Conviction 5.2

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“Boots off,” the officer said.

“Huh?”

“No boots, no belt.”

I frowned, but I removed the boots.  The lawyers had given them to me, after I’d lost my last pair, before my return to Toronto.  I lifted  up my shirt to show the lack of a belt.

He slid the iron-bar door into place.  The clang joined the cacophony of voices, shouts and drunken howls.

I’d been placed in the last cell in a long row.  Many of the others had three to five people in them.  My cell and the cell opposite were empty.  A single desk and chair sat at the end of the hall.  The officer placed my boots on top of the desk, then sat down.

I looked down at Evan, then up at the officer.

“No way out,” Evan whispered, in his replay-of-a-memory voice.

There was no need to whisper.  He couldn’t be seen or heard.

“Have to escape,” Evan said, as if to himself.

A skip, because he couldn’t tap into a part of himself that referred to a ‘you’.  He’d been too isolated.  He’d learned ‘you’ since, or he could tap into his memories when he was close enough to his body, but not like this.

I couldn’t reply without the cop hearing me talk to myself.

Instead, I scratched at one of the scabs on my arm until blood welled out.  I sat down on the cot and bent down, making it look like I was adjusting my sock.  I drew the thin line of blood on the ground, between myself and the cop.

Breaking the connection between me and him.

Nothing happened.  He remained where he was, ignoring the jeers and complaints of the other people in the cells.  They seemed to be drunks, by their behavior and smell, which made them a bit more loud and complain-y than the typical sort.

I waited, wracking my brain for options.  I needed a break.

The cop took a drink of his coffee, grimaced, and then stood, coffee in one hand, boots in the other.

Without even looking at me, he headed down towards the door at the end of the hall.  The noise level rose as he passed, then fell as the door banged shut, well out of my view.

We had a moment.

“Trouble?  Did-” Evan flickered, “-do something wrong?”

“Yes and no,” I murmured.  “They think I killed you.  I’m being set up on that front.  Other stuff… well, it’s mostly to do with my family.  My grandmother was a person of ill repute, and I’ve inherited that reputation.  Kind of.”

“Oh.”

“You don’t have to be here,” I said, and my voice was nearly drowned out by the noise from other cells, “not with me.  You helped me against the Hyena, against the so-called wolf, and this is only my own thing.”

“You don’t want my help?”

“I really want help,” I said.  “But I don’t want to force you to help.  I don’t want you to help because you think there’s no choice, or because… I dunno.”

“Okay,” Evan said. “I-I.”

I waited.

He seemed to come into himself.  He spoke quietly.  “My body.  Tear-cut- things after I die…”

“What?” I asked.

“Right now.”  Flicker.  “Right here.”

“Oh,” I said.  I leaned back.  “Yeah.  Checking you for evidence, and then the autopsy.  Are- are you weaker?”

“No.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Mom and dad.  I-” flicker, “-don’t-” flicker, “-want my mom and dad.”

“No?”

“Please.  I- help come.  Thank.”

“You helped against the Hyena.  You, in absolutely no way, owe me anything, understand?”

He was silent for a moment.  The room remained noisy.  One guy was shouting out cuss words with a peculiar sort of rhythm.  One of the homeless mentally ill.  I felt a pang of sympathy.

When Evan spoke, it was with more focus and direction than he’d had a moment ago.  He’d been summoning up strength.  “You found me.  I can’t go home.”

“Why not?  I mean, I get that you can’t go home, conventionally, but… can’t you be with your mom and dad for a bit?”

Rather than give me a straight answer, he replayed a scene.  “It’s- my fault.”

“You’re not to blame for what the Hyena did.”

“I got lost.  I saw something… someone?  I went to look, and I got turned around,” Evan whispered.

I wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake him, to give my words more weight.

“You’re not at fault,” I said.  “You have no reason to feel guilty, okay?”

He didn’t move a fraction.  Not even the slight movement of breathing.

“When I was younger,” I said, “Not as young as you are… but younger… I ran away.  Bad things happened to me too, after that.  I blamed myself.”

He was still frozen.

“I can’t remember if I said, but… well, there’s two things I want to say to you, but I feel like each of them is the thing I say first.  I’m not doing this well.  Um.  One of the rules, if you want to use magic like I do?  It’s that you aren’t allowed to lie.  Bad things happen.  You understand?”

Evan nodded.

“The other thing?  I don’t think I ever said this out loud.  Even to myself.  I’m kind of unsure… not sure if I should say it, even, because I might be breaking the rules, and making bad things happen.”

“Don’t- have to.”

“Evan… Neither of us should feel guilty.  The bad things that happened to us are not our fault, understand?  And if you tell yourself that it is your fault, then you’re kind of saying that what happened to me was definitely my fault.  Because you were lured out, but I made the choice to run away.”

“No,” Evan said.

Not the answer I’d expected.

“Don’t do that,” he said.  “I… listening- that- I’m so tired.”

Weaker?  My reassurances were making him weaker.

“Evan, you could move on.  I declare your debt to me paid.”

“I don’t… I can’t.  I want- I want to…” he trailed off.

“Evan?”

He only shook his head, adamant.

He had nowhere else to be.  He couldn’t be with his body, and he felt too guilty to be around his parents.  He didn’t want to move on.

“Okay,” I said.  “Okay.  I’m not sure I get it-”

“I don’t want to die,” he said.  An echo of a memory.  “I don’t want to die like this.”

But you’re already dead.

Or was moving on another kind of death?

He’d survived on raw tenacity.  He’d struggled so he wouldn’t die, isolated and undiscovered, a riddle unsolved.

Now, it seemed, he carried that desire and tenacity forward.  It applied, perhaps, to the great unknown that waited beyond.

Nevermind that.  I had other pressing issues, and I wasn’t going to devote more time to figuring out how to turn down and get rid of the only help I did have.

“Okay, Evan,” I murmured.  “You’ll help?”

He nodded.

“Thank you.  Here’s the deal… I’m on something of a quest.  The Hyena was the second out of three monsters I’m supposed to stop.  I have until midnight to bind the third one and bring it somewhere.  My enemies figured this out, and they’ve framed me for your murder.”

He nodded again.

“I can use magic.  Not much, but I can use magic.  My enemies can use better magic.  They’ve stuck me in here, and they want to keep me here until my time is up.”

“-Need to get away,” Evan said.

“Ideally without the cops after me,” I said.  “So I can go back to my friends when all is said and done.”

“-Want to go home,” Evan said.  A statement echoing a memory.

“Yeah,” I said.

“What- can’t go home,” Evan said.

Was he telling me?

No.  I was just having trouble reading his tone.  He was asking me a question.  What if I couldn’t go home?

“If I can’t go home, if the bridges are burned and there’s no way to get away, then… I guess I have to settle for getting away.”

He nodded.

“I don’t want to do that, though.  I don’t want to be a fugitive.”

“Yeah,” Evan said.

“If I use a trick, my enemies are going to use better tricks.  They manipulate time, and I don’t really know how that works when they don’t have big rituals going on.”

“Okay,” Evan said.

“Can you start by scouting the area?” I asked.  “Stay out of sight of the… there’s a cop with black hair.  He’s the guy who put handcuffs on me.  Remember?”

“Yes.”

“Escape routes, places to stay away from, places the cops don’t look, and just where different things are, so I can find my way around.”

“Okay.”

That said, Evan was gone.

I needed help.  Evan wasn’t enough.

Couldn’t call Fell or Conquest.  Not without risking some kind of retribution.

The Knights?

I rested my forearms on my knees, sitting on the edge of the cot, and stared down at the concrete floor.  Moisture had stained it with overlapping, misshapen rings of brown and rust-red.

Probably not water.

“Knights of the basement,” I said.  “Knights… Knights… knights…”

I was going to try and stop the monster that had ruined their lives.  I had one monster under my belt – they already knew that.  They’d given me a ride to see Evan after dark, so I could ask if he wanted to be my familiar.

I hadn’t asked, because I didn’t want to ask for favors only to not need them, but the plan had been to borrow their books, their know-how, or both, if and when it came time to bind him.

I’d figure something else out.  For now, I needed to cash in any favors they might be willing to grant.

With luck, they’d reach the station, realize what happened, and piece together a strategy.

With less luck, they’d get here, decide I wasn’t worth it, and turn around.

“Knights,” I murmured.  “Knights of the basement.  Nick with the wind shotgun, shotgun’s son, the knights of Toronto…”

I shifted position until I was lying down.

I was tired.  Drained.

For a moment, I felt alarm surge through me.  The same momentary panic that came with a sudden sensation of falling, lying in bed.  Was I being manipulated?  Enchanted?

I checked for connections, and found nothing.

I pushed up my sleeves and looked at my tattoos, instead.

Still pale, with a vivid background.  No sign of anything suspicious affecting me or the tattoos.

I let my head rest on the too-thin pillow.

“Knights,” I murmured.  “Knights…”

I was too tired to stay awake.  I’d given up blood, paid a price, I’d been out running through the woods for however long, and even with the power that Rose was feeding to me, I was out of gas.  A seductive part of me told me that I’d be woken up for my lawyer, or if anyone came.  That I needed to recharge, before tomorrow rolled around, if I was going to put up a fight.  If I was going to sleep before dealing with the demon, if I even got the chance, then I might as well use the otherwise wasted time here.

My last thought, before sleep took me, was about Rose.  If I was out of gas, how was she faring?

Blake Thorburn.

I sat upright, nearly smashing my head into the cot above mine.

Connections.

A group of them, outside.  One coming closer, faintly connected to me.

Blake Thorburn.

One of the ones outside was saying my name.  The connection was the strongest, suggesting it was Nick.  The guy who’d had the shotgun, the leader of the Knights.

“Shotgun guy,” I said.  “Nick.”

I felt the connection solidify.  He reacted on some level.

Verifying my location?

I looked around.

Evan sat in the corner.

I looked.  The cop wasn’t at the table next to me.  The cell opposite was occupied by two girls who looked rather sloppy, their makeup streaked by sweat.  Both slept, despite the ongoing noise in other cells.  Less shouting, more conversation.  One girl snored.

“Sorry, Evan,” I murmured.  “Didn’t mean to leave you waiting.”

“…Tired,” he said, after a momentary struggle.  “Need to sleep.  I can’t sleep.  Tired… won’t let me sleep.”

“What’d I miss?”

He shook his head.  “Tear me up after I die…”

It took me a second to make the connection.  Before I’d drifted off, he’d use the same term.  His autopsy had apparently finished.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to distract you.”

“Tear me up…  I’m tired.”

“I know,” I said.  Your body is less intact, and your body is… some kind of vessel that’s keeping you anchored here.

The lone Knight was entering the building, approaching the front desk.

“Evan.  Would it help if I gave you something to do?”

He nodded.

“Front desk.  Some, er, colleagues of mine, they sent someone to the front desk.  Hurry, look for them, listen for my name.  If you can’t find them, come back to me, and I’ll try to point you in the right direction.  Get as much information as you can, then come back?”

He nodded, then disappeared through a wall.

“Good job,” I said, even though he was already gone.  “Thank you.”

I had the vaguest sense that it was sunny out.  My general awareness, in the most basic sense, was too active.

I’d slept through the remainder of the night.  I was now working with limited time.  Sixteen hours at most, before my deadline hit.

Sixteen hours.  Fuck.

There were too many bases to cover.  How did I protect myself from something that attacked existence?  How did I bind it?

How did I get out of here?

How did I help Rose?  Was it a question of wrapping up the job and asking Conquest?

Could I preserve my real life?  My connection to Joel, to Alexis, to Ty and Tiffany, and all the rest?  Get my bike?

The Knights were here.  They were, I could only hope, helping.  But here I was, stuck in a cell.  Not just that.  I was stuck in a cell, all too aware that Duncan Behaim was out there.  Fucking with me, attacking my efforts.

Had he been working on plans and countermeasures while I’d been resting?

I felt good.  A little too good.

I paced, thinking, but the number of problems made for a muddle I couldn’t decipher.

The change in ambient volume told me someone was coming.  Some conversation stilled, while some of the periodic shouting got louder.

It was Duncan.

“Good morning,” I said.  Please don’t tell me it’s afternoon.

“Good morning.  Up early, are you?”

“I have company, huh?”

“Your lawyer.  And a witness has come forward.”

“Fantastic,” I said.  “I didn’t think you were allowed to talk to me.”

“Apparently my supervisor is no longer concerned about that,” he said.  He smiled a little.

“Ah.”

The door was open in a second.  I was tense as I stepped out into the hall.

He didn’t look worried.  Was the person at the desk not one of the Knights?

We passed by desks and officers in cubicles, and I managed to sneak a glance at the bottom-right corner of a computer screen, seeing the time.  Nine in the morning.

