Void 7.3

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In the movies and on TV, being aware of imminent harm is a good thing.  You can brace yourself, dodge, do little things to minimize the impact of it.

In the movies and on TV, being in shock bought you time to function before the pain kicked in.

Wrong and wrong.

I was lucky that I wasn’t able to process what she was doing before it happened.  I didn’t stand firm or go stiff, I bent.  I went, even, as the claws hooked into fabric and skin, hurling me off to one side.  I felt the scrape of claw-tip against bone.  Going limp, it meant I’d been pushed, rather than stay there to let the claw carry through more flesh.

I’d been stabbed, once upon a time.  I’d been hurt.

This was still something foreign.  Too much to process.  In the moment, I took it in as something wrong, like Pauz and the abstract demon were wrong.

Alarm.

Mindblowing pain, well beyond the point I could understand or frame it.

A stray thought, nonsensical, wondering for a moment if she sharpened her claws herself, more than realizing that the claws were hitting me.

And devastation, as I was torn away from Alexis, thrown against the nearest building like a rag doll, my ankle striking the corner of the window frame, my heel cracking against a window.

Because I was supposed to be helping Alexis, and she was hurt.  She wasn’t supposed to be in the line of fire like this.

I hit ground, and the only thing that stopped me from rolling forward onto my stomach was the position of my arm beneath me, stretched out in front.  In an impulse movement, some confused attempt to make sure I wasn’t dead, I moved the arm, and managed to leverage myself back, so I rolled onto my back instead.

The shock of landing and the pain in my leg seemed to wake up the rest of my body.

I only got the benefit of maybe two seconds of being in shock, if that.

Looking down, I couldn’t tell the difference between my gore-covered clothing and jacket and the gore itself.  Tattered flaps and layers.  Blood flowed out and ran along the side of my body down to my back, not nearly as warm as I’d expected it to be.

I raised my hands, convinced I should do something, apply pressure, staunch the flow of blood, but it was too much, too broad an area.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be infecting myself by getting dirty coat sleeves in the wound.

My arms flopped limp to my sides, because I didn’t have the focus or the strength to keep them raised.  I suspected something was wrong with my pectoral muscle.

Ty appeared in my field of vision, standing at a funny angle, bent over, arms outstretched, but his attention turned skyward, his posture overly shy.

Evan descended, his flying a little shaky, as if he’d almost forgotten how.  He settled on my forehead, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him to move.

His focus was on the same location as Ty’s.

They were focused on the sphinx.

“Can I help him?”  Ty asked.

“No,” the sphinx said.

“Please,” Tiff said.  “Let him help.”

“I would advise helping the young lady with the arrow through her midsection, or you could help Mr. Fell, if you wanted to put connections aside for the smarter option.  You’ll need two people to save one, and the one you ignore is likely to die.  I’d say Maggie there should help so you can have a chance at saving both, but I somehow doubt she will.”

“But Blake-”

“It’s easier to help them than Blake.  Don’t pull it out.  Put pressure around the entry and exit wounds, if you can.”

“I need to help Blake.  He needs it more than them,” Ty said.

“I made a declaration of war, challenging him to a fight.  My concern is with him and him alone.  If you step in, I’ll include you in the challenge and I’ll deal with you the same way.”

She moved, stepping forward in a strangely graceful, steady movement, and it took me a second to make sense of it, she was so large.  My perspective so warped by my position on the ground and my general disorientation.

Ty turned, keeping the Sphinx in front of him, keeping himself between the Sphinx and me.  I wasn’t quite sure what he planned to do if she did go after either of us.

“It hurts,” Evan whispered.

I tried to respond, but I only managed a small sound, inflicting a whole lot of pain on myself.

“It really hurts,” he said.  “But it’s all in my head, right?  It looks really really bad.”

Don’t need the details.

“Out of my way, please,” the sphinx said.

“What if I say no?” Maggie replied.

“I could say you’re suicidal and stupid.  Letting me by is better for the both of us.”

“That so?  I could say things about you being a hypocrite, a supposed paragon of order and balance, pulling a dirty move like this.”

“Are you such an expert on sphinxes, stranger?”

I’m bleeding to death, and you’re arguing.

“As far as I can tell, you aren’t much of a sphinx.”

“My only answer is this: look.”

I couldn’t see what she was referring to.

Fuck me.  Speaking wasn’t in the cards, but how was I even supposed to breathe like this?  I felt pain in places where the claws hadn’t even touched me, as if the force of the swipe had torn my skin in other places, not just where I’d been scratched.  Every little breath I managed prompted shuddering huffs of pain.  More going out than in.

I felt lightheaded, and I wasn’t sure how much of that was the breathing and how much was blood.

“What are you doing?” Ty asked.

It was more inquisitive than accusatory.

“Only following through on my promise, now move,” Isadora said.

I heard a small grunt.  I suspected that Maggie had been made to move.

Then, loud enough to make my vision go out of focus, louder than she should have been able to manage, even considering her size, she boomed, “Astrologer!  Reconsider.

I closed my eyes rather than try to recover from the sound.  I twisted around, craning my head up to try to make out what was going on.

If my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, the Astrologer’s creation was aiming skyward, almost straight up in the air.

Aiming over the sphinx?

Trying to hit me?  I could almost imagine the arrow disappearing into the atmosphere, only to plunge down and catch me in the heart.

Too much all at once.

“Ev-” I managed.

“What- what do I do?  What can I do?”

I shook my head.  That much I could do.  I tried to speak, and the pain was too bad, the air too short.  If I’d known what to say, maybe I could have forced it, but I didn’t have an answer for him.  I only screwed up my face in an expression of frustration.

I was so cold.  It had been bad enough before, but lying on the ground, being like this?  I was shivering uncontrollably, and with everything else that was wrong, I’d barely even noticed.

“I could try the Hyena again.  He could carry you, and we could get help.”

“Eh-” I started.  “Ev.  Sor- sorry.”

“No!  Don’t say that!”

“Pro-mised, try to, stop more- stop bad things,” I said.  “Did- didn’t last- not long enough.”

Maggie, the Sphinx and Ty were exchanging words, but I was too focused on putting sounds together and trying to make them into words.  Half of them stopped short before I got the whole word out, my breath catching in my throat as I huffed in pain.  I had to use shorter words.

“Doesn’t matter,” Evan said.

“Mat… ters,” I said.

“Doesn’t!  I… Can’t I say or do something?” Evan asked.  “I don’t know the right words.  You don’t have to do what you said.  You don’t have to stop the bad things to keep your promise to me.  You tried.”

I shook my head.

“I swear, I swear I free you,” Evan said.  “Okay?  So you don’t need to worry about that.  Worry about other stuff.”

Other stuff.

Evan had to hop to a new location, settling on my stomach as I tried to look, turning my head all the way to the right, then all the way to the left, straining my eyes to look as far to the sides as I could, reaching for some possible combination of angles that would let me see into the blind spot where Alexis lay.

Ty was crouched at her side, I was pretty sure.  Maggie was backed up to the wall, her dagger in hand, facing the sphinx.

“Blake,” Evan said.  “My promise… there are strings.  That’s how people do it, right?”

Still trying to catch my breath, feeling like I’d lost far too much ground for a mere handful of sentences, I was left only to shut my eyes and listen.

Please, Evan, you were one of the good ones.  Don’t learn from them.  Don’t learn from meDon’t learn from them.

Evan represented everything I wanted out of life.  Something uncomplicated with moments of fun, getting by, surviving.  Leaving the bad stuff behind to build something better.

If he started scheming, then I felt like I’d already lost.  I’d failed to leave a better impression, the world better off than it had been before I’d gotten involved.

I managed to sum up the breath.  “What?”

“Keep fighting.  Do something.  But you gotta try.”

I didn’t have words to sum up exactly what I felt, right there, looking at him, on the other side of the gory mess that was my chest.

Frustration at the fact that I couldn’t, anger at him for not understanding even when he could feel some measure of the pain I did, confusion over everything, and abject relief, because he was still Evan.  No scheming, no underhandedness.

Only the core shared trait that had drawn us together.  We’d press on.

“Help,” I said.  “Give… strength.”

“You need a push?”

“No.  Need-” I stopped, grunting, eyes screwed shut.  “-ten… acity.”

“I don’t know how to give you that.”

I didn’t have the words to respond.

I needed whatever had driven him to survive and escape for those days or weeks in the woods.

Scared, cold, hungry, alone.

My left shoulder wasn’t working a hundred percent.  I simply clenched the hand, so the chain of the locket bit deeper.  I used my right arm to try to stand, resting my weight on my forearm, then trying to shift it so I could use my hand instead.  Every movement redoubled the pain.  I was acutely aware that things weren’t in the right place, that the pain was out of sync with what was actually there.  Flesh had parted, and yet my brain could only map stuff to what it understood as the way I’d been put together.

I felt pain in my chest, but it traveled a funny route as it throbbed, and my eyes told me that my skin was hanging loose.

Four deep gouges, from the left of my chest to the right.  At least one claw had gone deep enough to have raked along the bone.  My skin was in strips, two of the three still attached at both sides.

When I propped myself up, the skin moved, the weight of my flesh pulling on the injury site in a different way.

I very nearly hurled as I felt it.  More wrongness.

Blood ran down my front, over my stomach toward my lap.  Lukewarm, but still warmer than my skin.

Evan settled on my shoulder.

The Hyena had slipped away, and lay against the snowbank.  Shifting forward to the point that I could crawl forward on three limbs made my tattered skin hang away from me.  I didn’t hurl, but I did feel like half the strength went out of me as blood started trailing down in thick streams.

I grabbed the Hyena with my good hand, already numbed fingers plunging into cold snow.  I gripped it by the handle.  The Hyena had studded it with spikes sharp enough to pierce through my gloves and stab into the flesh, and I let it.  I made my reaction to the pain -outside of the reflexive pulling away- to be to grab harder.

“H-” I started.  I had to stop, because I gagged.  The pain was intense, and the signals were scrambled.

“What?”  Evan asked,.

“Help,” I said.

