Void 7.11

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

Dinner simmered on the stove, the pot lid didn’t match the pot a hundred percent, and the rattling was a constant background noise.

Everyone was gathered in my living room, waiting for me to speak.

I had an impulse to drive them out.  It was dumb, running contrary to things I’d decided, said, and done before.

I was tired, and a part of me was used to being alone, even as I paradoxically craved companionship.  I still felt raw where the memories had brought memories back to the surface.  The discrepancies and false notes in the memories Conquest had subjected me to made it worse, if anything, as my mind itched to resolve and compare notes, even as my heart didn’t want to go anywhere near that stuff.

“So,” I said, “Alexis, Ty, maybe even Tiff, this might a moment that your entire life has been leading up to.”

“All moments are moments our entire life has been leading up to,” Ty said.

“I know,” I said.  I had to suppress a sigh.  “But I wanted to be dramatic and clever, and there aren’t many ways to do that without lying.”

“Keep going, Blake,” Alexis urged me.

“You’ve gone to a lot of galleries, you’ve done your own art.  You’ve offered the critiques for good ideas and bad ones, and you’ve trained yourself to interpret.”

“You need the power of bullshit interpretations?” Ty asked.

“Yeah, that’s basically it,” I said.  I picked up the Hyena by the pommel, then stabbed it into the coffee table, one finger resting on it to keep it from falling over and gouging the surface further.  “You’ve each read the basics regarding implements.  Symbolic meanings and interpretations go a long way.  Here, I have the Hyena’s corpse.  I’m considering it for an implement.  Anything you could say, positive or negative, would be a help.”

“It’s metal,” Alexis said.

Ty groaned.  “No puns.”

“No pun intended.  You could put this on an album cover for some rock band or other, and it wouldn’t look out of place at all.  If I had to say… I don’t think it suits you from an aesthetic perspective.”

I nodded.  “Thanks, that’s the kind of thing I need to hear.  That’s not as minor as it sounds.”

“Maggie knows about goblins, doesn’t she?” Tiff asked.

“I do.  Goblin sects have traditions,” Maggie said.  “Taking the form of a weapon started off, if I remember right, when goblin warlords dueled the toughest bastards on the battlefield, and offered a choice between servitude or death.  But even bound goblins wanted a chance at shedding some blood and furthering their reputation, especially when the binding was short-term.  Becoming a weapon became a way to achieve that, while the conquering goblin got a symbol of victory, something he could hold in the air to convince the defeated goblin’s followers to follow him.”

I’d already read something on the subject when I’d been considering the sword as an implement.  I waited while my friends quizzed her.

“Why the spikes on the handle?”

“That’s kind of a fudge-you,” Maggie said.  “Except with more colorful language.  A grudging sort of surrender, where using your power and reputation costs the victor something.  Failing to acknowledge the grudging surrender means bleeding yourself, the goblin drinks the blood, and can, given a few decades, drink up enough to buck the bondage and get free.”

I nodded.

“Is that a risk now?”  Tiff asked.

“No,” Maggie said.  “The goblin is dead.  The artifact remains, and it’s, I guess, pretty mundane now.  Want to file off the spikes?  Might lose authenticity, but you could.”

“Maybe,” I said.

She shrugged.

Alexis leaned forward, looking closer at the sword.  “What does it mean, then, if you’re carrying something that has a metaphorical ‘fuck you’ as part of the design?”

“Could mean something bad,” I said.  “Could mean I don’t give a damn what others think, I’m moving forward all the same.”

“Could mean both,” Alexis said.

I nodded.

“What do you want it to mean?” Alexis asked.

“That’s a loaded question,” I said, “One I was hoping to answer later, so I didn’t color your impressions.”

“Trust us and say it anyway.”

“I look at it, and I think of one time when I acted to better the world and I did.  Undeniably, even.  I think of victory, and I think I could maybe achieve more victories.  But it’s not just about me,” I said.

“Other people will have their own impressions,” Alexis said.

“Implements are supposed to be badges,” I said.  “When I talked to the lawyers, I was told that the various choices we make here represent broader questions.  The familiar question is about who we want to associate with, our sphere.  In the books, the case studies and examples tell us about practitioners who decided to live among Others, eschewing human contact and relationships.  There were people who fucked up, and cut themselves off from everything, outside of the master-familiar bond.  Laird picked something that could be largely hidden, that wouldn’t interfere with family or career – a familiar that was content to be a watch a good portion of the time.”

There were a few nods.

I looked down.  “The lawyer strongly suggested I take something powerful as a familiar, something ugly, and ignore the fact that I’d have to live with its company for the rest of my life.  I took Evan instead.”

“Damn straight,” Evan said.

“Felt right,” I said.

“What about this?” Alexis asked.  “Does this feel right?”

I grabbed the sword, positioning my fingers not so I could wield it, but so I could hold it, each finger resting between spikes.

“I’m not as sure,” I said.

“Maybe this isn’t the path you want to take?” she prodded.

“I think the lawyer was wrong about my choice of familiar.  I’ve walked a fine line, getting further away from being me, and having a good companion, having you guys, it’s a way to hold on to myself.  Connections.  But I’m not so sure she’s wrong about my need to grab power sooner than later.”

“Do you want to compromise?” Alexis asked.

“Yes,” Rose said, before I could answer.

She was reflected in the window, and it was dark enough out that the image was clear.  She sat in the mirror-world version of my living room, alone, surrounded by stacks of books.

“That’s not your call,” Alexis said.

“Yeah, actually, it is,” Rose replied.  “I’m attached to him, and his decisions affect me.”

“Let’s not get into this,” I said.  “Let’s just say that Rose’s opinion counts for an awful lot here, and she thinks I should compromise.”

“Thank you,” Rose said.  “That’s all I wanted to put out there.”

“I think you shouldn’t,” Alexis said.  “Something about this feels… wrong.”

“What I was saying before, about the familiar and the meaning of the decision?  It applies here.  Choosing an implement means deciding the one tool you’ll define yourself by for the rest of your life.  That adage, ‘if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?’  I think that holds true with implements.  This is a kind of commitment to a path in life, so maybe that’s what feels wrong.  I’m committing to something… less than pleasant.”

“You’re committing to breaking swords?” Ty asked.

“I’m committing to stopping things like the Hyena.  You don’t take an implement like this if you don’t plan on fighting, and continuing to fight for a long time.”

“One of the example implements in the book was a sword, wasn’t it?” Tiff asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  I kept my mouth shut, rather than volunteer more that could color their impressions.

“This isn’t a sword though,” Ty said.  “It’s a broken sword.  The handle is almost longer than the remaining bit of blade.”

I nodded.  He’d basically said what I was going to say before I stopped myself.

“An icon or symbol,” Tiff said.

“Yeah,” Ty replied.  “I’m not sure if I like the implications.  A sword’s a phallic symbol, right?  The equivalent of great gleaming steel penis.  The bigger the sword, the more they think you’re overcompensating.  And a broken sword?  I’ll be blunt.  You shouldn’t define yourself like that.”

Ouch.

It wasn’t that he was being hurtful.  He was, but it was the kind of hurt I had to trust to those close to me to provide.  That any of us did.  The sort of truth that one didn’t want to hear.  The sort of truth, even, that one might not immediately appreciate, that could test the friendship.

“What are you thinking?” Alexis asked.

“It would be a lot easier if this was the answer,” I said.

“But?”

“But it’s feeling less like that’s the case,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Can I butt in?” Rose asked.

I glanced her way.

“Books on shamans talk about the value of trophies.  Powerful shamans wear the furs of defeated enemies, to retain a share of that enemy’s power.  You can go pretty dark-side with that, wearing finger bones or dismembered body parts, on top of everything else, but you could also find some use in a trophy like the Hyena’s blade.”

“That bit that the Elder Sister said about you being tainted by Conquest?” I asked.  “Talking about abusing your defeated enemies doesn’t help matters.”

“Using the Hyena was your idea before it was mine,” Rose retorted.

“Fair point,” I said.

“Some shamans specifically hunt monsters to get materials to make items with, infusing those items like you infused June’s hatchet.  Right here, you’ve got something that could be powerful.  Tricky, yes, but powerful.  Tap into what the Hyena could do.  Strength, durability, inspiring fear…”

“There’s the Conquest bit again,” Alexis commented.

Rose shot Alexis a glare, but Alexis was staring at the table, where the blade had gouged it.

“She’s not wrong.  This is about me committing to a path,” I said.  I touched a spike on the handle, “Putting myself in harm’s way… taking a violent path.”

“You said you wanted to stop monsters like that,” Evan said.

“I do,” I said.  “Maybe we could do it without resorting to direct violence.”

“Oh,” Evan said.  “Maybe.  How?”

“Traps,” I said.  “Thinking things through, being methodical…”

“How well has that gone in the past?” Rose asked.

“I trapped the Hyena,” I said, the words slipping out of my mouth before I realized the irony of the statement.

I was talking about not taking the Hyena.  Taking a different path.

The problem with Rose and I being so similar was that we thought in similar ways.  I could see her level stare, as if she were seeing straight through to what I was thinking.

“I guess I’ve got a choice,” I said, before she could make a point of it.  “Do I want to take this path, or do I want to leave it for a future date?”

Assuming I have a future.

The thought butted its way into my mind.  I very nearly said it out loud, but I didn’t want to drive that home for my friends.

“The Hyena wounded spirits,” Rose said.  “It left scars on them.  If you tap into that, you could do the same with your workings.”

I shook my head.

Not selling me there.

“Okay,” Rose said, “Fine.  Let’s assume you don’t want to go down this route.  When and where do you make your next grab for power?  Do you want to establish a demesne?”

“No,” I said.  “No, it’s… god, I hate that idea.”

“Why?” Rose asked.

“Because… the big life decisions.  A familiar represents the people you want to be around, choosing an implement is like choosing a career, and a demesne is where you want to be.  I can’t even articulate it, but I don’t want to be here.  I don’t want to be in Jacob’s bell.  Following through on what I promised Evan?  That’s something else.  I can do that in, I dunno, Nova Scotia, or British Columbia, or New Zealand, you know?  But even talking about this, I feel-”

I touched my heart.

“-I feel like I could panic.  Like I’m making some decision and I’ll never get away from this, if I confine myself to one place.”

“Like I’m confined?” Rose asked.

“You know what I mean,” I said.  “You can still explore.  I know it’s not ideal, it’s fucked, and it’s even unpleasant, being shackled to me and the house, but we have leeway… but maybe, yeah, maybe like you’re confined.”

“You can understand my problem?” she asked.  “This isn’t smart, throwing away ideas out of hand.  Getting me out of here happens in one of two ways.  Either you get power, which a demesnes or a strong implement would help with…”

“…Or I die,” I said.

There was a chill in the room.

“No dying,” Evan said.

“We’re going to do our best to avoid dying,” I echoed him.  “I raised the question of using the Hyena because I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea.  The negatives are adding up, and together they’re outweighing the potential positives.”

“Do you have other ideas for implements?”  Rose asked.

I shook my head.  “I’ve thought about tools, something like the hatchet, but a mallet or something.  I’m looking for something that… how did you put it, Maggie?”

“Hm?”

“When I asked about your implement?”

She drew and flourished her athame with a measure of skill that suggested an easy sort of familiarity with the tool.  “It’s not a weapon, exactly, it’s something that you use to deliver the coup de grace once you’ve got your opponent.”

“Not that,” I said.

“It fits me?  It resonates with me?”

“That.  Resonate.”

She tossed the stylized knife into the air, then caught the handle, sheathing it in the same motion.

“I might feel different if I had my hands on stuff, but I don’t.  All I can say is that the ideas don’t resonate with me.”

“This does, or did?” Ty asked.

“A bit,” I said.  “It fits, but handcuffs can fit too, and they aren’t necessarily something I’d want to wear every day.”

“I know a few people who would disagree,” Ty said.

“So we’re settled, then?” Alexis asked.

I ran my finger along the Hyena’s handle.

“I’ll do without,” I decided.  “I’m not making the call when I feel this ambivalent, and not wanting this as an implement doesn’t mean I can’t get some use out of it.  It’s still a possible trophy, and I could get something out of it.”

“Wait, Maggie, you don’t have any commentary?” Rose asked Maggie.  “I thought you’d push for the Hyena.”

“Nah,” Maggie said.  “I’ve dealt with goblins for a while.  I’ve seen how bad they get when they’re bad.  If he wanted to go for it, I’d back him up.  If he wanted to go for it.  But I’m not a dumb- I’m not stupid.  I’m not going to force the issue.  I recommend you do the same.”

Rose frowned.

“Okay,” I said, grabbing the broken blade.  “That’s off the table.”

Rose spoke, quiet, “It’d be nice if we weren’t waiting for all hell to break loose before making the tough calls on this sort of thing.”

“We discussed it,” I said.  “It’s good.  In the heat of the moment, I might have gone ahead with it.”

“I still want us to be stronger,” Rose said.  “You get that, right?

I nodded slowly.  “Can you find that book on shamanism?  We have other stuff to get to in the next few hours, but I’d like to see how to draw out some power from this thing.  Might even be useful if I get something like the Stonehenge bracelet, again.”

“Sure,” Rose said.

“Everyone has something to read?” I asked.  “You guys know what your jobs are in the next, uh, sixteen hours?”

There were nods.  I looked at Maggie, “And you’re okay for now?  You don’t need to get back?”

“I’m putting it off,” she said.

“Can you?” I asked.  “If I remember right, you promised your parents you’d attend school…”

“School’s out,” Ty said.

I slapped my forehead.  “Right.”

“I’ve got elbow room,” Maggie said.  “I want to make the most of it.”

“If you say so,” I said.  “You helped out, I owe you.”

She smiled.

“Let’s eat, then,” I said.  “Sleep, then break away, do what you need to do.  We’re all in top condition tomorrow, or we don’t do this.  Above all, we do this smart.

“With a lot of light and fire,” Ty said.

I had to wonder if the first hunters felt this kind of trepidation.  How often did a person experience this quiet kind of terror?

The hunter knew where the wild beast rested, though he would be flying blind when he crossed the threshold and entered the lion’s den.  The hunter knew that he was outclassed in strength, in toughness, and in size.

All the hunter had were the piecemeal tools they’d been able to put together.

Floor plans loosely sketched out, displayed on Ty’s laptop.  We’d checked the compass points and the point and time of sunrise and sunset, to judge when we’d have the most light filtering through the windows.

Rose had Corvidae with her, which I wasn’t so happy with, but Corvidae was another body on her side, and the demon had already attacked her there.

The other Others were broken and slain.  If the energies that drove them were strong enough, they might recuperate and make themselves available to the next summoner, to fulfill the terms of the bindings that had been placed on them, or happy to have a chance to feast on whatever energies it was that drove them.  The Tallowman was one likely possibility for resurrection.  Coming back was his schtick.  The Bloody Mary?  Maybe less certain.

The laptop sat on the dashboard, and the car was off.  Three of us gathered nearby to get a sense of what was where, and to discuss placement.

The Knights had brought two trucks, and Ty was helping Nick unload gear.  Halogen lights on stands, a generator, and red plastic gas jugs.

I wanted to say it was being carried out with a military precision, but it wasn’t.  We were disciplined, entirely serious and focused, but we were less than efficient.  In too many cases, I saw people standing around looking for something to do, while there was stuff to be unloaded or set in place.

