Histories (Arc 7)

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Demons of the First Choir are the counterpoint to the forces that brought the universe into being.  There is no telling the damage they have done, but Bartholemew Peck’s Abyssian suggests a dark possibility, that the universe as we know it might be the leftovers of something far vaster.  That the materials and elements that gathered to form stars and planetoids are merely the crumbs of a feast.

If this were true, it would be the demons of the First Choir that did the feasting.

Though it’s scarcely more than speculative fiction, it illustrates the nature of the First Choir for the seventh of our nine chapters here.  They devour.  They take.  The vectors by which they act take all forms that we know to destroy things – tooth, claw, bludgeon, coil, frost, and even forces such as lightning and flame, which might well seem ironic for the Choir of Darkness.

The thing to note, however, is that these beings annihilate.  In this, they are distinct from the other choirs.  In this chapter, you will read of Caacrinolaas’ venom, which slowly but surely eradicate a man’s entire being.  You will read about Shabriri’s lantern, which scours one’s sight away, and her bell, which peals with such force that it irrevocably destroys one’s hearing.

Above all, you will read about the consequences.  The aforementioned venom forces the victim to destroy all relationships to others by unforgivable means if he does not wish them to be inflicted with the secondary effect after he is entirely removed from the world, this effect being a pining so intense that they will never move of their own volition again, only staring into the distance.  Shabriri’s blindness and deafness ultimately leaves one so unable to see or hear that they will perceive absolutely everything that doesn’t exist in that space and time, as their eyes and ears are opened ever wider to true void.

The focus of this text remains the identification of that fine line that separates demons from those Others which are foul but not true fiends.  In this, I must stress key points.

Unless otherwise noted (as in the Lonely Man’s subsection), that which is destroyed can be replaced, but it cannot be retrieved.  While the demon itself might appear to grow, spawn, create, or manifest, I would posit that this is an illusion.  The things that might appear to come to pass are a casualty of other damage, some of which might be beyond our scope of understanding.

Effects, connections, ideas, hallucinations, ideas, and whatever else might seem to be created by the demons of this choir are, I would suggest, purely the effect of reality or other forces distorting to fill the void.

A ‘statue’ left in the place of a destroyed man (See Bazuili, below) is not created by the demon, nor by transmutation, but other forces filling the resulting vacuum.  In this case, it is the nearest available force of substance -the ground- seeking to repair the damage, at reality’s behest.

The cacophonous aria that follows the victims of the mote Tobu-Bōkyaku is not the demon’s cry, nor a signature, but the only sounds that remain to the victim after the being has made its passage through the victim’s ear canals.

A chaotic and tumultuous morass of connections remain after Coronzon destroys a group of people by addressing them thrice, but again, these connections should be said to be the fallout.  Remove a stone from a wall, and the stones around it will fall to a new configuration.  Those stones may face undue stresses, and the gaps will exist between them, but the gap nonetheless exists.

We’re predisposed to finding patterns in chaos.  That is all this is.

This idea forms the basis for the rule I propose on distinguishing these demons from those which are merely destructive fiends, and on understanding and managing the aftermath.

When the First Choir takes away from existence, nothing is created to replace it.  At best, we find a pattern in the chaos that is left behind.

– Excerpt from ‘Classifying Others: Fiends and Darker Beings’, by R.D.T.

Isadora – 2:41 PM

Smoke billowed.

Even being here was hard for her.  The wrongness of the being within the factory made her very being ache.

Still, it was best if she was sure to witness this.

He was trying so hard.

She’d gutted him to buy him time.  Inversely, she’d given him karma to support him, and it had led him here.  Would it take away his remaining time?

Riddles.

She had yet to fully grasp the way the world worked.

She could only support the world, to ensure that things kept working, that the clock was wound, and efficiently deal with those forces that would stop things from operating as they ought to.  Some was natural to her, an instinctual drive to attack the ignorant.  Other parts were her personal character at work.  She wanted to learn, to understand.

As a result, she existed wholly for the riddle.  Puzzling out reality as reality was understood, framing it, supporting it.  When she asked someone a question, she challenged them to either justify their relationship to this fathomed reality, or to die.

Everything in the context of the asked and the answered.

The demon within the factory, by contrast, was unanswerable.

And the Thorburn diabolist?

He begged the question, so to speak.

The Fool in the Tarot deck frequently depicted a boy with a dog at his heels, staring at the sky while he walked blithely off a cliff, burdened only by a bundle on a stick.  The diabolist had admitted a relationship to the card.

No single detail was quite right, but much as something might appear similar if one were to unfocus their vision…

The young diabolist walked with the sparrow at his shoulder, eyes on the windows without looking through the windows, walking forward as if he were afraid to stop.  His burden here was the gas containers.

No, he was burdened not just by the gas containers, but by some notion of responsibility.

A man, when facing death, aspires to finish what he started.

What had the custodian of the Thorburn estate started?  What drove him?

She knew he sought to do good and to vanquish evil, and she could surmise that both good acts and the existence of evil had touched him deeply.

The Fool card was akin to the ace.  Depending on the game being played, it was often the lowest card or the highest.  Valueless or highly valued.  Powerless or powerful.

It all depended on context.  He sought to kill the demon, and he would either catastrophically fail or succeed.

This Fool sought to slay the metaphorical dragon.  He felt his own mortality, which was quite possibly her fault, in part, and now he rushed to finish the task he’d set for himself.  To better the world.

The Fool was wrought with air – the clouds he gazed at, the void beyond the cliff, the feather in his cap, even the dog could often be found mid-step, bounding, just above the ground.

He was a Fool wrought with a different element.  The familiar didn’t quite fit for the departure from the air, but the traditional dog didn’t conjure ideas of air right off the bat either.

What was he wrought with?  That was another question that begged an answer.

He sent his servant dolls and ghosts inside, then passed through the threshold.

Others wished people luck, she gave it to him, transferring it from reserves she’d saved for special events.

The demon roused, and she could feel it, even through the boundary.  She stood, and retreated as the demon made its true dimensions known, flexing within the factory, seeping into cracks and through rubble.

Halogen lights cast bright shafts through open windows.

People passed jugs of gasoline through open windows and the tallest of Blake’s companions emptied one jug just below the window.

Isadora was tense.  Her muscles were akin to cables, stretched tight by some immense weight, legs spread for more balance, as if she instinctively expected some great collapse.

Fire flared within, a rolling explosion followed, a jug of gasoline being caught by fire.

Too early.

The demon was growing faster than it was being destroyed.

It was as though the cables had been cut.  She dropped to the ground hard, wings still partially extended at her sides, then folded one front leg over the other, trying to find some poise.

Poise was important in moments like this.

The ones outside were scrambling, running.

Isadora could hear the mirror-bound diabolist shouting.  Ordering one of the other girls, Alexis, to the front door, to provide Blake an escape route.

Too slow, moving around the periphery of the building.

The ache she felt yawned wide.  There were no English words for the idea.  Chásma.  The closest she could manage to an explanation would be to say she felt fractures in her bones.

Except the fractures were tested, the wrongness sharper, and when the cracks opened, a hollowness was revealed.

She moved her head, stretching her neck.

Getting closer would be dangerous.  At worst, she’d disturb the binding around the exterior of the building.  She’d hurt herself much as someone like Blake might hurt himself while standing too close to open flame.

At best?  There was no best.  There wasn’t much she could accomplish here.

Ironically, given how her mother had been created to be sentry to a holy site, Isadora wasn’t inclined to prayer.

The chasm of wrongness widened, and she suppressed a shiver.  Every sense was jarred, now.

How could it be so vast, while staying within the factory’s bounds?

Rather than try to avoid the grating impressions of this misshapen thing straining against its bonds, she let herself feel them.

It was only then that she realized how apt her earlier metaphor had been.

The factory stood there, not tall, but still largely intact, part of the roof collapsed.  To use her comparison to bones, it wasn’t so different from a fractured shinbone, the only thing keeping it from crumbling to pieces was the band that encircled it.

The marrow had been devoured, and there was only infection within.

This shinbone extended deep into the earth.

Deep, deep into the earth.

A great shaft of darkness, a pit.

All the gasoline in the world might not make a fire great enough to bring light to the bottom of that pit.

Did the young diabolist comprehend that the floor he stood on might as well have been paper thin, given the distance that the pit extended below?

Did it matter?

Questions.  These ones didn’t require answers.

She felt the moment he ceased to be.

The wrongness reached through each and every one of them.

It lanced through Isadora, and she did what she could to distribute it, to break it up so that it would damage every part of her a little, rather than deal a grievous wound.  It didn’t wound her awareness as it did the others.

She remembered, at least in part.  One of her duties was to remember, and here she could retain the fragments she’d held on to, the ideas she’d established.

It helped that she hadn’t maintained a close connection, that she hadn’t been on a first name basis with him, and that the impact she had made on him had already been partially erased, the scars filled, then smoothed away.  The ripples that extended outward had less foundation to travel across, and were easily shored up.  She no longer had his name, but she knew who he was, and she could identify him as Thorburn, as the diabolist, and put the rest of the pieces in place.

Isadora looked for Maggie, but Maggie was gone, and had been for some time.

Those that were running kept running, as the pieces fell into their new configuration, sitting askew.  One by one, they stopped running, no longer pulled along by the connection that was supposed to bind them to Rose’s counterpart.

Paige would need to know, which was a complicated thing.  Akin to telling an Alzheimer’s patient that they had a relative, and their relative had passed in one of the worst ways possible.

What a shame, really.

She’d tried to tell him that a clean death was the best path available to him, but it seemed he wasn’t built to go down quietly.  She’d called him the little warrior, and the idea fit.

Isadora remained where she was as the demon shifted position, searching for new prey.

More of reality resettled.  Unpleasant, grating, as if the demon was everywhere in the city, in Jacob’s Bell, in Toronto, and in places in between, for just a moment.  Exercising his power.

The binding held.  The demon remained where it was.

With the resettling of reality, Rose appeared.

A damned shame, quite literally.  This wasn’t clean at all, as exits went.

Rose, not even aware that she’d crossed over, reached out to stop Alexis, who was still running, caught up with emotion, even though that emotion no longer had a target.

The familiar was coming to pieces.  A deal forgotten, it stubbornly refused to move on.  There was no power to feed it but the spirits that had impregnated the ghost prior to the familiar deal.  Nothing powerful, only spirits of freedom, air, yearning.  These spirits would be spent in a matter of minutes, and the familiar would cease to be.

Others were dealing with a sadness they couldn’t explain.  One girl, Isadora forgot the name, was rubbing at her eye, looking at the moisture as if confused.

The young man, Ty, who’d called Isadora beautiful, was standing stock still, caught between confusion and a desire to give strength.  He was caught in a mental loop, akin to obsessive compulsive disorder, or a dream where one repeated an action over and over again, getting the same result, dozens, hundreds of times over.  She could see him reaching out for a connection, finding the wrong one.  Trying to think of a friend, thinking of someone who’d recently left the group instead.  Not that person.  Someone else.  Reaching out, trying to think of the right person… and so the repetition continued.

Humans were not machines, however.  He would find his way out, maybe a little worse for wear.  It depended on whether he was rescued by his friends, or if he was allowed to stew in this recursive loop of thoughts for a time.

Each of them would either invent memories, as some were inclined to do, to fill the void, or they would live with the void, and it would rub them raw from time to time, something unexplained.

If they needed it, Isadora would explain what she could and help them fill that void.  But if they decided to fill it themselves, she wouldn’t be able to.

For now… She stretched her wings out.  It remains to be seen what damage is done.

The Eye – 2:46 PM

The crackling of flame was a mask, just barely covering an ocean of screaming heads, arms and bodies thrashing in pain.  Raw-throat screaming, the kind of screaming that hurt, that happened because there was no other choice.

Burning to death hurt.

The Eye of the Storm remained where it was, hunched over a metal barrel, hands extended over the burning contents.

One eye stared down and saw visions.  Memories and echoes, brief stories of human struggles ending in failure.

In the brighter parts of the flame the Eye saw lightning.  In the snap and pop, the bang as the can’s contents shifted and touched the metal, the Eye heard thunder.  The Eye heard ruin, mankind’s endeavors ending in disaster.

A crunch, as something burned enough that it broke.  A car crash, bones breaking.

Symphony.

In time, humanity as a whole would succumb to this kind of fate.  It was inevitable.  With every creation came a destruction.  A new scientific achievement, a new weapon.

War would erupt, and war would see man destroy himself.  Bombs would fall.

These were the thoughts that ran through the Eye’s head as it held hands over the flames.  The elemental remembered the thousands who he had burned, thousands who had burned of their own accord.  Those who had been electrocuted, who had been ground to pulp by metal of their own making.

Right now, right here, he would wait as he’d been instructed.

Conquest would deal with Blake Thorburn.  When that was done, he would signal the Eye, and the Eye would attack once more, and people would burn.

A chill wind passed, something unnatural.

Conquest would deal with…

With what?

Conquest would… …Done, he would signal the Eye, and the Eye would attack, and people would burn.

The Eye shifted position, uncomfortable.  The thoughts didn’t connect.

Simplify.

Reduce.

Remove the damaged bits.

The words resonated with some century-old part of him, and he shifted from discomfort to ire.

Simplifying…

The Eye would attack once more, and people would burn.

He touched the edge of the barrel.  The contents shifted position and the fire erupted forth, touching the trash that a small grocery had left beside the building.  Cardboard boxes and vegetables.

The fire found its way to the necessary places in that pile of material.

The wire attaching the battery to the smoke detector inside shorted.

The Eye was already leaving the alleyway when the fire started to reach toward the dumpster.

Emanating heat enough to touch nearby patches of ice.  They would melt and re-harden in the course of a minute.

The next car to find the ice would find zero traction available.

It didn’t matter whether that car was a fire truck or a chance accident blocking access to the blaze.  The Eye knew it would serve.

People avoided him, avoiding eye contact, but he didn’t truly care if he was seen.  The orders were to attack.  The timing and consequences of this were for his master to worry about.

He’d given up worrying a hundred years ago.

The screams of the burning were the only thing familiar and natural to him, now.  The electrocuted, the crushed.

A gauge in the nearby traffic light shorted out.  People would later blame it on the blackouts that had afflicted the city earlier.

That’s how they operate.  Blame.

The Eye felt uncomfortable.  Old memories were stirring, and it didn’t know why.

All the same.

The traffic light fed information back to a main computer.

The main computer would give the wrong instructions to the system.

A subtle change.

Change enough that the Eye would hear the sounds it needed to hear.

The Astrologer – 2:47 PM

Diana shifted position, head smooshed against the pillow.

Why was it so hard to sleep now that she finally had an opportunity?  There was a limited truce in effect, she was safe…

Safe…

Her eyes began to drift shut.

It hit her like a niggling worry, but swiftly spread.

Sleep became uneasy sleep.

Uneasiness woke her up.

When her eyes opened, she felt a kind of horror over the fact that she’d almost let herself drift off.

Her labs were in danger.

His labs were in danger.

Doug’s.

She bit her lip hard enough that it hurt, in efforts to keep herself awake.

Her hand shook as she turned the kettle around to check how much water was inside, then flicked the switch to turn it on.

She was running on caffeine and willpower right now.

Monitors were off, which bothered her.  She’d gone through all of her pre-nap motions.

Napping was impossible.

Fuck, this sucked.

What happened next?

Either she finally did drift off, and she lost something precious to her, or she took action.

She checked the cupboard for a mug and found it empty.  Another little heart stopping moment.  There should be one mug in there.

She didn’t keep many.  If she did, she was liable to let it slide and let dishes pile up.

With less, she was forced to wash them regularly.

She checked the sink.

She’d had guests, right.  She was getting forgetful, she was so tired.

The bags and types of tea helped her piece it together.

Except there was one mug too many.

Right.  They’d been going to the factory.

Oh.

She filled the sink without looking, and pulled each mug out in turn, washing with exaggerated care.

A few grew in her heart.

One last mug.

Doug’s mug.

She didn’t know who it had belonged to.

She wouldn’t have given up the mug if she hadn’t liked the person.  It was how she operated.  She was sentimental like that, she knew.

That same uneasiness that had woken her up settled into a feeling of loss, and the only face that fit the feeling was Doug’s.  Her mentor’s.

She sat down on a box, the dirty mug in hand, and she thought of Doug.

With an edge of desperation to the thoughts, she started thinking about how she would protect Doug’s legacy.

Behaims – 2:45 PM

“Are we fighting?” Owen asked.

“Maybe,” Duncan said.  “It depends on who needs help and why, and if we can do what we need to do to deal with Blake.”

“Whatever you need,” Owen said.

“Call Moira, get her to email the scanned books.  I don’t want you kids in the thick of it,” Duncan said.  “We approach this indirectly, unless a reading says we need another direct confrontation.  A spell to help things along, at most.  You, Gav, and the girls.”

“Okay.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  Speaking of… how are your hands?”

Duncan’s arms rested on his knees, hands limp and relaxed.  He didn’t try to move them.  Every time he tried, it hurt.  “The painkillers help.”

“That isn’t answering the question.”

“An incomplete answer is still an answer.  Be careful.”

“Yes, sir.”

He shut his eyes briefly.  There was a dreamlike edge to his thoughts, with the codeine, and, in an amusing way, his perception of time was distorted.

The clocks around him ticked, many salvaged from his fiancee’s house.

It was soothing, the sound of his childhood home.  It had driven her crazy.

Now things were on hold.  They couldn’t stay at the house, and she didn’t want to stay with him.

He suspected he knew where things were going.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

He smiled.

Tick.  Tick.        .   Tick.

His eyes opened.

Owen was walking down the hallway.

“Owen,” he said.

“Yes, uncle?”

“Get everyone packed up.  We’re going back.”

“Back?”

“To Jacob’s Bell.  It’s done, I’m fairly certain.”

Not without casualties.

“I, uh, okay,” Owen said.

“I’ll need help packing,” Duncan said, working his way to a standing position.  “You and your twin can get some driving practice in, I suppose.”

“You’re coming?”

“I’m coming.”

The Sisters – 2:40 PM

“Yes,” the Elder Sister said.  “I’ll do you one better.  If you can give me the bill for a retrofit, new paint and logos on your trucks, I’ll pass it on to the city, and I will sell you to them.”

Her office overlooked the hallway, just above the altar where she could address the lesser Sisters.  Candles burned around the window, making the aperture look like a gate lined by flame.

The other Sisters were making their way here and there downstairs.  Guiding the initiates.  Not a large number, but enough.  Girls with good grades, good positions, who either weren’t going home for Christmas, or who were willing to stay if it meant getting an edge elsewhere.

They would be eased into this.  The blindfolds would come off.  Later they would see a practitioner at work.  Later still, they would be awoken, then the rings would be granted.

Hopefully they would have the torch spirit back before then.  It would be embarrassing if they didn’t.

The guy on the other end of the phone was talking.  She listened to the tail end only, then cut in.  “I can make this really simple.  Cut twenty percent of your active staff.  Pay particular attention to the guys who make mistakes.  Who hit mailboxes, or consistently miss days.  Set money aside.  Call friends with garages, and be prepared to tell them you’ll pay extra for a fast job.”

Protests.

“Don’t commit wholesale or rush ahead, but do trust me.  You can start looking at files and talking to a trusted employee about who you can cut.  You should hear from me before you need to start with the actual layoffs.”

More protests.  He was on the fence, but this was the biggest protest yet.

Why should I trust you?

Success or failure hinged on her reply.

“I’m on your side, Mac,” she said.  “If I disappoint you, I hurt myself, and I hurt my own employees.  I’m speaking to you from the heart, and I’m going to help you, if you give me the chance.  T.O. Plow will become part of the city services, and they really need better plow services after this last storm.  Nobody else in Toronto is positioned to deploy in numbers like you can.  You stand to make a small fortune.”

The arguments were more feeble this time.  Less a resistance and more the unease of anyone facing a major change in their life.

“Mac,” she said.  “What’s my reputation?  I don’t lie.  You’ve doubled in size in the time I’ve been lobbying for you.  Subtract what you’re paying me from what I’ve saved you, and you’ve earned tens of thousands.  If you want to more than double in earnings now, you need to do two things for me.  Say yes, and then follow through.”

Agreement.

“Thank you, Mac.  Do me a favor and don’t fret.  Focus on taking advantage of the snowstorm and the heavy demand, take the employee files with you tonight and read them in bed.  No rush, no pressure.  I suspect a little voice in the back of your head has been telling you you really should be more ruthless with the employees.  It’s natural for a company that’s grown as fast as you have.”

A one-syllable response.

She reached out to the blazing urn on her desk and extended a finger for the fire sprite that lurked within.

