Null 9.1

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When I opened my eyes, rain had settled in my one eye socket.  The act of opening my eye meant that freezing water seized the surface of the eye itself, and a thin dribble ran along my cheekbone.

I blinked, and found I couldn’t see out of the one eye, even after the moisture was gone.

My hand grasped for purchase, and it found mud.

The rain was as cold as water could get without being ice.  My body was numb and damaged.  When I tried to rub a sticky smear of blood from my face, I succeeded only in getting blood on my hand and grit on my face.

Standing was hard.  The mud beneath me was the sucking sort of wet mud that could steal a shoe, or let someone sink in to mid-calf level, and refuse to let them go.  As I dug a foot in, struggling to find traction, I created an opening that let the freezing water in nearby pools flood in around my foot.

My clothes were heavy with moisture.  My winter jacket, ostensibly waterproofed, was sodden, and my clothes were worse.  Wearing some suit made of snow would be better, because snow insulated to a degree.  This just carried the cold right through to the core of my body.

The mud insulated, I noted.  I pulled myself to a sitting position and blinked the water out.  I ran my fingers through my hair, and found my hands stiff to the point of being wooden.  I’d hoped to clean them, and found the mud on my head made it impossible.  With dirty fingers, I plucked at flecks of ice that were sticking to the eyelashes of my good eye.  I blinked the resulting bit of dirt out of my eye.

Which reminded me…  I tried to look with my Sight.

Nothing.  Nothing at all.

I was partially blind in a way that went beyond one eye being fuzzy beyond the point of use.  My one good eye saw darkness, the bad one saw everything through a milky gray veil, like a badly scratched lens, but neither eye could See.

All the same, a cold darkness in the very core of me told me what I’d expected to confirm.

I felt alone.

The rain and this loneliness weren’t so unusual to me.  They were recurring themes for me.  The dirt, too, being filthy, on several levels.

I expected to be weaker than I was.  Which wasn’t to say I was strong.  I still struggled to stand, with nothing firm to set my feet on, my body weighing twice as much as it should with the caked on mud, bits of ice and collected moisture.  Various small injuries decided to wake up as I moved.  My fingertips were scraped here and there, and a throbbing pain at the meat of my left hand insisted on nagging at my attention.

I raised my face to the ‘sky’, and let the rain pummel it, running through my hair and over my face, washing away the worst of the grit and blood.  The wind hit me, changing the direction of the rain, and I swayed, one foot very nearly skidding in the mud.

My one good eye revealed a sky of sheer darkness.  It was less like a starless night, and more like I was in a cave, the roof well out of view.  The rain could be from some lake or ocean above the cave, leaking in, threatening to break through some thin layer of rock and snuff out everything beneath in one swooping motion.

That pretty much summed up the effect that the darkness had, here.  An omnipresent weight.  The roof of this place could have been twenty feet above my head or completely absent, only a limitless nothingness above.

Like the rain, it pressed everything down.  It made me want to crawl instead of walk.

The only light, when there was light, came from a single old, orange lightbulb in a cage housing, mounted on a wall of irregular stone and mortar.  It flickered, spending as much time off as on.  I couldn’t make out the rest of the structure from the distance.

All the same it cast the faintest of light through the darkness, lighting up my path, or the lack of a path.  The bits of mud that crested and rose above the puddles were shiny in the light, the briefly revealed humps and ledges suggested snakes, centipedes, squid tendrils, or crocodiles lurking with only traces of their bodies above the surface of the murk.

Here and there, grass or weeds stuck up.  They were sparse in a way that only reinforced the desolate nature of the place.  That grass could grow and couldn’t.  Wouldn’t.

I shivered, and continued my lurching progress through the sloppy mud.

The light marked the arch-like entrance to a tunnel, its sister bulb on the opposite side of the entrance fritzed out, permanently off.

My good eye studied the interior, searching for any possible trap.  I could make out another light further in.  Around a bend, just far enough that a portion of the tunnel was unlit.

I stepped into the tunnel, just one stride inside, and got my bearings.

The mud, it seemed, formed a gentle ditch, and the collected rainwater was being directed into the tunnel entrance.  The water frothed, oily black in the darkness, only the periodic foam catching the flickering light, and it churned against heaps of objects that had been dragged into this tunnel.  A shopping cart, rent and ripped, so the prongs stabbed skyward, a few planks that were nailed together in what might have been an old loading pallet.  A bit of fence.  On either side, the ledge was only about two feet across, a half-foot above the water level, where water flowed in a steady, incessant stream.  The water itself formed a gap maybe five feet across.

The walls were wet and slimy, and resembled an old tunnel wall that predated cars, rounded stones set in place with cracked mortar.  Where stones had crumbled, they had been replaced with brick.  That brick remained older than I was.

A drain.

My hands didn’t feel like my hands as I pulled off my jacket.  They felt like puppet hands I was operating by remote control.  Obeying my instructions, but not in any clever, effective way.  I still managed to hold on to my jacket and wring it out, careful to maintain my footing.  I couldn’t even hear the water I squeezed out hit anything, over the dull roar of the flowing drainage.

There was nowhere to put my jacket where it wouldn’t get dirty, so I put it down in the muck just outside the drain’s entrance.

I pulled off my sweatshirt and shirt as one single entity.  One of my hands hurt – I’d smashed it somehow, and my shoulder hurt where I’d taken some impact.

Stupid, maybe, but I couldn’t imagine getting any colder.

My inside-out shirt and sweatshirt dangling from my hands, I saw the light flicker on briefly.  Inviting me to see.

I saw the dirt that had leaked inside my clothes, and I saw the dirt move.

Bugs.  Not all of it, but some.  I’d imagined seeing great centipedes in the muck, and I saw small ones here.  Earwigs, centipedes, pillbugs, all things I’d expect to see under a rock.

Even on my arms-

The light went out.

I stopped, waiting, my arms shivering from cold and the tension of holding onto the wet fabric.

The light flickered on again.

No, not that many bugs on my arms.

Great black tracks marked the surface of each arm.  They were great thorny branches, grown mature.  No birds, but innumerable feathers, one bird’s skull with a branch growing through the eyehole.  Here and there, the branches stood alone, as if they’d broken off and fallen to earth.  Not a healthy tree, but tinder, the limbs of a great tree frozen and cast to earth by the weather.

The branches crawled up my arms, past my elbows.  One reached to my shoulder.  I couldn’t see how far up my neck it traveled.  The other was denser, painting my left arm black and brown with branches and feathers, respectively.

I touched a spot where the darkness was especially deep, on my left hand.

A crack, not a branch.  Running from the spot between my middle and ring finger to my wrist.

The light flickered off.

I tested the wound, prodding my ring finger, pushing the two halves of my hand apart.

The light flicked on.

I could see through the gap.  A yawning wound, effectively cutting my hand in half.  The ring and pinky finger were especially stiff.  The bits of flesh in the gap were nearly black, not crimson.  It barely hurt.

The wound on that same hand was an old one, a puncture wound I’d made to draw blood.  The scratches on the fingertips were self-inflicted, made for the same purpose.

Wounds I’d healed with glamour.  The glamour had been left behind, the wounds had yet to heal properly.  I’d only forestalled it, painted over it.  Why would my body heal a wound that wasn’t there?

I didn’t have the strength to hold up my shirt and sweatshirt anymore, and I didn’t have the focus to busy myself wringing them dry.  I hugged both to my stomach, my back touched the slimy wall, my head bowed, and I closed my eyes.

The scene was, ironically enough, bright in my mind’s eye.  Memory more real than this.

Being in the factory.  Realizing just how bad things were going.

Running for the windows.

I hadn’t made it.

The demon had closed around me, blocking every avenue of escape.  Getting help had been impossible – my connections to the rest of the world had been severed.  That I was as alone as anyone could ever be.

Or, as it happened, so alone that I couldn’t be.

The world had broken away around me, no longer seeing the value in holding me up.  Cracks had yawned open around me, and in my hurry to get away, I’d fallen through.

Putting me here.

My dirty shirt and sweatshirt got dirtier as I laid them against the narrow shelf of brick I was standing on and unlaced a boot.  I got one sock off, and carefully wound it around my cracked hand, tying the knot at the back of my hand.  It made for a crude sort of bandage, holding the two pieces of my hand together.  If I hadn’t thought I needed to use my fingers to grip, I might have stuck my whole hand inside the sock.

I needed those working fingers.  I pulled my boot on over a bare foot.

My hands were wringing out my shirt and sweatshirt when I saw the first other living thing in this place.

Female, emaciated, her eyes reflecting like a cat’s might, but as pale green circles instead.  She was perched on the heap of wood and the torn-up shopping cart.  Only her upper body was visible, collarbone and ribs standing out with skin stretched taut around them.  Her naked breasts were small, her arms tense with the exertion of holding herself up.  Her hair was plastered to her head, her face looked like she was wearing a section of someone else’s skull as a mask.

The lights went off, behind me and further down the tunnel.  Pitch darkness.

Only darkness.  In the stillness and the quiet, I wrung out my shirt and sweatshirt further, then pulled it on.  Clammy and wet and dirty on grimy, damp and cold skin.

The lights came back on, first one, then the other.

She was gone.

I shivered, pulling on my winter jacket.  The mud had risen up, trying to claim it, to hide it.

I should have been scared, in the midst of all of this.  I should have crumpled up into a ball and refused to move.  I should have railed against the world, this fucked up unfair world and all of the wrong that loomed behind the curtain.

Except all I felt was numb.

I checked the sock-bandage at my left hand.  Secure.

Where to go from here?

It was tempting to just follow the light.  Outside, it was only darkness and hard rain.  The mud could take hold of a foot and refuse to let go, or hide traps or waiting ambushers, human or otherwise.  It could be hours of walking through a black so absolute I might as well be blind.  My gut told me that the only things I was liable to find were more places like this.  Vaguely hostile in layout, dangerous, quite possibly riddled with Others.

I made my way down the stone path, toward the second light.

When I reached the spot where the Other had perched, I reached over, grabbing a section of wood from the shattered pallet.  A broad, flat plank, a nail stuck in the end, holding it firm…

One tug, only as hard as I could manage without risking losing my footing on slick stone, and it came free.

One end was sort of jagged.  It was wet, slick with algae or slime or just from being wood worn smooth by current.  It was cold, even, and bits of ice clung to the splintery bits at the frayed end.

No sign of the horrifically thin Other.

There was a dip further ahead, a downward slope.  More debris sat on the slope, and with the little light that extended forward from the first light, now behind me, I could see the flowing water foam where it crashed against the debris.

A large rock.  The handle of some gardening implement or broom or something, with a scrap of cloth caught on it, and the legs of a plastic or folding chair.  More sat below the ramp.  The Other could easily be one of those jagged shapes.

The Other didn’t attack.

I reached the darker patch, and the end of my plank skittered lightly across the stone in front of me, feeling for any tripping hazards.  Progress was agonizingly slow as I checked the ground, used my hand to feel for anything jutting out of the wall.

A half-foot of progress, me shuffling forward, then another check.

When the wood wasn’t checking my route, I held it out, feeling for any reaching hands, ready to smash an attacking Other in the gut.  If it gave me a chance.

If the darkness outside had weighed down on me, this was worse.  It pressed in on me from all directions, making me feel impossibly small.

The numbness at the core of me gave way to a profound uneasiness.

Spelunking, the art of exploring caves, was terrifying unto itself.  The idea of getting stuck, of getting turned around… even if one was traveling a route others had taken a hundred times, it was a fear that lingered.

When we -and we felt painfully hazy right here- had been discussing the factory, the topic of the urban explorers had come up.  Same idea.  Old buildings, the risk of getting stuck, of something happening, it was a very real concern.  For an unknown number of urban explorers in Toronto, something had happened.

This was worse, on a level.  All of those same claustrophobic, paranoid fears, they held true in this place.  Even aboveground, it was claustrophobic.

