Conviction 5.1

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Policemen surrounded me, flashlights sweeping over snow and tree until they fell on me.  Haggard me, still bearing some small wounds from my previous outings.

They had to have been following me in the dark.  A dozen officers, some wearing different clothes, implying different rank or duties.  Crime scene guys, maybe?  A local police chief, on top of regular officers?

I hadn’t seen the connections, but I hadn’t been looking for them.  Not really.

Fuck.

Could I run?  Yeah.  Could I run and actually get away?  I couldn’t imagine doing it without hurting someone along the way.  There were too many cases where I might get shot.

And even if I did succeed, I couldn’t say for sure if whoever had tipped them off had given them my name, specifically.  No use running if they could find me sleeping at home in a matter of hours.

Fuuuuck.

I slowly raised my hands over my head.

“Turn to face the rocks!”

I did.

“What do I do?” Evan asked me.

I glanced at him, pursing my lips, and shook my head a little.  Couldn’t talk to him, not without raising more questions.

I heard the officers shuffling closer.  The lights became brighter.

“Place your arms straight behind your back.”

“Yes sir,” I said.  I spoke as clearly as I could, “Before I cooperate, I’d like to make it clear that I’m something of a specialized handyman by trade.  I have one bladed tool at my left hip, and several small, sharp objects in my pockets.  You may unwittingly hurt yourself if you aren’t careful.  I can and will try to tell you what is where, given the chance, while you search my person.”

“Hands behind your back, now.”

I placed my arms straight behind me.  “Was I understood?”

“You were heard.”

I felt cuffs settle in place around my wrists.  They pulled off my gloves.

“I am presently arresting you on suspicion of the first degree murder of one Evan Matthieu.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“You have the right to retain and instruct any counsel without delay.  You also have the right to free and immediate legal advice from duty counsel, by making free telephone calls.  We are presently outside of ordinary business hours, so the phone number you’d call would be…”

He rattled off a telephone number.  I was in the midst of trying to commit it to memory when another officer stooped down not far from where I’d been crouched, and saw the body.

“Christ,” the man said.  “Boy’s here.”

“Do you understand?” the arresting officer asked me.

“What was the number again?” I asked.

“Anyone in the Toronto PD can and will provide it on request, at any time from this point onward.  Do you understand this and everything else I told you?”

“Yes,” I said.

I understand this has to be Laird fucking with me.  Third time is a charm, and Laird may have won this round.

“Do you wish to call a lawyer?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Then we will provide a phone and phone book to call a lawyer at the nearest opportunity, as there’s no cell service here.  Is this understood?”

“Yes.”

“You also have the right to apply for legal assistance through Ontario’s legal aid program.  Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” I said.  I felt like every question hammered a nail into this particular coffin.

“I’m going to give you this formal warning.  You need not say anything.  You have nothing to gain from any promise or favor and nothing to fear from any threat whether or not you say anything.  Anything you say can be used as evidence.  Do you understand?”

“I understand,” I said.

“I’m going to search you.  You said there were needles?”

“No needles.  At my left hip, there’s a decorated hatchet.  The blade is uncovered and facing forward.  If you raise my jacket and shirt, you’ll find it.”

He did, withdrawing June.  “One concealed weapon.”

I bit my lip.  Given a chance, I would have tried to argue the point, justify it… but speaking wouldn’t help me.

He handed it to someone I couldn’t see.  I heard the rustle of a bag.

“In my right pocket, there’s a box-cutting knife with the blade retracted, and several loose hook cutting screws.”

“Another concealed weapon,” he said.

He took his time checking my pockets for the hook screws, pulling it inside out and letting one or two of the remaining ones fall into the snow.

“Aside from the keys in my left pocket, I think that’s the only thing that could cut or stab you,” I said.

Without a thank-you, he switched to a rougher form of frisking me.  I bit my lip and stared up at the snow-covered branches above me, resisting the urge to flinch at or react to the rough contact.  He relieved me of the pretty-much-empty jar of glamour, twine, a black magic marker, the locket that had been wound around my hand-

He popped the locket open, and my heart nearly stopped.

Between the gloom, with the flashlights being angled elsewhere, and the direction I was facing, I couldn’t see if the hair happened to fall out.

Fuck it all.

“If it’s alright, sir, I’d like to start walking him back,” the arresting officer said.  “Get back to my car, where it’s warm, get him to the station so everyone can do what needs to be done here.”

“Yeah,” an older man said.  “Take some with you.  Thomas?  Max?  Eyes on him, and on each other.  Talk to the chief when you get back, I’ll phone in whatever we’ve got soon.  Be good.”

Be good?  What happened when they were bad?

They started me walking.  Here and there, the ground dipped, but the snow didn’t, causing me to sink in to knee-depth.  We forged on as a group, moving in a straight line.

After the brighter flashlights, the woods seemed particularly dark.

“Murdering a kid?  That’s about as fucked as it gets,” one of the other officers said, after we were out of earshot.

“There are other possibilities that are more fucked,” the arresting officer said.  “But I’m not ruling that out, either.”

I didn’t rise to the bait.

I did, however, note Evan standing nearby.  Eyes wide.

The going got a little rougher, and I wasn’t talking, so they shifted focus towards moving forward and keeping a firm grip on me so I wouldn’t tip over.

I saw Evan flicker.  He stopped in his tracks.

I moved on, and Evan remained in the forest.

We were taking a much different route out than the one I’d taken in.  We descended a steep hill, and reached a road where police cars were lined up.  Very possibly parked in Evan’s neighborhood.

They opened the car door, and I flinched at the contact of hand on head, as the officer pushed me down, simultaneously protecting my head from hitting the top of the car.

I thought I could maybe see Evan standing at the top of the hill, watching me go.

I’d been booked, everything entered in the database.  Phone calls had been made made, my free legal counsel was en route.

The room was smaller than those shown on television.  A desk, like a broader version of a student’s desk, took up the majority of the long, narrow room.  A beaten-up metal folding chair was in one corner.  The other chairs looked far more comfortable, padded and all.

I wasn’t surprised when they uncuffed me and indicated the metal chair, seating me so I faced the door.  It was cramped, claustrophobic, which I assumed was the point.  I could lean left, and my shoulder would touch the one-way mirror to my left.  Lean right, and the front of the long desk would dig into my elbow.

One officer sat to my right, the other situated across from me.  I was cornered, quite literally, back and shoulders to walls, effectively surrounded.  The mirror made it feel like there were more people to my left.

I looked to confirm, and realized there were people in that room.  Didn’t help the ‘surrounded’ feeling.

It was the one that faced me that was apparently going to do the talking.  He looked young, no older than thirty-five, maybe as young as thirty.  He had dark, curly hair that was cut to an almost crew-cut length.  He left the door open, standing by his chair as he took his time removing his jacket, shaking loose moisture from his gloves before putting them in his jacket pockets, and hanging it up on the back of the door.

Standing over me.  A broad shouldered, older guy, in better shape than I was.  Not that I was in bad shape, fitness-wise, but he was in better shape.

He shut the door, then took his seat, facing me head on.

“I gotta ask, what the fuck happened to you?” he asked.

I just dealt with an imp and a giant goblin beast thing.

I wanted to make a crack, to say something like, ‘I got arrested and brought here’, but I didn’t want to be one of the idiots on TV who got reamed out by their lawyer for trying to be smart or help themselves.

“Is it just poor quality of life?” he asked.  “You said you were a specialized handyman, right?”

“Right now, I’m nothing more than a guy waiting for his lawyer,” I said.

“Fair enough,’ he said.  “I can do most of the talking.  I wonder what a ‘specialized handyman’ does.  Something that involves screws, a fancy axe with wire around the handle.  What else?  See, I’m trying to put the pieces together, figure out who I’m going to be talking with for the next little while.  You called one of the freebie lawyers, right?  I guarantee you it’s going to be a while, he or she might even have to see someone else before they get around to you.”

There was nowhere good to look.  If I met his eyes, I felt belligerent.  if I looked at the floor, I looked guilty.  Looking left or right meant I was, indirectly or not, looking at the other cops.

I shut my eyes, instead, shifting position until I could lean my head against the wall behind me.

“Hey,” the officer said.  “Hey!”

Shouting just a bit louder than was necessary or expected.

Sending me straight into that ‘fight or flight’ mode, where I was ready for danger, ready to react and move.

He hadn’t moved.  He was smiling, as if he was the friendliest guy in the world.

“Now’s not the time for that,” he said.  “Looks pretty fucking bad if you’re so relaxed you can fall asleep, with murder charges pending.  Looks sociopathic.”

My heart still pounded.

I could bind goblinoid monsters, but people could still put me on edge.

“What else am I supposed to do while I wait for my lawyer?” I asked.

“You can chat with us,” he said.

I gave him a look.

“Or whatever,” he said.  “Listen while we talk.  Twiddle your thumbs.  Think up a good story, if you need one.  Do all three at the same time.  But you don’t want to go to sleep when you’ve been accused of murdering and maybe doing worse to a damn kid.”

The shift of topic, the reminder of Evan, it wasn’t helping.  I was tired, I was on edge, and I didn’t have any ready answers.  He kept forcing me to shift mental gears.

Just like the cramped space was designed to make me feel the pressure.

Problem was, this wasn’t a situation where piecing A, B, and C together relieved any of that pressure.

He spoke, “I do some reno work myself, when I have time.  But time’s hard to come by, you know?”

When I didn’t answer, the other cop murmured, “Oh yeah, definitely.”

The other cop was a bigger, balding guy, busy taking notes, a pen scribbling away on a pad of paper, constantly moving at the corner of my field of view.

“I like working with my hands.  Frees my mind to do other stuff,” the interrogator said.  “I swear a lot, get frustrated, but I usually come away feeling accomplished, like I did a good job, and feeling refreshed.  As if it’s meditation, but without the yoga bullshit, you know?”

“Why are you hating on the yoga, Dunc?  Maybe our guy here likes that stuff.”

‘Dunc’ shook his head, his eyes moving over me, head to toe.  “Doesn’t strike me as the type.  You’re not the type, are you, bud?  Or maybe you’d do it to win over a girl, but you wouldn’t do it for yourself?”

My mouth stayed shut.

“Maybe he’s a fag,” the older guy chimed in.  Short sentences that cut in, jerking my attention away, much as the constantly moving pen did.

“Are you a fag, buddy?” the interrogator asked.  “Do you prefer sausage to the taste of fish?”

Rationalize it, Blake.  Figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing.  They wouldn’t stick these guys in a room with you if there wasn’t a very clear, concrete reason for every single action.

They were nettling me.  Obviously.  If I were gay, I’d be hurt or annoyed at the use of ‘fag’.  If I wasn’t, they’d be provoking me to defend my sexuality.

Thing was, I was in the middle.  I wanted to protest the use of ‘fag’ for the sake of my gay friends, for Joel, but not so much that I’d speak before my lawyer arrived.  I was straight, but I wasn’t exactly practicing straight.  I liked girls, I liked the way girls looked, but I didn’t actively pursue sex, didn’t invest a lot of my own identity in my sexuality.

I was able to relax, get my bearings, knowing they were on the wrong track, the nettling wasn’t working-

A hand settled on my knee.  I jerked, pulled out of my thoughts, moving my leg to break contact, my hands bracing themselves against the mirror to one side, the desk to the other.

The room was still for a few pounding heartbeats.

“He didn’t like that,” the guy to my right said.

Dunc moved his hand back to his lap.  “Nope.  I was just going to say, if you are gay, it’s cool.  No judgement here.”

“Say anything you want,” I said.  “But say it without touching me, please.”

“Kind of cocky, giving orders in your situation,” the guy behind the desk said.

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Dunc said.  He smiled that ever-so-friendly smile of his.  “Here, let me move closer, so I can hear you better.”

He scooted his chair forward, until we were sitting with one of his feet planted between mine.  Invading my personal space, making it impossible to move my legs the way I wanted to without bumping into his.

I’d just given them an in.  Stupid, stupid.  A crack in my defenses, so to speak.

“I’m not gay, in case you were worried,” Dunc said.  He let the statement hang in the air.

More bait.  More stuff said to invite a response.

“I’ve got a wife and kid.  You?” he asked.  “Anyone we could call?”

“He didn’t say anything about dependents, when we were filling out the arrest sheet,” the other officer said.  “I listened to it all, while you were talking to the captain.”

Each time Dunc asked a question, it was left out there for a moment before the other guy formed a response.  It made for a kind of stilted dialogue, one that someone might have itched to fill in.  I had little doubt that if I started talking, I’d be rewarded with a very natural conversation.

“Doesn’t sound good, then,” Dunc said.  “A single guy, when you’ve got a dead kid in the woods?  Our guys looked at the tracks in the snow, traced them back.  You meandered a little, but you seemed to know where you were going.  If you stopped and changed direction, well, it looks an awful lot like it was because you were looking for landmarks.”

“Telling,” his partner said.

“Doesn’t like being touched?  That’s a story unto itself.  Another point against the man, as far as I’m concerned.  I wonder what the hatchet and knife were for.”

“Twine too.”

“Cut up the poor little dead kid, tie it all up with twine?” Dunc asked, leaning forward, further into my personal space.

His gaze didn’t waver as his eyes locked with mine.  Cold, accusatory.

“I think that sort of fucked up speculation suggests an awful lot more about you than it does about me,” I said.

He smirked, then leaned back.  “You’re not joining in on the small talk, so I don’t have much else to do to while away the time except try to figure out what you did, what you were planning, and why.”

“Speculations like why are you out walking out in the woods tonight?  Woods a long way from home?  Woods that just so happen to have a dead boy crammed in under some large rocks?”

“Coincidence,” Dunc said.  “Eh?  Just random chance?”

I needed a way out, and they weren’t giving me a chance to string thoughts together.

I had… quite possibly less than twenty four hours to get the last demon bound and handed over to Conquest.

I needed more time to talk to the astrologer, to get my ducks in a row so I could actually do something once the demon was captured and handed over.

“They found blood on the hatchet.  Five second test to do, not a good result,” Dunc said.

“Yeah?” his partner said.

“Captain said so,” Dunc said.  He stood, which put his body a foot or so away from my face, and stretched.  Well inside my personal space.

Blatant, but it worked.  It bothered me.  More than a little.

“Don’t fidget,” the cop to my right said, his voice low.  “Doesn’t look good.  Makes you look guilty.”

I was bouncing my knee.  I stopped.

“You really need to calm down,” Dunc said.  He sat down, shifting his seat.  A jerky, sudden movement that prompted me to do the exact opposite of what he was recommending.

Didn’t help that being told to calm down was one of the most enraging things that someone could tell you.  Doubly so when that person was an asshole.

“Still bugging me,” he said.  He leaned closer, “Scars, marks, bleeding… how does a guy get injuries like that?”

“Stand in front of the ‘out’ end of a wood chipper?” his partner suggested.

“Tell you what,” Dunc said, looking at me.  “I’m dying for a coffee.  Tell me, even make something up, so long as you make it convincing enough to satisfy my curiosity, and I’ll go get my coffee, and I’ll get you anything you want out of the vending machine.  Or out of the break room, if you’re in the mood for something warm.”

I shook my head.

He moved, sudden, in my space, and I flinched much as I had before, hand gripping table’s edge, so I wouldn’t hit him.

But he was only standing, a sudden, forward movement, right when it had looked like he was settling in for a long sit.

Relax,” he said.  “Jesus, I’d thought you’d ease up a bit after the first few times.”

“PTSD?” his buddy asked.

Keep your mouth fucking shut, Blake Thorburn, I told myself.

“Might be, but as far as I’m concerned,” Dunc said, “He could be nervous because he’s worried about what’s going to happen to him.  Hurting a kid?  You’re in for absolute misery.  A long, long sentence, nothing good for you in there, nothing good that comes after.”

“Law says we need reasonable doubt,” the other guy said.  “You know what that is?  That’s where anyone who’s not an idiot would be able to say you did it.  We’ve got that.”

Dunc nodded, still standing so he loomed over me.  “You think you’re playing this smart, but this doesn’t matter.  It’s formality, rounding things out, answering some questions.  TV, movies, they tell you all this stuff about how you’re supposed to play it, but they don’t touch on how it really goes.  The reality is that your average cop isn’t a twenty-something actor with capped teeth.  I’m about as good looking as they get.”

Every smartass, sarcastic, petty part of me strained at the bit to throw in a remark in response to that.

“Real cops?  Real cops are mostly old men.  Baby boomers, crammed into the real jobs, while the rest of us struggle to get by.  I had to work my ass off, I had to be smart, get a proper education, get strings pulled, and I only barely squeezed in.  You worked hard, maybe, and you weren’t so lucky.  Was that it?”

I shrugged.