I was led back to the interrogation rooms and sat down in the same room and spot I’d been in before.  He shut me in.

I had no way to track the passage of time.  Evan didn’t turn up, and I worried he’d returned to my cell to find me absent.

He and Duncan Behaim were a little too close to one another.

This was hell.  Being made to stay still, being confined, trapped… it was everything I loathed.  I’d run away from home to escape a kind of pressure very similar to what I felt right now.

A sick feeling welled in my gut, as I imagined being sent to prison, facing this each and every day, knowing I had ten or fifteen years before I would get out.

I knew this was about mind games, tricks, manipulations, to make me look more guilty, or to put me in a position where I’d maybe make a mistake.  Just as they’d done when they’d pressured me in terms of my personal space, the very layout of this room.

I knew it, but I was having trouble distancing myself from it.

It didn’t help that every single second that passed was one second that I theoretically needed for tonight.  For taking on the lesser demon, the abstract thing.

By the time the door opened, sneaking suspicion told me it had been a minimum of an hour, on top of my wait in the cell.

“Good morning, Mr. Thorburn,” Mrs. Harris said.

“Good morning, ma’am,” I said.  “I appreciate your coming.”

“No choice in the matter, not really.  But you’re welcome,” she said.  “I’m hoping you’re a little more helpful to the officers and yourself today.”

“Exercising my rights,” I said.

“Just because they’re there doesn’t mean you need to exercise them,” she said.

She was followed by Duncan and Max.  I could tell that people were filing into the other room, on the other side of the one-way mirror.

I wasn’t sure what was going on.

“A few questions, if you will,” Max said.

“Questions?”

“It’s fine,” Mrs. Harris said.  “Answer to the best of your ability?”

“Maybe,” I said.  “I still have the right to remain silent?”

“Section eleven,” she said.  “Yes.  You still have all rights and privileges afforded by the law.  Nothing has changed.”

Evan appeared, walking through the wall.  He stopped beside me.

He seemed clearer.  Were we closer to his body?

He saw Duncan, on the far end of the table, and his eyes went wide.  An expression that was recorded from his time in the woods.

“It’s fine,” I said.  “Alright.  Let’s do this.”

I glanced at Evan.  “Let’s all do this.”

He stayed.

I could see Duncan frown a bit.

“Yesterday, you were asked to visit the woods.  By who?”

“The lady said her family asked you to go,” Evan said.

What?

She’d lied?

“I believe I refused to name them?” I asked.

Buying time, time to think.

“Perhaps a night in a cell has given you a chance to reconsider?” Max asked.

I made a bit of a show of sighing.  “A family at a convenience store a little bit away wanted my help.  I maybe got one partial name, nothing useful to you.”

I saw Duncan’s expression change.  A deeper frown.

“Elaborate?” Max asked.

“Let me think,” I said…

“I needed some advice from them, for a project I hoped to tackle today… a project I still hope to tackle today, given the chance.  I’m… I’m not sure exactly what happened to them.  I do know that they lost someone in their family.  The man I talked to, his son lost a girlfriend, maybe?  It was vague.”

I was thinking a hell of a lot more clearly than I had the night prior.

I had an advantage here, and Duncan didn’t like it, going by the look on his face.

Trick was figuring out how to get the most out of it.

They were all looking at a single piece of paper.

“What’s going on?” I asked, trying to buy time before the next set of questions.

Mrs. Harris said, “Someone came forward to give you an alibi.  We’re making sure the details match up.”

“Okay,” I said.  “What do you need to know?”

It was Duncan who spoke.  “Last night, you suggested you see goblins and demons…”

“I didn’t say that,” I said.

“You answered all questions, until you adamantly refused to answer questions pertaining to that,” Duncan said.

“Can we get back to my alibi?” I asked.

“I don’t see the point of this,” Mrs. Harris said.

“Mr. Thorburn,” Duncan said, ignoring her.  “Do you believe that particular group of  people you talked to last night are affiliated in any way with the supernatural?”

“Do you?” I asked.

“Don’t be combative,” my lawyer said.

“Yes or no?” Duncan asked.

“I think they’re-”

Yes or no,” he interrupted.

Now who’s being combative?” I asked.

“You’re not doing yourself any favors,” my lawyer said.

Fuck you, I thought.  I couldn’t let him control the flow of this discussion.  I continued, heated, “The family said something about being involved in board games or something like that.  Maybe it was a Dungeons and Dragons or Weaver Dice thing, maybe it was an Ouija Board thing.  I don’t really know.  But you could probably stretch the definition.  Yes, if you have to ask.”

“Do you associate with the supernatural in other ways, Mr. Thorburn?” Duncan Behaim asked me.

“What’s with this line of questioning?” I asked.  “I thought we were talking about my alibi.”

“My suspicion is that there was a supernatural or pseudo-supernatural element in young Evan Matthieu’s death-”

“So you do believe in crazy stuff like that?” I cut in.

“Quiet,” Officer Max said, a little hostile.

“I believe that errant teenagers can and do get involved with such nonsense, leading to the harm of unwitting bystanders,” Duncan said.  “We searched your apartment and found ritualistic drawings on clothes and at the border of the apartment.”

Balls.

But I was a little more mentally agile than I had been last night.  Enough that it worried me.  There was only one good source for the power I had at hand, and it boded ill for the donor.  “Much of what you saw on the floor was done by artist friends of mine, and not by me.  The building landlord can put you in touch with the guys who did the tape thing.

If Duncan was taken aback at all, he didn’t show it.  “And the clothes?”

“My.  Friends.  Are.  Artists,” I said.  Hostile, firm.  “We dick around.  We experiment.  I blue-tack mirror shards to the walls and nobody bats an eye.  It’s how I am.  It’s how my friends are.”

“I don’t know that they’re so friendly anymore,” Duncan said.  “They seemed genuinely taken aback that you’d been arrested for the murder of a child.”

I stiffened.

“Let’s return to the subject of the alibi,” my lawyer said, as if she was reading my posture, changing the subject for my sake.  “We can cover these points after.  It’s moot if he had a reasonable excuse for being where he was.”

“You ate lunch there yesterday,” Max said.  “What?”

“Sandwich and coke,” Evan supplied, somewhat pointlessly.

“Sandwich and coke,” I said.

“The store’s owner helped you out,” Officer Max said.  “What did he give you?”

“A chain,” I said, “and rides here and there, including a ride to the park where you found me.”

“And tips,” Evan said.

“He also gave me a bit of advice,” I said.

There were nods from Officer Max and my lawyer.  Duncan frowned.

He shifted position, and when he settled again, he had a little salt packet in hand.  One of the paper ones that you found in restaurants.

I didn’t wait for him to make a maneuver.  The only Other in the room was Evan.  I glanced at him, and gestured with one hand.

He disappeared through a wall.

“What advice did they give you, out of curiosity?” Duncan asked.

On runes?  Abstract demons?

I couldn’t say that.

“Some stuff on a project I’m supposed to get done today,” I said.  “A few tidbits about language…”

“What’s the project?” Duncan asked.

Fuck.

“Does that have anything to do with the alibi?” I asked.

“Could,” Duncan said.

I glanced at my lawyer, but she wasn’t jumping in.

I wished I had a better lawyer, if only because I wanted someone with more of a spine.  Someone who would have my back, instead of me having to stand up for myself and keep Duncan from dragging the conversation off track.

“Quite frankly,” I said.  “It’s very complicated, and I could be here for some time, trying to explain the ins and outs of it.  On a very basic level, though, the project I’m doing has to be kept discreet for a number of reasons-”

“You’re meandering,” Duncan cut in.

Interrupting my flow of thoughts.  Hard enough to pick the right words without outright lying.

“I’m doing favors for the sake of a very… eccentric person.”

“Who?” Duncan cut in, again.

“An eccentric, powerful person who most likely wouldn’t appreciate the attention he’d get if I shared his identity.”

“Why?” Duncan asked.

I saw a chance, but stumbled over my thoughts in my efforts to answer the question while getting to my point of attack.

“He’s who he is,” I said.  “It’s related to-”

“He is who he is?” Duncan asked.  “What kind of answer is that?”

I talked over him, “-the house I inherited.  The very same house that has your uncle, Officer Behaim, making my life miserable.  Police Chief Laird Behaim of Jacob’s Bell.  I thought you weren’t permitted to be here?”

Pressing him on the subject, I saw the connections shuddering within their confines.  Him to me, him to this room.  Firmly set.  Gilded.  He’d manipulated something, fixed it all in place.

Nobody picked up on the question.  Nothing came of it.  I was pushing against a brick wall, here.

“Nevermind that,” he said, dismissive.  Maybe a little smug.  “Does Evan Matthieu speak to you, Mr. Thorburn?”

“We’re on this again?”

“You’re not answering the questions, necessitating that we ask them again.”

“As I understand it,” I said, “You wanted to know why I was there, with the body.  Someone asked me to go there.  They also asked you to go there.  They-”

He interrupted again, his tone insistent.  “Does Evan Matthieu speak to you?  Are you involved with occult practices, like speaking to the dead or binding demons, Mr. Thorburn?” he interrupted me.

“Quite frankly,” I said, staying calm, “I’m wondering if this is on the up and up.  You’re pressing rather hard on this supernatural thing-”

“You haven’t denied it,” Duncan said.

“-and,” I said, pushing on, “We know you’re Laird Behaim’s nephew, and he’s involved in something hinky, with charges against him for my cousin’s murder, and-”

The connections rattled again.  A little harder than before?

“And you’re here right now.”

“With an alibi,” I said.  “Why am I still here?”

“It’s thin at best,” he said.  “Very little is explained, the woman who came in on your behalf has not named the person who passed on the message.”

“Can you name the person who gave you the tip to walk in the woods and find me there?” I asked  “Because as I told my lawyer, this reeks of conspiracy…”

It was thin, a contrived, glancing blow at best, but I wasn’t about to waste time, and I needed to hit his weak point.  “… conspiracy like one shady-as-fuck police chief getting his nephew to incriminate someone.  How is this okay!?”

Mrs. Lewis had told me that theatrics were important.  How you said something could have an impact on the power of a statement.

So I raised my voice, and I slammed my hand down.

With the impact, the bindings around the connections shattered.  Ones binding me to the center of the room, me to Duncan Behaim, me to my cell…

And one on the underside of my chair?

Either way, the third time’s a charm.

I saw a dark look cross Duncan Behaim’s face a moment before there was a knock on the one-way mirror to my left.

Duncan stepped out.  A moment later, the older police chief came in.

They’re off balance.  Take the advantage.

“What the fuck is going on?” I asked.

“No need for foul language,” the older man said.

“I have an alibi,” I said.  I turned to my lawyer.  “Don’t I?”

She moved as if stirring from sleep.  “Not quite.”

“You remain a prime suspect,” the older man said.

He was delayed in responding.  Slightly confused.

Was this a backlash?  A price paid, or some kind of penalty?  Duty might be compelling him to keep me here, but now the scales that had been tipped in Duncan Behaim’s favor, keeping me here, were helping to drive me out.

“No,” I said.  “I think what you mean to say is that I’m the closest thing to a suspect you have.  Is it even murder?”

“Those details are private,” he said.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  A place I have an excuse to be in.  You’re doing sketchy stuff by sticking that guy in a room with me, when you know there’s something questionable about his uncle and my cousin.  There’s the camera, and nobody told me, but I believe it was tampered with, with a suspicious amount of footage missing?”

Enough,” the older man said, sufficiently firm to put me off my stride.  “This is us talking to you, not the other way around.”

I looked to my lawyer, “Can I be held like this, on grounds this sketchy?”

“You can be held for twenty-four hours on suspicion.  If you’d like, I could reach out to the Crown Attorney.”

“How long would that take?”

“They have busy schedules.  I imagine it would take a little bit of time.”

Fuck.

“There’s a bail hearing in the early afternoon,” my lawyer said.  “You’ll meet with a justice of the peace, and at that point in time, you can waive or pursue a bail hearing.”

Early afternoon.

Even if it worked and I was able to get bail from somewhere, while charged with murder and alienated from my friends…

That left me very little time.

It all came down to time.  I needed out now, and I needed to use the tipped scales, while the winds were still blowing in my favor.

I frowned, staring down at the table.

“Do you have more questions for me?”

“None.  You can return to your cell.”

“I have a solid alibi, don’t I?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “The woman hasn’t explained who supposedly asked them to pass on instructions to you.  It seems to me that you have an individual, or a group of individuals, who might be complicit in a boy’s disappearance and death.”

“You’re avoiding the word murder,” I said, seeing a chance.  “Was he murdered?  You have evidence?”

