Subordination 6.6

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My senses were consumed by images of fire, the sound of screaming, and a six-foot-something brute of a man that looked more at home walking through the flames and wreckage than he had outside of it.  The rags that bound him together were dark, the rest of him burned like it was made to, skin sizzling and popping like meat in the frying pan, but not being consumed.

The big hulking threats in the movies didn’t move fast.  When the main characters were up against the three-hundred pound chainsaw-wielding maniacs, they could at least scramble away and outrun the motherfuckers.  The Eye didn’t move that slow.  Longer legs meant longer strides, he was standing and I was on the ground, and I was a very tired human, while he was some kind of otherworldly abomination.

Evan swooped low, between the Eye’s legs.  Without looking, the Eye reached back, grabbing blindly at Evan.  Evan was in the process of ascending, avoiding the burning wreck, and managed to escape both the grasping hand and the flames.

It was a horrible risk for a negligible effect, nearly getting caught, which would toast Evan and me, and the bird passing by while the Eye was mid-step didn’t even make the thing stumble.  The grab at Evan was more of a delay than anything.

It was a delay I could use.  My progress was impeded by the silhouettes of the rescuers and fleeing bystanders.  They were only partially there, and the further I got from the Eye, the easier it was to fight through them.

I was able to get to my motorcycle.  Getting it up off the ground was another thing.  It wasn’t a big bike, but I wasn’t strong.

Evan appeared, giving the bike a bit of a nudge as he settled on the handlebars.  It was the helping hand I needed.

I could feel the stinging warmth of the Eye on the back of my head and neck as he got closer.

Gunshots rang out.  I could see the flashes.  Fell stood by his car, driver’s door open, gun in hand.  He emptied it at the Eye, and all but one shot hit.

Buying me a chance to get away.

I climbed on the bike.

Normally when riding a motorcycle, the engine needed to warm up first.  Fuck up and move too soon, and the engine could sputter or die.  With the Eye closing on me, the consequence would be me dying a sputtering death.  I couldn’t even trust the temperature gauge.

Staying meant the same thing.  Death.

I could only hope that the engine was still warm from the earlier ride, and that the ambient temperature wasn’t taking hold on the thing.

I was moving a moment later, stopping only long enough to give Tiff a chance to climb on.  While she got in position, I looked back.

The Eye had shrugged off the bullets, but wasn’t giving chase.  It remained near the flames.  Reality continued to distort around it, alternating between showing glimpses of reality and the spirit world.

Distant sirens filtered into this world from the other, moving to the scene.  The Eye was quick, but not fast enough to follow on foot.

He thinned out the border between our world and this one, freeing him to affect both.

But how had he found us?

As I rounded the corner, putting the Eye behind us, I saw more ghosts accumulating.  Maybe it was better to say that I saw them more clearly.  There were no silhouettes, no dark, faceless figures representing the people in the real world.  These were ghosts, wisps, apparitions and specters.  Where the silhouettes were faceless, the expressions on the faces of these guys were exaggerated, their features taken a step too far.

The ones who smiled smiled too wide, the angry expressions twisted their faces into something monstrous.  The wounds that marked how they died were taken a step too far.  A woman with black veins stretching around lower half of the face and throat.  A man with a tumor grown wild, emaciated but for the fleshy lump that stood out from his sternum.

The Shepherd’s servants.  Was he doing something to bring out their more unusual qualities?

Was he the one that was tracking us?

Each of these ghosts could be reporting back to him.

The car caught up to me.  Fell was driving as recklessly as he had when he’d dropped me off with the Knights.

The ghosts all watched us as we streaked down the carless road.  Macabre faces turned as we passed.

How many years had the Shepherd been active?  How many people had died in Toronto in that span of time?  How many of those deaths had been violent or painful enough to make an imprint in reality?

Did he have a mechanism to handle it, or did he simply do it full time?  Collecting the echoes?

The number of ghosts didn’t decrease, even as minutes passed.  If anything, they only got more numerous.  I saw the same ghost twice, then three times.  As if they were being moved ahead of us as we left them behind.

He was with us, even if we couldn’t see him.

I looked for a connection and didn’t find one.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the road or the ghosts nearby to look up or behind us.

Fell drove in the incoming lane, pulling up to my left.  I could see Alexis in the passenger seat.  She was talking, saying something to Fell.  Reporting on my condition, maybe.

The car abruptly slowed, dropping back from my left.

I could see why.  Ghosts were streaking across the street, more like flashes of light than people.  All towards one central point.

They congealed into a form.  The Shepherd.

As the other ghosts had, he watched us, his head turning to track us.

He raised his staff-

We passed him.  He disappeared behind us.

I turned a corner, and Fell turned to follow.  Break from the pattern, maybe catch him off guard-

No such luck.  More ghosts.  More streaking lights.  One or two passed through me.  I could feel it, cold, flickers of emotion so brief I couldn’t pin them down or even react.

I wobbled a bit before righting myself.  I heard Tiff yelp, a brief sound that the rush of wind tore from us.

I moved away from the point where the ghosts were converging.

It wasn’t the Shepherd making another fleeting appearance.  It was a ghost.

A man, older.  I couldn’t make out anything else.

We approached, then passed it.  My focus went to the road, watching for potholes.

An explosion rocked the space behind us.  My heart skipped a beat as the shockwave swept past us.  I experienced a brief, paralyzing terror, a sense of something unfinished.

I wobbled more violently than before in the wake of it.  I slowed, focusing on getting control.

There weren’t half as many ghosts on the sidewalks now.  They watched as I steered the bike around.  I checked over my shoulder, and I saw smoke rising from the point of detonation.  It had images etched in it, the man’s face, repeated over and over.

Fell’s car slowed, continued forward in neutral, then stopped.

I huffed out a breath.  I’d had moments where I’d worked so hard I’d been out of breath, and I’d tried to suppress it instead of make a lot of noise panting and recovering.

This was like that.  It came with a general feeling of unpleasantness, almost but not quite nausea.  Throughout my entire body.

When I felt it starting to concentrate in my left hand, I fumbled with the clutch and slowed.

It got worse fast.  Strength going out of my hand and arm.  More nausea.  A cold sweat.

My heart had skipped a beat, and it hadn’t started up again.  Not properly.

I managed to stop the bike, but I didn’t get the kickstand down.  We wobbled, and Tiff had to brace us with one leg to keep all three of us from tipping over.  I leaned over the handlebars, gasping like a fish out of water.

Fuck me, this hurt.  I felt like something heavy was sitting on my chest.  Big and dense enough that the force of the crushing was enough to take the strength out of the rest of my body.  The limbs couldn’t work if the core didn’t.

“Blake,” Tiff said.  “The Eye, it’s at the end of the road.”

I closed my eyes, because absolute darkness was better than seeing spots and sparks across my field of vision.

“Blake?”

“It hurts,” Evan said.

I forced my eyes open.  I was breaking out in a sweat.  All the little things your body did that pointed to something being very, very wrong.  Evan was on the headlight, looking up at me.  He was lopsided, and his little hop to one side was clumsy, obviously debilitated.

Sympathetic pain?

“That really sucked, whatever it was,” Tiff said.  “Did it get you harder than it got us, little guy?”

“Got Blake most of all,” Evan said.  “He’s really hurting.”

“Blake,” Tiff said.  She got off the bike, holding it and me up, fumbled for far too long to get the kickstand down.

The ghosts around us were drawing closer.  I heard the report of Fell’s gun.  Shooting ghosts?

No.  The Eye.

“They aren’t coming to help.  I don’t know what to do.”

“Get help.”

“I can’t leave him.  If he falls over- can you go?”

“Can’t fly like this.”

“Hey!”  Tiffany yelled.  More sparks exploded across my field of vision at the loud noise.

I was deflating, getting weaker and more numb from moment to moment.  My hands, head, and feet felt heavy.  I’d bled myself out, but this was my heart giving out.  When you died, the doctors used the moment the heart stopped to mark the time of death.  This was… kind of backward.  The heart had stopped, and now the rest of me was swiftly moving from ‘okay’ to ‘dead’.

“They’re occupied,” I heard Rose say.  “Trying to stall the Eye and ward it off so it can’t follow.”

“Should I give him CPR?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe.  But CPR isn’t a fix.  It’s something you do until better help comes along, and I don’t like the look of those things I’m sensing over there.”

“Ghosts,” Tiff said.

“We need a fast fix.  Do you have something to cut yourself with?”

“Yeah.”

“Do it.  Hold Blake’s hand… his right hand.  Put the blood in his palm.”

Such an ignoble, anticlimactic way to go out.

“Yes, like that.  In his palm.”  Rose said.  “This is my fault,”

I was only peripherally aware that she was touching my hand.

“Why?  How?”

“I told Conquest that Blake was weak.  That he’d been giving up too much blood, and he was tired.  I didn’t know he’d bleed himself out in the prison, to get me back.”

“I think anyone could look at Blake and tell that he had problems,” Tiff said.

I could feel the moisture in my palm.  It was surprisingly warm, when my hand felt so cold.

“I still hate that he’s using information I gave him against us.  Blake’s fragile, and if we lose him, we lose this.”

“We lose, period.”

“Yeah,” Rose said.  “That’s enough.  Cover the cut.  Close his hand.  Ball it up…”

Tiff closed my hand into a fist.  There wasn’t a lot of blood, but with my hand clenched as tight as it would go, it squeezed between my fingers.  More warmth.  When my hand felt nearly normal, it made its way up my arm.

“The ghosts are getting closer.  The salt on the road is hampering them, but they’re finding their way through.  He’s probably burning power to make it happen.  You’re going to need to take action.”

“I’m not good with fighting,” Tiff said.

“Don’t look at it as fighting.  Look, position his hand so it won’t open…”

I managed to raise my hand, clenching the fist, to show I could manage it on my own.  The warmth was spreading through my upper arm to my shoulder, but my feet were almost completely gone, and my vision was going black, lost in a sea of sparks and blots.

“He can hold it up.  Good.  In his bag, there’s-”

“A book, some tools, twine-”

“Box of salt?”

“Yeah.”

“Get it out.  Use the salt.  Don’t worry about wasting it.  Just dash it out.”

“Oh god.”

“Don’t worry.  They’re more a force of nature than people.  It’s like taking shelter from the rain.  Or throwing salt on the sidewalk to prevent people from getting hurt later on.”

“Okay.”

“Good.  Like that.  Stall, keep it up.  I’m going to go help the others.”

The warmth in my arm and shoulder reached my heart, and things quickly returned to normal.  I gasped, and this time the gasp was more like a breath of air after being underwater.

As my vision cleared, I could see how close the ghosts were getting.  They staggered, left and then right, trying to find patches where the salt wasn’t as thick.

When they did stagger through, they visibly weakened, flickering and fraying.

Each one radiated a particular emotion or idea.  If I didn’t feel one hundred percent yet, it was because they were radiating sickness and malaise, weakness and general pain.  Even with the salt as a barrier, it was noticeable.

“I feel better.  You feel better?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Thanks to Tiffany.”

Tiffany glanced back at me.  Her smile was fleeting.

I fixed the kickstand, then stood.

Fell’s gun went off a few more times.  The Eye was closing in.

I took the box of salt from Tiff.  She stepped back until she was behind me.

“Evan, fly closer to the ground.  Stir the salt into the air.  Loop by the others, report back.”

“‘Kay.”

A ghost with needles sticking out of it drew closer.  I cast salt out.  It was weak, crossing the salt already on the road, and the salt I used was enough to banish it.  It wasn’t gone, but it was dissolved into its constituent echoes.  Wisps, ectoplasm, flickers.  Whatever snips and snails went into making a ghost on the fundamental level.

I dealt with another.  I could feel how light the box was.  This wasn’t a permanent solution.  I glanced over my shoulder.

The Eye.

Especially not with him around.

“Evan just asked me to come back?”

“What’s holding us up?” I asked.

“Alexis had the same symptoms you did,” Rose said, from the motorcycle’s side mirror.  “Ty’s helping her.  Fell’s stalling.”

“Why her?” Tiff asked.  “Blake’s weak, but Alexis…”

“I don’t know,” Rose said.

“I do,” I said.  “Her dad had a heart problem.  She used to always complain about the food she had to eat as a kid, because her mom made super healthy food with zero cholesterol.”

I threw salt to deal with another ghost.  The needle ghost was already starting to reform, complete with transmitted bursts of desperation that was really fucking with my ability to stay calm and assess the situation.

“She always liked eating crap,” Tiff said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“And she smokes.”

“Yeah,” I said, again.  “Shit, I hope she’s okay.”

