled them on.  I grabbed the tatters of glamour and dragged it behind me like a limp jumping rope, keeping it between me and them.

I didn’t have much strength as I walked down the length of the hallway.  Not the front door.  Too much risk they would hear or see.  The side of the house… a sliding door.

I stopped halfway there.

Bookshelves, this time without glass doors.  Another glass case, showcasing trinkets and instruments.  From the look of them, they were from past generations.

“Blake,” Rose said.  A whisper.

Rose looked at me from a mirror over the fireplace.

“Dangerous here,” I responded, my voice matching hers in quiet.  “Demesnes.”

“Only the front of the ground floor, I think.  Just like it was only the ground floor of Laird’s house.  They section them off, so different family members can have different areas for their demesnes.  I can’t enter the mirrors there.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Right.”

“You look fucking terrible,” she told me.

“Feel worse than fucking terrible.”

“Just leave, Blake.”

“They attacked us,” I said.  “They attacked our home.”

“I know.  But you can’t fight.  The woman who owns this house, you know she’s strong.”

“She’s Laird’s sister,” I said.  “I guess each member of the family gets a little trove like this.”

“I guess.  Why are we even discussing this?  Get out of here.”

“They attacked us,” I said, again.  “Tell me, do you think any of these books are originals, or are they all copies?”

“I… some look old.”

“Some look old,” I agreed.

I drew the whistle from my pants pocket.

I blew.

Rather than a high pitched noise, there was only a low wet sputter, and Dickswizzle was spat out onto the floor.

“Destroy the books,” I said.  “Destroy the treasures.  Do it quietly, and you’ll manage more destruction.  Start with the oldest things, you’ll hurt them more.  Run if she takes notice.  Under no circumstances are you to harm anyone before returning to the flute,” I said.

Dickswizzle eyed me warily.

“Blake.  If you’re inside her house, because of hospitality-“

“I’m repaying their hospitality by sparing them.  They were… not unkind,” I said.  “But their family attacked our house and possessions.  We can attack theirs.  Eye for an eye.”

“If we took some of it, we could ransom it back?”

“It’s not quite an eye for an eye, and I don’t want them using it to track me.”

“This feels wrong.”

“But it’s fucking right.  Two very different things,” I said, my voice a harsh whisper.

I let Rose deliberate while I headed for the side door.  There was a boot rack, complete with a set of rubber boots.  I managed to squeeze them on.

I heard a tearing sound behind me as I unlocked the door.  I could see Rose’s reflection, faint, in the glass.

I walked out, dragging the tattered skin behind me.

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233 thoughts on “Breach 3.4

  1. Not working from home, as per usual, and the connection at the place I’m staying died as I was uploading it. Sorry for anyone who checked in over the last five or so minutes and found the story absent.

    As noted at the top, be sure to check out Thursday’s chapter if you haven’t.

    Thank you guys for your support over at Patreon, and for the recent donations. I hope to find a spare moment to tally it all up and let you know when the next donation chapter is due, when the internet here isn’t being a butt, or when I get home. Just saying it isn’t forgotten, and it most definitely is appreciated.

    Also, Pact should pop up over on Webfictionguide soon, and any reviews will be a huge help, when the time comes. I still need to put a banner together for topwebfiction.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. What do you think the odds are you of hitting subsistence levels via patreon? say 10,000 fans at 2 dollars each, seems achievable… You mentioned having an income from worm via sporadic donations, why don’t you put a little banner up asking people who were going to donate to use patreon instead – it would make your life a little less stressfull to have a steady income surely.
      (I”m fascinated by the principal of patreon…)

      1. To be entirely honest, I think signing up for Patreon might have been shooting myself in the foot.

        From September through to January, I was sitting at an average of about minimum wage through donations alone, assuming 40 hours a week of work. I actually work 50 or so hours a week on the writing and (very) basic site maintenance, but for brevity’s sake, I can say I’m essentially earning what I would at McDonalds.

        Which is fantastic.

        I mean, it can only get better, right, I’m doing what I love, and very few writers even get to this point.

        But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I recognize a few names on Patreon, and I can’t help but wonder if a given reader is looking at their budget, leaning toward the safe side as they subscribe for $2-5 a month, when they would otherwise be getting pumped by an update and donating at anywhere from $20 to $50 every 2-6 months. You know what I mean? I don’t want to cheat readers, for sure, or to mislead, or to have them spend more than they should, but from a purely business perspective, having customers that impulse buy is better than having customers sign on for a steady rate.

        So yeah. This month, looking at the numbers (not counting the little bump from Drew S mentioning donations last Thursday – thanks Drew!), I’m doing roughly half as well as I was the past few months. That’s with Patreon on the table, and it’s with the full acknowledgement that yeah, a lot of people are finishing Worm, and Pact doesn’t have quite the same readership.

        1. I don’t want to see you start whining about money or anything, but that was the push I needed to donate. I don’t typically pay money for intangible things, if you know what I mean (I’m the guy who suffers with ads in apps on my phone because I won’t shell out $1 for the paid version), but I definitely want to see you keep writing forever.

          Worm was one of the best stories I’ve ever read, and I read it pretty much straight through. This whole waiting several days for a new chapter thing is frustrating as all getout, but Pact is definitely worth it.

          I honestly hope you become rich and famous through your writing; I really mean that. Honestly I’d be shocked if you didn’t, but for the first time ever I’m going to do my part to help make sure that happens. I hope lots of other people will too.

          1. I don’t want to see me start whining about money either, and I hope the above post isn’t taken as such. I was aiming more to just show the whole picture – you guys are like my shareholders, because you’re invested in and investing in the work, for our mutual gain. And the whole picture is that Patreon may not necessarily be working out for me. But it’s still early days.

            Really truly, if I can make a McDonald’s wage off of the writing alone, I’ll be happy. If I can’t, then I’ll be less happy, but I’ll still write.

            I always sort of groaned when I saw someone begging for more donations, and I don’t want to be that guy. Just like I don’t want to be the guy who disappears for days or weeks and leaves people hanging when they were expecting an update.

            Best I can do is treat this like a full time job, plug away, and hope the rest of reality catches up to me.

            1. Wildbow deserves our money: mostly because he is so reticent about asking for it. And (Sorry ghost of Accord) once I get properly started on my own project he;s getting a small sum from me as long as I can afford it. which will happen at some point.

            2. Just on a personal note, having a monthly donation club like Patreon (It could be anywhere, even a spreadsheet you run yourself) makes me feel more part of a community and probably would be more than I would donate otherwise. I’m not a “Whale” customer though and I guess it is these guys that currently keep you afloat.

              You don’t beg for cash and you don’t have ads on your site. It is clear you do this out of a passion for your art.

            3. I definitely don’t think you’re whining about money, sorry if it sounded like that’s what I was saying. I don’t think I’d have donated if I thought you were (which is kinda messed up, but I can’t always help the way I think!). It’s the first time I’ve seen you say anything, and I think mentioning it once in a while is not a bad thing at all. There’s a reason churches push the whole tithing thing constantly, after all.

              Really, shame on us as fans if you ever feel like you NEED to start whining about money.

              You deserve to be paid really well for the work you do, and I hope anybody who might be thinking about donating but hasn’t yet will take the plunge and do it.

              I kinda think of it like buying drinks for friends/acquaintances when I’m out on weekends. I buy a couple drinks a month for people who don’t provide me half the entertainment you do, Wildbow, and I’d definitely buy you a drink or two if I saw you in a bar. A few bucks a month is the very least I can do.

        2. If it’s any consolation, when I signed myself up for Patreon to support your writing and work, I didn’t do so with the mentality that it would relieve me of any need to donate further for exceptional arcs and chapters.

        3. As donator to Worm a member of Drew’s Bump this saddens me. To be honest though, I’d be more than happy to see adds on your site if it would generate you a significant revenue.

        4. I think you just need to give Patreon a bit more time to work wildbow. After all you have only recently just started Patreon as a means of supporting your writing. I have just started using Patreon and have started at $5 dollars a month to you. I was not happy with the donate system you had before as it was cumbersome using it from the UK, so I read Worm without contributing anything at all and it made me feel pretty bad doing that. Patreon works for me, it’s easy to use, easy to set up and easy to change the donation amounts at any time. I am happy to pay $5 dollars a month for the rest of my life if it helps you to write as a career, I enjoy your writings more than any other author I have read over the last 50 years. I really hope writing works out for you wildbow, your talent is aweome IMHO

          1. Patreon depends a bit on the reader. It’s a slow but steady source for the readers who really want to support you right from the beginning. As it’s smaller they run into less chance of having a big expense come up right when they planned to donate and scuttle their plans. On the other hand people who come in later like the last three arcs wouldn’t contribute much via the subscription. I’m still on the fence about wether or not to subscribe with Patreon as opposed to waiting a while and donating.

            And I suspect readership for this series hasn’t hit full swing yet.

    2. http://www.patreon.com/Wildbow

      Soon I’m going to end up with withdrawal symptoms if the Thursday chapter doesn’t keep hitting its regular funding goal 😉

      If you have become hopelessly addicted to the inner workings of the mind of Wildbow then the only solution is to throw support at things like this.
      (Unless we want to go all Taylor and find blackmail leverage…)

      1. An easy way to create reward tiers on Patreon would be to use the bonus levels directly.

        $500 – one bonus chapter every 2 months
        $1000 – on bonus chapter per month

        and so on.

        It would also advertise Patreon if Patreon bonus chapters were marked as due to Patreon.

    3. is there any way for you to get ad-revenue stuff set up on your site?

      I can’t donate more than a couple of dollars, but if you can get free money by me simply turning off adblock when i come here, then why the hell not?

      I mean, it’s something silly like half of a penny for every viewer to the ad, but if you set one ad-banner at the top, one at the bottom (does anyone ever see the bottom of the page? you have waaaay too many comments) none down the side, that would draw the eye away from the text, that’s like a penny per reader, and you have mad bullshit amounts of readers.

      Getting your stories published and selling them is obviously the best way to get that phat cashola, but ads would probably work better than donations, if only because it doesn’t actually cost the readers anything to give you money, all we have to do is turn adblock off, then scroll down far enough that the ads are off-screen, we probably wouldn’t even notice the difference unless you get the really obnoxious ads with sound or something.