“The animals got to his body,” the police chief said.  “We looked it over-”

“Anything?  I think the term Officer Max there-”

“Officer Vargis,” ‘Max’ said, his response delayed slightly.  He was just as out of it as the others.

“-Officer Vargis, he used the term reasonable doubt.  If this goes to the justice of the peace this afternoon, are they going to uphold it, or are they going to hear the basic evidence and throw it out?  Are you holding me out of spite?  Because-”

“Enough,” the older man said.  I bristled, ready to press the attack.  “The charges may well be dropped.  However, I trust Officer Behaim’s-”

“You’re bringing up the guy who may well be conspiring with his uncle,” I cut in.  “Again.”

He bristled this time.  “That’s-”

“Maybe you could contact the Crown Attorney after all?” I asked my lawyer.

“No,” the older officer said.  He shook his head, as if trying to clear out cobwebs.  “There’s no need for that.”

“No need?” I asked.

“For now, we can drop the charges.  However, as you remain a person of interest, a possible witness or potential suspect, with the possibility of another arrest if new evidence comes forward, we’ll be in contact with you on a regular basis.”

My heart soared, even as I kept my expression stern and still.

I glanced at my lawyer.

“It sounds acceptable,” she said.

“Good.  I’m sorry for the, um, confusion, Mr. Thorburn.”

“Okay,” I said.  I wasn’t about to accept his apology.

They opened the door to the interrogation room, then froze.

I pushed my way out past them.

Officer Behaim stood in the hallway, head hanging, arms limp at his sides.  His fingers had black blotches on them.  Everyone in the area was lingering at the edges of the room, staring.

More alarming were the spirits that stood around him.

A child, a matron, an older woman, each holding one part of a length of thread.

A giant with gray skin and a veiled face.

A tin man with a clockwork body, his head rotating around three hundred and sixty degrees, moving a set distance each second, like his overly pointed nose was a hand of a clock.

A man that bore a startling resemblance to Laird’s familiar, but fainter, slightly more tattered.

Duncan held something in one hand.  A container?

What was it?

“-completely lost it, sir,” someone at the edge of the room was saying.

“Behaim,” the older man said, his voice steady, gentle.

Behaim moved, and I realized what the container was.  A spray can.

I saw the wall beside him, the doors, bulletin board and wall painted with black lines.  A diagram.

“Fuck,” I breathed.  I searched the room for options.

“Can’t let you go, Thorburn,” Behaim said.

I saw a cop with a coffee in hand and bolted.

I seized the coffee from the officer’s hand and flung it, coffee and all, at the diagram.

Duncan Behaim and each of the spirits around him moved in sync, reaching out, placing their hands on sections of the diagram.

He said something in a language I couldn’t understand, then he said my name.

The coffee cup didn’t get halfway to the diagram.

Blake Thorburn.

I sat upright, nearly smashing my head into the cot above mine.

Fuuuuuuuuuuck,” I swore, long and loud.

Blake Thorburn.

The Knights, outside.

Me, back in the cell.

“No, no, no,” I said, standing.  My complaints joined those of the other prisoners in the holding cells.  “No, fuck, shit, fuck, balls.”

Everything was moving in the same direction, except for one individual.

Duncan Behaim.

I could sense him converging on the woman, the Knight who could lie.  The both of them moved in the direction of the other Knights.  Duncan having a bit of a chat with them.

“Knights,” I said.  “Nick.  Nick…”

The connection broke as quickly as I formed it.  Blocked.

I wasn’t sure if it was Nick or Behaim that broke the connection.  The Knights, however, turned to leave.

I sensed them go.  Getting into a car and driving away.

A threat, a deflection, a distraction.  I couldn’t say.

Behaim headed back to the building.

Where was he going?

He stopped in one room, paused for a moment, then changed direction.

A connection flared between Duncan Behaim and Evan.

He was after the ghost.

I looked at Evan, sitting in the corner.

“Sorry you had to go through that again,” I said.  “They… tore you open?”

The look of confusion on his face was enough for me.  He didn’t remember the last few hours.  Still, he said, “Yes.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “Just me and Behaim, then?”

He stared at me, uncomprehending.

“Nevermind,” I said.  “You want me to give you something to do…”

He took it as a question, and he nodded.

“But I’m kind of stuck,” I said.  “Maybe… are you good at finding things?”

“Not so much.”

“You found the fencing.  Surely you found a little bit of food?”

“Barely any.”

“Okay… but… you were good at figuring out where the wolf was, weren’t you?”

He nodded.

“I need you to go looking for other things.  There might be spirits somewhere in the building.  I don’t think they’re bad spirits.  Some might be animals, but they’d be the wrong sort of animal in the wrong sort of place.  Others might be attached to objects, like watches.  There’s a giant with a covered face, three women in the same dress, holding a thread, a mechanical man with a spinning head, and a faded old man with an amazing beard, okay?”

He nodded.

“It’s too many animals and objects for one person to have with them at one time.  If I happen to leave this cell and get to them first… it’ll help.  Go look around the building, but keep your distance from any policeman with black hair, okay?  I’ll call your name if I need you.”

With that, Evan was gone.  Duncan stopped in his tracks, then changed direction.  A different target, this time.

I paced in my cell, feeling time yawn on.  I had nothing to occupy myself with except vague worries.  The knowledge that Duncan Behaim was borrowing power from his family, from his circle.

Using that power, he had reset my day, and he’d turned away my chance at victory.

“That asshole,” I muttered.

The girls opposite me woke up.  One proved to be very hung over while the other was still drunk, even after a partial night’s sleep.

It was later in the morning than it had been when Duncan had come for me, the last time around.

Much later.

The lawyer wasn’t coming.  She’d been diverted.

Something told me I wasn’t about to get a meeting with the justice of the peace.

He was diverting any help that might come my way.  If he saw Evan, he’d probably banish or divert the ghost using salt or some other binding.

Sticking me in a fucking groundhog loop, I thought.  Countering my plans in advance.  Motherfucker.

Threes.  He was working on Laird’s behalf, using Laird’s assets, among others, to best me.  Already, I was pretty fucked.  Then I’d broken the simple connection manipulation by way of three rejections.

But this loop…

I was willing to bet my eye teeth that he was holding his trump cards for a third round.  He’d pull out all the heavy weapons to make the third loop a success, and get Laird his third win at the same time, while removing me from the picture… it seemed like a good strategy to have in play.

I wasn’t sure what form that maneuver would take.  Unleashing the full power of the borrowed spirits and powers, perhaps.  Or simply shooting me.

There was no fucking way I was doing another loop.

Option one was removing the spirits from play.  Take away the power sources he needed.  Evan was on task.

Option two… well, I needed help.

All things had a price.  This would be pricy.

I bent down, searching my cot.  Metal frame… wire mesh beneath the thin mattress.  I ran my hand over it.  Nothing.

That was a problem.

Problem number two was more vague.  I wasn’t sure I’d get a response when I called.  Even with the price I was paying.

Toilet.  I searched it as I had the cot, running my hand over every surface.

There.  Almost what I was looking for.  The tank of the toilet had a recessed area that served as a sink of sorts.  Where it fit into the tank proper, there was something of a lip of metal.  Raised enough I could feel it.

“Excuse me, ladies,” I said, gesturing at the toilet.  “Would you give me a moment’s privacy?”

The hung-over girl groaned and turned over, pulling the pillow down over her head.

“You want some privacy so you can fondle the toilet?” the drunker of the two girls asked.  Apparently she had been watching me.

“The opposite,” I said.

“That…” she paused for far too long before making a decision, “…That doesn’t make sense.”

“I’m worried it doesn’t,” I replied, meaning it.  If this doesn’t work…

I was going by instinct here.

“You’re crazy,” she said.

“What I’m about to do is definitely crazy,” I said.  I gestured, asking her to turn around.

“Don’t want to know,” she said.  She sat down with her back to the cell door.

I unbuttoned my pants, then thrust my pelvis forward, using the edge of the button to pry at the raised lip, drawing it further out.  I ran it back and forth, eliciting a metal on metal screech.

“God!  What the fuck are you doing?” she asked.  She must have turned around, seeing me wiggling my hips left and right with my pelvis pressed against the side of the toilet, because she squeaked, “I don’t want to know!”

I used the edge of my jeans, a bit fatter than the edge of the button, and did the same.  It was quieter.

I’d raised the metal lip away from the toilet itself.

My hand swept over my forehead, catching the moisture there.

I was hoping I had some glamour still there.

I was hoping a lot of things.

I ran the sweat along the edge of metal, visualizing.

Sharp.

Then I placed my forearm against the ridge and slashed the back of my arm.

It worked.

I did the other arm.

I wanted to grunt, to make noise, but I couldn’t afford the attention.

Sitting cross-legged on the ground, my back to the girls, I moved my fingertips to where the blood fell on the concrete floor.  I drew a line.  Except this time I drew it from myself outward.

“Rose Thorburn,” I murmured.  “I give of myself to you.”

I let more droplets fall.

“Rose Thorburn,” I said.  “I give of myself to you.”

Pauz had apparently screwed up the connection.  I was drawing from the vestige I was supposed to be powering…

This was me giving back, in the crudest form possible.

I eyed the connection, watched it change with each repetition.

It had been flowing one way, the wrong way.  Now… that altered flow was being remedied.

At something of a cost.

Could I cancel the Imp’s effect if I put in enough power to match its flow?

Minutes passed.  I kept feeding blood into the connection.  The blood ran down my fingers, sticky.  A dangerous amount to give.

“Rose Thorburn,” I said.

My vision wavered.

Not Rose’s arrival.  I’d slipped some.

Disorientation, perhaps, or a loss on some other front.  Disconnection?

I spoke again.

“Rose Thorburn, I give of myself to you.  I call you from the clutches of Conquest to my presence.”

My vision wavered again.  A little more intensely.

Not all of it was me disconnecting from reality, giving up my very being to work against an effect.

The connection had altered.

“Blake.”

I couldn’t focus enough to look.

“Blake,” Rose said.

“Glad to have you back,” I said.

“Oh- oh wow.  You’re bleeding… in a jail cell?  What happened, Blake?  Did the Sphinx-”

“Rose,” I said.  “You missed…”

I swayed, very nearly losing my balance.  Odd, when I was sitting cross legged.  A hard position to lose one’s balance in.

“You need to staunch those wounds,” Rose said.

“I need no such thing,” I said.  I sounded drunk.  I hadn’t given that much blood.

I mean, yeah, the cell looked like a murder scene… I smiled at that image.  Duncan’s face when he looked in and saw.

“You need to stop the bleeding,” Rose said.

“Nope,” I said.  “Nope.  Need to keep giving.  Take all you can.”

“Blake?”

“If I… if I happen to be incapacitated… There’s two bound, gotta get the abstract demon.  Kid named… named Evan.”

Stop the bleeding!

Rose’s scream somehow got attention.  Or it was coincidence.  The girl behind me turned, and she screamed.  She screamed a lot.

“Ghost named Evan,” I said.  “Good kid.  He’ll help.”

“I can’t do anything without you, Blake!”

“You’re going to have to do something,” I mumbled.  “I’m going to be less useful here.”

I looked down.

Probably enough.

I fumbled for the mattress, tried to stand, and failed.  I managed to find my feet the second time, and leaned over, pressing my arms down with my body weight.

“He wants to trap Blake Thorburn?  I… give of myself until Blake Thorburn almost isn’t there,” I said.  “Evan.  Evan Matthieu.  Come.”

No response.  No connection.

“Call him,” I said.

Someone came to the cell and threw the door open.  An officer.  “Medic!”

I dragged the toe of my sock against the blood that pooled on the floor, drawing a line.

Breaking the connection.

When I staggered out, he didn’t notice me.

“Blake-”

“Call Evan.”

“Evan…  Evan?  Ev-”

The ghost appeared.

“You’ve lost your mind,” Rose said.

I lurched. “Rose, meet Evan.  Evan, Rose.”

“Hi,” Evan said, “The monsters got you.”

I got me,” I mumbled.  “Show me the way.  And hurry.  Only get one chance, like this.”

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243 thoughts on “Conviction 5.2

  1. Blake Thorburn, pulling out all the stops. Well, except that stop, but he’s not going there. Yet? Ever?

    I expect a few unfinished sentences in the midst of it. Had my birthday yesterday, dinner with my dad, checked on my mom after the fact, found she wasn’t doing so hot after a medical procedure, was sort of distracted today as a result/with related stuff.

    Hope it’s ok. The first part I wasn’t so happy with, but I was okay with the end, in large part. That aside, I’m just crossing my fingers that it’s legible.

