Collateral 4.7

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The smells, the little movements as trash in the corner was nudged by rodents, the noises and scrabbling sounds, and the heaps of filth all made the space seem smaller than it was, almost as if it distorted around Pauz and his host.  The dust, moisture and dead bugs on the sliding glass door to the backyard made even the light seem dingy and insufficient.

But, I noted, the effect of Pauz’s self wasn’t as powerful as it had been before.  I felt the pressure around the edges of my thoughts, the gradual dissolving of my peripheral thoughts, but I didn’t feel as though I were being swept away in it all.

Which in no way diminished how fucking scared I was, or how gross and intimidating this space was.

I was going to fuck this up on some level.  It was practically inevitable.  I just hoped I could reduce it down to a level I could manage.

I needed Rose here.  I was flying fucking blind.

I wanted to ask if he knew what had happened to Rose, but I couldn’t afford to look weak.

“Am I talking with you, Pauz, or am I talking with Mr. Dowght?”

“Me,” Pauz said.

He traced a clawed fingertip along Dowght’s cheek.  The man, sixty or so, reacted as if he were underwater, as if every action faced resistance.  He slowly raised a hand to stop the imp, but Pauz was gone well before the hand reached him.

I realized, belatedly, that the man wasn’t old.  He was withered.  Atrophied.

I wanted to tell Pauz to leave the man be, but I knew I didn’t have the ability to actually follow through if he kept going.  If I was going to bargain, I couldn’t demand things that I couldn’t force or convince the imp to give me.

“I’m assuming he’s aware of… our business?” I asked.

“He’s not aware of anything,” Pauz said.

“Is that true, Dowght?” I asked.

He barely reacted, only lowering his arm gently to the table.  He clenched his fist for a moment, and I wondered momentarily if it was a reaction, a sign.  But he was only working out the kinks that came from sitting in the same position too long.  He was oblivious to the ragged looking rabbits, stray dogs and cats that were perched on and around the table.

Dowght was gone, mentally, a shell.

“Guess so,” I said.

Pauz wasn’t letting his hosts die out of some cunning plan.  He was all about disruption of the natural order, and the power power he had over someone, the more he disrupted their natural functioning.

That raised questions, as well as some general concerns.

I approached the table.  The animals didn’t budge.

The chair at the foot of the table was already occupied.  A cat, a squirrel and two field mice sat on a pile of what looked to be clothes, junk mail and meat packaging, torn up and soaked with urine and trampled shit.  The cat was mangy, not having cleaned itself, and one of its eyes was the same milky white as Pauz’s.  The squirrel climbed halfway up the cat to get closer to me, incisors bared, eliciting a hiss from the cat.

I dropped the tome on the table, aiming for impact, hoping to scatter the animals.  It made a very satisfying ‘bang’ with the landing, stirring dust and various papers across the table.

The animals, however, went straight for the ‘fight’ instinct.  Bristling, teeth bared, poised to jump on me.

Gloved hands on the back of the chair, one foot on the leg, so I wasn’t simply tipping it over, I slid the chair away from the table, simultaneously turning it so the chair back blocked the animals from reaching me.

The animals hopped down from the chair, scattering to the edges of the room, where their bodies disappeared into the shadows, their eyes catching the light to glow in the dim.  I heard the cat snarling and fighting with something in its way as it settled beneath a decorative chair.

Dowght hadn’t even reacted.  The man looked like he was on his last legs.  It got me thinking about what would happen when he died.

Pauz found another host.

Who would Pauz pick?

Someone vulnerable.  Someone weak.

I’d already fallen prey to magical influences with very little warning, not to mention how being forsworn was technically losing the rights to defend oneself against spirits. Pauz could probably take advantage of a small falsehood or karmic foothold, much as the Sphinx could leverage a false answer to justify murdering someone.

It would be very easy to slip up and give ground to Pauz.  Ground I couldn’t afford to give him.

Easier still when Rose wasn’t here to back me up, and I didn’t have a contract in hand for him to look at.

“Have you come to a decision?”  I asked.  Questions were safe.  It was very hard to frame a question in such a way that it could entrap me.

“I have,” he said.  His eyes were on the tome beside me.

“And?”

“And your companion was supposed to be here to discuss it with me,” he said.  He didn’t look away from the book.

“Are you refusing the offer we suggested?” I asked.

“What happens if I do?” Pauz asked, as he used all four limbs to move along the chair back, before moving forward, onto Dowght’s shoulders.  Dowght winced as the claws pricked his skin, but did nothing.  “Wild animals kill you and rip you apart.”

Fuck.  If I screwed up here, I was dead.  I had only the protective diagrams I’d worked into my clothes, but that didn’t include my head, hands, or feet.  If I offended him, or if I let him start to think the deal wasn’t worth it on his end, he could easily sic the various rodents and animals on me.

“You would miss an opportunity,” I said.  Safe assertion.

“I can hold on to this opportunity,” he said.  He stroked Dowght’s face with the back of one clawed hand.  Dowght closed his eyes.

“A dying man?  Until he dies or gets devoured.  Then what?  You start over?”

“Stronger each time, I’m patient,” he said.  He poked Dowght with a claw.  “I find stronger people, find a crack and worm my way into it, climb the ladder.”

“Can you afford to be that patient?” I asked.

“Immortality has a way of allowing it,” Pauz said.

“That doesn’t answer my question,” I said.  Be firm.  “I’m asking if you can stick to the path you’re on.  You won’t ever succeed, if you keep going down this road.  You might make a dent in the grand scheme of things, do some damage, but I have trouble believing you’ll survive.  If you get to the point of being a meaningful threat, powerful people and entities are going to stamp you out.”

There were so many distractions.  Noise, smells, movements in the corner of my vision…

I could only keep my eyes forward.

“Stamp me out?” he asked.  “They can try.”

“They can succeed,” I said, knowing I was taking a risk with a brazen statement, “Could be Conquest, could be someone from out of town, or it could be all of them.  They could kill your corrupted animals, invest time, money, energy and other resources into containing or cleaning up this area, and you’re done.  You’ve missed a chance.”

“Mm,” he said, “But I’ve done damage.  Diminished mankind and the world, hm?  That’s all my kind seeks.”

All that his kind sought.  Maybe that was true, maybe it was only true when his kind were described in abstract.

He was different from the commonplace demon, on a level.

He was an imp, a parasite, occupying people and then moving on to others.  A mote, a spark looking to ignite a blaze.

What sort of person lived in this upscale sort of suburb where all the cars were nice?  Not lowlifes.  Successful or successful-ish people.  These were his victims.

Pauz took a bit of each person.  Those pieces, as I understood it, formed the sum of his human side.  He took pieces of lawyers, doctors, computer people, businessmen, bankers and whoever else.

He seemed to be enjoying the silence that had followed his statement, letting it sit.  Watching me squirm.

I wasn’t squirming, though.  I was thinking.  Pauz took over the weak, people who gave him an in.  They might be successful people who were down on their luck, or people with a vice that made them weak.  Or they could be people with enough of a problem, karmically, that he could make a bid to get a hold on them, even when they weren’t practitioners.

“Is that really all you want?” I asked, emphasizing the ‘you’.  “A dent in reality and an ignoble death?  Let’s not pretend you’re uninterested in the possibility of what we’re offering.  Don’t you upset the natural order of things?  You could theoretically have access to an Incarnation.  To something fundamental.  You could upset something monumental.”

I studied him, looking for a tell, but I was getting distracted by the subtle ugliness, the way his entire body looked like worn callous, stained gray-black, the teeth, the eyes, the glare…

I continued, “You’ve had time to consider the option.  If you have doubts, we can talk about those doubts.”

“Hmm.  Discuss and compromise?” he asked.

The word ‘compromise’ sounded very strange coming out of the imp’s shark-toothed mouth.

That made me think for a second about what he meant.

Compromise… both sides giving ground?  If I agreed to discuss and compromise, he could be unreasonable, and still demand concessions.

“We’re capable of discussing, certainly,” I said.  “Compromise… naturally depends on how this goes.”

“Mm hmm,” he said.

“Let’s start from the initial deal my partner proposed.  You would be bound until… shall we say five minutes after midnight, two nights from now, as a starting point?”

“Hm.  I haven’t accepted.”

So little time.

“Then let’s talk in terms of the hypothetical, and discuss when we’re done.  We could say that no term or written word shall be considered binding until both of us agree and sign.”

“Outside of the inviolable rules,” Pauz said.  He hopped down onto the table, picking something out of a piece of raw meat.  He opened his mouth, let it dangle and wriggle for a second, then dropped it into his mouth.

“Which rules?” I asked.  “The rules of binding oaths?”

“Those laws, which were established in the emergence from void and chaos, and the fundamental structures and forces of existence your practice, my power, or practice and power combined can’t alter,” Pauz said, chewing far too much, considering the small size of the thing he’d popped into his mouth.

If we’re talking about rules my practice or your existence can’t alter, why even mention them?

I thought about it for a minute, turning the words over in my head.

Trap?

No.  Couldn’t see a trap.

Not unless the trap was to throw so many terms and ideas at me that I’d stop being careful.

“I could accept that,” I said, finally.  “With further consideration.”

“Then we agree to talk about terms,” he said.  “With nothing binding until we sign and verbally agree.”

More words, more terms and ideas to complicate matters.

I was making the wish to the genie that was hellbent on twisting the terms of the wish to screw me over.  More than that, I was dealing with something very inhuman, in a context I didn’t fully understand.

Here we went.  Dealing with a devil.  “Sign by putting pen to the very set of pages I’ve outlined the terms on?”

And not scrawling your name on Dowght or the underside of the table?

“Yes.”

“And your statements can be considered verbal agreement, even if you aren’t human, or if you aren’t technically there and speaking in the conventional sense?”

“Point conceded.”

“Then we agree to define anything you say as verbal?  Anything you write as written by you?”

“Agreed.”

Circular reasoning, to agree to the terms of ‘agree’, but fuck it.

Where to start?  How did a contract normally go?

Basics first.

“The terms of this contract exist between me, Blake Thorburn, and…”

“Pauz, given of the Marquis Andras, both of the fifth choir, feral and foul.”

I scribbled it out, leaving the names blank.  “Spell.  Your name?”

“In the Dutch tongue-”

“In English,” I interrupted.

“P-A-U-Z,” he said.

Huh.  Not the spelling I’d anticipated.  It rhymed with ‘ooze’ when heard.

“And your…”

“My sire, my lord, the metaphorical tree that bore me as fruit.  Andras.  A-N-D-R-A-S.”

“I bear no risk by inscribing his name or yours?”

“No.  Andras is bound, and only those bearing the saber he was bound to may call him forth.  I am a lowly imp, and my name has no power, spoken or written.”

I scribbled out the paragraph defining myself and Pauz as the individuals the contract referred to.

I used the spine of Black Lamb’s Blood to push the various dishes and bits of food to the floor, clearing the table in front of me, then tore that half of the page off the pad, tore it so the section of paper with the paragraph was the only thing on the page, and slapped it down onto the table.

“What are you doing?”

“Outlining,” I said.  “Conceptualizing.”

If I was going to write a contract, I’d do it like I was putting something together for work.  Start crude, confirm direction, refine, polish.

I needed to bind him, I needed to bind him very fucking carefully, and I didn’t have the background of hundreds or thousands of years of trial and error in diabolism to back me up.

“The goal of the contract,” I said.  “Is that we bind you for a term ending five minutes after midnight, two nights from now.”

“At which point I am given over to the Incarnation’s possession,” Pauz said.  “Or you are forfeit.”

“Forfeit what?” I asked.

“Your word, your being.  Whatever I desire,” Pauz said.

To hell with that, I thought.

“Firstly,” I said, “I am absolved of responsibility once I bring you, bound, to the Lord.  I’m not going to suffer consequences if he or you do anything after that point.”

“You give me to him,” Pauz said.  “A transfer of possession, with no intent to immediately reclaim me.”

“I’m not under the impression he’d give you up once he had you,” I said, looking up from the paper I was writing on.  “But yes.”

“And you make some attempt, overt or otherwise, to ensure he keeps me until such a time that the contract’s terms end and I am free.”

“Unless such an attempt would work against your goals and mine?” I asked.

“Hm?”

“If he obviously intends to keep you, and pushing him further would look suspicious.”

“Granted,” Pauz said.

I wrote it down.

“Second point,” I said, returning to the larger block of text above.  “I’m not okay with that penalty for failure.  Giving you all of me?  Forfeiting my very existence?  No.”

“I stake my being on this, what other penalty would suffice?” Pauz asked.

Meaning the imp wasn’t so happy with the idea of making a small scar in the universe and then dying ignobly.

Suspicion confirmed.

“I have two other beings to bind,” I said.  “My existence and other aspects of my being are at stake.  If I fail because I’m dead, we can say there’s no penalty clause.”

“Consider it incentive to fight a little harder,” Pauz said.

My eyes fell on Dowght.

Demons want a foothold in the world.  What happens if I give all of myself, if Dowght is what happens when Pauz finds a crack?

Too little knowledge, with the stakes far too high.

Something else.  I needed to cover my ass, while offering him something he desired.

