Subordination 6.12

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I’d faced more than a few situations that left me bewildered, scrabbling for mental footing before I could be killed or caught in a trap.

This situation, as it turned out, was more bewildering than most, the imminent death or trap a little more questionable.

The Behaim kids had caught me, I realized.  They’d surrounded me.

That wasn’t so hard to understand.

But I was in the spirit world, where I’d been in the real world not so long ago.

A touch more concerning.

I was also in a foreign place.  The far end of the spirit world version of the police station’s parking lot.  Everything was fenced in, except for the dilapidated gate at the end, where an old Father Time figure was lurking, bearded, old, and robed, with golden chains draped over the ground around him like a squid’s limp tentacles.

Three on the side of me closest to the building, sunglasses and Father time on the other side.

Their expressions were stern, distorted by the influences of the spirit world and the fact that my vision was out of focus.

I just dealt with you.

The girl who Mary had sliced was there, cut arts covered by her sleeves.  Either the situation had had a particularly fast resolution or… or what?

I’d seen the Behaim ritual and the aftermath of accelerated time around the house, I’d seen Duncan turn back time, and now this.

Had they rewound themselves?  How did that explain my being here?  Had they stopped time and moved things in the interim?

I didn’t have my backpack or the hammer that was engraved with the rune, but my pockets were still full.

Evan fluttered, landing on my shoulder.

“Hey, kid,” I said, murmuring.

“Heya.”

The Behaims were staring at me but not moving.  That damn little kid with his pad of sticky notes was riffing through the pad with his thumb.

“Are you as confused as I am?” I muttered.

“We’re not where we’re supposed to be,” Evan commented.

“Yeah,” I said.

The Behaim guy with the sunglasses might have heard, because he smiled a little.

“Where’s Rose?” Evan asked.

I looked around.  My eye traveled over the back windows of the cars.

No sign of our resident girl in the mirror or her knife wielding Other.

“Good question,” I said.

This was too eerie, too out of place.

Something was wrong.

“Gut feeling on an escape route?” I murmured, a little quieter than before.

Evan turned his head.

I glanced without turning my head.  He was looking at a police van, fairly nondescript, but for a red and blue stripe at the side and a coat of arms on the side.  The nose pointed at me, rear bumper facing the chain-link fence.

Good enough.

I bolted, and Evan took off in the same moment.

I stepped up onto the bumper of the van, then the hood, slipped, and climbed onto the roof on all fours.

One of them was doing something, because my legs were moving more sluggishly than my upper body, as if I were wading through water.  My shoulder ached something fierce, and I couldn’t think back to any incident that might have caused it.

Evan’s passing flight helped me shift my legs into position, and helped dismiss whatever effect was accumulating there.

The top of the van was slick with wet snow, but I managed to find my balance.

The top of the chain-link fence was just about level with my collarbone.  A short jump, easy enough to make, even with me in a less than stellar physical state.

I didn’t make it.

Evan was the reason.  He flew past me, and he altered my trajectory.

I wound up stepping right off the side of the van.  I dropped and crashed onto the trunk of the police car parked next to it.

The kid with the sticky pads had bolted to the fence.  He touched one sticky note to one of the posts with three fingers extended.

I could smell the burning air.  No flickers of lightning or anything of the sort, but the smell was thick and pronounced enough to suggest that I might not have survived contact with the fence.

I groaned as I rolled off the back of the car, careful not to touch the fence.

“Sorry,” Evan said, as he landed on my shoulder.

I groaned again, quieter, while rotating my shoulder.

The other three kids were closing in on me.  The younger girl, the older girl I’d seen the Bloody Mary cut, and Sunglasses.

“Laird’s sending his nieces and nephews to do his dirty work, huh?” I asked.

“Not just nieces and nephews,” the kid with the sticky notes said.

The older girl Mary had attacked spoke up.  “We volunteered.  We take you out, the family fortunes improve, and because we had a hand in it, our fortunes improve too.”

I had to bite off the urge to make a sarcastic retort.

“I see,” I said.  “Where does this go?  Killing me?”

“Binding you,” Sunglasses told me.  He looked at the younger boy.  “Craig?”

Craig tore off a sticky note.  The one on top that I’d seen earlier.  Like a piece of clockwork.

Why was I here?  What was going on?

I’d beat them.  Slipped away.

The old man Other was still looming, cutting off my escape.

The other escape routes included the fence, which was awkward, especially now that they expected it, or making my way back into the building.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there, but with very few alternatives…

Slowly, I climbed up onto the trunk of the car next to me.  The kids maneuvered themselves to stay an even distance away from me.

“Again, Ainsley,” Sunglasses said, speaking to the girl that Mary had sliced.

Ainsley drew a striped candle from her purse with one hand, and it lit itself.  She already had needles in her other hand.

I couldn’t imagine many situations where one of my enemies using needles was a good thing.

I pointed.

Evan darted straight for Ainsley and the candle.

He stopped a foot in front of Ainsley, and I felt as though I’d been hit by a car.  I tumbled, landing with my back to the fence.

Or, more to the point, I felt like I were a bird that had just flown into a solid surface.

“That never gets old,” Craig said, still holding his sticky notes.

“Shh,” Sunglasses told him.

Ansley slid a needle into the candle, right at the base.

“Zero hour,” she murmured, “Let us begin.”

This pain is an illusion, only a matter of perception, I told myself.

I tried to struggle to my feet, and found the strength wasn’t there.

They’d turned things around on us, and they had me in the worst position possible.

I just wish I knew how.

“Hour one,” Ainsley said, sliding a needle in at the first stripe.  “I bind your legs, Blake Thorburn.  I bind the pigeontoed that first held you up.  I bind the legs you wear as a man, now, and the crooked weary hips that will be yours when you’re old.”

I could feel my legs getting heavier again.

“I reject your binding,” I spat the words, “Because I have sources telling me I won’t fucking make it to old age.  Your third point doesn’t stick.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Sunglasses said.

Ainsley nodded, grave.

“Fuck,” I muttered.

She found another needle.  “Hour two.  I bind your legs with the folly of childhood, the trials of adulthood, and the frailty of age.”

My legs grew heavier, as if she’d laid something heavy across them.

I started to get my bearings, grabbing the side of the car for support, but my legs felt three times as heavy as the rest of me.

Evan fluttered, trying to put distance between himself and the kids.

Sunglasses kicked him.

Only the fact that I was leaning heavily on the cop car kept me from collapsing.

“Hour three,” Ainsley said,  “I bind you in place, the cradle with its bars.  The career with its trappings.  The cage of the body, the deathbed, the coffin.”

“I reject your binding,” I gasped, as I slumped down.  “I rejected it once, I reject it again.  I was never going to be able to hold a career, I can’t now, as a diabolist and a target for just about fucking everyone.  I’m probably not going to die an old man, either.  I reject it, I reject it, I reject it!”

“This isn’t about you,” Sunglasses said.  “It’s about saying things that other forces understand.  But by all means, please keep going.”

“Hour five…” she said.

“You skipped one,” I said, as she worked a needle into the soft wax.  She didn’t flinch as hot wax dripped past her fingertips, catching on the needles.

She shook her head.  She was almost a quarter up the way of the candle, skipping several stripes.  “…I bind you to remain in place until such a time as you’re released by my word or the breaking of this small totem.  I root you where you now kneel.”

I needed Evan to break the spell as he had before.

“Then I want to fly,” I said.  “Evan, I name you.  We’re kin in our desire for freedom, our desire to keep moving.  You and me are bound, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.  Lend me your power, give me your wings.”

Evan started to move, but a tap of someone’s boot sent him sprawling, and left me on my hands and knees on the ground, grunting at the pain in between gasps for air.

“You’re just guessing, aren’t you?” Sunglasses asked.

“Doing my damndest,” I panted.

“Might have worked if you didn’t-”

Evan, having faked how hurt he was, took off, flying under the nearest car before he could be kicked again.

I caught him.

The effect didn’t break.

“Lay it on thicker, Ains.  Craig?  Go get your dad.  Watch the barrier at the doors, we don’t want the others coming through to rescue him.”

Sticky Note Kid glanced at us as a whole, then bolted for the doors to the police department.

“Hour eight,” Ainsley said.  Another needle in the candle.  She held it in such a way that the needles stuck out through the gaps between her fingers, wax running over the backs of her hands.  “I take the freedom you cherish, Blake Thorburn.  I take your wings, I take your claws, I take your ability to crawl, to slither, to leap and trawl.  I take this freedom from you as time takes all things.”

The pressure that had weighed me down before now pressed in from all directions.

“Rhymes,” I said, in an effort to fight past my frustration.  “Cute.”

“I try,” she said.

“Evan,” I said.

Sunglasses stepped closer.  I saw a golden disc in his hand.  Like a saucer, almost.

Ready to beat on my familiar?

“Get help,” I said.

I flung him, back and away from the others.

Sunglasses stepped forward, disc raised, but Evan was already gone, up and over the fence, then down, so he could take cover behind it, flying around the building.

Sunglasses relaxed.

“One,” I said, “Two, three, four, five…”

“Hour-” Ainsley started.

“…six, seven, eight…”

“Ainsley,” Sunglasses said.

“…nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen…”

It was childish, but I was going to disrupt her concentration any way I could.  The numbers were important, no doubt, I had no idea why or how, and I was going to throw as many numbers out there as I could.

When kids did it, they did it with random numbers.  Ty had shown me the truth, once upon a time, when I was measuring things for a display.  Count in order, and you could more effectively disrupt someone’s ability to recall numbers.  Their minds would get caught up in the flow of numbers, and they’d lose track.

“…eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two…”

“Cover my ears,” she said.

Sunglasses covered her ears with his hands.

She ran her free hand up the candle, counting the needles.

“Hour thirteen…”

I stopped.  No point in continuing.

Sunglasses and the youngest girl turned their heads at the same moment.

“Trouble,” Sunglasses said.

“Someone stepped into the snare,” the youngest of the two girls said.  “They won’t make it much further.”

“Yeah.  Be careful, keep an eye out.”

She nodded.

“…I bind that which I have already bound…” Ainsley continued.

I grit my teeth.

What to do?

I didn’t know enough to free myself, and I didn’t know enough to bind them faster or better than they were binding me.

Attacks?  I had no weapons.

The practice?

No.

I could sense Laird drawing closer.  His kid was Craig, the sticky note kid?

“…bind you thrice over.”  Ainsley said, finishing.

My heart was pounding, my mouth dry.  I was cold, being crouched down against the freezing pavement and snow, moisture soaking through my jeans.

“Kind of overkill, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Not after what I saw in that bathroom,” she said.  She reached into her pocket, winced, then pulled out another needle.

“Kind of sheltered, aren’t you?  That wasn’t even remotely diabolic.”

“It was barbaric.  Using something like that on me?

“People haven’t really held back in dealing with me,” I said.

I’m holding back,” she said, glaring down at me.  “You know what Craig would have done?  He would have stuck you in an old man’s body.  Aged you by ninety years, until you were so old and demented you couldn’t speak.  My uncle?  He would have had Craig leave you like that.”