“Even if she makes it through this…”

“She will,” Rose said.

Evan returned, flying close to the ground.  He wasn’t flying fast, but snow and salt were stirred in his wake, and the ghosts retreated.

I took the chance to get on the bike.  Tiff climbed on behind me.

I headed back to the others.

The Shepherd wasn’t far from the Eye, standing by a corner, ready to duck behind cover if Fell pointed the gun his way.

The Eye had stopped.

Fell, with his focus on the targets and the encroaching ghosts, wasn’t seeing what the Eye was doing while it was stopped.

The hood of his car was smoking.

Ty and Alexis were in the vehicle, Alexis lying on the back seat, Ty squeezed in between the two front seats, holding her hand.

I knew why.  I knew what they were doing, but I still felt a little uncomfortable seeing it.

“Fell!”  I shouted.

“What!?”  he called out.  He didn’t even turn.  He changed targets, aiming at the Shepherd.

The Shepherd ducked out of the way.  By some unseen signal, the ghosts around us drew closer.

I shook the box, using the last of the salt to drive some ghosts back.

The nearest were half a block away, but I could still feel them, and it was only a matter of a minute or two before they got close enough.

“You’re okay?” Fell called out.

“Fake heart attacks suck balls, but they’re still fake, I’m feeling better every second,” I said.  “The Eye is cooking your car.”

He looked.  “Motherfucker.

“Alexis seems okay.  We should go.”

He nodded.

When he turned, though, the ghosts took that as a cue.  They approached, a little more quick and intense than before.

“Out of salt,” I said, as Fell climbed into the car.  Ty moved out of the way, climbing into the passenger seat.

“Me too,” Fell said.  “Used most of the stuff I had in the back to make a barrier, keep the Eye back.”

“There’s a fuckton of salt on the road,” I said.  “It’s not stopping the ghosts like it should.”

“Shepherd’s implement is the shepherd’s crook.  Guides things,” Fell said.  “Normal rules don’t apply for his ghosts.”

“Why is the Eye not approaching?”

“I bound it, kind of.  It won’t hold.”

He slammed the car door.  I saw the headlights flare as the engine started, then stopped short.  Smoke billowed from the hood.

The ghosts were getting closer.

Fell rolled the window down.  The car was old, and he had to manually crank a handle to roll it down.

“Slow them down,” he ordered.

“How?  No salt.”

“Figure it out!”

He scrawled something on the dash in chalk, tried the car again.  It didn’t start up.

Evan swooped by the ghosts.  More snow and salt moved, a delay.

“I need something more,” I said.

“I’m trying to concentrate, Thorburn,” Fell said.

“This isn’t working.  We need a tool.  Do you have anything?”

“Can’t help you,” he barked out.  He adjusted the rune, another failure to start.

“The Eye is making it worse faster than you’re making it better,” Rose said.  “Leave the car?”

“I don’t need one of you fucking up my concentration, let alone the two!” Fell shouted.  “Without the car, we won’t all be able to keep running!  They will catch us!  They don’t ever stop.”

I looked at the Eye of the Storm.  It stood there, still, still burning in places from the fire earlier, eye glowing.

“Give me that powder?” I asked.

Fell glanced at me, annoyed, then grabbed a handful from his coat.  He slapped it down into my hand.

I turned the bike around and accelerated, lurching as Tiff moved the wrong way and we went less than gracefully into the turn.  I looped around the back of the car, towards the Eye, and I let the powder trail from my hand as I went.  A thin cloud of Fell’s dust between the car and the Eye.

Trying to break the connection.  A line of power to block the flow of things.

The effect was negligible.  The car didn’t suddenly start, the smoke still billowed.

I used what remained to bar the path of the nearest group of ghosts.  It was weak at best.

A woman-ghost screamed at me.  Not the usual sort of scream, but the kind of howl that threw all caution and social grace to the wind.  The kind that usually preceded an accident.

Fell’s powder seemed to dampen the effect.  Pain still rocked through me, and Tiff slipped, hurling herself forward, her chin driving into my shoulder.

This was messy, stupid, and we were dealing with nigh-on inevitable forces.  An immortal abomination and a whole lot of things intrinsically linked to death, which was about as inevitable as it got.

The spirits were crowded at the sidewalk, to the point that they were shoulder to shoulder.  Only the strongest seemed able to make it over what was very hostile terrain to them.  It was good we only had a few to deal with, it sucked that they were as potent as they were.

“Didn’t work!”  I called out, as I pulled up to the passenger window.

“I know it didn’t work!” Fell shouted.

It was Rose who spoke, “How’s he doing this?  The Shepherd?”

“I asked myself the same question,” I said.

“Still concentrating!” Fell said.  His rune was now sprawled almost all the way across the dash.  Interconnecting images.

“He’s got to have a weakness,” Rose said.  “You don’t control this many Others this easily, even if they’re weak ghosts.”

The ghosts drew nearer, and as they did, they lowered our level of functioning.  Distraction, disorientation, pain, panic, all flashing through our minds.  It only ratcheted up the level of panic.

I could see Fell struggling, his hand shaking as he drew one line, licked his thumb to erase it, and drew it again.

“Uneasy departed!”  Rose called out.  She spoke from the car and bike mirrors.  “In the name of the Thorburn Bloodline, with all the respect and history that name commands, I order you to cease!

The ghosts around us stopped in their tracks, no longer drifting left and right to navigate a path.  They were still, and the area was silent.

One even disappeared, frayed and worn enough that it couldn’t stand up to simple words.

“Was worth a try,” Rose said.

“It worked,” I said.

“It was still worth a try,” Ty said.  “Keep going!”

But the Shepherd did something, eliciting a loud clack, and the ghosts resumed their movement.

“Stop!”  Rose commanded.

They didn’t listen this time.

“Almost,” Fell said.  “Almost done.”

I looked at the engine.  If someone had raised the hood to reveal that the engine block was literally on fire, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

What the fuck was he doing?

“By the name of the Thorburns, by my ancestors, greater than me, I order to to be still!”  Rose cried out.

I could see the momentary hesitation, as if the spirits were people who’d stepped out of an air conditioned house into oppressive heat, but they resumed movement all the same.

“Different tack,” I said.

“Okay,’ Rose said.

“What you did when you tried to bind the Abstract-”

“I know!” she said.

The vibration of my bike shifted.  I looked down.

The temperature gauge was rising.

The Eye had set his sights on me.

“Four times, I will bid you to throw off the shackles your master has used to bind you!” Rose called out.  “Let this be the first, spirits!  I, Rose Thorburn, urge you to rebuke him!”

The Shepherd wasted no time.  He dismissed the spirits.  One by one, each ghost that that might have been in earshot disappeared.  It only left one.

An apparent cancer victim.  Bald, shirtless, with only pyjama bottoms on, staring at the ground.

Light began to streak towards it.  Ghosts all being used to supercharge this one.  To get it to explode, and visit us with it’s essence and means of death.

“For the second time, I rebuke you!  Let my words have more power for the repeating!”

It’s not going to work fast enough.

The effect the spirits had on us was ratcheting up.  I was hurting everywhere, but they were phantom pains.  I felt like shit, but it was phantom feelings at play.

I knew because my feelings tended to hit me harder, a little more unforgiving.

I’d wanted to experience the kind of anger I could fight through and use it to fight harder.

This was as close as I’d get.

“Ty,” I said.  “Sword.”

That sword?”

“Yeah,” I said.

He had to twist around and reach down to the floor of the car behind the driver’s seat to grab it.  He maneuvered it through the window.

“Tiff, off.  Ride in the car.”

I pulled off my backpack and turned it around.  Sword lying across my lap, salt-box over the handle so I didn’t gouge my thigh, my backpack at my chest instead of my back, pressing the flat of the blade down against my thighs as I leaned forward, hands on the handlebars.

“Look after Alexis,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said.

The moment she was off, I revved up and peeled out.  I suspected Alexis had been in the middle of saying something when I left.  If she had, I didn’t hear it.

It was cold as fuck, the snow had soaked my coat and clothes from the outside in, cold sweat had soaked them from the inside out, and the wind just cut straight through it to bite deep into me.

I passed the line that Fell had described.  Salt plus snow to make something approximating water.  Water to oppose the Eye of the Storm, or so I supposed.  Salt plus water?

The moment I passed the line, my bike kicked.  More smoke, more complaints from the engine.

“Evan!” I shouted.  “Guide me!”

“Yeah!” he cried out, a small voice lost in the rush of wind.

I turned, steep, and steered right for the alley where the Shepherd was taking cover.

I shifted the position of the sword with one hand, steered with the other, and sailed within a hair of the Shepherd, blade’s point sticking out.

A jouster’s run, in a way.

I stopped at the far end of the alley and turned around.  I nearly lost the sword as it came close to slipping from my lap in the midst of my using the clutch, but I caught it and fixed the position.

The Shepherd had turned into a ghost.  Or adopted ghostly defenses for himself.  Untouched, untouchable in the conventional sense.

Ghosts were emerging from the walls.  Slower ones, less material.

The Eye was closer to the mouth of the alley, and a newspaper box was blazing nearby.  I suspected that it could and would combust at the worst possible time.

It was narrow, as escape routes went.

Rose made her third bid, and the ghosts hesitated.  The Shepherd struck the wall with his staff, and the ghosts surged forward again.

Low quality, high quantity bindings, it seemed.

“Another go.  Help keep the way clear,” I said.

“Yep!”  Evan said.

My engine popped.  More smoke.

Fuck me.

The Eye would pay for messing with my bike.

But first, the Shepherd would pay for fucking with my friends.

I left the sword the way it was, shifted gears, then raced for the mouth of the alley.

One hand on the sword, again, and another jousting run.  This time with the Shepherd to my left, the blade’s point to my right.  I didn’t look at him.  My eyes were on the exit.

He moved his crook, apparently planning something.  To catch me around the throat as I passed, possibly.

He wasn’t watching for the sword’s pommel.  It was only when I stuck it out that he saw what I was doing.  I’d focused on the exit only to mislead.

There was magic, and there were magic tricks.  Sleight of hand.

He turned ghostly.  It didn’t help that much.  I still had the box of salt over the handle, and even largely empty, there were trace amounts of salt inside.  Enough to fuck with a ghost.

Enough to fuck with him.

I felt the impact this time, and came very close to both crashing the bike or having the sword’s blade lever over to cut me in the side.  I managed to just barely avoid both.

He felt it too, and he folded over.  A punch in the gut at thirty kilometers an hour.

Ghosts disappeared, one by one.  Ones on and around the car, on the sidewalk, and elsewhere.  I couldn’t say whether it was Rose’s words or my actions that had done it, but we’d banished them.

Rather than risk trying to slip by the Eye and the burning box, I hurried to turn around, riding over and past the fallen Shepherd’s spectral body, hoping there was salt on the tires.

No such luck, as far as I could tell.  He was dissolving much as the other banished ghosts had.  He, too, would reappear somehow.  If I’d had more salt, and if the Eye hadn’t been in the immediate area, I might have tried to bind or disrupt him.  But I didn’t, and the Eye was close enough to get in the way.

I rode through the alley, exiting the far end.

“They’re going,” Rose said.  She was on the back of my bike, looking at me through the side-view mirror.

How did that even work?  Was there someone on the bike in her version of the world, or was it moving without a rider?

I put the questions out of my mind.

“Yeah, ghosts are gone,” I said, raising my voice to be heard over the wind.  Easier than it might have been, because I was slowing down to turn the corner.

“I meant Fell and your cabal.  They’re moving.  The Eye is following you, but it’s slow.”

“Good.  Good job,” I said.

There was no response.  She’d already moved on.

I rode down the empty street, parallel with the others.  Evan moved forward to the headlight, perched there, but with his wings spread.

Had we been able to hear each other, I might have asked if he was lending his abilities to our escape from the Eye, or if he was just doing it because he enjoyed it.

I hadn’t been exercising, exactly, but I was still exhausted when we finally managed to stop.

Fell did what he could to break the connections between us and the others.  He set up a few more stick figures and partially masked them, to confuse the trail.

In the end, we pulled into a garage, because Fell loved his car and I loved my bike, and we wouldn’t be able to get by if either one broke down.

Rust, frayed wires, melted insulation…

I’d taken extensive classes on maintaining a car or a bike.  When I set to work repairing some of the damage, I sensed a grudging respect from him.

“You’re an asshole, Thorburn, for dragging me into this,” Fell said, banishing the idea from my head.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  My eyes fell on Alexis.  “I really am.”

“Guess that’s a wake up call,” Alexis said.  “I can’t keep ignoring my heart, if I’m as vulnerable to a heart attack as Blake is when he’s this weak.”