“Property,” I said.  “I’m custodian to a property, that I believe will come into my hands.  We can arrange for a section of that property to fall into your possession, if I can’t meet my end of the contract, and if that property is mine.”

“I would need to see that contract,” he said.

“Too bad,” I said.  “I don’t think I can get access to it by any reasonable, sane measure.”

Not without contacting the lawyers or walking through Laird’s time field.

“I’m left to accept a tenuous offer, or face tenuous reward?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Mortals pass property on to heirs, if they die.  If you die before you meet your end of the bargain, the property isn’t yours to give me.”

“It’s what I’m offering you,” I said.  The only thing I can reasonably offer you, if it’s even that reasonable.

It could be too much.

Oh god.  Wind was blowing in through open windows and the crack in the sliding glass door.  Fresh air was not my friend.  It only made the stench of this place worse.

I had to hold utterly still, fighting the urge to gag, while Pauz deliberated.

“How much space?”

“Fifteen square feet, parceled out as I deem appropriate.”

“Small,” Pauz said.

“Yes,” I said.  “Small.”

You little bastard.  I know this is gold to you, and I’m probably betraying humanity by even offering it.  Take it.

I kept myself outwardly calm, or tried to.

“Offer a larger area,” he said.

“If land isn’t what you want,” I said, “We can discuss other terms.”

Just as he was looking to achieve absolute control over me, in contrast to the tiny hold he had on Dowght, I knew I was offering him absolute ownership over the land.

I had a dim idea of what that meant.

He took his time deliberating.

“Why don’t we cut the crap and stop pretending you don’t salivate at the idea?” I asked.

“Presumptuous,” he said, the gravel of a faint growl in his voice.

The growl was echoed by the noises the animals in the corners made.

“I’m a novice,” I said, “But I know some things, and I know what you want.  Take it so we can move on, or I’m going to start having second thoughts.”

He didn’t respond right away.  He stood straighter, peering at me, then sat down on the table.

I got a nod.

“Verbal confirmation, please,” I said.

“Yes.  That penalty will suffice.”

Which gave me the option of giving him the space inside Laird’s trap, promising to screw over either Pauz or Laird, or, ideally, forced them to deal with one another.  I could take other precautions, too.

Worst case scenario, that.

I took a deep breath, the immediately regretted doing so.  “I have some terms to stick onto this part of the deal.  From the time I bind you, you don’t harm me or mine.”

“Until such a time as I am released?”

“Period.  Ever.  All things with any connection to me, my family, my friends, or my possessions are protected from you, across the board.”

“Hm,” he mused.

“What’s the issue?”

“Merely considering.”

“I need the guarantee that, once we set you on the Lord of Toronto, you aren’t going to harm me, my family, or my friends.”

“I can affect the remainder of the city?  The region?”

“You wouldn’t accept the deal if I forbade it,” I said.

“No, I wouldn’t,” he said.  “I shall prevent harm to you and yours, from my hand, my power, my word, and my servants, to the best of my ability.”

He pointed at the paper.  I bent down to scribble it out, paused.

“You… and any other being you work with,” I said.  I didn’t want him bringing another demon in to hurt me.

“Granted.”

I hesitated.

“Any other power you interact with must agree to the same, and they must agree to bind anyone they work with to the same, in turn, ad infinitum,” I said.

“Hrm,” he grunted.

“Yes?”

“Granted,” he said.

I thought of Tiffany… “Tell me you haven’t done harm to others.”

“You’re delaying.  Write.”

“So are you.  Delaying, I mean.  Are my friends okay?  You didn’t send your animals to harass anyone or hunt anyone down?”

“I’ve done nothing direct.  As for incidental damage?” he smiled.

“As for incidental damage?”

“I couldn’t say for certain,” he said.  “I would have to visit the people, objects, or locations in question.”

Worrisome, but the only real solution would be to hurry through this and check on my friends when all was settled.

I wrote it out, tore up the paper, so each paragraph was a separate block, then spaced it out.  Sub-clauses and stipulations were effectively indented.

A field mouse limped closer.

“If they interfere, I’m liable to consider it a sign of your disinterest,” I said.  “We got this far, let’s not spoil it.”

“Mm,” he said.  “Git!”

The mouse scampered off, running off the table.  The thump it made as it hit the ground caught me off guard.  Mice were light enough they wouldn’t necessarily make a sound like that.  I leaned to one side and saw that it had broken its neck in the fall.  Head first.

Was this it?  It didn’t feel like enough.

“Rather than suggest a penalty,” I said.  “We say the contract takes effect the moment you are bound.”

“Yes.”

“The terms do not end when the binding does.”

“Hmm, yes.”

“My binding will be weak, in addition to being temporary.  You will not take any action to free yourself in the meantime, nor will you take actions before or after to work against the contract’s terms, or you will be considered to be acting in bad faith, with a penalty I’m free to designate,” I said.

“No,” Pauz said.  “We’ll stipulate a penalty now.”

“Fair enough,” I said.  “If you act in bad faith-”

Clearer,” he said, sounding annoyed.

“If you free yourself, if you bend or abuse the terms in such a way that suggests you are not acting with the intent of being bound and delivered to Conquest, and subsequently freed-”

ClearerNarrower.”

I almost refined the terms further, then stopped.

That was interesting, that he wanted it narrowed from that.

That was very, very interesting.

“Are you telling me that there’s a loophole you’re already planning on abusing to slip from your duties?” I asked.

“I’m telling you I want clearer, narrower terms,” he said, growling the words.  “And defined penalties.”

Which wasn’t a no.

I leaned on the table, trying to ignore the greasy film on the surface, looking down at the paper, reading over everything.  The parties involved, the objective, the responsibilities of each party, my penalties for failure… I shifted the remaining papers down to leave an obvious gap where his penalties for failure and ill-faith could go.  Protections for me and mine-

“You define the penalties first,” he said, interrupting me.

“I will,” I answered, “After.  Right now you’re trying to distract me.”

“Right now I’m trying to get you to define the penalties,” he said.  Talking more for the sake of distracting me than to add something to the conversation.

“Where was the trap?

Harm?

He would prevent harm to me and mine, by his hand, his word…

Wait.

Okay, I was pretty sure I saw it.

His hand?  Archaic language, or was he justified in using his foot, his teeth?  Even his claw?

I made a mental note.  Something I could use, maybe, and something I would have to come back to in a minute.

“Alright,” I said.  I looked down at the scraps of yellow paper, bright in the relative gloom of Dowght’s home, covered in my scrawled print.  I’d never had tidy handwriting.  “Let’s talk penalties.”

He seemed satisfied with that.  I was backing down.

“If you fail to keep your end of the bargain,” I said, “You forfeit every hold you have in this world.  Every person, every animal, every place, idea, every whatever.  You undo it all.”

“I am starting to think,” the imp said, his eyes flashing in the gloom on the far side of the table, “I should kill you after all.”

From relaxation and satisfaction to a death threat in a matter of seconds.

I stared across the table at Dowght.  The wretched man.

I wasn’t sure what he’d done to give the imp an in.  Good and evil apparently didn’t have much weight in the grand scheme of things, it was about right and wrong.

Had Dowght committed some wrong?  Some betrayal to himself or some personal code?

Whatever the case, if I could free him of his burden through some side-clause… he probably wasn’t going to have much of a life, whatever happened, but hopefully the burden wouldn’t drag him down to some horrible afterlife.

“I take it you don’t like the terms,” I said.

“No, I do not.”

Okay.

I knew he wanted me to miss the ‘hand’ thing.  He wanted to slip it through.

Could I use that?  Divert his attention, then resolve it later?

“There’s the question of the actual terms,” I said, staring at him, “What justifies the penalties.”

“Too broad, mortal.  The penalties too weighty, considering the very small parcel of land you offer for your own failure.”

“Seems fair to me,” I said.  “Hell of a lot at stake.  I’ll tell you what.  I’m going to read over what we have so far, look for any sneaky issues in wording, and you can decide what you’re willing to offer as a penalty.  Take your time while I read, come up with a good offer, and I can give it a serious listen.”

“Or,” he said, drawing out the word, “We can talk it out.”

“I’m doing most of the suggesting, you’re dismissing my suggestions, and I really should be reading this over to look for mischief,” I said, knowing full well that there was mischief, and he didn’t want me to look.  “Take a minute.”

I started to pick up the papers, carefully ordering them.

“We define the conditions for penalties,” he said, interrupting me.  “I break free of my own will, or I take action that interferes with the goal, or I take action to harm you or yours, as we covered in the other part.  Connect it.”

Suspicions confirmed.

“And… you agree to the penalty clause, then,” I said.  “Forfeiting all that you have claimed and corrupted?  Undoing the damage?”

“Yes.”

I exhaled slowly.  Better than drawing in deep breaths, with the reek of this place.  The cold made smells easier to handle, but it was still filthy.  I laid out the pages again, then started writing it out.

The lingering animals, I noticed, were gone.  They must have started slinking away when the mouse was killed.

A part of me wanted to think it was ominous, but… I felt pretty damn relieved the beasts weren’t around.

My gut told me he was getting rid of them to put me more at ease, in the hopes that I’d let my guard down and let the loophole slip.

“Two more things to cover,” I said, “Unless you have ideas on what goes into a contract?”

“If I had specific knowledge,” Pauz said, “I would not be free.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I would like to say that, should there be a grievance in the contract, mediation goes to a third party.”

“Who?” he asked.

“A neutral party, or a party professional enough to be neutral and unbiased with both a mortal human and an imp.  Someone we both agree on, with further stipulations to prevent one party from simply refusing every suggestion.”

He cackled.  The little bald, shark-toothed, clawed baby was surprisingly good at cackling.  “Fine.”

“With further rules against the number of complaints,” I said.  “To be defined in a few minutes.”

“Granted,” Pauz said.  “Amusing thing to imagine.  I don’t think neutral parties exist, in the midst of this, but yes.  We can try, or form another compromise.”

“Yes,” I said.  “Which brings us to the last part of sketching this out, before I write out a draft.  We need to clarify terms, which means footnotes.  Let’s start with the definition of harm.  We can rewrite it to be clearer.”

“That portion is done,” Pauz said.  He wasn’t hostile, not tense, but the response was a fraction too fast.

He crossed the table, viciously kicking and flinging dishes, bits of trash, and dried pieces of shit off to either side as he walked.

He stopped a few feet from me, tilting his head a fraction past normal human limits to read the paper.  I felt the intensity of the effect from him increase.  Wearing me down at the corners of my mind.

The stink of him.  There was a sound that rolled off him too, faint and grating, as if he were a radio, generating the opposite of calming, soothing white noise.

I could feel my skin crawling, and I had an awfully hard time convincing myself that I didn’t have lice or fleas, just being in this house.

Too cold for lice, I told myself, not sure if I was right.

“That portion is fine,” he said, again.  He looked up at me, glaring.  “Resolved.”

“We redefine harm,” I said.  “Something simpler.  Implicit and explicit harm.”

He paused, taking that in, then scowled.  “Why?

“Cover more bases.  Unless you’re admitting you’re not acting in good faith?”

How hard would he fight me?  He would have agreed to the penalty with the idea that he could get at me this way.

If he was going to attack me, it would be now.

Long seconds passed, his eyes roving over the scattered paper.

“What if I said I had other issues?” he asked.  “Other grievances.”

“Keep them in mind, we focus on this one first.  Defining the clauses.”

“What,” he said, his voice low and dangerous, “If I threatened to have you devoured alive, right now?”

“Then we’re just about back to the same point we were at the beginning, and we’ve made almost no progress,” I responded.  “And, again, it’s up to you to decide whether you want the Lord of Toronto in two days or me right now.”

“I don’t have much patience, diabolist,” he said.

Rose had surmised as much.  My heart was pounding, my mouth dry.  I was still leaning on the rather gross table, staring down at the imp.  I didn’t want to be the first to back down.  We’d decided our last conflict when he’d backed away from June’s frost.

“Maybe you don’t,” I said.  “But if that’s true, if you’re that shortsighted, you may well be doomed to being small fry forever.”

“You think me small?”

Well, there I went, insulting him and turning a bad situation into a worse one.

The intensity of the radiation was growing.

“It would be more correct to say,” I said, very carefully, “I think that you could be bigger.”

I saw a smile spread across his face, the very tips of his teeth visible just past his thin lips.

Thank you, Rose, I thought.  It was always so much easier when I had an idea of the motivations at play.  You’re helping even when you’re not here.

Might as well drive the point home.

“I’m not stupid, Pauz.  I know you’re trying to screw with me in this clause.  Bluff me, distract me, mislead, I’m still not going to let it slide.  No harm, implicit or explicit,” I said, tapping the paper.

“Hm,” he grunted.  “Curses.”

“Well?”

“Damnation.  I will, to the best of my ability, prevent you from coming to harm, that implicitly or explicitly derives from me in any way or form.”

I wrote it out.

“You’d damn well better be able to deliver,” he said, clearly perturbed.

“It’s up to you to decide how you’re going after Conquest,” I said.  And it’s up to me to decide how to deal with you both.  Rose had suggested this and then disappeared on me.

“Agreed,” he said.  “I’ll find a weak point.  I always do.”

“Now,” I said, “We go over every single word to make sure there aren’t any hidden meanings.  We define or reword everything, until there are no questions.”