“This is where I’m supposed to tell you I’m one of the clever ones.  That I’m one of your only shots at being listened to.  But I’m not.  If you want to be heard, get your story out there, then you’re going to have to work at it, even with me.  Every moment you wait, all those old and stubborn sons of bitches in this building are going to be telling themselves one thing.  They’re probably going to decide what the answer is, search out evidence that connect the dots, and things will start building momentum.”

“You always hear about the people who go in for decades, when they’re completely innocent.  Pattern’s the same,” his buddy said.  “Cops want a conviction because of racism, or because the crime’s serious.”

“Dead kid serious,” Dunc said.

“Yeah… and you’ve got an overworked lawyer who’s not really making money, who’s too busy to show up for a few hours, who fucks up, or who just can’t argue whatever it is that needs to be argued.  Guy goes in, and they don’t get out until it turns out the DNA tests were fucked up, or the Judge was a lunatic.”

“Tragedy,” Dunc said.

“You’re making it sound like your average cop is pretty shitty at their job,” I said.

“Honestly?” Dunc asked.  He leaned against the wall.  “The average cop is pretty darn good.  But average is average.  You think about what average usually gets you, and then you figure that half the people out there are below that average.  That’s anywhere.  Even here.  And you can be better than average, while still having a trend that isn’t so good.  Like having an awful lot of good cops who are still guys.  Guys with families, wives, girlfriends, kids, guys who just want to work and go home at the end of the day.”

“I get what you’re saying,” his partner said.  “Good guys, but you spend too many years on a job, you’ll start to take shortcuts, move things along…”

“Human nature,” Dunc said.  “You don’t look like the sort that puts an awful lot of stock in the inherent good of human beings.”

Truth be told, I believed what he was saying.  That people would be inclined to take shortcuts, that this sort of thing happened.

I met his eyes, but I didn’t agree.  “Swing and a miss, Dunc.  I-”

A knock on the window interrupted me, loud enough to make me jump.  Right next to my ear, no less.

It wasn’t so much the surprise that bothered me as being ganged up on.  Two guys in the room was bad enough, but the reminder that the other guys in the building were poised to throw me off balance?  It got to me.

For a moment, I was back under that bridge, being attacked by a group, being thrashed, too many to protect myself against.

Yet my answer didn’t change.

I thought of the Knights.  Of Maggie.  Of Paige.  Of Joel, Alexis, Tiffany, and my other friends.  Hell, of Evan that tenacious little boy who’d held out as long as he had.

They outweighed the bad.  They’d helped me out.

I did believe in the inherent goodness of humanity.

“One second,” Dunc said.  He had a smug half-smile on his face.

They’d called him, and they’d timed it to interrupt at just the right moment.  No doubt there was a procedure for interrogations, and putting me off balance was part of it.

Dunc opened the door, blocking it with his body so I couldn’t see out.

I only heard bits.

Lawyer.  Coffee.

Behaim.

As that last word was spoken, he looked over his shoulder at me.

I looked, and I saw the connections that emanated from him.  Nothing strange, nothing that suggested anything special.

But, still, there was a connection, one that moved in the same direction one of my connections did.  Right in the direction of Jacob’s Bell.

A moment passed, and he returned to the room, a large mug in hand, something topped with foam.  A latte.

“Your lawyer’s here,” he said, stirring his latte.  He took a seat, smiling.  “Be just a second.”

My lack of response this time was a wary one, not a sensible one.

“If that’s the case, I’m going to pop out and get myself something to drink,” his partner said.

“Sure, Max,” Dunc replied.

I tracked the connections, saw the people moving.  Reorganizing.

I saw the focus drop away from Dunc and me both, from the other side of that mirror.

I saw the sole remaining connection flicker and die.  Something digital.

There were the two of us in the room, and nobody was looking.

Dunc picked up his latte and rested it on one knee, scooting back a little, respecting my space.

I could see the foam.  He’d drawn a rune into it, so it floated on top of his drink.

I was reminded of the first time I’d seen a rune.  In a coffee shop, no less.

“Dunc… Behaim?” I asked.

Duncan Behaim,” he confirmed.  “Officer Duncan Behaim, to be exact.”

“Laird’s your dad?”

“Uncle,” he said.  “He’s my uncle.  The family likes to have a few key people in spots around the town, to keep an eye on things.  People who can fly under the local Lord’s radar, for the most part, keep an eye on important business.”

“You know I didn’t do this,” I said, “don’t you?”

He nodded.  He smiled some, “I kind of wish they hadn’t let that slip.  This next part would be far more effective if you were in the dark.”

“What goal does this serve?” I ask.  “Hurting me for the sake of hurting me?”

“You’re a diabolist,” he said.  “You’re a threat to the family, you went after Uncle Laird, you’re a threat to everything.  I don’t even have to get you sent to jail.  All I have to do, apparently, is keep you in custody for the next twenty-four hours.  Anything else is extra.”

“You hate me,” I said.

“I don’t.  Honestly.  I do think you’re dangerous.  I think you’re even the unwitting sort of dangerous, which you get when you have too much knowledge and not enough information.”

“And if this goes sour?  If you push me a step too far, and I say the wrong name a few too many times?”

“Oh, I’m going to stay close.  I can bend certain rules, ensure that nobody thinks too hard about my presence somewhere.  If you start, then you prove we’re right, that you’re a monster that needs to be put down.  I fill you with bullets, and then the family, our new allies included-”

“The Duchamps.”

“-The Duchamps… they all help to bend more rules, shift things to a satisfying conclusion.  Altered memories, altered focus, a bit of rewriting and pressure in the right places.  I walk away free and clear, having served my family and all of humanity.”

I nodded.

“The extras I talked about?  Putting you away for a long time?  It’s sensible.  It means things like what happened in Etobicoe don’t happen again.”

“I bound that thing,” I said.

“And you gave it away.”

“There’s more going on than you understand.”

“I know just about everything that’s gone on.  I know that this is one situation where crippling you, reducing you to something smaller, it’s for the best.  We already have officers talking to your friends, who may well not be your friends after this.  They’re turning your apartment upside-down.  Above all else, we’re going to keep you for the day.  Your lawyer isn’t magical.  When it counts, I can shift things one way or the next, and you’re not in a position to stop me.”

“Cheating the system you serve,” I said.

“Serving the system with a little cheating,” he said.  “Nudges, but nudges are all we need.”

“Nudges like the ones you used to keep me from noticing the eyes on me, or that you were a practitioner?”

He smiled, but he didn’t answer my question.  “A friendless, homeless diabolist is easier to keep track of.  If we dismantle you, then your actions reach only so far.  They’re easier to contain.  This is doubly true if you’re forsworn, or you’ve upset the local Lord through an inability to carry out the tasks you were set.  If you die, our family can deal with the next member of your family.  If you don’t… if you’re reduced to a husk of a man in a cell, well, the family gets its peace and quiet until we do need you to die.”

“How do you know everything?”

“Simple,” he said.  “I asked.”

Asked.  Asked who?

I didn’t imagine he’d tell me.

He shifted position, looking from latte to door.  “The effect is weakening.  Breaks plausibility if we delay them too long.  Best I break the rune now.  On your best behavior, diabolist.”

He dropped the full latte into the trash can.  Breaking the rune in the process, I supposed.

A moment later, the door opened.

“Mrs. Harris,” my lawyer introduced herself.  I had the impression of a forty year old who looked fifty.  Her hair was bleached platinum blonde, her roots showed.  That aside, she looked more crisp than I’d expected of a free, crown-appointed lawyer.  Not attractive, her face wrinkled by years of stress, but she wasn’t frumpy or rumpled.

“Hi, Mrs. Harris, I’m Blake Thorburn,” I said.

“I’ve got your file here,” she said.  She took the chair that had been previously occupied by Duncan’s partner.  “Given the severity of the charges arranged against you, may I very earnestly recommend a lawyer you’re actually paying?”

“You can, but unless you’re giving me the cash to do it with,” I said, “I don’t really have the option… the only lawyers I could pay would be one I really don’t want to be in debt to.”

I saw Duncan smile a bit.

“Even with a murder charge?”

“Even with,” I said.

She twisted in her seat, looking at the two officers.  “Give us some privacy?”

Duncan smiled some, but he joined his partner and left.  The door clicked shut.

The recording device in the other room clicked off, very deliberately this time.  Not a rune-induced flickering out.

“Do you have property you could sell?” she asked.

Did I?  I had my bike.

I couldn’t help but feel like selling it would be like giving up my last vestige of hope for a normal life, after all this was said and done.

A faint, stupid, silly hope, but I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I put this whole Diabolist, Thorburn, Laird, Conquest, Demon thing to rest, and I didn’t have the opportunity to ride.

“No,” I said.  “I’m basically one step below a starving artist.  I’m the guy who lives off the generosity of the artists.”

“And a recently acquired property worth a considerable amount.”

“Can’t sell it, can’t really do anything with it.  If I could have, I would have already.”

“I’m not going to be able to do a very good job for you,” she said.  “This would actually be my first murder trial.”

“I appreciate anything you can do, Mrs. Harris,” I said.  “But quite frankly, I think I’m pretty damn screwed.”

“Did you talk to them?”

I shook my head.  “Not really.”

“Good,” she said.

All that effort, and all I got was a ‘good’.

She fished in her bag, then pulled out a notebook.  “Blake Thorburn.  They’re accusing you of murdering a little boy.  What can you tell me?”

I finally had a moment to think, and the thoughts weren’t coming together.

“I… was told to go to that location, earlier.  I did, except the police were told something else.  They arrived at the same time.”

“You think you were set up?”

“I most definitely think so,” I said.

“Why you?”

“I can’t say for sure.  What I can say is that I have custody of a property worth a surprising amount of money.”

She nodded.  “You think it was a family matter, then?”

“I think it was a family, two families in particular, but I don’t think it was mine,” I said.

The two cops entered the room.

“Your superior officer, too?” Mrs. Harris asked.  “I know he’s watching.”

I turned my eyes to the mirror.

An older man with peppery hair and a mustache entered our already cramped interrogation room.

“My client alleges that Officer Behaim here has been influenced by an outside party, a Laird Behaim of the Jacob’s Bell Police Department?”

“My uncle,” Duncan said.

“This same Laird Behaim was apparently questioned recently about the circumstances surrounding the death of a Molly Walker?”

“And it comes full circle,” Duncan said.  “Your client’s cousin.”

“You were aware of this?” the older man asked.

“Not entirely.”

“Whatever the justification or explanation, whether it’s true or not, I think it’s sensible to remove your Officer Behaim from this particular case.”

The older man frowned.  “Yes.  Of course.”

“And, further, my client is concerned because your officer threatened to shoot him, only moments before we entered the room.  If we could check the recording device?”

“Of course.”

“If there’s any such threat-“

“Or sign of tampering,” I cut in.

I saw Duncan roll his eyes.

My lawyer gave me a sour look.  “Yes, or sign of tampering, then we feel it would be best if Officer Behaim here were removed from the vicinity entirely.”

“You want me removed from duty?” Duncan asked.  “I’m a damn good interrogator-“

“From the building,” Mrs. Harris said.  “Whether you’re removed from duty is up to your superior officer.”

“Fair enough,” the older man said.

“Borrow your pad?” Duncan asked his partner, as they left the room.

Fuck.  A rune?

No.  Probably something damning, though.

This was all I could do to defuse the biggest threat.  I didn’t expect we’d really be able to get rid of him, but… well, at least he wouldn’t be interfering or working magic mojo on me.

He’d wanted to play it up, to get smug, lord it over me?  I’d use it against him.

I was left alone, door locked, while they all shifted to the neighboring room to look at the device.

When they returned, Duncan Behaim wasn’t with them.  No mention was made of him.

But, I noted, his partner Max held the pad of paper.

“Let’s get you on record about what happened,” the older man said.  He looked to Duncan’s partner.  “Max?”

“What brought you to those woods tonight?”

“I was told to go there earlier today.”

“By?”

“I don’t think I could give you a name if I wanted to,” I said.

“And you went?  No name, just a request, and you traveled halfway across the city to a very specific destination?”

“Yes,” I said.  There wasn’t really a better answer available.

He glanced down at the sheet.  “This evening, when you found the body, that was your first time seeing Evan Matthieu?”

Fuck.

That one fucking moment’s hesitation probably felt ten times longer than it actually was.

“That was the very first time I saw him in the flesh,” I said.

“Have you seen him when it wasn’t in the flesh?” he asked.

“I had no contact with him online,” I said. Deflect, deflect.  “Or by phone.”

“More specifically… yes or no?”

“That’s a very odd question,” I said, buying time to think.

“To be entirely blunt,” Max told me, “My partner wrote down the word ‘schizophrenic’ with a very large question mark.  He’s noted the signs he believe point to this… disheveled appearance, question mark.  Hoarding objects and tools, question mark.  Self inflicted damage, question mark.  Duncan Behaim has an uncanny knack for being right in his assessment of people.  Do you see things, Mr. Thorburn?”

“We all see things.  It’s why we have eyes,” I said.

“Don’t try to be clever,” my lawyer whispered to me.

“I’ll try to be clearer.  Do you see aliens?”

“He wrote down all those questions, huh?” I asked.

“Yes.  Do you see aliens?”

“Not as far as I’m aware,” I said.  He was reading questions off the paper, and I knew what was coming next.  I had to lay groundwork.  “But I’m open minded to possibilities.”

“Do you see ghosts, goblins, grumpkins or anything in that vein?”

“I’m open minded to possibilities,” I said.

“Try to be specific.  Yes or no?”

“He insisted on yes or no answers, didn’t he?” I asked.

“I find it curious,” Mrs. Harris said, “That you’re relying so heavily on the input of an officer we asked to leave the area.”

“He’s one of our best interrogators, if not the best,” the older man said.  “I’m more curious that your client is so disconcerted by this line of questions.”

“You’re implying that I’m crazy,” I said.

“We’re implying nothing at this stage,” the older man said.  “We’re only asking simple questions.”

He indicated for Max to continue.

“Yes or no, do you see goblins or anything in that general neighborhood?”

“Do I… have to answer?” I asked.

“You don’t have to do anything,” my lawyer said, “You have the right to not have to give testimony against yourself.  But yes, it might be a very good idea to answer.”

“In that case. I exercise my rights, and I don’t answer,” I said.

I could see the change in expression on the officer’s faces.

“Pursuant to section eleven,” Mrs. Harris said.  There were nods.

“Do you see goblins every day?  Going about their business?”

I sighed, leaning back.  “I exercise my right to not self-incriminate.”

“Do you see demons?”

“I exercise my right to not self-incriminate.”

“Do these goblins or demons ever tell you what to do?”

Yes, Pauz had.  “I exercise my right to not self-incriminate.”

“Was it these goblins or demons, or something in that general neighborhood, that told you to seek out the boy in the woods?”

That’s a pretty broad neighborhood.  “I exercise my right to not self-incriminate.”

This was going to keep going?

I looked at my lawyer, but I only saw a note of pity.

“Earlier, you said you were told to go to those woods.  By someone or something without a name.  Was this someone or something a person you can identify?”

“I exercise my rights, section eleven.”

He looked down at the page, as if reviewing the questions.  After a pause, he asked, “Let me return to my earlier question.  Did you have contact with Evan Mattheiu prior to that point we found you in the woods?”

I could feel the tension in the air.

“I exercise my rights not to self-incriminate.”

Silence yawned on.

I fidgeted.  I didn’t care, at this point.  I was brimming with a sick kind of nervousness.  The sort of nervousness that went beyond the nervousness of ‘what if I get fucked/hurt/ruined’ and into the ‘when‘.

I was the one driving nails into my own coffin, now.

“Do you need to talk to your client?” the older man asked Mrs. Harris.

“Yes, but… maybe in the morning, if you’ll accommodate me?  I need time to prepare, and… yes.”

“That works,” the older officer said.

I nodded.

“You’ll be taken into custody,” Mrs. Harris said.  “Nothing more should follow until I’m contacted first?”

The officer nodded.

“For now, stay put, say nothing more, and we’ll see what options we have.  Unless you’d like to reconsider your options, as far as legal aid or who will represent you?”

Mundane options wouldn’t get me anywhere better.  Well, maybe a slightly better place.

But my time and energy were better spent working outside the box.

On that note, magical options for aid?

It might well be sheer stubbornness at this point, but no.  I knew what those lawyers would ask for, and somehow that bothered me more than if it were up in the air.  They were planning something, trying to subvert me, and it seemed like too easy a road to take.  I couldn’t play along.

Even if it meant jail, or, worse, an asylum.

“Why don’t you take him downstairs, Max?” the older officer asked.  “By himself, so he’s safe, with supervision.”

‘Max’ reached for me, and instinctively Ieaned away from his hand.  Which probably didn’t hurt the ‘crazy as fuck’ image.

He remained stock still, not reacting to my flinch.  “Turn around.”

I did.

“Hands.”

I gave him my hands.

“I’m not going to touch you,” he said, “Since you don’t like that.  But that’s only so long as you cooperate.”