“Not entirely a bad thing,” Ty said.

“No, it isn’t,” Alexis said.  But she looked a little shaken.

“It isn’t, but… it kind of sucks when you have to grow up,” I said.

“Yeah,” Alexis said.  “No more garbage food for me, I guess.”

I looked at Tiff.  “Are you okay?”

“I’m not the type that can deal with pain or anger, or being scared,” she said, quiet.

“You did good,” I told her.

“I don’t, um, I don’t want to be good at it?”

“You mean you don’t want to fight?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah,” I said.  I sighed.

“The original plan stands?” Fell asked.

“Yeah.”

“She should stay here, then.  Secure building, I can secure it further, and if we need to fall back to a location, we fall back here.”

“I don’t want to be alone in the middle of all of this,” Tiff said.  “I’ll go crazy, thinking every sound is something dangerous.”

“Rose and I will stay here for the time being,” I said.  “Take it easy, rest, catch your breath, and we’ll fix up the vehicles.  Fell, Ty and Alexis can secure another area to retreat to.”

“Then what?” Rose asked.

“Then… well, we’re going to need to hash out a plan of attack.”

“If we run into the Eye and the Shepherd again, we’ll need firepower,” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“We could let Pauz loose.  I know we couldn’t do it back there, but…”

“But it’s dangerous,” I said.  “I’m not saying no.  I’m saying… we need to be careful.  Let’s talk it over when I don’t have my hands full.”

“Yeah,” Rose said.

I applied electrical tape to the wires I could salvage.  Or spirit-world electrical tape, as it happened.

I had so many questions about the relation between this world and that one, but the only person present who might have been able to answer was Fell, and Fell was being a grouch, more than the usual.

When I crossed to the workbench to see what might be available, Evan was there, perched on the toolbox lid, looking down at the Hyena’s sword.

“It’s smiling,” he said.

I looked.  Sure enough, the engraved face was leering in a fanged smile at the hilt.

“It liked the violence, probably,” I said.

“I hate it,” he said.  “I hate it and I can’t do anything to it.  I can’t hurt it or make it stop smiling.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Sorry.”

“If I could crap on it, I would.  See if it smiled when I dropped a big white and black blob on its face.  But I can’t crap.”

“You probably could if you ate something,” I said.

“Really?” he said, with a note of hope.  Then he changed moods, “That would take too long.”

“If it’s any consolation, goblins are messed up enough that they would probably enjoy it.”

He made a small, frustrated sound, fluttered down to the sword, and pecked at its eye a few times.  When that didn’t do anything, he muttered, “Whatever,” and flew away.

“You’re so blasé,” Alexis commented.

“Me?”

“You, yeah.  You’ve totally adapted to this.”

“Barely, if at all,” I said.  I found the wire snips and started stripping the most damaged wires of insulation.

“You’re talking to a bird about a smiling sword not twenty minutes after we almost died.

“Numb more than blasé, I think.”

“You’re rolling with this in a way I couldn’t imagine myself doing if I had a year.”

“Are you regretting the choice?  Getting on board?”

Alexis frowned.

“You don’t have to answer.  Having to tell the truth doesn’t mean you have to respond to every question.”

“Yes?” she said, as if unsure.  “Yes, I regret getting into this.  I’m scared, and I’ve sort of made a point of not being scared for my own welfare, the past few years.”

“Yeah,” I said.  Alexis had always focused more on the welfare of others than on herself.  She had been thrown into the deep end of an awfully big, deep pool, and it didn’t help that she was out of her element, being scared on her own behalf.

“But I don’t regret helping you,” she said.  “Or, I don’t regret doing this to help you… even if I’m not sure what I’m doing, yet.”

“It’ll take time,” I said.  “Get grounded.  Fell will take you somewhere, you do what he says, set up defenses.”

“I’m not a strategist,” she said, “But you don’t win fights just by running away and defending.”

I saw a motion out of the corner of my eye.  Ty, bobbing his head in agreement.  Tiff sat on the bumper of Fell’s car, just beside him, watching Alexis and me, listening.

“Not normally,” I said.  “This fight?  I think we can.  In fact, I’m more confident than I was.”

That had their attention.  Fell shifted position, still ducked under the hood of his car, but keeping an eye on me too.

“The Lord of Toronto is an incarnation.  He’s… I don’t want to say his name, but you know what it is.  C-word.  He’s… the occupying tyrant, ruin, subjugation, the victor ruling over the defeated.  Look at the word, at what it means.  There’s the past tense and the present.  He’s drawing power from past victories where he utterly trampled the loser.  We can’t do much about that, except to take away the trophies and subvert the win.”

“My father wrote a great deal on this subject,” Fell said.

“Yeah.  Well, there’s the present tense too.  C-word in progress.  So long as we’re defying him, keeping our spirits up, staying focused, we’re winning.  We’re making it so he can’t be that.  He can’t be C-word in progress if we’re even or if we’re winning.  We can ride this out.  I’m betting that if we do, it’ll make him hurt, on some fundamental level.  He’ll react to it, and he’ll get impatient.”

“Even if he does,” Fell said, “We don’t have the forces to capitalize on any mistakes.”

“We can get them.  Or we work out a situation where we don’t need them,” I said.

“It sounds thin,” Fell said.  “Too many enemies on the board here.”

“It is thin,” I said.  “But it’s a way through.  More importantly, it’s a way through that we can pursue, with the people and forces we have here.  We seize territories, just like this.  We keep moving.  Maybe after Alexis and Ty take over some other spot, we leave this behind, some big fuck you bit of graffiti on the wall to lay claim to the space.  Take territory from under his nose.”

“Not much territory,” Ty said.

“No,” I said, “It’s very little in the grand scheme of it all.  Thing is… Laird there once compared himself to America, and Conquest isn’t so different.  If someone invaded the States and seized a small town, it wouldn’t be much in terms of square footage or overall population, but you can bet the Americans would be pissed.”

“Tell you what,” Fell said.  “You’re thinking along the same lines my dad did.  Why don’t I grab some of his work while I drop these guys off.”

“Sure,” I said.  “I’m actually kind of itching to read something, so to speak.  Rose is the only one with free access to our library right now.”

“Right,” he said.  “You have wire cutters?  My battery’s fucked.”

“Wire cutters,” I said, “Yeah.”

From planning to the practical.

Movement stirred me from sleep.  I wasn’t sure when I’d drifted off, or even when I’d taken a seat by the wall, but I had.

Alexis was standing, and in the doing, she was jostling Tiff, who sat next to me.

I could dimly remember the bit from before we’d fallen asleep.  I’d finished fixing up the bike as much as I could, and Fell had been only partially done, giving me only a glare in answer when I offered help.  I’d seated myself against the wall, offering some murmured words of reassurance to Tiff, who had been uneasy even in sleep.  When Tiff had leaned over, resting her head on my shoulder, I’d stayed where I was.

There were things I’d wanted to do, preparations to make, but… fuck it, I hadn’t wanted to disturb her sleep.  I’d fucked up her life enough as it was.

Joel had told me to be selfish sometimes, and I’d listened.  I kind of regretted that now.

Somewhere along the line, sitting still, exhausted enough to not care about the immediate presence of another person in my personal space, I’d joined her in dozing off.

Now Alexis was heading out.  Ty and Fell were already in the car.

Alexis raised her hand in a wave.  I raised mine.

The car moved on, leaving on Tiff and I in the dark garage.

A good ten minutes passed, my mind whirling, trying to piece together events.

Tiff stirred, then mumbled, “sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“‘Lexis said you don’t like touching,” she mumbled, barely understandable.

She moved her head away.

I took that as my cue to rise.

Evan was on the workbench, looking down at the sword.  He looked up at me as I passed.

“Tell her where I am if she wakes up?”

“Okay.”

I headed into the back office, searching the space.

I found Rose in the women’s bathroom.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

She was silent.

“Are we still… in a bad place?”

“No.  Yes.  Kind of.”

“Aren’t you guaranteed to lie if you answer like that?”

“I’m telling the truth.  All three are true.”

“Ah.”

“Blake… I’m scared as fuck.  I’m paralyzed, trapped, and being caught by Conquest, made to talk, you constantly doing stuff when I’m not there… I’m helpless.”

“I know,” I said.

“You don’t.”

“I know more than you think,” I said.

“Blake… you need me strong, and I need me strong.”

She moved a book so I could see it through the mirror.  A black cover.

“I want to summon something.”

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310 thoughts on “Subordination 6.6

  1. When you write 2-3 times a week, putting in 60 hours over said week, there are going to be days where real life gets in the way. Just a question of probability. This was one of the days. I pushed forward all the same, and am hoping it’s readable – I was going back to find/edit lines for clarification and found some stilted stuff and unfinished sentences. I suspect there’s some more that I didn’t catch. Please let me apologize for that in advance.

    I’ve been meaning to correct the tally and make my thank-yous to you very generous readers, and in the process, I realized I thought I did one partway through April and I didn’t (or, just as likely, I closed the tab with the comment unsubmitted).

    Thank you to Angela, Patrick R (I have so many donators named Patrick), Abdullah, Stephen D, John V, Ehsan, Andrew A, Kyle, Deyvid, Tiernan C, Mats, Mokshay, Andrew R, Tomáš, Cerina, Jonathan K, Sophie S, Alexander S, Michael E, Christian K, Lauren B, Simon A, Sergej, Zaslavskiy, Lim, Ivan, Shannon, Walter F, Will L, Benedict H, Jason M, Bob S, Derek M, Robert S, Cornelia, Jeffrey, and Stephen (thanks again, Stephen!).

    Big thank you goes out to Benjamin N, Andreas, Rob Hart (for both!), Melissa K, Thomas R, Fredrik, Lawrence, Olivia B, Peter W.H., and Josh.

    Especially big thank yous go out (again) to Mr. and Mrs. H, and to Mac F, for their exceedingly generous donations.

    I’ll update the donate page shortly to let you guys know how many donation chapters are left in the queue.

    You guys are freaking awesome. Thank you.

    1. I tallied it up. Five donation chapters remain in the queue, and that’s after the two I wrote in the last two weeks.

      I think, in order to stay sane and avoid burning out with 15 chapters in the queue (like there were at the end of Worm, I’m going to increase the target amount to $2,500. I might be being a little too conservative here – you guys are far too generous. But I gotta step in before I get swamped.

      This is always terrifying, because I worry people will see the amount as unobtainable or me as greedy, and that people will just stop altogether.

        1. Because the audience is ever-growing, and I could corner myself very easily if I got in the habit of refusing donations. I like to keep things moving forward without stopping and starting, for much the same reason I like to do so with my writing & not missing chapters.

          1. Quality is important, and I think you would only be able to write negligibly more if it were $25000 a chapter, so I think setting the $ figure at an amount that will average to the two bonus chapters a month you are comfortable with is definitely the right move.

            1. This might work – changing the relationship between money and chapters – but I feel like it is more important for Wildbow to have the chance to understand how they want to make the decision. I can understand seeing any change mid-story as an unwanted break-of-habit.

              On the other hand – if something needs to change? Then doing it as one arc changes to another is probably the best time, and the time when Wildbow can makes exactly the changes that need to be made.

          2. If the textual updates prove unmanageable and you earn even more money you could do an alternative update. Commission an artist to do some artwork for your work, or a few graphic novel style scenes. It’s possible pact will get popular enough that 2500 won’t be enough. It’d be nice to have something to look forward to in the slow weeks.

      1. You mentioned the possibility of a Maggie Holt arc over that September vacation? Why don’t you write (a selection from) the Maggie Holt novel that Alexandria mentioned back in Worm? I’d kinda like to see that.

    2. I just spotted my name on that list, and would like to thank you as well, Wildbow. I consider myself your intellectual offspring, on some level, and would probably have spent another decade writing tiny disconnected short stories without the inspiration you’ve given me. You briefly commented on my plans for the upcoming web serial in email, but probably didn’t see my reply where I asked about the best way of letting you know once it has gone live (the countdown is 1-2 months). You’re probably swamped with email. Please let me know how you’d like to receive your reader invitation on launch day?

      p.s. The first chapter is already done, an origin story that was classified as suitably traumatizing by pre-launch reviewers who loved Worm.

      1. I’m glad to have inspired, and I’m doubly glad that you’re writing something original – I’m grateful (and in awe) of the vast amounts of fanfiction Worm has inspired, but Worm is the sort of story I’m into, and if it’s inspiring totally original stuff, then that’s stuff that contextually related to something I’d like.

        I just wish I had more time to read these days.