    1. This is awesome. You’ve always been good at writing from a distorted or inaccurate perspective, like jura Vzc qvfnccrnef va Jbez be Gnlybe oernxvat qbja ng gur raq (rot13).

    2. I… would like to wish you a happy birthday, but it sounds like it was followed far too quickly by unhappy things. I’ll instead hope that everything turns out okay in the end.

    3. “Blake Thorburn, pulling out all the stops. Well, except that stop, but he’s not going there. Yet? Ever?”

      The Godzilla Threshold is for when the option can’t possibly make it worse. Considering what demons are like, it’d have to be magnitudes worse than this to qualify using a name.

    1. I lifted up
      extra space

      Nevermind (twice)
      more commonly Never mind

      The clang joined the cacophony of voices, the
      truncated sentence

    2. “Before I’d drifted off, he’d use the same term.” –> used

      ““Do you believe that particular group of people” –> double space

      “and find me there?” I asked “Because” –> period after ‘asked’

    1. He’s scared of that “internship” they set as the price, not to mention of course that they’re doing the drug-dealer thing with more finesse than he could ever hope to match.

      Simply put, they’re masters of a game which he has yet to learn and is having mixed feelings about as it is. I wouldn’t blame him for saving them for loop #3.

    2. Two reasons, one moral and one practical:
      Moral: Its dealing with demons. Blake summons them and gives them a connection to the world. Then he has to help them do bad stuff. Blake makes the world just a little bit worse. Finally, this is how you get corrupted. You draw a line. (No demons.) Then you break just a little. (Demons if they don’t make me do anything bad.) Then you break a little more. (Just a short internship. I’m a crappy diabolist so it won’t do too much harm.) Then you’re corrupting fundamental concepts of reality.

      Practical: Its a trump card. Blake could say… “Hey, I want ALL of Toronto as my demesnes. Also the unclaimed parts of Jacob’s Bell, minus the swamp that Briar Girl wants.”

          1. At the price of “a two-day internship;” what he’s doing as part of the internship isn’t mentioned at all. It could be giving someone a ride or it could be summoning the Gibbering Darkness from Beyond; that part is still up in the air, and thus able to be adjusted based on what favor he asks for.

  2. Wait. Weaver dice? Like what Taylor did right before Phir Se? I wonder if the references are just a running gag or also a plot device.
    So more proof that power over time itself is overpowered. Good to know. Wonder how Blake will escape. Why do I have a feeling that the devil he could summon and the lawyers will be Pact’s equivalent of a second trigger.

      1. And they both exist in the same multiverse. Which makes this like a much more convoluted version of The Cat that Walked through Walls.

        1. Probably not. It would be something from way out in left field, and how far could he have gotten before being stopped? Death tolls were estimated in the “mere” billions rather than trillions, IIRC, and the stated number of total universes is larger than the number of atoms in any given universe. Less than ten thousand worlds, out of over 10^80? Chances are pretty slim.

    1. Weaver Dice is a irc rpg based off of that game. It’s a charming reference for those in the know. Great chapter, happy belated birthday.

      1. Ah the fun honest dice rolls would bring up in that.

        “Okay, you got the ability to manipulate others perceptions, causing them to hallucinate.”
        “Cool. That should be useful. Any drawbacks?”
        “Uh, yeah. Chart says you hallucinate too. And you triggered because you were a schizaphrenic, and the hallucinations are the voices you heard.”

  3. Well . . . I’m not quite sure how to react to this one other than “I enjoyed this chapter”.

    It was nice seeing Blake getting a win and breaking connections just by talking. It’s too bad Duncan cheated.

    I didn’t expect Blake to pull a manual override of Pauz’s effect on Rose.

    Does Blake have an immediate plan or are we about to see some Rose centric chapters?

    Will Blake ever be on full power?

    1. I have a feeling that he’s going to be operating on next to no power for a while, without that much at his disposal, until he gets a huge power boost later on and dominates everyone.

    2. My Guess: Blake’s going on a spirit walk. His body is going to the hospital, but his spirit is going with Rose and Evan to deal with the Abstract Demon.

    3. I think Blake is going to try to escape from police custody to force the next reset. Escape isn’t his first option because of the long term consequences, but if Behaim turns back the day again, there are no long term consequences.

  4. Removing six hours or so of time, completely? That has to have a rather large karmic burden attached to it, as that is erasing, oh, quick math here, the equivalent of 55k human lifetimes [time lost times population divided by duration of one human lifetime]. Unless of course the spell simply tore the two of them out of one reality and placed them in a slightly slower one, in which case there would still be the karmic burden from having just initiated all the police officers into magic without guidance.
    I can’t fathom how the Beheims maintain positive karma, unless the spirits don’t realize how much time is being stolen from them…

    1. I doubt that the time is removed completely. From what we’ve seen so far, the time distortion effect is localized to a specific location.

      Regarding the Karma cost, it was said that a practitioner can convert power to Karma or vice versa in his realm. Perhaps the Behaims just keep collecting positive Karma or power and only use their time magic sparingly.

    2. I don’t know why you’d think this has any effect on their karma whatsoever. Time magic uses up “time”, not karma – remember, sacrifice a few hours to get a few minutes of useable “time”. Of course, there could have been a karmic cost here in that the Behaims might have used a demesne to convert excess karma into “time” to fuel this spell.

      1. Depending on how efficiently a demesnes can do its money changing Karma all forms of power may be essentially inter-convertible. Everything can be measured in Karma points. That raises a question though: the universe pushes back against the big demons, what if someone just fed them a constant stream of karma from power conversion. STOP the Universe from fighting back?

        1. You’d have to have a ridiculous amount of power for that to work – more than the universe could throw at you. Any such attempt is most certainly doomed to failure. I think that when you have bad karma that generally speaking the universe still attempts to be fair. No matter how bad the situation the universe is using to try to kill you for karmic debt I think it still always leaves at least a slim chance to escape. Keep your wits about you and try your hardest and you may just seize that chance.

          However, if you try to game the system so that the universe can’t fight back I expect the universe would be none too happy about that and would cease trying to be fair. At best you’d be in a catch 22. Leave your demesne and the universe will most certainly kill you. But if you never leave your demesne then you lose connections to the outside world, your demesne weakens, and eventually both you and it fade away from existence. At worst it’ll send things like the barber into your demesne that you can’t stop.

      2. If we go by 1 hour per minute conversion they just sacrificed almost two and a half years of stored up time with this maneuver.

    3. Observation 1: Behaims seem to literally have a lot of time on their hands. Transport two practicioners’ memories back in time, using a crude diagram spray-painted in the space of several minutes? Done. Put a huge mansion in temporal stasis for what appears to be several months at the very least? Done.
      They throw around heavy-duty magical mojo like candy. It’s almost like they have years’ worth of time stored somewhere. How much time did they sacrifice to get that? Decades? Centuries?

      Observation 2: Behaims should have no reason at all to go this far to stop Blake from leaving the PD. Why keep him contained when they can just let him wander into the factory, interfere with the binding and see him get eaten by the erasure demon? There must be something in that factory that they don’t want him to find out.

      Observation 3: Laird had close connections with Grandma Rose in their youth, and seemed to learn some things about demons during that time.

      Crackpot theory: Laird – or even the circle of Behaims in its entirety – has already bound the erasure demon and is using the backlash from its particular way of eating people to harvest the victims’ lifetimes Weeping Angel-style. Letting a demonologist get close to an already-bound demon would probably mean bad things for them.

      1. Well, Duncan could also have promised that Blake would not be leaving the police station before the 24 hours are up. If Blake does leave, Duncan would be forsworn, and all the power he’s saved up wouldn’t be doing him much good then.

        1. Then why did he have several time-themed spirits, including Laird’s own spirit, at his disposal? It seems like something that was planned beforehand.

          1. Yeah, I hadn’t caught that. For some reason I thought all the time spirits were just local ones. Then again the Beiham’s do have some augury in their skillset, and of course they may have been setting things up for when an oppourtunity arose.

            1. Laird’s spirit was worn out after putting Thorburn mansion into stasis. That may result in appearing fainter.

    4. Time loops are very cost efficient: the time gets recycled. If the behaims could have just stuck in an extra day, they would have. It’s a victory condition. This loop is a stalling device. The cost either comes from Blake’s and Duncan’s tomorrow, which would be best for the Behaims, or it is recycled time from previous loops. The Behaims are thrifty.

    5. This seemed to be a collaborative effect from several practitioners through familiars, or Behaim has engaged the assistance of several others. In either case, he’s not bearing the full cost of the spell’s effects directly.

      As for Karma wise, the imbalance is not as great as you think. Behaim’s efect is only intended to impact Blake, and allow Behaim to threaten the Knights and make them go away and not give Blake the Alibi. Provided that nothing drastically different occurs to anyone else, Behaim need not worry about karmic backlash from lots of people.

      However, I do not think that Behaim was expecting Blake to step right up and do something this crazy. Blake is now going to force Behaim to either send him back in time again, then change the lives of others by putting him under stronger guard, further draining Behaim and his allies, or Behaim is going to have to allow Blake to go to the hospital. Either works nicely for Blake. Behaim probably can’t cast such a major working again, so soon, I wouldn’t think, but it’s possible. Taking Behaim out of his comfort area where he is known and has people who trust him, and putting Blake into a situation where he might be able to get away at least long enough to deal with his last target.

      Can’t wait for next chapter, this one sets us up for interesting things.

      1. Furthermore, Behaim can’t stop something like this. He starts the loop upstairs, giving Blake an opening to try this again. It all depends on how well this run works.

  5. You know, the Behaims have got to be building up a sizable debt, in both karma and power, by their actions. Dunc, for example, wasn’t looking too hot.

    Happy belated birthday, Wildbow! Hope the family stuff pans out OK.

    The writing was great, by the way. You had us thinking Blake was going to escape through the backlash effect and go enthrall a nullifiend. Then he gets timefucked backwards!

    1. Lying twice yesterday can’t have helped either. And I bet that time spell really ate into their reserves. Multiple spirits called upon. Also I bet Duncan needs to pay for the costs of everything he undid.

        1. The discussion was about Duncan using colloquial language, and whether or not that would count as lying. The hypothesis put forward is that since we know sarcasm counts as lying, metaphorical language does as well.

          Specifically, Duncan said:
          “I’m dying for a coffee.”
          and
          “They’re turning your apartment upside-down.”

  6. So we’re finding more and more utility for Evan. Not only does he find escape routes, he also is a pretty decent spy.

    I think spying is more Blake’s specialty. He’s had most of his success doing covert operations or infiltrations. His most useful magical skill (so far) is glamour, which naturally suits itself for deceiving and spying.

    If Blake ever gets the opportunity, he should probably focus on this rather than raw aggressive power.

    1. Evan also can presumably inspire tenacity, like June inspires hopelessness. That’s also an incredibly useful thing to have. I really hope he ends up being Blake’s familiar.

  7. Loop #!: Blake 1 (attacking the Duncan/Laird connection 3 times) – success
    Loop #2: (current) Screw getting to Loop #3 when Duncan will consistantly deprive Blake of more and more resources each time Blake suceeds. Suicide/hospital escape gambit will only end up with Blake handcuffed to the hospital bed. Attempted escape here will destroy Blake’s rep with his friends and the cops pinning Evan’s death on him. If only he can create a spell backfire in which the outcome of Loop #1 becomes part of Reality’s Cannon Timeline.

    1. Perhaps the loop only affects the police station. If Blake forces the cops to bring him to a hospital, they will have to face the original reality. So many possibilities. . .

      1. The only good news about this is that the Behaims’ must be spending resources like water to power this spell with what Rose mentioned about 1 day’s worth of time = a 1 min charge for chronomancy spells.

        1. Sir Fuente: I think that if it worked like that, Duncan wouldn’t be bothering to use this particular method to loop things. Now, if Blake could leave before Duncan could loop, it seems probable that Duncan would have to do something else entirely, I follow you that far, but beyond that…

          Someguy: “Give up an hour of your day, hold on to it, make use of that time elsewhere…Give up an hour, gain a minute.” (3.05)

      1. I doubt there were any other resets. The loop Blake remembers was almost the worst possible result for Duncan as Blake got out far too quickly and nearly managed to disrupt the reset. If there had been any other loops, Duncan would already have blocked all Blake’s escape routes as he is doing in the second loop.

        1. Maybe he only remembers the original loop (Blake leaves by yelling and beating his fist on the table) and the most recent loop (this one?). Duncan just keeps trying things until he figures out every possible route Blake will try to use to escape and blocks them all off.

    2. I wonder if the backlash from succeeding at the third attempt of connecting Duncan to him will still affect him or was it washed away by the rewind.