“I’ll cooperate,” I said.

He indicated the door.  The older man opened it.

There were so many eyes on me, as I was guided out of the interrogation room.  Duncan Behaim’s among them.

Fuck, to put it lightly.

I saw two adults, and a little boy.  The adults stared at me with red, puffy eyes.

The little boy broke away from the pair of them.  He passed effortlessly through the people and objects in the way, before falling in step with me, walking just to my right.  I glanced back at Duncan, and I saw him glance down at the little boy and raise eyebrows.

Evan’s body, it seemed, was somewhere in the building.  Somewhere close, in any event.

Good.  I needed all the help I could get.

If there was even a chance at getting out of this, much less getting out of this with my life intact, it was a damn slim chance.

I’d done everything right, near as I could figure, and I’d still been screwed.

The natural answer was that I’d need to do something wrong to get out of this.

Fuck that.

With all sincerity, fuck that idea backwards and forwards.

I was not going down that road.

I’d need some more help than just Evan, if I was going to get out of this and seize that slim chance.

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308 thoughts on “Conviction 5.1

  1. Thanks for reading.

    No Thurs chapter this week – I’m trying to alternate one on, one off, for the sake of my sanity, and there’s a special Wildbow-centric event later this week, which merits a small vacation-ish time anyways.

    On the chapter: still sort of writing outside my comfort zone some, and I do sort of approach writing with the mentality that it’s lame when a story doesn’t do the psychologist/legal/whatever stuff right, so I’m doing my best here. I expect the lawyers and cops are going to go nuts on me anyhow.

    Just thought to let you guys know about thurs, and thanks again for your support.

    /salute.

    1. I enjoyed this chapter, and I’m glad you showed us Black Lamb’s Blood so we know the context of something wrong, as well as the importance of Blake avoiding the Godzilla threshold, unlike so many other diabolists.

    2. Happy birthday! (If the Wildbow-centric event is, in fact, your birthday.)

      Otherwise, I simply wish you a happy day.

  2. Hmmm. Conviction. I can see this going down two (not mutually exclusive) paths. Conviction as in Blake is convicted of a crime. Conviction as in Blake now has a firm belief that pushes him forward. This may very well be the first major turning point in the story. Blake gains (or avoids) a new conviction, forcing/motivating him in his future endeavors.

    Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to this arc!

    1. The chapters so far have had double meanings sometimes, though that may be because it’s easy to interpret one-word titles in different ways.

      Bonds: family bonds, words becoming binding (practitioner oath), encounters with the bound Barbatorem.
      Damages: Blake unintentionally lies (damaging his practice), damages Laird’s reputation, Laird damages Blake’s chances at an alliance with Maggie.
      Breach: Blake breaches the Behaim/Duchamp gathering, the sanctuary of the house is breached.
      Collateral: Rose is kept by Conquest as collateral, Pauz affects Blake to spread “radiation”.

      Since the legal system is highly unlikely to hammer out a conviction in under 24 hours my guess is that it doesn’t refer to a legal conviction directly, just the possibility of one. Your hypothesis is probably also going to apply.

      However it could also mean that the Behaims and Duchamps come to strongly believe that Blake is an immediate diabolical threat.

      Oh, and wouldn’t it be interesting if there was some way to erase the troubles facing Blake? You know, retroactively alter memory and the world so that a certain meddlesome police officer never existed, thus removing much of the impetus behind his legal troubles. If only there was some entity Blake has to encounter in the next 24 hours that could make that happen…

      1. ” If only there was some entity Blake has to encounter in the next 24 hours that could make that happen…”

        Except that Blake is far too nice to do that.

      2. That last idea is tantalizing, but it goes against his silent oath at the end of the chapter. It’s a very poetic upping the ante – third failure and the Behaims lose exactly what Blake’s family did. However, it requires either bail or Conquest having the same mission after Blake’s release. It also is an internal step from “I want to get out, and I’ll gift property space to do it.”

        To be true, I’d love to see how a practitioner of time is affected by an other that deletes memories.

      3. Blake has personally decided “Fuck that.

        With all sincerity, fuck that idea backwards and forwards.”

        In theory, he hasn’t actually sworn an oath. If Duncan Behaim is willing to believe that Blake was manipulated by Laird to MAKE a diabolist – which seems likely, since Molly was killed and the more aggressive Blake was not… An oath not to go down that path could help seal it.

  3. I guess I will start the typo thread:

    made made
    duplicate

    if I looked at the floor
    If I looked at the floor

    judgement
    judgment

    Etobicoe
    ??? place in Ontario, presumably correct

    Self inflicted
    usually Self-inflicted

    Mattheiu / Mathieu

    Ieaned (starts with a capital I)
    leaned

    1. Arc 5 (Conviction
      Missing a closing parenthesis. Yes, I did just point out a typo that wasn’t even in the chapter proper.

    2. “Law says we need reasonable doubt,” the other guy said. “You know what that is? That’s where anyone who’s not an idiot would be able to say you did it. We’ve got that.”

      From the context, seems that the police officer should have said
      “We need ‘beyond reasonable doubt’… that’s where anyone who’s not an idiot would say you did it.”
      since the police want to convict Blake

    3. “the only lawyers I could pay would be one I really don’t want to be in debt to.”

      Should be “the ones”.

    4. I thought of the Knights. Of Maggie. Of Paige. Of Joel, Alexis, Tiffany, and my other friends. Hell, of Evan that tenacious little boy who’d held out as long as he had.

      I think that there’s a comma missing after “Evan.” Formatting?

    5. Single quote below should be a double quote:
      “Fair enough,’ he said.

      Possibly better without the second “out”:
      “out walking out in the woods”

      Should probably read “and I instinctively” below:
      “‘Max’ reached for me, and instinctively Ieaned away from his hand.”

    6. “I could see the change in expression on the officer’s faces.”
      It should be ‘officer’s face’ or ‘officers’ faces.’

    7. I found only one that you haven’t mentioned and that hasn’t been fixed.

      “‘Max’ reached for me, and instinctively Ieaned away from his hand.” –> I instinctively leaned away.

  4. Toronto P.D is Duncan’s workplace, it probabbly has more protections and he’ll get rid of Evan soon. Attacking Duncan’s rep here will be futile, suing the the police department while in custody is a no-go, police brutality gambit is even worse, no glamour to bluff his way out, legal proceedings will be dragged out over 24 hours, calling out the Big O for the 7th time…nah. Blake’s screwed.

    1. Conquest, I’m fairly certain, can just go ‘YANK’ and out Blake comes. But that means it’s torture time.

      1. But Rose is the one with the bondage connection, not Blake. I think it would take a bit more effort than that.

        1. Now if only Blake could figure out a way to reverse the connection so Rose be the one with their combined powers, free to get going with Conquest’s last quest while Blake’s comatose in the police station.

            1. That would be awesome. I can also say that I can imagine this line from Rose at some point.
              “Blake’s the one who promised to never use a demon on you. I’m not so nice.”

            2. When did Blake promise such a thing? He made an offer at the council meeting, but nobody took it.

          1. That is a crazy cool idea, but I wouldn’t think Blake capable of either figuring out how to do this on his own or being selfless and trusting Rose that much. He’s been strongarming himself into trusting her by even making tons of promises which force him to follow that path, but he doesn’t seem to like trusting her at all.

        2. Perhaps, but there’s a connection between Blake and Rose, just as there is between Rose and Conquest. I see no reason why the two can’t work the same.

          Of course, we don’t want Conquest to need to take that option, but there you are.

          1. Conquest’s connection to Rose is specifically designed to “yank,” the connection ‘twixt the Thorburn’s is not. I see a whole host of reasons why the two wouldn’t work the same.

            Put another way, all you’ve stated here is “there is a connection.” This world is all about connections; Blake has one to Toronto, for instance, and Jacob’s bell, so could Conquest “yank” that?

  5. Great opening chapter. Supposing Blake is ultimately hurt by this attack, would this be Laird’s round 3 or Duncan’s round 1?

    1. Laird’s round three, all of the systems in this universe, like karma, others, and power, tend to be family central, so Duncan and Laird count as one, especially since Blake’s earlier attacks were against the Behaims in general, with Laird being the prime target.

      1. Remember in the one demon binding we’ve seen, how there were clauses to ensure that other inheritors that come after Blake would carry out the terms of the contract? I think Karma only passes down along the family line because that was part of some deal early in the family history. That and/or that when you fully ally yourself someone or some group or family, then maybe you share their karma. Note that the non-magical Thorburns don’t seem to have bad karma, only the inheritors that buy into the family practice. Also, I believe Fell wasn’t born into Conquest’s service so much as his father was forces to trick him into it.

        1. I’m not quite sure that the non-practitioner Thorburns are immune; I mean, look at how f-ed up they all are. Not that it requires bad karma, but it certainly would help things along. Though perhaps it’s the practitioner members that suffer the brunt of it?

          Not to mention:
          “Sufficient for the non-practitioners who stumble on ways to give themselves bad karma.” (2.04)
          So I would say that non-practitioners can suffer from bad karma, yes. Not to mention the students that Isadora mentors every so often.

        2. It has been indicated that non-practitioners are largely (but not completely) shielded from the effects of karma. Awakening opens a person up to the Other – including the ramifications of karma.

  6. So smug. Is the whole Behaim clan made of smug fuckers? ’cause it seems so. Anyways, chapter was nice but I wish Blake could go at least 3 paragraphs without being screwed in new and different ways. I know his family has a karmic debt the size of Alaska but it gets a little silly all the bad things that happen. I guess karma works in contrived ways.

    Also, we need an Evan/Dead boys detectives crossover. They’re on the case!

      1. Yes, it would be nice to have a little while where Blake isn’t more fucked over. Of course then the moment we let our gaurd down he’d be even more fucked over than ever.

    1. The karmic debt is a nice all-purpose excuse for Wildbow’s sadistic tendencies toward his protagonists. In Worm it sometimes felt unfair, in Pact it’s just, welp, you should have known better than to have been born into the Thorburn family.

    2. It’s not that contrived–most of the situations are engineered by people or sentient beings. In this case, Duncan Behaim, who in turn was maneuvered by Laird, caused the bad situation. People feel they should work against him and often have justifications for that feeling, (diabolist, has magical nukes, prosperity will increase with him gone, etc.) some of which probably contribute to that feeling on their own. That’s well within the bounds of reasonable influence explained by the karma system.

      For me, what I find hardest to believe is that Blake has managed to not die so far in his interactions with Others. I can understand that his interactions with people will largely be tamer (not trying to directly kill him) so they don’t get bad karma for being dishonorable, but his interactions with a lot of Others has been ridiculously dangerous. Then again, it’s a story, and oftentimes the stories worth telling (true or not) are about an extraordinary or unlikely sequence of events.

      1. My theory is that so far, Blake has been adventuring with a companion he met early on. This companion has helped to keep Blake alive so far. She will soon be eaten by the erasure demon. What we are reading now are the events after they have been retroactively changed to deal with the lack of companion connections.

          1. It’s pure speculation based on the facts that a) We know that there is a creature that erases all aspects of a person that Blake is supposed to face b) Blake has done an extremely effective job of not being horribly murdered c) the story is told as though it happened in the past.

    3. The major problem is that they’re repeatedly trying to intimidate a man with an arsenal of nukes. How did his family accrue their karmic debt? By firing nukes off, repeatedly.

      The antagonists are, to be succinct, morons, every last one of them, and in no sensible reality would they have managed to accrue any meaningful power because they would have annoyed somebody and been squashed long since. They’re acting like they’re Saudi kings when they’re in fact local thugs.

  7. An idea:

    Blake knows runes for moving stuff, wind and unlocking things. Could he use these to go on a The Fugitive style escape?

    Blake: I didn’t kill that boy!
    Dunc: I don’t care!

    1. I can see that happening. I can’t guess whether he’d go to Conquest or to the erasing devil to escape the ensuing chase, though.

  8. The day Blake finally gets to wipe those smug Behaim smirks off will be an incredible one, but at the moment things aren’t looking good.

      1. Blake beating Behaims.
        Oscar the Grouch, once the story got going, was a non-entity. By the time Snuffleupagus told her off, Snuffleupagus didn;t even need to do anything anymore. Snuffleupagus was way beyond him.

        But oh, ooooh how the Behaims need to be smacked.

        1. Fair enough, but Barney the Dinosaur, by being so far above Tinky Winky, gives him such a glorious de-pantsing, and in a sense, violates a part of Tinky Winky’s very being.

          1. Please don’t spoiler Worm. It makes for a lot of comment editing for me, which is a really tiresome, laborious process. It’s not what I want to be doing with my spare time.

            1. My apologies, I really didn’t think that that would be to spoilerish, I respect the work you do and was trying to avoid spoilers

            2. Please don’t “patch” spoilers by replacing the character names with Snuffleupagus and so on — I’m working on a massive and ingenious Pact/Sesame Street/Barney/Teletubbies cross-over fanfic, and nearly panicked just now, thinking my secret manuscript had been stolen & published by someone else.

              I don’t want to spoiler myself, but the de-pantsing of Tinky Winky is pretty crucial indeed. But there’s no Elmo/Caillou hanky-panky; this is not that kind of fanfic!

            3. I must thank you for making this comment. I assumed Wildbow did the normal, boring censor thing to the spoilery comments. Had you not made this comment, I would have missed out on the funny.

            4. Here’s the number one thing you folks that haven’t read Worm need to no about it. Worm is awesome and you should read it. Go on, it’ll give you something to do inbetween the Pact updates.

      2. I will be very happy if it tops Ernie killing Bert.

        [Wildbow here – don’t spoil! It wastes my time when I have to edit comments]

        1. Careful with the Worm spoilers.

          And I don’t want Laird and Sandra dead. I want them booted. By which I mean, I want them kicked out of being the heads of their families, and exiled. The younger generation tired of being dragged into messes and wars they start, and having to do what the elders tell them siding with Blake, and leaving them in disgrace.

  9. Can he get in touch with Fell / Conquest? There might be some minor help there, especially if he points out that Duncan Behaim is a hidden practitioner who is screwing Conquest’s business. As a matter of fact, if blowing the deal with Conquest doesn’t immediately kill Blake, Duncan’s cover is gone anyway. What is Duncan going to say to the local lord he has deceived for years?

    So Evan’s body and ghost are both in the building. Which might be significant, but I don’t see how. Blake has given no evidence of knowing the familiar ritual. Can Blake get rid of the body? With no allies available? That would help, but too many people have seen it already, so habeas corpus is no longer his friend. At best, it would raise the question of the police’s competence.

    And Blake is being awfully stubborn about not using Mann, Levinn, and Lewis. I see his point – one more step on the road to damnation, but not using a free out is… hardcore about his beliefs.

    Oddball thought of the evening: can Blake make Evan visible for a while? That would shake things up a bit.

    1. There might be some minor help there, especially if he points out that Duncan Behaim is a hidden practitioner who is screwing Conquest’s business.

      I don’t think Duncan is hidden. It would be trivial for other practitioners to see the family connection, given that Blake can (he even has the surname Behaim). Also I think he’s been talking to Fell, and that’s how he knew where Blake was going to be.

      Blake has only met a handful of the big players in Toronto. There’s probably a Duchamp coven lying around as well.

      Which might be significant, but I don’t see how.

      You don’t see how Blake being locked up with an escape artist ghost/familiar-in-potentia is significant? ;P

      Not that he necessarily can escape physically (they know who he is, for one thing, and he has no tools), but the symbolism ought to work for escaping situations of any sort.

      habeas corpus is no longer his friend.

      Habeas corpus is the right to be brought before the court (i.e. to be present at your own trial).

      1. “Also I think he’s been talking to Fell, and that’s how he knew where Blake was going to be.”

        Good catch, and it just moved to the top of my list of possibilities because that would be such a major screw job for Blake:
        Blake: “Fell, Duncan Behaim is a local practitioner who has been hiding from Conquest and is screwing up Conquest’s plans.”
        Fell: “We know. I told him all about you.”

        “You don’t see how Blake being locked up with an escape artist ghost/familiar-in-potentia is significant?”

        If Blake can enact a familiar ritual or figure out another way for a non-poltergeist ghost to help. Without magical tools or any tools really. In the custody of a man who will definitely know what is going on and block it. Evan may be a good escape artist in potentia, but there’s a limit. Police cells and stations are very much designed to hold people in the way that open wilderness areas are not. I get you point about symbolism, and magic is all about it, but Duncan is not going to let things just happen.

        “Habeas corpus is the right to be brought before the court.”

        Oops. I was thinking of the requirement to produce the evidence against you. At this point, even if the body vanishes, too many people have seen it.

        1. Hmm… I wonder if soul!Evan could play puppeteer with his old carcass for a minute. Or long enough to let Blake out from obvious lack of charges.

  10. Blake needs to start chanting:

    Deus ex Machina, Deus ex Machina, Deus ex Machina . . .