A small woman emerged, keeping just far enough away from the Elder Sister’s hand to avoid burning her.

“It’s very simple,” she said.  “All those thoughts you’ve had but haven’t followed through on?  That you’ve grown too fast, and it’s crazy to lay people off when you’re growing as fast as you are?  The employees are thinking it too.  The worst employees are thinking it and taking advantage of it.  You’re going to look at the books and see the problems pop up almost straight away, I think.  It’ll be a relief.”

Another one-syllable response.

“I’ll reach out to you in a few days, Mac, if I can make the call, way things have been going.”

He would be thinking of dropped phone and power lines.

She was wondering about mortality.

All the same…

She hung up.

Mortality.  Success and failure.  It reminded her… it was about time.

Her phone had a text on it from one of her subordinates.

The dolls had been delivered.

Thorburn was dealing with the demon.

It was win-win, wasn’t it?

Either they didn’t have the diabolist to worry about, or the demon was dealt with.

It wasn’t that she disliked him.  But he was more trouble than he was worth.  The fact that he was going to try to mediate the issue with the Torch the Astrologer had stolen went a long way.  It meant things were quiet for now, and the Sisters could focus on other things.

Problem was, the concerns about taint and the general fact that she couldn’t predict him went further the other way.  Unpredictability was scary when someone could tap the kind of power he could.

It was easier when things were predictable.

So long as things stayed predictable, she saw a fairly clear, straight road to the Lordship of the city, temporarily or long term.

Build up ties with local business, expand her powerbase here, deal with Conquest’s remaining subordinates – which amounted to the Shepherd and the Eye right now – and ally with others.  Isadora should back her if she made enough headway to sell the idea, and as for Emily, Fell’s successor… well, Fell’s family would accept an option that kept Conquest from regaining power, and the Sisters could arrange a scholarship for Emily, resources…

This would work.

The candles across the entire great hall flickered, as if a draft with no substance had passed through.  The shockwave from a distant event.

She shook her head.

A disconnect, a momentary lapse.

It unsettled, left her nerves on edge.

It reminded her of the nightmares she’d had for years after leaving University, the idea of something critical that had been forgotten.  A major exam or assignment that her entire degree hinged on, except it was a little more profound.

In her work with the Sisters to date, she’d avoided putting them in life or death situations.  It wasn’t something she’d been prepared to do.  Their focus lay elsewhere.  They only went to war when they had to.

Right now, there was only one war that demanded her attention.

She stepped out of her room, turning to the first Sister she saw.  “Sharon.”

“Yes, Elder Sister?”

“How many dolls do we have?”

“I have no earthly idea.”

“Find out and get back to me.  We need to handle this business with the astrologer before we do anything else.”

“Yes, Elder Sister.”

The Shepherd – 2:47 PM

The Shepherd felt the recoil, reality reacting.

He was sensitive to such things.  A silenced scream.  If the universe worked as it was supposed to, such a scream would be heard across the city.

He felt it every now and again.  Sometimes in clusters, a few at a time.

This time it was just the one.  He had a vague sense of who.  Two of his ghosts were nearby, even.

It always made him think of Bennie, and Laurel, and Andrew.

If the feeling behind a scream was what determined how loud that scream could be, his scream would be heard across the world.

He called for his steed, footsteps shuffling as he made his way down the dilapidated stairwell.

It was good that he didn’t speak.  He told himself he’d look for the children until it was dark.  If he’d said it aloud, it would have been a lie.  Every time, he lied to himself.

Rose – 2:47 PM

Rose’s heart was pounding.  She felt like she was on the verge of a panic attack, and she couldn’t make sense of why.

Once upon a time, she’d gone on a camping trip with the school, her parents had hoped it would help her make friends.  They’d hoped, too, that making friends would help her build up her social skills.  Rhetoric and understanding people would only help with the inheritance.

She’d gotten dirty, her hair greasy.  Everyone had.  They’d been proud of how dirty they’d gotten.  Sharing in that was the closest she got to making friends there.

When she’d returned home, she’d hopped in the shower.

The hot water had felt alien, painful.

Everything felt that way now.

The fresh air was so rich she felt like she was getting high off it.  She was cold, and it almost hurt to breathe. The sun on her skin helped with the cold, and she felt like she’d just woken up on a Saturday morning with the sun shining on her.

It was too much.  Too intense.

It jarred with… with this.  The smoke, the fire, the fact that someone had just died and she had no idea who, why, or how.

The others were similarly lost, similarly distraught.

Reeling.

She felt no particular connection to them.  They were, what, one step removed from her?

Feeling a chill, Rose put her hands in her pockets for warmth, and found a note there.

She read it over five times before it sank in.

“Throw the rest of the jugs in,” she said.  “Hurry.  It was part of the plan, and we should follow through.”

“You want us to get close to that?” Ty asked.

“Not too close,” she said.  She looked at the note again, as if it might have changed in the meantime.

I wrote this to myself, and I was supposed to explain things, so I wouldn’t be too lost if it goes wrong.

Except it’s better if we don’t know.

Burn what you can.  We promised we would.

We have a connection to those people.  I’m not positive about what’s going to happen if it goes bad.  Either way, they should be yours.  You can manipulate them using that, using the chaos that’s going to unfold now.  That doesn’t mean you should.

If nothing happens, well, there’s no need for this note, and I’ll look stupid.  Ha ha.

There’s nothing here for us.  You know what the next step is.

I’m such a bitch.

“I’m going back to Jacob’s Bell,” she said.

The others turned.  Ty was hurling the jugs of gas at windows with a two-handed grip, a barely-repressed anger he didn’t understand.

“What?” Alexis asked.

“I’m going back to Jacob’s Bell.  You can come, that’s fine, or you can stay.”

She saw the expressions on their faces.

Feathers were falling.

The feathers almost reminded her of something.

Was that a clue?  A cue?

“Hey!” she screamed.  “Bird!”

The bird descended.

She held out both hands, cupped.

The landing was clumsy, her catching of the bird doubly so.

“Hey,” she said.

Just like the others, it felt like it was hers, but not hers.  One step removed.

“Hey,” the bird said.  “I’m not sure what’s going on.”

“None of us are,” she said.  “Why don’t you stick with me?”

“I think I’m dying,” the bird said.

“We can fix that,” she said.

Ur – 3:17 PM

The humans were leaving now.

As if they were some magnetic force that had hauled him up from darkness, now absent, Ur settled back into the shadows, contracting himself.  Here and there, pieces of rubble were dragged into place.  Things were propped up.

One section of wall was cracked, and in time, the wall would break free.

With more time, the binding that encircled the building would be broken.

With care, Ur moved a metal beam, winding around it, manifesting limbs to grasp at it, tongues to encircle it, until it had the leverage needed to lift it clear off the ground.

It placed the beam so it sat diagonally against the wall, reducing the stress that would be placed on it.

A few more years would pass before the section of wall broke free.

A decade more would pass before the binding broke.

Everything in place.

Everything, in time.

As if provoked by the idle thought of consuming, a mouth on the side of one wormlike section of body reached out and snatched at a largely dismembered hand.  The hand crunched.

Ur retreated into the shadows of the rubble, and into the chasm that dwelt beneath the factory.

A piece of rebar dragged against the ground, held by a tiny hand, retreating with the rest of Ur as he disappeared into the shadows.

A tiny hand attached to a tiny form, three-quarters of the way complete, eyes shut.  Two more were pressed against it, part of the same growth, the three compacted so tightly together that the shape of them distorted.  All in the form of human babes, with jet black skin.  One with horns, one with tufts of spiky fur, the other smooth and bald.

The binding would break in time.

Ur would bear its motes first.

The hand dropped the rebar, and the metal sang as it clattered.

Ur was already gone.  The factory still.

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390 thoughts on “Histories (Arc 7)

  1. Alright!

    So this week was hellish. Brother’s wedding in a week, and I kind of had plans changed/sprung/surprising me at the last minute, forcing me to write this week’s and next week’s chapters on top of getting a suit, socializing and general preparations for a 10 day stay in the woods with three dogs, and general preparations for a wedding in a really inconvenient location. And the rule of three trashing my mom’s car (long story I’ll share if people ask) But I’m honestly thrilled that the wedding is happening where and how it is – said inconvenient location is special to me.

    All the same, I succeeded, I wrote the four chapters this week, including next week’s chapters, and they’ll be scheduled to go up at the usual times. Maggie chapters.

    What to expect:

    • Typos won’t get fixed. Sorry. I’ll be staying up extra late tonight to reread everything just to be safe.

    • I have no earthly idea if the formatting will bug out on me again (ie, deleting all paragraph breaks), or if WordPress will hiccup and refuse to upload the chapters. Sometimes WordPress will get slow and miss the scheduled time or something, and normally I watch it and re-upload if it happens, but I won’t be able to here. If something goes wrong with formatting, and someone feels heroic, maybe posting a google doc with a fix would help?

    • This week has been basically me writing and me doing necessary preparations/socializing, with nothing on the side and no relaxation, and that’s not how I function best. I like to work intensely, then unwind, work intensely, unwind. There’s been no unwinding. The last time my stride was this broken, I wrote the Scarab arc, which is generally seen as the worst arc in Worm.

    • As of mid-July, everything should return more or less to normal. I expect my stride will still be a little screwed up a bit after that. I have a habit/routine for a reason. It’s… just my inclination. Hopefully I’ve grown enough as a writer that I’ll be able to handle it better.

    • The chapters are scheduled to go up, but links have to be edited manually, so I’m basically leaving the links up, and they’ll give you a 404 error until the appropriate time.

    • I freaking love you, my readers. Thank you for reading.

    1. I want to say that no, it doesn’t show, you’re doing great, but, honestly, I feel like the last few chapters have been getting worse and worse. Still good beyond mortal ken or glamour’s reach, of course. But your schedule affects your writing.

      Onto the subject of the chapter:
      Aaaaand prologue over!
      7 short arcs and the stage is set, the players prompted. We bid farewell to our hero and welcome his erstwhile companions – the High Priestess arriving with the final act of the Fool. He is gone. His connections are scrubbed and snapped, the corruption lathered like thick oil across those he knew and burned. What’s left of… that Thorburn boy?

      Paper, plans, and a reflection. A few grooves in the world to deep to have been erased as quickly as that – just shifted, repurposed. Watch the power, drained and broken, rush to fill these places again.

      He’s gone. Every memory of him is a broken twig, pounded into the forest floor.

      The only question left is this:

      When will he be back?

      1. Assuming for just one moment that Blake has not been Urrased for Real, then the only possible way I can see him coming back in any way shape or form is as a mote.

        How motes are created hasn’t really been covered yet, but it makes sense that motes would be generated by demons doing what they do best. ErasUrr could very well be annihilating people and then taking everything they were, are, and were supposed to be, all of their connections, and not just leaving a void behind, but creating a void that can expand, grow and continue the process. Motes have to be created from something. Even demons that represent the void itself actually exist, which means they must be made of some too, even if it’s just a concept or idea.

        You cannot create something from nothing, Even embodiments of nothingness still have a body.

        1. I’m not sure I’d be able to call a baby force of oblivion that ate Blake the new Blake. It’s like someone getting eaten by a bear, and then insisting the bears cub is them.

        2. “You cannot create something from nothing, Even embodiments of nothingness still have a body.”

          Weeeellll… The chapter did just talk about the universe trying to fill in the gaps when stuff is obliterated – The ’embodiments’ might not even be the demons – just what you see when you look at them, because you have to see something there.

          The way I understand it, saying the demons exist is like saying cold or darkness exists. Cold and darkness don’t exist, they’re just the absence of heat and light. We treat cold and darkness as ‘things,’ but that’s exactly the sort of thing the chapter talks about when it mentions humans being able to find patterns in chaos: The demons aren’t formed from a concept, the concept is just what you think of when you see the aftermath of the demon’s passage.

          That is: If the demons are obliterative entities that are defined entirely by what they annihilate, then a demon that obliterates heat and not spacetime is going to look like a definable area where things get colder, and onlookers will go “Oh, it’s a demon of cold!” and possibly their brains will try to ‘fill in’ an appearance for it.

          Er, sorry about the wall of text. Anyways, as far as that goes for Blake and the motes, as I see it we have two options – Blake was obliterated, and the emptiness in the universe left behind is forming into its own little mote. (In this case, he’s truly and incontrovertibly dead. He can be replaced, but not recovered.) Or, a mote of oblivion was formed, and Blake was the ‘closest substance’ being used to fill in the gap. (In this case, he’s recoverable, since he wasn’t destroyed, though he might have been folded and spindled a bit to fit the gap.)

          1. I don’t know if you should apply what you say to all demons. R.D.T. was talking specifically about the First Choir in that chapter and how its members can be differentiated from other fiends.

            1. True. The appearance of that excerpt at this time suggests that we may have miscategorised Urraser, however. He is quite possibly of the first choir, not the seventh…

        3. Perhaps Urr ate only his connections. The end result as far as everyone else is considered would be the same – the connections never existed. He himself would have to start anew, forge new connections. If this is what happened it’ll be interesting to find out if he remembers anything of his own life. Perhaps he’ll experience a total wipe – tabula rasa, forcing him to learn everything from scratch. Talk about developmental disability.

        4. I’m guessing he’s gonna come back in some form, if only because Worm had several “she’s screwed and there’s no possible way to make it out of this” cliffhangers that she made it out of.

    2. I freaking love you, my readers. Thank you for reading.

      We love you too, Wildbow. Whether you give to us in the form of Ham, Bacon or Words, On behalf of the readers, I give our thanks.

    3. We love you too! Even if you break our hearts with your (amazing) stories.

      You provide us with fucking fantastic writing, with great characters and settings, at an inhuman rate. I couldn’t possibly be more thankful to you. I wish you the best during the wedding, and also to the couple, I hope you do manage to rest some, and thank you so much for writing the chapters before hand!

    4. Stay sane Wildbow. Take care of yourself, and congrats to your brother. Thank you for your insane amount of dedication!

      I know its not much, but I’m taking advantage of your “vacation” (said with quotations due to your initial description using the word “hellish”) and drawing like a madman. Hoping I’ll have tons of goodies for you to get a laugh out of when you return.

      If you have the time to share your story of trashing your mom’s car, I’d be all ears. Sounds funny/cringe-worthy. I have some insane wedding stories I could trade you. But you’re already up late, listening to all of us crazy people – take time to unwind, dude.

      Looking forward to your updates in your absence.

      1. Oh, I didn’t trash my mom’s car.

        The rule of three was involved though.

        To clarify – I don’t have a car and my brother’s traveling from Winnipeg, ergo, using my mom’s car. They have licenses but no car.

        Three separate trips to the LCBO (liquor store):

        Last month (checking prices of alcohol for wedding) – me, my mom, bro’s fiancee and my nephew in car, doing a thing before we see bro’s fiancee and nephew off to airport. I’m left in car with nephew for a rather long time (with key) and battery dies – in part due to phones left plugged into car to charge – while I wasn’t running it for A/C, battery was being drained, though it’s possible I forgot to turn over the engine and contributed to the problem (no phone for me though)

        Start of this week – go to Liquor store to order booze, me, my mom, my bro, bro’s fiancee and nephew all together. My mom offers to drop us off at my dad’s. Car? Engine temp goes off the charts, steam rising from the front of the hood. A replacement earlier was incorrectly done, car gets nuked.

        A day or two ago – my brother and his fiancee leave in my mom’s car to pick up (some of) the ordered booze. They have it parked in driveway outside my place, headlights are left on, battery gets drained, car won’t start – this is the night before my mom has a doctor’s appointment, on top of everything else.

        Three trips to the LCBO, involving my brother, three times the car gets nuked.

        Such is the chaos of this past week.

        1. haha holy jeebus. That’s insane. Next time, don’t invite The Eye to family events. Be safe. Maybe bring a fire extinguisher next time you go for booze.

          As a side note, made the mistake of reading this chapter while on break at work and it tore my heart out. auuugh. Why, Wildbow. Why.

    5. We love you too, Wildblow!
      I haven’t actually gotten to this point in the story, but I came to say, have fun, and I hope it all goes great.
      You really are a fantastic writer, and we look forward to your return!

    1. Not necessarily. If Blake had made it, she would have remembered the note, and understood it wasn’t necessary. It was a precaution.

        1. Rose’s note-to-self reminds me of something: back in Collateral 4.9, Blake wrote a letter to his successors. It didn’t mention where he left it, but presumably it’s in Blake’s old apartment, which is now inexplicably empty.

          I smell Chekhov’s Letter. Joel is the most likely finder — he’s the landlord and he’ll have to clean out the apartment to re-rent it.

          1. Good catch! But then again, whoever the Knights lost must have had photos and documents and other personal effects, and the Knights never mention any of that. So it’s possible that such traces disappear, or more likely are misinterpreted and ignored by the survivors (unless they’re Sphinxes, I guess).

    1. From the note, the talking sparrow, and the Astrologer’s section, we can conclude that it was a member of Rose’s group. Apparently one that could get people to trust and like them. Must have been the bravest fucker alive to willingly risk going in there. Probably in 20 or so arcs we’ll find out it was something like Rose’s best friend or boyfriend or something.

  2. Well, Canada is done for. The Behaims are back in Jacob’s Bell, another war is going to erupt in Toronto and ErasUrrr will be free with back up in a few years.

    ErasUrrr is so nice. Why did that evil Thorburn come to kill it’s babies?

    The Eye heard ruin, mankind’s endeavors ending in disaster. . .

    In time, humanity as a whole would succumb to this kind of fate. It was inevitable. With every creation came a destruction. A new scientific achievement, a new weapon. War would erupt, and war would see man destroy himself. Bombs would fall.

    I believe the eye’s onto something here. . .

    I’m actually really interested in the Shepherd’s story. What is his aim? What are his motivations. I wouldn’t be disappointed if he became the POV character (after the Maggie arc, of course).

    So Duncan’s taking control of the Behaim faction? This won’t end well. . . for the Behaims. Duncan is gonna make that family self destruct. He’s kinda incompetent like that. Also, was he copying diabolic text for further study? Duncan’s gonna have a bad fate.

    Where’s Maggie?

    So Isadora was trying to help whatshisface. She even gave him some karma from her personal supply.

    1. Duncan, the head of the Behaim family? And is about to restart the war with Rose. That’s… not gonna end well for them.

      1. It’s too bad he doesn’t even know who he’s fighting now!

        But if they’ve managed the War Of The Roses thus far….

    2. interested in the Shepherd’s story. […] What are his motivations.

      Well…

      It always made him think of Bennie, and Laurel, and Andrew.

      It seems like the obvious implication we’re supposed to make is that he lost (his?) three kids, which somehow left him with an obsession to collect ghosts. The part that unsettles me is that Ur has three demon-fetuses. Behold my monument of wild guessing:

      • My pet theory is that it makes its motes from the pieces of people he didn’t eat (kind of like sculpting), since demon’s can’t create.
      • The part that makes the Shepherd think of them is the “silenced scream” of Ur eating something.

      • Since Ur is shown to have good long-term planning ability, it might have left (i.e., not eaten) the kids’ names to give them an entry point in the world later.

      • Bennie is usually a diminutive of Benjamin, which means “right-hand son”. One of the mote-buds uses its hand to start the fire.

      • Laurel comes from the name of the tree, which has spiky leaves. One of the buds has spiky fur.

      • Andrew just means “man” (or manly). One of the buds is smooth, like a human baby.

      Now bow before my incontrovertible logic!

    1. Pretty sure Blake didn’t leave a ghost. It wouldn’t fit with the bit in the beginning about things being consumed. I think that the Shepard was kind of content leaving the ghosts for the other practitioners or maybe considering its M.O. after Blake and Evan gave him that epic bitching out, but now that Blake doesn’t exist anymore, he’s back to the grindstone. Might be wrong, though.

      1. The impression I got was that the Shepherd was noticing Evan’s ghost again. Since Blake’s gone, I don’t know exactly where that leaves Evan, but he’s probably not a familiar if he doesn’t have a master. Sure, he’s working on teaming up with Rose, but right now he’s probably just a spirit-infused ghost.

  3. Typo thread, if I am not ninja’d on it:

    It was to much.
    It was too much.

    Isadora – 2:41pm
    Isadora – 2:41 PM
    Same thing several other places, and several times do not have an AM/PM notation at all.

    She listened to the tail-end only, then cut in.
    She listened to the tail end only, then cut in.

