Gathered Pages: 4

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Black Lamb’s Blood

Introduction

What got me into the darkest practices was a desire to do good.  First as the youngest child of an evangelist and templar, then as a purveyor of dark texts and a colleague to men and women who perpetrate crimes against the world, each time they deal with that which is Wrong.

This text will not find its way to many on the side of Right.  I itch, already, to get into minutiae, to argue the meaning of Right, just as I know many of my contemporaries and peers are already telling themselves that they do not Wrong.  They tell themselves they are the exception.

The others, the unrepentant, the ones who have given up on the delusion, I suspect they have already put the book down, tossed it aside.  They equate Right and Wrong with Good and Evil, and they have already dismissed conventional morality.

I am not an expert practitioner.  My bindings, such as they are, have all been minor ones.  Careful ones, a very small number when one considers my age and my long career.  I am alive now because I am deliberate, because I move with excessive caution, not because I am good.  Certainly not because I am Good.  That particular quality is up for debate.

It is with this cautiousness and deliberation that I approach my first work.  This cautiousness and deliberation does not pay particular heed to the consequences of this writing.  I might, for example, say that it is unusual to wait so long to write their first work, that my fellows are narcissists by nature who write and write early out of ego and self-congratulations.  In saying this, I make enemies, dangerous ones who are liable to act on this insult.

I have always been honest to a fault.  Child of a preacher, an evangelist and templar.  Nothing else would be permitted, even before my siblings and I were invited to see what lies behind the curtain.  I’ve known since I admitted I was a diabolist, that anything I wrote would have to be something that would offend certain parties, march to a different rhythm.

When I say that I approach Black Lamb’s Blood with care, I mean that I chose my topic only after a great deal of thought.  Writers are told to write to fill the empty space on a bookshelf, the book that has yet to be written, but practitioners, narcissistic practitioners in particular, are prone to a kind of masturbation.  Self congratulating drivel, with crumbs offered to the peers as incentive to buy and read their texts.  These crumbs come as knowledge of demons and means of summoning, but not the truest means of controlling the things.  Such knowledge is retained by the one who bound them.  Nothing meaningful is offered.

Other texts are written with a quiet desperation.  The writers aim to unravel the mysteries and plumb the depths of knowledge.  The reasoning is similar to that of the compulsive gambler.  One more roll of the dice, one more answer, they tell themselves, and they’ll have a way out from beneath the debt that has piled up around them.  They will have an escape from the unbound beings that bay at their heels with every waking and sleeping hour.  This writing is too focused on immediate answers, or on big ones, and tends to the myopic.

What are my motivations for writing?  Look to the title of this text.  I am the black sheep of my family, but I am still new to this world, relatively speaking, relatively innocent.  The black lamb, perhaps.  The blood?  That of a martyr.  The conceit of a preacher’s get, to romanticize martyrdom.

I researched not the binding of demons, but the aftermath in the wake of these bindings, and in the wake of their actions.  I researched karma, the paths my peers took, I look at the lies we tell ourselves.  I mock my peers where I think they deserve to be mocked, call them repulsive when they act repulsive.  I curried favor, played to their love of themselves, the wide-eyed student eager to pay them homage.

They will, I think, be less than pleased when they see what I actually wrote.

I write this because I feel the field is largely ignored.  All of the rest of us, it seems, even the greatest of us, are focused on the present.  What happens in the future?  What happens when the binding is done?  What happens to us?  To the ones touched by the Wrongs?

Is there, I ask, a way out?  A methodology that might allow us to deal with evils without a sum loss for our world as a whole?  I would suggest there is, though I do not yet know what it might be.

I write this knowing that my audience will be small, if it exists at all.  Years of interviews and analysis point to the same conclusion.  My work will not be read, not as it is intended to be read.  The solutions I posit, and the questions I want others to answer, will each be ignored.  The unrepentant will refuse to challenge their own world view, moderate diabolists, my target audience in this, will feel uncomfortable with the emphasis on the future and dismiss me.  Lesser diabolists will not be in a position to read my work.

Beyond diabolists, I expect others will see it as self pity, which it is.  Failing that, they’re liable to see it as a kind of manipulation.  I wouldn’t blame them.  I have far too little to say in concrete terms, and talk around subjects, raising questions.  In their shoes, I would say the same about this text.

I write with a goal in mind, but perhaps it will solely for my own benefit, a masturbatory exercise in the end.

Masturbation or martyrdom, I chose my path in life, and I pray to God that this is a final destination that leads to a greater Good.

Chapter One: The Nest

I remember the first demon I encountered. My eldest brother was studying Religion, my sister enjoying a brief flirtation with freedom, partying and men, before her return to the family and assumption of her responsibilities.  I was an older teenager, I’d studied the books my father provided, and the task was one that needed as many hands as possible.  I was conscripted.

Our community knew my father as a local preacher.  He was more beneath the surface, privy to things beyond the curtain.  Practitioners called him an evangelist, a summoner, a man powerful enough to sway the world with words.  He called angels forth, cherubim, Madonnas carved of ivory to give others shelter.

That night, I saw him take off the mask he wore with his wife, his family, and his congregation.  He was always stern, but I saw him grim.  I saw old companions, others who had once been taught by the same teacher as my father, a man who taught them to use angels and guns both.  Men and women, wearing armor beneath clothes, long coats to hide their weapons, not one span of their body unadorned by tools of their trade.  Water, poisons, incendiaries, scrolls.

It would take me long decades to learn what proper diabolists already know.  Most practitioners count themselves unlucky if they have to deal with one of the darker powers.  Diabolists make such dealings their stock and trade.  My father and his fellow templars walked a middle road.  They had irregular contact with the Wrong things, but the only things they dealt out were fire, bullet, and death.

Were this another text, I would spell out the fighting, the measures taken, in hopes that others could use that knowledge and better survive.  My focus lies elsewhere.

The being we sought that night was more powerful than we had anticipated.  It was intelligent enough to hide the bulk of its activities from the outside world.  We expected an imp.  We found something evolved enough to be birthing its own imps, to have a form and its own symbolism.

A devil of the sixth choir.  The choir of man’s evils.  A weaker choir, and the one most personal to all of us.

She had collected inhabitants of a small town into a cult and church, and she had done it long enough that her initial followers had descendants.  Mother, father, child, grandchild.  All rutted on the floors and pews of the devil’s church in a grand, senseless, ceaseless orgy, the devil herself presiding above all in naked, Wrong splendor.

A devil of incest, she had made her own monsters even before she began creating imps, by way of inbreeding and birth defects.  There was only horror there, enough to sear its way into my eyes.

I will sum up that night by saying that each of us who walked in there with guns at the ready walked away alive, but we did not walk away intact.

When I think of what drove me to write this work, this event was one that remained with me.  I spent some time wondering about the aftermath.  It was my first eye-opening experience, and it was the last incident where I researched the long term effects.

It was only when I’d researched the events that are covered in each chapter that follows, that I let myself look into this one.  I looked at the numbers, and I want to point to statistics, the increase in birth defects in that town and county.  To the rise in the divorce rate, or the rates of abuse.

I want to, but I can’t.

It’s an event that touched me, personally, and started me on a different path in life.  Allow me, instead, to open my first chapter with the reality virtually all diabolists are cognizant of.

By the time my siblings returned the following April, almost a year later, my parents had announced their divorce.  My father said two words to either of my siblings.  Which was about as many as he’d said to me in the month prior.  That first night my siblings were home, I dreamed, and I realized why my father had been keeping his distance.

The morning before I left for that fight with the young devil, I was seventeen years old, doing the sort of thing seventeen year old boys are particularly inclined to do when locked in the bathroom.  An activity flavored with that uncomfortable mix of guilt and rebellion that is unique when your father preaches every night of the week.

That was the last time I found pleasure in my own body.

Scars and aftermath.  I imagine this particular type is familiar to all diabolists.  To lose our humanity piece by parcel, or to give it away.

This is not a reality diabolists often discuss.  The sacrifices that don’t involve the murder of a lamb or a virgin strapped to an altar.

I intend to open with this topic, a reality we all acknowledge and keep secret.  It was the start of my own journey, a motivation for me to start looking into matters.  I sought a way to fix what had been made Wrong in my own heart and mind.

The push to leave my home and family came about after a late night discussion with my siblings, my brother and the sister I could not look in the eye.

My sister called my father a charlatan.  My brother, set to be a templar after my father’s footsteps, did not disagree, but argued for the benefit of symbolism.

The idea of angels with wings was not situated in record or text, my sister argued.  Take away the invented things, the cultural aspects and art, stick to the written word alone, and the world was left with a deity who focused all efforts recorded in texts on a relatively small section of the Middle East.

My brother argued for the benefit of symbolism, for the power of ideas.  In the heat of battle, ideas and iconography could lend strength to those who needed it.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it hadn’t.  It didn’t.  Not for me, and not for our father.

In the end, with many beers shared between us, sitting on the roof of our house in that warm springtime, it dawned on me that my siblings had lost their faith.  The irony was, I’d retained my own.

I liken my realizations to the evolution of a child in their early adolescence, learning that their parents are indeed not perfect.  The subsequent realization is one many don’t make until they are in their twenties.  That their parent is still their parent.

Such was my relationship with God.  Such was the nature of my faith.

It was with that faith and little else that I gathered my things and struck out on my own a week later.

That was the start of my journey.  I would ask, to those who are still reading, to come with me.  Start with your eyes open to the most basic scars we wear.  We move on to the subject of Balance, to debts, prices, and the question of how one might better manage dealings with creatures who take from everything.

 

Chapter two: Tower

I would like to say I moved with direction after I left home, but I did meander.  I was hesitant, and I took too long to break some naive promises I had made to myself.  Foolish, I expect, to think one can get answers without paying some price.

When I did finally allow myself to look for and converse with diabolists, I found myself making rapid progress.  I hated myself for the prior years, telling myself I had wasted time, but I value them in retrospect.  I needed to exhaust all other options before I could walk this path and learn what I knew, or my self-loathing and doubt would have been too much to bear.

At the time, I weighed morals.  These days I debate questions of Balance.  Some call it karma.

I remain a careful man, these days, but it is human nature to make mistakes in youth.  I remember classmates racking up credit card bills in the tens of thousands, before reality caught up with them.

For a practitioner without parents to watch over them, it is easy to do the same with one’s Balance.

Frustrated, tired, and well traveled, I was twenty years old before I reached out to other diabolists.  I found Lucrezia, who identified herself to me as Lucy.  She, in turn, introduced me to her master and teacher, Jeffrey.

I remain unsure as to why I was invited to their home and presence.  My agreement to join them was a cautious one.  I spent a full night and two days awake, writing and revising the written contract.  Jeffrey barely skimmed it before agreeing.

Among those terms were measures meant to protect my Balance in the universe.  I’d come from a good home and an honest life, I’d been generous and given back more than I’d taken, and I held to the rules that God gave to mankind.  It was in holding to those rules that I bettered my Balance, rather than God himself, but I remain thankful for opportunity He gave me.

I remained free to refuse any task given me, with the caveat that I would have to pay for my own food and shelter any day that I did, or leave.  He agreed to never bind me or limit my freedom.

Even with the terms of our deal, I was uncomfortable.  For a long time, staying with Lucrezia and our mutual master, I slept with one eye open, convinced I would be sacrificed.  Instead, I got room and board, and frequent menial work, including illustrating for Jeffrey’s texts, which he wrote as short volumes, bound in nice embossed leather and sold at premiums.

He played to the shallow narcissism of other diabolists, fanning their fancies and indirectly flattering them.  Each volume was written with specific customers in mind, holding the relatively little substance he’d managed to dig up or barter from others.

Such was my existence with him.

I was there, but did not assist, when he summoned Agares.  A duke among the seventh choir, one that brought great beings low.  A corrupter and agitator.  He could compel a king to march to war, or stop that same warhost in its tracks.

Jeffrey’s efforts were not guided at men.  This was, I later learned, one step in my new master’s lifelong quest to quash and vanquish the gods of mankind.

Even in times of quiet, the gods are busy, fighting and holding on to their assets.  There is a delicate balance.  Jeffrey and Agares both sought to disturb it.  To start a war that included gods, incarnations and spirits, and make the deaths that resulted true deaths, ones that left the world bereft of those forces and the structure they gave to our reality.

Many of the choirs are focused on tangible things, but the seventh is an abstract one.  Not one that we are able to grasp in concrete terms.  Many call it the weakest choir.  It is one we are liable to underestimate or lose sight of, and thus the one that gets the furthest in its endeavors towards the Wrong.

By way of my contract with Jeffrey, I was forbidden from direct interference, so I turned to compelling my friend and fellow apprentice to stop Jeffrey.

Had Lucrezia and I succeeded, I might have returned home to be a templar, bottled up my passions and faced the horrors with the same grim expression my father wore.

My master and the Duke won.  Lucrezia died in the fight I urged her to take part in.

This text isn’t for the stories of battle, for exchanges of blows.

Ultimately, the world kept turning, a little less bright, less spiritually whole.

I was angry, passionate, protective of my sole friendship from the past three years.  As the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer…

I sought revenge and I did it by way of the tools I’d accumulated, studying and watching diabolism.

I failed, and I was lucky enough to avoid the worst of the backlash when my own bindings failed to hurt Jeffrey and came back to me to exact the required prices.