I tried to use the snowbank to get to my feet, but snow crumbled under the hand, and my weight only pressed the snow down.  I was using the hand to hold the sword, and came within a foot of falling onto the blade.

Evan hopped back, grabbed my collar and pulled up, flapping.  It was about as effective as one could expect.

“No,” I said.  My vision swam.  I still couldn’t breathe well, and talking meant drawing on a precious resource.  “Help… swing.”

“Huh?”

“When it’s,” I winced, “Time.”

I moved further forward to reach a part of the snowbank where ice and general traffic had made it harder.  A more stable surface to lean on.

I very nearly blacked out.  I’d found my feet and had no memory of doing it.

My gaze fell on the others.  Ty was pressing down on the outside of Alexis’ wound, around the shaft of the giant arrow.

It was this spectral thing.  Would it fade away?  What happened then?  Removing an object from a wound just gave everything a chance to bleed.

If she bled like that… she’d wind up like me.  Due to bleed out in a matter of seconds.

“I don’t know how to give you strength,” Evan said, sounding as if he were confiding or confessing.

I think you already are.

If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t be standing, I was ninety percent sure.

I couldn’t move my left shoulder, but I could move my elbow.  I grabbed at my coat where it was intact, clutched it tight, bunching it up.  I was trying to draw cloth tighter against the wound, for all the good it did, and I was pretty sure I was failing.  Blood was running from the slice in my shoulder to my elbow and down to my wrist.  It dripped from the opening in my glove.

We’d been doing okay, Isadora had stopped us.

She’d stopped everything.  The giant archer constellation thing was still, no arrow nocked.  The wraiths and everything else stood where they were.

The sphinx’s arrival had frozen the fight.  Nobody wanted to be the one to move and upset her.

Even Maggie had moved a little closer to me, edging away.

“-know what’s going to happen, Rose?” Isadora was asking.

“I’m positive,” Rose said.

“That makes things harder.”

You’re making things harder,” Rose said.  “What’s the idea?  Doing Wrong for the sake of balancing out all the Right in the world?”

“No.  That’s not what I do, and it’s not how I operate.”

“How do you operate?”

“If the scales are tilted one way, sometimes drastic action is needed to restore things.  They may wobble in the aftermath, but equilibrium will be reached.”

“Then this looks like a whole fuckload of balance coming further down the road.”

“That’s an accurate assessment.”

Ty looked up at me as I passed, trudging forward.  The blade of the sword dragged through the snowbank, and I used it like a clumsy sort of cane, thrusting it back to stab it into deeper, more solid snow and ice, to have something to press against.  It slid free when I resumed moving forward.

It felt oddly squishy, but that was largely blood welling up to fill the fingertips of my gloves.  The spikes were just deep enough to make wielding the thing painful, but not so deep that it was impossible.  My arm throbbed up to the elbow, but I already had endorphins flooding my system, trying to counteract the pain elsewhere, my hand was cold.

Tiff’s head was bowed, and she was shaking, holding her hands to Alexis’ wound, but something Ty did or a sound he made seemed to clue her in.  She looked up and her eyes went wide as she saw me.

Ty started to stand, to stop me, but something about my expression gave him pause.

I couldn’t talk, so I willed them to stay instead.

It was a distance to the Sphinx.  Six paces.  She was facing the window, and her own wing blocked her view of me.

I wasn’t sure I’d make it that far.

“Spirits,” I muttered, my words barely coherent, I was speaking so quietly.  I made each breath a word, wheezed and whispered out past my lips.  “Gods.  Elementals.  Goblins.  Faerie.  Take morsels from me.  Take power.  But give strength.  Give me… what I need.  Give it first.”

If there was a difference, I wasn’t sure I could tell.

“Hyena,” I said.  “You… if you decide… break binding… attack sphinx… feel free…”

I focused on the sphinx.  Her back leg, closest to me.  The leg alone was almost as large as I was.

“Why wait?” Rose was saying.

“Because asking is akin to groveling.  It sets one on the wrong foot, to be the supplicant, the power is handed off to another.”

“Fell, Blake, and someone very close to Blake are bleeding to death,” Rose said.  “And you’re concerned about power?”

“You don’t deal with the lord of Toronto without being concerned about power.  If Blake dies, it isn’t a great loss.  Fell?  He serves the lord of the city, and as much as he’s a thorn in his master’s side now, he won’t remain there.”

“I thought you wanted Con-”

“Careful,” Isadora cut in, wasting no time.

Her claws had come out.

“I thought you wanted the lord of the city to stay in place.  Why let Fell die?”

“Because he won’t return to being a servant.  He’d continue fighting.  This way, his niece will be pressed to take over.  Unfortunate, given how very young she is, but it maintains the balance.”

“And Alexis?”

“Your friends should be able to save her if left alone.  I will strive to make sure that happens.”

“They’re not my friends.  They’re Blake’s.”

Fell’s niece?

Fell hadn’t said anything about that.

Fell and I were disposable?  We would be replaced, so the universe could do without us?

Fuck that.

Another blackout moment.  I was close enough.

The sword clinked as I pulled it out of the snowbank and it touched sidewalk.

I moved my head, nudging Evan from my shoulder.

He knew what he was doing.

I was swinging one-handed, but Evan flew past, to give it a bit more force, a bit of a push.

I wasn’t strong enough to lift it clear off the ground, so the point scraped against the sidewalk, carving an arc.

I aimed for her hamstrings, for lack of a better word.

She moved in that same moment, and I saw her legs move out of reach.

She turned around in a moment.  Her front paw, claws sheathed, lifted off the ground, blocking my swinging arm from moving any further.  The blade’s tip passed harmlessly under the raised claw.

“No, little warrior,” she said.  “Better monster slayers than you have tried.”

I gazed at her with eyes that might have been dull, unfocused.

The lion, the bird of prey, neither suggested slow reflexes.  Her mother had been made to be a warden, a guardian of a holy place.

Yeah, she was right.  If it was that easy, it would have been accomplished long ago.

Isadora’s paw pushed me back.  Already off balance from the swing, I was out of strength.  I landed hard, my head hitting snowbank.

Tiff shrieked.  Or at least, I was pretty sure it was Tiff.

I heard Ty say something.  I only caught the tail end.  “-he’d want you to stay and help Alexis.”

The only person who stood by me here was Evan, landing on my forehead.  Even the Hyena was gone, having fallen free of my grip.

I suspected black spots were passing across my field of vision, but it was hard to tell.  There was only dark sky above, and endless amounts of falling snow.  I wasn’t sure how to tell what was a black spot and what was simply black.

“I thought he’d passed out,” Isadora said.

“So did I,” Rose said.

I closed my eyes.  The white of the snow was too bright against the darkness.

“He’s not showing,” Rose said.

“I know,” Isadora commented.  “I’m not in a particular hurry.  Haste makes waste, after all.”

“He doesn’t think you have it in you.”

“Fuck you, Rose,” Ty said.  “Don’t encourage her to kill him.”

“I’m not,” Rose said.  “Isadora, the stakes aren’t high enough, and they won’t get high enough.  The lord of the city won’t show to ask you not to kill Blake because that shows that he’s weak.  Now you won’t back down because it makes you look weak, and I don’t think you want Conquest to move forward with this.  It’s a stalemate, and every second that passes, decent people are bleeding to death.”

“I’ll assume you aren’t counting Fell among these decent people,” Isadora said.  “You’re right, but neither Conquest nor I lose anything substantial if these people bleed to death.  If I hold you hostage, after the fact…”

Rose knows, I realized.  Isadora told her, or she’d already figured it out.  She knows that if I die, she gets to live.  She’s not worried because she knows, and the people who are dying aren’t her friends?

“Blake put up a fight,” Rose said.  “You’re going to let him die after that?”

“Are you implying it’s wrong?”

“No.  I’m saying it’s… ignoble,” Rose said.

My back was wet with sweat and blood, and the chill crept up through the moisture, seeping into the core of my body.

I felt like my strength was being drawn out by the ground, along with blood and warmth.  I couldn’t shake the lingering image of my body melding or melting into the surface of the sidewalk, becoming a part of it.

Into the streets of Toronto, no less.  I’d been fucking told that I was going to Hell, or some place equivalent to it.

“Ignoble,” Isadora said.

“I think so,” Rose replied.

I heard Isadora sigh, and it was another sound that was big.

Then I heard her speak.  “Conquest, I request your presence, and swear no harm to you or yours so long as no harm is meant for me in turn.”

I could feel him arrive.

It was like a weight on my chest, being deep enough underwater to feel the water pressing in on me, knowing full well how far away the surface was.

“I take it this isn’t a gift?” Conquest asked.

“No,” Isadora said.

Rose spoke up, “As gifts go, it would be a weak one.  Finishing him off, when the victory is undeserved, it would look bad, wouldn’t it?”

“Be careful, Rose Thorburn,” Conquest intoned.  “You aren’t as safe as you think you are.  Curb the undeserved arrogance.”

“She’s right,” Isadora said.  “This isn’t your victory.”

“It would be if you were acting out of fear or loyalty to me.  The power I exert by sheer presence is still power.”

“It’s neither.  My only motivation was the balance.  This isn’t your victory.”

“No need to say it a third time,” Conquest said.  “You’re helping them.”

“I am.”

“How unusually shortsighted, Isadora.”

“I’m helping you as well, Conquest.”

“Playing both sides,” Maggie said, from the periphery.

“But she’s not playing them against the other,” Rose said.  “As I see it, if I can speak for Blake, there’s no grudge to be had.”

I didn’t see or hear the response to that.  There was only silence and the darkness beneath my eyelids.

Rose was cornering Conquest.  If she absolved Isadora of guilt, Conquest could only look petty if he sought retribution.

“Your role here is done, Isadora,” Conquest said.  “You’ll answer for any further interference.”

“I understand.”

“That was not the answer I wanted to hear, daughter of Phix.  The appropriate response would have been a promise to refrain from anything further.”

“I can’t, and you know I can’t.”

That you will answer for.”

“Yes, I probably will.”

He’d wanted retribution, and he’d forced answers out of her until he had one he could punish her for.

