Histories (Arc 6)

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He roused, scrunching up his face.  That simple movement made him hurt in five different ways.  His lip had been bitten, he’d hit his head, his nose had taken a beating and was probably bleeding, his forehead was maybe cut, and he’d smacked his chin.

His wrist throbbed, but it needed no excuse to do that.  He’d made too much use of his hand, and the bone wasn’t fully healed.  He gingerly flexed his fingers, and felt his arm throb within the cast.

“You’re awake,” she said.  She laid her pen down across the spine of her book.

It dawned on him what he’d done.  Weeks, months of frustration, fear, pain, and worry, it had all boiled forth, and he’d done just about the worst thing he could possibly do.

The collar of her dress was ripped, her hands and knees scuffed.  Leaves and dry grass stuck to the fabric.  Straight blonde hair had been combed into a semblance of order with her fingernails.  A book sat on her lap.  Nothing dangerous – the clasp suggested it was a diary.

She sat next to him, staring out at the lake.  She looked oddly at peace.  That fact, if he let himself believe it, bordered on the terrifying.

“This was a mistake,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.  She smiled a little, looking down at the water that lapped against the dirt and the reaching roots that were no longer anchored in earth.  “I’m making a lot of mistakes these days.”

He rubbed his face, which brought back all of the pain he’d noted earlier and even found new sorts.  The implications dawned on him.  “Oh, gods help me, this was a mistake.”

“We might have to wait a few more months to see how grave a mistake we made here,” she said.

He froze.  His blood ran cold.

“I-”  he struggled to recall.  He’d been an animal, and she’d been an animal in return.  What exactly had he done?”

“You pulled free before you finished,” she said.  “I was toying with you, Aimon.”

He exhaled a shuddering breath.  “Oh, this was such a mistake.”

“You sound like a skipping record,” she said.  “Where’s the acerbic wit from before?  Insulting my family?  My blood?”

“Are you trying to pick a fight?”

“Finally, he breaks pattern!  A cause for celebration!” she said.  “Should I have Arsepint fetch a bottle to mark the occasion?”

He looked, twisting around, feeling sore in several places, before he saw the blasted goblin.

It watched?

In that same thought, he realized how close they were to the footpath that ran along the edge of the lake, overlooking the small rocky beaches and the water.  “Keep your voice down.”

“Arsepint?  Go distract any passerbys until I order you to do otherwise.  Scare or lead them away without showing yourself.  Have fun.”

The goblin glared, then disappeared.

“Stop talking so loud,” he said, “Whisper instead.  If we get caught-”

“Do not order me,” she said, and she managed to sound like she was twice her age, practically royalty.  Then, in the next breath, she averted her eyes, stumbling over her words a bit, “That’s, I don’t think it’s how our relationship works.”

Relationship?

“Not romantic, I don’t think, but there’s a connection here,” Rose noted, touching the snaking trail of golden dust that stretched between them.  “Two people with a connection between them, enemy, ally, it’s a relationship.”

“I’m not in the mood for this insanity.  My head hurts.”

“I can imagine.  You were clearly in the mood for something else,” she said.  “My something-else hurts.”

“Don’t be disgusting.”

She stared out over the water, silent.

“Sorry,” he said.  “I’m ordering you around, when you asked me not to.”

“A Behaim, apologizing to the diabolist in training?” she asked, archly.

“I’ve… I feel like I’ve had people telling me what to do for years now,” he said.  “The one time I break form, I…”

“Do this?” she asked.  “Or are you less concerned about this and more concerned that it involved me?”

“If I’m being honest, yes, it has more to do with you.  Though I’m not proud of this, either.  Other lads might be, but…”

“But you’re a gentleman, is that it?  A gentleman that just so happens to kiss the most hated girl in Jacob’s Bell, unprovoked, and then goes on to ravish her,” she said, putting a breathy kind of emphasis on ‘ravish’.

“You’re needling me again.”

Yes,” she said.  “You don’t know how good you have it, to have people telling you what to do.  But you have direction, you have the backing of your family-”

“I have the pressures of my family, the disappointment when I fail to live up to those pressures.”

“You’re whining again,” she said.  “You want to know why I needle you?  Because I like the Aimon that’s angry more than I like the Aimon who acts like a weakling.”

He seized her wrist, quick enough to startle her, hard enough to be painful.

She didn’t even flinch.  She stared him in the eye, the faintest smile on her face.

“Witch,” he said, letting her wrist go.

She rubbed it, then clasped her diary with both hands, holding the closed, leather-bound book against her knees.  She still had the pen in hand, and poked at her knee, thinking.

“If my company is so unpleasant,” she said, “you could leave.”

“How do I explain this?” he asked, indicating his face.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“I can work it out, but I need time to think,” he said.

“What’s the trouble?” she asked.  “Are you trying to find a way to explain that you assaulted a young lady?  Or to admit that you were assaulted by a young lady?”

He shot her an ugly look.

“You can gloss over the, how shall I put it, the aftermath?  You’re free to tell them it was me.  Nobody will fault you for coming after me.”

“I’m more concerned that they’ll fault you,” he said.  “Say what you will about me, I don’t want my family organizing a lynch mob or going to war against you and your family.”

“That’s almost gentlemanly, Aimon Behaim.  And I’m flattered that you’d think I’d put up any kind of fight.”

“I saw your goblin.”

One goblin, yes.  Are the Behaims so weak that one or two goblins would give them any difficulty?”

“Except it’s not just you, is it?  There’s your father?”

“Who doesn’t practice,” she cut in.

“And weren’t you just taunting me over the fact that your mother was home?”

Rose Thorburn reacted as if she’d forgotten that detail.

“My family will think you contrived this.  Your mother…”

“Is a hard person to understand,” Rose finished the thought.  “A scary person, scarier because you can’t anticipate what she might do.”

He nodded.

“This wasn’t a scheme, was it?” he asked.  “A trick, to influence my emotions, to capitalize on my failings as a man?”

“You didn’t fail, Aimon Behaim” she said.  “Your malehood isn’t in question here.  Not that I particularly enjoyed it, I’m almost relieved that it wasn’t so grand as-”

“Don’t,” he said, pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets.  “Please, don’t be lewd.”

“-But the release?  I needed that.  So did you, I think.”

“Don’t talk about it.  It’s not ladylike.”

She made a small amused noise in response.

“I’m trying to decide if it’s better or easier to loathe you or respect you, and you’re making that decision difficult every time you open your mouth.”

She sighed audibly.  “There was no trick.  No imp of the sixth choir to hound you and tempt you to me, nor any imp to give me the courage.”

“I’m oddly disappointed.  To think I did that of my own volition…  I’d hoped the Imp-”

“Don’t.  The imp would be worse.”

“I don’t want to know,” he said.  “This… this mess of a thing, it gets worse the longer I think on it and try to come up with an explanation that doesn’t complicate matters.”

“The alternative,” she said, “Is that you don’t give any answer at all.  Keep mum, refuse to open your mouth on the subject.  I can do the same.”

“A pact of secrecy?”

“It’ll have to be.”

“I think you underestimate the pressure that three sisters, two aunts and a mother can exert,” Aimon said.

She stood, dusting herself off.  He looked away as she fixed up her skirt and undergarments.

She spoke to the back of his head.  “You keep complaining about having people make demands of you, the people leaning on you, the family, and what that family might do to you.”

“So?” he asked.

“I experience all the judgement and expectations too,” she said.  “My father, he’s a harsh disciplinarian, but he’s fair.  He’ll hit me when I get back.”

He turned to look at her.  She stood there, in a short sleeved dress with kerchief collar, diary and pen each held tight in both hands.

“Kind of strange to think of that,” he said.  “The Thorburn diabolist and her husband lecturing their daughter, the stern gaze, the belt…”

“Oh, no need to feel strange,” Rose said.  “My mother doesn’t lecture me.  All she’ll ever do is give me a look.  She’ll leave me to wonder what she thinks.  To guess at something when she’s never let me know what she really thought, not once in my life. ”

She shifted the diary to one hand to put the pen inside the hollow of the spine.  Her hand trembled a bit.

“You’re shaking.”

“Am I?  I am.  That’s not like me.  I suppose I’m afraid of what her response will finally be.”

“Her response?  I thought you weren’t going to tell her about this.”

“I wasn’t and I don’t plan to.  I said it before, I’ve made a lot of mistakes lately.  I made an oath earlier tonight, said things in anger and haste, and it may well affect the family.”

“She’ll be upset?”

“I’m,” Rose stopped short.  When she exhaled it came out as a huff of a laugh.  She blinked a little, as if to hide the tears.  “I’m frankly terrified.  My carelessness ruined three or four lives, and she didn’t bat an eye.  But this?  I don’t think upset is the word.”

“I don’t envy you,” he said.

“Who would ever envy me?” Rose asked.

“Would you stop arguing every other question or statement I make?  You make being kind a challenge.”

Rose seemed caught off guard by that.  She fidgeted, avoiding eye contact.  “I didn’t ask you to be kind.”

“I’m giving what I can, all the same.  It feels feeble, giving only a listening ear when you might face the unrestrained anger of a diabolist, but I’m giving- what?”

She was laughing, scoffing, even.

“What?” he asked, again.

“That isn’t what worries me.  My mother’s unrestrained anger.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m worried she won’t care.”

It was four days before he crossed paths with Rose Thorburn again.

The main street of Jacob’s Bell took no more than five minutes to cross.  Many of the shops were closed; the ice cream parlor was among them.  A hand-drawn sign in the window urged would-be ice cream buyers to support the troops instead.

Aimon worked in a squat building that had been crammed between the now-empty ice cream parlor and a small bank.  Young women passed by with regularity, to and from the factories and small shops on the main street.

He quietly considered it a sort of hell.

His wrist was mangled, set firmly in place with a plaster cast.  Most people still in town were women and the elderly, and a few odds and ends like Rose Thorburn’s father, who were looking after local businesses and factories.  Every curious look he got felt like an admonition, a criticism.  It didn’t help that he still had marks on his face and hand from the altercation with Rose.

He’d been bad at numbers as a child, but grueling lessons from the family had remedied that.  A chronomancer couldn’t be bad at numbers, of all things.