      1. No banners, no way no how! Something like adwords I think would be fine (and are proven to be far more successful), but in-your-face ads like banners could easily turn the page into a site nobody wants to visit. That would be bad ju-ju.

        I remember the 90’s. Banners should just die a horrible death and be banished to the darkest pits of oblivion.

        1. what’s the problem? a banner at the top wouldn’t even be visible by the time you scrolled down far enough to start reading, and one at the bottom would be unseen unless you scroll past all the comments.

          note: I DID say no side-banners, they would draw the eye away from the text.

          1. In general, I don’t like the idea of banners. I generally run adblock as I browse, and it seems hypocritical to use banners when I don’t generally see them (outside of supporting certain sites).

            1. “outside of supporting certain sites”

              oh, you mean like this one?

              everyone has adblock nowadays, you wouldn’t really be bothering anyone, because we wouldn’t even see the ads unless we choose to.

          2. They’re ugly and tacky, and in the Dark Times of the 90’s they were EVERYWHERE. They are the reason Adblock is one of the most popular Firefox addons (if not THE most popular).

            I have absolutely no problem with tasteful and unobtrusive advertising (which is why I mentioned adwords – they tend to be unobtrusive and relevant to the page you’re on). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a tasteful, unobtrusive banner ad, and I’ve made them before myself.

            Honestly had there been a big flashy banner ad at the top of the page the first time I visited Worm I almost certainly would have clicked away immediately and not read the story. That isn’t to say Wildbow wouldn’t pull in more income from something like that than the donations, but I don’t think it likely and his readership would definitely suffer a lot for it. That might have long-term publishing consequences.

    1. filling my three year old frame
      The previous chapter established the character as six.

      “You know when I get to meet Elsabelle. I told you!” [shortly] I’m only calling her Elsabeth because I don’t know her name yet
      Different names. Given the circumstances, possibly written as intended.

    2. “It was a little while before I felt strong enough to stand. I gripped the sides of the sink and used it to pull myself up.

      Fuck me. I looked even more drained.”

      He still shouldn’t have a reflection.

      Man, coupling the lack of reflection with the continual visual progression of him getting wrecked seems like it is a gigantic pain.

    3. Typo:
      “Under no circumstances are you to harm anyone before returning to the flute,” – The goblin is called by a whistle, not a flute.

    4. As others have pointed out, it still says ” I gripped the sides of the sink and used it to pull myself up.

      Fuck me. I looked even more drained.” which sounds like Blake is seeing his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He shouldn’t be able to do that…

  2. Just when Blake and Rose seemed to start being on the same page, this happens. I feel the seeds of discord being slowly sowed between the two (or technically between the one).

    1. Blake was a Guest at Lardo’s house and Lardo’s family and the Duchamps did or tried to do something bad to Blake’s house. So I do not think he got a lot of bad Karma (if any) for what he did. It seem to me like he was trying to balance the Karma and that is suppose be the Right if not the Good thing to do.

    1. In Australia the emergency number is 000 but I believe we support the emergency number of other countries (we definitely allow 911, since so many movies use it).

    2. The United Kingdom had some issues with Americans in trouble who tried dialling 911 and not getting through quickly or possibly at all, so not so long ago in accordance with EU rules we’ve added 112 as an ermegency number and 911 to stand alongside our open 999 number. Canada using 911 makes sense to me even if it has another number or two

      iirc.

  3. Blake, you needed to let Rose give those orders. Your statement on hospitality now means that if they get harmed, you get hit EXTRA bad – and your control of that goblin is incomplete, weak.

    For the earlier part of the chapter… Laird sure seems well-prepared to hide things from the police he’s supposed to be a part of.
    And the careful training of no lies, no promises is faintly adorable.

    1. I think Rose did give the orders, after Blake started to leave. He says he leaves Rose to deliberate, and it’s not until he’s almost out the door that the destruction begins. If Dickswizzle was obeying Blake, there’d have been smashing before Rose could even raise an objection.

  4. “In six years, four if I’m extra super good, I get to have a magical friend like Donny and Ian and Heather, and she’s going to be a fairy princess, and I don’t know who she is or what she’s a princess of, and I’m only calling her Elsabeth because I don’t know her name yet, but she’s going to be perfect and nice and sweet and beautiful and she’ll be my best friend forever. Because all Faerie are noble and pure and Faerie princesses are extra special in all those departments.”

    Well, someone’s going to get the idealism knocked out of them. I wonder how many little girls in Practicioner families grow up with the desire for faerie princesses, despite the possibility that something else might better suit them?

    Also, Blake was the one who gave Dickswizzle the orders this time, not Rose. An inconsistency, or was it because he was the one who blew the whistle?

    1. No inconsistency, I’m thinking. Dickswizzle didn’t act immediately once Blake gave the order, and his mention of seeing Rose still in the glass after he went to the door implies Rose decided to go along with his plan and give the order to destroy the books.

      1. I’m pretty sure it went along with Blake’s order because he was playing to it’s nature. As i understand them, Goblins are more or less personifications of our more destructive tendencies. Blake told it to destroy, which is in it’s nature. He told it to do so quietly, this is good for Dickswizzle because it let’s him do more damage. Similarly, He told him to start with the older books as it would hurt them more, this is also inline with what Dickswizzle would want to do.

        Personally, I think this is the best way to deal with Others anyway. Call the right Other for the right job. Use there own nature to further your own goals.

  5. Stuff that will probably come back to bite Blake from this chapter:

    That promise to the little girl. He might be able to fulfill the letter of it by showing her glamour once she’s a practitioner, but it will be tricky.

    Implied threat to Laird’s children by faking the 911 call. Laird does love his family, after all. And Laird driven to outright protective anger would be…interesting. Possibly advantageous for Blake, because Laird’s strength is in his ability to roll with the punches. But also possibly dangerous, because Laird is a full-fledged practitioner.

    Possibly breaking hospitality, depending on how the karma works. Fortunately, this is something of a gray area, and Blake has lawyers.

    1. Because they’re owned by someone else, and have connections to them that could be used to hurt them.

      Because if Laird fingers him as a thief, he wants to be able to honestly say that he has not stolen anything.

      Because his library is probably larger and has more pertinent knowledge, anyway, so not worth the above risks.

      1. Also karma:

        They tried to damage/destroy his house and possessions, karma says you pay back equally. Stealing is different from destruction, which means karma isn’t balanced, so maybe he’d get bad karma from it. Particularly risky since damage / theft isn’t exactly going to generate good karma.

        1. Actually, I don’t think they were trying to destroy his house/possessions… “Temporal”: It sounded like they were going to alter time when he was entering/exiting the house. But the house itself is a demenses, and probably can’t have a spell like that cast upon it.

  6. So, it looks like Blake lied about the location of Leanne, and that’s why his glamour started to break. It would have been better if he said “I don’t know” when he was asked for her location.

    Other than that, I think this round was a loss for Blake. As long as he doesn’t go back to the house and keeps running he’ll be safe from the spell they cast. Which is another way of saying that Blake just lost his safe space, his library, his food and money and bed, and access to the barber. He is in a very bad, very isolated position.

    Lairds trip to the police station, as well as the loss of the books, is a blow. But they gain the knowledge that Blake is crazy good at glamours and he will never, ever be able to pull the trick he just pulled again. After all, all it takes to stop Blake from getting in again is asking for names at the door. And I suspect that in the long run, keeping his glamour skills secrets would have been more valuable than what Blake actually did accomplish.

    Also; the spell Laird cast did not directly target Blakes house. It’s possible that karma will treat Blakes trashing the house as “naughty”, and hit him with some backlash. And they now know that Blake got a goblin, which means his alliance is out in the open.

    Blake lost this round. And now he’s homeless again, tired, terribly weakened, potentially lower on karma, seperated from all his resources, with his secret alliance and greatest magical skill revealed to his worst enemy, in a town that is very, very hostile to him. And as soon as Laird asks a few questions, he will know all of this. Know that Blake is away from the house, in disguise. Will know everything.

    Things are about to get much, much worse.

    1. I think Blake actually won this round. The ritual was stopped so his home is safe for the moment. Nobody knows (yet) what he has done. He put both the Behaim and Duchamp families into awkward spots. And he has a goblin tearing apart ancient texts owned by the enemy.

      The way I see it, the biggest danger Blake faces right now is the walk home.

      1. Also, I think the glamour started to break because Leanne saw Blake after being with the true 6 year old. It was one of those cases of, “how can you be here if I just saw you over there.” I think his own selfdoubts are what led it to crumble from there.

    2. I think Blake won this round. My reading of the previous chapter was that the spell would not target Blake but remove the protections that Blake’s house gives him. Damaging Blake’s property. Blake who was a guest of Lardo and Family at the time. Even if they did not know it. That seem to me like a breach of hospitality by Lardo and Family. Blake’s damaging of Lardo’s sister’s books could be seen as evening the score. A Right thing to do (if not the Good thing to do) if I am understanding the Karma System in Pactveres (hope I spelled that right.) Also I think that removing the protections on Blake’s house is a Really Stupid thing to do. Who knows what kind of horrors are in that place (Barber being one) and removing those protections could free said horrors. Needless to say that be bad for everyone and maybe even more good Karma for Blake by stopping that. There is also no guarantee that the goblin will get caught ripping up the books or that Lardo and Family will realizes that Blake was the one to order the goblin to do it. Lardo believes he stopped Blake and Maggie forming a alliance and even if Lardo does realizes that Maggie is helping Blake that only emphasizes badly Lardo is read things. The same if Lardo realizes that Blake can use Glimmer as good as he did. The Glimmer could even make Lardo and family think the Duchamps are helping Blake. There by damage the trust between the Behaims and Duchamps. Finally Lardo guaranteed that nothing Blake could do would get past the protections Lardo has in place. Blake proved Lardo wrong in a Big way. Lardo thinks he is in control and it will be interesting to see what happens when Lardo realizes he is not in control.

      1. In terms of pushing back paying the bills, Blake did well. However, within a week Laird will know everything the above listed (used glamour, snuck in as an infant, used a goblin from an alliance with Maggie, etc.) and Blake learned the social dynamic of practitioner families. Granted, learned a lot about glamour too.

