Subordination 6.5

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We had no allies.  We probably couldn’t even hope for allies.

The people gathered around this spirit-world version of my apartment were silent.

Damn it all.

I’d known we’d be against ugly odds, especially since I was foregoing allies for the chance to subvert Conquest, to steal his assets out from under him.  He had the muscle, he had numbers, and he had… very possibly centuries of experience.

I’d known that, but I’d gone ahead anyway.  I’d counted on being more indirect.  Fell had demonstrated an ability to avoid notice, some kind of enchantment.  Evan was good at escaping.  Rose was… well, she existed on level that was one step removed from reality.  She might very well be hard to pin down.  I had the Knights and my cabal to back me up.

I figured we could work around Conquest’s muscle, maybe rally some help, and attack from some oblique angle.

That didn’t work if all of the potential help was just as against me as Conquest was.

“You sided with me,” I told Fell.  “Knowing this?”

“I think you know why.”

“You had no other choice,” I said.

“No.  The others don’t see the full effect of what it’s done to me and my family, being enslaved, they don’t pay too much attention to it,” Fell said.  “Yeah… I had no other choice, not really.”

“Sorry,” I said.

He shrugged.  He stood up and crossed the room, looking out the window.

My eye swept over the apartment.  Not everything was in place.  It was almost as if it had stepped back in time a little, my belongings scattered much as they might have been after the cops ransacked the place.  There were other spots where it looked like it had aged, where the paint peeled and the carpet was grungier at the points where it met the wall, cleaner towards the center.  The simple contrast between clean and dirty made for starker contrasts.

My eye fell on the table.  The sword lay in the middle of it.  Ugly, unwieldy, painful to hold, and bearing the Hyena’s features on the hilt and pommel.

“Evan,” I said.  “When I took the Hyena, I did it to take it away from Conquest.”

“I thought you got it.”

“I did.  He’s caught.  And I don’t have plans to do anything with it that will let it go back to doing what it was doing.”

“But it can get free again?”

“Theoretically, but only if given permission.  He’s a dog on a leash now,” I said.  “I’d rather we held the leash, instead of Conquest holding it.”

“I don’t like it.”

“I know.  It’s honestly a little scary for me, too.  But it beats the alternatives.  Make you a deal?”

“What?”

“I won’t unbind the Hyena without your say so.”

“Hmm…” Evan said.

“Don’t make that decision too quickly,” A woman’s voice.  I turned my head to see Rose in the wall-mounted mirrors.

“You’re back.”

“I’m back,” Rose said.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Evan asked.

“Blake made me a similar offer, before.  A few times, really.  Promised to take my counsel.  To give me a chance to offer my input, to decide before he went ahead with anything big.  Do you know how many times he’s actually followed through?”

“That’s not fair,” I said.

“I agree,” Rose said.  “It isn’t fair.  You got a familiar, you got your… circle thing.”

“Cabal,” Fell said.

“Yeah.  Cabal.  Adding more fuel to the fire.  Inquisitors, even.”

“To be fair,” Ty said.  “They say nobody expects the Inquisition.”

“We could forestall trouble by telling them that Alexis and Ty have sworn not to touch the diabolism stuff.”

“I’m just sort of wondering what we’re here for,” Alexis said.

“I know,” I said.  “We’re going to hash that out.  It means more to me than I can say, that I have you here.  Really.”

“You could forestall trouble,” Rose said, “Or maybe they play it safe, you guys go to sleep one night, and you don’t wake up.”

“That seems sketchy,” I said.

“Because everything else here has really been on the up and up, hasn’t it?”

I leaned forward, leaning over the table.  “If it’s a problem, I’m not going to assert any kind of control over them.  Maybe that makes it less of a cabal and more of a circle that has a sort-of-a-diabolist guy as a member.”

“Two sort-of-diabolists, if you count me,” Rose said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Though you don’t really fit the definition.  You haven’t done anything.  You sat out for the imp thing.”

If I maybe made that a bit of a barb, the fact that she’d been so useless, it was because I felt a little bit cornered and a lot betrayed after the lengths I’d just gone to in order to free her.  She was undermining me more than she was helping.

“I’m more of a Thorburn than you are,” Rose said.

I’d been poised to reply, to fight back.  That caught me off guard that I mentally stumbled.

“Be careful you don’t lie,” I said.

It came across as a little wimpy.

“The diabolist of the Thorburn line is supposed to be a woman, or a girl,” Rose said.  “Who got the voice?  Who gets the respect, of the two of us?  You want to talk more abstract points?  I stuck with the family, for better or worse.  I don’t even know how much was intentional, but in my recollection of the conversation with Grandmother, talking with her on her deathbed?  She pretty heavily implied that she wanted us to fight tooth and nail.  But you left.”

“You’re blaming him?” Alexis asked.

“No.  I’m just saying, I’m the girl that’s stuck in the mirrors while Blake’s flesh and blood, but I’m pretty confident when I say that I’m more Thorburn than he is.  He left the family, I remained a part of it.  But that doesn’t mean, Evan, Alexis, that he didn’t take something away from it.  He can apparently be as manipulative as any of them.”

“I don’t agree,” I said, “and maybe this is the sort of thing we should discuss in private.  It’s not really relevant.”

“It’s very relevant,” Rose said.

“To this.  To the fight against Conquest,” I said.

“Ah,” she said.  “Can’t say for sure.  I’m going to go get more books and tools, or I won’t be so useful as one of your champions.  I only want the rest of you to think twice before you accept an offer like that.  What was it he said?  Actions matter more than words?”

“That wasn’t the context,” I said.

But she was already gone.

I leaned back, sitting a bit straighter, and sighed.  “Fuck me.”

“She’s you if you were a girl, huh?” Alexis asked.

Apparently.

“Female you is kind of a bitch,” she said.

I didn’t have a response.  I didn’t want to just slap a convenient label on Rose and demonize her.  I’d had that done to me often enough, even in the past few days.

“Just what happened to her, in Conquest’s realm?”  I asked.

“She already explained,” Fell said.  “Conquest made her do what he wanted.”

“Which was?”

“Which was inconsequential, really.  The part you should be focusing on is the fact that the Lord of Toronto made her act what he wished.  He bent her will to his and took all volition from her.”

I felt ugly feelings stir at the idea, and pushed them away, along with the images that accompanied them.

“He’s done the same to you?” I asked.

“He’s done it to me, my family, my father’s family, my grandfather’s family.  He’s done it to others, and when they broke, he tossed them away.  If and when you lose this contest of yours, he’ll do it to you.”

“If I win, I’ll earn the wrath of every local.”

“Yes,” he said.

I nodded.

“There’s no tidy, neat way to do this,” I said.  “So we’re going to do it in an untidy way.  Alexis, you’ve asked a few times, you deserve more of an answer.  You want to know why you’re here, and not one of the champions?”

“I think I kind of understand.”

“Having contact with you guys helps me.  I don’t need you to be a champion to do that.  I don’t want you, Ty or Tiff to be in the line of fire.”

“What do we do, then?”

“I don’t know how long this is going to take.  It could be over in hours, it could take a few days-”

“Faster than shorter,” Fell said.  He still stood by the window.  I’d only managed to get one light working in the kitchen, and the light from the window was all we had.  It was good, enough to make faces visible, but his presence by the window cast a shadow over everything.  He added, “Conquest prefers short, one-sided fights over long, drawn-out ones.”

“Okay.  Thanks, that’s useful.  Changes it up, then,” I said.  “I was going to say Alexis, Ty and Tiff could set up spaces for us to retreat to, places to sleep, acquire food.  Novice or not, you guys can still draw defensive circles.  But if this is going to be fast… think less about food and sleep, more about the defenses.  The knights lent us a book.”

“I have it,” Ty said.

“Good,” I said.  “We can’t fight them head on.  It’s suicidal.  What we’re going to do is split up.  Rose can find and communicate with our different groups.  We keep moving, we communicate, and we share our assets.”

There were nods around the table.

“Ty, Tiff, Alexis, I’m going to try to stay close to you.  I can’t move very fast or very far, really.  Fell?  Can you do something about their ability to track us?”

Hiding is hard.  Costly.  It’s a lot of people to protect, and there are a lot of forces arrayed against us.  Each one needs different countermeasures, or we take one measure that covers all the bases.”

I nodded.  “What if we don’t hide?”

“What are you thinking?”

“Distractions.  Misdirection.”

“Yeah.  I can work on something.”

I nodded.  “Knights?”

“We’re sitting this one out,” Nick said.

No.  I was short enough on allies as it was.  “I’m not asking for you to fight.  Only that you maybe help my circle get around.  A ride here and there.”

“It’s too close to the fighting,” Nick said.  “I’m sorry.  I told you from the beginning that we couldn’t and we wouldn’t.  We’ve already pushed it.”

I winced.  “Can’t really stop you.”

“Probably could,” Nick said.  He extended a hand.  “Thanks for not making a fuss.”

I reached out and shook it.

They took a moment to grab their jackets.  In another moment, they were gone.

That hurt.  I understood, but it hurt.

“Your friend just replied to the internet message,” Fell said.  “You’ve convinced her.  She’s got to get her things, sneak out, and she’ll be here soon.”

I exhaled.  We got Maggie.

‘Soon’, however, translated to one hour at a minimum.

I looked for a clock and saw it lying on the ground, not mounted in its usual place.

That meant we had a bit of time to prepare, the better part of an hour to endure the hostilities and contest, and then we had Maggie.

Maggie wasn’t a big gun, unfortunately.

It wouldn’t be a game changer.

“Okay,” I said.  “Everyone has a weapon?”

Nods all around.

“Do we need anything before we move?”

“Access to that toolbox,” Fell said.

“Go for it.”

He did, opening it.  He lifted off the top half to check the bottom.

“And, since I’m not seeing them in here, I need scissors,” Fell said, rummaging.

I fished in the kitchen drawers.  All disorganized.  As if my apartment had been taken apart, destroyed, and then put back together and cleaned, with an emphasis on sentimentality and how frequently I used things.

I had five pairs of scissors and they were all at the very bottom of the drawer,

I handed him my best pair.  He’d already laid a hammer and some nails aside.

“Stand still,” he said.

He snipped off a lock of hair.

He proceeded to grab one of my dining room chairs by the back, lift it overhead and dash it to pieces.

Not the real chair, the spirit-world equivalent.  Cheap stuff from a furniture store where the stuff had unpronounceable names.

It still grated.

“Burning off nervous energy?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  He grabbed the hammer and nails.

No further explanation.  He was helping, but we weren’t buddy-buddy.

One long piece of wood, propped against the wall.  He used duct tape to stick the lock of hair to the top.

One horizontal bar, a third of the way down, nailed in place with two deft strikes of the hammer.

Another, at the base, to help keep the thing balanced.

He drew some powder from his pocket, and drew a series of solid lines, forming a triangle around the thing.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It…” Fell said, licking his thumb, then dragging it across the hardwood floor, “is a distraction.”

I could sense the connection shift, and I saw facsimile connections appearing between it and my friends.

Fell’s back blocked my view of the stick thing.  When he was out of my way, I saw a Blake Thorburn sitting inside the powdery pyramid.  He was so beaten-down that I almost expected to see fraying around the edges of his clothes.  He had circles under his eyes, stubble on his chin, and the lines of his face and neck were more defined than they should have been.

His blond hair was almost long enough to cover his eyes, and the only reason it wasn’t was the natural wave, but it was dirty, and it did the same thing my hair did when it was the least bit greasy, twisting away from my head in fat curls.

He looked like I imagined myself looking when I thought of the times I’d been homeless.  If I’d been walking down the street and I saw him sitting on a flattened cardboard box, I wouldn’t have thought twice about him.  Except for the looking like me thing.

I reached up and touched the part of my head where his hair curled.  I felt the hair there, where it had sprung out of place.

“I really look like that?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Alexis said.  “Wow, that’s creepy.  Does it have to stare off into space?”

“It’s a bit of wood from a chair, not a person,” Fell said.  “Yeah, it does.”

It was me if I were brain dead, maybe.  Sitting with one back against the wall.

“Can we do something with it?” I asked.

“We could,” Fell said.

“Booby trap it?”  I asked.

“How?  I’m not really a shaman, and I don’t want anything like fire or explosions to burn down your apartment.”

This version of my apartment, you mean?”

“Yeah.”

“Why not?”

“What happens here happens there.”

Meaning it would be fire or an explosion of sorts in my apartment.

“Something nonlethal?” I asked.

He rubbed his chin.  “Okay.  Let me think… do you have ribbon?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Let me figure out where.”

It took only a minute to find.  Colored birthday ribbons were sitting in the bottom half of my toolbox.

He unfurled a bit, then handed it to me.  “Tie it to the biggest, most inconvenient object you think you could carry.  Tie it securely, so they can’t untie it, or break whatever it is you’ve tied it to.”

I headed straight for the kitchen.

Stove?  Dishwasher?  Too big, too heavy.

Fridge?

They were options, but there wasn’t anything I could tie the cord to.  The handle on the stove door was loose, and the fridge handle was recessed into the side of the door.  The hinge… it was such a reach I wouldn’t be able to get more than the simplest knot on it.

The microwave, though, was closer.

One loop of cord going vertically around the microwave, another going horizontal.

I tied it firmly.

By the time I was done, Fell was entering the kitchen, scuffing the floor with one toe.  Where he scuffed at the ribbon, it effectively disappeared.  The part I could see stuck out from the gaps in the tile as if the tile had been laid out over the ribbon.

“Neat trick,” I said.

He used his fingers on the part of the ribbon that stretched up to the microwave, turning it until I was looking straight on at the thinnest side.  When he was done, he threw powder at the microwave itself.

“What does this do?” I asked.

“One circle around the effigy, one snare around that.  If they get close enough, the snare will attach to them,” Fell said.  He led the way back into the dining room.

I felt a little creeped out, looking at my double.

Sure enough, words were written on the hardwood.  Simple ones in a foreign language.

“The words?”

“Conditions,” Fell said.

“To?”

“It doesn’t matter.  Don’t touch.”

Fell headed to the front door of the apartment.  I heard the closet door slide open.  A little rougher than the sound I was used to.

Alexis was writing on the same pad of paper I’d used to write up the contract with the imp.  I looked over her shoulder, and saw that she was copying the wording Fell had used for the inscription on the floor.

She explained, “He told me it would bind the person to the object on the far end of the ribbon.  The snare releases them only so long as they carry the object on the other side.  If they put it down, the snare seizes them again.”

I considered it.  I could imagine Laird lugging a microwave around.

“Like I said before,” I commented.  “I do respect Fell, even if I don’t always like him.”

“I might say the same of you,” Fell commented.

“Thank you,” I replied.

Might.

I winced.  I’d walked into that.

“If it helps,” Tiff spoke up for the first time since we’d walked into the apartment.  “I respect you, and I like you too.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Yeah,” Alexis said.  “I respect and like you too.  Let’s keep it that way?”

“Please,” I said.  I turned to address the room.  “Alright.  Let’s go!  Get your stuff!”

I grabbed three mirror-shards off the wall, pocketed them, then got the goblin-sword and imp-book.  The imp-book went in my backpack, along with the bottle and a few of the other stuff.

Leave the creepy Blake-doppelganger alone.

Don’t think too hard about why it bothers you so much.

Fell walked through my apartment with boots on, still wet from being outside, not long ago.  He collected the wood from the destroyed chair, using the pieces to fill a trash can, deposited hammer, scissors and nails within, then left the apartment with the can under his arm, not even waiting for us.

We were still only a few steps behind him.

The elevators were out of order, so we used the stairs.  Tough for me, but doable.

I did feel better, having Alexis and Ty close.  I felt stronger, I was bouncing back… it still sucked, but it could have sucked more.  I could be faceplanting like I had outside the factory.

Better or not, I still needed to stop partway down.

Rose appeared in the reflection of the door.

I turned to Ty, who was helping to support me and make sure I didn’t fall down.

“Go ahead,” I told him.

“You sure?”

“Need a private word with Rose, I’ll be right out.”

He nodded.

“You too, Evan.”

“I can’t fly that far away.”

“I know.  Just… out of earshot, please.”

“‘Kay.”

A flutter, and Evan was gone.  Sometimes he flew so gracefully, and then there were times like this, where he’d start flying, then flutter violently to reorient himself before he could hit a wall, fly a bit until he was out of sight, below us, followed by another audible flutter.

“You okay?” I asked Rose.

“Not really.”

I nodded.  “I’m sorry.”

“I need actions, not words.  I’m sorry too, but I need reparations.”

“What do you need?  I freed you.  That has to count for something.”

“I was only caught because of you.  I’ve seen you go out of your way to try to balance the scales with your friends, with the bystander that gave you a ride to Jacob’s Bell.  Always fair.”

“Yeah.”

“Why does it feel like you and I aren’t balanced?  Like I’m the only person you’re not trying to balance the scales with?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Yeah. I don’t know either.  You’re not denying it seems that way?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Well, keep it in mind, maybe.  Weigh it in your head, and if and when you feel you’re sorry enough to act on it, that’d be cool.”

I nodded.

“You should go.  It’s almost time, and you don’t want to be near the apartment when this contest starts.”

I nodded.  “Are we okay?  As a unit?  A pair?”

“No.  Third time’s a charm, remember?  This is the third major time you’ve undercut me when I was helpless to fight back, and it’s making it really hard for us to be allies, Blake.”