Still, he’d never loved numbers, and now he lived them.  He was forced to write with his left hand, to scrawl down and total the amounts, to note times and dates when he handed letters and parcels over, or when he accepted them.

He wanted to spend power to make the days pass faster, but the family kept a close eye on that sort of thing.

He almost didn’t notice when Rose Thorburn appeared at the entrance to the small, narrow office.

She stepped outside, looked both ways, then returned.

“You aren’t using the Sight?”

“I don’t trust the Sight, not completely,” she said.  She handed over an envelope.

“Montreal… the Academy?”

“Yes.  I agreed to send a letter when I returned home.  I had to go back for court, the Lord of Montreal had words with me… a mess, all-in-all.”

“I admit, I was sweating a fair bit, worrying that you’d let your mother know what we’d done.  Jumping at bumps in the night.”

“I said I’d keep silent,” she said, sounding offended.  “Few things annoy me more than being called a liar.”

“Already, you’re on the defensive.”

She frowned.

“Was it as bad as you’d feared?”

“Nearly,” she said.  She turned around, leaning against the counter with her back to him.

“I’m sorry.”

She glanced over her shoulder, eyebrows raised.

“I am.

Her expression softened a bit.  “Thank you.”

“My sisters still hound me, asking how I got these cuts and scrapes.  My aunt keeps suggesting that the light beating was punishment for coming home, when others are still waiting for brothers and sons.  I think she’s trying to bait an answer from me.  My mother has been suspiciously quiet on the subject.”

“It sounds lively.”

He made a face.

“I’ve been thinking, ever since that night,” Rose said.  “One sprawling idea, unfolding.”

“A diabolist, deep in thought.  That’s cause for concern.”

“What’s going on elsewhere in the world, it feels like a premonition.  Old systems are fixed in place, and they’re starting to wear out.  Too many layers, too many patch jobs, too much stress placed on the wrong things.”

“How unexpectedly philosophical of you.”

“Our families are the same way,” she said.  “Bound to old systems, degrading, winding down like an unwound clock.”

“I wouldn’t argue with you there.”

“They’re like great, old works of machinery that are coming to pieces.  You said your family’s expectations weigh on you?”

He frowned.

“Are we not so close as we were that night?” she asked.  She turned to lean over the counter.  “Divulging our weaknesses?”

“It gnaws at me,” he admitted, his voice low.  “Even my own expectations for myself.  Especially my own expectations for myself.”

“What if I suggested a small kind of revolution?  A way to respond to those expectations?”

“Revolution?”

“You’re trapped in a box.  I can imagine you the clockwork soldier with a ruined arm.  Your father would have you marching in step, doing what?  The Behaim family hasn’t made any grandiose moves in some time.  The entire family pays in, as far as I can tell, but nobody claims the prize.”

“You want it?”

“No.  That’s not what I’m saying.  I’m telling you that, in my eyes, you live a disappointed existence.  A responsible one, but responsibility doesn’t nourish the soul, does it?”

“For some, it might.”

Rose seemed to consider that for a moment.

“Maybe you’re right.  But for us?  I don’t think it does.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“I’m suggesting that we could gamble.  Strive to change the system, to put something in place and capitalize on it.”

“How?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but whatever we end up doing has to be better than this, doesn’t it?”

“You’re a diabolist.  I’m not so sure you’re right.  You could fill libraries with stories of how things could be worse.”

“Weigh the potential gains against the potential losses,” she said.

“What do we stand to gain?”

“You’re the broken clockwork soldier, going through the motions.  Deviate from the path, and every living soul around you will work to get you back on track, so you’re following that set path of yours.  Eventually, should you follow that path, you might be the leader of the Behaim family.  If you were lucky, you might get ten or twenty years to lead the family as you wish.  Am I wrong?  Or has someone suggested a different path?”

“I’ve thought about the fact that I’m next in line, but it won’t be until my father dies… too far away to think about.”

“Think about it now.  Think about the moment you’re sixty or so years old and you take that chair, a leadership position in the council… you’re finally free, in a sense, but you’ve forgotten how to act.  What do you do?”

“You tell me.  What do I do?”

“You default to what you know.  You do what your father did and his grandfather did before him.  You inject a small personal touch, a bit of your personality and preferences.  Things change, but they change by inches over the course of generations.  The cycle perpetuates itself.  Those pressures you feel now?  You take that path, clockwork soldier, and you may never escape them, not until you’re dead.”

“I’m starting to realize why we habitually avoid the Thorburns.”

“Tell me I’m wrong.  That this doesn’t strike a chord and sound very much like the little voice of doubt in the back of your head.”

“I’m not saying you’re wrong.”

She smiled.

“I am saying that I’d be a lot more eager to continue this conversation if you weren’t sounding an awful lot like a certain snake in a certain garden.”

“I’m offering you freedom.  I’m offering you power.  A chance to break that pattern.  I won’t say it’s free of consequence, but the costs aren’t as high as you’d think.”

“How?  And what do you get out of this?”

“The how is something I can explain soon.  Me?  I’m your inverse.  I have no boundaries.  I have rules I must obey, same as any practitioner, but I’m like a sheep without a pen, without a dog to bark at me and send me back to safety.  I’m wandering without guidance, and periodically I run into trouble.  I can weather my father’s anger.  I can deal with my mother.  But I can’t be alone any longer.”

“You want friendship?  Or more like the other night?”

“I want both, or either.  I want to make you an offer, where I shoulder the majority of the cost and the risk.”

He stared at the girl.  She wore a jacket over her dress, with a satchel to hold her diary and quite possibly supplies.  Blonde, very nearly pretty but not quite there, an intense expression on her face.

He had to remind himself of what she was.

“You’re a diabolist.  Bargaining with you is one step removed from bargaining with them.”

“Yes,” she said.  “But I think it’s worth it.”

“What is?  Where does this go?”

“Changing the status quo.  Breaking up the system.”

“How?” he asked, before he could regret voicing the question and giving any merit to this mad idea of hers.

“Meet me tonight,” she said.

She didn’t say where.  He didn’t need to ask.

It was cooler than the other night, and Rose Thorburn wore a sweater over her dress, a row of buttons left undone.  Her hair blew in the wind.  The water crashed against dirt and roots.  A short distance away, there was beach, and the crashes were even more dramatic.

“I want to possess you,” Rose Thorburn said.

It was a sentence with two interpretations, but the emphasis on possess made the meaning clear.

What?

“A light possession.  It wouldn’t be anything too dangerous, not a demon.  But I can use the material from my books… some of the best bindings you could hope to find.”

Why?

“Because it gives you the freedom you crave.  It would be another spirit in your body, allowing you to shrug off the burdens your family would put on you.  You could be stronger, faster to react.  You could heal faster,” she said.  She eyed his hand.

He grabbed the cast with his good hand.  “You sound utterly insane.”

“I’m not.  I’m very sane.  Look, if you’re possessed, there’s nothing stopping you from working alongside me.  A light possession, something that won’t make decisions for you, but if you get caught, then you blame the possession.  You return to ordinary life.”

“And you?”

“I know the risk I’m taking.  I was just in Montreal.  I went to a school that had an Inquisitor on the staff.  The risk I’m taking is bigger than anything you’d have to face.”

“Rose,” he said.  He had to stop to take a breath, composing himself, picking his words and tone carefully.  “I’m not even sure I like you.  Respect?  Maybe.  Maybe I even understand you, on a basic level.  But we’re too different.”

He could see how still she’d gotten.  She held the tome against her chest, hugging it hard.

“You’re dangerous,” he said.  “You’re… I’m not sure why you’d even reach out to me.  Why me?  Do you like me?”

“No.  Yes, but not… not in the important way,” Rose said.  “I’m desperate.”

“Desperate?  Rose-”

“Not… not like that.”

Why?  Can’t you do what I’m going to do, and just grit your teeth through the bad parts of life?”

“Where to begin?” she asked.  “God!  I feel like I owe my family something.  I feel like I need direction, a goal, but it’s impossible to go for it alone.  I’m so scared that if I do something, try to make a change, then people are going to get hurt.  I can’t lean on family, and a diabolist doesn’t get the luxury of friends, not unless they’re the kind of monster who can take it in stride when the bad stuff trickles down and starts to fall on those friends.”

“I’m not the solution you want or need,” he protested.

“I need a voice in my ear.  Every great man has a great woman at his back, but the inverse is true.  Isn’t it?”

“I’m not so sure.”

“Sometimes all you need is someone to tell you you’re doing the right thing, or the wrong thing.  To bounce ideas off of.  That’s the way it is in the books.  The Watson, the Sam, the Friday, the Horatio.””You can’t base real life off of books.”

“I don’t have anything else to work with,” she said.

“I’m sorry, but no.  I can’t.”

She nodded.

“There’s no rush,” he said.

She didn’t nod in response to that.

“Talk to me,” she said.  “Change the subject, please.  I’m embarrassed.”

She couldn’t know it, but the only other time she’d looked as human as she did right then was when they’d been trading insults, getting riled up, a prelude to the event of four nights ago.

“When I talked about expectations, there were things I didn’t say.  When I was on the ground, in the trenches, I had certain responsibilities.  Because the Germans have practitioners, you know what I mean?”

Rose nodded.

“I want to say that there was a great fantastical secret mission, that we knew the Germans were getting involved in the occult, but it wasn’t like that.  He’s an ordinary man, and he has no idea, outside of a few books he has no idea how to use.  There are people under him that know, but they’re keeping their mouths shut.  They’re protecting him, but they’re keeping their mouths shut.”

“They could be afraid of what we could do in response.”

“Maybe.  But that blade cuts both ways.  If one side realizes their losing and decides to tap into resources like your family has, what happens?  The only solution is for the war to keep going.”

“It could wind down.  Forces unrelated to practitioners started it, those same forces could end it.”

“It’s so much worse than you think, Rose.  The things that happen over there, the state of things in the trenches, and having to guard my unit at all hours?  I changed, I got fit, I changed the way I think, how I sleep and eat, so I can be on guard, always watching for tricks.  For rats that are a little too smart, or phantoms that would whisper panic into men’s ears while they sleep?  For ghouls that… well, they pretend to be soldiers that die like anyone might, but when you let your guard down and search the body, they bite you and get a hungry kind of death into the wound?”

He raised his hand, showing off the cast.

Rose nodded.

