Breach 3.5

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The rubber boots weren’t well insulated against the cold.  It was fine at first, but the cold gradually seeped in.  Or, perhaps, the warmth gradually seeped out.  Unjustly snatched up from where they belonged, in the wrong environment, while I tried to figure out the fastest, tidiest way of getting rid of them.

They were a good metaphor for me, really.  Or for me and Rose.

It said a lot that I was thinking in crazy, abstract metaphors like this.  I was tired, wrung-out, and emotionally drained.  Just as the warmth had seeped out of the boots, something had been leeched out of me, leaving me… not cold, but whatever was left behind when personality, identity and one’s position in the world were taken away.

I was a little cold, too.  I’d weathered worse temperatures, sleeping outdoors at this time of year, or in the late fall, I knew I was better than some when it came to enduring the cold.  But even then, I’d been bundled up.  Keep the heat in your hands, feet, and keep a hat on, and a little warmth could be stretched a long way.

As I made my way across the city, my footsteps a little clunky in the inflexible, ill-fitting boots, I had a hood, but no hat, no gloves, and only the boots.  The torso was the least important part of the body to keep warm, really, but even there, I had only the sweatshirt.

Parts of me ached, alternately from the cold and the recent transition back to becoming Blake Thorburn.  I felt stiff, and I didn’t have much confidence that I’d be able to handle myself in a more serious situation.  Couldn’t run that fast, wasn’t sure I could throw a punch, and I’d suffer more than any opponent would if I tried to buy time.

When a short, shadowy figure got in my way, all of that meant I was a little more concerned than I might usually be.  Given that it was an Other, the usual added up to ‘pretty damn concerned’.

Fuck.

I tensed as it drew closer.

“Dickswizzle,” I said, as I realized what it was.

It unceremoniously dumped a pile of stuff onto the sidewalk.

“Carefully!” I heard Rose.  “Ugh, Too late.”

Dickswizzle stepped back and scratched at its dangling genitals, looking very unconcerned with Rose’s frustration.

I rummaged through the things.  A scarf, a hat that passed for unisex, two pairs of gloves, June’s hatchet, Leonard’s bottle, one of the bike mirror pendants, and a pair of socks.

Thanks in large part to being hugged against Dickswizzle’s body, the things had a smell to them, not unlike garbage.  But I still pulled my feet out of my boots and donned the second pair of socks.

“Back in the whistle you go,” Rose said.

I dropped the gloves to get the little whistle out in time for the dark-furred goblin to climb back into it.

“How did you lose your boots and jacket?  You didn’t leave them behind, did you?”

“No,” I said.  I looked at the tatter of glamour that still remained.  “I think my glamour soaked into them and I lost them when I changed shape… I tore them up when I shed the glamour.”

“Inconvenient.”

“I didn’t even think about it,” I said, “Which, I suppose, was the problem.”

I bundled myself up as best as I could.  It helped, but bundling up when you were already cold didn’t do so much.

“Speaking of problems, I’m starting to see how you can fall into a trap, dealing with goblins,” Rose said.  “They’re so naturally unpleasant they make you unpleasant by association.  You can’t deal with them without sounding like a vicious lunatic.  No, Dickswizzle, you can’t wipe your ass with those pages.  No, Dickswizzle, no vomiting or depositing any bodily fluids.  Stop that, Dickswizzle, don’t shove that hourglass up your rear end.  Fuck it, Dickswizzle, no fire.  Listen to me, you little motherfucker, you can’t shove that wand up any orifices, understand?  It was all I could do to keep from screaming, and that was in the span of five or six minutes.”

Up… orifices?  His nose?  There weren’t many that you could shove something up.

I didn’t ask.  I didn’t want Rose to tell me it wasn’t the nose.

I was too focused on that to think before I asked, “Why was he shoving things up places?  He was supposed to destroy the books and implements.”

“He did.  He’d get something lodged in, then break it in half.  I’m really not keen to replay the scene in my head.”

I let the image appear in my mind’s eye, despite myself.  Damn it.

“You got away without being seen?”

“Yeah.  She might have heard me, but she came downstairs, and Dickswizzle scampered off.  I left.”

I nodded.

“I still don’t feel so happy about it.”

“I know,” I said.  “But she did take part in trying to ruin us and kill me.”

“Leanne didn’t do anything, and you betrayed her and invaded her home, where she’s supposed to be safe.”

“I know,” I said, again.  “But if I can get roped into this because I’m of Thorburn blood, maybe Leanne falls into the same purview.  I don’t know.  As far as I know, we don’t have a way of measuring that karma in concrete terms.  It’s something to read up on.”

“Noted,” Rose said.

“Did Dickswizzle wind up listening to me, or did you-”

“I told him to do what you’d said, except for the part about going back to the whistle.  I had him go back to the house, gave him one-time permission to enter, and got him to collect some things for you.”

I nodded.  “We need to get you a servant.  Something better than a goblin.  A homonculus, a bound Other, or something, so you can do more in this world.”

“So I can back you up?” Rose asked.

“That’d be nice,” I said.  “But I was thinking more like, well, it’s the only damn thing I can think of that would convey how goddamn thankful I am right this second.  For these clothes, for the sentiment, all that.  And I don’t like leaving debts unpaid, even before all the rest of this got started.”

“I’m not going to object.  You okay?  You’re shaking.”

“A bit cold,” I said.  “Gloves and socks help.”

“It’s just the cold?  Or are you doing that half-truth to dodge telling the whole-truth?”

I started heading towards Hillsglade House.

“I’m worn out,” I admitted.  “As bad as I was after spending my blood.  Maybe worse.”

“Erosion of self via. glamour,” Rose said.  “Imagine pouring water over a rock.  It seems into the cracks, the rough bits, and the pores, covering it.  It changes states, from water to mist to ice and back to water again.  It expands or contracts, shifts and generates friction…”

“And I changed states a few times,” I said.

“Tear away the ice while it’s set deep into the rock, you might take away some rock with it, or see some bits splinter off.  And when that rock isn’t very sturdy to begin with…”

“I’d rather say the rock’s integrity has been weakened by recent abuse,” I said.

“We can say that,” Rose agreed.

“Good explanation, by the way,” I said.  I picked my way carefully past an icy patch of sidewalk.

“I cheated.  Borrowed that explanation from the book on glamour.”

“Ah.  Fuck,” I said, “Briar Girl didn’t say anything about this.”

“She might not have known, or she might have been speaking about a more general case.”

“I’m so fucking tired of deception and lies,” I said.  “And I am aware of how hypocritical that sounds.”

“Did it work?” Rose asked.  “Getting into Laird’s house?”

“I think so.  They said the ritual was interrupted.  They’re having another gathering in a week… which leaves me the task of figuring out how to fuck with that plan.”

“Leaves us.  I’m on your side here, Blake.”

“Right.  Yeah.  We’ve got to figure this one out.  I have a sense of what they were trying to do.  Targeting the property the house is on, but not the house itself.  Something time based, a vortex of some kind.  Powerful, requiring nine or so practitioners to shape.  Drawing, I think, from some sort of store of energy that Laird’s zeitgeist familiar was managing.”

“I glanced through a reference book on Chronomancy.  It’s pretty standard practice to bank time,” Rose said.  “Give up an hour of your day, hold on to it, make use of that time elsewhere.”

“That sounds insanely powerful,” I said.

“The rate of return is pretty abysmal.  Give up an hour, gain a minute.  But I guess you can get better results if you have more hands on deck, a whole circle handling the working.”

“And a lot of power stored up?” I asked.  “I wonder if any of that power was spent… I mean, the circle was glowing and stuff was moving.  I could feel power.  Did that drain Laird’s reserves?  If we stop the ritual again, or a third time, will he or will they run out of stored power?”

“That’d be nice,” Rose said.  “But he’s going to be on guard.  He’ll be wary.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Meaning we need to get more tricks.”

“Trick number one is figuring out when and how to recuperate, Blake.  You keep on tapping this well of personal power when it’s nearly dry.”

I nodded.

“You’re actually listening to me?”

“It’s sage advice.  I need a goddamn power source.  Not just a bit of hair.”

“You need a demesnes.  Or a tool that can make any use of power more efficient,” Rose said.  “Or a familiar.”

“It all comes back to that,” I said.

“At least now we know you have a talent,” Rose said.  “Glamour.  Maybe it would be a good idea to have a Faerie as a familiar.”

“Maybe it would be a terrible idea,” I said.  “Because we know how easily glamour can fuck with me, and that would be leverage the familiar could use to take me over.  And we know how shoddy my defenses against this magic stuff are.  Look at the Briar Girl.  Can you not see some familiar getting a hold on me?  Fucking me over worse?”

I tapped my connection to the house and used it to find the general direction I needed to go.

“I can see that, yeah,” Rose said.  “So?  What do we do about it?”

“We make the familiar less of a thing,” I said.  “If we’re going to stagger this, use one of the three rituals to get leverage on the next, and use the two established power bases to get leverage for the third ritual, maybe I do the familiar first, after all.  An Other that isn’t so strong that she’d be able to mess with me, one that might be able to get us some outside knowledge or power.  From there, we start looking at implements, which we’ve already agreed was the easiest call to make.”

“You’re not going to be able to get a Faerie familiar,” I heard a voice behind me.

I turned around, startled.

I didn’t feel a connection.  My initial impression was that it was a disembodied voice, a ghost or something in that vein.  But he wasn’t.  He was very much real.  Very alive.  Very human.

“Andy, was it?” I asked the witch hunter.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

He was unassuming.  Bigger than average, but the way he was bundled up in his coat and scarf made me think he wasn’t good at the cold.  Hardly a ‘tough guy’.  Thick eyebrows, dark brown hair under a hat with earflaps, and a large backpack that seemed stuffed to the brim.  He kept shifting his shoulders to adjust the weight distribution of the straps.

No weapon in hand.

I glanced around.  I couldn’t feel any connection to anyone nearby, but I still didn’t feel any connection to Andy.

“Eva’s not around,” Andy said.  He stared at me, his gaze level.  Cold without being harsh or unkind.  It was more like he was uncaring.

“Laird sent you?” I asked.

“I’m not trying to reap any extra karma by sharing details with you,” Andy said.  “Those other guys are doing the whole ‘play fair’, ‘see the whites of your enemy’s eyes before you doom them forever’, and that ‘announce your intentions before seeing them through’ garbage.  If and when I come after you, Thorburn, I’m not doing any of that.”

“What,” I said.  “You’ll shoot me in the back?”

He shook his head.  “I’m a terrible shot.  If there was a magic bullet with your name on it, Eva would be the one to shoot it.”

“Uh huh,” I said.

“She’d also be the type to molotov your house, or shiv you from behind while you’re walking down the street.  I mean, if I can sneak up on you…”

“She’s a little more talented in that department, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah.  Yeah, she is.”

He stayed there, silent, not volunteering any more information.

“How did you even find me?”

“Trinkets and some very, very basic investigation techniques.”

“And how are you going to take me out?” I asked.  I was tense, and all too aware that even this guy was liable to give me a run for my money.  He didn’t seem like a fighter.  “More trinkets?”

“Right now?  I’m not aiming to take you out,” Andy said.  “Take that for what it’s worth.  If I was here to kill you I wouldn’t say so.  I can lie, after all.”

Another brief pause, as I waited for him to elaborate.

“What do you want, if you’re not here to kill me?”

“Right now, I’m keeping an eye on you.  Don’t worry, nobody else is coming.”

“Keeping an eye on me?  You going to report on me to Laird?”

He shrugged.  “Does it matter what I tell you?  I’m just going to lie.”

“You’re clearly not interested in talking,” I said.

“I can talk, if it helps,” he said.  “You were talking about Faerie.  Court Faerie deal with prominent families and powers.  Around here, you’re not getting a Faerie familiar unless you’re a member of the Duchamp family.  You could get a fairy, that’s F-A-I-R-Y, but then you’re talking about the witless, minor denizens of their realm.  Foot high things with butterfly wings.  Going that route would be dumb.”

“You’re helping me, now?” I asked.

“This is more self serving.  You’ve already dealt with a head-on attack.  If they called Eva and me in to deal with you, I’d probably take point.  And I don’t want to kill someone with a fairy -that’s with an R-Y at the end- for a familiar.  I’d feel like I was picking on the vulnerable.  In this case, it would be the equivalent of murdering the mentally handicapped.”

“People keep going on about that sort of thing.  I’m supposedly Blake the fool, the unsturdy rock, the guy that’s going to die within the next five years, no questions asked.  Now there’s some implications that I could fit in the same box as the mentally handicapped.”

“If you pick a fairy for a familiar,” he said.  “Just to clarify.”

“I was just comparing myself to a rubber boot in my head.  But the moment it comes time to decide how dangerous I am, oh, I’m the biggest threat that Jacob’s Bell has ever seen.”

“You can be an idiot and a threat at the same time,” Andy said.  “When you’re dealing with these kinds of forces, an idiot is the bigger threat.”

“Unless they’re exceptionally smart,” Rose cut in.

“Oh, it’s the vestige.  Hello vestige.”

“Hello Andy.”

“The geniuses are an even bigger threat, yes,” Andy conceded.  “And the geniuses are so few and far between they don’t really warrant mentioning.  Your grandmother was good.  Scary good, but she wasn’t a genius.”

“Is there a middle ground, here?” I asked.  “Can I at least build up enough respect for people to start saying, ‘hey, that guy isn’t so dumb and reckless after all’?  ‘Maybe he isn’t the bombastic idiot that’s going to retaliate and accidentally plunge Jacob’s Bell into sulfur and hellfire?'”

“If you stand by and let them kill you, you’re clearly crazy,” Andy said.  “Maybe dangerously so.”

“If I fight it, I’m reckless,” I retorted.  “That’s a catch-22.”

“It sounds like you’ve answered your own question,” Andy said.  “About finding the middle ground.”

Not a hint of condescension in his tone.

“Who do you serve?” I asked him.

“The council.”

“Laird and Sandra, primarily, then?”

“Essentially.  But if Johannes had a job for me and there weren’t any conflicting orders from the real powers, then I’d obey those orders.”

“Would you obey me?” I asked.