    1. Typos:
      – “Caacrinolaas’ venom, which slowly but surely eradicate a man’s entire being.” -> “eradicates”
      – “Effects, connections, ideas, hallucinations, ideas,” -> “ideas” appears twice
      – “Those stones may face undue stresses, and the gaps will exist between them, but the gap nonetheless exists.”
      – “A few grew in her heart.” -> “A fear”

  4. OK, between the first book excerpt and the viewpoint of Ur, that pretty much says Blake is gone forever. Only Isadora, with her ability to distribute the damage and her general knowledge, will remember anything close to specifics. Goodbye Blake, you karma damage sink you.

    Anyone else know of a novel-length fiction where the “main” protagonist died halfway through?

    I’m such a bitch.
    At least she recognizes it.

      1. For me, it doesn’t feel as personal with Martin’s chosen perspective. It’s compounded by the fact that even early on, there are many perspective changes. While Ned was a very important character, he wasn’t the main character in the way whatshisface was, in my opinion.
        And while a return would be slightly more sweet than bitter (all those connections gone, but still, he’s back), everything in this chapter sounds exceedingly final.

        1. Ned wasn’t too central to all the ASOIAF secret plotting, but if I remember correctly, Martin chooses the characters who aren’t that for a reason (hence, we don’t get a Tywin or Littlefinger POV), and really, Ned’s the closest thing to a protagonist that the series probably had.

          I think the comparison’s off for a different reason–Ned was killed too early on, at the end of the first of what was to be three books and is now going to be at least seven, and only a few in-universe months into a story that’s now lasted years.

          1. Ned Stark was the closest thing we had to a protagonist (back when we only had A Game of Thrones, anyway) because one way or another, all the other POV narrators were related to him, affected by his actions or their actions affected him.

            Of course, I wasn’t talking about Eddard Stark. I was referring to a certain Lord Commander of a certain organization of badasses who aparently dies way past the mid-point of the story (I say aparently because the jury is still out on that one).

            Either way, I’m not saying Pact is like A Song of Ice and Fire. They’re just similar in some aspects because of, you know, some shared tropes.

            1. When you said ‘Lord Commander of a certain order of badasses’ I immediately thought of Pedron Niall from the Wheel of Time, but was pretty sure that wasn’t who you are talking about. I’m an idiot.

            2. Oh, in that case your real example is a much better one. (And of course I agree that that certain Lord Commander almost certainly isn’t dead for real.)

          2. Another difference: Ned and Robb and even a certain Lord Commander (should he indeed stay dead), died upon the completion of their character arcs. Blake, as far as I can tell, doesn’t seem to have a completed arc.

            1. In what sense were their character arcs completed? The lesson of Martin’s protagonist deaths seems to me to be “If you somehow don’t die from this you’ll still be pretty screwed, but if you really do die everyone will be pretty screwed.” And that seems to be exactly what happened for Blake and company here.

              I mean, Ned failed to stop Joffrey from taking the throne, failed to stop Cersei from continuing to murder as she pleases and bring the whole kingdom to a ruin, failed to protect his family in King’s Landing, and if there were any hints that he’d get back at Littlefinger for screwing with him (I really don’t remember if there were), well, he obviously didn’t. It seems to me there was plenty left Ned could have succeeded at doing, and his failing caused a lot of misery.

              Robb’s a less clear example, but of course he was losing the war against the Lannisters, had yet to raise his child, and some character development could well have taken place even though it didn’t (“wow, maybe I should stop listening to my dad’s friends when they want to drag thousands of people down to fight an unwinnable war and put the political, economic, and social status of virtually everyone I know at extreme risk with no doubt generations of consequences, like every conflict in this country produces, assuming our side even lives”). And of course now we know several books later that the North isn’t doing too hot.

              And, just how screwed everyone is without that certain Lord Commander goes pretty much without saying.

              (Sorry, this ended up being way longer than I intended and is extremely tangential to this chapter, but I can’t let a point like this go.)

      2. Well, we now seem to have crossed firmly into Madoka Magical level fucked-upedness territory. I consider this to be a positive development.

      3. Even most Decoy Protagonists don’t stick around as long as Blake, and are not normally done as first person viewpoint almost the whole story. If Blake was meant to be a Decoy Protagonist, Wildbow took it to a whole new level.

        1. I still believe that Decoy Protagonist might be a good place to look for similar works.

          Marion Crane in Psycho; Eddard and Robb Start in A Song of Ice and Fire; Captain Dallas in Alien. They’re all good examples of an apparent protagonist biting it after a good portion of the story has already been told.

          Although I don’t know if that’s THE trope being used here. I’d need to read the rest of Pact before I could say that Blake was indeed a Decoy Protagonist. This could also be a case of The Hero Dies + Changing of the Guard + Take Up My Sword.

          We also have to remember that Pact, by its very nature as a serial novel, will provoke a stronger reaction in a change of protagonist becase of the time that the readers have invested since the publication started. It’s not the same killing off a character halfway into the story when the story will take twelve months or more to be finished.

    1. that pretty much says Blake is gone forever

      Not quite… Consider:

      1) the “brick taken from a wall” analogy, and the “morass of connections” left by Coronzon, in the book excerpt;
      2) the insistence that first-choir demons only destroy (and, presumably, can’t create), in the same excerpt;
      4) the child-shaped mote-buds on Ur’s body;
      5) the “virus-in-the-machine” metaphor (?) the astrologer uses;

      If demons, or at least Ur, can’t create, then the only way he could spawn separate entities would be “subtractive manufacturing”: take something that exists, and carefully eat parts of it (e.g., connections) so that the remaining rubble falls in a the shape you want. It’s probably an inefficient, slow process, which is probably why Ur needs the factory to last for while longer.

      (Incidentally, that’s how most viruses operate, both biological and computer ones.)

      This technique requires being very careful not to eat your victims whole. (Or at least to sometimes leave them partly alive, if the “manufacturing” part happens inside the demon.)

      All this, combined with the infusion of luck Isadora sent Blake’s way, might help justify a later reveal of a partially-surviving Blake.

      Not sure what to think about the “largely dismembered hand”. The adverb suggests it was still partly attached to a body. Other than Blake there were only the dolls in there, and I think the dolls exploded. So, if it’s Blake’s hand, this suggests Ur didn’t eat his entire body. But it might still be corpse. I can’t tell if Wildbow’s trying to tell us he’s really dead, or if he’s foreshadowing some way Isadora’s luck helped him survive.

  5. That’s a really weird sense of loss I’m feeling. Someone important to me is gone. Someone whose day-to-day struggles I read about and cared about is rendered totally moot, and my memory of the first 7 arcs will take on a sudden grayness and atonality as I realize that he’ll never level-up any more, he won’t marry nor take an implement nor find a demesne nor get over his aversion to human contact.

    It’s easy to enjoy horror stories from the comfort of my apartment, sitting on a couch and eating snacks and knowing that the terrible things Pact’s demons and Others are doing to the characters will never happen to me. Grabbing the flesh on someone’s face through the back of their head? Hah. Sitting in my own shit-filled room while crazy animals cavort around me? I laugh.

    But reading about people having someone torn from their lives, realizing that they used to care about someone who no longer exists, and then experiencing that myself

    Bravo, wildbow.

    1. The first thing you mentioned is probably one of the things that hurt me the most. I’ve been reading Pact since, what? February? Early March? I’ve spent at least four months reading about the struggles and maladies of Blake Thorburn and how he survived them. It has become a ritual for me to check this website every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and read as soon as possible the next chapter of Blake’s life. He grew on me. So did his dreams, goals, friends and problems. And now, he is gone.

      It hurts, really, because I have invested a considerable amount of time, over a long period, in this story. And, half-way through, Blake is gone. Pact has hurt me much more than any other story because no other story has required me spend dozens of hours over months of my life.

      In some ways, I feel cheated. Cheated by Wildbow, I guess. I like Blake’s friends and I hope the best for them, they are awesome and I want to see more of them, but I don’t particularly care about their development. I want to see where Rose will end and what Granny’s plan was, but I reaaaaaaaally dislike Rose. Whether she has an excuse for the way she acts or not, I can’t bring myself to like her. Now, I trust Wildbow will do a great job with the story, but I can’t feel as though some of what I, personally, have invested in the story has been rendered moot. Pointless.

      You know that character that you have been following for months? Well, he will die a very pointless death. A stupid death that anyone with half a brain would have avoided. Don’t deal with the monster that entities far more powerful than you are terrified of! Not until you understand some basic things like its binding, you nitwit! No, just charge ahead and get yourself killed, /literally/ destroying everything you worked for. Not only will no one remember the good things Blake accomplished, some of those things will even be reverted!

      Oh well, let’s see what the next part of this epic awaits us! Tuesday can’t come sooner 😛

      1. I don’t think Blake is actually dead. Urr just ate his connections, after all; Blake himself was still unharmed the last time we saw him, and he did bring a bunch of dolls in with him (which would explain the fact that Urr wound up eating a hand in its part of the chapter). Everyone else just thinks he’s dead, because they just got their memories of him erased.

        Which of course, will make his resurrection all the more emotionally satisfying.

        1. I do hold hope that Blake is alive. I even shared some reasons as to why he must be alive in the last chapter. And if Blake did die now, it feels like such a small, insignificant death. But, we don’t know that. That might very well be wishful thinking of us.

        2. Also, the demon generates random weird body parts. It could have munched on one of it’s own burnt off parts.

        3. Here’sca thought: suppose Blake is alive, but all his connections have been eaten, so no one remembers him. Does the connection loss work both ways? Does he remember them?

    1. Maggie lost too, it seems. Pity she ran early during this arson mission and won’t be able to talk stories with the other Toronto practitioners.

      1. Hmm… those (heavily foreshadowed) motes are being born. Note how they are very human in appearance? And how when demons take they can be corrupted by some of those human characteristics? I bet whoever the most recent batch* of factory casualties were are the babies. Unless it takes some time to process them.

        * It could have been just one person but who would be that stupid anyway?

  6. Well, the theme of this was definitely Finality. Less connections that reoriented and more connections that were torn, like any conclusion the guard makes has to be made from working with eachother, or else from denial.

    -Why does the Astrologer recognize the gifted mug, but the dolls that were behind Blake are forgotten?
    -Is the power that Blake gave Maggie being lost the reason Isadora can’t recognize her?
    -Again in the case of Isa, is it possible for other practitioners to remember parts of the urased if focusing on that change in connections?

    That’s all… worse again than the hopes we had from last chapter. That just connection would be cut and we would have a zombie diabolist to entertain ourselves with.

    Thanks so much for the chapter, Wildbow. I bet it was tough expressing Ur losses both over the course of the story and as mental skips in the last two chapters. Chapter came out as really intense, especially since I still don’t know what’s up with the void metaphor.

    Maggie. Oh, you’re an interesting one…

    1. The Astrologer recognised the mug because (a) she physically saw it right in front of her, and (b) she had a lot of connections to that specific mug preceding Blake’s use of it. By contrast, the Sisters (a) can’t see the dolls in the warehouse, so don’t have that visual reminder, and (b) mass-produce them anyway and have no particular reason to notice or care that a handful are missing here or there.

  7. I just remembered: The Eye is on the Loose without Conquest to tell him when to stop! Between that, the upcoming Sisters war and ErasUrrr’s eminent release (with kids) what are the chances that Toronto will be left standing?

      1. With Rose in the real world, there is no mirror world, so no more Conquest. The demons are one step closer to the Four Riders riding…

            1. Come to think of it, we haven’t seen any demons interact with each other, have we? Even Granny Rosalyn only bound the one, iirc.

            2. I can’t remember any. Well, not unless you count indirect interactions via the lawyers.

              Actually, we haven’t seen that many demons at all. Assuming the classifications of what creatures we’ve seen are accurate, which is not a given, I only count three on-screen instances. (Ur, the Barber, and Pauz.) Except for Ornias, I can’t think of any other that was named or even more than alluded to.

    1. Scary thought if the Eye will listen to no one but Conquest and they have to make some sort of deal with him just to save Toronto. I suppose Isadora would be the one to mediate that, especially since she didn’t want Conquest deposed in the first place.

      Damn am I looking forward to these coming arcs. Things are going to get Fun.

  8. I’m so angry and pissed that Blake is leaving things undone, like in real life when someone dies. But I’m happy to read a story where there’s no such thing as Plot Armor. It still hurts that he didn’t just die, but he got a fate worse than death.

    1. It still hurts that he didn’t just die, but he got a fate worse than death.

      It was implied that Whatshisface would go to a horrible Hell when he died. Ceasing to exist may actually be a mercy.

      1. Unless being irretrievable, as RTD put it, really is a fate worse than death in the Pactverse. (With all the horror I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but for someone with a lot of unfinished business like Blake it might well be.) I’m inclined to think that if Blake really did “just” die there would have been numerous ways to bring him back, even if he was suffering in the lowest circles of hell or something.

        1. In this case though it’s less “which one is better” and more “which one is slightly less awful.”

  9. I don’t know if anyone’s read/seen it but this reminds me of Shiki Ryougi from Kara no Kyoukai.

    I’m still holding out some hope for Blake to be saved, somehow. If it’s possible to create Rose from Blake, maybe it’s possible to create Blake from Rose.

    Shh leave me my bullshit interpretations.

    Until then I think I’m going to like Rose taking over as the protagonist. The ‘I’m such a bitch’ line sold it. Clueless, friendless, Rose being surrounded by the remnants of Blake’s life, being slowly changed for the better by their presence.

    1. Oh shit. I never thought of that! Do you think Rose would try to create another Blake (not that it would be the Blake we remember, of course)? She seemed less willing to use Barbatorem than Blake did earlier, but of course that was before she summoned her own mini army of demons.

      1. I’m going to be optimistic and hope Rose, who (thinks she?) is a shitty person figures out why everything is so messed up when she gets back to Jacob’s Bell with its library, spends some bonding time with Blake’s friends and Evan, thinks Blake might have been a better person than she was and tries to bring him back as an attempt to become a better person herself.

        1. It would be interesting if, say, Isadora gives Blake’s friends the necessary info about who/what he was to them and then persuades them to save Rose much the way Alexis saved Blake.

          1. This is… something I can get behind. I like this idea, it would allow me to like Rose as the protagonist. If Blake doesn’t come back at some point, I think this might happen.

            Assuming we don’t get Maggie as the protagonist. And I guess I would also like to see Rose bringing out the nukes and destroying everything.

            1. (Rot13’d for Worm spoilers.) http://rot13.com/index.php

              Crefbanyyl V yvxr vg orpnhfr sbe zr vg pnyyf onpx gb Gnlybe’f fnyingvba-bs-fbegf ol Gnggyrgnyr, ohg Nyrkvf naq Oynxr’f bgure sevraqf ner fhssvpvragyl qvssrerag gung gur fgbel jvyy fgvyy qrsvavgryl or vagrerfgvat naq Ebfr’f qrirybczrag pbzcryyvat.

            2. Nick: I’m not convinced there’s much similarity between the two situations, but you’d have to be more specific about which “fnyingvba-bs-fbegf” you were referring to.

    2. Rose was an imperfect copy of Blake. Aside from the gender differences and the side effects thereof, she and Blake clearly remembered different things. If Rose Jr learned what Rose Sr did, perhaps she could create a mirror-Rose-Jr like Rose Sr created Rose Jr as a mirror-Blake, but it wouldn’t be much like the original Blake, since it’s gone through two layers of imperfect copying.

      Might be interesting, though.

  10. Does the arc title Void have the most meanings of any title Wildbow has given us? I can’t think of any, Worm or Pact, that ties into the events of the arc in more numerous ways than it.

  11. Ur is giving me serious final-boss vibes here. Like in Worm, drastically more powerful than anyone else in the cast, enough so to potentially cause a human extinction event. Like in Worm, hinted to escape years in the future, about the same amount of time as elder Rose suggested younger Rose last on her own in the original instructions (time skip, anyone?). And of course, like in Worm, the kind of character that would be really, really interesting to fight as a final boss. So that’s a thing. (Also, the description of how long he is gave me chills- a giant coiled mass filling a space hundreds of feet on each side and hundreds of thousands of feet deep…)

    Also, I’m definitely going with Blake survived sans connections, if only because a) everything in the chapter could be explained by his connections being cut, as Ur just didn’t mention him at all, and b) it would be really cool. If I missed something that sinks this theory (and the Blake/Conquest ship) forever, of course, feel free to mention it.

    1. I prefer a scarier thought, that Ur’s motes are conceived by devouring people (or maybe just practitioners). So karma-screwed Blake just fed the giant demon what it needed to bear another giant demon. (Not enough to go on for this to be a solid theory, but I think, at least, that if Ur did leave a body behind, we would have heard about it as Ur recoiled from the place.)

      1. Going from Pauz when demons take and consume bits of humans, they get those human bits in them. Pauz incorporates them, learns their language, gets ambition, survival instinct etc.

        Suddenly the massive formless Ooze is giving off human looking motes? Blake is getting made into a mote. Although it wouldn’t be a giant demon, just a little one.

        1. I didn’t DISLIKE it, but I think the main problem with it was just that it was really jarring. I had to jump back and forth a few times to make sure that it was actually a part of the story and not just me messing up the read order. An interlude and side stories would help a lot, rather than just “now it’s two years later and she’s a hero!” Wildbow said he’d go back later and maybe fix it up a bit, so I’m holding out for that.

    2. If the hands wielding rebar were dolls, from “He sent his servant dolls and ghosts inside, then passed through the threshold,” then yes Blake could have survived. This could also explain the forgetfulness of the Elder Sister.

      This is just enough of a possibility that we as readers can deny the de-shipping that wildbow denied us and REUNITE the power/blood-sharing family. War in the form of fic-made-canon.

      In fact, it’s still kinda possible. Blake sans connections wouldn’t be sensed from outside until he forms more connections, so those outside may not notice him for a while. After 7 arcs of wanting freedom and peace, Blake would have the ultimate freedom from all feuds and drama, all diabolist karma, and the war.

    3. a giant coiled mass filling a space hundreds of feet on each side and hundreds of thousands of feet deep

      Damn, even my idea for a charge with a team wielding magnesium–liquid-oxygen lances wouldn’t have worked for this one.

      Nuke the entire site from orbit—it’s the only way to be sure.

      I’d recommend using a multiple rounds, staggered impact, simultaneous detonation salvo of high-yield, high-penetration, burning-thermite–coated thermonuclear devices set to initiate simultaneously at equal-spaced penetration depths.

      Now that I think about it, that still wouldn’t be a sure thing.

      1. With enough magnesium, you can burn a hole straight down through the crust and to the mantle layer, and it’ll only stop there because it’s less dense than magma. Ur’s hole may be deep, but it’s not “infinite abyss” deep.

        1. It might be mantle deep, though. The crust is 44 miles at its thickest, and 200,000 feet (“hundreds of thousands of feet”) is almost 38 miles.

          1. Good point, I didn’t think of doing the math. Heck, it even makes sense that Ur would simply take all the space he can: bounded horizontally by the, well, binding, upwards by the roof (to keep the sun out), and downwards by magma (it burnssss).

          2. Damn it, now that I think about it, even with a barrage of nukes it’s probably hard to scour that much volume before destroying the binding:

            Assuming a vertical shaft bounded by the factory walls, I’d guess you’d need to detonate bombs at least every vertical km or so, depending on yield—with multi-megaton devices one every 10 km might suffice—and what parts of the spectrum Ur’s sensitive to. Incendiaries might work, but they’d need to be closer together, and still you’d get smoke. Nukes will cause smoke and dust as well, but the flash comes first and would travel the length of the shaft before the dust and smoke starts occluding stuff.

            This means on the order of 50 bombs at least, which need to detonate at uniformly-distributed heights in the shaft, and probably within a couple of microseconds of each other (just a bit more than that, and the bombs might destroy each other; much more than that, and you risk smoke and dust creating hiding spaces).

            At ICBM speeds (around 7km/s or 4 miles/s) it’d take 10 seconds to traverse the shaft. That doesn’t sound like much, but who knows how fast Ur can gobble them up (that shaft he ate would be on the order of a tenth of a cubic mile in volume). Even if you cover them in something burning, he has lots of body mass to sacrifice.

            But I’m pretty sure that ICBMs don’t go that fast except outside the atmosphere. I’m not sure if any existing big nuke delivery system can keep up that speed for 30 miles at ground level, even with gravity assist, let alone penetrate through Ur’s body or whatever pieces of earth it might have left in the shaft, and still function correctly.

            And you’d better hope Ur can’t chew through any connection that would fuck up the timing.