“Hm,” he said.  “I thought you were on a schedule, diabolist.”

“I am,” I said.  “Were you calling me diabolist, before this?”

“No,” he said.  He smiled.  “Because you weren’t.  But you are one now, hm?”

The smile and the idea both disturbed me.

“Let’s begin,” I said.

It was tedious work, slow going, with me taking my time over every word, thinking in abstracts, in terms of symbols, and in terms of the very literal.

Knowing all the while that I was probably missing something vital.  Something that could get me killed or spell horrible doom for everyone and everything.

I didn’t own a watch or a phone, which made it hard to track the time.  The long-faded light did make life harder, as I stared at the paper in the gloom, in a house without power.  I was glad for the light that did filter through the windows, and I was glad I’d left earlier than I had to, that I hadn’t folded and waited for Rose to show up.  This was proving to be time-consuming, tedious, and we weren’t even done.

Time would be running short.

We finished looking it over.  He was pacing, now.  Eating more.

He saw me looking.  “If you fuck this up, mortal, you’ll find how small I am.”

The imp was anxious?

“I’ll make a mental note of that,” I said, being careful to do so.

I had it laid out across the table, footnotes included, and I began copying it out, skipping parts I’d crossed out, rewording even as I went for elegance’s sake.  Seven pages, when it really felt like it should be more.

But the language was tidy and clear.

I could feel the pressure as the clock wound down.

There was also a mounting sense of worry.  The idea that I’d overlooked something.

It wasn’t helped as Pauz got more agitated, watching the contract near completion.

I stopped at the end.

“By signing, Pauz, you agree to be bound, by both me and by the terms of this agreement.  By signing, I agree to bind you by the terms of this agreement.  Neither signature has a hold without the other.”

“Mm,” Pauz said.  He was barely able to keep still, now.  The noise was worse, as was the fuzzing around the edges of my mind, and the sounds in the walls were more intense than ever.

Even the maggots that writhed on the plates of food were more lively.  A reflection of Pauz’s state?

I read it over, looking for spelling errors, for any word I might have overlooked.

“Sign,” I said.

Pauz reached out, scratching with his claw.  He left a dark, brown-black stain where claw touched paper, and he scrawled out his name.

I reached for the pen.

“No,” Pauz said.  “Blood.”

I glanced at him, eyebrow raised.

“I know this much.  To give it power.  Almost always, when contracting with my kind.”

I drew one of the hook-screws from my pocket, pushing the point into my fingertip until I drew a bead of blood.

Signing in blood proved to be harder than most things.

“It’s done,” Pauz said.  “Sealed.”

“Yes it is,” I said.  “Now to figure out the binding.”

I drew the hook-screws out of my pocket, along with a flexible measuring tape, and began screwing them into place, spacing them out evenly.

“Can I ask, now, if you had anything to do with Rose?”

“I’ve had something to do with almost everything that has happened to you since our last meeting,” Pauz told me.

“Did you have anything to do with Rose?” I asked.  “Outside of subtle influences?”

“Yes.  The fact that you noticed, diabolist, means my influences weren’t all subtle.”

“You’re saying you influenced something, made this come to pass?”

“You’re inferring more than I’m saying,” he said.  “Your partner is asleep, in more ways than one.  Think about why.”

“Why she’s asleep?” I asked.

“The wrong word,” he mused.  “Coma?  Why does someone go into a coma, diabolist?”

I couldn’t come up with a ready answer.  “To heal?”

“My biggest regret in accepting this bargain,” he said, looking up at me with an intense expression on his tiny round face, “Is that I won’t be able to see the look on your face when you realize.”

“When I realize?”

“Yes.”

“Realize what?” I asked, knowing I wouldn’t get the answer.

He only smiled wider, showing more teeth, his tattered, bitten tongue visible in his mouth, and turned his back on me, looking at Dowght.

Fuck.

But I didn’t have a choice.  Not really.

I turned each hook so they all pointed inward, then drew the cord from my pocket.  I fed it through the hooks.

Ten hook-screws.  The five outer ones allowed me to make a pentagon, with a five-pointed star within.

The five inner hooks allowed me to develop it further, making a five sided star that overlapped with the other.  I left it incomplete.

As far as actually binding him…

I needed something to bind him into.

I placed the tome in the center.

“Pauz?”

He stepped over the cord, until he stood on the book.

I drew the final cord into place, and tied it.

Blood still beaded at my fingertip.  I drew it along the rope at the outside of the cord diagram.  Faintest traces, but blood nonetheless.

“Pauz,” I said, holding the contract up, “By the terms of this contract, I bind you.”

The wind turned, the contract flapping violently in my hand.

The outer circle of the diagram collapsed, the cord snapping into the center, until Pauz was well and truly bound up, in a series of very careful knots and shapes, ten times more intricate than I could have managed, all connected to the inner diagram that still remained.

Bound as he was, I didn’t miss the pale eyes staring at me.  Smug?

Easy.  But the hard part had been drawing up the contract.

“Pauz,” I said, again, “I bind you.”

The second line of binding snapped inward.  This time, it bound Pauz down.

The book rocked, spinning slightly with the force of the cords that now bound it shut.  A hundred knots, forming a five-pointed star on either side.

Dowght looked up at me, his eyes meeting mine.

It took me about two seconds to realize just how badly I’d fucked up.

The sounds in the walls intensified.

That fucking imp had tricked me, misdirecting, distracting.

He’d do everything in his power to protect me, from the moment he was bound on.

Just like he’d said… I couldn’t transfer property to him on my death if I had no property the moment I died.

He couldn’t protect me while he was bound.

The birds began to congregate outside the window.  Feral animals began to emerge, where they’d disappeared into hiding places.

He had been lulling me into security.  I’d just been wrong to assume.

A chair tipped to the ground.  Dowght stood.  More a zombie than a human, given his state.

A crazed shell of a man, half-snarling, half sneering, but mostly baring his teeth.

I drew June, slowly, to avoid spooking any of them into action.  Squirrels, mice, cats, dogs.

I saw a dark shape moving outside.  It might have been a bear, not heading for me, but a nearby house.

Pauz was bound, and the connections that allowed him to control his creatures were severed.  Taking no overt, direct action, he’d let me trap myself.

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222 thoughts on “Collateral 4.7

    1. The penalties too weighty
      The penalties are too weighty
      Pauz has been speaking in mostly grammatically correct English, so maybe as intended, maybe not

      1. “The penalties too weighty” IS grammatically correct English. A little bit archaic compared to modern usage, but it’s equivalent to the statement before it — “Too broad” is acceptable, and this is understood to be “It is too broad”.

    2. “I’d just been wrong to assume.”
      Maybe intentional, but I still don’t think it’s quite clear what he assumed.

    3. Tense issue in the following sentence — should be “force” instead of “forced”, I think:
      “or, ideally, forced them to deal”

    4. “It got me thinking about what would happen when he died. Pauz found another host.”
      –Pauz would find another host

    5. “Two more things to cover,” I said, “Unless you have ideas on what goes into a contract?”

      “If I had specific knowledge,” Pauz said, “I would not be free.”

      Last bit was probably meant to be “it would not be free.”

        1. I find it strange that the demons wouldn’t work together, to learn from their shared experiences the way that diabolists do, in order to be harder and harder to capture. Which would be specific, if not personal, information.

          But I suppose that their psychology could work against that?

    6. “and the power power he had over someone, the more he disrupted their natural functioning.” –> and the more power he had over someone

      “I took a deep breath, the immediately regretted doing so.” –> then immediately regretted doing so

  1. I was aiming for something slightly out of my comfort zone here, just in terms of where the focus dwelt, and hope it isn’t too bad as an end product. I was mainly looking to explore the ins and outs of actually trying to asspull a contract like this, while trying to maintain a degree of tension or ‘where does the trap lie’? Not sure if it worked in practice.

    But I gotta keep exploring and moving out of my usual patterns if I’m to grow.

    Thanks for reading, guys.

    1. This was a really good chapter IMO. I like the negotiations while both sides are trying to trap the other in front of their face. I think this was stronger than some of the physical action scenes in the story so far.

      1. It worked well. Blake was clearly out of his comfort zone (Okay, that’s been the case 90% of the story.) and it worked. It was tense. Done correctly two people debating a contract can be incredibly suspensful. Next chapter we get our action packed thrilling escape.

    2. Very different in style, interesting. The trap was, I think, slightly knocked back because it was implied a couple of chapters ago – although on re-reading I’m not clear whether Rose had figured it out or whether it was a reader privileged position thing. Pauz is an intriguing individual, very nicely written indeed.

      I’m getting increasingly confused about the underlying setup of this world though – the more we SEEM to learn, the less internal sense it seems to be making. As best as I can understand it, there is no base reality here at all, the demons seem to live in a different universe to other Others, the mundane world seems only indirectly tied to the world of Practitioners, Fae and sundry others we have met. I’m fascinated by the concept of unalterable rules set down at the creation though.

    3. Find a veteran D&D player who deals with devils a lot. They become very very good at pseudo-legalese and catching loopholes.

      1. Or a D&D player who’s ever tried to cast a Wish spell, or used a Ring of Three Wishes, or who’s encountered Djinn or Efreet, or…

        1. Or anyone who’s wondered in their spare time how they woul deal with a literal genie, or anyone that has tried to get out of chores , or…

    4. No really it was a great chapter.

      Shifting the setting to Toronto has proved to be a really good move for the story, I think. I had to take a break for school the first few chapters after the move, but they’ve all been really, really good.

    5. I really appreciate you doing these type of things. I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like a technique or method behind a power. Abbra cadabra is fine and all… but when there is a process in things, I connect to the writing a hell of a lot better.

    6. Wildbow, you are now one of the few people that can claim to have made writing a contract suspensful, interesting, and engaging.

  2. Great chapter, as always. Special thanks for the Thursday chapter!

    Given the bonus chapter (and the induction into TopWebFiction + the like), as a friendly update and reminder on Wildbows Patreon; He is sitting around a cool 85 dedicated donates. The more the merrier, I’m sure.

    Here’s hoping the best

    1. According to wikipedia, the most common cause of a coma is intoxication by drugs and other poisons, then there is lack of oxygen (She hasn’t been breathing for a while, but I hardly think that is it), the third most common cause is a stroke, and the last 15% of cases are from miscellaneous. As for why someone would choose to artificially induce coma, it is common during brain surgery and also to escape sever pain during operations… Could Pauz be operating on Rose? That is a scary thought given how malleable vestiges are supposed to be, and given how fragile they are he could possibly have found a foothold.

    2. Googled “why does one go into a coma” to see if it was a reference, idahobaptist.com/JesusWept has one answer apparently. I doubt Pauz was thinking of God though.

      “But why is it that some die without pain, but for others the story is distressingly different? Why is one person taken in a car accident, while another must endure months of agony with cancer? Why does one go into a coma and then silently pass into eternity as another suffers and succumbs to terrible burns? The answer can only be: it is God’s will!”

      1. Pauz was dithering between ‘sleep’ and ‘coma’, settling on the latter as the closest approximation to what he was trying to explain. The word ‘coma’ probably isn’t an exact descriptor for what’s happened to Rose.

        As LordofArcana on the RPGnet Pact thread mentioned: “[Rose] has previously stated that she is afraid of traveling too far from a mirror and Blake implied that she destroyed all the mirrors in her vicinity.”

        “Why does someone go into a coma, diabolist?”

        A coma is a state where the body becomes unresponsive, where the mind is separated from it, in the sense that a person is unable to consciously control their body. Sometimes, a comatose person is still able to perceive their surroundings, hear what’s going on, but they aren’t to respond to it.

        And since Rose doesn’t have a corporeal form, her ‘body’, the physical form she inhabits, is effectively the mirrors around Blake.

        So when she shattered the reflective surfaces around Blake, and her mind was left with nowhere to go… 😦

        On the other hand, wasn’t Blake wearing his bike mirror necklace when he visited the Sphinx? Couldn’t Rose simply have slipped back inside that?

        1. On the other hand, wasn’t Blake wearing his bike mirror necklace when he visited the Sphinx? Couldn’t Rose simply have slipped back inside that?

          Oh, that would be the ultimate fake – Blake spending huge amounts of worry on where Rose is, only to look in the mirror he was carrying with him to find her. Still likely unconscious, but still.

          1. Except here’s the problem. Rose has to walk with Blake to stay in the circle of light cast by his mirror. If there was no light cast by other mirrors, and Blake walked away …. Rose would be left in the darkness.

            1. Wasn’t it implied–or at least, wasn’t Rose afraid–that there was no support in the darkness, or that she would fall into oblivion, or at least something she couldn’t check without possibly risking her life?

      2. I’ve always wondered why people who make that argument invariably fail to draw the logical conclusion that it means God is being arbitrarily cruel to undeserving people. Unless they want to argue that, for instance, a newborn baby deserves to die slowly and painfully from an infection or starvation. And that’s a pretty hard argument to make.