“But we’re allies?”

“Yeah.  I really don’t want to be enemies.”

“Do you think that’s in the cards?”

“I worry that it has been from the start.”

“We did pretty damn good going up against the abstract demon.  We didn’t win, but, I mean, fuck me, we could have done a whole lot worse.”

“Yeah.”

“Why can’t we work together like that again?”

“We can try.”

So many noncommittal answers.

“Communicate with me,” I said, my voice low.  “There’s no way we can fix this if you’re leaving stuff out.  I’ve… I know I’ve maybe shortchanged you here and there.  And it’s not equitable, but I’ve consistently tried to be…”

I grasped for a word.

Honest would be pushing it.

“…Straightforward.  To act in our mutual interests,” I said.

“Sure,” Rose said, with a tone that was unreadable.

“You’re not being straightforward.  What aren’t you telling me?”

“It’s… complicated.”

“What is?”

“Conquest.  While he had me, he made me tell him everything I didn’t want him to know.”

“You told him about the books.”

“Yes.  And when he ordered me to, I brought them to him.  He would have made me summon something.”

“The contest here stopped him, right?  You got the books back?”

“I did, but this only stalled him.  If he wins, he gets you, and he gets access to the books all the same.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“Blake, there was more.  I told him other things.”

“Blake!”  A shout from further down the stairs.

“Trouble?” I called down.

“No.  But don’t take too long!”

I started to head down the stairs.  I grabbed a mirror from my pocket and held it for Rose.

I was down half a flight before Rose spoke again.

“I told him your weaknesses.”

Balls, balls, balls.

“You explained how I don’t like physical contact.”

“I explained a lot of things, Blake.”

“My patterns?  Habits?  Mindset?”

“Blake,” Rose said.

“What did you tell him?”  I asked.

“I’d explain, but I’m really, really worried that if I brought it up here, you’d either never forgive me, or it’d affect your mind and emotions, and fuck you up in this thing that’s happening right now.”

What did you tell him!?

My voice rang through the stairwell, echoing off the walls.

“I- I speculated.  I told him things that I wasn’t sure on, about why you were the way you were, on a lot of levels.  The fact that you don’t like being touched was a part of it.”

There they were.  The dark, ugly emotions, settled in the pit of my stomach.

The betrayal was a new one, separate.

I didn’t blame Rose for telling Conquest.

Or maybe I did.  Maybe I would be lying if I’d said I didn’t blame her out loud.

But I didn’t blame her that much.  I couldn’t say until I experienced it for myself, but a part of me wondered if she could have resisted more.  And I knew that was horribly unfair.

No, it was that she hadn’t been upfront about it.  That she’d felt like she couldn’t tell me.

That was the part that really got to me.  That she could very well have let me walk into this without my eyes open, for Conquest to hit me with some custom-made flavor of fuckery, all of the horror and madness that an incarnation of Conquest could bring to bear, designed specifically for me.

I was a flawed person.  I knew it.  Had someone asked before all this started, I would have admitted it.  But one of the places I felt most flawed, one of the least comfortable things for me to admit, was just how weak I was at my core.  Some people could turn to the ugly incidents in their past and find a kind of strength there.  An anger to drive them forward.

When I touched that part of myself, even around the edges, I almost always felt like all the strength went out of me.

I wanted to be angry enough for it to matter.  I drew my arm back, ready to throw the mirror, gripping it so hard that the sharp edges bit into the meat of my fingers.

I stopped there, lowering my arm.

The tension went out of me, the feelings remained.  My arm hung limp at my side.

“Blake!” a voice from below.  Ty, I was pretty sure.  “We need to move!”

Rose had wanted equity.  For the scales to be balanced, and me to make the effort.

Fine.

She was angry at me, too.  She felt betrayed.  I kept moving forward without her, and she was there, stuck in reflections.  She was struggling to deal, but she was playing ball.  Mostly.

I could do the same.  Or I could try.

I was breathing hard, and my body wasn’t in good enough shape to handle the anger well.  I was like an old man, my body going well before my mind did.  Or maybe I was like a demented old man.  Body and mind going, and all there was was the confusion, the anger.

Fuck.

The others were in sight, half a flight below me, when I spoke.  “Rose?”

“Yeah?”

“We’re going to set up a spot we can defend and regroup at, then split up.  Are you okay with coordinating?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Thank you.  You can move faster than any of us, so do what you can to keep an eye on things.”

“I can do that.”

“Thank you,” I said.

We left it at that, by some mutual agreement.

The others were gathered in the building lobby as I descended.  Evan made his way to my shoulder.

“Ghosts across the street,” Fell said.

“What does that mean?”  I asked.

“The Shepherd fosters psychic echoes in an area around him.  Rouses things that have gone still, for one last action.  He’s close.”

“Will he come alone?” I asked.

“Usually.  But with Conquest giving orders?  I wouldn’t guarantee it,” Fell said.  “We should go.”

“Not complaining,” I said.

“Too many of us for one car,” Ty said, “Unless people want to ride in the trunk.”

“Knights were our rides,” Alexis said.

Losing them sucked.

“Does anyone feel brave?”  I asked.

“You mean suicidal?” Alexis asked.  “I know exactly what you’re thinking.”

“You should say think you know,” Tiff said, her voice small.  She wasn’t so confident in the midst of the group.  “Be careful.”

“No,” Alexis said, meeting my eyes.  “I know.”

Holy hell, I’d needed this.

My friends were one thing, a connection to me.  Like ties that bound me to the rest of the world.

This was another.  When I was miserable, when I wanted escape, or relief, or if I wanted to stop doing something and do something else entirely, this was my go-to.

An escape to myself.  My escape from myself, too, if I needed it to be.

The light snow covering on the roads flew behind me as my bike tore down the dimly lit city street.  There were no lights in the windows.  Only the moon above, filtering through the fog, the dim glow of white snow catching the reflected light.

I saw not by the light, but by the dark.  The road was only a yawning stretch of black speckled by white.  My eyes scanned the surface, watching for any dark areas without a faint covering of snow.

Riding in winter wasn’t the hardest thing in the world.  If the roads were mostly clear, then it wasn’t impossible.  The big concern, inevitably, was the other drivers.  People were stupid, people in winter conditions were stupider, and the guy on the bike was the guy who got the short end of the stick in those cases.

Here, at least, there were no other drivers.  The roads were empty, the sidewalks mostly clear.  No pedestrians running out from in between parked cars.  No being cut off.

Tiffany was riding behind me.  It wasn’t the romantic sort of ride she’d maybe anticipated.  I’d told her that she couldn’t wrap her arms around me, so she leaned back instead, holding the bars behind her seat.  I suspected she’d come with me to avoid having to be with the crowd in the car.  I also suspected she was regretting the decision.

Evan, for his part, was tucked into the ‘v’ where my coat’s zipper parted at the collarbone.  He periodically screamed something that might have been spelled with a few dozen letter ‘A’s, lost in the rush of wind and noise of my bike, and periodically laughed, a noise that was easier to make out.

I was cold, tense, and I knew I wasn’t as strong or coordinated as I could have been.  Visibility could have been better, with the mist and the snowfall.

But every second I was on the bike was a second I felt better, recharging my personal batteries, leaving my argument with Rose and the tensions of the night well behind me.

I accelerated, and I felt myself feeling better faster.  I heard the engine’s volume increase, felt the bike beneath me, reacting.

I was leaving the others behind.  Rather than slow down, I zig-zagged from one side of the street to the other, tentative at first, then a little more aggressive, reminding myself of how the bike handled, how it handled with a passenger, and getting a feel for the road, all at the same time.

Getting closer to the sidewalk, I saw the ghosts.  Greater and greater numbers.

The Shepherd was closing in.

One in the middle of the street, blocking my way.

I gave it as wide a berth as possible.  A quick glance, then I rode up on the sidewalk.

It lunged for me.  Flickered, crossed a distance far greater than it should have.  An exaggeration of what the person who’d hit him must have experienced.  A misjudgment of distance.

A moment later, I heard a loud crash.  I slowed, glancing over one shoulder.

He’d reversed directions, throwing himself into the car with the others.  The windshield was cracked, the hood dented, the ghost gone.

With every passing second, there were more ghosts on the sidewalks.  More psychic echoes.  A few were lingering images that seemed to trail after the gaps in the mist.  Echoes in the process of being engraved on the fabric of reality.  The most miserable, angry, lost individuals.  People who might only need a push to leave a mark behind, a ghost.

The way the numbers were increasing, I took it to be a sign.  We were moving straight toward the Shepherd.

I saw a car on the road, meandering.  A psychic echo of a vehicle.

If it was anything like the ghost who’d thrown itself into Fell’s car, I didn’t trust my ability to avoid getting hit.

I flashed my blinkers, signalling for good measure, my arm bent at a right angle, hand up.

I turned.  Going the wrong way down a one-way street.

Had to lead us further away from the Shepherd.

It wasn’t the Shepherd that made the first appearance.

A dark silhouette, easily six feet tall, broad at the shoulders, dressed in rags.

The Eye.  Given birth in the 1904 fire of Toronto, a reminder to man that the elements weren’t entirely under our control.

It raised its arms, and I saw reality distort.  A glimmer of light, an artificial Aurora Borealis.

The lights, however, weren’t any natural effect.  They were very real city lights.  A bright flash lit up the space behind him, showing just how wide the effect was opening.

There weren’t many lights on in this spirit world.

We weren’t looking at the spirit world.

I slowed, pulling a U-turn to put the Eye behind me.

The bright flash behind him only got brighter.  Headlights.  Multiple sets.

I was looking over my shoulder, and my focus was partially on getting the bike moving away from him without toppling or driving straight into one of the larger potholes.  I didn’t see exactly what happened next.

The collision, however, put the impact of one human body against Fell’s car to shame.  It was easily two or three hundred feet away, but I could feel it like a punch in the gut, a noise and vibration that momentarily tore my thoughts from my brain.

The aftermath wasn’t much prettier.  One car, virtually airborne, followed by chunks big enough to dash my brains in, flipped halfway-over in midair, then hit the road, roof-first.

No illusions about what might have happened to the person inside.

The other car squealed, fishtailing before running up and over a bike rack that was bolted to the sidewalk, half-turning to skid back onto the road.

Another flash, like a stroke of lightning, except this flash, too, was headlights.  Not from behind the Eye, this time.

A squeal, and a car, coming the opposite direction, hit the car that had run over the bike rack.

I saw flickers, brief psychic echoes of pedestrians who had been hit.

The gap yawned larger, and I could see the people on the other side.  I could hear the screams, shouts of alarm.  See people running towards the three-car pileup.

Oblivious to the Eye, who walked down the length of the road.

Approaching the second crashed car.

It might have been the least damaged of all the cars.  The bike rack had gutted it, torn into the underbelly.  It would need work, but…

…But the Eye was moving toward it with purpose.

“Off, Tiff!” I shouted.

“What?”

“Get off!  Now!”

Rather gracelessly, I pushed her to get her off faster, simultaneously turning myself around for the second time in ten seconds.  Back toward the Eye.

“Evan, clear the way!”

He said something, but I didn’t hear it over the sound of the engine coming to life.

I saw him circle, and pointed.  Used my arm to point, so there was no doubt.

The bike soared toward the crashed cars and the Eye.

My eyes roved over the scene, trying to see the very real woman who was in the driver’s seat, trying and failing to open the door.

As I got closer, I could see the pedestrians.  Evan flew through them, darting left, then right, and pushed them to the side with the weight of a small boy, the speed of an unladen sparrow.

I rode onto the sidewalk, shifting to a one-handed grip, letting go of the clutch.

No way this would work.

No.

The Eye didn’t give me a chance for a sudden rescue.  He touched the car before I could grab the driver and pull her out of the window.

The gutted underbelly had leaked gas, against all odds, and the Eye had ignited it.

The rolling eruption of flame knocked me over.  I could hear the screams.  The driver and many of the bystanders who’d tried to help were caught, and onlookers experienced pain of another sort.  Horror.

Another small eruption, the car rocking to one side, partially rolling over.

I tried to get to my feet and failed.  I was stronger than I had been, but that didn’t count for much.

No.  It wasn’t pure coincidence, that second eruption.

The Eye was in the midst of the flame, wading through, using one hand to push at the flaming vehicle, rolling it out of the way.

He was coming for me.

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328 thoughts on “Subordination 6.5

    1. gamechanger
      usually game changer or game-changer

      ehavy
      heavy

      packpack
      backpack

      doppleganger
      doppelganger

      misjudgement
      misjudgment

      signalling
      signaling

      Scissors
      scissors

      It was me if I was brain dead, maybe.
      It was me if I were brain dead, maybe.

        1. I’m glad scissors was incorrectly capitalized. My heart stopped for a moment when I thought you were talking about Barbatorem.

      1. “Faster than shorter,” Fell said.- huh?

        His blond hair was almost long enough to cover his eyes, and the only reason it wasn’t was the natural wave, -didn’t

        Sitting with one back against the wall. -is more than one back possible?

        Histories 4 is mislabeled. It should be Histories 3.

        1. I think the Histories chapters correspond with the arc they ate featured in, not numbered chronologically.

      2. That caught me off guard that I mentally stumbled.
        -so off guard that, off guard so, off guard so that

    2. Sentence below ended with a comma:
      “at the very bottom of the drawer,”

      Perhaps “one” below should be “my”:
      “Sitting with one back against the wall.”

    3. Rose was… well, she existed on level that was one step removed from reality.
      That should be “on a level”

    4. ” artificial Aurora Borealis.

      The lights, however, weren’t any natural effect. They were very real city”

      This is a bit confusing as to what Blake is getting at- calling them artificial would already imply non-natural… maybe say “supernatural” effect?

    5. she existed on level –> on a level

      “I won’t unbind the Hyena without your say so. –> without your permission? without your saying so?

      Also 2 MONTY PYTHON REFERENCES

    1. Probably. What’s weird is that Wildbow seems to avoid brand names for that or Facebook, but mentionned Canadian Tire in the chapter where they were planning for ErasUrr.

      1. I think it’s because Canadian stuff gives a sense of ambiance but fb and ikea would seem intrusive, but maybe that’s just me.

        1. It also serves as protection against the work becoming dated. Hardly seems likely Facebook would fade away, but it wasn’t long ago we would’ve said the same about MySpace…

      2. I noticed that with the Starbucks in the first chapter as well. Presumably to shy away from immersion breaks.

  1. You know, in retrospect, given that 2 of Conquest’s champions are associated with the element of fire, it’s probably for the best that Fell didn’t end up using a firetrap. I’m sure by the end of this arc, they’ll all be absolutely tired of that element.

    Also, still squeeing over the idea of Maggie showing back up soon. Maybe this’ll even her karmic balance with Blake a bit. I so adore her. =3

  2. It’s depressing how many female characters are bitchy and rude for no real reason.

    “Hey, I was just forced to betray Blake. Why don’t I insult and weaken him because I feel a bit insecure. It’s not like he needs every drip of strength for the fight ahead, he’ll be fine.”

      1. To allies? I haven’t seen that much. And not to the point of being detrimental to his survival. He can hold it in when necessary. As he did with Maggie say.

        1. Yeah, to allies. He’s unthinkingly manipulative and refuses to share his plans beforehand, forcing his allies to go along with them because he only reveals them in moments of high stress and goes “yes or no?” He’s not the best ally to have.

          1. Given that Rose, his major ally, was subverted by Conquest, that was a necessary and logical step for survival. He has shared plans anyway, though much of the time he’s forced to make it up as he goes along.

            1. It’s a pattern that has shown in his behavior with and without Rose. He didn’t tell his friends about his plan to declare war on Conquest, which was, you know, something immediately relevant to them and put them in a position of risk.

            2. I’m not entirely sure he had a consistent plan, and he was incredibly busy in this fast paced story.

            3. He had an entire damned car ride, where he presumably composed his strategy. What he ended up going for was way too intricate for him to come up with on the spot.

            4. Possibly, or he made a variety of plans that could work depending on the circumstances.

              Their excessive business meant they had little time for planning those sorts of things. Besides which, revealing his plan in front of a knight would be a bad idea- conquest could then torture the knight to get that information.

            5. Blake has no reason to think that Conquest could capture and torture a Knight for information with any more ease than he could capture and torture Blake for his defiance-actually, it would be harder, because the Knights have a support structure of experienced practitioners.

              There’s still no reason he couldn’t have given them a short summary of what to be ready for. Blake goes “trust me” and then jumps off a cliff. Sure, it seems badass…until you look at it from the point of view of the people that are supposed to be trusting him.

            6. Since he did effectively capture and torture Blake (he captured Rose, an extension of him) I doubt he thinks it is hugely hard to capture him. Their support network isn’t that effective, and they do regularly ask him to not get them too involved.

              He does regularly share plans with people, like when he was dealing with the eraser demon, or planning to overturn conquest. Plans he makes public don’t tend to go too well though.

          2. doesn’t seem like hes ever really planned ahead enough to share any earlier than he does. the plan more or less didn’t exist until about 20 seconds before he said “yes or no?”
            where as female him comes off as a bitch rather than reckless or impulsive

            1. I think part of the reason Rose often comes across that way is that, because of her circumstance there’s very little she actually can do beyond offer advice. She doesn’t have the opportunity Blake does to demonstrate that her ideas have merit so it often comes across as critical back-seat driving.