Problem was that here, they were justified fears.

I stopped short.

In pitch darkness, where I couldn’t see anything but phantom images persisting across my field of view, I found that the path ended.  There was no more ledge.  A quick test with the plank confirmed.  It had broken away.  Crumbled.

A quick feel around, and I could confirm that there was no bridge, no passage or door to my right.

I peered forward, leaning a bit, trying to make out a ledge a bit further, or even prod it with the plank to gauge my ability to make a step.

No visible ledge.

I did see two circles in the churning water.  So faint I might have thought they were phantom images.

But when all the other images danced in and out of my field of vision, my eyes remained locked on those faint green circles, and those circles remained exactly where they were.

Confidence.  Theatrics.

If I earned my own demise, doing this, well, my circumstances wouldn’t be that much worse.  But if I could look stronger than I felt, well…

Thin odds, but I’d take what I could.  I couldn’t move forward without addressing the creature in the water, so I decided to address it head-on.

I extended my free hand, and with my finger crooked, I made a ‘come hither’ gesture, beckoning it.

My other hand gripped the plank, ready to defend myself if I had to.

The eyes rose up, and I could hear the sound of water falling free, as though someone were rising from a bath.

The eyes stopped, level with my bellybutton, over the water.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she said.  Her voice was airy, halfway between hiss and whisper.

The emaciated Other from before?

“You could have grabbed me by the ankles,” I said.  “Hauled me under.”

“I could have.”


A long pause.  I didn’t dare move my eyes away from hers.  Part of it was a dominance thing, the other part of it was that I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to find her eyes again if I looked away.

When the lights went out, the eyes retained their faint green color for a moment.

Just when I thought that brief color would fade, the lights came back on.

She never blinked.

“You don’t have to answer,” I said.

“I know.  It’s not something I like to think about.  That’s where I fell in.  Right there.”

I didn’t have a response to that, and she didn’t bother to elaborate.

The dull roar of the drain and the faint rattle of debris against debris took on an imperceptibly different tone, in light of her words.

As if the sound of the water was now a great machine, grinding, scouring.

I could smell her, and she smelled faintly of ammonia, joining the smells of rich mud and the damp, mildewy smell of the drain itself.

“You were like me, then,” I said.

“I don’t know what you’re like,” she said.  A pause.  “But I was human.”

“Do you have a name?”

“Not anymore.  Only other person to talk to me couldn’t speak anymore.  When I think of who I am, my old name gets mixed up with underwater sounds in my head, I guess.”

“Well, my name’s…”

“It’s okay.  It’s hard to remember names here.”

“No, I remember.  My name is Blake.”

Another pause.  “I knew a Blake once.  You don’t look anything like him.”

Having conversation was nice, even if I couldn’t shake the notion that she could lunge at my any moment, and drag me to a watery grave.

“You seem so calm,” she whispered.

“I don’t know enough yet to be properly afraid,” I said.  “Makes it a bit easier, and I guess, I dunno, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

“You’re supposed to fear the unknown.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “I used to think that too.”

A loud crash spoiled my calm act, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin.  My left foot skidded a half-foot on smooth, water-slick stones.

The crash didn’t stop.  It sounded like a one thousand car pileup, vaguely muffled.

“That’s the sluice,” she said.  “Further down.  If you see lots of little snails and things stuck to the ground, it means the sluice is right above you, and it could open any time.”

“I can’t see much at all,” I said.

“Oh.  Yeah.  I forgot.  Then if you hear them crunching underfoot, like you’re walking on… on… what’s that cereal called?”

“Cheerios?  Rice Krispies?  Corn flakes?”

“Yeah.  Corn flakes.  You can’t figure out the big sluice unless you’ve been down here a bit.  Stay away for now, or it’ll wash you over the edge.”

“I appreciate the advice,” I said.

Somewhere along the line, I’d jammed one of my hands into my armpit for meager warmth.  It didn’t work, but I maintained the habit.  Now I shifted the plank to another hand.

“It’s okay.  You get used to it,” she said, and I imagined she was trying to sound soothing with that thin voice of hers.  “The dark, the cold, not being on the top of the food chain, always being worn down…”

“That doesn’t sound the least bit like I want to get used to it,” I said.  “No offense.”

“Haven’t you ever looked at wild animals and envied them a little?  Their simple existences?”

I thought of my bird watching, not long after I’d gotten my own place, with…

With a friend’s help.

Alexis’s help.  Right.

My heart started pounding a little harder at that near miss.  The noise here, the rushing water, the pressure and the need to focus my senses elsewhere, it made it harder to remember.

“I guess I have,” I said, before I could get too lost in thought.  Let’s not disturb the creepy Other.

“I don’t think you find your way down here without dealing with something bad.  That’s how I think about it.  There’s- there’s a relief in all this, Blake.  Putting it behind you.  Whatever was burdening you, it’s gone by the time you come this far.”

Whatever was burdening me.

Karma?  That was… I had to assume it was on my successor’s shoulders now, on…

…on Rose’s shoulders.  Right.  Why had the name been so hard to conjure up?

Well, I was assuming Rose wasn’t cast down here along with me, that her role in things wasn’t screwed up by the screwed up way I’d gone down.

All the rest of it?  The threats, the pressures, the worries and conflict?

I’d wanted to get away from it all, to put it behind me.  Now, well, I had my wish.

Be careful what you wish for.

“You might be right, but how do you get out?” I asked.

“Only way I know is to go further in.  In here, you are what you eat.  It’s easy to- to let yourself go.”

“Let your Self go,” I echoed her.  Her thoughts seemed to have a thread to them, but I was having trouble connecting the dots.

“That’s what I said, yeah.  I… it’s hard to remember the details, but I arrived, and I wandered for a long while in the rain.  I found this big store, you know the kind, one of the huge ones you could spend half a day inside, but the parking lot was fenced in, and I tried walking around to find the front door, but it was like every side of the store was the back of the store.  That’s when I first realized something was wrong, because I’d just left this… this place, and found a city and I somehow found myself-”

“There.  Here,” I said.

“Yeah.  I found a group of people, and they told me that there was nothing there.  That it’s just landscape, for show.  They laughed at me and took what little I’d brought with me.  I ran before they could hurt me, and I got here, after a couple days.  Except I didn’t get far.  I stepped onto that broken bit of ledge right there, and I fell.  Just like you almost did.  Water pushed me down, and I wasn’t strong enough to swim against it.  Someone saved me.  He wasn’t strong enough to lift me up, either, so he pressed his lips to mine, and breathed for me.”


“He could breathe like I can now.  For hours, he breathed for me.  And he’d stop, making me hold my breath, then start again.  Until I could hold it for a couple of minutes.  He left me, holding my breath, and came back with raw fish.  Tore it with his teeth and regurgitated it for me, kept breathing for me… for days.  Weeks.  Pressed his sandpapery skin against mine, and we… yeah.  I wanted to, and I dunno if that’s that syndrome or whatever from that movie with the bookish girl and the big horned ox guy-”

“Beauty and the Beast.  You’re thinking of Stockholm syndrome,” I said.  I didn’t elaborate, arguing for why it wasn’t Stockholm Syndrome.  That would have been assholish, arguing when she was sharing her story.

“Yeah.  I forget words sometimes.  Somewhere along the way, my skin came apart, because his skin was rough and the water just kept coming down so hard.  But I healed and everything back together in scars and tougher bits, and then I could breathe underwater, and I have teeth and claws to hunt fish with, and I can see better in the dark and…”

“…And the other guy?”

“I was in a state where I couldn’t swim.  He went to get food for- for me, and one day he didn’t come back.  Eventually I had to swim, and I did.  Now it’s just me.”

“Waiting at that same ledge?”

“I thought I’d save you if you fell in, like he saved me,” her voice was a thin whisper.  Almost reluctant, abashed.

The shiver that took hold of me right then was more profound than any the cold had gotten out of me so far.

I had to resist the urge to accuse her.  She’d been waiting.  Not warning me, only waiting.

But the rules and expectations were different here.  She knew I was friendly-ish now, but she couldn’t know before.

I couldn’t let myself blame her.  She’d been genuine in other respects, and quite frankly, I couldn’t afford to give up even a tentative friend.

Not the first time I’d been in that position.

“Hey,” I said.  I didn’t have a name for her.  “Green Eyes?  Can I call you that?”

“Yes.  I like that.”

“Green Eyes, if and when I do fall in, if you can’t or won’t help me get somewhere with a secure grip, can you kill me instead?”

“Kill you?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Just… no offense, but that sounds like a torment that would be custom-made for me in hell.”

A pause.

“After I kill you, can I eat you?”

Eat me?

She said it so very casually.  I might have felt a chill run down my spine if my spine wasn’t already all chills.

“Go to town,” I said.  Better to say yes than risk her not killing me.

I heard a short, reedy laugh.  “Cool.”

She said it in a way that made me think it would be spelled ‘Kewl’.  I suddenly had a very clear vision of her as a teenager, stumbling into here much the same way I had.

I wasn’t drying off, and the darkness was disorienting.  Without my eyes to go by, I was very concerned I’d lose my sense of up and down and simply teeter over into the water.

I broke eye contact with her, looking toward the light further down the tunnel, hoping to center myself.

Big mistake.  It left phantom lights against my eyelids, making it twice as hard to see the ledge.

I was more blind than ever, with only two feet of damp, slick ledge and a watery grave before me, a cannibalistic Other waiting to dine on me.

“If you’re looking for a way past, it’s one big stride to get by,” she said.  “You’ll want to lean on something.  There’s a big branch here.  A couple of really good places to put your wood there.”

I reached out blindly for the tree branch.

A hand seized the plank, and I felt my blood go cold.

She moved it, and I felt it scrape.

I tested, pushing, and found it firm.

Would she move it away as I made the step?

“Can I trust you?” I asked.

Yes,” she said.

I hesitated.  “Can you lie?”

“…You know about that?”


“That some things down here can’t lie?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “I guess I do.”

“I’m not one of those things.  They don’t tend to be very pleasant, just so you know.”

“I know,” I said.

On a level, I’m one of them.

I made the leap of faith, a blind step into utter darkness, my heart dropping out of my chest as the branch gave.  The plank slipped.

A moment’s give.  Something stopped the plank from sliding free.  It provided the resistance I needed.  I felt my foot set down on Terra Firma.

I pushed, carrying my momentum forward, and I felt a momentary resistance as I pulled the plank away from the branch.

She let go of it.  She’d been holding it secure.

I was upright, safe on the other side.

Would I be able to make it back the same way?

“Thank you,” I said.  “I don’t have much to offer you in gratitude.  I’m sorry.”

“Then, can we keep talking until we have to go separate ways?”

“Yeah?  I might be benefiting from that more than you are,” I said.  “You can ask what you want.”

“Don’t know,” she said.  “Just hearing another voice or having someone listen is nice.  Usually the only one I hear is the little man that sells snails, if I find something I can barter.”

I nodded slowly.  “Then… can you tell me more about how to get out?  We got distracted.”

I got distracted, it’s so easy to do, when you focus on the now all the time,” she said.  She was falling behind me, her already quiet voice growing fainter.  “Moment.”

I heard the faintest of splashes.  A metal-on metal scrape.

Her voice came from a new location.  “Can’t stay afloat on my own.  Have to grab stuff, or I get pulled under.  Um.  So if you want out, the only way I know is to go through.  Change, adapt, eat, and get stronger.  Then there’s places where it’s closer to the real world than others.  You gotta get to those places, and it’s not easy.  One part, you have to swim against a current that’s three times as fast as this, and you have to do it for a while without a chance to surface.”

“That’s not an option for me, then,” I said.

“I don’t know about any others, really.”

“That’s okay,” I said.