“You’re not on the council, not technically.  When Molly turned up, or when she moved into the house, sometime around then, the council held a meeting, and they agreed to remove the Thorburns from the list of affiliated powers.”

“Johannes is feared and despised, isn’t he?”

“Johannes is strong enough to have some sway despite the fear and hatred,” Andy replied.  “You aren’t.  Maggie isn’t.  The rules apply to you, but you don’t get to decide what those rules are.”

“Theoretically,” I told him, “I could be in charge of you one day, couldn’t I?”

“No, you’re not going to make it that far,” Andy responded.  “Sorry.”

“I’m getting really sick of people telling me I’m going to die,” I said.  “That decision’s up to me.”

“I’d put more of the choice in your would-be murderer’s hands,” he said.

“Who?  You?”

“It’s very possible.”

“Your sister is the one with the killer instinct,” I said.  “The itchy trigger finger, almost eager to shoot someone.  She’s the killer, and you’re the bookish guy who keeps her on track and on target, researching the target, right?”

He nodded.  Not even an iota of surprise that I might know this.

“And you’re the one who’s afraid, who doesn’t want to hurt a human being.  Well fuck that.  I have a mother, a father, a little sister.  And we’re not close, I admit, but that’s because I’m too fucking human to tolerate the monstrous shit my family was doing to each other.  I did okay in school, and had the craziest crush on a girl in grade seven.  I dated girls and fumbled my way through it all, and some of it was so fucking poorly handled that I cringe when I think about it, even five years after.”

“You’re trying to humanize yourself.”

“Damn straight!” I said.  “I lived on the street for a while, because all of the fighting and conflict over fucking Hillsglade House and the money we’d get from selling it.  I didn’t want it then.  I don’t want it now.  The stress from it ate me up inside.”

“I hear you.  We could probably compare histories on that front.  Though there weren’t millions of dollars at stake for me.”

He was deflecting, or something.  It was eerie, that he was going out of his way to compare us.  Was he distracting me after all?

I glanced over my shoulders, checking the darker streets around us.

“Eva’s at home, I promise,” he said.  “There’s a chance she followed me, but I’m honestly not trying to set you up to have your throat slit or to get you shot, and neither of us are about to murder someone without the council to cover it up after the fact.  I don’t have any other help, no big plots at work.  You would probably be able to tell if anyone but me or Eva came.”

“Assuming I believe you.”

“Assuming you believe me, yes.”

I sighed, “Listen, I’m a regular, average guy who loves art but can’t draw, who’s still figuring out how to be a friendly, decent human being, because his parents never bothered to teach him that stuff.  That thing you were saying to your sister, not wanting to hurt someone?  She told you it was fine because we’re practitioners, we’re not really people, right?  Something like that?  Well, at this stage, I think I’m still more person than practitioner.”

“I hear you,” Andy said.  “Yeah, I even believe you.”

God damn it, I wanted him to argue.  At least then I’d feel more right than if he agreed with me.  The guy who could potentially come after me with his sister and some plan to execute me shouldn’t be on the same page as me.

It was fully possible that my annoyance and frustration was part of his game plan, but he didn’t seem to have that guile to him.

“I just want to be left alone,” I said.  “I want to deal with this, kick Laird in the metaphorical ass until he stops coming after me, get Rose into a position where she’s free, happy and healthy so I can fulfill my oath to her, and handle the crap I’ve got to handle, like a stupid pair of promises I made to a little girl, and a deal I made with someone else.  I want it all to stop, because the only thing that’s keeping life from going back to normal is them.”

“I understand,” Andy said.  “But it doesn’t work that way.  You’re the threat, and you’re an obstacle to this town evolving to a different state and reaching a new kind of stability.  I’m the guy who takes care of threats.  When and if the order comes down, I’m going to remove you from the picture.”

He said it so easily.  Remove me from the picture.

“Without guns or fire or any of that?” I asked.  “Because that’s Eva’s job, apparently.”

“I find a little distance helps.”

“Right.  When removing me,” I said.  “Come on.  At least have the balls to say what you mean.  You’re talking in this quiet, calm, monotone because you’re trying to detach yourself from this shit.”

“Killing you.  Executing you.  Putting you down,” he said.  His eyes dropped at that last bit, then raised up to meet mine again. “Yeah.  I don’t use the guns or knives or any of that, because even when it is a monster?  One of the bad ones I shouldn’t be able to sympathize with at all?  I can’t help but feel like shit after, and looking in your eyes as I do it makes it ten times worse.  The detachment does help me deal with it.  Sorry if it’s frustrating.”

“I’d accept your apology, but it’s kind of hard to when we’re talking about me being murdered at your hands.”

“You?  If we get that far?  If it helps, I’ll feel horrible.  I’ll remember all that stuff about you having a crush on some girl and I’ll lose sleep.  I’ll remember the look in your eye, I’ll think about how much this all sucks.  But I’m still going to do what I need to do.”

“Why?  If this is all some big, fucked up situation, why not change it?  You aren’t sworn into anything, and the rules don’t bind you.”

“Because I made promises, and even if I’m not in a position to be forsworn, I still can’t break them.”

“Despite the sleepless nights?  The fear that eats at you?  The fact that you’re killing innocent people?”  I asked.  My voice was low, and anger was seeping in even when I wasn’t raising my voice.  “I have a hard time buying that.”

“Despite all of that.”

“Family, is it?” I asked.

“A little bit of family.  Obviously, or I wouldn’t be working with Eva.”

“Because family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” I said.  “It isn’t fucking half of what it’s supposed to be.  See, there’s a big, big fucking difference between someone being your relative and someone being family.”

“Then I guess I’d say Eva is my relative,” Andy said.  “And ‘family’ plays a very small part in this.”

“What’s the rest?” I asked.

“The rest is private.  It wouldn’t matter, would it?  There’s nothing I could say that would reach you and your specific perspective.  Because we come from very different places.  Having people you owe everything to, who you could never ever pay back.”

“It sounds a hell of a lot like we come from similar places,” I said.

“These people you owe?  Are they dead?” he asked.

“No.  Very much alive.”

He nodded.  “You’re lucky.”

I frowned.  “Am I?  Because it’s a quiet sort of hell, knowing you owe someone everything, and once in a while you have to look them in the eye.”

He nodded.  His expression didn’t change.

I shivered.  “Well, this was fun.  Another death threat onto the pile, and I can’t even bring myself to hate you.”

“I appreciate that,” he said.

“Don’t,” I responded.

He didn’t flinch.

I wanted him to retaliate, to fight back.  I didn’t want to fight, but I needed goddamn cues to find my way through the conversation.

In a way, he seemed just as inhuman as some of the Fae I’d encountered.  The swordswoman had been more animated, had at least had an iota of passion.

Andy wasn’t even pretending.

“I’m cold,” I said.  “I’m leaving.”

I turned to go.  I heard his footstep behind me.

Following me.

“Yeah, I don’t think you’re hearing me,” I said.  “I’m going this way.  I’m not keen on having you tag along.”

“I’ve been asked to keep an eye on you.”

“Why?”

“Because Laird Behaim and Sandra Duchamp are interested.”

“Is he trying something?” I asked.

“He’s preoccupied,” Andy responded.

I reached for my hatchet, touching the handle.

“Bound spirit?” he asked.  “Wraith?  Ghost?  Elemental?  I’m actually pretty good at dealing with those.  I’m kind of shit when it comes to fighting, but if you try using that, then you’re going to be down one trinket, and that looks like pretty intricate work.”

“Blake,” Rose said.  “No fighting.  It’s not the time, and we can’t lose June when we haven’t even used her.”

“Assuming he’s not just lying to our faces,” I said.  I can’t fight even if I have to, I thought.  I wasn’t entirely sure, but I felt almost like I’d retained some of the negative qualities of the six year old.  I didn’t feel strong.

“I’m not a threat,” Andy said.  “Take this for what it’s worth.  Laird sent me to keep an eye on you.  I only do so many favors for him a month… and doing this harmless favor means I’m not taking a job to kill you.”

“But you’re still reporting back to Laird,” I said, as I turned and started walking.  I tried to keep my stride going, despite the fatigue I felt.  He was shorter than me, burdened with that backpack, and I didn’t remember him being particularly fit.

If I could leave him behind, all the better.

“Keep an eye on him,” I told Rose.  I flipped the mirror pendant around so it hung between my shoulders.

“How log have you been doing this?” Rose asked.  It took me a second to realize she wasn’t talking to me.

“Two years,” I heard Andy behind me.

“Not long.”

“Feels like a while,” he replied.

“Can we not talk to the assassin in the funny hat?” I asked.

Rose ignored me.  “What gets someone like you working for someone like Laird?”

There was no answer.

“Power?  Wealth?”

“Responsibility, I already said.”

“Is there a finite amount of responsibility, Andy?  Is there a point where you’ve paid your dues and you’re free of all this?”

“That’s the second question you’ve asked that I already answered.  No.  I could go my entire life and not pay them back.”

“That’s a hell of a burden,” Rose said.

“Yeah.  I’m not dumb, you know.  I’ve faced down worse manipulators than you.”

“I’m not trying to manipulate you.  I’m trying to figure you out.  Do you think your departed acquaintances would want you to do this?  To spend your life indentured to them?”

“I know they wanted it.  They said so.  That they needed me to handle it, for their sakes.”

“Uh huh,” Rose said.

I trudged along, doing my best to leave him behind.  My leg was already raw where the boot was rubbing my jeans against my leg.

“If the tables were turned, knowing what you know, would you ask them to don the mantle?  Kill people and feel horrible about it?  Have nightmares?”  Rose asked.

“No,” Andy said.  “But that’s me, my personality.”

“If they’re asking you to commit your life to something you couldn’t imagine yourself asking someone to do… it doesn’t sound like they were really your friends.  It sounds like they were using you.”

“Hey, Thorburn,” Andy called out.  “Your pet is starting to irritate me.”

“Good,” I said.

“What I’m thinking,” Rose said, “And I don’t know enough about Blake’s situation to say for his case, but if you’re that indebted to someone, and you devote your life to staking vampires and burning witches-”

“You’re oversimplifying,” Andy said.

“Simple is good.  That stuff isn’t the point.  You’re devoting your life to this stuff… what if you die?  I mean, it’s inevitable, right?  What if you die, and you find yourself in the afterlife.  You meet these people again.  You obviously didn’t pay them back for whatever they did for you.  Do they look at you with disappointment?”

“Probably,” Andy said.

“That’s sad,” Rose said.  “Do you have Eva’s support?”

I thought of the vision.

“No,” I said, automatically.

“No,” he agreed.

“Is anyone backing you up?” Rose asked.  “Do you have a listening ear?  A confidant?”

“No,” Andy said.

I glanced back.  His eyes were downcast, his expression serious.  Was he bothered, or was he more focused on not stepping on ice and losing his footing?

“That’s awfully hard,” Rose said.

“Spare me the false sympathy,” Andy said.  “I’ve said it before, I’ve gone up against better manipulators.”

“And none of them have tried to see what’s going on in your head?”

“Some have.  Some have looked.  Doesn’t matter in the end.”

“Did any offer to be that listening ear?  The confidant?”

“Hm?”

“Hey, Rose,” I said.  “Don’t you think befriending the dorky witch-hunting kid should be a collaborative decision?”

“You can make friends and decide who you do and don’t want to forgive,” Rose said.  “But I’m still a free being, more or less, and I can decide who I do and don’t want to interact with.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” I said.  My legs were burning now.  I wondered if he was getting tired.

“I’m not looking to make friends,” Andy said.

“I’m not looking to be your friend either,” Rose responded.  “I am offering to hear you out, if you need it.  There have to be points where you’re feeling lower than low, Andy.  Where you want to cry or go crazy or something.  Now, instead of getting to that point and having nowhere to turn, you can turn to me.”

“And I have one more reason to feel bad when and if I have to kill your master, removing you from the picture as well?”

Ahem,” Rose said.  “I’m a free being.  Present stuck-in-a-mirror circumstances excepted.  And if you feel horrible, then good.  You deserve to.  I said I’d hear you out, I didn’t say I’d lie to you or go easy on you.”

Andy shrugged.  “I can’t and won’t take the deal.”

“Okay,” Rose said.  “But the offer’s out there.”

Andy didn’t respond.

The remaining fifteen minutes of our slow and not-so-steady walk over snow and ice were undertaken in blissful silence.

We made our way to the neighborhood, the dark structure of Hillsglade House looming against the pale evening sky.  The light from the moon and city lights was reflected off of white snow, cast onto the overcast sky above, making it seem almost as bright as it was during the day.

I heard a jostling, and turned to see Andy hurrying to catch up.  My hand flew to my weapon.

“I’m not a threat,” he said.  He wasn’t really out of breath.  Was he more fit than he looked?  Simply uncoordinated?

“You keep saying that, as if saying it over and over makes it true.”

“It is.  And it doesn’t matter.  You’re home.”

We’d nearly reached the block the house was on.  My eyes flew over the premises, then went back to Andy.

“This feels like a trap,” I said.

“It is and it isn’t,” he said.  “It wasn’t really explained to me, so I don’t really know.  My focus is supposed to be on you.”

“Why?” I asked, glancing away to look back at the house.

“To pass on word to Laird,” he responded.

There was an eerie conviction in his gaze.  An intensity that I hadn’t sensed moments ago.

“Blake,” Rose said, “This is going nowhere.  Let’s get you back in the house and resting.  We still need to plan and do some reading.”

“Doesn’t it feel wrong?” I asked.  “Why not send Fargo here to kill us?  He’s only here to gather info and take it back to Laird.  Why?”

“It’s trivial,” Rose said.  “Our priority is getting you in fighting shape, and I wouldn’t mind that servant.  There’s a thousand things we could dwell on, outside of the head games the witch hunter is playing with us.  No offense, Andy.”

“None taken.”

“Come on, Rose,” I said, my eyes fixed on Andy.  “You and I aren’t so different.  Reach deep, dig for those instincts, and tell me you don’t feel this is something serious.”

There was a pause.  “I can’t tell if it’s because you’ve psyched me out or if you’re right.”

“I’m right,” I said.  “Laird’s pulled something.”

There was a pause.

The something?” Rose asked, quiet.  Her question was partly a statement.

My head snapped around, looking over the house.