I supposed Rose’s manipulations weren’t that effective.

I felt Conquest approach.  My eyes remained closed.

“I could end him now,” Conquest mused, “And the situation would be handled.”

“Two-” Rose started to speak.

Silence,” Conquest intoned.

I was aware that the other foes were drawing nearer.  The wraiths, the Eye… only the astrologer’s construct remained in place.

“I’m not under your sway,” Rose said.  “You can’t use the chain to stop me, I-”

“You can do as humans have done since they grubbed in dirt and wore furs,” Conquest said.  His words had a danger to them, an implicit threat.  “Recognize that I have the power to destroy something you value, and be silent.”

Nobody spoke in the silence that followed.

“Blake Thorburn,” Conquest said.  “I grow tired of this.  One of your champions has been claimed by Death, someone precious to you is on the way there, and the younger Rose Thorburn has informed me that you have nothing good waiting for you on the other side.”

I didn’t move.

He continued, “Do you wish to keep fighting, or shall I save them and save you?  Those close to you can resume their ordinary lives.  I can allow you to visit them when you’ve served me well.  Your familiar, even, can carry on.  Servitude under me might be unpleasant, but it stands far and above what waits for you and your family on the other side.”

If my body wasn’t already nearly frozen, I might have felt my blood run cold at that.

Alexis.  My family.  Rose.  Even Evan.

“If you can’t bend the knee and form the words, look up at me from that sidewalk, meet my eyes, and blink once.  I will take it as communication of surrender.”

If he killed me, he was only finishing the job.

If I surrendered, he could take more credit for that, it was power to him.

It was the easiest way out.

I raised my eyes to look at him.  He wore a monstrous guise, his skin stretched into a macabre expression, his white beard short beneath bared teeth, a false halo mounted to his shoulderblades, his skin folded and stretched to form an elaborate coat or robe with a high collar, inlaid with piercings that doubled as embroidery.

His eyes were white from corner to corner, but there was a sheen to them that made his gaze look more dangerous than blind.

His rictus grin stretched just a fraction wider.

I didn’t blink.

“Three…” I said.  “Three days.”

“Three days?”

“And I hope… to be well enough… to fight you,” I said.  “Three days recovery… you can say killing me was your doing.”

I didn’t get any further.  Darkness crawled in around the edges of my vision.

The bridge stood unfinished.  A massive construction, aimed at nowhere.  Rebar and girders stuck out of concrete, spearing out toward water and sky.

Evan flew by, rising, turning, then plunging.

Falling as far as he could before he had to pull up and turn away from the ground.

The sun shone through intermittent dark clouds, casting the world in patches of bright light and deep shadow.  The rain that came down was a light drizzle, warm on my skin.  The handlebar of my bike was warm to the touch, heated by the sun.

My arms were bare, my tattoos free of scarring, but the branches and birds had doubled in number.

The landscape behind the bridge was cliff and hill, thick with trees and roads, reminiscent of a puzzle with some of the wrong pieces in spots, where the clouds created swathes of shadow.  The cliffs were high enough and the clouds low enough that the tops of the cliffs disappeared into the haze.

Evan rose again.  “It’s like a rollercoaster!  Watch!”

I watched.  I could even reach out and experience what he experienced, the rush.

I didn’t flinch as he careened within an inch of the water’s surface, barely a speck, he was so far below me.  If he had hit, I might have suffered the same pain, and I might have fallen from the bridge.

But he didn’t, I hadn’t, and I smiled a bit at his excitement as he took an inefficient, winding route back up.

When I drew in a breath, the air was oxygenated in a way you never had in the city.  All these trees, the fresh air, the lack of pollution… the simple act of breathing invigorated.  I felt at ease in a way I’d sought for a long, long time.

Just a touch lonely, but I’d reconciled myself to the fact that I might never have human company and really feel comfortable at the same time.  Even before I’d been homeless, that possibility had been taken from me by the endless bickering and hostility that was home and family.  I cherished Alexis and my friends, but as much as they nourished and validated me, even they took as much as they gave.

It was one of the reasons I could never really imagine myself with someone.

This was… it was about the best I could hope for.  True peace.

That peace was shattered by the sound of footsteps.

Mrs. Lewis came to stand on the edge of the unfinished bridge, a few feet to my left, hands clasped behind her.

“I get the feeling,” she murmured, “That my arrival isn’t entirely unexpected.”

“Not entirely,” I said.

“I don’t know whether to admire your stubbornness or condemn it.”

“Why not both?” I asked.

“By invoking our names, you could have cleanly resolved the situation and handled Conquest.  Laird Behaim would be weaker for it, your friends could be saved… you’re shaking your head.”

I was.

“Are you that afraid of the slippery slope?”

“It sounds like a generous offer you guys made,” I said.  “I call you, and all I have to do is the one errand?  Well, that sounds like it might be worth holding on to.”

“Does it?  Or do you intend to die without invoking us again?”

“I thought I might save it for a really bad situation.”

“As opposed to being on the brink of death, surrounded by enemies, people you cherish dying?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “The way things are going, I’m going to be up against worse.  Might need to hold on to that.”

“If we do get the impression you don’t intend to call on us, you might lose our goodwill.”

“What happens then?”

“You and Rose are both aware that when you cease to exist, she takes your place.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“We could, how do I put it, hasten the process?”

I nodded.  I looked up as the shadows seemed to grow deeper.  The clouds were moving in.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Do.”

Evan flew by, circling around us, then took off.

“Where are we?”

“Right now, you are lying in the same bed you’ve occupied for the last two days and twenty-three hours.  They’re taking measures to get you in fighting shape.”

“Fuck,” I said.  “I can imagine what some of those measures are.”

“Yes.”

“You know what I meant, though.”

“As for me, I’m occupying a space in your psyche you’ve retreated to.  Even the most war-weary soldier needs something to retreat to.”

I looked around.

“Hope?” I asked.

“Yes,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Or close enough.  I hope you realize that this three day detour of yours has lost you much of the advantage you gained.  He’s been reveling in his victory, after a fashion, recouping power.”

“Fuck,” I said.

“Your allies are weakened.  His aren’t.  This is largely on your shoulders.”

Fuck,” I muttered.

“This is the last chance.  Strike fast, strike hard, and call on help if you need it, Blake Thorburn.”

I clenched by teeth, trying not to let her see.

“Now, I recommend that you wake up.”

I did.

The first thing I saw, as it turned out, was Rose, standing beside a man who had to be J. Corvidae.

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199 thoughts on “Void 7.3

  1. Thanks for reading.

    Looking to wrap this up soonish and move on to the next leg of the story.

    Thanks, also for the votes on Topwebfiction lately. Pact’s readership saw a recent 40% boost, and I’m a little curious where it came from, but it may be just the power of word of mouth, reviews and votes, so thanks.

    Also, just to clue people in and recap what I’ve said elsewhere (that could be easily missed), my brother’s having a wedding in a month and a half, I’ll be busy, and I’ll be occupied for maybe two weeks. It’s my plan to have a side-story during that time, and Thursday updates may be a bit sporadic. I’d rather make it up to you later and get the chapters to you guys after the fact, than force it and write frazzled, write miserable, and write tired, and produce garbage.

    1. Take a break for real life on Thursdays as you need it. Its a nice treat, but by no means do you owe it to us over everything else.

      Also, minor typo before the typo thread starts:

      “We could, how do I put it, hasten then process?”

      then -> the

      1. I feel like I do owe you guys. I’m fond of my fans and I don’t want people to feel like their donations are disappearing into a deep dark well without so much as an echo by way of response. I’m majorly grateful, and if fans are donating for writing, then the natural conclusion is that giving them more of what they liked is a good thing, right?

        I’ll do my best to balance it out so I don’t crash and burn, of course.

        Typo fixed. Thank you, Adradis.

        1. On one level, you do owe us (Donations = extra chapters, as per your own rules). But you don’t owe us your life. Keep up your usual quality, do the extras when you can, and the vast majority of us will be happy.

          I really enjoy reading your stuff, and would rather wait longer for quality. You knock out an amazing amount of stuff every single week, and its actually a bit of an inspiration; Been playing around with a few story ideas of my own in my head, in large part thanks to your writing.

          So, thanks.

          1. It’s nice to see that more people are being inspired by Wildbow’s work. There’s probably a small crowd out there who discovered ambitions to finally publish their own fiction, thanks to Wildbow, and most of them just haven’t spoken up.

            Now we need more people to discover web fiction.

        2. If you feel like you owe us ‘more of what we liked,’ please, deliver long-term, not short-term. We get to collect more interest that way. If and when I’m in a financial position to donate, I won’t be doing it to try to get one more update out of you per week – I’ll be doing it to try to get you to update one week more than you otherwise could have.

          You’re doing brilliantly. Keep up the good work.

        3. Don’t crash and burn. If you crash and burn we won’t get anything and nobody wants that. 🙂

        4. I don’t think you owe us anything, Wildbow. You give us a great story and you update often, which is, really, more than good enough.

          As far as donation chapters are concerned, there is still quite a bit of the story to go. They don’t have to come out now.

        5. Wildbow, I want you to keep writing for a very long time. It’s a bit of a selfish thing since it’s cause I want to keep reading it, but it’s also something that you love. I’ve seen a lot of webcomic authors burn out if they hold themselves to a super tight schedule since it become a chore for them. I don’t want your passion to become a chore, as you’re one of my favorite authors, and I would hate to see your talent discarded (I wouldn’t say wasted since you’ve already turned out so much material!) and now I realize I’m rambling since it’s 2am.
          Tl;dr: take whatever breaks you need, keep your sanity!

        6. As much as I absolutely love reading Pact, and check it every tuesday, thursday and saturday like clockwork, I think I can safely speak for most of us when I say no one would mind if you took a break every once in a while. The amount of content you output is simply astonishing already.

        7. Okay. I read Worm, I’m reading Pact, and I just need to ask: Non-stop weekly updates for, what, two and a half years? More?