        Whatever fault the families had for attacking the home of one of their guests, Blake lost the battle of karma. He misled others to invite him into two demesnes, left a mother unaware of where a child she’s guarding is, and sicced an other on the family library.

        Lastly, now Blake has to get home with glamour withdraw, and he doesn’t know when the ritual will be finished. Smart move for Laird is to have them complete the ritual without them. Blake needs to get a portable library (rose) working and find a new power source.

      1. Considering the loophole abuse people have been utilizing, I’m not sure that that would have been a lie, the reasoning being:

        Well, the last time I saw her she was under the foosball table, but she might have moved since then, so I don’t know.

        That one’s easy. If that’s not acceptable, then:

        Even if she is under the table, where exactly is she, under there? Sixteen centimeters north and two centimeters east of the most-southwesterly table leg? I’m not sure, so better to say that I don’t know.

  7. Also, another thought: Leanne’s mom is going to fucking panic when she realises that the boy’s no longer in the house, and discovers there’s a goblin ruining her books upstairs; the logical conclusion she’d draw is that he’s been abducted by goblins. If there’s anything that’d send a Practicioner parent into panic mode, that would be it.

    1. This round went to Blake. Laird even conceded it. Sadly that probably won’t make Dickswizzle count as round 3. Next round I figure Laird will pull out all the stops. Laird wins that one Blake is fucked. But if Blake wins, I doubt he’ll ever have to worry about the Beihams or the Duchamps again.

      If not showing the little girl counts as breaking a promise though, then Blake is fucked. He’ll end up forsworn.

      Still I wonder how this is going to look from Laird and co’s POV. Are they going to realize how desperate Blake was, or are they going to think he just waltzed in, waltzed out, and sicked a goblin on a branch of the Duchamp family?

      1. He didn’t say when he’d show Leanne, only that he’d show her “later”.

        Given the way Pactverse seems to work, that seems to pretty much leave it wide open for him to show her at any point in the future, as long as he eventually shows her how it works. I’d imagine the only way he actually breaks his promise is if he consciously intends to not show her in the future, or if he dies before showing her and heaping a little more karmic debt onto the family.

        1. Or if she dies before he can show her, of course. Fortunately Laird is probably not enough of a bastard to murder his niece just to get back at Blake.

  8. Reactions:

    OK, that was f***ing tense. Again, perhaps due to anxieties of my own, but that seriously messed with my own emotions.

    Temporal distortion, centered on the house? No. Not the house, exactly.
    OK, where? But Blake did at least get a look at the diagram and some of the details.

    “I think it’s safe to say it’s two points. Another point in this department, and he’s earned three. A great deal more profound.”
    Keeping score? Because of the rule of three? If Laird reverses it on the third that could be bad.

    Ah, frick frack fuck.
    Is the ability to swear an indicator of adult Blake coming back?

    Successful ritual interruption!

    Train the kids to not lie and not make promises before you give them power. Very smart.

    We now have an obvious downside to the glamour. That makes it seem more like power with a drawback rather than unmitigated power. Also, he was told the power would be used up if the glamour was broken. Dragging a discarded skin sounds like broken to me.

    Good use of goblin, even if it is for controlled destruction rather than wanton destruction. Hopefully Rose echoed his orders so the goblin actually follows them to the letter. Now then, does this count for three wins, or does it not count for a win against Laird since Blake is attacking Laird’s sister?

    Oh, and Laird’s sister is going to be frantic when she realizes he is gone. And then, when she figures it out she is going to be furious. And maybe a little scared at what he managed to pull off. [I got ninja’d a bit on this reaction]

    1. Now then, does this count for three wins, or does it not count for a win against Laird since Blake is attacking Laird’s sister?

      I think it’s talking about wins against Laird by linking him to criminal activities. A third win would probably involve convincing Maggie to go to the RCMP and confess how Laird put her up to it (in exchange for immunity for her part in the affair), or Blake himself visiting the RCMP officer with the intention of getting a wire to wear, so that he can record a confession from Laird.

    2. “Now then, does this count for three wins, or does it not count for a win against Laird since Blake is attacking Laird’s sister?”

      I actually think attacking the sister will be a win FOR Laird. Because we had no idea how much the sister cared about Laird’s little crusade, but if she figures out what Blake did and how close he got to her Daughter, she’s going to get right behind Laird real fast.

      Basically shoring up Laird’s status as the community protector and Blake as the menace. Exactly what Laird wants.

      1. I look forward to seeing the sister’s reaction. Either the goblin is successful in keeping hidden and it is assumed damage was done at the same time as the ritual was stalled, or the mother finds out Blake used the trust of a little girl to violate the house, and fire and brimstone befall Blake.

        Seriously, will two unrelated reports about Laird to the police about being an a accomplice to murder at least get him a “vacation?”

        1. I’m actually kinda rooting for Laird’s sister to beat the everloving shit out of Blake (nonlethally) because c’mon, he manipulated her daughter to let him in their house so he could trash shit. Looking at it from her perspective Blake is scum.

          1. Oh yes, none of us would really blame her. Something I’ve noticed is that Blake gets a lot nastier when tired, frustrated, or hurt. That’s pretty realistic actually. The problem is that he also isn’t thinking clearly. This might fit the Karma rules, but doesn’t look good to people. Molly tried to be compleatly defensive, but that didn’t work out too well. But crushing your enemies and driving them from before you isn’t always best. Blake might find it better to take the stance of actively preventing attacks on him, but limiting escalation, and primaraly targeting the ringleaders. He needs to listen a bit more to Rose when he’s exausted, as she will have a clearer head.

          2. IMO Blake didn’t manipulate Leanne so much as he manipulated her mother.

            I personally would like to see her team up with Blake,even if it’s only because, next to the nameless practitioner, she seems to be the closest to a decent person in the Pactverse (even if she was kinda compliant in a “threat removal” ritual).

            1. Frankly, the only person among Blake’s enemies that we’ve seen be an outright bad person is Laird and the Duchamp matriach.

      2. Yeah, it’s kind of lose-lose. But if Briar Girl is right and Blake has zero chance of negotiating because his “eeeevil” bit has been toggled to ‘on’ as far as the universe is concerned, he has no real winning options available. :/

  9. “It’s not quite an eye for an eye, and I don’t want them using it to track me.”
    [shortly]
    There was a boot rack, complete with a set of rubber boots. I managed to squeeze them on.

    A trackable item and breach of hospitality (unless he returns them). I guess going out in shreds of clothing is bad enough without going out barefooted.

      1. Well, I’m not so sure of that one. There’s an easy, deep connection with books that have been in your family for generations or were a gift. Would the same connection be there for some galoshes?

        1. From what I gather, pretty much everything has some connections. That’s why a novice like Blake could track Laird down with the card. He just followed the connection. Its also why he had to cover over his connection to the phone.

          The connections may be relatively weak to the boots, but they’re there.

          1. Business cards are basically designed for tracking people down, but I agree, there’ll still probably be some weak boot connection. Although, he was tracking people using possessions; tracking possessions using people might be more difficult.

            1. Now that I think about it, that’s probably true. An object is likely to only have one or two really strong connections, usually to the owner or owners. A person will have hundreds of connections and picking out “those boots that went missing” would probably take some work.

            2. You’re a parent of a young girl and heir in a town of sorcerers, goblins, and other creeps. Do you find a discreet way to track your family?

        1. “I hobbled for the front door, praying she wouldn’t notice how my pants legs were two inches two short for one leg, a good four inches short for the other, or how I’d kicked off the small boots and I was walking through the slush in socks.”

          1. That’s walking in Leanne’s house. When adult-Blake leaves (strategic advance to the rear!!) he takes a paid or rubber boots.

  10. So if Blake manages to get Laird with one more hit, Laird’s plans will start to unravel like clockwork?

    But Rose is right, Hospitality does not work that way, destroying someone else’s stuff is likely going to have something similar happen to your own, Blake could do better laying a tripwire at the door and shitting on the stoop outside.

    1. You forgot that she tried to deprive him of his stuff including his entire library and hospitality has nothing to do with it, it is straight Karma.

      You are also IMHO making the same mistake that Rose is on the “hospitality” front: You are looking at MODERN definitions and uses of hospitality not the old traditional methods which is what the Others would use. Go back and look at the old hospitality laws and you will see it is an actual oath on both sides using ritual words and/or the consumption of ritual food and NONE of that was done at that house (Go back and reread how they negotiated to let Maggie in the Thornburn House). You can make a case at Lairds house that it was met due to what the person at the door said and the giving and use of food and drink. Remember at the Duchamp house that Blake asked “Can I go in?” and the Duchamp woman replied “Of course you can”. No ritual of hospitality was done, she just allowed Blake to enter. The reason she allowed that is because SHE thought Blake was a Behaim and they have ritual ties, it has no bearing on Blake that she let a STRANGER into her domain to run loose with no ritual to behave. It was a screw up on her part.

      The traveler was expected to accept what the host offered. To refuse such hospitality was an insult that only an enemy would inflict. On the other hand, a traveler would interpret a resident’s failure to provide food and amenities as a hostile act. The men of Succoth and Penuel refused to feed Gideon and his men (Jud 8:4-17). Gideon’s response was a violent overreaction. Yet, their refusal was a serious violation of Eastern customs of hospitality. Nabal nearly started a war over his refusal to feed David and his men (1 Sam 25).

      The sharing of food together was a token of friendship, a form of covenantal commitment. One of the most despicable acts in the ancient world was to eat with someone and then betray them (Obadiah 7; Psa 41:9; and of course Judas, John 13:18). This entire “code” of hospitality in the Middle East was so strong that it evoked a warning: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). It is also this dimension of mutual commitment in the sharing of food that provides the Eucharist with one of its most dynamic meanings.

      http://www.crivoice.org/travelers.html

      1. PS forgot to mention this. I learned the older customs and rules of hospitality from my Grandmother and the thing she asked of everyone after they came into her house be it stranger, friend or relative was “Would you like something to eat?” By offering food as soon as they entered she basically put the onus of hospitality back on the guest to behave. In this case Blake was only given two things and since he actually did them he fulfilled the guest side. The first was that he was to enter, he did the other was he asked for the bathroom and he used it, if the Behaim woman had said “After you get done in the Bathroom come down and I’ll fix you a snack” and Blake didn’t but instead destroyed her books, then he would have violated the old customs of hospitality.