Many diabolists maintain some means of tracking their Balance.  I use a wooden ring.  For a long time, the changes in that ring and the perpetual reminder that I was in debt bothered me.  A lifetime bringing up my Balance, a few moments of outraged stupidity to spend it and subsequently plunge myself into debt.

My first big question, then, is whether we can manage the karmic balance.  Is it possible to walk away free and clear?

Most will say yes.  There is the slow growth.  Regaining an even or positive Balance by fits and starts, small oaths and large ones, through Right, maintaining and keeping to a code.  The Universe will periodically seek to re-establish balance, and the practitioner, succeed or fail, will find a portion of the debt spent to bring this about.  Bigger oaths and restoring balance to reality can counteract the karmic weight that burdens the practitioner.

 

It is possible to escape this burden, yet time and again, diabolists fall into the trap and fail to escape it.

It is human nature, to treat the world as a series of nails, when all one has is a hammer.  Even when the use of the hammer comes with a grave price.

It is human nature to take the easy road.  To resolve the dynamic, there are two simple options.  Let me return to this in a moment.

In chapter one, I focused largely on myself.  The individual.  In this chapter, I look to people one step removed from me.  Jeffrey and Lucrezia.

Let me ask a broader question, then.  Is this a question we can solve?  Is it one we want to solve?

Let us put aside the unrepentant, the ones who would never read this text, because it does not feed directly into their need for power.  Let me ask, can we better the world?  Do Good in some fashion?  Can we remedy the cosmic Balance as a whole?  Minimize the Wrongs?

I emphasize ‘we’.  As I write this, my Balance is not so terrible.  There are certainly non-diabolists who have worse.  I believe I have done some Good, in the face of it all.  Were a jury to be convened, there would be much argument over my overall contribution to humanity, and perhaps that would have to suffice.  Being questionable in my standing Balance is better than being unquestionably Wrong.

My concern is not with the self, or with the individual, but diabolism as a whole.  We are hated because we do Wrong.  Not evil, but we do a disservice to reality as a whole.

Yet, at the same time, we serve a useful function.  What better tool to use to bind the greater threats than one who is already doomed?

Many diabolists do this out of selfishness.  The very good and very bad diabolists excepted, many stay alive long enough to bind a few minor entities and accrue a horrific Balance before reality asserts itself and they die a miserable death.

I might argue that the average diabolist betters the world, for having been in it.  Not in the short term, but perhaps in the long.

If problems exist in our number, it is undeniably the short lived failures that bring about disaster with nothing to offer, and the long lived practitioners who leverage their knowledge to bring about the greatest Wrongs.  The net gain for mankind is lowest.

To bind Others and leave them bound is the best thing we can do.  Because of their nature, we inevitably do so at a cost to ourselves.  For Diabolists, these others are devils, demons, imps, and they are ghosts, goblins, faerie and other beings so Wrong that practitioners who devote themselves to their study will often shy away.  Were this our pattern of behavior, we might be acceptable in the eyes of others.

This is one answer, one solution, but it begs more questions.  How might we bring this about?  Could diabolists as a whole be convinced to take this path?

The answer is no.

My old master Jeffrey was targeted by local practitioners not long after Agares was returned to his realm, but he lives.  His enemies saw fit to lock him in his body, mute, unable to practice.  I visit the man from time to time, the both of us many years older.  I have not forgiven him for what he did to his student, nor have I forgiven myself.  When we meet, now, I drink tea while he drinks beer with the assistance of a nurse and a straw.  We talk, about balance and the aftermath of demons, and I painstakingly transcribe what he struggles to express.

Jeffrey, in my eyes, is a manifestation of the problem that plagues us.  Any attempt to restore diabolism in the eyes of others and to get their help would raise questions about Jeffrey’s like.  He is not so insane to be dismissed entirely.  A man who held a grudge and saw only one way to see that grudge done justice.  Jeffrey is not a true Scotsman.

I confess, I write here in the hope of inspiring questions among a group that is prone to forging forward without accepting any answer but the one that serves them.  I do not labor under the illusion that enough will read my work to have heated discussions over what the answers might be.

But I must ask.  I hope to raise questions among the individual, and I dream of a circumstance where we might look deeper at ourselves as a group.

Earlier, I suggested there are two simple options.  We’ve already discussed the obvious, that the archetypical diabolist must cease to be and become something more selfless.  It isn’t possible, because the typical diabolist won’t break from the pattern of taking the easy road, even when it is demonstrably self-destructive.

If there is a solution, and this is purely food for thought, the easy road must become the road that serves us best.

In pursuit of answers, I lead you on to chapter three, where I talk about the sociology of Diabolists, and the negative patterns we perpetuate amongst ourselves, and how one might attempt to reframe society instead, in an attempt to provide an easier road.

 

Chapter Five: Swords

The years after the loss of my family were something of a blur.  Somewhere in the midst of it all, I began to take a harder look at what I was doing, at my Balance, and my repeated failures.

I was a wretch, I admit, and if ever I’ve come close to suicide or embracing Wrong, I came close then.  I was in ill health, and I might joke I had more alcohol than blood in my veins, if I could write such statements without being forsworn.

My hair was shaggy, my facial hair growing in, my thoughts clouded by drink and depression, and I knew a great deal I shouldn’t.  I knew rituals to summon things that would have made me stand tall, handsome, in good health, and above all else, happy.  I knew many more rituals to call forth things to act against my enemies, and I was short enough on self respect that I didn’t care nearly enough about what might happen to me if my targets successfully fended them off.

Jeffrey and all the other individuals I sought to target in violence had been parts of a greater pattern.  The forces of ‘Right’, if you can call them that, saw fit to apply pressure and purge society of diabolists.  This was not a good thing, because it failed to stop the worst kinds, types I’ve touched on twice now.  By seeking out the organized, largely quiet diabolists, this purging demanded retribution and self defense.

Remember, when all one has is a hammer…

Diabolists who might have gone out in unspectacular manners after successfully binding a handful of imps and maybe an intermediate being were now perpetrating Wrongs.

I, by virtue of itinerant means and a lack of any real connection, managed to slip away before the doors were kicked in and diabolists rounded up for execution.  I sustained myself for years, simply selling my knowledge to individuals who desperately sought to patch the holes that had appeared in their libraries and in the collective knowledge of diabolists.  I then drank much of those earnings away.

Many of those sitting at the middle section of the totem pole had been destroyed, and only those on the bottom, such as myself, and those on the top, individuals much like Jeffrey, remained in one piece.

I’ve brought up the individual consequences, karma, and the diabolist’s place in society.  I’ve talked about the opposition the diabolist faces, and the tools the diabolist must employ versus the tools they don’t have to employ, but are liable to.  Each of these observations are conducted through the lenses of what should be versus what actually is.

I’ve raised the topic of the individual, about those who are one step removed, about the groups, and society as an abstract.  The scope ever widens.

The world.

Will Earth cease to be tomorrow, if the greatest demons were to be called forth?  No.  Not definitively.  The Balance would be disturbed, and the universe would naturally exert an opposing pressure.

If such threats were likely or possible, perhaps we would see something concrete occur.  Perhaps all diabolists, myself included, would be scoured from the earth.  I would not expect this to end the problem.  Some knowledge can’t be destroyed absolutely, and I suspect many Wrong things collect tomes and texts to disseminate among the public, in case of such an event.  I know some lesser beings have asked for copies of my writing, and diabolic organizations will collect or order research.

Instead, it is a long series of Wrongs that are too easy to ignore.  The world and everything in it erode.

We have established a problem of binaries.  On the one hand, we have the diabolists who contribute to the greater Wrong and the diabolists who don’t.  On the other hand, we have the restrictions of society, accommodating and not.

Draw out a grid, and three of the four possible answers are disastrous.  Either society and diabolist are both working against our mutual goals, which they are, and we speed towards an ugly end, the diabolist alone works towards Wrong while society attempts to accommodate, or society forces the diabolist’s hand while the diabolist attempts to conform and serve the greater good.

The sole remaining option, harmony and the best chances at righting that which is Wrong, is a difficult one to accomplish, for reasons already stated.

The question remains: how do we achieve something that requires this kind of concordance, this kind of cooperation?

I would say the ‘how’ is simple, if unpleasant.  Sacrifice.  In particular, forms of sacrifice that don’t require the cooperation of all parties.

One option is that we could turn on our own.  Oh, I’m sure that statement got attention.  A few of our kind are so vile that they sour our ability to deal with the world at large.  Is it possible that we could form a call to arms?  To set diabolist against diabolist, five moderates against one of the worst of us?  If they band together, then destroy them as a group.

Conflict breeds desperation, and desperation in diabolists breeds Wrongs, but we are well versed in the tools our kind employ.  A demon properly warded off will return to its master, and many conventional protections will cease to have effect.

Knowledge will exist, it must exist, but a group of moderates can store and treasure knowledge.  If we were to reach this point, we could set rules that discourage passing that knowledge on.  All of the knowledge in the world, stored away, an enclave who might work to find the knowledge that industrious imps and devils might distribute in hopes of maximizing chaos.

It isn’t nearly so simple, of course.  Our world is a close-knit one, not always in healthy ways.  We depend on one another for advice and research, for the right summonings and enough favors are owed that the wrong death at the wrong time could doom several attached individuals.

Achieving cooperation in this would be difficult.

The other option would be to sour this relationship.  Very few non-diabolists know enough about our work to properly safeguard themselves, their property and their loved ones.

I wonder what might happen if one were to sell the templars, witch hunters, and various Lords of major cities the necessary tools for protection against demons and other Wrong things?  Not the darkest knowledge, but the ways to turn an attacking demon aside, if one knows their general type.

What would they be buying?  Their own security.

Suspicion would be rife, chaos endemic.

Yes, Wrongs would be committed, but I can’t help but wonder if it is possible to create a rift deep enough to separate diabolists for centuries to come.

The problems here are that, again, desperation breeds Wrongs.

In writing these words, I doom myself, because others will act to keep any of this from coming to pass.  But I hope I have illustrated the severity of the subject and shaken those dabbling diabolists.

I intend to posit another answer.

 

Chapter Six: A Last Chapter

Sacrifices must be made, the metaphorical lamb must be bled.

I’ve suggested murdering our own.  Cain’s crime.  I’ve suggested betrayal.  Judas’.

I would offer a third suggestion.  It’s relatively easy to accomplish, and many non-diabolist practitioners would likely be willing to help bring it to pass.  Of the two major issues that plague diabolists, one is handled.  It also falls in step with my earlier suggestions, that it pave an easier road for the diabolist to follow, one where the diabolist is driven to cooperate.

I believe in this enough to sacrifice myself.

Enslavement.

Let’s talk history.

We don’t know where the oldest demons came from.  Some suggest they are an antithesis to those same forces that created the world, and they are laying the groundwork for the world’s demise, while the creator forces are still at the far-flung edges of reality, expanding our universe.

Others say they are all devils, at their root.  Collections of malign power that take root in people, swelling and transferring from host to host, until they have sufficiently defined themselves.

We don’t know.  Some argue we can’t know.

What we do know is that they can be bound.  They harbor fears of a sort.

At some point in history, all the forces of the world gathered, recognizing that there could only be chaos if they continued fighting amongst themselves.  Gods, incarnations, and other powers realized that with the power they could each bring to bear, certain actions couldn’t be permitted.  Trust was impossible to maintain.

Laws were set in place.  Those same laws are the ones that a practitioner agrees to abide by, in order to broker access to what lies beyond the curtain.

My suggestion is simple: We amend the laws.

We make adhering to greater goods the easier path to take.  Power would not be obtainable through the old awakening ritual, and the new ritual would limit and control diabolists.

To be a diabolist, one would need to shackle themselves.

If calling diabolists narcissists at heart didn’t damn me, suggesting infighting or betrayal should see that one diabolist wants to murder me.

Writing this is another thing altogether.  I described two kinds of practicing diabolist, those who self-aggrandize, and the desperate.  You could divide these further into minor practitioners, moderates, and the extremes.

Each would find the idea of enslavement repugnant.  I expect many are already plotting the worst possible fates for me.

I have changed details about myself, changed major personal details, taking extreme steps to protect myself in these regards while avoiding falsehood and forswearing myself.  I’ve masked my location with the practice.  I know how little all of this will ultimately help.  I’m not young, and I’ve spent much of my life around diabolists, studying them.

I know what I’m in for.

But I’ve lived some time, now, and I believe in what I’m doing.

This lamb goes as willingly to slaughter as one can go, knowing what awaits.

My book will go largely unread, I think, but I have to believe I do Good, in writing it.

Even if this were widely read, I do not think change would happen in one year.  Or twenty.  This is but a seed, something to be brought up and forgotten until it becomes a subconscious thought.  Many who read it, many who I have arranged to get the book, are immortal.

But the fear and anger many experience will be real, in the end.

Words and knowledge are power.

I give my life in hopes that this seed of an idea finds fertile ground.

I hope my few friends will support me in this.

Should that not be possible, then I hope they forgive me this indulgence.  I’ve had so few.

God help me.

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286 thoughts on “Gathered Pages: 4

  1. Note to self: because you keep forgetting, the reason these are such a bitch to do is because it’s hard to get a defined narrative worked in there and keep it interesting.

    Note to readers: thanks for reading.

    1. -_-;

      hehe, Sorry. Will keep that in mind.