        Send me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll check it out. I do read every email & comment, I just have a nasty habit (that I’m trying to break) of reading through the comments/emails, losing track of the ones I meant to reply to, or reading them and getting distracted. It feels like the bulk of the stuff comes in on days I’m writing, and at that point I’m typically trying to put a few hundred decent words down on a page in the ensuing hour.

    1. “chance” should be “chase” below, I think:
      “but wasn’t giving chance”

      “incoming lane” is usually “oncoming lane”.

    2. smiled smiled
      repeat word

      I order to to be still.
      I order you to be still.

      pyjama
      pajama

      visit us with it’s essence
      visit us with its essence

      wake up call
      usually wakeup call

      wasn’t giving chance.
      wasn’t giving chase.

      “Okay,’ Rose said.
      “Okay,” Rose said.

      1. Both spellings of pajama are acceptable, with the a spelling used in the US and the y spelling used most other places.

    3. “A woman with black veins stretching around lower half of the face and throat.”
      Change to “around the lower half”

      “The car moved on, leaving on Tiff and I in the dark garage.”
      Change to “leaving Tiff”. Also “I” should be “me”, I think.

    4. “No,” I said, “It’s very little in the grand scheme of it all. Thing is… Laird there once compared himself to America, and Conquest isn’t so different.

      It’s weird that he’d say Conquest here when he was so adamant to say C-word not moments before. Possible Typo or Inadvertant catching of attention?

  2. Nice to see that Rose and Blake are a bit more civil, especially after the comments from the last section. Certainly isn’t going to help Blake’s reputation though, once Rose starts bringing the big bad darkness that terrifies people into play: Even if its just for survival, I can’t help but think that a diabolist summoning will not go over well in the community. Then again, everyone already hates Blake.

    1. I said last chapter, Rose and Blake are both stressed and tired. This chapter she shows she still cares about him, and she feels guilt for what she was forced to tell C-Word. That said, I think he’s going to eat more of the cost if they do summon something.

    1. There’s always the dramaticroute of the Scion of a Diabolist bloodline becoming an Evangelist to redeem her family’s sins. Too bad Rose isn’t that dramatic.

    2. To be fair, she hasn’t really gotten pushy yet. She’s laid out her (poor) headspace, the major contributing factors to said (poor) headspace, and what she wants to do to alleviate that. If she’s smart and level-headed, next update she’ll ask Blake to try and talk her out of it. I don’t think she’s actually going to do that, though.

      I will, however, be disappointed with Blake if he doesn’t at least pull the “losing the moral high ground” card.

      1. Is Blake really that concerned about a moral high ground? I think his main objection is going to be that it’s ridiculously dangerous and likely to backfire in ways they can’t anticipate.

        1. He can’t call himself “not one of the real threats” if he’s no different from one of the real threats. Actually summoning demons is one of the few checkmarks on that particular questline. One of the only, in fact, given that (without context) he’s threatened a community with a demon and bound two Others to his will already. That plus handing them over to Conquest makes him a very dangerous villain to others’ eyes.

          Plus, he can’t really complain about “ridiculously dangerous” and “likely to backfire” because that applies to almost everything he’s done since awakening.

          1. And yet, Rose summoning something is entirely different from him summoning something. He can still (probably) truthfully say that he is not one of the real threats.

        2. Blake is actually a pretty nice guy. He really does want to help people. The problem is that he inheritied Shit Karma from his forebearers, and everyone seems to think he’s destined to become the dark lord of darkness. If he has to be a Diabolist, he’s going to be one that catches the demons that are already loose, and binds them so they can’t hurt anyone. Well that’s what he wants to be. It might not be so easy.

          Rose… Rose is not so nice. She’s no summon Ornias and let them suffer, but she’s not as convinced of the decency of people, nor does she have friends like Blake.

    3. How is she being pushy? She’s literally made one statement indicating such a desire, and it was a fairly timid request. “Pushy” means using forceful methods to make others do what you want them to do : aggressive and rude, which doesn’t really fit.

    1. Oh what’s the worst that could happen? Wait, can they even summon anything with Blake’s promises? Oh hell did Blake ever get the no Diabolism promise out of Tiff? The problem with summoning a demon, is what will it want? I don’t think it will make the world a better place at all, and probably make things worse in the long run. So no way this turns out good. Of course maybe Rose just wants to summon a cute little bunny… Yes a certain cute little bunny…

      1. I fully support Rose turning her favourite kind of Other into a vorpal bunny of doom +5 for her familiar.

        May glory be hers.

    1. I’m afraid it’s more likely Rose’s turn to talk Blake into doing some incredibly risky dumb thing.

      1. Agreed, that seems far more likely, especially since they just had a talk about how Blake needs to pay her back.

          1. Don’t make hammerade. Make life take the hammer back! Get mad! I don’t want your stinking hammer! What am I suppose to do with this? Demand to see life’s manager. Make life rue the day it decided to give Sir Fuente a hammer! Do you know who I am? I’m the man whose gonna tear your house down, with a hammer.

    2. I don’t think he will be able to, she will probably argue that he does so much without her permission, that she should be allowed to call the shots occasionally. Also, we have a tendency to side with Blake as the viewpoint character, everything he does seems justified to him, so it is justified to us, but he does seem to be quite the asshole.

  3. Chock another point up for Rose being the biggest bad, not only is this a major cliffhanger, it is huge foreshadowing. Rose wants to feel less helpless, so she uses her abilities, which include: summoning, communicating, binding, and the Thorburn clout. Rose gains power and falls prey to the slippery slope of Diabolism, eventually summoning the bigger bads, and possibly merging with them? Also, I have a theory: Rose could be a demon Granny Thorburn subjugated and trapped in the Mirror world then reworked into Bizarro Blake.
    My final boss prediction: Rose, merged with/subjugated by a demon, who Blake is forced to destroy, causing him to be Forsworn due to him not fulfilling his oath to Rose.

    1. Seems like a reasonable set of theories, though with the Black Lambs Blood plot I could almost see Blake manage avoid being forsworn by ushering in a new era of “Good” Diabolists (pledging himself to a cause to avoid being forsworn, like Fells grandad but in a more proactive manner).

      1. That is possible, but I think Fell’s grandad was forsworn, but instead of numerous spirits possessing him, Conquest owned him. I may have misread that passage however, but that is how it appeared to me.

        1. More or less. When you get foresworn, Others have free reign to do what they want to with you and you’ll have no power to stop them.

          Conquest just got there first.

          1. It all boils down to where real power lies. Being forsworn means you lose the protections granted to you in Solomon’s pact, but why is that treaty obeyed? For that matter, why does a pattern of lines at the human scale resembling a wind rune make the spits help you jump higher? It seems implausible that these things are written in the fabric of reality through normal physical processes. The law of threes, drama, etc. – all point to power being granted to current characters directly or indirectly by intelligent agents. But those intelligent agents themselves must somehow manipulate reality.

            Given this is a wildbow story, I think we’ll see Blake challenge that order at some point. Not mere demons, not mere gods, but the in-universe storywriter. The same Solomon managed to form a pact with. When you can tap into that manipulation of reality without having to try and sway millions of middleman-Others, being forsworn stops being as grave a concern.

            1. I fins that quite possible. But if that’s true, then the Real Big Bad of Pact is. . .

              Wildbow!!!

            2. I would have said the Universe. Which is why Blake needs an evolution powered robot that grows to galaxy dwarfing porpotions to punch the universe out.

            3. @negadarkwing to do that he needs three wins in a ROW ROW FIGHT THE POWA

              (I don’t take credit for that joke, I saw it in a previous chapter)

  4. See Nick, this is why you don’t leave Blake’s crew. You already knew Rose was a terrible influence, even said so. Now, here she is, saying something that sounds almost reasonable. Except for the summoning part. And the world ending in hell fire… but see, Blake is too messed up to realize Rose is a bad influence. Should have stuck around, knights, should have stuck around.

    On a different trend, does anyone remember if we know if Others can be forsaken or not? If so, all anyone needs to do to pull of a coup d’etat is kill Rose and Blake. Conquest gave his word that he would reclaim Rose, and conquer Blake,
    Would be really amusing to see Fell get his freedom because Conquest became forsworn. Of course, I doubt Fell is going to live through the conflict. He probably knows that if he survives and Blake loses it isn’t going to be him that suffers the most, but his niece.

    1. I think that they can be forsworn – after all, we know that essentially all of the less clever others are dead or enslaved (possibly like Fell’s family?).

    2. Conquest didn’t just say he would reclaim Rose. He said he would re-claim the stuff he was setting free.

      So it also includes Fell, Pauz and that Hyena.

      So basically C is screwed. There is a person with a death wish who can make him break a promise by fulfilling said death wish on the other side.

        1. But they bonded over vehicle repairs! They are now comrades for life, united in unstoppable camaraderie!

          (The Blake/Fell is still going strong)

          1. It wouldn’t actually work for making Conquest forsworn, not with the capital letter and dramatic thunderclap.
            But it would mean that Conquest and his champions can’t kill Blake, which means Conquest can’t win the game, which means Fell’s temporary freedom becomes permanent. So, maybe Fell should give this some serious thought.

      1. Except he’s got a guy on his side whose special talent is ghosts. I imagine C could get the Shepherd to give Fell’s ghost to him, which would probably count as him being reclaimed

          1. Bad idea. The kings aren’t allowed to use their powers to dominate each other as long as they’re in Toronto.

            Take note: In Toronto.

      1. Very possibly not. But the contest isn’t won without one king/champion killing the opposing king. So if Fell or Isadora kills Blake, Conquest’s “If I accept I will win” might be a lie.

    3. I was more thinking this is where people like Joel or Joseph would be welcome. People who think long-term, who think consequences, who might be better able to communicate with Rose.

      Nick being here would probably just set her off. They seem like the type of allies that only Blake could have really connected with.

  5. “Four times, I will bid you to throw off the shackles your master has used to bind you!” Rose called out. “Let this be the first, spirits! I, Rose Thorburn, urge you to rebuke him!”

    Why four? I thought three was the magic number.

    Moreover, by my count, she only did the rebuking three times.

    1. I don’t know why it was four, but she could have said it again when Blake heard it again (or not, he doesn’t even know what dispelled the ghosts).

      1. The -only- association Four has with Death is the relation between the Horsemen of the Apocalypse or through Eastern Asian languages. As it is British Columbia that is dominated by Asian immigrants rather than Ontario, it would be dramatically less likely to carry any sort of deeper effect than simply using three rebukes.

        I’m going to just assume that it’s related to Rose’s desire to possess Blake’s body.

  6. I wonder if Rose being a bad influence was the cost Rose Sr. paid in order to be able to get Blake into the line of succession. I mean, Rose has been fantastically unhelpful for quite a while now, and even though she showed her use in this chapter quite a bit, she pretty much lost all credibility as a good guy there at the end. Wanting to summon a demon just because she’s feeling insecure is exactly the sort of behavior that kills diabolists.

      1. And that her initial protests against Blake so much as opening the books were in order to build up a false perception of her feelings towards demons, so that when she shifted over to supporting demon-summoning, he would already be used to arguing in favor of it and/or he would think that if the situation was bad enough that even reluctant Rose would want to summon demons, then they really should?

        Possible. Plausible, even, given the machinations of this world. But hardly definitive. Hm.

        1. And Rose complains about Blake’s ideas. Sheesh, I know they are pretty fucked right now, but is fucking the world and their Karma over really such a good idea?

          Way to prove Isadora right Rose. Granted if everyone weren’t already determined to treat them as dread diabolists they probably wouldn’t become them, but your supposed to be the smart one with a library full of books on magic. Can’t you find something else to summon before going for a demon? And can Blake even do that? Didn’t he make a bunch of promises that he wouldn’t? She does know that right? I mean she’s not trying to get Blake Forsworn, is she?

          1. To be fair, we only know that the book has a black cover. Diabolist tomes do not have a monopoly on black covers. As for Blake’s promises, he told Isadora that he specifically could not rule out future diabolism, if only to keep the lawyers playing ball.

            1. See, this is my hope. She said she wanted to summon something, but not necessarily something Wrong. Unfortunately, it would be a bad idea to summon elementals while they’re up against the Sisters and I somehow don’t think that Angels or Archons would respond well to a Thorburn calling them.

              On the plus side, they might respond well to a pacifist like Tiffany whose goal is to protect those she cares about.