        1. Hmm, learned ancient hospitality rituals. Check. Taught said rituals by grandmother. Check. Seems to not be lying. Check.

          Are you secretly a practitioner?

          1. No just raised in a family with a very old fashioned Grandmother and have an interest in history and learning other cultures. Guess that comes from having a mix of English, German, Scots, Irish, Italian, Filipino and Lenape Indian all mixed into one family.

  11. Blake broke hospitality not at the house where he destroyed the books but at Lairds house when you go back and look at what was said and offered compared to old hospitality laws.

    At the door Blake was told “welcome”. That word is derived from Old English meaning:

    Middle English, alteration of wilcume, from Old English, from wilcuma desirable guest

    By entering the house after being formally “welcomed in” Blake is recognizing that he is a quest.

    “Hi, come in, welcome, welcome, hi Beth, come in,” Laird’s wife was talking to each new guest. She gave me a polite, distracted smile as I passed through the threshold and into Laird’s house.

    Blake is then offered drink:

    “What’s your preference?” one asked me.

    I could see the connections that so many of them had to the alcohol. Drinkers?

    All six of them, I noted, were from the Duchamp family.

    “I’ll take a beer,” I said.

    By taking a drink from his host Blake is starting to take on obligations of doing no harm to his host under old hospitality laws.

    Blake is offered and food an he eats it:

    I took it for what it was, eating genuinely good food for the first time in a week or so, and going back for seconds, just so I could take a different route across the ground floor and get a sense of what was where.

    By eating the hosts food he has even more obligations under old hospitality laws, all that is left is the use of amenities of his hosts home.

    Blake uses the bathroom which is an amenity:

    I took my turn in the bathroom, closing and locking the door. I leaned over the sink. No reflection faced me.

    By the old laws and customs of Hospitality Blake is obligated to try and do no harm to his host, by calling the police he has brought a degree of harm to the host and we just have to see what the consequences of that will be.

    1. Blake’s only potential breach of hospitality that I picked out before he himself was aware of an attack against him was the taking of the hair from the boy. And I’m not sure if the boy was Laird’s or a guest’s.

      After taking the hair, he reinforced hygiene rules though, so, with the right demon lawyers to represent him, it’s possible that that would be a gift exchanged for a service?

      We’ll find out if there was a hospitality breach soon though, because if there was, you know full well Laird will hammer Blake with it.

    2. Actually, I think he might have a get-out-of-breach card on the drink. Iirc, it wasn’t the HOST who offered it, but one of the non-practicioner uncles who had actually brought the booze. If I’m reading that situation right, I think he technically accepted drink from a fellow guest.

      1. If you go back and reread 3.3 you will find the beer is in a cooler that is part of a minibar:

        A cluster of men had gathered at one end of an expansive living room. There was a minibar there, as well as a stylish wood-paneled cooler filled with ice cubes, beers standing within.

        Wood paneled coolers is not something a guest brings to a family wedding dinner nor is a bunch of beer. While those men called him over and offer him the beer, the actual beer itself would have been provided by the host. Remember even one of the men stated that the only reason he comes to those things if for the beer.

        He cracked the top off and handed me the beer. I tipped the bottle up, but controlled the amount that actually made it to my mouth.

        “Only reason I tolerate these things,” the first guy confided.

        I highly doubt it would be more tolerable if he had to supply his own beer for an event he doesn’t like.

        1. I can say from experience that there are few things more Canadian than bringing your own beer in a cooler to a family gathering for you to drink. Bonus points if you don’t bother with the cooler and just left a six pack outside the door in the snow.

          1. I have been at gatherings with Canadians and yes they have a habit of bringing beer in a cooler but not in a wood paneled cooler that would run over a $100 US.
            http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=wooden+coolers&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=33871467955&hvpos=1o1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1465973988451382056&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_3ybtfvzcnk_b

            Plastic or Styrofoam? Yes, $100+ wood paneled? No, for the simple reason of why waste the money on that fancy thing when you can use the money to buy more beer and put them in a cheap one.

    3. Even under the old customs I imagine hospitality was still expected to go both ways though – if the host attacks the guest in some fashion, isn’t that a violation of hospitality on the host’s end? Like in the A Song of Ice and Fire books, where the host gives bread and salt to a guest to show that they are welcome and safe while under his roof.

      By attempting to attack the Thorburns while they had a Thorburn guest welcomed into their home, the Behaims were inviting retaliation. Blake might have been able to get a large amount of good karma by not retaliating, by being a better guest than they were hosts, but as long as he’s eye for an eye about it things even out. Disrupting the ritual by calling the police doesn’t even it out – Blake didn’t lie to the police when he made the call, and the fact that it made the ritual fail doesn’t mean the universe isn’t going to care about the fact that the attempt was made. So Blake still had the balance in the matter in his favor, allowing him to make an attempt to attack them in the same fashion they attacked his family, which is by attacking their power base.

      1. Nope Laird didn’t attack Blake directly. If they did a spell that ie would have regressed Blake to the age of 1 while a technical quest of Laird than that was a breach, but what they were doing doesn’t constitute it as such.

        You need to remember that the old laws date back to times when there wasn’t 24/7 worldwide news coverage and back in those days an attack could be ordered against a neighboring village that will destroy all the homes there while at the same time a traveler from that village could be staying at the lords domain/village headmans house. All the oaths do is prevent DIRECT attacks against the guest while in the hosts direct domain.

        A good example of a breach of the old laws is the “Red Wedding” from Game of Thrones, Martin captures it perfectly. Nothing is ever mentioned that their homes are part of that bargain, that is why you leave a trusted vassal in charge and plenty of armed troops behind which was done (that is why the people that perpetrated the massacre had to siege a castle right afterward).

        1. I know he didn’t attack Blake directly, but he did attempt to attack Blake and his family indirectly in a way that he thought would be bad enough cripple them while Blake was a guest welcomed into his house and that is not in the spirit of hospitality. It’s not simply the letter of the oaths of safety involved in hospitality that matters, because in the Pact universe the spirit of things matter as well even if it is to a lesser degree than the letter of the law. It’s somewhat identical to Blake’s visit with Briar Girl – if the host is going to be a bad host, then it evens out if the guest is a bad guest, and visa versa.

          The Behaims were bad hosts by attempting to attack the Thorburn property while the Thorburn family head was a guest in his home, and so the Thorburn family head was entitled to even things out by being a bad guest in regards to the things the Behaims attempted by ruining their attempt and invoking a lesser attack on their property. This is actually the second time Laird has not held to the spirit of his dealings with Blake, even if he doesn’t know it, where Blake has retaliated by attacking Laird’s reputation – if he violates the spirit of something again in the inevitable third conflict then I imagine there will be significant karmic backlash.

          1. Again you are using modern thought and feelings on an ancient custom and law. The ancient hospitality laws both in spirit and word only have to do with direct harm to the guest under the hosts roof. Instead of emotionally applying modern standards do some research on the old customs and what they were for. Here is one:

            In ancient times, hospitality was mandated by law among the Irish. There were logical reasons for this. The practice of hospitality was good for the land and the people because it encouraged travel and trade. Generally it was considered a privilege to welcome any and all guests at any hour to stay for as long as they liked. All householders, no matter what their social status, were obliged by law to provide food, drink, a bed and entertainment to anyone who appeared on the doorstep. This was done without any questions whatsoever. Never was it proper to ask their identity, point of origin, destination, or any other inquiries that pass for small talk in today’s society. It was fine if they volunteered this, but a good host never infringed upon anyone’s personal privacy.

            http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Article/617978

            Now internalize what that says and think on this: a complete stranger that you are not allowed to ask where they are from or even their name gets guest rights under your roof. Under your understanding of the spirit of “Hospitality” you could not for instance take ANYONE to court for owing you money since the guy could be from anywhere and the guy owing you money could be his cousin, brother, Uncle, etc and harming them might also harm your guest. Also if you owned a company you could not fire anyone, again because the person fired might have some connection to your Guest and might inadvertently harm them some way. Sounds stupid doesn’t it? It is, because the laws only have to do with the direct harm between the guest and the host while under the hosts roof anyone or thing outside that doesn’t matter.

            1. I think you’re concentrating overly much on one specific set of hospitality rules – they vary from culture to culture throughout time, after all. And while some modern standards don’t apply everywhere, we do know that in Pact cultural standards do apply in some areas. Like the rule of three it has power because you give it power, but in a culture where three wasn’t a significant number it wouldn’t have power. I would wager hospitality is one of those areas where things are a bit muddy and the local culture applies to some degree or another.

              The Irish example above also obviously doesn’t completely apply to what’s going on in Pact, since Blake doesn’t seem to have to invite just anyone who shows up on his doorstep into his house. And I doubt any guest in an Irish home even back then any guest would have considered their host to be all that good of one if they told them that they were sending raiders to burn down their house while they were staying just because the bare minimum of the letter of the law was being met. If any absolute law of hospitality were in effect, I’d imagine it would be the laws of Solomon’s culture since that’s who forced a lot of the rules into place, but I doubt even that is in full effect.

              As to your example, it’s a rather different situation. Taking someone to court for owing you money is not the same as Blake’s situation. That is collecting upon a debt you are already owed. Blake did not owe Laird any debts as far as we know, and Laird certainly wasn’t trying to collect – he was just attacking Blake’s assets without justification.

            2. Others seem to view any dynasty like the Thorburn line as a single entity, the heir shares the karma of those who came before and will share with those after. Since Lairds efforts are directly against the Thorburn line it might count as a direct attack and therefore a breach of hospitality.

              Laird planning direct attacks on the Thorburn Line:

              Others made some forays, but nothing came of it. I think we’ll need to stop that, to be safe. Limit it to certain powerful Others, increase the bounty we’re offering for any killed Thorburn, and step very carefully with a plan in mind the entire way.”

              Sandra Duchamp planing an attack agains the Thorburn line:

              “It would be interesting to possibly remove one individual from the line of succession before we get that far, to see if we can’t throw a wrench in the works.”