      You’ve got to admit though; there’s very few books so central to the stuff Blake’s going through. The books on the big three, Essentials, this one, possibly the one on Vestiges, and that’s pretty much it (unless your author’s omniscience disagrees, of course).

      So… sorry for the extra work, but we kinda did need to read this.

    2. I found it helpfully informative. I like all of the gathered pages; I’m a sucker for world-building, especially in your stories since your first-person perspective hides so many of the details of the world until it becomes relevant to a situation (and oftentimes even after that). I really enjoy the way that you don’t give the game away with narrative, but I also really like to get a sense for the world, even through unreliable narrators.

    3. Important note: The lawyer in 4.01 mentions that the author is a “her”, saying, “Your grandmother knew the author and was quite fond of her.”

        1. Hm, interesting idea. I could see that, especially since the lawyers are/were diabolists, who the author is trying to hide form.

      1. I didn’t find a direct reference to the authors gender in the text. There wast the masturbation thing, but that was just mentioning that boys in particular do it, and there was the facial hair reference, but women may have facial hair as well… I suspect that this impression is one of the measures the author used to conceal her identity.

        1. I suppose the masturbation part doesn’t explicitly say the author was a boy, it just says, “I was seventeen years old, doing the sort of thing seventeen year old boys are particularly inclined to do when locked in the bathroom,” which would be a particularly odd way of phrasing it if the author was a girl rather than a boy.

          However, it later says, “I remain a careful man,” explicitly calling out his gender

          1. I spotted that too. Went through some mental hoops trying to reconcile the two bits of data.

            Could be trans, and the lawyers might not be respecting the sexuality they identify with.

            Or their gender might have been forcibly changed at some point.

            Or Wildbow’s idea for who the author was could simply have changed, but that’s crazy talk.

            1. Or, although unable to lie themselves, they could have hired someone who was able to lie to put pen to paper…

            2. She might also have just outright lied on the paper, taking the hit to karma in an effort to cover her tracks. People treat it as if you can’t lie in this, but you can. There’s just a heavier price to pay and some can sense the drop in karma. If they’re with you. In a piece of literature? I’m not so sure.

          2. Not necessarily. ‘Man’ could be referring to an individual of mankind, rather than a male individual.

          3. Bit late here, but one more point suggests the author was a man: after being shamed to their core with all reference to sex after coming into contact with the big incest orgy thanks to the demon he also made pointed mention of the fact he could no longer look his sister in the eye when he and his brother and sister were drinking and talking about the present and future.

            One point could easily be misdirection, a second unlikely but still possible, a third really suggests any previous mention of the author was simply forgotten and retconned – to be fixed in whatever published edition of Pact Wildbow puts out in the future.

            Unrelated but Chapter 6 is still unbolded 3 years later.

    4. Thanks for writing! I really love gathered pages even without a narrative but I also love footnotes and so on so don’t mind me! Here’s hoping this person is still alive and Blake gets to meet Her eventually.

    5. We appreciate it, and this was most definitely interesting. It gives us a window into the wider world of diabolism without revealing too much.

    1. with Blake’s luck there might just be many evangelists and templars in the Toronto PD with a kill on sight orders on the Thorburn line for the Bounty Laird set up.

    2. Though as always, it can be ambiguous what the type of Other is. The “angels” could easily be playacting Faerie

      1. everything could be playacting Faerie, as a wise man once said “there is really no way to know how many chameleons are in this room right now”

      1. Well, the evangelists won. Angels don’t help afterwards I suppose because there’s no easy way to remove the stain which comes from interacting with Demons. Just endure the damage until its spent.

        Kinda brings to mind the Curse of Chalion actually. Where [spoiler] a whole family is cursed for generations because an ancestor murdered the incarnation of a god[spoiler].
        Makes you wonder how powerful each demon actually is. Based on the cost of interacting with them just long remove them from the world they seem INCREDIBLY expensive.

    1. Most of these are probably written as intended, except one.

      templar (more than once)
      Templar, if referring to the actual order

      Self congratulating
      usually Self-congratulating

      self pity
      usually self-pity

      reating
      creating (already found)

      well traveled
      usually well-traveled

      warhost
      usually war host, but probably written as intended here

      self respect
      usually self-respect

      self defense
      usually self-defense

      that they do not Wrong.
      that they do not do Wrong.

      I’ve known since I admitted I was a diabolist, that anything I wrote would have to be something that would offend certain parties, march to a different rhythm.
      the last clause is slightly confusing, with an uncertain referent

    2. I guess this is the typo thread.

      There seems to be an extra large space in chapter 2, right after: “Bigger oaths and restoring balance to reality can counteract the karmic weight that burdens the practitioner.”

      The Chapter 6 heading is not bolded.

      The author refers to themself as a 17-year-old boy in the first chapter, at least by implication, but the lawyer says “Your grandmother knew the author and was quite fond of her” in 4.01. | Ah, not a typo, the implication was deliberately designed to hide things. Clever, though if I could pick it out before knowing there was obfuscation… | Actually, considering how many people here are referring to the author as “he,” I’d say that it was more along the lines of “mission accomplished” heh

    3. “but perhaps it will solely for my own benefit” –> solely serve my own benefit? solely be for my own benefit?

      “Either society and diabolist are both working against our mutual goals, which they are, and we speed towards an ugly end, the diabolist alone works towards Wrong while society attempts to accommodate, or society forces the diabolist’s hand while the diabolist attempts to conform and serve the greater good.” –> this sentence would be a whole lot clearer with some semicolons

      ” that it pave an easier road for the diabolist to follow” –> paves

  2. Pact is getting better and better. I’m liking how the Gathered Pages are foreshadowing big time.

    But anyway, I wanted to ask a question about the Wormverse, if you don’t mind, wildbow. It’s a tad spoilery, but I’ll avoid anything too bad:

    Ok, say someone in the Wormverse Triggered before the events of Speck. If they Triggered a second time after the events of Speck, would they get the vision of “they swam through the void, past the stars…” or would they get the “I’m drowning in suffering” trigger vision?

  3. “Very few non-diabolists know enough about our work to properly safeguard themselves, their property and their loved ones.”

    There is no possible way Laird “I can totally stop demons, and am driving Blake to evil” Beham isn’t a diabolist.

    1. Laird admitted he couldn’t stop the barber. He went so far as to say that if he knew the barber was headed his way like a rather pungent cruise missile, he would massacre his family to spare them from the horrors in store. I would be surprised if he wasn’t exactly what he seems to be – a control-freak of a chronomancer who deserves humiliation.

      1. No, actually he said that did have things in place to stop it, but if he didn’t he’d massacre his family. He was explaining to Maggie (I think) when asked how bad the potential danger was. I have to wonder how he gained such knowledge of diabolism, though his excuse is certainly reasonable: there’s a very powerful diabolist in our town.

        1. Also, the barber has been bound for at least one or two generations. It’s quite likely that it’s been used on most of the old families at some point. It’s not unreasonable for them to seek out protection.

          1. Rose Sr. is the one who bound it, so she’s the only one who would’ve had a chance to. She’s certainly used it, but I’m not sure she’s used it on people.

            1. Rose bound it, yes, but she says in her letter:

              “For him, the conversation is ongoing, and you’ll need to see the notes on his page in Dark Names so you can continue from where I, and each member of our line, left off.”

              The “each member of our line” bit could potentially refer to previous heirs in case they spoke to the barber and then died, but we don’t get any confirmation of that and it’s an odd thing to imply rather than state outright.

              It’s equally likely that the Thorburn family had dealings with the barber prior to 1953. Rose does say “this author first bound…” rather than anything more definite.

            2. @Number27: Oh, fair point; I didn’t remember that. Hmm, now I’m remembering her talking about having to release and resummon the barber if you want to make further contracts with him (after checking, it looks like he starts refusing all contracts if he sees the same one 7 times).

              Since she mentions a lot of guesswork in the binding and doesn’t reference any other entries, I’d guess that she is the first of the Thorburn line to bind him, or at least keep record of how to do so. Other members may have used his services, but they likely didn’t bind him, or at least didn’t bind him as much as she did–she mentions him submitting to the Seal of Solomon under her capture, which is the part I was remembering. She also is the one who invented the shorthand for the gestures used to communicate with him, and possibly also the gestures themselves. In her note to the “heiress”, she asks the reader to, “Please maintain those notes consistently, for those who come after you,” so it is certainly conceivable that the future mention of “other members of our line” could be referencing the earlier heiresses. Still, it’s also likely that earlier members of the line used the services of Barbatorem, likely as a “deleterious sending”, which Rose Sr. mentions he is best used for. The two aren’t even exclusive, since it seems like Rose Sr. did the most to formalize, standardize, and make records, (which she certainly had reason to, given the future she knew her heiresses would face) so I still think she’s the one who started the record on the “ongoing conversation”, even if she didn’t start the conversation itself.

            3. She’s the one who bound it to the Seal of Solomon. The previous heirs had dealt with it, but she’s the one who convinced it to be sealed.

        2. Laird said he had anti-demon defences in place and he seemed pretty confident in them. But he also didn’t seem to be aware of the Barber specifically – and the Barber specialises in bypassing the usual defences.

          Whether Laird’s defences would work vs the Barber currently remains an untested proposition.

    2. There are three possible sources for Laird’s knowledge of stopping demons, as far as I can tell.

      First, he’s actually a diabolist himself. Possible, but unlikely, especially since we are pretty sure he has positive karma (which he builds to give himself a buffer for when he really needs to screw someone). Just researching the knowledge without using it falls better under source two.

      Second, the practitioner families that the Thorburns have been rivals with for generations have been working to build up knowledge and defenses throughout this time, and the Behaims were merely the ones to find the metaphorical jackpot of how to stop demons. This has a lot of potential overlap with the first one.

      Third, Rose’s tryst with the Behaim boy whose name I forget. She could have given him knowledge of how to defend himself, which he then passed on to his family. If he loved her (or if she put restrictions on how he could use the knowledge), he might not have passed this on until after her death, as some kind of metaphorical time-capsule.

  4. Well, I guess I can’t complain because I was part of the vocal group asking for it, but that guy is annoying to read… It’s realistic given the kind of text this is, but I’ll admit the extracts from Famulus, Implementum and Desmenes (?) were more vivid. Masturbatory excercice sprinkled with self-loathing, as he says.

    But on the other hand we now know quite a bit more about the background, so yay? I’ve noted the attributions of two choirs, confirmation that Angels and the like exist as well (and that there are Christian practitionners who summon them), and a rough idea on how practitionner society is organized (oreat diar not). The narrator is also mentionning a great diabolist purge at some point during his life: given the way he speaks of his family I’d say he cannot be too old (I’d guess born after WW2), so taht purge must have affected grandma Thornburn is some way as well. Interesting…

    So yeah Wildbow, this goes to show, next time don’t listen to us on what to write, listen to yourself instead… But thanks for writing all this anyway.

    1. The devil of the sixth choir’s fallout radiation has twisted the writer’s mind more than just his body, killing his sex drive; The Book IS a martyr complex trap.

            1. The she could no longer look in the eye. The author never states their gender is female, but the lawyers called the author by female pronouns.

            1. it would probably also spoil the fun for the dyonisians, since they’re all about sex. well, half sex, half drink.

            2. Only for the human Dionysians. Greek mythological beings weren’t too put off by having sex with family members. I think Zeus got it on with his own great granddaughter at one point. Alcmene, I believe, who was married to one of Zeus’s grandsons.

              You know what they say: It’s easy to cross the hall than to cross the street.

    2. The man is putting is damnation to paper and you’re condemning him to death. =).

      Just like any form of creation, personal belief permeates work.

      Just like any group of researchers, there are those that are loud and boisterous, those that keep to themselves and do their work, and those that fail themselves when a task is too daunting.

      Not all atrocities to mankind are recorded… this could be 1700’s, the salem witch trials, or a behind the scenes massacre (throw a little sand around and no one remembers a damn thing =P).

      I liked this writing, and it gives wildblow a chance out of a comfort zone, which is what every writer should do.

        1. Plus, as others have mentioned, the lawyers said the author was a personal friend of Rose Sr., strongly suggesting a relatively recent time frame.

    3. Hey, I loved it. Opinions may diverge, I find this academic text interesting and an example of the discussion of: what is right and what is wrong? This discussion is ever present in the writings of Wildbow and I like it a lot since it makes us think.

  5. This is one of my favorite chapters so far, though I must say, I’m a bit sad that we didn’t get to read Chapter Three.

  6. So this is the honey pot that the Lawyers left for Blake. (Or given Wildbow, the Lawyers are secretly not quite as bad as we think atm, que the sympathetic back story) It certainly seems to lack any of the concrete info that would aid Blake short term, and appears to show a path that he could aspire to, while leaving him relying on them for more.

    Apparently, Blake has taken the bait as well, the only question being how much he can actually be the ‘good’ or ‘right’ diabolist. (Being a Wildbow story, every bit he tries to be good will hurt him somehow)

    Given that you can apparently kill demons and such (at cost) could you rid the world of them long term? (Probably, but not practically) How will the story escalate? (The rules change perhaps) Who are going to be the big players in the time to come? (A Jeffery type? A demon of some choir?) Given how tight-nit the diabolists seem to be, how long before Blake meets another diabolist? (Not long after Conquest is dealt with) What kind? (With Blake’s luck, the afore mentioned Jeffery type, leaving Blake to to play the part of the author of this section, only without karma to spend)

    I do have to wonder how his family racked up the karma. Who did they attack? What did the sell out? I would guess Jacob’s Bell is on the receiving end of some of that. I would imagine that Pauz type radiation only multiplied many times over spread out over the town might have some effect and explain the levels of hatred both in the town and the family.