            1. Well, not as far as I can tell, or at least not with certainty given what we know.

              (That said, it’s possible the US has nukes the capabilities of which are not public knowledge. Also: (1) We don’t know exactly what it means that Ur is “sensitive to light”; after all visible light, radio waves, and gamma rays are different aspects of the same phenomena in our world, and depending on how Ur reacts to different parts of the spectrum my analysis may be off by a few orders of magnitude either way. (2) Nukes could count as aspects of destruction—they break the atoms themselves—or as aspects of creation—they create new isotopes—so it’s really up to Wildbow.)

          3. Okay how to kill the demon, for fun and profit:

            Step 1: Build an array of mirrors around the factory to focus the sun on a second mirror you are levitating above the factory with drones.

            Step 2: The second mirror will reflect a focused beam of sun through the hole, and then burn a second hole by melting through the concrete. Now there is a line slicing though Ur.
            Potential problem: Getting a sufficiently cohesive beam.

            Step 3: Take some two way mirror glass, (semi clear, semi transparent and shape it so it bounces the light in every direction when hit from directly above.

            Step 4: Drop it down the chasm, through the whole you cut through the floor.

            Result: A sunlight source falls into the shaft, and goes all the way down. Every point in the shaft gets hit. Ur can’t get around the light. Ur is destroyed.

            1. That would only work if Ur ate the entire volume into a 30 miles deep pit. I doubt that could hold without reinforcement, and since demons can’t really create, I’d expect Ur only ate tunnels and such, sort of like a very tall ant colony.

              (Even ignoring the structural issue, Ur is shown to plan ahead. It’s probably smart enough to leave intermediate ceilings, so that if the factory roof collapses prematurely it’d still have shadows to hide in, and probably all sorts of nooks and crannies in case of sustained assault.)

            2. Or simply use a lot of lazers together with tons of lamps and sunlight. It would take time though.

        2. The problem is not the magnesium, it’s the oxygen. You need lots of it to burn magnesium, which is why liquid oxygen is used, and it’s hard to get it near lots of burning magnesium. If you try to pour it from above, it’ll probably just boil and explode upwards. So you’d need to do it by hand, in small increments.

          If the factory is 100 by 100 feet wide, and the shaft is 30 miles deep, that’s about a tenth of a cubic mile of volume. Magnesium burns at around 2500 K (2200 °C, 4000 °F). You’d have to go down against the mother of all updrafts, and clear the equivalent of about six square miles of one-floor high rooms, without stepping into any shadows.

          You might be able to do it with a hundred tons of thermite or so (kind of similar principle, except with aluminium and it carries its oxygen with it), but I’d still worry about the smoke.

          1. I think you’d want to talk to some kind of sun-worshipper cult to call down a great big death ray at high noon to deal with this thing. That or using a mirror to draw it over it’s bindings into another binding space designed to destroy it systematically.

    4. What scares me the most is that Ur is supposed to be a minor demon. At least, that’s what Blake and Rose thought the first time.

      Also, this chapter really makes me wonder if even Ur can’t remember what he eats.

      1. I’m reminded of the Steven King story “The Mangler”. In that they thought the demon was a minor one. But it turns out a whole bunch of other factors and loopholes were involved in it’s summoning, and it was much, much WORSE than they realized.

      2. is supposed to be a minor demon

        At the very least Isadora seemed to think it was before today, and boy did she change her mind. She forced herself to look and I think she soiled her back fur a bit when she realized how deep it went.

        You know, I just realized, Isadora seems to be the most powerful character we’ve seen that at least isn’t really evil or malicious, and she’s like a wet kitty besides things like Ur (and presumably Ornias).

        Consider she could only partially divert the effects of Ur, while she was aware and watching for what would happen, after she deliberately kept herself from being closely connected to Blake, and while Ur was bound. Pretty much nobody else even realized what happened, at best they just got bad feeling and got confused, and they were much further away.

        Ur is nasty shit, and whenever it “eats” somebody the repercussions propagate detectably (at least for powerful and observant beings) throughout the entire world. It’s been there doing that for years, if not decades or centuries. Where the fuck are the angels?

        Unless they have even worse things to deal with (the mind reels), they must be either push-overs or complete ass-holes.

        1. Ur’s radiation is instantaneous, has apparently infinite range, and if Isadora is a good measurement is all but impossible to defend against. It’s defining ability is several orders of magnitude beyond anything else we’ve seen in the setting, and directly negates the universe on a fundamental level (the forgotten are as good as non-existent, as far as the spirits are concerned). It’s primary ability is tied to its bite, which would normally be a limiting factor but Ur’s sheer size and ability to produce mouths anywhere along its body render that moot. It has the power and wit to completely circumvent its own weaknesses and even the rules it must normally abide by. Oh, and he’s pregnant. With triplets.

          If Ur is a minor demon, the universe is flat fucked. If Ur is a major demon, it’s still pretty screwed but at least that’s as bad as it gets. If there are angels in the setting, they’d have to be on par with lesser gods to match Ur. If there is only one god in the setting and multiple demons of at least Ur’s power level, the universe is as good as dead.

          … And it gets worse. By its nature, summoning demons requires surrendering a part of reality to them. There is nothing a diabolist could do to counter or change that, and apparently even an evangelist can’t do much or the problem wouldn’t be this bad in the first place. I honestly don’t think this is a fight Blake or Rose could win, even if they manage to kill Ur. The only way I could think of is if one of them managed to become an Other whose nature opposes demons somehow, but that would require surviving long enough and winning at least a few times. You have to actually be able to defeat them to become an avatar of things that defeat them.

          Did I mention I like the premise of this story? Because I do.

          1. … And it gets worse.

            Well, yeah, this is a Wildbow story. That’s why we’re here.

            But still, it begs the question, how come the world is still there? I mean, in Worm the badness started relatively recently (in story terms), and then escalated quickly.

            How can this world have contained demons for thousands of years and still exist? I mean, Ur couldn’t have been there for more than a century, otherwise someone would have commented on the age of the building. And unless Isadora’s Sight was doubly-tricked, he managed to basically eat through most of the Earth’s crust inside its bounds. Unless Ur’s somewhere around Zion-class in this setting (i.e. pretty much unique and recent), I can’t see why the world is still there.

            1. My guess is that it’s because King Solomon was a massive badass who singlehandedly made it possible to direct greater Others and demons against demons, and that similarly, prior to the relative peace he created, diabolists who could summon something like this were few and far between.

              Seriously, look at Ur’s endgame here. It’s waiting until it’s spawned motes before it breaks free and presumably eats Toronto in one night. The only reason it would want to do this (because I can’t imagine that a demon of darkness would have the desire to create as an urge) would be if it expected to either die in the attempt or be bound, so the motes are to ensure that something can continue to attack the world afterwards. That suggests to me that Canada as a whole is capable of bringing down enough resources to take Ur, if after it does a lot of damage. Laird talks about this as a worst-case scenario way back in arc 2-they’ll bind or kill the demon and then use enchanting to make it so that nobody remembers that Toronto ever existed.

              I suspect that the world as a whole is fighting a losing battle against the demons, but they are fighting nevertheless.

            2. As mentioned a few times in the story, it’s speculated (uncommonly) that the universe now is merely the remnants of a much, much larger one. Just using Ur as an example it seems entirely plausible, the only problem being a – ahem – lack of any known evidence.

            3. Cheerful thoughts those. Presumibly the demons got stopped before eating everything, but it’s seems likely judging from the current evidence that not too much of what stopped them the first time is around. Also whatever creative force there was in the first place either isn’t around anymore, or doesn’t feel like creating anything anymore.

            4. How much of the world is still there?

              If you’re referring to the Universe at large, no idea. If you mean just the Earth (which is what I was originally wondering about), it doesn’t look radically different from ours:

              It still has Canada and the US (and the latter has a similar attitude to the world as ours does), England was mentioned (India as well, I think), there were practitioners in Asia. OK, that doesn’t say much.

              But everyday life, technology and the economy seem largely similar. There are cars, mobile phones with games and maps apps, planes, pizzas, people worrying about property values and inheritances and college…

              I would expect a world with lots of Ur-class demons roaming around for centuries to look positively apocalyptic. Unless they are opposed by even more beings in they weight-class or better, of which we have seen none. I would have expected that Lamb book to mention them if there were any. Though I guess the fact that Ur was bound might be a hint. (I can’t for the life of me figure out how to do that with the power-level we’ve seen. At least, no other way than summoning him directly inside the binding, which begs the question of why you would do that and leave it there.)

              (Everyday life was still looking relatively normal at the beginning Worm, but there the point of departure was recent, and there were still hints of the changes.)

            5. Second possibility: the implication could be that our current world is the “diminished” version in the Pactverse, and it’s natural state used to be much more grand. The universe might have been a lively place instead of largely empty, and Earth was just one of the crumbs left over.

              Using in-story history sources is a tad problematic, since any written references to things eaten by Ur also disappear. I would imagine a similar effect from at least other darkness-choir demons, wiping both memory and record, but not effect.

            1. For one, because the story universe is mostly flavored with mythologies from Judeo-Christian parts of the world (primarily the contracts-with-devils thing, and the few mentions of angels, but even fairies, witches, fae and goblins are all older mythologies from areas that have been christian for a while, and are filtered through that).

              For another, to my (admittedly sparse) knowledge even polytheistic religions tend to have some kind of unique creator in their origin story. (Even when there are several “initial” gods or primordial forces, usually there are only a few, like two or three, and usually only one initiates the creation of the world, with the other(s) helping or destroying.)

              On the meta level, given that both Wildbow and most of the readers come from countries with Judeo-Christian mythologies, it’s kind of expected that if there is a God in the setting, either it’s some variation/subversion/inversion of the Biblical stuff, or we’d probably have much stronger hints of it by now.

              That is not to say that the one [prime] god assumption isn’t annoying on occasion, just that it doesn’t seem out of place in this setting.

            2. First off, arguing that the mythologies that most Others come from have been “filtered by” Christianity is kinda silly. In order for there to be a single creator God, Judeo-Christian or otherwise, it would have needed to be the creator from the beginning.
              In addition, I’m not getting much of a Judeo-Christian vibe from the setting; sure, there are angels and demons, but those are hardly unique to monotheistic religions, or even religions period…and the angels are pretty poorly-defined, so they’re not very good evidence. Labels are dangerous things in the Pactverse, after all… As for deals with devils, that’s even farther from unique to Judeo-Christianity. If there are demonic beings in a well-established setting, whether it’s folklore, mythology, or literature, there are people who try to bargain with them.

              Polytheistic religions may or may not have a single creator, but many that do tend to have them be non-divine “bad guys” like Ymir of Norse mythology (well, I suppose his cow and the gods who turned his body into other worlds could also count) or the titans of Greek mythology. Some don’t even have the world being “created” at all, either existing or coming into being without any intelligent creature’s influence. In any case, the quote I was referring to suggested that there was one god, period.

              As for the meta level…well…that’s kind of a poor argument. A, it restricts the setting. B, it’s a bit presumptuous to base your writings on the assumption that your readers are of a given religion. C, a single omnipotent creator deity not only fails to fit the setting, but brings up several other questions. And for that matter, a non-omnipotent creator deity brings up several questions unrelated to those (not all of which require omnipotence) just by existing, so that’s not a good answer either. Regardless, if a creator god or gods just happens to resemble the gods imagined by some of the humans on Earth (without resembling them all, a tricky task to say the least), that brings up still more questions!

              Overall…if it turns out that there is such a single creator god, or even that any gods imagined by humans exist on such a cosmic scale, I’ll be disappointed. More importantly, it’s fair to assume that there are either no gods or possibly multiple, highly non-interventionist ones.

            3. First off, arguing that the mythologies that most Others come from have been “filtered by” Christianity is kinda silly

              I agree that’s silly, but just because that’s actually a bad way of expressing what I meant. I didn’t mean anything about the in-story origins of the Others, which is what I think you’re arguing against.

              What I was trying to say, the story has faerie and fairies, goblins, ghouls, Sphinxes and Bachae, demons and succubi, necromancers and witches with familiars. All of those would be mostly familiar to most people from the US, Canada and Europe. In contrast, there are no kami, daevas, asuras, djin and efreets; while not unknown, those would feel more exotic in a western setting.

              The most non-western mythological concept is karma, but that one’s been popularized by new-age fashions enough to not really feel exotic to westerners, and it’s interesting to note that it’s one the protagonists have the most trouble with (Blake is repeatedly reminded that it’s not about good and evil, but about right and wrong, which tellingly is not how Christianity “works”).

              My point was not that the story feels Judeo-Christian; I meant just that to readers from western countries, where things like faerie and witches are familiar but kami and asuras are exotic, the “one creator god” (with perhaps lesser deities much below) assumption is familiar, because that’s the main organized religion around them, even if they’re not religious at all: they’ve been surrounded by churches “of the one god”, they’ve seen or participated in celebrations of Christmas and Easter every year of their life, they’ve heard christian priests and preachers and politicians blather about christian concepts all around.

              The more cultivated will know about other possibilities, but they mostly feel more exotic, because in westerners don’t see Shinto temples and festivals of Shiva all the time, and when they do it’s mostly documentaries about exotic places and silly movies.

              So I argue that it is normal for a typical reader of Pact (a story written in English by a Canadian based on Western folklore) to instinctively assume that, if the story gets to a point where the creation of the world is mentioned, it’ll be some variation of the “one god” meme. When presented with a story about mostly Western myths, the Western brain feels in “familiar territory”, and when the matter of creation myths comes up, the Western brain reaches by default to the “one god” myth, because that’s also “familiar territory”.

              Note that just because it’s normal for people to assume that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good conclusion after thoughtful analysis of the facts presented in the story, and even less that it’s a logical belief about real life.

              But being “bugged” by that assumption just in the context of a reader speculating about a story is like being “bugged” by people assuming vampires are the culprit when someone encounters (in a fantasy story) bodies with bite marks on the neck and drained of blood. Sure, there are stories where that’s not what happened, and I’m sure there are blood-drinking creatures in non-Western mythologies that are not vampires, but the assumption is not unnatural to a Westerner.


              The “filtered by” thing is not really pertinent to that point, actually. I was only thinking that, even though we still have folklore about faerie and goblins and even sphynxes, the main mythology of the Western world is christian.

              So that, for example, people in the West tend to know that faeries work with glamour, goblins are ugly, and sphynxes ask riddles; but few remember the that the Greek creation myth starts with the primordial Chaos (titans are like the third generation of divinities), there are only fragments known of Norse genesys stories, and there are only guesses about where fairies and goblins come from. In contrast, pretty much everybody in the west has an idea (even if vague and probably inaccurate) about the christian genesys.

              “Filtered” meant that, as christianity became the official religion, the older ones were discouraged, their priests were persecuted, so the only things left are stories told by lay people, i.e. folklore. Their “deep mysteries” and such were lost.

            4. Ah. Well, there’s a pretty simple counterpoint to that: The reason that the universe uses Western-familiar mythological beings has less to do with the universe and more to do with those viewing or classifying the beings which reside there. One helpful bit to prove this? It’s mentioned that Eastern traditions don’t have familiars as Westerners know them–they have a different system. Not to mention that Blake’s only dealt with a handful of Others in a small area–I’d honestly be more surprised to see a djinn in Canada. They’re Middle Eastern, and there hasn’t been quite enough immigration from those areas to expect a significant number of genies to come along.
              Moreover, I fail to see how “It seems to work like the kinds of mythology Westerners are familiar with” leads to “There is one god, like the religion many Westerners follow”.

              The “It’s the default” does explain why people do make those assumptions, but it doesn’t explain why they should, which is a point that I noticed you covered only after I typed about a paragraph on the subject.

            5. As for the meta level… well… that’s kind of a poor argument.

              Again, I might have said it poorly, because from your response it seems you interpreted it differently from what I meant to express:

              B, it’s a bit presumptuous to base your writings on the assumption that your readers are of a given religion.

              First of all, I didn’t mean that Wildbow did base his writing on that assumption.

              (He might have based it on the assumption that most readers would be familiar with the concepts of Christianity. But that’s no different than assuming that readers will be familiar with what a faery or a goblin is, which might not be a given in, for example, a story written for an Indonesian audience. Note that while there are some details about them, needed to establish the rules and lore of this particular universe, the story relies on readers having quite a bit of background knowledge. In contrast, SF stories about completely alien beings (like Vinge’s Zones of Thought series or Egan’s Orthogonal) tend to spend a lot of time discussing their physiology and psychology, and Lovecraft’s stories rely on people not being familiar to the creatures of the mythos, and often describes them vaguely, to try and elicit feelings of horror and “wrongness” in the readers.)

              Second, what I actually meant is that a reader of Pact, noticing that the setting adopts and adapts several western myths and folklore, can well be excused for assuming that the same trend will continue for other parts of the setting, in this case the origin of the world. (Not because that’s the only way it could go, but because it seems the most likely, and because other genesis myths in that “literary neighborhood” are rare enough that people can easily forget there are any.) Which I blathered about enough in my previous reply.

              That said,

              A, it restricts the setting.

              I’d like to note much if not most great art arises out of the author’s struggling against restrictions of various kinds, and from what I’ve seen Wildbow positively thrives on those. I mean, hey, I’d have thought being a bullied teen-aged girl with control over bugs would be restrictive in a world with hundreds of physics-bending superhumans per city, and she turned out incredibly awesome.

              And I’ve seen the “Christian God” trope twisted and subverted and played with in surprising ways in stories by much less competent authors, that I have complete confidence if Wildbow goes there it’ll be awesome.

              C, a single omnipotent creator deity […] brings up several other questions. And for that matter, a non-omnipotent creator deity brings up several questions […] so that’s not a good answer either. Regardless, if a creator god or gods just happens to resemble the gods imagined by some of the humans on Earth […] that brings up still more questions!

              OK, this part I can’t figure out for the life of me.

              So what you’re saying is that, in a story setting that looks very much like our world, which contains mythological creatures and magic that look very much like common parts of our (western) folklore, you’d find it questionable and disappointing if it turns out that the creator deities just happen to even resemble any gods imagined by an Earthling, regardless of if they’re single, multiple, omnipotent or not!?

              You think it would raise fewer questions if the world of Pact was created the arcane cogitations of an autogenous self-aware divine entity consisting of and at the same time residing in a topological phase space with surreal basis and uncountable fractal time dimensions?

            6. Re: Restriction of Setting: There’s the kind of restriction on writing that inspires new methods to get around it, and then there’s the kind that brings you down well-traveled roads. There’s the kind that compels you to answer questions, and the kind that makes new ones that can’t be answered. There’s the kind that makes a story good, and the kind that just makes it harder to write. Maybe it’s a matter of opinion, but putting such a diverse universe under the control and creation of a single god seems to fall more into the bad kind of restriction than the good.

              Re: The latter: Yes. The biggest differences? One, the similarities between Pactverse Others and real-world mythological beings tends to be more seeming than real, and there’s the possibility that either the beings inspired the stories (for instance, fairies, which may have lived in Europe and inspired stories before following Europeans around the world), been classified into categories specifically because they resembled the beings of the stories (demons are almost certainly an example), or be former humans inspired by the stories (fairies being a possible example, with wendigoes being another potential one).
              Problems come up when you go beyond mere creatures and half-people and into the realm were the mythologies start to conflict. The existence of wendigoes in North America does not contradict the existence of minotaurs in the Mediterranean, but Native American and Greek creation myths are obviously incompatible, with gods above a certain power level also causing issues. Gods who (in the “real world”) have a power level around that of Pact’s Incarnations are fine; creators of the universe, and we get into problems.
              More come up when we have a world clearly like ours in most respects, but which has an origin for life, the universe, and/or everything that heavily contradicts scientific evidence. To pick an example that sprang to mind, in Prometheus it was stated that human DNA and the Engineers’ were exactly alike. Ignoring all the other issues, IRL, human DNA is almost identical to the other Great Apes’ and similar to those of all other life forms on Earth…yet, somehow the history of science and such went on unperturbed. If there was a sufficiently active cosmic being (ie, an interventionist deity of significant power), such things should be obvious to science and history. If such a being also created the world recently, there should be other differences–IRL, every field of science agrees that the universe is billions of years old in its own way. Yet, here we are, with a world blissfully unaware of anything supernatural, so if something turns out to be true which should, logically, change the evidence significantly (say, if the ratio of long-half-life unstable elements was much higher than expected, or if human DNA was like the DNA of nothing else on Earth, or if we found a gradual trickling-off of fossilized life-forms consistent with an instant deluge), then the history of science and its inability to figure out that the supernatural might be real should be different. Maybe it’s just me, but that strains my suspension of disbelief too far.

            7. either the beings inspired the stories[,…] been classified into categories specifically because they resembled the beings of the stories[,…] or be former humans inspired by the stories

              My money’s on the first of those. So to speak.