              Probably an attack on the Thorburn line:

              “With one stroke,” Laird said. “We can remove the entire Thorburn family as a threat. I’ll get us started.”

              None of these seem to be about immediate direct harm, but they are meant to bring harm to the Thorburn line. Blakes action in calling the police was not about immediate direct harm, but he did mean to harm the Behaim and Duchamp line by sharing true information with the police.

    4. “She gave me a polite, distracted smile as I passed through the threshold and into Laird’s house.”

      He wasn’t welcomed in as strongly.

      “I took my turn in the bathroom, closing and locking the door. I leaned over the sink. No reflection faced me.”

      He didn’t use the bathroom as a bathroom. The sink is a convenient thing to lean on, not used for its primary purpose. He didn’t even use the mirror.

      Rules-lawyering? Hecks, yeah!

  12. Oh god, Wildbow, not another webserial chock-full with nailbiting suspense and anxious waiting for the next chapter! I am getting older and I don’t know if my heart can take the strain! This story is like having a really, really horrible monster sitting in your living room. A monster that is horrible to look at but at the same time I cannot force myself to look away. And I cannot stop myself from feeding the monster! hits Donate button

  13. Now I remember what the Duchamps remind me of… The black widows running “Sweetheart Scams” from The Lonely Hearts Job on Leverage.

      1. ROSE – The Brains
        MAGGIE – The Hitter
        JOHANNES – The Hacker
        BLAKE – The Grifter
        BRIAR GIRL – The Thief

        “We provide… Leverage.”

  14. This was such an intense chapter. Interesting that they are keeping “score”, it might have a deeper meaning (the power of 3?). Can’t wait to hear about the fallout once they find out about the the infiltrator. Odds are Leanne will be forced to betray Blake’s “secret” then, and he won’t owe her. But either way, there was no time limit on the promise, so I don’t think it’s going to be a huge problem.

    1. From Gathered Pages 2:
      “A: It worked the second time, but I held my seat. On the third time… you do know the rule of three, don’t you? Third time’s a charm, so to speak. There’s a bit more power in it. That third victory matters more than the first two put together.

      S: In some areas. It has power because we give it power.

      A: My opponent gave it power, then. On the third attempt, I beat Tromos, and there was an advantage in that, more than I might have had if I’d won on the first or second time.”

      The power of three is real, even if it’s only because of practitioner belief. And from them talking about it they seem to believe. If Laird turns it back on him on the third one, he’s boned. But if he manages a third decisive victory…

      1. So would that make the Power of Three a kind of Glamour effect???

        This is giving me old WoD Mage thinking styles for the basis of power.

        1. I think it’s more like the rule of three has power for the same reasons that glamour has power. Slightly different, but same idea.

          This is also probably the same for hospitality rules and dealing with Others. It doesn’t make sense for the rules to have any power all by themselves, they are fairly arbitrary conventions for behavior. I imagine the rules are very different in Asia and Africa, yet they should certainly be just as powerful. If people believe they have power, and have believed that for a very long time, so they have a lot of power. Fighting that as an individual is pretty pointless, so you might as well believe it too and use that power.

  15. A couple ways this can go GODDMMIT BLAKE WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

    Goblin get’s caught, disappearance of the little boy is blame on it, and therefore, blamed on Maggie. So he could have just fucked over one of his few allies for the small gain of wrecking some of his enemies stuff.
    Goblin fucks him over. How smart are they? Because if it has enough wits about him it could set something up that hurts someone AFTER he goes back in the whistle. If that isn’t a horrible karma blow, I don’t know what is.

    Even if either of those don’t happen, if the Benhaims put one and one together and realize Blake was at their party and was menacing their children then he pretty much confirmed all of Lairds words about him right there. If there was a chance to bury the hatchet with portions of the families like he sorta did with Penelope and Jo, then he might have fucked that up now.

    1. Actually I think it might undermine Laird. At every step, Laird has been escalating while Blake has played it with only the power necessary to survive Laird’s attacks. And this is a guy the whole town is scared of because he has the magical equivalent of nuclear weapons. He has continued to show restraint even when he would be fairly justified at this point in using them.

      When they figure out Blake or an agent of Blake’s infiltrated the party and did nothing other than sit back, watch, and then indirectly cause the spell to be interrupted, I think a few fence-sitters on the outskirts of the Behaim/Duchamp faction are going to back off a little. Probably not a lot, and the people who were already firmly behind Laird are probably going to turn more focused and aggressive towards him. However, that faction were already pretty much attempting to kill him on sight, so I don’t think there is much further for them to go before they start incurring some serious negative karma.

      Also it will probably come out that Maggie is on his side fairly soon, and that’s a blow to Laird when she tells how she was mislead, and that Molly wasn’t dangerous at all, just scared and trying to defend herself against Laird.

      Last but not least, part of what gives Laird power is that he’s the level head of the community. He keeps the peace, is generally the “lets work this out like adults” guy settling disputes. He’s so good at it he’s got spirits who give him gifts and favors as a sort of “thank you” for all the good work he does. It should start becoming to the community that Laird isn’t really acting in the best interest of said community. He is manipulating people into murdering others who have posed no threat (I don’t think a person’s existence counts as a legitimate threat, and I think others might start to share that opinion), not acting in good-faith while still technically fulfilling his promises and obligations, attempting mass-murder by technicality, etc.

      I think Laird is going to get a big Karmic backlash soon. At the very least, people who have been at the edges of his camp are going to start to lose faith in him and trust that he really has the community’s best interests at heart. His actions are looking more and more like a power-play, and less and less like the community protector doing his job.

      1. Remember that Laird is establishment swine, and as such probably knows some shit about spin doctoring.

        He’ll probably try to pass off the relatively harmless infiltration as Blake biding his time, waiting until the right moment, mingling among them with glamours and USING YOUR CHILDREN TO GET CLOSE TO YOU. NOBODY IS SAFE.

        Blake really can’t win the PR battle as long as he’s doing this war against the families wholesale thing. What I think he needs to do is recon, find out who exactly his enemies are other than Laird and the Duchamp matriarch. Find out who’s a crony, critic, or ambivalent family member trying to get by, and focus his actions against the reputations of his direct adversaries while leaving everyone else as untouched as he can and be as covert as possible.

        The DESTROY THE FAMILIES thing is going to get him killed. Dude needs to carve out a niche so he can calm down and think of the long game instead of lashing out at whatever.

      2. Well said.

        I think Laird is panicking. He’s used to controlled chaos, situations where he is in control and he can create a problem situation. Then he can dictate how far the chaos goes and what is done about it. Situations like that solidify his control.

        The few things outside of Laird’s control are largely willing to keep the status quo. Johannes has enough power to wreck Laird, but Johannes just doesn’t care enough about what happens outside his domain.

        Grandma Rose dying changed things. It upset the status quo. Laird was able to maintain control with Molly though. He could control how people perceived her and how people interacted with her. She was passive. Blake is not passive. Blake isn’t willing to play by Laird’s rules. He’s gone outside the unspoken rules of engagement, targeting Laird’s civilian mask rather than him as a practitioner.

        Laird doesn’t know how to deal with that. It’s not the kind of controlled chaos he’s used to. It’s just chaos. So he’s panicking, trying desperately to put this threat down before it ruins what he has.

        1. I have a feeling that, if Laird can put Blake and Rose down in the next confrontation, while his credibility is still high and his spin is still successful, then he pretty much wins without any of the potential negative consequences. Cracks in his credibility get repaired, and many of his iffy actions become thoroughly justified. He’d probably come out ahead with karma, even.

          On the flip side, if he fails again I think it will do spectacular damage to his position. Things people might have been a little concerned with before become highly questionable in the aftermath, people start looking for motives and maybe Rose’s history with a Behaim come to light if that isn’t well know, etc. Once they start questioning him, his entire power base falls apart since it is built on all of that trust. If that happens, those same actions that gain him karma if he wins could backfire and cost him karma, especially if Blake and Rose can get all of those statements about how dangerous they are to be perceived as lies. Given how damaging telling untruths seems to be, that could wipe Laird out as a practitioner by itself.

    2. There’s going to be panic and confusion when the boy is first missing, but theyle figure out he’s safe pretty fast. Even if they do blame Maggie, it won’t be for kidnapping a kid who’s not actually missing.

      1. I simply replied to a post and marked the: inform me of new posts via e-mail box. I get each new chapter in my e-mail when it is posted.

  16. (S)He (will) did tell the troll to be quiet and Rose is there to tell Dickswizzle (who I’ll just call Richard) to get lost. Its not exactly like Richard is going to take long to smash things up, even quietly. Then poof Richard is back in the whistle. “Blake” is gone and the house is in shambles. A panic attack will ensue. Shortly after.. they’re going to find the boy is fine. They’re going to know it was Blake no matter what.

    I still don’t understand what exactly the ritual was supposed to do.
    “Temporal distortion, centered on the house? No. Not the house, exactly.”
    Encircle the house and what? Slow down time/Speed it up? Make him lost in the moment or easy pickings to be caught?

    I’m hoping in this arc or sometime soon after, we get a better understanding of rituals and their abilities, constraints, and consequences of screw ups. We’ve seen 2 so far, and I’m left holding my hat in my hand, because I’ve no understanding of the arcane or minor arcana. Google is my friend, but sorting through what some of this means in Wildblow’s interpretation, is daunting for me.

    =) Thank you for writing. You’ve kept me entertained and I enjoy your style.

    1. The whole block around the house. As long as he isn’t targeting the house itself or Blake himself, he can technically catch the house and blake in his spell if they happen to be within the target area without incurring the karmic debt of attacking his home.

      That’s why it took so many practitioners to cast it – he was attempting to stop time for at least 5 years for an entire city block, if not more. That’s a huge area for a long time. Still, had he been right that Blake was in the house (and he ordinarily would have) it would have been an instant-win against the Thorburns, so it was definitely worth it on Laird’s end. Pity for him it failed.

      1. He really shouldn’t have given Blake that warning. But Blake going after his mundane reputation must have shaken him up bad.

        1. I guess he gave the warning as some kind of “booster” for his working. Remember the statement the lawyer advised Blake to make before posting the letter?