  8. And I foolishly thought things were going well for a second there, and then chronomancers. And how is Rose supposed to bind a demon on this side of the mirror?

    1. It’s an abstract demon, so there won’t be anything you’d need to physically tie up with chain. If Rose manages to jump to a mirror near the thing, they’ll probably be able to interact just as well as the demon could with Blake.

      Which is to say that even if Rose won’t be able to bind the demon, the demon will certainly be able to eat Rose.

      1. My understanding was that she was abstract, not in the sense of not being physical, but in the sense that people can only infer as to what she is. Everything that came into direct contact with her is gone. Not knowing anything exact about her makes her abstract.

          1. When did Padraic come into contact with the “abstract” demon? Did I miss something? My point is that the practitioners only found out about what may be a demon because of inconsistencies. Nobody we know of as of yet has come into contact with it and returned to give any concrete info about it.

            Or were you confused by my using “she” and “her” to describe it. I was referring to the “abstract” demon, not Rose. As this is a Wildbow work, I’m working with the assumption that anything very dangerous or powerful is female until proven otherwise. I hope this clears up any misunderstandings.

  9. I don’t think karma works that way. The Thorburns are so impossibly wicked, so deep in karmic hock, that doing ill to them is actually a net karma positive. They’re just getting what they deserve, in the universe’s eyes. I don’t think it works the opposite way, where being helpful is bad… but interfering with the plans of a wicked Demonologist family with a history of screwing with people is almost certainly a boon.

    1. I don’t believe we are even remotely qualified to comment on karma yet. Even after Black Lamb’s Blood. However, they need to be careful to not accidentally use up the universe’s good will while messing with one diabolist who hasn’t actually used any demons yet.

    2. I think that karma only cares about oaths, hospitality and ownership. The old concept of honor, not the modern concept of morality. That and demons because they stand against the universe itself. So we get stuff about honor

      The cost of time manipulation is more time. Storing one day’s worth of time gives you one minute’s worth of time to manipulate.

      1. The exchange rate isn’t that terrible, guys.

        “Give up an hour of your day, hold on to it, make use of that time elsewhere…Give up an hour, gain a minute.” (3.05)

  10. I enjoy how Blake is just fucking around seeing what works.

    Need to give power to mirror-me? Better cover the floor in blood! Someone noticed the floor of blood? I got all this blood here, might as well give it a shot!

  11. How does a time loop work when Blake’s in a facility tied to him with forms and processes?
    “It was later in the morning than it had been when Duncan had come for me, the last time around.”
    So time outside him moved forward, but he and the Behaims looped back in time considering everything was the same around him except Duncan. Also, Evan doesn’t remember the time spent. Does the lawyer drive over and the office says he’s not ready for the next few hours? Does circle have the ability to remove all the collected research from the night, or is research just ignored? The key is what condition is the investigation when he runs? Did Evan, who has a physical interaction and deal with Blake, wait the two hours? Search the two hours? Freeze?

    “Can you start by scouting the area?” I asked. “Stay out of sight of the… there’s a cop with black hair. He’s the guy who put handcuffs on me. Remember?”

    “Yes.”

    “Escape routes, places to stay away from, places the cops don’t look, and just where different things are, so I can find my way around.”

    Good: Thank God Blake asked Evan to search the night before, and that the Behaims can’t start interfering until Blake/RDA/Bill Murray wakes up. That means they can only learn the path he takes after a loop is completed. Time to ask Evan/Rose for contingencies.

    Bad: Duncan saw Blake retrieve Rose, which means that can be blocked if he loops.

    Good: for the cost it took from Behaim, I doubt he can set it to start sooner, or alter the diagram.

    Bad: the boundary of the diagram can be shielded from outside interference, and they don’t have to waste time binding Blake to the interrogation room… aaactually that would be doubly evil.

    Good: I didn’t think of Behaim pulling this stunt. Go Wildbow.

  12. Thinking by typing…

    “One guy was shouting out cuss words with a peculiar sort of rhythm. One of the homeless mentally ill.”
    Blake isn’t paranoid enough yet – that sounds like a goblin summoning to me.

    “Moisture had stained it with overlapping, misshapen rings of brown and rust-red.”
    Little bit of a foreshadowing there.

    Evan remains one impressive ghost. Still stuck on thoughts, but able to react and learn even after death.

    The Knights are proving quite helpful – they are the first helpful group. Hmmmm… might just be their nature, but that almost seems strange after the otherwise universal hostility.

    Weaver Dice?
    Call-out to Pact? Ah, someone else caught it also.

    Multiple bindings to hold Blake in place in the police station. Reeks of Duchamps, no surprise.

    “A child, a matron, an older woman, each holding one part of a length of thread.”
    Mother, maiden, and crone. The Norns, Fates, what have you. BIG mojo. The giant – Chronos the Titan perhaps? The rest of the spirits I don’t recognize by description, except they are time-related.

    The time moat was impressive, but this was just scary – literally resetting time on an opponent is a frightening ability. It looked like Blake was winning, and then…

    Good thing Evan is good at keeping away from danger. Otherwise, Duncan would probably have banished the ghost already.

    OK, Blake has serious stones, not that we didn’t know that already, but practically killing himself to get Rose fixed and himself out is near insanely brave, or… Black Lamb’s Blood. Martyrdom.

    Do we get a Rose and Evan episode while Blake collapses?

    1. Weaver Dice? Call-out to Pact?
      Kinda meta for a work to do a <url=tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ShoutOut>shout-out to itself.

      But yeah, it’s a meta-level Worm reference. Which suggests that Worm is a work of fiction in the Pactverse. And wildbow said that the Pactverse, Wormverse, and so on are all in the same multiverse. Which means that we’ve got cats walking through walls and all that jazz.

        1. Well, it’s called I waste the author’s time making him delete spoilers, so it’s pretty probable that I waste the author’s time making him delete spoilers. And since I waste the author’s time making him delete spoilers, I waste the author’s time making him delete spoilers.

          …Oh, by the way, spoiler alert.

            1. Sorry. Didn’t really think about that.

              Well, the one relevant thing is that the name of the game implies certain things about the game’s setting.

          1. You probably shouldn’t waste Wildbow’s time by posting spoilers. As you can see, he edits those out. Every moment Wildbo

            1. (How did that even happen?)

              Let me appeal to the selfishness potential worm spoilerers:

              Every moment Wildbow wastes on handling Worm spoilers isresponsible!aken away from making Pact awesome. If the new chapter tonight is not awesome, I will hold you spoilerers personally responsible

            2. Agreed. There is but one Worm spoiler that matters. Worm is awesome. If you like Pact enough to read the comments, chances are you’ll like Worm. And you’ll love the part where Taylor saves Big Bird while surfing on a nuke and playing a heavy metal version of Ride of the Valkeyrie. That never happens. More awesome stuff happens. Read for yourself. Read Worm. I mean no Pact Sunday, Monday, Wednsday, Friday, and most Thursdays. So why not work through Worm on those days?

              This went on much longer than I planned.

            3. I’m not sure if WordPress supports it, but it would probably be worth Wildbow getting a moderator for the comments to deal with this sort of thing so he can focus on producing Pacty goodness.

          2. Every time I read one of these,I want to post spoilers in order for more to be created….

            This is just too damn funny.

            1. About half the time, I feel like an idiot afterwards; the rest of the time, I try to figure out how what I said could be a spoiler.
              Now I use ROT13 to avoid problems like that.

            2. Now I’m just imagining one of those ‘the word’s most interesting man’ commercials: “I don’t always post spoilers for Worm, but when I do, I use ROT13.”

  13. I wonder what that time reset costs. You pay for the changes you make right? Somehow I don’t think its a cheap way to repair bindings. And the power to cast it is almost certainly gone in this new line. In fact, I bet the more Blake changes this loop the more it costs.

    Also funny how he called out BLAKE’S name. And how Blake, the target remembers it. I don’t think this is “real” Butterfly effect time travel. Probably only Blake is the one who can have his fate majorly altered. At least without some sort of painful backlash.

    1. It probably incurred a huge debt, but I think Blake kept his memories by the sheer virtue of being a practitioner and awakened. Still, for him to go that far you have to wonder just how much pressure Laird put on him to screw time like that.

      1. I don’t think every practitioner remembers. That would be majorly weird. “Who the fuck reset my day? Someone is getting stabbed for this.” Sort of like how the eraser is supposed to work. But instead of papering over everything it just got Blake’s last few hours.

        1. Every practitioner within the field’s influence*

          Though that’s a little weird to consider, since technically the entire world is being reset. Maybe changes can only be made within the affected area, or targets have to be within it to be reset?

          1. After thinking about it a bit, I am not sure the entire world was in fact reset. Rather, I suspect that Duncan used the fates to cut both Blake and himself from one reality, and inserted themselves into another, slightly temporally shifted one. This would help explain why Blake was named (he was the target), why no one else can remember (they never experienced that reality to begin with), and why the fates were necessary (as it seems odd for them to be involved in a simple time spell, but they are know for cutting people out of the tapestry of the world).
            If I am right, Duncan could have gone back without bringing Blake along, but in the first reality, he would simply be erased, Blake would carry on, and it would be a third loss for the Behaims. Targetting Blake as well does let him know what is going on (to some extent), but it prevents the third Thornburn victory in the initial universe, and Duncan seems like the kind of person who would be willing to make things a little harder on himself if it meant a complete victory.

            1. You realize how much karmic debt you would have if you created an entirely new dimension of reality for the sole purpose of turning a guy back in time a couple hours?

              It would have to be a new dimension, one without Blake in it at all, one created from whole cloth simply to house a single person.

              And in the real universe, Blake just keeps walking out the door?

              I don’t think this is dimension shifting. That would be even scarier.

            2. In response to farmer bob, I don’t think a new universe was created. Rather, the fates did a cut and paste job on the Blake and Duncan from Universe the first(ish) into Universe the second(or third or fourth or whatever). The karmic burden, if any, would thus be limited to the adverse affects on the second universe’s Blake and Duncan, as they are the only ones actually changed by the spell.
              The alternative, that the spell reset time by 6 hours, would have to affect everyone on earth, at the least, even if only by making them forget that the stars just shifted by a quarter sky.

    2. Lot of interesting theories on the time reset. Mine is that both Blake and Duncan (and maybe the practitioners who donated their familiars) got transplanted in time back to the beginning of the day. Basically just semantics, but it seems like that would be much cheaper power-wise than force resetting the entire universe, and create fewer confusing contradictions than only resetting time at the station. I suspect Blake got to come along as the equivalent of a Curse Escape Clause (e.g. kiss a princess to escape frogdom); because the idea that there has to be a way out is embedded in the human mind/culture, spells are a lot cheaper if you include one. So Blake gets to remember the previous loop, and Duncan isn’t killed by the power drain. Everyone wins! Except for the Behaims, who are about to be outmaneuvered, outmatched, and generally played. Because screw that family.

  14. Blake escapes with help from Evan/Rose. He goes after the Abstract because time is running out. Duncan follows him because he is obviously completely nuts at this point. In the ensuing scuffle, Duncan gets erased by the Abstract. Nobody can remember him, timeline goes funky and Blake gets out of the murder accusation because Duncan was a key figure in it.

    1. I see this, with some loss on Blake’s side. Can’t ever have things go nicely, sadly.

      Or (unlikely), he pulls another Hyena – pretty sweet binding, but massive bummer right afterwards. I’m getting a hunch we’re going to veer into really nasty stuff at the end of this arc (the Ernie->Bert kind of transition).

      1. Possibility that Evan sacrifices himself to get it all done, because it seems pretty likely that he will become Blake’s familiar. He might end up burning himself out trying to help, leaving a regular ghost. Although that could be too harsh this early in Pact.

        I reckon that the nasty twist at the end of all this is that the plan to unseat Conquest fails spectacularly. The obvious thing is that Conquest uses the bindings to power himself up and become a much stronger entity without regard for Blake’s schemes. That would leave Toronto in a bad spot and could lead to a much more serious practitioner conflict. Conquest probably only tolerates everyone else because he is weaker than he seems – if he restores himself to glory it does not seem like he has much reason not to go around directly subjugating the other practitioners.

    2. That would be quite satisfying. I don’t think we will see it because it is a little too good an ending, but it would be satisfying.

      However, if it does happen, both enchantresses and chronomancers are powers that might notice erasure, even if they didn’t understand the full effect. They would believe Blake did it on purpose and declare full out war on him.

    3. Or perhaps Blake offers the abstract Rose’s chain leading to Conquest, and the demon eats Conquest.

      Imagining the repercussions generated by causing a being that has existed for hundreds of years to simply disappear would be… probably more than Wildbow wants to deal with, hehe.