        Personally I find it less horrifying to believe in good and bad luck than to believe that there’s a being deciding who prospers and who suffers and his mentality is so alien a that it merely seems arbitrary to we humans. The latter is pretty much Lovecraft. :/

  3. Join us next week for the next episode of Pact “Blake kills a number of animals, a bear and a human with a hatchet”.

      1. KNOCK KNOCK

        “Hello? Anyone in there? Phew, what a stinker! Open up, it’s the police, eh? We received a phone call from Chief Behaim down in Jacob’s Bell, told us to check up on someone called Thorburn, said we could find him here? Are you in there, mister Tho-”

        The police officer halted in mid-motion, as he was politely wiping his boots on the least befouled patch of doormat-looking refuse near the entrance. He stared at the tableau in front of him: a young man in a suit and hefting a blood-smeared hatchet, standing in the center of a scene from a splatter movie. Animal corpses, both fresh and decaying, lay scattered everywhere. A puppy had been impaled on the toe of the young man’s boot, where he’d been kicking it to death. Blood was dribbling down his chin, a beheaded pigeon dangling from his lips by a single sinew. Something that looked like a bear had been bashed through a wall, ruining a poster that now read: “ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FI-” A wizened-looking man, presumably the registered owner of the house – a Mr. Dowght – was sprawled over the table, his brain liberally splattered where the young man had evidently been battering it out with the blunt side of the hatchet.

        The young man stared, wild-eyed, and seemed to focus on a small mouse. He pointed insistingly at the diminutive murine remains.

        “…Didn’t do it,” he mumbled through a mouthful of pigeon noggin.

        “And what about all the other stiffs, eh?” the police officer said. “Was it you who beaned old man Dowght with that fancy hatchet, eh?”

        The young man was sweating heavily, now.

        “I think I need to call my demoni- …I mean, my lawyers. Because ‘demonic lawyer’ is probably an oxymoron, right? Ha ha ha… Ha.”

  4. Ah.. the “Do nothing for Evil to triumph” trick… surprisingly smooth must have been written into the core of every Infernal aligned power.

    1. I was wrong, pauz is a Load-Bearing Boss with a Keystone Army, but at his level, he’s the stray arse-hair of a mook… Blake needs more Exp; its either high risk, high reward quests or level grinding.

  5. The funny thing is, this, being surrounded by rabid, wild animals and a zombie, is probably one of the least bad confrontational situations Blake has been in for a while. At least this threat is basically mundane. My hope is that the mysterious bird practitioner from 2 chapters ago comes and helps Blake.

    So. . . it’s pronounced Poose and not Paws? That kinda bums me out for some reason.

    Is Blake on his own for the next few days? I guess it’s gonna force him to level up.

    1. Did he bring LIAB? I don’t see it anywhere in the text, but he was lamenting not having more weapons, so I would have expected it…

      This next chapter could be just awesome. I’m very interested. It sounds callous, but more targets = more chances to see just what Blake’s learned so far & how his tools work thus far.

      1. I’m not sure that Blake can even use LIAB by himself yet. He can to a degree with June, by she has an obvious method based on her chosen vessel. Just wield the hatchet and let June add her frost effect.

        I can’t think of the natural way to wield LIAB without giving a command, which Blake can’t do yet.

        1. I…don’t think it’s that he cannot give any commands, I just think that he doesn’t count as a Thorburn while doing so. He lacks clout, is all. I think. Though the goblin whistle does appear to be counterevidence.

          I should also point out that he did keep it handy when he first got to the apartment, which I don’t think he would have done if it was totally useless…though I suppose he could have thought that Rose would give any commands necessary…but that just seems so ungainly. Hm.

    2. Apparently, the Author didn’t much care for the fandom’s ideas about Pawz the Cuddly Hell-Spawn.

      Paws is dead! Long live Pauz the Cooze! 😉

    3. “The funny thing is, this, being surrounded by rabid, wild animals and a zombie, is probably one of the least bad confrontational situations Blake has been in for a while. At least this threat is basically mundane.”

      Agreed. Having to deal with a bunch of Challenge Rating 1/2 chipmunks and gophers will hardly be worth the effort of putting on Mr. Stompy and Mrs. Kicky, Blake’s steel-toed construction worker boots that he’s totally wearing under those glad rags.

      If this is the only trick that Pauz managed to slip past Blake, then he’s gotten off mildly.

      After all, it could be wors-

      KRAKA-BOOM!

      …Whoops. 😦

    4. “My hope is that the mysterious bird practitioner from 2 chapters ago comes and helps Blake.”

      Blake looked up, and suddenly hope swelled in his manly breast.

      “Is it a bird?” he said to himself. “Is it a plane? No! It’s Super-… Oh. It was just a bird. And now it’s pecking at my eyeballs! Aaargh!

          1. Watch out, bro. Wildbow will be pissed if he finds out that we’re posting not-so-subtle Worm spoilers again. 😉

  6. I’m trying to figure out how Pauz gains from this. If Blake dies here… Conquest will probably notice, and come pick up the book. Well, I figured that out quickly. And if Blake doesn’t die here he doesn’t totally suck as a diabolist. And he still gives the book to Conquest. Or he somehow fails to deliver the book, in which case Pauz keeps him alive for a few years and gets the land.

    Well, I think Pauz won this round. Maybe he’s sizing up Blake as potential master material. Become a familiar to anchor himself more firmly in the world. After seizing Conquest. That would end well for Blake. And badly for everyone else.

    1. I think it has more to do with the short sightedness of imps. They’re parasites that exist to accomplish a goal. Pauz’s goal is to upset order. That’s the important thing for him. He has just drained enough humanity from his previous hosts to appear deeper than he actually is.

    2. Maybe the hope is that Blake either is sufficiently delayed that he fails, but stays alive so Pauz can get his land. I like Blake’s thinking about giving him land in Laird’s timetrap, although he should not give Pauz total dominion over the driveway to his house… Seems like a bad idea.
      But anyway, even if this seems hilarious it should still be a last-resort thing… Don’t fuck this up, Blake.

      1. The moat encircled the entire house, so that they couldn’t go in by just bypassing the driveway.

        That reasoning, while clever, was confusing to me, considering he also tried to get Conquest to knock it down (and at least partially seemed to succeed). I suppose he’s planning contingencies, which is always an excellent idea.

        I also noted that Blake retained control over distribution over the land, which tickled me. I mean, I don’t know if it would actually weaken the effect to receive the land in the form of numerable 1mm chunks, but the thought is certainly there.

        1. I bet Briar Girl is going to be PISSED when she finds out about Blake’s deal with Pauz. I really don’t think she’ll like having a demon who corrupts animals for a neighbor.

            1. For some reason, read this as “the imp only gets laid if Blake breaks the contract”. 😮

              Pretty sure Blake would have weeded out any clauses that would give Pauz that kind of access to his back door – even if the Imp is still allowed to go nuts in his driveway. 😉

          1. Let’s hope Blake isn’t enough of a dick (or an idiot) to give Pauz a parcel of land right next to the bit he’d promised to Briar. 🙂

          2. “Murderous” comes to mind instead of pissed. But that is if she finds out. If this succeeds without a hitch (snicker, places bets on hitches) then she should never find out.

    3. Oddly enough, after reading their interactions I could actually see Pauz as a familiar for Blake. He’s oddly endearing in a mischievously evil kind of way. “Death by Loophole” thing aside, Pauz is also probably one of the most successful relationships Blake has had with an Other… Which is actually pretty sad.

      1. Too bad that this is the Wildbowverse, and not the Books of Magic by Gaiman/Rieber/Gross et al.

        Leah, AKA Alleatha the friendly neighborhood Succubus, could be a great sidekick (or ally, or familiar) for Blake.

        On a related note, has anyone ever made a demotivational poster about Wildbow? Something with a picture of a person having a sudden, terrifying realization, and another person, super-angry, screaming at them – with the caption: “WE’RE IN A WILDBOW STORY”, followed by a smaller caption: “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!”

      2. Yeah. Pauz gained some points in the possible partner category in my book.

        The thing is, something big is gonna have to happen to Conquest in order for the imp to return to Blake. then again, something Big would have to happen in order for Blake to survive 3 more days

      3. Pauz would be an awful familiar.

        First off, he’s an imp. This puts him in roughly the same category of being as ghosts, other types of motes, and Conquest. He is not self sustaining, and has to get his power from elsewhere. He’s a parasite, and without a host he’ll burn out. And like Conquest he has to cause a degree of misery and harm to keep his batteries charged. One of the main reasons to get a familiar is to have it as a power source – Blake needs a being that is either self-sustaining or at the very least is capable of recharging without much fuss.

        Second, you need to remember that familiars can try to take control of their practitioners. Given Pauz specializes in finding weakness in order to get a hold over a person, it would be inevitable that Blake would let his guard down eventually and Pauz would take control. Blake needs either a familiar that is friendly to him (difficult, given his karma and diabolist status) or not a kind that can scheme or is inclined at least not inclined towards it.

        1. Ah, but you forget the purpose of the Bat-familiar; not the familiar Blake needs right now, but the one he deserves (see also: 7 lifetimes of debt).

    4. I think that it’s more like no matter how much he stood to gain from keeping the spirit of the agreement, his nature as a demon forces him to screw over anyone he makes a deal with and enjoy it.

      1. Agreed. Pauz has difficulty thinking beyond the here and now, so the contradiction that getting Blake killed would screw over the bigger plan probably didn’t really matter much to him. If Blake had good karma, this idea might not have occurred to Pauz, but Blake has bad karma so the universe took advantage of Pauz’s nature in the latest attempt to off Blake.

    5. If Blake fails to deliver the book with Pauz inside, he is forfeit. If he is forfeit, the imp gets complete and absolute dominion over a chunk of Thorburn land. And Blake implied that total dominion is pretty serious.

      And if Blake is dead, I doubt he’ll manage to deliver the book.

  7. I clearly still do not fully grasp the way they can abuse language here. For instance, allowing the animals to attack like that seems to me to be implicitly allowing harm, by not moving the animals the hell away while he still had the power to do so. Which would trigger the penalty clause, though…can he trigger it, while he is bound as such? Would it still trigger if he was killed before personally enacting the penalty? Argh, I still feel so ignorant. Was it because he didn’t add the standard “through action or inaction” bit?

    As I understand it, he’s currently more Valkyrie or shaman than diabolist, though I doubt this counts as being a Sorcerer. Just saying.

    1. He’s only under contract from the moment he is bound. And from the moment he’s bound, he no longer has the power to call off the animals. It’s elegant, really.

      1. Ah, of course. It even says that in the text. Foolish me, I confused the sealing with the binding. Thank you for helping with the clarification.

        I still hold to the point I made below, however.

    2. I forgot to mention, I also would have thought that he could use Pauz–you know, the imp that he just bound to his will, that already has his hooks in all of these animals–to instantly defuse the threat. But unless this is one of those false hooks, that won’t work, and I’m not sure why, since it seems that the binding is well and done. Shouldn’t the book be a tool for his use at this point?

      (I laughed at binding a genuine demon inside a “harmless” book of demonology).

      1. Pauz is bound, but that does not mean he has to do his bidding, just that he can’t get out of the book (or not without permission). If Blake wants something out of him, he’ll have to bargain again.
        it’s similar to how, despite the Barber being bound, Blake can’t just tell him “go make me a sandwich of Lardo’s internal organs” and hope it works.

      2. This is just my assumption, but either Pauz would have to be willing or he’d have to have included something about using the power in the contract. In this case, Pauz is just his prisoner, and he’d almost certainly have to renegotiate for any benefits, which isn’t going to happen.

        1. But…if he…

          I suppose that even if Pauz was let out of the book while still bound, the binding would prevent him from using his power? Because otherwise I don’t see how he could not immediately use his power to avoid allowing harm to befall Blake. Which…okay, makes sense. I was going to bring up June, but the deal with her did include her helping, and I didn’t see anything here on that point.

          Alright, assuming that the binding would prevent Pauz from automatically using his power (which does make sense), and assuming further that Blake cannot release his power in some limited capacity without further bargaining (which seems rather more tenuous), then that does indeed make a lot more sense.

          Thanks, all 🙂

          1. Well, I think Blake releasing Pauz now breaks the contract. I don’t know if Pauz still has to hold on his end of the deal, but he would probably object to being bound again and will be expecting a nice piece of Thornburn real estate.

    3. Until the contract was signed by both, nothing was required. Once signed, Blake had to bind Pauz or face the penalty. Once bound, Pauz is unable to act – there’s a difference between standing by and doing nothing when you are able to act and doing nothing when you are bound. So, technically, it isn’t harm by inaction, it is harm by inability. At least that’s the way I read it.

      1. He’s able to break the bond and act, but he’s contractually obligated not to break the bond. His staying bound being the core point of the contract, and his not harming Blake being a negotiated perk, it is in keeping with the spirit of the contract to stay bound. That’s my perspective on it, anyway.

  8. There was going to be some trap or the imp wasn’t going to go for it. Blake got rid of some of the most obvious and deadly, which were also the longest term. Blake was thinking long term, the imp was thinking short term, and the imp slipped one in. However, overall, Blake did well.

    And he is now a diabolist, one who makes contracts with demons.

    But he has effectively lost the book he promised to read by binding Pauz in it. Once given to Conquest, he is unlikely to get it back short of Conquest’s destruction – anything given to Conquest is lost. He has read only part of it. Unless Rose’s copy still exists and she has read all of it or Rose wakes up in time to read it or allow him to read it through a mirror, he has broken his bargain with the lawyers. It sounded like Rose read part or all of it, so perhaps this is a minor worry.