    1. It seems possible to kill demons, but demons can also be created. Sparks like Pauz can be spun off and then slowly grow enough to spit off sparks of their own.

    2. In regards to the lawyers, I think it’s more of a calculated gamble on their part. This kind of thing will appeal to Blake, and it gives him a reason to study diabolism and thus become both someone of interest to their firm and someone likely to get in a situation so bad he’ll have no choice but to sign up. Of course, some may hope he succeeds, but I doubt they plan on it.

  7. “My sister called my father a charlatan. My brother, set to be a templar after my father’s footsteps, did not disagree, but argued for the benefit of symbolism.

    The idea of angels with wings was not situated in record or text, my sister argued. Take away the invented things, the cultural aspects and art, stick to the written word alone, and the world was left with a deity who focused all efforts recorded in texts on a relatively small section of the Middle East.

    My brother argued for the benefit of symbolism, for the power of ideas. In the heat of battle, ideas and iconography could lend strength to those who needed it.”

    I’ve always thought Terry Pratchett said it best, “Old gods do new jobs.”

    1. There are, of course, angels with wings in scripture. The angels (cherubim) on the Arc of the Covenant have wings, as do others.

      1. Cherubim are, as far as I remember, never referred to as angels in the bible. They were declared angels long afterwards after much arguing.

        1. The concept of angels as being what we think of is not all that supported either, angel means messenger (of God), grouping Cherubim, Seraphim and the like with what are referred to as angels is certainly not entirely accurate, although this could be explained as a change in the definition of the word angel over time, from messenger to any member of the heavenly host.

          Picturing Gabriel or Michael for example as having wings is not supported for sure.

          Plenty of other ‘angelic’ being have them though.

          1. Yeah, Christian angels tend to be things of many wings and lightning swords who want to hide their bodies from the sight of men, but most of that is Word of Dante.

            1. In this universe however, Dante was probably either a diabolist, or had contact with one, and his writing would be true or made true, since literature of legend seems to hold true since belief makes reality in the Pactverse.

          2. The first mention of “angels” with wings is an artistic instruction. God tells Moses that the beings depicted on the Arc of the Covenant have to be depicted with wings spread over it. The second is when Solomon orders the construction of the first temple, he places two huge winged beings in the place where the Arc is set. In both cases these are not called angels. Probably because the word angel (from Greek ἄγγελος) means messenger, and refer not to the physical nature of the beings, but to the function. Thus the beings are not referred to as angels when they are not in the function of a messenger. In fact in Revelations the local church leaders are referred to as angels, because they have the function of messengers that will receive the letters and will read them to the congregation, and in the larger scope they are supposed to be closest to God and able to help people who are about to go wrong (or have gone wrong) by helping them with the message of the gospel. Note: The word gospel comes from old Saxon god-spell, good news.

            In Ezekiel’s vision, the four beings have four wings and four hands each. Similar beings appear in a vision of Isaiah’s, with six wings each. Similar beings appear in Revelation again with six wings each. In Isaiah’s vision one of these actually talks to him and touches his lips with a glowing coal. As far as I know this is the one occurrence in the bible where a winged “being” talks to a human, and therefore can be called an angel in both physical appearance and in the function of a messenger.

            Many messengers of God are explicitly human in appearance. Hagar talks to a man when has fled from Sarah. She only realises that the man is an angel when he prophesies the future of her unborn child. Abraham shows hospitality to three strangers, and only realises later that they are angels. Lot shows hospitality to two strangers who pretend they are going to sleep in the city square of Sodom. He is almost killed by an angry mob that wants to rape the strangers, but then the strangers reveal supernatural powers temporarily making the mob unable to see. They then reveal that they are angels. The man who visits Gideon tells him the future, but Gideon doesn’t believe it. He makes the man a meal, and the man incinerates it with the touch of a walking stick, as a sacrifice, and is gone when the smoke clears. Only then does Gideon fully realise it was an angel, and he fears he will die for his disbelief. Then the voice of the angel tells him that he will not be punished.

            Other times the angel appears only as a voice, in this form the angel is not a physical being, but simply a voice that occurs to deliver a message.

            There are a few angels that are named in the bible. In catholic canon there is Raphael in Tobit who, after travelling for many weeks with Tobit under the fake name Azariah, reveals his name and his job as an angel to him, and in Daniel the angel explicitly mentions an opposing angel (a messenger of evil) who opposed him for twenty-one days, until one of the strongest angels, Michael, helped him to reach Daniel. The angel that delivers the messages of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus mentions that he is named Gabriel to Zacharias. Zacharias is first confused by his appearance, and then disbelieves him. It seems the angel was not very impressive in his looks.

            In summary:
            Messengers from God are so human in appearance that they are only later revealed to be supernatural.
            Some messengers from god are disembodied voices or e.g. the Burning Bush.
            Winged beings generally appear in visions. Often these beings are flashy with light and pyrotechnics.
            Only one known instance is known where a being is explicitly winged and communicates with humans, in a vision of Daniel’s.

            The depiction of winged, flashy, angels that deliver messages to humans directly is a renaissance idea I think.

    1. Yeah I think this is definitely a clue of what the weirdness with the tats means too. Though it is a question of whether all Practioners get one automatically or if it has to be made by them. So… Still not 100% confirmed just yet.

      1. I thought that the tats referred to Rose’s well being almost exclusively (some to Blake by proxy, but not encompassing). Might be all over the place. I’d get a thermometer tattoo at one point if I really thought they were a true indicator.

        1. Yes, this is what I think as well. If they indicate karma, then they should always look bad. Blake has seven lifetimes of bad karma. Also, if they measured karma they should have looked bad when they first noticed them being vivid due to the earlier sarcasm/borderline lie.

          1. Actually, I could see them measuring his personal contribution to (or degradation of) his family’s karma, rather than just his family’s karma overall.

            Also, it wasn’t perfectly clear that sarcasm/lying was Wrong in a significant way, just that it hurt your power and was at least somewhat Wrong (since Ms. Lewis noticed it using magical karma-observation powers). Power and karma are only somewhat related; e.g. it’s very Wrong to work with demons, but it could really increase your power.

            1. Yes. The reason lying and breaking oaths are so bad is because the Awakening ritual is (at least partially) a contract that has always telling the truth as a condition. Lie, and you partially damage the contract, which in turn partially damages your power.

      2. I’m not sure about this. They were affected by his exposure to Pauz’s radiation and have recovered as he gained more of his sense of “self”. While they may react to changes in karma, I think his tattoos are a more versatile measuring stick than just that.

      3. it said in the text that most diabolists maintain one… it must be a fairly natural thing accomplished at a subconscious level in response to one’s reflections on karma in the frame of one’s conception of one’s self. Supposing this, I would go so far as to say that most practitioners don’t have one, in light of diabolists being the only ones who regularly accrue debt.

    1. Haha, I think he’s still a little too strapped for time to write anything and still too close to the events to think about them as wacky. Maybe later, but then if Worm is any guide, these events will be mundane in comparison to later ones.

      1. Yeah, he needs to focus on the work at hand. Much better to find some muggle to do it for him, perhaps by posting it online a few times a week in the hopes of building a reputation and fanbase that will facilitate eventually publishing.

        1. Exactly, and he could reap the karmic benefits of causing so much joy to help pay off the massive karmic debt he inherited.

            1. My apologies, then, or at least only one of them 😛

              I just see post after post of people still not understanding karma, I feel like I still don’t fully understand karma, so when something is that obviously off-base…I felt the need to correct.

  8. “I write with a goal in mind, but perhaps it will solely for my own benefit, a masturbatory exercise in the end.”
    it looks like the “will” was supposed to be “will be” or perhaps “is”

  9. So far each Gathered Pages chapter comes at a time when a character is reading it in story. The question is, who is reading the book now? It’s not Blake. He has his own issues to deal with right now.

    Could it be Rose? If so, does that mean she is awake? Could it be Fell? Could this be that catylst to his not horribly murdering Blake after Conquest is defeated?

    Or could the pattern be broken and we are just being given a chance to see what Blake and Rose already skimmed/read? Only time (or Wildbow) will tell.

    1. I didn’t really get the impression these were necessarily being read at the current time by characters, though I could certainly be convinced that the included sections are the ones the characters paid most attention to (e.g. Blake skimmed a lot of Black Lamb’s Blood, but maybe he read these sections more attentively.) The timings didn’t really fit precisely before, and seemed more like it was just that in the few chapters before a Gathered Pages the books had been mentioned/read by Blake/Rose.

      1. Of course! How could we have missed it? Her very name was the biggest clue! Paige is reading the Gathered Pages!

        Actually, now that I think about it, this makes entirely too much sense.

  10. Huh. Looking back at 4.1, it seems that this is a recent publication. As in, Grandma Thorburn knew the author personally, it was released after her death. Within the last few months. This guy might even still be alive.

    1. Or the author might have been the ender Rose, lying her tushie off about her “history” in order to protect her family line from discovery.

      Think about the karmic payoff to the family line if this book actually does make a difference in the world, for the better. Even if it takes centuries.

        1. unlikely, there would be too many lies about her life and family, it’s conceivable the author asked someone to edit the book to hide her gender and alter the names of people and locations, but we know she comes from a line of diabolists, not evangelists/templars. lying about that would probably be more than enough to become forsworn.

          1. How much power did we ever see the Elder Rose use? Perhaps at the end of her life she cared more about karma than power? Intentionally lied? It would certainly be a good disguise.

            1. Yes, it would be a great disguise, but all those lies would actually do massive karmic harm. And while the changes suggested by the author would do great Good, that wouldn’t actually reap positive karma, which depends on upholding order and maintaining promises.

              Also, everyone already hates the Thorburns and wants them dead. This drastic measure would only move them from 100% doomed to their current maybe 98%. That time, karma, and power could have been far better spent elsewhere.

              Finally, the most damning (heh) piece of evidence against Rose Sr. being the author is Rose Jr.’s creation, which presumably happened after she met Blake. I find it rather implausible that she penned the entire book within that hour or so while conducting interviews. Are their explanations that work around this? Yes, but I really wanted that pun 😉 .

          2. Rose senior knows from her diary days that written words do not trigger being forsworn, but several people (including her father) believe it does.

            It could be a massive play indeed.

            1. My impression from her diary is that they do and that writing: these words are not binding doesn`t help it.

  11. “Even in times of quiet, the gods are busy, fighting and holding on to their assets. There is a delicate balance. Jeffrey and Agares both sought to disturb it. To start a war that included gods, incarnations and spirits, and make the deaths that resulted true deaths, ones that left the world bereft of those forces and the structure they gave to our reality.”

    What if Blake did the opposite, set up contracts in such a way that demons & devils of every choir are set against each other make their deaths true deaths that leave the infernal forces bereft of those footholds that they had worked so hard to obtain?

    1. It’s entirely possible the choirs already don’t get along and already fight. Rival villains are often bitter enemies. Each choir goes for a different sort of evil, but not all evils are compatible. For instance, let’s suppose there is a demon of one choir that specializes in tyranny, making powerful individuals into tyrants, gaining power from the oppression that results. That demon would actually rely on a certain degree of stability. If a seventh choir demon brought the tyrant low, then our example demon is out a foothold. Same deal if a fifth choir demon upsets the social order and incites a bloody rebellion.

      1. I was under the impression that they operate more like The Illuminati in The Secret World, a corporate pyramid scheme; anything is permitted so long as the end goal of perpetuating entropy is accomplished; if you can score points and fulfil your quota its good, if it sabotages the other guys bigger quota, that’s his problem since he’s too weak to defend it, unless he’s way higher on the pyramid and brings down his wrath on you.

  12. Evangelists sound kinda cool.

    This is a very sad melancholy excerpt. The author sounds like an interesting character. I found his language a bit difficult to follow sometimes though. I was also assuming they were a woman up until it was explicitly said, not sure why.

    1. They’re much more obnoxious on TV, though it’s nice to know that this one has acknowledged that morality doesn’t stem from his conception of the Judeo-Christian deity.

    2. I was assuming it was a woman as well, and was actually startled when I figured out it was probably a man. I think I made the assumption for a couple of reasons: First, there was an earlier reference in 4.01 that Rose Sr. was fond of her. Second, the author’s writing sounds very similar to the writing of Rose Sr., (at least to me) so I kind of used her for a prototype in imagining the author.

      1. On a reread, the author actually never says they are male – they just kind of implied it. Considering that they said they were trying to hide their identity as much as possible without lying, that seems to suggest they might not be male. Or they are and they’re trying to throw people off the scent. Who knows.

        1. “I remain a careful man” is more than implication. Still there are all sorts of possibilities on that front. The author’s gender is undefined for the time being (and may well remain so for the duration of the story unless the author becomes an on screen character.)

            1. This is what I thought, when trying to reconcile the two. Man as in short for or a member of ‘mankind,’ such as with ‘man-eating beasts’ or ‘the folly of man.’ A sexist construction, but an existing one nevertheless.

              This is especially true in settings with multiple species–see Lord of the Rings, for instance.

              And this is a ‘verse that runs on semantics.