One halogen light for each ground floor window.  The sun would be pouring in through several windows and the hole in the roof.

Nick’s son approached me, handing me a plastic bag with a smiling worm wrapped around a hook.

I fished out three flare guns, cast in bright orange plastic, vacuum-wrapped in plastic.

I slipped one into the leather package I’d made for June.  Not exactly a good fit, but it would stay in place.

“Lights are clean,” Rose said.  “Not reflective enough for me to go inside the glass.”

I frowned, “That’ll have to do.  I wish there were more definite points in the midst of all this.”

“Nothing’s definite in life,” Nick said, behind me.  He was rummaging through bags.  Bottles of water, thick gloves, and a mask.

“That’s right,” Maggie said.  She was standing with her back to the car and the factory both, bundled up, not even willing to look in the general direction of the factory.  She kept talking, injecting false confidence into her voice.  “If it was easy to puzzle them out, humans would have worked it all out a long time ago.  But no, you wind up with stuff like this.”

Stuff like this.

“Not doing a lot to help my confidence,” I said.

“Maybe that’s a good thing,” Maggie said.  “Maybe you should reconsider.”

“But what happens then?” I asked.  “How many years or decades is it before someone else makes a genuine attempt at stopping this thing?  Everything I’ve read on demons suggests they’re a rot that eats at reality.  Things become worse.  A bite here and there, a chunk elsewhere, a major loss somewhere else entirely.”

“I like you, Thorburn,” she said.  “Not like-like, though I wouldn’t mind, if you didn’t-“

She paused long enough to leave me thoroughly startled, but continued on, casual, like she was talking about the weather, “But I think you’re interesting, at the very least.  The world might even be a better place with you in it, and there isn’t enough of that these days.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“So why is it your job?  Why are you going in there alone?”

“Isn’t it my job because I’m the only person stupid enough to do it?” I asked.

Another car pulled up, stopping between Nick’s truck and Joel’s car.  The trees blocked the view of the factory from here.

“I can’t stay for this,” she said.

“Okay,” I said.

“I’m not going to wish you good luck.  I don’t see the point.  I don’t have anything to give you that would make a difference, that I’m willing to give up.  I don’t even know why I came.”

“I appreciate the company,” I said.

She nodded.  “This isn’t my thing.  Being on the sidelines, being the side character.”

“I envy you, that you can,” I said.

She smiled just a little.

The people at the third car were unloading.  Sisters.

Dolls.

I stared at the map, trying to reconcile the layout with what I was able to make out when I’d been there the other night.

I reached for the trackpad and made a note.  Fallen rubble.  Rounding that corner would mean taking a detour around the rubble, or maybe hurdling it.

No, hurdling was a bad idea.  Even if Evan was accompanying me, giving me a periodic boost.

Rubble cast shadows.  It could hold something.

Maggie, my friends, Rose, the possibility of interference, and a careful strategy with too many possibilities against a threat that I didn’t fully understand.

The ideas filled my head, and despite the fact that there were a dozen solutions waiting to be discovered, the resulting traffic jam meant I couldn’t think of a single one.

I shut my eyes, trying to focus.

One thing at a time, starting with the girl next to me.

“Maggie?” I asked.

“What’s up?  I didn’t weird you out before, did I?”

“No,” I said, “Just… are you okay?”

“Okay?”

“You haven’t explained what you have going on with your parents, you’re acting strange, different.  Little things have come up, maybe a big thing.  I know you’re not sleeping.  I get the impression something’s wrong.”

She was silent.

“You helped me before.  If something’s come up, if you need help, if you’ve done something or made a bad deal, we can put this on hold and back you up.”

She jammed her hands into her pockets, staring at the ground.

“I was telling the others before, maybe you let something in and you got possessed?”

She shrugged.  “Thanks for worrying about me.  But you should focus on this right now.”

“Should I?” I asked, making it a pointed question.

“You’ve got help here that you might not have if you wait a few days.  The Sisters, the Knights, you can’t back out now, or this won’t work.”

“So you do need help?” I asked.

“Don’t we all?”

“Don’t dodge my damn questions,” I said, more harsh in tone than I’d wanted.  Nervousness seeping through.

“Sorry.  I’ll try to be more direct.”

“You were among the first people that were decent to me when all this started.”

“I was.”

“And you came here to back me up, you made a difference.”

“I did,” she said.

“I’m allowed to show concern for you,” I said.  “Even if there’s something going on that I don’t fully understand.”

She gave me a look, and there was a bit of sadness in her eyes.

“What?” I asked.

“I really want to give you a kiss on the cheek,” she said.  “But I can’t, can I?”

I shook my head.

“Give him heck,” she said.

I smiled.

The conversation was over, and I wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful looking at the map.  There were more important points to cover.

Slowly but surely, things were settling into place.  Objects and people.

A few ghosts had arrived, observers.

“Blake,” Ty said.

“Yeah?”

“Ghost dropped these off.”

He extended a hand, and he dropped two objects into my outstretched palm.  A box of matches and what looked like a piece of burned pillow?

No, a stuffed animal’s limb.

I could feel the ghosts within.

The Shepherd was volunteering aid?

My eyes roved over the area.  I didn’t see the Shepherd.  I did see the Sphinx.  Isadora was lying down on the far end of a wide gap in the trees, the same spot where I’d grabbed the branches for the wreath.  She stared, oblivious to the light dusting of snow that had settled on her black fur and wings.

Put more pressure on me, why don’t you?

People were gravitating toward me.  Isadora didn’t budge.  Maggie, on the other side of the

My nervousness only intensified.

“It’s about time,” I said.

It was good that we had a designated time for this to begin.  It was harder to jump off that diving board when you had all the time in the world.  Better to be thrust into a situation where you had no choice to jump, if jumping was absolutely necessary.

It was almost a relief, knowing.

I just couldn’t let myself entertain the slightest thought of being able or willing to retreat from this.  To run.

One of my legs jittered, the knee wiggling from left to right, as if I was as unsteady on that leg as a newborn fawn.

I shifted my weight to make it less pronounced.

“You don’t enter.  If something goes wrong, if things turn sour, we back off.  If something happens to me, well, you won’t know.  So don’t make it matter.”

“This sounds insane,” Ty said.

I ignored him.

“You guys have one job.  Approach from an angle where the sun hits the windows.  See if the windows have paint on them.  If they do, it might be part of the binding, and we can’t break that.  Find open windows.  Toss in the gas cans, toss in the rubbing alcohol, toss in the kerosene.  If you can reach, dump it in, but don’t put your hands inside the building”

There were nods.

“Knights, you’re manning the halogen lights.  If this works, those lights should give me a clear path.  If it works really well, then they’re going to cross in a way that makes a protective diagram.  Bad alignment and the sun mean that might be a bit of a pipe dream.  Just give me the extra light you can, shine it through, I’ll figure out what to do from there.”

Nods from the Knights.

“Rose?”

“I keep track of the time.  I’ve got notes in front of me.  Whatever happens, when the time runs out, we burn the building.”

I nodded.

My job… I’ve just got to get to the door to the basement.  Going over the rubble might make sense, but there’s an awful lot of cracks and darkness in that rubble, and if my foot disappears into a gap, I’m gone.”

I sounded so much calmer than I felt.

“…That means going in the front door, same place I entered before, I head to the back, turn a hard left.  I toss what I carried down there, I use any cans I can that you guys passed through the window, then set it on fire.  I leave, and we scour the ground floor, using what you guys put through the window.  With luck, we’ll gain some ground against the thing, and we can hold that ground by keeping the fires lit and the lights on.  We figure out where to go from there.  If the boiler room or basement or whatever is down there is too big to burn by tossing stuff down the stairs, we use a similar strategy there.”

I took a bit of a breath.  “But what we’re really hoping, is that it’s one lifeform, and if anything’s lurking downstairs, we can cut off everything above from what’s below, with a strong blaze in the right place.”

I checked the time.  Ten seconds past the mark where we’d guessed the sun would be in the optimal location.

I couldn’t even think about not hesitating.

I turned toward the factory.  “Let’s go.  Question me while we move.”

There were no questions.  Even Evan had dropped the firebird topic.  I didn’t tell him I’d researched it and found it too dangerous.  Shamans keen on the dramatic had tried riding fire spirits, and by and large, they’d self-immolated.

The silence yawned, and for a moment, I felt utterly alone.

But Evan settled on my shoulder.

It only dawned on me when I couldn’t see them, that they were almost as afraid as I was.

I held two gas cans this time, I had the Hyena in my back pocket, and the flare gun at one hip.

“Hey,” Evan said.

“What’s up?” I replied.

“Thanks for letting me come.”

“Didn’t want to go in alone,” I admitted.

“We have company,” Evan said.

I looked.  Four dolls.

“I’m not sure they count.”

“They count if you let them count,” Evan said, in a tone that suggested he thought he was being wise.

“I’ll try,” I said.

Without breaking stride, I grabbed the matchbook and lit a match from within.

A wraith flared into being as the match touched snow.  A man, too burned to make out features.  A husk, made uglier by the wraithmaking process.

The arm of the stuffed animal…

I gave it a squeeze.  Smoke puffed out.

A little girl emerged from the smoke.  When she looked at me, her eye sockets were empty, with only glowing cinders around the rim.  Her nose and tongue nearly gone, glowing in the same way, like some cigarette butt.

“Inside,” I said.

She ran, frantic, panicked, straight into the doorframe, unable to see, half-spinning as she reeled, then tore through the open door, casting a dim light as she went.  Moving all the while like she had two speeds – paralysis and pell-mell.

The burned man glowed brighter as the area got darker.

It wasn’t dark within, ghosts or no, but it was dim.  Already, I could imagine seeing things in the spots of shadow.  Something snaking out there, or boiling forth like some swarm of bugs from a disturbed hive.

I exhaled slowly.

When I looked again, I didn’t see anything.

“Now!” I hollered the word.  I was afraid to stop, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to start again.

The halogen lights flickered on.

One opposite me cast a light almost straight to the door.  A path of light to the very back of the factory.  Others crossed it, drawing circles on the walls, highlighting cracks in deeper shadow.

“Ghosts, draw circles in the floor with fire!”  I shouted.

Burning footprints drew circles in the darkness.  Places where I was safe.

They were obedient.

This was easier than spending the gas from my cans to do the same.  I still wouldn’t give them all my trust.

It was like being a chess piece, moving between the triangles of light and circles of dim flame.  Watching for attacks from odd angles, without really looking.

Can’t step off the path.  Can’t step outside the circles.

“You okay?” someone asked.  It might have been Nick’s son.

“Light’s good!” I called out.

The gas cans were ready, resting in my hands.

Looking where I was going was something of an art form.  The lights were brilliant, threatening to blind, and looking at darkness threatened to let the demon leap into my eyes.

The ghost of the little girl ran a zig-zag through the space, giving light where I’d had none.

My footsteps were hollow on the hard floor, as I moved as fast as I could.  Like a tightrope, it was easier if I crossed it faster than slower.

Not too fast, but fast enough.

The dolls trudged behind me.

They would be the heat-seeking dolls, tuned so they wouldn’t target me.

When the fires started to burn, they’d make the fires bigger.  I just had to keep my distance, control the blaze.

I reached the end of the hallway, passing the scorch marks where I’d drawn the circles.

“Ghosts, stop!” I shouted.

Both the cinder-girl and the burned man stopped where they were.

Circles marked the area.

“Guys, drop the gas!”  I shouted.

My voice was eerily loud in the near-silence.  There were no trees rustling here.  The people outside were too spread out to really be communicating.  There was only the footsteps, and there was me.

Windows here and there shattered.  Thumps marked the arrival of the bright orange gas jugs.  I saw fluid spilling out.  In two spots, people were pouring gas through the window.  I watched to make sure there was no danger.

Zero movement.

No noise, no threats.

The way the lights shone through the window, the light that extended toward the door to the sub-level passed over the rubble I’d remembered seeing.

I needed to cross it, but that meant stepping into shadow.

Careful, Blake.

I noted where everything was, as carefully and systematically as I could.

Gas jugs.

Flares were too risky.  Flares went out, and I actually didn’t know how long that took.

Fires went out too, but I had a sense of how long that took.

I sloshed gas over the rubble.

“Hey,” I said.  “Girl, I don’t know your name, but-”

The ghost stopped in her tracks.

“Right over there, light a fire.  Only over there.”

She ran, that full-blast panicked run, stumbled, and landed belly-first on the rubble.

It ignited, and I squinted against the force of the flame.

Squinting, I almost missed it.

The demon, fleeing from the safety of the shadows that the rubble created.  Slithering out in every direction, like a carpet seeking to cover every available expanse that the light didn’t already claim.  I saw bits of it creep into areas where the light touched, and I saw those same parts fray and decay, crumbling away.  Glimpses of limbs and other things, all a mucus-covered black, scrabbling for a grip on the hard surface.

“Holy jebus,” Evan whispered.

“Don’t look straight at it,” I warned.

“I’m not!”

Trying to be stern for Evan somehow allowed me to sum up some confidence.  I splashed out with the gas, trying to catch the wall and the flame both.

It recoiled, and whole chunks broke away as they burned violently.  None fell remotely close to the waiting gas cans.

I didn’t do it again, all the same.

Move forward, but keep moving, be careful…

The light from the burning rubble meant the hallway to the side was clearer.

I drew a loose circle with splashes of gasoline on the floor, then leaped from the long triangle of light to the burning circle.

I nearly lost my balance and stumbled straight through.  I heard flapping wings at the same moment I managed to right myself.

I couldn’t find the words to thank Evan.

I was calculating my next move when I heard it.

Something dragging.

When I saw, I felt something go tight in my chest.

The demon, slithering alongside the wall.

A tiny hand held a piece of rebar, dragging it against the concrete at a speed faster than I could run.

No, it doesn’t make sense.

Sparks flew.

Sparks made contact with gasoline.  A fire erupted, and before I could even find my footing, the fire found the nearest gas can.

The demon immolated itself, vast amounts of flesh tearing away from the wall as it burned.

The dolls found the flames, and they exploded in turn.  Small, accelerant-boosted flames turned into bonfires, reaching three-quarters of the way from floor to ceiling.

I turned to the window.  Escape only feet away.

But I could see the arms and tendrils reaching out from the dark spaces between the glowing rectangles where sun shone through glass.  They lurked in the cracks in the glass, where the light refracted away.  A spiderweb ready to catch me.

He’d slithered around.

Another gas can exploded, closer, and rubble fell alongside great swathes of flaming demon flesh.

“What?” Evan managed.

“Fly, Evan,” I said.

“What?” he asked, this time directing the question at me.

“Fly for the opening in the roof,” I said.

“But-”

“The rules, Evan!  If something happens, you’re supposed to go!

I grabbed him and threw him.

He caught himself, flapping his wings.

I saw the tendrils snap out, arms reaching, burning as sunlight touched them.

I saw just how dangerous the escape route was.

The window was worse.  There was still a path to the front door, lines and circles.

I ran, opting for speed over self-preservation.  Moving through flames, letting my legs burn.

Smoke was already heavy in the air.

I didn’t make it halfway to the door before I stopped in my tracks.

Smoke, in its way, held darkness.