              But back on the first hand, a black cover is a bit too ominous for a book on summoning angels…

            2. Well now that I’ve had a chance to settle down a bit from reading the chapter, I’m not quite so WTF are you doing Rose as I was. A lot of it depends on what she wants to summon. A straight up demon is not a good thing. I mean, it’s a big fucking gun, but using one would be like saving yourself from a car crash but giving everyone for several blocks cancer. And of course the price of the help. But not everything falls into that neat little catagory does it? Both the Barber and the Hyena toe the line between goblin, and demon. The Hyena at least seems to fall on the Goblin side. He’s an awful brute and nobody likes him. But he doesn’t seem to corrupt and destroy existance just by existing. Man I hope Rose doesn’t jump right to full on demon.

              Be really interesting if they end up trying to bring in a incarnation of something else.

            3. Kaze,
              Can she summon Lucifer? There’s gotta be a few angels that might be willing to work with her. (I’d be amused if she summoned Uriel or Michael, but dude I’d be surprised if they listened).

            4. @ Mian I don’t think she can summon angels. Lucifer would be very, very bad news. In religious lore, he’s the ultimate adversary, Satan with a capital S. I don’t think he would count as an angel and I think he would be very effective at making the world a worse place.

              As for angels, I doubt she can summon them. Everything in this has costs. Demons are lots of power, easily accessible, but making the world a worse place every time they’re used. Angels have to be some sort of contrast. I don’t think they’d be weaker than their Fallen counterparts. I suspect that they are either difficult to summon, are more picky about who summons them, and/or require particular oaths to be sworn in return for their services. Maybe some combination of them. Either way, I don’t think Rose can make the oaths they’d request, especially if she is secretly the Barber granted human memories because it would be “amusing” or “entertaining”.

            5. About angels, I worry about the following… >:)

              Except with Tiffany summoning the angel and then the angel going after blake and/or rose…

            6. Dangit, I tried to paste in a timestamped link. Anyway, the relevant part is from 5:15 on.

  7. I might be spending too much time on tumblr lately, but Blake blaming Fell’s surliness on PMS kinda jumped out at me and didn’t feel right. Might be an off-day line or I could just be overthinking it.

    Props again for managing to keep up your fantastic schedule, Wildbow. I’ve started writing more seriously recently, and got thrown off in my personal schedule today by a temporary power outage in my neighborhood. Trying to keep up myself makes me realize how incredible you are at this.

    1. The comparison threw me as well. I didn’t like it, and wouldn’t object if it was edited out at some point. It’s not that it’s offensive, it’s that it’s pointlessly offensive.

      On the other hand, Wildbow did say that he was having an off day today, so I probably won’t hold it against him. That doesn’t mean that it should stay, however.

      1. “Thought crime applies to fictional characters as well. Even the mention of PMS by a fictional character inside his thoughts is offensive. Don’t make your characters ever think things that I consider inappropriate.”

        “Women are not overly sensitive and are never bitchy, so on behalf of all women remove these three letters from your writing or I will be upset.”

        “Ban ‘Bossy’.”

        Tumblr™

        1. Tell that to Kotonoha Katsura.
          (granted, the whole plot is satirical. As in “you losers will get what you wished for. whether you like it or not.”)

        2. My objection is–was, thank you Wildbow–that the author wrote it, not that Blake thought it, though his LGBT-awareness and caring does make it more out of character.

          Mention of PMS is fine, when it’s pertinent. Mention of it specifically with regards to “that person pissed and it’s irritating me” is sexist, particularly when it is so persistently used whenever a female just happens to be in a poor mood.

          Inappropriate things are fine if that character is supposed to be inappropriate about it. If they’re unintended, then no, they shouldn’t be there; it seems likely that that’s why it was removed. It’s not even like women are a small fraction of humanity or anything–that’s literally ~50% of people everywhere.

          Women can be overly sensitive or bitchy, of course, just like men can. People are people. It’s when women are labeled as overly sensitive because they’re women, or because they don’t like it when people act like jerks towards them, that such labels are messed up. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that bitchy’ is unigender in my region, so I might be in an unusual position there /shrug

          I’ve read one thing on “bossiness,” two if you stretch it, but don’t really see the problem with using the word ‘bossy’ so long as you use it for males as well. Which you do, don’t you? Because surely you wouldn’t be saying something like that if you yourself used the word in a sexist manner, would you?

        3. No, don’t ban bossy. Own it. “Yes, I am bossy, because I’m the boss and that’s what that means.” Haven’t you read Lord of the Flies? Haven’t you ever, if not experienced, then seen bullying? If you tell bullies that something bothers you, they’ll just use it more. You can’t get rid of all bullies, so take their attempts at hurting you and turn it back on them. Own it. “What, you called me good looking, rich, and an all around nice person? Damn straight I am.” “What, you called me bossy? Damn straight I am.” Good job, you just took the wind out of their sails. Own it!

        1. Pretty sure that being PC is the least of Blake’s concerns. If you have to look THAT hard to get offended, then you’ve definitely been spending too much time on tumblr.

          1. Latent sexism shouldn’t exist, though, and allowing little examples of it to stand like this one did are things that help it persist. And I doubt anyone could say that Blake was a character that didn’t have any flaws.

            No difficult looking was required. I was reading a very enjoyable chapter, of the kind that frequently has me totally miss typos and mistakes that normally jump out at me, and this comment stood out as a sour note that made me pause. Just because you have to strain to see the pervasive sexism doesn’t mean that everyone does.

            Oh, and just because Tumblr has become a place that can get rather too stringent in pursuit of wiping out intolerance doesn’t mean that everyone who cares about that kind of thing spends too much time there, or any time at all, really.

            More is explained above.

            1. Sexism is bad. Obviously. But this recent uprising of the sensitivity police isn’t helping anyone. Is it that big of a deal that one phrase was changed? Not really. But it’s a worrying indication of worse things. People were bemoaning Blake being a white male because white male protagonists aren’t ‘diverse’ enough. There were people saying he should have been gay because it would be more ‘progressive’. Tumblr just happens to be the catchall group for those type of people. You may be tame by comparison, but I personally don’t feel comfortable with anyone telling Wildbow what to change based on their personal sensitivities. Even moreso when you come in here and imply he’s a ‘latent sexist’ for not doing things to your liking.

              “Just because you have to strain to see the pervasive sexism doesn’t mean that everyone does.”

              I’m trying to be polite here, but this sentence is making it hard not to get annoyed. People have turned sexism, racism, and any other form of bigotry they can think of into petty trump cards for disagreements. People say you’re too easily offended and you simply label them accidental sexists and automatically claim your artificial high ground. You are, quite frankly, overly sensitive by the any reasonable standard. My grandmother, my mother, my sister, my female friends and every other woman I know would not be offended by this. They wouldn’t even notice it most likely.

              You have named yourself the highest moral authority in the land and are insulting and demanding changes from a man who is kind enough to present his hard work for our enjoyment. If I can be overly dramatic for a moment, I’d say people like you are a much greater threat to writing and creative works than any ‘latent sexism’ is. I’ve seen obsessive political correctness damage good writing and writers before, so you’ll have to forgive people if they’re a little bit weary of someone bringing hints of it here.

              And now I’m off to read the newest chapter. I have no desire to argue here, so respond if you feel like it or don’t. I merely hope you’ll consider that perhaps you aren’t the only person here to achieve enlightenment. Perhaps you’re just wrong.

  8. When all you have is a hammer…

    I like the way the main character thinks. In fact, I like how you (@Wildbow) have your characters think. They consistently come up with plans that are not stereotypical.

  9. If there wasn’t already an interlude about Fell’s family, I would assume that Fell mentioning his father’s notes was foreshadowing for the next Pages.

  10. Are we completely sure that demon arm is inert? Because the Ur-Shadow didn’t seem like it needed to be contiguous, appearing in anything that reflected part of it. And isn’t that arm in Conquests realm right now?

    And finally, where are all the people Conquest has conquered? Isn’t the guy supposed to be big on enslaving people and what not? We’ve seen him do that a lot on screen. But between Fell’s ancestor and now he’s gotten no one? I mean, the guy was making part of himself a pair of slaves, but he doesn’t actually have anyone in a cage or chained up?

    I think I the Ur-Shadow may have gotten a few more people.

    1. “He bent her will to his and took all volition from her.

      He’s done it to others, and when they broke, he tossed them away.” (6.05)

      Scarily enough, it could be that he’s just been gentler, for a certain value of gentle, to Fell’s family. More utility that way, after all.

      You know, when I first saw the nameless practitioner, I had no idea he would become this developed.

    2. Well, he is the incarnation of Conquest, in Canada. It would make sense for him not to have done a lot of.conquering.

      1. You do realize that Toronto is a stone’s throw away from Ottawa, our capitol and political centre, right? You realize that when Canada was settled, there was the decimation of the First Nations’ peoples, and then a successful war against the USA? Furthermore, at the point in time that the story takes place, the ruling party in Canada is conquering and defying the will of the people. I think a Canadian Conquest or Tyranny would be especially powerful in the setting of Pact – the only place where one would be stronger than in Toronto would be one actually in Ottawa.

        1. I can see that someone hasn’t read (or doesn’t remember) the earlier comments from a few arcs ago.

          . . . in Canada is a joke made referencing Blake’s shock that an incarnation of Conquest lives . . . in Canada. I am well aware Toronto and Canada are not weak and have pointed so out in previous chapters.

          1. Well America has a long history of thinking Canada are pushovers. Pre civil war, it was widely held that “annexing Canada would be a simple matter of marching north”. But since that would have dissrupted the balance between the number of free states and the number of slave states it never happened. US politics actually used to be uglier than today.

            1. Just look at the caning of Sumner, an antislavery senator got caned on the floor of the Senate building, and the South praised him.

            2. Compared to the U.S., Canada is not as well known for having one of the most expansive and well-practiced militaries on earth. They’ve participated, sure, but they generally aren’t as well known for their conflicts and conflicts as the U.S. is with the Revolutionary War, the Whiskey Rebellion, the War of 1812, the Barbary Wars, the Indian Wars, the Mormon War, the Mexican-American War, Bleeding Kansas, the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, Hawaii, the Philippine-American War, World War I, World War II, PBSUCCESS, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Space Race, Gulf War I, Afghanistan, Gulf War II, and any others I forgot to mention. I’m guaranteed to be leaving a bunch out. Admittedly, a few of those weren’t successful conflicts, but they are ones that are rather well known, and well known counts in all this.

            3. Considering that Canada has a decent plan on the books to invade the united states… (Yes, we have a plan to invade Canada, along with nearly every other country on earth. America has a standing military, and peacetime means contingency plans).

            4. There is also a plan for dealing with an attack from the Girl Scouts. Or so I’ve heard.

        2. The First People’s were what created C-word in the first place. The War of 1812 may have been successful in some important ways, but I don’t believe there was much Conquesting involved. For similar reasons, I rather doubt partisan politics short of a Reagan-level blowout would boost C-word by an appreciable amount. His deal isn’t just winning, it’s full-bore Crush Your Enemies and Have the Lamentations of Their Women Driven Before You. Acting with only the support of 42-48% of the electorate, rather than the more desirable 52-58% doesn’t seem like it would pass muster, particularly if the minority group gets enraged, and active and aggressive over it. But I know nothing about Canadian politics compared to American. Partisans tend towards histrionics. If the Canadian minority at the time went the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” route rather than the “fight back by any means!” route, that might be enough to boost him. But by Blake’s reasoning this chapter, every angry blogger would be detracting from the magnitude.

    3. Also, remember that part of the terms of the competition were that both Kings would give up all direct control they had over anyone who wasn’t one of their champions. The only people who are currently enslaved to Conquest are his 5 champions. He needs to talk everyone else into helping him.

      1. Actually Conquest won’t have that many problems getting recruits to use against Blake. Remember damn near everyone prefers Conquest to Blake. Assholes. They just don’t want Conquest getting too strong or summoning something Wrong. But they seem to have a “Better the devil you know” attitude.

      1. I wonder if he did. It might have been a trap. The moment Conquest looks at it it may try to possess him. Which would fail miserably, mind you, and probably make Conquest stronger. The plus side is that the light in Conquest’s domain might actually destroy the arm, minimizing the power Conquest actually gets.

        On the other hand, I suspect that Laird and especially Duncan are much more vulnerable to it than Conquest is.

  11. After reading this chapter, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Conquest’s been using brainwashing techniques to get Rose on his side just in case the binding thing failed. The interactions we’ve seen/heard of between them certainly remind me of some techniques the Chinese have used on American POW’s in the Korean war.

    Getting her to say bad things about/sell out blake while technically under her own power, for example. (Sure, she was under his influence but she didn’t really fight him after that first set, so it counts for cognitive dissonance)

    And maybe he was doing the same to get her softened up so it’d be easier to get her to summon demons for him too.