              Which it is, because that’s the only way she can drive.

      1. She implied he broke a promise to her, right before a fight where he said he needed all the strength he could get. Men in stories don’t tend to get such retarded characterization, bitching in a suicidal way.

        1. I don’t see it as that, and from the characterization in Worm, I don’t think that’s the extent of Rose’s character. Also, the “bitch” archetype exists for a reason. While it’s not necessarily a good label for women, it is a character many seem to be, at least on the surface level. What I meant by her being a Thorburn is that she played Grandma Rose’s game. She, unlike Blake, was not above the backstabbing and manipulation. It is not her fault as a character, and she has expressed regret for it in the past, though it is likely something she will maintain for a majority of Pact.

          1. She may have hidden depths but we sadly rarely see those hidden depths. We see her info dumping a lot, we see her complaining that Blake is a horrible person a lot, but we sadly rarely see her inner personality, sense of humor, all the things that make a character fun to read about.

            Since she is rude quite regularly, she isn’t a very good backstabber. You’re supposed to maintain a veneer of respectability till you pull out the knives, not act in such a way that people suspect you’re going to be the big bad.

            1. I am too, but mostly because I am curious about the scheming of Blake’s granny, not because I am interested in her as a character.

      2. “I’More Thorburn than you” I read that and I thought “Rose considering the shit your in is all because your Thorburns, That is not a good thing.” Seven generations of Karmic debt, no allies, entire world wanting to kill you, Demons… Yeah I think you need to be less Thorburn.

    1. Being forced to act against your will is something that will get you though… I don’t really think you can blame Rose for not being herself at this very moment.

      1. She has been bitching pretty much constantly from day one. If she’s not herself right now, shes not showing it.
        I’m still suspecting her to be slowing blake down every step of the way on purpose.

      1. I rarely see men in stories whose bitching is aimed at emotionally hurting their partner right before a big fight.

        A bit of angst is fine, but timing helps.

            1. Well, of course it took a real man’s man to be a crazy emotional dick to people. I think I might go and tell people all about it over on 4chan or Reddit later. Show them all how much I stand out from the crowd, you know?

            2. ytakery, that’s Psycho Gecko’s shtick. He pushes the envelope until someone complains and then he replies with something like, “Hey, man, I’m just pushing the envelope, that’s my shtick, why you mad, bro?” You can pretty safely disregard anything he says.

            3. Whoa now, people can be fans of Wildbow and write stories without necessarily following in his footsteps >.>

        1. You seem to have constructed a pretty specific category here, which I rarely see enacted by either gender. Otherwise I agree with both you and PaleShakta on the depressiveness of pointlessly bitchy characters, as well as, at least for my part, pointlessly bitchy people.

          1. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HystericalWoman

            It’s a fairly widely noted category.

            “A blatant Double Standard, it was used and invoked quite freely in older works. These days it is rarely invoked, as most people are aware of the obvious Unfortunate Implications. Despite that it’s still more common to portray female characters becoming emotionally overwrought when under stress or behaving more irrationally than men, even when it would be out-of-character. Male characters like this are likely to be unsympathetic or comedic. An insensitive male character may ask, “Are you on your period?” or something on those lines.”

            1. By specific category I’m referring to your addendum of the condition “whose bitching is aimed at emotionally hurting their partner right before a big fight.” I’m not sure I have ever seen this category enacted. You imply that those are Rose’s aims, and if they are then I’ve seen it once that I can remember. “I rarely see men in stories whose bitching is aimed at emotionally hurting their partner right before a big fight.” isn’t as informative as it might at first seem if you also rarely see women in stories doing the same thing.

            2. In stories like Pact,. there’s regular fighting. In many stories there is regular fighting. As such, being hysterical and irrational tends to impede carrying out basic survival mechanisms in those stories.

              For example, from the tvtropes entry.

              “Jaws 2. After the shark attacks them, one of the female teenagers eventually goes hysterical, screaming like crazy and having a panic attack when their rafts get stuck at the bottom. Another one tries to shut her up by shaking her violently, but is told by his friends that this won’t help. Not all the women are like this, but it stands out because by contrast the guys are all portrayed as practical and goal-oriented, and none of them breaks down to the same degree. Even the much younger Michael holds it together better than her, who by all accounts has far more right to be freaked out due to being a kid.”

              That sort of thing, an emotional breakdown actively working against your survival minutes or seconds before another fight.

            3. ytake,
              That’s someone bloody well screaming, most of the time. It’s like the old sci fi stories where women existed merely to scream at the monsters, while men protected them.

              rose is not embodying that trope. Is she being cruel? Yes. Is she being somewhat unreasonable? Yes.

              Perhaps she’s being open to blake because she trusts him.

            4. Per the definition.

              “This trope characterizes women as less rational, disciplined, and emotionally stable than men, and thus more prone to mood swings, irrational overreactions, and mental illness.note As a result female characters may be coddled, or their opinions undervalued. In Western works it’s more likely to affect female characters over the age of 30 and who are Hollywood Homely and/or Hollywood Pudgy; bonus points if she’s a Housewife.”

              So it’s not just people screaming. Her irrational overreactions and mental illness and lack of any discipline or sense of timing is what the trope is.

            5. …How the hell is Blake more emotionally stable, disciplined, and sane than Rose is? It’s been made fairly clear that he’s a writhing mass of PTSD held together by duct tape and the power of friendship, who acts impulsively and without thinking. He outright states that in Rose’s situation he’d cope far, far worse than she is.

              There’s a difference between a female character being marginalized and a useless stereotype and showing someone coping believably and unhealthily with a traumatic experience.

            6. Given his high success rate, his writing mass of PTSD held together by duct tape and friendship is a good strategy, and he has shown a lot of discipline in negotiating with practitioners and others while under stress. Rose has not shown that discipline.

              Hysterical females aren’t always marginalized or useless, they are just hysterical and silly. In Rose’s case, she can do info dumps but fails at all social interaction.

            7. I’m sorry, I can’t reply to you comment from 1:20 pm for some reason.

              “[…] whose bitching is aimed at emotionally hurting their partner right before a big fight.” – Actively trying to (as in “aiming” to) hurt or impede an ally before an important event of any kind, or at all, is something very different from doing it as an unintended result of an emotional breakdown or for similar reasons (which is what the tvtropes article describes).

              Personally I do not see Rose’s actions as being aimed at hindering Blake as much as empowering his friends and being upfront about how her relationship with Blake is going. When you are judging Rose’s rationality, remember that she does not have the information that you do about Blake (including Wildbow’s involvement in his story, which is a major reason, the reason even, that he has survived this far), her experiences with him does not paint him in at very positive light by any stretch of the imagination. Her words of warning to Evan were entirely warranted in light of the knowledge she has of the situation.

    2. I’m sure she’s feeling completely powerless at this point, and she’s been shafted by Blake again and again on the big decisions. I can see why she’d be bitter.

      1. There are many ways to handle emotional trauma. Trying to get your partner forsworn right after they free you and before they protect you is a bad method. A normal person restrains themselves.

        She wasn’t really shafted anyway. He pumped power into her, him taking a familiar was necessary, he saved her from being bound. Talking it out would help.

        1. There are many ways to handle emotional trauma. . . A normal person restrains themselves.

          Is there really a normal way to handle trauma? By its very nature everybody handles it differently. Most react bad to it. If it was easy to get past, it wouldn’t be trauma. One could even say Rose has been traumatized, affecting her actions.

          We’ve seen Blake snapping at his allies and others when under stress. Rose probably does the same.

          1. There are many ways to handle trauma, but nearly all of them involve some degree of self restraint. You might have emotional swings, you might take drugs, you might have trust issues, lash out at people, be angry towards religion, express suicidal thoughts. These things interfere with your day to day activities so most people hold it back, letting their mask snap under stress. It can be very fun seeing these sorts of characters- Fell’s rudeness to Blake is very amusing to people since he is mostly professional and functional, aiding him while showing his inner trauma with lots of odd bits of rudeness.

            When Blake lashes out, he is normally trying, in a roundabout way, to help them.

            “I can’t lie,” I said. “And neither can you. Be fucking careful.”

            For example. You can see he is irritable and hurt from his very, very long day. But he still works to avoid being too rude and to staying alive. Rose is somewhat suicidal in her hysterical ways, and as such is less sympathetic.

            1. ytak,
              I think she’s calling Blake on his bullshit.
              See? Blake knows he needs Rose — but he
              hasn’t bothered really showing/telling her that.

              She’s asked for some recompense —
              I’d think blake could give her some vetos over
              his stupidity. “For the three times I couldn’t
              ask you about these, I give you three vetos over
              my stupid plans.”

            2. I’m not sure she has so rational a goal or clear a desire as to ask him for recompense. Her point was that Blake couldn’t be trusted to keep to promises, so she’d probably be against that sort of thing.

              This is good because Blake’s stupid plans are all that’s keeping them alive. They are necessary to survive the bad karma fueled assaults against them.

              Besides which, he already gave her veto, with the demon factory.

            3. ytak,
              yeah, I think he owes her some more. As even he’s said, she’s much better at the long perspective.

            4. I think that she is heavily in debt to her. He has treated her much more kindly than she should expect or deserves, so he doesn’t owe her anything more, though no doubt he shall continue bleeding out to feed his demonic parasite.

              Her ability to form long term plans is an informed ability which we haven’t seen.

        2. She wasn’t trying to get Blake forsworn. If he was forsworn it was because of his actions, and would have happened at the time, not because she called him on it.

          1. Not so sure about that anymore. You might need a powerful Other to name you forsworn, like the Atwell story in 5.x.

          2. What was the wording on the promise? If he said I will…then it’s a lie, and he just loses some power. If he said I promise…then it’s worse, but still not forsworn. You need to swear to become forsworn IMO.

          3. She was trying to argue he broke a promise or statement to her and as such was not trustworthy. It’s been made clear that being forsworn is a matter of negotiation with spirits. As such, I rank her at about the ally level of Pauz, who also tried to get Blake forsworn.

            1. She wasn’t saying he broke a promise, per say, more that he tends to treat his promises towards her like Laird seems to treat his promises. She claims that he promised her a share in decisions, but went against the spirit of this promise by only allowing her a “yes”/”no” input 20 seconds before the plan went into action, at which point she still doesn’t know enough and saying know both makes her look (even more) like a bitch and might sabotage them both. Even in the case with ErasUrr, he said she could veto him, but kept adding more and more qualifiers (ok, if I have three workable ideas you can’t veto me… and the one’s I’ve already said count for half). To be clear, I think Blake has made the right call in a lot of these cases, but Rose is also right that he needs to let her in on the planning process. I think she’s entirely justified in feeling shortchanged.

        3. Rose seems to take not being consulted as a personal insult. It’s understandable – she has no agency except through Blake and that gas to be hella frustrating when he just ignores her and does his own thing.

          But a lot of these situations have required on-the-spot decisions in desperate circumstances.

          Yes, ideally Blake would’ve consulted with Rose over the Circle thing. Given the situation was far from ideal and he had to come up with a plan in a hurry to save her butt, she could be a little more understanding.

          1. He can’t really not ignore her, she was locked away with Conquest. Rose takes everything involving Blake as a personal insult. I know Wildbow said that Blake was more of a go with his gut protagonist than Taylor, but even Blake is far, far better at thinking than Rose, who can’t seem to reason out that when you are locked up people can’t talk to you.

      2. the big decisions like making the circle and taking the familiar? because those would have been important for her to be a part of, if she was actually present for them.

        you don’t show up, you don’t get to complain about what your other half had to do to survive while you were gone.

        thats just basic decency.

        1. jack,
          I’m not sure Blake had to take a familiar to survive. And he didn’t need to make the circle to survive — up until this point. He could have waited and asked Rose, I suppose.

          1. Dying is bad. It’s all very well to talk about thinking long-term (alliance with Rose) instead of short-term (living and acting while she’s not available for one reason or another) but unfortunately, living is hopefully the longest term of all, and so Blake does have to survive and try to make sure he survives as a prerequisite to all else.

            It is important to think of the long-term even while ensuring survival from the short-term, because otherwise dangers and problems can stack up…

            Still, it is somewhat odd that Rose has associated the problem with Blake, rather than with being kidnapped and Blake trying to survive without her. Judging by past experience, she may not react well to being asked about that. On the other hand, Blake is a target she can affect more than Conquest or the link between them… Perhaps she’s just trying to fix the things she thinks she CAN fix?

    3. ‘A bit insecure’? She’s just been forced to spill her deepest secrets to a being who thrives on abusing power over others. Blake has been consistently kind of awful to her, and he’s usually apologetic about it but that doesn’t change how badly he’s treated her.

      I’m glad Wildbow is acknowledging the rift that’s been wedging itself wider between them. Having Rose be justifiably angry with Blake is better than having her skip along perfectly happy to be Blake’s ‘chirpy voice with library access’.

      1. She has emotional trauma, yes, and has been lashing out. It’s a very bad way of dealing with her trauma and doesn’t make me like her. It’s something I see a lot in books and tv shows. A woman has some trauma and then endangers the main character’s purpose irrationally with complaints.

        Blake has offered her regular aid, support, and power. For example recently, when she was being abused by conquest.

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

        I’m not that glad that she is a rather unlikable character. Being hurt is fine, using it as an excuse to be regularly rude is not. I don’t respect ineffectual characters who complain and get nothing done and worsen the life of those they are close to.

        1. How… male is it that you consider the woman not the main character?

          Also, yeah, it’s a pretty poor trope. But you see it happen with guys too — only there a lot of times the “main character” winds up dead. Abusive or co-dependent husbands spring to mind.

          I’m not finding Rose nearly as ineffectual as you are. She knows she just did something horrid, and against her will, to someone she cares about. Of course she’s ashamed and feels guilty. At least she actually told him.

          1. I know Rose is one of the main characters, though Blake is the main viewpoint one.

            I have seen it with men, though rarely. It’s mostly a female trope.

            Her method of being ashamed and guilty is to attack Blake, which I see as effectual at weakening Blake, as he said. She is a negative force in his life.

            1. I still don’t see how you could think she’s a detriment. Blake said just last chapter:

              I kind of missed the point where I could talk things out with her. We kind of needed to return to that point.

              Need being the operative word. I wasn’t sure we’d survive if we couldn’t.

              and he also mentions multiple times they work together well. She might be difficult at times, but she’s definitely a beneficial ally.

            2. That sounds more like Blake saying she is currently a detriment to me. She has in the past been useful and done some good info dumping.

            3. ytak,
              you’re missing the part where he values her JUDGEMENT.
              She’s the chariot card, the card of Direction for a reason.

            4. She’s not really taking him in a good direction, nor is she especially good at direction.

              Consider the meaning and symbolism of a chariot. It’s a very durable, not very agile thing you strap to something more valuable. It slows down the horse. Theoretically it offers some aid, but the slightest bump breaks it down, it sinks in the earth. As such, once horseback riding was invented it was mostly abandoned, used only for ceremonial purposes by royalty.

              Like Rose. She is flighty, erratic, sinks easily into depressive moods, is very straight forward in her ways of dealing with things.

              I’d love that to happen with Rose. Blake can realize she’s not very useful, get some other sources of power, and ride his own power and friends, just take out her for ceremonial reasons.

            5. ytak,
              A chariot is lightweight, and you don’t need to have but one person steering (leaving the other two to shoot arrows).
              Also, it’s rather evident that you’ve never walked a wagon trail. Wheels aren’t that non-durable.

            6. So, to put it another way, you have one person wasted driving the horse, someone who may or may not understand what the people shooting the arrows need. If he’s taken out your chariot crashes, you lose three, maybe more, men.

              That was another reason why when horse riding became more doable chariot riding was quickly abandoned, after disasters like Gaugamela where more agile troops easily avoided chariots and ripped them apart with light weaponry.

              I’m not talking about modern wagons, I’m talking about ancient chariots. Wagons would have different symbolism to Chariots. I recommend Nova’s building Pharoah’s Chariot to see the sort of construction materials they used, ways they used it. It looks like a rickety shaky bunch of sticks. Not very stable.

          2. That was cheap and unjustified. Blake is blatantly the primary protagonist at this point. Not because he’s male, but because the story has consistently focussed on him and his actions. Rose has passed in and out of the narrative.

            It’s possible for the protagonist to be other than the viewpoint character (for example, the stories about Sherlock Holmes are told from Dr Watson’s point of view) but the protagonist is still the central character of the narrative – and that’s Blake.

            In the larger work, Rose could certainly become the protagonist. But at this point she just isn’t.

        2. “A woman has some trauma and then endangers the main character’s purpose irrationally with complaints.”

          Irrationally? He hasn’t done anything to acknowledge what she’s gone through by being Conquest’s prisoner, has completely taken her support for granted, and is now trying to use the same “I’ll totally give you input, honest! Doesn’t that make you feel secure?” thing he did with Rose and, in a way, with the lawyers. (Do you think telling a bunch of mundanes about magic, awakening three new practitioners without the permission of the local lord, forming a circle, and then challenging Conquest counts as the sort of “big decision” he’s supposed to consult with the lawyers on?)

          The only thing she was endangering by doing her whole “hey whoa there Blake, time to acknowledge that we have a problem, stop taking me for granted there” thing was Evan blindly trusting Blake by falling for his I-will-totally-consult-you-because-I’m-not-inwardly-a-loner-with-trust-issues schtick, which, given that he’s an eight-year-old child, I would probably want to advise myself.