        2. Besides what’s already mentioned, he says that during his drunk, depressed stage his facial hair was growing in. Not many females have facial hair.

          1. I think that you need to speak with more females that you are comfortable with on this matter. Or just look closer at their faces. My initial response was quite different from this, and I double-checked your last sentence with my girlfriend, apropos of nothing–her immediate reaction was “Bullshit!” So yes, they do, it’s just culturally frowned upon, so they endeavor to hide it.

            Your response shows that it’s yet another shield against people trying to figure out who she is, however, so kudos.

          2. Mine’s blonde. ya have to be looking to see it.

            It’s only italians, with dark facial hair, that really are noticeable.

  13. Thank you Wildblow! I’m a fan of this type of writing (even if you despise it). Human connection and debate are always fun.

    I imagine for a book, it’d be in a minimum of 3 times as long. Unless they have diabolical pamphlets. =).

    I was under the impression, before reading other comments, that Blake only carried on through the first chapter. Quitting and using the book for the entrapment of a soul sucking, chaotic,and bottom feeding low level goblin.

  14. Thank you for this Wildbow, it really answered a lot of question, i know it couldn’t be easy and honestly it wasn’t as good as the last ones, but personally i had to see for myself.

  15. I don’t think I really understand what the author is suggesting at the end. Change the global supernatural laws so that you must be “enslaved” in order to traffic with demons, but enslaved to what? The demons?

    1. I thought he was going more for placing more restrictions on diabolists than there are on other practitioners. I don’t think it would make them slaves to anyone in particular, but rather slaves to the public good by forcing them to only do things that would have a net Good result.

    2. I’m pretty sure that what he was suggesting was hampering diabolists’ ability to do evil, “enslaving” themselves under a new system that is more restrictive. It wouldn’t be enslavement to a master, but an intentional restriction of current freedoms. The point would be to encourage better behavior.

      As has been mentioned, belief and practice give power to things, and if I understand correctly, the old awakening ritual gives power because of tradition and the large number who practice within it. As I understand it, he’s proposing a major revision to the system of power (I’m unclear on how much Right and Wrong stem from the universe and how much they stem from tradition, and so exactly to what extent they could be changed) to make doing things that strengthen humanity’s position in the universe easier and things which weaken it (like calling Ornias and lowering the benefit of flame permanently) harder. I think the method for doing this would involve gaining acceptance for the new system for awakening, (perhaps especially/mostly from some very powerful individuals currently endorsing the current system) and removing the power from the older system (I would think by getting the current adherents of the old to endorse the new)

  16. Woohoo! I was right about the book! About it being named for a sacrificial lamb, about it talking about diabolists doing good by binding Others, and about how all the magic users gang up on diabolists because of what they do being leading to bad karma.

  17. Hey Wildbow, instead of mute, perhaps you meant tongue-tied, where you can’t speak properly? Because I can’t figure out how a mute person talks, but I could surely see a speech impediment causing a diabolist issues. I’m getting images of Porky Pig trying to summon a demon by name…

    “His enemies saw fit to lock him in his body, mute, unable to practice. I visit the man from time to time, the both of us many years older. I have not forgiven him for what he did to his student, nor have I forgiven myself. When we meet, now, I drink tea while he drinks beer with the assistance of a nurse and a straw. We talk, about balance and the aftermath of demons, and I painstakingly transcribe what he struggles to express.”

    1. You don’t have to physically talk with your mouth. Possibly they were ‘talking’ by writing, or a code, or something.

    2. There is some language in Pact that sounds like it is describing physical wounds that actually describes spiritual wounds. As one example, we have been told that Johannes is missing an eye, an arm, and a leg, but when we see him he is physically whole and uses those parts of his body.

      So, mute may mean speech problems, but it almost certainly means he is mute to the non-mundane powers, i.e. he can no longer talk to Others and bargain with them. Perhaps he can no longer even see them.

      1. Er, no, we’re told that he has “no use of one eye, one hand and one leg, though the tissues appear undamaged” (1.06). So we’re told precisely what we see.

        As for his actually using them, I went through 2.02, where essentially all of his mannerisms seem to be, and there’s actually almost no mention of him doing anything. He’s walking, presumably, because Blake doesn’t remark on anything strange about how he moves, though it doesn’t say that explicitly, and he points once, which could be with his good arm. If I had to wager, I could see him binding something to have him create the kinds of movement that he needs–an anklet that mimics the movements of his good leg at a set interval later, or more likely something that he controls more directly or consciously.

        It’s interesting, actually. Pact is rather low on details like this, and most of the time I don’t really notice, because that’s how I translate scenes in my head regardless. It’s also interesting because when I write, I tend to add more detail than I naturally think in, for others who do think that way; this shows me that that may not really be needed. Hm.

        1. If Johanne’s functional arm is on the opposite side of the body from the functional leg, he might be able to use a cane to walk.

          1. True, but I would expect such a thing to be referenced in the text somewhere, and at the time of my searching, it was not.

  18. “the wrong death at the wrong time could doom several attached individuals.”

    Well, that sounds familiar 😛

    This was certainly interesting. Thank you for writing it, though it seems like it was easier this time, due to finding a narrative? At least, that is the implication. Regardless, it was quite interesting, so thank you.

    So one (gigantic) source of bad karma apparently is indeed just summoning demons and siccing them on people. That seems…I have no idea. Confounding, really. Demons are just so much worse than anything else that using them in this manner (or at all?) automatically accrues negative karma? Because…they’re active embodiments of Wrongness? Because their actions under such directions inevitably Do Wrong? Because they deliberately frame their deals so as to come with a karmic cost to further damage the world, while other Others don’t care? (that last one kind of sounds plausible, actually.)

    But, the lawyers made it sound like it was debts unpaid that became bad karma, while this author is rather more than implying that her karma tanked immediately. So many people twisting words to further their own agenda…honestly, it seems that I trust people less when they’re required to tell the truth, especially with a system that allows as many loopholes as this one does.

    This probably should have been in the last chapter’s comments, but did anyone else wonder if Blake released a horde of maddened Others on the town by binding the Hyena? <.<

    1. Most of the Others were released when the Hyena was bound. The animals under Pauz’s control on the other hand…

      1. Yeah, I know that they were apparently released, I was just wondering if they were going to be a large problem now, if their madness didn’t clear up and since they are no longer geographically restricted. It seems to fit the overall theme, that actions have consequences.

    2. I don’t think it’s just a matter of summoning them and sicking them on your enemies. Given sufficient control over the situation or using a being that isn’t prone to mischief that might not be so bad. However, true control over something like that is difficult, so when you summon something like that it’s going to inflict Wrong on the world before it finishes up and leaves – it’ll leave behind imps, poison anything it touches, etc. They make the world more Wrong, and the universe doesn’t like how much the balance of things has been upset and so you get bad karma.

      I’m thinking if you summoned a demon, sent it on a task, and then afterwards set about making things Right and cleaning up the mess the universe will consider things balanced and inflict no karma penalty… of course figuring out exactly where everything went Wrong is going to be a difficult and time consuming task in and of itself.

      1. On that note, I think Blake probably did get some good karma by binding the Hyena. The Hyena was a vile, unnatural being. Not a true demon, but Wrong enough that it upset the balance. If it simply ate Others, that would be one thing, but it only ate bits of them and kept them in an endless state of suffering. There isn’t any kind of animal that does that. Sure, some play with their food before it dies, but their prey does die eventually. So by binding the Hyena, Blake set things Right and restored things to the natural balance, and probably gained some good karma out of it.

        1. Depends on what happens with the fallout from Pauz getting loose and Blake’s attempt at overthrowing Conquest. It’s still possible that Pauz and the Hyena will do more harm during and after the attempt, than they would have had they been left undisturbed.

          I mean, it’s entirely possible that Blake’s coup attempt will do permanent damage to the concept of Conquest, just like Ornias does permanent damage to the concept of Fire.

          1. I don’t like to repeat myself overmuch, but this Conquest is just one manifestation among multiple of this concept, and apparently is a rather weak one at that. I suppose that it is possible (as far as we know) for mutilations of one to reverberate on to the other manifestations, or even the Concept itself, but that is far from a certainty.

            And Ornias apparently uses imps to hamper energy output until his imps lose their juice. It seems more like calling upon him grants him access to do that damage, or at least grants him the chance to do that damage for however long that one jolt energy lasts, rather than permanently damaging the concept (3.02).

    3. Right and Wrong are not reflections of an ultimate cosmic objective morality, they are reflections of a very particular and very old moral system. The author actually talks about the disconnect between Wrong and what is good or bad for humanity. He argues that the average diabolist actually improves the world in the long-term, though he also says the average diabolist will bind a few minor beings before accruing a large enough karmic debt (Wrongness) that it kills them. This seems to indicate that diabolists accrue large Wrongness by the very nature of their interaction with the Wrong beings, and that the author believes that “Wrong” is not reflective of what is “bad for humanity”.

      The author also proposes rewriting the system, perhaps including a fix to the definitions of Right and Wrong to make them more reflective of actions that benefit or harm humanity. (I imagine that would certainly restrict a diabolists’ bad actions)

      1. On a second read-through, I think I misinterpreted the section on “diabolists who might have gone out in unspectacular manners,” and actually they don’t just gain Wrongness through interaction (though the interaction certainly causes loss/sacrifice/Wrongness within).

  19. This shows another side of things, the side of the thoughtful Diabolist.
    Its also shows how pointless it is to get involved with Diabolists, the other practitioners are so clueless. Leave a baby diabolist alone and they likely blow themselves up. Fight them and they ruin the game for everyone.

  20. I was trying to find something about the demon choirs and stumbled across The Testament of Solomon. Is the Testament considered canon or semi-canon in the Pact universe? And if so, was King Solomon a diabolist or doesn’t it count because he used the ring to bind the demons, which was given to him by an angel?

    1. I doubt the version that is publicly available is accurate, if it’s even available to muggles in the world of Pact. The ring was probably something he bound a demon into, whereas the Seal of Solomon is more likely a reference to a specific agreement for binding. Non-diabolists, and especially non-practitioners, wouldn’t likely understand the difference.

  21. We know about three different choirs now.

    The fifth choir seems to be related to animals, or perhaps the collapse or perversion of social order – it is “feral and foul” according to Pauz. Pauz is so far the only detailed example we have, but I’m sure we’ll learn more in time.

    The sixth choir is the choir of man’s evils. The seven sins probably fit for this. Lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. They are regarded as weaker, so they likely aren’t very powerful in their own right. They’re tempters, insidious and clever. The incest demon would be associated with the sin of lust, in this case a specific forbidden type of lust that is generally seen as unnatural. A variant of a succubus perhaps?

    The seventh choir is an abstract one that brings the great low. I think we’ve got more examples of this than any others. Agares in the chapter messes with kings, sending them to foolish wars or stopping their forces at a crucial moment. Barbatorem, if he’s truly a devil and belongs to a choir at all, would likely belong to this one. He’s abstract, and he is almost always sent against the powerful, tormenting them for days and then leaving them powerless to die and rot. The eraser demon may be this as well. Just look what it did to the Knights. Before they had been looking at large parcels of land to make demesnes, indicating they were an organization of some note, more than the mere dabblers they are now.

  22. Huh. So karma is entropy and wrong is a less ordered state. Spirits can act to change entropy locally, but it must be balanced on a wider scale. Human structures such as oaths and laws are also considered part of this, so practitioners derive some credit from upholding oaths, not lying, etc
    This has some interesting implications, like a very orded and law abiding police state is a large local increase in order. Perhaps that results in bad karma pressure (corruption, gulags, torture) to even out the local entropy.

    What a horrible thought, the better humans behave, the worse things can become.

    1. I don’t think that’s quite right. Entropy isn’t really a good analogy.

      Good karma is a reward for doing Right. Truth is Right, and keeping to an oath is a form of truth. The natural order of things is also Right, so restoring and preserving the natural state of things should also grant good Karma. The universe likes balance, so things are ultimately balanced when there’s enough Right in the world.

      Bad karma is a punishment for doing Wrong. Lies are Wrong, and breaking an oath is a type of lie. Unnatural things are also Wrong, so bringing forth a demon that seeks to put the world into an unnatural state means that you’re responsible for the Wrong it does and so you get bad karma. Too much Wrong and the universe is unbalanced.

      Entropy is part of the laws of thermodynamics – it’s a perfectly natural thing in a close system. It’s part of the fundamental rules of the universe. As such, I don’t think we could say entropy is Wrong.

      As far as good karma goes, the balance there is simple. Just as the universe expects you to pay off your debt if you have bad karma and will try to collect by doing bad things to you, the universe expects you to spend your good karma or it will spend it for you by making things go well for you. However, accruing too much good karma is liable to make you a target – I suspect there’s a good reason for this. I imagine that if you horde your good karma it means the universe has to go to extremes to do you well, just as it has to go to the extreme of trying to kill you if you have too much bad karma. Extremes aren’t balanced, so it’s only natural the universe would take action to restore the balance forcibly if needed.

      1. The problem with “the natural order of things” is: who or what determines what the natural order is? Just a few hundred years ago the majority of mankind thought it was the natural order that blacks are inferior to whites and should serve as their slaves and even today many believe women should submit to men.