  12. “I hate it,” he said. “I hate it and I can’t do anything to it. I can’t hurt it or make it stop smiling.”

    “Yeah,” I said. “Sorry.”

    “If I could crap on it, I would. See if it smiled when I dropped a big white and black blob on its face. But I can’t crap.”

    “You probably could if you ate something,” I said.

    “Really?” he said, with a note of hope. Then he changed moods, “That would take too long.”

    The Hyena is vulnerable to holly, holly berries causes diarrhea but unfortunately are toxic to birds, I’m not sure if Evan can eat it without harm but if he can, shitting on the Hyena with holly would be amusing.

      1. Native American/Canadians use holly for traditional medicine and call it “fever bush” so maybe soaking the whole thing in the prepared medicine while Evan has some popcorn.

    1. Can this PLEASE be an omake or even a real part of the plot? We are due for some levity after this Conquest shit, before Wildblow does his next massive escalation of Badness.

  13. Nice chapter!
    If only because Fell was being all tsun tsun with Blake. We all can see the chemistry Fell, it’s bloody obvious. Also, bike jousting? my new favorite sport.

    And Rose takes after her grandmother! Too bad granny was, and I quote, “a rancid cunt”. I know she’s been feeling helpless, but maybe she could research more into binding things? she did pretty well doing a circle for Pauz. Calling demons is just a bad thing to do.

    1. I thought that they were going to come up with a much stronger binding circle for the Hyena, release it from the sword form, and then rebinding into something more manageable. That sounds like a great something for her to work on.

      Though I suppose they would lose the advantage that they had in binding it in the first place, which might result in a net loss. Shame.

    2. Blake needs to go bind a motorcycle spirit. Then he could always summon a motorcycle and have bike jousting a main form of attack.

      1. A horse spirit, enhanced with runes of the four-five classic elements depending on which system he uses for speed, balance and protection from theft/sabotage. It may also need barding when being used for shock cavalry manoeuvres. I also suggest that the spirit be named Binky.

        1. Are there runes for diesel and gasoline, or are those elements to esoteric?

          Possibly also a rune of chivalric knighthood or something, so that whenever he jousts, it is a “proper” thing to do, and alleviates some of that bad karma.

          1. Around Oil City there would be oil runes (been used for over a thousand years), but gasoline is pretty new.

            He’s not near italy or greece, which used olive oil lanterns…

            It would be cool if the newer something was, the weaker the rune was (so you still had one, just less of one).

            Also: rocket powered motorcycle might be a bad plan.

            1. Also: rocket powered motorcycle might be a bad plan.

              I hate to be a grammar Nazi, but 1) you’re supposed to use an when the word following begins with a vowel and 2) you misspelled “awesome plan”.

            2. Sir,
              it’s only awesome when you aren’t on it. Liftoff achievable, landing difficult.

        2. Then Blake could be like Celty from Durarara! It would be awesome to have Blake ride the streets of Canada on a motorcycle with a horse spirit while wielding a blade.

          1. Dullahans, for those who don’t know, are basically headless horsemen in Celtic lore. They’re also classified as “Unseelie Faerie”, darker faeries that typically don’t need an excuse to attack people and take their stuff. However, there are exceptions and they are said to become fond of people who they respect, so the Duchamps may have one or two as familiars.

            Note to Wildbow: This is an excellent excuse to add one into the story; preferably with a Duchamp who decides to side with Blake. Bonus points if it grows to respect Blake and that fondness screws him over occasionally (some yan-yan for Fell’s tsun-tsun, so to speak).

    3. This reminds me, I still wonder why “all due respect” was important to rose sr. It clearly has something to do with whatever she pulled on blake/rose jr.

      1. Eh? It’s practitioner language: using the truth, maintaining a certain style, and still getting across the message that he wanted to.

        I dunno if it’s more than that, but that’s what I thought when the Truth issues cropped up.

      2. Because it was the only thing Blake said to her that pinged her lie-dar. When she asked if he meant it, that was her way of sussing out whether he was consistently telling the truth. Since he was, that propelled him to the top of the list, leading to the vestige shenanigans. (And before you say “But Molly was on the top of the list!” Oh please. She was a sacrifice to absorb some of the karma debt, so that Blake had a bit less work to do in that regard)

        1. Do we know this? It’s plausible, but we don’t know much about Molly. Also, while Rose Sr. might totally sacrifice a descendent for that, why would she sacrifice exactly one and not six?

          1. Have you seen the other five grandchildren? She had only one (non-Blake) descendant that she could trust not to immediately do something stupid.

            1. Blake billed Paige as a carbon copy of Rosalyn, remember. She’s the last resort.

              Blake is a long shot that’s crazy enough to work. Which is why he’s one of the first in line. Molly was a heat sink for karma and a smokescreen for the other grandkids.

          2. Sacrificing all your descendents so the last will have the best chance is risky, because if that one fails you’ve just lost all your descendents. Sacrificing the one or two who are least likely to succeed so that the most likely still has a good chance leaves you with a few more as backup, and the one good one might’ve managed to clear out a few threats and lay some groundwork for the others to follow.

            Or she was just hoping Blake causes as much havoc and destruction as possible, so that one of her other grandkids has less organized trouble to deal with.

        2. “…[Molly] Eats a bit of the karmic backlash, pays a bit of the price for the universe not getting what it was supposed to, and the baton gets passed to me. If I die, the same thing happens. Each of us absorbs a bit of the brunt of it, until one of us finds our footing and carries on.” [Blake’s theory.]

          “Very likely to be a factor in her reasoning,” the young male lawyer said. “She was clever. But the danger in this plan is that the backlash you face could wipe out your family altogether. It would be more a backup or a side benefit than a true plan.”

          So, Molly was the main plan, Blake is the backup plan. The fact that RDT put effort into making Rose does not make Blake any less of a Plan B. RDT had no guarantee that the karma backlash that would kill Molly would not kill the whole family. Including Blake.

          “I think I see why she might have picked you,” Ms. Lewis said. [Demon lawyer, possibly to boost confidence.]

        3. I don’t think Blake was lying at all. “All due respect” means all the respect that you’re due, and Blake clearly didn’t think she was due much respect. He was, however, using polite language as a truthful barb to try and express his displeasure, which is good form for a practitioner.

  14. Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. They appear.
    “Hey, if Rose summons this thing, and she builds up enough bad karma doing evil things, and she decides to join your firm, what happens to me?”
    “blah blah”
    “There you go, Rose, no trying to meet good ends with evil means.”

    Also, I accidentally posted this same comment to the Subordination 6.4 page.

      1. I feel like it might be a good idea for Rose to call a lawyer and spend even just a few minutes clarifying the karmic effect. Even if she’s straight-up going ahead with the summons and doesn’t want to be talked out of it, going in without using all sources of information available is silly.

  15. Yeah, pretty sure Blake isn’t going to be convinced to summon a demon so easily. He swore an oath to put the monsters down, after all, and summoning a demon is pretty much the opposite of that.

    1. How sure are we that she wants to summon a demon? It just says it’s a black cover, maybe she wants to summon up something only moderately spooky?

      1. “Chapter 69: How To Summon A Supervillain From Another Universe”
        “Chapter 13: Haunted Videogames And You”
        “Chapter 88: Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice”
        “Chapter 98: You Require Additional Pylons”
        “Chapter 93: House Training Your Megazords”
        “Chapter 96: Alakazam, I Choose You!”
        “Chapter 90: Let Our Powers Combine! Elemental Summoning Basics”

        1. “How To Summon A Supervillain From Another Universe”

          I… honestly wouldn’t even be mad if they summoned up a worm supervillain.

            1. Hilarity will ensue as everyone thinks she’s been possessed by some sort of Pedo demon.

    2. Well I can see Rose playing “You said you owed me, and we’d do things my way card.” Honestly to me it seems like Blake is the one who always eats more of the cost than she does.

  16. Yeah! Ride that slippery slope like a waterslide! Remind these sons of bitches why they hate and fear diabolists so. Considering how much clout a not-even-an-imp demon like Pauz can muster, even a tactical demonic strike is probably going to have a motherfucker of a kick behind it.

  17. Great to see some Goblin Sword action. I hope Blake uses it more in the future, if only because I think it sounds awesome. Also, the Hyena may be more cooperative the more Blake uses it to fight. It seems happier now.

    Loving Evan the Boy Wonder as always in this chapter. Once again the sidekick saves the hero from imminent death.

    So was Alexis also under attack while having a vulnerable heart, or was her heart just so weak that she had a heart attack with horrible timing?

    Keep an eye out for Tiffany and Ty. They both started using personal power in this chapter.

    If Rose is going to summon a demon, she should summon an incest demon and send it after Laird. He would probably have to step down as head of his family and/or separate himself from them.

    Could Rose summon something bad and Blake unleash Pauz to make that something bad completely subservient to the Thorburns?

    I would love to see Fell with a bound Eye tool. That would weaken Conquest.

    1. Bike jousting with the Goblin Swooooooooooooooord!
      (sung like this)

      Shepherd: Thorburned.

      Alexis was vulnerable because of her bad habits and possibly genetics. It was still a ghost illusion heart attack, though.

    2. Mmm… The way I understood it is that Conquest did something to radiate a “heart attack” aura. Blake was incredibly weak so he was susceptible to this, but he did explain it was a “fake” heart attack. Alexis has heart problems so she was also susceptible to the fake heart attack. Everyone else was in perfect condition so their bodies didn’t fall for it.

        1. Oh, yeah. I figured Conquest ordered the Shepherd to send out a heart attack ghost (since Rose explained that, since she told Conquest was weak, Conquest had schemed this) after Blake, but I do not remember seeing explicitly mentioned in the story that the Shepherd sent such ghost, so I did not mention it.

      1. To add to Grek:

        “Neither king can make deliberate use of power while fighting in Toronto.” (6.04)

    3. Speaking of boy wonder, why exactly is Evan a bird? Is that a form he can shift away from, or is he locked into a semi-immortal sparrow for all eternity?

      1. Evan can shift from bird to ghost at will, he just prefers being alive. As for why a bird, my theory is it fits thematically with Blake’s bird motif.

      2. Familiars live only as long as their Masters do, if they are given mortality as part of the deal. See RDT’s familiar.

        1. Well, “mortality”. Evan’s already had his neck snapped at least once, so he’s apparently more durable than any bird I’ve heard of.

          I’m also pretty sure he’s stuck as bird now. Familiars choose one creature to mimic. There’s probably something symbolic in it, but Wildbow hasn’t revealed quite enough yet.

          1. According to my understanding, when Evan had his neck snapped, he actually died. It took Blake’s vow a whole lot of personal power to bring Evan back.

            Also, Evan mentioned that he can turn back into a ghost but prefers to be alive. Didn’t Blake have him do that when he didn’t want others to see him?

            I don’t think Evan can presently turn into anything other than a ghost or a bird. Perhaps Familiars have at least 2 forms. Briar Girl’s familiar was able to transform.

            1. Hm, I know it did take some of Blake’s personal power but I thought that was to make up for Evan’s disbelief. It’s like in a dream if you get injured then the effect the injury has is entirely psychological. It only has an effect when your subconscious believes it. This is why Rose was talking to Evan, pointing out that he was actually a ghost kid not just a bird.

              I agree with the second paragraph, but the third I think is more complicated. I don’t think the Briar Girl’s familiar had a single form to begin with, similar to a shape shifter or Fell’s grandfather’s boogeyman.

  18. I’m thinking they should feed the Hyena to the Abstract Demon. This will destroy it… and make Conquest Forsworn as he promised he would recover Pauz and the Hyena from Blake. Also a powerful attack on his identity as Conquest as it will make his total victory impossible by preventing one of his stated objectives.

    This is the only direct blow I can see them dealing to Conquest at the moment… but the magic system is flexible enough to allow for just about anything, so who knows.

    Of course, the Belhaim time manipulation thing might allow them to reverse it… but then Blake and Rose can summon their own demon of darkness to do the job. Which would provide high drama etc… Blake says no to Rose now, and then has to say yes to her later.

    This might not be enough by itself, but it would make a killer third victory… if they can win two smaller one’s first.

      1. Which would have one of two results
        1) Not only does Conquest break his promise, he has no way of correcting it! If Fell died he could try and reclaim Fell’s ghost. Hear Laird might be able to reverse it, or the Shepherd might be able to put it back together on some level.
        A part of Conquest is ripped away and he has no idea how to recover it.

        2) The promise is erased. If this is the case when Blake inevitably binds the Ur-Shadow he will now be able to freely violate promises.