    “The wrong word,” he mused. “Coma? Why does someone go into a coma, diabolist?”
    To heal, yes, to recover from damage, but what caused that damage, other than Rose breaking windows? Or did that happen because Rose was struggling with something in her realm?

    1. Iirc he read the book last chapter while trying to obtain hints for dealing with Pauz. If that’s the case, and Rose did indeed read it already, they should have fulfilled their obligation to the lawyers.

      1. I didn’t make it clear – he only read part. From last chapter:

        I resumed reading, finishing the introduction.

        I didn’t read the rest of the book. I skimmed, looking, hoping for charts, for something concrete.

        He better hope Rose read it in full or the other outs I mentioned come up.

    2. “Someone works with spirits almost exclusively? Shaman. Work with time, you’re a chronomancer. Fire? Pyromancer. The future? Augur, predictomancer, something like that. Work with demons, you’re a diabolist. Work with goblins? Goblin queen.” 2.07

      I guess that I focused on the first sentence (“almost exclusively”) while you focused on the rest of the paragraph, which just says “work with.”

      They already established that anything one reads counts as being read by “the eldest child of Brad and Christina Thorburn,” so that should be fine (1.03). Especially since Rose was already reading it, so she keeps her copy, presumably so long as she lives, and I would think (for what it’s worth) that the reading that she has already done would stave off the worry of a deal ignored. If she dies…well, maybe Blake could arrange to get another copy. It hardly seems outside of the realm of possibility.

      1. Blake is officially a Diabolist now. Wonder if that will make other practicioners even more hostile to him than they were before?
        Or he could just start working with everything…

        1. I don’t think so, not really. Even assuming that making a deal with one single demon counts. They were calling him “diabolist” before he made deals with any actual demonic Others, and after dealing with the lawyers he couldn’t even say that he hadn’t dealt with demonic entities.

          It would be confirmation of their suspicions at the worst, I would think, at least once the taint fades.

          But everything? I totally agree. Diversify, Blake, it’s the only way to–well, to not die, by grasping for everything and anything he can get his hands on. As I said before, he’s already done more with ghosts and spirits than demons–he just needs to continue the trend, maybe throw in a little pyromancy or somesuch for flare.

    3. Yeah, I have no idea why he chose to bind Pauz in the book when he could’ve chosen anything. I could almost understand it if he wanted to strengthen the binding – but he knows it’s weak and contractually obligated Pauz to stay in there.

  9. It’s a trap!

    Blake does not seem too fucked though. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes, but he can probably kill one of those animals, make a circle with its guts and be protected from the others while he thinks of a solution. They’re not controlled by Pauz so they should not coordinate, although they probably will be much more aggressive than they should in natural circumstances.

    The other option is just to run for it. I don’t know how good Blake’s bleach shield is against the critters, but it should have some measure of effectiveness. If he has a can of glamour on himself (he did a few chapters ago, but he reduced in toolbox when he changed his clothes) he can probably do something about the crows as well, by hiding his connections to evade them.

    Also, nice of Wildbow to subtly kill the theory that by saying Pauz five times, Rose had invoked him in the mirror world… ” I am a lowly imp, and my name has no power, spoken or written.”

    1. A circle protected Blake from animals controlled by Pauz, but these seem to “just” be feral/starved animals. There’s definitely some residual effects, but I doubt they’d be stopped cold by the circle.

      Glamour could work. IIRC, it’s weakness is that someone could break it with doubt. But, he’s surrounded by animals and a zombie, so that might not even matter….

    2. If his name has no power spoken or written, dosen’t it mean that any agreement he makes isn’t binding at all and all contracts signed by him are null & void?

      1. Pauz’ name has no power, in and of itself, but the contract does. Speaking or writing his name won’t trigger any bad juju, but once it’s written into the contract, the oaths and promises and the Karmic whatchamacallits will have power over him.

  10. Remember how what we were told of Blake’s time on the streets. He was beaten at times, but he did get into viscous fights. It wasn’t always 1 on 1 fights either. Eventually Blake learned to “utterly destroy” (Not a direct quote but it was worded similarly) his enemies. I think we’re about to see some more of the mundane (fighting) skills that made Granny Rose choose Blake.

    BTW, can animals and zombies see thru glamour? I don’t think they would have the mental ability to do that. They would naturally believe only what they see. If that is the case, Blake has the opportunity to make an amazing zombie killing weapon with his glamour.

    1. Blake needs to go Homer Simpson on their sorry furry keisters. “Stay back! I’ve got a chainsaw! BRRRM-brrr-brrr-brrrbrrrBRRRM!” and just be standing behind the door, making chainsaw noises.

        1. Neither can Shakira’s hips.

          Hey, does that mean her badonkadonk is an Awakened Practitioner? That would explain why religious nutcases keep accusing her of being possessed by the Devil – she’s actually a Diabolist.

          Well, she’s got Diabolist hips, anyway.

  11. Okay, questions:

    1.) Did Blake actually finish reading that book last chapter, because he owed the Lawyers on that front and debts need to be paid.

    2.) He has a Frost Hatchet and there are a bunch of feral animals and one emaciated man. Are they really going to go for the harder target?

    3.) Where did Blake learn about the sealing circle?

    1. 1.) No, as stated elsewhere, it was just skimming. I believe that Rose’s contribution should be enough to stave off any issues for the time being, and she can awaken from her coma.

      2.) Pauz’s reprogramming, for lack of a better term, seems like it’s still in effect, he just lost real-time modification powers. I’d be rather surprised if he didn’t include “don’t attack others under my sway” as a matter of course.

      3.) Frak if I know, I was wondering that too. Part of the enormous amount of information that he’s been absorbing offscreen, I would assume.

      1. For 1, I agree that Rose reading the book probably counts. Even so, he’s not obligated to read it immediately anyways – he’ll likely get the book back at some point, and if not and Rose reading it doesn’t count the worst case is that he has to track down another copy to read. As long as he doesn’t ignore the deal he’s safe.

        For 3 it’s probably among stuff he’s read or talked about with Rose, but given that pentagrams are oft associated with demons and magic in popular culture he could have gotten the idea from that at least.

    2. He hasn’t, but binding Pauz to the book doesn’t prevent him from fulfilling that agreement. He can read the book with Pauz in it, read a different copy or have Rose read her mirror copy.
      The man isn’t a target. Pauz twists people and animals to conspire together, against the natural order of things. Dowight is one of their co-conspirators here.
      Presumably, in Black Lamb’s Blood. He did read the introduction and skim through the bits on what binding circles should look like.

    3. 3.) From watching too many Hammer horror films and B-movies as a kid, maybe? 🙂 He’s been improvising the proverbial Hell out of this deal with the Imp, and a pentagram seems like an obvious go-to choice for binding a demon. Why mess with the classics?

  12. From wikipidia—-

    Coma may result from a variety of conditions, including intoxication (such as drug abuse, overdose or misuse of over the counter medications, prescribed medication, or controlled substances), metabolic abnormalities, central nervous system diseases, acute neurologic injuries such as strokes or herniations, hypoxia, hypothermia, hypoglycemia or traumatic injuries such as head trauma caused by falls or vehicle collisions. It may also be deliberately induced by pharmaceutical agents during major neurosurgery, to preserve higher brain functions following brain trauma, or to save the patient from extreme pain during healing of injuries or diseases.[9]

    Forty percent of comatose states result from drug poisoning.[10] Drugs damage or weaken the synaptic functioning in the ARAS and keep the system from properly functioning to arouse the brain.[5] Secondary effects of drugs, which include abnormal heart rate and blood pressure, as well as abnormal breathing and sweating, may also indirectly harm the functioning of the ARAS and lead to a coma. Seizures and hallucinations have shown to also play a major role in ARAS malfunction. Given that drug poisoning causes a large portion of patients in a coma, hospitals first test all comatose patients by observing pupil size and eye movement, through the vestibular-ocular reflex.[5]

    The second most common cause of coma, which makes up about 25% of comatose patients, occurs from lack of oxygen, generally resulting from cardiac arrest.[10] The Central Nervous System (CNS) requires a great deal of oxygen for its neurons. Oxygen deprivation in the brain, also known as hypoxia, causes neuronal extracellular sodium and calcium to decrease and intracellular calcium to increase, which harms neuron communication.[11] Lack of oxygen in the brain also causes ATP exhaustion and cellular breakdown from cytoskeleton damage and nitric oxide production.

    Twenty percent of comatose states result from the side effects of a stroke.[10] During a stroke, blood flow to part of the brain is restricted or blocked. An ischemic stroke, brain hemorrhage, or tumor may cause such cessation of blood flow. Lack of blood to cells in the brain prevents nutrients and oxygen from getting to the neurons, and consequently causes cells to become disrupted and eventually die. As brain cells die, brain tissue continues to deteriorate, which may affect functioning of the ARAS.

    The remaining 15% of comatose cases result from trauma, excessive blood loss, malnutrition, hypothermia, hyperthermia, abnormal glucose levels, and many other biological disorders.

    1. Too literal. Try: “From Pauz’s viewpoint and known information, what likely causes would he attribute to putting someone into a coma.” Mostly Pauz has seen victims of his own attacks or of the neglect caused by his own attacks.

        1. I think he was referring to Blake’s face when he realizes the trap that activated with the binding, not when he realizes what happened to Rose.

          1. Pauz cast some very meaningful glances at Dowght when he was gloating and telling Blake about Rose’s coma, and Blake seemed to infer something from that – at least, that’s one way of interpreting the mental “Fuck” that he quickly dismissed, forced to deal with the situation at hand.

            Perhaps Blake has deduced something from this, or assumed that Rose is in a state similar to Dowght’s.

    1. Thanks. Now I can picture this instead of the grotesque image of Pauz that I had in my head. I much prefer this cute Pauz over a “make me sick if I think too hard” Pauz.

    1. Perhaps Pauz is Dutch, or at least his name is? A quick check with an online translator-bot reveals that ‘Pauze’ is the Dutch word for ‘pause’. (No idea if the correct pronunciation would make rhyme with ‘snooze’.) Amusingly, if you type in ‘Pauz’, and try to auto-translate it from Dutch to English, it comes out ‘Darp’.

      As they say in Canada: Eh?

    2. For it to be pronounced rhyming with ‘ooze’ it would need to be written “Poez”, though words don’t end on a ‘z'(-sound) in Dutch as far as I know.
      Poez is pretty close to “poes”, which is a Dutch word for cat. Not sure what to make of that though 😛

      Also, no idea what ‘darp’ is.

      1. As an aside, one may note that there’s a controversial municipal waste dump site in Ontario, Canada, known as the Pauze landfill. There’s been numerous concerns that it’s polluting the ground water – much like Pauz is doing to the ecosystem around him.

        1. Good catch! Maybe Pauz was a dual pun – on animals and the landfill. Some of the locals probably pronounce the landfill name to rhyme with “ooze” given the problems.

        2. I’m consistently amazed at the frequency of the coincidences that pop up when I write. You go for an internal logic and consistency, and then connections to a greater, outside pattern start to emerge.

            1. Stealing some quick data from NeienJ’s comment on http://carbonsgaming.net/index.php?topic=214.0 – here’s:

              Six Degrees of Separation From Kevin Bacon

              Bill Murray was in Wild Things with Kevin Bacon;
              Rodney Dangerfield was in Caddyshack with Bill Murray;
              Jonathan Brandis was in Ladybugs with Rodney Dangerfield;
              Chuck Norris was in Sidekicks with Jonathan Brandis;
              and Chuck Norris has done an interview with the rapper R.A. the Rugged Man, AKA R.A. Thorburn.

              (Unfortunately, the ‘R’ stands for Richard and not Rose. So, the argument is kinda invalid. Unless it’s somehow revealed in the story that R.A. the Rugged Man is related to Blake and Rose, which would count as the sixth degree of separation.)

    3. I thought it was just another part of this:

      “Not unless the trap was to throw so many terms and ideas at me that I’d stop being careful.”

  13. “A neutral party, or a party professional enough to be neutral and unbiased with both a mortal human and an imp. Someone we both agree on, with further stipulations to prevent one party from simply refusing every suggestion.”

    I have to agree with Pauz on this one – it is highly amusing to imagine a neutral arbitrator in a contract dispute between a diabolist and imp.

      1. Blake was warned by RDT (and took it to heart) that the lawyers were not impartial when dealing with demons, because that is sort of the opposite of the whole firm’s strategy.

        However, that was also the best idea I came up with, given that the lawyers have some minor interest in Blake and probably no serious interest in Pauz. More importantly, no-one else is likely to deal with both without major payment.

        1. It depends a bit on how you define “neutral and unbiased” . There would certainly be practitioners and Others with equal levels of disdain for both Imps and diabolists. They would be neutral and unbiased with respect to the two parties, albeit not in general…

  14. Marquis Andras is (according to Wikipedia) ‘real’, i.e. Wildbow didn’t invent him.

    “According to the Goetia, Andras was a Grand Marquis of Hell, appearing with a winged angel’s body and the head of an owl or raven, riding upon a strong black wolf and wielding a sharp and bright sword. He was also responsible for sowing discord, and commanded 30 infernal legions. He is the 63rd of the 72 spirits of Solomon.”