“Taken down by a sticky note?” I asked.

My supposed savior was stuck, trapped in one place, and Evan was stuck with them.

I could only stall.

“Craig’s good.  He started earlier than most of us, and…” she stops as Sunglasses elbows her.  “Hour twenty-one.”

Very near the top of the candle.

“Does it hurt?  The wax?”

“I bind-” she started.

The nearest car shuddered, then tilted.  The tires on one side had been punctured.

I heard rattling.  the fence was swaying.

“Get your silvered chains,” Sunglasses said.

“We used them to bind the exit.”

“Not all of them.  Tandie?”

The younger of the two girls pulled one of the gleaming chains from her bag.

“Some well-off families get their kids fancy cars,” I said.  “I guess your family gives you… what?  Protective chains?”

Sunglasses ignored me.

“Where do I put it?” Tandie asked.  “Around him?”

“No.  Ainsley, finish the binding, so he can’t be moved by others.  Tandie, protect us.”

“We won’t fit all in the circle.”

“Me and Ainsley, then.”

“And me?”

“Give me the chain and run.  Go inside!”

Tandie hesitated, then did just that, practically throwing the chain at him before bolting.

I heard a loud crash.  The car closest to the door moved.  It didn’t move fast, but it still moved, rolling between Tandie and the door.

“No, please, no,” Tandie said.  “No horror movie stuff please, no.”

Another crash followed.  The car next to the other one began rolling forward.

One by one, the cars began moving, brakes cut, somehow shifted into neutral.

“I bind you one final time,” Ainsley said.  “I bind-”

The one to my left shuddered, and the crash was painfully loud.  It began rolling.

Safe within the circle, Sunglasses and Ainsley stayed stock still as it approached.

She tried again.  “I bind-”

The car to my right shifted into motion with a bang.

The car door swung open.  Nobody inside.

As the car moved forward at perhaps five miles an hour, Sunglasses watched the door approach, threatening to bump into him and Ainsley.

When it was close enough, he kicked it, vicious.  It slammed shut.

Tandy shrieked.  She’d been climbing over the car hood to get to the door, but now she fell, landing on the snow-covered pavement, two hands wrapped around her ankle.

Her screams turned more frantic as she got a look under the car.  She began to crawl away on three limbs.

“Come, Tandy!” Sunglasses called out.

He wasn’t looking as a small figure crawled over the open car door.

It was the size of a chimp, roughly as hairy, but less consistently hairy, with a receding hairline and thick body hair.  Its feet and hands were clawed, and it had no tail.  The macabre overbite showed off an uneven row of fangs.

What was eerie was how it had decorated itself.  It wore a makeshift monocle that wasn’t round, but held in place by points of glass that punctured its eye socket.  Its genitalia was decorated, pushed through a series of washers and wound up by wires that bent it into some grotesque art piece.

It grinned as it saw me.  It then winked, catching hold of the handle above the door, weighed-down genitals swinging madly for a moment, then swung itself into the car.

Sunglasses was fixated on the other of the two little monsters, which was assaulting the youngest of the two girls.  That one was female, potbellied, just as hairy, but similarly decorated.  It carried a makeshift backpack and wore a collar and a self-inflicted two-way wedgie with a single length of rusty chain welded to a collar.

Eugh.

Sunglasses’ composure broke, and he bolted to the side of his cousin or sister.  “Bind him, Ainsley!” he shouted.

Ainsley looked down at me.

“I bind you, Blake Thorburn, as I mark the twenty-first hour.  I bind you for the eighth time, I fix you in place by the cardinal and intercardinal directions…”

The car behind her, the one with the male goblin within, started up, rear lights glowing.

Move,” I said.

“I bind you-”

Ainsley,” I said.  “I bind myself, until you’ve released me.  Get out of the fucking way!”

The car’s wheels spun before it got traction.  That bought Ainsley enough time to look at me, eyes wide, then to move.

The car came within an inch of her as a creature four feet tall somehow managed to work both gas and steering wheel.  It turned as it reversed at full speed.

It veered in a ‘u’, skidding on ice-slick pavement, tail end swinging four feet in front of me like some great sledgehammer before it violently collided with the other car that had been parked next to me.

Untouched by the crash, almost invigorated, if sheer excitement and activity were any suggestion, the male gremlin crawled up onto the roof of the police car.

The female was currently dancing circles around Sunglasses, who was kicking at it while hugging Tandy close with one arm.  He had the golden disc in one hand, and was periodically angling it at the gremlin, trying to catch it with a reflected beam of light.

Ainsley was backing away, putting her at the furthest point from Sunglasses.  All of the cars in the long, rectangular lot were now stopped at one side of the fence.  She wasn’t on that side, and it left her with very little cover.

“Screwloose,” I called out, remembering the thing’s name.  “Return to the one who summoned you.”

He hopped down, then approached me.  Swaggering.  Strutting, chest out, arms swinging to his side and behind him.

I saw tools appear in his hands at some point they swung out of view.  Makeshift tools, things that might serve triple-purpose as lockpicks, swiss-army tools and/or weapons.

There was only malice in his eyes.

Right.  What was it Maggie had said?  She dealt with mad dogs.  Best let off leash on very short spans of time.

Except she wasn’t here to stop it or call it back.

I glanced over, and I saw Ainsley’s abandoned silver chain.

I reached, and found it maybe three or four feet beyond where my hand could touch pavement.

My legs might as well have been welded in place.  I was paralyzed from the waist down, fixed in place by some sevenfold curse.

I glanced at Ainsley.  She still held the candle.

She looked down at the candle, then back at me.

She shook her head.

I deflated a little.

No use wasting my breath arguing.

I pulled off my jacket, then threw it out, so it might drape over the chain.

It might have worked, if the snow and slush didn’t hurt the traction

I flung it out again, hoping for a better snag on the chain.

A small explosion startled me out of my wits, cutting past my jacket.

The goblin carried a length of pipe with a strap that could go over one shoulder.  No, it was two lengths of pipe that were connected, Some kind of crude, makeshift shotgun?

He dismantled his makeshift weapon, shook a shell out, then reached behind him, digging for something.

I took note of the fact that he wasn’t digging in his satchel… and he wasn’t wearing pants.

He retrieved what must have been a gremlin-made shotgun shell, still striding forward.  Shell into the small pipe, large pipe slid over both.

I covered my face.

He slammed the large pipe against the small one.  It fired.

I screamed.

Shallow damage from a crude contraption, but it was still me getting shot.

“Fucker!” I shouted, lowering my hands.  I was openly bleeding from the gouges.  A twisted paperclip stuck out of my arm at one spot.  Glass in another.

I heard him cackling.

“Little fucker,” I said.  “I swear, if and when I get out of this-”

There was a clatter and a bang.

I looked in the direction of the others.

Douchegargler, the female goblin, was perched beneath the open hood of one car, hand holding the hood up.  Smoke was billowing from the engine block.

Sunglasses lunged for her.

The goblin ducked into the engine block, letting the hood slam on his hand.

Little fuckers.

I wasn’t about to complain, except they were being indiscriminate, I was included in the indiscriminate part of it, and Laird was almost-

The door opened.  It stopped short, banging against the side of the car that had stopped in front of the doorway.

Craig squeezed through the gap.  He took in the scene.  A parking lot thrown into disarray, his cousins in peril.  “What the hell?”

“Gremlins!” Ainsley shouted from the far end of the lot.

I used my jacket to try to catch the chain again.

I managed to get some traction.  Not pulling it toward me so much as bunching it up.

Holding both sleeves, I managed to fling the jacket out and get the collar around the chain.  I dragged it closer.

Screwloose was apparently out of shotgun shells.  He came at me with a blade.

Still kneeling and immobile, I whipped out the chain.

The chain struck him across the face.  Shocked more than hurt, he staggered.

I whipped it out again.  I caught him around the throat and forearm.

I hauled him close.  When he struggled, I bound him further with the chain.

“Drop the weapon!” I shouted.

He didn’t.

Pulling chain tight enough to cut off circulation, I bashed one tiny, gnarled hand against the pavement until he let go of the blade.

“I forbid you from biting or harming me,” I growled.

“Nuh, we’re lovey-dovey,” he growled the words with a distinct English accent. “Bugger me, diabolist, and bugger me well.  I’ve got sharp stuff stowed back there.  I’ll bite you all I want.”

I held him fast.  There was one gremlin, and it was perched on the hood of the car that had trapped Sunglasses’ hand.  Laird or Craig were doing something to the door, eroding it by aging it, but it was a metal door, and the process was slow.

Craig and Tandy had backed away from Sunglasses and the gremlin, a little too unnerved to get close.

“Ainsley,” I said.  “Release me, and I’ll help Sunglasses over there.”

“I can’t,” she said.  “I made promises.  To take this seriously.”

“This is serious.”

“-I can’t,” she said, so fast I doubted she’d even heard what I said.

“You can.  Sunglasses over there-”

“Owen.”

“Owen’s going to get hurt if that engine explodes.  I bound myself to save your life.  You-”

“You were bound,” she said, still responding too fast.  She was shaking her head, as if trying to deny the situation.  “You didn’t have to.”

“I saved your life!” I shouted.  “Are you willing to trade away his for some better fortune in the family!?”

“I-”

“Because if you are, then I’m fucking better than you!” I shouted.

“You’re never going to be better than me!” she said, a note of hysteria in her voice.  “I could let a hundred people die and I still wouldn’t be as bad as you are when you’re just existing!

I growled with frustration.  Tried to ignore the goblin that was rhythmically thrusting its pelvis skyward in its struggles to escape.

I couldn’t convince her.

“Owen!” I shouted.  “Sunglasses guy!  You talk sense into her!”

“I’ll be okay!” he shouted.

“Gargler!” Screwloose cried out, as if mocking my tone, “Fucken Drive!

The female gremlin looked at him, then grinned.

She kicked the windshield, cracking it, then threw herself through it.

“Fuck!”  Owen said.  He hauled on the hood, but it didn’t move even with the gremlin gone. “It’s snagged!”

“You morons!  You’re willing to die for this?”

“To stop you?” he asked.

The car started up.

“Yeah,” he finished.

Fucking kids drank Laird’s kool aid.

“I’ll let you go if you stop her,” I told Screwloose.

“Eat me!”

The door was still coming to pieces.

“I’ll let you go if you go after Laird Behaim.  I can sense the connection on the other side of the door.”

Screwloose looked up at me.

“Agree to hurt only him, tell me you’ll leave Toronto and leave people alone for a decade, and you’re as free as Maggie’s binding will leave you.”

“One-of,” he said.  “Totally free?”

“Free, but you leave humanity alone.”

I saw indecision on his face.

Yeah!

I might have been missing something, but my gut said this little bastard was just a short-term thinker.

Whatever.

I unraveled the chain.

One problem dealt with.

The car’s wheels shifted, the front swerving slightly as it fought for traction.  I saw Owen’s eyes go wide.