          “I don’t respect ineffectual characters who complain and get nothing done and worsen the life of those they are close to.”

          It’s a good thing there are none of those in this story, then! Jeez, for a minute there I thought you had an issue with Rose.

          1. Actually, he did- when she revealed she was apologetic for revealing info he said it was ok and apologized, as a mature, caring person would when your companion was abducted.

            “I nodded. “It’s okay. Not surprised. I’m sorry.””

            She of course responded by calling him stupid.

            Since Rose was away and was unable to communicate with him it’s understandable he would seek allies to help him. It would be good to consult her, but circumstances came in the way. Nothing weak can come between a practitioner and their familiar so Evan is less at risk.

            Blake has been neglecting his responsibilities to the lawyers, though that’s not really surprising, given that they are demonic beings of evil.

            As he noted, she was also endangering his fragile energy reserves. Even if she did have a point, that point could likely wait till a time when they weren’t being chased by powerful others of flames. It’s good to be able to be practical and goal minded at times.

            Evan wasn’t blindly trusting Blake, he was rightfully, eyes open, suspicious, and Blake was aiding him with a promise to seek out his view on releasing decisions. Rose then, based on him doing things while she was captured by Conquest, decided to insult Blake’s honor and honesty.

            1. Yeah. Some other people have made some excellent summaries of all the crap that Rose has gone through, and while I understand the poor choices she’s made recently, because of all that crap she’s gone through, I don’t agree with them. She’s being a jerk. She has many valid excuses for her actions, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is acting like a jerk.

            2. She is. And being a jerk is jerky. I appreciate people a lot who go through bad stuff and want to lash out but try hard to be better. She doesn’t.

            3. She has been very jerkish.

              I understand that when hurt she’ll lash out a bit. I don’t think her behavior has been completely valid- she’s gone beyond what is fair, attacking Blake’s relationships with his friends and insulting him directly. Any valid excuse would require some knowledge of circumstance. If a being of firey death is chasing you, try to hold in your criticism for a bit.

          2. To further elaborate on my feelings on this, from later debate, I would have respected her a lot more if she made a specific challenge. Like for example if she said something like “Blake is not to be trusted. He said he would include me in decisions, but when we were deciding if you would become a familiar he snapped at me and pressured me with the ultimatum that if I didn’t decide quickly Duncan would come attack us. While he may technically keep to the oath, he will use stressful situations to pressure you and force you to make decisions you might not want to.”

            Or…

            “While I was imprisoned by Conquest Blake cut himself and transferred his power into me, pulling me away from Conquest and making him more able to escape the jail. This was a stupid move as he could have died. Blake isn’t to be trusted as he’ll do dangerous things to enlist your aid. I mean, he said he’d consult me on all decisions but he didn’t consult me on that.”

            Referring to specific incidents where you felt maligned is a lot more respectful than making a general implication that someone is not to be trusted.

        3. The distinction you seem to be missing is that Rose is not acting irrationally here – she’s justifiably calling Blake out on his crap. Ideally she would’ve waited until a more convenient time, but you’ve seen their lives – do you really think one of those is going to crop up?

          1. I’ve noted in various places how I don’t think Rose’s complaints are valid rationally, and also, it’s irrational to weaken your ally just before you go into a fight. Being rational isn’t about picking fights to prove you’re right.

            They often have breaks where she could, in private, question him, so yes, one of those will crop up.

    4. I’ve read the comments above on this topic, and I think that a lot of people aren’t realizing just how tough things have been for Rose.

      Over the last few segments, there have been repeated mention of just how much Blake benefits from time with his friends. They recharge his metaphorical batteries. In this segment alone, he comments on how much riding his motorcycle benefits him, making him feel more in control, more like himself.

      Rose can’t have any of that.

      She doesn’t have friends. They either never existed or they won’t remember her, because she was never born in this timeline. Hell, it’s probably been torture to watch Blake being comforted by his friends, while knowing she can’t have the same experience.

      But it goes deeper than that.

      She’s basically denied all forms of comfort. I don’t think she can workout over there, which really helps some people deal with stress. She can’t wear her own clothes, which can do wonders for a person’s identity. I don’t believe she can eat anything, and food can be very comforting. She can’t touch anyone, and, given the hug she gives Blake, physical contact appears to be very important to her. She can’t even talk to anyone who doesn’t want to kill her besides Blake, who isn’t a great conversationalist.

      She can’t experience any kind of pleasure or relief.

      She can’t even sleep and escape her problems that way for a little while. No. She is forced to stay awake and think about all the threats coming after her and also about the underlying existential horror of knowing that she might not even be a person, that she might just be a construct made to further other people’s goals.

      She’s trapped and pretty much powerless, which is made is even worse by Blake’s habit of overriding of her decisions, and she just literally had all choice taken from her by Conquest, who went out of his way to make that experience as painful as possible.

      She’s been through hell, and there is nothing she can do and no one she can turn to that can make her feel better.

      Given all that, I think she’s holding up remarkably well.

      If I were in her situation, I think I would have probably lost it by now.

      1. Since Blake has been regularly working to make her less powerless, strengthen her, support her, I don’t think that’s a fair characterization. He recently dumped all of his power into her to strengthen her.

        When people are weak I am supportive of them if they try to get stronger by forging stronger relationships with friendly people. That would be characterization I would enjoy. Her being a hysterical female who pushes people away who are seeking to power her up and have is not a good reaction to abuse that I can sympathize with.

        1. I should note that Blake has noted that if he’d been through what Rose has now been through he’d be basically nonfunctional. He also copes badly with trauma. It seems like he basically needed Alexis to pull him up entirely against his will after his time on the streets. And, reading between the lines, he’s actually kind of resentful about her help, about having to owe her everything.

          So yeah, I think that Rose being resentful of help that she really, really needs is an interesting characterization that makes her look a lot like Blake. “Healthy coping mechanisms” does not appear to be a Thorburn family trait.

          1. If she was just resentful that would be understandable. She’s pushing away the help, forcing Blake to spend time with others. It’s not a good reaction to trauma. Blake, when resentful holds it in mostly, lashing out a little, Rose actively tries to sabotage Blake’s relationships and make him forsworn.

            You find it an interesting characteristic. I just long for the times when he speaks with more interesting characters. Evan has been amazing recently, I love that boy. Fell is great. His new companions, lots of good lines.

            1. She’s not actively trying to sabotage his relationships, she’s lashing out at Blake. She is saying things that are pretty harmful to Blake, but that’s just how she’s learned to lash out when upset, re: She’s a Thorburn.

            2. She is lashing out in such a way to actively sabotage his relationships, telling Evan that he shouldn’t trust Blake.

              She’s a rather stupid Thorburn, unlike Blake, hence why I don’t like her characterization. She’s acting rather like Bitch from worm in terms of social skill, which isn’t what I’d expect from a Thorburn, to be like a socially broken dog woman.

            3. By “active”, I’m differentiating based on her intention to sabotage his relationships. The way I see it, she’s not trying to hurt Blake’s relationships intentionally, she’s seeing a parallel to her own experience and making an argument while very upset. I think if we were seeing it from her perspective, it’d be kind of similar to Blake in 2.7:

              I could remember being beaten, the people kicking me, using weapons… and the connection to what had happened to Molly made it feel doubly real.

              Maggie chose that moment to reach out, and I grabbed her hand, crushing it inside mine, hard enough to hurt her.

              Except of course with more mental trauma than physical and a verbal reaction rather than a physical one.

            4. ytake,
              Evan shouldn’t trust Blake, at least in her experience. It’s no fucking crime to speak the damn truth, particularly in this world. (what she should be careful of is her current mood warping what she thinks is the truth. Words Have Power and Spirits Listen, after all).

            5. In the short term, while they are about to go up against powerful others and practitioners, Evan should trust Blake, because everyone needs to work together to survive.

              Are there some issues with his treatment of her? Yes. Is now a good time to bring up your emotional issues? No. Unless she’s going to tell him to run away to survive she shouldn’t try to weaken the group.

            6. Just to make it clear, I’m not saying she should or was in any way right to bring these things up, just that it’s understandable given her current frame of mind.

        2. Blake wants to be assholes to and push people away all the time, he’s just able to stop himself. I assume he was very much like the rest of his family (and Rose) before meeting Alexis and the rest of his friends, and was only recently able to not be an asshole whenever he’s upset.

          1. Yeah, I agree. His self restraint is impressive, and his ability to be rude makes for many amusing one liners. I do like him as a character. I always get the sense he’s working to help people too, even when he’s being an asshole.

            1. Yeah, because he’s often trying to help people and being an asshole is just in the way he does it. The way I see it, Rose is similar except less able or interested in helping others while being significantly less practiced in keeping the assholeness contained and having significantly less to help her calm down.

            2. That isn’t really a character I enjoy reading about much.

              I feel that if Blake managed to bind Rose, like the asians do to others, and make her a slave, she would be more useful than she is now. Being more useful as a slave than as a living person isn’t something I like in a character.

            3. Most people would be more “useful” as a slave than not, in the sense that they’d do more to advance the owner’s goals. For example, Blake was a lot more “useful” to Conquest after being essentially enslaved. That’s basically what slavery is about: advancing the owner’s goals through forced servitude.

              As such, I’m not sure I really understand what you’re trying to say with the second paragraph.

            4. Blake while in slavery to Conquest worked heavily to subvert him, organize coalitions against him. Fell was somewhat suicidal and acted counterproductive to Conquest’s goals.

              While in slavery the conqueror has to deal with regular rebellions, you subverting orders. They are useful in that they are forced to obey certain orders.

              I am saying Rose’s utility is below that of what a willing ally should be (respectful, helpful beyond the word of the law and such) and is at a level below a resentful slave.

            5. She’s definitely helpful, providing plenty of advice, information, and direction. When she got some presence, she even contributed to the battle against Duncan, and has saved Blake multiple times by breaking glass, one of the few ways she’s been able to interact with the real world. She’d definitely been a willing ally, but Blake hasn’t included her in his big decisions. I don’t think Blake has acted wrongly, but I can see where her frustration comes from.

            6. She has the magical ability to read trapped books, which makes her technically useful for exposition. She has broken a few windows for him, yeah. Those are the sorts of things you can order a slave to do- hit that person, read that book. The sort of things Conquest might do with Rose.

              An ally uses their intelligence and initiative to actively aid you, rather than doing the bare minimum that a partnership requires.

              Since she doesn’t appear to be very intelligent, I can see why he doesn’t include her in decisions.

            7. “[Rose] is at a level below a resentful slave.”
              No, that’s what level she is at. She feels like a slave and is acting like one. She’s called hither and yon. Until recently, she couldn’t even really walk away from Blake except to go back to the house. Now that’s apparently broken, which is a huge, huge thing in my opinion, that neither Rose nor Blake seem to have commented on.

            8. I would be impressed if she used her limited freedom to try to gain more power and become a better person. Instead, she is acting like an ineffectual resentful slave, weakening her relationship with the person who could power her up.

              My logic, in that situation, would be something like this.

              1. Try to gain more power.
              2. If Blake is mean, question him quietly in private.

              3. Don’t attack Blake in public.

              I wouldn’t be surprised if her internal logic, whatever it is, is heavily influenced by Blake’s bad karma. She is acting irrationally hostile.

              Yeah, Blake has done a lot of work to strengthen her and free her.

            9. Haha, amusing. In the beginning people were talking about how they didn’t like Blake and how he was such a dick to Rose, and how Rose was obviously so much smarter than Blake. It’s come full circle, at least for some.

              Well, regardless of whether you like her or not, I strongly suspect based on their tarot cards that Rose will be taking a significantly larger role in the future, possibly overshadowing Blake.

            10. I think a lot of it was the change in story. We left this awesome, amazing story to the far less exciting story about some magic user.

              Since then Blake has faced challenges even more intense and exciting than those that that Taylor faced. He’s shown a lot of smartness, wit, and it’s a lot more noticeable to use when he’s being treated unfairly.

              I am sure Rose will have some role, but I hope now that Blake has more friends and a familiar he will be spending much less time interacting with her. He can find new sources of strength. Even if she is doing more stuff.

        3. Blake has not been supporting her. I mean, he’s trying to, but he’s doing a pretty terrible job of it. Grand sweeping gestures like swearing an oath to try and free her or bleeding yourself out to bring her back is not the sort of support she needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if those grand “See how much I care about you!” gestures actually make things worse. Would you appreciate someone recklessly committing near-suicide for ‘your’ benefit, while never consulting you on anything, and then snapping at you when you aren’t immediately grateful and cooperative and up to speed on everything that’s happening?

          Rose doesn’t want that sort of thing. She wants to be in the loop, she wants Blake to respect her agency and her opinions.

          The situation isn’t Blake’s fault, but he does not treat Rose as an equal partner. Which is what she was worried about from the start.

          1. “Would you appreciate someone recklessly committing near-suicide for ‘your’ benefit”

            If someone did so, and it was the only obvious step to free me, I would really appreciate it. I mean, Wild puts his protagonists in impossible situations. I understand why he would do that. Blake would be my hero. I would marry him if necessary after that, though I’m too straight to really want coitus.

            “while never consulting you on anything”

            I’m not sure that is fair, he consults her on lots of things. Not everything, but I don’t expect someone to tell me every little detail.

            “and then snapping at you when you aren’t immediately grateful and cooperative and up to speed on everything that’s happening?”

            I’m not sure this is fair either, he’s been a lot more polite and friendly than her. He works a lot harder at treating her like an equal than she does.

            1. People doing crazy reckless things for you when you didn’t ask for it is a hell of a burden. Rationally, she probably knows it was the best choice at the time, but emotionally speaking it’s not the greatest position to be in.

              He makes a token effort at consulting her on things, but then they usually get thrown to the wind when the next crisis demands his attention. And he was not polite and friendly to her in the police station; he was kind of an asshole about her objecting to Evan.

              How can Rose have a problem with treating Blake as an equal? He has a greatly disproportionate amount of the power in their relationship. She has very little power over him to abuse.

            2. That isn’t a character trait I really enjoy, people being saved from death or torture and being extremely ungrateful or hateful and seeking to hurt the people who saved them. It’s not something that endears me to characters, and it adds to the hysteria complaint.

              I read that section again. This is fun. A great story.

              I really do not think it’s fair to say that Blake is worse than Rose. Their snapping out is very different.

              ““Time’s a luxury we don’t have,” I said. My voice was ragged, came off harsher than it otherwise could. “I just carried out your plan, binding the imp, giving it to Conquest. I fought the Hyena, and that was a bitch in its own way. I’m spent. Say no, say yes, but don’t fucking dither when every second counts!””

              He made a complaint about her behavior, a rational complaint.

              ““Is that it? Or is it the opposite? Is this Blake Thorburn with all the flesh and mortal warmth bled away?”

              She then made a personal attack on his nature. He wasn’t especially assholeish, but she was incredibly rude, implying he was, at core, inherently an assholeish person. The impact of her words was far worse, making him shake with anger. And it wasn’t a token effort, he let her make the decision.

              Blake continually consults her for decisions, is polite and friendly (surprisingly so, given how fucked up he is), offers her power. He treats her like a superior, more than an equal. She repeatedly is abusive towards his offering and acts like a bitch.

            3. Blake continually consults her for decisions, is polite and friendly (surprisingly so, given how fucked up he is), offers her power. He treats her like a superior, more than an equal. She repeatedly is abusive towards his offering and acts like a bitch.

              Can you point to some specific examples? You keep making these vague statements like “Blake continually consults Rose”, “Blake is extremely polite”, “Rose is stupid”, “Rose is never around” etc. You’re not really backing your points up about Blake/Rose.

              Statements like these don’t seem to be really supported in the story. It’s fine if you don’t like Rose, but I have issue putting out character interpretations not based on things actually in the story pr Word of Wildbow (unless the interpretation is funny).

            4. The part I just quoted.

              Blake, respectfully, at a surprising level since he is close to death, asks her to decide what to do.

              ““You don’t have to like it,” I said. I was too tired, too insubstantial, to pick my words carefully. “-have to decide. Either call him back, tell him to take us to the inventory lockup, or go get the book.””

              He asks her to make a decision, offering her veto, the mark of an equal.

              ““Time’s a luxury we don’t have,” I said. My voice was ragged, came off harsher than it otherwise could. “I just carried out your plan, binding the imp, giving it to Conquest. I fought the Hyena, and that was a bitch in its own way. I’m spent. Say no, say yes, but don’t fucking dither when every second counts!””

              She then insults him.

              ““You can be a real asshole sometimes, Blake.””

              ““Is that it? Or is it the opposite? Is this Blake Thorburn with all the flesh and mortal warmth bled away?”

              That is the normal thing I have read, that he is a bit rough but respectful in actions at least, consulting her and getting her opinion when she is there, and she responds with abuse.

              But to be fair, no one else is backing up their statements extensively, I didn’t think it was the norm here.

            5. I’m not really asking for extensive references or anything like that. I’m just asking that when people make comments about a character , like their personality, the person just briefly give an example. So instead of, “Maggie is antisocial,” one could write “Maggie is antisocial. She said she didn’t like her ‘friends’ in her Histories ans we never see her with anybody other than for negotiations.”