    So despite the fact that Pauz isn’t a wolf-rider (and BTW, the Warhammer universe can offer some downright scary-looking goblin wolf riders) or an owl-headed dude, there’s clearly a strong family resemblance between him and Pappy Andras – what with all that “sowing discord” business. Pauz just took the “sow” part more literal, and started collecting Wildboars and other beasties. 😉

    1. Metaphorical wolf-riding. Pauz is a spirit that controls animals, and “riding” as a metaphor for spirit-possession is nothing new.

  15. Dawww, babby’s first demonic contract! I bet a lot of other demonologists would find how much effort and precision he’s putting into binding an imp amusing. It sounds like it’s almost as elaborate as Grandma Rose’s binding of the Barber!

    1. Honestly, I don’t think you get very far as a diabolist by underestimating the terms of the contracts you make simply because the being in question is a minor one. Even with an elaborate contract the damn thing still managed to screw him over.

    2. That’s the thing, I think this emphasizes just how much work goes into binding things like the Barber. Grandma Rose probably spent months working out how to bind him, rather than an evening’s chat.

  16. “Maybe you don’t,” I said. “But if that’s true, if you’re that shortsighted, you may well be doomed to being small fry forever.”

    “You think me small?”

    Too bad Pauz is gray, and not goblin-green – and that this is a shithole in Toronto, and not the bog pits of Dagobah.

    “Judge me by my size, do you? HmmMMmm!”

    …Cut to a montage where Pauz teaches Blake about the powers of the Diabolist Side:

    Blake running cross-country, Pauz sitting in a baby carrier on his back, beating him over the head with a stick to make him go faster…

    Pauz ‘levitating’ Blake’s motorcycle out of the Toronto harbor by siccing a flight of pigeons on it…

    Blake looking dismayed at his beloved bike, covered in salt water and pigeon crap, Pauz hunched over the handlebars while dumping a steamin’ load on the engine block…

    The two of them meditating while sitting cross-legged on the flayed corpse of George Lucas.

    1. Also, according to the wiki you quoted, Andras was “very skilled in using people’s own anger against them”. Now that would make a decent emperor…

      “I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.” 😉

      1. And since the Thorburns are known to have had dalliances with the Behaims (at least once) in the past, Lardo and Blake might get their “No! I am your father!” moment. 🙂

  17. Pauz is a goblin-esque creature, who causes the wildlife to act weird, controls people to make them put food out to feed the bestial horde, and he can use mind-affecting magic to distract mislead any undue attention that the authorities might focus on his activities…

    Up until he got into the Faustian bargaining in this chapter, Pauz was starting to sound less like an Imp, and more like a Gibgoblin.

    And if you’re wondering “What in the Nine Hells is a Gibgoblin?”, then you should check out Hoad’s Grim, by Jack Kincaid.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HLPMDNO

    It was originally published as an audio book, available as a free download, and if you ever come across a copy of those recordings, they’re well worth a listen, as well. It’s an absolutely fantastic horror story, with beautiful narration by Kincaid and a handful of others. Plus sound effects, background music, the whole nine yards.

    Fair warning, though: You shouldn’t listen to it in the middle of the night, when you’re all alone, just before you go to bed. Unless you enjoy washing urine stains and anxious sweat out of your bed linen, that is. 🙂

    And you’ll probably never be able to hear or read the word ‘freezer’ without getting a nervous twitch, either.

    1. You underestimate my power.Other people devour spicy food,I,the great stooryeater,devour creepypastas for such an effect.

  18. “The stink of him. There was a sound that rolled off him too, faint and grating, as if he were a radio, generating the opposite of calming, soothing white noise.”

    White noise isn’t always soothing, though. Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker was always accompanied by a blast of white noise in the Dark Knight film, which helped to emphasize his character and menacing, chaotic presence.

  19. Amazing chapter. All that caution and Blake still ends up with the noose tightening around his neck. We learned quite a few things this chapter too.

    Pauz’s name has no power when spoken or written, being a mere imp. Whatever hold he got over Rose wasn’t from her speaking his name five times, so that theory is shot. I’m guessing he got his hold when Blake left his rabbit guts circle – she’s a fragile being, probably not that hard to get a foothold and do something. I don’t even care to guess what he actually did to her… maybe Blake needs to manipulate Pauz into breaking his end of the bargain so he’s forced to undo it.

    Also, Andras is Pauz’s maker. And he’s bound to a saber. Given Pauz is a relatively young being, I don’t find it likely he’s gone far from his place of birth. That leads me to wonder where the Andras saber currently is. Now who do we know who might own a saber? I’m thinking maybe a big guy, really into collecting weapons, but isn’t really well educated on diabolism so he might not know exactly what he has… who do we know that fits that profile?

    1. Re: Andras and sabre.
      Interesting and good catch. That would liven things up – a major demon bound in an item Blake might be able to get to.

  20. One last thought and then back to work:

    It got me thinking about what would happen when he died. Pauz found another host. Who would Pauz pick? Someone vulnerable. Someone weak.

    Rose counts as “Someone vulnerable. Someone weak.” Any chance that Pauz somehow took over Rose even though naming him had no special significance?

  21. “Can I ask, now, if you had anything to do with Rose?”

    “I’ve had something to do with almost everything that has happened to you since our last meeting,” Pauz told me.

    Ok, so here’s my theory. The reasons the satyrs were so aggressive towards Blake a few chapters ago is because of Pauz’s influence. Normally, they would have simply tried to invite Blake to one of Jerry’s “parties”, only using the maenads as a last resort. Because of Pauz, however, they immediately went into “come with us, there will be blood” territory.

    As Pauz led to that situation which led to Rose overexerting herself which led to her “coma”, Pauz is in a way, responsible for what happened to Rose.

  22. If Blake manages to somehow get out of this alive without killing Dowght, he should make Dowght his servant. Blake really needs minions. Others have them. Even Maggie has some.

    The plus side is that, as a basically zombie, Blake can use Dowght as a guinea pig or bait without feeling bad. Also, it gives Rose a set of arms, so to speak. As long as Dowght can follow basic commands, Blake should be good.

    The one bad thing is that it might look bad. The new Diabolist would now have a zombie mook(s).

    1. Dowght isn’t really a zombie, as he’s still alive. Blake might take him in and use him as a servant for Rose though, if he can get him to calm down. But ultimately he and Rose would both want to help the guy out in the long term and restore his humanity if that’s still possible. In the mean time though they would get a creepy butler, which is just what a creepy “haunted” mansion on the top of a hill needs. For the ambiance, you understand.

      1. I realize that he’s alive, but I figure at this point, he’s basically an animal or a husk. He’s literally lost his mind. I suppose if Blake and Rose could help him regain some of his mind, it would be good for them. I just like the idea of putting Dowght to use, instead of simply escaping or killing him.

        1. Why would he waste his time nursing an elderly man who’s half dead and clearly unaware of what has transpired back to health when he’s got plenty of more pressing concerns? Sane or not, there are better choices and the only place the old man is going to is a hospital/psyche ward. Given how he’s been forced to live, he’s lucky if he hasn’t caught something fatal.

          Blake doesn’t need an Alfred anyhow.

          1. “Why would he waste his time nursing an elderly man who’s half dead and clearly unaware of what has transpired back to health when he’s got plenty of more pressing concerns?”

            Positive karma? Undoing a demonic influence sounds like a pretty good way to make some headway on that whole ‘The universe wants me dead’ thing.

            1. And he has time for this how?

              Where’s he going to take care of him at? His house is a death trap the moment you get close with all the Others prowling around.

              How’s he going to take care of him? Blake spent a prolonged period homeless and has his own issues to handle before he tries that.

              There’s trying to earn positive karma, but consider the amount of effort and up keeping costs, the karmic returns wouldn’t nearly even out. It’s not practical.

    2. Blake would also have a hard time explaining living with a zombie to Joel… Not to mention, it could lead to awkward moments if he brings Tiffany home.

      “No Dowght, she’s not for eating. Not for you anyway…”

      1. That would be a very dangerous situation. If Blake is forced to say “No, Dowght!” repeatedly, he might end up summoning Gwen Stefani.

  23. From this update (with caps to emphasize):

    “Basics first.

    “The terms of this contract exist between me, Blake Thorburn, and…”

    “Pauz, given of the Marquis Andras, both of the fifth choir, FOUL AND FAIR.”

    From Collateral 4.4

    “And, after the birds collected for a moment, then parted, the Imp made its appearance.

    Two feet tall, proportioned like a baby, it was lipless, its mangled double row of fangs exposed. The eyes were pale, like a blind man’s, the skin somewhere between ashy gray and black.

    “Pauz, of the fifth choir, FERAL AND FOUL,” he said, in a deeper voice that didn’t fit his frame.”

    Uh oh

      1. Huh…and I was so proud of spotting Paws’s trick before anyone else :(. Though he can’t lie for the deal so it does make more sense.

  24. Well, now that Pauz isn’t actively controlling the animals, they should be following their instincts, so Blake can probably drive them off. Just shout “Raah! I am a predator and you are not cornered!”

    More seriously, he does still have some tricks up his sleeve. He can put up a circle, he’s got the hatchet, and he’s wearing a sweet T-shirt. He can probably find a way out.

  25. The animals would no longer be subject to a circle IMHO. Without Pauz’s influence they’re animals, not anything magic or Other.

    1. Yeah, probably not. On the other hand, they’re still likely very much infected with demonic radiation so they’ll be unnaturally aggressive.

      1. I thought the radiation/taint/influence of Paws would disappear with his binding, but…
        “Feral animals began to emerge, where they’d disappeared into hiding places.”
        “A crazed shell of a man, half-snarling, half sneering, but mostly baring his teeth.”

        They’re… congregating! spookily wiggling fingers

        Hope setting that fetid house on fire works…

        1. Pauz no longer gives direct commands, but all the twisted crap he did to the animals and Dowght previously remains. The animals are all basically hyper-aggressive, abused to insanity, and focused more on humans than their natural prey. Pauz may have excluded Dowght from the focused-on-humans bit (to preserve his current host) or maybe not.

  26. I think the Rose situation is really interesting. My hunches are that

    a) Paws’ focus on reversing the natures of creatures applies to vestiges and due to her weakness he’s turning her from a reflection into an indirect taint/influence/interference in Blake.

    b) He assumes that Conquest’s leashing of Rose means she is more Conquest’s than Blake’s, thus making her an available prey when the contract ends since she’s not “Blake’s and his.” Heck, maybe he hopes to use his previous radiating of Rose as the weakness through which he corrupts Conquest?

    c) After she broke the windows she’s been sleeping in a puddle of old cat piss under the house.

    1. My personal “no chance in hell” scenario has Pauz binding Rose to one of the animals, or Dowght himself, perhaps via eyeball reflections, perhaps more directly.

      1. It would have to be more direct to have a “Don’t mess with demons” result. Mirrors aren’t exactly alive, so under normal circumstances Blake stepping on a rat wouldn’t break eye-reflection Rose.

        I love how he turned away from Blake to hide the reaction, or…

  27. So, I had a thought. While Pauz has certainly taken a step to screw Blake over in the immediate term, it appears that he’s been so concerned about that he hasn’t thought about how many loopholes he’s left for Blake to screw him over in return. The only restrictions on Blake appear to be that he has to make an effort for Conquest to take possession of Pauz if Conquest doesn’t already try to do so anyways, and that Blake can’t try to immediately take back possession.

    What he apparently hasn’t noticed is that he’s given Blake his complete protection from himself and all his servants, but there’s nothing at all stopping Blake from doing harm to Pauz once this is all over. Blake can attack Pauz all he wants, but Pauz is obligated to do his very best to protect Blake from any harm that he or his servants might do to him no matter what – Pauz can’t even defend himself against Blake and anything associated with Blake in any way that would bring them harm. If he fights back, he loses all his footholds and becomes a weak little mote with almost no power to his name. He’s completely screwed.

    1. Interesting thoughts on the contract. Again, it appears to be the short-term, long-term distinction has screwed Pauz for the long term. Not to mention, if Pauz does fight back, he invokes the “get out of the world and take your influence with you” clause.

      Oh, and the following clauses:

      “You give me to him,” Pauz said. “A transfer of possession, with no intent to immediately reclaim me.”
      “And you make some attempt, overt or otherwise, to ensure he keeps me until such a time that the contract’s terms end and I am free.”

      Could be fulfilled simply by leaving the book in Conquest’s domain even if Conquest doesn’t ask for it directly (anything left in his domain is his).

      Still, I don’t think this will be easy.

      1. New plan!

        “So Pauz, Conquest now belongs to you, right? He’s your servant?”

        “Oh yes indeed. I shall tear this city apart!” exulted the imp.

        “Ok, great. Well, I have somewhere to be.”

        Blake goes to the University.

        “What do you want, Mr. Thorburn?” said the rather impatient Sphinx.

        “Why Isadora, I would like to be friends. With benefits. Err, not those kinds of benefits. You see there’s this little loophole in a contract I made…”

    2. Except that the Imp will be in Conquest’s domain. If Blake tries to screw with him there, Conquest will make him regret it. The Imp is short-sighted, not stupid.