          I’m just going to say: Holy crud, that’s a heck of a lot of work. If this is like office employment, where I live you’d be entitled to two weeks of paid leave. I’m pretty sure. Writing that much, weaving plots that intricate, that’s got to be a full-time job.

          Personally, I won’t mind missing a week or two. You’ve earned it, dude. Enjoy the wedding.

          (And you’ve planted ambitions of internet stardom in my head. Well, darn.)

  2. Isadora pisses me off. She really does. She’s as bad as Conquest is, only she doesn’t enslave and he doesn’t hide behind karma to justify her actions. I can’t see that a Toronto with her in charge would be any better than a Toronto with Conquest in charge.

    1. Reminds me of Laird- insufferable because of trying to claim the effing moral high ground while being a total villainous jerk.
      However, I have to say that I think she’d be rather less awful than freaking Conquest as Lord of Toronto because, while she’ll maul the odd person and do things here and there that are awful because of her freaky karma-based ethical system (by the way, where the heck did the karma-spirits get their moral compass?), that doesn’t hold a candle to the unending procession of pain and suffering and horror and despair that Conquest necessarily goes out of his way to produce as a matter of daily business.

      1. Funny thing about that. Conquest doesn’t have the power to pull off the “unending procession of pain and suffering” and etc. All he can do is pull off cheap tricks. Like, say, getting an underling to put demons in a glass case for him. In his personal domain. Where they are insulated from humans for as long as he can muster.

        Hrm, isn’t this exactly what Blake wants? Demons insulated from innocents, the world able to become a better place with their imprisonment?

        Why the fying fluck didn’t Conquest JUST TELL HIM that all he wanted was a trophy case?

        1. According to Pauz’s words and Blake’s thoughts, this is certainly not a positive development.

          “I will not have what I want, like this. Forever bound, a decoration? A well of power to be tapped.” (6.04) emphasis mine

          “This was the worst of both worlds. Conquest had power, but it was tainted power. He was entirely in control, stronger, in a very hard way to manage.” (6.04)

        1. Which is exactly what’s happening. Here’s the deal, they both act in accordance to their inhuman nature. Calling them on it doesn’t do anything either way.

          You want them to listen, you need power. Power is the one thing every thing understands. Power to make them follow human norms. The seal of Solomon is an example, the product of Solomon being such a badass that the universe and all Others recognize it.

          1. Also as long as they act in an internally consistant manner with their pre-established morality, they can’t just act in any way they want.

        2. I think it’s cute that you think human norms are the ones that everyone should follow.

          No they couldn’t just do anything because they’re still beholden to laws and principles – just ones that seem alien to human beings (aka “what Negadarkwing said”).

        1. One of your champions has been claimed by Death, someone precious to you is on the way there, and the younger Rose Thorburn has informed me that you have nothing good waiting for you on the other side.”

          The one that actually died/was claimed by death (at that point) was one of Blake’s champions.

          Yes, It seems that Alexis was the one on her way to death, but the one who actually died was a champion.

          1. I think it was Fell. Fell was also dying, and Fell is one of the champions. The Hyena is still there, Rose is still there, Pauz would have not died off-screen, Maggie is still there, which leaves only Fell.

            Actually… No. Laird could have killed Pauz and Wildbow could be keeping it as a big reveal. Yay! Fell x Blake is still alive.

            1. 90% sure it’s Fell. Isadora said that probably only either Alexis or fell could survive, and everyone helped Alexis, noone cared about Fell.

              Am I the only one who really liked Fell? I felt like he would/could have been a very, very useful ally (and in time, friend?)

          2. Ooooh but what if the champion had been dead the whole time?!?!

            I mean, I’m only half kidding. It’s an odd wording.

            1. That was a thought that had occurred to me first–resurrecting that whole “That’s no Maggie!” idea from a few chapters ago.

              But that doesn’t seem entirely likely…

          3. Maggie and Rose are accounted for. Isadora talked about letting Fell die, so I’d say his death is the most likely. Also, he’s been the most useful up to now. I’m going to assume the Hyena has to be alive to maintain any kind of physical presence at all, what with being an Other. Laird is unlikely to try to kill Pauz, since that would leave him open to Pauz’s radiation. I think the most he would try to do is trap him.

            This leaves Fell as the dead one, unless Laird resorted to some very drastic measures.

      1. Fell seems possible, but at the same time he also has a few story arcs to carry on. Although they could transfer over to his reletives.

        For it to be Rose, wouldn’t she already have to be dead?

  3. Typo Thread

    “Going limp,”
    Unfinished sentence.

    “You don’t have to do what you sad.”
    sad -> said

    “Elementals. Goblins. Faerie.”
    Maybe Faeries?

    “the chill creeped up”
    Crept?

    ““We could, how do I put it, hasten then process?””
    then -> the

    “war-wary soldier”
    wary or weary?

    1. Mindblowing
      usually Mind-blowing

      “Astrologer! Reconsider.”
      closing quote is in opening quote style

      shoulderblades
      usually shoulder blades

    2. “Mrs. Lewis came to stand on the edge of the unfinished bridge, a few feet to my left, hands clasped behind her.”

      Elsewhere in the text, Lewis’s honorific is “Ms.”

    3. “My perspective so warped by my position on the ground and my general disorientation.” -> This sentence no verb.

  4. “I grow tired of this. One of your champions has been claimed by Death, someone precious to you is on the way there, and the younger Rose Thorburn has informed me that you have nothing good waiting for you on the other side.”

    Liard killed Pauz & Joel was on his way to Blake’s apartment? Guess soap, water & a garbage bag can be used to kill demons after all.

  5. Oh god, is this the end of Fell+Blake? could the greatest love story of all meet such a terrible end?

    ha ha, fuck no. I bet the Hyena is dead. Or at least Pauz is done for. Fell wouldn’t just die in the street like that, right?

    Good job, Blake. You didn’t die.

    All in all, karma is the greatest bitch that ever was.

    1. I don’t know if Fell is safe as you think. To avoid spoilers for worm I’m going to put my evidence in Rot13 you can cypher it at rot13.com:
      Tehr. Lrnu jvyqobj vf n ovg gbb sbaq bs gur byq ohf penfu gebcr.

      1. Sryy vf abg rira ernyyl n znva punenpgre yvxr Tehr jnf. Ur vf irel zhpu n fhccbegvat ebyr. Jvyqobj xvyyrq bss n ybg bs fhccbegvat punenpgref va Jbez nf V erpnyy, naq bayl n pbhcyr bs qrnguf ernyyl unq sbphfrq fprarf. Cerggl zhpu jurarire na Raqoevatre fubjrq hc lbh unq n ohapu bs bss-fperra qrnguf. Rira fbzr ovt fgbel qrnguf yvxr Nyrknaqevn jrer xvaq bs… yrsg bss fperra. V guvax univat Sryy dhvrgyl qvr urer juvyr rirelbar ryfr vf bpphcvrq svgf jvgu uvf jevgvat fglyr.

        1. I’m not disagreeing, but as a counter:

          Lrnu ohg jub ernyyl vf n “znva punenpgre” va cnpg? Gur bayl gehyl znva punenpgref fb sne unir orra Oynxr naq Ebfr (naq cbffvoyl Ynveq). Rirelbar ryfr, jr’ir rvgure bayl frra n pbhcyr gvzrf, be unir orra vaibyirq va gur Pbadhrfg Fntn. V jbhyq engr Sryy n znva punenpgre nobir nalobql ryfr va gur Oynxrthneq. Ynveq naq Znttvr engr pybfre gb znva punenpgref ohg gung’f nobhg vg.

          1. This code thing is actually getting confusing. My comment contain 0 worm spoilers but addresses your comment which aludes to one. I’m not sure if that previous comment should have been in plain text or code.

        2. Tehr jnf abg na vzcbegnag punenpgre ng nyy va gur frpbaq frpgvba bs Jbez. Ubjrire, Tehr’f qrngu uvg (zr) uneq orpnhfr vg jnf harkcrpgrq (jr jrer gbyq ur jnf fnsr) naq obgu Gnlybe naq hf unq nobhg gjragl nepf gb tebj sbaq bs uvz, nf bccbfrq gb zbfg bgure punenpgref. V guvax gung Sryy qlvat evtug abj jbhyq svg cresrpgyl jryy jvgu Jvyqobj’f jevgvat, ohg V’z ubcvat jr trg zber bs uvz orsber gung.

            1. Funny, that’s just what I was thinking about rot13 about when I reached this comment. Yes, it does sound like we should be summoning something Lovecraft wrote.

              Hey, could Cthulu show up? He’d be less of a dick than most others.

            2. Cthulhu is only less of a dick because you know when he does it, it has nothing to do with you. Cthulhu wouldn’t even give you a passing thought, anymore than you wouldn’t give an ant you stepped on a passing thought. But he’d probably fuck the entire world over way more than Conquest or any of the major characters we’ve seen so far. Except for Blake, maybe. Ironically, Blake has the greatest potential ability to bring ruin to the world.

            3. A practitioner who prays to eldritch outer gods in return for abhorrent powers from beyond the universal skein is ripe for the Pact treatment.

          1. After the cliffhanger last chapter, I expected an Interlude today. Good (or not) to see how it continues.

            I think Fell is the champion who has bitten it. Conquest said one champion was dying and one was dead, but if Fell would be still alive and Pauz the dead one, he would have two dying champions. I know, Conquest just couldn’t have mentioned Fell, but he would name all the casualities to drive his point home.
            But with wildbow I expect the unexpected. And the problem is, he knows we expect that.

  6. Umm. . . I’m not sure how to react to this chapter. It could be because I’m tired, put parts of this chapter were kinda hard for me to follow.

    So Blake’s not dead (yet)!

    And this is why Blake is better off with a nice human girl like Maggie or Penny. Those Other girls tend to bring out their claws.

    I like that Blake acknowledges Evan’s awesomeness and innocence.

    “I swear, I swear I free you,” Evan said. “Okay? So you don’t need to worry about that. Worry about other stuff.”

    I feel like this is significant. I’m just not sure how.

    Did Fell just die? No!!! On the Other hand, if Blake somehow survives, he should take in Fell’s niece as an apprentice.