              [C]reators of the universe, and we get into problems. […] More come up when we have a world clearly like ours in most respects, but […] heavily contradicts scientific evidence.

              Sure, it’s not obvious, but those problems can be overcome by the author, which is (for me, and when done well) the draw to these kinds of stories.

              I mean, goblins and fairies and the Hyena’s corpse turning into a broken sword when asked nicely also don’t quite fit with scientific evidence, but those have been explained (vaguely, and incompletely, but well enough for the purposes of a story) by a vast conspiracy of powers and spirits hiding things from ordinary people.

              Given that we’re told demons from the Choir of Darkness can make annihilate parts of reality (even retroactively, at least as far as memories go), and that we’re told both minds and reality itself actively try to “fill in the blanks” (and we haven’t even seen much of what the other Choirs do), there’s a lot of lee-way, story-wise, to explain away all sorts of inconsistencies between religions (especially as real-life religions are chock-full of internal inconsistencies as well).

              I think that you’re imagining that a “one creator god” genesis, if it appears in-story, would turn out to be just like real religions. But there are many ways such a myth can appear in the story, in such a way that it is obviously based on real-life religions (or, in story terms, that are the origin of (one or more or even all) muggle religions that look just like ours), but at the same time twisted such that they’re in fact distinct from all of them and also justifiable (for literary purposes, at least). There are lots of examples in the literature.

              (Also, I’m arguing all this on the assumption Wildbow wants to go there, for the sake of the argument. I don’t, in fact, think is terribly likely.)

            8. The fact that real-world religions are “chock-full of inconsistencies” is part of the problem. I can suspend my disbelief that farmers and whatnot find non-goblin reasons to explain the effects of goblins attacking their sheep or whatever, but if decades or centuries of scientific inquiry failed to note inconsistencies than I need to be able to assume that the inconsistencies don’t exist–ie, that science is ultimately right about those kinds of issues.
              It’s a matter of how much disbelief I’m willing to suspend. Magic, fae, goblins, etc, unknown to the population of a world much like ours? They’ve kept to themselves and haven’t really affected much outside their spheres of influence, so sure. Said world was created several thousand years ago by deities which were worshiped by a tiny fraction of humanity at that point while the vast majority still refuses to accept their existence? That’s problematic.

              If the Creator God isn’t like those of human myths, great. That still leaves other potential issues, but those are relatively minor if handled right…but “handled right” for me means that we’re not likely to see much of them, except maybe a casual mention in books that it exists. Maybe.

            9. Occam’s razor?

              In-setting, the fact that Solomon seems to have been the only human with enough clout behind him to challenge and bind the mightiest demons suggests that he had God (or a reasonable equivalent) on his side. The fact that noone else had that much clout suggests that they didn’t – or at least that they were less focussed than Solomon’s God.

              Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean YHWH pre-dated the Israelites. They may have somehow created their own God like a tulpa.

    5. Jub jnf gur “svany obff” va Jbez? Fpvba. Jub YBBXRQ yvxr gur “svany obff” va Jbez? Gur Raqoevatref, jub “grnzrq hc” jvgu uhznavgl gb gnxr qbja Fpvba.
      Ybbxf ner qrprvivat.

      I don’t get why people always cling to these fringe theories about stories. Blake’s gone, Belkar’s going to die before the end of the in-story year, Draco was a jerk. It’s not that hard, people.

  12. It was a huge pit. He never had a chance…

    Damn, Blake really did a number on Toronto.

    Too bad Blake is gone. I have a feeling Rose is more open to screwing people over and taking action instead of reacting. Is she keeping Evan as a familiar or just helping him out?

    A part of me was really hoping Blake would survive.

    1. Is she keeping Evan as a familiar or just helping him out?

      Isadora did say the deal’s broken, so I take it Evan’s not technically Rose’s familiar. I don’t know what that makes him right now, though.

        1. No, he was dying since the one who tethered him to the world was gone. Evan was literally falling to pieces. We know it’s possible for someone like an Enchanter to take a familiar and bind it to itself, but basically Evan needs life support and to be connected to a power source.

          I vote Ty.

          1. Sure, Evan was falling apart. Doesn’t change the wording, though. I’m reading it as Wildbow setting things up for Blake’s return. As long as the familiar bond is merely forgotten, not broken, all Evan really needs to do is ‘remember’ it to restore the connection and return to being Blake’s familiar.

            1. Forgetting is really all that breaking the bonds does. The Hyena is still dead, his friends (former friends?) are still awakened, the Behaims are still weakened and unhappy, etc. Only memories (the Sisters remembering that someone’s going to mediate their dispute with the Astrologer, the Astrologer remembering who used a mug, Paige remembering that her cousin was a guy–or perhaps that she has one) are going to be affected.

  13. I’m sentimental, and seeing how Wildbow ended Worm, I’m thinking our emotions affect his plot weaving. Here’s to hoping that Blake somehow survived and this chapter was just everybody including Ur reacting to Blake’s connections disappearing while he still survives as something like Voldemort.

    1. Did Fell ever create the container? If he survives it will be because of the lawyers. Maybe they feel they have a better chance at converting Blake rather than Rose.

      Or perhaps Rose is the key to stopping Ur. Nothing is suppose to be created after it removes things from existence. Blake was devoured, so nothing would take his place, but Rose did. It can be said that Rose would not exist in the real world without Ur. Maybe a demon that devours can be weaken because it brought something into existence.

      @Zim the Fox, I think Rose is less likeable because she is a classic Thorburn. She admitted to getting caught up in the feud for the inheritance. She is more willing to use people to gain an advantage, or to screw over an enemy. I think she will be willing to use Corvidae to break up the Behaim/Duchamp alliance. Now that she is in charge, she gets the debt and bad luck/Karma. It will be interesting to see how it affects her. She also needs to find a husband.

      This also completed Isadora’s proclamation. Rose is the next heir in line. And her war on Blake gave him some Luck which could’ve helped him.

      Moral of the story. If you are offered a threesome, do it becuase you might end up devoured by a demon.

      1. Moral of the story. If you are offered a threesome, do it becuase you might end up devoured by a demon.

        I declare this to be the true point of Pact and will refuse to believe anything to the contrary!

      2. Don’t get me wrong, Rose’s life might be more interesting than Blake’s and make for an even heavier, more thrilling story. But I don’t like her one bit.

        Last chapter I suggested that, maybe, Blake will come back (or maybe Rose won’t last) because Rose is, precisely, a classic Thorburn. Granny’s plan was to stop the war between the Behaims and the Thorburns, and hopefully not gain even more bad karma in the process. Blake seems like a character willing to break with this cycle and try to reach agreement. Rose seems like a character that will bring out the metaphorical nukes if provoked. I feel as though she will exterminate the Behaims, or have them submit to her.

        I can’t remember Granny Rose’s intentions. I don’t remember if she cared about doing Good. But I’m certain she doesn’t want yet more bad karma for her family.

        1. I think if Granny’s only motivation were removing bad karma from the family, she would have lived long enough to see an heir and then joined the lawyers (I’m pretty sure they would have taken her, since they called her one of the better ones, after all). So she must be motivated at least in part, like Blake, by not wanting demons to gain another foothold in the world.

          1. Karma schmarma. Blake was awesome enough to have a sphinx root for him and lend him some.
            It’s obviously better long-term, both in senses of good and right, to prevent more footholds being created and bind those already existing (like Barbie, assuming his sharp tool is such a foothold).

            Regarding Erasurre, considering this recent development, I am extremely interested in the tale of her binding.
            Alternatively, it could be a botched summoning and the graffiti were done before Urr existed in the factory.

            1. Of course it’s more good in the long run for everyone for the demons to have less footholds and etc., but, if all it comes down to is some single demon getting considerably more powerful, that might well never affect the descendants of the family. I think you’re underestimating just how powerfully motivating a family-is-all-that-matters ethic can be. Sure, the Thorburns as diabolists might well be more at risk of the consequences of that than the average practitioner, but they’re also practically the only ones equipped to deal with it.

              And, I’m pretty sure it’s not actually more right in the Pactverse, because we have no reason to think Granny would have received an immediate karmic backlash for dealing with the lawyers. (The lawyers/whatever demonic power they represent does seem to be gaming the system’s sense of rightness there, but I imagine that’s something we’ll see explained down the road.) This is assuming that what is considered right in the Pactverse is and only is tied directly to matters of karma, but I think that’s pretty well established.

            2. That makes a lot of sense. If Urraser is as powerful as he appears to be, it’s hard to imagine him sitting passively and letting himself be bound in place rather than destroying whoever had the effrontery to try. Probably some diabolist propped the site and summoned Urraser for their own ends. I’m guessing that didn’t go as planned…

          2. I think Granny Rose was trying to break the cycle/change the world. Both she and Aimon didn’t want to see their families continue doing things the way they had in the past.

        1. The threesome line? You should probably edit it. The way I wrote it makes it seem like its a good thing to be devoured by a demon. Maybe throw in an otherwise or something.

    2. You do realize that if Wildbow is slightly adjusting his writing to get reactions out of us, then hoping Blake survives will either get you the opposite of that, or give it to you in such a way that you don’t want it, aye?

      Although, I would like to see Blake come back as a horrible abomination, because I am an awful person who delights in awful things.

      1. Although, I would like to see Blake come back as a horrible abomination, because I am an awful person who delights in awful things.
        Yes. Yes you are.

    3. Oh goddammit, spoilers. My bad. In my defense, the guy I’m replying to mentioned it first…

      Okay, that’s pretty weak.

  14. I have never reacted with this much emotion to fiction before. Having spent so much time reading about Blake and seeing him grow as a character only to have him be snuffed out…it’s painful. And the thing is, if he had died in a normal way, with everyone remembering his death, I would not have been nearly as affected. But this? Completely forgotten by everyone, even those closest to him? Goddamn. That’s harsh.

    I guess what I’m really saying is: Bravo Wildbow for making me care about a character so much!

    1. I wonder if killing Ur is enough to take the Thorburns out of debt.

      Also, do you think the other male Thorburns have their own version of Rose?

      1. I’m 99% certain that Blake only had Rose because his grandmother made her so he could be the heir.

        So…maybe.

  15. Oh gah, this really hit it home. Somehow, this elucidation of the freaking deathchaossuffering-ripples that emerged from one freaking kill by a big demon, and that kill being the main character that we’ve been following the activities of all this time, just forced me to engage that this setting is so, so much worse than the Wormverse. I thought the Worm-infested universe was a hideously dark kind of universe, but this is just so much worse.

    Of course, the existence of such despair-inducingly potent forces of destruction raises the question of how anything is still around, which might possibly be answered by some kind of ‘this is a dualist setting, there are potent forces of good somewhere’ thing, so the setting might just have its awfulness perceptually frontloaded (worm initially looked bleak on a small to medium scale and then the big setting-reveal made the big picture insanely scary and dark whereas pact may initially look bleak on a small to medium scale and also insanely scary and dark in the big picture and then turn out to be not quite as bad in the big picture sense as it first appeared).

    1. Personally I suspect that the closest thing to potent forces of good the Pactverse has are forces of balance; they don’t necessarily counter the bad, but they keep it in check.

      (To be clear I mean the rules of the Pactverse itself, not some entity like Isadora, although I suppose I wouldn’t be surprised if balance had some more powerful corporeal form than a sphinx.)

    2. I thought the Worm-infested universe was a hideously dark kind of universe, but this is just so much worse.

      Spoiler time.
      – Gur jbezf ner zhygvirefny orvatf, pnershyyl fryrpgvat gur havirefrf gurl pbafhzr, hfr nf oerrqvat tebhaqf be nf jnfgr qvfcbfny guebhtu cerpbtavgvba.
      – Cnpg naq Jbez unccra va gur fnzr zhygvirefr.

      Cnpg-irefr vf fb onq, gurl jba’g gbhpu vg jvgu n havirefr-yratgu cbyr.

      1. Pretty sure that “Pact, Worm, et all exist in the same multiverse” isn’t a spoiler, seeing as wildbow confirmed it in an offhanded comment replying to someone commenting on Pact. It’s not a major spoiler any way you look at it.

        The other bits are fairly accurate, except maybe the “gurl jba’g gbhpu vg jvgu n havirefr-yratgu cbyr” part. Na rkcbaragvnyyl vapernfvat cbchyngvba bs Ragvgvrf pna svyy nyy gur irefvbaf bs bar jbeyq, ohg gurer jrer bayl gjb jub pnzr gb gur Rneguf, naq bar jnf qrnq. Gur snpg gung gurl sbphfrq ba bar Rnegu naq biresybjrq bayl n yvggyr makes more sense when you look at it like that, especially since it was stated that there are more universes than there are atoms in any universe.

    3. According to Black Lambs Blood, there are “angelic” celestial forces (author’s dad a paladin) but from what we’ve seem, they… aren’t prominently around.

  16. I can definitely see Maggie as the true protagonist. There is even slight proof, because in Worm, Vista talks about a popular series of young adult books, the Maggie Holt books. With this in mind, Maggie makes an obvious choice as protagonist. Of course this should be taken with a grain of salt, as Wildbow has stated that he puts many references to his other stories within his other works, most notably Worm, and the choice for the books being the Maggie Holt books might have been an early one, while Pact was still just a mote, being spawned off of Wildbow’s demonic pig of the First choir, who eats all of our hope of a perfect ending, leaving us with only the bittersweet memory of characters taken before their time.

        1. According to Word of Wildbow, Pact and Worm take place in the same multiverse. Also, Maggie apparently secretly has universe jumping powers.

          1. To be more specific, someone asked Wildbow if they were the same multiverse and he said “Sure, why not.” Then specified there will be no crossovers beyond deniable references.

            1. I still sincerely hope that one day once wildbow finishes all his current planned serials he writes a huge scale crossover with all his protagonists against a threat something like the avengers. The multiple worlds mightiest badasses

      1. The closest is that when there’s a haunt like Ur in the recent battle, there’s often some analogy to “something snaking out there, or boiling forth like some swarm of bugs from a disturbed hive.”
        Haven’t seen many examples of fast-paced spell clashes and the heroes are stuck with walking/car/bike so a lot of the anticipated symmetries aren’t happening.

        Good guy Wildbow, making us quake at signs and portents even more than the characters in the story are.

    1. Another thing about Maggie, was last time, when she said she wanted to kiss whatshisface, albeit on the cheek, was probably one of the biggest hints at whatshisface’s demise. Wildbow, you sure do love your emotional highs, but not as much as you love your lows, where we are dropped into a bone-shattering pit of despair, with the slightest glimmer of hope for us to reach for.

    2. Given the reference to Weaver Dice as a game on par with D&D, and the fact that Jrnire vf gur anzr gung Gnlybe cvpxf hcba orpbzvat n ureb, this seems roughly one-third plausible. Not more, though, since Maggie’s been a side character at best so far.

      We’ll see, though. We’ll see.

  17. WAIT WAIT WAIT.

    Blake knew that there was a very real chance he’d die/be disconnected. Could he and Rose have planned anything off-screen? It only makes sense they had thought of something if that were to happen. (Still clinging to the last morsels of Blake still being alive)

    1. The final hope should be that we remember reading about Blake unlike those nameless faceless goblins from the first encounter.

      1. The nameless-faceless-goblins were unremembered by Blake. We remember Blake because he remembered himself, up until the point he ceased to exist.

      1. It was planned by Rose, for herself. Blake wasn’t involved. Past Rose uses “we” since she is refering to herself, and to her future self. To illustrate my point, the promises Past Rose made still hold for Future Rose. Thus, “we promised that” rather than “I promised that”. Unless you are referring to something else?

  18. I’m kind of happy about Rose’s decision to keep Evan. Didn’t really expect that, didn’t seem to me like something she’d do, but happy about it anyway. Evan’s been entertaining, even though being a bird defines him as irrevocably evil.

    1. Are you. . . not in love with Evan. You don’t think he’s the greatest character in Pact?

      *grabs a rusty, blood covered pipe.

      I think you, me and the other commenters need to have a little talk in the back alley.

  19. I’m grasping at straws to think of ways that Blake could return, though if he does I doubt that it will be a good thing. This is the most that a (slightly ambiguous, hopefully) death in a novel has affected me since … actually, just a few nights ago, in Stross’s new book. But before that was a very long time indeed.

    1. I’m thinking signature like signature moves and catch phrases, as in, this next arc we’ll be seeing Rose getting comfortable in the role of heir and her signature style.

    2. general character development, a signature is something typical of someone, something unique with wich that person should always be recognizeable.

    3. Signatures are either how we claim something as our doing, give evidence of consent, or by themselves are a means of identifying/defining a person. I suspect Rose will be getting her familiar, implement, and demesnes in a hurry.

  20. Hm. Pit that extends deep into the earth, an ancient Evil with extra capital E, a man with Fire who confronts the evil above the pit and then falls down, while his companions can only leave…

    Here’s to Gandalf. Give them Hell, Blake.

    1. But Blake didn’t get awesome lines like Gandalf doing that.
      Although my headcannon will now have his last wofds to Evan be “Fly, you fool !”

    1. The power to redirect things. The only problem is, the new target would always be himself with negative things and his enemies with positive things.

    2. Assuming roughly equal circumstances (except in the family feud about the Thorburn estate, no magic is involved, only lots and lots of money), he would likely have triggered when one of those scenes from the memories happened. Given the wish to escape (first from the stupid family feud, then from this concrete situation), I can imagine something similar to Imp’s power, or, given his mental image of perfection (being on his motorcycle with Evan), something movement related.

      1. If the Wormverse was a bit kinder, I could see it being some variant of flight.

        Given Blake’s luck, though, it’d probably be something like “passively terrify anyone who comes anywhere near you”.

          1. I doubt it. Sleeper’s an Earth Bet native, or at least he lived there before waking up you-know-when, and he had a rather terrifying power.

            I could definitely see him being a misplaced diabolist or a rare Earth Bet practitioner, who happened to trigger.

      2. Alternatively, a barrier or forcefield to enforce his boundaries. Similar to Worm’s Glory Girl, or One Piece’s Bartolomeo.

    3. Depends on the trigger event; there’s almost always a connection.

      Given the earliest qualifier for a trigger event, it would almost certainly be a Stranger power.

  21. Reading the Eye’s portion, does it seem to anyone else that it feels almost…human? Like it used to be human?

    I remember from checking that only one person died in the fire that made the Eye. Maybe the Eye is meant to be that person, or their ghost?

    1. I got the impression that most Others were once human, one way or another. Demons are probably an exceptions, maybe goblins and such as well, but…yeah, the Eye of the Storm probably has an origin from that person.

  22. “demons ate creation” is this best solution to the Fermi Paradox ever. Also, it appears the defining characteristic of demons is that they destroy information. I wonder how this applies to (for example) demons that cause people to commit incest. In any case, great lore update.

    1. Maybe RDT wouldn’t classify those particular malicious Others as demons. Or maybe it counts as destruction if they’re causing humans to break their own rules of what’s acceptable versus horrifying. Or maybe it has to do with loss of genetic information.
      More likely it’s something I haven’t thought of.

    2. First off, I don’t see how that solves the Fermi Paradox. There’s still a whole universe of stars and planets for them to live on, even if the universe is but a crumb.
      Secondly, they were talking about First Choir demons. It might not be the case for all demons.
      Thirdly, incest isn’t just a societal prejudice; there’s a psychological component that makes your brain go “ew” at the thought of sleeping with relatives and anyone else you knew from a young age. (That’s a bit oversimplified, but meh.) Perhaps they screw with that inbuilt prohibition?

  23. Nope. Nope. There is a river in Egypt and I am buying tickets for a cruise on it.

    Blake is not dead. Only mostly dead. Right? I don’t mind Rose but Blake and Evan are the heart of this story for me.

    Well, have fun at the wedding and I look forward to the Maggie arc.

        1. Blake’s chest is partially wax still, from the work Tallowman did on him already. And we aren’t sure whether Blake has a body or not at this point, Urr could have been eating a doll arm as has been suggested by other commenters, and we are only ever told about Urr eating his connections.

        2. He has plenty of squishy demonflesh though. A dab here, a handful there, and he’s back. Problem is, he’s likely to come back looking like a half-shoggoth that way.

          1. Uhh, pretty sure any way of coming back involving any part of Urr would be bad. Remember demons seek to create a void in the diabolist in their barganings with Diabolists that they can fill with demon. As in massive loss of human self, replaced with demon. If Blake comes back stuffed with ErasUrr, or as the template of of an mote, that won’t actually be Blake. It’ll just be a demon wearing a cheap Blake suit.