“If it weren’t for that, the idea that I have to go back, to keep fighting on that second, secret battlefield?  I might think about your offer.  But I can’t.  Not really.  I can’t commit to anything, and I can’t be your ally in whatever it is you’re trying to do.”

“Okay,” she said.

She wiped at her face, but he couldn’t see enough to tell if she’d been wiping at a tear or moving her hair out of the way.

“We can stay in touch,” he said, “At least until I go back to active duty.  If I go back to active duty.”

“Don’t pity me,” she said, with a note of anger.  “Don’t condescend.”

“I’d like to think I wouldn’t.”

“Like or don’t like all you want, you would condescend, Aimon,” she said.

A bit more anger than before.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

Change things,” she said.  “It would be easier if I had help.  A voice to say yes, or to say no.  But I’ll move forward.  Maybe I’ll lend a hand to the war effort.”

“A hand?  You?”

“I only have so much time before my hands are tied.  You’re dreading this eternal war, but I’m worrying about the clock running out, and a chronomancer could be so useful in that department.”

“The clock?”

“Diabolists bear a heavy burden.  My family passes that burden down from parent to child.  When my mother dies, I’ll adopt the burden.  A shadow will fall over me and it will linger there thereafter.  My mistakes will cost me more, bad luck will find me, my enemies will prosper more easily.  I have to do more with my life before that can happen.”

“Could that be why your mother is keeping her distance?” Aimon asked.  “Giving you that freedom?  Or protecting you from the shadow that lingers over her?”

Rose looked at him, momentarily bewildered.

“Maybe you’re not so alone as you imagine,” he said.  “I won’t give myself over to possession to cheat the rules, but if you need a dissenting voice… I can ignore the pestering of my sisters and aunt for a little while longer.”

Thirty-five years later

The rain poured down, torrential.  The bad weather made Aimon’s hand and wrist hurt.

The ghoul’s bite had never healed completely.  Flesh had necrotized, turning black, and even now, bone was visible in places.  He could cut at the rot with a knife, and it would be a red hot agony, or he could let it linger, and he would feel his strength slipping.  It didn’t get worse, it didn’t get better, but the dilemma remained.

Aimon was aware of his father’s eyes on him.  There had been suspicion, but he had covered his tracks.  To admit that they knew would mean his family would have to admit that they’d spent valuable power to spy on him using their craft.

His father watched as he stepped forward, and he felt the resistance of the small hand that gripped his own.  He relented.

Laird fought to catch up, black rain boots splashing in the flooded grass.

Rose was already there.  Regal, water ran off her wide-brimmed cap.  Avoided by virtually every other council member in attendance.  She couldn’t have looked less motherly, holding the swaddled child.

More for the child’s benefit than for Rose, Aimon offered the shelter of his umbrella.

Aimon could feel the weight of his father’s disapproval, but he could ignore it.

He looked down at the babe, and almost as clear as day, he could recall the scene.

Rose, standing before a pile of pig carcasses, her child held overhead.  It had been pouring then too.

Bonfires had burned, and Aimon had worried that one would go out in the face of the torrential rain.  That one of the seven jars filled with a mixture of wax and hair might tilt over and roll away.

He’d been there, a bystander.

A friend.

He’d been there when the demon appeared.  Fat, decaying in some mockery of what had happened to Aimon’s hand, with a horse’s skull fixed over his head, it had carried a sickle.

And Rose-

Rose had never seemed more alive, facing the worst kind of end, the potential loss of her firstborn.

That moment had left a wound as bad as the ghoul’s bite.  Her expression, the intensity.  They’d loved each other, but never at the same time.  They’d been allies, confidantes, they’d slipped away to have secret meetings, to talk about what the council was doing, and how they might do it differently.

“The day is finally here,” Rose murmured.

Aimon nodded.

“You’re free,” she said.

Aimon looked down at the tombstone.

Malcom Behaim.

His father stood near it, a mere echo, watching in disapproval.  Was the horror in his father’s eyes real, a ghost’s realization of things that had occurred that it was now powerless to change?  Or was it an imagining, a reflection?

“I should be free, yes,” Aimon said.

“Are you?”  Rose asked.

Aimon didn’t answer.

“Free?” Laird piped up, his voice high.

“He’s in charge of the family now,” Rose said.

“Oh,” Laird replied.

“I spent a long time wondering what your father would do when he was in charge.”

It was hard to look at Rose.

Aimon could imagine the scene.  See the binding circles coming to life.  He’d had to look away, because looking directly at the demon had been too dangerous.

The demon had cut into the pile of pigs, compulsive, furious.

The sickle cut away the names.

The name had fallen from Aimon’s recollection, piece by piece.

Rose, meanwhile, had done what she could to close the circles.

Whatever else she said, he could imagine all of the different ways that things could have played out.  If he’d accepted the possession, if he’d been closer, if they’d happened to love each other at the same time, one of them brave enough to make a move…

Would he have ended up right next to her, sharing in her sheer excitement?

Charles squawked in Rose’s arms.

Aimon looked.  He could see his wife looking on, clearly uncomfortable at his proximity to the diabolist.

“It’s been some time since we talked about it,” he said.  When we married, we couldn’t meet so easily.  “Your goals, your dream.”

“It’s been some time since I gave it serious consideration.”

“You’ve abandoned it then?” he asked.

“No.  Most definitely not.  Have you?”

He couldn’t answer.

“I’ll ask you outright,” she said.  “Will you do to Laird what your father did to you?  Impose the same rules and restrictions?”

“Time has a way of changing one’s mind.”

“You can alter time, can’t you?  Change your mind.”

He smiled sadly.

“Is that a yes, then?” she asked.  “Tradition continues its ceaseless march through the generations?”

He flexed the fingers of his bad hand.

Pain every day, to remind him of the war.

On the other hand…  the demon.  The monstrosity.  Rose, her eyes wide.

She’d done it for a good reason.  She’d done it well.

She had embraced diabolism as a way to protect others.

“No,” he said.  “No, I think we can take a different road.”

He saw the dawning realization, the smile on her face.

“But,” he said, “I need certain concessions.”

“Concessions?”

“This can’t come back on my family.  I swore oaths.  To preserve the stores of power my family has amassed over generations.  I won’t make Laird swear those same oaths.  If he needs to bring about change, he’ll have the power to do so.”

Rose turned appraising eyes on Laird, still bearing his baby fat.  She didn’t answer right away.

“Go to your mom,” Aimon said.

Laird let go, then ran, getting away from tombstone and boring adults, arms flailing at his sides in his childish run.

“Will he be up to it?” Rose asked.

“If you want to bring about change, it has to start with the next generation.  If we succumb to fear…”

“…We’ll be just as bad as the ones who came before us,” she finished.

“Yes.  Another thing.  You’ll have to teach Laird.”

“Teach him?”

“Diabolism.  Enough to protect himself and the rest of the Behaim family.  We can’t move forward if I have to watch my back.  Laird either.”

She considered, then seemed to come to a decision.  “Yes.  I think we can arrange that.”

“Good,” he said.

“It won’t be pretty,” she said.

“No.  But did you ever think it would be?”

“When I was young and naive.”

Aimon nodded.  “What do you need?”

“Time,” she said.  She smiled a bit.  “Charles, any children that come after him… I can’t teach them.  My grandchildren… I need time, to see them grow up.”

“Costly.  To stave off death?  That’s something else altogether.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I’ll see what I can do.  I hate to suggest it, but I’m not sure I can offer much more.  I can’t promise protection against Laird the same way you’re promising protection against the diabolism.”

She nodded.  “That’s fine.”

He felt a bit of a chill.  “I can’t imagine it is.  I can do what I can to raise Laird and my other children well, but-”

“Don’t lie.  You’ll spoil him rotten.  I know you well enough, and you’ll be too generous rather than risk walkng in your father’s footsteps.  If conflict is due, then conflict will happen.”

“You’d leave your heirs defenseless?”

“No.  No, not at all.  Do you remember the Barber’s summoning?”

“I have nightmares about it.  Scars.  I don’t think I could forget if I tried.”

“Do you remember the boons he can grant?”

“Medical skill, in exchange for leaving a big enough hole for something else to occupy.  Extend one’s life…”

He gave Rose a look.

She shook her head.  “Considered and decided against it.  I trust you more than I trust the texts.”

“Hmm, there were two more.  Sharp blades, I can’t imagine a good use for that.  To carve out a reflection?  I wasn’t so clear on that one.”

“I am.  As protection for my heir goes, it’ll serve.”

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213 thoughts on “Histories (Arc 6)

  1. I’m seeing an add at the bottom of the post, is this a new revenue source, wordpress, or is my iPad just being weird? Also, good chapter, cleared up a couple things.

    1. I am going to go with bug with wordpress. An appeared for me one this one as well, but only on on computer. Wildbow has express distaste with ads, and has a stable revenue stream courtesy of generous readers.

    2. I’ve been wondering about the ad too, because I’ve never seen it, even though AdBlock keeps telling me there is one (yes, I’ve disabled it on this site). Could be WordPress being weird. That would be par for the course.

    3. “You didn’t fail, Aimon Behaim” she said. –> period

      The Watson, the Sam, the Friday, the Horatio.””You can’t base real life off of books.” –> paragraph break needed

      If one side realizes their losing –> they’re losing

    1. Not necessarily. Doesn’t say that it will be a reflection of the person making the deal.

      But it’s definitely a possibility. Or at the very least, Rose may be a reflection of Blake with some elements of Rose Senior blended in.

    1. That’s what I thought, and what it seems to be implying. Though I was and still am thinking that it’s the lawyers who made the deal and/or fronted the cost. I’m thinking that Rose was made by the Barber shortly after Molly died, which is why all of that stuff happened to Blake in the first chapter. I think his reflection was carved out, creating Rose (which somehow also made him see the major players through a bunch of reflections in Jacob’s Bell, possibly due to additional actions taken by the lawyers)

      1. ““The metronome?”

        “Something big just happened,”

        Anything that can knock the metronome over isn’t human anymore, or it won’t be for long.