        1. “Freely” isn’t exactly right, unless you don’t count permanent erasure as a bad thing that would constrain your actions with at least allies.

      2. We’ve seen that for purposes of being FORSWORN, you need (or at least it helps?) for someone to call you on it. So this is a really unfortunately good point.

        Unless Team Blake manages to set it up so they’ll figure it out afterward. Like, why do we only have four champions if Conquest gets five. Or why do we only remember two tasks for Conquest. And they’d remember the oath, the words “I will take what is mine.” Just not that the Hyena was one of those things. But if they challenge him with that, I doubt “I don’t remember” is a karmic defense.

  19. [Minor Spoiler for Worm]:

    Tiffany sleeping with her head leaned on Blake has some parallels to Taylor and Brian (after the S9 fight). I just starting to notice similarities between Tiffany/Taylor and Blake/Brian. Maybe that was deliberate? Serving as a kind of foreshadowing.
    If Tiffany just becomes half as badass as Taylor, Blake got a powerful ally.

    1. [Continuing the minor Worm spoilers]:

      Does the “play to the psychopath’s nature to get him to turn the unwinnable battle into a game in a desperate attempt to level the playing field” strategy sound familiar to anyone?

  20. Oh, dear Rose. Tell me you aren’t actually thinking about summoning a demon. And for fucks sake guys, run it by at least Evan. I mean part of the deal Blake made with him was so that Evan could call him out if he did something bad.

    And Demons don’t work for free. Anything strong enough to help is going to want something pretty costly. Even if it doesn’t, due to the very nature of demons summoning one is bad for the world. Sure you might save your own asses, but do you want to try and convince everyone your not some evil asshole when you’ve just given half of Toronto spiritual cancer?

    Well maybe Rose will surprise us, and it’ll turn out she had something nasty, but non-demonic in mind.

    1. Your comment made me think of the Evil Overlord List, specifically the part where one of his advisors will be a five year old…

      Anyways, summoning, not sure how it will turn out. One positive is more free agency for Rose. Remembering what Grandma Thorburn wrote about the Barber demons are capable of granting bequests which can be all kinds of things and the costs only have to affect you personally. The specific one I remember that exemplifies this is Barbertorem granting an extra 25 years of life to the practitioner in exchange forcing the summoner to live with the smell of rotting meat in their nostrils. Which is fairly grotesque, but if you’re willing to put up with it might very well be worth the price.

      I’m inclined to think long term they could regret it. Short term it might be one of those things they just have to do, like Blake getting Evan to be his familiar or creating a cabal with his friends.

      1. I’m guessing that like offers of blood (enough blood to pass out) there is a more abstract, more metaphysical cost as well.

        But yeah, I do tend to think that well defined costs are the bestest. I wonder if Blake could start up a blood farm. Maybe he could raid some Red Cross trucks.

        1. And as Fell said a few chapters ago, it opens you up for something else to move in. And that is as much a goal for demons as anything else.

          That makes me think some interesting things about Johannes.

        2. We know that blood freely given has different uses from blood that’s taken, and that the former is (usually?) stronger. Now, if telling people things weren’t so bad, he could start up his own blood drive and say he needs it for a magic ritual for a good cause. I’d donate, based on what’s in Pact so far.

    2. Rose isn’t dumb. I would hope that she’s wanting to summon something that’s relatively safe to deal with as long as you follow the rules, much like Barbatorem. Also, I don’t think she wants to send it off against their enemies. She said she needs herself to be stronger, so I’m guessing that at the same time she wants something that isn’t like Barbatorem – a suitable boon-giver.

  21. Question. Isn’t the Hyena good with ghosts? Like can he eat them or was that he ate parts of the victims and somehow that kept them from passing on? I just imagine the Hyena gorging on the host of weak ghosts and making the Shepard cry.

    1. When the Hyena finds Others and mauls them, whether they are ghosts, faerie, or ogres, they are bound to his vicinity and he has some fun. When he finds humans, their death is often so traumatic that they form ghosts, which he then mauls as above. The fact that he had so many ghosts was that they were more available as materials, not that he sought them out exclusively nor that he is extra effective against them.

  22. Also, now that I think about it, I sort of hope that Blake and Alexis wind up summoning Archangel Zerachiel; what Alexis said during her Awakening ritual seems to point towards her being attuned towards angel-summoning, and I was looking angels up on Wikipedia and found this:

    Archangel Zerachiel (“God’s command”) is one of the primary angels who leads souls to judgement. An Angel of Healing, he is also the presiding angel of the sun, prince of ministering angels those who watch over mortals, and the angel of children, particularly children of parents who have sinned (and are therefore at risk of falling into sin as adults themselves). He is said to have dominion over the earth.

    It’s entirely possible that he’s literally Blake’s guardian angel, or at least the boss thereof.

    1. If Angels exist in the Pactverse then it makes you wonder why they don’t just wheel them out to counter the demonic taint. Positive radiation would be much nicer than the negative stuff.

      1. Yes, the fact we’ve heard so much about Devils, but so little about Angels, namely angels acting in any way to counter demons. Every idea I can come up with is worrying. At best they’ll be like everything else Blake runs into. Doing nothing to stop the actual demons, but plenty out for his blood.

        1. It could simply be that Angels could emit radiation they perceive as positive (or negative) but instead keep it perfectly bound because they refuse to violate the will or creations of God in even that passive-ish way.

          1. The Pactverse doesn’t seem to be the monotheistic type. I’m interested in learning what the hell angels are. Maybe manifestations of what humans aspire to be?

        2. Beings as powerful as demons that dealing with boosts your Karma instead of tanking it?

          I would assume everyone tries to bind them on sight.

          Although we did hear about an Angel summoner.

            1. Black Lamb’s Blood. The author’s father was an “evangelist” and a preacher. We can only assume he summoned angels rather than demons.

            2. If they did summon any angels, it didn’t do much to protect them from the incest demon’s radiation, did it. That’s why I have to assume that either they didn’t bring any angels to the fight, or that angels cannot negate or disperse a demon’s taint.

        3. It’s entirely possible that their relative scarcity is merely a byproduct of practitioners’ standard MO of knowledge hoarding, and not because the angels are fundamentally powerless or screwed up.

          Of course, I doubt that that is the whole of it, but one can hope, can’t they? 😛

      2. I’m worried pact verse angels might be just as bad or worse than demons. Just like some of worm’s ‘Heroes’.
        Something that sees itself as the personification of ‘good’ can be a very dangerous thing.

      3. I’m currently imagining angels like those in the Tales of Wyre D&D campaign log. Others who are so Right that they cannot understand the failings of mortals. I imagine that they’re either very picky about who they serve or the cost of their bindings would be oaths, varying depending on the angel but of such nature that it is hard for practitioners to cope with.

  23. Rose is being a bit more active in not being a bitch. I’m glad about that. She’s still not very effective at doing stuff.

    Still, a fun chapter. Thanks for all the hard work. I know it’s tough writing all this stuff, but your ‘bad’ writing is far higher quality than the good writing of most authors. Thanks for the awesome time. I look forward to more.

      1. She has been more ineffective than expected. Her window shattering at the university which did nothing but drain her, being bound to conquest, attacking Blake’s name in front of Conquest and being generally rude, her failed attempt to call out the erasure demon’s name, her not doing much with the ghosts.

        Her only big recent success that I can think of is when she snapped off some glass for Blake to stab Duncan with.

        1. Are you. . . trying to resurrect the Blake/Rose war from the previous chapter? This is a new chapter filled with amazing new things to comment (and debate if you’re into that sort of thing) on.

          If you want to argue something, let’s discuss something fresh, like that fact that Blake and Tiffany are getting closer and may become partners, or idea that Fell has the ability to forcefully bind Others and can teach Alexis some neat new skills.

          1. We also had a scene where Rose was worried about Blake in the heat of the moment, and it didn’t feel to me like she was just worried about going with him. Honestly right now their just a couple of people who are getting on each others nerves. Yeah Rose can be a backseat driver, but really what else can she be? Though I do hope she isn’t seriously going right for something WRONG to give herself a boost.

            Oh hell, it’s Pact. She’s probably got the chief duck of the sin Choir or something in mind.

            1. I meant to say chief Duke of the Sin Choir. Though chief Duck conjures some amusing images. Man I needed that good laugh.

          2. Ordering people to not talk or debate in the way that you don’t want doesn’t tend to be that effective.

            1. Not an order. Simply a suggestion. Do as you wish. That’s for everybody, the do as you wish thing.. This will be my last comment on the subject (this chapter at least).

              Just bummed you focused on the perceived “order” instead of the whole Fell/Alexis thing.

            2. Since this is the second time you have told me how to behave on the internet it’s rather frustrating. If you don’t want to talk about a subject that’s fine, but it gets somewhat annoying if it happens again and again.

              Since as a person I feel my view is important, being personally invested in myself, if a person tells me that my view is unimportant to them and says something else they want to talk about, that’s not really good encouragement to talk about what they care about.

        2. My apologies Sir Fuente, but Someone is Wrong on the Internet!

          Look ytakery, you are entitled to your opinion, but at least choose good examples.

          The window shattering at the Uni possibly saved Blake and Tiffany from crazed Bacchae, she bound herself to Conquest because otherwise Blake would’ve had tp be shackled, (and we all know how calm and productive Blake is when confined hit with PTSD), and she (probably) did help with the ghosts.

          1. Isadora, who was right outside their room, saved Blake, since she was right outside the door. The mirror shattering did allow Blake to open the door, but that would have likely happened soon anyway since she was right outside.

            She bound herself to Conquest without consulting Blake. Conquest is weak, Blake may have been able to negotiate a compromise. This, doing things spontaneously without asking Blake first is the kind of thing that she repeatedly criticized Blake for. It also, in the long run, gave Conquest access to all of their secret knowledge. Maybe it was good, but we’ll never know as she didn’t consult Blake (Blake? Do you have any ideas how to get out of this? Blake. Nope. Ok *does action first would have been good.), even though he was right there.

            That’s the problem with many of her actions. They don’t have any clear up side, they are impulsive and short sighted, and they don’t actually do much good.

            1. Conquest isn’t weak. He’s weaker than he pretends to be but he’s not weak, especially compared to a guy like Blake. There was very little chance Blake would be able to negotiate a compromise because wearing the shackle was the compromise, if you remember.

              Blake actually thanked Rose for taking the shackle for him. He was a mess that chapter, he wouldn’t have accomplished anything if Rose wasn’t there to support him and he says so himself.

            2. Blake notes that he is weak.

              “This bastard was the fucking Wizard of Oz.

              A small, insecure, relatively powerless being, and a whole lot of pretending.”

              And Blake was able to oppose him in his own domain with June.

              “I’d called him out on the strangeness of him leaving Rose and I to talk. Why had he done it? To give us succor and manipulate us?

              No, it had been strange that he’d even explained that. I’d called him out on that too.”

              As he noted, Conquest, when pushed, was able to be made to do a compromise.

              That sort of thing is why you test first, before doing crazy stuff, especially when Conquest is scared about pushing because he’s an incarnation of Conquest in Canada.

            3. I’m not confident that Blake could have taken Conquest with just June, especially since he could just have Yanked Fell’s chain (who could definitely have taken Blake). It’s really hard to gauge how powerful Conquest is, but the fact that he doesn’t act does not imply that he can’t. Rule 220 on the Evil Overlord List is faking weaknesses, and Conquest certainly clever enough to do so (you’ve gotta be to maintain that charade).

            4. I’m not completely confident either, but I think it would have been good for her to consult Blake first, or check with him, especially since he was right there in front of him. There has been ample confirmation that Conquest is weak, and is trying to cover up for that weakness- summoning others to do his dirty work wouldn’t be a huge sign of power. The lawyers also likely bargained for some degree of safe passage.

            5. Ooooh, now I’m worried about what the lawyers bargained. I would really like to see that in an interlude someday.

              Though I’d also say rather than having confirmation that Conquest is weak it’s more that we have no confirmation that he’s strong. He’s got to be able to do something on his own, but we’ve only seen this waning Conquest. I’m wondering what one looks like while it’s just started waxing or when it’s in its prime.

            6. I would like to see that too.

              On Conquest’s strength, Fell said this a few chapters ago.

              ““In a nutshell… but there’s a complicating factor. Conquest isn’t as strong as he appears. Strong, to be sure, he can protect Toronto from outside forces, and he can hold his ground, but he isn’t as strong as he appears.””

              So, if Blake pushed, it might take a major expenditure of power from Conquest to push back, and he’d prefer not to do that.