      And technically speaking, the Imp may be obligated to protect him, but the terms of protecting can easily be twisted. After all, he could always protect him from the outside world where everyone is trying to kill him by breaking his arms and legs and keeping him properly fed and hydrated in his bed room while he’s chained down.

      1. If Conquest has become Pauz’s host, then he’s one of Pauz’s own and as such he’s obligated to protect Blake from Conquest.

        As to the latter issue, evidence shows that Pauz isn’t capable of such long term planning.

        1. He doesn’t really have to. He can just relegate it to something that he’ll figure out later, something he’s apparently good at.

          For your last suggestion:
          “I will, to the best of my ability, prevent you from coming to harm, that implicitly or explicitly derives from me in any way or form.”
          Breaking his limbs is not preventing him from coming to harm. Just keeping him trapped there in such a situation might well count, however.

  28. I am curious if Pauz has had an influence over the contents of the book once he gets ejected.

    He reverses/twists twists the natural order..
    will the book be in an unreadable language
    be indestructible
    smell terrible
    turn into “100 excellent reasons why you shouldn’t deal with demons”
    always have another page fully scribbled with “you stink!”

  29. Blake being a Diabolist isn’t good thing, I have to say that. Last time I checked, giving demons a foothold into the world by making contracts like this only adds to his Karmic Debt. Yeah, he was blackmailed into it, but its pretty clear that he’s the one who’s going to suffer for it in the long run.

    1. Being a diabolist in and of itself doesn’t increase you karmic debt. Giving a demon a foothold doesn’t either. The big things that give you karmic debt are lying, ignoring or breaking oaths and contracts, and irresponsibility, though I’m not sure how much the last part applies to diabolism rather than just irresponsibly introducing people to magic. However, diabolism probably increases your risk of doing all those things since the beings you are dealing with are prone to causing collateral damage. Blake will be ok karmically speaking so long as he’s cautious and is responsible about doing damage control.

      1. I respectfully disagree until Word of God speaks otherwise. Diabolist are those who work with demons primarily, as stated. Demons, generally speaking, cause problems by their very presence in the world. They corrupt even instincts and the ones who are still around are the powerful and smarter ones who aren’t. To work with them is to enable chaos, and all the problems that occur as a result will be on the shoulders of the one who called for it or gave it a foothold.

        I turn your attention to Chapter 2.4.

        “I think I get it, even without the books,” Rose said. Quiet. “We make that deal, to save our hide, and they get stronger, making life harder on the rest of humanity.”.

        Rose is talking about joining up with the Lawyers here, but basically signing with them and giving demons a foothold makes life harder on humanity, incurring debt. Only, since you are a part of the firm, they take on all of the debt, alleviating you of it while you’re in service in exchange for your past.

        Next bit comes from Briar Girl in 3.2:

        It’s about taint, about rot. Once those things get hooks in the world, the world starts coming apart at the seams. Your things, they are not balanced, not in any way we want to deal with. Never simple death, but oblivion, annihilation. Helping the universe to reach zero, with screams, darkness and pain every step of the way.”

        By “your things” she’s referring to his family’s practice of enlisting demons. Considering Pauz is a perfect example of this and he’s a light-weight, you can imagine that she’s got a point. There’s also a general reference to imps in this chapter.

        The point being that giving a foothold to things that cause the above and causing all that burdening on humanity is going to put all that karmic debt onto the one responsible for calling it down and giving it a foothold. With Pauz being a cast off of Andras, you can imagine that whoever called Andras down eats a little more of the karmic debt for everything that Pauz does too, or his family descendants depending on when it was called down.

        There’s a reason that diabolist either join the Lawyers or die miserably 90% of the time. Him being one isn’t a good thing, even if its for his survival, which is why he didn’t like when Pauz called him a Diabolist.

        1. If that was the case, if Diabolists where responsible for the rot that every demon they call slowly inflicts upon the world AND that gave them Karmic debt Blake’s uphill battle would be pointless. Seven lifetimes of helping demon’s get their footholds. 7 lifetimes of things using Blake’s credit card. He would never get out.

          Also never forget that Karma is NOT our idea of good and evil. Murdering your enemies child its totally cool as long as someone in his family deserves it.

          1. Who says he’s getting out?

            Life isn’t fair. Unless he does something epic, as in Worm-level of Epic, I sincerely doubt he’ll clear more than a lifetime’s worth of debt. (Although since we know its only a matter of time, Meh…)

        2. I think you should remember that Solomon was a diabolist. He took on the biggest and baddest Others he could find, including a number of notable demons, and forced them to do his bidding. He made them agree to follow certain rules and then forced them to make even more Others follow those rules, making it so humanity could truly develop civilization.

          Diabolists who survive for long I think fall into about three categories, from a moral standpoint. The first are the ones a lot of people fear – the ones who use demons and devils as a shortcut to power, trading pieces of themselves and giving footholds away without caring who gets hurt. The second are academics, people who study them out of interest, who might do some incidental damage in their studies. I think Blake’s grandmother and great-grandmother fall into this category, and possibly even further down the line. The third are the Solomons of the world. The ones who try to fight the demons by binding them, giving humanity a chance. I think Blake would probably move towards that direction, once he’s gotten some experience.

          1. Solomon seems to have been considered more of a sorcerer than a diablolist though. Assuming that his story is anything like the usual versions he also had the Judeo-christian God on his side. One of the few beings who can make even the most powerful demons his bitch. He did get a demon to actually make something. He also would have ended up Forsworn.

            1. We have one reference calling him a “sorcerer king”, which for all we know is like calling him a practitioner king – I don’t believe that sorcery refers to any particular branch of magic. I also wouldn’t presume that the version of the story publicly available to muggles is historically accurate in Pact. Some non-awakened believer in the Abrahamic god could easily have just thought that his deity was on Solmon’s side.

              Also, remember that Barbatorem agreed to be bound by the “seal of Suleiman bin Daoud”. In the story the Seal of Solomon refers to his signet ring that allows him to control demons, but the in Pact it probably refers to a specific binding ritual or contract and the ring would likely just be the object one of the demons he dealt with was bound to. I’m thinking this seal is one of the more standard methods of binding diabolic beings, and as such it’s use can be considered associated with practicing diabolism. The inventor of such a method who used it on demons would thus be considered a diabolist.

            2. One other thing. The power the god of Abraham had at the time, if it even existed, is unknown. In spite of the Hebrew faith insisting that there’s only one god, in Pact there is most definitely more than one. Claims that he would be all-powerful are obviously untrue, if the character of the deity depicted in the OT was accurate. If he was, then I imagine he’d have destroyed or subjugated all the other gods. Gods are certainly powerful, but thus far we don’t know enough about how they work, how much influence they are able to exert on the world, or how they measure up against the most powerful devils and demons – for all we know world-architect level beings like Ornias scoff at the notion of a god being a threat to them. After all, many of them have lived long enough to see religions be born and die out.

            3. Demons seem to be taken from the Testament of Solomon, and seem to be the fallen Angel sort. So far they are all beings who had the Judeo Christian background. Making the God of Abraham their ex-boss. If we start seeing demons taken from other mythologies, that changes things.

            4. Again, you’re assuming the muggle literature on the subject is accurate. I find that to be an unlikely prospect.

            5. “He works with anything and everything. Others call him a sorceror, so that’s what I’m gonna call him.” 2.07

              So far as we know, a ‘sorceror’ (or sorcerer?) is the name of someone who would work with anything, which is what it looks like Blake is working his way towards being.

              My agreement lies primarily with Enjou’s argument, regarding the accuracy of ‘muggle’ knowledge. It’s already well-known how much religious tales bend and warp and appropriate from other sources–how much more confusion would be added with actual magic flying around? Especially with a magic system as strange and complex as this one.

              I do recall a report explaining that originally there were gods other than Yahweh, based only in part on the phrasing of “You shall have no other gods before me,” and that it was only later that the existence of other gods was put into doubt, but as I cannot recall the sources, it is only of limited value.

              This is part of the reason I dislike when RL religions are brought into magic systems. People get their own beliefs all mixed up in the story. So far the text itself has mostly bypassed this, but…

            6. It should be noted that Old Testament YHWH was a cruel, petty, vindictive God (you mess with my people? I
              KILL ALL YOUR CHILDREN! You mock my prophet? I HAVE YOU EATEN BY BEARS! Sacrifice your only child for me – Bwahaha! Just jokes..). Having him on your side is barely better than having a demon on your side…

  30. Hi Wildbow. Something I don’t understand about this chapter, is if Pauz wants the contract to work, him being delivered to Conquest, doesn’t it work against him to kill Blake indirectly with his animals? Shouldn’t he put something in place to protect Blake until the contract ends? If Pauz is only hoping for hurting/maiming Blake, I can see how Blake would still feel the need to complete his end of the bargain after getting maimed/hurt.

    It’s a bit odd.

    1. Pauz doesn’t really do well in terms of thinking about things in the long term. Either he just doesn’t see the contradiction in getting Blake killed before he can get him delivered to Conquest, or alternatively he figures that if Blake dies due to this trap his plan isn’t likely to work anyways so he might as well kill him since he’ll get out of the book in a couple days anyways.

    2. Simple, if Blake dies before doing his part of the bargain, Pauz gets a nice piece of land. Much better than a chance at Conquest.

      1. Wrong. The land penalty only comes into play if Blake fails to meet his end of the bargain and if the property belongs to him. If Blake dies he fails the first condition, but if he dies the property doesn’t belong to him so Pauz gets nothing. Of course, this is in line with Pauz’s weakness of being unable to focus much on long term planning.

    3. Conquest is gonna notice if Blake dies. Eventually. He’ll figure out what happened and come pick up Pauz.
      OR
      Blake frees Pauz. Pauz keeps him safe, but Blake fails his end of the bargain and Pauz get’s the land. If Pauz wants Conquest he can “renegotiate” an identical deal signed outside of his territory.
      OR
      Pauz expects that Blake will get through this just fine, and the thing about the look on Blake’s face is something totally different.

      Basically Pauz wins no matter what. Either he gets the land or he gets Conquest or both.

      1. In case #1 Conquest shows up and binds him for real. For case #2 I don’t think there’s any restriction in the contract requiring Blake to keep Pauz in the book – a bound being can be let out and still be bound, much like Dickswizzle. Might not be so easy though since he didn’t bind him in that fashion.

        I think case #3 is likely – changing the subject of conversation but keeping it sounding like the context is for the prior subject seems like a common trick in the Pact universe.

        1. Not if Conquest gets his hands on the book before the binding releases. Not to mention, I had been thinking of much more metaphysical bindings, but this is remarkably physical. The whole “no overt changes to the binding when it expires” seems like it could leave Pauz in the book, free to exert his power even while being physically held.

          I don’t know that that would have made the bargain fail…but if (distinct from Dickswizzle) his binding was only in the book itself, then it’s possible that letting him out would cause the deal to fail. Maybe. It seems like Pauz could just be rebound and given over without violating the deal, but the imp certainly has reason to try and interpret it that way if he could.

          Pauz could think that Blake will get through it but still want to see his face when he realizes that the animals are going to maul him. And it’s been said elsewhere, but if Blake died before inheriting the land, Pauz gets nothing.

  31. Not very relevant to this chapter, but it bothers me that seemingly all you need to summon a demon like Ornias is to say his name a number of times. Because then everyone who hears you say the name knows it too, and then they can use it, and soon enough everyone is carrying a figurative nuke at the tip of their tongue.
    And that doesn’t seem to fit with this world. If there’s something I’ve missed, can anyone explain, please?

    1. Well you also have to be awakened so it will not work for just anyone. It is not clear that Ornias will deal with just anyone who calls him either rather then just causing the caller some horrible death.

      Rose can probably call and deal with Ornias due to the family lines reputation. If Blake called Ornias then would probably just meat a grizzly death.

      Other restrictions that might make sense are everyone can not form enough of a connection just by calling the name. So you have to have a family line like the Thornburns to get their attention or have enough power or reputation in general.

      The rest of the community does seem to hold it against you even if you just know a forbidden name. Maybe just knowing the name taints you in some small way which is detectible. In order to cleanse yourself you have to forget the name.

    2. I have to think you’d need to be awakened to summon one, otherwise any muggle who’s interested in demonology and the stories about Solomon would probably summon one by accident. Either that or you have to have specific knowledge that the being you are summoning actually is a real name that can be summoned, with it otherwise being the equivalent to trying to summon Darth Vader. Or perhaps this is an alternate universe where practitioners suppressed knowledge about Solomon outside of the magical community.

      But in regards to the non-muggles, the vast majority of the ones responsible enough to survive for long aren’t going to deal with demons and devils, so even if they know they aren’t going to use that knowledge or just go passing it around to others.

    3. I do concede that most of the major demons we’ve had name dropped here are, well, public domain. I get that most Others may not realize they can read the Ars Goetia and such online, but yeah, the names wouldn’t be secret for long if somebody did a Wikipedia search.

      Presumably, most Practioners AREN’T like Conquest and don’t want the bad juju just messing with such forces entails.