        When something momentous occurs, it can be the equivalent of lighting up the night sky, scattering fog and clouds to the horizons. You can see more clearly… but when you look, they can look back, too.”
        (1.01)

        I don’t know what this is, still. At first I thought that it was an awakening process, and that’s still possible (albeit not as an Awakening process), but their wording seems indicative of this being a fairly typical thing, for the most part. Rare, perhaps, but not unexpected. Maybe this is the same thing as touching the practitioner books? Some sort of step is taken, when a magical heir inherits, that puts them closer to Awakening? It might also explain why he took everything in stride, especially when contrasted against his friends.

        Also, I didn’t get the impression that he was seeing through reflections.

        1. The Duchamp/Behaim reaction adds an interesting point:
          “Huh,” the man at the one end of the table said. A member of the family. “I’d hoped she would slip in her old age. A shame, she made other arrangements.”

          The blonde woman opposite him folded her hands in front of her. “That was… noteworthy in scale. Kind of her to point the way, but she was never crude. We’ll need to know what she did before we move on.”

          “Agreed,” the man said. He opened a pocketwatch, glancing inside. “For now, let it be. There is enough at stake here that someone is bound to make a play.”

          With this chapter, I’m guessing Barbie got some carving work done right there and then. Although the fine details are still missing, we may never get a precise idea of what exactly happened.

          1. Right there and then being immediately after RDT’s death, correct?

            Also worth noting: In 1.01, Rose was able to tell Blake about what happened with Molly. Meaning she had some sort of knowledge that existed before that one instant.

  2. There’s a bunch of messed up text in the middle 😦

    Normally this wouldn’t phase me, but this histories chapter is more conversationally heavy than previously glitched chapters.

    1. Guess Laird didn’t agree with his father. Or Rose Sr’s anti-diabolism training freaked him out.

      1. Indeed. Also, Blake’s gotten stronger as a direct result of Laird’s machinations. Aimon would be disappointed (albeit unsurprised) at the lack of cooperation, but Rose would smirk to see her heir coming out of each scrape intact.

        It’s the Shadow version of evolution; “Those who survive are smarter, stronger, and better.” Of course, Blake might disagree with that, but no philosophy’s perfect.

          1. Yes, I am. And it’s not as though Blake gets ripped in half (metaphorically or otherwise) during every encounter. Only some of them.

  3. I’ll have to reread it once the formatting gets fixed it was starting to give me a headache. Also my copy of Skin Game just uploaded soooooooooo be back in a few hours.

    1. Oh my god, it’s like the third most enraging thing in my life right now.

      I checked halfway and three-quarters of the way through to make sure it was okay. I submit the finished chapter, and blearugh… gets messy.

      Fixed. I think.

    2. Missing carriage return before ”You can’t base real life off of books.”

      “rather than risk walkng”
      +’i’

    3. The Watson, the Sam, the Friday, the Horatio.””You can’t base real life off of books.”
      – needs a line break between the quotes

    4. “Sometimes all you need is someone to tell you you’re doing the right thing, or the wrong thing. To bounce ideas off of. That’s the way it is in the books. The Watson, the Sam, the Friday, the Horatio.””You can’t base real life off of books.”

      need to separate here.

      1. I think a Diabolist needs a Jiminy Cricket more than anything else. Someone to act as the consience. Course that’s what Evan is for Blake.

        Oh and ”You can’t base real life off of books.”
        People do that all the time. It’s really quite mainstream. After all the Bible, the Koran, all holy texts are books people base their lives off of.

    5. The Watson, the Sam, the Friday, the Horatio.””You can’t base real life off of books.”

      Should be a paragraph break between the two sentences.

    1. I don’t think so, actually. I think Rose is a reflection carved from Blake, which is why he’s dying, why she’ll replace him, and why all that stuff happened to Blake in the first chapter.

        1. The vision, the/a “metronome” being “knocked over”, and Rose appearing. If Mirror Rose had been created as a reflection of Rose Sr., then I’d assume she’d have to have been created before Rose Sr died, but Rose seems to only remember being in the mirror basically around Molly’s death and Blake’s vision.

          Also, a reflection Rose Sr. being the next heir isn’t really much of a “protection” for her heirs so much as a way of reviving Rose Sr., which doesn’t seem to fit with her personality.

          1. I actually think Blake might be a reflection of Rose. If she can come into his life after he dies, he could have come into hers. And then she is shunt into the mirror, relatively safe, while Blake diverts enemy attention.
            This idea does, however, fail to explain why Rose needs Blake’s energy.

      1. This makes me wonder if all the heirs had a reflection talking to them… and since their upbringings were so radically different if whatsername (the first heir) got killed partially because she didn’t get along with her cut out reflection, or because the reflection wasn’t as alert or on the ball in alerting her.

        — but then, that’s who would be alive, unless both versions got killed and the first got killed quietly

        1. Nobody Blake interacted with reacted as if they expected Rose. If the first heir had a mirror-image, I think it’s unlikely she could have kept it a complete secret from everyone.

          1. You forget Padraic. Although it can be argued that it was because of the whole bloodline and female heirs only thing, he still treated Blake like a woman until he was explicitly shown he wasn’t through Rose.

            1. Ah thanks for reminding me (goes back to 6.10 and comments on this).

              Remember the bit when Alexis, Fell and Maggie were travelling to the spirit world from the apartment? Blake could see with the sight what their ‘essences’ looked like on the other side. Then he ruminated on going too deep with the sight and reaching a point where you could only see the spirit world.

              I suspect that largely describes Padraic – he can probably see the mundane world a little bit, but his vision is primarily of the spirit world. If he’s mostly seeing people’s spiritual essences rather than their physical appearances that would explain his having difficulty distinguishing gender. To him, Blake probably ‘looks’ more or less like all the other Thorburns.

  4. Well, Laird now looks worse, and Rose better, if only a some. She was on the same path that the author of Black Lamb’s Blood was on, as was perhaps her mother. Laird got taught some Diabolism by Rose, then spends the knowledge persecuting the heirs. Real classy there Laird. He probably want the books for himself, and is going to use beating up on the Thorburn family as a method to cover karma losses for using such flashy abilities. As such it pays to have him push them to increase their karmic debt as much as possible. Besides, he has get out of diabolism free cards courtesy of his father’s deal with Rose.

    The answer of the power of the Behaims has been answered, generations paying in, Laird now cashing out a phenomenal rate.

    1. At least we now know why Laird is they way he is, a spoiled brat with access to the family funds & a Get-Out-of-Diabolism-Karma-Free card.

      But IIRC, besides the Ancient Laws of Hospitality thing, the Student/Mentor relationship also holds as much significance as Family Ties; students arn’t supposed to cross/disrespect their mentors in any way & since Rose is a reflection of RDT, Laird attacking Rose/Blake can be considered a from of fumi-e disrespecting RDT and drawing tons of Bad Karma his way; this may explain some of Blake’s luck.

      1. Rose Jr might not be the same as Rose Sr. She’s a vestige, bits and pieces altered and cobbled together. My guess is that Rose Sr arranged it so Rose would have her drive and personality while living Blake’s life only as a woman instead.

    2. He can recoup lost karma, but what about lost time? They’ve been using time by the eons to catch Blake, and if the return rate is as abysmal as implied elsewhere (can’t remember which chapter) then it might take a generations to recover all the resources.

  5. Da, Das, DAAAAAA!!!!! The giant wall of text returns!!!

    Rose and Aimon sitting by a tree. CON-SPI-ER-ING. First comes love. Then comes marriage (to others). Then comes corrupting children in their carriages.

    So, Aimon was fighting magical Nazis. +25 Respect for the Behaim family.

    It’s confirmed that Laird recieved some Diabolist training. Is this known to others. He mentioned that he had set up protections against the Barber.

    So did Laird basically rebel against his father’s secret wishes, or does he have a hidden agenda? Could he be trying to neutralize Blake just until he becomes Lord of Jacob’s Bell? Perhaps Blake will (eventually) be Laird’s apprentice in his quest to change the system.

    Rose nearly lost her firstborn to the Barber. That’s hard core.

    Well, I guess I have to go reread the chapter about the Barber. Foreshadowing away!!!

    1. Well, we were wondering whether Rose used her own child or someone else’s, and I think the general consensus is that she was probably using her own child. That it was her firstborn child may have some mystical significance, but I don’t think that makes it particularly more weighty as far as real life goes.

  6. Also, so that’s what the Behaim secret is — they’re also diabolists, to some degree. They really don’t want another diabolist nearby who might recognize/uncover some of their secrets and out them to the rest of the world. It’s one of those “the kettle is calling the pot black because the kettle is afraid that the pot might speak first” situations.

    1. The question is, how many Behaims know Diabolism? Is it just Laird’s branch of the family? Is it just Laird? Did Laird teach his children? His wife?

  7. In thinking abouit it, Rose’s familiar is very strange. Seeing as her Goblin took the form of a cat, which died at the same time she did, it was a goblin that never actually used the catbox or seemed to make any mess whatsoever. Was Arsepint just a good goblin or did he have some other way of causing chaos?

    1. Why would the familiar (cat) be a goblin in the form of a cat and not just a cat? And I didn’t see any mention of that goblin shape shifting either.

    2. When did we find out that her familiar was a goblin (and more specifically, Arsepint)? A cat seems an ill-fitting form for a goblin..

      1. I suppose that you are probably correct in that, my mistake. I had mistaken her initial binding of Arsepint for something else.

        1. Ah, I see. Arsepint does seem to have a favored position in her retinue for at least a few years, so I can see where the idea came from.

          At the same time, he doesn’t really seem to fit very well for Rose’s personality (though I suppose you don’t need a fit for your familiar, and it’s just strongly encouraged)

          1. I think it’s less how they fit well and more like how they shore up each others weaknesses. Blake with inherited karma will always be blundering into traps so Evan with an Escape ability is a good match for him, Sandra Duchamp’s skills are subtle & less suited for direct combat therefore a troll is a useful for confrontations, RDT’s work requires refinement & precision thus a goblin’s crudity and chaos will be necessary when she is outmatched and requires anarchy to create an opportunity to turn the tables.

        1. However, they are also known for tearing up furniture, spraying their “property” and leaving absurd ammounts of hair everywhere.

          1. My friend’s dog is also known for doing the exact same things, though xD Though there is less hair everwhere, there’s a lot more dog barf.

            The hair depends on the cat. We used to have two cats. The short-hair was no problem, she barely shed in the summer. The long-hair was a problem child, so to speak. Same situation with hairballs; our current short-hair never gets any because we give him a bit of milk every other day. Our old long-hair seemed to have them more often than not.