He was in the smoke, roiling, twisting, thriving.

No.

I had no escape routes.

I drew the flare gun.

I could hold out.  Wait for help.

Couldn’t I?

The demon, Ur, was asking the same question, it seemed.

The demon had an answer.

It bit.

It tore not through me, but through the ribbons and cords that extended between me and the individuals just outside the buildings.

I saw what was happening, and felt only stark horror at the realization of just what it meant.

The back window.  Through the spiderweb.  With the flare gun, I could break the web.

I ran for it, giving it my all.

I didn’t make it.

“Stop, Alexis!”  Ty shouted.  He grabbed at her arm, pulling hard.

Alexis stopped dead in her tracks.

“You remember what we agreed to, right?” he asked.

She was panting, she looked bewildered.

“Abandon the mission,” Rose said.

“But-” she started.

“Wait for the fires to die down, abandon the mission,” Rose said.

“But-” Alexis said.

She couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence.

She wasn’t even sure what she was supposed to say.

The others joined them.  The Knights and Tiff.  Watching the smoke rise.  Watching a sparrow travel a confused path through the sky.

Rose settled a hand on Alexis’ shoulder.  “We can’t do anything more here.”

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

Advertisements

355 thoughts on “Void 7.11

    1. SO, WMG here. Blake is Johannes. He is now invisible, and the demon is done with him, after telling him to fuck off because all Ur wanted was his connections. He decides to make a life in the behaims’ house, and watches constantly their time magic, until he finds some crazy shit that will actually send him back. He summons Ornias, binds him, sacrifices him to gain the favor of the thing that can send him back, but shit gets fucked up or something, he gets sent too far, and he becomes… Johannes. Boom, happy ending. Stop crying, eyes… please?

      1. Typos:
        – “I still felt raw where the memories had brought memories back to the surface.” -> strange phrasing
        – “this might a moment that your entire life has been leading up to” -> “this might be”
        – “and not wanting this as an implement doesn’t mean I can’t get some use out of it. It’s still a possible trophy, and I could get something out of it.” -> repeated sentence structure
        – “Maggie, on the other side of the” -> that sentence is simply cut off.
        – “There was only the footsteps, and there was me.” -> “There were”

      2. Nick’s son approached me, handing me a plastic bag with a smiling worm wrapped around a hook.

        Not really a typo, but I had to read that six times before I realized the “smiling worm” is probably a picture on the bag. Might want to clarify that.

      3. Maggie, on the other side of the –> cuts off there

        That means going in the front door –> going in ‘through’

        it was easier if I crossed it faster than slower –> faster ‘rather’ than slower

      4. People were gravitating toward me. Isadora didn’t budge. Maggie, on the other side of the

        Sentence cuts off. Might be intentional, but if so it should have an ellipse or “–“.

    1. schtick
      shtick

      wraithmaking
      perhaps wraith-making, but clear enough as is

      spiderweb (2)
      usually spider web

      I still felt raw where the memories had brought memories back to the surface.
      double use of ‘memories’, a little unclear; perhaps “had brought other memories” or “where the specters had brought”; the rest of the paragraph clears it up a bit, so it is minor

      Maggie, on the other side of the
      truncated sentence

    2. “People were gravitating toward me. Isadora didn’t budge. Maggie, on the other side of the”
      Looks like urrrr got the rest of this paragraph

      1. Wildbow usually fixes these by this time. Either he’s really busy with the wedding, or that’s really what happened.

    3. Landis you jerk xD (I’m not being serious) I went to post a typo and I read this halfway through the chapter and it spoiled the ending for me. It changed the entire tone of the chapter. It went from “thrilling action sequence” to “please let this not be true, please!”

      Anyway, my typo has already been posted.

      1. I pretty much figured it out half way through. “And oh shit this has all the hall marks of a failed effort.”

        1. Yeah I was all like “Aw, that’s so sweet Maggie is almost confessing having feel- OH SHIT! STOP THAT NOW!”

      2. That kind of sucks, but at the same time, you should know better than to scroll to the comments before finishing :P. Just mark the typo in notepad or something.

    1. I missed that implication until you pointed it out. Ouch. This story was long overdue for a holy fucking shit moment though.

    2. Personally, I think he might just not be dead. I think Erasuuur could eat the sound of his name, so is it a stretch to assume he can also eat connections? More specifically, the connection between Rose and himself that kept her in the mirror? That would explain why she’s out of the mirror. Evan seems to be still alive, and nothing explicitly states that Blake’s dead either. I REFUSE TO ABANDON HOPE!!!

      1. Death isn’t the worst thing ErasUrr can do to Blake. Even assuming Blake makes it out alive, and with all his limbs intact… Well let me think.
        -Blake could now be homeless, and possesionless.
        -Blake will have to try and convince his friends who he is.
        -Oh, something cheerful I realized after visiting the TVTropes page last night. If Blake’s connections being cut to his friends means he forgot them. Think what Blake would be like if he never met Alexis, and never got some help after his horrible truama.
        -And I don’t even want to think what ErasUrr taint would be like.

          1. To quote Cyclonus “Never hope. Hope is a lie.” Though the situation where he said that actually worked out okay. Still this is a Wildbow protagonist we’re talking about. With a huge fucked quotent. Not the good kind, sadly not Blake’s thing, but the bad kind.

            Man I remember when I used to put the “That was not a suggestion, Wildbow” disclaimer up after I posited bad things that could happen to Blake. I think I better start doing that again.

        1. Actually, I don’t think he’d remember the trauma either. In fact, with no connections at all, he’s pretty sure to fall through the cracks…

        2. Hopefully ErasUrr will cut any connection Blake had to his trauma as well. He’ll just be homeless, possessionless and with no real memories. So all he has to do is kick logic to the curb, and do the impossible. Nyfb cebonoyl xvyy Tbq. Fvapr guvf vf n Jvyqobj fgbel nsgre nyy.

          On a hopeful note the witch hunter kid was able to come up to Blake and NOT form a connection, IIRC. So he might be able to help Blake overcome his disconnection to the world.

      1. Well, the thing that Blake values most about himself, his connections with his friends, just got eaten by demons. Thus, what he was working towards have been rendered Void. As well as, possibly, Blake himself.

  1. I know everyone knew this was coming, but, wow. I really thought you weren’t actually going to kill off Blake…damn…

  2. Thankfully, Blake is still alive for the moment or Evan would be dead. Though if this is the end of him, I wouldn’t be suprised.

    1. Actually, I think something else might be going on with Ur here. I’m not sure what, but something was definitely wrong. Wrong in a very uncomfortable way, its behavior was different, demons don’t seem the type to kamikaze so I don’t think it killed him out of spite. Besides, its an abstract Demon capable of speech and planning. As clever as Pauz and some of the other demons appear to be, a 7th choir abstract demon has to have something else going on.
      I look forward to Wildbow’s massive trollface when I’m wrong, but I also look forward to Blake’s inevitable return, mangled, and infested with darkness as he may be.

      1. 7th

        ErasUrr isn’t in the subtle choir of unrest, it’s in the direct and straightforward first choir.

        I don’t think Pauz and ‘clever’ go in the same sentence. He can’t even think outside the short-term.

        1. I don’t think Pauz and ‘clever’ go in the same sentence. He can’t even think outside the short-term.

          Pauz is very clever. Remember when Rose first bound him? He had gambits in place that would have left her disabled, dead and would have given him a more concrete foothold in reality. It only didn’t work because Rose is Rose and somehow survived. He also managed to get “free” and help an enemy of Rose’s during his 2nd binding and is ultimately free now. There’s a reason why Rose was so careful with the wording of the bindings.

      2. Also, the way the devouring was described, it tore through the connections around him, not above him – and Evan was above him.

        Also, yes, I think Blake should return as the Big Bad of the series. A dark god, forsaken and alone, with memories af all he’s ever known faded away.

      3. I’m getting the feeling Ur is not doing what we think it’s doing. Eating connections, people not remembering you. Doesn’t that sound a bit like what the Lawyers said would happen if Blake took their offer? And anyway, how could you tell that Ur ate something, if you can’t remember it? What if it only eats connections and/or memories? (With perhaps just a nibble of something else here and there.)

        Not that killing off Blake is impossible, Wildbow is too unpredictable for my li’l brain, but that “I didn’t make it” doesn’t sound like what someone dead and digested would say… I’m suspicious.)

      4. It let itself be hurt in order to take down Blake. Note that it was still thriving in the darkness of the smoke.

    2. I don’t think that Evan being alive means that Blake is alive, because presumably the connections they had (the familiar contract, friendship) have been eaten. Evan’s agreement to move on is probably void.

      That said, I suspect that Blake is still alive, if only for narrative causality reasons (it’s not entirely clear they planned to burn the building in this case, but not doing it is weak evidence that Blake is alive).

  3. Ok, but what does this mean for the contest?

    Also, won’t Rose be remembered by everybody as RIDICULOUSLY BADASS, because now she’ll get credit for what she did and what Blake did.

    1. The only connections that Blake observes the demon targeting are those to the people just outside of its lair. It’s possible that others who are uninvolved in this operation might be able to remember that there were two Thorburns, if the demon did not in fact eat him.

    2. In one sense, the contest is now impossible for Conquest or the Thorburn heir to win.

      In another sense, Rose is both champion and king, meaning it’s still on and killing her will allow him to win. The spirits would probably permit it — they used this possibility to lure Conquest to his doom, after all.

  4. (UN)Holy Crap. . . That’s what we’re left with for the next month? Wildbooooow!!!!

    I had this heavy sense of deja vu while reading the first half of this chapter. It’s almost as if I’ve seen every topic of the inplement discussion held elsewhere.

    So, Void. . . Yeah.

    So Rose is out of the mirror now (or was she ever in the mirror, I don’t remember).

    Of course the moment it seems that Maggie and whatshisface could become partners, whatshisface disappears or something.

    No Fire Sparrow for Evan.

  5. Well, Blake is probably not devoured, since otherwise we would not have all these chapters of Blake POV.

    I suppose he could have died in the fire. However, I would assume that Evan would not be flapping about still – he would have re-ghosted, or passed on, or something with the death of his master.

    The other option is that Blake survives, but with no connections to anyone. This could count as him dying in a non-literal sense (thus the prophesy is fulfilled), and severing the connection between him and Rose could reasonably cause Rose to manifest.

    So, I guess the question is where does the story go from here?

    1. So, I guess the question is where does the story go from here?

      Rose still needs to get an inplement and demense. She also needs to get back home to Jacob’s Bell and find a man to marry.

      1. She also needs to get the Behaims and Duchamps to stop trying to kill off the Thorburns, and avoid dying or selling her karmic debt to the lawyers.

    2. Weren’t all of Blake’s death predictions phrased along lines like “not long for this world”? In which case this would be sufficient death.

      1. Reread it, and yes, it is never stated explicitly that he will die, it is implicitly assumed. Damn, we (the readers) should know better than that.

        Ok, possible reappearence of the Him Who Is Forgotten, but I wouldn’t count on it.

        The bad thing for Rose: she is cut off from the books duh

          1. Just because something is an illusion doesn’t mean it won’t affect you. You step into the boundary and start believing that walking at a fraction of walking pace is normal,

            1. hmm, right, they know what it is now. If you know how something like that works, you can break it.

        1. Get ready for the call of The Forgotten One, connected to All yet connected to None, cut in Fire and Darkness, Separated from Love and Warmth. Blakuhlu!

          1. Probably just about the time we give up on Blake we’ll get a four word wham chapter. Something like “You must find Blake” or “Beware of Blake Thorburn.”

            1. Or “I post spoilers Wildbow has to remove.”

              Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

              But they’d just be “huh? Who’s Blake? Is he one of your family members Rose?”
              Oh and btw, just a random thought, won’t JP be able to know what happened, since he messing with connections is his shtick? But then again, he does seem to be a bit of an asshole, so I guess we’ll see.

            2. Apparently, I messed up and posted a spoiler. Sorry Wildbow. Didn’t think that would count as a spoiler, really, because IMO it doesn’t mean anything taken completely out of context. I would have encoded it, but I still don’t know that damned code. Could someone teach it to me?
              Anyway, sorry if I ruined something for someone with my carelessness.

    3. Isadora’s words from 6.10 (which, incidentally, don’t say “When you are dead”, but then go on to say “whoever killed you”):

      “You are not long for this world. When you are gone, your partner will take your place. Things will reorder themselves in the aftermath, and she will adopt the ties that you have abandoned. Depending on her nature and the internal logic of things, it’s very possible that minor people in your life will become major people in hers, in the transition. It will be disorienting, for her, for those you two know, and for your enemies. There’s a kind of strategy to it. Rose will be able to dispatch whoever killed you in the chaos that follows. In the days, weeks and months that follow, things will reach an equilibrium.”

    4. “Watching a sparrow travel a confused path through the sky.”

      A sparrow.

      I don’t think they remember Evan, and Ur didn’t seem to cut his connections.

      1. Possibly all their connections to Evan were through Blake. He was alone when he encountered Evan for the first time, after all, and Evan was by far the most connected to Blake.

      2. Evan is more or less defined by his connection to Blake: he is his familiar. Presumably with Blake’s connection to Evan cut Evan reverts to being a normal sparrow.

        1. I thin Evan reverts back to being dead or a Ghost. Being a familiar allowed the chance to become mortal, which his sparrow form is, so losing his connection means he loses that.

    5. Was thinking about this after reading it last night, and I think I might have an idea of how the next arc might go.

      We know its a Maggie arc, though I don’t know if Wildbow ever said it was Maggie’s history, or just from her perspective. We also know that she left the factory area before Blake fought erasUr. Based on the wording that only the connections with the people JUST OUTSIDE the factory were shredded, its quite possible that she actually remembers Blake, and this next arc is “Saving Blake”.

      But, this is Wildbow, so who knows.

      1. Good point, Rose get to kill whoever kills Blake, at least according to Isadora. Was that Blake plan Omega?

          1. They know someone went in there and they know they were there for a reason. They can guess they lost someone close to them. There’s the reason for vengeance right there.

  6. Ah, it was bound to happen. The little wonder Evan made it out at least. I suppose it was too much wishful thinking that Void applied to the contest between Conquest and Blake. Well it did, but as always it was a name with many layers.

    Godd bye Blake, you poor fool.

  7. Oh hey, I just realized that Rose becoming tainted by Conquest fulfills one of the meanings of the Chariot card, which can be taken to mean “Conquest.” I guess the Tarot was right about something there after all.

      1. I don’t know, the Hanged Man card also fits Rose’s old circumstances-a state of suspension, essentially, waiting to become. While the Fool definitely fit Blake very well as he went around blundering into things while frantically windmilling his arms to keep balanced. This leaves open the possibility that Blake has yet to become the High Priestess, (or perhaps that he already has-one of the keywords for High Priestess is “relationships” according to Wikipedia, and his entire thing about bringing in his friends fits that) and is therefore still in a state where he can become such.

    1. Yeah… seriously though, who’d have seen that coming? The more you think about it, the harder it would be to take the fight to Ur. Casting light makes shadows, fire makes smoke or eventually dies, even those windows are working against you by refracting light and leaving little gaps. And there’s even the chance it might eat something like the Eye.