        2. It was actually smart for Laird to tell Blake something bad was coming – that SHOULD have scared Blake into staying in the house. Unfortunately for Laird, he was not aware of the fae hair and the quickie glamour lesson + natural ability of Blake’s in regard to glamour.

      2. IMHO you need to go back to Rose the Grandmother’s interlude and you will find what the spell was supposed to target. Look under the diary entry Sept 25th 1939:

        I found trouble. Aimon Behaim. Years older than me, visiting home while an injury heals. An enemy.

        I had to order Arsepint away before he could kill my oldest servant, and Aimon closed the distance, and pressed the gun to my head.

        He kissed me, and I kissed him back.

        Things went to natural places from there.

        I’m enjoying sitting here, watching Aimon’s bare chest rising and falling. He has a bloody nose and it’s making him snore, and I like that.

        What if Aimon pulled that trigger and killed Rose? Wouldn’t that fulfill what Laird said would happen:

        “With one stroke,” Laird said. “We can remove the entire Thorburn family as a threat. I’ll get us started.”

        If Granny doesn’t grow up and have children…

        1. I can’t see it going back in time, especially not that far. That would be an obscenely powerful spell, as it changes 70 years of everyone’s history.

          That’s why I think it was to stop time for the house for 5 years. 5 years was the limit of grandma Rose’s influence after her death. If a Thorburn heir doesn’t complete the requirements within that time the demons who have claim take over. At the very least the Thorburns become a non-threat, as they cannot become practitioners at that point. I imagine it’s more likely that whatever Rose made a deal with gets to exact their price from the Thorburns’s flesh, possibly the entire family and not just the heirs.

          Laird has already demonstrated that stopping time for one person for half a dozen hours was very much within his capabilities. Doing so for a city block for 5 years is a lot harder, but I can’t imagine it being nearly as hard as changing anything in the past, let alone something that happened 75 years ago.

          Besides, then you have to deal with time paradoxes, which are no fun. Killing Rose in the distant past because of the threat her grandchildren pose today certainly qualifies as quite a nasty paradox. If the spell is successful, neither Blake Thorburn nor any Thorburn after Rose ever existed, and there was never any threat to drive them to casting such a spell in the first place. So if the spell is successful, Laird and company never cast the spell. If they don’t cast the spell, Rose lives and they need to cast the spell. Logically then, if you are in a position where you need to cast such a spell, it cannot possibly be successful because if it were you wouldn’t find yourself in that situation. Therefore, attempting such a spell is a clear waste of time and energy, since it’s already spectacularly obvious that your future attempt has somehow failed, or couldn’t possibly succeed in the first place.

          The only way to resolve these kinds of paradoxes, really, is splitting universes, and that doesn’t really help does it? All you’ve done is create another universe where nobody has heard of the Thorburns – he still must exist in the original universe, which is where the version of Laird that would care exists.

          1. What lasting effect of the grandmothers power?
            She hasn’t done anything. Rose was set up by the lawyers.
            The 5 year deadline is a push for each of her grand kids to get their act together.

          2. That only explains why Laird prefers subtler uses of time magic. He didn’t stop time for 5 hours, he just messed with Blake’s perception of it. (otherwise, people would have seen a mannequin sitting in a booth there & thought it was strange)

            Same way, shooting Rose doesn’t cause a paradox. It’s resolved by nobody went back in time,or messed with it in any way, she just got shot in a fight. And the fact that all those people used up all of their power in the ritual doesn’t matter because they never existed & it never happened

            1. I very much doubt it would just wipe the slate clean. At the very least I would expect rewriting the entire world to have some major karmic impact. Whether good or bad, it’s hard to say, but my guess is that undoing thousands of oaths worldwide as though they never were is grounds for some major karmic backlash.

  17. It was great chapter; Probably the best (so far) .

    I only wish we can skip another “get to home after dark” scene in Breach 3.5..

  18. This was a great chapter and I’m really looking forward to Tuesday.

    On the subject of the ritual’s purpose, I’m of the opinion that it’s and attempt at stripping away the house’s protections. In order to avoid karmic backlash, the ritual target’s the area Thornburn’s house occupies. Since we know the specialties of the families involved, we can speculate that it deals with Temporal manipulation and the connections between thing. From this I’m going to guess that the ritual will attempt to dismantle the collage of demesnes that provide Blake’ first line of protection.

  19. I watched Penelope and Jo talking. Low voices, looking concerned.

    I saw this on my second read through. They’re already starting to connect the dots aren’t they? Everyone must’ve been wondering “how did Thorburn even know we’re doing something”, he certainly can’t be here… and then they remember he took some power from the fae.

    They’ll only be sure something’s amiss as soon as the boy loudly complained that he can’t find his boots and jacket and gloves.

    1. Everyone must’ve been wondering “how did Thorburn even know we’re doing something”

      Laird did warn Blake. They would consider is possible that Blake was simply responding to that, or maybe just saw all the cars at Laird’s and decided to act.

  20. I believe that the ritual would simply cut acces to the Thorburns residence. Perhaps locking Blake in a time stopped dome.
    Nice chapter.
    And we are back to those breath taking episodes that make me wake in the middle of the night to find what happened next.

  21. Wouldn’t it be something if someone else kidnaps the same child Blake impersonated in all the chaos? Let’s investigate this hypothetical scenario:

    The Behaims might actually believe the child had been kidnapped from Laird’s sister’s house.
    The trail of evidence might very well lead back to Maggie or Blake.
    The call to 911 could be used to make Laird suspect #1 with the mundane police.

    As a further hypothetical scenario, do we know for certain which child Blake impersonated? What if he impersonated one of Laird’s sons, one of which only has a year left to live? Laird may have some information we don’t that Blake causes the death of one of his children. It would explain why he’s sworn to to take a deal with him, and why he’s so antagonistic.

    1. I don’t think the kid was Laird’s, otherwise the comment by Leanne’s mother about her brother being chief of police meaning she had to follow the car seat laws doesn’t make sense.

      1. The kid isn’t Laird’s. Blake identified Laird and his wife at the party. The kid has different parents. Also, I’m pretty sure Laird has 3 boys while the kid’s family was his parents, him and his sister. I figure he has to be Laird’s nephew.

        1. Laird has three children, but two of them are girls:

          “Sixty two of one daughter’s, fifty one of another, one of a son’s life?”

          1. Oh. I thought that it was 3 sons and 2 daughters, but I guess I remembered the meeting wrong. Either way, the kid still isn’t Laird’s (unless I remembered something else incorrectly).

  22. Um, was the practitioner lying when she told Blake that of course she loves him?

    ..Also wouldn’t it be kinda funny if Blake gets arrested for indecend exposure and shares a cell with Laird xD

    (To comment on the chapter, holy cow that was intense)

    1. no, because the glamour was holding. she said so in the mistaken belief that she knew who she was talking to.

      May hit her later, of course.

      Is it only a lie when you realize it’s a lie?

  23. I think this incident is going to be polarizing. The main reason is that people’s emotions are going to get stirred up. Up to this point, most of the Behaims and Duchamps were not directly involved, which does bring some emotional distance. Then Laird gets many of them to directly participate. This is a brilliant move on his part since most people deal with the cognitive dissonance of “I am investing in something major but not emotionally involved” by becoming emotionally involved. (See “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Cialdini for some of the actual psychology of this.) Almost immediately, Blake disrupted the ritual and got many of the families involved in a negative way by forcing the police to talk to a number of families. This is going to be uncomfortable for many families who are used to being shielded from the police by Laird’s and Sandra’s influence and Laird’s position, so their emotions are going to be heightened yet again. Then, it is going to come out quickly that Blake was there in disguise as a child, which is going to bother many of both circles almost as much as it bothered Blake to actually do it. More emotional tension.

    So I see this breaking two ways, some families and practitioners going one way and some going the other. Some are going to have the hot-stove reaction: “I tried this and immediately got burned, so Laird and Sandra can leave me and my family the hell out of their private little war.” Some are going to have the reaction of “Oh no, Laird was right,” especially if Laird leverages the child-involvement angle, which he will. So Laird and Sandra are probably going to gain some stronger supporters at the expense of losing and alienating others. Fewer are going to be sitting on the fence after this.

    In the short term this is a flat-out problem for Blake. He doesn’t have two practitioners who are willing to get directly involved, he now has several. And they still have Laird’s spell set up and will be careful about who is there the next time. I see it as likely that this is going to force Blake to seek more alliances. The Behaim and Duchamp families who want to sit it out are not likely to ally with him so he will probably have to deal with local Others, Johannes, and perhaps with Mara.

    1. I agree to an extent, but Blake actually did something brilliant here. He waltzed right into Laird’s demesne with the bulk of the city’s hostile practitioners there and disrupted them, getting away unscathed. He then showed up at another demesne and wrecks it. And it will come to light that he was among their number disguised as a family member. Knowing that any member of your family could in fact be Blake Thorburn in disguise is major paranoia fuel on the level of the movie “The Thing”. Who can you trust at that point? So, there may be more practitioners emotionally invested, but Blake may have done incredible damage to the unity of the Behaims and Duchamps.

      And look at exactly how he did it: he was in Laird’s demesne and turned his own police force against him in front of the gathered families. Say that you were a practitioner in those families and heard Laird’s statements of being able to deal with Blake without much trouble and you ended up seeing that. Would you have the same confidence in Laird’s ability to protect you when he can’t even keep his own men from raiding the most strongly defended place he has?

  24. Hmmm…

    Can Blake glamify a lady into a man for the purposes of a marriage, and let it dissolve for the purposes of boinking and such, while avoiding any backlash?

  25. I’ve started watching Supernatural, and the Bloody Mary episode makes me wonder if there is anything else in the mirror world… I’m sure the Barber can access it but are there any permanent denizens? Can Rose interact with the mirror spirits? And I’m also thinking as to why she isn’t really using her potential for spying. That is rather random, but a mirror person can have so much potential for sneaky stuff… Wait, if her voice holds power could she hypothetically go into the Duchamps’ and, say, summon Ornias? The negative karma would be unbelievable but if they could find a reason for something smaller, or whatever. Just thinking onto a keyboard here, don’t mind me. Unless you’re Wildbow, in which case incorperating it would be pretty cool. Do that, maybe?