    1. What, exactly, do you expect her to do? I’m having trouble figuring out what else Rose could do…well…period.

        1. Consult Blake before she does masochistic things. She has a poor track record.

        2. Memorize locations, so she could suggest things like “There’s a corner store there, grab a sack of salt.”

        3. Avoid attacking Blake.

        4. Find tips from books on minor rituals of power, like runes.

        5. Find a way for vestiges to draw on extra power that Blake can do that doesn’t involve cutting himself.

  24. “Yes, like that. In his palm.” Rose said. “This is my fault,”

    I like this line. The fact that Rose isn’t saying it’s because of Blake bleeding himself, but that it’s her fault… If she were really feeling that Blake is just some idiot who doesn’t respect her, I don’t think she would have said that.

    I’m guessing she’s blaming herself a bit for Blake nearly dying from a ghost heart attack, she’s scared and upset by C-Word forcing her into giving up all that information, and she really does want to get stronger. I just hope she knows what she’s doing.

  25. Let’s play everyone’s favourite game show…

    GUESS! THE! CAUSE! OF! DEATH!!!!

    “A woman with black veins stretching around lower half of the face and throat.”
    Uhh… Strangulation? Some sort of infection?

    “A man with a tumor grown wild”
    Obviously cancer.

    “A man, older.”
    This was revealed to be a heart attack ghost.

    “A ghost with needles sticking out of it”
    Heroin!

    “A woman-ghost screamed at me.”
    Car crash?

    “An apparent cancer victim.”
    Definitely cancer.

    1. Don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusions a little to fast there on the last one? I mean sure, Blake said it’s an ‘apparent’ cancer victim but Blake is also in a coma and imagining everything so he can’t be trusted to tell us the truth in his narration.

    2. “A woman with black veins stretching around lower half of the face and throat.”
      Choked on a bowl of veins, duh.

      “A man with a tumor grown wild”
      Alcohol poisoning while filming “Tumors Gone Wild!”

      “A man, older.”
      Ron Jeremy

      “A ghost with needles sticking out of it”
      They were having a blast at the retirement home. Then someone in the sewing class picked the wrong time to jump up and yell “Pillow fight!”

      “A woman-ghost screamed at me.”
      Tried to yell at her husband about leaving the toilet seat down, fell in, and drowned.

      “An apparent cancer victim.”
      Fatal alopecia.

  26. Kill Count 2014: Back By No Demand Whatsoever

    Eyes Poked: 0
    Shepherds Sheered: 0.5
    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: -0.5
    Pauzs Oozed: 0
    Maggies Halted: 0

    Blakes Bitchslapped: 0.25

    All things considered, the obvious choice of song here is a little too obvious, but enjoyable enough anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe93CLbHjxQ

    1. Back By No Demand Whatsoever
      Highly incorrect.

      Oh, and a certain doctor definitely agrees with the theme song choice.

  27. I think I just figured out a way to defeat the Shepard. Alexis just needs to make some power pellets for the group. Then, when the ghosts come, all the Blakeguard has to do is swallow a pill, then they can eat the ghosts! Easy victory.

    1. I think they should have unleashed the Hyena on the Shepard’s flock. Surround the guy with a bunch of messed-up ghosts he can’t control. After all, there’s a reason he didn’t go anywhere near the Hyena during all that time. Plus, the names work out pretty well, which probably adds extra oomph to the confrontation.

      Either way, let’s hope killing this one doesn’t involve a poorly written choice at the end of a money grab.

      1. That’s more or less what Blake did at the end. Of course he kept it in sword form.

        Anyway, the two problems with unleashing the Hyena are first it might not be easily controllable, and second the Hyena does create lots of collateral damage. Crazed spirits which in turn damage other spirits.

      2. That would have screwed with the Shepherd, but it wouldn’t help Blake’s relationship with Evan, and…well…who knows what the Hyena would do?

    2. I don’t think that would help with any Shepards, but as long as Blake doesn’t enter a Mass Effect crossover that shouldn’t be a problem.
      (It’s spelled “shepherd, by the way.)

  28. According to Tv Tropes, Conquest is one of the original Four Horsemen (or implied to be) and his symbol is a bow and crown. Cool huh?

    1. Yeah, but this isn’t that Conquest. As Blake put it a few installments back: “He’s not the C-word, he’s a C-word.”

    2. Yep, he was one of the original four. It’s rather interesting that Conquest has faded from being one of the horsemen, and was replaced by either Famine or Pestilence (can’t remember which right now). Apparently people eventually came to consider Conquest as not being the end of the world, or the connotations of it that made it part of the Horsemen got moved over to War, or something.

      Or my thoery they booted him out after he kept taking everyone elses stuff and not giving it back.

      1. My theory is that people wondered why War and Conquest needed separate Horsemen.

        (Replaced by Pestilence, incidentally.)

        1. Also with Conquest their is a winner. Most likely a human winner. War can go to a stalemate, mutuel destruction. Famine and Pestilince kill everyone, indiferently. And death comes for us all, and is led to by the other three. Not so much Conquest. He needs a winner. A last man standing. And something to rule.

      2. War: “Conquest, we need to sit down and talk. It can´t go on like this. Death, do you want to begin?”
        Death: “Yes. Hey, where is the intervention-list?”
        C-word: “I TOOK IT! IT IS MINE NOW! THIS INTERVENTION IS MIIIINNNEEE!!”

  29. A thought:

    If Blake can ever master (what for a lack of official term, I’ll call) the Spirit Layer of reality, his espionage skills will increase. If he can travel between Physical and Spirit Layer at will, he should be able to infiltrate any place guarded by mundanes undetected. Blake would only have to worry about Others, environmental hazards, Practitioners, and the consequences of mundane actions instead of all of that plus having to sneak past guards/civilians.

  30. “I think anyone could look at Blake and tell that he had problems,” Tiff said.
    Not kind, but very true.

    “Four times, I will bid you to throw off the shackles your master has used to bind you!” Rose called out. “Let this be the first, spirits! I, Rose Thorburn, urge you to rebuke him!”
    I’m impressed that that worked. Why four, though? I guess it’s associated with death, but isn’t that more Eastern?

    “Ty,” I said. “Sword.”
    “That sword?”
    “Yeah,” I said.

    …How many swords do they have?

    “I can’t keep ignoring my heart, if I’m as vulnerable to a heart attack as Blake is when he’s this weak.”
    Hear that, Blake? You’re apparently the standard for screwed-up. What else is new?

    She moved a book so I could see it through the mirror. A black cover.
    “I want to summon something.”

    Hm. This…will not end well, but it might end less horribly than some other options.

    1. I don’t think the number four has much meaning at all.

      Ordering the ghosts around only once would probably not be enough to make them go away. Ordering them around a thousand times would be overkill. Four seems appropriate given that ghosts aren’t very powerful creatures, but there were many of them.

        1. She might be taking a different approach on that one. Three is triangular, four is square, and nine brings to mind overly complicated star patterns.

          1. Five is pentagonal, two is linear, twenty is dodecagonal…doesn’t really matter much anymore, now does it?
            Besides, why would squares be effective against ghosts? And why wouldn’t nine be a nonagon? That’s easier to imagine than a nine-pointed star.

  31. This was one seriously intense chapter. Thanks, for keeping it AWESOME!

    The ending had me thinking though. I’m kinda disappointed. After saying a battle plan, the option to summon a big evil seems like a bad move. I mean, if Blake & Rose had some overall goal (like, taking down the Jacob Bell Sorcerer, going back in time to kill Solomon, taking down wolfram heart-er- I mean- the lawyers’ firm), I could see this making perfect sense, and a moment in Awesomeness.

    But… if their only goal is to survive, protect their companions, and win, then…. this seems like the exact thing Rose would b*tch-slap blake for suggesting. The sort of thing that she would respond with “are you FUCKING CRAZY! We aren’t THAT helpless yet!! We still have tools and options that don’t involve every single person who wanted us dead thus far, which is almost every magical being, to have the perfect excuse to destroy us! Are you out of your mind blake!? No. No no no, don’t even- NO. I will shank you. That isn’t a threat- I WILL shank you Blake Thorburn if you try it.”

    It seems… a bit out of place, since they did so much work to avoid going down that path. If they were going to do it NOW I would’ve wanted them to sick the barber on Laird and his circle as an example to anyone who wants to end the thorburn line.

    I just wish… there was a better reason than just this game. I wish there was some overall goal they want to acomplish, and that they need to summon the Dark Things for that goal anyways- so why not now? This whole going from one short-term goal (surviving, binding the three things, more surviving) to the other thing is just going to make them sink lower and lower in the diabolist trap if they aren’t even fighting for a giant cause or goal or something MORE than just keeping their loved ones and their own lives intact…

    Unless of course- Rose is a sleeper agent and conquest’s orders woke her up so now she’s working to get her/elder-Rose’s plan of ultimate evil underway……. if that’s the case- I have no complaints.

  32. Just sort of thinking out loud…

    I sort of get what Rose is doing here. She feels powerless and abused so she is grasping at power in the only way she can personally do better than anyone else – use the Thorburn legacy (knowledge and bloodline) to summon something nasty. Whether this is violation of Blake’s intentions to be a “good diabolist” depends on what she wants to summon – not everything in RDT’s special collection seemed to be guaranteed demonic. However, an actual summoning is almost guaranteed to turn Isadora’s reaction from “kill them because they upset the balance” to “kill them because they are actual threats”. Since the working part of both of those reactions is “kill them” I suppose that makes little difference in the short term, but in the long term, it may make a lot of difference.

    In a more general sense I think Blake and Rose have both made several bad calls in their relationship (cue Sir Fuente groaning at the topic coming up again). But the topic is relevant because they will have to work together closely this chapter to survive and neither of them is going to forget past history. As I see it, and only in a vague order:

    The person in the action should make the tactical calls. This is usually Blake. The person outside of the action should only criticize if they have constructive criticism (good getting-along-with-people skill in general but difficult in practice). That is not what Rose has been doing.

    On a similar vein, the first casualty of the battle is the battle plan. One big plan by itself is likely doomed to failure – careful use of multiple options might survive. Both of them need to realize that, acknowledge it, and try to use it rather than griping about it. Blake has been partly to blame here because he has been making assurances that are not likely to survive real situations; Rose has been griping when he does so. Both of them need to be more self- and situation-aware about this pitfall and not make or accept promises that are likely to fail (and not gripe when they do fail). An example of when they used this correctly was the attempt on ErasUrr – they made multiple plans and contingencies and survived only because one of the plans survived contact with the enemy.

    The problem with Blake=tactical, Rose=strategic is that Blake has been making strategic calls without Rose. His familiar and cabal are the two big things I can think of. There are certainly reasons why both of those were done without significant input from Rose (familiar is a personal choice; cabal was when Rose was out of the picture) but that still violates the spirit of the idea. The real problem then is the idea itself – it was impractical – see above for first battle casualty. Basically, they need some time to reconsider the relationship (time they really don’t have). For now, Rose will have less input that has real effect because most of the action is happening fast and in Blake’s section of reality. Wishing otherwise or complaining about this is not going to help either of them. In the longer term, Rose needs to be stronger so that they can both survive, so perhaps she will eventually be in the same position.

    All that being said, they are both stubborn, unlikely to let the past lie, have no time for introspection, and have no-one who is likely to act as a relationship therapist, so I foresee continued friction. So, as fun as it is diagnosing others’ problems, I predict more of the same, with Blake’s arguments against whatever Rose wants to summon just continuing the trend.

    All IMO. Look forward to seeing how the story continues.

  33. Rose should try to summon Lavos. It should be able to kill any weak time-travelers. If they can tame it, it would also be useful against ErasUrrr. If all else fails, use Lavos as a power source. It’s been done before.

    1. On the other hand, it can be counted as an overt use of power and since Rose’s actions are also seen as Blake’s by Others, Blake will lose the Challenge immediately.

      1. it can be counted as an overt use of power and since Rose’s actions are also seen as Blake’s by Others, Blake will lose the Challenge immediately.

        But Rose is one of Blake’s champions. If she isn’t allowed to act because she’s considered Blake, then Blake has crippled himself more than I realized.

          1. i don’t even think they’re alternate variants of one another any more. i think that they are both somehow one and the same person. I shall now rename them Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. or for much younger peoples David Tennant and Matt Smith

  34. How to defeat the Sheperd:a quick explanation on how OP oppoments are weak if you are prepared,or the reason Batman is so OP.

    Allhis attacks and defenses are based in ghosts.Coat your clothes in salt,he will be only able to affect you with indirect emotions.Coat your weapons with salt you can one hit kill his ghosts and bypass his defenses (though likely not in an one hitt kill way,like with the ghosts)

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