He tried to shift position, getting his legs up, crawling onto the hood, so he wouldn’t be in front of the car.

He didn’t succeed.  Not really.

One shin was caught between the bumper of the car and the side of another.

He screamed.

“Evan,” I said, bowing my head.  “Evan, I call you by name.  I call you by the ties that bind us…”

I felt the connection appear.

“Evan, we’re connected.  Nothing can keep us apart.  Let’s use that.”

I felt something click.

Thirty seconds later, Evan descended from the sky.

Finally,” I said.

“You’re bleeding.”

“Got shot,” I said.  “Nothing too bad, don’t think.  What held you up?”

“Trap.  Got Maggie.  I tried to help her out, but I’m not as good at helping her as you.”

I nodded.

“Felt you call,” he continued, “I decided to come.  I tried to find help,” he said.  “She’s all I could find.”

“Well,” I replied.  “I think that’s our help, then.”

We looked at the scene.

‘Gargler had managed to reverse back into the fence, and was in the midst of switching gears and preparing for another forward rush.

Ainsley had another candle out, no doubt working on one of the goblins.

The other two had disappeared inside as Screwloose had appeared.  Under the protection of Uncle Laird.

Screwloose was lurking under a vehicle.  I had no idea what he was doing.

Utter chaos.

“I can’t help you,” Evan said.  “I could before but I can’t now.”

“I know,” I said.  “You couldn’t find the others?”

“There was Maggie, and Fell’s busy in front of the police station.”

Busy?  With what?

I didn’t want to know.  Saying he was ‘busy’ was enough.

“Rose is inside, and I think her monsters are too.  She can’t get out.”

What the fuck was going on?

Did I miss something?

“Evan,” I said, my eyes on the ground.  “We need backup.”

“Backup?”

“Either the imp or the sword.  Fell has both?”

“They’re in the car, and he’s close to the car.”

I nodded.

“You want the imp, then?” Evan asked, with a note of hope.

“The imp… it’s dangerous.  It’s a bad precedent.”

“You want the Hyena,” he said, with a note of disappointment.

Disappointment in me?

“Yeah, Evan.”

“Do we really have to?”

“People might die if we don’t.”

“People might die if we do.”

“No,” I said.  “No, I don’t think so.  Not if we’re careful.”

“You can’t be careful with something like that.”

“We can try,” I said.  “Listen.  Find the sword.  Tell it… fuck me, I’m guessing again.  But it bound itself as much as I bound it.  It surrendered to my will, and you’re an extension of my will.  Tell it that it’s free for ten minutes, provided it accepts the conditions and it agrees to be thoroughly and equally bound after those ten minutes are up, no matter what happens to me or to it.   Tell it that it can’t hurt anyone or anything without our express permission.  Tell it that it has to do everything I- no, everything you say.”

“Me?”

“Yeah, Evan.  Does that make you feel any better?”

“Not much.”

I nodded.

“What else?”

“Tell it that if it accepts, then it gets a chance at sanctioned bloodshed-”

“Sanctioned?”

“It gets a chance to draw blood that it wouldn’t get otherwise.  It gets a chance to be scary, to be something other than a sword.  Maybe that’s enough.  Come back to me if it isn’t.”

“Okay,” Evan said.  I detected a slight tremor in his voice.

“Will you remember all that?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Will you forgive me, Evan?”

Yes,” he said, decisively.  “Because your heart’s in the right place, even if this is stupid.”

Then Evan took off.

The car’s wheels were spinning, but it wasn’t moving.  More of an effort than simple wheels on slick pavement.

Ainsley had four needles in her second candle, but the wax was melting in streams and rivulets that were running down to her elbow, inside and outside her sleeve.  It was apparently hot and intense enough that she was flinching, even as she fought to recite her words and stick more needles into it.

It had already melted enough that there was no twenty-first line to stick her needle into.

The door to the station fell into roughly five pieces, little more than rust filigree at this point.

Laird, followed by the two younger kids.  My sense of the connection had been accurate.

He glanced over the situation.

He drew and fired his gun into the door of the police car with spinning wheels.

The acceleration stopped.

Laird helped Owen -Sunglasses- open the hood, and he dragged the boy back, until his back was to the wall of the station.

I heard murmured words, thought I maybe saw a nod from Owen.

Laird stood straight.  His eyes fell briefly on me, then he approached the car, reaching in through the shattered windshield to turn the wheel.  He nodded at Ainslee.

She broke the binding, and the car rolled forward.  The wheels were still spinning, so it was a little faster than five miles an hour.

It bumped into the pile-up of cars on the one side of the parking lot.

“There’s a gremlin under the car!” Ainsley called out.

Laird looked.

I saw the gremlin scamper away.

Afraid of the stranger, maybe somehow recognizing that Laird wasn’t a novice practitioner.

Laird strode forward, approaching me.

Something tripped, and a device launched out from under the car.  Like a hockey puck, it skidded out beneath Laird’s outstretched foot.

Laird stopped, foot suspended in mid-step.

He moved it out of the way, bent down, and carefully picked up the object.

It looked like some sort of small bear trap.

“Maggie, I presume,” Laird said.

I nodded.

“Your other friends are occupied or caught in traps by Duncan and his sons, Rose is bound indoors, and I’ve broken most of the available and useful reflective surfaces in the spirit world.  Things are going to find an excuse to break in the real world in the coming days and weeks, but we can cross that bridge when it comes.”

“Sounds like bad karma,” I said.  “Giving the universe a lot of menial work to do to keep everything coordinated.”

“Well,” Laird said, “I’m hoping to make it up to the universe.”

“Borrowing against the future for the sake of the present?” I asked.

“I would say it’s just the opposite,” Laird said.  His eye roved, searching for the gremlin.

“I seem to have a gap in my memory,” I said.

Laird smiled.  “Your, uh, Rose?  She does too, it seems.”

“What did you do?”

“I’m particularly fond of the saying, what is it?  ‘Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it?  It’s very useful when we can use the same tricks a second time around without you being any the wiser.”

“I’m asking what you did.”

“You can ask.  I’m not saying anything more on the subject.”

“You’re far from being my favorite person in the world, you know that?”

“I do.  I’ll live, basking in the irony that I’m really doing you a service.”

“A service.”

“Most of the others want to see you dead.  I want to see you live, ideally as a non-threat, for at least a little while longer.”

“As a withered, helpless old man?”

“Better than being dead, considering where you’re going.”

He stopped in front of me.

He was imposing, especially when I was hunkered down on the ground, shivering and bent, while he was standing tall above me, with his heavy jacket, barrel chest, and square jaw, glaring.

Not exactly my mental image of a practitioner.

“Conquest is coming,” Laird said.  “He’s smart enough to stay out of the thick of things until the opposing king is in check.”

“How nice for him,” I said.

“I may be your biggest ally here,” Laird said.  “Conquest wants you dead, I want you bound.  The sooner you offer your surrender, the better off we all are.”

“You’re lying,” I said.

“Some consider that kind of accusation a grave insult,” he said.

“Good,” I said.  “Add ‘fuck you sideways‘ to the insults you’re due.  You’re not my biggest ally.  He is.”

Laird turned.

The Hyena prowled forward.  Evan was perched on one tattered ear, wings spread.

“Ah, we expected that one,” Laird said.  “Craig, take Owen and Tandy inside!”

“You expected it?” I asked.

“Yes, and you’ve made a bit of a mistake,” he said.

I looked.

The Hyena stopped short of the fence.

“Go, whelp!” Evan ordered.  “Obey me, mutt!”

The Hyena snarled in frustration, but stopped short of the fence.

An enclosure around the parking lot.

A ring of metal, to keep a proper goblin at bay.

“I don’t know whether to respect your integrity for leaving the imp be, or to pity your lack of foresight.”

“Take it from me and Evan,” I said.  “That thing’s no small potatoes, fence or not.  Evan!”

Laird seemed to read something in my posture and tone, because he didn’t give me a chance to finish.  He crossed the distance between us, and he kicked me, heel to face.

I landed on my back, stomach arched skyward, knees still fused to the ground by Ainsley’s binding.

“Hurghf and burgfh!” I managed, one finger extended.

“What?” Laird asked.

“Huff and puff!” Evan shouted.  “Do it, ugly!  Huff and puff, there!”

The Hyena blew.

“Ainsley!” Laird shouted.

Ainsley shielded the needle-punctured candle with her body.  Successfully blocking the Hyena’s breath from the lit wick.

She, however, wasn’t prepared for the other effect of the Hyena’s breath.

I could smell it from halfway down the parking lot.

She staggered, doubled over, and vomited.

In the doing, she wasn’t able to maintain her focus and keep the candle close enough to stay out of the way, but far enough that she didn’t stab or burn herself.

Somewhere along the line, the candle went out.

I toppled, landing on my back.

“Don’t move,” Laird said.

I heard the cock of a gun.

Ainsley approached, staggering.  Her eyes were watering, and she had a hand pressed to nose and mouth.

“I’m sorry, uncle,” she said.

“It’s okay.  Keep an eye out for the gremlin.”

“I see it,” she said.

Their eyes -and mine- traveled to the fence.

The goblin was there, arms spread, gripping the chain-link, legs bent as clawed toes found purchase on the fencing.

“Shoot it,” she said.

“I’m not taking my gun off the diabolist.  Bind it.”

“Okay,” Ainsley said.

She drew out a candle.

The goblin extinguished it with a stream of foul smelling urine.  Much as one might hold one thumb over the end of a tap or garden hose to concentrate the stream, the workings of wire and more made for a surprising long-distance spray.

Laird shifted position, turning sideways, raising his coat with his free hand to block the stream.  “I hate goblins.”

“If they keep this up, I may start to like them,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter,’ Laird said.  “Conquest will be here in a moment…”

The gremlin let go of the fence.  It raised one hand.  I saw what it held.

“…and this will all be settled.”

A sticky note with a rune on it.

The goblin managed to activate it.

This time there was an arc of electricity.

Ainsley shrieked and Laird wobbled before dropping like a rock.  The gremlin dropped from the fence like a stone.

Ainsle went for the gun.  I beat her to it.  I pointed it at her.

“All things considered, I think I played pretty fair,” I said.

She set her jaw, lips tight.  She still had a fleck of vomit at the corner of her mouth.

“You’re going to let Rose out of the building now,” I said.  “Or I may do something to your Uncle Laird that you’ll regret.”

She didn’t move.

“You don’t care what happens to them?” I asked.  “That kind of makes sense to me.  I’m not very fond of your family either.”

“Ha ha,” she said, without humor.

Did that count as a lie?

If not, I’d have to remember that one.  Some situations mandated sarcasm.

I checked Laird’s pulse.  It was there.

“You won’t hurt him?” she asked.

“If I was going to hurt one of you, I would have let that car hit you.

He was even semiconscious, it seemed.

Good enough.

I did what I could to drag Laird back while keeping the gun available.

Things picked up a moment later when the door opened and the Tallowman came striding out with Bloody Mary a step behind.