“But if you do get to one of the exits, there’s usually someone or something there, or so I hear.  They sit there and they get in the way and they make you work to get past.  Usually, you’re really tired, and they eat you.  Or you can put up a bit of a fight, and they make you promise to do something for them.  To carry something back.”

I nodded slowly, continuing my slow, careful, shuffling progress.  “There’s no way out that doesn’t force me to give up my Self?”

“Sort of, but I wouldn’t count on it.”

“What is it?”

“Sometimes someone comes, and they pick a few of us and take us with them when they leave.”

“These people that come, are they monsters?”

Very sometimes monsters, but mostly it’s people.  I thought at first you were maybe one of them.”


“But I think if you were, you wouldn’t have gotten stuck where you did.”


“And your arms, when I saw them…”

“Yeah,” I said.  “My tattoos have a mind of their own.  I don’t really get it.”

“If you’re thinking someone’s just going to show up and help, I wouldn’t count on it.  They only come for the worst monsters, and I don’t even think they ever come looking for anyone specific.  That would be almost impossible because this place is a maze and it gets more like a maze all the time, when stuff breaks down.  Just like people break down.  It’s just what this place is.”

“Where things that fall through the cracks go,” I said.

“Yeah?  I like that,” she said.

“What would you call this place?”

“Dunno.  I think of it as the sewers,” she said.

They weren’t really sewers, but I didn’t correct her.

“Or the compost heap,” she said.


“That’s how I think of it.  It’s what this place is, what it’s meant to do.  It wears you down and grinds you up, like the water would have done to me if I hadn’t been rescued.  The mold gets you, or the rats gnaw you up, or something.  Then you’re gone.  Some like me eat and we get by, but we have to fight constantly and in the fighting we get worn out and hurt too, so we get worn down there.  The strongest… the strongest eat and get powerful.  And because they eat a lot of things and they get scarred, and they get ugly, and maybe they lose some big part of whatever they were before they came here.  They get composted,” she said.  “Then they leave, and I dunno what happens next.”

“I imagine they become bogeymen,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said.  “But in all that eating, they’re still giving up more than they get, and this place still takes pieces out of them.  It’s the whole purpose.”

I remained silent.  I wasn’t sure what to say to all that, and this bit was a little steeper, the corner of the ledge more rounded, allowing an errant foot to slip.

“I stick to the shallows here, mostly.  There practically no food, little fishes and frogs and bugs if I’m quick, but it’s safer.  Only a few guys I gotta watch out for in the water here.”

“Anything I need to worry about?”

“Not unless you go for a swim.  One of them, they’re only a threat to me, it feels like.”

“Duly noted,” I said.

“You’re so calm,” she said, again, almost in awe.

I was quiet, making my steady progress.  I passed into an area with light.

“There’s a bit coming up where I won’t be able to follow you.  Not so much stuff in the way.  Bigger things underwater.”

“Like the guys you mentioned?”

But she was gone.

A moment later, a faint sound of splashing water, she emerged, hands on the ledge opposite me.

She wasn’t wearing a skull mask.  Her face was skeletal, the skin virtually transparent, veins visible beneath the surface, red, blue, and yellow-black.

I was pretty sure people didn’t have yellow-black veins like that.

All this time, I’d been thinking she didn’t blink.  Now I saw that her eyelids were so transparent that I couldn’t tell.  Her eyes, luminous green in the dark, were a pale milky white right now.

Her teeth were tiny, narrow, and sharp, visible through transparent lips.

The lights flickered out, leaving me with an afterimage of her face superimposed on darkness.

She reminds me of a fish from the deep ocean.  The angler fish or something like that.

“There’s a branching path ahead,” she said, in her whisper of a voice.  “Go left.  I think that’s the last advice I can give you.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Good luck,” she said.  “Good luck.  If you wanted to stay here or come back sometime, that’s okay.  We can talk, and I could show you where the stuff is on land, for food, while I get the stuff from the water.  Some rats here can get pretty fat.  And if you die, I can eat you, and that can be your payment for me showing you the ropes.”

The sluice, somewhere distant, closed.  The abrasive noise stopped, and I realized I’d been tensed.  My shoulders relaxed.

The lights came back on.

“Bye,” she said, her voice far clearer in this sudden quiet.

“Wait,” I said.

She stopped.  There was only the sound of water, and with the slope well behind us, even that wasn’t as bad as it might otherwise be.

“I owe you one,” I said.  “You said that some of the guardians of the exits, they ask for people to carry favors or carry things back to the real world.  Is there anything I can take back for you?”

“You really think you’re going to make it back.”

“I’m going to try.”

“I don’t think you realize how bad this place can be.”

“You don’t know how bad some of the stuff I’ve dealt with so far has been.”

She remained silent.

“Sorry if that came out wrong,” I said.  “I do appreciate the help, and the offer stands.”

“It’s easier if you don’t fight.  Stay out of the way.”

“Before, you said you get to leave all your burdens behind,” I said.  “I don’t think that’s entirely true.  My burden is, well, I can’t just stop like you’re suggesting.”

She nodded slowly.

Lights out.

“I don’t have anything I want you to take back there.”

“Then, what if I said I really am, in a roundabout way, one of those wizards you talked about, one of the people who come to collect monsters and take them away?”

“Are you?”

“Not right now,” I said.  “But I’m hoping I can be again.  Kind of hoping.  I think it’ll happen when I get free.”

She stared at me.

“Would you want me to come back for you, if I could?”

“I’d like to get away from the black fish… but I can’t think about the future like that.  I have to think about food, and keeping certain areas blocked off, and figuring out where and when to rest where I can’t get surprised or cornered.”

“Nothing, then?” I asked.

“You should be doing the same,” she said.  “Focus on the now.  Realize just how much trouble you’re in here.  Giving you something to think about could get you killed.”

I leaned back.

“A kiss?” she asked.

I startled a bit.

In the darkness, I couldn’t make out her expression.  Even if I’d been able to see her face, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to.

“I… it’s something I let myself think about, sometimes.”

I couldn’t shake the idea of her simply grabbing me and hauling me under, especially after I’d refused her offer to stay.

I remembered her lurking beneath the water, not warning me, only watching to see if I drowned.

But here I was, utterly alone.

In a way, the very worst thing that could have happened to me had happened.

In a way, that made it very hard to be afraid.

I still felt numb inside.

A kiss, bodily contact, that was scary unto itself.

But all of that, even that part of the past, it felt so far away.

I knelt on the ledge, aware of how precarious my position was.

She heaved herself partially out of the water.  Two transparent lips brushed against my cheekbone.  I flinched, despite my best intentions.

Then she pushed herself away.

I stood, slow, aware that my clothes had partially dried, though I was still freezing.

The light came on just in time for me to see her dive.  Her tail broke the water, and I saw a flash of albino white scaling, and skeletal ridges separating transparent fins.

“Bye, Green Eyes,” I said.

I moved on, with excessive caution, and I reached a branching path.  Wooden planks had been arranged in a triangle, allowing passage between ledges.  They were supported by trash and debris that had collected at the intersection.

I passed over the bridge, my heart pounding.

The tunnel opened up into a vast area, so wide I couldn’t take it in all at once.

Tunnels were lit by dim lightbulbs within, and others were only hinted at, highlighted by distant lights.  The smells were thick in the air, and I could see where it might be called compost, or sewers.

The drains and grates and pipes all led onto ledges and balconies, or emptied water intermittently onto broad bridges, or simply dropped vast amounts of liquid into vast, empty darkness.  Here and there, I saw figures, most furtive, moving quickly from one area to the next.  Here and there, I saw others.  A man was perched in one spot with what looked like a jury-rigged tent, made of trash.  A tarp was laid out, showing an arrangement of common trash and shells.  He was only a hundred feet away, or so, but he was across from me, and a great void separated us.  It would be a long, convoluted road to meet him.

Not that I had anything to barter with.

It was loud, here in this central hub.  Green Eyes had said the whole intent of this place was to break things down.  The cacophony of noise would be intended to erode at sanity.  It was loud enough to make my vision distort, to startle the wits out of me when a sudden crash rang through every drain and sewer here.  intermittent enough to distract.

Noise aside, I was glad to find a dry spot to sit down, on a spot just above a broad, stagnant gutter choked with debris.  It looked like a gargoyle had once sat here, oddly enough, but had broken away.  I sat, leaning against the wall, my shin securing my position by pressing against the base of the gargoyle’s statue.

Perhaps a little too visible here, but it was a place to sit down.

“We’re in!”

My head turned.  A voice.  A recognizable voice.

“My gut was right,” another voice said, her voice quiet.  “I was never that big on trusting my gut, but now…”

That second voice was Rose.

“As haunted houses go, this is pretty flipping cool,” a small boy’s voice, excited.


I craned my head around, looking.

I saw a flash of Rose’s face in the gutter, before a drop fell from above.  The water rippled.

“We’ve got access,” Rose said.  “That’s the key thing.  I’ll show you to the library in a second, then we got to start with the rituals.”

Somewhere else nearby.

Sources of still water.

I couldn’t quite see it, but I could hear it.

Except I wasn’t hearing it with my ears.

It resounded through me.

“I just don’t get why you didn’t do this ritual earlier,” Alexis said.  Her tone was vaguely accusatory.  “Or how you didn’t do it earlier.”

“I don’t know,” Rose said.

“Something to do with this Blake Mags mentioned?” Tiff asked.

My heart pounded.

They didn’t know me?

‘Mags’ knew me?

My throat was dry.  I almost forgot to watch my back.

Except the stab in the back didn’t come from the Drains.

“There was a reason for it,” Rose said.  “Had to be.  And I’m sure we’ll find the clues here, given time to look.  All I know is, I fucked up my awakening ritual on purpose, last time around.  This time, right here, right now, I’m gonna do it right.

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303 thoughts on “Null 9.1

  1. Holy crap, so she wrote in that text herself when she used the text that said Holly instead of Iron? Did, was, I don’t even have words for this.

      1. Innocents have protections. She was far past Innocence though.
        From what we know, humans who get to see past the Veil and aren’t Awakened aren’t protected by whatever Solomon pulled, and have no powers to defend themselves with. They have to use trinkets, amulets and other objects holding power to do so, alongside knowledge about how to handle the various kinds of Other.

        This is why Joel left whenever things were getting too specific.

        Anyway, Rose started out as something carved out by a demon into a vestige-like reflection. The rules applying to her could be completely out of whack (that was the explanation we came up with for her ‘fake’ Awakening ritual).
        Turning human through Erasurre’s reality warping, though, could have left her vulnerable.

        1. Witch Hunters still have some protections. They aren’t like the Forsworn or anything. And they can lie. And any deals they make are one sided. And apparently seeing what Rose could do with her summons/Thornburn voice…

          1. She couldn’t lie, at least not any more than a normal practitioner could. When she and Blake were sarcastic, the lawyer confirmed that they both took a hit.

      2. I feel like she may have flubbed it for Blake’s sake actually. Everyone keeps saying she is supposed to replace him, maybe if she’d awakened before the conncection was cut she would have started overriding Blake until nothing was left. I seem to recall this being a theory when we first discovered what a vestige was in some depth.


    Oh and Rose is doing stuff. Sounds ominous. And why would she purposely screw up her awakening ritual?

    1. Because in round one she was not ‘more than a vestige’ so it was different. Now she doesn’t remember that. And is confused as to why she did what she did.

        1. That is what I assume she meant, however, the theory that Rose is evil and masterminded some stuff is still open for debate, but I don’t subscribe to that, mostly because I figure everything as being more tragic and complicated

          1. Why does Rose have to be evil for this theory? Imagine: You awaken one day, finding yourself trapped in a mirror world. Everything you feel is fake, everyone you know seems wrong. You find a note, explaining that you are an artificial creation (with some purpose), and that to escape you need to lead another to his doom. How many of us can say that we wouldn’t at least consider it, rather than spend the rest of our lives living a meaningless existence in a shadow world, which could fall apart at any time?