            I suppose the moral of the story is…any animal could be a goblin in disguise?

  8. WTF, Rose? “I really think I might like you. Let’s date. No, let’s not date, let’s just have sex.” Ok, that’s cool, kids are down with that these days and it’s not like it never happened in the past. That’s not what I’m objecting to. It’s what happened next.

    “So, we just kissed and didn’t tell, and did more. I really think I might like you, like maybe like you, like you.”
    “So do you want to date or have sex or something else?”
    “Well, I figure it’s time to take our relationship to the next level. I think you should let me possess you.”
    WTF, Rose? How in the world did that seem like a logical relationship jump? Yeah, because any reasonable person couldn’t see anything that might go wrong with that particular suggestion.

    1. Eh, there’s no chance they could really be together in public, because she’s the pariah of the village and he’s a semi-well-respected member of a head family. If he screwed the social rules, she’d be hated even more for corrupting him and he’d lose any leverage/power and also be a pariah.

      I agree the possession thing is kind of strange, but it would allow him to actually do things, because it wouldn’t be him doing it, supposedly.

    2. I didn’t get the impression Rose’s possession idea had anything to do with advancing their relationship. She saw it as a way to shake up the status quo and help someone she cared about on some level. It probably wouldn’t have hurt though that, had he said ‘yes’ that would’ve been a step towards accepting her world.

      1. From rereading 1.01, Charles is likely his father. Paul’s the uncle.
        “4 factions” – Charles’, Paul’s, Irene’s, and Paul’s ex-wife Stephanie.

        1. In 1.07, after Blake reads the part about the baby, he speculates that the baby was uncle Charles or aunt Irene

          1. “A baby?” she asked.

            “Option at hand,” I said, as I turned the page to get a look at what came next, “I guess Uncle Charles or Aunt Irene get offhand mentions in the books.”

            1. Well, that implies some disturbing things about what might have happened to Charles. Maybe his death was the first shot in Laird’s feud with Rose?

            2. Ugh… so Charles wasn’t present during 1.01 and Blake’s father is still unnamed ?

  9. For a quick reference:

    Barbatorem is mute, making dealings hard. He will see a contract up to seven times before refusing all further contracts. In this event, one can dismiss him and summon him again, but it must be to offer something else. In a dealing, he will offer expert skill in medicine, in exchange for enough blood to make the practitioner pass out – take care to avoid spilling any on the circle. He will offer to extend a practitioner’s natural lifespan by half-again or by twenty-five years, whichever is less, at the cost of the practitioner forever smelling blood, rot, and/or burning hair. He can offer to ensure that one’s blades never dull, in exchange for enough of the practitioner’s flayed skin to fill two cupped hands.

    I’m guessing Granny Rose decided to leave out the Rose deal, or I’m missing something.

    Some other interesting points:

    He agreed to be bound by the seal of Suleiman bin Daoud four months after the initial capture. See the Others volumes, book one, chapter one, if unfamiliar with the seal. The diagram this author used for entrapment, necessitating only one line to open or close, can be found on page five of this entry, followed by the means of summoning and the recommended diagram for imprisonment.

    Signing Barbatorem to the Standard remains the proudest accomplishment for this author, at that particular date and time, marking her first feat in this particular field.

    So even after capturing Barbie, it took 4 months to seal him. Also, that was her first devil sealing?

    He does not seek out mischief with those who summon him, but he takes advantage if one is offered. For this reason, he is a reasonably safe entity to summon if one takes care to follow instructions. He serves as a better deleterious sending against an enemy than he does as a boon-giver. This author and three acquaintances have summoned and used him without issue

    So Granny Rose and 3 others that she new during her time had successfully used the Barber. Aimon, Laird, and Black Lamb’s Blood Writer perhaps?

      1. That’s from the book Dark Names from 1.7. I thought it would be a good reference to have on page, for the inevitable discussions for this chapter.

    1. My guess is that she used Barbatorem for the war effort. She considered the idea of helping, after all, and the quotes (not what you quoted, but near to it) say it has been seen at sites of war. Maybe she told Aimon and friends how to summon it?

        1. Shrapnel explosion looks like knives. The bomb that was supposed to assassinate hitler…
          Perhaps a bit of chronomancy to see that it was a bad idea?

          1. Chronomancy/augury, I’d say. A team of augurs pinpointing a time when he’d be alone, chronomancy to make sure any assassination attempt stuck. Possibly an imp or something to make sure he takes the final step.

            1. Finally! The mystery of the Grassy Knoll is solved! First they tried it from the book repository window and when they realised they had a lousy shot and rewrote time and Oswald shot him from the Knoll. Then of course they put Oswald back where they’ve time jumped him from…

            2. The question then becomes “what did JFK have to do with the practitioners’ secret world?”

            3. But the shot, whether it was from the knoll or the depository, was fatal. Looping Oswald back to a different place only makes sense if he got caught in the first place, ergo they wanted the assassination to succeed.

    2. Signing Barbatorem to the Standard remains the proudest accomplishment for this author, at that particular date and time, marking her first feat in this particular field. (1.07)

      It was her first “feat”, which sounds like her first [big] devil sealing.

    3. Also, “Medical skill, in exchange for leaving a big enough hole for something else to occupy” (in this chapter) is an interesting way of saying “expert skill in medicine, in exchange for enough blood to make the practitioner pass out” (as seen in the earlier chapter).

      1. Because really, what’s the barber going to do with your blood? It’s footholds demons are interested it, and spilling that much blood is just asking to get possessed by something.

  10. 30 minutes ago I was lying in bed trying to sleep because I had work in 5.5 hours but then I remembered there was another chapter up and it was probably an interlude which never ever in the history of time has managed to disappoint so I read it and it totally absolutely did not disappoint and now I have work in 5 hours so I’ll catch up on the comments tomorrow but I just wanted to say that that was really cool.

  11. Blake is a reflection of Rose. The Barber cut off Rose from the world to create Blake retroactively to fit in her place: Blake is the shadow in Rose’s place, put there to protect her.

    1. Very interesting idea… the main issue I see is that it seems odd that the entire world seems to fit nicely with the idea that Blake has existed. During the first chapter, we even multiple months before anything really strange happened to Blake, and it seems kind of incongruous with Wildbow’s style to write from the perspective of a memory that didn’t happen. Mostly we see magic 1) happening on a fairly local scale, and 2) creating incongruity when big things happen.

      Besides that, the idea of carving out a reflection doesn’t seem to fit that well with being put in a mirror world and the “reflection” being put in reality.

      1. When I consider MrVoid’s comment, I’m tempted to agree with him (or her, who knows) It kind of makes sense if you were to think of it this way: Rose’s memories all happened, but were cut out of the world. she was born and cut out from the world, and replaced by the magical world with blake, who had his own experiences in her absence. both of their memories are real events that happened, but roses’s got pulled along with her to the mirror world

        1. And you just reminded me, isn’t the barber from the same choir as Ur? That seems to imply that he would also be able to retcon reality a little.

          1. We have some evidence for that this chapter. Aimon says that when barbie is slashing at the names written down, they are falling from his memories.

            1. My brain wonders if the Barber DID have a name before RDT summoned him. Perhaps in carving his real name in the boars, she accidentally opened him up to be able to sever the connections between his name and people’s memories/ history.

          2. Ur doesn’t retcon reality, she just makes everyone forget it happened. But it does affect absolutely everyone, not just the people in the vicinity…

            It’s not inconceivable that Barbatorem could wipe the memories of mirror Rose from everyone she’s ever met, and supplant them with artificial memories of Blake. It could be as easy as transferring the connections from one to the other, and letting their minds fill in the blanks, make sense of the incongruities.

            Speaking of, darkness choir demons are terrifying. Blake/Rose should try binding Ur when they get the chance, seeing as his family has a notable history with them. Of course, he’ll have to approach Ur with a proper siege mentality this time and not just “let’s walk in and ask nicely”.

          3. I’d take it as the standard connection cutting effect, just a little stronger. ErasUr just does it to an extreme level – if ErasUr cut the name, Laird wouldn’t have ever remembered the name being there. Since the barber is associated with a cutting instrument, then his cutting of connections might be stronger than normal as well, but not to the same degree.

            As to the barber’s choir, my guess would be the seventh if he’s in one. The seventh tends to be abstract, their goals are less understood than the other choirs, and the barber will see a contract seven times before refusing it outright. Of course, the barber might not have a choir. Remember that the choirs are just human categorizations, and not all demons, devils, and diabolic things fall neatly into those categories.

            1. A little bit more than that, I think, though you seem to be fundamentally correct.

              “The choirs aren’t real things… only an idea that some have clung to, some demons and devils included. They’re a handy way of categorizing.”

              “A dangerous way of categorizing,” I said. “Like calling something a goblin, when it could be something else entirely. You prepare to deal with a goblin, and you get surprised.”

              “Yes.”

              “Or,” I said, glancing down at Evan, “If you’re open minded, you can figure out that the goblin has another weakness you can use against it.”” (5.05)

              The difference being that some demons and devils cling to it as well, making it more than just a human method of categorization. Still, point taken.

    2. That’s entirely possible. We’ve been told by an NPC that when Blake dies the world will reorder itself to fit Rose into that spot. Has the world already been reordered to fit Blake into that spot? Is Blake the true vestige masquerading as the real thing to give the real heir more protection and a better chance of surviving longer? Who knows. Maybe Evan is the real heir and Granny was just super crafty in setting everything up… :p

  12. So really, not using demons is actually the best strategy for Blake against Laird right now. Had Blake called Ornias or the Barber, as some have suggested in the past, Laird could probably counter, leaving Blake to bear the cost and deal with the Backlash.

    Blake’s wins against Laird so far have involved shamanism (to deliver his letter in round 1), glamour (the infiltration), goblins (in his sister’s house and the previous chapter. Could be considered semi-diabolic), his wits, (round 3 with Laird via round 1 with Duncan) , ghosts (during round 3 with Laird via round 3 with Duncan. Could be considered semi-diabolic) and Rose (evidently diabolic. Used to win round 2 against Duncan, but Duncan’s not the one with the Diabolist training. Laird seemingly easily bound her in 6.11). He hasn’t used demons against Laird and won. The victories only come from other sources.