Ainsley backed away from Bloody Mary, giving her as wide a berth as was possible without climbing over the cars that were piled up in the parking lot.

“The Tallowman has your bag,” Rose said, from one car windshield.

The wax-crusted man handed me my backpack.

“We save Maggie from the trap first, we rescue the others from Duncan, and then we scram,” I said.

“Sounds like a plan,” Rose said.  “Tallowman, go around to the front of the building.  You recognize our friend?”

“Yes mistress,” the Tallowman said, his voice meek.

“Go help him.”

“Yes, mistress,” the Tallowman said.

A little creepy.

“That went screwy fast,” Rose said.  “I blacked out for a good half hour.  Amnesia.”

“Some trick,” I said.  “Evan and I did too.  They used it to split us up, separated us, we still came out ahead.”

“Be careful about lying.  We’re not sure how this went while we were out.”

“I’m pretty certain,” I said.  Maggie was in sight, looking very impatient inside a rectangular magic circle that was bound to the pavement by golden chains.

“You’re certain we came out ahead?”

“We got Laird,” I said, pointing to Laird’s limp body, dangling from the Hyena’s mouth.  There was a white smear drooping from the side of the Hyena’s nose to Laird’s shoulder.  “And I think I’ve figured out the trick.”

“Trick?  To?”

“The Behaim’s power.”

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275 thoughts on “Subordination 6.12

    1. Neat! We might get it in a flashback. Or not. Because it is a period of amnesia.

      That’s pretty damn cool.

      1. Maybe tuesday he undoes whatever behaim trick caused the amnesia, and on thurs we get the flashback.
        i hope we get it soon but then again, I think it might be a NPC-viewpoint thing from one of the kids’ perspective instead

      1. Wildbow, what have you done this time? First we have ErasUr that makes me go all the way back to double check where people could have been but aren’t and now you have this.

        Well, thanks for the clarification here at least. That means this isn’t just a typo :/

        1. I was looking out for that ever since we learned about the demon’s power, but didn’t notice anything. Did you catch anything?

        1. Yet another fun mindgame from Wildtroll- I mean Wildbow.

          Now I suddenly feel an urge to go re-read that extra-long chapter from Worm again. 🙂

      2. A protagonist form elsewhere showed up even though Wildbow say none of em would but he soon forgot about her…

      3. You know, I was enjoying reading a story that didn’t give me headaches when I thought about the implications of what the characters can/will do.

        sigh Why did you have to write such a deep and involved story world?

    1. Nope. The Behaims jumped the Blakeguard half an hour further in time. Which means the update that would have taken place during that time happened but was immediately forgotten once we got here.

      1. This is an especially potent twist because Subordination 6.11 would have been posted on Thursday, but Wildbow just had to take a break that week.

        Next time he tries that, check for Behaims.

      1. This line actually makes no sense in either context, because, like…of course Laird is a practitioner. They’re in the spirit world. He’s either a practitioner, an Other, or barely an echo.

    1. “The girl who Mary had sliced was there, cut arts covered by her sleeves. Either the situation had had a particularly fast resolution or… or what?”

      Should be “arms” instead of “arts” there.

    2. cut arts covered by her sleeves
      cut arms covered by her sleeves

      pigeontoed
      usually pigeon-toed

      lockpics
      usually lock picks

      swiss-army
      Swiss-army

      kool aid
      Kool-aid

      Ainsle / Ainsley

      … people beat me to some of these

    3. The Fibonacci sequence is off:
      She used:
      0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
      The correct sequence would be:
      1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
      Or, if you wanted to start with zero:
      0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21

      1. maybe that’s why there were 2 incantations on the first hour? or it was twice as long anyway… seems redundant to bind on the first hour twice

    4. “I’d seen the Behaim ritual and the aftermath of accelerated time around the house, I’d seen Duncan turn back time, and now this.”

      Isn’t the time around the house slowed down rather than accelerated?

    5. I bind your legs, Blake Thorburn.  I bind the pigeontoed that first held you up.  I bind the legs you wear as a man,
      Pidgeontoed? Thematically ‘pidgeontoes’ would fit better with ‘legs’ ‘hips’ and so on. I think.

      the fence was swaying. -The

      Tandy shrieked.- Tandie; There might be a bunch of these.

      wore a collar and a self-inflicted two-way wedgie with a single length of rusty chain welded to a collar. -welded to THE collar. Also, harsh wedgie.

      I saw tools appear in his hands at some point they swung out of view.  – I get what you’re saying, but this sentence makes no sense.

      It might have worked, if the snow and slush didn’t hurt the traction
      -missing a period.

      No, it was two lengths of pipe that were connected, Some kind of crude, makeshift shotgun?
      – Capitalization in the middle of the sentence, otherwise a comma instead of a period.

      Craig and Tandy had backed away from Sunglasses and the gremlin, a little too unnerved to get close.
      -not Craig, Craig is outside. Sunglasses, since BlaKe does not yet know his name.

      “You can.  Sunglasses over there-”

      “Owen.”
      -last chapter, or the one before it, depens on how you count, Sunglasses’ name was Gav. Gavin, Gabriel? Not Owen.

      “One-of,” he said. Is this meant to be ‘one-off’? I don’t get it.

      Ainsle went for the gun.
      -Ainsley

      “If I was going to hurt one of you, I would have let that car hit you.
      -missing a closing quotation mark.

    6. That one was female, potbellied, just as hairy, but similarly decorated.

      The but seems to have nothing it is contrasting against here. I may have missed something. As always, I love your work. Your updates are one of the highlights of my week.

      1. I’m guessing that it was to emphasize that the Hyena couldn’t follow Evan’s orders telling him to proceed further, though I agree (with your implication) that an alternate phrasing would likely be better.

    7. It might have worked, if the snow and slush didn’t hurt the traction –> period

      were connected, Some kind of crude, makeshift shotgun? –> period instead of comma

      He nodded at Ainslee. –> Ainsley

      Ainsle went for the gun. –> Ainsley

  1. Wildbow you magnificent bastard. Skip the Thursday update and no one bats an eye; you push out enough work to beggar belief on a weekly basis, no one begrudges you the breaks you do take. And then you come in with the suckerpunch by making Rose and Blake skip the Thursday update.

    1. Wildbow didn’t skip the Thursday update and no update was planned for previous Thursday if I recall correctly. He does it when he can, it generally is twice a month.

      1. 6.10 was Tuesday the 20th. If you can point me to where I can see 6.11, then I’ll concede the point.

            1. You caught me. I didn’t check back at the top when I typed that, only did it from memory. the -2 is in the URL … 6-12-2
              Oops.

  2. You really…kind of flipped the bird at that Point of Order guy on the review site, didn’t you? I mean, this is great stuff, but it’s some rather OP time shenanigans.

      1. Well so far Time magic is pretty broken. If Blake had been a little less able to roll with the punches he would have gotten blindsided and and bound.

        Also Blake is a novice with very little in the way of resources fighting a family with considerable resources. We might start finding out the downsides next chapter.

        And Worm wasn’t exactly game balanced either. Look at some peoples powers. If you read it, you know who.

        1. Time magic is weak. Its mostly from what we have seen a second chance. And if you can’t win in round one how can you win in round two?

            1. Whatever you try, someone with a more offense oriented magic (i.e. goblins) will still have the advantage as their magic is focused on winning battles.

              Comboing with other practitioners it could work well, but time magic on its own? Not so great.

            2. I’m somewhat baffled that you’re completely discounting how effective foreknowledge is, but that may well be why the Behaim family is fine with shamanism.

            3. I’m not disregarding anything. Chronomancy gives the Behaim’s a do over. After the first time, both sides are now aware of at least some of the others capabilities. Thus mistakes made the first time can be avoided, and tactics countered. In their scuffles, Duncan had the initial advantage, as Blake had already been captured, and the second time around he was able to shut down the means Blake used to get released the first time. He failed because Blake was able to gain new resources, and prevent him from resetting again.

        2. I get the impression that were about to see that the Beheims do have a vulnerability, and Blake is figuring it out.

      2. See, I really don’t get this argument. Did the reviewer even read Worm and see how hax some of those characters’ powers are? Did that stop it being a great story? If anything, Pact is more balanced because parahumans are stuck with what they get at time of trigger, while practitioners can acquire new abilities through hard work and gumption. It’s not so much a case of some kinds of practice being unbalanced as one of balance through mutually assured destruction – when anyone can potentially do anything, who’s to say what is or isn’t fair?

  3. Heh, very nicely done! Actually made me look back to see where 6.11 went, before I read this through and realised it’s missing for a reason.

    Right now, I’m just waiting for Blake or Rose to summon “the Swarm Queen, a slender female figure obscured by thousands and thousands of bugs”.

        1. “They stared at each other and then she made her move. One tile by one S-k-i-t-t-e-r appeared. Blake groaned as she put the seven letters on the board to the left of his own ‘s’ that lay on a treble word score. Treble word score and a 50 point bonus (tota score 145) Blake knew he had lost this game of Scrabble to this diabolical mastermind.”

          Motto: Never play scrabble with parahumans,

          1. But surely Blake could work with Rose, and maybe even Evan, since they’re effectively the same person and bound to eachother so closely, respectively.

            1. Evan’s a child who has difficulty reading. I don’t think he would be of use in high stakes Scrabble.

            2. Be fair now. The text he was having trouble reading was backwards, mirrored. He did better than I thought he would.

            1. I kept getting every letter but one that would spell skitter when playing a relative at scrabble. I found myself cursing.so close but ‘Skitter’ just kept sliding out or reach of me. I could’ve put ‘skittles’ down at one point though 🙂

    1. That’d be soooo awesome hahaha!!! And then it would turn out that she’s got her own agenda and she solves the demon issue.

  4. Nice trick with the chapter number. Ah, goblins just do not give a shit. Weaponized vomit, electrified piss, and bedazzled genitals. What’s not to love?

    1. Actually, given Dickswizzle, they give loads of shits. They just don’t give a shit as to where they give a shit.

      1. Actually I think they do give a shit where they shit. I mean some random place isn’t going to be as amusing to them to just leave a mess in the corner of the room as in the middle of the dinner table.

        1. So they give a shit about giving a shit, but only for the purposes of conveying the least amount of perceived shits given?

  5. Laird kicked Blake in the face.

    In Bonds 1.5, he told Blake “I’m sworn to do no direct harm to others, and I won’t.”

    This guy is ridiculous.

    1. I’ve gotta say, though, how is Laird not forsworn six ways from Sunday? The shit at the Starbucks, everything with Molly’s murder, his cop oath, now this? Did the Thorburns really deserve what they got badly enough for Laird to flagrantly violate these rules?

      1. Signs do point to the Thorburns being horrendously evil, if the way that Blake’s grandmother is callously murdering her own grandchild is any indication. Bad karma. So Laird is consistently justified in messing with them-but that probably just gives him breathing room. He’s still responsible for his actions.