    I wanna see Tiff take this as the opportunity to level up. Perhaps seeing Alexis and Blake almost die (and Fell actually die) will cause her to go on a rampage or become the Blakeguard tank or something.

    If my calculations are correct, the Blakeguard has been around for about 4-7 days. I wonder what new skills and tricks they possibly picked up during the time Blake was out. Will Maggie still be around? Speaking of Maggie, isn’t Blake under obligation to share some knowledge with her?

    Looking forward to Saturday, in Which Blake finally dies.

      1. No, I think she’s one of the Other girls at this point. Too much baggage. Let’s not forget the whole “I personally would just eat the faerie’s heart” thing. Also, she and her firm are evidently strong enough to easily handle the Conquest situation so. . .

      1. As a team, yes. She could be the Batgirl to Blake’s Batman and Evan’s Robin.

        As a marriage prospect, no. Iirc, she’s too young. It would be like trying to marry Jo. Unless Blake does a wife husbandry sort of thing with her, I don’t think that could happen.

  7. “Fell’s niece?

    Fell hadn’t said anything about that.”

    This is the second time that Blake or Fell has forgotten something that they learned about the other. I take this as a sign of True Love.

    I hope Fell isn’t dead. Failing that, I hope he repurposed the soul trap he made for Blake to work on himself, trapping himself in the world so that he can be another one of Blakes snarky ghost companions.

    Additionally, I’m wondering why Maggie was unwilling to help Ty and Tiff save Alexis and Fell-maybe she was just busy what with being shoved aside by a sphinx and also needed medical help.

    I’m pretty sure that Rose negotiating cold-bloodedly in an attempt to save everyone’s lives, and also mess with Isadora, is how she demonstrates that she cares, Blake. She’s probably not okay with being an accessory to murder.

    1. Did Fell tell Blake that his niece would be forced into service? I am sure he mentioned her, but not sure whether he mentioned that she would take his place as a servant of Conquest.

        1. My initial assumption would be that it would just be a parent to child thing, and that it wouldn’t bounce around the family tree like that. So I can see why there might be some confusion.

  8. I’m growing more and more distrusting of Rose with each chapter and if I were Blake I can only imagine that I’d be feeling the same thing tenfold. Poor guy. Rose is pretty much blatantly uncaring if not actively working towards his death, Maggie is apparently screwing thing up somehow, and when they finally seemingly take care of Laird, Isadora goes all Laird 2.0 on him.

    You ever get the feeling that literally everyone in the world is evil and out to get you?

    1. I see Rose as more having pulled a Taylor, managing to remain calm under pressure of a bunch of innocent people being about to die while still working towards the best interests of others in as rational a way as she can manage. It’s just that from the outside she looks like she doesn’t care about anyone’s life and is coldly calculating. In fact, I’ve been seeing a lot of parallels between Rose and Taylor in general.

      1. The thing with Rose is we don’t really know her. No I mean it. For me to truly know a Wildbow character, you have to have their interlude/histories. So at this point, I cannot say I truly know what kind of person Rose is, if she cares about Blake, or if she cares about anyone but herself.

        As for Taylor- Gurer jrer cbvagf jurer rira fur ernyvmrq gur guvatf fur qvq znqr guvatf jbefr, naq gung gur fnpevsvprf, gurl jnlf fur uheg ure sevraqf, jrer zrnavatyrff naq abg jbegu vg.

    2. To be fair, Blake only survived because Rose convinced Isadora to call Conquest, thus giving Blake the opportunity that he has now.

    3. Hey Isadora was fair with him. She told him she was going to try to kill him and then she made it clear she would give him just enough time to deal with Laird. Blake just somehow forgot that the universe is literally out to get him.

    4. “I will help you. I will do what I can to protect you from whatever’s going on with you, good or bad. I swear.” (Rose, Breach 3.1)

      That oath was made in the context of Rose displacing Blake, so it’s directly applicable to this situation. Rose is sworn not to work against Blake, either actively or passively. This is about as clear-cut as it gets, notwithstanding the fringe theory that Rose isn’t bound to tell the truth due to her using a different Awakening ritual (which seems pretty thin, as she can still summon and interact with Others).

    5. The problem is that a lot of these assholes are incapable of understanding that balanced does not mean right. Lets say you have a scale. The scale is in water, deep enough that a man standing on one plate will be in deep enough to drown when it is balanced. So obviously the scale needs to be unbalanced in order to do the right thing and save this man. To beings like Isadora, it only feels right if the scale is balanced. To them what is right is anything that balances the scale. The problem is, balanced is not always the right thing.

      Honestly, the universe is pretty fucked up. I could half imagine Demons starting out well intentioned extremists who realized how screwed up certain things in the universe they created was, trying to destroy it to start over, and falling down the slippery slope.

      1. Saving the man is good, not right. Balancing the scale is right, and if takes drowning a man to do it, welp, talk to the clawed paw in your face.

        1. Oops, right. The problem is that the way things stand the current balance, what is right is horrible. It’s a system that punishes those who would try to make things better (Blake) and is abused by bastards (Laird, Conquest). It’s based on morality that is thousands of years out of date, and enforced by spirits that are morons.

    1. Looking at the wording… I don’t think so. One of his champions had died, and one of his friends was near death. He didn’t name any of his friends champions.

  9. Remember back when all Blake had to deal with were small town conspiracies and Carrie swordswomen. Good times.

  10. So. One of his champions has been claimed by Death with a capital D. Is it too much to hope that Laid killed Pauz or summoned an incarnation of Death to take Pauz away?

    Who are “they” and what measures could Blake imagine they are taking to get him in fighting shape?

    I am STILL trying to figure out how blake/rose got amnesia and what the “secret to the Behaim’s power” is.

    Lastly- Evan tried to pull up on the back of Blake’s collar. I f*cking love Evan. That is completely adorable. (Can someone draw a picture of that? pleeeeeease?)

  11. J. Corvidae is now in play. How can he be used in Blake’s favor?

    Is Laird still a prisoner? Could Laird’s inplement become Blake’s? Could Laird become Blake’s subordinate.

    Could Pauz and J. Corvidae team up and provide evil enchanter powers to the Blakeguard?

    I’m just wondering what the plan could be.

    1. The actual usage of J. Corvidae on anyone even an enemy leaves a bad taste in my mouth, the Spirit of NTR rings several of my Squick Alarms.

      Given that the Universe is against theft and what J. Corvidae does can be interpreted as a form of theft, combined with the fact that the Universe IS out to get Blake, the price of actual usage of J. Corvidae on anyone would mean that for whatever he steals to pass on to someone else, Blake would lose something of equivalent value in exchange.

      1. That’s not how I understood things. I may be wrong, but I don’t think using J. Corvidae would automatically make Blake lose something as you state.

        My reasoning is as follows:

        1) the universe wants balance. Items belong to their owners, friends belong with friends etc.

        2)Ownership and the like are determined by the universe by connections. The owner of a vase has a strong connection to it. Fire forged friends share a strong connection. Etc

        3) J. Corvidae permanently shifts those connections. Your wife and kids are mine now. Your family heirloom belongs to that homeless guy, etc.

        4) it has been stated that the universe would shift things around to match those connections Iirc.

        These points lead me to believe that what J. Corvidae does is closer to the opposite of stealing. Instead of taking something away from someone, Crow simply makes it so that the something is meant to have someone else as the owner. If anything, the initial target would be the one the universe targets as a thief (assuming Crow’s attack is successful )

        1. I see Corvidae as a agent of strife. If I recall correctly, he transfers things, so that the person who has it won’t have done anything wrong to get it. Not anything you can truly blame them for. But you’ll still resent them for it. Basicly he turns the thing he moves into the apple of discord. If he just stole it, person A would still have a legitimate claim to it. But he doesn’t do that, he makes it so Person B has the legitamate claim, person A wants it back, and person B wants to keep it. So they turn against each other.

        2. If all those are true (and they do seem to be), I wonder how Isadora would take it? I’m thinking maybe she’d be offended on a self-conscious level but wouldn’t be able to take any Balance-Avatar actions.

        3. I agree that the universe doesn’t see that as stealing. If the universe sees you tie a rope around a guy’s neck, and put him on a chair and leave him there for a yeah, and considers that suicide, then it will look at coringdale’s actions as “oh. sure. that works”
          The way I see it, however, is that he is a bit more… subtle? Maybe that’s not the right word, but more practical. As in- it’s not like laird or his impliment can suddenly become Blake’s. More like, he allows something from enemies to change their ownership in plausible ways.

          taking you two exampes of “your wife and kids are mine now” and the heirloom belonging to the homeless guy. I see it more like- your wife gets fed up with your lifestyle and has had enough of sphinxes trying to maul you, so she leaves you and takes the kids, then we meet at a bar and we had great chemistry. So it’s not like I took her or stole her, but… she kinda became mine in a strange twist of fate/series of events.
          Or to the heirloom- it’s less like you lost it and a hobo found it and claimed ownership- and more like, you find out the heirloom was stolen by your father, and in the will, he actually left it to your sister instead of you, who works a a homeless shelter, and said sister actually is friends with the homeless guy who had his heirloom stolen, so once she sees what the will ways, she says it is rightfully the hobo’s heirloom and not yours. So even though it may still be in your possessition, it’s not yours anymore, and you basically have to give it to him or YOU are the one stealing.

          Universe isn’t smart enough to follow convoluted things. Shame- bullets seem pretty damn usefull…

    2. How could Corvidae be used in Blake’s favor? That’s easy: by reassigning all of Conquest’s victories to Blake, thus completely depriving him of fuel. If Corvidae can’t transfer intangible things like that, then claiming Conquest’s trophies and subjects should be enough. Depriving him of evidence of his victories would prevent him from drawing further power from them. And in a fashion, they’d be conquering Conquest, and since he’s only a lesser Incarnation thereof, his system might not be able to take the shock of contradiction. In this manner, Conquest can be outright killed, thus fulfilling a victory condition. Blake is unlikely to extract a surrender from Conquest at any rate, since surrendering is against Conquest’s nature, and he is less able to contradict his own nature without adequate power reserves. For best results, claiming possession of Conquest’s conquests should be done right to his face, with the claims being stated as publicly as possible.