    I think Blake stands the best chance of losing aginst Laird if he decides to use Pauz or Rose decides to summon a Diabolic Nasty.

  13. I suspected that Rose Sr. went down a path of trying to protect people with diabolism, (similar to what Blake is trying for) and this chapter provides great evidence. A couple of specific quotes for the idea:
    She had embraced diabolism as a way to protect others. (6.x)

    Assuming he’s right, seems pretty clear-cut.

    Your grandmother knew the author and was quite fond of her. Had she been alive as the book was released, your grandmother would have paid for a copy to be delivered to her, and it would have a place on her bookshelf. (4.1)

    This was the first piece of real evidence after the Black Lamb’s Blood pages came out.

    Who are your regular clients? ….. Speaking in general terms, a rare few are like your grandmother. A great many aren’t.”

    “And what are they like?” I asked.

    “You’ve met the barber. They are the sorts who would use him and sleep that night.” (2.4)

    It seems to me Ms. Lewis is saying his grandmother is different in kind, and basically not one of the bad ones. It’s not explicitly saying she’s one of the good ones, but she was definitely big and bold, so I find it kind of hard to imagine she was a careful or neutral one.

    1. Hmm. Taking into account typical practitioner weaselry, that supports Rose being author of Black Lamb’s Blood. For all we know the book was first released into Blake’s hands by the lawyers (or hasn’t been released at all) and that was after Grandma Rose’s death.

      It’s hard to reconcile that with the ‘family of evangelists’ backstory etc. without it being complete fabrication, though…

  14. Laird has consistently said that Blake is a dangerous. Could it be that this is due to his forced Diabolist training as a youth? If he was forced to learn only about the most dangerous aspects of Diabolism and how to defend against it, then it would make perfect sense for him to jump to the worst conclusions about the Thorburn heir.

    Also, the training probably didn’t go so smoothly.

    I’m also best equipped to deal with the sorts of things you might send after me, if you deign to go that route. I’ve been preparing against Rose for my entire life.”

    That doesn’t sound like he had a jolly apprenticeship under Granny Rose. Could he have been learning Diabolism with defeating the evil master in mind?

  15. See it the other way. Laird could be following Rose senior’s ‘Big Plan’ by being like this.
    He’s using augurs to determine Blake’s and Rose’s reactions, shaping their ability learning and giving them just the right amount of pressure.
    He could very well be balancing being the head of the Behaim house with making Blake able to break the system.

    Really, really looking forward to the reveal.

      1. Doesn’t matter to me even if he claims that he was trying to do the right things. He has Molly’s blood on his hands, and no amount of weaseling will ever get that off for me. Under your theory either he knows what he is doing and had her murdered, or he doesn’t and it was a mistake, making him incapable of the balancing act.

        1. An undercover agent with blood on his hands to prevent a worse event from happening: good or evil ?
          Anyway, we both know that wildbow likes having complex characters. Laird is no angel, and he may not even work for good or right per se, but there’s a distinct possibility his assholery will forge Blake/Rose into the good/right person(s).

          And that he’ll double-cross them after that. Gotta stay sharp. :p

        2. A murder is bad karma. But what if Molly would have deserved it? If left alone, she would have become a bad diabolist?

          Seeing into the future might just scare Laird shitless.

          1. “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.” (3.03)

            I don’t think that he’s able to see that much or that well.

            1. Yeah, I think the best they can do is either fairly short-term or kinda vague/ambiguous like tarot cards.

  16. So, guys. Any thoughts about this Laird’s excursion in diabolism and Blake’s line in the previous chapter, saying he figured out the trick to the Behaim’s power?

    Fantastic chapter, by the way!

  17. I’m starting to think Laird is secretly on Blake’s side. He got Conquest to name him as a champion even though he was still suffering from a third round loss? That seems too stupid for the guy, unless he was actively sabotaging Conquest.

    1. That does not seem a likely theory. First because “someone keeps trying to kill the hero but secretely wants them to win” almost never works, as most of the time said hero narrowly escapes with his life. If Blake had been slightly less competent, he would be dead by now (eaten by Isadora, mauled by Pauz’s animals, killed and maimed by the Hyena, retconned by ErasUrr, bound by Conquest, incinerated by the Eye…). No one except a cliché movie villain would base a plan on that sort of thing, and Laird has already proven he’s smarter than a cliché movie villain.
      Secondly, Laird has made it pretty clear in the past that he opposes Blake and wants him removed. While he has specifically said he’s not trying to kill him himself, he mentionned in Breach 3.3 that they (Duchamp and Behaim) are offering aa bounty for any killed Thornburn.

      1. Unless said cliche movie villain has the power to go, “Whoops, didn’t mean to kill him, let’s rewind and give him a little more help this time.” I don’t think Laird is really helping Blake, but I do think it’s a slightly plausible theory.

        1. That works when Blake is going against things Laird controls, or when Laird is involved, but it seems far-fetched to assume he had a hand in the thing with ErasUrr.

      2. Notice that Laird has never tried to kill Blake. None of the Behaims have, except for Duncan who was clearly out-of-control at the time.

        I’ve been wondering for a while why the Behaims have been using kid gloves on Blake, and that would explain it.

        If so, Conquest does not appear to be in on the plan and neither do the Duchamps, since they have both thrown lethal threats at Blake or vice versa.

  18. Finally caught up again, after being far too absorbed in finals to get to new chapters again. My feeling on Blake’s epiphany re Laird is that he took Laird’s ‘opposite’ comment to mean that the head of the Behaim family is using up all of its stored good karma in an effort to take power now and thus regain the spent karma. I’m not exactly sure of the advantage this knowledge has (other than as an explanation of how Laird has managed to recover from being continually trounced by Blake. My ideas about how Laird’s training with Granny Rose went are less clear.

  19. So, how exactly did Aimon get injured in the war before 1940? While France and UK declared war on Germany on September 1st 1939 (after Germany invaded Poland), there wasn’t any actual fighting on the western front until May 1940 where Germany invaded France through Belgium.
    So he was either extremely unlucky getting hurt in one of the very few skirmishes, or something is weird.

    1. Aimon could also have been in Scandinavia, but he would either have been fighting USSR in Finland, or not have been fighting until December 1939 when Germany attacked Norway.

    2. Maybe he previously fought in WWI and somehow foresees having to fight in WWII? I dunno if he’s really old enough for that (he’d have to be like 40ish in 1939), but it’d square with all his comments about trench warfare and stuff.

      Another possibility is that the practitioner hostility started before the war and somehow escaped notice, but this is pretty doubtful. For instance, how would you disguise a ghoul as a corpse before hostilities break out? Not like there’s a ton of corpses around for camouflage.

      But yeah, chronology seems odd here. After Dunkirk would seem more natural.

      1. Oh, and for reference, Rose’s diary puts the conversation about the war on Sept 29, 1939, so Scandinavia’s out.That gives Aimon two options: Poland or France (the Saar offensive).
        Both predate Canada’s declaration of war (and, more importantly, the first Canadian troops didn’t even cross the Atlantic until 1940), so it’s anyone’s guess why Aimon decided to join a foreign power’s military.

        1. Wait, Canada was independent in 1939?

          I somehow was convinced it became independent with the rest of the colonies in the aftermath of WW2.

        2. Unless being a hot blooded young man, he served under the British flag chasing after the recruiters, following the drum.

          1. Nope, Britain wasn’t in the Saar either. French army or Polish. The BEF doesn’t see action until May. Or, I suppose, Aimon could potentially be unaffiliated, relying on some sort of enchanter (but probably not the Duchamps) to make everyone think he was in one of those armies.

            Subbak: The question of Canada’s independence is a little muddy to me; I never fully got the whole “dominion” business. But it was independent enough to declare war separately as of 1931, I think (Statute of Westminster).
            Fun fact – Newfoundland was also apparently not a province of Canada until 1949, allowing it to declare war like a week before Canada did.

            I welcome the contribution of actual Canadians to explain these things to me.

            1. Option 1: The “shadow war” did not match up with the real war in terms of which nation joined which side when.

              Option 2: He was part of a Foreign Legion. Can be checked at present if somebody takes the time to.

              Option 3: In this universe, the world wars were different. Evidence includes the trenches.

              Option 4: Wildbow made a mistake.

    3. @Subbak.

      The UK and France gave an ultimatum to Germany to withdraw on 1st of Septemebr 1939. we declared war when said 48 hour ultimatum ran out on the 3rd of September.

      As for Canada, i think Britain saw it as a semi autonomous dominion of the crown that could be trusted to look after itself and make is own decisions whilst retaining only a few over rule powers. Therefore a defacto independence cos we liked you enough anyway.

      Plus we Brits aint taking on Canucks any time soon. Tough as nails: Nails that do Jeet Kune Do

  20. Oh shit!

    I just got something. Remember at the beginning when Laird said that one school of thought is intense specialization, but that another is taking a broader focus, dabbling in many things? And Laird said he was a dabbler.

    Well that confused me a lot because the Behaims are pretty obviously chronomancers through and through. They don’t diversify, and a little shamanism that any imbecile with power could fuel does not count.

    This explains it. When Laird made his little comment about diversifying, he was referring to the fact that he is a fucking diabolist! Shit.

    I’m really hoping that Blake figures this out and exposes Laird to the city council. Because that would just be fantastic.

    1. I think the reason he needs the Thorburn Heirs alive & bound is partly due to this deal Aimon made with Rose for his apprenticeship, the wording seems to imply that RDT will take on whatever bad karma accrued by Liard, if it is ongoing, he needs the Thorburn Heirs to continue to take on his karmic debts and being scapegoats for the demons he summons.

  21. Interesting.
    There is a possibility that Laird has good intentions… But I fear I still cannot draw a likely line from what we have learned to what is happening to Blake. Molly was murdered at Laird’s request – until we know more of that, it is hard to give Laird any credit for having good intentions.

    Also, a wonderful realization! Since the start of the story, I have grown to like Blake enough that I would hate to see him fail and a new protagonist – Rose or otherwise – take his place. He’s grown up so fast.