      1. I believe I have spotted the erasure demon’s nasty side effects. I had previously compared the erasure demon to time travel – editing someone out of the world, along with all of their effects, is equivalent to going back and making sure they were never born. Not exactly the same, but close enough that time travel tropes and thinking might work.

        But that is not quite so. The Knights would have taken a different path and might not be so… reduced if that were the case. To give a specific example, the boy might have found another girlfriend. Instead, he is just left without. Similarly, the other Knights would probably have found other ways to learn and grow if their erased companions never existed, but instead they are curiously unknowledgeable.They didn’t take different paths through life, they took the same path but anything that was erased simply didn’t contribute to them, making them lesser rather than merely different.

        Another commenter suggested that the erasure demon doesn’t actually remove things, but instead it breaks connections, ensures the connections can never form again, and disconnects anything based on the connections. This is like Fell telling Blake that he could kill Blake and scatter sand and no one would notice the body. That seems to be closer to what it actually does.

        So, if Conquest were erased, there wouldn’t be a different Lord of Toronto, there would suddenly be a power vacuum. And a huge struggle to fill that vacuum. That feels like something that Wildbow would throw Blake into. And if Jeremy came out on top…

        But there are other interesting thoughts about this. The comparison to Fell’s abilities with the sand is a little too close. Where, precisely, is Fell getting that sand? Is he using the erasure demon or in some way in league with it? That would be a nasty twist – Blake is on the verge of beating/binding the demon and Fell steps in and blocks him because that is a source of Fell’s power.

  15. Oh boy, best chapter yet! More magic, more trickery, more crazy wildcard master-plans!

    I get the feeling that the Behaims lost hard on that last one, rule of three and all, now they’re trying to Scorched Earth blake with all the mojo they can muster before he does it again. Was Dunc channeling the familiars of the whole family there?

  16. I just realized something. Duncan promised to hold Blake for the 24 hours. If Blake leaves, that’s a promise broken wearing away at Duncan’s Karma and power along with the two lies.

    I wonder if Karmic is subject to the rule of threes. Three lies to Blake?

    1. I wonder what’ll happen to the time-displacement spell if Officer Behaim gets Forsworn and loses his power?

    2. He made no such promise; he said “all I have to do, apparently, is keep you in custody for the next twenty-four hours.” As far as I can tell, he didn’t lie or make any promises whatsoever.

      1. “They’re turning your apartment upside-down. Above all else, we’re going to keep you for the day.” The latter could be argued as not being a promise in a strict sense of the word, but it’s pretty darn close.

        1. He was stating their intentions and what he believed would happen, not promising to do something himself. Otherwise a practitioner could be forsworn for saying “We’re going to go to the bathroom now” and then getting distracted from doing so. Besides, they did keep him for the day, since that was yesterday.

          Oh, and he’d already have a power hit if statements of intention were promises, since he said: “Oh, I’m going to stay close,” and then failed to when he was temporarily taken off the case. I think what would make sense is that you get a power hit proportional to the strength of your statement.

          1. As I understand it, yes, he would be forsworn for the bathroom thing (presumably to a lesser degree because it wasn’t an oath).

            If karma kicks your butt for sarcasm then it clearly evaluates things very literally. It seems to be a very firm and straightforward “if words !equal actions then bad karma”.

  17. So far I’m very uncomfortable with how utterly unclear the rules of magic are. I get the feeling that, whenever magic is involved, anything and everything can happen and thus any outcome is random, and any victory/loss of Blake is luck.

    I don’t see the reason why would Duncan cast the time reverse spell in such a way that Blake retain the memories from the first run-through. Clearly, everyone went back in time, so to speak, and not everyone had their memories (including Evan, and probably the Knights). You could argue the Blake retained his because the spell was directed at him, but why didn’t Duncan simply direct it to somebody else (himself)? That would still have had Blake back in his cell.

    1. I’m also pretty frustrated with the lack of understanding we have of the rules. It’s still an enjoyable read.. but not being able to anticipate any actions the characters can take make the whole thing much less engaging in my opinion. It makes it difficult to put yourself in Blake’s shoes.

      In Worm we had ‘this character has x power’, and you can pretty much imagine what it does, how it works, and several things that would be possible with it. This magical system is so abstract that I’m not sure a proper comprehension of it is even possible without literally reading Rose Snr’s library and practising oneself.

      1. Presumably because all magic has a price equal to its benefit. If you rewind time and the caster keeps knowledge while the affected doesn’t, then the caster is effectively invincible. It’s only fair if both parties are pre-warned of what will happen.
        It ties back to the concept of “why doesn’t X-type of practitioners rule the world?” ….Because they’re all equally crippled in different ways. Rather like how [SPOILER]CENSORED[/SPOILER]

        Rather than looking for concrete physical rules, accept magic doesn’t give a damn about any rules except its own. This is why Blake is doing well, it doesn’t really matter what magic you dabble in because the fundamentals of price, connections and not-being-overpowered doesn’t change.

        1. Lets take an example of power:

          Chronomancers get power from time, a resource which is constantly being collected. If you give up your time for power, other than the lost time there’s no self-harm caused. So you can keep storing up an hour or 2 a day, by maybe getting less sleep, less time on facebook or whatever. Since there’s no significant self-cost it’s a “weak” magic, so you have a pay of LOT of time to have an effect, but you can collect a lot of it quite easily.

          Blake tends to use his blood, representing himself. Each time you use it there’s implicit self harm and significant knock-on costs (similar to lying or breaking a promise I guess). This makes it a “strong” magic since you get strong and immediate effects, but at large and immediate costs.

          BUT overall: The cost is the same, the strength is the same. Nobody will ever have an advantage from using X-as a source of power – it might seem that way but “better” = insanely risky and liable to rebound and kill you.

        2. That set of spoiler tags didn’t work, didn’t warn that it’s a spoiler for Worm if it had, and also that means it’s a spoiler for Worm just laying out there.

          1. People should stop saying thing like ‘In Worm’, or ‘As oppsed to … In Worm’. Just make flat statments. Practitioners are crippled. Etc.

            1. It would save some time for Wildbow, at least.
              I do understand wanting to compare this story to Worm – part of Pact is that we don’t know very much as readers, just as Blake doesn’t know all that much either. But we, as readers, have access to another story written by the same writer – and so we want to look there to see if we can figure out more about THIS world, Pact, that we know all too little about. It almost doesn’t matter what, specifically, happened in Worm. The thing we’re looking for is how the writing might be similar.

              I think such attempts probably are not going to work very well, but it’s such an attractive idea that people want to keep trying it.

      2. I feel much the same as the two above me, though this chapter wasn’t one that I would have picked for this kind of thing; the time loop was fine, but modifying their connection was rather…unexpectedly easy, for all that he seems like he might now drop dead. I’m not every sure how much of that is a joke.

        I do get what other people are saying, and I totally understand how magic can be based on belief, but it really is jarring when so many things that the protagonist does take us by surprise.

    2. “I don’t see the reason why would Duncan cast the time reverse spell in such a way that Blake retain the memories from the first run-through.”

      For the same reason Laird had that Witch Hunter observing Blake as they went back to the Thorburn House, to “see the look on his face” when he realises there’s no way out.

      1. Duncan did say that the “next part” would be more effective if Blake was in the dark. It’s possible the spell has to target him in order to make changes in regards to what happens to him, so Blake would have to maintain his memories. He already knew this was Laird messing with him, but if he didn’t know Duncan specifically was acting as Laird’s agent then he’d have a harder time fighting back.

    3. My guess is, Duncan didn’t expect Blake to get any help like this. The anchors he used to limit Blake’s freedom completely broke due to the strong alibi. He was going to lose him, so he frantically pulled something to fix the mess.

      I assume spells follow the “cheap, fast, efficient – choose two” rule. From how fast he pulled it with the support he had, I think the spell merely snaps two people from the current timeline and ties them up X hours back in the thread of time. It doesn’t change anything else.
      Only two people keep any memories of the ex-reality, the caster and his named target – this is probably the costly part of it. If only the caster remembered, I expect the cost would substantially increase, and there’s probably a more complex working to make it possible.

      Anyway, now that Duncan knows that Blake has external support, he may very well start a very complex spell much earlier in the day and trigger it anytime things go sour for him. Gotta love dem magical trust funds.

        1. Nope, there’s definitely a cost qualifier in the list, and your ‘good’ is too close to ‘efficient’. Nitpick better. 🙂

    4. I like that I don’t know the rules. The worst thing that could happen to the story would be for Blake to get the “Player’s Handbook” and start being able to label the Behaims as “level 8 Chronomancers.”

      What reference material we’ve seen so far has been limited to whatever specialization that person was focused on. It also seems like the imps and demons have hierarchies and order while the nature spirits don’t.

      Blake is learning the basic rules about “don’t lie” and “nothing is ever free” but I like that the “price” is always negotiable, that, for a skilled practitioner, conviction matters more than formulas.

      1. Sometimes I wonder if Blake didn’t get stuck with a higher encounter level that a newb practicioner should have. Honestly It would be hilarious to see an arc later in the series where Things actually go easy for Blake and he doesn’t struggle at all. He’d be all WTF, this is too easy, when is something awful going to happen?

        1. Eh, that’d be fun for a few chapters (I’m thinking that time when Taylor went to Arcadia High and everything inexplicably went the best possible way it could for a while). However, it really couldn’t carry an arc, unless that’s the arc when he decides to claim a desmesne.

          1. Well of course right at the end you reveal something like the four horsemen of the apocalypse are coming to town, or that somebody stole the Barber, or something like that.

          2. Oh goodness, I read this earlier and didn’t even realize the huge Worm spoiler until Unmaker mentioned it. Yeah, please be more careful.

    5. ““I’m not sure I follow. It’s been a long time since I studied any of this. There’s no risk of backlash?”

      “No. We’re not targeting him,” Sandra said. “He’s not even in our sights. He spends much of his time ensconced within the house, where every demesnes has been turned inward.””

      Targeting a practitioner specifically carries some risk of backlash. I imagine trying to attack his memories would carry more risk of backlash. If Blake managed to break through the magic and restore his memories then there could be a major karma backlash to Duncan, in addition to the hits he has taken recently for wrongfully imprisoning Blake.

        1. There are probably some kind of rules about using magic on practitioners. Not law-of-the-universe rules, but social contract rules. Maybe an act of aggression breaks a rule?

          1. I seriously doubt that. Keep in mind that a practitioner can have defenses. Backlash could simply be a matter of the spell reflecting back on the user if the target has the right defense prepared – target a practitioner to put him in a bubble of slow time, and his defenses might reverse it so the caster gets imprisoned instead. Another targeted reset could backlash in a number of ways. Maybe the reset occurs but Duncan’s and the time spirits’ memories aren’t kept giving Blake a major advantage in the next loop since he knows what’s coming, or it instead resets things to where they were when the first reset happened and it’s back to the timeline where Duncan’s colleagues think he’s completely lost it.

            1. Given the events we saw in that arc I do that.

              He was positioned perfectly for massive karmic backlash- if the two families had done something like attacked his family then they would have cursed their own family, been hoisted by their own petards.

              Suppose it had targeted him directly and he had used some of his glamour to look like Duncan. Then the magic could have wiped both of their memories and the whole cycle would be wasted, just Duncan would be a lot weaker.

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

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

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

          “This feels wrong.”

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

          Because that’s a very common feature of karma that is regularly talked about in pact, an eye for an eye retaliation. If you directly attack another person they are more free to retaliate against you. That’s karma. You get what’s coming to you.

          This is explained earlier by the lawyer as a major feature of karma.

          ““You said everything has a cost,” I said. “What’s the cost, here?”

          “A very good question,” Ms. Lewis said. “Tell me, how does it go in the stories? A woman gets the favor of a family of brownies, provided she rubs ointment on the brownie child’s eyes once a night. She’s warned she should never use it on herself, but she does, and she gains the ability to see the brownies as they go about their business in the city. She is discovered, and as punishment, they strike her blind.”

          “Ironic punishment,’ Rose said. “Karma.””

          If you directly attack a practitioner and they escape your direct attack you are making it more ironic when the attack rebounds on you, with their prompting. You are inviting punishment.

      1. My understanding was that they couldn’t target the house without fear of backlash, not Blake.

        The house is filled with built-in protection from past Thorburn domains. The same reasons Blake was safe in the property was why they couldn’t target it. According to Sandra, it was assumed that Blake spent most of his time in the confines of the protected house. That’s why Laird had to target the surrounding property instead of Blake himself.

    6. Probably was necessary to “reset” Blake’s day. Everyone else goes about their days exactly the same, except in their dealings with the people who were reset, and the same major events happen in their own timelines. Having Blake remember means his day can/will change.