      There’s no cunning plans with this one. You either kill it in one fell swoop, or don’t bother. 😦

        1. The Astrologer is constrained by geography, since all her equipment is in buildings and properties she owns. It’s possible she can’t operate on the city outskirts like this.

      1. Casting light making shadows probably wont affect the fight. I don’t think Ur works on relativity, and it’s not like light will migrate towards preexisting light. Casting light over an object won’t make the spot behind the object darker. Refracted light from the windows are better than no light from the windows. Seriously, though, they should have just flash-banged the whole place.

  8. Blake has no connections now, so he can’t even replenish his personal power by staying with his friends. If he hasn’t been eaten, it would mean he’s fallen through the cracks…

    I really want him to make a comeback, having found power reserves somewhere. Maybe he could’ve called the O-man or the Lawyers to save him, in the last moment. It doesn’t say that he’s dead.

    You know, I just had an idea… What if Grandma Rose ended up making a forced deal with, or being promised retribution by, some Other (or a demon) that one heir to the Thorburn line would be taken by the demons? That’s why she would’ve created two versions of the same person, one who could be given up and one who would take the line forward. The one who’s first in line would have to be… let go… as the spell wouldn’t have activated by then. But by the time she’d die, the next heir would have an established connection to their other-dimensional counterpart.

    Eras-Urr was a demon just chillin at the factory, when one fine day, Thorburns attack him from nowhere, and at first he was like “What the balls! Man, get away from me.”

    Then, he realized that Blake has a bounty on his head coming from the senior demons themselves, and decided to set a trap for next time. He took the risk of personal injury, self immolated (I still don’t understand this part), and finally cut Blake off from the world, and delivers him to collect the bounty.

      1. Yeah but doesn’t any part of the demon that is cut off from the original body become dead? Like that arm that Blake took to Conquest.

    1. I doubt that he is dead, because Evan has yet to move on. He is only mostly dead, and that can be fixed.

      1. That right! Blake is not dead yet!
        though he is probebly suffer some fate-worth-then death right now…
        but wait, if Urraser doesn’t kill people, what does it mean for the Urrased knights? are they burnning in some personal first-coir-hell-domain with blake right now?

        1. Hahaha.. “He is only mostly dead, and that can be fixed.” Makes me feel like it’s the story for Supernatural, the TV series, or Dragon Ball Z or Bleach, where all the dead people keep returning to life somehow.

          Maybe if their connections have been erased, then they probably live in that strange pseudo-world that Blake could see when he lost too much blood. Or they literally fall through the cracks in reality, and end up like remnants stuck in a world below the regular one, like an invisible sewer of despair and loneliness.

    2. “Blake has no connections now, so he can’t even replenish his personal power by staying with his friends.”

      Except Blake’s happy place is a peaceful scene with no-one but him and Evan in it. It is probably less happy without Evan, but if anyone could draw personally power from a lack of other people Blake could.

      1. This whole deal with the power flow is not fully defined yet. I mean, is power a constant quantity throughout the universe, like the conservation of mass-energy in the universe? Or is it like Dragon Ball Z, where Blake can become a super-saiyan by screaming loud enough in desperation even though he should be completely out of power by then?

        But still, Blake himself says that he draws and replenishes magical power by staying with his friends because they have come to define him as a person, and his situation is something like the saying “Home is where the heart is.”

        But yeah, being in his happy place, Blake may actually find a way to power up, but it is much more probable that he is used by an Other to gain foothold in this world after falling through the cracks. Keep your hopes up for a Roseguard Exorcism of Blake. 😀 I know I will.

    3. “He took the risk of personal injury, self immolated (I still don’t understand this part)”

      TvTropes calls it a Deliberate Injury Gambit. Like taking a hit so you can immobilize the opponent’s arm? Just, in this case, the “hit” is the fire stuff, and ErasUrr moved into Blake’s way rather than immobilize him.

    4. Blake’s connections with the people who were ‘just outside of the building’ were the only ones confirmed to be eaten. There’s a chance that his other connections are still intact.

  9. Sorry for the wall of text. Okay… trying to get my composture… Uhm… I want to cry. Damn it, Wildbow. Don’t make me get attached to the main character and then do whoknowswhat to him. I even interpreted the lines about everything in life being uncertain as a reference to everyone’s prediction that Blake was going to die.

    Blake, you Fool. Even the most experienced of practitioners would not deal with such a monster, you should not have taken on that. And you should have called the lawyers when you realised you had no way out!

    I feel bad for Maggie. Maggie is probably even lonelier than Blake was. Blake has his friends, Evan and even Rose. Maggie doesn’t have anyone to support her in the scary world of Others. So, someone, possibly the only person, offers to help Maggie out and then they are gone. Damn.

    And all of Blake’s friends… Their ties with Blake quite literally never happened. They will feel shocked at the event, but they will never know what happened.

    I wonder how Isadora will react to Rose. Actually, I wonder how everyone will react to Rose. Rose inherits Blake’s connections, but Rose and Blake are rather different people. Also, I don’t like Rose as the protagonist. I wonder how people would react to Rose if Blake just died, rather than get eaten away.

    To everyone that says that Evan is still flying and thus Blake is still alive, that is just a sparrow for all we know. We don’t know if that is Evan anymore. We don’t really know what it means for a ghost to move on. Or, maybe, Evan will return to Rose, since Rose inherits Blake’s connections. I wonder how Rose will react to Evan, she doesn’t resonate with the little ghost-bird like Blake did. Will she question why she chose Evan as her familiar? Will they fight?

    Finally, from a writing perspective, I think this shift in the point of view is a very, very interesting experiment you are carrying Wildbow. I trust you will do a fantastic work, and I hope this experiment works out fine for you. But damn you, I liked Blake.

    1. To be fair we don’t know he was horribly eaten. The demon just cut his connections, right?

      ha ha, no. Blake is fucked. Which is really too bad, he was a likeable fella.

      Whether Blake got erased or just fell through the cracks, we don’t know. What we do know is that this is the whamiest chapter.

      And poor Evan flying in circles trying so hard to help someone without knowing who that is or why.

      1. Well, I’m pretty sure Blake isn’t erased. There’s seven arcs worth of story about him here, for one thing: When the goblins Maggie sent that got eaten were ret-gone’d so badly that they weren’t even mentioned in the story up until that point – only the histories chapters mention them.

        Dead? Maybe. If he got burned to death, the abstract demon couldn’t reach his corpse to eat it, and the next heir could be released, but we’d still have a story up until that point.

        But I suspect that having your connections severed by an erasure demon is one of the ways you can finesse your way out of a preordained death. (We even had a hint that there were outs to that kind of prophecy a chapter or two ago) Maybe as far as the future-telling spirits are concerned, your connection to the world just stops at that point in your timeline, which usually signifies your death. But not in this case…

    2. I just realised this chapter touches on and maybe ties many loose ends.

      The chapter allows for Blake and his friends to be close for one last time. The chapter treats the subject of implements and demesnes which was to be postponed. The chapter touches on Maggie’s problems and we get to see one last bit of development in her relationship with Blake.. We also dismiss the idea of a fire sparrow.

      1. Blake also fulfilled his promise to Rose and the spirits from when they first became practitioners to help get Rose un-stuck from the mirror universe.

    3. I’m not sure why Rose would inherit Blake’s connections. By rights she’ll retain the connections she already had with Blake’s friends. They might even be strengthened a little by the retcon – they must’ve stuck together all this time for some reason, right? But there’s no reason she would automatically get the benefits of long-term friendship with them.

  10. Well, Conquest is nicely fubared, or is he? Blake is gone thru no action of his, therefore the contest can never end. Yet Blake appears to be /gone/. Will Conquest remember his deal? if he doesn’t will he still get pinged for breaking it? Will it matter? Conquest is still nicely bound and the world is developing without him. Every bit of time left bound is makes it harder for him to resume anything.

    Well, Isadora get to watch one stone and only one fall in the pond, for now.

    PoV Character going forward:

    Blake: Blake is going to just keep trucking without connections. He will have Evan, his endless will do move on and a bound EraseUr (Cause he finished the mission anyway)

    Rose: Rose is the logical next choice. She now has all of Blake’s allies, less of his weaknesses and a bone to pick with Jacob’s Bell. We are going to see the methodical and calculating version of Blake from now on.

    Maggie: Maggie has an arc coming up. She will be the new PoV with a Blood and Fire edge. No more nasty demons. (For five minutes at least) and a whole new host of problems.

    Paige: Another new perspective, a join the fold of practitioners without the air of desperation that Blake and Rose have. Dealing with Isadora on of her troublesome cousins, Rose.

    A Behaim or Duchamp child: The noble and righteous crusade to rid the world of darkness one Thorburn at a time. The lonely and high road that is kool-aid and self-righteousness.

    Someone Completely Different: Meanwhile in Montreal – a Inquisitor pick up his rifle, handle engraved with arcane symbols. Meanwhile in Nevada – A Diabolist prepres to summon a demon of the 2nd choir to unleash doom upon his enemies. Meanwhile in China – Wu Gou, the heir to his clan’s hidden techniques, passed down over thousands of years, through many dynasty through the upheaval of Communism, Boards a ship bound for Marseilles via the Suez Canal.

    PoV? The series just ended: Well, a few Maggie epilogues and that all folks. What wild ride from the heights that where being homeless and no one caring about to left in a factory and no one caring about him. A stirring story and a stirring end.

    1. Personally I’d like to see Tyler as the Point of View character from now on.

      I read once a theory about how G.R.R. Martin chose his PoV characters because they were not the main movers and shakers of the story, that is to say, the characters that make the bid decisions, the ones that know too much.

      Even with Blake we had something similar. The point of view we got from his was pretty limited, even for a first person narrative. The side stories, besides giving us the amazing world-building, gave us a glimpse of how much Blake didn’t know. Which is great, in my opinion, as it gave us a more realistic look for the story.

      Rose knows a great deal more than she lets on, something that was confirmed when she mentioned Molly was never the heir in her memories. Why did she lie then in chapter 1.2? I think she is far too important to be THE POV character from now on.

      As for Paige and Maggie? The former is too close to Isadora, someone who, by virtue of being such a powerful character, knows too much. The latter is more like the hero from another story and, she’s not connected to the Thorburn legacy which is something really important for the story.

      That’s why I think the POV responsabilities might fall on a member of the Blake’s cabal. They’re close enough to be important, but not important enough to be “game-breaking”.

      Of course, this could just be a case of “like you’d really do it”, and Blake is safe and well after a few chapters in limbo.

      Whatever the case, I believe this is, by far, the highest point in the story. After all, someone told me that a Wham episode shouldn’t be measure by how much it shocked but by how much it affected the course of the story.

  11. It seems the demon eats connections before the person? Or does it eat the connections and take the person to keep? Whatever the case it was a good idea not to send anyone in and just pour fire in from the outside.

    Anyway, it was about time Rose had a major set-back. After nearly seven arcs of victory after victory against “impossible” odds all alone (except for after forming the Roseguard) it had to happen.

    P.S. Why was Alexis trying to charge in?

    1. During the planning:

      “Rose?”

      “I keep track of the time. I’ve got notes in front of me. Whatever happens, when the time runs out, we burn the building.”

      Aftermath:

      “Abandon the mission,” Rose said.

      “But-” she started.

      “Wait for the fires to die down, abandon the mission,” Rose said.

      1. @haggai

        Wow, I didnt catch that. Was it on purpose?

        Maybe Rose is the final boss of the series. Perhaps she has had the ability to lie all this time. Her ritual didnt work in the beginning, and since she was technically an Other maybe she didnt need it.

        Reason I want Blake to be alive is because it would throw a wrench in Rose Sr’s plans. Can Rose be the rightful heir with Blake alive? Somehow I think saving Evan might help out Blake in the end, but his last sentence makes me think he was eaten.

        1. there were quite a few arcs in worm that ended with some variation of “i didn’t make it”, so i’m not quite sold on his death. I’m thinking a fall through the cracks

          there’s been quite a bit invested story-wise in his character development for him to be simply removed from the story like that

          1. That’s the thing – this didn’t. We got to see Blake get his connections cut, and the aftermath of that. Anyways, I’m not sure how much of a character he would manage to be IF he somehow survived – right now, he has pretty much nothing. and is with a demon in a burning building.

      2. Good catch. A change in plans at best, a betrayal at worst. I don’t know which is worst: being in a building with a demon or being in a burning building with a demon. Given the demon has at least a partial weakness to fire, I would guess the burning part – more pain in the short term, but less danger from the demon.

        But the possibility of Blake’s betrayal by Rose is definitely being floated, even if it is just an author trick put in to heighten tension.

      3. Wait, doesn’t that make Rose a liar? Or does saying “we burn the building” instead of “we will burn the building” let her wiggle out of it? If it does, then it’s not just the memory fail speaking. She planned it from the start.

        And that’s spooky as Hell. Almost literally. Nice catch!

        1. “We burn the building” was the plan (I think her words were “[that’s] my job”), not a promise.

        2. And anyway, how can the karma spirits consider her lying, if nobody remembers anyone she could have promised that to?

        1. I was responding to the question “Why was Alexis trying to charge in?”

          During the planning phase, Rose’s task was to make sure that they burn the building, no matter what. At the end, we see Alexis trying to do something — my guess is that she was charging the building with the intent of burning it. Rose calls her off, saying the plan is to abandon the building. That’s a change from before.

          It’s unclear whether (1) Rose has deliberately changed the plan and is cementing her new position outside the mirror world by leaving Blake behind, or (2) Ur has managed to make everyone forget that part of the plan by cutting the connections, and Alexis fleetingly remembers the old plan before its memory is washed away.

      4. I’ve got notes in front of me.

        That’s in the mirror-world.

        Rose settled a hand on Alexis’ shoulder.

        That’s outside. And there’s no reason anyone should remember the mirror world ever existed.

        Might have been a good idea to put the to-do notes somewhere everyone can see them.

  12. So, is Corvidae becoming Rose’s de facto familiar?

    Also: one data point does not a pattern make, but there is precedent for Wildbow “Xvyyvat bss” uvf CBI punenpgre, bayl sbe fnvq CBI punenpgre gb abg npghnyyl or qrnq.

    1. I see Wildbow’s spoiler editing strikes again, and really, why would you spoil that? Poor etiquette my good man, or woman as it were. If your comment was what I thought it was though, you may be correct. I certainly hope so.

            1. Wildbow tends to turn spoilers into Sesame Street references or “a spoiler wuz here” style comments. Taelor appears to have encoded the spoiler in ROT-13 so noone could accidentally read it.

  13. If this is the last of Blake, then I’ll miss him. I liked him as the underdog. Rose seems to have more knowledge and is more equipped to deal with the situation, and also less impulsive. I think the people from Jacob’s bell should be worried because I think Rose is more ruthless than Blake especially after the whole Conquest thing.

    Hopefully Blake finds a way to return.

    Seems like Blake underestimated the intelligence or the Ur demon.

  14. I can honestly say that I feel like a stranger class parahuman just hit me. Good job wildbow you magnificent bastard.

    If you are feeling smug right now, you deserve it. You may as well have bitchslapped my expectations. It fills me with equal parts rage and admiration.

    WWWWWWWWRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!

  15. Putting aside the taint, Ur actually seems like a pretty useful tool for getting rid of other nasty things. Bind Pauz, toss him in there, all the harm he did is retroactively erased.