  24. I am still holding on to the (mayhap foolish) hope that Blake is alive. My thought is this: what if ErasUur never actually fed on people, but on connections? It would mean that all of its victims (Blake, Nick’s sorta kinda maybe wife, …) are still alive, but connectionless, thus utterly forgotten. Maybe Uur eats them as well, but snaps the connections as it closes its mouth(s), so they are alive and connectionless inside of the digestive tract of the scariest demon we have seen yet (except maybe Ornias). And somehow, I actually doubt that Uur has digestive liquids and stuff like that. Blake could escape from something like that!
    I DON’T KNOW I JUST WANT BLAKE TO BE ALIVE SHADDAP!

    1. Remember one of the Knights that had half a foot? Eras’Urr eats people, connections are just seasoning.

      That said, the one chance that Whatshisface may be “alive” or un-eaten in this case would be the fact that since his connections were devoured before he was, Eras’Urr could no longer sense him & he fell completely between the cracks of reality like back when he bled himself out at the police station.

      1. Eras’Urr eats people, connections are just seasoning.

        I suspect it’s the other way around. Or rather, it eats connections because it’s an abstract demon and that’s how they mess up with reality. It also eats people, or parts thereof (and apparently lighters and goblins), but I think’s that’s mostly comfort food (like the hand in this chapter), and for tactical reasons (like the Knight’s foot might be).

      1. Oh yeah. You can bet that the next few chapters after this (once the Maggie Arc is over) are gonna be nothing but trash talking the new protagonist in the comments. They’ll never live up to Blake’s standards.

        1. Ah, just like being a child and watching Dr Who. You always hated the new doctor for about 5 episodes or so.

            1. I like all the Doctors. But with them it’s still the same character no matter who played them, and how they changed, deep down inside they are always the same character. The Doctor is just expressing himself differently. This is more like if Nine died, and Rose became the new main character.

            2. Oh shit, just noticed, the main supporting characters for Blake and several of the Doctors have the same names!!!

              Coincidence, I THINK NOT!

            3. nega,
              No way. You’d never mistake the Conceited Doctor for any of the others.
              And some of the doctors are darker than others…
              “There’s only one person in the whole universe that can hate me as much as you do.”

            4. Oh, there is no mistaking one Doctor for another. They all have their unique traits, and at times they are quite different at temperments. And that is the resault of what he’s gone through in his long life. 9, 10, and 11 are the ones who have to carry the burden for the time war, and what he did. If they weren’t all the same person as the one who pressed the button, than they wouldn’t be affected by it. If Three, Four and ten weren’t all the same being, there wouldn’t have been the same emotion when reunited with Sarah Jane. If the First Doctor wasn’t the same person as Ten, then there wouldn’t be that connection with his childhood friend turned arch-enemy, the Master. If the First Doctor’s emotions and memories of his family were not a part of Ten, then their is no weight to him saying he knew what it was to be a father and grandfather, and to be neither now. I don’t see it as a switch of the character. I see it as a switch of the actor, and look forward to seeing how the new one is portrayed, while still considering him the doctor.

            5. I could’ve definitely stood one or two more seasons of the Eccleston Doctor. Arguing for a ‘best’ really is pointless though – they all have their selling points. Thinking a particular Doctor is “the best” says more about the person thinking that than anything else…

        1. I just realized: the biggest mind-fuck Wildbow could pull off on us would be to actually give Pact a true, unambiguous happy ending. The really wise might expect the Spanish Inquisition, but a Wildbow happy ending would probably shatter minds by this time.

          1. It really says something when a straight up honest to goodness happy ending would be the shocking twist.

    2. It was mentioned that if Erasur eats enough people near someone, they “fall through the cracks”. Remember that one girl that one of the Knights could kinda remember? Even if Erasur “only” ate Blake’s connections, he wouldn’t be around.

      Even past that, there are probably connections between the various parts of Blake. Yes, between the foot-bone and the shin-bone and things like that, but also between his id, ego and superego; between his mind, body, and spirit; between his memories, emotions, and personality; etc. Why wouldn’t the demon eat those as well, even if it only ate connections?

      Just let it go. It’s easier. (And less annoying.)

  25. Despite me wanting to have Blake back because I feel a connection to the character (or I felt, until it was erased :P), I also see the opportunity for Rose to actually develop as a character. Maybe into something nice, maybe into something ugly, but this is an opportunity for her to grow, and grow on us. I do hope she becomes less of a jerk though.

    1. Rather, someone more relatable. I feel as though Rose’s goal is to obtain power for the sake of power. She wants to command fear, be in control. Okay, I can get behind that, and I can get behind being manipulative, selfish and doing Evil things. But I need something more relatable than “this is what my family does”. Mind you, this is based on my impression of Rose, I could have the wrong impression.

  26. “Unless otherwise noted (as in the Lonely Man’s subsection), that which is destroyed can be replaced, but it cannot be retrieved.”

    We know that practitioners can become Others, and that some people (midge) can become Others by falling into the Spirit World.
    What if Ur chomping on Blakes connections, when he was pretty low on personal power to begin with, was enough to change Blake from mere practitioner to something.. Other.

  27. Exhibit A:

    A disconnect, a momentary lapse. […] It reminded her of the nightmares she’d had for years after leaving University, the idea of something critical that had been forgotten.

    OK, who else here thinks the Elder Sister lost someone (or something) to Ur while she was in University?

    Exhibit B: nobody ever, including the narration from her point of view, refers to her as anything other than Elder Sister.

    Exhibit C: there’s no good reason ever given why the sisters focus on fire.

    1. Nah dude, you don’t need any supernatural cause to make you worry about forgetting critical things in university.

      1. True, but still, it’s rare for that to give you nightmares for years after leaving. If there’s one thing university teaches well, it’s the nightmare-canceling theraeutic powers of the ethanol-induced-stupor 🙂

    2. I assumed that she’d been one of isadora’s chosen who just barely fa so she didn’t get eaten and instead got her memory wiped.

    3. Does anyone need a good reason to focus on fire? It’s the most primal element available, easy to create, has multiple useful applications, is flashy and impressive, and is still a powerful and versatile weapon. If someone were to take a sampling of all the circles in the pactverse, I’d bet fire would be the most common among them.

      Alternatively, the Sisters use fire because their torch spirit is the crux of their order. They either lucked out finding it or did a damn good job summoning/binding it, and they’ve been riding it ever since.

      1. Does anyone need a good reason to focus on fire?

        Well, if you put it that way, no 🙂

        But still, it’s rarely suited to subtlety, it’s often hard to control, and is mostly suited to violent purposes, and that doesn’t seem to fit what we’ve seen of the sisters.

        I’d expect a group of lawyers and business women to focus more on enchantment, connections (though we did see a bit of that with those eye posters), and even deals and contracts (not the Thorburns’ kind, but there’s all sorts of other Others to do business with). I guess I didn’t quite buy their “it’s for self-confidence” thing.

        1. I can see that. Fire isn’t very well suited to subtlety at all.

          There is an alternate explanation, though: It could be that this bid for lordship is only a recent development, and the Elder Sister is just using the tools available to her.

          But the self-confidence bit does come off as the kind of explanation one would create when no other explanation is known (i.e. forgotten).

          1. It could be that this bid for lordship is only a recent development,

            Even so, they’ve been “The Sisters of the Torch” since well before Blake came into town.

            They’re obsessed with getting their fire spirit back, at least in part, because that’s probably a side-effect of how Corvidae works, but they’ve been focused on fire since the beginning, as far as we know.

            1. I think they’re obsessed with getting the fire spirit back because it’s important. It’s apparently part of some ritual for inducting their padawans or whatever they’re called and presumably it’s a main source of their power, and it just plain looks bad when something like that is taken out from under you, especially by someone like the Astrologer who is apparently not even hostile. I suppose if cornered about this the Elder Sister would rationalize that she has to send a message before making the bid, even though she did seem more inclined to diplomacy.

            2. I think they’re obsessed with getting the fire spirit back because it’s important.

              Well, yeah, that too. But both they and the astrologer seemed more reasonable in the beginning. If it hadn’t been caused by JC doing his thing, I think they would have found a more amiable solution to the problem.

  28. Interested in seeing where we go from here. The most likable character thus far for me is currently erased, and the rest are either on my shit list (Rose) or have yet to be established enough to fill his sizable shoes.

    Personally, I’m pulling for a resurrection of sorts, especially with the way the people who didn’t seem too confused by the erasure reacted. It seems like there may have been some things going on behind the scenes. I have my theories.

    Anyway, unless something changes, I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until whatshisface returns. For the love of all that is holy, let it be swift. I don’t know how long I could stand a Rose-centric story before I lost it, even if her character manages to miraculously do a complete 180, simply because she has lost so much karma from me for replacing whatshisface.

    1. Judging from Grandma Rose’s opening, it would take a act of true RECREATION to bring Blake back. So in short divine intervention from a capital G God, a supreme creator force who is both all knowing and all powerful. And if Wildbow didn’t want Blake eaten by a oblivion demon he wouldn’t have fed Blake to ErasUrr in the first place.

      1. Ah, but that sets up the scenario for the hero’s apotheosis, or the hero rediscovering themselves of a great source of power and then coming back, ten times as strong. IF Blake is alive, he has experience and the universe doesn’t want to kill him anymore.

        1. the scenario for the hero’s apotheosis

          “I am now Gandalf the Blake!”

          the universe doesn’t want to kill him anymore.

          The universe, maybe, but after where he disappeared to, everyone else might want to kill him.

            1. In a world where you can give someone the impression that 1 second is actually 1 year, I’m sure the “or worse” options are numerous.

        2. So Rose stops being a piece of shit, starts being awesome. Around the same time, Blake returns, corrupted and forlorn, the Big Bad of the series. In a climactic fight with their original roles reversed, Blake and Rose are pitted against each other in a desperate clash for survival. Ultimately, they manage to find peace together, and the world ends up better off with them in it than without.

          Oh, who am I kidding, this is Wildbow. They’ll probably end up, like, stabbing each other at the same time or something.

  29. God. Damn. You. Wildbow. Seven arcs of getting to know and like Blake, and then you have this happen. That’s both awesome, and awful. Seriously dude, I’m all sorts of things right now. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’ll miss Blake. By now I’d really gotten to like him, and appreciate him. Early on there was a lot of “But he’s not Taylor…” But as time went on that’s why I started liking him. Because he’s not Taylor. Anyways shall we start debating Men Stuffed Into Refridgerators, or in this case eaten by oblivion demons?

  30. I just realized – what happens if Conquest is now freed? He’s still in contest with someone everyone agrees doesn’t exist. Without death or surrender, Blake cannot lose this contest and the Lord is bound by those rules indefinitely since his nature won’t let him surrender. “Neither king can make deliberate use of power while fighting in Toronto. We can’t retreat to our personal realms…You forfeit your power over anyone who isn’t one of your champions. You don’t have to announce it, because a mutiny wouldn’t be keeping with the spirit of the contest, but you can’t order the supernatural residents of Toronto either, directly or by proxy.”

    Also, yeah, really hate perma-death of protagonists since I’m so used to them returning and it so rarely takes that my assumptions will colour much of the remaining story.
    To be fair, last time this happened the “death” had been in a chapter I’d already been assuming was a dream sequence due to how disconnected and incongruent it was.

    1. Given how Isadora perceived the effects of Ur’s eating (whatever it was he ate), and how hard it was for her to resist them even partially, I don’t think any of the spirits would be able to remember anything other than Rose and Conquest participating in that contest.

    2. The disconnection and incongruity were gradual and pretty well-explained. If you can’t point to the part where Taylor “fell asleep” and then “started dreaming,” I’m calling BS on that evaluation.

  31. Hmmn, Duncan’s section… Seems like the Behaim’s were waiting to see what would happen there. I wonder what they’ll make of this situation.

    Another thing I took away from this. Sitting back and leaving demons bound up and not dealing with it because your fear them, or you feel it isn’t your problem is not a good idea. You must nip them in the bud. Ur was able to entrench in the factory, and I would guess dig out that chasm. The binding might be holding it there, but in a way it is giving it a safe nesting place to bear it’s motes. It grew while it was supposed to be trapped, and as a resault is going to be far worse to deal with than it was before.

  32. So… I think if Rose and crew want to take Ur on again, they should maybe try sending in robots, golems, or something of that sort. Only expendable things, which means they probably won’t have the spare resources to deal with it until much later.

        1. In this case…nukes release plenty of light and fire, so there’s a chance that Erasur would be burned badly. Sure, he’d be freed, but if we added some heavy magic to support the nuking of a factory just outside what I’ve heard described as the New York of Canada…oh, wait, we’d be nuking a factory just outside the New York of Canada.

  33. Comments:
    1) There are two options for Pactverse: either Ur is still considered just a “minor devil”, in which case our poor practitioners are in for a hell of a ride. Heh. Or, more likely, Ur was everything but minor, and this misunderstanding is what doomed Blake.
    2) Also, I hadn’t understood Blake’s urgency to bind Ur up to this point, but maybe his subconscious realized how major a threat it was?
    3) Ur’s motes at the end reminded me of the following in Worm (rot 13): Fvzhetu’f puvyq-guvatvr ng gur irel raq. Not a good omen.
    4) Why is Isadora looking for Maggie once Blake is erased? Does this hint at something?
    5) Evan’s almost-end, the “A deal forgotten, it stubbornly refused to move on”, is so cruel. The repeated cynical predictions in the comments that there was no way things could go well for someone like him were spot-on…
    6) Looking at the arc titles so far, “Void” is the best one yet imo. Promises with Blake are void, forgotten; his deals are void; he’s left a void in his friends; Ur is the void, etc. etc.
    7) The scene with the Eye was awesome. For a few paragraphs, I hoped the Eye would stop doing anything altogether…
    8) My prediction that the next Histories chapter would be Laird’s was wrong. But he was an important enough antagonist that I can’t see him not ever get one. So when if not now would one make sense in the story?
    9) This small window into the Shepherd’s thoughts was intriguing and humanized him a lot.

    1. It seems to be a recurring theme that all the people Blake thinks are Assholes turn out to to be perfectly amicable individuals. (Briar Girl, Fell, The Shepard) At this rate, Lard ran a charity and Johannas runs an orphanage

      1. Knowing is half the battle. Sadly, Blake wasn’t very well-prepared for that half…
      2. What puvyq-guvatvr?
      3. Shocker. Poor, poor Evan…your absence will make Pact that much harder to read.
      4. Agreed. The best part is that it left me trying to figure out why it was named that…and, of course, we kept expecting it to end. But it just kept coming–which helped prevent us from predicting this end.
      5. Next time the Behaims antagonize the Thorburns?
      6. Indeed.
  34. Comments, cont.d:
    10) And Blake appears to be more and more dead. I still like my pet hypothesis – that Blake was rescued by joining the lawyers -, and most lines to the contrary (e.g. Isadora’s “She felt the moment he ceased to be”) could be misinterpretations of Blake’s connections being erased. But what about the Shepherd noticing the silenced scream? Actually, upon rereading that part, the Shepherd might be referring to Evan’s scream. Particularly because said scream reminds the Shepherd of some other people, maybe children he couldn’t save.
    11) Can demons only enter the world if summoned by diabolists, or do they have other avenues, as well? If the former is the case, it makes the witchhunt on Blake more understandable. In fact, if people could still remember him, I wonder how they’d judge his final act: because he wagered everything and failed, he left a demonic void in his place. In some sense, everybody Blake got in contact with is now “Ur-touched” in some sense.
    12) Related: The main legacy Blake seems to be leaving is Toronto in ashes. If he hadn’t been erased, neither the Eye, nor the Astrologer, nor the Sisters would have moved. Had the Toronto practitioners known what would happen if Blake were erased, I don’t think they would have let him go anywhere near the factory.
    13) If Conquest is still bound in Blake’s apartment, there’s some chance nobody remembers this. And if the Eye’s attack burns said apartment, Conquest’s binding could easily get undone. This is bad.
    14) Rose’s “Except it’s better if we don’t know”: Oh wow. Certainly a powerful sentiment. At first I wanted to disagree with this attitude – ignorance might well get Rose killed, much as recklessness doomed Blake – but in Pactverse, ignorance (or rather, innocence) really is a kind of strength. When pre-erasure Rose wrote “it’s better if we don’t know”, she actually meant it. I don’t see how that could be, but then we hardly know anything about Rose.
    15) Rose’s “We can fix that” is a rather more ominous way of reacting to Evan’s imminent death than “We’ll save you”. Reminds me of a certain ominous Worm character, actually. I don’t want to see Evan as Rose’s familiar – there’s no personal fit, and I certainly don’t want Rose to make a reckless spur-of-the-moment decision of the type I hated about Blake -, but keeping Evan alive via necromancy or something would certainly set the mood for the new Thorburn diabolist.

      1. Probably was Evan’s scream, but I don’t think that Blake survived. How would the Lawyers rescue him? What could he offer them in return? How would he even get into contact with them in time?
      2. Probably not. But then, if Blake had known this would happen, he wouldn’t have gone near the place, so that’s not really a huge surprise.
      3. That’s hardly the worst thing that could happen with Conquest’s bindings now now.
      4. Too much knowledge would probably lead to a loss of self-confidence. How would you feel if you discovered all of a sudden, after thinking that you were you, you discovered that you were merely a reflection of someone much like you? And that’s ignoring other potential issues, like remembering a shadow of Blake bringing Erasur closer or Rose deciding to try and remake Blake.
      5. I’m hoping that whatever fix Rose makes works, but I have my doubts. Anyways, which ominous Worm character? That’s like talking about the spellcasting character in Harry Potter.
      1. Sorry if the context wasn’t clear – the ominous Worm character I referred to was Obarfnj (rot13).

        Averting Evan’s impending death should be rather trivial – Rose just needs to give him a new power source to replace Blake’s. Though this probably won’t be free of side effects (similar to using e.g. glamour to power spells).

        1. Ah. I kinda see where you’re coming from?

          In theory, it should be simple…but something tells me that the simple way is either unfeasible or undesirable to Rose.

  35. I am going to give the Maggie arc and try and see what happens after that but if Blake does not come back I am probably done with this story. Don’t get me wrong, nothing you have written here is poor writing. However, protagonist deaths and POV switches (especially from first person) mid story is a complete turn off for me and makes it impossible for me to enjoy the rest of the story because I spend every second reading pissed off. If this were the end of Pact and you were starting ‘Pact 2’ then that would be a different story. Granted, you have not given any word of god statements that Blake will not be coming back as far as I know. The comments here are making me worried. I hope I can keep reading because I was really liking this story up to now ( I would like it now if it turns out that Blake is still the protagonist).

    1. I think part of reason Blake’s (potential) demise is so interesting is the way it relates to our interaction with the story.
      If Blake is truly dead, then his passage is one of the most brutal and shocking deaths I’ve ever heard of. Main character death is not new, but the nature of the restriction means the author usually drops the punch early (impactful, but not so overwhelming that it mutilates the reader’s progress through the story) or spreads the story between characters (ex. George Martin) so as to give a continued interaction with the story. First-person, single viewpoint narrative where the hero dies? Unheard of.
      I’m fascinated by how this is going to turn out, because a part of me feels far more invested in Blake’s story now then it did when he was fighting Conquest. A potential breach of trust has been built here, and while I won’t say anything dramatic like ” I’ll stop reading”, or “Wildbow is the worst!” I don’t know if I’ll trust Pact the same way. Once you’ve killed off the best goodguy, it’s hard to make us sympathize and reinvest in another character.
      Unless that character is Maggie, then it’ll be awesome.

    2. First off: Blake’s gone. No offense to you, Matt, but I’ve seen a bunch of people coming up with convoluted, improbable scenarios where Blake could come back in other comments and I’m slowly losing patience with it. We’ll see him again this arc, but once it catches up to the assault on the factory he’s gone, barring more flashbacks.

      I am interested in why a Blakeless Pact is so much inherently worse than the one with Blake, and why you feel so angry at wildbow for killing off Blake. Could you elaborate on those?

      1. Ya know,I noticed that since Worm,every time you say “x is dead,no way he/she survived,stop being annoying”you have been proven wrong,so excuse me for not stopping being annoying.

        1. I can only think of one other example…and I still say that that person has no reason to have survived.

    3. Then consider the next chapters to be Pact 2. Problem solved. 😀

      More seriously, an ongoing Web Serial like Pact doesn’t delineate as neatly into chunks as a book series does, but I don’t think it would be too inaccurate to consider this the end of “Book 1” in the Pact trilogy/series. This has all the feel of the end of Book 1 or Season 1…

  36. So…. does this mean Maggie arc will start at 1.1, and we get another introduction arc?

    Makes me wonder what the wiki page for pact will look like. Bunch of missing segments with a crap ton of “citation NEEDED please for the love of God”

    I love Evan, and don’t want to see him die. However, I don’t want him to be Rose’s familiar. It would be wrong. Ty’s familiar, I could see. But Rose hasn’t been one to resonate with freedom and escape (since she doesn’t remember the mirror world). More like… well… power and conquest….