    And then a bigger fish was summoned to eat the Toronto Police Department.

    1. But then Blake will have to deal with Leviathan, and Scion won’t be any help because of Blake’s karmic debt.

      1. Evan possesses his own body, which may very well be reasonably well preserved. talks to his own parents and give a royal yelling at the Toronto PD. HE then tells them what happened truthfully and he then has a real go at Duncan because he knows what Duncan is up to and also has a go at the Toronto PD for failing in their duty to protect Evan blasting their rep and bring a lot of people into the knowing of the other stuff.

        Evan’s parents are shocked but upon knowing the truth thank Blake for his efforts on BEHALF of their son and they then also blasts Duncan who is now suffering disaster dominos.
        Since this would be Evan’sown doing and a result of Duncan’s the Karmic debt should accrue on the Behaims and then a lot of people suddenly know what laird is up to, maybe to the point of are opening the murder investigation.

        The title is Conviction, The question possibly is: Who’s?

        1. I’m ok with this up to the point where Evan breaks the masquerade. Can’t see any good coming from that.
          They probably checked for a pulse before bagging the body, but it’s probably best to leave them wondering what kind of freak hypothermia coma could cause it.

          Just leave the morgue and go to your parents while crying that you’re scared. No need for constructed arguments.
          But… it probably won’t happen like that. Too easy I guess ?

  11. If he still has the hair that gives a lot of options. Glamour a cop into looking like Blake. Glamour a Blake into looking like Cop. Burn Evan’s corpse. Glamour Evan into looking like an Evan. Hey, that’s an idea! Blake could use glamour to make Evan a real Faerie and hide the human corpse!

    1. The locket was taken from him and will not be given back until he gets out. The police officer opened the locket in the park, so the hair might be lost anyway.

    2. You’re assuming they didn’t get rid of the locket. Considering that it was one of Laird’s family who knows this kind of stuff and the fact that he probably used glamour in the past, that hair is gone.

  12. oh, hell.
    i am feeling so much hate towards the Behaims right now, I WANT Blake to sic not one demon on them but a whole choir..
    At some point SOON we are going to need a histories chapter that mildly removes the pressure of wanting to kill them from between my eyes. i find it hard to believe such a chapter is possible, but on the other hand I believe in wildbow…

    this chapter was well done but downright painful to read. KJ;GHDFIHJFKDWG;LKHBJFDJ;VKGJKHG;J;KG BEHAIMS DIE.

    1. I like Blake, he’s a likeable protagonist but I don’t fully understand the hate towards the Behaims/Duchamps. It’s been made abundantly clear that a) this is a nasty world where you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and b) that diabolists are, in general, bad news and demons are SERIOUS bad news.

      The Behaims are motivated by a desire to protect and strengthen the family, and remove the danger represented by the Thorburns. Their means may be unpleasant but no more than anyone else’s and if the greater good is served by eliminating Blake then their actions are defensible. If the story were from Laird’s perspective he would be the likeable one and Blake would be a misguided kid in over his head and threatening to take everything down with him.

      1. I suspect that most of it comes from the way that all the Behaims we’ve seen have been smug and gloated. Like, a ton. That family has a gloating problem.

        I mean, I get that gloating and explaining to your enemy what you’re going to do before following through has tangible benefits in this setting, but the Behaims just take it way too far.

      2. Laird in particular I think is driven by more than just a desire to protect his family. He wants to be Lord of Jacob’s Bell. Remember that he’s the one that is driving the charge against the Thorburns. If ensuring the Thorburns don’t deal in diabolism is what he wants, then driving them into a corner is a rather obvious way to not do that. He even told Blake that it’s the natural instinct for someone cornered to lash out with whatever they can, so he knows the risks. He doesn’t care. He’s willing to murder innocent people to have his way. His dedication to his family is admirable, but he’s pretty lousy when it comes to anyone who gets in his way. You can bet that if he was a diabolist he’d likely become one of the unrepentant.

        1. Remember too that Laird has allowed Blake to live, while he got Molly killed. Laird /needs/ Blake to be a diabolist – a Thorburn who refuses to deal in demons even enough to be a scapegoat isn’t something he seems to want.

      3. That would be just fine… up until the point where Laird orchestrated the death of Molly Walker, bloodying the hands of another newbie practitioner (Maggie) to do so. Up until the point where Laird left Blake at the mercy of Padraic and co. Frankly, I could possibly forgive all of that, even up to the events of Breach… up until the point where he kicked Blake out of his house and allowed him to run to the lawyers for help. There are many, many more ways to “remove the danger represented by the Thorburns” than just killing them. None of this, zero-zip-nothing of it would have occurred if anyone had considered “Hm. This Molly doesn’t seem like the sort of Thorburn heir Rosalyn would have picked. Maybe we can turn her to the side of good.”

        And your perspective flip only works insofar as people don’t stop to ask “Why, then, is he leaving the kid in over his head?”

        We hate him because he’s not heroic. We get where he’s coming from, we really do. We’ve seen too much of diabolism to disagree. But he’s a smug, patronizing, two-faced bastard who follows the letter of the law while utterly ignoring its intent.

        And I refuse to believe that the “greater good” can possibly be served by the murder of an innocent, which Molly was, and which Blake was before Laird started meddling.

      1. That guy in the subway saw Rose, Andy could see Rose, Pretty much everyone can see Rose. Given that Rose is absent, there should be empty space where Blake’s reflection should be.

        1. If I remember right, the guy in the subway saw Blake and thought he was a woman. This was because his lack of magical defenses and state of being magically used-up led to Rose sorta bleeding through their connection and start sorta replacing him. The subway guy didn’t see Rose, he saw Blake wearing Rose’s aspect.

    1. Oh god. That’s hilarious. And I bet its on camera too. Oh god and they got asked to check the video for tampering. There gonna get that back. “Yup video is clearly tampered with. Blake isn’t actually IN this one.”

      1. I wonder if Blake’s reflection would have appeared if Rose had held up a mirror from her world. (Of course, she’s out of commission anyway. =/)

  13. Great chapter. And as usual, Blake’s fucked. He’ll probably have to swallow it up and call either Fell or the lawyers. At least Duncan pretty muched confirmed that Fell did not send the police.

    Oh, and it seems being a giant douchebag and abusing authority run in the Behaim family.

    Also, I’m a bit surprised Duncan wasn’t invited at the engagement/ritual party. Or maybe there were so many guests that Blake didn’t remember everyone’s face.

    1. He could also call up the Eye of the Storm, and ask it to help him escape by burning down the police station. They’re both working for Conquest, after all.

    1. He just needs to be less leery about blowing the supernatural in ways that can’t be covered up. The motion symbol alone, if he got the effect on camera, would convince the cops that something freaky is going on. Heck, he needs to get back into an interrogation room and point out his lack of reflection.

      1. Nope. The rational, the sane explanation for that is tampering. If you see it in person the sane explanation is hallucination and/or trickery. The cops will assume they are being played or are going crazy themselves. Now if Blake slaps that motion symbol on something and then slaughters the department with it they won’t know Blake is responsible. (Which will become justifiable in short order if they conspire to frame Blake.)

        Now the lawyer might be able to convince the cops they are going crazy with the lack of reflection.
        “Where’s my client?”
        “Behind you sitting down?”
        “Very funny, but I know how a mirror works.”
        “But, but? The reflection! Its gone! What did you do?”
        “No one is going to fall for this. Look if you aren’t lying you need to see a psychiatrist now.”

  14. Duncan Behaim had a rather more detailed and generalized answer than Laird. He may be acceptable.

    A possibly better response to the ‘ghosts and goblins’ question might be along the lines of: “I don’t want to say yes or no, and the reason involves people close to me and Laird Behaim. I would really appreciate if you could find someone unrelated to him to suggest questions.”

    1. Depending on the situation, it might be helpful to include “And even having been that explicit makes me a little afraid.”

      However, the knowledge required to know if that’s helpful or harmful is not something Blake could have gotten, and additionally there are more cases where it’s harmful. Still… If Blake can re-contextualize this as turning an attack by Laird back on him a third time, that’s going to be huge. Counterattacks and third attempts are both deeply enshrined in the local customs of Others and Practitioners, I suspect.

  15. Oh heyo:

    “I’m dying for a coffee. Tell me, even make something up, so long as you make it convincing enough to satisfy my curiosity, and I’ll go get my coffee, and I’ll get you anything you want out of the vending machine. Or out of the break room, if you’re in the mood for something warm.”

    Well this is a poorly thought through promise. If Blake satisfies his curiosity he is required to go get Blake ANYTHING he wants out of the vending machine.

    1. He needs to have his curiosity satisfied for that. He believes he knows too much for anything Blake says to be both A) Not harmful to Blake and B) Satisfy whatever curiosity he has that isn’t quashed beneath insistence that all Thorburns be made Diabolists and then locked away.

    2. IF Blake satisfies his curiosity. A rather big if, and a rather open-ended satisfaction. I notice he didn’t actually specify what he was curious about.

    3. “Bring me everything – including the flooring – from the break room.”

      Now that would be a great way to turn that back on Duncan. I expect people wouldn’t react well to Duncan redecorating Blake’s cell like that.

      1. Including the air inside the break room. But as funny as that would be, I would be more concerned about the very first part of what he said:

        “I’m dying for a coffee”.

        WARNING: SARCASM DETECTED, ACTIVATING ORBITAL FRIENDSHIP CANNON!

        1. Yeah, Duncan strikes me as sort of a shit practitioner. He’s: Lied, and made a idiotic promise. Those are newbie mistakes.

        2. That’s not sarcasm, it’s hyperbole, which I’m guessing is more acceptable by the universe since it’s at least errs on the side of being true.

        3. It is possible that by the justification that, right this moment, Duncan is not immortal, anything involving “I’m dying” without details still counts. Technically.

          1. Except that the extra detail is there, he is dying FOR coffee.

            Not of lack of nutrients which could be gained by consuming coffee. But dying FOR coffee. He must surely now dedicate his life to the service of Coffee.

    4. He’s required to get Blake anything Blake wants out of the break room. “Boy it sure would warm my soul if your cashed paycheck were given to me.” What else might be in that break room?

  16. Very satisfying chapter to me. I wasn’t expecting a police scene to be all that interesting at this point, but in the end I was really impressed. I dunno why, but Blake feels a lot more natural to me when he’s flinching from personal contact rather than thinking clearly. More likeable too. Loved the last couple lines.

    I wish Duncan would, as a cop, be actually slightly concerned with what actually happened to Evan. Or does he already know? Both he and Laird seem not to be very concerned with actually doing their jobs when it comes to practitioners.

    I hope Blake gets a chance to open up a little with his lawyer. I mean, obviously not completely open, but enough that she can sympathize with him and will actually try to advocate for him.

    1. Duncan knows exactly what happened to Evan, I’m sure. If you know that Blake didn’t kill Evan, and you know about the Hyena, the rest follows.

  17. Hm. I wonder if Duncan is getting his info directly from Jeremy, or if there’s someone else he “just asked.” The way he said it makes it seem like, while that’s a way you could describe what he did, it’s not remotely the most accurate one.

    Wonder what Max thinks of all this? What with how his partner mysteriously knew where to find this guy, and it turns out he’s not exactly impartial. Is Max suspecting something less than savory is going on with his partner, and if so, is he willing to do anything about it since it apparently involves the murder of a child?

    At this point I think that Blake has probably sabotaged himself enough that he can say that he can see ghosts and was talking to Evan’s ghost to find him and they might believe he believes it.

    1. Also, I liked Blake deciding that, no, fuck you, cynicism, he believes in the inherent goodness of humanity and he’s going to do what’s right, not screw over the world for the sake of easy solutions.

      1. honestly i have to admit that the consistent threads of idealism woven through
        crapsacky worlds is by far and away my favorite thing about wildbow’s writing.

  18. I don’t know anything about real interrogations (I don’t imagine them like that), but what you had there got me angry by just reading, so definitely effective.

    1. Summon the lawyer demons and he’d be out of there faster than the Behaims and Duchamps could shake that stick up their collective ass. There’s literally no way they could win a case like this against him without using magic. While they’re at it, he can have his attorney call Duncan Behaim and Laird Behaim to the witness stand and ask them if they conspired to send him to jail on false charges.

      Of course, such questioning has a much greater impact if Canadian courts ask witnesses to swear to tell the truth and the whole truth.

      He has a right against self-incrimination. These officers, though, can be compelled to answer.

      1. Without resorting to magic they’re probably not just going to lose the case, but watch this backlash on them. Video is “tampered” with if you notice Blake not reflecting. Maybe even the video of ARRESTING Blake will show that fail. Plus the fact that once Duncan gets called to the stand its all over.

        “When you arrested Blake did you believe he killed Evan? So you kidnapped my client? Did you at any point tamper with the video? Did you threaten to shoot my client? Can you explain why Blake has no reflection in this video of you arresting him?”

        That or they can try to get him committed without too much scrutiny.

        1. From what I understand, the video will show Blake’s proper reflection, as normal people would. It would be too much of a liability and likely result in great accumulation of karmatic debt (i.e. lots of people figuring out something is wrong) if grandma Rose’s spell didn’t ensure normal people other than Blake would see his reflection, not something she would do.
          Nevertheless, if Duncan is called on the stand and swears to tell the whole truth, he’ll have serious problems. The same is true for Blake, however, if he doesn’t have the right to refuse to testify as the defendant.

          1. Duncan could always refuse to self-incriminate, whether he is a defendant or a witness. It could still be a lot of trouble though if there is evidence (as in: video being tampered), but if the theory that Blake shows as normal on video is correct, then there probably wouldn’t be enough to mak a case out of it.

            1. Not in Canada. The testimony can’t be “used against” him, but he’ll still look fucking insane.

          2. We’ve actually seen multiple normals witness the reflection of Rose. Notably Witch Hunter Robin and that one guy on the train. Pretty sure they are gonna have a bad time.

            1. Nice anime reference for Witch Hunter Andy, but it backfires when you remember that those witch hunters were actually witches themselves!

              More seriously, we don’t know what is strange about Witch Hunters, but we know that something is, or Blake would be able to see his connections, and he couldn’t.

              The subway guy could have been mundane, but might not have been.

              Even if that is the case–and somehow none of the police noticed Blake’s lack in the giant two-way mirror–we don’t know that it will not show up on video.

              More data is required!

        2. “You had several questions for my client asking if he believes in demons and goblins. Do you believe that demons and goblins exist, officer? Do you and your family have something personal against my client and his family, something that might drive your family to conspire to kill his cousin and arrest him on false charges?”

          1. I could easily see a judge not allowing those questions to be asked, given that Blake is explicitly being questioned regarding whether or not he’s schizophrenic.

    2. I haven’t experienced a police interrogation personally, but from everything I hear it’s really far, far better to just never talk to them until you have your lawyer present and up to speed. Even when you’re totally sure you’re innocent, and there are no goblins involved. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc for lots & lots of reasons why.

      And if you’re just going from a general policy of “I can’t talk at all without my lawyer present” then it’s much less difficult to suddenly switch to “I choose to exercise my right not to self-incriminate” when the questions suddenly start leading in a bad direction.

  19. Last time Laird & Blake spoke, Laird told Blake that “Goblins” refers to the group that does the dirty work for the person he hired to murder Blake’s sister, right?

  20. What kind of oaths does a police officer in Canada have to swear when they sign up?

    If they swear to uphold Canadian laws.. that’s not exactly what Duncan is doing.

      1. Well, for starters, he has to uphold the Constitution of Canada. If Canada’s constitution is anything like the US’, just that would be a confusing and terrifying endeavor that you’d need to be a law student to properly do in its entirety. Just that makes me inclined to suspect that he bamboozled people into thinking that he took the oath instead.

        He needs to preserve the peace. Well, preemptively killing diabolists can certainly be seen as that, and his family connections mean that he can be disruptive and they can quiet it down so the peace is preserved.

        He needs to prevent offences. I’m not entirely certain what this means in legal terminology-he has to stop crimes? It can’t be that, if he’s taken the oath, because he’s currently framing an innocent man for murder.

        Discharge his other duties. Fairly straightforward, though I’d check just what the Toronto PD is required to do-I wouldn’t be surprised if there are regulations that nobody follows.

        He has to do all of this faithfully, impartially, and according to the law. Well right off the bat, he’s not faithfully doing his duty, he’s not doing it impartially, and last I checked framing people for murder was not following the law.

        In conclusion, I am fairly certain that he’s either forsworn or has taken no such oath.

        1. Interesting interpretations. I did want to point out, though, that he’s not framing Blake. That would require much more effort than he’s currently expending, for instance. Right now, he’s just not clearing Blake. Not-clearing != framing.

      2. I will be loyal to Her Majesty the Queen and to Canada…

        —No treason? Loyal enough to probably not break the oath.