        1. At this point, I’m wondering if he’s already forsworn, and it’s just that his entire family is still behind him, giving him power and backing him up. That would let him lie with impunity, and he could disguise it as regular practitioner bullshit on an unprecedented scale.

          1. That would make an awful lot of sense. Blake point blank said Laird is lying. The other possibility is that “Afraid of the stranger, maybe somehow recognizing that Laird wasn’t a practitioner.”
            This was no typo, and Laird is faking his practitioner status. I.E. he’s like the Witch Hunter kids. Using trinkets and such to make up for his lack of real power.

            1. Now that I think about it…did Laird even use magic this chapter? He mostly used his gun.

          2. I’m not sure how they’d transfer power to him or whatever. Have we seen a mechanism for that, aside from gaining power from one’s familiar? Maybe he’s just using chronomancy to compress the time in which he’s forsworn down to a negligible amount or something.

            In general though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some shenanigans with respect to all his oaths going on.

            1. A practitioner can use his desmense to convert Karma to power and vice versa. Also, Iirc, didn’t Laird at one point mention that his family stores good Karma to use in case of emergency or something like that.

              The “Laird is actually forsworn” idea actually makes a bit of sense. He may not have the normal protections of a human (or practitioner), but that doesn’t really matter so much when you are powerful or backed by somebody powerful. See Fell’s family as a reference.

            2. You can do that with a demesne? I totally missed that! Fits in with why Laird makes such a fuss of keeping good karma and appeasing the Others if he’s having to counteract a half dozen lies at any given time.

            3. We saw that with Duncan. He said that the working had the family to back it up (with their power)

          3. I’d think this as well if it weren’t for the ritual in the Duchamp residence. He called forth an Other of some form. Maybe he has The Voice of the head of the Behaims while he’s personally forsworn? So he has no power himself but instead directs the force of their family.

          4. I think Laird isn’t forsworn, and actually isn’t a practitioner yet. That’s his trick, he’s borrowing from his future self. The Behaims make it so Laird can do what he will be able to do when he Awakens in the future, while still being a Blackguard in the present. Maybe all the Behaims do something similar, they borrow power from what they claim they will be in the future. That makes it very important that they actually get that power in the future, otherwise they are the biggest liars ever and the universe will crush them into dust.
            Or Laird is forsworn and he’s using the past, but I like the other possibility more.

            1. Okay, the practitioner thing was a typo, but I still like the borrowing-power-from-a-future-you part. It’s risky and potentially very powerful, and sounds like something chronomancers could do.

            2. Yeah? Well I like the idea of Blake summoning a dragon and binding it into his motorcycle. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen though. I’m not trying to discredit the theory you like. All i’m trying to say is, I want to see Blake riding a Dragon.

      2. None of that is actually direct harm except for the kick to the face. And it’s possible he told a near-truth, or an outright lie and just took the minor hit to his karma and bigger (but temporary) hit to his power.

    2. I believe the correct term for that is “he dun goofed”; Blake almost did as well when he started his “I swear-” bit

  6. Clever clever, Wildbow. It seems the Behaims affected not just Blake, but us as well. Subordination 6.12 indeed.

    Loving Evan as always in this chapter. It’s a wonderful sort of irony, Evan commanding the being who sorta killed him. Here’s to hoping that after Blake dies, Pact becomes an “Odd Couple”/buddy cop type story starring Evan and the Hyena.

    So Conquest is on his way. and Blake may have figured out the trick to the Behaims power. I see an opportunity. Of course, I saw an opportunity for Blake at the end of 6.10 as well so. . .

    I want to see more of Rose’s monsters. . . I don’t really have more to say on the subject.

    This chapter brings up an interesting idea. If you can reset the Battle without your opponent knowing, you should be able to predict their moves. I think theirs actually a Tom Cruise movie with the same idea coming out soon.

    1. As always, the spelling, punctuation and syntax errors in my comment are to be excused because of need for sleep.

      1. I will allow it, because despite the errors, your comments are generally very good and insightful. Also I am no stranger to the late night typos.

    2. Yes Conquest is on his way… But Blake hasn’t been bound or killed by one of his champions, so Conquest himself is limited. He’d have to bring the other champions he has to do much.

    3. My husband thought of a different interpretation of the lost time:

      What if Laird actually won, managing to kill Blake, and had Rose become heir, only to discover that she was /so much worse/ (especially with the imminent triumphant arrival of Conquest) that he decided to Be Kind & Rewind, bring Blake back, and proceed in a slightly different fashion?

      This both fulfills Isadora’s proclamations, and makes Laird a little less eager for Blake’s head at the same time. And also, it’s just plain weird, annoying and likely to screw with Blake’s ongoing Karma balance & perception by Others in some way.

  7. Blake should have executed Laird immediately. Not only would he completely remove one of Conquest’s champions, he would cripple the threat of the Behaim family and put the fear of Thorburn back into all the other practitioners who keep going after him. It might even be enough to damage the ritual back at the manor. It seems like the optimal move. And it also seems like it might be the actual right thing to do: more and more it appears that Laird’s ambition is twisting his family members and putting them in danger. His death might very well be justifiable at this point.

    1. Justifiable, I agree, but practically speaking I doubt it would actually help. Laird’s probably not the only Behaim who can spin anything against Blake.

    2. I disagree. I think that would be an unwise move to make.

      If Blake executed Laird, that would open up the door for him to be horribly murdered by another Behaim. The universe wants balance, after all.

      he would cripple the threat of the Behaim family and put the fear of Thorburn back into all the other practitioners who keep going after him.

      I think other practitioners are already afraid of Blake. He’s building up quite the reputation over the last couple of weeks.

      Do we know killing Laird would cripple the Behaims? I would think it the motivating factor to get the more hesitant members of the family on the “Blake is evil” train.

      1. >The universe wants balance, after all.
        And as the universe sees it, Laird didn’t kill Molly, right? The universe, or more appropriately, karma, is a bitch.

        1. The only constant rule I can see in the Pactverse is “Fuck Blake Thorburn over whenever possible.”

          1. Yeah, Blake said it himself, the “universe” seems to meta-bend itself so that its own rules can be as annoying to him (and convenient to his foes) as possible.

            And by “Universe”, I mean wildbow, of course ^^

            1. Honestly, at times it strains the suspension of disbelief how far out of their way everything seems to go out of it’s way to screw Blake, and how his victories all seem to at the very least cause him problems down the road. Which is part of why I’ll be very depressed if he doesn’t end on an actual win. Not the moral victory, not the world goes on, a stright up unambigious win.

            2. Don’t think of it as the universe changing its rules to better screw over Blake, think of it as shifting probabilities to make Blake more likely to make the wrong choices that end up screwing him over. That way the universe is self-consistent, and that was actually listed as being within bad karma’s powers.

              I rather like the whole “protagonist’s actions and even victories cause complications down the road, because that’s often how RL actually works” shtick. But then, I quite enjoy Jim Butcher’s work.

    3. Karmic Irony would dictate that everything Laird did and continue to attempt to do to Blake & the Thorburn heirs will be turned around and done unto him and the Behaim’s three times over.

      Besides death is a mercy, if he’s dead, he won’t be able to watch and be aware as his entire clan suffers from the direct & indirect results of his actions.

      1. Blake’s the better person. But everyone looks at him and sees the scary Thorburn diabolist. They have no clue how lucky they are. Once he’s gone they won’t be happy to find out.

    4. Every time he saves or spares one of their family, not only does he gain karma for his, I mean, after he’s gone so far out of his way as to put himself in grave danger to save your children, continuing to attack him is just … rude.

      and it seems karma cares more about being polite than anything else anyway.

    5. Yeah no. Aside from it not being in character for Blake, the Behaims/Duchamps have clearly been holding back from use of lethal force. Blake steps over that line and all bets are off. And there are a lot of ways they can screw him over if they stop exercising restraint.

  8. So, that binding with the hours… She was using the Fibonacci numbers. Apparently the golden ratio has weight in magic?

    1. I noticed that too. Maybe it’s just because the effect of the each hour builds on all the previous effects or something?

    2. Not quite. She used:
      0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
      The correct sequence would be:
      1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
      Or, if you wanted to start with zero:
      0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21

  9. As disconcerting as the start of the chapter was (And well done with that, by the way), I’m more then willing to admit I spent the latter half of the chapter laughing my ass off as the goblins and gremlins completely and utterly fucked Laird and his kin over in the most grotesque ways possible.

    Well done.

  10. “You’re never going to be better than me!” she said, a note of hysteria in her voice. “I could let a hundred people die and I still wouldn’t be as bad as you are when you’re just existing!“

    If Blake formally Names & Titles her a Liar once he attains a suitable level of power and prestige, this would allow him to take a huge chunk from her stores of power.

    1. Also, I would note that she said bad, and not wrong, as this has been a distinction made repeatedly. One is a moral judgement, and one is karmic.

    2. Technically, she could go and let the hundred worst people in the world die and maybe even be a better person for it. I’ts a pretty vague statement.

    3. It’s interesting, because this implies that she equates “letting” people die with “bad”, because Laird clearly doesn’t.

    4. I’m hoping that, eventually, Blake will find the true incarnation of Karma and eat her power. Karma is kind of evil.

    5. She’s not necessarily wrong. Pact is very old testament where the son is responsible for the sins of the father and so on (or grandmother and do on in this case).

      Since Blake is the living embodiment of the Thorburn legacy his hands are stained with generations-worth of blood and misery that quite possibly do exceed 100 murders in scale.

  11. “Afraid of the stranger, maybe somehow recognizing that Laird wasn’t a practitioner.” I had it in my head that Laird was a practitioner for some reason…

    1. Laird has the Sight, Familiar/Inplement, assumed Desmense in his house, dabbles in shamanism and performs rituals. If he isn’t a practitioner, he must be pretty special.

  12. It seems to me that Laird isn’t really a practitioner. He’s secretly the black guard of the Behaims. How else do you explain his flagrant oath breaking, and constant lies?

    1. But, isn’t this entire chapter taking place in the Spirit World? Are suggesting that Laird is more Other than Practitioner at this point? I don’t think a non magical being could do what he does. Perhaps he just takes the power hits lying gives him. That could be why he wants to be Lord so badly. He needs that power to offset what he keeps losing from lying.

  13. Random thought, but do you think Laird and his family watch Time-Travel movies and just diss the hell of them?

    Like, they do their own Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with Looper or Back to the Future?

    Bonus points for whenever they call Laird Time-Cop and ask him to do the splits.

    1. If Laird wanted to, he could time travel to the magical year of 2015, where kids have hoverboards, cokes cost over $25 and sports almanacs still exist!

    2. Who DOESN’T watch time travel movies just to nitpick for errors, explain the flaws very loudly in the middle of a crowded theater, and generally make everyone around them regret having paid money to see it, ONE WAY OR THE OTHER?

  14. Behaims’ power:

    My guess is that Laird gets power by convincing his relatives to give up years of their life. This fits with Blake’s impression that the younger Behaims are drinking Laird’s kool-aid, and also the Jacob’s Bell council scene where Padraic names how many years his various relatives have left to live.