              As to one of your points (just one because I have to get to work):

              He asks her to make a decision, offering her veto, the mark of an equal.

              In your example, at least, Blake didn’t truly give Rose an option. He gave her an ultimatum. That’s not the mark of being equals. Also, I don’t really see how Blake snapping and cursing at Rose to meet his ultimatum is polite as oposed to Rose calling him out on it.

            6. I did in the post directly quote the part I was referencing, while you didn’t quote anything- I’m not sure your standard is really a standard. You in your response to me made a vague statement without referring to any part of the story, while I directly quoted and referred to the part I was referencing.

              While I am fine being asked for sources, I’d appreciate not being told I was not acting according to a standard you don’t keep yourself.

              It’s not accurate to call it an ultimatum. They were being chased by a hostile practitioner- while he was asking her to keep to a timeframe he wasn’t personally threatening her, which is the norm for an ultimatum. Let me quote the definition.

              “An ultimatum (Latin: the last one) is a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance. An ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests.”

              If he had said “Agree with me or I’ll take back all the power I gave you” that would be an ultimatum. As it was, he was just referencing his accurate model of the world, that a hostile practitioner was chasing him. He freely offered her a choice, though he noted the timeline they were operating on.

            7. E.g. you say “We’ve seen Blake snapping at his allies and others when under stress. Rose probably does the same.”

              You don’t really support this with anything, you just state it as a proven fact. This isn’t great because the context of what he said was important, the exact phrasing important, but it was the perceived standard I was following, to make statements without heavy textual backing.

            8. Problem is that Rose sees that behaviour for what it is: not Blake being willing to sacrifice himself because he cares so much about saving her but Blake being Blake and doing what he always does – automatically responding to pressure by upping the ante.

              Rose probably (and, at least in part, justifiably) sees Blake as far too eager to court danger. So far he’s mostly been successful, which can only encourage him to push his luck eveven further in future. Rose can see where Blake’s attitude leads in the longer term and it’s not pretty.

            9. The problem is that if Blake didn’t have his plans they’d all be dead since Rose sucks at almost everything. Doing nothing is courting danger when you have seven lifetimes of negative karma. Blake has excellent restraint, he avoids releasing demons with his attitude, he normally wins, his attitude leads to excellent results for Rose.

        4. I’m honestly surprised that you consider her to be “hysterical,” because I feel that her behaviour so far has been remarkably restrained given the circumstances.

          Personally, I think that Rose is coping incredibly well and is entitled to her anger. So far I like her a little more more than Blake and consider her to be a more sympathetic character. (I realise that I’m in the minority here.)

          1. I’m not sure you can fairly call someone restrained when they call someone an asshole and attack them in front of their friends. She doesn’t really seem restrained to me.

            When has she shown any restraint?

            1. Plenty. she didn’t attack him in front of behaim and company. She waited until he was around friends.

            2. ““Without asking me. Stupid. So many things wrong with that plan.””

              She actually did attack him, almost as soon as she saw him.

              So if your argument was “Rose was restrained because she avoided trying to expose Blake’s weaknesses in front of his enemies” how does the fact that she did attack his weaknesses in front of his enemies make you feel about her?

        1. To be fair, to get Evan as a familiar it had to be done right then. Evan was shackled to his body, and one way or another Blake was going to be leaving that behind putting Evan out of reach. Plus, since Duncan was hot on their heels they didn’t have time for wrangling like Rose wanted.

          Time is the main problem here, Blake is constantly under pressure because of the bad karma and has to react immediately while Rose is trying to work out the long term implications. This strips Rose of what little empowerment she has, and probably isn’t conducive to long term survival, but it’s hard to worry about what’s going to happen then in light of staying alive now.

          They both are making mistakes, but they’re only human.

          1. I agree… I’m not exactly sure why you responded to me with “to be fair”, since I don’t think I suggested anything different.

          2. I think a large part of her complaint is that it’s always something that has to be right at that moment, and often (not always) that’s because Blake didn’t tell her enough beforehand. These last few decisions have been forced by things out of Blake’s control, I think we can all agree on that. However, coming after a lot of decisions that weren’t where Blake did something similar, Rose is probably feeling more and more ineffectual, ignored, and generally isolated.

      2. Rose has had a tough life. She says that she never had many friends. She was an only female child in the Thorburn family, I don’t know if her parents ever had Ivy in her reality, which means more isolation, more enemies.

        She is still only 19, she is still going to school, still living at home, with only her parents for support. She doesn’t have them anymore.

        I think she probably had some casual romances, for some physical support, closeness. Not anymore.

        Face it, this is Rose’s first serious relationship, other than her parents. Even Blake has more experience than her. There will be bumps. Such as her believing than relationships should be equitable. Such as her tendency to view this as a business partnership.

        Seriously, I consider the fact that she can complain and talk to Blake a good start. Her default is walling up her emotions and masking them. This is better.

      3. Y’know, it would probably help if Blake went “shopping” with her some time. He just has to walk through women’s clothes shops with a mirror around his neck and let her keep a mirror copy of anything she wants. Could even be fun – she can get stuff she would never be able to afford as a regular human…

    5. “Female Characters”? Rose often is, but who else? Maggie is self-serving but polite and generally accommodating. Isadora is blunt in her distaste for diabolists, but surprisingly civil for a half-lion. Tiffany and Alexis have been hella supportive. Even the Duchamps have been very polite and they’re his enemies.

      Fell and Blake are probably butcher than any female I can think of except Rose.

  3. Welp.

    I am very pleased to finally see what Rose’s deal was, and I hope they don’t maintain this level of combativeness. If they do, I can see Rose being the Biggest Bad, especially with her line about being enemies. If she does go full Diabolic, I wonder how that will affect Blake’s oath to restore her.

    1. Some part of me really wants to see Blake face his literal mirror image, and the yin to his yang, as a final boss. Heck, with magic’s penchant for symbolism and drama, I wouldn’t be surprised if such a confrontation was fated even now.

      1. I am in favor of an epic battle between Blake and Rose. The great thing is, i’m not sure which, if either, would be the “good guy” in this fight.

        1. …Blake? If it happened now and under these circumstances, I am pretty sure it would be Blake.

          In the eyes of Karma, it could go either way, but in the eyes of Karma alone the current story is about how nasty little Blake is opposing saintly Laird and Conquest, and how dare Fell be unhappy about his family’s slavery, no?

    1. Presumably he can act more easily againts people who don’t see him. I assume he needs to physically touch the car or be in close range for it to work.

      But yeah, Blake really needs to get a crash-course in TV Tropes. If the bad guy is murdering random bystanders and apparently leaving one or more fighting for their lives IT’S A TRAP. Don’t give in to your hero complex. Plus it’s not like Conquest can affort any sort of mass-scale destruction without losing a non-negligeable amount of rep, so the Eye would not have been able to continue for long.

      1. The Eye is not a practitioner. The Eye is a spirit of tragic, senseless destruction perpetuated by chance and unlucky circumstance. The Eye can kill and kill and kill without punishment for the same reason the Sphinx can execute any who don’t answer her questions thoughtfully: That is what it is. Blake himself, on the other hand, is surely soaking up a little of the karma here, because he initiated the contest.

      2. He probably knows it’s a trap. He’s also going to have to live with himself if he doesn’t at least try to save the innocent bystander.

        The horrible thing about that trope is it’s a lose/lose choice. Either you step into the trap and put yourself at a disadvantage, or you diminish yourself as a human being (and, in most instances of this trope, a heroic one).

        Knowing Blake as we do, do we really think he’s going to take the easy way out when he can double down and hope for a total win?

        1. Really? The big thing on your mind is that you would never forgive Blake if he didn’t go all the way with the Eye tonight? 😉

      1. “and wherever you are, and wherever you go, there’s always gonna be some light!”

        I can only assume that line refers to The Eye. (Love that song, BTW).

  4. Blak can run towards his enemies’ territories to have them fight eachother and escape like say the Drunk’s place, lots of flammable alcahol there.

  5. In which the Eye causes random civilian casualties for no other reason than because FIRE, even though the entire point of the war taking place in the spirit world was to avoid this.

    I can see why it’s a problem, having Conquest as the boss, when he lets things like this off their leashes.

    1. Well, I’m not really clear on what happens in the real world for events in the spirit world anyway. Apparently the explosion would happen in both, but is it because it’s enacted by spirits who can’t make the difference between the two (like the Eye maybe?), or because other things? Fell’s wording tends to make me thing it has soemthing to do with it being a particular kind of event instead…

      1. The way I’m reading it is that the Eye caused a real car accident in the real world so that the victims would turn into ghosts. The Shepard could then use the ghosts of the victims (and their cars) to run Blake over in the spirit world.

        1. Huh, I’d assumed The Eye was just being, well, itself, causing senseless carnage and whatnot, but if Conquest or the Shepherd are directing it that makes a lot more sense.

  6. So the Blake/Rose relationship has reached the boiling point. Perhaps this is good. They can force each other yo become stronger.

    I’m loving Evan in this chapter. The boy wonder is like superman on depressants.

    Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive. . . It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!

    Evan flew through them, darting left, then right, and pushed them to the side with the weight of a small boy, the speed of an unladen sparrow.

    Perhaps Blake isn’t cut out for the whole “saving innocents” thing. He should stick to fighting imps and goblins.

    1. Hey, thanks for pointing that out, I missed the “unladen” part on first read. 😉

      So how fast was Evan exactly?

      1. And there’s more:

        “To be fair,” Ty said. “They say nobody expects the Inquisition.”

        Is the Monty Python just in this chapter, or has it been quoted all along?

  7. So now Rose can follow the Blakeguards wherever they go? When did she get this new power? She used to be stuck around Blake, Hillsglade House, and presumably Conquest’s place ever since he shackled her.

        1. Actually, it seemed to me like she chose to retreat into the mirrors. I think she could come out by expending some power.

  8. Huh. If I was Blake, the first thing I would have done when the ghosts showed up is had Pauz start filling them up with demonic power and then devouring them to make himself stronger, like some sort of demonic katamari.

    1. Problem is that could horrifically backfire, but considering what they’re up against it might be worth the risk.

      1. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, I suppose Pauz could start shedding imps of his own. Then you would have a Pauz swarm.

        Anyway, the Hyena could probably do a pretty number here.

        1. Remember, Pauz has agreed to do no harm to Blake, directly or indirectly. This means that if he does get strong enough ascend to full demon-hood and starts shedding imps, those imps will be bound by those same terms.

          It’s also entirely possible that if Blake orders Pauz to do something that’ll hurt his Karma, Pauz will have to refuse or be forsworn.

          1. Hmm, I was thinking their whole contract was up in the air because Pauz claimed Blake had broken it, but the no harm condition was independent of success, wasn’t it?

    2. I would love to see that, just because of the demonic katamari bit. Now, if only there were a way to have Pauz’s entrances tied with the theme song…

      Meanwhile I would’ve thought the hyena would be a better choice. If Evan agrees, the hyena could turn the whole of the shephard’s army against him.

      1. I wonder if the Hyena’s properties carry over into its sword form? Like, if Blake were to cut or kill something with the Hyena sword, would that something then be bound to the Hyena? That could be a way for him to utilize its power without releasing it.

        Of course, there’s still the issue with the spiky handle, and Blake might at least need some gloves if drawing blood is enough to trigger the effect.

    3. Except that would be hell for Blake’s karma. Half the point of this battle is to avoid demons spreading out of control in Toronto.

  9. “It lunged for me. Flickered, crossed a distance far greater than it should have. An exaggeration of what the person who’d hit him must have experienced. A misjudgement of distance.”
    Might just be me reading this at an ungodly hour, but it feels like a small amount of description of the ghost just before this passage would be useful to cement the idea that it’s the imprint of a road accident. As things stand, Blake seems to automatically jump to the conclusion.

  10. I remember Blake commenting on how Pauz could use any small Karmic crack to get into someone.

    And isn’t it bad Karma to randomly murder bystanders? Yes, yes it is. Blake its time to cast summon Pauz level one.

    On a final note: this is a bad plan for Conquest. Not because the plucky hero will always defeat the Eye. But because the Eye doesn’t have a stun setting. When Conquest wins he needs to demand something of Blake AND make him regret the contest. Hell the Eye can’t even kill Blake’s champs since Conquest promised to reclaim them.

    1. And isn’t it bad Karma to randomly murder bystanders? Yes, yes it is.

      The Eye causes lethal accidents. That’s his thing. Nothing to see here, keep moving.

    2. The Eye probably isn’t there to kill Blake and co., it’s just herding them into the Shepard’s net so he can round them up. But even if it does kill them, did Conquest specify what conditions they’d be in when he reclaimed them? Because I’m thinking “not fully departed ghost” might qualify.

  11. I don’t think the Eye is a spirit of fire, exactly. It’s a spirit of devastating accidents. A house fire is one manifestation, but so is an overpass collapsing onto a highway during a traffic jam or a water main flooding a basement and drowning a baby.

    1. It is all destruction that man does not control. Every massive cataclysm caused by fate could possibly be linked to one, but the Eye is not evil, it is part of the balance, the destruction to our creation.

      1. Specifically, it’s uncontrolled destruction caused by elements mankind sought to control. House fires, exploding power plants, and collapsing bridges should qualify, but tornadoes or floods might not. So at least its power is somewhat limited, and drawing it into a fully natural environment should be enough to weaken it. … And, incidentally, goblins work best in fully natural environments where there aren’t any pesky pipes restricting their movement. Hey, a strategy!

  12. The Eye is such a dramatic personification. There really was no need to set all those poor people on fire.

    The thing with Rose is that she’s similar to Blake in many things. And I think that they both hate to feel weak and powerless. Blake can at least escape from this, but Rose is constantly reminded of her (relative) uselessness. No wonder she gets cranky.

    Oh Evan, you’re just too adorable.

  13. first time commenting and i must say.
    the pile up of odds against blake is getting off the charts. i really dont know how is he going to get out of this, and its getting frustrating to see more and more complications piling up one after the other

      1. Thing is Blake started out a whole lot more fucked than Taylor, and it seems like how fucked he is escalates even quicker. Taylor didn’t litterly have the universe out to fuck her over, no matter how things may have seemed.

        1. Speaking from the POV of someone who only read Worm as a completed work, the feeling I get from Pact is drastically different, in terms of how fucked I perceive the protagonist to be.

    1. He’s always going to get out of this, faqundo.

      Welcome, welcome, I’m an old veteran of Wildbow’s stories. I read one whole other one. Yup. I’m like some sort of big deal amongst roughly 10% at most of the 20% at most of readers who comment on the story. That’s some sort of super math that needs one hell of an genius to figure out, by the way.

      But don’t worry about trying to become the next Eisenstein, especially because who needs another Russian around when you’ve got Wildbow to leave you feeling so cold. So very, very cold. There there. Warm up thinking about Fell and Blake making his motorcycle rock in the parking lot of a movie theater. Rated PG-13, cumming to a theater near you, may contain explicit language.

      See, the most important thing to remember is that so long as the story can get worse, it will not end. Because Wildbow likes to torture his protagonists. He wants to hurt them and give them false hope just to dash it and hurt them some more. If they ever walk away, it’s scarred and amputated, a fried husk of a person left to experience life.

      This here is like the Hostel of well-intentioned protagonists. Wildbow’s grabbed the electric drill, but the fun’s not nearly over yet. That makes us down here the guys with the front row seat through the one-way mirror.

      And I suppose that makes me the dancing money masturbating in the corner. Better watch yourself. I got my eye on you.

      The analogy’s not perfect, I suppose.

      Welcome, faqundo, to the comments.

    2. Wait, you think he is getting out of this? 100 percent? I’m not so sure… the arc IS called subordination. Doesn’t sound good. I guess he’ll beat Conquest but keep some other enemies or impairments, just like he still has people from Jacobs Bell on his case. I see why you’d get frustrated though, as of yet I’m not, but damn, scenes like the end of this chapter are awesome?? Riding fast things, having fun, being smooth, stuff exploding, ye-ah… Still waiting for the smooth part of course. Trying to say, I do always hope for something like that, it’s awesome. Actually, I even went to the bookstore asking for that, books with action, ok? Like in movies. But they don’t have that or something, they were pretty confused. There’s only the crime section apparently, but mexican standoffs and being buried alive just doesn’t sound that fast moving and fun. Maybe I have the genre name wrong.

  14. Nice. Hey Wildbow, due to a variety of random choices involving my browser history, I am writing a song for a songwriting class called The Other Side of Goodbye, and basing it on the awakening ritual. I’m working on structure and lyrics, but the style is not yet set. Any musical style you’d prefer to hear it in?

    1. I’m afraid I’m not much of a music guy – I’m hard of hearing (hearing aid & cochlear implant). Maybe put it up to a vote from the commentators?

        1. Hah, I get it. Seriously though albeit mildly tangential, I played the Ninth recently- it’s an hour and a half of Beethoven. Nobody needs that much Beethoven! The concert was something like three and a half hours long because the guy just does not know when to stop.

            1. Heh, actually, it was pretty great, though my face really hurt by the end. You people should check out the Heiligenstadt Testament. It’s a letter from Beethoven to his brothers describing how his deafness was affecting his composing. It’s really inspirational, actually.

          1. These things were composed back when there was no TV, no internet. There was no way to entertain yourself except from things like this.