        I will uphold the Constitution of Canada…

        —I am not going to wade through that, but it is probably general enough that he has little problem there.

        I will, to the best of my ability, preserve the peace, prevent offences…

        —In their mind, stopping a diabolist is preserving the peace and preventing offenses.

        … and discharge my other duties as (insert name of office) faithfully, impartially and according to law.

        —And here’s the rub. This doesn’t say the law of Canada, Ontario, or Toronto. So Duncan and Laird are serving karmic law, which makes it OK to shit on people with bad karma.

        But overall I agree with Glassware that their behavior comes perilously close to being forsworn, so chances are that they have fudged taking the oath.

  21. They’re turning your apartment upside-down.

    Welp. And suddenly, that note to future heirs that otherwise seemed completely superfluous storywise, since Blake/Rose is the protagonist and certainly not going to die until the final arc, comes rushing into sudden relevance.

    1. Oooooo….
      And there’s also the smashed bathroom mirror with the different pieces arranged on the walls. And the triangles in triangle made with tape on his floor.

    2. Nothing explicitly damning (haha) was written in the part of the note we saw. It maybe makes him look a little crazy, but he exercised his right not to self-incriminate when asked if demons were telling him what to do, so he already looks plenty crazy. And it establishes that he was worrying about Laird Behaim screwing with him before his nephew arrested him, making his story more plausible.

      Who knows what was written in the rest of the note, but presumably he maintained the same level of plausible deniability throughout.

  22. Well, there’s one option that doesn’t involve demons for Blake to get out of this little predicament: calling up the Eye of the Storm. It works for Conquest, and since Blake’s working for Conquest, too, it makes sense for him to call it up and ask it to help spring him from the police. Probably by burning the police station down.

    1. Or if you really want to mess with the police, you call Evan to the stand.

      After all if Evan is a familiar with enough juice from Blake to look like a living person…

  23. On the next episode of Magical Cliffhanger: The Series:

    Blake and Rose get cordially invited to a wedding…at Walder Frey’s.

    Next, they are tasked with hunting down a mighty white whale.

    Then, he’s given a special mission: escort a pyrophobic woman named Joan through England.

    Will he survive? Yes, but then we’ll have another cliffhanger, only on the next…Magical Cliffhanger: The Series.

    PS: The fourth episode after this, whatever you do, don’t forget t-!

  24. Blake gets stuck out of his house by the Behaims. Blake goes to Toronto. Behaim ally arranges for Blake to be outed to the ruler of Toronto and have to capture entities for said ruler. Behaim arrests Blake, thinks he’s bad because he sealed one of those entities and gave it away to the ruler of Toronto.

    Behaims, one question: when you’re wiping your ass and you accidentally get some shit on your hand, just how hard do you kick your own ass for daring to get shit on your hand?

    And more importantly, Behaims, I’ve always wondered…what does being a cunt feel like?

    Fuck the Behaims. Fuck the Duchamps. Fuck Conquest. Fuck Dionysus. And most importantly… http://imgur.com/gallery/5pf8YRU

      1. There’s maybe one royal I respect, and that’s the Funky Pharaoh, Amasis. He’s at his best when teamed up with his slithery, snake-like friend, Ophidian.

        youtube.com/watch?v=14URlH6_1Zs

  25. Couldn’t blake have simply replied “I don’t see goblins”? Since I don’t think a police interrogation cell is a likely place to see a goblin or a demon, even though he wouldn’t have technically been answering the questions they were asking he would not have been lying.

    1. How about answering that one with “I can’t see anything that your Officer Behaim cannot.”
      Blake should review his pigeon strategy.

    2. Remember – Behaim is sometimes using magic to not make anyone question his presence so much, and insisted on yes or no answers.

      1. Yeah, Blake was definitely trying being clever, but the problem with clever statements is that they only work when either people are not actively looking out for them (say, Blake when he first met Laird) or when it would be a breach of protocol/diplomacy/trust/whatever to ask for a more blunt statement. Dunc’s coworker clearly lerned his lesson about sticking to the letter of what Dunc says: apparently it generally brings results.

        1. I feel like he honestly should have just refused to answer from the very beginning. If you answer some questions and not others, of course it gives people the impression that you’re hiding stuff on THOSE questions. Just refuse to talk entirely, Blake. Haven’t you seen cop dramas?

          1. That’s usually only until your lawyer shows up, and then you answer when they say you can. And she did say he should.

            But yeah, I get what you mean. He did stop answering once they asked a second question implying that he was crazy. He could totally spin that, once he’s calm and rested enough to think straight.

  26. Man. Wildbow must love Blake or something, he keeps fucking him so much.

    Also, I’m pretty sure “burning the police station down” causes more problems than it fixes.

  27. So… how much work is it to set up a famulus ritual? Blake is in desperate need of non-evil power, Evan is the most easily accessible, and there’s no way Chekov’s Request from last time (“How would you like to be my familiar?”) isn’t going to get any followup. Evan might be able to get Conquest to agree to AlsoSprachOdin’s idea of letting Rose fix the demon problem, or he could tamper with the evidence, or somehow convince his family to vouch for Blake’s innocence, or get Blake his glamour back so he can transform and run away, or something else still.
    Evan, as a familiar who can short-range ghost-teleport through walls, would be tremendously useful in this situation.

  28. Hmm. This strikes me as a particularly vulnerable move to make by the belhams.
    I mean yes they can probably delay Blake for 24 hours. which may get him to lose power by being forsworn. – Except Blake only promised to strive to complete the tasks. as long as he does that he loses nothing.

    On the other hand – Blake is now in the legal system. – what would happen if his lawyer was to depose the investigating officer – Duncan, and ask him the same questions he had his partner ask Blake. or more specifically, when did you begin to investigate Blake Thorburn and why?, were you contacted by you uncle prior to investigating Mr Thorburn, are you aware of any reason that your uncle might have to wish Mr Thorburn ill. Are you aware of any attempts by you uncle to harm or inconvinence mr Throburn?

    This has the possibility or rebounding in the Belhams Hard.

    1. “I started investigating him on a tip from my uncle, who believes he’s responsible for several serious crimes in his town” – True.

      “You’re asking me to openly speculate about my uncle’s motives. I mean, pretty much anybody might have a motive to wish somebody else ill. And as I said, my uncle believes Mr. Thorburn is a dangerous criminal; does that count as a motive?” – All true.

      “He tipped me off, if that’s what you mean.”

      Basically, to get an experienced practitioner to the place where they can’t wriggle out of it probably requires asking yes-or-no questions or something similar. Not that it’s a bad idea, but it’s not actually simple to pull it off.

      1. “Do you believe [lawyer speak for the level of certainty for an arrest] Blake killed Evan. Yes or No?” “Did you tamper with the camera, yes or no?” Make everything a yes or no question. Leave no room to run. “Did you say [that threat with the gun] to my client?” “Have you ever seen a goblin?” “Did Laird Behaim order an attack on Molly?” Judges don’t particularly like tricky answers. And the lawyer can just drill down. “What crimes?” Followed by “Why the hell didn’t your uncle do something about it?”

        If this goes on to a court room battle this rebounds in their face. Not to mention Blake lacks a reflection and there is a very good chance of that showing up on one tape or another. The conclusion the courts make is falsified video. Not Blake being a vampire.

  29. Jesus, that cop deliberately triggering Blake’s PTSD made me so angry.

    One minor criticism: I found the layout of the room a little bit unclear. At one point you say Blake has a mirror to his right and a cop sitting to his left and I assumed the table was between him and Duncan, but then later it seems like it isn’t?

  30. It would be nice if Blake could make Duncan eat the karma of arresting him for “murder” of the boy he actually made an oath to and saved.

    All I can think of is send Evan to go /poltergeist on Duncan so Duncan has to push past Evan to get to Blake, but Evan is a very small, reactive spirit.

  31. Wait a minute, the antagonist captures the hero. He then forces a long, drawn out process to ensure the hero’s doom. Meanwhile, the hero’s kid sidekick is free and in the area.

    I’ve seen enough Adam West Batman to know how this is gonna end. Evan the Boy Wonder is going to help free Blake of his bondage, at which point the duo will force their way to safety.

  32. I find it interesting that Evan chooses, not to stay with whom the two whom I assume to be his parents, but to stay with Blake.

    I’m a little concerned that Dunc may try to destroy the little Other. I don’t want him to suceed in that. I like Evan.

  33. Main problem I see for Blake is that he still needs to run his choice of familiar by Mr. Beasley first. Something I suspect he is loath to do.

    1. “Until the end of the custodianship, you’ll need to run any major deals past Mr. Beasley (including the three major rituals.”

      Good catch. And yeah, that adds yet another difficulty to this already ridiculous situation.

      1. I don’t think it’s too much of a complication. Blake has a certain amount of time that the lawyers are on retainer for in regards to the property and his progress meeting the conditions he has to meet. He should still be able to call Mr. Beasley to talk to him about taking Evan as his familiar without incurring any debt since the firm has already been paid for such matters.

  34. “Yes. Do you see aliens?”

    Blake, the proper answer is yes, because there are no aliens in the room.

    “Do you see ghosts, goblins, grumpkins or anything in that vein?”

    Blake, the proper answer is yes, because there are none of those things in the room.

    If they try to get clever, you say “Yes” when they ask you if you have ever seen goblins, then explain that you have seen them plenty of times on TV and in movies.

    Then, you ask your lawyer to object to the police asking you about creatures from mythology and fiction. Then, because Behaim will figure out a way to get more stupid questions asked, say that you have “Never seen any live creature in a storybook.” which is true because the pictures he’s seen haven’t been alive. And finally, refuse to answer any more stories about mythological crap. Right idea on that, but poor timing and bad lead up.

    However, Blake is a bit worked up, so it’s understandable that he didn’t think of these things.

    He might, however, be able to write these things down and explain that he was rather upset about being falsely arrested, and the insane behavior of the police asking him about Halloween costumes was shocking him so badly on top of that, he didn’t trust himself to say anything at all.

  35. Blake shows he still hasn’t quite learned how this whole deception through truth thing works.

    “This evening, when you found the body, that was your first time seeing Evan Matthieu?”

    The correct deceptive yet truthful answer to this question is not “That was the very first time I saw him in the flesh” should be “I had no contact with Evan Matthieu before his death, I was not aware of his existence prior to today, and I am not in any way responsible for his death.”

    Heck, he could spin a rather sympathetic story if he was in a condition to weave the tale.

    “Ever been cold and alone, officer? Nobody there to help you? I know what that’s like. I was homeless for a while. My friends, they helped me. Got me out of the cold, made it so I wasn’t so alone anymore. Yesterday I tried to help a man named Dowght. He was off, mentally, and isolated. Hoarded animals. Maybe not right in the head? One of my friends had mental issues, so I’m sympathetic to that. Can you imagine how alone someone like him felt? I wanted to help him, and after a while in his house trying to rectify the situation as best I could he and his animals attacked me. I barely escaped with my life, and I had to use my axe to defend myself. Most of the blood belongs to the animals, some might be his though, and it’s also why I look so worse for wear. After I got away I called the authorities to have him picked up. Can you let me know if he’s ok?

    Anyways, today I read an article about Evan Matthieu’s disappearance. I can just imagine a little kid getting lost in a big park like that, not being able to find his way home. Cold, scared, alone. I wanted to help him, even if he was already dead. Maybe help him find some peace, yeah? I spent a good part of my day in the park, and one thing I found was a little treehouse. You know kids are smarter than many people think. Maybe after being lost a few days he sees an airplane heading for the airport, figures out which direction his house is in? So I leave the park for a little while, borrow the phone of someone I’m acquainted with to look up some more info on Evan. Check out a map to get my bearings. If you know the right direction to head in, chances are good you might find him. And I did. I did intend to notify the authorities I found him, but you already showed up.”

    Every last statement is true in a way, even if certain details are rearranged or missing. Of course, spinning that on the fly when you’re tired and worn out might be difficult.

    1. He can’t say he read an article about Evan, since he didn’t. He can mention he heard about missing persons (without mentionning who or where) since he talked with the KotB the day before, to achieve some reasonably similar reason to go there.

      1. I’m presuming he read an article of some sort. He performed two internet searches – one for a map, and one for information on Evan.

  36. Back in 4.02, when Conquest learned Blake was a Thorburn, he said, “You can stay here, safe from your enemies, and I will use your knowledge.” So does Conquest need to protect him from his enemies here?

    Also, assuming Blake gets released in 24 hours, will it really matter that he failed to bind the third entity? He only promised he’d do what he could, not that he’d succeed, and Conquest may have been taken over by Pauz by then, who promised not to explicitly or implicitly harm Blake.

    1. It does matter that he’d miss the deadline. He’d probably still have to bind the eraser demon, but his failure to do so within the previously agreed upon time would mean Conquest would demand more favors. Given the nature of the favors already being asked, do you think doing more of them would put Blake in a good position?

      1. No, but I was imagining by that time Pauz might have control over Conquest by then. And Pauz already made a big promise to not harm Blake.

  37. The thing is, there are so many ways this can fuck Blake it goes from not funny, to funny, and back around to not funny. Let’s see…

    Failure to uphold his agreement with Conquest- Duncan seems to think that just holding Blake for long enough will make him foresworn. Not to mention Blake really needs to be around for when Pauz binding breaks. He doesn’t want to leave Rose in that. Also Pauz is just an imp. Not on the level of Ornias by any stretch of the imagination. Conquest might be able to take him no problem. And then he’ll come for Blake. That’s why Blake wants to see the Astrologer. He’s trying to get help for it when he fights Conquest.

    Denying him the house. Remember there are a shit-ton of things relating to the property. This is why Blake can’t escape from jail to go do the sealing. If he’s a fugitive from justice, he really can’t ever return to the house, because of that, and because they’ll be waiting. And I would assume he’d loose all legal right to it.

    Destroying his reputation- It doesn’t take much. Something like killing a child. Even if you are aquited of the charges, there is always a stigma attached. Like was said, just how many of Blake’s friends are going to be his friends by tonight? Blake pretty much has to prove it’s a frame up in order to avoid a long, time consuming, and costly series of legal troubles, and his personal life being destroyed. Oh and now everyone is going to think he’s schizophrenic.

    Please feel free to add more ways this fucks Blake.

    Please feel free to add more. But the only way I see this round ending in a win for Blake is if he can turn it around so the Beiham’s get caught in the framejob. Anything less is too crippling for Blake for him to call it a win, and all but ensures the Beiham’s will have too much of an advantage.

    1. “Also Pauz is just an imp. Not on the level of Ornias by any stretch of the imagination. Conquest might be able to take him no problem. And then he’ll come for Blake.”

      I seriously doubt Conquest can take Pauz. Pauz agreed to be bound by a rather hostile diabolist, agreed to do no harm to said diabolist and all his friends (which keeps Rose safe BTW), simply so he could be handed over to Conquest. He gave away everything for that. And Conquest has shown zero understanding of demons. Something tells me Pauz knows what he is doing and Conquest doesn’t. Pauz wants to take the fight.

      Plus if the Barber is any indication, binding Pauz inside Conquest (that little domain of his IS Conquest to a degree) is probably the worst mistake he could make.

      “Destroying his reputation- It doesn’t take much. Something like killing a child. Even if you are aquited of the charges, there is always a stigma attached. Like was said, just how many of Blake’s friends are going to be his friends by tonight? Blake pretty much has to prove it’s a frame up in order to avoid a long, time consuming, and costly series of legal troubles, and his personal life being destroyed. Oh and now everyone is going to think he’s schizophrenic.”

      The second this goes to court, Duncan gets deposed, someone looks at the interrogation tape, maybe even looking at the arrest tape, the lack of police searching the obvious location for Evan etc. this blows up in the police’s face. And that’s assuming Conquest doesn’t send Fell to collect his pet diabolist. Which he will. And suddenly all the connections the police had to Blake vanish and now the Behaims are the ones who suddenly got the location of the body.

      And then we got the revenge Conquest will inevitably take for this attempt to steal his diabolist. Eye of the Storm says hi. This has roughly a 100% chance of rebounding in the Behaims faces spectacularly.

      1. Though Pauz winning really isn’t something Blake wants either.

        And no way Blake would get a fair trial. Remember, Duchamps. They’d fuck with peoples heads, so all that evidence that makes it look like Duncan was acting oddly gets thrown out or something.

      2. I seriously doubt Conquest can take Pauz. Pauz agreed to be bound by a rather hostile diabolist, agreed to do no harm to said diabolist and all his friends (which keeps Rose safe BTW), simply so he could be handed over to Conquest. He gave away everything for that. And Conquest has shown zero understanding of demons. Something tells me Pauz knows what he is doing and Conquest doesn’t. Pauz wants to take the fight.

        Agreed. To draw an analogy to Worm, Conquest is like Crawler. He’s extremely powerful, but he has transparent goals (his goal is literally his name, assuming that isn’t a deception). When your enemies know exactly what they want, they can manipulate you into a disadvantageous situation.