        1. Both of those examples are cultural. They aren’t built into the nature of humanity. I think to determine the natural order in the sense of Pact you’d need to look towards nature itself, things that are damn near close to universal regardless of culture, and fundamental laws of the universe. Then again culture and symbolism matters in Pact, so in some cases what defines the natural order of things may be more flexible.

          An example of a near universal is incest – humans and many other animals have inborn instincts that prevent them from wanting to mate with close relatives. The incest demon perverted that to make it so that her victims wanted to mate only with close relatives, and then further made things worse by ensuring that the chance of birth defects from that would be beyond the norm.

          1. I believe that if you look into the matter, you may find revulsion of incest to be less universal than you believe, from wolves freely mating amongst themselves in the absence of other options to various royal families across both time and space.

            1. To clarify, when I say close relatives, I’m referring to siblings with siblings and parents with their children. Relations between cousins being considered incest is actually a more recent cultural development in human society, and some cultures still are fine with it. A single generation of a cousin relationship doesn’t significantly raise the chance for defects – it’s really only a problem when you do it for multiple generations and limit the gene pool, like what happened with the royal families in Europe. Generally speaking, most of humanity does not engage in incest with very close relatives. It’s near universal, but again not an absolute.

              I searched the interwebs for wolves and incest, and all I found was a reference to one study that showed that parent-child and sibling mated pairs don’t really exist.

            2. I see. I had considered the cousins to be what were thought to be incest, as that is the predominant attitude in the US (and Canada?) at least, and my knowledge of other cultures being fine with cousins being one of the counterpoints.

              My point with the royals showed how easily people turned to it when they saw others as being unacceptable, but it’s a fair point that many of those just turned to cousins, though it should be acknowledged that not all of them did so.

              Interesting. My source for the wolves was pre-internet, remembered from my childhood, and it’s possible that its source was less than scientifically rigorous. I will try to excise it from my mind if no further support can be mustered.

          2. The instinct to mate is far stronger than the instinct to aver incest. Maybe…10% of American families have some inclination (yes, there are ways to make it smaller, I can elaborate if you wish) — unless the parents are accomodating, the boy is generally shipped off to military school.

            Parent/child incest is… a taboo because of exactly how much of an inclination the human has towards it. It’s not like we have taboos about making your 3yr old child into a slave (or starving him)! No, we have this, to guard against a perversion of the mating instinct.

          3. I understand that, in practice, the instincts ‘against incest’ are actually instincts towards not being attracted to those you were raised with. For example, children raised together on a kibbutz tend not to become attracted to one another, regardless of blood relation. Presumably the inverse is also true.

      2. “Let’s talk history.

        We don’t know where the oldest demons came from. Some suggest they are an antithesis to those same forces that created the world, and they are laying the groundwork for the world’s demise, while the creator forces are still at the far-flung edges of reality, expanding our universe.

        Others say they are all devils, at their root. Collections of malign power that take root in people, swelling and transferring from host to host, until they have sufficiently defined themselves.

        We don’t know. Some argue we can’t know.”

        I took the first explanation, which is a neat an anthropomization of entropy as you’ll find 🙂

    2. Bad events are the result of a negative balance of karma. People with a positive balance do experience karmic pressure, but it comes in the form of good things happening to them, not bad ones.

      Regardless, you’re confusing Right with Good. A positive karmic balance doesn’t come from behaving better.

    3. Hmm, just had an interesting thought. Perhaps we’ve been looking at this wrong. Perhaps, as gamedesigngraphically suggests, bad karma is accrued through loss of energy, violations of the second law of thermodynamics in a sense. Looked at this way, practitioners don’t lose power for lies because of bad karma, they lose karma from lies because they lost power, in effect costing the universe.

      I think the other definition of karma (order, lies, maintaining promises) is probably more correct, but this is an interesting idea.

  23. Hmm, I wonder if Blake will pull a Constantine and start trafficking in angels as well as demons. I mean, the names of the greatest archangels are pretty well known: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. All he’d have to do is sprinkle a circle of holy water or something, then say their names until they appear, and BAM! A significant advantage in his coming conflict with the retroactive erasure demon.

    1. If they are that well-known, why doesn’t everyone deal with them? “Power has a price” seems to be a universal law in Pact, so there’s gotta be some sort of catch to this.

      It doesn’t seem very angelic to demand payment for doing the right thing, so my guess is they demand severe oaths to prevent their summoner from being evil. Hence why it’s traditional for monks to take vows of poverty and such. Odds are they wouldn’t take well to an assignment of “Capture a demon of oblivion so that Conquest can use it.”

  24. I’ve been thinking for a while that whatever measures Practicioners take to deal with demons… Suck. Just look at Pauz and the Hyena. Both caused way more damage than they should have. But preacticioners either didn’t care, or were afraid of them. Blake, a freaking novice Diabolist was able to deal with both.

    The way to do it, to me is to make a subset of Diabolists. Demon Hunters. As the BLB author said, “Enslave” them. More specificly, have them swear oaths on how they’ll use their Diabolist abilites. Because as we see, even evangelists are not well suited to deal with the radiation.

    Of course the problem is that it’s always the Diabolists that aren’t assholes that get purged. It’s like in the X-Men comics. Whenever you have some anti-mutant group who decide that they have to protect mankind from the scary mutants, they never inconvience the guys like Magneto or Apocalypse. It’s the ones who want to help and protect normal humans they go after.

    1. Perhaps it’s the radiation that really scares practicioners away from dealing with – or even contacting – the Wrong things.
      The Black Lamb’s Blood gives evidence that demons can alter your personality just by talking to you. Fighting a demon of the sixth choir was enough exposure to twist the author’s sexuality, and being in the same room with a duke of the seventh choir drove the author on a suicidal quest to overthrow the existing order.

      1. Yeah, probably.

        Remember, Pauz was only an imp but he managed to twist the natural order of everyone near him, including Blake. He noticed it made being around the imp made him and everyone around him more irritable and when he came prepared with a bunch of clothes and plans he still got screwed over. And then it affected the connection between Rose and Him without either one realizing it.

        Demons are tricky bastards to deal with and you don’t unless you have too.

        1. And now I want to know what sort of radiation Ornias the star destroyer would emit. Somehow I think it would be more than Conquest could handle.

  25. Ya know, after reading g this, listening to the lawyers, and a few vague snippets from other parts, I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, this whole karma/balance thing isn’t so simple as even most Practioners believe it is.

    Appropriate.

  26. Ok, idea for an implement that might work for either Blake or Rose – shackles. Maybe even the ones Rose has on right now.

    Shackles are about binding, imprisoning, and enslaving. Our intrepid pair of Thorburns are inevitably going to be binding a lot of things, so having an implement specialized towards that would be very beneficial. It could also be symbolic of Blake shackling himself to a greater good, doing what Black Lamb’s Blood suggests.

    Rose might benefit from it more though. The shackle she wears allows Conquest to yank the wearer to his realm from anywhere. With the right preparations, Rose could do the same. Blake takes the shackle in the real world and puts it on a target, Rose yanks the chain and imprisons the victim in a world where there is nothing real to interact with other than Rose herself, and if she has the right protections then the prisoner is powerless. If Rose could get a demesne in the mirror world, she could turn it into a prison for demons.

    1. This is a great idea, really fits with what we know about implements and the direction of the story. Plus Blake walking around permanently wearing manacle cuffs would be a pretty cool for some gothy fanart :p

    2. I agree, that’s a great idea given the current direction Blake is thinking he might move towards. I’d been wondering about the Solomon references for a while, and could definitely see him fighting against both the diabolists (“bad” guys) and non-diabolists (“good” guys) while trying to make the world a better place for everyone. Reminds me of something else I’ve read 😉

    3. I was thinking Blake’s implement might be a hammer – it speaks to his identity as a ‘handyman’, it is a tool used to build but can be used as a weapon which speaks to Blake going from civilised to feral in a fight, as a weapon it was traditionally used by peasants against nobles which speaks to Blake’s standing in the practitioner world.

      I thought another possibility might be a long nail. Again it speaks to his handyman roots, it can be used as a weapon, and its connotations of crucifixion, persecution and self sacrifice in the christian mythology kind of match with the themes of BLB.

      My issue with both of these is that I think the story will arrange a more unusual and flexible tool. Something untraditional, but which works really well in the story, like how a spirit of icy defeat bound to a mass produced hatchet managed to be cool while also being original.

      1. I’m averse to the notion of Blake using a blunt object for an implement, especially one like a hammer. It’s a rather simple tool all by itself, with the only applications really being to hammer down nails and break stuff. Also, after this chapter I really don’t think that’s a good idea – when all you have is a hammer it’s easy to see all the world as nails to be hammered down.

        Also, I wouldn’t say the handyman aspect is really core to Blake’s identity – it’s just a job, something he does to pay the bills. Just as a familiar is more powerful if it’s compatible with the practitioner and a demesne easier to claim if it’s the right place for the practitioner, the implement will be more powerful if it truly represents the practitioner and what is practiced.

        1. I agree Blake isn’t fundamentally a handyman, I don’t think he does it for the love of it or anything, but look at his practice so far – jars and hatchets for ghosts, a paint pot for glamour, scotch tape for protective glyphs, string for binding, excerything is derived from his identity as a handyman. Sure they were the things he had to hand, but is his implement likely to be something that /isn’t/ to hand? And the hammer is only blunt and crude when used as a weapon, as a tool it can be very sublte – remove the right few nails and the whole construction comes crashing down.

          That said I agree it might not be for the best, I can’t imagine how it would work from the story’s point of view.

  27. That was actually so cool, probably my favourite chapter so far. Maybe the author started a movement to get people into the law firm? Explains why they wanted blake to read it. I like the idea of a karma meter too.

  28. This book really needs a time stamp. I was of the opinion that this person was some 12th century European and then we references to locked bathrooms and credit cards. It would also make the reveal of the Templars as opposed to hunters more dramatic if we knew definitively that they existed in 1974 or whatever.

  29. Only perusing the gist of comments I have to wonder from whence the general opinion stems of Wildbow and their works being thoroughly pessimistic and misanthrope.
    I get that this is the case for Worm, and so far also seems to be true for Pact, but as the phrase goes, the one does not preclude the other. Correlation is not causation, though given the fictional nature and the authors fiat over their domain that is much more up to discussion, but the point in my opinion still stands.

    Essentially, there are only two data points for us available, namely Worm and Pact, with both being somewhat counter-mankind in their general tendency. Two data points. That is very little in the ways of science and can be at best used to invalidate a standing hypothesis, like “Wildbow always writes fluffy rainbow-cute diabetes-inducers”. But beyond that…

    I have to admit a certain intellectual curiosity as to Wildbow being able to write that far beyond their comfort zone, as one Possum559 aptly described it. It would be curious to see how they would fare in writing a world thoroughly optimistic, brimming with potential and can-do attitude.

    1. We can only draw conclusions based on the available evidence. The available evidence, in this case, includes the writings that Wildbow has published to the public.

      Worm is obvious (and anything else (even this. Don’t hate me Wildbow) treads dangerously close to spoilers). We also have the 3 published demo ideas, which aren’t exactly sugar and rainbows. Finally we have Pact, the story where the universe is literally out to harm the protagonist.

      It is true that it can be unwise to gather conclusions based on 2 points of evidence. We must remember though, it only takes 2 points to form a line. Even disregarding the demo stories, I’m not sure I would necessarily consider Worm and Pact as only 2 points merely by the nature of their format. There is a massive amount of content made over the course of years.

      Finally, we all recognized that Wildbow is a skilled writer. He can (and will) write what he wants to write. I think most of the “it’s a Wildbowverse so everything will go bad” comments are supposed to be jokes.

      Those are just my thoughts off the top of my head.

        1. Off the top of my head:

          Bright colors, no deaths, mundane conflict of no real consequence, happy protagonist. . .

          I’m not quite sure now that I think of it. Rainbows only come after water falls and too much sugar isn’t good.

          Essentially, Blue’s Clues, I guess.

          1. Writing for blue’s clues is something altogether different, though. That’s a very very basic plotline (wheres the dog?) with a metric fuckton of repetition to fill in everything else, for a 24 minute segment.

            Now, if you say MLP, or Disney, then you could say that there is bad stuff, but there’s no blood, there are deaths, but most are offscreen & involve the bad guys.

            1. Disney has a reputation for sugar that may not be deserved in my opinion. The old classics like Sleeping Beauty are actually dark plotwise when you think about it. More current ones like Lion King, Hunchback and Wreck-it Ralph have obvious dark elements like death, betrayal, manipulation and the like. They appeal to both child and adult alike.

              I guess a well plotted children’s program or game would be the best example of sunshine and rainbows. Um. . . Hamtaro, Dr Seuss or Steamboat Willy?

            2. “What’s that, Blue? It’s time to search for the Holy Grail?”

              “Oooooooh, it’s the Grail, it never fails, it makes me want to wag my tail. When it’s time I like to yell, ‘Graaaaaaaaaaail!'”

              “Now, can anybody out there watching tell me which of these symbols of a greater demon of the Fourth Choir is the one Blue wants me to use?”

        2. I just got an idea. What if you tried writing a sunshine and rainbows chapter? Just one chapter in which nothing bad happens or is even mentioned or alluded to and at the end of the chapter the hero gets a pony and a lollypop? Please?:) I would say do it for April 1st, but that was 4 days ago. Of course, it would be just fine if the lollypop turns out to be poisonous and the pony is actually some sort of goblin horse that will try to kill Blake in the next chapter. On second thought all of your readers will expect the pony to be evil, so it would be even more surprising if nothing bad happens in the chapter even in hindsight.