      1. Hmm… now I’m replaying lots of Worm, and descriptions of sound, and the emphasis on the feeling of vibration over quality of sound often.

        So… something that emphasises deep tones you can feel, maybe work the scratching of the bowl into the sound of it… yeah, I can work with that.

    1. But if Rose dies, who is left to call Blake on his bullshit? His friends and Evan are manipulable, and anyone else he can dismiss. Rose is the one who’s also been raised to be a manipulative asshole and is near to him, so she can cut through his nonsense and get him to actually listen.

        1. I’d say we could have a good arc of just the two of them having it out verbally. Maybe Blake should just tell her everything. Then again, She’s more of a Thorburn.

      1. That’s correct. One of Rose’s roles is calling Blake out. Even in the first arc, Blake started to use some Thorburn manipulation tactics on Rose, and she called him out on it.

        1. I’m not on the “let’s all hate Rose” bandwagon or anything, and I’m generally in favor of her calling Blake on his bull, but in this specific case, she called him out on using a trick that they were taught to indicate empathy, one that is literally taught to people in order to convey empathy so that they can help them. That’s like, I don’t know, calling someone out on getting you an ice pack when you’re in physical discomfort; yeah, it can be done to manipulate your target, but it can also be done to actually give them some aid.

          Even with all of that aside, it’s like she doesn’t realize that all social interaction is manipulation anyway. How does a Thorburn miss that lesson?

          1. Oh, she has that lesson down pat. That’s why she views all social interaction as some form of manipulation. Obviously people wouldn’t do anything simply for another person, they must be seeking something out of it, there must be something in it for Blake. As others have pointed out, she’s totally paranoid. Yes, she has many valid excuses, it was the way she was raised, etc., but she’s still acting like a jerk.

  15. I’m a bit confused with this particular world. Am I missing something? Because as I understand it practitioners can lie they just take a hit every time. If they couldn’t lie then it wouldn’t be a big deal, they wouldn’t have to care because they couldn’t lie… but they can lie and Blake has lied a lot… every time the idiot says ‘I can’t lie’ he’s lying… so really what’s the point? Blake seems to be one of those characters that is only someone that (I) you want to win because everyone else is worse.

    As for Fell’s ancestor, I would think the correct response would be the man I swore to watch die is no more. I mean he’s gone, maybe he’s sort of there via conquest taking him over but he’s not himself anymore thus he might as well be dust in the wind and dead… at least that’s what it seems like to me…

    1. They are physically capable of lying, just like people are physically capable of going without food. However, you can say without lying that you “can’t go without food”. To be entirely precise, “can’t” should always be prefaced by conditions, such as “if you want to live, you can’t…” or “can’t… because of physical law”. It is often perfectly reasonable to use the word “can’t” when describing something you would receive a penalty for doing, like how a pitcher in baseball “can’t” hit the batter. It is often used to describe the way things “should” be done and implies a negative consequence for doing otherwise.

      As to Joseph, (Fell’s ancestor) he didn’t watch the man die. It’s as simple as that. Regardless of whether you think the man is dead or gone in some sense, Joseph was unable to watch him die, because the man was no longer in a position to die.

      1. I can say what ever the heck I want because I’m not a practioner in Pact… however just because people toss around can’t doesn’t mean that a practioner should be tossing it around. Now if he had said, “I can’t do this without bad things happening…” Except he didn’t. Blake is always warning about sarcasm and then he does this crap. It just seems like he’s being completely stupid.

        As for Fell’s ancestor, I thought conquest took him over in front of him… thus he watched him die. Maybe not physically but certainly a death of identity or soul. It seems to me like it was worth bringing up that point. Then again it seems like only the stupid people play by the rules in pact. Reserves of power to break your word, going nuts and making enemies where you didn’t need to… all in all I’m just surprised at the stupidity of the people in Pact.

        1. I’m saying that the “meaning” of a word is largely defined by its usage. Let’s get a bit deeper into it and look at definitions. “Can” as an auxiliary verb is defined as:

          1) a : know how to
          b : be physically or mentally able to
          c —used to indicate possibility ; sometimes used interchangeably with may
          d : be permitted by conscience or feeling to
          e : be made possible or probable by circumstances to
          f : be inherently able or designed to
          g : be logically or axiologically able to
          h : be enabled by law, agreement, or custom to

          “Can’t” means “can not”, and means the opposite of can. So, when he says he “can’t” lie, he is not using meaning 1b, that he is “physically or mentally unable to” lie, he means 1h, that practitioners aren’t allowed to by the pact they have made.

  16. Rose is effectively a demonic parasite. Blake was really stupid to made that vow about helping her. He shouldn’t have said it, but he should have aimed to destroy her, not help her.
    She sucks his energy and abilities, demands attention, can be made to divulge his secrets, possibly other negative things. All this for what? Ask Jeeves for library books and weak glass destroy effect.

    Perhaps he can let her posses some poor human, getting free from her while fulfilling the vow.

    1. Right. Because Blake is absolutely the sort of person that wants to destroy someone that by no fault of her own is attached to his life.

    2. Wow. That’s kinda an extreme opinion. Though Rose may be a parasite (or probably more accurately a symbiote), you seem to be forgetting that up until 5 or so chapters ago, she was Blake’s only true ally.

      It would be an inordinately unwise action for Blake to take, if he tried to kill Rose or have her “posses some poor human”.

      If Blake is only utilizing her for the library and to break glass, he is severely underutilizing her. She has reason to be upset.

      Also, does anybody have the exact wording of Blake’s vows? I recall he vowed to get Rose out of the mirror, which he has done multiple times.

    3. She can only be made to divulge his secrets because she decided to take the shackle for Blake, who would have probably had a panic attack if that happened to him.

    4. Library books are the source of power in this game. If she were Jeeves and nothing else, she would still be worth an arm, a leg, and an eye.

      Familiar ritual: Rose supplied the ritual.
      Pauz: Rose explained what he was, what he wanted, and got Blake out alive. Feorgbold: Got Blake out alive.
      Dickswizzle: You do not want an uncontrollable goblin, especially not that one…
      ErasUr: Blake would not have thought of fire on his own.
      Ritual infiltration: Mission control.

      Face it, you may not like her, but she is fucking useful.

  17. I think he should have gone after the Shepherd myself. He even could have called in some allies to help take him down. I know a few guys. Shouldn’t be a problem to get Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Winston Zeddemore, but it’s a no go for Egon Spengler.

    On the plus side…

    Kill Count 2014: This Time, It’s Countier

    Eyes Poked: 0
    Shepherds Sheered: 0
    Behaims Beheaded: 0
    Astrologers Debunked: 0
    Elder Sisters Embarrassed To Death: 0

    Conquests’ Keisters Kicked: 0


    Roses Pruned: 0
    Fells Felled: 0
    Hyenas Laughed Out Of Town: 0
    Pauzs Oozed: 0
    Maggies Halted: 0

    Blakes Bitchslapped: 0

    Now for some musical accompaniment for the opening kickoff!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHvqZVwpI9o

    1. I think the term ‘Kill Count’ may not be entirely appropriate in this case. After all, these individuals are likely to run into a whole mess of fates, many of them far worse than mere death.

      1. For someone with the luxuries of time and planning, sure. But it’s a lot easier for Conquest to kill them and rule the ashes – or kill the allies and sieze Blake.

      1. I say we sic a more powerful magician on them all. I vote for The Amazing Randi. The homeopaths have been trying to kill him with an overdose of sleeping pills for years.

    2. You forgot the neutrals

      Isadora’s dropped on rocks:0
      Cabal members decabled 0
      Knights dishonored 0
      Urasur’s urased 0

      ….sorry my puns are worse than you.

        1. you are right,I meant the “neutrals”

          and I forgot:
          Drunks hanged over :0

          (I think that was a good one)

  18. Pretty heavy on the Monty Python references this chapter.

    Thanks for the Thursday post! Can’t wait to see how Blake gets out of this one.

    Goof night

  19. Oh… I finally get it; the Shepard isn’t called the “Shepard” because ghosts are the flock that he guides and protects but fences and sheepdogs that he uses to herd his targets to the slaughterhouse.

    My take on C’s strategy:-

    Shepard – Offensive Crowd Control
    Eye – Front line offense/tank
    Behaim – Defensive Crowd Control
    Astrologer – Intel & Analysis (Critical mistake here for C!)
    Elder Sister – Rogue, shooting the medic or king (Fell’s actual role)

  20. I think it needs to be said, just because a character is forced by circumstances to take a certain action, t hose actions aren’t necessarily justified. Others that observe or have been wronged by those actions can rightly be upset.

    Blake was forced into many of his actions by the circumstances he inherited and the actions of his enemies. That is not his fault. He still has, though, been manipulating allies, collecting demons, threatening people and betraying others.

    Rose is right to be upset with Blake. Isadora is right to be upset about his diabolic activities. Others would be right to worry/prepare for Blake, given the reputation he must be quickly gaining.

    1. I think people are being way, way, way too harsh on Blake here. Rose, for almost this entire arc, has done nothing but attack Blake’s decisions without offering any real alternative except for ‘don’t do it, maybe some sort of magical solution will fall into our laps if we don’t do anything!’. Her biggest contributions are from reading books, which isn’t even her personally, just her access to the library.

      She also constantly attacks him for making decisions without her there. Does she not realize that she’s literally unconscious or kidnapped for 90% of the time? I’m sorry, but he has to make autonomous decisions when his life, her life, the lives of thousands, and the prospect of eternal enslavement on her and possibly his part are on the line. Does she expect him to sit down and wait for her to return whenever she vanishes? Many of his situations are rather extreme ones, where any decision he makes at all will have huge repercussions. Not making a decision is not an option. She is not there for him to consult. She has no right to complain.

      I wouldn’t mind her if when she was here she offered useful suggestions and alternatives, but she doesn’t. All she does is criticize and attack, encouraging them to sit there and do nothing, which is suicide for them. Then, she has the nerve to act like the victim and hide absolutely critical information in some sort of little temper tantrum.

      Ugh.

      I don’t really see Blake as being very manipulative either – If you compare blake to almost any other character, Blake is practically a paragon of honesty, and when he meets a person he generally comes with good intent unless they try to harm him – the problem is everyone is trying to harm him. You can’t blame him for collecting demons when he’s literally been either given them or compelled into collecting demons. Isadora isn’t right to be upset with him, because his ‘diabolic activies’ OF HIS OWN FREE WILL essentially comprise of ‘existing’. Plus, for some reason, people find the idea of a demon that’s already free within the world rampaging around corrupting they touch everything to be better than a demon bound and controlled, which seems silly.

      1. Rose has difficulty reining in her attacks when she’s stressed, which is all the time now. However, she does have a point in that every time since she was knocked out, Blake’s done very extreme (to the point of insanity or stupidity) actions (See also: Extreme Makeover, Bloodletting edition), given the impression that he’s ignoring her (dismissing her concerns about Evan as familiar, going ahead with fighting ErasUrr), and shanghaied several other people, practitioners, and Others into his camp (The formation of the Blakeguard, plus this “chess match”) without apparent regard for their safety.

        However, I think she’s not quite grasping the fact that everything else is worse.

      2. I agree with this. I am finding Rose to be amazingly annoying lately. I would have much less of a problem with her if she either held off her bitching until they weren’t in a life or death situation, or, better yet, didn’t bitch about Blake doing things to rescue her. She has literally one person in the entire world that actually gives a damn about her life and freedom, and she seems to be taking every opportunity to complain about how he’s not saving her ass correctly.

        1. You try waking up to Nazis rolling tanks through Pittsburgh.
          (which is a handy way of saying Rose ain’t had no time to figure out what the hell is going on, who the hell these people are, or anything. Of course she’s a bit crazy — you’d be too unless you’ve got nerves of steel).

        2. They’re going to be in life-or-death situations forever.
          At some point, you have to have your heart-to-heart in the time you’ve got, not keep postponing to some nebulous time in the future that may or may not ever materialize, while the same problems you want to address keep happening over and over.

      3. Yeah, if your going to bitch about someone doing it wrong, you better be able to say what would be doing it better.

        Blake takes desperate gambles and makes desperate choices because he has not other choices but death or damnnation.

      4. I totally agree. You’ve said the sort of thing I felt up at the top of the comment section. Rose attacks Blake without offering anything constructive, her only contribution is the fact that she can read and punch things, she attacks him for making decisions while she is locked up, and Blake is acting pretty honestly given his circumstances.

        Someone above mentioned that Rose had the chariot tarot. I think it fits. Chariots were used in the olden days because people couldn’t rise horses, but they were unwieldy, got trapped easily. Once horse riding was more doable they stopped being used in war. Likewise, Rose is used because Blake can’t access books, but once he regains access to his house she’ll be pretty useless, since she continually gets stuck in her depressive moods.

      5. You seem to be focussed on whether Blake deserves to be judged by Isadora based on his own voluntary choices. But this isn’t about whether Blake is legally culpable, it’s about whether he should be trusted.

        Demons taint people. Consider them analogous to drugs that induce psychotic behaviour.

        Blake has only taken the drugs a few times and only because he had to. He plans to keep exposing himself to the drugs in future but as little as possible and only to keep other ppl safe from them.

        It wouldn’t necessarily be fair to blame Blake for any of that. It would be wise not to touch him with a ten foot pole because he’s clearly a train wreck waiting to happen…

    1. How much do you want to bet it ends up being Joel who has to lug it around? Joel goes into Blake’s apartment — he has keys and he has reasons to want to check u on Blake after all that crazy talk earlier about magic. He sees Blake just sitting there against the wall, with his thousand yard stare, gets all worried and upset, goes to check on Blake to see whether Blake is alive… and ends up having to carry that microwave around, meanwhile freaking out the whole time because this is just not supposed to happen.

      1. That was my first thought too, but I also get the impression this type of trap wouldn’t ensnare a non-practitioner. Not even sure that a non-practitioner would even see the Blake decoy.

    2. It’s probably going to be Duncan stuck with searching the house and thus picking up the microwave… which is almost better. 🙂

  21. Damn, that comment got swallowed. Ok, I tried to explain my view of Rose and Blake.

    Blake’s got his points. He hasn’t discussed stuff with Rose because she hasn’t been there. She sat out either paused from Pauz or being groped by Conquest. It would be unreasonable for him to have waited before making any major decisions with how much time she spent away from things. Plus, it means she came back into things without as much understanding of the situation he was in. There’s also some natural resentment building up. He probably feels it’s a little hard for her to be mad at him when he’s the one actually in danger of getting swallowed by this monster or that. Then there’s the bit where his grandma preferred an imaginary female version of himself to the real deal and then made that person the heir to magical power and recognition that could actually help him.

    On Rose’s side, she’s trying to be the brains of the operation. She’s trying to think and plan things ahead; she’s the only one reading the damn books. But she’s also the one who has been getting kidnapped or knocked out by every Other and every Other’s MOther lately. On top of that, she’s had her life drained from her and been molested by Conquest, a guy who enjoys taking things by force. She has all the memories of having a loving family and a good relationship with all these other people, only to find out a couple weeks ago that she’s not real, she’s going to die unexpectedly in a couple years or so, and she’s stuck until then inhabiting an empty mirror world where hostile magical creatures can sometimes come in looking for her. Despite what Blake probably thinks, she’s in as much danger as he is when he goes out risking his life, but she doesn’t get much input into things. There’s nothing stopping Blake from trying different courses of action, but she can only advise him. It’s like if you wake up and want to relax, only to find out that your asshole brother is dragging you off to go tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon without any input from you before making these plans.

    Plus, in terms of hysterics, we have to remember that Blake is the guy who cut himself and nearly bled out recently. He’s not exactly handling these situations in the healthiest way emotionally.

    I think this is a case where two people have been thrown together in a stressful situation, each with good reasons to resent the other, and are not communicating properly.

    If I was on the other side of this conflict, I’d gladly make use of all this.

    1. I keep hearing people calling Blake out on bleeding himself dry. Yes, that was stupid but it was not unreasonable. Blake had a proper motivation to take that course of action, it worked, and in a dire situation you can’t be picky about your plans. Could Blake have thought of something better? Maybe. Would he have been able to think of something better in a matter of minutes or an hour? Possibly not. It’s perfectly understandable Rose would be upset about that, given the dangers it poses and how stressful the situation is for rose. But she really needs to give Blake a break.

    2. I’d just like to say that she didn’t have a loving family, so much as one that wanted her more. Remember, being a girl she would have been eligable for the inheirintece. And the Thorburns seemed to have a high average of assholes. She stayed, sure, but that doesn’t make her better. It just means she never got fed enough shit to get fed up with it. Blake had it worse with the family.

      Right now both Blake and Rose are stressed as hell, and in a shitty situation. People tend to snap at each other in these situations. I’m honestly more worried about the cracks starting to appear in his relationship with Evan and his friends.

  22. Eh… Rose probalby does somewhat understand Blakes actions, it’s just she is pissed anyway. Because that is so the theme of this story. We had it with Alexis recently and Evan right after because Blake took the Hyena? And today Blake was hurt by Nick leaving but understood… The way I remember it, Blake does this all the time. Not sure. Also why do people have to use the word bitchy, it sounds so judgy, is what I feel…

    Either I found another typo or there is something you aren’t telling us about Blake. Other than that he got raped. He did, right? I’ve been wondering for arcs now. Because if Blake was a girl, hating touch and sex after a rough time on the street would seem like some obvious signs. And since Rose apparently guessed it I am ruling out the unique unguessable things.