The ritual?

No.

A kind of horror settled in me.

No, no, no.

Where was it?  The symbols I’d seen drawn on the floor… they would have covered a certain area, here in the real world.

My leg stung where the boot was rubbing it as I strode around, moving closer to the gate.

A circle, like the one I’d seen as part of the diagram, barely perceptible.  The spirits on and above it were brighter.

I could hear the tick and tock sounds I’d heard in the room, now.  I wasn’t sure if it was real or imagination.

“We stopped the ritual,” I said.

“You did,” Andy responded.  “You called the police, and both Laird and Sandra were carted off, I hear.  But sending Sandra with Laird was a mistake.  I doubt they even made it to the police station before she was able to get the leverage she needed.”

“Just like that,” I said, absently.

“When dealing with people without defenses, enchantment is incredibly potent, and Sandra is very good at what she does.  People are like playing pieces on the board for her, to be moved as she pulls the right strings, puts power in the right connections.  The two of them would have stopped at the station only to get the incriminating evidence and start to piece together what happened and the approach you used.”

“But… they finished already?”

“I expect he started right away, as soon as he got back,” Andy said, “And you’ve been walking for a while.  You might have earned yourself a reduced effect, but I’m not sure what that amounts to.”

Now that I knew what to look for, I could see signs of the circle stretching around the house.

No, not a circle.  A ring.

“What does it do?” Rose asked.

“It makes accessing and using your resources in Hillsglade House so inconvenient it’s pointless,” Andy answered.  “The unawakened might notice something when they walk down this sidewalk, but nobody does, do they?  Surely you’ve noticed how the locals avoid the property.  Mail doesn’t come here, restaurants won’t deliver food to this address.  You’re isolated.  They can’t target the house, as it was once a demesne, so they target the space around it.”

“To do what?” I asked.

“Waste your time,” he answered.  “Something you already have in short supply.”

I reached into my pocket and found a quarter.  I flicked it over the circle.

It slowed as it flipped over the line, growing slower with every passing second.

It looked like it would take minutes to hit the ground.

I looked at Andy, trying to read his expression.  It was as placid as ever.

“I’m not sure what you’re seeing, Blake,” Rose said.

I looked, and I saw the quarter in the air, spinning in slow motion.  When I looked without the benefit of the sight, I saw it on the ground.  Different views for the awakened versus the unawakened.  Different effects.

The Duchamps had been a part of the ritual.  Had it been more than targeting it at this particular neighborhood?

“Slowing time,” I said.  “The quarter is still in the air, to my eyes.”

“The long driveway,” Rose said.  “How long do you think that walk would take?”

“Weeks?” I asked, quiet. “A month?”

“Meaning we’d miss council meetings,” Rose said.

“Yeah.  The wedding would go ahead, and so would the plans for establishing a Lord for the city, while we make the excruciatingly slow walk up to the house.  Tying us up until some time when Laird’s ready to deal with us,” I said.

“And that,” Andy said, “Mostly wraps up my end of things.”

I snapped my head around.  “Your end of things?”

This is what he wanted a report on,” Andy said.  “A description of your face and actions as you realized, making sure you got the full message.  He hired me to observe, to make sure he wouldn’t have to wait months for you to come after him.  Assuming you might only realize when the season changes.  He’d like you to know that for now, he’s hands off, until you give him an excuse.”

“And the rest?” Rose asked.

“Remains to be seen.  I know there’s a bounty on your head, a prize of three favors to any Other that catches you.  That might take a few days to revoke, if they decide to go that route.  If an Other kills you, though, and the new heir heads for the house, they’ll lose a great deal of time, and they’ll find a trap waiting for them when they next leave the property.  It’s done.”

“He won,” I said.

“Oh, you did win,” Andy told me.  “You embarrassed him, you counted coup, you probably cost the Behaims more than you know, when you damaged those books, and it would have cost Sandra to tidy up that mess.  But…”

“He won more?” I asked.

“He won more decisively,” Rose murmured.  “A more targeted, devastating strike.  But then again, he’s the guy with the big guns, the power, the soldiers…”

I shook my head a little.  What the hell were we supposed to do now?

“It’s not a kid’s television show,” Andy told me, “Where the antagonist makes the Machiavellian plan and then abandons that plan completely the first time it fails.  People fail, they revise, they adjust parameters, they you achieve victory through persistence and hard work.”

I turned to stare at the house.

“It was nice meeting you,” Andy said.  “I hope I don’t have to kill you.”

Our sanctuary is sealed off, I thought.  We might not be around long enough to give you the chance.

“Hey,” I said.  “Do me a favor, Andy?”

“Maybe.”

I pulled off the rain boots, then stood on the sidewalk with two socks on each foot.  “Take those boots back to their owner?”

“Will do.”

I could hear him walking away.

“Rose?” I asked.

“What is it?”

“Do me a favor, and call the lawyers?  Like you did before?”

“I’d say that’s only for emergencies, but I think this counts.”

“Yeah.”

I barely even heard her reciting the names.

I didn’t turn my head as a man came to stand behind my left shoulder.

“What can we do for you, Mr. Thorburn?”

“Can you undo this?”

“I think you know the answer,” he said.  He wasn’t one of the ones I’d met before.

“Is it a price I’m willing to pay?” I asked.

“Most likely not, given Ms. Lewis’ notes.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Anything else?”

“What about safe passage to Toronto?” I asked.  “There’s no reason to stay here.”

“That can be arranged for a very small cost,” he said.

“Putting me in contact with the local Lord, so I don’t step on toes?  I’ll need some things, as well.”

“Clothes and supplies.  Yes.  Shall we negotiate?”

“I think we have to,” I said.

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

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250 thoughts on “Breach 3.5

  1. So… I don’t know how this is going to be taken – I wanted to do more with it, but I…

    • Had to get ready to leave my aunt’s place where I was dogsitting. Packing up, getting to the station.
    • Had a 3 hour Train ride. Got some writing done. Least painful part of it.
    • Came home to intermittent internet, couldn’t check past chapters for release. Had a heart-stopping moment where internet went down at 11:58 with chapter not uploaded.
    • Came home to find that 75% of my place (including my room & living room, fridge, microwave & oven) has no power.

    In short, I was distracted. Hope it’s alright.

    1. No worries, ‘bow. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, and I might even say this was one of my more favorite chapters. The Blake-Andy interaction was very interesting, and I can’t help but feel that Rose gave him some things to chew on as well. The whole time-dilation magical bullshit circle kind of threw me for a loop for a second, and I was surprised when Blake was already saying “Well, fuck this shit. I’m out!” (not literally of course.)

    2. “Had a heart-stopping moment where internet went down at 11:58 with chapter not uploaded.”

      I’m somewhere between impressed by your dedication and sad that it puts you under so much pressure. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded, but I understand that you probably feel obligated to any die-hard fans hitting the site at the stroke of midnight, eager for their next fix.

      Speaking of pressure, this chapter shows off one of the things you’re really good at: portraying characters at their lowest points, bone-tired and desperate, working with what resources they have to keep it all together. It’s something that stuck with me from Worm, and it’s pretty striking here. I feel so sorry for poor Blake right now.

    3. Awesome as always, Wildbow. Definitely didn’t expect the ending or a setting change to Toronto.

      I’m really excited about the next steps! Keep up the good work!

    1. ““Erosion of self via. glamour,” Rose said. “Imagine pouring water over a rock. It seems into the cracks, the rough bits, and the pores, covering it.”

      Should be “seeps” not “seems”

    2. Oh shit… Laird. Laird is my new curse. But what happens to the contract if he leaves the house… Bad shit is going down. Damn. I am rather upset at wildbow for making such a cool antagonist in Andy, though. I like him.

    3. Erosion of self via. glamour
      The period may not be necessary – via is a whole word, albeit not English.

      It’s pretty standard practice to bank time
      It’s a pretty standard practice… is clearer.

      If I was here to kill you I wouldn’t say so.
      Correct grammar would be “If I were…” but given that Andy might not know this, possibly written as intended.

    4. It speaks volumes about what a high-class website Wildbow is running, when he can barely upload a new entry before the clientel comes charging in, racing to be the first to post a specific sentence – not “First!” or “1st”, but “TYPO THREAD!”, and then proceed to point out minor errors in the text, trying to help Wildbow with his editing. 🙂

      In other words, the discourse on this website is way too polite and well-mannered (not to mention grammatically correct) compared to the rest of the internet, and an emergency effort must be made to normalize the site to international standards. 😉 Let’s begin, shall we?

      Ahem:

      Ass poop dingleberry.

      …Well, it’s a start. 🙂

        1. Chillax, guys! If you read the definitive work on Goblin summoning, Roger’s Profanisaurus, you’ll discover that Goblin nomenclature operates strictly by a template of [cuss word]-[fluid-related noun], e.g. Arsepint and Dickswizzle. Hence, the phrase “Ass poop dingleberry”, is absolutely safe and incurs no risk of accidental invocation. Of course, if a phrase like Smartgargler had been carelessly used, then-

          SMASH!

          ROAAARRR!!

          …Oh dear. 😦

          1. Derp, derp. Are there any rules about starting a Typo Thread in the Typo Thread, about comments in the Typo Thread itself? Would that be a case of illegal recursing?

            The cautionary example should, of course, have been Shartgargler*, not **Sma-

            SMASH

            CRASH

            ROAAARRR!

            Oh gawd! Why does this keep happening?! :-O

            1. Waaaah! That’s not the hole you stick bananas in! THAT’S NOT THE HOLE YOU STICK BANANAS IN! 😮

              …Oh, no. The goblins ate the whole bunch of bananas. Without using their teeth. 😦

    5. “How log have you been doing this?” Rose asked. It took me a second to realize she wasn’t talking to me.

      Should be “How long have you been doing this?”

    6. More typos:
      – “Keep the heat in your hands, feet, and keep a hat on” -> ‘hands and feet’ or ‘in your hands, in your feet’
      – “And I don’t like leaving debts unpaid, even before all the rest of this got started.”” -> Mixed tenses. -> ‘debts unpaid, I didn’t like it even before’ or similar
      – “made me think he wasn’t good at the cold” -> ‘in the cold’? ‘with the cold’?
      – “This is more self serving.” -> ‘self-serving’
      – “I lived on the street for a while, because all of the fighting” -> ‘because of all the fighting’

    7. People fail, they revise, they adjust parameters, they you achieve victory through persistence and hard work.
      Should be either:
      People fail, they revise, they adjust parameters, then they achieve victory through persistence and hard work.
      or
      You fail, you revise, you adjust parameters, then you achieve victory through persistence and hard work.

    8. Can’t find anything that hasn’t been mentioned twice or thrive already. Cum on step it up wb :/

      Ugh, Too late –> no capital T needed

      “Erosion of self via. glamour,” Rose said. “Imagine pouring water over a rock. It seems into the cracks, period after ‘via’, ‘seems’ -> ‘seeps’

      “How log have you been doing this?” –> long

  2. After stumbling across Worm in December, I became absolutely obsessed with it, and it drained my time through finals, and I’d be lying if I said some of my grades didn’t suffer as a result. I finished Worm by the end of the year, and decided to take a break before seeing what wildbow’s next outing was. I started it up over the weekend, and now I am officially caught up on your writing, wildbow. Thank you so much for Worm, and I’m so excited to see what you’re going to do with Pact (which has started out very promisingly.)

    I’m excited to be a part of the discussions from now on.

    1. Oh, I wonder just what the hell he’s going to tell them. Should be interesting. If they are practicioners, an different kind of interesting.

      1. Then suddenly the more abstract pieces start to make sense, its not so the art but rather the underlying art “shapes of emotions” visual memetic magic or whatever they are become truly visible,

      2. Just feed them some metaphorically true stuff about his grandmother’s “Family Business.” Assuming of course that he doesn’t just spill the beans immediately.

  3. This was what I was waiting for (in a sense) since Pact first got rolling.
    Blake was tied to his grandmothers house in a way that he couldn’t easily remove himself.
    He also had no desire to be there. At all. And wanted to be far and away.
    I’ve been wondering what he would make his demenses, knowing that it /couldnt/ be the house, for so many reasons.
    Congrats Blake, you have a reason to go home. Shore up on defenses. And have a fresh start with a bit of breathing room. (hopefully)

  4. Cool another update. Also wow. That was a very creative of wildbow on the time circle and no one managed to guess it. Great chapter. Can’t wait to find out what Blake gets as a familiar. I assume something linked to glamour.

    1. I can’t remember who now, but some people did predict it, or at least something close to it (kudos). I argued agains the possibility, which shows what I know. I guess you really don’t want to cross a circle of chronomancers plus a circle of enchantresses.

  5. Oi.

    This is why we can’t underestimate Laird. When exactly did he get the chance to do the working? I get that time is essentially no object for him, but Leanne’s mom certainly didn’t get an urgent phone call to “come back ASAP, we’re doing the time stop again.”

    Also, how exactly is this not going to be noticed? Unawakened or not, people will notice if they stray over the line and suddenly lose several minutes. Which will make them… Shit. It’ll make them avoid the place even more. Dang. But aren’t there houses on the block besides Hillsglade?

      1. If Rose can get in through the mirrors, and she’s the one to inherit various bits of the Thorburn inheritance, it may not be necessary for Blake himself to stay there. Also, this would enable her to carry on her reading…

    1. Theres this scary house on the hill over there, they say a monster lives in there, and i bet you are too chicken to go up to it and bring something back. ^Cue two weeks later – News reports of kids missing for days

    2. My assumption is that he did a much smaller version of the spell, with less people, as implied by Andy mentioning him AND sandra being important. Andy might be lying about how long it’ll last or whatever.

    3. From what Andy said, they were essentially free to go by the time they got to the station. The cops didn’t stand a chance against a full fledged Duchamp. So then it’s a little chit-chat to find out what Blake did, and then back to the house to finish the ritual. It’s conceivable the 9 practitioners involved stuck around or were otherwise notified to stick around.

      It could have been less than 30 minutes to get back and start the spell up again. Blake was definitely out of the way for a lot longer than that.

      My guess is that, from the way the quarter in normal-sight acted different than in other-sight, the time stop may only be targeted at magic or the magical aspect of things, or something like that. It’s effectively the same thing for a practitioner or Other, but normal people may not even notice it.