    I’m secretly hoping conquest and/or Barber become her familiar, and Blake comes back and goes “what in the ACTUAL HELL happened when I was gone???”

    1. I’m secretly hoping conquest and/or Barber become her familiar, and Blake comes back and goes “what in the ACTUAL HELL happened when I was gone???”

      That made me smile – it would be a fantastic case of turnabout is fair play considering how often Blake did this to Rose.

      1. Right? She’s gone for like a day, so much stuff happened, he even got two days worth with the help of some time-fuckery.

        I totally expect her to be married as well by the time he returns. If he returns.

  37. So, (Rose + Corvidae) + (Behaims – Duchamps) = (Rose + Duncan)?

    Marry a bastard, anyone? I can’t think of a bigger bastard who is still alive that we’ve seen so far.

    1. Oh goodness, for the love of chocolate please tell me that won’t happen….

      It would be in line with RDT’s master plan, whatever the hell that is. And would make sense with JP’s evil smile of contempt, and why diabolists are hesitant to summon him and consider him a borderline demon (discount devil?). He makes you fall in love with your enemy!

      Seriously. Please no. In the event Blake might actually come back, I don’t think he can handle so much “The Fuck!??!” thoughts in one moment.

      1. Pretty much what we already knew.

        Food for thought: Molly lasted what, a few months? Blake barely broke two weeks. Who wants to take bets on the first heir who doesn’t make it an hour?

    1. I want to praise whoever made that. That will be useful for looking up stuff in the future. And some googling shows that a similar timeline exists for Worm, too (beware: spoilers).

      Also, I approve of: “[He] meets Conquest, Lord of Toronto, who acts like a huge dick and makes Blake do sidequests before advancing the actual plot.”

      1. Whoever made that has quite a sense of humor. And is also good at nitpicking. I don’t think I could have found (or would have looked for) all those little nits.

  38. After doing some thinking and research I find it really unlikely that Blake will not be returning. The decoy protagonist is a trope with fairly heavy use. For example, ASOIAF uses the trope in regards to Ned. You can visit the decoy protagonist TV Tropes page for a fairly extensive list. I am inclined to believe it is fairly inclusive on such a divisive choice on the part of a writer.

    What seemingly all of these stories have in common is a lack of first-person POV for the decoy except in cases of the character in question simply being the narrator. Blake is clearly not just a narrator. He is unquestionably the hero in Pact. The transition for a change in protagonist would be extremely jarring. I see two options for a transition. First, Wildbow could go with third person as he has done in his Histories and Interludes(Worm) before. This would feel strange as it is occurring in the middle of a first-person story. The other option would be to change to another first-person protagonist which would also feel odd.

    A first-person story is usually told in either one of two ways: a recount of past events (as in Worm I guess) or the thoughts and actions of the character in question as they happen (as in Pact). The first would only work for Blake dying if it was in the form of some sort of journal. The second would never fit right with the first-person POV character dying in the middle of a story. The transition from one first-person perspective to another mid narrative makes no sense. It’s like we have been living in Blake’s head and somehow magically jump to Rose’s head or Maggie’s. In the case of switching to third person, it would be like jumping out of Blake’s head onto the pavement and deciding to go for a stroll. It makes no sense.

    I have been bracing myself for Blake to die in Pact. However, I expected this to happen after his character was finished developing and not just after he seems to have started growing. I.e. I expected Pact to finish first. It is a perfectly acceptable practice to change protagonists in sequels so a Pact 2 with a new protagonist and Blake dead would make sense. In conclusion, where the narrative currently stands I can’t see a feasible protagonist switch.

    I just had to get that out there. Nothing pisses me off more than a decoy protagonist, so I have been fuming until I thought it out.

  39. So, all Blake has left is wax, ink, blood, fire and darkness? Could we be getting Blake as Maggie’s familiar?

  40. It just occurred to me that Rose choosing the Hyena’s sword as her implement would be perfect for her. Represents the binding of use of demons, feels closer to her personality than Blake’s, and most importantly, is snapped in half- its other half lost forever.

        1. What kind of weird-ass Internet are you using? Mine made it very clear that women can still use phalli. (Often better then men, I’m told.)

          1. I’m just saying, why would she use a broken sword as an implement. Before she wanted Blake to do it so she could get out of the mirror faster. Now?

            We don’t know what she wants to do.

            1. Well, I’m not saying she would want to use it, just that “swords are a phallic symbol” is not a very good reason why she wouldn’t.

              Anyway, Blake had the Hyena with him when he entered the factory last chapter, and none of the weird retconning effect we’ve seen would have turned it back.

    1. True, it would fit–quite well, in fact. But does Rose want it to fit?

      If Rose decides to embrace those parts of her, she should take the former Hyena as her implement; I can see it happening far more probably than Blake doing so. But if she doesn’t, no way in Hell…and I doubt “missing half of myself” is a part of Rose that she wants to embrace.

    1. I would say Rosalyn is more the type to have multiple catch-all backup plans. For example, setting up “extra lives” for at least one of her potential heirs in case they die, regardless of the situation. Can you imagine the look on the Behaim’s faces if the managed to kill Blake, only for another Thorburn to spontaneously appear with a small army of summons?

      Getting a second shot at something is always useful, except maybe when you can’t remember the first shot.

  41. And now I’m starting to get twinges of the Anger stage. I think I’d better watch my posts so I don’t say anything to Wildbow that I’ll regret. Though if enough people go through the bargaining stage Wildbow could stand to make some serous cash.

    1. Sorry dude, I wouldn’t pay any amount of money to alter Wildbow’s story. Whatever sorts of things he has planned later, wonderful or sorrowful, attempting to force a change could fuck that up and then we’ll be left with something inconsistent.

      Maybe Wildbow could pull it off, but I rather want to see him write what he originally intended before asking about something different. Hey, maybe Rose will be an awesome protagonist. A few commenters mentioned that she was very similar to Taylor but from an outside perspective. Seeing Rose from an inside perspective but being fully aware of how others see her… I think that might spice it up a bit.

      Or maybe he’s planning to bring Blake back anyways. I don’t think Wildbow is the sort to accept bribes for something he’d normally do without one…

      1. I hadn’t thought of Rose as similar to Taylor from an outside perspective. God, I really hope it’s this, abd she’s not actually a piece of shit. I really wanted to like her.
        Wildbow, why… 😥

  42. Blake is probably gone. He just got trounced by a demon of oblivion. However, it is possible, however unlikely, that he might have tricked Ur into consuming the connections between Ur and himself, before Blake himself was physically consumed. Ur is a crafty fighter, intelligent, but not perfect. Blake got away the first time. He also knew to some degree what he was going to face, and had access to personal power before he entered the building.

    Could he have used glamour to disguise the connection between Ur and himself, for example, so that Ur wouldn’t realize he was severing his connection to his prey? This seems the most likely and plausible way for Blake to try and set up a way to survive. The cost does, however, seem to have been extraordinarily high, as nobody seems to remember him. Ur might have eaten every connection, simultaneously, failing to recognize his own connection due to glamour.

    The demon is highly aware of it’s environment, but it doesn’t consume everything immediately. It fosters chaos inside the building. Could there be a Blake inside the factory now who has no connections to anything at all? The others are shocked and damaged by losing one connection, Blake’s. If Blake is still alive, he’s lost ALL connections, all at once, and he’s probably in shock, immobile, not aware of Ur as Ur is not aware of him. Provided that connections work that way for demons.

    If he is dead, he just died in the worst way imaginable. Isadora gave him luck, presumably this was another word for karma. The Thorburn line might have gotten a huge boost to it’s karma, and Rose may not be so burdened with dealing with that karmic debt as Blake was.

    I’m curious where this goes from here.

    1. If all of his connections have been severed, and he lived, there’s nothing to stop him from wandering into Jacob’s Bell again, and meeting Rose. Blake, despite being a decent human being a lot of the time, definitely has his bastard moments.

      Is Wildbow setting us up for a Oedipus moment?

        1. Oedipus was a story of tragic mistaken identities. The mother/son relationship taboo was surely a part of it, but a brother/sister/twin scenario wouldn’t fall far from the tree.

          1. Once you get to sex with a female clone of yourself, it just becomes narcissism. Still creepy though, and I could totally see Wildbow doing it

            1. Just think of how much of an asshole someone could be if they had zero memories of anyone ever doing anything nice for them, but had memories where he watched other people being nice to one another…

              On the other hand, he wouldn’t have the Thorburn family crap, or the memories of beatings and rape from when he was homeless.

              Without any good memories of relationships with others, his mind will probably gravitate towards isolation, anger, and negativity because “obviously” nobody cared about him before.

              Wow, I can see Blake going to all sorts of really dark places and experiencing some seriously deep depression if he managed to somehow survive Ur consuming all of his connections. I don’t know how much of a main character he could be though, with no connections to anyone, this far into the story.

    2. Could he have used glamour to disguise the connection between Ur and himself

      I don’t think he has any more glamour left.

      But I was looking through of the last chapter again to confirm he had the Hyena with him in the factory (he did), and I noticed this little tidbit:

      “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.”

      IIRC, that was the bracelet that (1) briefly stopped time during the fight with Conquest, and (2) was triggered by being cut with a sword blow, quickly enough that the slashing blade didn’t cut the arm the bracelet was attached to.

      If Blake is still alive, I’m now 80% sure that it’s because he managed to use the Hyena’s power to put together some emergency quick-release spell that somehow protected or hid him from Ur, after the connections were cut but before he got gobbled up.

      (I doubt he could have managed a time-stop trick that fast, but Wildbow is incredibly proficient at imagining ridiculously powerful uses for things, and make them seem obvious in retrospect. My main guess is some kind of play-dead spell; the little crunchy snack Ur is seen taking in this chapter probably means that Blake’ll wake up without a hand…)

      1. “Wildbow is incredibly proficient at imagining ridiculously powerful uses for things”

        This makes me want to watch him do a blind playthrough of NetHack.

      2. As I noted on a comment to the main comment (it should be a bit lower on the page), if Blake lost all his connections he would be gone regardless of if Ur ate him or not. There is, I suppose, hope that he managed to hold onto some of his connections, but there’s no proof for that and a good bit against it.

        Plus, it would be a Deus Ex Machina on par with Worm’s End Interlude.

        1. Jbez’f raq vagreyhqr vf ab qrhk rk znpuvan,vg unccrarq sbe nqrdhngryl rkcynvarq ernfbaf,nf znal crbcyr cerqvpgrq vg jbhyq.V zrna ,gurer vf ab ernfba Pbagrffn jbhyq xvyy ure,naq ure novyvgl gb fbzrubj erzbir fhcrecbjref jnf sberfunqbjrq sebz Onggrel’f vagreyhqr.Ivpgbel if Pbvy jnf nyfb nqrdhngryl rkcynvarq,nyorvg yngre,ol Gg fnobgntr naq Hore’f (be jnf vg Yrrg’f?)cbjre.

          Stop being a “true art is angsty,everything that makes a hero survive is deus ex machina”,or is Dark Souls a game full of Deus Ex Machina?A true protagonist is the one in a billion who survives against impossible odds,not one who realistically dies.The child in Africa who becomes rich and helps its hometown survive,not the one who realistically dies from hunger.The soldier who manages to become a war hero,not the one who more realistically,gets wounded or dies or neever does anything of importance to the war.

          The best protagonist is highly improbable,yet not reliant only or mostly on luck,nor able to subvvert the settings rules with his awesomeness.He should have died?He is a protagonist,he is the exception to probability,all that matters is possibility.

          So,for a protagonist,as long as there is possibility,there is hope.

          1. Gurer vf ab rkcynangvba sbe ubj Pbagrffn znantrq gb qb nalguvat gb Gnlybe’f cbjre, naq ure erpbirel cebprff jnf tybffrq bire gb “vg unccrarq”. Pnhyqeba’f cbjre-erzbiny cebprff cebonoyl tbg qnzntrq jura gurve ragver s’vat onfr tbg qrfgeblrq! Gurer’f ab ernfba gb guvax bgurejvfr. Naq jul jbhyqa’g Pbagrffn xvyy ure? Fur’f n guerng.
            Vs n punenpgre vf va n fvghngvba juvpu fubhyq erfhyg va uvf/ure qrngu, yrg uvz/ure qvr! Vs n punenpgre’f ragver fgbel nep vf onfrq nebhaq fnpevsvprf, qba’g tb naq haqb nyy bs gur barf gung pna or haqbar whfg gb tvir gur fgbel n unccl raqvat.

            1. Vg jnfa’g haqbar whfg fb ure fgbel jbhyq unir n unccl raqvat-vs lbh unira’g abgvprq,gur jubyr fgbel unq gur pbaqvgvbany “fnpevsvpr vf arprffnel vs uhznaf ner onfgneqf”
              Vg vf vzcyvrq Pbagrffn jnf gur sernxvat cbjre erzbire
              Ubj pna na rkcynangvba or vira vs Pbagrffn vf abg fher ubj fur qvq vg?ure cbjre vf znq unk,vgf jbefr guna nyjnlf fpbevat n pevgvpny uvg va n tnzr.Fur pna orpnhfr ure cbjre nyybjf ve.
              n guerng pna or erzbirq jvgu jnlf bgure guna xvyyvat vg,Pbagrffn jbhyq qb vg (abgr,nyfb,gung fur arire xvyyrq vs fur pbhyq uryc vg-fher,fur xvyyrq,ohg jura fur jnf beqrerq be vg jnf arprffnel,frr nyfb:Snhygyvar’f perj,Yhat)
              Nyfb,nyfb,fur jnagrq gb punatr,naq fur fvapreryl jnagrq gb uryc Gnlybe,fur vf abg shpxvat Wnpx Fynfu,lbh xrrc frrvat gur pbyq naq qvfertneqvat ure erny zbgvingvbaf,n punenpgre vf zbgvingvbaf,abg ubg naq pbyq,xvyyvat ure jbhyq or ng orfg arhgeny gb ure zbgvingvbaf,fb jbhyq or urycvat ure (naq,V guvat,vg jbhyq or nagvgrgvpny gb ure arj zbgvingvbaf gb abg uryc ure)naq,qhr gb ure unk cbjre,obgu unir gur fnzr qvsshvphygl,fb gur nafjre vf boivbhf hayrff lbh ner n ulcbpevgr be n cflpubcngu:uryc ure.

            2. Hz…jung? V qba’g frr ubj gung ynfg ovg nccyvrf gb gur erfg bs gur fgngrzrag, be guvf fvghngvba. Uhznaf NER onfgneqf.
              Jurer? Naq ubj? Qvq fur nyfb jvcr gur Pnfr 53’f zrzbevrf? Jul abg, jul jbhyq gur Fyht or arrqrq? Lbh’er nffhzvat Pbagrffn pna erzbir cbjref, gb cebir gung fur pbhyq erzbir Gnlybe’f cbjre.
              Jung? Gurer’f cyragl bs ebbz sbe rkcynangvba gung pbhyq unir orra tvira. Nyy jr xabj vf “Pbagrffn fubg gjvpr, gura Gnlybe jnf tbbq nf arj.” JSG?!?
              Gehr, ohg xvyyvat Gnlybe jnf gur fvzcyrfg naq zbfg rssvpvrag jnl gb raq Gnlybe’f guerng…naq fur fgvyy cbfrf vg. Gnlybe’f fhcrecbjre jnf arire ure terngrfg nffrg, gung jnf ur zvaq, ure vagryyvtrapr naq punevfzn. Fgvyy gurer. Ybbfr raq. Naq gung’f abg trggvat vagb gur rssbeg naq erfbheprf fcrag gb trg Gnlybe nyy svkrq. Jurer gur SHPX ner lbh trggvat gur vqrn gung Pbagrffn jnagrq gb punatr, ure pbzcyrgr ynpx bs erzbefr bire ure qrrqf?

            3. “Hz…jung? V qba’g frr ubj gung ynfg ovg nccyvrf gb gur erfg bs gur fgngrzrag, be guvf fvghngvba. Uhznaf NER onfgneqf.”

              Ab gurl nera’g.Gurl pna or,ohg urebvp fnpevsvprf ba Jbez nyjnlf unccrarq,qverpgyl be vaqverpgyl (fbzrgvzrf irel vaqverpgyl)orpnhfr bgure crbcyr jrer ivyynvaf.Pbagrffn pubfr abg gb or.

              “Jurer? Naq ubj? Qvq fur nyfb jvcr gur Pnfr 53’f zrzbevrf? Jul abg, jul jbhyq gur Fyht or arrqrq? Lbh’er nffhzvat Pbagrffn pna erzbir cbjref, gb cebir gung fur pbhyq erzbir Gnlybe’f cbjre.”

              Lrf,orpnhfr jr jrer arire fubja gur cbjre erzbire,naq orpnhfr vgf vzcyvrq vg pna unccra dhvpyl naq rnfvyl.

              “Jung? Gurer’f cyragl bs ebbz sbe rkcynangvba gung pbhyq unir orra tvira. Nyy jr xabj vf “Pbagrffn fubg gjvpr, gura Gnlybe jnf tbbq nf arj.” JSG?!?”

              Naq lrg,guvf vf gur bayl ohyyfuvg bs Pbagrffn lbh dhrfgvba,jurer fur unf chyyrq jbefr.Ubj qvq fur gnyx gb Gnlybe?ubj qvq fur orng Snhygyvar’f perj?Ubj qvq fur qb fb znal arkg gb vzcbffvoyr guvatf?fvzcyr,orpnhfr ure cbjre vf “V jva,lbh pel”

              “Gehr, ohg xvyyvat Gnlybe jnf gur fvzcyrfg naq zbfg rssvpvrag jnl gb raq Gnlybe’f guerng…naq fur fgvyy cbfrf vg. Gnlybe’f fhcrecbjre jnf arire ure terngrfg nffrg, gung jnf ur zvaq, ure vagryyvtrapr naq punevfzn. Fgvyy gurer.”

              Gnlybe jnf arire n guerng gb Pagrffn,gubhtu fur pbhyq unir orra vs fur ernyyl jnagrq gb gnxr ure qbja,ohg bayl jvgu cer cynaavat,abg va gur urng bs onggyr.

              “Ybbfr raq. Naq gung’f abg trggvat vagb gur rssbeg naq erfbheprf fcrag gb trg Gnlybe nyy svkrq.”

              Erfbheprf fur qvqa’g arrq nalzber,orpnhfr fur unf pbzcyrgrq ure zbgvingvba NFFHZVAT FUR ARRQRQZBER GUNA GJB OHYYRGF.

              “Jurer gur SHPX ner lbh trggvat gur vqrn gung Pbagrffn jnagrq gb punatr, ure pbzcyrgr ynpx bs erzbefr bire ure qrrqf?”

              Ab,gur snpg fur fgngrf fur jnagf gb hfr ure cbjref yrff.

              naq ,bapr shpxvat ntnva,naq cyrnfr nafjre zr guvf gvzr

              JURER GUR SHPXVAT SHPX QVQ LBH TRG GUR VQRN FUR VF N CFLPUBCNGU JUB JBHYQ XVYY N UREB WHFG GB FNIR FBZR ERFBHEPRF,JURA FUR XARJ FUR PBHYQ URYC UVZ/URE?JURER QVQ LBH TRG GUR VQRN FUR JNF N CHER IVYYNVA?FUR JNF N JRYY QRSVARQ CREFBA JVGU PYRNE ZBGVINGVBAF JUB BAYL UHEG BGUREF GB PBZCYRGR GURFR ZBGVINGVBAF,NAQ JUBFR ZBGVINGVBAF JRER WHFG PBZCYRGRQ OL GUR CREFBA VA SEBAG BS URE.UNIVAT URE CBJRE GURER VF AB JNL VA SHPX FUR JBHYQ RIRE ABG GEL GB URYC GNLYBE,RIRA VS VG JNF GUR YBTVPNY GUVAT GB QB,ORPNHFR GUR GUVAT FUR HFRQ GB ENGVBANYVMR URE ZBAFGEBHF NPGVBAF UNF ORRA PBZCYRGRQ,FB FUR.PBHYQ.ARIRE.ENGVBANYVMR.GB.UREFRYS.ABG.URYCVAT.GNLYBE.FUR UNQ AB ERNFBA GB OR N ZBAFGRE NALZBER,FUR JNFA’L N CFLPUBCNGU,FUR JNFA’G N PURNC NFF PBYQ CREFBA YVXR GUR BARF BGURE FGBEVRF HFR,FUR JNF N TBBQ CREFBA JUB QVQ GREEVOYR GUVATF ORPNHFR FUR GUBHTU FUR ZHFG,NAQ GUR BAYL ERNFBA FUR JNF JEBAT JNF ORPNHFR FUR NFXRQ GUR JEBAT DHRFGVBA,BGUREJVFR URE UNK CBJREF JBHYQ YRNQ URE PBEERPGYL.URE ZHEQREVAT GNLYBE JNF NAGVGURGVPNY GB URE IREL PUNENPGREVMNGVBA,HAYRFF FUR PBAPYHQRQ FUR PBHYQA’G OR URYCRQ,NAQ FUR QVQA’G PBAPYHQR GUNG,FB AB ZNGGRE UBJ ZNAL ERFBHEPRF FUR FCRAG,URE PUNENPGREVMNGVBA JBHYQ PNHFR URE GB URYC URE,ORPNHFR FUR VF ABG.N.CFLPUBCNGU.