            (Note: Certainly some wouldn’t do this, and would take the high road. But, put enough people up to this, and I imagine you’d find this to be the exception, and not the rule.)

    2. Slightly ominous thought on that one.

      If she didn’t Awaken properly, she could lie. Not going to do it (right now) but it might be worth a reread with that in mind.

      1. Was just thinking that. There is some evidence that she did lie, i. e. conflicting statements from her at various points, about the other Thorburns, if I recall correctly. However, how nefarious the reasons she may or may not have had are is yet to be seen. Keep in mind that while she might have been able to lie, she was also then pretend to not be able to.

        1. We know Rose kept some info from Blake, but in her defense, Blake did the same to her.

          I believe she said earlier that she was a space unicorn or something like that to prove she wasn’t an Other(she was). Has anybody looked into space unicorn lore? Do they shapeshift? I’m going witg the theory that Vestige Rose was an Unicorn and was tricking Blake the whole time.

          1. No, the whole point of that scene (in 1.03) was that it took place before their awakening ritual at the end of 1.07; both Rose and Blake could freely lie up to that point, at least.
            We just don’t doubt anything Blake says there because we read the story from his POV.

    3. Very simple. This way, she could lie. Remember when she swore to help Blake and not screw him over? Yeah.

      1. The biggest knock against her is that she didn’t tell Blake what she did, when he swore to help her.

        Rose knew what was going down with the vestige thing the whole time. Evidence: a bunch too much knowledge about get to the house back in 1.1 and 1.2. She knew there could only really be one of the them and she was going to be it. This knowledge was probably inserted into her fake past by G. Rose to give her an edge.

        Awakening as a vestige don’t really work properly, so she flubbed it on purpose to give the ability to lie, without much of the downsides. Her plan, use Blake as a shield until the time came to take over. (Blake was as good as dead anyway, as seen by all the people saying so any way, morally ok for her now.) She now becomes the heir she always wanted to be. Evidence the guilt she had every time Blake tried to help her.

        Blake dying to ErasUr probably had some messup to the plan, largely cause she can’t remember it now.

        If someone does something evil then it is forgotten are the still evil?
        if someone is evil then the forget, are they still {morally|actually|in what way responsible}?
        If someone is evil, but then repents are they still evil? Responsible? Punishable?

        1. If someone does something evil then it is forgotten are the still evil?
          if someone is evil then the forget, are they still {morally|actually|in what way responsible}?
          If someone is evil, but then repents are they still evil? Responsible? Punishable?

          1. That makes the assumption that performing an evil act automatically makes one evil. I disagree. Literally every important character in Pact, even Even, has committed some evil against somebody. Are they to be forever deemed evil? Maybe.

          2/3 Who has the person committed evil towards? The harmed party may never feel that the person is relieved of the responsibility of their evil. To others though, if the person does not continue to do evil, and passively does good, should they be punished for the sake of being punished? Is it not better to allow the former evil one to do good?

          1. There has to be some objective morality somewhere out there. The instant that an evil person chooses to stop doing evil things, they become an objectively good (read: not evil) person. It is only in the subjective perceptions of others that they are still evil.

            So by that definition, people are constantly fluctuating between the states of good and evil depending on what acts they are committing at a given point in time. By another, more useful definition, we can call an evil person ‘an individual with a significant predisposition to committing evil acts’. This is more consistent over longer periods of time.

            Because Rose has not forgotten anything, and instead rationalizes her past actions in association with Blake to conform to this new reality, her core personality is fundamentally unchanged. If she was predisposed to committing evil acts before, then she is still predisposed to committing evil acts, and is still an evil person.

            1. By that explanation, good and evil cease to be properties of people and instead simply labels used to describe individuals currently undertaking good or evil actions (or arguably thoughts). “Rose is an evil person” would mean no more or less than “Rose is doing evil stuff”. In reality, that’s probably a more accurate way to go.

              In the universe of Pact, on the other hand, there appear to genuinely be entities keeping score. If you perform an act of wrong then your “wrong” bit gets toggled and most people can tell that you’re a “wrong person”. (There’s a lo get, much more complicated discussion to be had about wrong vs evil, of course…)

        2. If that were the case, why was she so defensive with Blake pre Conquest-Taint. She wanted to stay away from conflict and expressed worry for Blake’s life threatening stunts because she thought they threatened her existence roo (though we don’t know when exactly she figured out that wasn’t the case)

    4. Because someone told her to do it the wrong way, told her that Blake was meant to be her arms, and told her that to facilitate this, she had to undergo a decoy awakening. Either the lawyers, or a recording of Granny Rose, or something.

    1. Because no one’s invading his personal space, I assume. He tends to do fairly well when his boundaries are unbreached.

      If the question was “why is he not in Hell?” the answer presumably becomes “because technically he didn’t die.”

    2. Because Blake >> than his personal hell, of course. Blake is going to crawl out of the Sewers and show back up again, undergoing a Hero’s Journey to match no other. He will have barter for a key from the shell man, he will have to out-wit a door guardian, and everything.

        1. If he does, it will be in a dark, deconstructed fashion.

          Hell, first thing he does is befriend the first ex-person he meets enough for her to kiss him. He’s heroic enough to want and help every tortured soul he gets to know down there.
          And then he breaks free with his new posse of Others and becomes a travelling force of Good (instead of Right).

          Probably wishful thinking… oh well.

          1. Man, imagine that from the perspective of the Behaims, Duchamps, basically everyone else:
            Apparently this new Blake character was a Thorburn, who outwitted the Behaims repeatedly, challenged Conquest and won, and at the end of that apparently pulled off a working that wiped all memory of him from everyone, freeing him of his karmic debt and legions of enemies. But wait, after that he journeyed to the null realm where all the lost things go, built up an army of monsters, and clawed his way back into the real world with shear determination.

            Poor Blake is going to go right back to “kill it with fire” threat level as far as everyone is concerned.

  3. Awesome change of pace from the usual chapters, very curious to see how Blake comes out of all this, and what Rose is (and was) up to.

    1. Green-eyes is the missing Knight of the Basement I think, came in the same place (from ErasUr’s road) She wandered off after all her connections were cut. See then got a kiss from some guy that turned her into a Other/Mermaid/Finfolk/w/e

      1. I thought so at first to, but I get the impression that she wasn’t a practitioner from her dialogue. I think she was just a girl who wandered too close to the factory.

        1. Wasn’t there a teenaged girl with some link to the Knights that fell through the cracks because there weren’t any connections to hold her in place thanks to Urr?

          1. Urr seems to be interested in taking bits of people though, like Blake’s eye and presumably his Sight. There was no mention of the Green Eye’s missing anything so…. might just be someone who (like Mags) lost their connections to the world and didn’t manage to reestablish something.

            1. I wonder if his Sight is malfunctioning because his connection to the Spirits was broken? After all, everything is as if he didn’t exist now and, if he hadn’t existed to begin with, he can’t have been Awakened. I guess it depends on how thorough Ur is.

          2. If she’s related to that, I expect she was an Innocent relation/relative of one of the Knights. The Knight got eaten, or more likely his connections, and Green Eyes was left without any for some reason (either overkill from Ur, or she was not very social). But that sounds a bit sketchy, it doesn’t seem to fit what we know very well.

        2. She didn’t answer directly though. When blake asked, she asked if he knew, then mentioned the others and then she said she wasn’t one of them.

          She’s probably a former practitioner turned other.

          1. Still, if she couldn’t lie, she couldn’t have said that she wasn’t one of them. If she could lie, than couldn’t have been one of them.

            1. Blake has made half truths before though.

              “I’m not one of those things. They don’t tend to be very pleasant, just so you know.”

              She made a half truth and added that comment to make sure it couldn’t be considered a lie.

              I mean, if somebody asked Blake if he could lie, he could say he can (Lie by obmission) or describe goblins vaguely and say he’s not a goblin (because they can’t lie either and he’s not a goblin),

    1. Typos:
      – “caked on mud” -> “caked-on”
      – “That I was as alone as anyone could ever be.” -> “That meant”, or remove the “That” altogether?
      – “Alexis’s help.” -> “Alexis’ help.”
      – “But I healed and everything back together in scars and tougher bits”
      – “There practically no food” -> There’s”
      – “from the Drains” -> “drains”

      1. Alexis’s is correct. Or at least not incorrect; some schools of thought suggest that that’s a stylistic choice.

        1. The sentence is actually correct. The “that” has been elided; the sentence could also have been written “Something to do with this Blake that Mags mentioned?” In any case, adding a comma would change the meaning.

    2. I pulled myself to a sitting position and blinked the water out.

      Maybe not a typo, but I think it should say “blinked the water out of my eyes” since eyes aren’t mentioned until later in the paragraph. Obvious from context, but still a little weird for it to be missing.

    1. Add Maggie and/or possibly Mags and I’ll get behind this. Gutter youth have to stick together!

    2. That was oddly romantic. Green-Eyes, besides being a badass name, is a rather sympathetic character. Poor girl. I hope Blake gets her out of there one day. Any Others that legitimately say “kewl” (ie not Padraic) are on my kewl list.

    1. Because she may have crossed the moral event horizon? Serously she might have just done what Padraic did to Mags, stealing Blake’s lives. His friends, his familiar, those were just incidental to stealing his place in the world, and it’s just dumb luck ErasUrr didn’t eat him. She knew his greatest fear was to be tottally forgotten… And set him up for that.

      Since she deleberatly botched the awakening ritual Rose could lie, and break oaths with no penalty. She’s also been his main source of information for a long while now with the books. It’s very possible she set him up.

      It’s also rather telling she ran off to start performing rituals rather than letting Mags explain anything about Blake.

      1. She doesn’t remember Blake, so even if she did set him up to be forgotten she wouldn’t remember doing it or why.

        1. She may not remember Blake, or why she would have done things, but there is something that makes me suspicious. They didn’t get an explination from Mags on who Blake is. Why? Wouldn’t you want to know what that meant? Suspicious. From the sounds of things Rose immedatly headed off to start on rituals. Plural. So what other ones besides her awakening would she be trying to do?

      2. SHE STOLE EVAN. Even if we ignore all she did up to this point (which I cannot do) I cannot accept the fact that she stole Evan. (Unless she didn’t make Evan her familiar of course I don’t know why but I just got the feel that she stole Evan.)

        1. Oh by the gods no. Fuck no. Fuck the fucking fuck no. Rose, now revealed to be (very probably. Nothing is sure in a wildbow story) evil, stealing Evan the lovable awesome bird-kid who wanted to become a mothafucking blood/fire sparrow!? Making him into her familiar and forcing him to commit evil deeds with her?

          All in favor of officially despising Rose say “Aye”!

          1. I think you guys are looking at it wrong. Rose didn’t steal Evan. After Blake was erased, Evan was “dying”. Rose saved Evan. Its only because of Rose and her Blakeguard that Evan still has a chance to be awesome in this story.

            1. I don’t see Rose taking Evan as her familiar. I see her getting Ty to do it. And it would save Evan. But it’ll suck because the familiar bond is incredibly close, and Blake will have lost it, and Ty will have gained it, but not be at any real fault. It sort of feels like the sort of thing James Corvadae would do. Now Blake might well be willing to let Ty have Evan for a Familiar but I expect it’s still going to hurt that a friend has his familiar. And they don’t even remember him. Even if it isn’t their fault. Also I was pretty tired of the “What will Blake’s Familiar be” debate by the time he got Evan. And it’s hard to imagine Blake ever managing to find another Familiar he fits with as well as Evan.

            2. Did I imply that Rose had taken Evan as a familiar? That was not my intent. I just meant to combat the thought that Rose somehow stole away Evan. We know Evan was weak and Rose and her Blakeguard did something to stabilize him. Whether he is a familiar or not, I’m not sure.