    4. That isn’t the worst of the problems now that there are two distinct histories and future for Practitioners and mundanes. Paradox seems inevitable.

      Add the far with automatic win built in – given their stated ability to retroactively re-write history…

  6. Just up and move away…
    Why didn’t we just do this before?
    This complicates many of the stipulations of the contracts, right?
    Its going to be one hell of an electrical bill if he left any lights on…

    1. No it won’t. Assuming the electric meter is connected to the house, they’re in the clear. I was agonizing about that as well (almost made a post with calculations asking people to check my math) but realized that it’s “Year Outside, Hour Inside.” And good thing for Jacob’s Bell, too – Barbatorem’s seal would fade within the week if it were the other way around.

      1. It’s only a ring around the house that is affected, not the house itself. Assuming the meter is attached to the house, it should count exactly as normal.

        1. I assume the lawyers can get around it though. They implied (or allowed Blake to come to the conclusion) that they can dispel the time-slow field. Bypassing it somehow should be child’s play, especially if they’re allowed inside for the purposes of “New Heir – Press Reset.”

          1. I imagine almost anything is possible in this magic world, and dispelling someone else’s spell seems more on the mundane side of things. The costs, however, seem to be very high for even simple things. Dispelling the ring is not something Blake/Rose could possibly afford, and the Lawyers all but say that too.

    2. Being unable to access the library could end up screwing them over in the long run. They have to read 3/4 of the books in there, but I don’t know how long they have before the lawyers cause problems over it. Could be an urgent issue, or could come up in years.

        1. It shouldn’t, they specifically mentioned a few times that they could not affect the house itself, just the immediate area, an Rose doesn’t pass through that when she travels to the house. So as long as they left enough mirrors inside they still have access to the library.

      1. Wait a second. The spell only affects the area around the house, not the house itself. When Rose travels between mirrors, I don’t think she physically travels through our world, so she should still be able to get inside the house just fine.

        …. here’s hoping they left mirrors in convenient locations in the library.

  7. Wow. This is a major twist. But, If it was possible for him to leave the area, why didn’t he try to do so before? I’m pretty sure that there was some contract or an impetus for him to stay at the house. Regardless, this just threw things into a whole new direction. Can’t wait to see how this ends.

    1. The house is safe against magical attacks and Other intrusions.
      Leaving the house means becoming a target to any such thing. I assume he’ll negotiate some sort of protection with the Lord where he’ll be staying in Toronto, but that will cost him, where the houses was free.

      1. Wasn’t that where his apartment was? Hopefully he can finagle something with Joel or whatever his landlord’s name was to get his home and job back.

        1. I don’t think he ever lost them. He just woke up in the middle of the night, one day, and said he needed the car to check up on his cousin, never to return. I wonder how much time has passed since that first night.

          1. I don’t think it has been longer than a couple weeks. They had one council meeting a couple days after he arrived, and they’ve been trying to kill him non-stop since. Three weeks tops.

            It’s enough to lose your job (especially the kinds of jobs Blake would likely have), but not your apartment.

  8. One idea and then off to bed. Rose doesn’t cross property. Can she jump to the mirror world in the library and get to the mirror copies of the books without losing time? It would be dangerous to test directly, but an answer from the lawyers might not cost too much.

    1. Ooooh, and if I remember correctly, Rose said she could access both the area immediately around Blake and the house, no matter where Blake was. That means that Rose at least will retain access to all of the information in the house. Blake can no longer simply hole up inside the house, but not all of it’s resources are lost to him. Laird hasn’t struck so hard a blow as he might think.

      1. I really like this idea. This way, even if Rose doesn’t end up having more superawesome powers than Blake, it still kiiiinda negates the suck of being trapped in the mirror world because she has access to knowledge that he really needs and can’t otherwise get to.

        I’d say by this point, they’re on even footing when it comes to power, even if she can’t influence the ‘real’ world as much.

      2. I had the same thought in regards to Rose still having access, but I don’t think she’s got access to everything unless Blake has put more mirrors into the library. IIRC there was only the one big one and Blake had to reposition it because it’ not big enough to give her access to every bookshelf.

        1. Blake was talking about getting Rose a servant. If he can get one that can get past the time field (going over? through mirrors like Paidric?) it would give Rose access to the entire house.

      1. It sounds like he’s already got the nasty traits of every bad drunk everywhere, and none of them have gone away since his origin.

    1. I’m pretty sure they’re in Ontario. Unless you meant to say Toronto.

      Considering that the lords of Toronto and Montreal have been brought up and there was a mention of students from Toronto being in the town, I’d Jacob’s Bell is no closer than Peterborough and no farther than Kingston.

  9. Yeah this is definitely the kind of thing that screws everything up. Anybody else wondering if Blake has to go to Jacob’s Bell Council meetings, or just a place’s Council meeting, like Toronto’s?

    The idea about Rose still having access to the books and such is a good one too, if it, ya know, works. But yeah, this is a definite monkey wrench. Of course, if it gives Blake and Rose the chance to hook up with people who don’t want to kill them, so much the better. This could absolutely bite Laird and Co. In the ass if Blake returns with buddies and decides to play as post-banishment Napolean. Only with Demons.

    Speaking of demons, Blue Exorcist is playing on Adult Swim now. Looks pretty cool.

    1. Only to the sections the mirror is facing unless they added more to the library. There is also the matter of the circle effecting the “mirror world” too.

      1. It’s stated that it’s not a circle, but a ring. The house itself isn’t affected (I doubt it could be), and since rose doesn’t seem to need to cross the intervening space, she should be able to get access.

        1. For practicality purposes, whats the difference between a ring and a circle? I mean 3 dimensionally I would say sphere before a circle. For a ring, its boxed instead of circular? It has sides instead of X amount of distance away from the house?,

            1. I already wrote this up (before the cyber-vampires got to it [twice now!]) so I’ll just try to be brief.

              Thank you for clarifying it here. I did already understand this, but it was from the comments rather than the story itself. Every time the characters specified the shape of the effect, I thought that it meant that they couldn’t target the house itself, so they were hitting the whole area around it, and that would somehow get past the defenses, like using a massive AoE to hit an opponent that’s invisible. I didn’t realize that they were targeting the area around the house but not the house itself. Could this maybe be stated more explicitly at some point within the relevant chapters? I clearly wasn’t the only one who didn’t connect ‘ring,’ to ‘torus,’ though I could not say how widespread it was.

              “handle the crap I’ve got to handle, like a stupid pair of promises I made to a little girl.”
              Erm…didn’t he take care of the bathroom one, by getting out soon? Was there another promise in there that I didn’t catch?

              I also wanted to comment on the move to Toronto—it was not something that I saw coming, but I probably should have. I had thought that there were too many references to there, or at least too many references to his friends, for them to never enter the story, and yet it seemed incredibly that they might arrive in Jacob’s Bell. Him going to them…it fits, even if it is changing the whole map after it’s been well-established.

            2. “Erm…didn’t he take care of the bathroom one, by getting out soon? Was there another promise in there that I didn’t catch?”

              From chapter 3.4, when Blake’s Glamour starts to fray, and the little girl notices:

              “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, stupid. Promising. I reached out, fumbling, and grabbed her hand. I pulled her in the direction of her waiting mother.

  10. I have to say that Andy isn’t very convincing as a character in terms of his dialogue, but I think that’s just because we’ve only seen him from Blake’s POV and not for any prolonged time. He’s pretty much mysterious stoic guard dude, except the part where he calls Rose Blake’s “pet”. I can’t really put my finger on what seems off about his ‘voice’ though. Maybe it’s just too similar to Blake’s? I dunno. That’s my only (very minor) quibble, overall I really like this chapter and I love where this story is going. Can’t wait to go to Toronto! Wondering how the practitioners there will respond to him.

    1. thats actually a complaint i have about Worm, at least in the beginning. Too many of the characters talk like Taylor, even though all of them have different backgrounds and upbringing.

    2. From the sounds of things, though, Andy’s background is fairly similar to Blake’s in a “big picture” sort of way.

      He’s doing things he doesn’t like or want to do – a heavy obligation that someone else has forced upon him. I can understand them having similar personalities, though I agree I tend to find the “same background, different result” idea more compelling.

      1. “From the sounds of things, though, Andy’s background is fairly similar to Blake’s in a “big picture” sort of way.”

        Indeed. If he is similer to Blake, then Rose’s actions make even more sense. She’s using her experience with Blake to help her understand Andy, and make a connection.

  11. I wonder how far above the street the time stop circle ascends, or if it is a half dome (or even a full one). Not that Blake really has a way to get over or under any large obstacle.
    Also, anyone else think Bakuda may have got the idea for her time-stop bombs from a Maggie Holt novel?

  12. Hmmmm, technically the time effect is a ring. If there were a way to teleport directly into the house, or establish a wormhole from outside to inside it could be circumvented. Or for that matter, if the effect is only along the ground flight could do the trick. Broomstick at night? 🙂
    A more mundane possibility could involve a tunnel that connects the woods in the back to, say, the basement (assuming the effect is ring shaped, not spherical).

    On a different note, I’m curious to see what a Lord is. Clearly it’s more than just the title given to the strongman of a given area if they’re trying to establish one here.

    1. Rose, at least,seems to be able to teleport between mirrors. Any reading material that is faced by a mirror should be available to her. Seeing how some others (padraic) seem to have access to the mirror world, perhaps Rose’s servant will have access too. (would be nice to be able to retrieve objects, also would allow mirrors to be re-positioned)

    2. Oh god what if it doesn’t stop at ground level, and passing planes get their wings torn because the ring-side is traveling more slowly than the body of the plane? Or someone drives up to the front door, and their car crashes on impact with the field because the front is traveling more slowly than the rear?

      Anyhow cheers to everyone who guessed Khonsu on Saturday.

  13. Laird has just made it nigh-impossible to sell the property. His claimed goal is – as was more or less expected – a lie.

    But more importantly…
    Laird deserves death. There are many reasons.

    Firstly, he has twisted the law to deny justice for his criminal deeds and to harm the innocent with abandon for his selfish luxuries.
    Secondly, he has abused the power to influence perceptions to control the choices of innocent people in order to murder innocent people and cover up his murders of innocent people.
    Thirdly, he is one of three things – a false masquerader as an officer of the law, forsworn to his oath as officer of the law, or in even the best case a traitor to the ideals and precedents upon which the law rests. Though the letter of his oath may be twisted and broken, the law is greater than whatever twisted selfishness he serves.
    Fourthly, he courts the summoning of diabolical beings, with only short-sighted auguries as a defense for those around him. Whatever shields he may have for his family, he moves the town and, if Briar Girl is right, perhaps the world towards ruin with his actions. As with the third point, the fact that he seeks this summoning through another frees him not one iota from the spirit of the matter, and may not even preserve him from the letter of the matter.
    Fifthly, he is a personally despicable person and is worthy neither of the role of elected leader, nor king – he maintains his power with knives in the dark and the crushing fist of his so-called false law.
    Sixthly, he seeks by his own admission to corrupt one Blake Thorburn into vices dangerous to the community, even above and beyond the clear goals of trying to use the Thorburns to summon demons to bring ruin to the many to preserve the power and luxury of his undeserved lifestyle.

    Finally, should any of the above be thought biased or possibly incorrect, should it be thought that Laird Behaim could have a shred of decency concealed by unfortunate perspective, I charge him with incompetence for being unable to show the supposed rightness of his actions even in discussions with his own family and allies.

    He is unworthy of leadership for his incompetence and harm to the innocent, for the reasons above. He is worthy only of a swift execution for his crimes, for the reasons above.

    Sadly, because of the first and second points, it is clear that he must die outside the justice system, because he has taken control of it even by the admission of his allies with mind-controlling influences and intense corruption of the law.

    I no longer submit that he may be a person with any truly meaningful goodness who we simply see from a bad perspective. My patience, optimism, and forgiveness have run out for him.
    If he is to be shown as good, it will be through a difficult redemption or through the clear display that he was controlled, directly or indirectly, at least as much he has had Sandra control the police.

    For those who are only starting Worm, the following is a spoiler – but only for the very first few acts.
    At least Armsmaster never intentionally tried to turn others to vileness to preserve his own power.

    1. I wish to clarify that Laird need not die outside justice; the established justice is sufficient. He must, however, die outside the /system/ of justice that he has perverted and tainted with his own foul influences of mind-control and corruption.

          1. And then Blake pushes Lardo into the back seat of a speeding DeLorean, bare moments before it reaches 88 mph and BLASTS 40 years back in time.

            Capital punishment wasn’t fully abolished in Canada until 1976. Oops, sorry Lardo. Looks like you just ran over a bunch of nuns and orphans in 1973. Bye bye. 🙂

        1. If he could be contained and prevented from harming people until his /natural/ death, that would be quite sufficient for the protection of other people, and if he deserves death and doesn’t get it – well, whatever, if he’s contained then he can be safely forgotten, everyone else will be fine.
          The problem is not that life imprisonment is somehow insufficient for him – it is that it cannot be done in the immediate system. Bringing in enough power and authority from on high would normally be the response to such a mini-fiefdom inside of a sovereign nation, but it doesn’t look like any purely mundane system can defend itself from his Enchanter co-conspirator.
          Some experimentation may be in order here – or vigilante justice from practitioners who can defend themselves.

          The best option, of course, is for practitioners to provide defenses to the mundane system and have Laird imprisoned for his mundane crimes; ideally, he would also be stripped of his weapons (his magic) by forcing him and Sandra to lose their powers. Otherwise, it might be possible to continue containing him magically in perpetuity.

    2. It seems possible to me, even likely, that laird can remove the effect from the Hillsglade house. I’m not going to argue that he isn’t scum, but I think his actions are still in line with his stated goals.

      1. It seems to -me- that Blake could end up using the time warp. He just needs to find a way over/through it, like another commenter said- teleportation or something. Then he gains a relatively impenetrable defense, like a moat (except chronomancers would probably easily be able to pass it)

        1. If Laird can indeed remove the effect then he would do so as soon as it became a boon for Blake. Laird stated that the circle was drawn with paint, “for the permanence of it.” Not sure whether this means the drawing needs to exist for the effect to continue or if it is simply a symbolic thing.