    1. I was under the impression Laid just wanted molly attacked, not killed. Did I misread that? Could’ve sworn he wanted maggie to just sick some goblins at her, and maggie messed up somehow and wound up killing molly

      1. That’s what he instructed Maggie to do, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t his intent. I’d guess he performed an augury to see what would likely happen if he hired Molly to attack Molly, and knew she’d die if he did.

        1. He definitely performed an augury, or else deliberately did not, or else is perfectly willing to have Molly accidentally die while he’s trying to have her savagely beaten, and then to profit from it.

          1. In a best case scenario she would have been crippled and left in his mercy somehow. If she was too injured to make the council meeting then repercussions could have worked in his favor somehow.

            The only way to be certain is with a look into Molly’s past and her interaction with Maggie…actually yeah, let’s see that when Blake is dying and Rose is taking his place, maybe with Maggie looking horrified as Molly stares at her while dying and hoping that Blake doesn’t meet the same end….

            ….Okay, I’ve got to stop reading dark stories….except this one…

  22. “A light possession, something that won’t make decisions for you, but if you get caught, then you blame the possession. You return to ordinary life.”

    Oh… That’s how Liard gets around his ‘do no direct harm’ oath. Now the only question is what he was possessed by?

    1. So, RDT was one of the ‘good’ diabolists, who nevertheless used her firstborn as bait for Barbatorem. That seems a little antithetical.

      And now, we have an explanation for Laird: a spoiled brat, trained by a diabolist, who can spend his family’s banked karma like water. So, lies don’t slow him down at all. And he may be able to be forsworn without immediate consequences. Essentially, he seems like a compulsive gambler given an fortune, spending karma for bad reasons because he thinks that this will all lead to a major win. I wonder if he has a “karma meter” like many practitioners seem to have, so he can see just how much of a squanderer he is?

      And he has access to another karma fortune, by proxy – the Behaims are marrying the Duchamps, so his son (?) will be able to spend karma like water, too! Sounds like a grifter’s solution – marry into wealth, then ruin it. I wonder if the Duchamps are fully aware of this?

      If Blake knew, then the plan against Laird is similar to the plan against Conquest – survive and wait, and Laird will eventually bottom out.

      1. Not only that, but Laird also likely has a gigantic time bank (the text was unclear, it could be either time or karma or both)

      2. Mm. I suppose it might be contrasting, but I imagine that she thought that Charles was safe. As he turned out to be, by the by, as least as far as the Barber is concerned.

        I really don’t think that the stored power is karma, though the transfer process may make the distinction less stark than it perhaps should be. I think it’s time that all of the members are contributing into the central pot, that which (granny) Rose was talking about this chapter. As such, I don’t think that the marriage has that ability, especially since it’s not Laird’s son that’s marrying in to the family.

        That…seems risky. But not Blake’s style of risky, a too-passive sort of risky. It seems more like him to provoke Laird repeatedly so as to force him to expend more of the stored power. But like Conquest’s reserves of humanity, there’s no way to know how massive those stores are before you try to drain them.

    2. When did Laird make a “Do not do direct harm oath”? Didn’t his father say he wouldn’t make his son swear oaths like that? Unless he did it before in earlier chapters?

        1. But if Laird is spending karma/power built up over the generations and doesn’t mind being foresworn, that particular statement may have been a lie. He may not have sworn to do no direct harm to others and the statement may have been designed to catch Blake offguard. We can’t really trust anything that Laird has said.

        2. Oooooh yeah. Good point. And since he just kicked a defenseless Blake in the teeth, something must be wrong- either it wasn’t directly him causing the harm, he lied when he said that (with so much power stocked up, he can lie all he wants), or he mislead when he said that oath and meant “Others” with a capital O.

          I don’t out any of those three out of place for Laird- he’s a sneaky bastard who was taught Diabolism by the sneakiest dead grandma I’ve ever seen.

          1. I have an idea…
            “A light possession. It wouldn’t be anything too dangerous, not a demon. ”
            From what Rose Sr. was saying to Aimon, you can get away with several things you wouldn’t normally be able to if possessed. Even if whatever is possessing you isn’t actually controlling you. Maybe that’s what Laird did.

            1. I think the “light” possession was for social cover, rather than karmic. The spirits and Others would know who was making the decisions, but being able to tell your parents “I wasn’t dating the diabolist on purpose! I was possessed!” is like, the best get-out-of-grounding card ever.

        3. My take on it is that Laird’s statement here is ambiguous. He says he has sworn to do not direct harm to “others”, implied to mean “people other than himself”. But since he’s speaking to Blake, he might actually mean that he’s sworn to do not direct harm to people other than Blake, or other than the Thorburns, or other than practitioners in general. “Direct harm” is also ambiguous. Whether something is direct or indirect is not always clear, and the harm he swore not to deal might be a specific type of harm (e.g. physical, mental, chronological, permanent).

  23. Called it. Laird is a diabolist. And changing systems? That’s supposed to be Laird’s goal? That sounds an awfully noble. The Universe does deserve a swift kick in the shins.

    1. Laird was taught by Rose Sr to be able to deal with demons and Diabolists, but that doesn’t mean he is one. It means he knows countermeasures. And he may not be persuing Aimon and Roses change the system ideals. He may have decided his grandpa was right, and his dad is insane. Heck Aimon was freaked out as hell by Barbie’s summoning. Witnessing a few more rites might make someone really not trust Diabolists. And even if the system changes, if he figures Blake has to be a sacrifice on that road, is it really good for Blake?

      1. Seems like, as far as the world is concerned, there’s no such thing as ‘good diabolism’. If Laird has the knowledge and skills to create anti-demon defences, that makes him a diabolist, IMO.

  24. “Time,” she said. She smiled a bit. “Charles, any children that come after him… I can’t teach them. My grandchildren… I need time, to see them grow up.”

    So, wait, she could not teach her children (why?). How did having grandchildren help? She did not teach them either anyway.

    Also, suggesting possession right off the bat is not how you make friends, Rose.

    Anyway, I love this chapter. Shame Aimon’s gamble leads to Laird squandering all that power. But Histories seems to be all about people trying to succeed at something and failing miserably.

    1. Her first oath was to not make her children go through the same things she did. She effectively prevented herself from teaching them to be practitioners. Based on the results (she didn’t awaken any grandchildren either), it may have bound her for all of her offspring. Fortunately, she didn’t bind the bloodline, just herself. See the previous history.

      1. The thing I wonder is if she didn’t have a loophole planned, but it fell apart due to the lack of allies. Something like having a member of the Behaim’s introduce one of the grandkids to being a practicioner. A major problem for Blake is that he immedeitly got the massive Karma debt and everyone being able to declare open season on him. Grandma Rose was hoping to get as much done in the years before she had to take over from her mother, as she could. Because the powers that be are incapable of really telling people apart. They’ll shove a square peg into the round hole their predicessor occupied because they don’t have the ability to realize things have changed.

        This actually shows a gigantic problem with the system. You need the inherited power and posistion to be strong enough to enact change. But with them, you have to act too much like your predisessors and can’t act to change.

  25. So. Laird picked up some diabolist tricks from elder Rose, as well as her hatred for being called a liar?

    Question- what kind of protection for your heir fates them to die and be replaced? Did molly have a reflection too, or was it just Blake?

    And what in the actual hell did Elder Rose have to pay???

    1. It’s looking like Rose Sr wanted Rose Jr for her heir, and Molly and Blake are karma hatesinks and meatshields. The thing is she’s being just as bad forcing her heirs into the peg she wants as her forebearers were to her. And it could backfire. I’m not so sure Rose will have the same drive to change the system as Blake. The same care for those poor saps that get victimized.

      1. Really? This is when her first-born is still a baby, let alone knowing how deserving or undeserving her grandchildren will be as heirs. And, she mentions that she’s doing this SO her heir(s) won’t be defenseless.
        Plus, she is shown in this chapter to be one of the “good” diabolist who try to protect others from demons.

        It seems weird to continue thinking she was a heartless b*tch who uses innocent descendants as meat shields

        1. She was willing to put her first born up as bait for the Barber, and even if she thinks it was safe enough, Aimon doesn’t seem to agree. And Blake described his situation with Rose as Grandma using her to murder him. People change over time. And she oubviously didn’t set everything up just after first binding Barbertorum. As time went on she may have realized how unsuitable all her heirs were for what she wanted in an heir. Remember Blake certainly doesn’t trust a few of them with demons, and some would give it to the Lawyers (Which doesn’t make the world better. No, not at all) or are just not hard enough, and she might feel they wouldn’t be able to survive. Blake might be pretty close, but the fact he’s a boy kinda makes him have too many problems.

  26. So Rose senior had Aimon use chronomancy to extend her life in order to enact her plan with her grandchildren. That would explain the way she was able to exactly time her death like that (because she knew exactly how long the magic would be in effect).

  27. So the barber was involved in creating Rose. Interesting. However, what price was paid for that? I’m wondering if Molly’s life was put onto the table – she didn’t last very long once she left the house.

  28. Well that chapter rather cleared up a few things, and intimated a few others.
    Rather than Rose being What-Could-Have-Been, being restricted to mirrors, a reflection carved out implies rather than different things.

    A reflection is an image of the truth, distorted by the medium maybe, but the truth nonetheless. Sometimes you get the best image of something, not by illustrating it, but by illustrating the negative space around it, an outline, as it were.

    Also gonna say I love the fact people seriously consider that Blake might be trans, I know I shouldn’t really, shouldn’t celebrate the tidbits, but when that’s all you get, it feels like more than it is.

  29. Methinks people need a quick refresher on what the difference is between a good diabolist and a good person.

    Just because Rose was binding Really Bad Things does not mean she wasnt also an evil, rancid cunt.

    Also, Pencil Monkey, that early comic of yours where Laird says he’ll get a POV chapter showing he’s one of the most sympathetic and noble characters of the whole story may not have been all that far off, if this chapter is any indication of how things may have gone as he grew up.

  30. Hmm… We are used to taking Laird’s statements at far less than face value, and it does appear that he has either lied, been forsworn, or both to our knowledge (confirmation and/or denial pending). However, not everything he says is guaranteed to be a lie.