        2. Or Rose suggested that Ty take Evan as his familiar to keep Evan alive. You know that sounds like a very James Corvadae thing to do.

            1. I didn’t mean it was JC’s doing or even that it was intentional. I was just musing that causing something dear to one person to end up with a friend and cause a rift is Corvadae’s MO.

      3. I’m less concern with what she did to Blake, and more concerned with the fact that she’s not only a vestige off of Granny Rose and that she saw what demons are capable of yet is willing to stand in Rose Srs. library without going CLEANSEPURGEBURN with a welding torch.

        That doesn’t exactly make her evil. But that makes her pretty fucking dangerous to just about everyone in town. Including Official Best Characters Mags, Evan and Sandra.

        1. You’re concerned because she’s going to the library? The library has been Blake and Rose’s lifeline this entire story. Even during the Toronto arc, Blake had Rose go to the library for books and and info.

          To declare Rose evil because she has access to and is deciding to use Granny Rose’s library is literally the exact same attitude that the Behaims and Duchamp’s have expressed against Blake, which the commenters have apparently despised.

          1. First. They used the library as a lifeline a lot before and during when they were dealing with Pauz and Urr. After which, if they had any sense, they would take only that which is non-diabolic and burn the rest. Blake hopefully realizes this by now. But Rose is a Thorburn through and through.

            Second, I kinda said Rose isn’t evil. Only that she’s dangerous. In the same way that a chimpanzee given a box of grenades is dangerous.

            1. Though you say that, there is an inherit irony in the situation. Of the 2, only Blake has actively practiced Diabolism, calling the names of demons and binding demon-like creatures, assuming you don’t consider the lawyers themselves to be Demonic.

              Rose has only gotten aggressive after being tainted by Conquest. I’m not saying she’s not dangerous, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

      4. Everyone keeps saying Rose can lie, but we have confirmation from the lawyers that she gets punished for lying (or in that case sarcasm) just like any practitioner. And if they can lie then then that’s just a whole new enormous can of worms.

  4. Blake’s “alive” ! Yay.

    Blake should turn himself around right now. He can marry a mermaid!!!

    I liked this chapter, though some of the descriptive narration regarding This Land of the Lost I found kinda hard to follow. That may just be because I’m going to sleep soon though.

    this place is a maze and it gets more like a maze all the time, when stuff breaks down. Just like people break down. It’s just what this place is.”

    “Where things that fall through the cracks go,” I said.

    This land must be filled with spare change and single socks.

    I get the feeling that it may not be the wisest idea for Blake to rest on a gargoyle.

    How many chapters until Blake becomes more of a monster?

    So Blake is now basically blind in one eye. Hmmmm. . . Who do we know who has a mysterious past, came out of nowhere and is blind in one eye? Let the theories commence!

    Blake. Blake Blake Blake.

    1. Where’s the facilitating time magic? Why would Blake consider, much less implement, the Bad Old Days Theme Park for murderous Others? Would Blake be reckless enough to take half a city for his demesne?

      I don’t buy it.

      1. I was more suggesting Johannes fell thru the cracks at one point and somehow got out with enough power to make his massive desmense claim.

      2. Maybe the theme park isn’t as bad as we’ve heard it to be. Maybe BJ (Blake/Johannes) is building an army of vestige/rat/dog creatures to… I don’t know, but an angel’s on board with it, so…

      3. Also Blake already has a familiar.

        The other famous magic using one-eyed guy who likes birds is Oden, although we’ve not seen him yet in this story and he put out his eye on purpose.

        1. That would be quite the game changer. Almost on par of my “Blake should take Loki as a familiar” sentiment from a long time ago.

        2. He doesn’t have one anymore, the Familiar bond was broken when his connections got eaten. Rose being here with Evan right now means that she performed the Familiar ritual with him to save him, basically she stole Blake’s familiar.

          1. Technically speaking, she didn’t have to perform the familiar rite. She just needed to stabilize him and no one said he was still a familiar. It’s not stealing if the bond wasn’t there anymore.

      4. Time magic just doesn’t seem to be that powerful in Pact. The Behaims, who specialize in chronomancy couldn’t do this, so why should anyone else be able to?

        And to name just one random incongruence between Johannes and Blake, Johannes isn’t just blind in one eye; his one eye socket is empty.

        Actually, considering Blake is blind in one eye, I’m more worried some part of ErasUr nested in there…

        1. Who said they can’t? They just didn’t. Presumably, if it was possible it would have a very high and very permament cost to perform magic of this caliber though.

        2. Time magic just doesn’t seem to be that powerful in Pact. The Behaims, who specialize in chronomancy couldn’t do this, so why should anyone else be able to?

          I think its actually the opposite. Time magic is incredibly powerful. According to Rose, its also extremely expensive. The Behaims can truly affect time but its much easier and cheaper to only affect perceptions and use it to make very educated guesses.

          If we find someone willing to truly turn back (or forward) time in any meaningful amount, that will be the mark of having a massive amount of stored power.

        3. “If your eye offends you, pluck it out.” BJ apparently won’t/didn’t see a reason to continue with a nonfunctional eye, so he traded it off (and will trade it) to an Other.

      5. So Blake is now basically blind in one eye. Hmmmm. . . Who do we know who has a mysterious past, came out of nowhere and is blind in one eye? Let the theories commence!

        Funny, I was first thinking that too. Hey, doesn’t Johannes also have a crippled hand and leg? Well look at Blakes hand.

      6. ” Would Blake be reckless enough to take half a city for his demesne?”
        No, no he would not. I get this feeling he would take at least a whole city.

    2. Maybe that’s why Johannes is so willing to help Maggie out. Maybe he really was able to return her to any day she wanted. Did Blake/Johannes go back in time to scare Grandma into setting up everything she did?

    3. Umm. I was kinda reaching here, but from what I can tell Blake may have a scratched cornea (sharp trauma to external surface) or a torn retina (blunt trauma to head or eye) and corresponding loss of vision. (I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that there’s not been enough time passing for a severe eye infection. BUT. my point is that they are both repairable! (Hope springs eternal) so…. Any thoughts? Also any WMG about his loss of Sight? I’m actually gonna guess that the places between the spaces are overlapping worlds of both spirit and material so that’s why there was no effect when he tried to See. Sorry for my little garden of epileptic trees here.

  5. I was right! Blake did fall through the cracks just like he did at the police station.

    This is SO The Abyss (Death & Rebirth) of his Monomyth, I guess the Revelation part will be of Granny Rose’s backup plans coming into fruitation and the Transformation part will be how Blake gains power here in the Abyss.

    Given the loss of his eye, I’m getting a Snake Plissken vibe mixed with MacGyver & John McClane from Blake for his Heroic Archetype here anyone else?

        1. the best thing about a spear is that all the bad stuff happens a good 6 foot away from you 🙂

          BUT can’t take a spear on a bike, so I’d guess not

            1. It fits. Blake already has invented the Thorburn Style of Motorcycle Jousting back when the Goblin Sword was alive. I could actually see him becoming some sort of dark, motorcycle knight with a monstrous lance.

            1. I too noticed this is the journey through the underworld part of the story.

              Spear would be even more Phallic than the sword. Though he’s started kissing sewer mermaids, so maybe Blake’s working through some of his issues.

  6. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the game begins. The Man with the name of light and dark begins his climb.

      1. Quite possibly, but that was a lot of firepower brought to bear to set it up, make me think it had some extra twist.

      1. The time ring didn’t show up to the unawakened view. Since its just a perception that the unawakened don’t get to see Rose wouldn’t have much trouble getting in. Then she just drags everyone else along.

        1. That would have been an awful lack of forethought on Laird’s part. He was expecting to die in Toronto (or so says Sandra) , so why would he make a barrier that fizzles out when he dies? That would make all the next Thorburn heirs (and Blake, had he managed to get back) able to waltz in to the metaphorical nuclear silo. There’s gotta be some other way.

          1. Or become the next incarnation of Conquest don’t forget Sandra said it could be either or. If he became the incarnation of Conquest he would live a long. long, long time with the power to confront Johannes.

            1. It seems from Conquest’s hairsplitting with Fell’s ancestor that to become Conquest the person really does die. So I expect that the field is indeed not dependent on Laird’s life.

    1. Y’know, it’s entirely possible the time ring was tailored specifically to Blake. Rose had no problems going in and out before. We assumed it was due to her mirror nature, but maybe it only ever affected Blake (and extensions of him like the rock he threw).

  7. Time for a mind exercise. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Rose has known more than she let on from the beginning and is/was actually evil. With this condition in mind, let’s examine Blake and some of other’s interactions with him.

    When Laird, trained to fight the evils of diabolist, first approached Blake, who was there? The evil lady Thorburn who probably already started corrupting him. Knowing

    Could it be reasoned, then, that the Behaims and Duchamps were justified in their wanting to eliminate/nullify Blake immediately. He goes from a hapless newcomer to a newcomer with an evil guide who has already started to lead him down a Dark path and has access to “The Worst Kinds of Others”.

    I really wish I was more awake so that I could post this in a more eloquent and stimulating way.

    (I don’t think Rose is evil, btw)

    1. I feel like it’d be more accurate to describe her as a Thorburn. While Blake carries the name he, in essence, cut his ties with the family. The only reason he even showed up was to tell Granny Thorburn what he thought of her.

      Rose, on the other hand, stuck with the family and was certainly the target of some of her cousins/aunts/uncles plots. Beyond that she either was involved in some of her own or tacitly approved of her parents engaging in them.

      With an upbringing like that, EVERY person whose name ends in Thorburn is a potential enemy, and it only makes sense to not tell them anything and everything you know. And, unlike Molly and Blake, Rose has had time to become knowledgable before having to take up her duties as the Thorburn. The only other heir that is likely to have that advantage will be Paige, and there’s no way for Granny Thorburn to have known that a sphinx would take in one of her grandchildren.

      So, Molly takes the initial brunt of plans saved by those who want there to be no more Thorburns. Blake, the one to show enough spine to call her a rancid cunt, gets to act as a kind of bodyguard for Rose until such a point as he dies. And then Rose takes over and hopefully has enough know how to survive whatever else the practitioners of Jacob’s Bell have left in their quivers, hopefully after wasting their best shots on the two decoy heirs.

      From Rose Sr’s standpoint it makes a certain amount of pragmatic sense. Molly to take the first hits from the practitioners, hopefully weakening them somewhat. Then the grandson who’ll tell a little old lady on her deathbed exactly what he thinks of her. The huge brass ones on someone like that should keep him staggering along for at least two weeks, plenty of time for the vestige, which neither eats nor sleeps, to read all the important parts of the library. You don’t want them further down the line though, otherwise something might have happened to the mansion, or an heir might’ve gotten lucky and survived long enough to become dangerous to themselves but not their enemies, and wasted some of the metaphorical nukes stored in the house.

      Anyway, didn’t mean for it to be that long… Just my two cents and whatnot… :/

      1. That makes far more sense than most of the other speculation, which sadly means it’s probably off somewhere :/ 😀

      2. Pragmatic, but cold as ice. She condemned two of the nicest of their family to death to get her ideal candidate. When Blake dies because of this he’s got a one-way trip to Hell courtesy of her.

        Even if she’s disappointed in her family, that was still messed up.

        1. Blake liked Molly, right? So I wonder if the use of Molly as the first heir was also meant to antagonise Blake into being stronger than he would have been.

      3. The Rose of today never had an upbringing that is all fake, she is nothing but the vestige of Granny Rose. Remember what Granny Rose wrote in her book? “I’m changing the deal”. She is talking about the deal with the Beheims, the making of her vestige broke the deal with them.

        1. And now we’re into the point where I need to start linking Wikipedia articles in order to cover /why/ I can’t articulate a logical response to something. Namely, that because Rose is Swampman and/or a replicant like Deckard out of DADoES and/or created ex nihilo last Thursday, any scars she has and the memories of her past are obviously unimportant. Anyway, SWAMPMAN! And Last Thursdayism.