    Not sure how Blake could exploit this if it were true, however.

    1. maybe he just takes it from those he has bound… the real reason why he wants Blake to be an old man for the rest of his life

      1. My personal take is that laird is already dead and subsisting on borrowed time, thus unaffected by the rules and yet able to use whatever he has. Had.

  15. “One-of,” he said. “Totally free?”

    “Free, but you leave humanity alone.”

    I saw indecision on his face.

    “Yeah!“

    I might have been missing something, but my gut said this little bastard was just a short-term thinker.

    Fridge logic: What’s stopping Screwloose from fucking with Blake’s bike since it isn’t human?

    1. I take it “humanity” is broad enough to apply to artifacts of humanity, but it could be Blake left a little too much wiggle room there. Regardless, though, setting a trap on Blake’s bike to trap Blake surely counts as messing with humanity.

        1. In a just and Right world, it would follow Laird back to Jacob’s Bell and endlessly fuck with him there.

          1. I love this idea. Chapter 15.6 “and there, in the corner of Laird’s garden, was screwloose. Pissing on the plants every day for the past year, ensuring nothing could live there.”

            Chapter 20.11 “and as we ran from the demon that broke free in our own demesne, Rose and I saw at the end of the street a haggard, tired-looking Laird, his face unshaven and his jacket dripping some unidentifiable fluid. He was running too. Behind him, whooping and scampering, screwloose was taking potshots with some… Thing, that I preferred to not try and identify.”

            Chapter 35(epilogue) “and as we lay in the shade, remembering our fallen comrades and all those who gave their lives up under our bindings, celebrating the hard fought victory we just won, we were startled by an anguished scream. I looked up, wondering who could have cause for fresh agony when all the scars and the pain and joy of victory was still so fresh in our minds. It was Laird. He looked weary and in pain, wincing as he limped across the tar streaked wasteland. Behind him, then in front of him, running circles, in fact, was none other than screwloose himself, puffing up his chest as he found new ways of inflicting torment upon laird. One would think that he would have run out of ideas by now, but screwloose was surprisingly creative, especially when it came to bodily functions.”

            1. I don’t care what happens in the actual story. In an alternate Pact time line, your version is my canon.

  16. Ainsley’s having a bad day, isn’t she? First cut wrists, then a blast of Hyena breath, and now a shower in goblin urine. Forsworn too, by my reckoning, because Blake is so much better than her. He bound himself to save her, for goodness sake…it seems like the Behaim clan take their Kool-Aid double strength. It’ll be interesting to see just how badly this sort of life screws up the younger members, and how far they’ll actually be driven to go.

    I’ve decided to comment for the very first time in all of my Worm/Pact readership days to say that I really enjoyed this chapter. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the other Pact chapters, but this is the first one the hits the high of a mid-Worm chapter for me. One reason is that this was just fun, thanks to goblin shenanigans. Another is the neat time/chapter skip trick you’ve pulled. Another, very large reason, is because of Ainsley. I don’t know if I can fully articulate why she added so much to the chapter, but since you stated that one of the reasons you decided to serialize was for feedback, I’ll try my darnedest.

    The characters in Pact all have a very similar voice and way of talking. This is due in part to the restrictions of the universe, which puts fences around their speech, and partially due to the way you write them. There are a few exceptions; Evan is one of them, and Ainsley is another. It was a breath of fresh air. She’s exceptional in other ways as well: She was a little hysterical, and irrational, and warm (in this sense meaning ‘not cold’, as so many experienced practitioners seem to be). She didn’t try to shut down Blake’s arguments and defend herself by talking about Right and Wrong, she just shut him out or snapped back at him (because it doesn’t seem like she truly knows the words to say in order to defend her actions; she’s probably just doing what she was told to).

    One of the greatest things about Worm was your firm grasp on the underlying psychology of the characters and your conveyance thereof to the readers, and I think that Pact suffers from a lack of this. I’d pin this shortcoming on the fact that there are so many characters with in-human or incomprehensible psychologies. A lot of the characters opposed to Blake are beasts, cold rationalists, incarnations, or otherwise have a completely alien way of thinking. When it comes to the human practitioners, they all seem to have a similar sort of mindset (to be fair, they are possibly this way because of the nature of the Pactverse), and when I rank them based on their relatability they tend not to fall far away from the Others. Ainsley, on the other hand, is utterly and refreshingly human.

    tl;dr: Team Ainsley forever. I hope we see a lot more of the Behaim kids, especially Ainsley as she’s the most compelling so far (though if her only role in the story was to have bad and gross things happen to her in hilarious ways, I wouldn’t complain).

    Footnote 1: I have to award her a handful of badass points for keeping it together under pressure this time. The image of hot wax running down her arm as she counted and stuck pins into the candle was delightfully eerie.

    Footnote 2: Props for the humanness of Maggie and Fell, too. Maggie’s relative new to the game, which gives credence to my theory that the Pactverse molds/weeds out people in such a way that experienced practitioners send to be similar to one another, and Fell is a compelling tragic character with an interesting personality and motivations.

    1. I got the impression that she was forced to do it by some oath + magic. if she wasn’t you’re right. that’s quite impressive

    2. it seems like the Behaim clan take their Kool-Aid double strength.
      And now I can’t unsee Laird pushing through the dismantled door as the Kool-Aid man and going ‘ooooh yeaaaah’.
      Except with a gun.

    3. @Tellerstales: You need worthy chapters.” dont go sourcing that reference peoples, we all know those rules, But enjoy if ya know it…

  17. “Borrowing against the future for the sake of the present?” I asked.

    “I would say it’s just the opposite,” Laird said. His eye roved, searching for the gremlin.

    “We got Laird,” I said, pointing to Laird’s limp body, dangling from the Hyena’s mouth. There was a white smear drooping from the side of the Hyena’s nose to Laird’s shoulder. “And I think I’ve figured out the trick.”

    “Trick? To?”

    “The Behaim’s power.”


    so the trick is what exactly? borrow in the present for the future? thoughts?

    1. just gonna throw this out there, if the trick is candles then the tallowman will cancel every powerful enemy blake has in Jacob’s bell

    2. Borrow from the past. The deep, deep past. All the magic power of the Behaims’ ancestors are being spent on this very moment to stop Blake Thorburn.

    3. Alternatively, remember he was going to forcibly age Blake. Maybe he steals years from other people and then uses the extra time to make it up with good karma.

  18. Personally, I hope that once Blake gets home, he phones the police and tells them that when he came into the station to talk to them like he agreed to the day before, he got accosted by some members of the Behaim family, and was he decided to run away after Laird pulled a gun on him (and was disarmed following a struggle), since he didn’t know what else their allies might have set up inside the station. He’d then ask them to come over to his house so that they can take his statement and collect the gun, as evidence on the whole “Laird Behaim is trying to kill me” thing.

    1. … heh.
      Heheheh.
      Ahaha HAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH MUAHAHAHAHAH YES! YESSSS!
      YEEEEEESSSSSS!
      Ten times over YES!
      Indulgence complete… I really /do/ hope that happens. Let Laird be brought low, not by politics, not by war, not by lies or manipulation or slander but by sweet, wonderful justice.

    2. Well depending on how the time fuckery went, Laird could maybe have fucked Blake up if he made him miss the meeting with the police.

  19. So, like another commenter above, this chapter managed to get me to sign up and start commenting !

    Wildbow, you always manage to surprise us, that’s what i love with your work (well that and the fact that it’s extremely well written). I caught up with your writing just as you finished Worm, and Pact is awesome !

    I hope that if and when you get Worm and Pact published, they’ll be translated to French, I’d love to make my non-english speaking friends read your work.

    So thank you Wildbow for the amazing web serials !

  20. Lardo got Thorburned :3

    What an amazing comeback. I wonder if the decision to save Ainsley and Owen at the cost of binding himself has made capturing Laird possible.
    Lardo wouldn’t be standing and gloating before seemingly helpless Blake if the kids were hurt.

    I wonder if Blake at a High Priestess level can earn a good reputation, like some sort of Demonbuster. (could you make a demonic trap-book that sucks demons in when opened, it’d be so cool)

    If there’s something strange
    In the neighbourhood
    Who you gonna call
    Blake Thorburn!

  21. It appears the “Laird’s not actually a practitioner” talk can cease. We have updated text.

    Afraid of the stranger, maybe somehow recognizing that Laird wasn’t a novice practitioner.

    1. OK. I’m not gonna lie. This one went over my head. I get that the one on the left is supposed to be Newter. Who is playing Rogue here? I feel like there’s more to this than I can currently comprehend.

      The art’s nice, though.

  22. I really don’t want to see 6.11. It would seem that it would just be a groundhog day/endless 8 loop, only with Blake unaware.

    The exception would be if it also doubled as a Histories chapter from another viewpoint. Seeing this from Ainsley’s or Laird’s perspective could be interesting.

  23. That was an epic gimmick, though I almost didn’t read it because it looked like an “oops, skipped a chapter.” For the benefit of anyone going through the archives, maybe add a question mark after the chapter number, just to indicate that something is intentionally Wrong?

  24. Here’s a thought. Everyone thinks Laird is foresworn because he said he said:
    “I’m sworn to do no direct harm to others”

    But what if he actually said “I’m sworn to do no direct harm to Others”?

    I don’t think he’s ever done that.

    1. Or it could be along the lines of:

      “I’m sworn to do no direct harm to others.”

      Except he never specified who the ‘others’ were. For example, if he’d sworn at some point not to directly harm his family, the statement would be true.

    2. “He drew and fired his gun into the door of the police car with spinning wheels.

      The acceleration stopped.”

      I interpreted this as Laird shooting whichever goblin/gremlin was driving the car. If that is the case, then he’s definitely done direct harm to an Other.

    1. I’m impressed that Wildbow managed to make them more creative and demented than M:tG goblins, though M:tG goblins do have to be at least somewhat G-rated.

      1. Goblins are kinda stupid across the planes of M:tG, though. They’re the comic relief. It’s only on a select few planes (Dominaria during its prime, Ravnica) that they get just that right blend of creativity, enthusiasm, and stupidity.


  25. “Will you remember all that?” I asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Will you forgive me, Evan?”

    “Yes,” he said, decisively. “Because your heart’s in the right place, even if this is stupid.”

    That brought a tear to my eye, when I read it. :’)

        1. Ty!! How’d that happen? I tried to put some “—-“s to separate the quotes from the comment.

          Also, it’s an awesome gimmick with the time skip. I almost spent about 5 minutes going back and forth between 6.10 and 6.12, and checking my mouse and browser settings for errors. 😀

      1. Evan could spend a chapter telling a bunch of practicioners why they suck and Blake is awesome and we would all cheer so much.

  26. A few quick thoughts:

    Ainsley never actually released Blake. The candle went out, but Ainsley never said Blake could go away. I guess the wording allows for a lot of wiggle room though.

    What if this Laird is a copy of some description, and thus not a practitioner? We also don’t see this Laird use magic (but, the metal door that led to the garage was aged. I remember Laird was accompanied by someone else. Maybe they did it? Or maybe Laird did use magic after all).