    Also, I don’t suppose Blake was carrying the bound form of Conquest when he went in there?

    1. Unfortunately it was mentioned last chapter that Ur can’t retroactively undo things by erasing their cause, peoples’ memories just adjust to make sense of the changes. You could still use him as an Evil Magic Item Waste Disposal, but you’d really only want to do that with other demonic shit or it would probably be karmically awful.

      1. I don’t think Ur has to destroy everything. Toss in some evil magic items, and maybe he’ll use them to become more powerful. He’ll make sure to cut the connection between you and the item so you don’t remember the experiment, though.

    2. Unfortunately, no. The past stays the same, you just remember different reasons for it to be as it was. ErasUrr is not retconning, it is affecting memories and connections.

      That’s why it is actually dangerous to use as nasty item/being removal – you forget why you had the problems but the problems don’t go away, so you no longer remember that you had a serious danger to deal with.

      That is the only reason this looks like any possible rescue for Blake. He is still “out there” somewhere, he just has no connections to the world. At least, until a summoner accidentally or deliberately tries to talk to a lost Thorburn.

  16. … shit. Things demons destroy are gone for good, right? So does that mean Blake can never regain the same connections with his buddies again even if they find out he lives? That… that bites. That bites the hardest. Trap that fucker in a mirror ball with a halogen lamp.

  17. You know thinking about it if Blake wanted to sorta get away from the whole everyone wanting to murder him thing, having a demon make it so no one knows you exist is a pretty good way, maybe it will end up being a plus? assuming he’s not just dead of course

      1. The karmic debt only affects the women of his family, & since his connection with rose is cut, he’s no longer considered a woman by the “universe”.

        1. Wait, where does it say that? As far as I’m aware, the debt extends to all practitioners of the family, OR the current ‘heir’/head of the (practising) family

          1. It’s still not actually clear why the Thorburn heir has to be a woman. The Duchamps have to because it’s part of some major working they’re doing, but there’s no indication of such a thing in the Thorburns. And we know the Thorburns can at least produce male children.

            So who knows? There’s a big question mark over that whole issue.

      1. Urk. That actually makes sense. We don’t know about the retconned goblins because Blake didn’t know about them. But the narrator of Fell’s Histories chapter did because he was outside the narrative.

        We also are outside the narrative so probably we have that same perspective.

        Thanks terribly for destroying my one reason to retain hope for poor Blake. xO

    1. He apparently has trouble calling the lawyers personally (first contact with them) and he no longer has ties to the person who can (Rose).

    1. I wish Urr could sever my connection to Worm. That way I could read it again with all the excitement and drama renewed.

      1. I am currently rereading it, but every time certain characters are mentioned, I get so many feels.

  18. Back in 6.9, Blake dreamt that he was possessed by ErasUr, facing down Rose and her army of summonings. Given the context, the dream seemed at the time to be a premonition of Rose turning on Blake, but what if it wasn’t? Maybe at some point in the future, Rose will decide to tackle ErasUr herself (either for similar reasons to Blake, or to bind it into her army). When she does, she finds that it has found a hapless, unfamiliar, vaguely homeless-looking practitioner to torment, and fights with said practitioner in order to give him peace (cf. Blake and Dwight).

    1. If that dream is foreshadowing, then the line “Rose and her gathered summonings, with Pauz perched on her shoulder” implies that Rose will make Pauz her familiar. Though that seems improbable, to put it mildly – Pauz’ radiation nearly killed her once, after all. And considering what she’s summoned since (and what she’ll be able to summon in the future), Pauz almost seems comparatively too weak to boot.

      The notion that ErasUr, instead of erasing Blake, possessed him instead, seems more credible.

      1. If that dream was foreshadowing, it got many details wrong:

        In the dream his hands were bound to the Hyena sword. In reality the Hyena died and he decided not to take it as an implement.

        In the dream his hands were bound to the locket. The locket exists but it is mostly depowered, the hair gone.

        In the dream his hands were bound by the cords that once bound Pauz. Those cords now bind Conquest instead.

        In the dream something, presumably ErasUrr, slithered behind his eyes. In reality Blake prevented ErasUrr from taking his eye initially. Now, who knows, but it really doesn’t look good.

        You already mentioned the problem with Rose pairing with Pauz.

        Other aspects of the dream are harder to say whether they came true or not, but basically it looks like the dream warned him what to avoid:
        –Don’t use the Hyena as an implement.
        –Don’t (over)use the locket.
        –Don’t use the cords (maybe)? Oops on that one, he did use them.
        –Don’t let ErasUrr get in your eyes.
        –Don’t let Rose be controlled by Pauz.

  19. Comments:
    1) Okay, this plan was more like it. I was so annoyed at Blake’s first attempt at binding ErasUr, but this actually looked like a proper plan. But I didn’t understand how Blake survived his first encounter with ErasUr even before the smoke thing was revealed; I certainly don’t understand now. Well, possibly something more powerful than the goblins was erased and protected him, but Fell’s Histories chapter is some evidence against that.

    2) So Blake was erased. Wow. I didn’t expect him to survive the contest with Conquest against all odds, only to fall here. Huh. Incidentally, Blake might not be dead or erased; the phrasing “I didn’t make it.” could also indicate that he’d already fallen through the cracks of the world (into the void). A “disconnect”, basically. This would certainly fit the chapter title. (As would the void left in his companions, as well as in the story, by Blake’s actual erasure.)

    3) I think there might be an inconsistency in the first person narrative here: So far, when something of Blake’s was erased, we didn’t even notice. We only discovered that his goblin trio was erased when it appeared in Fell’s Histories chapter. I do accept that Blake’s story, rather than never get written, instead just ends when he is erased himself. But I assumed Blake wouldn’t be able to recount that ErasUr erased his connections, and that as a result none of his connections would appear in his story up to that point.

    4) Also concerning the narration: The final section after “I didn’t make it.” is followed by a shift in story perspective, but this section is entirely in 3rd person, rather than 1st person.

    5) I TOTALLY missed the line “Rose settled a hand on Alexis’ shoulder” the first time through. AWESOME. Haha. What a great ending for this story arc.

    6) And continuing that line of thought, I’m very much looking forward to how all the events so far are reinterpreted in light of Blake’s erasure. I guess we’ll switch to Rose’s perspective, who supposedly did everything Blake did? But then her personality might have to undergo a huge change, to the point of being unrecognizable, since she had previously been defined by her struggles to break free from her confinement, and by being all too much Other.

    7) Wow, wildbow, what an evil point at which to start the Maggie Holt arc :).

    1. 8) I just realized that Blake’s fate here, whatever it is, is very similar to what (Worm spoiler, rot13: Yrivnguna’f neeviny) was in Worm. Which happened at a similar chapter count, too.

      1. Chapter count shouldn’t relate 1-to-1 between this and worm, not with this being a one year project before donation updates. Even with that quibble, however, I disagree. I believe that this is more in terms of Fxvggre gheavat urefrys va then anything else. If only because it’s halfway through the story, and this is basically halfway through the year.

        1. That wasn’t halfway through, whether going by in-story chronologically (Fur fcrag zber guna gjb lrnef nf Jrnire nsgre gung), going by number of arcs (Vg unccrarq va gur raq bs Nep gjragl-bar bs guvegl), or going by posting dates (Jbez fgnegrq ba Whar ryriragu, gjb gubhfnaq naq ryrira, guvf unccrarq ba Ncevy gjragl-svsgu, gjb gubhfnaq naq guvegrra, Jbez raqrq ba Bpgbore gragl-avagu be Abirzore avargrragu bs gur fnzr lrne, qrcraqvat ba jurgure lbh tb ol Fcrpx.Frira be Vagreyhqr:Raq). So, no, not halfway through, unless you mean ideologically (Zvq cbvag orgjrra Fxvggre naq Jrnire), which doesn’t work with the comparison. I hope I have made enough use of rot13 so this doesn’t need to get Wildbowed…

          1. This reminded me of Fxvggre gheavat urefrys va gb gur CEG, mostly ideologically, it’s true, but also with Wildbow’s admission that the donation updates have pushed the schedule forward a bit.

    2. Re: 3)

      Everything else we have seen erased was erased from an outside perspective. We haven’t seen anyone erased from a first-person perspective before this. Remember the erased people aren’t necessarily destroyed, just completely disconnected.

      1. It was suggested that Blake’s mobile phone was erased at some point, which was why nobody remembered him having one. I figured getting his connections (which aren’t alive, like a mobile phone) erased and therefore falling through the cracks would be distinct from being erased himself (in which case he ought to remember the latter in his final moments, but not the former), but upon reflection, both these concepts could well be one and the same.

        1. Actually, the narration has a somehow inconsistent approach the erasing.

          Blake mentions neither his goblin friends nor whatever he brings to light his torch before he notices they were eaten (so, the story is written like they never existed up until that point), but he does mention having a phone early, then he says he doesn’t have one after meeting ErasUrrr.

          1. If I had to guess, he knew that he had a phone, but that’s about it. It’s a fact he couldn’t rationalize away. If he dug at it, holes would have shown themselves plain as day, but he didn’t.

      2. Or to put this another way: Everything up to this point except for Histories and Pages have been Blake recounting his recollection of the story. We the readers are not affected by Urraser but Blake has only been able to tell us what he remembers. However, the story he told us exists outside of his setting or we couldn’t have read it. So Urraser can’t erase the story we’ve already been told. He can destroy the storyteller though, in which case we’ll get no more of that story.

    3. Yeah… I don’t understand how Blake survived the first time either. All he had to do to escape was basically to run (not even that fast) towards the exit, and didn’t have nearly as much protection. And it was night. How the hell did he lose that fast now ?

      1. Mmmh… I can see several possible answers :
        – he did not have a wreath this time, maybe that was a lot better protection than fire/light.
        – Using a lot of light means casting a lot of shadows. Yes, it’s not less birght than it was before, but it creates a bigger contrast. Maybe the demon was able to use that.
        – ErasUrr may have expended a lot of power to do what she just did. At the very least she self-immolated. It may have been a desesperate tactic when on the first attempt she was content to scare the Thornburns into running away.

      2. Maybe ErasUrr has been doing some planning of it’s own. Or maybe the plan was always let Blake escape the first time, fiegning weaknesses, and then let him come back and destroy the bindings on the factory trying to destroy Urr.

      3. Random thought – Erasurre might have poor Sight, and couldn’t target Blake’s rather weak connections at nighttime. Attacking during the day with stronger connections may have been his downfall.

      4. You know, now that I think about it, if I were Urr, I wouldn’t eat everyone that came into the building I was bound into. I’d try to let at least some of them go, so they bring more people back trying to take revenge for what they don’t remember they lost.

    4. I missed the “hand on shoulder” part until I read your comment. Huh.
      People may have Rose and Blake’s positions reversed in their minds – Rose may believe her reflection got erased.

      1. Yeah…that’s odd. Possibly, there’s something more than we know.
        Okay, that’s a certainty, but there could be something that caused that.

      2. Most likely, Rose will get the credit for all of Blake’s deeds, pre- and post-Awakening. Or her memories will be blended with Blake’s deeds. A better question, in my opinion: Where the heck did she get a body?

        1. Which sidesteps the question to how she got out.

          And I never really got the impression that the Mirror World was really a world so much as an image created around Rose. If it is…that opens up a lot more questions about what, exactly, Rose Sr did.

  20. Harrumpf, an ‘Offscreen death’. Yeah, I don’t buy it until I see his corpse or…..

    no that’s the only reason I’ll accept him being dead.

    Maybe it’s just me but I am really not looking forward to the continuation of this story through Rose’ POV. But Wildbow will probably convince me otherwise with his writing.

  21. I need someone to convince me Rose makes a good protagonist. She’s sets players against each other, is post-conquest seeking out diabolism before other tactics, and most especially didn’t try making friends with the whoguard at all.

    Granted,
    -Paige was around during meeting time
    -conquest surely messed her up
    -she’s been trapped in a bubble for way too long

    But as someone who’s anticipated replacing for arcs and really wants real interaction, she seems to be going about it backwards.

    1. Don’t know why I didn’t say this on Saturday, sounds like last-minute denial now. I didn’t really intend that. I’d just anticipated her more lashing out for human contact than being Rose Sr. the reawakened.

      Really powerful chapter, wildbow. In one sweep you made questions, subtly answered them, and greyed many a head.

  22. Can somebody remind me what Rose’s Cabal’s name ? I can’t seem to remember. The Rose Gardens? The Thornburns? Something else?

    1. You know, that’s kinda funny. Apparently Isadora knew what was going to happen before it happened.

      But if Urr is doing what we’re told to believe he’s doing, she won’t know what happened after it happened, despite being there to witness it.

      Unless Sphinx-mojo beats demon-mojo, in which case why wouldn’t she have killed the demon already?

  23. Erasurr riddle go:

    -in what condition are the mirrors in the Toronto house, what transportation is used, and what book knowledge can Rose have?

    1. ErasUrr doesn’t change what exists, it disconnects things. So the bathroom mirror still got broken and placed on the walls (plus all the other mirrors they placed to make it easy on Rose). There is a motorcycle hanging around for unknown reasons that probably gets used just because it is around and not obviously anyone’s, and Rose studied the same books.

  24. Aww, Blake…

    My money’s on him not being dead. Even more of my money is on him being in a state we don’t want to see, but probably will anyways.

    The Blakeguard don’t recognize Evan flying around up there, which means they either forgot about him along with Blake or Evan just moved on. Or both.

    Rose is in the real world now, which is what was supposed to happen when Blake died.

    This is… ah man, I wanted to see Blake go places. I mean, he didn’t really seem cut out for the whole diabolism thing, but he was honestly trying to make the world a better place. 😦

    Also, seriously. Can Ur get any scarier?

      1. That would be amusing. In a darkly humorous, one-shot AU-story kind of way. Maybe it’s something wildbow could write between Pact and whatever comes next.

    1. “Rose is in the real world now, which is what was supposed to happen when Blake died.”

      Although having all your connections cut may have tricked the universe into thinking Blake died. It may be a loophole. Now all Blake has to do is defeat, or at least escape ErasUrr, forge new connections with everyone, and he’ll be hunky dory. No sweat.

      1. Cue Blake reenacting Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, where he slowly regains his friends’ trust.

        1. New connections won’t be the same as the old ones. They’ll probably never be as close as they were before, even if he was alive. That’s why you fear those who manipulate connections.

  25. Semi-spoilers for Worm in rot13:
    Guvf xvaqn erzvaqf zr bs gung bar puncgre jrer jr unq Gnlybe genccrq ol Pbvy va gung bar ohvyqvat jurer rirelguvat whfg frrzrq fb qnex naq jr jrer nyy guvaxvat “bu ab, ab zber Gnlybe” naq gura rirelguvat ghearq bhg n-bx!

    1. Yes, but back then, I binge read it and didn’t have to wait for a month to know how it turned out. 😉

    2. Yeah, it’s kind of the same “only a big damn Deus Ex Machina can save the hero” situation. I mean, [Gnlybe jbhyq or fb qrnq vs Pbvy unq hfrq frevbhf jrncbael vafgrnq bs whfg ‘bar’ tha].