    1. On the subject of the Barber, reflective surfaces and what Rose can do with them.
      Fact 1: Rose can break reflective surfaces.
      Fact 2: The Barber can reflect in eyes.
      Conclusion 1: Rose can reflect in eyes.
      Conclusion 2: Laird didn’t like his eyes anyway. 😛

      1. Hmmm… Your description of the chain of logic could use work – there are some leaps here.

        The underlying logic, however, I find irrefutable. All Blake has to do is get Laird into a situation where Laird’s eyes are unusually reflective, so Rose can find them. And /break/ them.

        1. 1)Blake seems to be near
          2)the Barber might be more reflective than Rose,remember,she cannot exist in clouded surfaces

    2. You do remember she can only exist in mirrors near Blake and in mirrors inside the Thorburn house,right?

  26. Good stuff! I’m liking Pact even more than Worm. I’ve enjoyed the wide range of cultural references you make in both (man, when Golem was introduced I laughed for a solid minute). I also really like the suggestion in Pact (between speculation on the fae and conversation with the lawyers) that the spirit-world is populated by what were once human beings.

  27. Comments:
    – The whole chapter was brilliant.
    – Blake asking Rose to check whether their house was safe while a ritual might be targeting it was a very unnecessary risk. But in character for a scared kid.
    – I don’t understand how Blake could call the goblin with the whistle this time. I thought it was established that only Rose could do that? Same with ordering him, actually.
    – I’m starting to like Blake. I was frustrated with e.g. his dysfunctional dynamic with Rose in the beginning, but I’m very fine with this. I guess I’ve finally been converted…
    – Blake has stopped the ritual for now, and it will apparently be postponed for a week. In that time, he can hopefully reconstruct some of what he’s learned from memory and thereby take appropriate countermeasures. He’s gained a very, very crucial week’s reprieve.
    – Prolonged glamour use is insanely dangerous, both due to rebound and due to losing enough self-control to lie or to make accidental promises. That’s a great handicap for what is still an insanely powerful ability.
    – The story seems to be moving in the direction of a conflict between the generations. I like that.

    Great lines:
    – ““Honey, did you mean to call nine-one-one?”“Yes. It’s where I’m supposed to call when there’s something bad happening?”” – Cute!
    – “Some Other people stopped me and they would have hurt me, but a friend of mine made them leave me alone.”” – That is literally the truth. A brilliant not-actually-a-lie.
    – “What the hell did it say, that even with the oaths we’d made, the one thing I’d told the emergency dispatcher that felt closest to lying was the bit where I called Rose a friend?” – Ouch.
    – ““Hell of a gamble,”“You never said you could act.”“I-” I started. My voice hitched with emotion. A moment passed, Rose and I both silent. “You’re not acting.”” – The downside of the glamour…
    – ““So… does that make this two points for Thorburn?”“I think it’s safe to say it’s two points. Another point in this department, and he’s earned three. A great deal more profound.””
    – “But I couldn’t get over the fear that had seized me. Fake fear. Glamoured fear that I didn’t dare mess with, lest the entire thing fall to pieces.” – Wow. That’s an awesome downside. If he reminds himself he isn’t a scared little boy, he stops looking like a scared little boy…
    – ““Do you love me?” I piped up. One child’s voice in the din of conversation. “Yes, of course,” she said, without even looking down. […] “She said yes,”” – Amazing.
    – ““I was in a car a few days ago, and I didn’t have a car seat,” I said. Pretending to be proud as punch. I fucking drove a car a few days ago and I didn’t have a car seat.” – Such an amazing line.
    – “Was I going to be done in by fucking car seat laws?”
    – ““I’m going to show you the house I made for Elsabelle,” […] “And I put all of my favorite music in there, and I put up pictures I drew, and I’m going to learn to sew and do dresses, so it’s all ready when she comes.”” – Again, cute :).
    – “We stopped, and I had my seatbelt off in seconds. I yanked on the door handle. Childproof.”
    – ““I can go in?”“Of course you can go in. We’ll be right after you.”” – This glamour is really useful for getting invited into other people’s demesnes.
    – ““You look fucking terrible,”“Feel worse than fucking terrible.””
    – ““I’m repaying their hospitality by sparing them. They were… not unkind,”“But their family attacked our house and possessions. We can attack theirs. Eye for an eye.”
    – “This feels wrong.”“But it’s fucking right. Two very different things,”

  28. I’ve just had a thought. Probably completely off in left field, but still a thought. Remember when Blake said that Others using glamour were just human practitioners who wanted the freedom to lie, even to the point of fooling themselves?

    Let’s take that to a few places, shall we?

    There has to be a way to change from a Human to an Other. And I’d guess that lying is that way.

    1) Blakes been doing a whole lot more lying than what is healthy for him recently.

    2) Blake is very good at glamour

    3) Blake is having a hard time commanding or influencing Others.

    4) Despite not eating or resting much, he keeps somehow regaining enough power to act.

    I believe that Blake is becoming an Other.

    This would potentially allow him, as a practitioner, to enter Rose’s mirror world, and establish a desmense there, since Rose cannot.

    My question is, if this is the case, is Blake going to fight it, stop lying, and try to reverse the change? Or is he going to accept it and do what Mara apparently did, and keep himself right on the edge of human, and work for a couple centuries to reverse the karmic debt his family owes?

    1. That’s an interesting thought. I think, however, that the “how” of becoming other may need to change a little. Faeries gain power by deluding themselves and the universe. I don’t think its so much lying as it is belief. If Blake keeps on lying (I really hope I’m spelling that correctly) he will just lose power and become susceptible to attack. That path may open up the chance to become part Other, but that will probably be due to being taken over.

      I think Blake would be better off going a semi Briar Girl route. Make deals and use powers to change his body and soul until he becomes a proto-Other.

      1. But is he losing power, really? Sure, it seems that way from how he describes how he’s feeling, but then, hours later, he’s off doing something tiring and difficult again.

        Becoming an Other is probably not as simple as lying a lot. It probably also requires the proper mindset. Specifically, I’d bet that it required the ability to be able to self-delude.

        Blake shows himself to be quite capable of self delusion when he demonstrates a rather remarkable gift for glamour magic, which is based strongly on being able to self-delude. The better you can fool yourself, the better your disguise is.

        I suspect Johannes might (also?) be a human on the path to becoming an Other.

        Hypothesis:

        Johannes wakened himself, and discovered a talent for glamour. He used it heavily, like Blake, for whatever reason. Maybe his history is a LOT like Blake’s or Maggie’s and he was forced to overuse glamour or die. He traveled a road towards becoming an Other long enough that he, like Mara, is substantially Other.

        So, being a cross between human and Other, he used his glamour to appeal to the wishes of ‘pure’ Others, and worked out a way to generate a massive glamour which hid the fact that he was claiming an absurdly large demesnes. Since he had the backing of many ‘pure’ Others who wanted a place like what Johannes could claim with their help, he had the power to pull off the trick. After the demesnes was claimed, he could drop the glamour, and all of a sudden, BAM, the rest of the community sees a massive demesnes.

        If Blake is starting to develop into an Other, he will probably be approached by Mara soon, or approach her himself if he figures it out. If Johannes is like Mara, he might also be prime material for giving Blake advice.

        AND, if Johannes is another glamour expert, he might actually be female, but have a glamour to appear male, for whatever reason, which might play into Blake marrying a man.

        Last but not least, all of the energies being directed towards making Blake go away might be why a transformation from human to Other is even possible for him. As the entire Jacob’s Bell community hates Blake, and wants him dead or gone, reality shifts in such a way as to allow this to come to pass, without actually killing him. This is, of course, provided that the target of the ill will (Blake) is capable of glamour with sufficient ability.

        All glamour is, really, is magic enforcing falsehood over reality. If enough people want Blake gone, and he doesn’t know how to resist it, or even know that he should resist it, he might be forced into becoming an Other because he is so good at glamour, yet doesn’t fully understand it.

        Damn You Wildbow, how do you create such potential complexity in so few words!
        (keep doing it, so I can watch and try to figure it out though, LOL)

          1. I’m pretty sure that from Blake’s capturing June to now has only been 2 days. I’m not sure, however, how long it has been since (a) Blake moved to Jacob’s Bell or (b) he awakened.

            Most of the actual action has been pretty recent. After all, all of Breech (my favorite arc so far) has been less than one day.

        1. I wonder if maybe it’s not so much self-delusion as the ability to accept new roles or situations… which is one aspect of having street smarts. Maybe the reason most practitioners have such difficulty with glamor is that they’re usually book-taught & in environments where they don’t get a lot of opportunities to pick up street-smarts

          1. That’s a good point. People with street smarts tend to look at things instinctively and see what does or doesn’t fit, they watch their environment closely, and they are generally good at improvisation. Street smart folks in the US aren’t (typically) well educated in a classical sense. In first world countries, street smarts are typically only needed by the least fortunate. In countries that aren’t first world, a much larger part of the population ends up at least being moderately street smart, because they have to.

            Blake certainly went the unfortunate route when he spent some time homeless. Sounds like he didn’t have it easy, either, from what he’s related to Rose.

        2. Johannes being a glamour specialist fits pretty well with his chosen implement: a set of pipes, used practically for creating sounds where none were before and (in legend) for luring people into doing and thinking what you want.

  29. And the second thing I thought about…

    If Rose is actually the heiress as some have been thinking…

    Barber turned his back on Blake because Blake is not the heir? Possible.

    If so, Barber has been reduced to being no use at all, except perhaps due to an arrangement in a contract by Rose Senior.

    Rose the heiress lives within mirrors. You cannot expose Barber to mirrors or he can escape.

    So Rose simply cannot interact with him. If she can see him, then he can see the mirror. Unless there are shenanigans played with the definition of mirror or reflectivity.

    Rose would have to be able to leave the mirror to be the heiress and work with Barber.

    1. There’s a very easy solution that’s already been used – have Blake wear a bike mirror hidden under his clothing. That way Rose can enter the room and talk to Barbatorem without the reflective surface being exposed, and Blake can still see what the response gestures are and orally relay the translations to Rose.

          1. If you were a being with incredible power, and no real interest in the passing of time, would you take offense at someone who would hide from you while wanting to talk to you?