      Alternatively, Corvidae might allow Blake to claim all of Conquest’s champions as his own. Or at the very least, he could transfer ownership/control of the Eye to Blake. Blake could either use that to directly attack Conquest, or hike back to ErasUrr and bind himself a full-fledged demon. A lesser one maybe, but bigger than anything else he has so far.

      If Blake does manage to successfully bind ErasUrr through whatever means, its power would be incredibly useful here. Where Corvidae might not be able to transfer ‘ownership’ of Conquest’s victories to Blake, we know ErasUrr can outright retcon all memory of Conquest’s victories by eating his trophies. Conquest cannot continue to function if his victories are unknown; this contradicts his nature, and will very likely finish him off. If they’re looking for a quick and decisive end to this fight, that would probably be the best option. I suspect the conditions for Maggie’s blood and darkness have been fulfilled by now, so she should have no objections.


      I don’t think using clever Others in tandem would be a very good idea. Tallowman and Mary are easy enough to handle, since their desires and modus operandi are very straightforward. Using Pauz and Corvidae together would be much more complicated, and if either of them share any goals (say, removing that pesky summoner), they could seriously fuck the Blake crew over. Tallowman, Mary, and Corvidae together might be the most Rose and/or Blake can safely manage. Wouldn’t it be funny if summoning all three was Rose’s goal all along? Well, she was probably hoping to include Midge on that team, but she turned out to be more than just dumb muscle.

      1. Oh, also: If Blake binds ErasUrr, that would invoke a nice double rule of three: Rose with Tallowman, Mary, and Corvidae, and Blake with the Hyena, Pauz, and ErasUrr/eatsherowntruename. The only way that could be better was if Ty or another Blakeguard acquired their own minions for a threefold triumvirate.

        Although, Blake would have a much harder time controlling his minions than Rose would; the Hyena is either obstinate enough to disregard Blake’s orders/deals or else is waiting for him to fulfill the terms of his previous deal before taking up another, Pauz is demonstrating knowledge of his option to decline a contract/deal but hasn’t so far (and is probably only going along with it until they have Conquest pinned), and from what we know of ErasUrr she is intelligent enough to actively circumvent Solomon’s rules, which makes her incredibly dangerous.

        1. Forgive me for talking to myself so much, but as an addendum to my first comment (binding ErasUrr), I don’t think Blake would use Hyena+Pauz+Urr- for very long, since they’re the sorts of creatures that grow stronger by feeding on other creatures. That’s kind of the opposite of what Blake stands for.

          I’m done now.

          1. Most Others aren’t idiots. Only the strongest or smartest remain unbound and those who are unwilling will look for a way out. Pauz has the excuse of being a mote made recently and he still fooled Blake into trapping himself and getting Rose out of the way.

      2. The last paragraph of the chapter. Corvidae “standing” next to Rose. which would imply that she is THERE, manifested, tangible. Which could be explained… ok, going into massive speculation mode:
        Rose summoned Corvidae before Fell bit it. Made him transfer the connection Rose has with Blake (you know, the power transfer which keeps Rose in existence and makes her real when Blake is snuffed) to Fell. Fell dies, Rose manifests, Rose+Blake overfloods the comment section.

          1. Or that they are in Conquest’s domain again and Rose has been given a construct to inhabit once more.

            Though negadarkwing’s point is also plausible.

  12. Worm spoilers obfuscated with Rot13.com

    Fbzrguvat V abgvprq rneyvre. Gur cebgntbavfg cynlrq gb gur rivy cflpubcngu’f angher fb ur jbhyq ghea gurve pbasyvpg vagb n tnzr va n qrfcrengr nggrzcg gb yriry gur cynlvat svryq…

  13. Wow, it wasn’t a trick. So the Astrologer actually tried to kill people and is OP, and Isadora did just walk up to Blake in the middle of him running from someone else and eviscerate him… crap.

    If Fell is the champion claimed by death, then he must have died in the (seemingly) short time between Rose and Isadora talking about him (and implying he’s alive) and Conquest arriving. It could be Hyena, but we didn’t get any indication of Hyena getting hit by anything, except possibly in the same moment Isadora pushed him backwards. I still think it’s possible, since I think Isadora is enough of a badass to one hit something like Hyena without making much noise. I think it’s Pauz, though; Pauz is kind of a weak imp anyway, and if Laird escaped he’d have good reasons to kill him (it weakens Blake, it strengthens Conquest’s position, Pauz threatened him, Pauz is an evil little bastard, etc..) Those reasons make it plausible that someone killed Pauz even if Laird was rescued rather than escaping on his own.

    1. Isadora made it pretty clear that the Blakeguard could only afford to save one. It’s possible that Fell was shot through the artery, bleeding intensely (unlike Blake, who would not lose that much blood from a chest wound). If no one was there to help, he probably passed out and then died really fast. When she says something about not counting Fell about “decent people bleeding to death”, it could be because he’s already dead, not because he’s not decent.
      But really, that kind of “which one will you save, the one you care about or the more useful one?” should be done by the Joker, not the Sphinx. 😉

      Now I don’t really understand how Isadora’s plan matches what she said earlier. She said she wanted Blake to die cleanly to remedy to the imbalance, but she’s wounding him badly (but not fataly, at least probably not until he dies of exposure to the cold) so that Conquest can show up and beg her to stop messing with his toys? How does that help her more than just killing Blake, since she does not want to lest Conquest have him anyway?

      1. I think perhaps she never intended to kill Blake. Her words were a little ambiguous earlier; I reread the chapter and the closest I could find to what you said was

        “As I’ve said, your death at my hands would make for the cleanest ending. The transition would be naturally smooth.”

        and

        “When? By the time I had a sense of you, I knew you were a diabolist, and nobody is going to associate with diabolists that easily. It’s easier and safer to remove you, given the precedent history has set. Even now, after you’ve proven your mettle.”

    2. So the Astrologer actually tried to kill people and is OP,

      I’m thinking more and more that the magic system in Pact is wonderfully balanced. So far, pretty much every type of magic used by someone who isn’t a novice/dabbler has been accused of being OP. If everything is OP, isn’t nothing really?

      I think this just goes to show that every Practice is a viable option and is useful once skilled. Even things we were introduced to as weak, like using ghosts, have come into play by a specialist as a major threat.

      If Blake lives to become an experienced, or even a not-novice, Practitioner, then I think seeing experts use magic will no longer be responded to with cries of OP.

      1. He’s doing well for someone only three weeks into it. Give him a year and we’ll call him the OP one.

        The fact is Blake and Rose came into their circumstances with access to resources that puts them above someone just starting out should have. I doubt Maggie was this proficient a month in.

    3. I don’t think the Astrologer’s magic (astrology?) is OP. What we’re seeing here is a case of a practitioner who invested an awful lot into her powerbase and the efficient application of her power, much like Laird and Rose Sr. Her vs. Blake is more like a level 15 summoner vs. a level 3 summoner. If it were Granny Rosalyn instead of Blake in that picture, I have no doubt the fight would’ve been more even. If nothing else, Rosalyn could’ve just sent off Barbatorem for an insta-kill, or dispatched something to snuff out the Astrologer’s oh so precious lights. You can’t have a constellation without those, after all. In fact, I wonder what would happen if someone were to change the pattern of the constellation…?

      In Pact, powerbase appears to be everything. It determines your relative strength and how much of it you can exert, and naturally acquiring as much as possible, be it through inheritance or deals with others/Others, is the primary goal of virtually every practitioner.

  14. Oh boy.
    “Fuck that.”
    Flashbacks to Fate/Stay Night, end of Heavens Feel. Pity that this body’s not made of swords.

      1. No, the line I’m talking out, “Fuck that”, is when Shirou looks Angra in one of it’s eyes and he’s pretty much running on fumes and sheer, iron will, as Blake is here.

        1. I think I prefer when Kotomine was about to crush his Skull and he stands up, brain shutting down and unable to even remember Sakura’s name, to get in seven blows before the climax.

  15. Oh come on…How is Blake not dead. He got literally MAULED. He should have bled out in seconds, and if not that, certainly standing and moving in that condition would stimulate the bloodflow enough to bleed him dry right there…

    Also I don’t understand the following bits, largely because I’m very bad at reading in between the lines..:

    1) Who is J. Corvidae? Based on the other responses to the chapter, I feel like I should recognise him. Where did we read about him?

    2) “Right now, you are lying in the same bed you’ve occupied for the last two days and twenty-three hours. They’re taking measures to get you in fighting shape.” – “Fuck,” I said. “I can imagine what some of those measures are.”

    • Am I supposed to know what measures those are as well? Because I don’t, and it sounds important..

    3) Was the Astrologer really aiming at Blake? It seems weird how the archer was pointing at the sky. If he really wanted to shoot him, wouldn’t it be more practical to simply move to the side of Isadora and shoot past her in a direct line?

    4) Isadora said: “I’d say Maggie there should help so you can have a chance at saving both, but I somehow doubt she will.”

    • Why does she doubt that? Maggie is on their team right?
    1. In order:
      1.) He’s a Other that messes with connections who Blake was against her summoning at first, Also known as James Crow.
      2.) No one knows, but given what we know of Briar Girl, we’re guessing it was changing him more and more.
      3.) What’s stopping Isadora from moving in step or batting the arrow aside?
      4.) Maggie has her own set of agendas and if her oath with the goblin woman left her as tainted as we suspect she has reason to doubt. If Blake dies she can barter with Rose for the Hyena since Evan won’t be around.

    2. Blake is not dead because his Familiar provides him with supernatural tenacity. A familiar is a source of power, one of the big three, which makes Evan one of Blake’s most useful assets.

      J. Corvidae is James Corvidae, one of the monsters that Blake and Rose discussed summoning but decided against because he was too scary.

      It’s not fully clear to me what the measures are either. My guess is either it’s a reference to summoning something scary like James Corvidae, or else a reference to blood sacrifice like Blake did to wake Rose up out of her coma.