      1. ROT13: Pbvy qvq hfr frevbhf jrncbael va bgure gvzryvarf. Vg’f vzcyvrq gung ur hfrq qbmraf bs teranqrf ba ure va gur bgure gvzryvar, naq fur jnf noyr gb fraq gurz nyy onpx juvyr gurl jrer fgvyy va gur nve. Jura ur’f tvivat beqref gb uvf zra, ur ercrngrqyl vafgehpgf gurz gb abg hfr teranqrf. Nyfb, uvf zra unir ynfre thaf gung pna phg guebhtu fgrry, juvpu frrzf cerggl urnil-qhgl gb zr.

        1. Seriously, it doesn’t make much sense, no matter how put it or define it. She survived because “author want hero to survive”, period.

          Vs Pbvy unq fvzcyl fubg ure jvgu n yvtug znpuvar-tha be n ynfre evtug nsgre fur gryrcbegrq, be vs ur’q yrg ure tb ubzr naq svyyrq ure ubhfr jvgu P4, be vs gur bgure fbyqvref unq fubg ure, be ur’q svyyrq gur ebbz jvgu qrnqyl arhebgbkvaf… V’z abg tbvat gb yvfg nyy cbffvovyvgvrf. Vs Pbvyq unq orra fzneg, Gnlybe jbhyq or qrnq.

          1. Your interpretation is missing a key factor.

            Jung lbh’er zvffvat urer vf gung Pbvy pna perngr oenapu havirefrf ng jvyy naq znxr inevbhf nggrzcgf, naq RIRELGUVAT ur gevrq snvyrq. Ner gurer cynaf gung zvtug unir jbexrq? Znlor. Ohg Pbvy qvqa’g gel gubfr cynaf. Znlor gurl jrer ba uvf gb-qb yvfg.

            Vg’f abg arprffnel gung gurer vfa’g n jnl gb xvyy Fxvggre, bayl gung Pbvy pna’g pbzr hc jvgu vg orsber Fxvggre naq Gnggyrgnyr pbzr hc jvgu na nccebcevngr pbhagre. Ur npghnyyl gubhtug ur fhpprrqrq jvgu uvf Cyna O, juvpu pnhfrq uvz gb npprcg gung oenapu, juvpu jnf gur sngny zvfgnxr. Vs Fxvggre unqa’g snxrq qrnq nsgre gur snxr genvgbe Fxvggre vapvqrag, Pbvy jbhyq unir pnapryyrq gung havirefr ntnva naq gevrq fbzrguvat ryfr.

          2. Vg jnf fcrpvsvrq va-havirefr gung ur jnfa’g ernyyl hc gb orvat fzneg. Yvfn unq orra zvaqfperjvat uvz sbe jrrxf gb yrnir uvz rkunhfgrq naq birefgerffrq, jvgu gbb zhpu gb qrny jvgu.

          3. Bar bs gur znva ernfbaf nyy uvf cynaf snvyrq jrer orpnhfr bs Üore’f pevccyrq gvaxre cbjref. Ur fcrpvsvpnyyl zragvbaf gung gurl gevrq gb gryrcbeg Fxvggre qverpgyl vagb be bire n ing bs npvq ohg vg jnf gbb fvzvyne gb fbzrguvat ryfr Üore unq perngrq.

      2. Ernyvfgvpnyyl fcrnxvat Gnlybe jbhyq unir qvrq znal gvzrf naq jbhyq pregnvayl arire unir znantrq orpbzr gur ehyre bs Oebpgba Onl.
        Gur Fvzhetu naq Pbagrffn/Pnhyqeba qvq n jubyr ybg bs jbex gb trg ure gb gur raq tnzr:
        Pbagrffn nyybjrq Nyrknaqevn’f qrngu (ab cerpbt oybpxvat nebhaq gurz ng gur gvzr) naq Pnhyqeba ceriragrq gur HF zvyvgnel be gur Cebgrpgbengr whfg trggvat fbzr sbeprf gbtrgure naq jvcvat gur sybbe jvgu gur Haqrefvqref jura gurl qrpynerq gurzfryirf gur ehyref bs gur onl (gur zvyvgnel pbhyq unir whfg fjrcg gur cynpr jvgu ahzoref juvyr gur Cebgrpgbengr vf fgngvfgvpnyyl thnehagrrq gb unir ybgf bs Guvaxre naq frafbe pncrf jub pbhyq svther bhg jurer gur Haqrefvqref ner naq oevat qbja gur unzzre).
        Gur Fvzhetu cerfhznoyl qebccrq gur VD naq pbzcrgrapr bs gur abar-Gnlybe pncrf (gvzrfgbccvat jverf vf fb oybbql boivbhf gung lbh jbhyq qrsvavgryl guvax bs vg va lrnef bs hfvat lbhe cbjre).

        1. Pretty much. Although “Cauldron / Contessa did it” is basically the same as “A wizard / the author did it”, by that point.

  26. Well as bad as this is, there might be one good thing. If Blake does somehow survive, then none of his enemies will remember him either. Heck, with Rose now the heir, he may be free of the karmic debt. Thus he will be able to operate more freely than before. Though loosing all your friends will suck bigtime.

    1. But if his ties with Evan are gone then the bird won’t survive either. He’ll have lost everything to start over. Even Worm didn’t end on that sour of a note… damn close, but still…

    2. On the downside, if he does survive we’re very likely to find out what Ur’s taint looks like. In more than one sense of the word.

    3. He won’t remember his friends either though. Assuming connections go both ways at least. He’ll be just as alone as they are.

  27. I’m in agreement with others that Blake is most likely not dead. His connections with his friends were broken by the demon, so they don’t remember him, but the sparrow fleeing the scene indicates that Evan is still ‘alive’ through his connection to Blake. My guess is that Blake called in the lawyers, maybe even before going into the factory in order to have an insurance policy. Fake his death in a magic sort of way, get Rose out of the mirror, ???, profit. Looking forward to seeing what happens next.

      1. He could still call them before getting chomped, either in the factory at the last moment or, as I mentioned, well before that to set up an insurance policy of sorts.

          1. I doubt that if that were the twist, or if there even was a twist allowing Whatshisface to live, we would not recognize it now because if it were foreshadowed, then Whatshisface’s untimely demise would not be the plot equivalent of a gut punch it was crafted to be. With all that Wildbow has set up, delivering the news of Whatshisfaces inevitable demise, then giving us some small hope that he might survive, only to end it so suddenly. I doubt he would have left any obvious clues as to whether a twist would occur, only ones that should be noticeable in hindsight, some Chekhov’s gun mentioned earlier or something similar.

            1. The only possible chekhov’s gun I can recall was if Blake’s super-nightmare turned out to be prophetic, which would be one heck of a fall.

              Ur possession might also explain a number of elements in that dream, such as his friends not noticing him, the desperate need to maintain what little essence he had left, Rose being in the real world and Blake in the mirror, etc.

              On the plus side, Blake could probably learn Ur’s full name that way. On the downside, it’d be far too late to do anything with it by that point, not to mention Blake’s old friends wouldn’t see Blake, but a stranger/monster deserving nothing more than a mercy kill at best. And that’s assuming Rose doesn’t mistake him for an other and bind him.

  28. Blake is The Fool for his tarot drawing by the DuChamps remember? This is the Abyss, death & rebirth part (Belly of the Whale) of The Hero’s Journey in which he needs to obtain a Revelation in order to receive a Transformation &/or Apotheosis in order to move on. Granted given his inherited karma, his time in there would be a small slice of hell but if he succeeds, he’d get a huge power/karmic boost, if he fails, he’d be deader than Evan.

    Rose’s physical manifestation here may have been part of RDT’s protections for the heirs as an emergency anchor to reality should they be this close to death; failure to overcome situations resulting in true deaths will cause Rose to move on to the next heir with a Rose’s alternate memories changed accordingly to suit the new heir with memories of the previous heir erased.

    1. Don’t worry, wildbow updates a ridiculous amount. 2x week at least, usually 3x (but not for the next few weeks).

  29. Rose had better deal with the Behaims soon, else she’s going to be a diabolist with one dubiously-loyal summon, a handful of meatshields/batteries, and no books to improve on either of those assets…

    1. Actually, we have no idea what Rose is capable of, now that she has hands of her own. I look at that list and add:

      • Time: Isadora’s prophecy stated this transition would be disorienting for everyone, Rose’s enemies included. The situation likely mirrors that of chapter 1-1: “That was… noteworthy in scale. […] We’ll need to know what she did before we move on.”
      • Secrets: Rose didn’t tell Blake everything; in particular, she was aware of the contents of Isadora’s prophecy, or the lawyers or senior!Rose told her when she newly was created. So while she apparently didn’t cause Blake’s death, she might have been planning for this eventuality for some time. In which case she’s ahead of her opponents.

      • A body, and a different personality: We have no idea how a human Rose behaves, but she won’t be a female Blake, and she seemed to be more of a strategizing type. Blake routinely took risks which should have removed him from the game (and finally did). Rose doesn’t strike me as the type to take similar kinds of risks.

      • Corvidae: of dubious loyalty, yes, but of immense value considering that Blake’s connections – of both allies and enemies – have reverted to Rose.

      • Knowledge from the books: relative to Blake, Rose had a several-week headstart on reading the books in the Thorburn library – Blake had no access in Toronto, and Rose didn’t sleep. Even if she has no access now, but that might not matter much.

      • Unknown motive: Rose’s one stated goal was fulfilled. We have no idea what she’s planning to do now. Though given that she’s inherited the Thorburn enemies, she might not have the time to think about this for now…

      • Lawyer favors and Ornias: we don’t know whether Rose is willing to use devils; I wouldn’t be surprised either way. She can call in one easy favor, and might be more willing than Blake to pay the price for more.

      • A cabal: In 6-03, Blake made his cabal swear oaths that they wouldn’t dabble in diabolism. Rose was captured by Conquest at that point, so she was in no position to do the same. Now that Blake’s connections were erased, these oaths could possibly be erased and void as well.

      • The reputation of being the Thorburn heir.

      And all this without having either of a familiar, implement, or demesne. (Though Rose’s implement has to be some kind of mirror, right?)

      1. Though Rose’s implement has to be some kind of mirror, right?

        That might make sense to us, but why would she remember mirrors?

      2. On the subject of Conquest, I wonder how everyone is going to reconcile the memory of binding him without Blake existing, and thus Rose not being in the mirror-verse?

      3. All good points. Maggie did have to guide her through summoning and binding the minions she used in Conquest’s contest, so it’s unclear how much good she got out of her headstart on the reading. That could go either way, though, and she does seem like the type to have memorized a few key demon summonings just in case.

        Also, one of Rose Sr’s conditions for her heir was that the latter improve the family’s karma over the next few years. If we assume that she also created Rose Jr for a specific purpose, I’m skeptical that she wouldn’t include a “don’t use demons except as a last resort” clause (which is admittedly still more lenient than Blake’s “except never”).

        1. The lawyer firm works with people capable of summoning and binding things like the barber and the crow/raven, things that can seriously mess up or cut connections. They must have a way of monitoring broken connections. Just because Blake may be lost to the world now doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s lost to everything in the world.

          1. On that note, don’t they work FOR things that can cut/shuffle connections? The demonic law firm might be Blake’s best chance, and that’s a really scary thought.

            1. You know what’s really scary? During the lawyer chat, the “working for devil lawyers” part is considered only a part of the price, and perhaps not the worst. (Similarly in the discussion with their driver.)

              The serious costs are losing your name, your identity (or at least parts of it), and giving demons a foothold in the world by giving up something of yours.

              The scary part is that Blake doesn’t really have much to loose from that point of view. (Or, at least, he might not remember he does.) He might actually not see a reason to refuse, if he remembers the lawyers, they remember him, and they’re still interested.

  30. I kind of like this ending. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Blake, but if the story just uses him and only him as the main POV character it kind of lets you know he’ll survive every time since the story would be over without him. So, as shocked as I am, I think the story will be a lot better now.

    Even after Isadora cut him open I was like “nah he ain’t dead yet, it would be over”.

    Making every single character disposable is what I love about Game of Thrones; I sincerely hope Blake is gone. Even if he isn’t, I’m hoping the story will have a lot more POV arcs based on the other power players and make it clear no one is truly safe. Let the hunger games begin!

    Worm spoiler:
    Guvf vf jung unccrarq jvgu Jbez, nsgre gur frpbaq svtug jvgu Yhat V jnf nyernql cerggl pregnva Gnlybe jbhyqa’g qvr whfg orpnhfr fur jnf gur ureb.

    (go to rot13.com and press cypher if you want to read that)

  31. So, Blake being eaten aside…

    You know, it’s interesting that the Shepard offered help here, free of charge. Previously he’d been nothing but antagonistic-and it’s not like Blake asked him to help, just that he give Blake free reign. I wonder what his thought process there was? Give Blake more rope to hang himself with? Altruism, providing resources to help stop a monster?

    Blake was able to get a lot of people who normally wouldn’t to give him stuff to help against this thing. A shame it was a wasted effort.

    1. The little hand that set a sparkle and burned the gasoline all at once producing a lot of smoke for the demon to hide.
      Was it a ghost?

      1. I got the feeling that was a part Ur itself. We’ve already seen that he can form limbs and tendrils all over the place at will, why not a functioning hand?

        Although… I feel like there would have been light there. Guess it’s hard to say.

      2. From the lines:
        “When I saw, I felt something go tight in my chest.
        The demon, slithering alongside the wall.
        A tiny hand held a piece of rebar, dragging it against the concrete at a speed faster than I could run.
        No, it doesn’t make sense.

        -> There’s enough ambiguity in the text (“A tiny hand” is in a separate paragraph from “The demon”; plus the last line) that this could possibly have been deliberate sabotage by another entity with a tiny hand (maybe the Shepherd’s wraith girl?). Though Ur itself (from 5-6: “It was aged limbs, withered ones, from every species and no species in particular.”) seems like the more likely explanation, e.g. due to “The demon immolated itself”, though Blake could have misinterpreted the situation.
        And surely there would have been easier ways of sabotaging Blake than this. This one required knowledge of how Ur functions, which is another point in favor of Ur self-immolating.

        (Incidentally: I just noticed that Ur’s self-immolation is neatly paralleled by the talk, earlier in the chapter, about shamans accidentally self-immolating.)

        1. Also, from 5-6:
          “This time, it simply crashed into the wall of flame. The fire did far more damage than it should have. Incinerating mountains of flesh, torching bent limbs and digits.
          […]
          It was destroying itself, feeding more and more of itself into the fire.
          If there were hints or clues as to why in the creature’s behavior or body language, I couldn’t see it.”

          So Ur already tried this same tactic in its first encounter with Blake (which to me suggests it was not cunning enough to intentionally spare Blake then for some unknown purpose, but instead simply failed).
          And this also suggests that Blake really did misunderstand something fundamental about Ur’s nature, which led to his defeat.
          Maybe the rule of three was also involved somehow, i.e. Blake managed to escape twice (however one wants to count) in their first encounter and now was caught in the third try?

  32. I just realized this: Maggie’s prophecy may well be fulfilled now. From her Histories chapter: “You’ll experience what you experienced here, twice more. The rule of three, to make this stronger. [You] will experience blood and darkness and fire, like you experienced it here.”
    And in 6-7: “Predefined rules, boundaries, minimized damage, a lot to gain? I’ve been hoping for something like this for a long time now.”