    This is the line I was wondering about:

    “It was me if I were brain dead, maybe. Sitting with one back against the wall.”

    But he doesn’t have more than one back, right? Yeah.

    1. I think that’s probably what happened… poor Blake 😦

      Though with some of the ambiguity… I kind of wonder whether that “Blake is FtM” theory someone posted a bit ago isn’t totally unlikely.

      1. Early in the first few chapters, that was what I was thinking. I can’t really put much behind it because wildbow writes a believably toxic family environment even without Blake potentially fucking over his parents chances at the inheritance by coming out, but it’s an interesting headcanon to toy around with-most especially I’m wondering what that would make Rose. It would be interesting if she was just “Blake born a girl in body and mind” in contrast to Blake, but it would also be another big divide between them.

        1. …coming out? Are you laboring under the misunderstanding that the only men that are raped are gay? Or for that matter, that women can’t rape men? Because that is just not the case.

          1. I was referring to the FtM theory. “Coming out” is also appropriate terminology for transgendered individuals.

  23. These aren’t idea circumstances to judge Blake and Rose on. They’ve only known each other for two or three weeks. Right now they’re in a situation where everyone wants to kill them or enslave them and they’re coping with one issue after another.

    At a glance Rose is critical of others, Blake included. Like she said, she sees herself as more of a Thorburn than him because while Blake ran away from his family rather than get sucked into the drama she stuck around. She grew up in a poisonous environment where she was taught how to manipulate people by her parents and expected to do so and fight tooth and nail.

    In exchange she doesn’t trust anyone absolutely. When her and Blake first started getting along it was because they were mutually beneficial and one couldn’t make it without the other. She even admitted in her recollection that she wasn’t as close to Paige or Molly as Blake was because she was a potential heiress and raised as such. Then she became the brains of the operation since she doesn’t need sleep and it was all she could do since she doesn’t have enough freedom to do everything she wants and her lifespan is short.

    Blake, on the other hand, his more of a sense of humanity to him. He sympathized with Evan and offered him a choice in passing on or becoming a familiar despite their probably being other options present. At the same time he didn’t go rushing out to help the pizza guy being attacked because he felt something was off when Rose was urging him to do something. Like it or not, he’s a better judge of character.

    If they didn’t need each other then, yes, they’d probably go their separate ways.

    Rose is too much like the people Blake ran away from and, by all accounts, would be a terrifying practitioner in the same vein as her grandmother. Not that she’d be bad, but she’d probably be in the same camp and paranoid. I could see her taking up the estate and living a long life, but I also see her dying alone with no one she trusts with all her heart and no one to grieve for her.

    Blake, on the other hand, is someone who would most likely act for the benefits of others because he has more belief in the inherent good of people. He’s seen some harsh things but he met people who he trusts to stand with him. While he can’t stand being touched he can connect better with people who actually look after him without planning to stab him in the back. However, eventually he would make a mistake somewhere and end up getting killed doing the right thing, which is a weakness that others are going to exploit. There’s a reason everyone keeps saying he’ll most likely not survive long, but someone will grieve for him at the very least.

  24. I haven’t commented in a while, but a two things impel me to do so now: support for Wildbow, and support for Rose, as a character. The second thing will get its own comment.

    Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to donate a few dollars per month through Patreon. To anyone reading this, you should do the same if you can. Wildbow produces 10 chapters per week, counting bonus updates, with each chapter clocking it at an average of 7,000 words. This is essentially a novel per week. Given the amount of entertainment value that is, $5 per month — in other words, $5 for four novels (albeit drafts) — is trivial.

    Plus, Wildbow mentioned on WFG that writing is now his full time job. If 500 people donate $5/month, then, with donations, he can make a pretty good living. I think he deserves it, and if you, fellow reader, agree, then I’d urge you to consider donating.

    Wildbow, I hope this isn’t out of place. If it is, feel free to edit the appeal out of my comment.

    When Pact was posted on your blog, my initial reaction was one of boredom–“Yawnaroonie” might have been the term I used, actually. I’m generally uninterested in the haphazard, schizophrenic environment of most urban fantasy stories, and the petty infighting that characterized Pact’s opening was even more of a turn off.

    But, from the moment Blake found his grandmother’s library, I was won over. That was a true twist (and, incidentally, one of the only ones in Pact that I’ve found truly shocking so far).

    I do have a critique to offer, but I might save that for a formal review on WFG, time permitting (so, probably in a few weeks…don’t hold your breath). It’s related to general problems in your writing, as I see them, but the issues are more acute, or at least more noticeable, in Pact. That may because I’ve read Worm already, so I’m more familiar with your tics.

    Thank you for another enjoyable read.

    1. If I can comment as a professional writer myself? 7,000k words is nowhere near “a novel per week”. Not even close.

      /That being said/, it is a goddamn blistering pace of writing to be outputting 70k words a month. That’s on par with or better than Stephen King at his height. I’ve taken 14 months to output 70k words on some stories. Watching Wildbow do this at the pace he does is breathtaking and inspiring. 🙂

      For those interested in reading about what the life and output of a professional, for-a-living writer is like, you will never do better than a copy of “On Writing” by Stephen King. You might not be a big fan of his fiction works (I’m generally not), but the guy is a consummate professional writer, one of the most productive of our generation.

  25. So, did I miss it somewhere? I thought Rose could only jump between mirrors
    in the Thornburn house and those near Blake. If the group splits up, how
    will she be able to keep them in contact?


    Also – implement prediction: He’s gonna make his bike (or possibly just the
    keys to his bike – more portable) his implement! Maybe…

    1. That’s what I was saying earlier. Rose’s ability to go elsewhere, wherever she wants, even when Blake isn’t there, is a huge, huge thing that nobody in the story seems to have commented on.

      How would he bring his motorcycle into buildings/meetings? Does he really want to go to the regular scheduled meetings that he has to go to and park his implement outside where he can’t watch it? His keys, I could see that, but not his motorcycle, unless he gets some sort of crazy shrinking spell put on it.

  26. All the hate commenters are piling on Rose is, while unsurprising, simply absurd. It reminds me of the disdain heaped upon Skylar, the wife of Breaking Bad’s villain protagonist, as she reacted like any reasonable person would to Walter’s monstrous metamorphosis. I ended up tuning out of Breaking Bad, so I’m not the person to debate the finer points of the show with, but, nevertheless, there are some parallels.

    Rose, like Skylar, is an intelligent, reasonable character who reacts the way many (indeed, most) normal people would I’ll leave at that the better to discuss Blake and Rose. And yet, even as Walter kills and kills/Blake does all sorts of crazy shit, people hate on her for killing the protagonist’s vibe. Of course, Rose is “bitchy” and “hysterical” (“temper tantrums” keep getting brought up) for objecting to Blake’s cutting himself on a prison toilet, hunting a frozen corpse in the forest for no reason, etc. Seems like there’s a gendered element to the whole affair.

    Frankly, Blake is kind of a dick, and he makes terrible decisions. I’m astounded that this even needs to be argued, but since plenty of people have employed supposedly utilitarian logic to discount Rose, let’s use the same process for Blake.

    Blake is gratuitously manipulative and secretive. He fulminates, schemes, and keeps Rose completely out of the loop. When the time comes to act, he pleads necessity/urgency and does whatever he wants. But if he didn’t get himself into these absurdly dangerous situations, half of his problems wouldn’t exist. When you have an ally who doesn’t need to sleep, it pays to devote a few more man-hours (or vestige hours, as the case may be) to planning your next move.

    Everything that Blake and Rose do is in character for them, given their backgrounds (Rose as heiress, Blake as street-dweller). But, Blake is kind of a fucking idiot. The most obvious example is the fact that he lies every time he says “I can’t lie.” He can lie. It’s just bad. So, this is someone who, until recently, could barely get through routine interactions without fucking up.

    I’m not saying Blake is useless. But Blake is a vessel for Rose, not the other way around. Rose Sr. appears to have created Rose to avoid “wasting” a child. This, of course, will be an interesting conflict. But, until then, it’s foolish to assume that Rose isn’t at risk at all. She’s incorporeal, yes. But, hello? You live in a world where fucking ghosts and demons exist! That doesn’t mean anything!

    Keep in mind that Rose is, in her mind, a person. Except one day, she woke up and was completely trapped in a mirror. Now her life depends on a hotheaded male relative who may or may not have a history of abuse. And this relative routinely makes decisions without consulting her, and rushes into things even though he’s obviously ill-equipped in a lot of ways (in terms of word-magic and thinking beyond the immediate moment, for instance).

    Rose can make ironclad pacts on the fly. Blake cuts himself on toilets. There obviously needs to be a balance between them, but he’s completely disregarding it. Rose is right to be upset, because if the current pattern continues she will not only lose control over her own life, but be eternally enslaved as well.

    Blake, to Conquest, is useful only insofar as he keeps Rose alive. Rose has the access to the library and the word-power. So, for most/all of Blake’s potential screw-ups, she gets the raw end of the deal. If I were Rose, and Blake couldn’t see that, I’d be pissed too.

    1. If it’s no trouble, which of Blakes decisions did you think were terrible? I’m trying to learn to think more critically. Please help me out?

    2. This is a good post.

      And also yeah, if Blake’s plans over the last few chapters went even slightly more wrong, Conquest would have free demon summons starting with the star-dropper, the living Thorburn family would be stuck at basically negative infinity karma for all time, and everyone else would look at Rose and see her as the horrible evil diabolist who made it happen. Not really hard to understand why she’s displeased.

    3. I’m barely into Breaking Bad, but I can tell you that what I have disliked about her reactions was purely “why is she getting so upset that he needs so much time to himself when he was just diagnosed with terminal cancer?” But I’m a naturally introverted person, so I empathized with his cover story /shrug

      I don’t know that I’ve called Rose “bitchy,” but I have thought of her as such, because she is: that is, she complains and/or gripes, a lot. Of course, the term is unigender in my region, so I don’t see it as sexist. That is a lot of her interaction with Blake, though, regardless of whether or not you think it’s justified.

      And Blake did have reason to hunt for Evan’s corpse >.>

      Blake totally is a dick, though, I definitely give that to you. His decisions…are not the best, usually, but it has kept them alive, and many of them are startlingly clever and effective.

      I have stated the same before, actually, that he should share his plans more and Rose should stop being cut out of the loop. I really do have some reservations about all of those dangerous situations, though.

      It seems to be pretty clear that “I can’t lie” doesn’t count–it’s said by other people, the easiest one to find being Maggie saying it in 2.07. There are other posts on here with more nuanced responses; I’ll leave it to them. Could you list another way that Blake is a fucking idiot, besides the things mentioned here?

      Uh, there are other male grandchildren that are totally excluded from the list of possible heirs. Molly’s brothers, Christoff & Callan (2.01), for instance. Not to mention the lawyer’s implications that Blake was the real heir, and that crafting Rose was really expensive.

      It’s foolish to assume that Rose is far from any danger, but it’s equally foolish to assume that Rose is in the same danger that Blake is. She has been threatened a number of times, most notably by ErasUr, but Blake is the one who’s had the shit kicked out of him. Repeatedly.

      I do give all of this to you, except that he does think beyond the moment. Not much beyond the moment, mind, but he does.

      What ironclad pact did she make on the fly…?

      I wanted to say, you have a lot of really good points. I don’t think I’ve ever responded to a post with so much that I both agreed and disagreed with heh

    4. Dude, let it go, seriously. Everyone in the Pact world is not lying when they say “I can’t lie”. There are multiple meanings to the word “can’t” as other people have pointed out. Here’s yet another dictionary for you: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/can't he’s not saying can’t as in “is unable to” he’s saying can’t as in “is forbidden to”. The book about the ritual forbade him from lying. He could certainly choose to ignore that, but only at a heavy karmic cost — otherwise simply has to comply with the strictures of the oath he swore and the ritual he underwent.

    5. You’re turning this into a gendered argument when it’s not for most people. This would literally be the exact same situation if Blake was a woman. Blake is hardly manipulative considering his circumstances. In almost every case he tries to enter a situation with good intentions, and again and again people try to attack or betray him. When people are actively working torwards your demise, making plans to stop them isn’t really ‘manipulative’.

      Every time blake has made a dangerous or risky decision, he was in a situation where EVERY DECISION HE COULD HAVE MADE was dangerous or risky. Rose was UNCONSCIOUS for almost the entire plot. He was INCAPABLE OF CONSULTING HER so why is she attacking him for not doing something he was incapable of? All the many times that blake made a dangerous decision, if he didn’t make it then the horrible results that the decision might have caused would most likely happen anyway. Blake picked Evan as a familiar in the jailhouse not only because Evan wanted to keep existing, but because he was in a situation where he could lose everything to Conquest just by doing nothing at all, and he literally NO source of power or agency in that cell other than Evan, and his blood.

      You attack him for cutting himself in a prison cell, but you forget, he did that FOR ROSE. If he didn’t do that, Rose would be in a coma – possibly forever. He risked his life, for her, and she attacks him for it. Plus, if he didn’t do that, he’d still be sitting in that jail cell, under the power of Duncan AND conquest.

      Consulting her doesn’t really do much either – she has pretty much never given a good suggestion – her only suggestions are ‘don’t do that’ ‘that’s an awful idea’ ‘i dunno but not that’ when the clock is ticking and people will be dying. In the mean time, while he may do risky things, he succeeds, again and again – perhaps maybe that means his decisions aren’t quite as bad as you suggest? In the situations he’s forced into, he has no good options. Rose thinks that magic is some sort of mathematical hard-rules system, while Blake thinks magic is about interpretations and symbolism and blurred lines – again and again what Blake does works, so perhaps he isn’t as ignorant as you think? Sure, Rose has access to the books, which makes her seem ‘smarter’ and ‘wiser’, but when they both have access to books they’re on pretty equal ground, at the least.

      If their positions were switched, I can almost guarantee you that rose would either have done no better, or would have failed because of her inability to make important decisions when everything is on the line. Her first instinct with any time-critical situation is to freeze up and go no no no we have to plan maybe we can come back in a few weeks!

      Rose may be a better long-term planner or logical thinker, but we aren’t in a situation where long term planning does anything – there is no long term, things are in a constant state of flux. Blake is much better at reacting, surviving, short-term survival, which is exactly the situation needed here.

      Rose would honestly be a better character outside of the mirror, as then she could contribute in ways other than trying to guilt-trip blake into inaction. I understand why she acts the way she does, but trying to act like she’s somehow in the right while Blake is this terrible person abusing her is ridiculous.

    6. Frankly, Blake is kind of a dick, and he makes terrible decisions. I’m astounded that this even needs to be argued

      Especially because he seems to acknowledge this.

      I feel like if you asked Blake right now if he thinks Rose is more useless than useful, if she should be blamed for having been taken by Conquest (rather than thanked for taking the shackle instead of him), if he feels all she’s contributed is complaining/nagging, and all the other complaints people keep making about her, he would disagree.

      (Let alone if we actually got this story from Rose’s POV.)

      I feel like, to a certain extent, every point of disagreement, or even just times when Rose comes up with something Blake hadn’t thought of and vice versa, is useful–above and beyond the “two heads are better than one” bonus–in that it differentiates Rose from Blake. Because the more he thinks of her as “me, but a girl”, the more he’ll feel free to draw on her as a resource the way he does himself (and it’s something of an understatement to say Blake is not good at self-care) without thanks or compensation.

      Plus, for all we know about how vestiges work, it could be the case that being paid attention to (rather than being taken for granted) is (literally) vital to Rose’s continued existence. If, you know, having emotional needs (you know, like Blake does? and which he has multiple ways to fulfill that Rose doesn’t?) isn’t good enough.

      Blake is gratuitously manipulative and secretive. He fulminates, schemes, and keeps Rose completely out of the loop. When the time comes to act, he pleads necessity/urgency and does whatever he wants.

      Which, incidentally, is also giving up a potential source of power / good karma. If you have plans, stating the plans (“I intend to…” if you want to CYA in case of disruption) before you carry them out is a boost with whatever spirits are listening (and Someone Is Always Listening). So it’s not just dumb that he’s failing to discuss his plans with his allies because they deserve to know what his plans are (especially anyone whom he’s promised to run things by) and he’s missing out on their input and criticism, it’s also dumb on a magical level.

    7. I disagree with the characterisation that Blake schemes and deliberately keeps Rose out of the loop. Generally if she’s there, he consults with her. She wasn’t there when Blake had to make the big choices of Familiar and Circle. He consulted with her on how to deal with Pauz, he consulted with her on how to deal with the abstract demon. He probably would’ve consulted with her on the Hyena but, again, she wasn’t there. (Not blaming her for that, BTW, just pointing out that he literally couldn’t consult her).

      But for the most part, if she’s there he consults her. Occasionally he’s consulted her then decided to do something else but he weighs her input seriously.

      BTW, for whatever reason, “I can’t lie” is obviously not considered a lie by the universe. Blake’s said it enough times now that he would be noticing multiple unexplained power hits if that were the case.

      I would speculate that is due to flexibility around the definition of “can’t”. As someone else pointed out, it doesn’t always mean “am physically incapable of” – it can mean anything from that to “am not allowed to” to “doing so would break my moral code”.