  14. “The rubber boots weren’t well insulated against the cold. It was fine at first, but the cold gradually seeped in. Or, perhaps, the warmth gradually seeped out. Unjustly snatched up from where they belonged, in the wrong environment, while I tried to figure out the fastest, tidiest way of getting rid of them.”

    Something looks wrong here.

    There are three objects of interest in the paragraph and there’s a bit of confusion of what is being addressed.

    “The rubber boots weren’t well insulated. They were fine at first, but the cold gradually seeped in, or, perhaps, the warmth gradually seeped out. Unjustly snatched up from where they belonged, now in the wrong environment, while I tried to figure out the fastest, tidiest way of getting rid of them.”

    1. The boots aren’t holding heat well.

      Cold is getting in, or warmth is getting out.

      They’ve been unjustly snatched up (metaphor for Blake/Rose)
      placed in the wrong environment (metaphor for Blake/Rose)
      And he’s trying to figure out the fastest, tidiest way of getting rid of them (metaphor for Laird, although Laird doesn’t seem to really want to get rid of his #1 scapegoat and scare tactic.)

  15. The large mirror in the library seems custom made for this eventuality. Seriously. A large mirror in a library? I’m wondering how much thinking ahead the elder Rose managed.

    Also, if Blake were to figure out a way to get one of Laird’s family to try to enter the house? As dirtbag as that might sound, it would have a good chance of forcing Laird to remove the enchantment.

    1. Remember that Rose literally appeared in that mirror (when she saw the lawyers, learnt about Molly’s death, Blake being next in line, where to find him, and so on).
      Rose senior obviously knew that the lawyers would reset the library for the next heir, it was only logical to place it there.

  16. Idea.

    To claim a demanse, you have to hold the area for a certain amount of time.

    Time can be compressed. Which might be what is happening here. Then it’s decompressed, abet at a crappy exchange rate.

    If Blake manages to survive for a while, then decompress all that time in a controlled manner, he could claim a serious demanse in what seems to the outside world to be seconds.

    1. Another idea along those lines – find out how much of the property is covered by the time distortion. It’s described as a ring instead of a circle. If it’s a ring, does that mean that it doesn’t cover the property all the way to the house? If it’s a circular ring and the time moat doesn’t cover all the property around the house, he can claim the entire area in the moat or slightly inside of it, sans the house itself. In addition to deterring anyone from entering to dispute his claim, the moat might also delay the broadcast of the claim if he allows some depth, catching everyone unaware. With time moving normally for the area not covered by the ring, the claim would complete in real time and nobody could enter to challenge it thus allowing a sizable demesne to be claimed easily.

      1. Hmm, that seems like a win:win for Blake. If he claims the house’s inner grounds as demesne now, either Others won’t be able to get there in time to answer the challenge or they will and will hopefully tear the spell apart to get to him. Either outcome is beneficial to Blake. The only potential stinger is any negative consequences for failing a demesne challenge…

    1. +32 PP

      Pencil leveled up! Pencil can now use, “fan comic.”

      Poor Padraic! All he wanted was s hug and kiss.

      I like your Rose design.

      Padraic feels a little Bowie-esc to me (which doesn’t make sense. Padraic is a faerie, not a goblin king) for some reason.

      Keep em coming.

      1. Aha! So it took, what? 48 PP to reach level 2? Soon, all the intricacies of this arcane advancement system (which you may or not may be making up as you go along) will be revealed…

        Also, glad you like Rose’s look. 🙂 It was previously pointed out that her garb should be old-fashioned and conservative (since she’s apparently borrowing clothes from the mirror versions of RDT’s closets). Her haircut hasn’t been described in any detail, but she should have the same dirty blonde hair color that Blake does, when he’s not glamoured up – and it makes sense that a girl who lives in mirrors and windows would have a haircut with bangs that frame her face. 😉 (Pun intended.)

        And, yeah, as for Paddy’s costume… Not sure what’s going there, really. Sex offender chic? 😛

  17. Huh.

    Johannes manipulates space right? Wonder what he’d demand in exchange for making a gap. From a tactical standpoint it’d actually be brilliant, forcing any attacker to use a specific, easily defended bottleneck to avoid getting stuck.

    Oh yes. I like that idea.

  18. Thoughts:-

    Guess Laird is a composite character with the most problematic traits of Tagg, Piggot & Emma. Tagg’s worldview and Piggot’s competence for the mundane & magical job side, Emma’s petty cruelty given how he wanted the look on Blake’s face described.

    The good news for Blake is that he has now traded a small safe zone & biased intel deep in enemy territory with multiple hostile forces for at least a neutral territory & a more familiar mundane environment. This is a strategic gain even if it was a tactical loss, at least in Toronto he can more likely apprentice himself to a practitioner that his bloodline has less hostile history with.

    Laird has made his first major misstep here, Maxim #35: That which does not kill me has made a tactical error.

  19. I think that Andy at least is not trying to actively get in Blake’s way here. Considering that he didn’t have to tell Blake and Rose about the nature of his assignment and he didn’t have to do what Blake told him to, we can consider him at worst willing to look at the Thorburns in a fair way. Also, I so wish Blake can throw this moment back in Laird’s face later on when he kicked the bastard’s ass.

  20. I used to rail and curse at how ridiculously moronic Blake was acting*, but his recent bout of bad-assery has made him grow on me. Looking forward to reading more.

    *Which should in no way be taken as an implication that your writing was bad. Blake was acting completely realistically, just not very smartly.

  21. Looking at the story so far, does the Jacob’s Bell Council sessions seem a lot like very hostile & fractional Homeowner association meetings?

    1. That will freaking kill your ass if you don’t pick up after your familiar leaves another mess in Sandra’s magnolias. Sure.

  22. Wow. That was a good move on Blake’s part, though it sorta hi-lights how close things are. About halfway through, I was literally going to post something like ‘I’m done.’ Not because I wouldn’t read past this chapter, but because, well, someone earlier argued that Blake as a protagonist was an idiot, thus not standing a chance to survive. I disagree with that: it’s more that everyone else, despite making blunders that I know of, feels really, really competent. Like, Laird apparently–and I agree–makes so many mistakes, but when he needs to pull off a ritual, he isn’t even slowed down in the least by it.

    It’s sorta frustrating, really. Kind of like the S9–won’t talk more about that because, well, Spoilers–and their game, only the difference is that with said group/entity, all of the other players at least knew the rules.

    Whereas here it just feels like Laird’s sorta…changing the game every time Blake makes the least gain. Which is frustrating as a reader because you’re in the dark with Blake. It’s like, you’re winning a card game, and then the other person says, “By the super secret rules nobody told you, by having these 5 random cards in my hand, I win!” Since we as readers don’t know the rules, every single thing Laird and the others do feels sorta like cheating and like it comes out of nowhere, at least for me, that’s the impression I sometimes get.

    Whereas with the S9, at least until the end of their first Arc, everything they did, while certainly miles about the main characters, didn’t come out of nowhere. And even with the end-game thing–involving certain bones and saws–didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere.

    But the move to Toronto gives this new life, and hopefully it won’t be a rehash of the ‘Blake goes to new place, has no idea what he’s doing, consistently gets his ass kicked despite his best efforts, and loses via Unknown Unknonws’ plot that seems–despite the twists and turns like it looking like Blake might win–to be the general conclusion of the first three Arcs.

    1. I agree with you, but at the same time – magic!

      It’s like the game Munchkins, where cheating is legal as long as you don’t get caught.

  23. I…..I love the idea of Blake and Rose just up and leaving. Fuck. This. Shit. On the one hand it’s kind of hard to imagine them just leaving the plot behind but omg if they do it’s kind of my favorite thing ever. Imagine if all this bullshit was just one huge false lead for the amazing adventures of Blake and Rose, and the story just becomes a travelogue in a world full of magical crap that tries to kill you but really they’re just fucking done with this bullshit and after trouble follows them to Toronto they decide to just join the circus and never stay in the same place longer than a week.

    OK, more seriously, I think them retreating to Toronto and getting a bit of a breather is exactly the right decision in their shoes and opens up new directions for the story to go in.

    1. I smell a multi-arc training montage coming up! Hopefully in Toronto Blake can rest, enjoy his friends and gather more power.

      I wonder if he ends up returning to Jacob’s Bell significantly more powerful but only for the council meetings.

  24. I liked the pointing out of the difference between a faerie and a fairy.

    It’s official, Tinkerbell is many levels lamer than Letita.

    I can think of just 1 advantage to owning a fairy. A fairy can teach you to fly.

  25. Regarding the subject of playing to your strengths: I wonder if it’s possible to glamour a police box into TARDIS.

    Because if it is, then getting people to strengthen that glamour would be really, really, easy.

      1. They are also apparently invulnerable to external magic, which makes glamour+demesnes a ridiculously powerful combination.

        Oh, and let’s not forget Daughter Of Mine: Doctor has trapped her in every mirror in existence. Does that remind you of anyone?

        1. While we’re on this particular reference track Laird has a fancy pocket-watch that by virtue of serving as both his implement and familiar would have a great deal of his power and himself sealed within. Hmm, somewhat familiar.

          Twist! Laird’s True Identity is Future Rose made corporeal, sent back in time, and Chameleon Arch’ed to act as Blake’s adversary in order to prevent the origin of Evil Overlord Blake Thorburn. S/he also fights crime.

          P.S. To be clear I mean Pact Rose and not Doctor Who Rose. That would be silly.

          1. Well obviously! Corporeal Rose turns out to be a great chronomancer which is how she gets back in time to be Laird in the first place!

            1. Nonono, Pact Rose is DocWho Rose! It all makes sense now! Blake is the 13th Dcotro!

    1. It’s definitely possible to desmesne-fy a Police box into a TARDIS-ian interior, but that would have to be an incredible amount of glamour or personal power to get it to look like it’s traveling back or forward in time.

  26. Well, I did tell you a few chapters back this would be the essential result. That whoever enters will be returning a loooong time later, like those guys who enter faerie mounds for a night of partying and leave a hundred years later.

    On the other hand… When it comes to “Blake gets Laird in trouble with law”, the third conflict is still unresolved. Nay, not-started-yet.

    On the gripping hand… Laird’s “Get Thorburns in trouble by robbing them of time” has the same score. Laird:2. Thorburns:0.

    On the other scores… “Duchamps get Blake in trouble by using their familiarity with connections”, can be considered 1:1 for now… But I have this feeling that rephrasing it would allow us to include the Shopping Trip, the Faerie Attack, AND the Get Laird Back to the Ritual as a set. Thus making it that Duchamps came out ultimately ahead in the third and closing occasion, which is what allowed Laird to be so wildly successful.

    1. I think it needs to be a clear contest between two entities, and the faerie attack felt more like Blake vs the girl, not Blake vs The Duchamps. Further, getting themselves out of legal trouble isn’t an act against Blake, it’s just mitigating the consequences of one of Blake’s acts against them.

    2. No, Laird vs Thorburns is Laird:1, Thorburns:2, two of the Duchamps even talk about it after the ritual is stopped. Laird had the third and decisive victory against Blake and Rose when he re-started the ritual.

      First victory was Blake sending the evidence to the cops, damaging his standing with the community (but Laird has a lot of political capitol to spend). Second was interrupting the ritual, thwarting Laird’s plans to seal off the house. That had the potential to be a decisive victory causing serious damage to his standing in the community and his power base, but thanks to Laird’s bride-to-be it was only a minor victory. Laird tricking Blake into thinking he had time to prepare for round 3 (with the comment that they’d meet again next week) and then re-doing the ritual that night is a decisive victory, cutting Blake off from his sanctuary and most of his resources to combat Laird. So, 2-1 Thorburns, but Laird’s one victory trumps Blake’s two.

      If there is score-keeping for the Duchamps, I think it’s 2-0 Thorburns (beating the fairy and trashing the books – helping Laird was helping Laird, not battling Blake), but that doesn’t have the same recurring conflict feel like the battle with Laird had. More like pot-shots or supporting your ally in an on-going war than directly doing battle. I’m not sure if it matters, but it feels different to me.

      1. Just to be clear, Laird and Sandra aren’t getting married. Laird is already married (Sandra could be married as well, but I doubt the male duchamps matter much). The marriage is between an unnamed Behaim and an unamed Duchamp, I believe.

    3. If it’s like that, then Blake had the third victory and laird the first, because Laird deceived Blake & got him trapped outside at night right in the beginning.

      1. Blake wasn’t practitioner then, so I doubt it counted. The general consensus seems to be that non-practitioners are nothing and nobody. The fact that the Duchamps ignored it when they were counting score after Blake interrupted the ritual seems to back that up.

  27. This situation kinda reminds me of the beginning to Final Fantasy II. The hero’s home is attacked. Their hometown is under control by the enemy. If the heroes try to face the enemies in the hometown early in the game, the heroes will either die or narrowly escape. The only way to progress is to leave the hometown for another town where the chances of being horribly murdered seem lower. From there on, the heroes gain power and allies until they are strong enough to retake the hometown.

    Blake needs to use this time, which is hopefully away from people set on killing him, to level up and get stronger.

    1. And spoilers:

      The heroes win in the end.

      Double Spoilers:

      They have to go through Hell (literally and metaphorically) to win though.

  28. Man, I can see why so many people are convinced Blake is going to die in-universe. It seems like every victory ends up being pyric. Seals some ghosts in objects, sacrifices too much of himself for too little gain. Beats a familier sent after him, but forms link to demon, and looses more of self via blood. Stops the ritual… And it’s still done by the time he gets home, denying him resources, and he’s eroeded himself with Glamour.

    Blake said that he feels what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. And that seems to be happening. Just going to a neutral place isn’t going to cut it. Blake needs help, especially now that his access to the books is cut off. He is going to have a much harder time learning anything without them.

    1. The books aren’t cut off. Rose can hop to, at the very least, that big mirror in the library. The only real risks are burning through her energy reserves quicker with the increased distance and the possibility of different text.

  29. And now the real show begins…

    Blake has shown he can use the sight through the mirror. Did the ritual bind Rose’s house, specifically the mirror to the best practitioner library in the town?