    Molly may or may not have been a darkness-and-fire event, but surely this is one. The “blood” part gives me some trouble, but it seems to point to relationships (like “of my blood”), rather than physical blood, in which case the erasure of Blake’s relationships seems like a perfect fit. Though I wonder to which extent Maggie must be personally involved for it to count.

    1. Nah, still got the worst one left. Rule of three, it’s gonna be something to behold.
      I have a hunch this story will be punctuated by Maggie (she’s not as far from the spotlight as she thinks). 6 months for the second event, 6 months for the third.

      We get to enjoy the quirky adventures of a young diabolist in the meantime as a coincidence.

        1. Are you really believing Wildbow will deliberately avoid describing 10/10 messed up fiery chaos ?
          I know we shouldn’t expect anything, but… come on.

  33. “But I wanted to be dramatic and clever, and there aren’t many ways to do that without lying.”
    True.

    “I really want to give you a kiss on the cheek,” she said.
    You’re sure you don’t like-like him?

    Shamans keen on the dramatic had tried riding fire spirits, and by and large, they’d self-immolated.
    And thus earned the magical world’s equivalent of a Darwin Award.

    And, of course, a holy crap or similar epithet would be appropriate.

    1. “I really want to give you a kiss on the cheek,” she said.
      You’re sure you don’t like-like him?”

      Hey it was my ship. Might be a doomed one now though.

        1. Seventeen, above the legal age of mutual consent, and three years removed from Blake. If he comes back in a year, somehow, they can get close without the undertones and everyone who ships the pairing wins.


      1. Um, might? Are we speaking the same language here? I’m pretty sure that ship is literally impossible outside of fanfiction. Like, literally and totally impossible.

    2. Eh, it’s within the acceptable range of responses to a friend flat out saying “I have a right to be concerned about your wellbeing”. Particularly when you aren’t planning on actually giving up any info.

          1. I would prefer if Paige and Isadora could scare them out of every actually getting to the mansion. Let the Thorburn Mansion and the Barber be lost to time.

            1. Workings unravel. Especially resource intensive ones like the Behaims’, especially when there are people who could be interested in stuff contained within (such as the library). Also, if the Thorburn line ever ends, that thing goes to the lawyers… not something very desirable.

  34. Oh wow, what if ErasUrr isn’t the dumb brute we’ve kind of been assuming it is? The Demons do have inter-dimensional lawyers and an extremely long-term game plan. Even the Incest Demon was shown to have been flying under the radar for decades, secretly assembling it’s forces. (Pauz doesn’t count, he’s only a spark.) ErasUrr displays new tricks this time round, suggesting it was holding back the first time it fought Blake, by quite a bit. It even apparently ate his phone, which on reflection would have been a reflective surface and hidden away on Blake’s person. If it could reach through his protections to eat his phone, for seemingly no real reason other then limiting his connections, there’s no reason it couldn’t do the same to him. It intentionally let him go the first time, and has it’s own plans for him now he’s officially cut off from the rest.

    If Blake was created by the Barber, then perhaps there were conditions set into place by Rose Sr. anticipating or even requiring Blake’s death. ErasUrr’s actions could be a loophole allowing the Demons to fulfill the bargain while pulling one over Rose Sr.

  35. By the way, is Blake’s chest still held together by wax? Cause if so, being stuck by fire is just the thing he needs to make his situation worse.

  36. After rereading some of the first few chapters, I’m starting to think there’s some really shady stuff in play here. First of all, it seemed like in 1.1 Molly had an idea of what was coming. Also, Rose Sr. dies at exactly the stroke of midnight? Along with her “cat” (familiar), obviously. Finally… I’m veeeery interested to know what exactly Rose knows. She obviously had some sort of briefing before she met Blake for the first time, since she gave him intel on the situation and even what lead to Molly’s death…

    1. Rose Sr. died at the stroke of midnight because she’d struck a bargain with Aimon Behaim for more time on her life. She knew exactly when it was going to run out.

      Molly had an idea of what was coming for the same reason Blake did in 1.1: she’d inherited the family’s enemies and had gained some small access to the magical world, despite not being awakened yet.

  37. Aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Goddamnit Wildbow.

    I don’t even know what to say. Blake was at his best, reaching for purpose and trying to do Good, and his incredibly bad Karma let him rise to that level so that he could fall harder. Aaaahhhh.

  38. (I typed this up earlier, but my computer crashed. Hopefully the tags work).

    Oh my God, I’m so excited for this Maggie Holt arc. We now come to one of my favorite metafictional devices: plotting Maggie. Don’t you all see? This is Book Five (or thereabouts) in the Maggie Holt series, which I think of as a pulpy (but good) Dresden Files-style YA novel. I’m not super clear on Maggie’s timeline, or even how old she is, but I’m going with 17 as of 7.11. I could look it up, but I don’t care that much.

    Book One: We learn about the world of magic as Maggie’s hometown is attacked by goblins. It has more of a suspense/horror feel closer to what Pact is now. It ends with Maggie escaping to Jacob’s Bell, her deal with the goblin queen hanging over her head as a sequel hook.

    Book Two: Arrival at Jacob’s Bell, a small town full of sinister intrigue and colorful characters. Maggie begins her struggle for power. Obviously, there are other subplots. This book might have more of a “Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World” feel — where “Save the World” is “struggle to get by in an unforgiving environment,” especially as Maggie will be the “new girl” at school and in the community.

    This would form a prominent subplot throughout the book. Maybe even a little romance with some civilian (although they’d break up, natch — and this is why Maggie starts low-key eyeing Blake, because she thinks she can’t have a “normal” relationship. Sidebar, though: isn’t Blake in his late twenties? Talk about a sketchy pairing). The book ends with Rose’s death, and the pending arrival of a new Thorburn.

    Book Three: Maggie continues to struggle for power, and is manipulated into killing Molly. Blake arrives, and eventually finds out. The book also covers whatever happened to get her fairy-possessed (or whatever) after Blake leaves for Toronto. Blake calls her to the city at the end of the book.

    Book Four (would depend on the pacing/size of the other books?): Toronto and aftermath from Maggie’s POV. Now, picture a typical YA-style blurb for Book Five.

    Maggie Holt thought she was done with Blake Thorburn after leaving him and his cabal in Toronto. He’d bound the Lord of the city, and she’d gotten her third round of blood and darkness. Thorburn could deal with the creepy, existence-eating demon inhabiting a Toronto factory. She could deal with her senior year and, maybe, head to college. Right?

    Blake shows up at her door a week later. Turns out, the battle at the factory went badly, and now he’s trapped on the bleeding edge of existence. Rose Thorburn — Blake’s cold, calculating counterpart — has taken his place in the real world. None of Blake’s friends even remember that he exists — and Rose is more dangerous than she seems.

    Blake Thorburn needs help, and Maggie Holt is the only one who can give it to him. Or she’ll have more than her senior prom to worry about.

    Catch the action in Maggie Holt: Double Jeopardy. In stores now.

    1. I feel like the readers of the hypothetical Maggie Holt series (much like the watchers of the hypothetical Duncan Behaim, Time Cop TV series) would have mixed feelings about Blake.

      On the one hand, it’s good that he’s not being an asshole about how Maggie owes his family for murdering his cousin. On the other hand, he twists the plot all around himself in Book 4! The Fell subplot and Maggie’s team-up with Rose (which probably produced some Rose fans) just highlight that this is really Blake Thorburn’s book. Maggie’s just there as a footsoldier. It’s him, after all, that kills Laird, so Maggie has to deal with the fallout.

      And now he’s showing up to be the love interest/damsel in distress for Book 5? Sheesh, the author is really pushing the guy, isn’t he?

      “Fuck you Blake I just want Maggie to shank Craig like the little bitch he is. I don’t care about your failing at demon hunting.”

      “Blake/Maggie forever! It’s a really good inversion of romance novel tropes where neither of them lose their agency and they both have separate but connected goals and interests.”

      “I hate Maggie since she murdered that girl in book 3 and I’m just reading them now to be a curmudgeon. I want a Blake Thorburn series. At least he’s not evil.”

  39. Maggie is caramel-cream-fudging sweet. She kicks me right in the diabeetus.
    {V ernyyl ubcr fur jba’g raq hc yvxr cbbe Abryyr}.

    Also, right on time; June’s over, year halfway point reached. Time to switch gears… Damnit, something must have got into my eye. ;_;

  40. “People were gravitating toward me. Isadora didn’t budge. Maggie, on the other side of the

    My nervousness only intensified.”

    Missing word or Imp hijinks?

  41. So, here is a fringe theory about Blake coming back to the story, even if not as the POV character.

    The Rose we have seen lately is… cold. She is harsh, ruthless and apparently secretive. She has also been quite obsessed with reaching for power. Now, a lot of this might stem from her being stuck in a mirror prison, but this is also how she really is like.

    And that’s great! She will be a fearful practitioner. Easily one of the strongest practitioners there have been, with an incredible amount of intellect, resources and experience. Just like her great-grandmother and her great-great-grandmother and…

    My point is, if Rose’s personality does not change, she will continue with the Thorburn line of scary, evil people (it was suggested that the Thorburn line has done horrible things. Both Bad and Wrong). Rose Sr. wanted to avoid this. She wanted to end the cycle of fighting between the Thorburns and the Behaims, and hopefully not accrue more bad karma in the process.

    This is where I think Blake comes in. Blake has a tradition of breaking the rules and trying to do things his own way. He run away from family instead of staying, he built his /own/ life, struggling against an incredible amount of bad karma, and he has only tried to make the world better for his jerk family, his friends and the rest of the world. Now, Blake is “dead”, free of karmic debt and free to explore his power to his full potential.

    The two weakest links of my theory, of possibly many, are:
    First, how will Blake be able to do anything for the Thorburn line if his connections to it were cut? He probably doesn’t know who his family was (but he will remember he had a family, like he remembered he had goblin companions when he fought ErasUrr). Blake is not the first person to get eaten by ErasUrr, but we have never heard of anyone come back, and Blake shouldn’t be an exception.
    Second, this is the perfect “death”. This is the perfect way to erase Blake’s karmic debt. There is no way granny Rose could have planned this.

    I would answer both points with a flimsy answer: the lawyers. Maybe the lawyers couldn’t do anything to direct Blake to ErasUrr, but they could have many plans in case of his death and how to bring him back.

    1. I don’t think Granny Rose could have anticipated (or at least been sufficiently certain of) Blake meeting Ur, so Rose Jr. was probably really supposed to come through when Blake died.

      (It would require a ridiculous kind of Thanatos gambit to pull that through, it doesn’t sound quite like Wildbow’s style. I’d expect him to at least foreshadow before putting a Contessa in the story.)

      So it’s probably that the demon in the machine triggered the incarnation of Rose (though I am curious how was Rose supposed to have been incarnated if Blake just died). But if Blake survives somehow it would actually be a lucky turn of events from the karma-inheritance point of view, although he might be miserable about it.

      1. No, no. I don’t think Granny Rose could have done anything about ErasUrr. Rather, she might have had multiple plans “in case Blake goes down”. Blake was going to meet his end soon, she could have planned for a variety of ways this could have happened.

      2. From what I gather, Rose taking Blake’s place was in the sense of the universe “righting” itself. Either granny Rose tricked the universe into thinking mirror Rose was the real heir and the evil Blake was keeping her imprisoned, or mirror Rose was the real heir the whole time and Blake was the sneaky mirror duplicate.

      3. I think elder rose could have anticipated that. From what we know of her, she was incredibly smart, ruthless, and powerful. Behaims have mentioned how one of her plans were so convoluted that no sane person would think of it, and she would pull it through. Lawyers said, when asked why elder rose didn’t take “the deal”, that it was because she needed power. They would have given her power, but with limitations, being part of the firm and all, and she needed a LOT of power.

        However… Blake HAS speculated of the lawyers being very…. contessa-like. Things fit together in such a way that it was as if they planned, from the moment blake and Lewis took their little walk, for blake to be pinned by conquest who would force him into a corner, and blake himself would force himself deeper in the corner (with the contest) and cause him to call their names.

        If you look at all the events that have transpired since the very beginning, and assume lawyers are near-clairvoyant, or have an ability similar to the “I win” power (getting the most likely possibility for the most optimal way to achieve their goal, so not QUITE like her power, but close enough), it makes a lot more sense. Even from the moment Rose comes into being and sees a lawyer cleaning and putting everything back in its spot before Blake gets there (I would guess they put the rune back on the “in case of emergancy, break mirror” note, since there’s no way molly was there for months and never touched one of the books hiding the note).

        But Elder Rose did make deals with the lawyers from time to time. I still have no friggin idea what her plan/goal is, nor why she died exactly at midnight, but I do know she had laid out a very complex and well-thought-out plan. It’s totally reasonable if she coordinated with lawyers and even planned THIS happening.

        My reasoning for this- I’m not buying that molly was a meat shield and nothing more. Unless molly also had a mirror-version of herself, which I doubt because the duchamps would’ve noticed, why was blake the one to get the vestige? Elder Rose told Aimon that the whole “cut reflection” thing was the protection she was giving to her heir. No point of giving that protection to only him, just so he could circumvent the “female heir” thing.
        HOWEVER, this makes perfect sense if she knew that the only way to drive blake to where he is now, and to even pick up magic, is if one of his favorite cousins was murdered, like his own “Ben Parker”, and that he, with his messed up past, and very very unique personality and sense of justice would be the ONLY one of her decedents to be brave/stupid enough to go after Ur and/or some other evil demon thing.

        Makes a crapton more sense if this has all been apart of her plan.
        one more, and this one is an even bigger speculation from left field with a LOT less evidence to support it- What if Urr has been operating on Elder Rose’s instructions for this specific moment/action? Urr’s actions haven’t been making sense lately, and I feel like blake shouldn’t have lasted this long at all, let alone his first encounter. Why not eat the connections then?

        1. Well, I guess in a world with augurs, divination-oriented Sphinxes, lifetime-reading fae and all that stuff it’s probably less unlikely than my instincts would lead me to believe.

  42. Wanna put my top two vague+shitdropping cliffhangers up here:

    “Rose settled a hand on Alexis’ shoulder.”
    “Url!” Gnggyrgnyr cnhfrq, cbvagvat ng zr jvgu n fgrea rkcerffvba ba ure snpr. “Qba’g fjrne!”

  43. Wow! I would never have guessed that Maggie would turn on Blake like this. Wildbow I sure hope her arc explains how Ur possessed Maggie. I really had hoped you would have sent her into the void but NOOOO! You pull an ErasUrr on Blake. So, who’s going to rescue him?

    1. “I would never have guessed that Maggie would turn on Blake like this.”

      What.

      “Wildbow I sure hope her arc explains how Ur possessed Maggie.”

      Seriously, what? Did I miss something?

    2. …wait what

      True, we don’t know for sure what possessed maggie was the goblin from earlier and not something else. But.. why do you think it’s Urr? I mean, maggie had a moment to give Blake a reason to not go in there, and she told him that now was his best chance. Why not eat him sooner?
      I don’t see maggie showing any signs of not liking sunlight/fire. Hell, she’s been all about the “blood and fire” thing.

      Plus, First time Blake fought Ur, he had three goblins with him. If we assume they came from the only goblin queen he knows… then it’s more confusing to think ur is maggie.