    Blake says that he knows the trick to Laird’s power. Man, people should stop talking in battle and giving away information, regardless how insignificant it seems. I think the Shepherd is really smart. But at the same time, the spirits like a show.

    What drives karma in the world? The universe? But what does that mean? I figure that what could drive karma could be the spirits themselves. Therefore, could rose tell a lie in her mirror world if she said it very quietly, since there are no spirits there? And why is the universe fine with normal people lying? It’s not like the universe doesn’t have to have to work to reconcile itself.

    Also, this is a comment on a few chapters back, to the fight with the eye. I had commented before that I didn’t like how Blake wouldn’t panic, and how Blake would always seem to know how to react. I found the chapter with the eye fantastic, regarding this issue, especially the beginning. Blake was panicking, Blake didn’t know what to do, all he could do was scramble to get away. Awesome :3

    1. We also don’t see this Laird use magic

      This chapter takes place in the Spirit World. Laird is using magic by virtue of just showing up and interacting, as a non practitioner/Other wouldn’t even be there.

      1. Says who? Yes, it is the spirit world, but we do not know the rules of the spirit world, Anyhow, you missed my argument. We don’t actually see Laird use magic, other than the door was aged, which could have be done by someone else. This Laird could be a copy or a clone, or something like it, which would explain why Blake said Laird wasn’t a practitioner. It is an idea, though, that I don’t think will pan out 😛

        1. This Laird could be very well be some sort of magical clone. I doubt it because that hasn’t been hinted at (unless I missed something, in which case, good job). If he is, Blake would learn how to make magic clones. I want to see The Army of Dowght.

          I think this is our Laird, the practitioner. I believe so for a few reasons. 1) the other Behaim seem to recognize his authority. 2)He may have binded Rose. 3) The most important reason I think this Laird is a practitioner (and really the first 2 reasons were just excuses make a list of 3) is that Wildbow edited the chapter.

          Afraid of the stranger, maybe somehow recognizing that Laird wasn’t a novice practitioner.

          The simple addition of the word novice changes the implication from “not a practitioner at all” to “an experienced and skilled practitioner”. One could look to the fact that the edit exists at all as an implication that the original wording and implication was leading many comments in a direction that wasn’t intended.

          That, or Wildbow is messing with us. And surely Wildbow would mess with us. Right?

          1. Groans The thing about reading a work as it is published is that you miss those edits. Oh well 😛 Yeah, I take back my argument. :3

            Wildbow wouldn’t be Wildbow if he didn’t mess with us, but I think this is more likely a typo.

            1. I love all the theories that a one word typo can cause. Somebody should write an Alternate Universe version of the Wildbowverse based on speculation due to the typos and continuity errors that Wildbow fixes in the actual story.

            2. Yeah. It’s like the time a few weeks back that I posted a comment immediately after a chapter came up, praising Wildbow for the deep symbolism and fridge logic of something in the chapter that a weaker mind would consider a continuity error. You can imagine my surprise in the morning when I saw that He edited that section of the chapter, thus taking away the reason for my comment.

              I still love the live, new chapters, though.

    2. She said this:
      “…I bind you to remain in place until such a time as you’re released by my word or the breaking of this small totem.(…)”
      Though if the candle going out is breaking, wouldn’t it have to keep burning and melt down. But melting also isn’t breaking, at least the way I learned it. Maybe thats the point? Well, ignore me if this is the wording with wiggle room you were talking about in the first place!
      The fight with the eye was indeed fantastic 🙂

      1. The melting of the candle imposes a time limit on the rite, as I understand it. “you have this amount of time before the candle gutters out on its own.” It’s probably a safety feature to avoid overpaying.

  27. I loved it! Your action scenes are great! I will practise my writing with your fighting scenes in mind 🙂 I couldn’t leave a comment at the time but about two chapters back there was a scene in the morning with everyone waking up where I missed a decription or two of light or something because I was getting a nice morning mood but I wanted to see it, too. Thanks 🙂

      1. What family unit I belong to is entirely beside the point!

        Is Gav Owen’s nickname or something?

        Incidentally, Craig scares me in a Vasil family sort of way.

  28. You know, I just had a thought. The Behaims are chronomancers, and god knows how many times they’ve screwed with the timeline of things before, for the benefit of the family.

    Now, imagine if the Behaims managed to time-reverse Eras-Urr!! Would it regurgitate everything that it ate back into existence? Can the Behaims counter the Oblivion demon??

    1. Please don’t, instead of an I Know You Know I Know loop, it becomes an I Didn’t You Didn’t I Didn’t loop. Isadora will wake up grouchy from the disturbance again.

      1. Oh right, I forgot about that. Isadora may not be happy about this. Another point against the Behaims in Isadora’s book.

      1. Okay, but how did Grandma R. find them in the first place to put it in her notes?

        Bloody Mary I can understand. The connection-stealer I can understand. Both of them have some recorded history.

        But Tallowman and Midge?

        1. Midge’s family was exterminated by… whoever normally exterminates superhillbillies. So it seems she was known enough for that to happen. Then there is the fact that there are plenty of Other watching and if you know who to ask and how then I assume something or other knows how to give you what details you need to pull a Midge or Tallowman out of your sleeve.

        2. I would assume that they either climbed up out of the cracks at some point, or that Grandma Rose researched stories looking for those with just enough hint of the supernatural to warrent further investigation.

  29. So it looks like they have Laird captive. I assume they’ll be taking him some place to interogate him or something. I just hope he doesn’t know about the Rose as next heir bit, because that gives him a potential bit of the apple of discord to drop if he does.

    1. Why would he know that. He’s a time manipulator with some dabbing in spirit. Isadora isn’t on his side, she’s against him…

      Actually, I’m surprised Rose hasn’t just killed him yet for all her talk before summoning Midge.

      1. He’s also an Auger. I didn’t get the impression that he’s quite good enough for that, but that is one possible avenue.

          1. …curses! lol That’ll teach me for trusting spellcheck without checking an actual dictionary. Hopefully.

        1. For some reason or other I can’t reply to you elsewhere.

          “I’m somewhat baffled that you’re completely discounting how effective foreknowledge is, but that may well be why the Behaim family is fine with shamanism.”

          I’m not. From 3.3

          “In every interaction, I perform an augury to ensure that it won’t lead to disaster, but the window for seeing these things is narrow, and I’m primarily looking out for the worst case scenarios.”

          It’s been made clear that the sorts of time magic they have access to are weak. All they can look for is a narrow segment of the future. It’s useful, but not the sort of thing that would help them much in winning a fight against an adaptable and skilled foe.

          1. I wasn’t talking about augury when I mentioned foreknowledge.

            I was referring to the time magic we’ve actually seen on-screen, which to-date includes time looping (and Duncan immediately removing the teeth of every advantage Blake utilized the first time through) and somehow removing Blake’s memories of a certain time (thus forcing him to reuse the same tactics because he doesn’t remember already having used them).

            1. He had hoped to use the time magic to overpower a practitioner with no assets and very little power. Blake got an extra ally, Rose, and he got overwhelmed.

              As such, I suspect in a similar situation a practitioner of similar power but with a reasonably strong ally they could summon would likewise be able to smash through his preparation.

              Losing to a much weaker practitioner is not a good sign of the strength of his magics.

            2. Cleverness will succeed over sheer power often, if it’s leveraged properly. This is true in many things, but it is especially true in what Wildbow stories I’ve read thus far.

            3. Blake didn’t really use much cleverness to overpower Duncan. His allies all attacked him at the same time and Duncan couldn’t handle 3 on 1 combat.

              If Duncan had a combat oriented other as an ally he would have won. All his magic did very little to help him because his magic takes a lot of time to set up.

              Scrying isn’t that useful for combat without soldiers and powerful attacks to help you capitalize on that scrying. Instant resources you can spend at will help you win more than information on its own.

              Both is better, of course.

            4. I wasn’t just talking about Blake’s cleverness, though transferring his power “in-house” did come very much in handy, as did choosing to awaken Rose.

              No, when I said that, the incident that stood out the most to me was Evan, using Duncan’s own spell to sneak up on him while looking like he was leaving, and then invoking a memory of life to scare Duncan into a fall down the stairs. That’s cleverness.

            5. It’s vaguely clever, but nothing really unexpected in terms of power for an other. A ghost flew away and attacked with their normal attack. That is what you expect of ghosts. They vanish and surprise you with a scream.

              It is like a goblin winning by forcing an enemy to vomit on a candle. It’s the normal way for an other to attack. It’s vaguely clever, but nothing exceptional.

              Duncan was clever too, with the Runes and the stairs. His cleverness was much less effective at winning. Others bound to your cause are a better way to win because of the ineffectiveness of time magic.

              It’s not really a matter of brute force being overcome by sheer intellect. Blake had two Others doing their normal thing, Rose cracking glass, Evan vanishing and running at people and screaming. They won him the battle. Duncan had two pieces of time magic, a magic staircase and a rune protecting a window. One was used against him, the other easily disrupted. Duncan, if anything, was more intelligent- subtle other magic overcame intellect.

            6. The Behaims are clearly holding back. They have never (with the exception of Duncan going off the rails) deployed lethal force against Blake.

              The main reason Duncan lost against Blake at the police station is that he underestimated how far Blake was willing to push his luck.

              Only an idiot would bleed himself out to the point of being open to possession and Duncan had not anticipated that level of idiocy.

    2. I’m hoping they truss him up and give him to Isadora with a list of his crimes against karma – as payment for their choosing the battlefield of their encounter.

      Said battlefield being “where Laird is trussed up.”

  30. I’m greatly enjoying how we (mostly) only know what Blake knows. It makes updates like this the fun kind of frustrating, and I’m still not convinced we have a thoroughly reliable viewpoint for the things we do end up seeing. Thank you, WildBow, for writing this and sharing it!

    1. What if this is all just a dream and he still hasn’t waken up from that first chapter dream, eh? Never trust the narrator, even less so if the narrator is on Wildbow’s pockets!

  31. Wildbow, I’m in awe at what you did. A week or so ago you stated that there wouldn’t be a Subordination 6.11 chapter on Thursday, and indeed there wasn’t. But then on Saturday you went straight to 6.12 and skipped 6.11 because Laird reset time and people’s memories and thus 6.11 is lost, just like how the “eaten” allies of Blake never existed in the first place, because they were eaten. Kudos, that’s impressive.

  32. That went better than the first time around at least, though I think they should have gone with Pauz this time. Kinda predictable there with the Hyena. Granted, not like it went perfectly well for the Behaims the first time either. That’s why they had to hit the rewind button, after all.

    Also, I like that the goblins and gremlins are the ones to mess with the time practitioners. Time is very orderly, usually, and I think the efforts of the Behaims to screw with it only make the gremlins and goblins out there more powerful. These little guys are like your ordinary wreckers of the world. Makes sense they’d be able to stand up to time, especially given entropy.