        Look at how Jeremy screwed Blake over with Conquest. Jeremy doesn’t have corrupting radiation powers. Pauz is going to fuck Conquest up hard. At least, I hope. That would give Blake a powerful non-enemy (which is the best possible outcome for a Thorburn).

        And suddenly all the connections the police had to Blake vanish and now the Behaims are the ones who suddenly got the location of the body.

        I’m inclined not to underestimate Sandra Duchamp. We’re meant to believe that Laird is the big kahuna because he can manipulate time. I think Sandra is the one who’s going to be the real threat. 15 minutes and minimal effort was enough to deflect the police from what sounded like a small child directly begging for help from inside their house.

        Imagine what she can do when she wants to put somebody down? When she leverages an entire coven of enchantresses the fallout will make Pauz look like the mote he is, at least as far as the fucking-over-Blake metric goes.

  38. Okay, so just what the fuck does everyone have against Blake? Well we get a hint. Etobicoe. What happened in Etobicoe? See I think that with the Beiham’s and Duchamp’s there are two big motivators. Fear and Greed. The fear just about every practicioner shares. They are terrified of demons, and they think that maybe if they just get rid of all the Diabolist’s, no more demons. The flaw with that is there are demons already out there. And only a Diablolist can or will deal with them. But they are so terrified of the demons and what they can do, that anyone they even think might want to do anything with them they feel is a threat.
    Now for greed. Well that property in Jacob’s Bell is worth a lot. Controlling the growth of the town, even without factoring in magical shit… Lot’s of motivation there.

    And let’s face it, going off and working for Conquest, then handing over the bound demons to him… Yeah, that would look bad.

    1. Etobicoe. What happened in Etobicoe?

      Uh. It’s kind of obvious from context, even if you don’t remember the address from 4.4, since Blake indicates exactly what happened in Etobicoke in the very next line:

      “I bound that thing,” I said.

      That’s where C. Dowght, and Pauz, lived.

  39. This is something about the story that has now become immensely frustrating for me: Why are all the magicians treating Blake like that?!! Diabolist this, diabolist that. It’s as if they actually want him to become the kind of person who feeds entire cities to demons. They’re practically forcing him to deal with demons.

    Ps, why exactly are demons so much worse than, say, goblins? Maker’s breath, if the practicioners in the town had just treated Molly Walker nicely, and helped her with her studies so that she wouldn’t even have to deal with demons beyond reading her grandmother’s books, this might all have ended without the horror and blood I think I can see coming./End rant.

    1. I think it’s partially because Blake seems like an easy target. Molly was dealt with easily. The hope is that they can defeat the novice threat before Thorburn becomes a major threat. Granny Rose was not a novice, and so, while she did have enemies, she wasn’t constantly attacked by everybody.

      Some goblins are as bad as demons. The problem is, those worse goblins ate the sort that diabolists deal with.

    2. Prejudice. We haven’t seen one of the really bad diabolists yet, but from what we know they are really, really bad. They are the stereotype for diabolists, unfortunately for Blake.

      Also, seven lifetimes of bad karma.

      Goblins are unpleasant and brutish, but the majority of them are manageable. They can’t enter cities in most circumstances and they don’t irradiate the area with goblin vibes that cause everyone around them to change and become twisted and Wrong. Even the Hyena didn’t do that. The lower tier ones cause trouble and pick on homeless people, but unless they’re being lead by some sort of more powerful goblin witch thing like in Maggie’s home town they aren’t really that much trouble.

      Demons on the other hand are not all that manageable. A mere imp like Pauz managed to kill around thirty hosts and who knows how many others, twisted every animal he could get his grubby little hands on and thus mucking up the local ecosystem, and taint anyone who got close to him. That’s bad enough on its own, but apparently he took something from each host, becoming stronger each time. Left alone he’d evolve into something powerful enough that it could make its own imps, starting the cycle again. All this from the demonic equivalent of Dickswizzle.

    3. That’s one of the main topics in black lambs blood. One of the main motivations/causes for people turning to diabolism is desperation, and those who try to go against them for the sake of their practice, are just perpetuating the problem.

      The main issue with demons is that, since all things require a price, their price is always something that makes humanity weaker on the whole. And that’s just when dealing with them- when left to their own devices, their goals are always something that mankind probably doesn’t want (like pauz wants to disrupt the natural order, and we’ve seen what that does to humans. The demon mentioned in BLB wanted to kill the gods, and …. well, just look at the three demonic things conquest wants blake to bind. They are things that are basically considered universally as “not good”)

      Sure, you can use goblins for good- they are just rudeness and violence personified. Destruction is sometimes a good thing.
      But there isn’t any plausible situation in which calling orianis can be used for good, since it strengthens demon-kind and hurts mankind, no matter what he/she/it is used for.

      So yeah, if every diabolist died, that would be one of the greatest things to happen to mankind since solomon stopped Others from making us into snacks on a constant basis. But trying to kill them just makes the problem bigger.

      No one said you had to be rational to be a practitioner. Or nice. Laird is neither.

      1. It doesn’t make Laird come across too well when he says right from the start that he hopes to use the Thorburns as a shield until their no longer convienent, and then hopes they all die with no trouble. No, the good guy thing would be to recognize that this kid has just inherited a hell of a mess. Then rather than fucking with him and telling him he should lay back, take it and die when you say so, offer to help him. Explain why it’s so dangerous. Offer the help of his resources and family if Blake stays away from the demons. Fufil the requirements of the will while helping Blake disarm, or if that can’t be done, at least make sure they never get launched. Do not treat him as though he is an enemy. Do not corner him and force him to fire the nukes in a desperate attempt to save himself and his family.

    4. Blake has The Barber bound in the house right now. Is that sort of thing something that the Duchamps can sense? They’re so great at connections, can they see the connection going from Blake off to the house and Grandma and The Barber? They have very good reasons to fear and hate Blake, in my opinion.

      1. “There is something else out there,” she said. “Back in the house. It’s not cooperating with him at this point in time.”
        (2.02)

  40. Honorable and good-hearted people cannot survive in a crapsack world. Taking the high road makes you the perfect target for one’s enemies. Eddard Stark learned that the hard way.

    So, how long until Blake shares his fate? Or will we have to endure “Deus Ex Machinas” along with the frustrating “Diabolus Ex Machinas” Wildbow seems to love so much?

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe Pact has the potential of becoming one of the best novels out there (nevermind the web serial format), but the author is really pushing it into a very dark point where the question has become “when will he die?” instead of “how will he survive?”.

    Readers cannot be expected to remain interested in a story if the author only provides tragedy after a tragedy and a protagonist that won’t let go of the Idiot Ball. I believe the author should start rewarding the readers with some meaningful victories (no matter how small) or focus more on the protagonist’s development so readers can actually believe that the protagonist is someone who could survive in such a dark world.

    I’m not saying the author is bad, au contraire, I think he has the potential of writing something great. But I believe he has to learn that, while conflict is good, meaningful conflict is better. Unless he wants his readers to utter the “eight deadly words”?

    Remember, a good tragedy works because the characters are given a chance to avoid a downer ending and yet they fail. But if you take away that chance by handing the protagonist the Idiot Ball then you run the risk of turning a potentially good story into a lenghty description of horrible things happening to someone.

    1. Eddard Stark died because he chose the high road no matter what his circumstances were. In this case taking the high road isn’t stupid for Blake. His options in this situation are pretty binary. If he takes the high road, it’s harder in the short term but the it’s likely better in the long term. If he takes the easy road out, calling the lawyers or even a demon, it’ll get him out of his immediate problem but he’ll have to pay a price that will likely affect him quite badly in the long term. Remember what last chapter pointed out – one of the main problems diabolists face is that they often fail to see past solving their short term problems, so they ultimately end up making things worse by taking the low, easy road.

      As far as victories go, they’re coming. He’s got a few rule of three potential victories coming up, and they’ll be big. Evan is the third ghost he’s tried to bring into his service, and that should hopefully net a familiar. Big win. Binding the eraser demon will be his third diabolic binding, so that should bring a big win. Then there’s the upcoming third attack on Laird’s reputation – wouldn’t be surprised if this situation ends up netting that. If these three big wins happen in quick succession, you get another rule of three going. If that works out then I imagine Blake will get a respite.

      1. I think you are off on a couple of points. Evan isn’t the third ghost that Blake tried to bind. Before success with LIAB, Blake spent all morning trying to bind ghosts. Also, Blake wants to make Evan his familiar. Does he need to bind the boy in order to do this?

        Secondly. . . I actually only disagree with that one point. Blake does have the opportunity for some big wins coming up.

        1. I know that, but what I mean is that Evan is the third one that was actually available, the third one he could actually really work with to accomplish something. (the maimed specter from earlier doesn’t count – it wasn’t available either, given its state) A binding isn’t needed to bring something into your service, so that part isn’t needed.

      2. Yeah, Blake definitely shouldn’t fire his demonic power for this. The lawyers will just make him intern for a couple days, so that won’t help with the Pauz corrupting Conquest issue. Firing Ornias (assuming Ms. Lewis will still pay the cost) will probably work too, but somehow I don’t think it will help save Toronto from demonic taint.

        Sure he’ll be out of jail, but in all honesty depending on how quick things move Blake will be out soon regardless. The second the lawyer pushes on things, it becomes very, very “clear” the police are seriously seriously shady. Notably Blake’s reflection being missing from videos (tampering) Duncin Doughnuts being unable to give straight answers to questions like “do you think Blake killed Evan?”, and why the police didn’t search the nearby woods for Evan. Yeah, sure we know there are all perfectly good explanations for this (except for Duncin Doughnuts not giving straight answers), but to the muggles? Sort of looks like a very bad frame job by the police who just happened to totally fuck up the search for Evan.

        Or if need be Blake can run a repelling rune and an opening rune and break out.

    2. There’s actually been a few victories recently. Binding Pauz was a bit of a mixed victory, but its there, and he definitely beat the hyena. Reconnecting with his friends, hanging out with whats-her-face, and meeting the cautiously-friendly knights are all generally positives as well. Going further back there’s other minor victories (June, infiltrating the party, etc) but they were more spread out. I expect that as Blake continues to grow and learn he is going to come out on top more and more often.

    3. 1)since when did Blake hold the idiot ball?or do you mean the “I do not want to screw the world”ball?The high road ,in this case,might be worse for his survival,but the low road is worse for everyone,such a road will just turn him into a selfish villain.
      2)Eddark was incompetent as well as honourable and good hearted.Blake isn’t
      3)I’d take being hurt over unjustly hurting others any day-the demons are not an aid,they are a trap.
      4)I can only remember one case when Wilbow wrote a sorta kinda arguably deux ex machina (and even that one was a good and foreshadowed one).His characters are unplausibly competent and fast thinking?maybe,but no outside force or stroke of luck just up and saved them,ever.

  41. You know, I just figured out why I react differently to the Behaims than I do to a lot of Worm “heroes” who treated Taylor badly.

    And no there are no real spoilers here – I am talking about my reactions far more than actual events and no specific Worm people or events will be mentioned.

    I reacted to the asshole heroes in Worm either as if they were either crazy or misguided. Either group doesn’t deserve real hatred – the crazies need curing or locking up and the misguided need a reality check (sometimes one the size of a building, inserted as a suppository, but whatever).

    But here, it seems like the Behaims should know better and have made a conscious choice to be oblivious assholes. And my reaction to that is that they deserve a large measure of humility delivered in as painful and degrading a manner as possible. But karma doesn’t allow this! So I am in a position to wish various characters serious comeuppance when the current system makes that extraordinarily unlikely. Frustrating as hell.

    1. And yes, I know that the Behaims are technically the villains here, but most of the Worm villains were well into to “crazy” category for me. The options for crazy Worm villains included “kill” along with cure and lock up, but incredibly few inspired the “pick up a big stick, dip it in shit, and beat some sense into them” feeling I have for the Behaims.

      1. Yeah, agreed.
        I didn’t notice how similar they were until you pointed it out though haha

        Both are putting too much stock into titles, like villian and diabolist, assuming they are pure evil by definition, instead of looking at what they do. Taylor and Blake are both trying their hardest to do good things, despite those who believe themselves to be good trying to stop them.
        Except- behaims have no problem admitting that blake and his line are innocent and haven’t done any evil yet, but still can kill them and sleep soundly. At least the “heroes” would’ve stopped if they thought someone was really innocent.

  42. Blake is dumb. You answer the question being asked, not the question that person meant to ask. If more than one meaning is possible, decide to which meaning you answer to;

    “This evening, when you found the body, that was your first time seeing Evan Matthieu?”
    “No”
    (The ghost is a record of a person, not that person itself)

    “Do you see ghosts, goblins, grumpkins or anything in that vein?”
    “No”
    (Present tense. Not one of them is in the room right now)

    “Do you see goblins every day? Going about their business?”
    “No”
    (I only see goblins some days, not every day)

    “Do these goblins or demons ever tell you what to do?”
    “No”
    (The goblins/demons I see every day? No – because I don’t see any of them every day)

    “Was it these goblins or demons, or something in that general neighborhood, that told you to seek out the boy in the woods?”
    “No”
    (The guy who told me does not live in the same geographical neighborhood as demons or goblins)

    1. “The ghost is a record of a person, not that person itself”

      In Evan’s case this isn’t true. His soul is still there, it wasn’t carried to the afterlife. He’s still Evan, just not in the best shape mentally since he’s dead.

      As far as answering “No” in the present tense, I wouldn’t be so certain that the universe would interpret it that way. At best it might be a borderline lie, at worst it’s an outright lie.

    2. He’s not an idiot, he’s just had his PTSD button rammed repeatedly over the course of the past few minutes and is under a lot of pressure.

      1. I’m in lieu with your point, even seemingly brilliant people (in real life) can end up doing stupid things if they were facing difficult situations where they have no solid experience with.

        The only people who could keep up their cool doing their shady business are only sort of people that have been doing it for generations (like mafia or of course Behaims, in this case), Blake is just collateral heir to Thorburn Lineage, how is he supposed to deal with people that have been doing it for god-knows-how-long?

        Frankly, it is more surprising to me, that Blake somehow still survive up to this point. If if were real life situation, the chance are pretty slim, slim as in hair thin slim.

        So, is Blake idiot? NO! Blake has come to the point he done something he never learned before in his life in the nick of time! Isn’t that the definition of being Genius?

    3. You have to clarify your answer out loud. We’ve seen, in the Wheel of Time novels, what happens when you’re allowed to clarify your answer in your head, and you can basically straight up lie. The universe doesn’t care what you say in your head, it cares about what you actually say.

      1. It depends, some of those might still be acceptable because the question was poorly framed (such as “do you see Goblins”). After answering “no” to those, Blake would have been able to just say that he refuses to answer irrelevant questions and not sound crazy.

  43. This next part would be *far more effective if you were in the dark.”*

    Actually I’m trying to think what ‘part’ Duncan Donuts meant by this, and I’m drawing a blank. he didn’t say “easier,” like not being forced to evade around someone who knows he can’t lie would be, but “more effective.”

    Could it even refer to a phase in the Corrupt Cop Keikaku still coming up in the future installments?

  44. Not every practitioner has been like that. The knights, Johannes, Maggie, Briar Girl, even the exiled faerie were all pretty nice to Blake. In fact, everyone who isnt a megalomaniac douchebag (ie not Lardo or Conquest) has treated him fairly.

  45. what do we think about dnd alignments?

    Lardo – lawful good
    Conquest – chaotic neutral
    Poos – chaotic evil
    Hyena – chaotic evil

    Maggie – chaotic neutral
    Fell – lawful neutral
    Briar Girl – true neutral

    1. Laird is lawful neutral, bordering on evil. He has too few qualms with murdering for his own personal gain to be good. I’d put Sandra Duchamp and Fell in this category as well, but not as leaning evil since their being jerks to Blake is actually more about the diabolism than personal gain.

      Conquest I don’t think fits on the D&D scale. He operates by blue and orange morality – he’s the incarnation of an idea and his motivation is based on advancing that idea.

      Pauz is chaotic evil to the point of being chaotic stupid due to his lack of long term planning.

      Hyena is just neutral evil.

      Maggie is probably true neutral, as is Briar Girl.

      Johannes is lawful evil.

      1. But it is so much fun to play Chaotic Good in 4th edition and point out how a system i enjoyed playing in had screwed up the alignment concept even worse. It’s alos fun to debate ( for a short time) with people about why Good is not simply cognate with Non Lawful Good

        Ps Yes they became straitjackets alignments did.

      2. Yeah, terrible at concept, but who wouldn’t play it? It’s like someone hands you a pokeball (certainly the concept of pokeball is a lot more whimsical), but why would we miss the enthralling temporal fantasies to toss it to random cats or dogs?