      English is actually a particularly terrible language for pacts because it’s so insanely flexible and open to interpretation. If I saw the cat, did I see it some time in the past or am I currently cutting it in two? 😉

  27. Rose keeps complaining about Blake not trying to keep things balanced, but isn’t really giving him an opportunity to do so. Blake’s entire life has been consumed with just keeping Rose’s head above water, if you really stop to think about it. Sure, he doesn’t want people to get access to the Thorburn library and he wants to redeem his family, but the thing that’s throwing his whole life into uncontrollable chaos is the fact that he swore an oath to get Rose out of the mirrors, and as a result he keeps having to rescue her.

    Reparations, pfft.

    It’s really hard to see where Rose is coming from. Blake can’t consult her when she isn’t around, and she’s never around when it actually matters. And despite what she says, that has never been Blake’s fault in any preventable sense. If she doesn’t want to get treated like a plot device, she needs to stop acting like a plot device.

  28. What exactly was that tarot prediction again? What’s the possibility that Rose becomes the new Lord of Toronto? Bam, she’s now free to be out of the mirror and interact with everyone because she can do that in the area there. Blake’s main promise to her is fulfilled, and she can work on becoming her own person.

    1. The tarot card for Rose at the time was the Hanged Man (submission, slavery, not able to control fate) and for the future was the Chariot (success, conquest, direction, control over one’s fate)

      The tarot card for Blake at the time was the Fool, (fairly self-explanatory, but includes exploration, experimentation, and potential growth) and the future was High Priestess (understanding, wisdom, intuition, and potentially strong female influences)

  29. Right now I don’t have much patience for rose. I kinda feel like while the rest of the cast seem to develop or being shown more depth, rose stays a somewhat flat character. She complains a lot, but doesn’t seem to desire any change. I haven’t heard her thinking about getting any power source for herself, or even to find someway to recharge like blake’s friends and his bike.
    Rose is arguably the most powerful member of the protagonist camp. And I really hope she will gain a desire and a chance to use that to grow as a character. SHe could become soo awesome if she wasn’t acting like a ghost.

    1. Random theory: Rose doesn’t develop because she’s a vestige. She’s been programmed with a preset personality.

    2. Just about the second she found out that the glamour could be used as a power source, she asked Ms. Lewis about plugging herself into it.

      “Could you do something like that to fuel a vestige? To make the false copy more real?” (2.05)

      A think that a lot of the problem that people have with Rose is how much she plays things close to the vest. People say that she’s undisciplined or unrestrained, because they can’t see into her head to see all of the times and things that she wants to say something and doesn’t. People think that she’s not interested in a power source (though, seriously?) because she doesn’t talk about it much (I guess?). But she keeps a lot of what she’s thinking to herself, and so people think it doesn’t exist.

      So she plays things close to the vest. I guess that makes her just like Blake then.

  30. Why does it seem people are getting the impression that Rose is never around? In the entire story, Rose has been legitimately separated from Blake an incredible 2.5 times. The first was by mutual agreement during the Infiltration, but even then she popped in with advice. She was put to sleep by Pauz 3 days ago and was pulled to Conquest a few hours ago.

    I think we need to remember the scale of time these arcs are in. From the time Rose took Conquest’s shackle for Blake, it’s been 3 days. She has been away from Blake for 2 of those days (1 full day, 2 half days). Remember, up until recently, Rose couldn’t sleep or leave Blake (except to go to the house). She only got the ability to leave Blake when she got the power boost a few hours ago.

    Yes Blake has made huge decisions regarding both of them when she wasn’t with him, but it’s not like she’s always or even mostly away from Blake .

    1. But the things she resents Blake for are exactly the things he’s had to do while she wasn’t around, because she wasn’t around.

      Blaming Blake because she chose to take the chain instead of him isn’t fair. Blaming him because she chose to use all her power to break a couple windows isn’t fair. It was her choice to try to affect the short-term situation at the expense of her ability to give long-term input (and notice that in both cases she ended up making the short-term situation worse, as well). She has no right to feel slighted when it was her choices that necessitated Blake’s choices.

      1. I basically agree, although I’ll offer some dissenting thoughts in a comment below. But I have one mild correction. Rose didn’t know she was spending all of her power to break a couple windows. That put her in a coma only because of Pauz’s influence. Of course, it’s not Blake’s fault either.

        1. If I remember correctly, what put Rose in a coma was that Pauz had affected the connection between her and Blake. Blake realised this in the prison chapters, he noticed the connection between them was unidirectional, and he gave his power to Rose to reverse what Pauz had done.

          1. Pauz reversed the connection so that her power was flowing into Blake. Running out of power is what put her into the coma. The kicker is that it was breaking the windows that weakened her enough that the reversed connection put her in said coma.

    2. It’s not that Rose isn’t around, it’s that Rose hasn’t been around during the recent big, big decisions (Evan, how to escape prison, how to deal with C), and THEN she complains that Blake didn’t talk to her about it. Blake has done stupid things before those three events, very stupid things, but they were rather inconsequential.

      Perhaps the biggest thing Blake did that Rose disagreed with was infiltrating Laird’s house, I think Rose was against that, but Laird was already planning on hurting Blake anyway. Or maybe the biggest thing Blake did was attacking ErasUrr. But Rose did eventually agree to go on with the attack, and Blake got an arm out of it which might end up being important (as readers, we know it will be important, but Blake doesn’t).

      Perhaps the most important, the most consequential thing Blake did without consulting Rose was verbally attack Laird during the practitioner meeting and not asking Rose about it, but he seemed to have a good reason to do so at the time.

      To be fair, Blake could have considered what Rose would have said: don’t get a familiar so soon, you will get out of prison if you wait, you don’t have to fight C now.

      But all those options have their problems: Blake needed a power source and he felt a connection to Evan, if Blake spent more time in prison his chances of getting out would be much lower (and what about the promise to Conquest? Does anyone remember the exact wording?); if we don’t fight C now, he will fuck us over.

  31. Damn, I spent most of the week with my internet connection down. I come back, and not only is their a new chapter up, but we have the great Rose vs Blake war. Well lets talk about something other than who is right and who is wrong, shall we?

    I have a little ditty that I feel sums up Blake’s situation. Sung to the theme of the old Tums jingle… Fucked-fu-fuck-fuck-fucked.

    Even if Blake wins this, he’s in deep shit. Nearly eveyone wants him dead. It sounds like he’ll also have to worry about inquisitors who can just sneak in and shoot him in the head. And even his friends and Evan are not happy about some of his decisions. Simply put, I see no real win for Blake here. Even a flawless victory over Conquest will see him deeper in the hole. And he may not have the luxery of not using Pauz and the Hyena. Sure he says he won’t use the Hyena unless Evan lets him… And he said he would let Rose veto going into the factory after Erasurr. He can talk people into doing what he wants even if they really don’t want to do it.

    And it is important to remember. The universe hates Blake. It wants him dead. Most others and practicioners agree with the universe. The Universe will always try to find a way to make it so any victories Blake gets only fuck him over worse in the long run.

    1. Umm, he did allow Rose a veto over going after ErasUrr – she didn’t use it. the even required him to pass a test before she agreed. She seems to have agreed off-camera, but she’s doubtful in 5.5, Blake passes her test then she’s (reluctantly) on-board with the idea in 5.6.

  32. So, I think Rose has been unfair and Blake has generally been a mensch, but I want to make a few points in Rose’s defense.

    First, I think there’s a general perception that Blake including his friends is a good idea. But I think Rose can quite reasonably think that Blake has just caused the deaths of several people. Blake has seen Conquest willing to threaten Rose to get Blake to submit; now there are more weaknesses to target, so to speak. Ultimately, I’m on Blake’s side here, because they’re his friends to risk, and he did his best to explain the situation, but there’s more to Rose’s complaint than that she just wasn’t included.

    Second, while Blake is being sincere in making a deal with Evan, it doesn’t seem to be a very prudent deal. He’s mollifying Evan now, but what would probably happen down the line is that Blake will get in a situation where he thinks he needs to use the hyena, and either he won’t use it, endangering himself, or he’ll argue Evan into allowing him to use it, causing Evan to feel betrayed.

    Third, Blake was being a bit petty when he said “Yeah. Though you don’t really fit the definition. You haven’t done anything. You sat out for the imp thing.”

    Finally, Rose made relatively modest demands on Blake. Just asking him to make things up to her in the future when he feels like it.

    Aside from all that, I like how Rose has a pretty realistic flaw, where she perceives offers of sympathy and help as reinforcing her lower status. This seems of a piece with her bad reaction to being humiliated by Conquest. I mean, Conquest has been forcing her to do things against her will, so when the person she’s closest to makes decisions without her, it probably feels like another punch to the gut. Being rescued doesn’t help much for your state of mind when it’s another reminder of your helplessness.

    1. Of course, a lot this is my speculation on the characters. We’ll see where Wildbow takes the characters and how consistent any of our comments are with the future story.

    2. You know this makes me wonder… Did Rose ever have any friends? I mean like ever. The way members of the Thorburn family tend to be, I kinda wonder. Blake does have friends. Friends he trusted enough to bring into the loop. Would Rose have trusted them enough?

  33. Oh, and notice it’s that horrible diablost who is willing to risk his life to save some random stranger? Course the various Toronto powers will blame him claiming if he hadn’t done anything in the first place things wouldn’t have ever gotten to that point.

  34. But that doesn’t mean, Evan, Alexis, that he didn’t take something away from it. He can apparently be as manipulative as any of them.”
    Ouch.

    “Female you is kind of a bitch,” she said.
    Well, on the bright side Blake’s friends don’t seem to be too worried about that.

    “If I win, I’ll earn the wrath of every local.”
    Lose-lose, neh?

    “Why does it feel like you and I aren’t balanced? Like I’m the only person you’re not trying to balance the scales with?”
    Maybe because Rose doesn’t seem so much like a separate person to Blake?

    I wonder how easy it’ll be to cover up the Eye’s activities. What did the muggles see?

    1. “If I win, I’ll earn the wrath of every local.”

      Blake has a Diabolist label pinned on him since the inheritance, that won’t be anything new. The only difference is that they will now be more obvious about it.

  35. if you compare the bitchy female characters to the bitchy male characters so far:

    laird: I doubt anyone whos read this far is going to argue this point. hes manipulative, underhanded, hes the introduction to ‘lie without lying’, has tried to get blake killed and/or forsworn multiple times, is likely to send assassins after him at the next council meeting, and did send an assassin to kill molly, all because greed, with a thin layer of ‘they’re too dangerous to let exist’ to help justify it all, probably mostly to himself. Am I safe saying that hes the biggest bitch here so far? also does the ‘authority figure who could step in and, if not make it all better, at least make a good amount of it all better, who you can at first imagine being a protagonist/ally in another story, but instead decides to make it worse (even by just looking away) because prejudice/fanaticism/corruption/generallybeingashittyperson, then blames the protagonist when shit goes wrong’ thing (which I love, but its one of wildbow’s big patterns as a writer, tied into what appears to be a recurring theme, which if it is confirmed here like its looking like, i also love)

    isadora: Refuses to help, refuses to explain, and asks blake to kill himself (or, more frequently, to let her kill him. she even kinda-sorta sweetens the deal). she does wildbow’s shitty-authority-figure thing, but to a lesser extent than laird.

    maggie (staggeringly amoral, but not bitchy)

    fell (snarky, a little bitchy now because hes been totally enslaved without even secrets since age 12, bitchier at the beginning because he thought blake was going to unwittingly help conquest)

    sandra: doesnt have much characterization yet on the bitchy/nonbitchy front, but shes teamed up with laird and she put a hit out on blake, so not assuming nice things.

    conquest: hes conquest. do i really have to say more?

    the drunk: he send maenads to kill and/or threaten blake, accepts what he interprets as a hit on someone he knows literally nothing about at the time from someone he hasnt spoken to in a while-without question, and sabotages blake/tries to get him killed at every opportunity. hes in the ‘chain of people who fucked blake over for no real reason’ right up there with sandra. even meeting his future wife, hes kind of a bitch to her (and her family). hes sort of universally a passive-aggressive ass.

    blake: is a whiny panicy bitch who isnt very good at communicating. he knows these things. he doesnt think things out that far ahead (not that he has the necessary information to anyway), and is prone to improvisation(its almost as if hes a protagonist!). he believes in human kindness, hes just not terrific at dealing with it. currently suffering (among other things) a shitstorm of paranoia and manipulative bastards], which he explicitly states is exactly what he wanted to get away from when he left home (what rose suffered).

    rose: at this point appears to be a dark mirror of blake(she learned paranoia, he learned the power of friendship. he learned how shitty life can he when youre down and out, she learned how to stay calm under pressure and turn paranoia productive. he left, she stayed. right now theyre sort of equalizing, with even their experiences mirroring each other (more on that in a bit). shes done the whole ‘heroic sacrifice when blake looked like he was going to panic’ thing, and the quick smoothing things over with padriac in the beginning, but otherwise shes mostly been the voice of exposition in blakes ear. most of her ‘bitchiness’? its blunt warnings ‘dont let him make promises he cant keep; he needs every scrap of power he can get right now’, she gates it behind a request (whether from shame or politeness), or its flat out paranoia (blake being happy happy friendly doesnt get anywhere with her. making the point about how helping her is to his advantage convinces her pretty quick).
    shes significantly more stoic than blake, which fits with her character, its just that shes stuck in a mirror, is never going to be able to interact with anyone she knew or loved before(as if she didnt exist.), has nothing thats hers, is mostly powerless, is invisible to the outside world, doesnt even have the most basic physical pleasures, and has basically been a walking (well; mirror-teleporting) metaphor for homelessness since page one. or two; i forget when she got her first line. then she was absent from the story, having had what another character kinda-sorta points out was kinda rapey+mindrapey. not only has she been less of a bitch than blake, but shes consistantly had excuses. its just that shes a woman, and hes the perspective character, so we see her fuckups as worse.

    im counting more men on that list than women, and more badness from the men.

    I would say the implications here having the most prominent female character in the story be constantly distressed and traumatized, and the whole ‘women as plot device’ thing is kinda sketchy, but given the authors previous use of a majority-female story(most of them strong unique and interesting), the other non-shitty female characters here, the fact that she and her male counterpart are each mirroring the divergent-bits of each others lives (hell, even blake having friends who care, and his family treating him like garbage, but rose having been closer to her parents earlier might be a thing), and the authors love of taking what looks like an exaggeration of a trope then turning it into an extreme subversion
    (worm spoiler:**
    like the invisible/useless little sibling who gets constantly taken hostage, who ends up being a regular trump card and hyper-competent spy/would-be-assassin(even there, she gets in and out just fine, and ends up spying instead after cutting someones throat then stabbing them in the eye completely fails to do anything but put them on alert)
    **)
    means even I can stay the hounds, and wait to hunt wildbow in a terrible feminist rage until it becomes totally clear whats going on. and consent, because one does not pursue the most dangerous game without consent. not in the twenty first century. (also: scheduling concerns. There cant be anything more embarrassing than arriving at your mothers house in full hunting regalia, with braying hounds behind you and a noble mount beneath, and finding that shes in hawaii, on a vacation shes been planning for over a year, and now you have to ride all the way BACK through the fucking suburbs at fucking midnight wearing nothing but a bandolier and an elaborate braid, with a dozen excited dogs behind, because im certainly not going to hunt her neighbor; hes like eighty and not in an athletic way.)

    my apologies for the incoherence and hopefully not unfinished state of this wall-of-text.

    1. wait fuck as soon as i posted that unfortunate textwall i noticed two big fuckups: non-problematic female characters, not non-shitty (i still actually like rose when shes being more than the voice of exposition) and second most dangerous game. sorry; i was thinking of tigers while i retyped that to make it less unreadable. dont ask why.

    2. You’re using a much broader definition of “bitchy” than I would. To me, a bitchy person is someone who’s nasty, spiteful and verbally vicious. Fell I would consider bitchy, but while Laird is manipulative, underhanded etc. he is also unfailingly polite and smooth so I wouldn’t consider him bitchy…

  36. All the people are calling out Rose,or Blake for their shit,and Iam just waiting for Blake to kick the eye’s ass.

    However,since it overtook the comment section,here’s my two cents:
    facts
    1)Blake’s plans tend to work.Rose’s plans tend to work,when they do not err too much on cautin or demon summoning
    2)Rose seems much more willing to traffic with demons and take the cruel choice,while Blake is much more willing tio sacrifice himself
    3)Blake is impulsive,and thinks of plans on the fly,which gives some people the imptression he manipulates others.
    4)Rose is stuck in a hellish situation,and she just returned from a worst one,I would seriously not want to be in the mirror world with so few comforts.
    5)neither of them is smarter,but Blake is overly impulsive ,which damaged him multiple times,while Rose is overly cautious,something that would destroy them multiple times.Balance is needed here,if they weren’t so hostile to each other,they could counterbalance well
    6)Most of Blake’s worst/most impulive decisions happened when Rose couldn’t be around him,she has no right to blame him,but that does not make them smart,as there could be alternatives.They aren’t really stupid,though,as none backfired yet (Evan saved his life,his cabal though is still under scrutiny of need to know)

    Conclusion:fuck the mirror world,it twists their relationship badly,though I agree Rose is more at fault,I cannot really judge her,civilians on a war area have less stress,more agency and more comfort than her,her situation is unknowable.

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