            4. Thread necro. Hi.

              Greatwyrmgold, I believe you’re forgetting a couple things.

              Svefg bs nyy, Pbagrffn’f cbjre vf gb or n qrhf rk znpuvan, cynva naq fvzcyr. (Gung’f bx, pnhfr Mvba unf gur fnzr cbjre, fb vg’f abg BC jbeyq-jvfr, whfg BC pbzcnerq gb bgure pncrf).

              Vg vf zl haqrefgnaqvat gung Pbagrffn fubg Gnlybe’f Pbeban Cbyyragvn. Gung’f gur ovg bs n pncr’f oenva gung qrirybcf va erfcbafr gb n funeq. Naq (nppbeqvat gb gur jvxv), gung vf rknpgyl ubj Pbagrffn erzbirf crbcyr’f cbjref.

              Nf Fgbeelrngre cbvagrq bhg, Pbagrffn vf abg n ivyynva. Vg unf orra ure tbny rire fvapr fur jnf na vaabprag tvey naq tbg vaperqvoyr cbjref gb cerirag gur qrfgehpgvba bs gur jbeyq ivn Mvba. Gung vf jul Pnhyqeba vf n guvat, naq gung’f jung fur’f orra jbexvat gbjneqf nyy gung gvzr.

            5. N qrhf rk znpuvan vfa’g n fbyhgvba, vg’f n ceboyrz. Fbzrguvat ba gung yriry arrqf gb unir fbzrguvat yvxr Fnaqrefba’f Svefg Ynj nccyvrq gb vg—gur zber gung n tvira cbjre unf gur novyvgl gb qb nalguvat gur nhgube qrfverf, gur yrff vg pna or hfrq gb fbyir pbasyvpg.

              V unir n srj ceboyrzf jvgu gung rkcynangvba, nyy bs juvpu V’ir oebhtug hc orsber naq ryfrjurer. Va oevrs:
              1. Ubj gur sylvat uryy qbrf n ohyyrg qnzntr bayl bar fcrpvsvp cneg bs gur oenva? Gung’f abg CgI, gung’f CgI cyhf gryrxvarfvf cyhf qrgnvyrq xabjyrqtr bs ubj cbjref jbex!
              2. Gurer jnf na bss-unaqrq guerng bs cbjre erzbiny va bar puncgre. Rira vs jr nffhzrq gung vg jnfa’g na vqyr guerng, gurer jnf ab vaqvpngvba gung Pbagrffn qvq vg, nf bccbfrq gb Pnhyqeba univat fbzr bgure cnenuhzna jub pna erzbir cbjref (nybat gur yvarf bs gur Fyht). Va snpg, gur ynggre jnf n orggre thrff, orpnhfr…
              3. Pbagrffn’f cbjre qbrfa’g abeznyyl jbex ba cbjre-eryngrq guvatf. Vg pna’g cerqvpg gur erfhygf bs gevttref be Pnhyqeba ivnyf, vs vg pna rira cerqvpg gevttref (Pbagrffn frrzrq fhecevfrq ol Yhat’f gevttre, rira vs fur nqwhfgrq ure cyna gb svg). Ohg rira vs vg qvq, vg jbhyqa’g or rabhtu.
              4. Guvf vfa’g gur svefg gvzr Gnlybe’f pbeban cbyyragvn jnf qvfnoyrq—vg unccrarq jura Obarfnj nggnpxrq. Naq jung qvq gung qb? Vg fperjrq jvgu Gnlybe’f pbageby bire ure cbjre, naq gung’f vg. Ubj qvq Pbagrffn jvgu n ohyyrg qb orggre guna n ovb-gvaxre jvgu n fcrpvnyvmngvba va cbjre znavchyngvba naq n pnershyyl-pensgrq cbjre-qvfnoyvat qeht qvq?

              V’z abg fher jung gur Pbagrffn-vfa’g-n-ivyynva guvat vf nobhg…vs lbh’er ercylvat gb zl cbvag nobhg Pbagrffn orvat centzngvp naq abg nygehvfgvp, lbh’er pbzcyrgryl bss gur znex. Gurer ner centzngvp urebrf naq nygehvfgvp ivyynvaf, naq arvgure bs gubfr ynoryf svgf Pbagrffn. Pbagrffn jnagf gb qrfgebl Mvba naq fnir gur jbeyq naq nyy gung; terng! Ubj qbrf fnivat Gnlybe znggre gb gung, be nalguvat ryfr Pbagrffn pnerf nobhg?

            6. Wow, fast reply! 😛 Hi! Things here in Pact land suck at the moment. Hope Twig is treating y’all well in the present. Knowing Wildbow, they’re probably treating you in that bittersweet way they always do.

              Bbbbbxnl, fb V qvq n yvggyr erernqvat bs gur fbhepr zngrevny naq yrnearq n ohapu. V guvax gur grkg npghnyyl pyrnef hc n ybg bs gur zvfhaqrefgnaqvatf jr nyy unir. (Pnhfr V qrsvavgryl zvfhaqrefgbbq Pbagrffn’f ebyr va erzbivat Gnlybe’f cbjref.)
              Vagreyhqr: Raq “Fur qvqa’g xabj ubj vg unq unccrarq, ohg fur pbhyq thrff. Ohyyrgf gb qvfnoyr ure, fhetrel gb frny ure cbjre njnl.
              Pnhyqeba, nccneragyl, qvq unir n zrnaf bs ybpxvat cbjref njnl. Be znlor vg jnf Pbagrffn, qbvat gur jbex, be creuncf fur’q fvzcyl orra xrcg nyvir, pnegrq gb Cnanprn be Obarfnj, jub pbhyq svk guvatf hc.”
              Fb ol Gnlybe’f orfg rfgvzngvba (naq ol Jbeq bs Jvyqobj), Pbagrffn whfg qvfnoyrq ure jvgu gur ohyyrgf. Fur qvqa’g fubbg gur Pbeban Cbyyragvn njnl.

              Fb jub gura erzbirq ure cbjref? Obarfnj fnlf (Faner 13.9, gunaxf sbe gur erzvaqre bs Obarfnj qvfnoyvat ure Pbeban) “Naq gur bgure ernfba lbh pna’g whfg pneir bhg gur Pbeban? Vs lbh qb, gur cbjref fgvyy jbex ba gurve bja. Gur crefba whfg pna’g pbageby gurz. Vg orpbzrf vafgvapgvir, vafgrnq.” ” Fb cerfhznoyl vg’f abg Obarfnj jub erzbirq gur cbjref. V jbhyq thrff rvgure Nzl (nf fur’f gur bar jub erzbirq gur Znagba Rssrpg va gur svefg cynpr) be na haanzrq Pnhyqeba pncr qvq vg. (Pbhyq or Fyht gbb V fhccbfr, ohg gung’q or n fgno va gur qnex. Jr bayl xabj gung uvf cbjref erzbir zrzbevrf.)

              Ertneqvat gur Pbagrffn-vfa’g-n-ivyynva guvat, V pyrneyl zvfhaqrefgbbq gur nethzragf znqr. Ubjrire, V guvax gung gur grkg nafjref lbhe dhnyzf nobhg jul fnivat Gnlybe znggref gb Pbagrffn:
              “V’z abg fb fher,” fur fnvq. “Gurer’f yrff bs n zvffvba, abj. V unir ab pnhfr nalzber, naq V ubcr gung zrnaf V qba’g ybfr fvtug bs gur yvggyr guvatf.“
              V qvqa’g unir n erfcbafr gb gung.
              Vafgrnq, fur ibyhagrrerq n yvggyr zber. “V’z guvaxvat V’yy gel gb qb fbzr guvatf jvgubhg nal uryc, va gur shgher.” (Fcrpx 30.7)

              Qenj lbhe pbapyhfvbaf nf lbh jvyy sebz gung rkprecg, ohg vg nccrnef gb zr gung fur vf eryvrirq fur ab ybatre UNF gb or centzngvp, naq pna rzoenpr n zber uhzna naq yrff fhcre-uhzna nccebnpu gb yvsr. Fnivat gur bar jub fnirq gur jbeyq vf abg n greevoyl haernfbanoyr guvat gb jnag gb qb. Rfcrpvnyyl jura lbhe cbjref nyybj lbh gb xabj jub pna erzbir ure cbjref fnsryl naq erghea ure gb n uhzna jvgu n abezny yvsr.

              Gubhtugf?

            7. V vzntvar jr’yy unir gb nterr gb qvfnterr ba Pbagrffn’f zbgvingvba, gubhtu V nccerpvngr lbhe npxabjyrqtrzrag gung ure tbnyf pbhyq punatr. V qba’g frr gur npg nf “punevgl” fb zhpu nf “uhznavgl” be creuncf “pbzcnffvba.”

              Snve ba gur sberfunqbjrq cneg. Ynpx bs sberfunqbjvat gur fznyy fghss vf n ynetr ernfba jul V pubfr gb renfr gur riragf bs Uneel Cbggre 7 (gur obbx) sebz zl zvaq. (V ryrpgrq vafgrnq gb hfr gur riragf bs N Irel Cbggre Zhfvpny nf gur pnabavpny 7gu lrne) V fhccbfr lbh’er jryy jvguva lbhe evtugf gb (va lbhe bja urnq sbe lbhe bja ernfbaf), pubbfr gung gurer vf ab Vagreyhqr: Raq nf Pbagrffn ernyyl fubg gb xvyy.

              Fvapr jr’er urer, nal arjf ba gur cbgragvny Jbez Frdhry? Ynfg V urneq gnyx bs vg jnf rffragvnyyl 2013 ng gur raq bs Jbez, naq ZNLOR vg cbccrq hc va rneyvre Cnpg pbzzragf… (yvxr yngr ’13 rneyl ’14?)

            8. “Uhznavgl” naq “pbzcnffvba” qvqa’g frrz gb or pbafvqrengvbaf orsber gur Tbyqra Zbeavat; jung punatrq?
              Sebz jung V’ir urneq, Jvyqobj’f fgnegvat Jbez 2 nsgre ur jencf hc Gjvt. Vg’f nyernql cnfg Cnpg va yratgu, fb…qrcraqvat ba Jvyqobj’f cynaf, gung pbhyq rnfvyl or va gur arkg pbhcyr zbaguf be nabgure pbhcyr lrnef.

    3. Well, let’s ignore how improbable it is that he prepared that without the faeire glamour and executed it without a problem or hint, and that Ur fell for it.

      Remember that girl one of the Knights of the Basement half-remembers? It was suggested that enough people close to her got nommed by Ur that she didn’t have enough connections holding her into the world, so she…fell out. Regardless of if that happened, the fact that it was even suggested shows that it’s possible, and a Blake with no connections, not even to Ur, would not be in this world for long.

      1. Perhaps. In fact, even probably. But remember that in the modern world, people learn a great deal without forming connections. Television, radio, books.

        A modern person with a great deal of learning that came without interactions with other thinking beings might be able to survive being cut from all their connections, because all of their knowledge wouldn’t be tied up in interactions between thinking beings.

        No doubt he would be extremely broken socially, but Blake was not exactly a poster child for mental health before, either. If he returns, Wildbow will have an extremely hard time turning him into a main character again.

        Remember though, Isadora retained some memory of him, and respected him. If he retains his awakened state and stays in Toronto, as damaged as he is, she will almost certainly meet him again, and might piece together who he is. She wanted to kill him before, because it would be cleaner that what she could feel was coming. If he survives that, and she finds him, she will almost certainly help him.

        1. I suspect that you misunderstand my point.

          I’m not saying that living without connections is impossible. I’m saying surviving without connections is impossible.
          As for the Sphinx, well, the example I provided also proves that people can fall between the cracks despite being remembered by one or a few.

          As to how Blake would learn it, I’m not saying that he would have formed connections–I’m saying he wouldn’t have had the time or teacher to learn it, certainly not between scenes.

  43. I’m just gonna express my emotion here. This isn’t supposed to be targeted towards anyone.

    [i]”These spirits would be spent in a matter of minutes, and the familiar would cease to be.”[/i]

    Fuck You

  44. I think I’m going to stop reading Pact now. Worm could be incredibly dark at times, but at least it was full with interesting characters. In Pact, the only characters I care about at all are Blake and Evan.

  45. So I had a dream that I was sent a paperback version of Pact. Of course I immedeatly go to where we are now, and start desperatly reading. It’s about 50 pages from the end… And I don’t get far enough to learn anything more than some more fallout from Blake’s earasure. ARGH!

  46. Hmmm….

    This didn’t answer the odd question of why Rose remembers being the first heir. Even with Blake now ErasUred that should put her as the second, not the first.

    But, if RDT wanted “a female version of Blake” as the first heir then that would be why Rose remembers it that way. In the mirror memories, Rose was the first choice, but for whatever reason Rose couldn’t be deployed until Blake was and Molly was placed first (reason?). So the current state of affairs, with Rose the heir and Blake being used as a karma buffer, was the plan all along.

    Alternately, Rose is RDT’s reflection. RDT decided that none of her grandchildren were good enough and worked towards a personal pseudo-resurrection. RDT’s first choice was herself.

    Figuring this stuff out is frustrating. Wildbow is good at providing enough clues to make the right answer fit the previous story while also proving evidence for alternate hypotheses and enough contradictory evidence to make you doubt the real answer even if you predict it ahead of time.

    Segue: that feels a bit different than the ways other writers I read reveal major hidden plot points but I can’t put the difference in words right now. I have to think on this.

    1. It’s called ambiguity. He gives facts, but leaves plenty of room to be creative ‘around’ the facts. Adding a single extra word would often clear up these ambiguities, or changing from a pronoun to a name, but he wants to leave it hanging for a later reveal. Very frustrating at times.

  47. I just don’t know. I can’t see Rose as the true heir as she isn’t “real”, unless as has been hinted there’s more to her then has yet been revealed as to just what she really is (is Grand-ma’s soul in there? Maybe she’ll wake-up as some kind of reincarnation). As just a “reflection” I can’t see her being a true heir as it would make a wonderful way of sweeping bad karma away for a family – just make yourself one of these creatures to sop it up. Everyone capable would be using this dodge. Can’t wait for more, luv this world that’s been created, it’s far deeper and more “fleshed-out” then so much traditionally published horror/fantasy, modern fantasy, magical realism (whatever category this fits in).

  48. I just remembered something from lategame-Worm, in that scene in which Gnlybe vf frnepuvat sbe napubef gb xrrc ure frafr bs frys juvyr qrnyvat jvgu ure shyy cbjre eryrnfr naq gur grzcbenel bzavfpvrapr. Seems like the Maggie novels and Weaver Dice aren’t the only evidence of mutual fiction between Worm and Pact :p (Sorry if this has been posted before)

    “Zl byq ubhfr pbagvahrq gb ryhqr zr. Gung qrgnvy tnir zr n fvaxvat srryvat va zl thg. V ernpurq bhg sbe n ercynprzrag. Abg zl ubzr, gura. Zl qnq’f jbexcynpr? Ab. Fbzrguvat ryfr, fbzrguvat snzvyl.

    N dhnvag byq ubhfr ba n uvyy, fheebhaqrq ol ebfr ohfurf, n tenaqzbgure… Abg zl tenaqzbgure. V oneryl xarj zl Tenz. V fubbx zl urnq. Gur ubhfr ba n uvyy unq orra n zrzbel bs fbzrguvat V’q ernq, bapr.”

    1. Honestly though, I think Gnlybe zvtug unir oravsvgrq sebz Tenaqzn Ebfr’f uryc evtug gurer. Gnlybe pbhyq unir hfrq n tbbq rkbepvfz, naq V’z fher Tenaal Ebfr xabjf ubj gb qb bar.

  49. Now the Stages of Grief Pact edition!
    1; Denial- No, someone Blake survived. He used Glamour, or Erasurr forgot about him. Something. ANYTHING!
    2; Anger- This consists mostly of swear words and unkind comments about ErasUrr and the author, often with the insinuation they are one and the same.
    3; Bargaining- Potentially a very profitable phase for Wildbow as readers send money hoping it will bring Blake back.
    4; Depression- At this point readers wonder if they want to continue Pact. They miss Blake, and may be feeling Darkness Induced Apathy.
    5; Acceptance- NEVER! Oh, fine. At this point readers start accepting Blake and accepting Rose as a main character. Depending on how Rose as a main character compares to Blake. And considering how long it took people to stop comparing Blake to Taylor, that could take a while. While Rose is also compared to Taylor.

    1. Honestly, Blake was pretty cool in his own right, after the first bit of impulsiveness. Rose…is kind of a bitch. She wasn’t at first, but now she seems like it. Someone above said she might be just like Taylor: Fucking scary and dark and crap, when viewed from the outside, but really just scared and trying to do her best on the inside. God, I hope so. I really wanted to like Rose.

  50. Blake…is probably dead.
    Rose has gone from someone I wanted to like, to someone I’m wondering if I can like at all.
    ErasUrr is a fucking Echidna.
    Rose is real. Just…not in the way I’d hoped.
    Whatshisface really is dead, isn’t he? And if not, he will probably come back as done corrupted, love-deprived Big Bad.
    And Rose is a bitch.
    Honestly, I don’t know which of these hit me hardest. You’ve done it again, Wildbow. You killed your main character. I never even knew how much I liked Blake until right about now. One week of binge reading, at all hours of the day and night. One week of immersion in this beautiful world, anticipating something to finally go right between Blake and Rose…and then this happens.
    Shit, man. Just…shit.
    I’m gonna pull a Blake here and ask, then: What does it mean that I still completely trust that this will be a great story? Despite Blake being, for all intents and purposes, gone as we know him. Despite his and Rose’s relationship seeming so stupid at times, with both of them doing the most idiotic things separately, when they’re supposed to be allies. Despite Rose herself, how drastically she seemed to change throughout the sixteen days she’s existed. I don’t like it, not at all. So far, it’s not making sense to me. And despite all that, even though I think it’s major, and these last two chapters have left me feeling empty, as yours often do, I still feel confident that you have a plan, that it all makes sense and we’ll understand it later.
    I don’t know, man. This numbness. It’s not supposed to come halfway through, is it? In Worm…but this isn’t Worm.
    Yeah.
    I’ll stop now.
    …..

    1. A good writer has to be able to make you care about the characters. The downside is that it makes it hurt worse when something like this happens. Be it from reading over the course of months, or binging in a week, a lot of readers came to want to see Blake win. Not even just survive. I wanted him to die of old age over a hundred years old, surrounded by loved ones, with the Behaims and Duchamps long ago having admited they were wrong. But we don’t always get what we want.

      As for Rose… It’s been stated Conquest rubbed off on her. Which in this case may be almost as bad as demon radiation.

  51. Hmmmm….when Ned stark died,it felt,I dunno,tasted ,like it was appropriate for him to die.My tasting has never been wrong,until now,when I was sure one character would return.I dunno,he could have survived,yes,but the taste of the story,his actions,the foreshadowing (dead wolf?)etc.made his death taste obvious.This includes many other wham deaths and decoy protagonists,no matter how much of a shock it came to the others,or how much I liked the character,either their death tasted right,or they would survive/revive one way or another.The only exception is multiple path games,where characters die as result of the player’s actions,and even the it tastes a different kind of right

    Blake…Blake’s death tastes wrong….not bad wrong,in fact,if the death sticks,it won’t make the story worse,rare is the story that truly shocked me,and Wilbow already managed it multiple times, but…I do not remember tasting a wrong death and the character not coming back later,even convincing ones .I have tasted right deaths that had the characters return ,but never the inverse.Could Wilbow trick my taste of death,I wonder?We’ll see,I guess.

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