            The old ones place different meanings on everyday interactions. I wouldn’t put money on it, but I would be extremely surprised if an old one would speak to a hidden master. If you are in a position of strength to bargain with or command them, they are going to want to see you prove it.

            Not being able to look at them for fear of exposing a mirrored surface to them is a weakness. A human could get around it with a high degree of confidence by wearing special glasses made to only allow a narrow range or peripheral vision, but I’m not sure there’s a way to keep Rose’s mirror from being an escape for the Barber.

            This is Author Territory, I fear. We don’t know enough about how either Rose or Barber interact with mirrors.

            1. In regards to the question, if I were with the barber’s attributes and someone tried to ensure everything they could so that I couldn’t take advantage then I’d take it as a sign of respect for my power – that they know exactly how dangerous I am and that I’m not something to be trifled with… and the barber knows he’s not a being that’s to be trusted anyways since he will definitely take advantage of anyone foolish enough not to be cautious.

              Also, no need for special glasses. Normal peripheral vision already works when dealing with him, otherwise granny would have left instructions to that effect.

            2. I guess it all depends on how “good” Barber is. He will demand more opportunities for practitioners to make errors if it’s within his power if he is less good, and perhaps allow practitioners to be safer and more cautions if he’s more good. Considering what Barber has been doing for all of recorded history, I’d put my money on less good, though we know he’s not actively always evil. He seems to be sort of a lazy, middle-aged evil based on Rose’s description of his activities and his eagerness to screw over practitioners.

              As for no “need” for special glasses. Sure, no need for them. Just like there’s no need for anything else other than our own bodies if we live in the tropics or savannahs and don’t mind a horrendous life. It would be relatively easy to create glasses that made it literally impossible to look directly at something, forcing you to use peripheral vision. If Barber allows it, that is. Same rule might apply there.

  30. I just noticed, in these last two chapters, Blake ends up as a 6 year old, in a crowd, seperated from his parents, and afraid. It seems history seems to be repeating itself for Blake. Could some Other or other person be targeting and/or cursing Blake?

        1. And that is why blake walked away, and rose didn’t.
          and why blake’s parents haven’t shown up yet.

          they cursed themselves unknowingly.

  31. Odd thought, how does glamour stand up to using sight on a person to see their connections? Like distinguishing between two Maggie’s on Facebook by looking at your mutual friends?

    Maybe the boy has few connections because he hasn’t awakened or such, but Blake would have connections only to the adults and the Briar girl, if anyone. The counterpart should be connected to Leanne and his parents, and whatever pattern he does or doesn’t have should be familiar to the mom.

    1. I think that’s why the boy was possible. Not yet awakened. When he was in an adult role, he portrayed himself as an bachelor outsider, barely connected to the family, so it wouldn’t be extraordinary for him to have few connections. I’m fairly sure that he was also playing the role of a non-awakened adult.

  32. Why does everyone think that Laird winning the future confrontation means that Blake is screwed.

    The way I see it, three in a row wins the game, but like tic tac toe, getting your line of two blocked doesn’t mean that you instantly lose. It just means stalemate.

    Laird has already won once by killing the original heir and maybe even twice if you count the diner., Blake has won the next two. So we’re already at 4 encounters and nothing spectacular has happened.

    1. “It has power because we give it power” Laird isn’t counting Molly’s death, or the diner. He’s got it at two, so at two it is. And the third time count’s most. Look at Annabelle and Tromos. He won the first two, but she won the third, and it counted more than the first two combined. It’s not best two out of three, or Blake would have already won. I guess Blake had better force the third time before Laird tries the rituel again.

    2. I think people assume that because (a) it has been stated that the third match often means more than the first 2 put together and (b) there is a precedent in the case of Annabelle and Tromos.

      If you’ll recall, Annabelle lost against the practitioner using Tromos the first 2 times. On the third time, her victory, things changed in a drastic way.

      I suppose some think the same would happen between Blake and Laird.

    3. It’s not general wins, it’s wins in a certain vein. As said above, this is the second time Blake has gotten Laird in legal trouble. If one of them gets the other in legal trouble again, it will likely stick.

  33. Well now. Good stuff, so good I have to reply. I have to say my absolute favorite stories within the Horror Genre are based around the victim/main character -embracing- the horror instead of merely surviving it.

    That said, I truly hope to see Blake embrace the horror and truly become the monster that will make EVERY practitioner around him afraid.

    I really want to see it reach a point that the people who orchestrated Molly’s death look back and think “Maybe that was a mistake…”

    1. Ya know what? Maybe this IS Blake’s start of darkness. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, eh, eh?

      I gotta wonder what the laughing to crying ratio is for ya, Wildbow. How often do we nail it, get a bit close, or miss it completely? Not expecting an answer, but my curiosity remains.

      1. The story of someones fall can be compelling, but of course so can the story of someone losing their way and finding the way back. Course with only one finished story to go by, I can’t tell yet what themes and patterns Wildbow will tend to fall into with their writing.

  34. Wildbow, got a bone to pick with you.

    “At my age, I wasn’t even supposed to be able to read.”

    He’s six? Not supposed to read? I started reading at three or four, and was reading Jim Kjelgaard books at that age. Young adult / kid novels sure, but I can’t imagine any child born in an active practitioner’s family not learning to read as soon and as well as possible. I was reading books about dinosaurs at that age too, and pronouncing the names correctly 🙂

    The ritual document might still be more than he could be expected to process, but he could probably figure out enough of it to be interested in it, if he’s had a rigorous education, or just picked up reading quickly.

    “At my age, I wasn’t even expected to be able to read something that complex.”

    That, or something like it, seems a lot more likely for the intelligent son of a practitioner.

    1. I actually thought something similar when I read that. The 6 year old not being able to read seems more like a toddler. I’m thinking that, perhaps, writing children is not Wildbow’s strong point (at least in Pact). Joanna’s dialogue seemed closer to 6 or 8 than to a 12 year old.

      Perhaps its just all the kids I have to deal with souring my judgement.

      1. All the young kids in Worm seemed much older than their stated ages as well, although they did have the excuse of “widespread destruction causing trauma-induced maturity.”

      2. It is my experience that treating children as people with the capability to be intelligent allows them to show that they are intelligent, though they need help dealing with abstracts.

        Jo seems like a twelve-year-old – from the sort of family I imagine of the Duchamps.

    2. You were reading Kjelgaard in Kindergarten? I call bullshit.
      kindergarten is “barely learning letters and phonics”
      Second grade? sure.

      1. @Mlan – There are definitely children who at level or higher by the time kindergarden rolls around. There have been several in my family though I was not one of them.

        Some kids pick it up by themselves, some have parents who teach them. Not learning to read before kindergarden is not a good predicator successes or lack thereof as an adult. Last I checked, a year or three ago, there were no known good predictors of high success by mid twenties in pre kindergarden life, skills, IQ.

      2. I was reading Tip and Spot type books at four. In two years after that, yes, I was reading juvenile lit like Kjelgaard. I was also reading books on dinosaurs (heavy reading, not the funny books with more pictures than words). One of the earliest clear memories I can still remember is when my mother tested me to see if I had any comprehension about what I was reading out of the book I could barely carry that I managed to drag back from school in first grade. Asking me questions about what each of the dinosaurs could do and where they lived and what they ate, etc.

    3. I got stuck in Primary Multi because I didn’t learn to read in kindergarten when I was five! Heh, course I ended up more than making up for that. Probably had the best reading rate in the grade by 6th grade, and the Library asked my to stop checking books out during first period and returning them last period.

    4. “And then I swore. I swore I wouldn’t ever make my children go through this. I would let them lead lives untouched by all of this.” – Rose (Elder).

      This attitude and an iron rule might be very good reasons why childhood might not be simple or normal for a descendent of Rose.

      Also it might be worth noting that using your own educational development as a baseline that a writer of fiction must follow is a little small minded.

      1. My objection was to Blake assuming that a six year old couldn’t read, not expecting fictional characters to be able to read like I could.

        You might notice above that I came back later and commented that Blake’s family didn’t exactly include the best parents. It’s possible, based on his background, that Blake actually believes children at age six shouldn’t be able to read at a high level.

        There are certainly some folks here who have difficulty believing it, and these are real people responding in the thread. So yes, I can give Blake a pass on that, I suppose.

  35. Also, ya know, some people just develop at different speeds. Its one thing to read, I dunno, See Spot Run on your own, but I doubt this kid was reading The Hobbit or Goosebumps or whatever is considering age appropriate reading these days.

    Please dont ride me on the examples I chose. They are the best I can think of.

  36. Well WB, you should be starving a little less each month now. Its official, you are now earning what is just barely over federal part-time minimum wage.

  37. And so now Blake managed to get inside a little boy. Such is the power of the mustache. And putting your hands on a boy.

    Listen here, Earl, you really need to make some sort of list of all these things that count for good or bad Karma. Your mentor, Carson Daily, didn’t spend a lot of time teaching you these things, and you need to prepared. Hey Crabman!

  38. Two girls, roughly my age, or the age I was supposed to be, passed through the kitchen to the back room.
    This is…kinda vague. What age is Blake “actually,” and which is he “supposed to be”?

    And the glamour fading was slower and more unpleasant than I had anticipated. Well-played.

    1. That’s clearly Blake correcting his own thought. The girls are around six – the age Blake is supposed to be according to the glamour.

      In retrospect, it’s actually a rather brilliant early hint that Blake’s thoughts are beginning to be influenced by the glamour that he thinks of his fake age first…

  39. Well then. Blake is being a moron again. And has probably managed to yet again destroy any modicum of trust that Rose was willing to offer him. Idiots, the both of them. The…one of them. You know what I mean.
    As for the actual writing: Great, great job on the tension. I could feel that hyperventilation.
    Possible continuity error:

    “It was a little while before I felt strong enough to stand. I gripped the sides of the sink and used it to pull myself up.
    Fuck me. I looked even more drained.”

    Sounds like he looked in the mirror. But when if it’s someone’s demesne, and Rose doesn’t show up, he still doesn’t have a reflection, right?
    All in all, Breach is definitely the best arc yet. And from past experience, I can trust it to only get better from here.

  40. “Some Other people stopped me”. Blake has just found a practical use for puns. Well played, Blake. Well played.

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