    1. I think so. Furthermore, it cut off everyone’s access to the best practitioner library in town, while leaving it intact enough that Rose can jump to it. This may not be quite as debilitating as Laird believes.

  30. Well, I was going to say “Blake has to win at all times because he is in such a deep dark karmic hole.”
    But, this is better. Bonus points if he brings the Lord of Toronto down on their heads to suck up all their power.

    Remember, what Laird wants LEAST is to lose the town’s power to a bigger fish.

    Also? Blake really, really needs to recharge — and that means strengthening his connections to the real world, just as much as it means sleep.

  31. Oooh. Toronto. This is a good idea. He can get some rest, get a look at the big picture, and perhaps score some non-psychopathic help and guidance. He might be able to did up some dirt on Laird depending on whether he was a cop closer to the city at some point.

    Though a small part of me was looking forward to Leanne’s mom catching up with Blake and turning his face into a Dali painting, so that’s one downside.

    1. Considering that every time things seem to be getting better for Blake they end up getting worse, and that the universe is actually out to get him, I wouldn’t bet on it. He’ll probably end up having more people trying to kill him in Toronto.

      1. The Lord of Toronto likes Grandma rose right? Maybe she made arrangements for an apprenticeship for the heirs that make it out alive to Toronto. if not, there’re probably mpre people trying to use Blake like how Laird used Maggie.

        1. Eeerrr… On second thought, I don’t think someone who was buddy buddy with Granny Rose is a good bet if you’re looking for non psychopathic guidance.

  32. Lairds long game looks like getting Blake to flee and the land locked down until the Thorton’s right to it lapses.

    I’m wondering if it defaults to the lawyers? Then he may suddenly need a long game where he gets a Thorton to survive to where they truly have possession of the property and can do something with it.

    Liked the twists in this chapter.

    1. It almost certainly defaults to the lawyers. Laird’s brilliant stroke at eliminating the Thornburn threat apparently involves replacing it with a straight up demon threat. Not exactly a good move.

      1. I wonder if the Thorburn “nuclear weapons” have been rigged to go off if the 5 years is up and there is no Thorburn heir?

        It probably drops a larger amount of karmic debt in the short term, but I can’t see the rigging of such being a big karmic hit until the bomb goes off, so to speak, and it all gets wiped out with their deaths.

        This would be the balancing of the Duchamp/Behaim good karma as well. Karma should be seeking neutrality, so it could be all the “following the letter but not the spirit” rules bending catching up to them.

        Or maybe it just goes to the Lawyers and someone competent gets control of the Thorburn assets, potentially truly screwing Laird & co over.

        Seriously though, most of this conflict would not have existed had the local magical community simply been decent neighbors in the first place. What ever happened to talking to people? Molly and Blake both were anti-grandma to begin with. Had Laird been a little more perceptive he could have put either of them on his side quite solidly, eliminating the threat and helping the Thorburns work on removing their bad karma. Just a little “your grandma was a real piece of work, but that’s ok, you don’t have to be”. Hell, even just keeping the spirit and letter of his word when he took Blake to the coffee shop. You still have the option of attempting to wipe the Thorburns out later, and it will take years for them to reach the competency level of the rest of the community. At the very least they could have given it a few months to find out if Molly or Blake were like their grandmother. Those two in particular were not.

        Of course, people behave like Laird did all the time anyway, and when the universe is conspiring against someone (in the form of the Thorburn’s bad karma) it’s even easier to see why he started out being super nasty, instead of at the very least, more clever. I’m also wondering how much of Rose Sr’s nastiness was a result of being pushed by people like Laird.

        Things would probably be a lot different if people were nice to each other by default.

        In any case, I see this as moving the conflict with Laird to the endgame of Pact. He goes to Toronto, deals with shit there, learns more magic, comes back stronger to finally do battle with Laird. Missing meetings means they put a hit on him, which they might not even do if he isn’t staying in town any more. I don’t think it’s a stipulation of the inheritance, is it? If it is, I would think the council is also obligated to notify him of meeting times and provide a reasonable period of safe passage (like they did before).

  33. I’m going to call it now: Blake’s former landlord is Lord of Toronto. And it was no accident that he helped a guy with the last name of Thoburn.

    1. Well considering how things are going that’s about what Blake would need for things to turn around. At the very least I hope that Blake has a friend who is a practicioner. He needs to be able to keep learning, and Laird just denied him access to Grandma’s library.

      1. Nah, Rose still has full access to the library, or she should. The house itself isn’t frozen, only a portion of space around the house. Her world consists only of the mirrors, she doesn’t cross the physical places between them, so she can get in and out all she wants. She’s just limited to the stuff in the mirrors, which they took care of for the library early on. She learned the theory much better than Blake did anyway, so worst case scenario she explains and guides him through their learning magic.

        Also, remember that there was a mirror in the big-bad McNasty’s tower. Even their nuclear option isn’t denied them, as Rose should be able to use him (she’s the only one Others listen to anyway).

        So, even though Laird clearly won, and won hard, it probably isn’t nearly as bad for Blake as Laird thinks it is, since the rest of the community clearly understands what Rose is even less than Blake and Rose do.

        1. I don’t think there was a mirror in the barber’s tower. Grandma’s instructions specifically warned against bringing any reflective surfaces near him.

          1. I just went back and re-read it, you’re right. In 1.6 Blake wonders aloud if RDT broke her own rules and brought something reflective in; I must have just filled that little bit in later. Rose had trouble hearing Blake when he was up at the tower, so obviously she couldn’t get in there at all.

  34. Reactions and thinking by typing:

    I was rooting for Blake to somehow turn the tables on the local asshats, but it makes sense that they are too strong for him. Now we get to see how hostile another area is. Hopefully he gets somewhat of a break, but I bet it is not for long.

    Chances that Laird rescinds the bounty seem slim. Once Blake is dead, the rest of the line are essentially fubarred, so Laird has good reason to keep the bounty going.

    Now we get to see if “Toronto is currently in the dark.” (2.02) has any meaning or benefits for Blake. It is basically a given that the Duchamps will use any connections they have in Toronto to poison the well.

    My guesses as to how this impacts requirements:
    1. Read Essentials.
    —Done. Hopefully he can get another copy, or Rose can access the mirror version, because I doubt he memorized it.
    2. Study and enact the ritual noted in Famulus.
    —Unknown. Possibly easier to find a compatible match in an area where everyone isn’t working to deny him contacts.
    3. Study and enact the ritual noted in Implementum.
    —Unknown. If it requires ancillary materials, possibly easier in an area where he is not attacked every time he steps outside. On the other hand, the house seemed to have all sorts of useful materials and basic implements.
    4. Study and enact the ritual found in Demesnes.
    —Almost certainly better. He didn’t find anything he liked in Jacob’s Bell.
    5. Find a good man to marry.
    —Unknown. Possibly easier in an area where he is less of a pariah.
    6. Attend the council meetings.
    —Much harder if it has to be Jacob’s Bell council. Otherwise probably about the same.
    7. Finish three out of four of the books in this library.
    —Big problem unless Rose can bypass the time trap. Laird knows about Rose, so he probably planned something that would restrict her also. Possibly a problem even if Rose can bypass the time trap because we know that the mirror books are not guaranteed to be identical to the originals. Also, Rose can only get to those books that are visible in the mirror. Perhaps she can bump the mirror until it swivels around, but that comes with its own problems.
    8. See our bloodline to the end of the fifth year with less of a debt than we had at the start of your custodianship.
    —Unknown. Highly dependent on how friendly the new neighbors are.

    The goblin-controlling monologue had me snickering. I guess goblins embrace many, many negative aspects. They don’t seem to follow the traditional Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride pattern, but instead seem to focus on destruction and desecration.

    The whole dialog with Andy reminded my of a study on state-sponsored torturers I read a summary of and separately of Pratchett’s Small Gods. In the study, they found that the recruiters actually didn’t want psychopaths and sadists, apparently because they weren’t as controllable. Both the study and Pratchett noted that ordinary people were capable of doing acts based on a sense of duty that most of the population associate with psychopaths and sadists. These examples so fit Andy. Nice guy, if he weren’t a hit man.

    1. RE #7: They know about Rose, but they clearly don’t know what she is. The community completely dismisses her constantly, they refer to her as his “pet”, or just “the vestige”, etc. No indication that Blake and Rose are the same person. Considering the fact that Blake can’t command Others, while Rose can, it’s clear that Rose is far, far from a simple vestige that is going to fade away. They’re looking for a power source or a way to anchor her, but I think Blake IS the power source and anchor.

      In other words, I think she can fulfill #7 all by herself, as she and Blake are the same person. Also, they already loaded down the library with mirrors so Rose could access all the books. That was like, the second or third thing they did.

  35. Blake is probably out of a job at this point right? I wonder if his artist friends could help him land a position at a museum (night guard or something). Would allow him to fuel his already prodigious skills with glamour.

    1. Blake gets a monthly stipend from the lawyers. It already pays for the property upkeep and the errand boy that Blake should get in a month, but I imagine there’s enough left over to cover Blake’s day to day needs so I don’t think he needs a job. He needs to be a full time practitioner at this point anyways.

  36. So Blake said “this was fun” after talking to Andy. Was that sarcasm? A lie? Will Blake end up losing even more power than he already has?

  37. Wait just a moment… who remembers about the errand boy they hired in 2.4 ? If the lawyers don’t cancel it, someone is going to have the longest delivery ever.

    Also, a toast to the first powerful wham chapter of Pact. Let there be many more.

    1. Well, considering that it’s only been a day, and Blake is about to negotiate with the lawyers again, I don’t think that it will be a problem.

      1. Also the errand boy may not actually start work until next month since that’s when they will start taking money out of his allowance for it, and by next month I’m sure this nasty little problem will be dealt with so as to make room for the next nasty little problem.

    1. He has to be back. If he’s to fulfill his obligations and keep his inheritance he has to make the monthly meetings. I see no reason why he needs to stay in JB the rest of the time though.

  38. So when Sandra commented, two chapters ago, how Blake spent most of his time in the house, it wasn’t about the fact that they were hoping to catch him inside this giant time-freezing ring, but that they just didn’t want him to be inside the ring when they did it, which would have probably reaped bad karma. That would imply that the ring is far enough from the house, given that he ventures outside to catch ghosts and that they should know this if they have any kind of reliable intel.

    Apparently the goal wasn’t even to create a trap for him to get stuck into, just to make this huge barrier that he cannot pass easily. He could probably have summoned the lawyers for teleportation from inside as well as from outside. It would have cost him more, but he would have been able to grab some books and possibly the barber if he felt inclined to do so.

    1. He doesn’t need to go back to the house for anything though. Rose has full access to the library, and Blake can’t summon the Barber anyway. RDT put a mirror in the tower, if you recall, so Rose can call him at any time. For the Barber at least, trapped in the time ring is probably the safest place to keep him until they need him. Pretty much they’ve just taken away Blake’s safe haven in Jacob’s Bell. It’s worse than anything Blake managed against Laird, so it’s still that nice big decisive third victory, but it isn’t really quite as bad as Laird et. al. probably think. Nasty, and hella inconvenient, but hardly crippling.

      Also, I’m pretty sure the karmic debt heaped on by using the Barber would make fulfilling the “better karma after 5 years” stipulation of the inheritance pretty much impossible, so best not to use that unless it’s hopeless.

      1. RDT did NOT put a mirror in the tower – that was just my mind playing tricks on me.

        So Laird did effectively neutralized the Nuclear option, but probably still underestimates his other options here.

  39. Just wanna say . . . . I TOTALLY CALLED IT. Figured that they would go after the house, it being his only area of safety and the prime source of his knowledge.

  40. I just wonder – did Granny have any idea how her scheme could possibly work out? “I will drop emotionally scarred or simply viscious people into a sharktank with no weapons in easy reach and no idea how to swim. Surely at least one of them will be able to carve out his own shark kingdom. It’s sheer elegance in its simplicity!” The opposition for any heir is crushing, the support is dubious and the opportunity for shoring up defences are marginal.I don’t know whether there is a better way to accomplish what Granny had in mind but this sure as hell looks desperate.

      1. You poor soul. You really didn’t know did you? Sharks have been the controlling power from the shadows since at least the 70s. Rumor has it that they’ve been ruling even longer in Toronto, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.

    1. Well Granny sort of fucked herself over as a teenager with that whole not raising her kids to be practicioners vow. If I remember correctly she worded it in a way that she couldn’t even loophole it so someone else trained them.

  41. Is Rose a practitioner? Can she make pacts and have a specialty? If so, I know what her specialty should be.

    Rose should be an insectomancer. She can deal with bug and insect spirits. That way, she naturally will have thousands, possibly millions of servants. She would have not only servants, but also soldiers and spies as well.

    Just think of the possibilities!

      1. I suppose you’re right. In that case, Blake should become a Kaijumancer. Nobody will mess with the Thorburns when they know Blake can summon Kaiju and Rose has millions of little spies and soldiers around to both warn Blake and flat the eyes of the threat.

          1. The price for going the Khepri root would be to high IMO. According to my studies, harnessing Khepri takes a major toll on your mind. Their minds are really the only things Blake and Rose have going for them right now.

        1. What I find interesting is I’m pretty sure Laird, if not the rest of the town, knows or at least strongly suspects that Blake can use Grandma Rose’s magical nukes whenever he wants. That’s the primary stated reason for trying to kill him.

          So really, they’re leveraging the fact that Blake is a reasonable and decent human being in order to royally fuck him over. Mutually Assured Destruction doesn’t normally work this way. Of course, Laird is confident he can get around it, so maybe he’s just manipulating the rest into going along with it.

          In either case, this does not seem like a good plan for one’s long-term health.

          On the other hand, with RDT’s stipulation that they have less karmic debt than they started with after 5 years, they should only use the nukes when they’re going to lose completely anyway since doing so will almost certainly heap a pile of bad karma on.

    1. I don’t see any way controlling insects would help her.

      (I have read Worm. That’s sarcasm, up there.)

  42. I’m not sure how Blake winning the third round should have resulted in Laird hammering him so hard in the fourth.

    First went to Laird, abandoning him in time dilation in the coffee shop and leaving him there for Others.

    Second went to Blake, causing Laird difficulty at his job.