    7. Taking someone’s memory from them is a shift in power. Duncan was probably trying to minimize the karmic loss as much as he could while still resetting the clock. Non practitioners likely don’t even count when it comes to interfering with their lives.

    8. It seems like the rules of magic are at least partially based off of human belief, which is both varied and vague. I actually really like this, because it’s the first really well-done vague magical system I’ve read–most are either very clear cut or seem like they’re vague because the author doesn’t really have a clear conception of what they’re writing.

      It wasn’t actually a time-reversal spell exactly–it brought Blake back to his previous state, but time seems to have passed normally outside. I’d imagine that you need to name your intended victim to actually change how things happened to them, and everyone else does pretty much the same thing without any significant changes to their end state intended. I’d also imagine that there’s a cost to any significant changes caused to those who are not his intended target.

    9. I suspect Blake got to come along because this saved power. Much like how in all those fairy tails there’s a way out of the curse (e.g. fall in love before this flower dies). Mathematically, you’d expect this to make the spell more expensive, but I suspect the need for a loophole has done the whole trend to expectation to law thing, like how not breaking the Masquerade is now a karmic law.

  18. Huh. Interesting that Blake, at this point, is weak enough that he can’t even call Evan-a ghost with no connection to the Thorbuns as opposed to a strong personal connection to him. He and Rose really are two halves of one practitioner, aren’t they?

    1. Which presents an interesting conundrum: A diabolist is essentially a specialized summoner. But without Rose, or at least without “borrowing” her voice like he’s been, Blake can’t command anything Other, including whatever he hopes to summon or bind. His abilities would be limited entirely to what he could do himself.

      But Rose’s ability is based on her being a female version of him; if she ever “breaks” the vestige or loses the form in any way, she could end up losing that ability, and then neither of them would be able to order any Others around. At least, no more so than an ordinary, non-practitioner.

      Well, except for that star demon/fallen angel thing he tried to call before. That one seemed to notice regardless.

      1. He explicitly didn’t borrow Rose’s voice, he gave himself the Thorburn voice.

        Unless you meant the way he’s been borrowing her power? Because that seems to give us an answer; it’s possible that if they were no longer sharing power, then either or both would be full-fledged practitioners on their own.

        That’s what I’m hoping for, at least.

        1. I meant the way he’s been borrowing her power, yeah. And now that he isn’t borrowing her power (or he just gave it all back), that could be why he can’t tell Evan what to do anymore.

          Although I don’t think splitting them would make them full-fledged practitioners. Blake probably still wouldn’t be able to tell anything what to do since he’s not a female descendant of the Thorburn line, and Rose… actually, I’m not sure about her. As it stands it doesn’t seem like she can use magic at all outside her own enchantment, but that might just be because she’s stuck in the mirrors and there isn’t anything there to awaken with.

          1. Technically it’s the other way around. Rose is the parasite. She’s taking power from Blake.

            I think Blake’s not being a female descendent Thorburn only works against him with regards to the inheritance and Orhers recognizing him for his family’s clout. We’ve seen that when Blake is allowed to recover some of his personal power and Rose stops leeching off him, he’s capable of feats by himself.

            I agree that, as it is now, separating them wouldn’t make them two full separate practitioners. I believe the problem lies with power. If Rose is somehow able to get her own power source and be self sustained, Blake should be allowed to recover his power. This, I believe, would allow both to be separate, full-fledged practitioners.

            In short, they are dividing Blake’s power and need more to be 2 separate practitioners.

    1. I took that connection to represent the manipulation Duncan had done to convince everyone that Blake belonged in the interrogation room. Note that until it was broken, even the lawyer seemed to assume Blake was 100% guilty.

      1. Well the bindings from Blake to the room and his Cell seemed to do that, with the binding between Blake and Dunc keeping Dunc on the case when he shouldn’t have been. The one between Blake and the underside of his chair was the odd one. An extra recording device? Something that’ll come into play in the third loop, maybe?

  19. Ok, so this is Laird’s third attempt at messing with Blake. First one was forwarding him in time a bit. Probably not all that costly, as far as chronomancy goes. The second one was the slow time ring around Blake’s house. In that one he had to expend resources twice, some for the first failed attempt and more to make the second work. He was also careful about that one in that it didn’t target Blake directly, as a direct targeting can apparently backfire. This is attempt number three. Resetting Blake’s day. That has to be costly.

    A win for Laird here will defeat Blake decisively – Blake has so few resources that he couldn’t conceivably recover from this loss. However, the opposite holds true as well. The rule of three works both ways. Losing will have a decisive cost as well. Laird is positioned well enough that he could potentially recover, but the cost of a loss here is going to be big enough that it could knock him down a notch or two. What’s more, Blake should end up in a stronger position than before. Just look at how things stand.

    They’ve invested four time spirits into this venture at least, one of them looking to be Laird’s familiar… just rather worse for wear. I imagine a failed ritual and maintaining the successful one is taking its toll, and the reset spell likely didn’t improve things. Then there’s the reset spell being used – it targets Blake directly. Duncan called out Blake’s name when he finished the spell. Things are apparently desperate enough that they’re willing to risk a backfire. Given the condition of Laird’s familiar, what do you think will happen to it if the next spell backfires? Permanent power loss? Incapacitated for months, maybe years? Death?

    And then there’s whatever Blake might gain from this. I can’t wait for the next chapter.

    1. Hmm. So, this is the third time-spell that they’ve used to screw with Blake, and the third time the police have been dragged into their feud. Can anyone else think of a third set of threes occurring here?

        1. Three threes. They want this to be bad enough that even with using his trump cards Blake can’t recover from it.

      1. Third round of Karmic victories for Blake? The lawyer said responding with the message at the library would be good Karma. Trying to attack a guest (Blake) and messing with someone’s home is probably bad Karma. By the same logic as above, Karmic win for Blake. (And Blake said the retaliation was “right”.) If Blake escapes Duncan fails in his promise to Blake.

    2. Theory: This is the third timeline. The first loop wasn’t shown, but Blake managed to get away, probably because Duncan couldn’t touch him. Hypothesizing this simply because of the “Blake Thorburn” near the start.

      Second loop was shown in the story, Duncan takes more precautions, but Blake manages to get away again. He resets the loop.

      Third loop is what we’re about to see.

      1. “Blake Thorburn, paging Blake Thorburn” was from the Knights of the Basement. Blake called them the night before, they got close enough to give Blake an alibi in loop 1, and Duncan moved to cut off the connection in loop 2. Which led Blake to the “cut and run” tactic.

    3. Might not be Laird’s familiar, might be Duncan’s. Spirits with similar powers probably resemble each other, and Duncan most likely has a time spirit familiar also. Either way, based on the description, it is a less powerful than the one that originally helped set up the time moat.

      1. All four of the spirits involved seem to be time spirits of some sort, but all have quite different appearances. I am thinking it is indeed Laird’s – having personal involvement of a sort makes attacks more effective, just like when the lawyers advised Blake to deliver that letter himself rather than have a proxy do it. The familiar is intimately linked to the practitioner, to the point that it is a part of them.

  20. I feel a little bad for Duncan. Because now he’s not going to have to deal with Blake. He’s going to have to deal with Rose. And I don’t think Rose is as nice as Blake is. And She’s going to be pissed Blake nearly bled himself to death for her.

    1. If it’s any consolation, there’s going to be a big cost to doing something like stopping time around Blake’s house and looping time like that. He’s reset time, including time outside the building. He may well have affected time for the whole planet.

      Time is money, and that shit ain’t cheap, especially all to attack a guy while he was in the middle of recovering the dead body of a lost boy and seeing about putting his spirit to rest.

      Karma can be a bitch for non-diabolists, too. Ain’t that right, Karma? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrwzZzlKbAE

  21. Oh man, I just had a terrible idea.

    Rose needs a body.

    Feorgbold are prepared by cleansing the intended vessel.

    Evan’s body has just gone through an autopsy.

    Is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking?

      1. psh. Those connections can be severed easily, esp. with all the blood Blake’s spouting.

        But yeah, This sort of thing can go really wrong in so many ways it’s not funny. Or rather, it is, but still.

    1. “Is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking?”

      I think so Brain, but where are we going to get enough nacho’s to build a boat?

  22. Happy birthday, Wildbow! I really enjoyed watching Duncan snap and I really hope we’ll get to see the Behaims fail not once, but twice. You don’t normally get that satisfaction multiple times.

  23. Very intense, fun read.
    It’s not that I mind not knowing the rules of magic.
    What I mind not knowing is what is driving the Behaims. Their behaviour is so viciously aggressive it doesn’t make sense…. And they’re so overpowered that given how anti-Blake they’ve been it also doesn’t make sense that they keep giving him outs. He should have been time frozen by now. They should have time frozen his cousin, the first chance they got. Then erased connections so no one remembered her.

    1. Considering the fact that Blake is still alive, I wouldn’t consider the Behaim’s tactics to be overly vicious. If Laird and co was trying to be vicious, they would have had Andy and Eve kill each heir on day 1. Even Laird’s big counterattack equates to “stop the diabolist for a few months until they become ineligible to inherit the nucs nooks nuclear weapons.”

      During the infiltration, Laird said he was basing his moves on predictions of worst case scenarios. While he hasn’t defeated Blake yet, he has avoided pushing Blake to causing disaster.

      Unfortunately, it appears that Duncan isn’t as skilled or smart as Laird. I think Duncan is about to lose. . . Badly

      1. Laird had Molly killed when she failed to be threatening. He has gone comparatively easy on Blake – he hasn’t actually tried to have him killed.

        Laird’s not going easy on Blake out of pity, I think. I think Laird is ‘going easy’ on Blake because it’s the cheapest way to keep his strawman around to manipulate the rest of Jacob’s Bell.

        1. Actually, he’s not going easy on Blake at all. Look at the amount of resources he’s willing to spend on keeping Blake weak and controllable. Remember that Blake has bound two diabolic entities and survived – Laird wants Blake to be a paper tiger, the scary diabolist he can use as a distraction while he positions things so that he can become Lord of Jacob’s Bell. However, if Blake becomes an actual diabolist he’s got serious problems.

          But he can’t kill Blake either – with the house sealed off the next heir is a non-threat. He can’t turn the time ring off without letting them in to get at the books, and he’d get blamed for it if he did. As such, he’s trying to ruin Blake, but he’s paying quite a cost to do it.

    2. Hmmn, so what your saying is that they should have erased them compleatly from existance? Why does that sound familier?

      There may be a few reasons why the Beihams don’t go that far. Maybe it would cost too much power. Or maybe total destruction is something that nets negative Karma. Time freezing someone might actually be cost prohibitive, or too prone to backfiring.

      1. I think that elder Rose forced the hole community to make a few promises before she died. The Behamins are scared of what Rose sr left to get anyone that murders one of her heirs.

        1. Also Laird said he wanted to use the Thorburns as a buffer against Johannes. However that plan seems to have gone out the window when Blake refused to bend over and be the Beiham’s bitch.

  24. This probably counts as the third round in the Thorburn vs. Behaim legal problems match. The Behaims need this to go well for them, no matter what resources they need to commit. If they lose this one they are fucked.

    1. Of course, when they do lose this one, the backlash will be severe precisely because of how many resources they commit. Ah, self fulfilling (pseudo)-prophesies, is there no one you cannot screw over?
      I really want to see someone break the rule of three by just not caring about the third outcome. Of course, that would probably go horribly wrong, but still, would be amusing to witness.

      1. The universe has been watching and absorbed the various keypoints of interaction we fed it over the years in vicious/virtuous cycles.
        A single person who doesn’t care isn’t enough to counterbalance that consensus.

        I’m waiting for Rose to go full Cave Johnson eventually. Hmm, combustible goblin pigeons…

  25. I really hope Rose and Evan slam Dunc. He hasn’t displayed the irritating smugness and confident destructiveness that Laird has, but he’s pissing me off. It was awesome to see Blake using the limited information he’s learned to turn the situation back on the Behaims, who seem far too accustomed to hiding behind their official positions and twisting the system against people they have a problem with.

    I was hoping he’d manage to interfere with Dunc’s attempt to screw him over, but seeing him going for the blood-soaked hail mary and calling Rose in is interesting as well. It does mean that Dunc is essentially faced with a different opponent for this round – someone who thinks differently, has different resources and strengths, and who he may not be ready to predict. I’m not sure what she can do, but I really want to find out.

    On another note, happy birthday to Wildbow and thanks for the fascinating story. You’ve got a real gift for getting me invested in your characters.

    1. He might not be as /smug/ as Laird, but given that he /deliberately used Blake’s trauma against him/ I personally would derive great satisfaction from watching him experience some trauma of his own.