        3. One more thing. I have noticed that every time I finish reading a chapter and think “Wow, this is brilliant, this chapter is awesome!” I read your comment and you say that you liked writing that chapter. However every time I read a chapter and think “Meh, not one of Wildbows best.” I read your comment and learn that you didn’t enjoy writing it. My reactions have been very consistent throughout Worm and now Pact and in the demos you published. For example I know you posted on other chapters that writing gathered pages isn’t your favorite thing to do, and this chapter, despite providing a lot of necessary information for the story, was a “meh” chapter for me.

          So if you aren’t feeling like writing a sunshine and rainbows chapter and do so anyway I have a feeling I won’t like it nearly as much as I would if you just wrote something you actually enjoyed writing.

        4. Personally it doesn’t have to be literal sunshine and rainbows. Many stories by Isaac Asimov come to mind, a few by David Brin, but maybe I am equating the stipulations with the adventure genre of books.

          1. Well it’s not so simple as to either be all rainbow and ponies, or blacker than the blackest black times infinity, either.

            1. Remember, even The Cold Equations ended with the main character surviving and the endangered people getting their supplies. No matter how dark, no one had the man go insane with grief, poison the people, try to survive on his own, run out of supplies, and turn to cannibalism that led to a slow death by that same poison.

            2. I remember reading of ‘The Cold Equations’ that the editor had to keep sending the author back for multiple rewrites because he kept coming up with ingenious ways to avoid the ending which is the entire point of the story, too.

          2. A lot of analog stories seem to be like this. Niven’s, too — no one suffers utter soul wreckage, there may be sacrifices (I particularly remember lost hair), but the heroes come out mostly sound and whole at the end.

        5. Honestly, I think the defining point of happy (sunshine and rainbows) versus not is human nature. Even if horrible things happen, if the trend is that humans band together and try to do good, the work will read as generally happier. Obviously there are exceptions, but those are typically due to tons of other factors and as long as the story ends on the note of people looking to the future and trying to make it a better place the end can’t really be worse than bittersweet.

          Wildbow, on the other hand, seems to take a grimmer but probably more realistic take on human nature, with a lot of people wanting to do good but deciding that their needs and the needs of those they care about come first, and people generally banding together not because it’s right but because it’s smart. There are good, even self-sacrificing, people, but they are not the trend. The Knights of the Basement are probably a perfect example: they’ll happily stand up to Conquest if there’s no risk to them, or even if it’s only a small risk, and they tried to destroy the abstract demon before realizing how dangerous it was; however, this altruism is tempered by the fact that their survival (and that of their friends) comes first.

          Wildbow is noteworthy for having relatable characters and elements all over the sliding scale of idealism v. cynicism, and characters whose place on the scale is hard to pin down or varies. Pretty realistic, and fascinating to read, but by definition will include darker, grimmer, and more cynical elements and characters.

      1. Lots of skilled writers do exactly what you expect. It’d be just like Wildbow to keep having the same character catch crap. I doubt that means that we’ll get a meaningless death up ahead with some completely different character taking over.

        I also fully expect any bad guys to be fleshed out so that Wildbow can make them sympathetic. If Wildbow had Hitler as a character and gave him an interlude, he’d have most of y’all oohing and awwwing and sorry for him in the comments.

        Wildbow writes what Wildbow writes. It’s kinda difficult for most authors to be different. Herman Melville wasn’t going to write turn into Dr. Seuss. Mark Twain wasn’t going to become St. Thomas Aquinas. Garth Ennis would never be Austin Grossman. George R. R. Martin isn’t going to be like C.S. Lewis. Heck, Martin wouldn’t be as soft on things as Tolkien.

        Just like you’ll have a hard time getting me to take any one thing completely seriously.

        Coming next chapter: Harry Potter and the Abstract Devil:

        “Blimey, Harry, I’m glad you saved me from that incest demon. Say, could I have a word in private with Ginny, you think?”

        “Sure, Ron. Just let me get my shovel first. I have to go dig up my parents for a heart to heart.”

      2. Essentially all mainstream stories have a moral floor, some point past which the nature of the universe won’t let them descend. Either there isn’t really anyone trying to do something bad, or the bad guy isn’t really as bad as he seems, or else someone is there to stop him, or the narrative simply causes him to fail. It’s just the culture of media we have that says that some stories are just too dark. Worm was an interesting story at least in part because it seemed to deliberately reject the idea of a moral floor – you could essentially always “go under”. I kind of figured it was the main message of the story.

        Blake currently has some fairly strong moral objections to certain choices to which he has access, so I’d be surprised if there was no moral floor in this story. If the story is leading up to Blake deciding that his goals justify calling up Ornias or whoever, it’d kinda trivialize all his efforts to avoid it up to now. I’m more expecting a Diablo-esque storyline where Blake finds the means to “go over” the accepted rules of Practition-ing, instead. It seems more in line with how his character is developing and the kinds of information he’s finding out.

        1. Nah, Worm and Pact just have a lower moral floor than most people expect.

          And I wouldn’t even bother with Diablo’s storyline. The games stopped having any atmosphere worth a crap after the first one.

          At the end of the day, the world keeps on spinning. The hero doesn’t die in vain, either because he doesn’t die or it’s not in vain. It’s just a matter of how far a writer is going to go to make it seem like their characters can’t possibly survive or win this or that. That’s the way of it so long as you’re dealing with a heroic character.

          If you were truly dealing with a villainous character, then his failure would be inevitable and celebrated. He would have sunk to such depths that readers themselves would long to see him killed, because he is genuinely a bad person. Perhaps redemption would be possible if the world was a different animal, but it’s a cruel mistress. I suppose that makes anyone trying to fuck it over a fan of bestiality, but we all have our kinks.

          But we’re dealing with a hero here. Not even an everyman, who would have been dead by now. Stories work differently for different types of characters, but they still work the way they’re supposed to.

          1. I can’t really track whether you’re disagreeing with me or not.

            Wildbow writes characters that are both creative and can’t afford to lose. That’s inevitably going to lead to being repeatedly faced with moral choices. But this is still fiction; the author still gets the prerogative to channel events down the path that leads to the story he wants to tell.

            Look at, say, Dr. Who. The Doctor is a character who is very frequently faced with universe-defining moral choices, and he occasionally sees no way out, short of being an agent of major destruction. But the writers ALWAYS leave open a window for him to still be intensely moral. The moral floor in that show is very high.

            That’s not to say it’s a style choice. The difference between Blue’s Clues and Dr. Who in terms of character depth is enormous. It’s just the kind of story wildbow wants to tell.

            So I dunno, were you disagreeing with me, or not?

          2. I don’t know, I get kind of an everyman-vibe from Blake. Not the TVTropes definition ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheEveryman ), really, but it does seem to be there. On the other hand, his sense of altruism does tend to be strong…though it also doesn’t go into the highest (and unrealistic) levels; e.g., he wasn’t willing to be sacrificed to Conquest to futilely try to keep the demons from him, which–as he points out–is a pretty cliche “heroic” response.

          3. I’d say the theme of Wilbow’s theme is simple,its just the delivery that hammer’s it more than any other author.

            Victory comes at a sacrifice,and can only be achieved via creativity..The more moral the victory,the hardest the victory or/and the less people are willing to cooperate,the bigger the sacrifice and the more creativity is needed.But its always possible,and it makes the world better,if you are a good person.

            Wilbow just has the talent to make the sacrifice especially painful.

    2. I am basing my comment off the pattern shown here, in Worm, a couple of the stuff he wrote before Worm (one story had the main character go a very dark path). In these examples, Wildbow has always written nothing but deep, conflicted character who bear the full brunt of both their decisions and actions and the random happenstance of the universe.

      Given the mechanics of this universe (karma), I would venture that Blake has been beyond incredibly lucky, surviving day one, beating the fairy, getting some allies (sorta) in his hometown, hitting Laird hard and successfully and getting away from it with few repercussions, getting Conquest to back off, binding 2/3 (the second one nearly flawlessly).

      This is /too/ easy, but Wildbow sells it well. With the level of negative Karma, the power of his enemies, I would basically vote for him to be steamrolled at some point already. So, cops busting him over a dead body? That is more like it.

      1. Karma’s controllable, it’s not constant and it likes to be subtle, and his enemies have reasons to keep him alive. It makes sense to me.

    1. “Dear Princess Celestia, today I learned that things get worse. They always get worse. Especially when you think they are about to get better.”

  30. So we know the author here has had opportunity to get seriously irradiated by two high-level demons: one 6th choir (incest) and one 7th choir (abstract). We see hints of the effects of the former. What about the latter? The whole premise of this book (“do good by dealing in evil”) is very abstract and twisty.

    I’d say that this book is best used as an example of how not to think. I also think that the lawyers are 7th-choir, and that they will be one of the later and scarier things Blake faces (though of course this is Wildbow, so there’s always a bigger fish.)

    1. Yeah, I’m guessing that writing about going on a mad suicidal quest to completely rework the fundamental laws of ths magical universe might have something to do with an abstract entity which specialises in bringing the powers that be to ruin.

    2. The author may have been irradiated by the sixth choir demon, though I’d imagine if the templars fight imps every now and then they must have some protections against the radiation at least. It may simply have been that the scene was such a level of Wrong that it would be traumatic to most sane people.

      However, I really doubt there would have been any radiation during the summoning of the seventh choir demon – remember that it was done by a professional diabolist experienced enough to have apprentices. He would have been knowledgeable enough to have the right protections up. After all, if you were irradiated every single time you dealt with anything diabolic then nobody could possibly survive long as a diabolist.

      1. I also doubt there was much radiation given how carefully the author worded his contract. However, I’d like to point out that indications are that for the vast majority, diabolists don’t survive very long.

      2. the templars also arrived at the worst possible time, during an orgy at the heart of the devil’s power, expecting to fight an imp, not a fully evolved devil.
        BTW, i’m convinced the lawyers work for the inter-fiend cooperation commission, not any particular choir.

      3. After all, if you were irradiated every single time you dealt with anything diabolic then nobody could possibly survive long as a diabolist.

        Radiation doesn’t kill people, it makes them do things that seem perfectly fine in the moment but are Wrong in retrospect, with the actions’ side effects often going against the actions’ goals.

        Jeffrey needed a worthy opponent, so he waged war on every god in existence. He then gained enough bad karma to get knocked out of the fight he started, but lived to see his opponent triumph.

        The book’s author wanted to limit diabolism, but his work ended up counteracting anti-diabolist propaganda and made it easier for the lawyers to get new recruits.

        Grandma Rose wanted to prepare her heirs for the magical world, but unwittingly made them into bad-karma-magnets by raising them in an atmosphere of treachery and abuse.

        1. Yes, all of these examples are of unintended consequences, I don’t think they were caused by radiation. Radiation would be, for instance, animals attacking Blake, or Priest’s Progeny feeling atttacted to his sister. Not unintended consequences per se, but side-effects. Not dramatic irony, but bad things happening.

          1. Radiation twists the victim’s mind above all: we know that exposure to the incest demon made the author prone to incestous thoughts and exposure to Pauz made Blake a little bit more bestial.

            Combine that with the demons’ general theme of turning things onto their heads and radiation becomes a valid explanation for the anomalously dramatic irony(and anomalously poor foresignt in Grandma Rose’s case) of the examples in my previous post.

            1. I’m not sure if I can agree with you here. Did Blake really become more beast like? We know Pauz caused Blake to affect those he came into contact with, but I wouldn’t say he had lingering beasty qualities.

              Do demons want to turn “things onto their heads”? We know that’s how Pauz and Shares do something similar, but is that the case for others like Lady Incest or Barbie?

              I think Granny Rose’s poor foresight had less to do with be affected by demonic radiation, an more to do with having to fulfill a vow that she made as a child. I don’t think the heirs are bad Karma magnets as much as they just have to deal with already having huge amounts of bad Karma. While Granny Rose may have contributed, she also had to deal with the debt in addition to her childish vow.

              I don’t think radiation is the best way to describe the effect demons leave behind. Blake called it that because of the pressure he faced when dealing with Pauz. Taint would probably be more appropriate. As a taint, the victim is affected, but he can remove it by rubbing off on something else, allowing both the victim and bystanders to deal with the effects.

  31. I think I have said the equivalent before – when the system is thoroughly broken, remake the system.

    Still, this is perfect Blake-bait: the lawyers gave this to Blake to get him to try harder and be determined to become the “good” diabolist. The chances that he actually does this, from their point of view, are low, so they see this as yet another way to recruit Blake.

    1. I agree. I’m personally opposed to gravity, so I say we need to have ourselves a new big bang. A better big bang! With blackjack and hookers! And this time, Pluto’s going to be a planet while we all punch aliens in the dicks.

      1. YES!, nerf gravity, the new laws should also accommodate for faster than light travel, stable time loops and giant blueberries. and we should make it so that the laws had been that way since the beginning of time, and no one ever remembers anything being different.

  32. After mulling it over for a few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like Gathered Pages. It’s not that they’re badly written, I just think that they don’t gel all that well with Blake’s story and the overall narrative. They feel like huge bits of forced exposition, causing a break in a story that very much constantly lives in the now.