    Third went to Blake, actually getting Laird brought into the police station for questioning, interrupting a ritual, and shaking the confidence of his allies, based on the comments about Blake winning twice.

    Apparently that audience wasn’t aware of Laird winning the first time, it was a private murder-by-Other attempt. While Blake wasn’t killed, he was certainly the loser in the exchange.

    Something seems off here. I suppose the first event might have, somehow or another, not counted?

      1. The rounds have been Laird tries something to screw Blake and then Blake retaliates.

        Round 1 is Laird screwing with Blake on their outing. Blake retaliates by attacking Laird’s position and reputation. Laird manages to minimize the damage at cost, and Laird failed to take Blake out.

        Round 2 is Laird’s first attempt at the time moat. Blake retaliates by interrupting the ritual by calling the police, once more attacking Laird’s position and reputation. Laird manages to minimize the damage at likely even greater cost, and Laird has failed to take Blake out once more.

        Round 3 starts with Laird completing the ritual, with his third attack is the most effective yet – third time’s the charm. But he still failed to take Blake out since he’s outside of the time moat instead of inside of it. Blake has not retaliated yet, but you can bet that he will and if he attacks Laird’s position and reputation again successfully then by the rule of three it will potentially be so devastating that the cost to get out of it is so steep he can’t pay or even if he can it will weaken his position to the point that he’s effectively at Blake’s current level.

        1. Agree on the round divisions. I was thinking that Laird’s success closed round 3, but you might be right that it has not. Either way, Blake needs a decisive win over that hypocritical manipulative bastard.

          1. Since he’s leaving, I’m pretty sure Blake is conceding the round. It’s like a KO on the first punch – there isn’t really anything Blake can do at this point, Laird won.

            1. Blake really doesn’t strike me as the sort that would sit back and let this happen.

              In fact he could turn it to his advantage, if a couple things are possible. I’ll put this in a different thread though, because it’s just fun playing with possibilities.

            2. Oh no, you’re absolutely right, and it wouldn’t be much of a story if they DID completely give up. But round 3 is over unless Blake is willing to sacrifice his soul to the Lawyers, and that’s not happening.

              I imagine there is going to be a big enough break between now and Blake/Rose’s retaliation that you would be justified in saying they are starting back at round 1 when they do.

            3. I don’t agree that he’s conceding anything. There’s nothing he can do immediately, but there’s nothing that says his retaliation has to be within a certain time period.

              One thing he can do for certain is that when he talks to the lord of Toronto he can let him or her know that the Behaims and Duchamps are hiding the fact that they’re setting things up to make there be a lord in Jacob’s Bell. Since secrecy seems to be key to those plans it would certainly hurt Laird, but he needs to figure out a way to add in an attack on Laird’s reputation to make it really count.

            4. Except that Blake admitted Laird won. Every skirmish has been an attack by Laird and a response by Blake. In the first two, Blake’s response hit harder than Laird’s attacks, which is what made them victories for Blake. In the third, Blake’s response to Laird’s attack is to leave Jacob’s Bell. I’m not quite sure how to classify the destruction of the Duchamp books, but Blake leaving is clearly what Laird wanted out of the second run of the ritual.

              I can’t see how that’s anything but a loss.

              But just because he lost the battle, it doesn’t mean the war is over. As bad as this blow is it’s nowhere near enough to take Blake/Rose out of the picture. When they do strike again, it will be another battle, though probably with Blake/Rose striking and Laird responding. I also think it’s going to come just before or just after the end of the 5 year limit.

      1. That would make sense, yes. In fact it makes enough sense that I’ll stop being confused about it and just accept that as the answer 😛

        I forgot that Blake had not yet awakened at that point.

        1. The Behaims and Duchamps discussed this in the previous chapter:

          “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.”

          So if Blake beats Lardo in the Council Meeting’s annual bake-sale competition, shizzle will start getting real, bro. 🙂

          And you just know that Grandma RDT’s secret special recipe for Devil’s food cake is going

          to beat Lardo’s paltry attempts at making a Möbius strip Swiss roll. (Or possibly a “Fat Rascal“.)

          1. I think you might have missed the crucial ‘in this department’ bit. Blake has attacked Laird’s reputation in the police department twice and has won each time. The important third time is not about any confrontation, but rather about the third time Blake goes after Laird’s reputation. If Laird can somehow turn that one around, then he wins that round. It’s like with the practitioner described in the Intermezzo that was attacked with Nightmares three times and managed to turn it around after two defeats.

    1. hm… actually, I wonder. It seems like Laird’s plan was actually to plant accidental slip-ups & such to manipulate Blake. First, Briar Girl while working for Laird tells Blake to use the Glamour. They make a big deal about this wedding party hosted by someone who is not actually related to either family. Knowing Blake is there, or tracking him to know, they fake a ‘first’ ritual. When he thinks he’s done fighting, they regroup for the second wave, so the 3rd and 4th are actually a single encounter w/ laird victorious

  43. If that was me, I would have finished using the name Ms. Lewis provided. I hate the fact that Blake and Rose must be beaten down twice as much as they gain at every turn. With the loss of the house, all bets would have been off and a Psychopath they would have created to be their own ruin would become the new norm.

    1. Two problems that I can think of:

      When Ms. Lewis was with them she agreed to shoulder the cost of the summoning. Now that she is not there, Blake and Rose would have to and they don’t know the cost (Ms. Lewis never said). Briar Girl mentioned some secondary consequences of such a summoning, but that isn’t necessarily the same as the cost. Costs in demonic bargains can be any and/or all of life, soul, health, mind, other people’s lives, other people’s souls, other people’s health, other people’s minds, etc.

      Laird seemed pretty sure he had defenses against whatever RDT could throw. Since RDT had access to a variety of demons and Laird was unlikely to know all of them, that means he had a general defense or a set of layered defenses that added up to a general defense. Either way, the chance that Ornias would be able to do serious harm to Laird or Sandra directly is fairly low.

      So, Blake might lose everything and still not have it work.

      All that being said, I was rooting for Blake to win this round and I would really like Blake to come back and smack down Laird and Sandra hard.

      1. she agreed to shoulder the cost

        Not your main point, but is that actually what she said?

        “A name that I wouldn’t regret calling?” I asked.

        “I would take on the cost,” she said. “I swore to keep you as safe as you allow me to. Subjective as ‘safe’ might be, I would take the cost.”

        I read that as, she ‘would’ pay the cost if she were in Blake’s position. The word ‘would’ is ambiguous on its own, but adding the phrase Subjective as ‘safe’ might be seems like a non sequitur if it isn’t intended to vouch for the ‘safety’ of the Blake-who-pays-the-cost.

        There’s no indication of how she would even take on all the negatives of someone else’s newly minted connection with a horror while leaving the summoner with the positives, though I guess you’d assume she was doing some invisible Duchamp-like preparation off screen there.

        1. The oath system doesn’t seem to allow for such phrasing of hypotheticals though. She would have to actually say the “if”, otherwise if he calls the name she has to take the cost, because she didn’t say “you should take the cost” or “it would be worth it for you to take the cost”, she said “I would take the cost”. I think what she’s saying there is she doesn’t have to take the cost for this, as she didn’t promise him no damage to his karma, but she would anyway. Why she would do so is probably because she sees long term potential to bringing him into the “lawyers” team, and so wants him to feel good will towards her.

          The absolutely no lying makes deception harder, but also much more powerful when you pull it off. Like Laird said something along the lines of “I’ll keep you safe while you’re with me”, well, that doesn’t mean he can’t just walk off somewhere you don’t want to go. If you aren’t with him he doesn’t have to protect you. Even something like “We’ll walk and come back, and I’ll keep you safe while you’re with me”, well, he still fulfills that if at some point he goes back to where you started after he abandons you somewhere. Nothing in that said he had to stay with you the whole time, just that you had to come back to where you started eventually. Change the words slightly and it becomes almost air-tight: “I’ll make sure you get back here safely” requires that he make sure you’re safe from the time you leave to the time you get back. This is closer to what the Lawyer promised, but clearly it’s not foolproof because there is some wiggle room with “safe”. Laird wouldn’t have been able to pull what he did had he made that promise, though.

          Implying things that aren’t literally said is how you trick someone into thinking you’ll do something that you haven’t said you’ll do, not the other way around. You can’t get out of something you said you’d do by inferring something else. It’s the words you actually say that matter. Assumptions and implications will get you royally screwed.

  44. Comments:
    – ““Did Dickswizzle wind up listening to me, or did you-”“I told him to do what you’d said” -> Thanks for clarifying that.
    – If I understand this correctly, Blake still has to attend the city council due to Rose senior’s will, even though the Thorburns no longer hold any power there.
    – With the ritual, Laird has removed the threat of the diabolists, so I guess he doesn’t have to kill Blake or any other Thorburn for now? So…he just leaves him be. Well, why not?
    – Can Rose still enter Hillsglade House? I’m still not clear on how she actually travels around. But even if she can enter the house, I don’t know whether she can survive when she’s apart from Blake. She’s a vestige, after all, and drained his power e.g. when she accidentally lied in the June scene before.
    – I didn’t predict this exact effect of the ritual, but I thought along the right line.
    – Considering Blake disrupted the ritual, I wonder whether that means he’ll be able to return earlier. It’s presumably been powered with saved-up time, so it won’t last forever. In any case, he has to have gained something from all this.
    – I’m looking forward to Blake’s negotiations with the lawyers. Emergencies like these might have been the reason why the Thorburns accumulated multiple lifetimes’ worth of debt…

    Great lines:
    – “They were a good metaphor for me, really. Or for me and Rose.”
    – “When a short, shadowy figure got in my way, all of that meant I was a little more concerned than I might usually be. Given that it was an Other, the usual added up to ‘pretty damn concerned’.”
    – ““Inconvenient.”“I didn’t even think about it,”“Which, I suppose, was the problem.””
    – ““Speaking of problems, I’m starting to see how you can fall into a trap, dealing with goblins,”“They’re so naturally unpleasant they make you unpleasant by association.””
    – ““We need to get you a servant. Something better than a goblin. A homonculus, a bound Other, or something, so you can do more in this world.””
    – “I don’t like leaving debts unpaid, even before all the rest of this got started.”
    – ““It’s just the cold? Or are you doing that half-truth to dodge telling the whole-truth?””
    – “And when that rock isn’t very sturdy to begin with…”“I’d rather say the rock’s integrity has been weakened by recent abuse,”“We can say that,” Rose agreed.” -> Heh.
    – ““I’m so fucking tired of deception and lies,”“And I am aware of how hypocritical that sounds.””
    – ““It’s pretty standard practice to bank time,”“Give up an hour of your day, hold on to it, make use of that time elsewhere.”“That sounds insanely powerful,”“The rate of return is pretty abysmal. Give up an hour, gain a minute. But I guess you can get better results if you have more hands on deck, a whole circle handling the working.”” -> Ooh, intriguing. Laird is willing to enact such a big ritual despite its cost – that just goes to show how much he wants the diabolists gone.
    – ““Trick number one is figuring out when and how to recuperate, Blake. You keep on tapping this well of personal power when it’s nearly dry.””
    – “I nodded. “You’re actually listening to me?”“It’s sage advice.”
    – ““At least now we know you have a talent,”“Glamour. Maybe it would be a good idea to have a Faerie as a familiar.”“Maybe it would be a terrible idea,””
    – ““I’m not trying to reap any extra karma by sharing details with you,”“Those other guys are doing the whole ‘play fair’, ‘see the whites of your enemy’s eyes before you doom them forever’, and that ‘announce your intentions before seeing them through’ garbage. If and when I come after you, Thorburn, I’m not doing any of that.”” -> Heh.
    – “If I was here to kill you I wouldn’t say so. I can lie, after all.””
    – ““People keep going on about that sort of thing. I’m supposedly Blake the fool, the unsturdy rock, the guy that’s going to die within the next five years, no questions asked. […] But the moment it comes time to decide how dangerous I am, oh, I’m the biggest threat that Jacob’s Bell has ever seen.””
    – ““Is there a middle ground, here?”“Can I at least build up enough respect for people to start saying, ‘hey, that guy isn’t so dumb and reckless after all’? ‘Maybe he isn’t the bombastic idiot that’s going to retaliate and accidentally plunge Jacob’s Bell into sulfur and hellfire?’””
    – ““If you stand by and let them kill you, you’re clearly crazy,”“Maybe dangerously so.”” – I LOVE THAT LINE. Blake really, truly can’t win^^.
    – ““Johannes is strong enough to have some sway despite the fear and hatred,”“You aren’t. Maggie isn’t. The rules apply to you, but you don’t get to decide what those rules are.””
    – “Listen, I’m a regular, average guy who loves art but can’t draw, who’s still figuring out how to be a friendly, decent human being, because his parents never bothered to teach him that stuff.”
    – “I want it all to stop, because the only thing that’s keeping life from going back to normal is them.””
    – ““Because I made promises, and even if I’m not in a position to be forsworn, I still can’t break them.””
    – “I shivered. “Well, this was fun. Another death threat onto the pile, and I can’t even bring myself to hate you.””
    – ““Can we not talk to the assassin in the funny hat?””
    – ““Hey, Rose,”“Don’t you think befriending the dorky witch-hunting kid should be a collaborative decision?”“You can make friends and decide who you do and don’t want to forgive,”“But I’m still a free being, more or less, and I can decide who I do and don’t want to interact with.”“It’s a little more complicated than that,””
    – “The remaining fifteen minutes of our slow and not-so-steady walk over snow and ice were undertaken in blissful silence.”
    – ““Come on, Rose,”“You and I aren’t so different. Reach deep, dig for those instincts, and tell me you don’t feel this is something serious.” There was a pause. “I can’t tell if it’s because you’ve psyched me out or if you’re right.””
    – ““What does it do?”“It makes accessing and using your resources in Hillsglade House so inconvenient it’s pointless,””
    – ““They can’t target the house, as it was once a demesne, so they target the space around it.”“To do what?”“Waste your time,”“Something you already have in short supply.””
    – “He’d like you to know that for now, he’s hands off, until you give him an excuse.”
    – ““He won,”“Oh, you did win,”“You embarrassed him, you counted coup, you probably cost the Behaims more than you know, when you damaged those books, and it would have cost Sandra to tidy up that mess. But…”“He won more?”“He won more decisively,”“A more targeted, devastating strike.””
    – ““It was nice meeting you,”“I hope I don’t have to kill you.” Our sanctuary is sealed off, I thought. We might not be around long enough to give you the chance.”
    – “Shall we negotiate?”“I think we have to,””

  45. I bet several of his artist friends are practitioners who were drawn to the name. If he’s lucky, maybe they’ll help defend his demense, which he declares to be the area that is currently marked by the time distortion. Then, he would only have to fight the Others who are at that point already inside, since there’s a natural perimeter defense there

    1. it is properly the safest bet to mark the area of effect as his demense. he would then be able to cancel the time distortion magic by… asking nicely?
      Since it is not established how Rose moves between mirrors, she may well be able to use the resources inside the house. BUT i smell other shenigans. Since Others are able to enter the “mirror world” to interact with Rose, would that mean that she could itneract with “our” world? This would imply Blake and her being able to use the house as resource without him physically entering it.