      That’s the thing about demons, especially the big ones: Looooooots of easy power for the asking… But the price is hellishly expensive. Most Practioners get that. The ones that don’t, die… Or worse. Its easy to be a Diabolist. Being one for long is the hard part.

      1. It’s also implied that the Ms. Lewis would have protected Blake from being harmed by Orinas if it was called down back then. Given that she’s a partner in the firm she could have the clout for it to listen and not kill Blake on summoning.

        Otherwise, all he knows is how to give a major demon a one-access pass to do whatever the hell it wants on Earth until it can’t remain, including killing him.

    4. Ornias was a special case that Ms. Lewis knew would come based on namings alone. Based on Rose’s comments the last time she talked to Pauz, the general way things work is:
      Saying the name once gains its attention and saying the name the requisite number of times allows negotiation. Presumably that means two-way communication. Not summoning, not binding, negotiation.

      Normals seem to be unable to do this. Either:

      1) All practitioners can do demon namings. In which case they all learn fast not to do it (or die). OR

      2) Only those with a specific talent, i.e. diabolists, can do demon namings.

      I am betting on #2 because of Rose’s ability to call things (lawyers and goblins so far) that Blake can’t. He is clearly a practitioner, but the lawyers don’t come for him, goblins hear him but don’t obey, and Barbatorem is ignoring him. Therefore, there seems to be something about female Thorburns that is special.

      As for why more people don’t use them, #2 and see my comments last chapter on why just knowing the names is far from sufficient: https://pactwebserial.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/collateral-4-6/#comment-4667

      1. I disagree. Just because saying the name would let her negotiate, doesn’t mean that naming isn’t a universal summoner. However, there may be something there about Rose’s diabolical street cred allowing her to summon a demon and not be immediately and horribly murdered. I still think this is along the lines of what Laird discussed in the cafe of spirits recognizing him and knowing he’s legit. I think Ornias being able to be summoned by name is just a matter of him/her being a powerful fiend who is not currently bound.

  32. Pauz is such a liar.

    “Stronger each time, I’m patient,” he said.

    and

    “I don’t have much patience, diabolist,” he said.

    in the same chapter, man. Well, you could argue being something and having it isn’t the same, I guess.

    Anyway, thanks for the chapter, Wildbow. I’m new 🙂 Hi. From Germany, but I try with my grammar.

  33. Aha…the great Admiral Akbar Jeopardy question… “Where was the trap?

    It was in…the quotation marks!

    See, this is why demon lawyers are the best. You have to kill a really good goat to get these guys. This is just an imp who has munched on lawyers and a few other folks. Think of the demons out there who have done some real big business. We’re talking the people OJ Simpson had to summon. I’m not saying there was any black magic involved in that trial, by the way. That would come across as racist. Could have been white magic, Asian magic, Native American magic, all sorts of magic.

    Well, now you have to deal with the damn animals. Evil corrupted animals. Giant rats and spiders and some crazed skinny guy who could be easily killed and left behind for animals to feast on while you run away pissing your nice clean chaotic boxer briefs.

    You know what Zed and Rita found out, Blake. When you Pauz, you lose.

  34. Comments:
    – I liked the experiment you did with the contract.
    – Not having Rose there was such a significant handicap…
    – I’m thinking “From relaxation and satisfaction to a death threat in a matter of seconds.” could become the motto of Pactverse. Things like that happened with Isadora, Conquest, Pauz; iirc Laird, too…
    – And Pauz’s trap was awesome.

    Great lines:
    – “But, I noted, the effect of Pauz’s self wasn’t as powerful as it had been before. I felt the pressure around the edges of my thoughts, the gradual dissolving of my peripheral thoughts, but I didn’t feel as though I were being swept away in it all. Which in no way diminished how fucking scared I was, or how gross and intimidating this space was.”
    – “I was going to fuck this up on some level. It was practically inevitable. I just hoped I could reduce it down to a level I could manage. I needed Rose here. I was flying fucking blind. I wanted to ask if he knew what had happened to Rose, but I couldn’t afford to look weak.”
    – “I realized, belatedly, that the man wasn’t old. He was withered. Atrophied.”
    – “It got me thinking about what would happen when he died. Pauz found another host. Who would Pauz pick? Someone vulnerable. Someone weak.”
    – “I’d already fallen prey to magical influences with very little warning, not to mention how being forsworn was technically losing the rights to defend oneself against spirits. Pauz could probably take advantage of a small falsehood or karmic foothold, much as the Sphinx could leverage a false answer to justify murdering someone.”
    – ““Can you afford to be that patient?”“Immortality has a way of allowing it,””
    – ““Mm,”“But I’ve done damage. Diminished mankind and the world, hm? That’s all my kind seeks.” All that his kind sought. Maybe that was true, maybe it was only true when his kind were described in abstract. He was different from the commonplace demon, on a level.”
    – ““Then let’s talk in terms of the hypothetical, and discuss when we’re done. We could say that no term or written word shall be considered binding until both of us agree and sign.”“Outside of the inviolable rules,”“Which rules?”“The rules of binding oaths?”“Those laws, which were established in the emergence from void and chaos, and the fundamental structures and forces of existence your practice, my power, or practice and power combined can’t alter,””
    – “More words, more terms and ideas to complicate matters. I was making the wish to the genie that was hellbent on twisting the terms of the wish to screw me over. More than that, I was dealing with something very inhuman, in a context I didn’t fully understand. Here we went. Dealing with a devil.”
    – ““And your statements can be considered verbal agreement, even if you aren’t human, or if you aren’t technically there and speaking in the conventional sense?”“Point conceded.””
    – “Circular reasoning, to agree to the terms of ‘agree’, but fuck it.”
    – “If I was going to write a contract, I’d do it like I was putting something together for work. Start crude, confirm direction, refine, polish. I needed to bind him, I needed to bind him very fucking carefully, and I didn’t have the background of hundreds or thousands of years of trial and error in diabolism to back me up.”
    – “Meaning the imp wasn’t so happy with the idea of making a small scar in the universe and then dying ignobly. Suspicion confirmed.”
    – “Demons want a foothold in the world. What happens if I give all of myself, if Dowght is what happens when Pauz finds a crack? Too little knowledge, with the stakes far too high.”
    – ““Fifteen square feet, parceled out as I deem appropriate.”“Small,”“Yes,”“Small.” You little bastard. I know this is gold to you, and I’m probably betraying humanity by even offering it. Take it.” – Hah.
    – “Just as he was looking to achieve absolute control over me, in contrast to the tiny hold he had on Dowght, I knew I was offering him absolute ownership over the land. I had a dim idea of what that meant.”
    – “I took a deep breath, then immediately regretted doing so.”
    – ““I have some terms to stick onto this part of the deal. From the time I bind you, you don’t harm me or mine.”“Until such a time as I am released?”“Period. Ever. All things with any connection to me, my family, my friends, or my possessions are protected from you, across the board.””
    – ““If you act in bad faith-”“Clearer,” he said, sounding annoyed. “If you free yourself, if you bend or abuse the terms in such a way that suggests you are not acting with the intent of being bound and delivered to Conquest, and subsequently freed-”“Clearer. Narrower.” I almost refined the terms further, then stopped. That was interesting, that he wanted it narrowed from that. That was very, very interesting. “Are you telling me that there’s a loophole you’re already planning on abusing to slip from your duties?””
    – ““Let’s talk penalties.” He seemed satisfied with that. I was backing down. “If you fail to keep your end of the bargain,”“You forfeit every hold you have in this world. Every person, every animal, every place, idea, every whatever. You undo it all.”“I am starting to think,” the imp said, his eyes flashing in the gloom on the far side of the table, “I should kill you after all.” From relaxation and satisfaction to a death threat in a matter of seconds.”
    – “I wasn’t sure what he’d done to give the imp an in. Good and evil apparently didn’t have much weight in the grand scheme of things, it was about right and wrong. Had Dowght committed some wrong? Some betrayal to himself or some personal code?”
    – “My gut told me he was getting rid of them to put me more at ease, in the hopes that I’d let my guard down and let the loophole slip.”
    – ““Two more things to cover,”“Unless you have ideas on what goes into a contract?”“If I had specific knowledge,”“I would not be free.””
    – ““A neutral party, or a party professional enough to be neutral and unbiased with both a mortal human and an imp. Someone we both agree on, with further stipulations to prevent one party from simply refusing every suggestion.” […] “Amusing thing to imagine. I don’t think neutral parties exist, in the midst of this, but yes. We can try, or form another compromise.””
    – ““You think me small?” Well, there I went, insulting him and turning a bad situation into a worse one.”
    – “Thank you, Rose, I thought. It was always so much easier when I had an idea of the motivations at play. You’re helping even when you’re not here. Might as well drive the point home.”
    – “I will, to the best of my ability, prevent you from coming to harm, that implicitly or explicitly derives from me in any way or form.” – I did not notice that loophole before it was revealed. Brilliant.
    – ““Hm,”“I thought you were on a schedule, diabolist.”“I am,”“Were you calling me diabolist, before this?”“No,” he said. He smiled. “Because you weren’t. But you are one now, hm?” The smile and the idea both disturbed me.” -> Brilliant.
    – “It was tedious work, slow going, with me taking my time over every word, thinking in abstracts, in terms of symbols, and in terms of the very literal. Knowing all the while that I was probably missing something vital. Something that could get me killed or spell horrible doom for everyone and everything.”
    – “I had it laid out across the table, footnotes included, and I began copying it out, skipping parts I’d crossed out, rewording even as I went for elegance’s sake. Seven pages, when it really felt like it should be more. But the language was tidy and clear.”
    – “I could feel the pressure as the clock wound down. There was also a mounting sense of worry. The idea that I’d overlooked something. It wasn’t helped as Pauz got more agitated, watching the contract near completion.”
    – ““Can I ask, now, if you had anything to do with Rose?”“I’ve had something to do with almost everything that has happened to you since our last meeting,”“Did you have anything to do with Rose?”“Outside of subtle influences?”“Yes. The fact that you noticed, diabolist, means my influences weren’t all subtle.””
    – ““You’re saying you influenced something, made this come to pass?”“You’re inferring more than I’m saying,”“Your partner is asleep, in more ways than one. Think about why.””
    – ““My biggest regret in accepting this bargain,” he said, looking up at me with an intense expression on his tiny round face, “Is that I won’t be able to see the look on your face when you realize.”” – That is a real pity. There’s an amusing parallel here to Laird, who sent Adam just so he’d find out Blake’s first reaction towards finding out about the time trap.
    – ““Pauz,” I said, holding the contract up, “By the terms of this contract, I bind you.” The wind turned, the contract flapping violently in my hand. The outer circle of the diagram collapsed, the cord snapping into the center, until Pauz was well and truly bound up, in a series of very careful knots and shapes, ten times more intricate than I could have managed, all connected to the inner diagram that still remained.”
    – “Dowght looked up at me, his eyes meeting mine. It took me about two seconds to realize just how badly I’d fucked up. The sounds in the walls intensified. That fucking imp had tricked me, misdirecting, distracting. He’d do everything in his power to protect me, from the moment he was bound on. Just like he’d said… I couldn’t transfer property to him on my death if I had no property the moment I died. He couldn’t protect me while he was bound.”
    – “Pauz was bound, and the connections that allowed him to control his creatures were severed. Taking no overt, direct action, he’d let me trap myself.” -> Beautiful.

  35. @Wildbow. I was pondering which form(s) of Music (it any) you were partial to having on in the background during writing.

    I’m trying writing with classic and reasonbly often finding myself subconsciously writting in time to such compositions as Ein Klein Nachtmusik and Beethoven’s fifth symphony.along with the theme tune from the A-Team. (That last is for action sequences).

    1. I started listening to Mr. Suicide Sheep on youtube – he collects free pieces in a fairly relaxing tone, a lot of it being ‘chillstep’. First cottoned on to it when some tracks kept recurring on gaming channels I’d check out on Twitch.tv.

      His channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCAdYmwFIrs&list=UU5nc_ZtjKW1htCVZVRxlQAQ

      There’s been a bit of a shift in style or tone in recent tracks, where the last 20-50 uploads have generally failed to do it for me, so I often just turn on a playlist of older tracks.

      Favorites include:
      Savant – Sayonara
      Feint – Sky Dance
      Silent Rider & Camille Corazon – Black Crown
      Seven Lions – Polarized
      College – A Real Hero
      Physical Illusion & Fullcasual – Toxin
      ak9 – When you come home
      Lemaitre – Splitting Colors
      Panic Girl – Hide and Seek.

      I imagine it’s good for writing in the same way it’s good for gaming, insofar as it’s not very intrusive. Lyrics don’t tend to be there, or attention-grabbing when they are. It doesn’t drag your attention away from what you’re doing, which is a bad thing when you want to be focused on words on the page while writing or ganks or frags or whatever you’re doing when gaming.

      Beyond that, I’ll often just youtube search ‘best battle music’ and put on a playlist for more action packed scenes, listen to the Bastion/Transistor soundtracks (Setting Sail, We All Become), or listen to Yuki Kajiura, who I was a big fan of in my teens, but who I find slightly more distracting during writing (Salva Nos, Canta Per Me, Credens Justitiam, Mezame).

      But I’m hard-of-hearing, so do take all of the above with a grain of salt.

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