    At the moment what defines Pact for me is the breakneck pace at which things are happening, forcing Blake constantly to react and adapt. The world never lets up on him, and we live with him from moment to moment, sharing his perspective, the pressure he’s in.

    And then we get a few thousand words on something not directly relevant to his situation (though tangentially relevant and enlightening on the world front, certainly). Every time we get Gathered Pages, it feels to me like the story just breaks into a halt and gets put aside, even if the content is interesting on its own.

    I feel the important bits conveyed in Gathered Pages could just as well be conveyed in the main narrative of Pact, even if we didn’t get every surrounding detail. (As was the case with this entry, seeing as the gist of it was fairly effectively conveyed by Blake a few entries back.)

    I’m not saying that Gathered Pages will never work for me in the context of Pact overall. Maybe once the story gets further along and it and Blake have more time to breathe, exposition in this form might work. Just that where Pact is right now they feel jarring.

    Part of this might be an issue with the publishing format as well. Maybe the breaks would work better in a complete work and are more disruptive in a serial.

    Apologies for seemingly only posting critique. I normally just read happily without comment, as I don’t feel my input is all that relevant and am only roused out of my silence when something’s bothering me. What I mean to say is that not hearing from me is my highest praise and I am enjoying Pact quite a bit, last few chapters especially.

    (Though I might discuss the use of cliffhanger in the previous chapter, if someone actually is curious of my opinion, but I feel I’m overstepping my bounds already with this bit of whine.)

    Thanks for your work.

    1. You’re fully within your rights to express your feelings & critique what you think is wrong with an element of the story. Thanks for your thoughts. I may even agree. You’re certainly not overstepping your bounds.

      This was probably my last stab at a gathered pages, though I may try something different further down the road. If the audience hadn’t clamored for it, I most likely wouldn’t have written it. Some liked it, some didn’t, but in the end, I didn’t really like it myself.

      Use of cliffhangers and breaks is something of a tool, though. If I use cliffhangers with regularity and I resolve those cliffhangers 2-3 days later (or on the next page), every time, then it forms a rhythm. People get used to it, they still groan when the cliffhanger comes up, but the cliffhangers start to lose impact in a structural sense. Keep in mind that I have two types of reader – those that are reading the updates as they come up, and the reader who’s going to check out Pact a few months or years from now. I like having stuff to sort of punctuate story arcs, for the benefit of the latter, but I do agree that this is a little too removed from what’s going on.

      1. I rather enjoyed this and the pages on the big three. The one for the diary I could see being done as a Histories, since it’s basically a written version of events anyways. But overall I think that the gathered pages appeal to a certain type of reader. Speaking for myself, I’m a total INTJ. I really like reading about larger systems and learning how they work, and that applies to fictional worlds as well. If there’s a world I’m interested in, I can spend hours reading a wiki on it.

        The world of Pact is one of the most interesting I’ve seen. The rules of magic have a good balance between being a science and an art. However, you only dole out details of how it works in bits and bobs, so the Gathered Pages chapters act as a way to give out a greater deal of world information than we might get in a regular chapter. The characters might know that information in detail because they’ve read the books in world, but the readers don’t have that detail so it affects our perspective. The Gather Pages can be eye opening with what they reveal, and change our way of thinking.

        For instance, before this I was advocating the eraser demon as a familiar candidate. After all, it’s a lesser demon but still has a really cool power and I’m a big fan of “dark is not evil” routes. After reading this though, I wouldn’t say that’s a great idea. Even with an absolute master-servant relationship favoring Blake, taking something that is an inherent force for Wrong and making it a part of himself would probably backfire horrendously.

        Maybe compromise is in order. Perhaps try throwing in more text in regular chapters as Blake is reading it every now and then – I think it worked well when Blake was reading up on the notes for the barber.

      2. Luckily, BLB seems like the last source of need-to-know info we the readers (both subsets) need, so I for one will not be quite so quick to clamor for them in future.

        It would be nice if it could work somehow, but it sounds like it just… isn’t.

        1. Personally I’d like a book detailing karma interactions in much more detail than we’ve had so far, preferably with actual, concrete explanations in addition to the specific examples and flowery and/or oblique language that we’ve received so far.

          I’d protest that it isn’t selfishness, but it really seems self-evident how many people who comment on here don’t understand karma even when they think that they do, in addition to those of us who freely admit that it doesn’t all make sense yet; who knows how many who don’t comment feel the same way. For something that comprises of Blake and Rose’s primary motivation (behind ‘survive,’ of course) it really is startling how poorly it’s understood.

          Wildbow, I’m sorry that you don’t like writing these; I thought that you commenting on the lack of narrative in Gathered Pages were saying that this one was better, as it does have a “defined narrative.” Even if they aren’t as engaging as Blake facing down a twisted, centuries-old goblin monster with no tools other than a nearly depleted ice hatchet and a chain, they help make sense of the world, and I feel that that is essential in any speculative fiction, particularly one that feels as rich and detailed as this one is.

          If you truly really don’t feel these chapters, then I would really like to lodge my support in reading these kinds of things in the chapters themselves–after things calm down just a smidgen, of course >.>

  33. After reading the whole story in one go, I’m really puzzled as to why magic-users willingly become diabolists. The negatives seem to outweigh the benefits by several tons.

    1. The reasons as I understand them are mainly twofold:

      1) Demons offer much larger amounts of power compared to other Others.
      2) Sacrificing what seems like just a little bit for a lot of power leads to a slippery slope of sacrificing more and more for more power.

      I think the main reason we as reader and Blake see all the negative consequences is also because Blake inherited all the bad karma and I can imagine that this is something not all practitioners are so familiar with, so they don’t think about the karmic debt they incur, especially when they have no morals to hold them back.

    2. As said above, the power you can get from it is top-tier. Also, the demons may be willing to fight things all other Others won’t. Jeffrey wanted to bring ruin to the gods themselves – who other than the demons would risk working towards that end?

      Also, there’s people like the author of this tome that feel that they just have to get involved after encountering one of the Wrongs. The moderates who aren’t in it for power, who may try to do good or perhaps are just interested in the subject matter.

    3. A. Karma may be taken from enemies as opposed to having karma taken from the summoner personally.
      B. Karma debt can be put off indefinitely.
      C. Demons can get through most practitoners’ defences, as such they are very effective weapons.

    4. Other reasons could be tradition, as seemed to be the case with Granny’s father (though I’m still confused on the mechanics of lines of women practitioners continuing with the same last name–wasn’t that kind of last name permanence a relatively recent development?). Don’t forget that many families are against the idea of dabbling, or extending knowledge beyond one specialty. And the Thorburn library certainly seems to be unusual, both in its size and in its eclectic nature. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of early diabolists just didn’t have another avenue with enough information to be safe about it.

      Perhaps the biggest reason not yet mentioned might be something that seems kind of strange to me, but has been mentioned with near explicitness in an earlier chapter: in at least some places, the kinds of magical creatures available for binding is at a premium. For instance, Blake and Rose turned to ghosts because more practitioners don’t bother with them (and given that June nearly petered out after a single fight [albeit a very frantic one], this makes sense). But the implication of this is that there just aren’t any different Others around.

      Think on it; can you think of any free Others that Blake saw in Jacob’s bell? If you’re thinking of the forest elemental, then think again, because that one was Briar Girl’s (2.04). I do confess that I don’t know if the Others that appeared at the town meeting count as free or not, or if they count as free in the same way that the Sphinx does, which is to say ‘free, but I’m not going to even think of binding you.’

      It may well be different in areas not frequented by families of practitioners, but I wouldn’t be surprised that if A) dealing with demons makes you a diabolist, B) being a diabolist is widely thought to be terrible, and C) even killing demons is considered especially dangerous, then the Others most commonly available would be demons.

        1. I lumped them in the same category as Isadora, probably due to how intimidating they were when they were first seen before the awakening ritual. Fair point, however, I should have included them more explicitly.

        2. I took it that being exiled from the Faerie court forbade them for making any kind of contract, including the familiar ritual. So they wouldn’t be available.

      1. I don’t really agree. The real problem Blake and Rose were facing when they decided to bind ghosts is that they didn’t have any power or leverage with which to entice anything more significant onto their side. There seems to be plenty of unbound, free Others in Jacob’s Bell. There are far too many spirits, elementals, and basic Others out there to try completely controlling them. Many are aligned with particular practitioners and circles, but that’s not the same thing as being bound or a servant because they are free to change their stance if circumstances change.

        1. Mm. The whole “you need power to get powerful Others, you need powerful Others to help you get power” problem they had? I’m not going to deny that that was a factor–obviously it was–but it really didn’t feel like all of it.

          Perhaps I should clarify by stating that it seems that there is a premium on Others that are weak enough for newbies to catch them, but at this point I feel that my theory has been fairly thoroughly poked full of holes 😉

      2. Nobody said that the Thorburn line was literally the “Thorburn” line. As has been stated before, lines are ordered by arbitrary rules. All female, blond hair, specific base of operation, maybe jewellery of some sort, ‘M’ names, and so on. The Astrologer does not have a line, s/he has a succesor, there is only ever one Astrologer.

  34. Maybe it’s because English isn’t my native language (though I’ve been reading almost exclusively English for about 15 years now) but it was quite a chore to work through this text! pfew! I think my difficulty was it being heavily theoretical? I’m not intelligent enough to process theoritcal stuff 😛 My life as a student taught me that.

    I understand that it was necessary for world building purposes but I hope we don’t get too many of these kind of texts.

      1. Not exactly. I wish Tattletale and Imp would show up just to piss everyone off.
        HUMOR!

        “Who the fuck keeps drawing these devil smiley faces in our protective circles!”

    1. He knows what’s going on with Rose. He figured out what Pauz did, and confirmed it by looking at their connection, when he dropped off the Hyena-sword.

      That said, Tattletale would really come in handy. Just, you know, in general.

  35. Can someone help me out here? I’m sure someone noticed this, but I couldn’t find anything in the comments (I might have missed it, it’s possible).
    Rose said that reading Black Lamb’s blood is what gave her the foundation for a plan

    “I started to read Black Lamb’s Blood,” Rose said.

    Those fucking lawyers. Giving us the book, having things play out like this.

    “What the fuck could that book say that would make this a good idea?” I asked.

    “Its not a good idea,” Rose said. “But… I saw an out, and I knew you hadn’t read it, so you wouldn’t see it as an out. So I jumped on it.”

    So, now that we have most of that same book, what in the world could have been the “Out” she saw, that she only could have seen if she read BLB?

    1. Good question. Off the top of my head, I think she was referring to Jeffrey and Agares’ plan to start a war between fundamental forces using demonic influence. So she is trying to set Conquest in conflict with other forces (the other local practitioners?) using demonic influence.

      That seems weak, even to me, but I can’t come up with anything better. Also, I hope I am wrong, because that would mean Rose was implementing a plan that is clearly demonic, which makes me wonder if her morality is that much worse than Blake’s.

      1. That wouldn’t be consistent with her characterization thus far.

        “Blake. You know that moment in the horror movies, where you’re screaming at the actors? ‘Don’t go up the stairs’, ‘don’t touch the glowing skull’? Don’t read the book.“ (1.06)

        Even if the character is a facade, she would have anticipated explaining it to Blake, so he would have had to buy it, which means that the plan should be consistent with Blake’s perception of Rose, or at least that she anticipated that he wouldn’t think too much worse of her for proposing it.

        1. Really? I thought it seemed consistent with her personality.
          “If The Big Bad is making me summon a demon, and plans on torturing and/or killing me after (Or before, depending on his mood), why don’t we summon something that wants him dead, run away, and have someone else deal with it?”
          And she didn’t say it was a good out, just that it was an out.
          She’s caring, sure, but she’s also self-centered. She didn’t stoop too low to get the inheritance, but she didn’t remain neutral either, and she wanted to be a witch-hunter for the sole purpose of not dealing with the scary things and having someone strong to give them protections.

          My favorite example is when blake asked if she would tell him to not do what Conquest asked, and to sacrifice her, to which she responded, “Fuck no!”

    1. I still stand by Rose senior’s “I know there is no use in it. It doesn’t protect me or do anything.”.

      1. Ah, but with the find-and-replace-all strategy, the author never actually writes down any lies. What, does emacs get forsworn?

        Better yet, get someone else to edit it for you. The editor, even if a practitioner, would just be changing words already written; I doubt that counts as making a statement on one’s own.

        1. I don’t really see the difference between telling a witch-hunter “Go tell this person I said X (even though it is not true)” and telling emacs (or a human editor) “Change this text so the reader thinks I am a man”. And the first one is canonically allowed, unless I’m wrong.

        2. I was thinking about this, and for this reason all practitioner books probably have something along the lines of “As written by [author name]”, possibly handwritten so the handwriting can be verified, as a verification of accuracy. Along with a longstanding tradition of all ganging up and hunting down anyone who abuses this system, like the Endbringer Truce in Worm.

          1. Because when your life and soul — as well as those of anyone vaguely nearby — depend on the accuracy of a book, you don’t fuck around.

    2. Or if the author was in a similar position as Blake is with Rose.
      She “remain[s] a careful man” currently, but may not have always been that way.

  36. “Any attempt to restore diabolism in the eyes of others and to get their help would raise questions about Jeffrey’s like.” –>> “Any attempt to restore diabolism in the eyes of others and to get their help would raise questions about Jeffrey’s ilk.”? I think that may fit with the language more….

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