      Best possible option (imho): ask the lawyers for one-time assistence (initial material and properly help defending the claim) while establishing a demense around the affected area, properly as much of the property as reasonable (so he does not violate the non-aggression “agreement” with the briar-girl). This is something he should do right now, when the resources of the Duchamp and Behaim family are at least somewhat used.
      But, since i know as much as Jon Snow, this plan has properly a trillion and one hole.

      1. Yeah, if Blake needs to be inside the area that is to become his demesne in order to enact the ritual then he would probably spend way over a month just preparing the ritual. As the area you claim gets bigger, you get worse challenges. Apparently, just a single room of a house is big enough for many practitioners, so claiming the entire road up to the front door would be a pretty huge effort for the sake of an area that is not very lucrative.

      2. Oh god that is a great idea, claiming the slowed area as demense maybe allows him similar trickery as Johannes (aka no one notices the claim).

      3. So far the best physical interaction she has managed is to summon and command Others and to crack whichever mirror she happens to be using, the latter being extremely draining.

        Also, I’m not sure but I imagine he would need to be inside the area of his intended demesne in order to defend it. Also, he has to defend it against random Others, many of which likely have ways around the time ring like Rose does.

        If he could slip in somehow he might be able to pull it off, but I can’t see how he gets in.

    2. I still like to see Blake using the Barber as Bodguard for defending his chosen Demesne. I mean, it’s not that he would explicitly sicc the Barber on someone, so no moral qualms, right?

  46. Shoot, and here I thought I was going to be clever and mention Blake getting a ride to the house from the lawyers and claiming all the land under the time dilation effect as his demesne. Already been thought of salute

    I don’t see anyone mentioning that claiming the time dilation area as his demesne might allow him to really mess with Laird badly. After claiming the area under the time dilation effect as his demesne, Blake might choose to modify the enchantment to make it MUCH more powerful, while still leaving it connected to Laird’s “bank” of energy. When Laird’s power bank is gone, the time dilation effect goes away. Then, not only has Blake broken Laird’s power bank, but he’s also done so while using Laird’s useless waste of energy as a way to protect Blake’s substantial demesne.

    Of course there are a billion and three different ways this could fly apart in Blake’s face, but there are a few very attractive ways that this would crush Laird’s power.

    However, there is something to consider. Blake needs to reduce his karmic debt, and he will only gain more debt if he gathers personal power to himself, unless he gives away much more power than he keeps. Pact Karma is about balance of power, and if Blake wins too decisively, he fails his family.

    1. One additional thought that occurred to me in regards to Blake using the time dilation to claim the demesne without people noticing is that after he does he might be able to backfire the spell back at Laird. Laird’s entire strategy to avoid a backfire relies on not targeting Blake or the house, but if suddenly his spell is targeted at Blake’s demesne…

    2. I don’t think the karma system is about collecting or not collecting power. Laird obviously has a significant amount of power, and he also has a ton of good karma.

      I think the karma system is all about why you use your power, and how you use it. There’s the obvious bit about making oaths and breaking them, but also commanding spirits against their will would incur bad karma, whereas asking a spirit in exchange for a favor or other gift would increase your karma (according to Laird anyway, and it fits). Murdering innocents would incur bad karma, defending yourself against an attack (no matter who is attacking and for why) would probably be neutral, and defending someone against another would incur good karma, etc.

      The beings diabolists like the Thorburns call up are destructive, chaos creating types, especially the more powerful ones. Calling one for any reason would incur major bad karma from the start. Making demands of these beings (which is the only way to deal with them) heaps on more bad karma. WHY you called it up might negate some of that, but diabolists can pretty much only go down in karma by their very nature, which is why there’s such a huge karmic debt that RDT built up.

      Shamans are pretty much the opposite of diabolists – they deal with the local, non-destructive nature spirits, so they don’t incur bad karma by dealing with them. They also give gifts and gain favors over time instead of calling one up and making demands. So right there they are karma neutral for whatever they want to do, and if what they do helps more people than it might hurt they go karma positive. Also, they can give gifts to these spirits without asking for anything in return, building positive karma and gaining a rapport with the spirits, making them more likely to grant a favor later. Obviously not as quick and easy as calling up a big nasty to take care of a problem RIGHT NOW, but still the long term potential is huge.

      It’s a completely different way of gaining power, and since Laird is a Chronomancer/Shaman it’s apparent that this is potentially quite a lot of power, since he is confident that he can defend himself against RDT’s Barber. He also has quite a lot of good karma to burn, so he can be pretty nasty if he needs to and still come out ahead in the end.

      1. I don’t think that using demons incurs bad karma in and of itself. Also, I don’t forcing Others to do what you want probably isn’t going to net you bad karma either – it might make the Other in question an enemy, but the universe itself isn’t likely to care. I think it’s more about the responsibility aspect of karma. Using spirits irresponsibly can damage local businesses, introducing people to magic without consideration can cause them to do stupid and damaging things, etc., and that type of thing gets you bad karma.

        I think diabolists might be more inclined towards reaping bad karma because they are more likely to reap unintended consequences. If causing chaos was inherently something that got you bad karma, then goblins and demons would be reaping bad karma by just being what they are and couldn’t last because the universe would be out to kill them. But if you’re dealing with powerful beings that are just waiting for any chance to take advantage of you there are more chances for some unforeseen consequence to occur, some innocent victim that had nothing to do with your current circumstances suffering some terrible fate, and as such your karma has a good chance of taking a hit if you’re not extremely careful.

  47. So you are throwing spoilers into the story?
    “Other that isn’t so strong that she’d be able to mess with me”
    so the familiar is going to be a female huh?

          1. That… plan has an un… expected side-effect. It turns people into… William Shat… ner. 😮 Even if Lardo’s house… survives the fire, Blake could… still escape by… asking Scotty to beam him… up.

            Just wait, this is going to be legen… Wait for it…

  48. Well, this episode jumped the shark for me. The time effect is a reality breaking, plot device for the sake of it; the universe really makes no internal sense after that kind of thing – which leads to a big question – why the hell can he still see the house and not have it red-shifted down into the micro-wave spectrum or beyond?

    I was working under the assumption that Wildbow wasn’t going in this direction, but clearly I was wrong.

    I’m going to keep reading, because the rest of the story and characters are interesting (except the Fae who are either too stupid to realise that they are by default unbeatable by non-Fae thanks to their ability to alter events after the fact (or possibly send their past selves information from the future) either of which is vastly more powerful than even Coil’s ability, or playing games that render every involved Practitioner’s actions moot or futile), and nobody writes scumbags like Wildbow.

    The above said, I won’t be completely blind-sided if he DOES find a way of restoring internal consistency to the story, because if anybody can, I suspect he can.

    1. Even ignoring the fact that this is fantasy, where magic explicitly breaks the rules, there is the valid tactic (already mentioned here) of “magic works the way that you expect it to.”

      But putting that aside for the moment; considering the ritual created a moat of slowed time, why would the house be red-shifted? Wouldn’t the light be blue-shifted just as much entering the area of slowed time as it would be red-shifted leaving it?

      Did you have other issues with the ritual?

      Where on earth are you drawing this information on the Faerie from? That throwaway line about “ a dynasty that they’ve glamoured up to extend back through the centuries”? They just used glamour to trick reality into thinking—to make it appear as though—they’ve had generations of Faerie using the current ‘idea,’ and I fully subscribe to the notion that it takes the whole court to achieve that much.

      1. Even though it’s increasingly unlikely that no one will read this anytime soon, I forgot to mention something.

        We also have explicit proof that they messed with the perception relating to the area of effect created by the ritual, with Rose’s ‘normal’ sight not seeing that the quarter was still in the air like Blake’s practitioner’s Sight could.

        “Different views for the awakened versus the unawakened. Different effects.

        The Duchamps had been a part of the ritual. Had it been more than targeting it at this particular neighborhood?”

        If we know they’re messing with how the effect is seen already, is it that hard to imagine that they built in other perceptional defenses that couldn’t be so easily determined? Perhaps in order to catch someone with the Sight off-guard?

        Serious question: if the ritual’s AoE just messed with people’s perception of time, then how would Blake test it without exposing himself to the effect? That would be a terrible risk at any time, but it would be especially so with a known enemy literally at his back.

        Somewhat less serious question: if Blake could get people to go up the drive to the house, would that force Laird to take down the effect to get them out? Assuming he couldn’t selectively suspend the effect to get people out. Would that hurt Laird’s karma (for all that he appears to have a surplus) as one of those unintended consequences? Would it hurt Blake’s karma, to inconvenience innocents in an attempt to reverse assault upon his property or inconvenience his foes?

        1. Corollary: Whether or not the spell messes with actual or perceived time, wouldn’t it be likely to kill someone? If Blake or someone else walked up the driveway, and spent a subjective month trying to get to the front door, wouldn’t their body go: “Aw, crudnuzzles! Our stomach is/feels empty!” and die of thirst or starvation?

          “Somewhat less serious question: if Blake could get people to go up the drive to the house, would that force Laird to take down the effect to get them out?”

          The Duchamps have probably put a tiny brain-whammy on every Muggle in town, tweaking their connections subtly so they feel an instinctive dislike against going up to the Thorburn place, kinda like the Antipathy spell in D&D. And if all the practitioners know about it, they probably wouldn’t go there willingly, either.

          1. “If Blake or someone else walked up the driveway, and spent a subjective month trying to get to the front door, wouldn’t their body go: “Aw, crudnuzzles! Our stomach is/feels empty!” and die of thirst or starvation?”

            You are outside the property and it’s March. Inside the time effect, you walk up to the house in 5 minutes. But you get there and suddenly it’s July.

  49. “I felt stiff.”

    Yeah, I suppose you would after having been inside a little boy and carrying his skina round with you. I’d be stiff if I had a little boy’s empty skin too!

    Ew, I feel dirty now. Like a Mohel.

    Now, Blake, Rose, level with me here…neither of you have ever shoved a wand up your ass? You don’t know what you’re missing. I shove things up my ass all the time. I am a master of the ass. I play the ass like a fiddle. You know, except when I do that competitively against the Devil, he gets disgusted and just gives me the golden fiddle without bothering to play back. I done told him once, that son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been!

    You know, I’m beginning to suspect that Dickswizzle is Wildbow’s way of making up to me that I wasn’t included in the Parahumans Online comments. I get the feeling that when Wildbow needs a goblin, he just thinks of me. Except for the short and hair part. The he’s thinking of Wolverine. So, really, goblins in Pact are what you get when you cross Wolverine with me, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko.

    And yes, I’m allowed to call myself Great and Devious. I got permission from UltraMantis Black and everything.

    Oh, and Andy? Boo fucking hoo. But on the plus side, at least he knows he’s working for the Machiavellian antagonists.

    Thing is, this little trap of theirs can backfire pretty damn easily. After all, does Behaim care to explain how exactly the house can be torn down and the land developed if it’ll take months for the crew to even approach the thing?

  50. The ritual was about what I had guessed. Well, only so many temporal area effects one can use.

    Is anyone else reminded of Bakuda’s bombs? The ones that they tried to use on Leviathan and caught Velocity and Gallant in?

  51. “Erosion of self via. glamour,” Rose said. “Imagine pouring water over a rock. It seems into the cracks,

    Extra period after “via”.

    I think you want the water to seep into the cracks…yes?

  52. What I would do:

    (after going to Andy):hey,Andy?I am leaving town”(true)
    But because you seem the most neutral of the town (true)serving the council and not a single person(true)and because you seem to be the only person involved with magic here who,in a crisis,would save people other than him and his loved ones (true,as far as seems go,and as far an Blake knows,not knowing Maggie’s backstory)I am gonna tell you something to tell the others at will (true)
    Grandma summoned a demon (true)and sealed him (true).
    Her descendants are supposed to contain the demon according to her instructions (true,containing here can mean “not letting mirrors inside,not saying thank you,not looking at him,etc).
    Thing is,I am not sure how long the seal will last without my attendance (true,as everything is subject to erosion,the ower eventually will be destroyed by time,destroying the circle-thing is,this conversation leads the other person to believe it is a matter of weeks or months)
    And while I am not sure whether your timetrap would contain him for a while(true)
    I am also,at least at my current power and resources,unable to recapture him (true,he could not currently replicate his grandma’s ritual)
    So,as I said,I am leaving town for my safety (true,safety from whom is not specified)and not returning until I find a way so I can travel home with few to no complications (true,he losses nothing saying this,even if he returns with a hazy plan,it still counts as finding a way)and,if the demon is freed,until I have the means to catch him again,that is,unless he leaves town (true,though he knows the demon aint leaving any time soon),

    Then,I would go to Toronto and lament the fact that I could not see the town’s faces.Andy seems to not be experienced enough on double talk to see ast this,and as he can lie,he can and will blow it out of proportions when talking to others (calmness plays no part in this,just saying “Blake has a demon who will escape soon”counts)

    On another note:is there anybody else who,upon hearing this:

    “It’s not a kid’s television show,” Andy told me, “Where the antagonist makes the Machiavellian plan and then abandons that plan completely the first time it fails. People fail, they revise, they adjust parameters, they you achieve victory through persistence and hard work.”

    is reminded of this timeless quote?

    “I’m not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I’d explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.”

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