    Kill Count 2014: Time for Time Force!

    Eyes Poked: 0
    Shepherds Sheared: 0.5
    Behaims Blooded: 3.5
    Astrologers Debunked: 0
    Elder Sisters Embarrassed To Death: 0

    Isadoras Isadead: 0

    Conquests’ Keisters Kicked: 0


    Roses Pruned: 0
    Bloody Marys Drunk: 0
    Tallowmen Smelted and Dealt It: 0
    Fells Felled: 0
    Hyenas Laughed Out Of Town: -1
    Pauzs Oozed: 0
    Maggies Halted: 0
    Midges Mashed: 1
    Dickswizziles Killizled: 1

    Blakes Bitchslapped: 0

    This update’s song goes out to the day’s MVPs. You earned it, guys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZp00ZAmseU

    1. Evan wasn’t around for Pauz, so he doesn’t know how troublesome the little bastard can be. The Hyena is consideribly dumber, and while aweful, doesn’t give off the radiation. Pauz isn’t something who’s realease and contract you want to make a rush job. Besides he’s more subtle, and this situation called for a sledgehammer.

      1. Pauz is something they’re going to need to redraw a circle for before re-releasing him. He’s not properly bound in such a way to be a safe relase.

        Actually, now that I think about it, Pauz swore he’d never do anything negative, directly nor indirectly, to Blake, Blake’s stuff, Blake’s friends, and Blake’s family. I wonder how that’s going to turn out in the future?

        1. Pauz is something they’re going to need to redraw a circle for before re-releasing him. He’s not properly bound in such a way to be a safe relase.

          Didn’t Blake force Pauz to vow complete obedience when rebinding him in Conquest’s domain? Blake also has the vow from the first binding not to do direct or indirect harm to Blake or those that are his.

          I think what Blake mostly has to watch out for when he decides to use Pauz, are tricks that Pauz might use against humanity as a whole, or innocent bystanders, rather than any tricks or attacks against Blake and company.

        2. Did he swear that? Are you sure? Because after he got caught on the phrasing of ‘by my hand,’ all I heard him say was:

          “I will, to the best of my ability, prevent you from coming to harm, that implicitly or explicitly derives from me in any way or form.” (4.07)

          That doesn’t say a bit about his friends or those close to him. That said, Blake also said in that chapter that when he was compiling the assorted clauses, he was “rewording even as [he] went for elegance’s sake,” which could well have included adjusting that one back out to include “you and yours” as it was before.

          Still. That kind of wording detail is worrying.

          1. **I took a deep breath, the immediately regretted doing so. “I have some terms to stick onto this part of the deal. From the time I bind you, you don’t harm me or mine.”

            “Until such a time as I am released?”

            “Period. Ever. All things with any connection to me, my family, my friends, or my possessions are protected from you, across the board.”** (4.07)

            They were talking about it as they were writing and Pauz wound up agreeing to it, since it wasn’t counting indirect attacks at the time. But Blake then went back and modified it. I suspect that this was incorporated into the final draft.

            I really hope that final draft isn’t an interlude later…that would bode very poorly at some point.

            1. ““Then let’s talk in terms of the hypothetical, and discuss when we’re done. We could say that no term or written word shall be considered binding until both of us agree and sign.”

              “Then we agree to talk about terms,” he said. “With nothing binding until we sign and verbally agree.”” (4.07)

              Like I said, I really don’t think that Blake would forget the extension to cover his friends and such that he included earlier, but with how detail-oriented this story is, that lack of detail in this one aspect is a slightly worrisome note.

    2. I don’t think that they did rewind time, actually. Blake did remember that, and Rose’s theory, at least, was that he had to be named as a target to ensure that they got all of his actions rewound.

      I think it more likely they screwed with his perception of time (possibly again)–that is to say, they removed all of the perceptions that he had within a given time.

  33. Again, Evan is the best. I’m assuming that the familiar bond makes the familiar immune to the perception-altering effects of a practitioner’s karma? Because he’s literally the only person who is reasonable enough to get where Blake’s coming from pulling the Hyena into service, even though he’s the Hyena’s victim. And he even makes the most of it by bossing it around hilariously.

    Tangentially, I long for the Behaims to collectively stop being shitbirds (No, not you, Shitbird, sit down! Damn goblins.) and pull an Armsmaster. People who routinely make it their modus operandi to deliberately accrue positive karma can’t possibly be total buttmunches (Goddamnit Buttmuncher, not you either!) all the time.

    1. Maybe they can get Corvidae to work on Laird’s strong connection to that stick up his ass and relocate it to someone else. It would certainly do wonders for the Behaim attitude. Alternatively, they could feed the damn stick to ErasUrr and avoid all this shit -.- The only problem is it could be too big for the demon to bite.

  34. I’m getting the feeling that Jerry and the Astrologer are going to make big, though separate plays tomorrow against Conquest at the end of the power.

    Jerry has this unexplained (to theToronto people) hatred towards Blake, but hasn’t done anything since Blake arrived. Could he be building up an army of Satyrs, Bachae and Nymphs these last few days to defeat Conquest at the conflict with Blake comes to a head?

    We haven’t seen the astrologer since Blake’s first night in Toronto. We know she has stood against Conquest in the past and was considered by Fell to be on the Blakeguard’s side of the conflict. We also know her trade seemingly takes a lot of time and preparation. Could she be preparing a magical, binding lightshow for C? On the other hand, she is one of his champions. Could she be preparing against Blake?

    Disregarding the obvious (the Behaims and their plans), I am most looking forward to finding out what exactly Isadora, The Drunk and The Astrologer are planning to do. Blake has already upset the balance of Toronto. I look forward to seeing how the actual major players react.

    1. Jerry doesn’t hate him. His ex-wife says he needs to go bye-bye so he’s getting it done. He probably loves this situation because depending on how it plays out he can get Conquest’s throne.

      1. Actually I wonder if he wants the throne for himself, or for his god or his god’s benifit. Get some worship going to Dionyseious wakes up. Either way Toronto becomes a party town.

  35. Random Thought:-

    If the Astrologer manages to manifest a minor vestige of Gugalanna utilising constellation known today as Taurus, aren’t Blake & gang totally fucked?

    1. The Astrologer isn’t remotely limited to the greco-roman constellations. Besides, Fell will be attempting to mess up the light coming in, which means at its most cohesive the vestige will have an obvious video-gamey weak point (Assuming of course that Fell’s ploy works). Hitting said weak point will be difficult, of course, but which encounters in Pact haven’t been?

  36. So Conquest is on his way and this is chapter twelve. Things have an awful tendency to go horribly wrong(er) in the last-ish chapters, Wildbow likes to pull Jackslashs and stop his “games” midway through… and we have yet to see C-word making use of the intel on Blake he got from Rose.
    I’m placing one and a half cents on the Lord showing up full-manifestation mode, playing up the rapey aspects of the idea of conquest. Hopefully that counts as using his personal power and is ruled out by the agreed upon terms. If not, well, fuck.
    On the bright side, the fact that I could think this up is an almost 100% guarantee that it won’t happen 😀 And seeing how we still need to see Isadora’s attack, the Drunk’s play and the Astrologer astrologing something, the most likely thing to happen will be the arc ending on some kind of ~reveal~ and then the next one starting with no timeskip.
    On the really bright side: THEY GOT LARDO! wild pokémon capture success music And hopefully Blake’s insight on his cheat codes is actually good and not another “Conquest is the wizard of Oz, oh wait everyone knows already”.
    That candle binding was seriously amusing. I really like the way magic is being worded on the Pactverse :v
    I’d be totally fine with Wildbow taking rests more often if it means he will Behaim us like this again, ha. Reminds me of Worm’s epilogue 2. Wait, what epilogue 2?

  37. “Rhymes,” I said, in an effort to fight past my frustration. “Cute.”
    Indeed.

    “I bind myself, until you’ve released me. Get out of the fucking way!”
    He’s all heart, that Blake. And I mean that non-sarcastically.

    “Because if you are, then I’m fucking better than you!” I shouted.
    “You’re never going to be better than me!”

    By any reasonable measure, he already is. See, the stuff Blake did? He tries to help people, and when he hurts people, it’s usually because he has to to avoid dying or something similarly unpleasant. You guys? You’re trying to kill Blake and such…because he’s bound an imp? Because his grannie danced with the devil? Because he tried to unseat a selfish, power-hungry dictator who made the trains run on time and forced Blake into the aforementioned imp-binding?

    One problem dealt with.
    I count two.

    “Will you forgive me, Evan?”
    Yes,” he said, decisively. “Because your heart’s in the right place, even if this is stupid.”
    Sweet kid.

    Ainsley shielded the needle-punctured candle with her body. Successfully blocking the Hyena’s breath from the lit wick.
    She, however, wasn’t prepared for the other effect of the Hyena’s breath.
    I could smell it from halfway down the parking lot.

    When Conquest’s done being a threat, someone should consider introducing the Hyena to mouthwash.

    Did that count as a lie?
    If not, I’d have to remember that one. Some situations
    mandated sarcasm.
    This is new. The universe being understanding.

    “And I think I’ve figured out the trick.”
    “Trick? To?”
    “The Behaim’s power.”

    I’m glad I delayed reading the chapter. Now I get to find out what he means immediately.

  38. Rose is everything that Blake should’ve been. I see Blake as way too “paragon”, too much of a goody two-shoes in my opinion, too afraid to use the resources of his family because they’re evil I guess? or maybe he’s afraid of the bad karma? And then you see Rose not being afraid to summon stuff because she’s actually intelligent enough to realize you can do more good using those resources and still have good intentions.

    I’m probably the only one who thinks that having an 8 year old kid as a familiar was probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen a protagonist do. Literally anything would’ve been more interesting as a familiar. Not to mention bringing in his friends as new recruits to act as baggage and take the negative karma hit as well. I was actually more interested in Blake’s friends before they became practitioners. Having Blake lead a “cabal” while he has months of experience as a practitioner at best just seems like an even stupider decision than having Evan as a familiar.

    I liked Blake during Arcs 1-5 but when Rose said she was more a Thorburn than Blake, she was 100% fucking correct and a part of me is glad she’s drifting away from him. It’s not a coincidence that whenever Rose isn’t around Blake ends up deciding on something really retarded. What’s next? Blake decides on getting a demesne in a 6 by 6 hobo hutt in the middle of the forest? Is it wrong of me to hope that all his friends and his familiar get killed off so he realizes how bad of a decision that was? If that happens then maybe Blake would actually go through some character development enough to realize how things should really be done.

    1. Two things.

      Evil and bad karma are two very different things in this universe.
      Blake leads a “cabal” after having slightly over two WEEKS of experience as a practitioner.

  39. I found this battle hard to follow. I was able to follow the GENERAL strokes, but like did Ainsley get hit by the arc of electricity too? And she just has more stamina? Or did it arc specifically to Laird?

    Not quite as confusing as the Hookwolf/Cricket fight, but…

    Anyway, keep on keepin on, Wildbow! :3

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