      The Astrologer is basically still an enigma. Who knows what he was shooting at or what the larger overall plan is. The Astrologer was supposed to be on Blake’s side, but we haven’t seen much evidence of that.

      Maggie is a fighter by nature. She’s on their team, but she was more interested in fighting Isadora to protect Blake than helping save Fell.

    3. 1) Corvidae is the bird guy monster thing Rose considered that changes connections, so that for example an object you own ends up in your friend’s hands which makes you resent him etc…

      2) Maybe infuse him with spirits/possess him? I’m not sure.

      3) Quite possible that Isadora is too big and close to Blake. Maybe the aim was also to pierce the heart straight from above. In fact, I can even imagine that the bowman can’t move from his place (did he move in the last chapter?) because the Astrologer needs the right constellation of lights etc. and maybe that means her creations only appear at very certain points in the city.

      4) Maggie doesn’t really lose that much when Blake loses and wants her round of blood and fire and darkness.

      1. The bowman was probably aiming at Blake’s stars. I wouldn’t be surprised if a product of astrology could directly attack a practitioner’s written fate in such a manner.

    4. For 2) I’m guessing Barbatorem (if Rose can somehow bring him from the Thorburn house) since he actually has the ability to heal (or to teach others how to, or something).

        1. If Blake’s first sight had been of the Barber, all of his subsequent sights would have been very painful.

          1. Also, if it was the Barber, Rose presumably wouldn’t have freed him – she would’ve kept him bound and used the bargain with him to obtain supreme surgical skill (via a proxy).

  16. Wildbow Protagonist, a recipe.

    Ingredients;

    1 Plucky Loner
    1 Emotionally Scarring Backstory
    4-5 Hard Knocks
    3 heaping spoons of Greivous Injuries
    Tears (to taste)

    Tenderise the Plucky Loner while sprinkling with Emotionally Scarring Backstory, deposit in a blender on coarse, adding Hard Knocks as you go. Place in a frying pan and cook on a high heat while beating, don’t worry if some falls into the fire. Garnish with a crushing Greivous Injury and Tear jus.

  17. So Blake’s afterlife is going to be so horrible that what Conquest would do to him would be preferable? I thought things were going to well for him at the start of this chapter. So even when judged at the afterlife, even though they’ve already sentanced the ones that actually did it, the powers that be can’t tell members of a family apart? Yeah the powers that be suck.

    So time to suck it up and call the lawyers. Not sure if Rose can be considered Trustworthy or not. She and Blake really need some time to actually honestly talk to one another.

    And Jeremy still hasn’t made his move.

  18. Time to paraphrase a certain unfunny clown again. (Okay, I laughed at the pencil trick)
    “You say it’s all part of the balance, and no body panics. Even if the Balance is aweful! Like if a Little Boy gets killed by a monster, or a bunch of people are erased from existance! But try to do one little actually good thing, like get rid of a total asshole lord of a city, and everybody panics because your upsetting the balance!”

    And the Balance is horrible. It needs to be changed.

    1. Yeah, some fantasy writers put balance down as beautiful, noble, or pure in some way but that always struck me as wrong – so the good guys can never really win, never really make lasting changes? Screw that. No real progress ever happens. And where’s the character motivation in such universes? Why do characters bother to strive against terrible forces when the balance will force things back the way they were anyway?

      And when the big evil decides to break the balance to win, the idiot heroes decide to restore it. Which means the next big evil can try to break the balance again. No, the answer is: break the balance the other way – let the good win. Of course, everything being sweetness and light forever doesn’t make for good stories.

      And the ironic thing about this opinion is that we live in a net-negative universe: entropy always wins. So why fight it? 😉

      1. Generally it’s a matter of free will. You can’t maintain sweetness and light forever without seriously constraining individual freedoms. And is that really good then?

        I’m not sure how you could ever stop evil permanently when every individual contains the capacity for both good and evil.

        If it is possible, I can’t see it working without also eliminating personal freedom and, indirectly, innovation.

  19. I wonder what measures Blake’s allies have taken to get him back into fighting shape. He was mauled rather badly, not to mention the fact that he was already not in great shape to start with. Given his prior state and that he offered some morsels in exchange for some short term power, I’m thinking that there’s quite a few gaps that could be filled in to give Blake a boost. The question then becomes “by what?”

  20. I’m…confused and somewhat disappointed by Conquest as the current primary antagonist. He’s letting his prey go again, as he did when he accepted Blake’s initial suggestion of the contest. I understand this may be part of his very nature, part of the deal of being an incarnation. So maybe he can’t behave differently. But… I dislike how this makes him so (comparatively) easy to manipulate by Blake (and Rose, Isadora, …).
    Conquest is making another “Classic Bond villain mistake” here (as mentioned in 7.01 by Ty), and violating numerous items on the list of classic Evil Overlord mistakes.

    A Worm analogy (rot13): Pbvy jnf Gnlybe’f cevznel nagntbavfg sbe zbfg bs gur frevrf, naq ur jnf riraghnyyl qrsrngrq orpnhfr uvf nggragvba jnf qviregrq ryfrjurer – Pbvy jnf gbb yngr gb erpbtavmr Gnlybe nf n guerng.
    Conversely, in Pact, Blake has had a target painted on his back from the very beginning. By everyone, basically. I just don’t understand how he can possibly still be alive.

    The bottom line: From Conquest’s current behavior, and the fact that he missed yet another perfect chance to end Blake, I can imagine Blake winning against all ods… but I worry that it won’t be because Blake did anything amazing (and so ‘deserved to win’), but because of Conquest’s glaring mistakes (so that he ‘deserved to lose’).

    Another comparison, from chapter 3.05, Andy’s line: “It’s not a kid’s television show, [where] the antagonist makes the Machiavellian plan and then abandons that plan completely the first time it fails. People fail, they revise, they adjust parameters, they you [sic] achieve victory through persistence and hard work.”
    Most of the antagonists in Wormverse and Pactverse show a rare formidability that is sorely lacking in most fiction: they are aware of their vulnerabilities, they plan ahead, they behave (almost) as intelligently as the protagonists.
    Right now, Conquest, to me, doesn’t meet that standard. He has tons of power (or at least tons of powerful footsoldiers), to be sure, but if he had the smarts to back up the power at his disposal, he would have already won (i.e. achieved his goals) multiple times.

    1. Well, that’s true, but I don’t think Conquest is necessarily the main antagonist. It’s certainly possible for there to be different sort of antagonists. Idiots who continually waste amazingly good advantages actually do exist, and you’d be surprised (in the read world) how far they can sometimes get, on sheer power alone.

      So he’s really strong, but because of that, he seems not to have learned some basic skills and virtues. Sure, it’ll come back to bite him eventually…but personally I’m pretty sure Blake is going to die really soon. Next few updates, soon. But that is an interesting set of points.

      1. Oh, I completely agree that such antagonists can exist in fiction. I’m just complaining that he is/appears to be an insufficiently awesome major antagonist for what I’ve come to expect from wildbow’s fiction.
        Let’s say we measure the awesomeness of protagonists by the difficulty of the challenges they overcome, relative to their current resources and abilities. How do you feel about Blake vs. Conquest? As I said, I’m confused.

    2. Conquest is specifically picked out as a loser idiot blowhard that doesn’t deserve to be Lord of a city and gets the job only because the real powers in town, like Isadora, want a figurehead. Not everybody is a pragmatic schemer.

      There were antagonists in the Wormverse that displayed little cunning and only threatened due to their raw power, too.

    3. Remember that killing Blake is expressly not Conquest’s goal. It wouldn’t be fair to accuse Conquest of acting irrationally by not killing Blake when killing Blake isn’t what he’s trying to accomplish. He’s trying to dominate Blake, and letting a few days pass to revel in a minor victory while he sets up for a major one is perfectly reasonable, given the parameters he’s established.

      He has never had any real reason to believe Blake was any actual kind of threat to him. This isn’t a case of “hero starts becoming bigger and bigger threat while antagonist toys with him.” Blake has never managed to come out of an encounter with Conquest without Conquest expressly allowing him to do so, and Blake actually is weaker than when he started, and Conquest has no reason to respect the allies Blake has made either.

      If Conquest does suffer a crushing defeat at some point, it will be a complete surprise to everyone in the city (except presumably the ones who are planning it). There’s no evidence whatsoever that Blake is capable of any sort of coup.

  21. I’m a bit taken aback by the Lawyer’s threat there at the end. You would think that if they were allowed to extort people’s souls out of them, they would just do that instead of bothering trying to tempt them down the path of darkness.

    I mean maybe she’s just bullshitting, she was very circumspect and maybe she can’t actually meaningfully harm him and so it doesn’t count as coercion. But in general I don’t understand why demons would bother with temptation if they were allowed to use threats.

    1. IMO: It is becoming clear that the deal that RDT made with the lawyers (and Barbatorem) has several strings and conditions that were not revealed to the main characters. It gave the main characters some advantages, but it also gave the lawyers far greater hold over the Thorburns than they would have over a normal practitioner. So, based on my understanding, the lawyers can jerk Blake and Rose around more because prior deals and circumstances allow them to.

    2. They don’t gain anything from killing blake, and their objective isn’t to send his soul to hell, or something like that. They only stand to gain from either him taking the deal to enter the firm, or requesting for their help and getting in debt with them.

      1. Right, but rather than tempt him, why not just tell him “join or we kill you”? “Go into debt or we kill you”? That seems to be what they’re saying now, so why the rigamarole earlier?

        1. Blake would prefer to die over joining them. If he won’t join them anyway, it can be better for them to kill him and try with the next heir.

          Also, they might not be able to directly kill him.

  22. Corvidae takes too long to be useful in this battle. It will work on Laird or Maggie or other people in Jacob’s Bell to be useful because the seeds need time to grow.

    Can Rose use it to take Blake’s friends and make them her friends since she has none of her own?

  23. ON THE NEXT CHAPTER OF PACT:

    blake will be quadraplegic, all the people he ever met will be dead, he will be fighting against literally GOD, and he will have to win in one hour.