      1. It was theorised back then that those 3 goblin helpers were the Hyena’s posse, who obeyed Blake after binding their old leader.

        1. …but…. then the Hyena wouldn’t have submitted. They would have either protected their boss from the ghosts, or broke the tree and/or chain-leash, when Blake gave Hyena the ultimatum of either submitting or blake leaving it to get mauled by his victims.

          If hyena had goblin helpers who obeyed blake AFTER hyena was beaten, that means they weren’t also hyena’s victims like the ghosts and fairies and whatnot. So, I can’t think of why Hyena would Submit if that were the case….

          1. The hyena would submit if Blake managed to deal with his goblin crew in some way, such as trapping them behind charged metal or tying them up in holly leaves or whatever other weakness. The goblin crew would obey Blake for the exact reasons Maggie listed in this chapter: claim victory over a goblin leader, and all its minions will follow you instead. And you’ll note that Blake’s actions and results almost perfectly mirror the examples Maggie gave.

            1. If Blake dealt with the crew like that, he would’ve remembered having more holly and chain. He mentioned multiple times that he didn’t think he had enough chain and wished he had more but wasn’t sure how he could move effectively like that.
              For him to forget about the additional materials used to deal with the minions, Ur would have had to eat the goblins AND the additional materials.

            2. As for not remembering the materials, weren’t the goblins still wearing chains to seal them up during the fight with Urrrrr?

  44. I mainly have one question. “What is going on in Alexis’ head, because this could mean god damn anything!”

    I also hope that we haven’t seen the last of Blake he was far to interesting too get rid of him, had far too much left to explore. 😦

    @Wildbow: Well done, fantasticly written and absolutely evil!

  45. Wildcrazytheorytime:

    Blake used wax to patch himself up, forging a connection between him and the Tallow man. The mention of the Tallow man’s probable return was foreshadowing. Blake’s lack of connection with his friends will strengthen his ties to the dead (Tallow man). Blake and the Tallow man will fuse, returning as a very Other practitioner that isn’t and never was the Thornburn heir.

    At the very least, the mention of Others being able to return from the dead was foreshadowing for Blake’s return (I hope).

    1. I’m not sure if I’d want to see Blake return. He left in a pretty bad state, and there’s no way he’d be coming back in a better one. Would there even be anything left?

  46. Now that Blake’s connections have been consumed, theoretically, Rose will not remember him, which could possibly lead up to a point later on that “mirrors” Rose’s appearance in 1.1. In fact I could definitely see that happening, just for the irony that it would have. If it does happen, knowing the pacing for this story, I would expect it to happen near the beginning of the third act, assuming that this signifies the second act, the lowest point for our heroes. If this situation actually does occur, it would be very similar to the structure of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh books, which are a great read by the way.

  47. Next time, on Blake’s Tall Tales:

    Blake: You know, I fought an oblivion demon once!
    Rose: Wh- No you didn’t.
    Blake: Oh yes I did! (Reminiscing dramatically) There I was, bravely entering the demon’s lair, armed to the teeths with ghosts, runes, fire and halogen lamps, determined to bind the monstrosity once and for all!
    Rose: Never heard of such a thing.
    Blake: But you were there too!
    Rose (sputtering): What!? That’s… preposterous! How could I- (pauses, draws a breath) Ok, mister, if you’re so smart, how did YOU vanquish the demon?!
    Blake (whispers mysteriously) Well, the truth is, the beast was simply too strong, so… I didn’t make it!
    Rose: WHAT?!? Of all the stupid, imbecillical-
    ErasUrr (noding sagely): Is all true, senorita… Nadie, but no one, can catch… (points to itself) El Magniiifico! No es verdad, amigo?
    Blake (heavy Canadian accent): Si, es verdad, amigo!
    (They both pull out their guitars)
    Rose (cheek twitching): Lord, GIVE me strength!… Who are you two eediots anyway?!…

    Sorry folks, been watching too many cartoons lately with my son.

    1. Blake as Mater and Rose as McQueen? I totally see it.

      That makes ErasuUrr…. Peet-stop?

  48. Ouch, Blake. Better call Saul.

    (Or summon Ornias. He’s supposed to be extremely nasty, but I don’t know if he trumps Urraser. Maybe he could throw a star at it – that’d be some serious fire and light. But when you’re about to be eaten out of existence is not a good time for maybes.)

    1. Remember what Briar Girl said. She didn’t think Ornias actually used stars/meteors, but rather was entropic. That he’d dim lights for decades as a resault of being summoned. So I don’t think that he’d be driving off ErasUrr with light. On the other hand, if I remember correctly their both members of the Choir of Darkness, so the good news is Ornias probably trumps ErasUrr. The bad news is Ornias trums ErasUrr.

      1. There’d definitely be an entropic cost to summoning him – one I don’t think Blake wants to make humanity pay – but I think Ornias would use light/fire. If you take Briar Girl and Ms. Lewis at their word – as we usually can in Pactverse – it sounds like Ornias uses stars in some fashion (maybe burning them up prematurely and using their energy? I can’t get the image of him chucking entire stars at people out of my head).

        Briar Girl: “With one action, he [Ornias] might bring fiery death down on your enemies”

        Ms. Lewis: ““Ornias. He once placed stars in the firmament, but he now calls them down to earth.”

        1. Sounds kind of like he directs light, instead of creating it. As in, he tells it where to go and what to do, and as a cost of his aid he takes some of it with him when he leaves.

          So, maybe he would chuck an entire star at someone… but that star would be gathered from light elsewhere, and he’d take another half on top of that as payment.

  49. So, if Blake survives this, he might lose his connections to almost everything, and become a Tabula Rasa. He might even lose connections to the Thorburn family line, the lawyers, and the house, but still be awakened? He might even lose the connections to the worst parts of his homeless times?

    Lots of very bad directions this might go in, but not all of the lost connections would be bad to lose.

    1. That has been discussed earlier. Tossing bad stuff into Urr might not make it disappear, it might just make you forget it ever existed… Which could be bad.

    2. Ur might not eat conquest. Might just east only the mirror/seal. Which is bad for MANY reasons…

      All the good karma Blake earned from conquering conquest might get forgotten as well.
      There’s no longer a good reason for the spirits that were on the fence about killing Laird to not make him forsworn
      Universe would need to go into overdrive to make everyone make sense out of the whole “Who’s lord of the city again?” thing, probably something like there wasn’t one to begin with. This would upset the balance some (like duncan’s groundhog day). Which would piss off the sphinx.

      I don’t think he should piss off the sphinx any more than he already has. Ever.

  50. In one of his “thank you” posts to the donations, Wildbow thanks Eliezer Yudkowsky, and says something along the lines of “I got your message. It’s a good idea, I’ll think about it”.

    Yesterday, EY posts this-
    My current brilliant idea is that myself, Andrew Hussie of Homestuck, and Sam Hughes of QNTM, should all finish our respective masterworks, then coordinate with each other to start posting simultaneously, on the same days, at the same time of day, preferably late in the evening, starting just as finals begin. Because that’s the closest we can come to actually eating our readers’ souls.

    Ten bucks says the good idea was related to this.
    If so- thank you wildbow for not eating our souls any more than you already have.

  51. Everybody, you’re looking in the wrong place. The POV isn’t going to be with Rose or Ty or even Maggie (after this next arc). The POV is going to switch to Laird. After the Maggie arc, we can follow the misadventures of Soul Laird as he travels thru the cracks into hell in order to enact his secret plan to free the Behaims and the Thorburns from their intertwined destinies. On the way, he will meet a mysterious Diabolic Bird Man who will partner up. Eventually, they will claw their way out of hell/the void and will defeat the Spirits, Rose and anyone else that stands in the way of justice.

  52. Wait a minute… Paige was as close w/ Rose as Maggie w/ Blake…
    Isadora was using paige to get a direct connection with the Thorburn heir, but it was a much shorter-term plan than it seemed.

  53. According to our current understanding of information-theoretic death, every character in this story is now dead, replaced with variants. Guess I’ll go look for a new story to read.

    1. Not quite, Rose and Blake’s friends will be significantly different, but all of the toronto powers are the same. Maggie hasn’t been defined by blake up until she came to Toronto, so there will be little change in her.

      And then there will be the nebulous feeling that something is missing. Blake’s friends likely won’t mesh correctly with Rose, and its likely that their memories will not all be the same. It’s likely that the nebulous feeling of a missing piece will now permeate the whole serial.

      Additionally, Fell who is a recognized enchanter/illusionist remembered blake’s goblins who were eaten by Ur. So its possible that an eaten connection actually doesn’t cease to exist in its entirety. It may be possible for an enchanter to repair broken connections. This would be an awesome attack for the Duchamps to use.

      Suddenly… Memories.

      1. I was under the impression that Fell’s chapter was a histories one, and the reason it mentioned the goblins at all was because it was done in a past-tense, third person sort of deal, as in “these are things that happened”.

        1. Again I get a nagging feeling Ur doesn’t actually do what we’re told he does. The presentation is inconsistent between items, and I can’t tell if Wildbow slipped or if it actually means something:

          1) Blake’s phone: mentioned very early in the story, nowhere in and after the first factory chapter. (Though I can’t figure out why would Ur have had the opportunity to eat it; why would Blake have taken out his phone inside the factory?) Neither the Thorburns, nor their friends, nor Fell seem to remember it, and Blake rationalizes its absence.

          2) The lighter (or matches, who knows): never mentioned, except for the fact that the torches are not lit at the start and there’s fire later. Neither Thorburn remembers it, but Blake does figure out he must have had one.

          3) The chained, maimed goblins: mentioned in Fell-centered third person narration (though never by Fell himself), never mentioned in first person, and neither Thorburn seems to remember them. But Blake sees blood which is very likely theirs; at one point he actually says it’s “not the demon’s” (well, the narration says, but it’s in first person); at one point the demon bites a hand, that Blake seems to believe it’s the demon’s, but might actually belong to one of the goblins.

          4) Halogen lights: mentioned in Fell-centered third person, never mentioned during the first encounter (not even when Blake gripes about how many things he has to carry), mentioned throughout the second encounter (when they were outside the factory).

          5) The car battery: mentioned in first person before the factory, never mentioned after. Might have been forgotten, might have been left outside.

          6) The Shepherd’s ghosts and the dolls are mentioned, but they’re all fire-related and burn/explode before Ur interacts with them.

          7) Blake’s friends are all mentioned before and during the second entry into the factory, but when the Ur bites through the connections Blake refers to them as “the individuals just outside the buildings”.

          8) The “wreath”: interestingly, Ur doesn’t seem to give a damn about it, but it’s mentioned throughout the chapter, even after it’s crushed by Ur, and Blake seems to remember it. (In any case, they don’t try to use that during the second try.)

          9) The fire, fuel and burning things (though not the lighter) are always mentioned and remembered.


          I think things “disappearing from history” isn’t an effect of those things being eaten. I think that’s just because Ur eats their connections (occasionally, but not always, as a side-effect of eating them). It’s an abstract demon, and the only other one we know (the Barber) also seems to sever connections (to the afterlife, to powers). That might explain why the wreath is not erased (Ur just crashes over it, it might have been otherwise ignored), and why the goblins are halogens are visible from Fell’s perspective (either too subtle of a connection, or Ur only ate Blake’s connection to them; though that doesn’t explain the phone).

          Number (7) above suggests that things don’t have to be eaten to be forgotten (Ur certainly didn’t eat the people outside, but Blake doesn’t seem to know who they are anymore).

          The scariest part here for me is the last port of (3) above: what if everything Ur eats the connections of are perceived as part of the demon? (I.e., instead of that just being the most convenient rationalization at that moment.) Even if Blake escapes alive and (relatively) well, his friends might see him as Ur.

          1. Great catch on 7), I missed the phrasing “the individuals just outside the buildings”. So Blake could understand what happened, and remember that he lost his connections, because the people themselves were not erased. He just didn’t know anymore who they were.
            A related guess: Blake’s interpretation is slightly wrong: all his connections were cut, but once that happened, he wasn’t even aware that he had ever had connections to other people than those “just outside the buildings”.

            And another option: Blake’s phrase “the individuals just outside the buildings” was true; he phrased it so because someone else was in the factory with him, and this connection wasn’t cut. In which case said entity would have stayed aware of Blake. Blake “didn’t make it” to the window because said entity saved him. Well, in a way. He’d be hanging on to the world by a single connection. What would his mind be like at that point? Would he even still be Blake?

            1. And to speculate further based on bogdanulb’s comment above: the entity present was one of the lawyers. Either Blake had called them, or they were just conveniently there to welcome Blake among their number, now that there was nothing to hold him back any longer.

    1. I wouldn’t advise that. You might not miss it, but lacking some parts of your anatomy could be damn inconvienent.

  54. Taylor Hebert has now been added to the Trope Pantheon! She’s an Intermediate Goddess in the House of Combat.

  55. I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to believe that Erasuur ate whatshisface’s phone. Why is that?

    From 4.12

    “Fell,” I said. “Do you have a phone?”

    “You don’t?”

    “I’m poor,” I said. “Please?”

    That mention of the Mysterious Birdman’s lack of phone was pointed out before any confrontation with Erasurrr.

    Blake mentions have a phone in 1.1. That was weeks before the story started, in truth. He also mentions that his bike is slashed then too. When we see Toronto, months later, Blake’s motorcycle is fixed and rideable again. Blake’s reason provided for not having a phone is “I’m poor”. Could he have put the money from his phone into his bike?

    Just a thought.

    1. You know, I think you’re right. Your theory sounds much more likely. I had forgotten about the phone mention in 1.1, and when people remarked that Ur must have eaten it it sounded so cool I forgot to check which chapter it was missing in first.

    2. Blake mentions have a phone in 1.1.

      Wow, my English is bad sometimes. That shouldn’t happen. I literally talk and give speeches for a living! Regardless of my comments, I’m a native English speaker, I swear.

      1. Human brain do auto-correct subconsciously, so nobody will detect your flaw unless they really were born to be a Grammar Nazi OR any person that might harbor personal issue with you (LOL, did I?)

  56. OR if they have developed the habit. These may be people who have wroked as editors, done one too many revisions of their own (or other people’s) works, and even some people who are just very frequent readers and notice something is “off” with a sentence.

  57. Jesus. Penis. Fluffernutter. Dickswizzling. Fuck.

    I…no. All the conclusions have already been drawn by now. My contribution can only be to add to the utter shock.
    Wildbow, you magnificent bastard. Even you, I thought, would not go this far.

  58. rose wants them stronger. instead of pushing him to tie himself to something he doesn’t want let her set up her own shit. she did the whole awakening thing too

    1. It’s much harder to do things from the mirror – she has to rely on others being her hands; also, she can’t spare the power to feed a familiar. Just remember what the whole Pauz thing did to her…

    1. Yup, I noticed that. It’s why I decided that Blake not asking the Astrologer for help, despite asking everyone else, and her minions being made out of light, meant that there was a light monster, that Maggie was on the other side of during that sentence, and got eaten. Yay theories!

  59. Nobody mentions count LeBlanc?The second person,aside from the Astrologer,of the major players who supported Blake?Who saved his time multiple times,and even entered the factory with him,only to get eaten?

    Damn,I’ll miss the poor vampire.

Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s