  8. Thank wildbow, I remember who Blake is now! He should become one who feeds for strength to fight ultimate evil rose.
    Also, let’s get the mermaid x Blake ship going! All aboaaaaaaard

  9. Calling it now, Blake had come up with on of his crazy plans that just might work to keep his memories from EraseUr. It worked, but he can’t really remember his plan any more.

    1. I guess she still shows up in reflections, and there just weren’t any reflective surfaces in the tunnel?

    2. This place is supposed to break down stuff right? I assume it showed him that vision to break Blake down with the truth especially because it works so much better than lies.

    3. I’m expecting Blake to somehow find a way to interact with Rose through some kind of grimy surface, sewage or smth. The opposite to the clean, reflective surfaces she used.
      She would totally flip out the first time she sees him. And then she’d try to banish him or worse. :/

      … Better reach Mags first. Goblins have a way with ugly and dirty.

  10. Rose followed the directions in her book. Its possible that Rose Sr. set her up. Its also possible, Rose has been lying to Blake the whole time.

    What doesnt make sense is that she can talk to Evan, but hasnt done the ritual. Its possible that even though Rose is out of the mirror, she is still an other.

      1. Laird (who had knowledge with diabolism) called her a vestige with no uncertainty. On the other hand, Johannes didn’t ever call her one, and while we’ve seen how fragile Johannes’ vestiges are, we’ve never seen cracks form in Rose.

        More interestingly, in 2.04-2.05 Ms. Lewis talks about vestiges, and upon rereading, I see that she never comes right out and says that Rose actually is one.

        But if vestiges aren’t Others, and yet she is one and can even lie, does that mean she isn’t covered by Solomon’s seal?

        1. Wait, this reminds me. Johannes knew that Blake and Rose were one in the same, and Blake wondered how he knew when the others didn’t seem to know. And Grandma Rose said she thought Johannes was an adopted name.

          I don’t really think Johannes is Future!Blake, considering Wildbow’s dislike of time travel plots, but I can’t help but feel it’s more possible now. I doubt it, but still.

  11. The story takes place December of Last year right?

    Theory time: you know what hasn’t been mentioned? Christmas! Why? Because it doesn’t exist in the Pactverse. Santa fell thru the cracks a few years back. What Blake needs to do is find Santa, kill him and take his powers to escape.

      1. I don’t think they have to worry about Karma in the Gutter. I don’t think there are spirits down there to keep track of it

        That brings another idea. Maybe Blake’s sight does work. Right now he’s in a place surrounded by nothingness where everyone has lost their connections. His sight could even be on full spirit world mode and he might not even realize it.

        1. The Gutter? Hmm… we need to go deeper. To the Gulch! And the horrible wormy things that lurk within!

          Blake should keep an eye out for any statues that spit poison, those things can be such a bother.

          1. He needs to keep his only eye out. He can get a badass eyepatch too! And get a code name so Rose doesn’t know it’s him, something like… Snake, possibly? Sounds a bit like Blake too!

      2. Nah it’s fine, Once Blake steals / eats and kills Santa then he’ll have the ton of good karma stockpiled from giving away all the Prezzies!

      3. Blake’s more the sort to team up with Santa to escape then kill him. Also Christmas would still exist as it was around long before Santa. What with Jesus birth and everything. So Blake should team up with Santa, and they should bust out of the cracks with Santa’s sleigh on fire, Blake playing a guitar with one arm, and holding Green Eyes with the other. That would be so metal a album cover.

    1. On the first day of christmas,
      Santa sent Blake,
      A sphinx’ swipe to the chest!

      On the second day of christmas,
      Santa sent Blake,
      Two friends’ worth of blood,
      And a sphinx’ swipe to the chest!

      On the third day of christmas,
      Santa sent Blake,
      Three days of well-deserved rest,
      Two friends’ worth of blood,
      And a sphinx’ swipe to the chest!

      On the fourth day of christmas,
      Santa sent Blake,
      Four deadly foes,
      Three days of well-deserved rest,
      Two friends’ worth of blood,
      And a sphinx’ swipe to the chest!

      On the fifth day of christmas,
      Santa sent Blake,
      FiveOne hell of a demon,
      Four deadly foes,
      Three days of well-deserved rest,
      Two friends’ worth of blood,
      And a sphinx’ swipe to the chest!

  12. This was a great chapter. I liked the Mags arc a lot too, but at times it felt like Wildbow was off his stride, a little. This chapter is back in stride.

    Green-eyes is cool and her backstory is creepy.

    Also, Blaaaaake. I missed you.

  13. I hope he goes back to visit her until he can get free. Then he summons her from the depth using the name he gave her as their connection and keeps her tethered to the real world rather than being pursued by some Black Fish…

    Then again, it’s just as likely she gets eaten and our hearts bleed from the knife put into our backs.

    1. I was thinking that Blake could talk Green Eyes into luring the Black Fish to the surface with Blake as bait, somehow beach the thing with Blake then bashing it’s head in with a blunt instrument, once safe to handle, they split the corpse with Green Eyes eating the flesh and Blake taking the bones as weapons or barter goods.

      1. Hmmn, Blake named Green Eyes. Names have power. And sometimes the namer is supposed to have power over the named.

        Anyways, I hope he does get to summon her out. Maybe ask Mags for goblin chunks to feed Green Eyes.

            1. That might make her better looking, but also make her more of a bastard.

              She needs to be fed stuff that will let her float better, and make her a stronger swimmer and Mermaid and stuff.

            2. With a snicker-snack Padraic
              Give a fish a bone
              This old Blake comes rolling home

    1. That’s what I was thinking, especially with a fixed number of exits and trials to overcome to get through each.

      One makes you hold your breath and swim against the current, so only those unnaturally adapted to the water would get through.

      It’s possible there’s a similar exit for goblins (e.g. crawling through a river of shit for days, having to eat whatever food you found in that river) and possibly other Others.

      I doubt you’d have an exit that would only work for Faerie. It doesn’t really fit for the whole “break things down” aspect of this place, not when Faerie are supposed to be extremely refined.

      That means that this place can’t be the only source of Others, though it could definitely make some of them. I wonder what sort of practitioner comes to claim Others from there?

      1. Remember the story about Goblins being the parts of Faerie that are undesirable?

        What if Faerie just eat everything, then cut the stuff that makes them look ugly OFF?

        Although I do remember a theory Blake had before about how Faeries were just practitioners who self-deluded hard enough that their delusions affected reality.

        1. That theory works just as well if they’re Others rather than practitioners.

          And yes. In a universe where legitimacy is defined by what you can convince the watching spirit jury of, the tricksters have a heck of an advantage…

      2. “I wonder what sort of practitioner comes to claim Others from there?”
        Possibly Rose. This sounds like the place they got Midge from, and where they sent her back to. So hey, maybe Blake will see a familer face.

  14. Well done Wildbow. =) I assumed as much and its coming together nicely. You’re a phenomenal storyteller.

  15. I WAS RIGHT!!!! 😀 Blake IS still alive with his connections cut!

    And this is totally awesome, Wildbow! You’re giving this whole feeling of badassery to Blake that even surpasses his badassery when he was fine and above ground. Now that we know there are Choirs of Angels acting as a counterpoint to the Choirs of Demons, maybe Blake could totally power up by visiting them, and go back to Urr and be all “Guess who’s back, motherfucker!” and slash it in the face with a freakin lightsaber!! (That was one of the few ways Blake can get EVEN more badass than he is right now. :P)

    But yeah, this theoretically means that Rose is a huuge bitch. And Blake doesn’t know that he has an ally in The Mags With The Checkered Scarf, because he doesn’t know Mags’ story of coming very close to falling through the cracks. So he’ll probably claw his way back top-side, and never trust any living soul ever again. 😥

      1. Well, most of them. The only reason why Mags’ connection didn’t get cut was because she was… non existent.

        Hmm… You know this gives out a lot of information upon the way the Pactverse works. Your name defines you in such a fundamental way that if you change your name, or lose it, there is almost no way of tracking someone down, but they one who changes their name still has all the memories of every experience as the person..

        If someone were willing, or strong enough, or persistent enough, to survive a loss of a name, or change their name, then as a practitioner they’d probably gain a lot of… wiggle room.

        If anyone’s ever read the Game of Thrones books, there’s this assassin guy “named” Jaqen H’ghar, who is actually someone who just changes his name and face for every mission. Someone who’s a sort of.. practitioner assassin.. would find this especially useful! He’d just be able to hunt down whoever needs hunting, and then disappear, cutting all ties with his last name.

      2. It WAS cut out. Except that Padraic had it when it was, meaning he was the one affected by Uur’s Demon-Mojo as he was “Maggie Holt” who had the connection to Blake. Mags had the MEMORIES of Blake, but no connection to him through which Uur’s Demon-Mojo could affect her.

  16. Wait wait wait.

    “Don’t think about the future, just think about the now”?

    “It’s easy to get distracted if you’re always thinking about the now”?

    So, what if this place makes Others, while the ones that get broken down completely become the spirits?

    The more you eat here, the more Other you become, because you’re essentially hollow and you’re just filling yourself with Others.

    Green-eyes’ description of how she’s easily distracted because she only thinks about the ‘now’ reminds me of spirits too.

    1. hnnnng, there have been a few times now that as I finish the last line of the chapter, I just start using every possible gendered expletive to curse Rose. WHY ROSE, WHY? I just have this vision of her finding “evidence” of her connection to Blake, then painting him in a really terrible light to all of his (old) friends, ensuring that they would never help him and if he gets back, they may even fight him (though that is me generally seeing the worst in Rose (not completely unwarranted))

      I’m really interested to see how the whole reflective thing works out. At first I thought Blake would take on Rose’s old habitation, and move around mirrors to follow Rose, but it seems more like Blake will be able to see Rose wherever she is? From which angle, I don’t know. Maybe from the closest reflective surface to her. But it also seems like he can only hear/see her because she’s in the house now.

      It’s weird because Rose described her world as dark except for the few sources of light that come from the mirrors. And Blake is similarly in a very dark place, though obviously a very different dark place.

      ALSO, she said “her gut was right” and I assume that’s about the key to get inside or the time warp thingy. But if it’s the key, then she only need enter her birthday to get in, which may mean her gut told her the house was hers. But her birthday is the same as Blake’s so it didn’t even have to change?? But she doesn’t know Blake so?? not sure where I’m going with this, tbh.

  17. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(…)aaaaay!
    Blake is alive! And here comes the apotheosis! Hell yeah. One of the reasons I thought Blake could have died is that I couldn’t picture any physical place he could have gone. I pictured ErasUrr eating his connections and then he just lay on the floor of the factory confused and walking out. That didn’t make sense.

    Since when does Blake have tattoos on both arms? Did he grow a second tattoo or am I remembering wrong?

    Blake has one eye bad. Is this eye the same eye which ErasUrr contaminated? Is that related in any way? I guess not, since it was never mentioned again.

    Blake, don’t push your dirty hands into your wounds you moron… I know it might seem cool to have a hole through your hand, but if you plan on getting out of there, you want to minimize any risk of infection or tissue damage (even if the damage was already done). Also, it seems that there are no germs in this underworld, even if there are animals.

    Comments on the writing:
    I found this chapter a little confusing. I couldn’t picture the scenery very well. I guess part of that is that it is a hard place to describe.
    A long time ago I commented how Blake always seemed to come up with a solution to any problem. That stopped happening eventually, and it is good to see a scared, beaten down Blake.
    I like how the wind sways those people whose Self has become weaker. I like how even mundane things become harder. But Blake isn’t as weak as Maggie was, yet.
    Green eyes was the first thing Blake saw that was alive? The insects weren’t?