    2. Lardo as LAWFUL GOOD?
      Conquest as CHAOTIC NEUTRAL?

      Absolutely not! Laird is the very DEFINITION of Lawful Evil – what few good aspects he has are devotion to law, order, and peace – but he serves those as things that support HIM first. His remaining actions are to his own gain at the expense of others, by corrupting others (He tricked Maggie into murdering an innocent girl, Molly.)

      As for Conquest… I think I would argue Lawful again, although somewhat less so. Still, he was willing to simply not care… until he saw a chance for personal gain. Again, I would say Evil.

      It says a lot about how intensely I despise attempting to corrupt laws and justice, that Laird, who corrupts the police, is even worse in my eyes than Conquest, who as far as we have seen simply operates separately from them.

      If it turns out Conquest has made it his life goal to take command of the police as personal thugs, I’ll be sure to revise my position on Conquest to all-consuming hatred. … And for that matter, if Laird could just dial back his DnD-level Eeeevil behavior – or if we found that we were mistaken all along! – I’ll give him another chance.
      But OH will Laird have to work for it.

      So in summary, Laird is about as far from Good as a mortal gets, and Conquest is probably neither Neutral (Conquest is quite willing to harm many for his gain) or Chaotic (he seems to be structured – although I’m less certain there.)

      You’ve got Pauz, Hyena, Maggie, Fell, and Briar Girl down as precisely as the chart gets, though.

    3. Laird is a classic example of Lawful Evil. He upholds only the letter of the law, while desecrating the spirit not even for the greater good of the community(which would make him Lawful Neutral bordering on Evil), but for his own purposes.

      1. Nope, Lawful evil implies he’s being Evil. Trust me, he’s an asshole without a doubt, but he’s not evil. He’s looking out for himself, which is human nature and he’s not to being particularly malicious.

        Blake is a legitimate threat in terms of karmic balance and he did hand over demons to Conquest despite his hands being tied. Even if he’s a nice person, he’s dangerous and looks can be deceiving. We’re on Blake’s side because we know him as the main character.

        1. “Good” and “Evil” are terrible labels, overall, but not even trying the better option of “get the newbie diabolist who only just learned about magic to swear not to actually become a diabolist/summon demons/voluntarily interact with demons unless it’s to kill them,” which would accomplish the goal of “Not bringing hell on earth” quite nicely without any additional killing.

          The problem with that possibility is that it cuts of his goal of “sell the damn Thorburn property so that our power can expand and I can become Lord here.” More explicitly,

          “Should this small southern nation cease to be a concern, everyone else profits, and the nukes being removed from the picture is only a small part of that. The other countries would be elevated to a new age… and the country who is most powerful will take the helm, quite possibly forever.” (1.04)

          That is what people mean, when they say that he is doing this out of his own self-interest.

        2. Evil people and entities can profess to have good goals. They can also claim, with various degrees of truthfulness, to have even worse enemies. That doesn’t make their actions less evil.

          1. Examples include: Scorpius from Farscape, the Operative from Serenity, Battra from Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth, Triple H in the leadup to Daniel Bryan Vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 30. (Like I could resist throwing some wrestling in there.

            Scorpius worked with the authoritarian Peacekeepers trying to unlock wormhole technology to use as a WMD against the Scarrans, an empire of even worse aliens. The Peacekeepers were bad, but the Scarrans were worse. Scorpius was also partially motivated by revenge for himself and his mother.

            The Operative wanted to maintain order and peace in the ‘verse on behalf of the Alliance, despite knowing that any peace he built would have no place for himself after all he had done. This was absolutely sincere, and had implications for the ending of the movie.

            Battra seeks to protect the earth, but in a certain gung-ho environmentalist fashion which includes destroying humanity. This puts him in opposition to Mothra, who wants to protect humanity, and a pissed-off Godzilla. He put aside his rivalry with Mothra and made Mothra promise to stop the giant meteor heading for earth, then helped Mothra stop Godzilla, dying in the process.

            Daniel Bryan was popular, but held back from the title, with some reality subtext. After the 2014 Royal Rumble debacle, the bookers realized they needed to give him a shot. This included a storyline where authority figures declared him too small to be a champion, with enemies like Triple H(aka Hunter Hearst Helmsley), saying it was a good business decision, and that it protected Bryan for the fans by keeping him from having to face the tougher opponents a champion would have to wrestle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cezEEPHRXHI

            1. One of the key things you need for good villains is they need to think that what they are doing is right. Obviously nobody is going to persue goals they thing are wrong.

              Scorpius, as stated wanted to stop an even worse force. The revenge factors in because it makes it personal, and keeps him from having a calm enough head to realize when he’s gone too far.

              The Operative was a utopia justifies the means sort. He wanted a better world. But, well turns out a world without sin ain’t pretty.

              Battra’s whole reason for existing is to protect the earth. And let’s face it Humans can be pretty damaging to the earth.

              As for the wrestling thing, that is born from the conciet that the fan’s won’t be interested in a “Vanilla Midget”. Thing is of course the die hard fans are very interested. And instead they either run the same matches with the same players (large part of why I haven’t watched wrestling the last few years, I got bored) and the higher ups tendency of pushing the new guys they think are good… Who are normally big muscular guys who can’t wrestle, can’t talk, and are just plain boring to watch.

              In Laird’s case, yes he has a justification. Diabolists work with Demons, and Demons make the world worse. But that might not be his actual motivation. His motivation may actually selfish, with his real goal being power for himself and his family.

              Sometimes it’s also the means that makes someone a villain more than the ends. Want world peace? Good, noble goal. Want world peace by killing half the planets population and reducing the rest to mindless automotons? Very very bad thing.

            2. One of the key things you need for good villains is they need to think that what they are doing is right. Obviously nobody is going to persue goals they thing are wrong.

              While that generally adds substance to a villian, I wouldn’t say it’s key. That would imply that the truly immoral ones can’t be good villians.

              My counter example would be the Joker, who in many incarnations clearly knows what he is doing is wrong but just doesn’t care. It’s part of his charm.

              It’s hard to write these sorts of villains well, especially if they are human. I think the Pactverse, with it’s ghosts, goblins and demons has room for this sort of villain, though.

              I don’t think, from what we’ve seen so far, Laird is a villian. Sure he’s an antagonist, and we don’t like him because of how he treats Blake, but I wouldn’t call him evil. I don’t think goals like more power for yourself and your family, or neutering the potentially evil demon summoner before (literally) all Hell breaks loose are intrinsically evil. Blake himself is constantly fighting for more power and has done questionable things to prevent threats before they happen. From what we know of Diabolists and their track record, quickly wiping them out before they can do harm or cause Wrong seems to be the wisest course of action. Also, bear in mind that Laird has been basing his actions on predictions of worst case scenarios.

              As of this point in the story, I wouldn’t say Blake has really done anything to be considered a Hero. He’s just a decent guy who inherited a really bad situation.

              That being said, I look forward to the time when a Thorburn has a complete victory over Laird and his family.

            3. Even the Joker has his moments. He has been potrayed as believing that all the rules and morals of society are wrong, and in his view his way of doing things is correct. After all isn’t he happier, and doesn’t he enjoy himself more than most people? If he thought what he was doing was wrong to him, he wouldn’t enjoy it, and Joker sure does enjoy himself.

            4. They’re getting slightly better, possibly. They’ve been bringing in more indie guys like Brodie Lee and Chris Hero (though they let Hero go). I know they have El Generico there wrestling as Sami Zayn. Cut back on his moveset some to try and better match what they do, but I think they can have some awesome matches if they let him do what he can do. Same for Claudio Castagnoli, who goes by Antonio Cesaro there. He’s worked with a lot of smaller guys before. Plus, big as he is, he’s capable of reversing a hurricanrana into a powerbomb. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_C4S1XOnTY

              That’s some Matrix shit right there.

              I hate to be the one to break this to you if you don’t know already, but they did do something pretty messed up at Wrestlemania 30, negadarkwing.

              The Undertaker’s Streak has been ended…by Brock Lesnar of all people.

              Cue the facepalm!

            5. Really? The Streak was the last real uncounquered mountain in Wrestling. Breaking it was something more signifigant than any title win, any royal rumble. Because it is something that just sort of happened, and nothing like it can ever happen again. Give it to a up and comer and you have a potential push that could make your next Hogan, Austin or Cena. But Lesner? He’s not an up and comer. He’s a name. He’s also the guy who jumped ship to something else, and then when he realized his career there was in decline came back to wrestling before everyone realized he was about to be a has-been. What a waste. If they wanted to have it broken by someone older, at least make it Kain. There’s decades of history there

            6. Yeah, I agree that it should have been used to push someone new. I hear Lesnar doesn’t even do a full schedule for them. At one point, before they handed him a mic, he was the next big thing. Now he’s just another big guy. Some people won a hell of a lot of money, though. I think I heard the odds were at 33 to 1, so some people got lucky on Lesnar.

              I would have preferred if they had an up and comer take him on for their first Wrestlemania. Play it off as the guy slowly realizing what he’s really in for as it approaches, getting nervous and scared. He’s desperate and cornered and then, amazingly, from that desperation comes a 1,2,3 in the middle of the ring.

              Why I’d prefer someone younger isn’t just because it’s an excellent opportunity for a push and plays well into the narrative, but because if they don’t have a Wrestlemania loss, they can continue the legacy of the Streak.

              In other wrestling news that you may find either sobering or hilarious, the Ultimate Warrior died April 8th. He was 54. Over the course of the days prior to his death, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, made an appearance at Wrestlemania, and appeared on Raw. An autopsy has been performed, but results have not yet been released. Some news sites claim it was a heart attack. Those who saw him in the days before his death note that he was in pain, was sweating a lot, and seemed weak.

              Load that spaceship with the rocket fuel, Warrior. Load it with the words.

            7. I heard about Ultimate Warrior. Both his dying and his hall of fame induction. Between Warrior, Bret Hart, and Macho Man Randy Savage, it seems like all the guys we thought were never going to be put in the hall of fame are in now.

              Getting back on topic, it occurs to me that Wildbow missed an oppoutunity to make a lot of money with Pact. Should have made it so Practicioners bind Others into cards. And then we have some serous childrens card games.

            8. Or as a non-fictional example, we can look at Soviet Union during the World War 2.

              They fought the Nazis and their agenda sounded very nice, but that didn’t make them into the good guys – not in the least. Wars of aggression, scorched earth tactics, forced labor, mass rapes, indirect genocide, excessive violence on a scale that makes Dresden bombings look justified… you get the picture.

            9. I tend not to count the Soviet Union as all that good like that. Stalin was an asshole more concerned with gaining personal power than with anything good, something noted even by Lenin when he wrote his testament to the 12th Congress and wanted Stalin removed as General Secretary.

              Stalin wanted to divide the spoils with Hitler and wound up looking weak after a failed invasion of Finland where they got their asses absolutely handed to them. Part of the reason they were so weak was because Stalin had been purging the military of soldiers and officers, losing top generals, air marshals, and admirals in the process. His attempt to play catchup during the Great Patriotic War involved sometimes shipping those political prisoners back from places like Kolyma straight to the front lines.

              He also had to wait on his more elite troops to get to the Western front because he’d had to handle an invasion by Japan, so you’d wonder why he was so eager to think he was safe. Reportedly, when Stalin found out for sure that the Germans were invading, he spent the next two days holed up in his quarters with his vodka.

              While his attempts to bolster heavy industry helped in some ways, it also left the Soviet Union short of smaller goods. Hard to fight a war without proper coats and shoes, although the war against Finland helped prepare them somewhat.

              Still, even after trying to revive then-taboo concepts of patriotism for Mother Russia and declaring it to be the Great Patriotic War, the Soviets had a morale problem that they solved with guns. They began to use a secondary line that would make a Warhammer 40k Commissar proud. The secondary line was in place to shoot anyone retreating or not advancing from the front line.

              Now, to be funny, I shall tell an old Soviet Union joke:

              “How do you know Adam and Eve were Soviet citizens?”

              “Because they had no clothes, one apple between the two of them, and were told they lived in paradise.”

            10. Also, regarding villains who know what they’re doing is wrong…hiya!

              The important thing to remember is that good and bad don’t really matter so much to some people. That’s part of why folks like the Joker, or even myself, can get into your head.

              Society says you’re worth working at a fast food place. Society says that you get in trouble if you fight back against bullies. Society says that a drunk, drugged-up teen who gets into a car accident, killing four people and hurting more, gets to go straight to rehab because his parents have money. Society says that a jobless DuPont family heir who diddled his three year old gets probation. Society says that you can shoot certain people in certain states and get no jail time, so long as you look the right way. Society says that they don’t care about science or education. Society says that Snooki gets to be a celebrity.

              Under those circumstances, I’m proud to be evil. Any hero who defends that is certainly no better a person than I am.

              …now, if only I wasn’t currently 4 inches tall…
              https://villainousintent.wordpress.com/

            11. Perhaps I should say that it’s a case of not doing things that feel wrong. I mean most people will think something like “Oh wow, I’d be such a douche if I stole that candy from that baby.” A few would think “Man I sure could go for some candy now. Yoink!” And never feel even a little guilty about it. If you feel that stealing candy from a baby is wrong, Or it feels wrong to you when you do it, then you won’t do it. If society tells you it’s wrong, and you do it, but it doesn’t feel wrong to you, then you believe that societies rules are wrong, or don’t apply to you, or you just don’t care in the first place.

              Plus sometimes it’s the means that make you a villain more than the ends.

            12. Sir Fuente, you seem to think that Joker-esque Chaotic Evil villains are the only kind of evil. They aren’t. Dictators who use unjust laws and violence to protect their interests count as Evil, too.

              And don’t look at how Laird treats the Thorburns; look at how he treats Maggie, Briar Girl, his own coworkers… He’s a power-mad asshole towards everyone, not just diabolists.

            13. Looks like you’re calling me out.

              (Cue dramatic wind as I cry out to the heavens)

              OSATO!!!!

              But in all (kinda) seriousness, my points about Laird and the joker were separate.

              I mention the Joker as an example of a good villain who isn’t redeemed by having a good motivation or thinking what he does is the right thing to do. In many versions he knows what he is doing is evil and still does it for fun or chaos. The fact that this doesn’t automatically make him a badly written villain, however was basically my point IIRC.

              I mentioned Laird because, while he certainly is an antagonist and pretty jerkish, I wouldn’t say that he is evil. He uses force to try to protect his interest. Does that make him evil or a villain? As Maggie mentioned, she and Blake are terrorists. Does that make them evil? From the information we have so far, my conclusion is as follows: While Laird may be selfish and harsh in his dealing with threats, I would not proclaim him evil as of yet. In terms of morality, he may not even be worse than Blake.

              Also, as practitioners don’t lie, if he says that he does something to protect a community or to eliminate a horrible threat, he believes it on some level. It may not be the whole truth, or even the full motivation, but we cannot simply dismiss them as lies to characterize Laird as a power hungry monster.

              I’m starting to feel a little sick from somehow actually defending Laird. I really don’t like him, but I’d rather not attribute qualities to him that aren’t there. That being said, there is plenty of time for opportunities for Laird to prove me wrong and show himself, not just an enemy to Blake, but evil, a villian.

              And finally

              (I perform a finishing move with a gun blade before sheathing/holstering it)

              Nobody. . . calls me out!

              (I put on a cowboy hat and walk into the sunset)

            14. Maybe the term antagonist is better than villain in this case. Of course not every villain needs to be like the Joker. Look at Ras Al Ghoul. Nothing like the joker. And an antagonist can be an antagonist because he is a very moral man. Look at the fugitive.

    4. I’d say Conquest fits under Neutral Evil best. NE covers “evil for its own sake”, and Conquest takes, destroys, and subjugates all for the sake of taking, destroying, and subjugating. Combined with the fact that he has elements of both law and chaos and NE becomes a near-perfect fit.

  46. “They’re turning your apartment upside-down. Above all else, we’re going to keep you for the day.”

    Is anyone else concerned about that first statement being a lie (unless the Toronto police are a lot more hardcore than I’m assuming), and the second being perilously close to a promise? While using a rune to escape from jail would leave Blake on the lam and pretty well scuppered, it seems like it could serve as a “fuck you” of last resort that would get Duncan forsworn.

    1. Breaking a promise doesn’t get you forsworn. Its not an oath. Duncan is heavily demonstrating his absolute shit abilities as a practitioner. He’s lied repeatedly. He’s made multiple promises that he might not be able to keep. (If you satisfy my curiosity I’ll get you ANYTHING, and the we’ll keep you.)

      Those are newbie mistakes, and by newbie mistakes I mean you did way worse than newbie Blake did.

        1. effectively, yes, but karma pays more attention to the spirit of a deal than the lettering. In that sense- a promise (not technical deffinitions, but the spirit of a promise) is more along the lines of blake saying “I’ll show you later”- as in- he says what he means to do. An oath would be like him swearing to help evan,
          The difference being this:
          Promise: “I plan on doing this, and I will do this”
          Oath: “This is GOING to happen. No matter what stands in the way, it is an inevitability.”