    1. And then it gets worse.

      I was on TVTropes Darkness Induced Apathy page yesterday, and I was amazed that Pact isn’t on it yet. Series not half as bad are up on it. Honestly if someone says Pact gets too dark and depressing, while I don’t really feel that way about it, I can see where they are coming from. The Universe is out to get Blake, most good people are powerless, or doomed, Karma rewards bastards, and punishes those that want to help people and make the world a better place, and no matter what Blake tries, he is fucked, many forces seem hell bent on turning him into that evil demon summoning madman they think he already is, and now it seems even if he resists jumping off the slippery slope and stays good he’s still going to hell! Are we sure Pact isn’t a really black comedy?

      1. We’re not apathetic for one very simple, very powerful reason.
        We think Blake can achieve something. Even if he falls – even if he goes to hell – he has already done Good. Not just Right – the spirits that judge that seem foolish, but we can see that he has done Good. The Hyena is bound. Everyone who interacts with Blake long enough for him to fight past karma debt starts to hold a little more hope that he can do better than what he started with.

        And beyond that, we saw what Taylor did. Achieve ‘something’? Hah!
        No, we have good reason to think Blake can WIN. He was chosen to be a Wildbow protagonist for a reason: He has the drive, he has the desire to do Good.

        1. Well as I said, I haven’t really fallen into Darkness induced apathy, but I can understand how it can happen for some people.

          One problem is that Blake has a tendency for his wins, those times he makes things better, they are immediatly are followed by things getting worse. Bind the Hyena? Get arrested for Evan’s murder. Beat Duncan, and get Evan as a familiar? Too weak to deal with Erasurr. Escape from Erasurr? Conquest has Rose and is prepared for Blake. Manage to get Conquest into a contest? Innocent people get caught up in it and die, and his side is horribly outmatched in terms of raw power. It’s not that his victories are always phyricc. It’s like he’s rolling a boulder up a hill. And any time he makes even a little progress, the hill gets taller and steeper, and the boulder gets heavier.

          Now for some Worm talk, and Rot13
          Gur bayl gvzr V sryg nal qnexarff vaqhprq ncngul va Jbez jnf qhevat gur Pehfurq nep. Bqqyl rabhtu rira va gur raq nepf jura gurl jrer svtugvat jung fnirq gurz qhevat pehfurq, V arire sryg qrfcnve.

          1. Actually perhaps the biggest reason I’m not apathetic about Pact. I like Blake. He’s genuinly a good person who wants to be good, do good, and make the world a little bit better. Not a lot, just a little. He still believes in the goodness of people despite all the shit that has happened to him. He’s a damaged individual but he still wants to help people. If he ever snaps and decides, fuck it all, blood and fire for everyone, feces up to the neck, and everyone standing on their heads, then It’ll be apathy time.

    2. Alright, a fight against God. I can think of two things off the top of my head to help Blake out.

      1. Iron chariots. According to Judges 1:19, “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”
      2. Nietzsche. Word on the street is he was hired to off the big guy.

      Alternatively, Blake could use a stick and some nails. It worked on Jesus.

      1. Eh, you’d want the binding to last more than three days. Besides, if you don’t go with the relatively modern interpretation of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as one triune being, Jesus is only the Son of God.

        But yeah. Iron chariots.

        1. “Be polite. Be efficient. Have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

          Well, one out three ain’t bad. I guess that’s why one is a job and the other’s mental sickness.

  24. Since no one else has mentioned it:

    “My arms were bare, my tattoos free of scarring, but the branches and birds had doubled in number.”

    We think (and Blake thinks) that Blake’s tattoos are an indicator of his karmic status. So the increase indicates he has increased his balance (OK, technically, reduced his debt). No wonder the lawyers are a little upset – the debtor they are hoping to come to them for relief is instead buying his way out.

    Still, at some point the lawyers are going to realize that Blake is determined to oppose them. So the final boss battle may be Blake vs. the old law firm.

    1. The law firm is just a tool, the real final boss would be it’s creator, the Power that made the Deal with the Original 3.in the 1st place.

      1. Point. So Blake leads the charge into Hell itself? That is several Godzilla thresholds above his current problems, but hey, we know Wildbow can keep upping the stakes and nastiness.

      1. Or that his Karma/life keeps getting more complicated. At least he didn’t see any zombie birds, or bleeding branches, or anything like that.

  25. Wildbow can you recommend something else for me to read while I wait for chapters? I need something to occupy my time with. (I already read Worm, took me 2 1/2 weeks of reading 4-10 hours a day(depending on work), to finish it. Was amazing.)

    Also, really liking this so far.

    1. I’m not wildbow, but here are some recommendations:
      – HPMoR (hpmor.com) – Harry Potter rationalist fanfic – will get finished this year
      – Cenotaph (Worm fanfic) is supposedly very good, too, though I haven’t read it yet. It’s already finished. Found here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1152749/chapters/2337442

      That said, there are tons of good stories out there, but I haven’t found any that have topped the amazing escalations which constantly occur in wildbow’s fiction. (And I’ve found that reading wildbow has soured some other books on me; I couldn’t stomach Mistborn – and Brian Sanderson’s fiction in general – after reading Worm, for example.)

      1. “will get finished this year” ..really? Eliezer said that? I kinda gave up on it. every update is like “Maybe, if I happen to get some time off there might be a half a chapter in, ehh six months, maybe.”

        1. As someone who’s been readin HPMOR for years, don’t give up. Eliezer is no wildbow, but he’s no grrm either. I fully believe it will be finished this year.

    2. Sleeping with the Girls by Admiral Tigerclaw. Can be found on fanfiction.net

      Before I read Worm it was the best piece fiction I’d ever laid eyes on. It’s a deconstruction of the Self Insert Fanfiction. Very well written, intense action scenes, enjoyable characters, requires almost no knowledge of the shows involved. It hasn’t been updated in some time but checking out what is current your would be worth your time.

      1. Thanks. mondsemmel and you just killed my productivity for a while. 😉 Although I had already read the HPMOR stuff. So, back at you, a couple of stories using similar concepts to the some of the Yudowsky work (note that MLP is only the context, a good read even if you don’t like MLP):
        http://www.fimfiction.net/story/62074/friendship-is-optimal
        http://www.fimfiction.net/story/69770/friendship-is-optimal-caelum-est-conterrens
        Read in that order – the second expands on the ideas of the first.

    3. I know that this is late, but I recommend the Saga of Soul (Where magical girls meet science!). The update rate isn’t nearly as swift as Wildbow’s, but it’s a pretty great story nevertheless, complex and deep, and the protagonist actually demonstrates intelligence instead of it just being stated.

      http://www.sagaofsoul.com/story.html

  26. Well. This is interesting. I can’t wait to see how Blake’s coming back, and what it cost him (or his allies) to do so.

  27. Kill Count 2014: The Cat in the Half

    Eyes Poked: 0
    Shepherds Sheared: 0.5
    Lairds Locked Down: 1
    Behaims Beat Down: 2.5
    Astrologers Debunked: 0
    Elder Sisters With Gum In Their Hair: 0
    Regular Sisters Picked On: 3

    Isadoras Isoutathere!: 1 (but not isadead)

    Conquests’ Keisters Kicked: 0


    Roses Pruned: 0
    Bloody Marys Drunk: 0
    Tallowmen Banished Til The Sequel: 0
    Corvidaes Eating Crow: 0
    Fells Felched: 0.5
    Hyenas Hunted Down: -1
    Pauzs Oozed: 0
    Maggies Halted: 0.5
    Douchegargles Spit Taked: 0
    Screwlooses Screwed Up: 0
    Midges Mashed: 1
    Dickswizziles Killizled: 1

    Alexises Accosted: 0.5
    Tiffs Stiffed: 0.5

    Blakes Bitchslapped: 0.5

    Schrodinger’s Champion Reduced To One Conclusion: 1

    So, I see the attorney’s touching Blake’s happy place. Blake Thorburn now joins the exalted ranks of Happy Gilmore and Jack Cucchiao in having a happy place. This update’s song will be provided when Adobe Flash Player decides it would like to work again.

  28. I think you can make a good case that Isadora is really trying to help Blake here.

    • She comes in when Blake’s been cornered by the opposing army, and people on Blake’s side are being mowed down by the astrologer.
    • She actively stops the astrologer from finishing Blake off.
    • She attacks Blake but doesn’t kill him, thereby putting the contest on hold.
    • By attacking Blake the way she has, she’s helping him pay off his karmic debt. She admits to such:

    “If the scales are tilted one way, sometimes drastic action is needed to restore things. They may wobble in the aftermath, but equilibrium will be reached.”

    “Then this looks like a whole fuckload of balance coming further down the road.”

    “That’s an accurate assessment.”

    • She asks Rose a number of questions, but doesn’t use that as a chance to maul her, nor does she deliberate on her answers.
    1. The first few points could be just her waiting for the optimal moment, but Isadora ignoring the usual penalties for rushed answers does point to Isadora having another agenda. So, agreed and good points.

      1. S this is some sort of secret test of character? For Blake or Rose? Or both? Oh and I can see Blake asking why she didn’t save Fell if he died, or help Alexis, and have Isadora point out she’s a Karmic blancer, not a healer.

    2. “She asks Rose a number of questions, but doesn’t use that as a chance to maul her”

      Not that I disagree, but do we have any indication that a Sphinx can maul someone in a mirror?

      1. Blame Padraic. Since he did his little demonstration, many people seem to feel that all Others can do the same. ErasUr didn’t help, for all that it is an abstract demon, something which are explicitly stated to be able to get into any reflection, even nonmagical ones.

  29. I came across this poem.. and immediately thought of Evan and Blake (and maybe even the Behaims) =)

    Time cannot break the bird’s wing from the bird.
    Bird and wing together
    Go down, one feather.

    No thing that ever flew,
    Not the lark, not you,
    Can die as others do.

    • Edna St. Vincent Millay

  30. If Fell was dead,Wilbow would just say so,erzrzore gur snxr obqlont?

    Then again,she might just have to kill him to subvert expectations.

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