    I dedicate this to Green Eyes:

    1. I like how the wind sways those people whose Self has become weaker. I like how even mundane things become harder. But Blake isn’t as weak as Maggie was, yet.

      This is because this happens when spirits don’t move out of the way for you.

      There aren’t any spirits in this weird underworld place.

  18. Ha, oh Rose. Why must you be so?

    Blake lives(?)! Apparently Ur didn’t get the chance to chomp on him, or at least it didn’t do so.

    The non-place is very creepy. And people seem to turn into Others in here. I must know more.


    1. There were numerous reasons to suspect Blake would survive, but I really hoped we’d get a POV switch to Rose, and yet… Argh. You were fated to die, Blake. Can’t you be satisfied with survival? Give Rose a chance to have the protagonist’s limelight, too!

    2. “like puppet hands I was operating by remote control” -> Worm reference (Xurcev); same with the bugs later on

    3. Blake survived in a way ErasUr would have trivially forseen. So did it plan that when it ate his connections, judging that this was the worst damage it could deal to him?

    4. Crone Mara just got a whole lot scarier. She was going to turn Scarf into compost…

    5. I wonder if the darkness in Rose’s mirror world corresponds to this world beyond the cracks here.

    6. Also, Blake sees/hears Rose through pools of still water, which would make sense if they have switched roles/places.

    7. From Green Eyes’ story, I wonder if the awakening ritual has something to do with the world beyond the cracks.

    8. Blake will likely be able to bring something back from this world. Maybe a member from the Knights?

      1. I like not seeing the inside of Rose’s head. It makes her more mysterious, and the ‘is she evil’ question harder to answer.
      2. I would hardly call the place where Blake anything close to survival. ErasUr had no way of knowing that Padriac was shielding The-Girl-Currently-Known-As-Mags from having her connection to Blake shattered. Had identity shenanigans not gone down, he would have likely been trapped down here forever.

      5/6. I’m slightly iffy on these. Blake had his connection to Rose eaten, so if anyone he should be seeing Mags through the reflections.

      1. I’m hoping that Blake is in a position to become a Maker – someone who has the ability to travel to this place and bring back what was lost, the antithesis of Demons everywhere.
      1. I’m pretty sure anything he brought back wouldn’t be the same as when it left, so technically anything lost to demons is still gone.

        And that’s assuming the whole “anything lost to demons” bit is talking about people and stuff falling through the cracks, but I’m pretty sure it’s talking about how the world has to restructure itself to work around the damage they deal to reality. For instance, Blake will never have those connections with his friends again. He’ll just always be that guy they supposedly knew before.

        1. I’m pretty sure it’s talking about how the world has to restructure itself to work around the damage they deal to reality. For instance, Blake will never have those connections with his friends again.

          I think you’re right here. Ur ate only the connections, that’s what can’t be gotten back. (Though they could be replaced.)

    1. Isadora and the others assumed he was fated to die. They saw his connection to them in the future end and assumed the reason for that was that he died. Even great powerful sphinx’s get bit in the ass when they assume.

      1. To be fair, if he didn’t fall through the cracks we all know he was deader than dead. Not to mention those connections Urr ate are gone permanently, never to return.

    2. Re #3, I pretty much assume that ErasUrr didn’t care. He destroyed Blake, mission accomplished. It’s even possible that what he really feeds on are the connections and anything else is a bonus…

  20. Before this chapter I imagined Blake curled up in a ball, shivering, lost in the dark…until a single, connection formed, leading off into the distance, thin but bright. He clung to the connection, a literal lifeline, and followed it like Theseus following the thread given to him by Ariadne, eventually stumbling his way out of this dark Labyrinth and back into the land of the living. And I don’t ship Whatstheirnames (Mags and Blake), but then he’d probably marry Mags, because what else does one do after something like that?

    If Rose did botch the awakening ceremony on purpose, then boo. Boo on you Rose Thorburn. My best guess is that it’s just her rationalization of her botched ceremony, though, which is much less awful.

    1. Wait a minute. . . Blake is in a labyrinth right now. Mags is the Goblin Queen. If Blake marries Mags, doesn’t that make him the Goblin King of the labyrinth? If that is the case, Blake should take a new, more powerful name upon marrying Mags. I vote for. . . Bowie.

  21. Comments, cont.d:

    1. If Rose fucked up her ritual on purpose, does that mean she wasn’t awakened at all so far?! Is that possible, given what we know? Like, at all? I’d be utterly amazed if so. She did indeed lack the Sight, but didn’t she use some other practitioner powers?
    2. The last scene of this chapter makes no sense to me whatsoever. Blake’s connections were supposed to have been erased! Irrevocably erased! Why can he recall and recognize Evan, Rose and Tiff? Why can he feel betrayed by Rose? In fact, why can he see Rose here, at all, without any connection to her?

    3. What’s up with this awfully convenient one-way clairvoyance which allows Blake to find out about Rose’s apparent betrayal, without her noticing?

    4. Incidentally, this is the second time Ur’s actions or powers received a serious downgrade, after the fact. (The first time was when Blake’s erased allies were identified as goblins in Fell’s Histories chapter.) This is not a good track record for the demons.

    5. And finally, if Blake’s bad Thorburn karma was really transferred to Rose, and his connections/memories were only erased one-way, and he’s even fulfilled his “fated to die” circumstances, the whole outcome seems way too convenient for him, given that it was caused by his suicidal “heroism” and his loss against a demon.

    I can stomach Blake’s return as the POV protagonist, but I’m disappointed by points 10-13.

    1. Oh don’t worry, I’m pretty sure bad stuff is still going to happen to Blake before the arc is through. The entire point of the place he’s in right now is to make people into Others.

      1. Oh, I’m sure plenty of bad things will still happen to Blake. I took issue with something else.

        Let me try to put it differently. In both Worm and Pact, the plot constantly escalates: for the protagonist, both the stakes and the challenges increase with each arc. (Sometimes even with each end-of-chapter cliffhanger.) I don’t take issue with things slowing down once in a while; the occasional break is a welcome change of pace.

        But here, the story lead us to believe that things had gone very, very badly by 7.11 – that matters had escalated a ton – and now we see that it’s nowhere near as bad. Blake’s survival was always in the cards, but that he kept his memories despite ErasUr eating his connections is disappointing. And since ErasUr is the most prominent representative of the devils in Pact, it’s especially problematic that it just took a second major power hit.
        Same with him surviving the fight despite his bad karma (!), getting rid of the bad karma as a result of this suicidal act, and even presumably overcoming his prophesied death.

        No, things aren’t looking good for Blake right now, but from what we knew, they were supposed to be looking far worse.

        1. oooooooooooohhhh-kay. another orund of speculation:
          ErasUr chewed his connections to other people, therefore causing his state of “dead to the world”.
          This led to:
          * Blake falling though the cracks
          * Rose manifesting
          The forgetting part may or may not be a result from one of the two effects, and not of the connection-eating itself.

          WHY ErasUr ate his connections instead of him, THATs the question.

          1. ErasUr ate Blake’s connections because he himself was standing in a protective diagram and couldn’t be touched. The demon could go after his connections, though, because those extended outside the diagram into the shadows ErasUr was occupying.

            As for why Blake didn’t lose his memories, it’s because he fell through the cracks first. Remember that the memory-erasure thing isn’t ErasUr’s doing; that’s just the result of the universe reorienting itself to account for the demon eating something and destroying it forever (in this case, Blake’s connections) Blake didn’t need to reinvent himself to fit back into the universe, because the universe pushed him out instead. Blake has no memory loss, in other words, because he sort of got his whole self lost instead, memories and all.

            1. ErasUr ate Blake’s connections because he himself was standing in a protective diagram and couldn’t be touched.


              The demon could go after his connections, though, because those extended outside the diagram into the shadows ErasUr was occupying.


              As for why Blake didn’t lose his memories, it’s because he fell through the cracks first.

              I doubt this part. He didn’t lose the memories because Ur only ate the parts of the connections outside the diagram. Remember Isadora’s POV? Ur ate along the connections, including inside the minds of people. But if Blake was protected, he’d still have his “ends” of the connections, albeit frayed (and his memories). We’ve already seen examples of “one-sided connections” in one of the Mags chapters, Blake’s somewhat unreliable memories are probably tied to something similar.

    2. Incidentally, this is the second time Ur’s actions or powers received a serious downgrade, after the fact. (The first time was when Blake’s erased allies were identified as goblins in Fell’s Histories chapter.) This is not a good track record for the demons.

      I don’t understand what you mean when you talk about these weakness retcons. When Blake first “fought” Erasurrr, he lost allies. The Histories chapter showed us that the allies were goblins. How is that a downgrade?

      Also when talking to the Knights, it was specifically mentioned that this was a possibility when dealing with Erasurrr, that is, just losing enough connections to fall thru the cracks.

      I think people seem to forget that Erasurrr was first identified as a minor demon. Though she turns out to be bigger and stronger than first expected, it is a real possibility that she is still on the weaker side of the fully grown demon scale.

      1. The issue isn’t necessarily one of retcons – of ErasUr’s displayed power being inconsistent with what happened before, but rather, one with them being revealed as weaker than expected.

        Relevant quote for the first situation:

        We’d failed.
        Only a detached limb to show for it. Three allies gone.
        How were we supposed to face down Conquest like _this_?

        Pact is in some ways considered a horror story, right? When Blake lost his [revealed-as-goblins] allies and couldn’t remember them, ErasUr was utterly horrifying – from what we’d just witnessed, everything in the preceding story had come in doubt. This reveal seemed more stunning than the Maggie-was-actually-Padraic reveal later on proved to be. And then, barely one chapter later, we got the comparatively benign reveal that it was actually just goblins.
        That’s what I mean when I call it a downgrade.

        Relevant quote for the second situation:

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

        The straightforward interpretation of that line (and the fact that nobody else remembered Blake) sure made it seem as if Blake had lost his memories, too.
        Again, the story made ErasUr seem more scary again in 7.11, and yet it turned out to be far less scary.

        I’m sure there’s a corresponding TV Trope for this (Cliffhanger Copout doesn’t really fit), but my issue is that if story events happen which are designed to shock the reader, it’s problematic if they appear less shocking in retrospect. In Wormverse and Pactverse, the notion that “things are better than expected” is deeply problematic for the same reason that “things are worse than expected” work so very well.

        1. Oh, ok that’s fair, though I still personally disagree with that sentiment. I guess I just wasn’t as shocked/disappointed with the reveals as you were.

          In my opinion, finding out that the lost allies were goblins doesn’t change anything for me. An Other ally is an ally nonetheless. There’s also the thought of how powerful the Blake goblins could have become. Remember that The Hyena was a goblin and the barber seems to be part goblin.

          I also don’t really have a problem with the memories thing, partly because of my points listed above, and also because we just had an entire arc with something very similar happening to Mags. Though she was losing her connections, and her dads didn’t recognize her,she didn’t lose any memories herself. As she’s the only one who we’ve seen this happen to while following her point of view, I just used her as a model.

          I suppose it just comes down to a difference of perspective between us.

          1. What happened to Mags is a different thing than happened to Blake. Mags had her identity literally stolen (okay, traded). Blake had his connections directly attacked. The outcome is quite similar but it’s the difference between someone physically disconnecting a server from the internet (severing all connection) and tweaking the DNS registry so the Maggie.Holt URL points to Padraic’s site instead (stealing a name).

    3. She did some summonings and bindings but it’s possible those were trading on her status as the rightful Thorburn heir. Incidentally I don’t think she did mess it up on purpose. With Blake’s total erasure she’s probably forgotten about the mirror world entirely – she was only in there because of him, after all. All she knows is that she did the Awakening ritual differently for… some reason? and now wants to correct that.
      Still trying to make sense of that myself. If connections are actually two one-way streams rather than one two-way one it raises the question: How is that functionally different from people just having memory? How is it a connection at all?
      Urr’s powers didn’t receive a downgrade re: the goblins. He severed the Goblins’ cconnections meaning that noone instory knew they ever existed. This includes Blake who is the narrator and, since he’s narrating this in the past tense, he doesn’t remember the goblins to include them in his story. Histories is not a story being told to us by someone instory, its being told by some omniscient narrator beyond the Pactverse (let’s call him “Wildbow”. :P).