    Aimon knew something about Barbatorem’s powers. Laird was trained far better than Aimon, so I presume he knows even more. So it is a fair bet that Laird knows about the mirror abilities of Barbatorem. So what if Laird’s statements about how dangerous the Thorburn heirs are (at least partially) true because he does understand the details of the mirror bargain that created the Rose/Blake dichotomy? What if the creation of an alternate mirror image(s) causes some nasty universal problem? Then Laird’s declarations of just how bad the existence of the Thorburns is would be true. I personally have been discounting those statements because Laird is fuller of it than the local sewage treatment plant and because it sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but this chapter made me acknowledge the possibility that Laird is (at least partially) right. Perhaps Isadora’s complaints about Blake screwing with the balance are true – perhaps that is what carved-out mirror images do.

    Now, who is the original person? Blake or Rose? Right now, my money is still on Blake because there isn’t an obvious universal inconsistency with his existence. Rose even agreed that she was a creation.

  31. If memory serves, Rose Sr left a letter about the Barber for use as a desperate weapon against a powerful foe. We also know that if you send an Other against your enemies and they successfully repel it, the Other might come back to take out its frustration on you. Given all that, shouldn’t Rose have mentioned that Laird (a) knows enough diabolism to “protect himself and the rest of the Behaim family,” and (b) is presumably aware that the Thorburns have the Barber in their quiver? Without that warning, it sounds like a lot of the other heirs wouldn’t have hesitated to send the Barber after Laird back in chapter 1, which could have easily meant their own demise. And we don’t even know if death-by-own-demon-summoning would clear more bad karma than it would incur.

    1. Its also possible Rose left out a few key details in her “defense against the dark arts” class, similar to how she left out the ability of the Barber to carve out reflections, and that the Barber would be completely effective against Laird.

    2. Good point – a warning to that effect would make a lot of sense. Quite Possibly a Cat also makes a good counter point below.

      I do note that at least one other bargain the letter mentioned has a (now) obvious danger that RDT “forgot” to mention: the fact that giving enough blood to pass out leaves enough of a vacancy in the practitioner that they can be possessed.

      I suspect that any document involving dealing with the nastier types of Others that included all significant ways things could go wrong would look like one page of instructions and one hundred and fifty pages of warnings, footnotes, cross-references, exclusions, exceptions, more warnings, probable negative consequences, less likely negative consequences, and even stronger warnings.

      Basically, RDT did not put training wheels on her instructions. People who use them are either some combination of good and lucky or they are screwed.

  32. Possible continuity error, though maybe not:

    “The Watson, the Sam…” This may not be Samwise Gangee. If it is, LOTR wasn’t published until 1954, while World War II ended in 1945. If Aimon’s fighting Germans, that particular Sam doesn’t exist yet.

    1. One of the benefits of being a chronomancer is you never need to wait for authors to finish writing their books before you can read them. Yes, yes if you study Chronomancy you can read the last two books in the Song of Ice and Fire. Finish the Dresden Files today. Spoil movies for your friends!

      One more reason to hate the Behaims.

  33. Tsk tsk tsk Wildbow. For shame, sir. For shame.

    /Didn’t know any of the dates and historical stuff either.

      1. Funny, when I was trying to think of other possibilities, the first thing to come to mind was “Play it, Sam.”

        Anyway, as the (possible) Cat said, Chronomancy explains all.

  34. Rosalyn and Aimon got tho business while his hand was necrotized. Mildly disturbing, eh.
    Explaining it to his family must have benn hard, what with all the not lying and such. “How did you get those wounds, Aimon?” “I exercise my right not to self-incriminate” “…right”

    Anyone else had trouble picturing lil’ Laird? I couldn’t avoid imagining him like old Laird when his name was mentioned, and the image of him running in the rain with flailing arms will haunt me for the rest of the week. Or at least until the next update.
    So pesky Lardo is going with the “we have reserves” MO to fuel all his hax? Imagine what could happen if his reserves were suddenly denied him and the universe somehow caught up on his shit. Wouldn’t that be a sight for sore eyes.

  35. It is interesting, isn`t it, when we all learn to love the diabolist and hate the cop that is his enemy?
    Wildbow did it again.

  36. Interesting that Aimon seems to have been alive recently. He’s mentioned as speculating about Johannes (sp?), something that took place relatively recently (’09, judging from 1.06). I wonder if Aimon somehow made it so he and Rose died at the same time.

    Also, wonder what Rose had to pay for the reflection trick. The other 3 favors Barb offered had some nasty prices.

    I’ll also chime and and point out that it seems unlikely that anyone was in the trenches in 1939, especially from Canada and especially with the implication that they’d been there for some length of time(the wiki article on Canadian WW2 mobilization was a neat read but points out that “Apart from the Dieppe Raid in August 1942, the frustrated Canadian Army fought no significant engagement in the European theatre of operations until the invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943.” Goof or alternate history?

  37. I’m entertaining the idea that Blake is the reflection. When Blake dies Rose becomes heir and things change as if she had been making decisions all along so Rose’s life isn’t tied to Blakes like they originally thought. Rose is also the one that speaks with the authority of the Thorburn family instead of Blake. Finally, Blake has a great facility for glamour which might indicate that his self is more malleable than it seems.

    Now that we’ve been told that Blake’s death will free Rose into the real world and that the purpose of cutting away a reflection is for the protection of an heir then I have to ask; Who is being more protected, Blake or Rose? I definitely say Rose.

    1. Assuming that Charles is Blake’s father and he had Blake around 20, the dates just barely fit. Blake would almost have to be the oldest of his cousins if so, though. It’s possible that Charles married even younger than that, of course. But in general the timeline checks out.

        1. Indeed. Time for a headcount:

          Charles – no kids? Not even there in 1.01. Bad juju…

          Irene – 3 kids with Mr Walker:
          Callan, Molly and Chris.

          Paul – 4 kids with Stephanie:
          Kathryn, Ellie, Paige & Peter.

          Paul – 2 other kids with his new wife:
          (unnamed son) and Roxanne.

          Bradley – 2 kids:
          Blake and Ivy.

          Man, that’s missing a lot of names. Anyway, Blake mentions 9 cousins, check (he didn’t know about Ivy, and she’s his sister anyway). Now, by age (in 1.01):

          Kathryn, ~23 or more
          Callan, ~22.5?
          Ellie, ~22 or more
          Peter=Paige, ~21
          Blake, ~20 (almost 21 as of right now)
          Molly, ~19
          (Paul’s second son), ?
          Roxanne, ~12
          Chris, ?
          Ivy, ~18 months

          Complete guesses for Kathryn and Ellie, assuming at least a year separating them. This puts Kathryn’s and Callan’s births circa 1990-1991.
          Along to 1.07, Charles was 1 year old in 1953 (and Rose senior around 30). That leaves plenty of time for Irene, Paul and Bradley to be born, grow up, and start having kids at a very acceptable age without rushing anything.

          @ wildbow: would it be possible to have some word of god on this ?

    2. Hmm, interesting point. I am very confused by the “35 years later” section. Perhaps it’s a continuity typo, and actually means “15 years”?

      I assumed that Charles was an infant in 1953, which is the first time RDT summoned the Barber, according to… 1.7
      If this were 15 years after, that would make this 1954, and would account for the fact that Charles was clearly the child in Rose’s arms.

      Cause it seemed to be a scene at the funeral, with Aimon having flashbacks to the ritual.

      I can’t remember how old Blake is at the beginning of the story. 21? 22?
      Anyway, if we approximate his birth in 1992, his oldest uncle, Charles, would have been 18 (born in 1974) at Blake’s birth OR 39 (born in 1953) at Blake’s birth.

      I suppose it’s also possible that there is wibbly-wobbly time stuff going on. But that seems like a LOT of energy. o.O

      1. (If it WERE 15 years later instead of 35, Malcolm Behaim’s funeral would have been in 1954. And Charles would probably still need to be carried, if not swaddled.)

  38. Oh,f***, a rather nasty possibility:

    Aimon said he swore oaths to “To preserve the stores of power my family has amassed over generations.” Stored time? Karma? Something else? Some combination of the above?

    But since he did swear the oaths, he was obligated to put into places arrangements that preserved that power. Despite this, he did not make Laird swear the same oaths, which sounds like a violation of the oaths in spirit, even if it was technically not Aimon spending the stored power, but Laird.

    But there is a way he could do both. We know that debts, both karmic and otherwise, can be transferred between people. It most commonly happens along family lines, but the fact that it happens at all means the mechanism exists. What if RDT agreed that her line would take the debts that Aimon’s line accrued? Then all of Laird’s bullshit would be coming back on Blake. That would be the perfect screw job for Blake.

    Seems unlikely, but it would be such a negative twist that it just might fit a Wildbow story. Not only does Laird get to lie, but the debt transfers to the victim.

  39. Love this story, can’t wait for more! This world is so well thought out it would make a great scenario for a rpg, better then some similar that are out there.

  40. “I’m not entirely sure, but whatever we end up doing has to be better than this, doesn’t it?”
    Interesting.

    “…and a diabolist doesn’t get the luxury of friends, not unless they’re the kind of monster who can take it in stride when the bad stuff trickles down and starts to fall on those friends.”
    Don’t you talk about Tyler like that, no matter how much it’s probably true!

    “For ghouls that… well, they pretend to be soldiers that die like anyone might, but when you let your guard down and search the body, they bite you and get a hungry kind of death into the wound?”
    He raised his hand, showing off the cast.

    Insert joke about needing to shoot him in the head.

    “Could that be why your mother is keeping her distance?” Aimon asked. “Giving you that freedom? Or protecting you from the shadow that lingers over her?”
    Like great-grandmother, like great-grandson, I guess.

    So. Interesting, I guess.

  41. Ok,unless Blake is actually the reflection,I see no way RDT would actively screw him over (though leaving him to fend the wolves is perfectly in character)

    Why?

    “with all due respect,you are a rancid old cunt”

    He called her out…or,in other news,he called out the old generation

    He did what she wanted to do,and that,I think,is what she would look for a successor,not some crazy “mirror image technicality alike to her crap”…and we still do not know what she really did.

  42. My biggest takeaway from this chapter was actually when I went back and read stuff about the Barber.

    In 1.7, they note that RDT was able to make him “bound by the seal of Suleiman bin Daoud four months after the initial capture.”

    Does this mean he was not originally following the rules of that seal? This is the telling the truth one? The not hurting mortals one?

    If that is the case, WHAT SORT OF COST did she have to pay to get him to agree to THAT? o.O

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