          If you read far enough in Worm, Alexandria basically outlines this very thing.

      1. He didn’t say he’d get Blake anything, he said he’d get Blake anything from the vending machine or from the break room if Blake is in the mood for something warm (your officer’s beating heart is warm, so get that for me the next time you’re in the breakroom). It would be rather difficult for Duncan to deliver on that promise… leaving him clearly foresworn.

        1. “Tell me, even make something up, so long as you make it convincing enough to satisfy my curiosity, and I’ll go get my coffee, and I’ll get you anything you want out of the vending machine. Or out of the break room, if you’re in the mood for something warm.”

          Notice the clause there: “so long as you make it convincing enough to satisfy my curiosity.” Other people have already pointed out how large of a loophole that leaves Duncan.

  47. I just thought of something.

    Blake knows how to tug on people’s connections. Everywhere has spirits, connections form at the sole dictates of what people recognize. He knows, from Fell, that tugging on said connections bugs people.

    2+2=…?

      1. :/ True. But Blake could get Evan to chant Duncan’s name, calling him to the precinct. The point is to get under Duncan’s skin so he makes a mistake. And unlike Blake, Duncan has some mobility at the moment.

        1. Practitioners can break or manipulate that link – Ms. Lewis showed Blake how. The only reason Fell didn’t when Blake used it is he was commanded not to.

          Also, until Evan is protected some way, drawing attention to him is a bad idea. Duncan would be quite happy to dispel that ghost if he knew how important it was to Blake.

    1. The hatchet that is in a cold evidence room, and is probably realizing “I’m not warm. Therefore, Blake isn’t here. Therefore, HE BROKE HIS PROMISE ARGHBLARGH!!!!!”? Because it might not survive this chapter intact. On the bright side, Duncan’s probably going to get caught in the crossfire, so bonus.

          1. You’re telling me. Poor guy’s gotta be blue down there. Can’t even go out on a date without satyrs wanting to gang bang his new ladyfriend. Poor guy needs to bury his hatchet in something other than animals soon.

  48. Damn, I hate the fact that Blake doesn’t use Duncan’s inability to lie to get him to say a few words. “Yes or no, do you think I killed that boy?” or “Yes or no, did you threaten to kill me just two minutes ago?”. I’d totally use that to my advantage.
    “Yes or no, are you after me because your family in Jacobs Bell wants me to?”

    1. Duncan is the one in a position of power here. All he has to do, is not answer the murder suspect’s questions. Unlike with Blake, he wouldn’t even be viewed negatively for doing so.

      1. You would have to give a reason to do it. Have the lawyer say “Okay, lets work this out. Now my client has accused the Duncan of some things. I would still be negligent if I ignored it. If you could just sign these statements we can get you working out the best way to handle this.” “Okay, well I have this nice recording of you refusing to say that you didn’t tamper with a video, or threaten my client, or that you don’t believe in Goblins”.

  49. Calling it now: The hair fell out of the locket, and will continue to grow with the power of the glamour that Blake has been feeding it. Eventually, it’ll consume a large part of the forest. Blake will establish that as his Demense. Since the hair was given to him by the faerie’s agreement, he still owns that power, and will use the hair to protect the area from anyone who challenges his claim… not that the local ghosts are aware enough to do so, though a few might lash out because he gets too close.
    Blake then uses his power over the area to give the forgotten their memories back or allow them to be remembered, at least while they’re in the area

    1. Blake has not been feeding glamour to the hair, but rather he’s been feeding it with attention. Glamour needs the right kind of attention to grow. The middle of a park that isn’t visited much does not seem like a place the hair would get attention, so it wouldn’t grow.

      Also, if this did work the local ghosts couldn’t be a problem since they’ve flickered out of existence already – Blake observed this. The Hyena’s ghost victims were not stable enough to stick around without a connection to it.

      1. there’s at least 3 glamour starved faerie in the area, i wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out they have a way to feel its presence. it does belong to Blake though, so they may not be able to take outside of combat.

            1. Naw, see, that would be a favorable way for things to pan out, and that’s one of the nastiest ways that karma can strike at you.

              “Things start to fall apart, and the pieces fall down in the least convenient arragements[sic] for you.” 2.04

            2. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the faeries in question return at some point and Blake calls in what might be a rather big owed favor, but I don’t think most of the surviving Others are in much of a position to help him right now. They’ve had less than a day to being healing up, after all, and faeries will need to go somewhere that isn’t as boring as an isolated park if they’re going to do that.

  50. So Evan agrees to become his familiar, which means Evan basically comes back to life, as least as far as the Muggles can tell. You know how the medical term is that people aren’t really dead until they’re warm and dead? Well, Evan wasn’t warm yet, was he. So Evan becomes the familiar, appears to come back to life, there’s no reason for Blake to be kept in jail any longer, apologies, apologies, you can go now.

    1. I don’t think becoming a familiar is going to make his corpse start moving again. He’ll be able to become a flesh and blood animal, but I think his main form will still be that of an incorporeal ghost.

    2. Even if the Muggles perceive Evan as being alive, you’ve still got a child who disappeared months prior, and someone who apparently knew exactly where the cryogenically preserved body was. If I’m the police, I’m immediately thinking “kidnapper.” Evan could protest to the contrary, but the suspicion of Stockholm syndrome after a prolonged captivity means the police would still be liable to hold Blake for 24 hours–especially with Duncan and his enchantress allies pulling strings.

  51. You know, with all this effort the Duchamps and Beliams are putting into breaking Blake…eventually he’s going to snap. I mean he’s going through all of this, all of it being because of them, and all this suffering, and it’s only been two weeks in story time. Gathered Pages 4 warned about ganging up on the Diabolist, and a lesser man would have already broken out the Barber…

    1. I am pretty sure that’s the point-remember how Duncan said if Blake summons demons he’ll just cut to the chase and fill him with bullets. They want him to try something so they can justify killing him.

        1. I don’t know how likely it is for a chronomancer to be too late when it comes to stopping something from happening in a place where he works and he’s had ample time to prepare.

  52. I think he needs his lawyer to ask Duncan the following questions in front of a judge:

    Do you believe my client is guilty?
    Are you aware of any secret conspiricacy against my client?
    Are you trying to frame my client for murder?
    Do you know how Evan really died?
    Have you ever threatened to kill my client?

    Case thrown out. Getting this to happen inside 24 hours might eb a struggle though….

    1. That second question should be “Are you aware of any conspiracy, secret or otherwise, against my client?” since he can always rationalize that “I didn’t know the conspiracy was supposed to be secret.”

      And the deadline is much less than 24 hours, because he needs to get to that factory, bind the eraser demon, then get back to Conquest in time for the fireworks to start.

  53. So, the demon lawyers have told Blake their price for the next favor he asks of them. Blake knows this, but we the readers don’t know the price.

    Is that correct? Can someone confirm?

    1. I could be wrong, but according to my understanding, the price for the next favor is “an errand” for the firm. It could be something as simple as driving Lady Incest to the airport, or more terrifying than bringing Lady Incest 37.5 virgins. All we know is that it is an errand, IIRC.

        1. Figures. They always treat interns crappy. “Go pick up my dry cleaning, Blake. Go fetch me a cup of coffee, Blake. Go catch me a goblin, Blake. Blake, weren’t you supposed to get me that devil for my weekly sales presentation?”

  54. So I have this theory on how Dunc and Laird manage to be policement while still apparently not obeying their oath. When comes the time to swear the oath, they stop time at the end of every sentence for everyone but them, add a few words that nobody who isn’t a practitionner or other can possibly hear, and then carry on. No lie told: “I will uphold the Constitution of Canada (except when doing so goes again my interests or I just don’t feel like it). I will, to the best of my ability, preserve the peace, prevent offences (that are not in my best interest) and discharge (some of) my other duties as faithfully, impartially and according to law (and my best interest).”

    1. Im still not sure how the oath/lie thing works.

      If you say something you think is true, but turned out later to be false, was that a lie? If so when does it become a lie?

      If you have your own unique definition for things (like ‘evil’) can you use your own definition without lying?

      If you make an oath, does it have to be to someone? If it is to someone, do they have to hear it, and are they responsible for calling you out on breaking it, or will the ambient spirits realise?

      1. These matters haven’t fully been explained to the readers. We get tidbits now and then, but it’s vague so there’s quite a bit of speculation. I’m sure it will be made more clear later on.

        Statements of belief should be quite safe so long as they are given honestly – “I think X” or “I believe Y” are statements about you and if true are lies. Stating something you believe as a true fact (like “X is true”) may come back to bite you if it turns out to be false, but it’s probably even more borderline than sarcasm as long as you were being honest in spirit.

        As far as statements of action go, that’s another matter. “I am going to do Z” will probably net you bad karma if you fail to do Z, but trying and failing is probably less of a karmic loss than not trying at all. As such, it’s safer to say “I intend to do Z”, but you probably wouldn’t get the same karmic gain since that statement is weaker.

        A true oath or promise is even stronger than a statement. “I swear/promise to do Z” has more weight. The karmic gains and penalties would be weighted accordingly. Again, making an earnest attempt but failing probably won’t get you forsworn. Ignoring it apparently gets bad karma, and outright breaking the vow will get you forsworn.

        As far as who you promise to, I think you can promise to anyone, even if only to yourself. As Ms. Lewis said, someone is always listening. Apparently though having more listeners adds more weight to things though, based on their comments about sarcasm.

  55. Ok, normally I’m not into this type of superstitious genre. However, Wildbow, you have really done something special here. I am beyond intrigued, finally caught up and I can’t wait for more.

    Keep up the most excellent work.

  56. Ah, Blakey boy needs to learn an important politician’s trick: Never answer the question you were asked, and only give answers you have prepared in advance.

    Q: “Do you see aliens?”
    A: “You mean little green men from Mars? I don’t even recall actually seeing those even on TV or in the movies now that I think about it. Oh no wait, Mars Attacks! Yeah, that was actually kinda fun.”

    Q: “Do you see ghosts, grumpkins, or goblins?”
    A: “You know, I don’t actually know what a grumpkin is? I’ve heard the term but only in passing. Funny, that.”

    Q: “And ghosts or goblins?”
    A: “I played Ghosts ‘N Goblins. That game is awesome, but just so sadistically hard.”

    Q: “Do you hear demonic voices, or think you are being told to do things you shouldn’t by non-human entities?”
    A: “You should see my mother, she’s a horrible back-seat driver. Hoo, boy, That lady might scare the devil his own self if she was in a mood.

      1. Agreed. Any police officer with a decent amount of experience talking to suspects has seen more lies, verbal evasions and diversions, and self-delusion than is good for anyone’s positive view of humanity. And they generally know it when they see it and do not appreciate those tactics.

        1. Actually, the police’s reputed ability to discern lies has been refuted in every study done on the subject (that I know of). The one that I remember best put a set of police officers vs a set of random college students in picking up lies from career criminals. The college students picked them out better, not because they were necessarily any better, intrinsically, but b/c the police were blinded by their own hype.

          That said, the police explicitly were restricting him to yes or no questions, so of course they wouldn’t accept these kinds of answers.

  57. “I am presently arresting you on suspicion of the first degree murder of one Evan Matthieu.”
    Wait, what? That was…like, the single least expected thing the police would be coming to arrest him for. I mean, what evidence could there be?

    Between the gloom, with the flashlights being angled elsewhere, and the direction I was facing, I couldn’t see if the hair happened to fall out.
    Fuck it all.

    That is an entirely understandable reaction.

    “Right now, I’m nothing more than a guy waiting for his lawyer,” I said.
    Isn’t that basically what you just said you didn’t want to be?

    “I think that sort of fucked up speculation suggests an awful lot more about you than it does about me,” I said.
    Definitely what you said you didn’t want to be just a dozen (?) paragraphs ago.

    “Don’t fidget,” the cop to my right said, his voice low. “Doesn’t look good. Makes you look guilty.”
    If I was Blake, I’d interject that each time they said something makes me look guilty makes me that much more certain that they’re just bluffing about the whole guilty-looking thing. After all, what else would you expect? It’s the impication’s variant of beating a confession out of a suspect.
    Sure, it’s smart-alec, but it shows intelligence more than uncooperativeness, and it might get them to lighten up on you, which would help.

    “Law says we need reasonable doubt,” the other guy said. “You know what that is? That’s where anyone who’s not an idiot would be able to say you did it. We’ve got that.”
    …Well, here’s where I’d call their bluff if I was Blake. Ask how they would have evidence. Maybe something like:
    “What? I have an axe with blood on it, and was wandering in the woods? The blood’s mine–hard to work with blades without bleeding on them–and since I haven’t heard about missing kids in the news recently, I’m guessing he went missing long enough ago that the blood wouldn’t still be on it. You can’t have any direct proof that I actually killed Evan, because I didn’t. You’re bluffing, and I’m not buying it. If you have proof, prove it.”

    “You always hear about the people who go in for decades, when they’re completely innocent. Pattern’s the same,” his buddy said. “Cops want a conviction because of racism, or because the crime’s serious.”
    You guys suck at convincing people you have evidence.

    I couldn’t help but feel like selling it would be like giving up my last vestige of hope for a normal life, after all this was said and done.
    Vestige, huh? …Trying to decide if there’s something in this statement, or if I’m just reading too much into a coincidence of wording.

    She nodded. “You think it was a family matter, then?”
    “I think it was a family, two families in particular, but I don’t think it was mine,” I said.

    I can’t help but feel sorry for Mrs. Harris right now. Blake has to talk in circles around big parts of the issue.

    “That’s a very odd question,” I said, buying time to think.
    Very much so. Poor Blake. At this point…I’d have strongly considered if the karmic consequences of lying would be worth it. Especially since Evan-the-kid and Evan-the-ghost are conceivably different entities.

    “Do you see goblins every day? Going about their business?”
    No. He does not. A simple “No” is perfectly true in this situation, Blake.
    “I exercise my right to not self-incriminate.”
    …At least he’s being consistent.

    I’d need some more help than just Evan, if I was going to get out of this and seize that slim chance.
    Hm…if Evan manifested in the interrogation room, would the karmic consequences be worth the officers possibly knowing that Blake isn’t (completely) crazy?

    One thing that occurred to me in reading this is, what happens when Practitioners have to testify in court? They swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Seems like a perfect recipe to break the masquerade.

    1. Couple corrections. First, the blood on the axe is not his. Most of it belongs to the animals tainted by Pauz and some to Dowght. Second, he probably has heard something about missing kids on the news – he searched the internet for information about Evan, so he likely read a news article about it.

      1. Oh. My bad. Still, if he admits to having been in that neighborhood, he’s got a decent excuse (after all, the rampaging wild animals probably didn’t go unnoticed), at the cost of being suspicious. Still, it’s not the kind of suspicion that would tie him to murdering a kid as much as make everyone think he was crazy.

        Alright. Rephrase it so he hasn’t heard about missing kids from recent news. There. The news isn’t recent, so it’s true.
        Or he can say that he remembers reading about it from an article in last fall’s newspaper or whatever. Still true, even if he read it only hours ago.

  58. I just realize the last name is Thorburn.

    Maybe the family has some Norse connections? It explains why they're all blonde.
    
    But then why are they in Canada?
    
    The I realized Thorburn.
    
    Burn, fire. Loki is the god of fire, and has historically threatened to burn Thor.
    
    The Thorburn family is somehow related to Loki. At some point an ancestor fought Thor, and was forced to leave. Thus resulting in the going to Canada.
    
    Also, the reason Blake is as good as he is at glamour is because of a throwback from Loki. Also, the family has been able to bind demons as it has because they have the favor of the god of liars...lawyers.
    
  59. This looks like a good place to start (commenting). Well, first off, at the Last Chapter Next Chapter thing at the bottom of the story says Ast Chapter Next Chapter instead, so you may wanna change it.

  60. Blake really needs to play ~1h of World of Warcraft or something every night, so he can honestly say he sees and talks to goblins, ghosts, etc… and follow up with saying he plays WoW.

  61. Ya know,Laird is a villain,no question aboutit,but Duncan might just be misguided by his patriarch,unlike Lardo,he hasn’t been shown being petty for pettiness sake.

    On other news:the way I think,in most settings,would make me OP,seeing all the mysteries,outsmarting everyone,trying to use diplomacy effectively….in Wilbow’s world,it would make me dead,due to it being not enough.That said,had I kept my calm,as Blake did,in this situation,I would say : “I feel insulted that you ask me questions thought by a guy who is part of a family that wants to get rid of me for no other freason that the fact that I belong to the wrong family.I feel that ,to make my displeasure at what I see as a subversion of the justice system shown,it would be better to refuse to answer any questions that I realise that indirectly come from him,at least for now.

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