  26. I just had an odd thought about the karma system’s effect on Blake in particular and on diabolists in general.

    Let’s imagine another world. Diabolists are treated like commenters have been suggesting that Blake be treated. When they awaken they are given warnings and education by the local practitioner community as to the severe dangers of their trade to themselves and others. They get a lot of help in return for a lot of oversight on the part of the people giving the help. And when a demon needs to be bound, the community goes to the diabolists, helps them with resources, and rewards them when the demon is bound and sealed. You would still get rogue diabolists who went against the system, but they would be far fewer and would be more likely to get caught.

    Who loses in that scenario? The demons. Most of the demons get bound and sealed rather than being turned loose in revenge or by accident due to bad information and/or lack of resources. Mann, Levinn, and Lewis also get a lot fewer recruits.

    So, when asking why the current karma system is such a screw job for diabolists, maybe it isn’t an accident. Maybe the karma system was manipulated and/or designed by demons to force conflict on the demonologists. Which forces the weaker-willed or just nastier demonologists to summon rather than bind, to use the summoned beings more often, and to release the summoned beings more often (by accident or deliberately). The current system also forces the diabolists to get better fast or enter the law firm (or get dead). And, from the point of view of the law firm, the dead are no loss because they were the weaker and stupider anyway.

    This is also satisfying in a narrative sense, because the “diabolists get screwed by karma” system isn’t just an arbitrary plot element to spur on the characters, it is an integral part of the conflict between demons and the rest of the universe.

    This also ties into Black Lamb’s Blood. The author was suggested reworking the system because of the problems it caused. If I am right, this is indeed the right course – the current system was designed or influenced by demons to help demons, so the current system does need to be reworked.

    Thoughts?

    1. The way I understand it, the karma system is more or less universal and unchangeable (at least by mundane means) whereas what the author of BLB wants to change is the way the awakening ritual (or things related?) works, such that diabolists would be forced to use demons in a way that doesn’t give them such a massive karmic debt.

      1. Weren’t these rules made by Solomon or practioners in the past? Wouldn’t that make the system subject to change? Although it was presumably negotiated with Others, including demons, which would make sense. Given the power Demons have, it would be difficult to set the system against them completely. Changing the awakening ritual may be more likely, unless it too must be changed by negotiation with the Others.

        1. As I understand it, the awakening ritual is the human counterpart to the seal of solomon which are both part of a grand bargain to give order to the magical world. It’s just a contract that everyone who’s anyone has signed, and altering it is as simple (and as complicated) as introducing a new contract and getting everyone to ‘sign’ it.

        2. I don’t think every rule was made at the same time. Solomon was a practitioner, and there were rules back then that the greater powers agreed to long before he came along simply because if they went to war with everything they had it would destroy the world. Once Solomon came along, he got enough powerful Others under his command that he was able to force everyone to agree to new rules that were to humanity’s benefit – basically restricting the degree to which Others were able to mess with non-practitioner humans. The restrictions vary, but they are there.

          Someone would basically need to do what Solomon did if they wanted to add new rules into the mix. What the author of BLB suggests would require that – bind enough powerful demons that they can force the rest of them to agree that they won’t make any deals with practitioners who haven’t met sworn a certain oath or performed a certain ritual.

      2. I think you’re right to say that the karma system is universal, but wrong to say unchangeable. Many things we’ve read about in this system have power because it is believed to have power, and I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty much everything magical was like that in some sense. Too many varied things seem to be dependent on how humans believe, perceive, and act, from validity of execution or the power of threes to the strength of Incarnations and the origins of the barber. It seems to me that the common consensus in some significant way gives power to a rule or truth, and that this is the basis for most of the systems described.

        As a side note, I think the systems are stuck in the Dark Ages or earlier partly because:

        1) A lot of people stopped believing in (giving mythical power to) the systems around the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and possibly even earlier when civilization improved enough to ward off the beings (e.g. plumbing for goblins) and/or humans like Solomon improved human conditions enough.
        2) The beings embody the myths and beliefs of the time in which they were created, and because Others are so long-lived, the vast majority are pretty frickin’ old (and thus embody and give power to older belief systems).

    2. Hmm, I like it. We already know demons are hard at work influencing the ways people think, often in permanent ways, sometimes in subtle ways. We also know what people believe influences the magical laws of the universe. Combine those two and it seems likely that demons have been working to ensure diabolists are persecuted, forcing them to rely on demons and unleash demons for self-preservation, while simultaneously ensuring the people who know the most about demons are both universally hated and few in number.

  27. Now, it seemed, he carried that desire and tenacity forward. It applied, perhaps, to the great unknown that waited beyond.
    Hm. So…June is suffering, Evan is tenacity? Hopefully, that’ll give the kid a better lifespan than most ghosts.

    I knew this was about mind games, tricks, manipulations, to make me look more guilty, or to put me in a position where I’d maybe make a mistake. Just as they’d done when they’d pressured me in terms of my personal space, the very layout of this room.
    Either that won’t get you in any kind of jail-type trouble, or I do not want to make a police officer angry if I visit Canada.

    “Maybe it was a Dungeons and Dragons or Weaver Dice thing…”
    …Instead of building off this, once I finish reading I’ll ctl-f for Weaver Dice and join one of the already-present threads.

    “Can’t let you go, Thorburn,” Behaim said.
    …I don’t know what he’s doing, but I suspect that once I do, I’ll figure out how the Behaims get out of testifying about magic stuff.

    Using that power, he had reset my day, and he’d turned away my chance at victory.
    Okay, maybe not. Still…that’s kinda…um…well, why did Blake keep his memory? Seems like it would be more useful to just rewind the day and have the caster keep his memory, but not the “target” (Blake).
    Also, holy carp the chronomancers are strong.

    Option two… well, I needed help.
    All things had a price. This would be pricy.

    Doesn’t pricey have an e? Also, are you thinking lawyers? I would be.

    “God! What the fuck are you doing?” she asked. She must have turned around, seeing me wiggling my hips left and right with my pelvis pressed against the side of the toilet, because she squeaked, “I don’t want to know!”
    You were right the first time.

  28. “A child, a matron, an older woman, each holding one part of a length of thread.”

    These three. Very interesting we see these three turn up. I think Duncan may have had to pay one hell of a price to get the Moirai here. The Fates, to put it in English. Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. One to spin, one to measure, and one to cut the thread of life.

    They were also combined with another aspect of the triple goddess concept: The Mother, the Maiden, and the Hag. Though in this case, they went with the version of maiden that counts as a young girl. Alternatively, they were combined with the Norns here, who have at least once been depicted as being different ages related to what they do, with Skuld, the representative of the future, also having representing debt.

    I hate to say it, but Blake might need to borrow some misogynistic mythological beings. It’s time to go Old Testament on their ass.

  29. Man, this 5th season of “My Name is Earl” is really edgy this time around, especially with Randy losing weight and getting a sex change. What I don’t understand is why he doesn’t have Joy kicking the Duchamps asses. I think she’s got it in her, since she managed to beat Eric Estrada on the show Estrada or Nada. You know, now that I think about it, Earl did help out a woman wrestler once. That ought to be worth some help here and now.

    It’s ok. He’ll get Crabman to come in there all secret agent style and bust him out.

    1. Either there’s a joke here that I’m not getting, or the reptile has gained +3 insanity points. I’m not quite sure which.

    2. i was waiting for the right opportunity to make a my name is earl joke, probably involving karma’s lack of fists (or demons, or shotguns), well, i guess a man has to make his own opportunities.

  30. I am finding it rather amusing that Wildbow is making a victim out of a guy that is one word away from summoning a demon that is probably powerful enough to create havoc on a biblical scale. He has another demon available to him that is particularly potent against practitioners. He has legitimate reasons for serious anger management problems, and has apparently been abused fairly seriously when he was homeless, making him very shy of close physical contact.

    Blake is one word away from going Marvin the Martian on Earth, and he’s the GOOD guy.

    tips hat to Wildbow

    1. Of course, that begs the question of “why exactly are they screwing with the guy with the nukes who wants to be left alone?” but if the X-men can do it, so can the ‘bow.

  31. My take on Duncan’s time manipulation:

    Since it is now apparent that you can change time, this is probably a many-worlds setup. So the set of futures that included Blake breaking out of Duncan’s trap sent information (Duncan and Blake’s memories) back to the earlier state of the universe. What this does is lower the chance of that particular version of Blake’s breakout happening. All possible events still happen somewhere, but the likelihood of that particular win for Blake has been reduced. If Duncan can lower the likelihood of Blake’s easiest ways out enough, then Blake loses in the majority of futures.

    This averts paradox because there is still a set of possible universes where Blake wins and the information gets sent, but it is now no longer the most probable set of universes.

    Also, there is no “universal rollback”, just information being sent and people making different decisions based on that.

    Ugh, it is hard to think about things this way.

      1. Magic must be consistent, or else it’s just Deus Ex Machina and that’s boring to read. If the magic must be consistent, then we can find a best way of modeling it. And if we can model it, we can spend gratuitous amounts of time predicting what Wildbow will do with it.

        Also you obviously haven’t read Worm. I suggest you do.

        1. Magic has to be consistent in regards to its own rules, but that’s not the same as explaining how every spell works at a mechanical level. So far I see no violations of that. I honestly don’t expect there to be many more time loops past this chapter, and speculation on how backwards time travel works is just a headache because of the whole paradox thing. If Wildbow explains the mechanics then great, but otherwise I’m willing to accept that it’s a magic spell, observe what the actual effects are, and think about what’s going to happen next based on the information I actually have.

          I have read Worm, but I don’t expect Pact to work like Worm. Worm was science fiction, Pact is supernatural fantasy. I have different expectations for what and how things get explained.

  32. Found the quotes I wanted.

    “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.”

    “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.”

    Behaim used up a bunch of power with that ritual, I am fairly sure. he had several familiars or Others helping him with it.

    It also seems as if Behaim made a promise to keep Blake in Custody for the next 24 hours.

    It’s not just Rose that Blake was trying to restore. I believe Blake is trying to make one of two things happen. Either he’s trying to exhaust Behaim by forcing him to cast the time ritual again, or he’s trying to get out of the jailhouse by any means necessary so he can get out of custody in a less police-friendly environment.

    Lots of different ways this could go. Can’t wait fir the next chapter.

    1. Man I just found out about wildbow’s new project and when I catch up to the latest it just has to cut off like this! Aaarrgggg

      Well reading through speculation I see that no ones brought up Conquest and how he might get involved in the current situation. Here we have a Behaim operating in his territory, one that’s interfering with his agent, explicidly preventing him from completing his task. Does this seem like something Conquest can artfully interprets as a challenge?

      Also could an Incarnation maybe detect a power time/fate spell effecting his territory? he gets pretty pissed just when someone messes with the thermostat.

      1. “[Conquest’s] territory” only applies to that TARDISian manse he had the last few times we saw him. He is the Lord of Toronto, yes, but he doesn’t have an innate feel for the entirety of it as a practitioner would with his/her desmesne.

        And if Duncan is saving his trump cards for loop 3, you can bet your sweet hind end Blake’s saving his trump cards for then as well. And barring Conquest’s personal involvement, there’s one doozy of one that Blake has yet to piss off. The Eye of the Storm. It’s not even a demon, so Behaim has no excuse for his behavior.

        1. Blake doesn’t really even have trump cards he’s willing to use. That’s why his plan is to prevent loop 3 from happening.

          As far as the Eye of the Storm goes, I doubt Blake could summon it. It doesn’t know Blake, and has no reason to answer the call. If it did, it would be bad. Remember that the Eye of the Storm is what Conquest sends when he needs something destroyed. Burning down a police station full of people does not seem like a solution Blake would pursue.

        2. The Eye of the Storm is a fire alarm with all the exits blocked. Its rocks fall everyone dies. That’s not an escape spell, even if Blake can summon it. At best its a last desperate fuck you before he dies, or a game of chicken with Duncan’s reset spell. Regardless its something Blake wouldn’t do. If he was going to summon something it would be the Hyena.

          It’s submitted to Blake and is probably reasonably controllable. And it could destroy Duncan’s reset button to boot.

  33. One of my favorite things with this series, Wildbow, is your use (purposefully, or otherwise) of words like “genuinely” and “honestly”, in practicioners’ dialogue to subtly remind us readers, of the importance of truth in dialogue. “They seemed genuinely taken aback that you’d been arrested for the murder of a child,” seems, at first glance, like a throwaway statement just to spread douchebaggery. But “genuinely” caught my eye, and made me reread the sentence, and realize that Duncan was telling the truth about his perception of his friends’ reaction.

    Side note, you share a birthday with my uncle. Cheers! 😀 ❤

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