      What happened in this chapter isn’t so much a downgrade as more information becoming available. Remember that, until now, it was pure speculation what actually happened to Urr’s victims. All anyone knew is that people had probably faced Urr in the past and that those people had been forgotten as though they’d never existed. Having your connections severed in one direction, causing you to fall through the cracks and never be seen again fits that perfectly.

  22. It seems that a lot of us think that Blake is hearing what is actually happening.

    Remember where he is, and what the purpose of the place is.

    I certainly won’t say that it’s not Rose and the others he’s hearing, but I think it’s just as likely some Other, or effect of the place that is intentionally attacking him at his strongest bonds.

    The place he is in is a place of entropy, unless you are strong, then it is a place of corruption.

  23. Once again I don’t know how to feel, is Blake on his way back or is it something more ominous? If he does come back, he won’t be the same, is it the fires that forge him stronger or that burns and breaks?
    Rose may not be the big bad, but she is seeming worse and worse with every revelation. Not that anyone in the Pactverse is pure and noble, it just feels worse that it is her.

    1. I’m not sure why you guys think Rose purposefully screwed up the Awakening ritual. As has been noted, there are other, simpler explanations thanks to Ur–. However, has anyone stopped to consider why Rose would do such a thing?

      First off, she probably didn’t know that she could survive after Blake’s death, let alone take over. Second, she needs every ally she can get, including Blake. Third, seriously–what does she get from sabotaging Blake?

  24. I’m not sure why people are thinking Rose did some huge betrayal. I honestly can’t understand it.

    Her awakening ritual was messed up initially because she was a vestige. Now that she’s not, she has the Erasurr magic rationalize it as a purposeful messup.

    She’s reclaimed the house, reconstituted the BlakeGaurd, she’s going to power herself up. However, she hasn’t summoned a demon yet so she hasn’t gone all diabolist and the fact that she’s out of the mirror means she’s no longer dependent on summoned creatures to be her hands.

    I don’t see what else she should be doing that would be “good.”

    I am dead serious that I would love for someone to explain how the end of this chapter is a betrayal by Rose, because I read it as prudence and indifference.

    1. I don’t get it either. I think people might be taking her claim of botching the Awakening ritual on purpose at face value? That would imply SOME kind of plot she never told Blake about. I figured it was just a demonic memory trip, though. As far as she’s aware, she’s ALWAYS been a flesh-and-blood girl without mirror powers, which is presumably making her memories of the past few weeks very difficult to parse.

      For instance, she had a “gut feeling” on how to penetrate the time field surrounding the Thorburn manor. Blake figured out that the Behaim time magic was mostly theatrics. Rose knows that, but she can’t remember HOW she knows.

      Anyway, I like that Blake still exists. 🙂 Unlike most people who wash down where he is, he still has a lifeline to the real world. Mags claimed a connection to him, and UR apparently didn’t have the ability to destroy it. He might actually get to come back.

      Also, there needs to be a better name than “real world” for the place where Rose et al. are right now.

      1. I want to say World Above but that’s because this whole connections cutting thing is making me think of Neverwhere even though the resemblance is superficial.

      2. Yes its a plot, its the plot hatched by her real self, Granny Rose, all those years ago at the end Histories (Arc 6). Go back and reread the seen where Granny Rose talks to Aimon at the cemetery after the burial of Aimon’s father. There you find out how Granny Rose made a vestige of herself: The Barber.

        Also there you see that she and Aimon made a plan where they would change the fates of both their families and it is in furtherance of that plan that she made a vestige of herself, also keep in mind we don’t know how much vestige Rose remembers of her life as Granny Rose, nor do we know if Granny left a note for vestige self in the book Vestiges for her vestige to read, Remember before Blake did the awakening ritual vesitge admitted that she read almost all of the first book and that she didn’t need sleep. Remember also that read way more of the books int he library than Blake did.

        1. Histories 6 mentions that Barbatorem can “carve out a reflection”, which quite obviously refers to Rose, but it doesn’t actually say that the reflection belonged to Rose Senior. It’s plausible, I guess. Remembering her life as Rose Sr. just sounds far-fetched, though. Especially since at least one of her mirror-world books, Essentials, was different from Blake’s copy. That wouldn’t be necessary if she remembered the various schemes that Rose Sr. was running.

    2. It’s very easy to be swept along with the “damn you Rose” bandwagon because initially it does seem as if she was actually nasty all along – so for instance Rose and Blake swearing to help each other…. only helps her, because only HIS oath has meaning.

      Now if we dig deeper (like I had to when reading the comments XD)…..then maybe it’s not the case. Probably the best evidence that Rose ISN’T an asshole is the note she left herself about not manipulating his friends. That she left that note implies:
      1) Blake means enough to her than she doesn’t want to wreck what he has left in the world
      2) She did her best to stop the Rose-Who-Never-Met-Blake from doing what she’d do, if she’d never been shown by Blake that she didn’t need to act like a Thornburn.

      Or maybe she set out to fuck over Blake but changed her mind at some point, who knows.

      1. I’m on the suspecting Rose crowd myself. I won’t say she’s guiltless. That note she left herself and her reaction are a large part of what makes me think she set him up. Now I may be wrong, after all I thought Blake was gone for good. Also some of her reactions to Blake’s kindness, where she feels guilty.

        1. Remember Granny Rose had the Barber that can make Vestiges. Remember the Barber wasn’t there when Blake checked on him meaning that he fulfilled his contract. There is a “Rose” vestige and when you add those things together it adds up to vestige Rose being a vestige of Granny herself. Now why would she do that? Go back ad reread the end to Histories (Arc 6) where Granny Rose hatches a plot with Aimon Beheim. Now ask your self how much does a vestige remember of their past life? If vestige Rose remembers the plan Granny Rose has than that explains why she botched the ritual because she had to, to make the plan work.

          1. Remember Granny Rose had the Barber that can make Vestiges. Remember the Barber wasn’t there when Blake checked on him meaning that he fulfilled his contract.

            Am I remembering things incorrectly? Iirc, Blake didn’t see Barbie the first time because he was unawakened, but when he came the 2nd time Barbie was there. I didn’t bother to go back and double check before posting this. Was there a third time he went to the Barber, or am I remembering wrong.

            I got the impression from Granny Rose’s detailed instructions on how to deal with the Barber that, while it is currently bound, each deal it makes is separate and should be made with care.

            I’m not arguing against, Barbie being used in the formation of Rose. That much was pretty obvious from Granny Rose’s Histories. I just don’t think this specific part of your theory holds up.

            1. Speaking of Others and Seeing, Rose was perfectly capable of perceiving and communicating with others when she was in the mirror. Once out of the mirror, she could communicate with Evan. And she’s apparently enough of a practitioner that she felt compelled to go tell Mags that she wasn’t contesting her name claim.

            2. That witch-hunter was also able to see and respond to things, so Rose’s ability to see and respond isn’t definitive proof for anything.

            3. Barbatorem was also hiding in his shears. The first thing he did once Blake came in (awakened) was come out of the shears (and them jam them into his thigh as a placeholder).

          2. Tbh I’d argue strongly against the Rose Sr.

            Mirrors show a reflection but one which is reversed, with left and right flipped. Take it even further and you reverse personality, beliefs….even gender. Rose Sr. might have picked Blake simply because he’s the furthest from what she’d want as an heir, so that his reflection is as close as possible.

    3. Blake seems to think that Rose betrayed him. “Except the stab in the back didn’t come from the Drains.”

      Based on that, it’s not unreasonable to think Rose botched her ritual purposefully. If she did, it would ramp the story’s conflict level up by 500% and call into question everything she’s ever done, so I’m hoping she did do it on purpose.

  25. Blake is in the labyrinth and like Theseus he has a thread (his connection to Mags). He has to find the thread and follow it out but he’ll have fight the minotaur first.

    And if Mags is his Ariadne the who, or what, is his minotaur?

    In the end I just hope he treats Mags better than Theseus treated Ariadne.

    This arc is “Null”. I wonder if the next will be “Reclaim” or similar.

  26. I worked out a convoluted WMG giving Rose a way out of the ‘selfish bitch’ path this seems to slap on her.
    Mainly related to what happened when she was Conquered.

    Let’s see if it ends up anywhere near what wildbow delivers (PROTIP: haha it won’t).

  27. Huh. Straight into the next arc without a Histories chapter? I wasn’t expecting that.

    I hope Blake does summon Green Eyes once he gets out of there, though.

  28. I don’t want to cast my bets too quickly, but this is giving off some unpleasant Deus Ex Machina vibes, like it’ll be gur Raq Vagreyhqr all over again…

    1. Can you elaborate on that?

      My POV: V jnf fyvtugyl sehfgengrq gung rirelbar npgrq nf vs gurl xarj sbe pregnva gung Gnlybe jnf qrnq, nygubhtu bayl hf ernqref unq nal ernfba gb oryvrir gung.

      I’ve mentioned my own misgivings for this turn of events above, but I wouldn’t apply the Deus Ex Machina label to them.

      1. Well, when Gnlybe inavfurf sebz gur jbeyq nsgre univat qrzbafgengrq n pbzcyrgr vanovyvgl gb pbzzhavpngr gb rira ure pybfrfg sevraqf, V guvax gurl’er whfgvsvrq va guvaxvat fur’f qrnq.

        But what, exactly, are you saying isn’t a Deus Ex Machina–Pbagrffn’f ohyyrg fhetrel, gur fhofrdhrag harkcynvarq (varkcyvpnoyr?) pher bs Gnlybe’f ceboyrzf naq erzbiny bs ure cbjref, rgp, or Blake’s as-of-yet unexplained existence (and, relatedly, the fact that Mags somehow remembers him)?

        1. I have no problem with that part in Worm: Pbagrffn vf cerggl zhpu bzavcbgrag, fb gur “Qrhf Rk Znpuvan” ynory frrzf gnhgbybtvpny – jung fur qvq jvgu Gnlybe jnfa’g zber fcrpgnphyne guna r.t. ure pehfuvat n pregnva pncr tebhc nybar, be sbhaqvat Pnhyqeba; naq vs lbh arrq n ernfba sbe ubj fur pbhyq znxr Gnlybe ybfr ure cbjref, vg frrzrq yvxr Qbbeznxre cebivqrq n grzcyngr sbe gung.

          What about Blake’s current situation is Deus Ex Machina, or “as-of-yet unexplained”?
          I predicted Blake’s survival (okay, more like, I noticed enough ambiguities in 7.11 and Histories 7 that left room for Blake’s survival), though I dismissed the specific falling-through-the-cracks thing because it seemed like Ur should foresee and prevent this route of escape. But as someone said above, in 7.11 Blake was safe where he was, so hurting him by cutting his connections was Ur’s only option to harm him at that moment, and from that, the notion of falling through the cracks was foreshadowed multiple times in the story (e.g. with the Knights).

          So Blake survived because Ur never ate him (and in 7.11 it was never stated that it did), and he fell through the cracks because his connections had been cut; no-one at the factory remembered him because Ur ate his connections to “the individuals just outside the buildings”, whereas Mags remembers him because she a) wasn’t there (so Maggie Holt’s connection was erased instead), b) because she reaffirmed her connection to him in her pseudo-demesne-ritual, and maybe also c) because she was very close to falling through the cracks, too.

          I have no issue with anything up to that part; what I take issue with is Blake remembering everyone else. See my comments above on this chapter.

          1. I called out Ur, as potentially not actually killing but merely isolating when we first heard about it IIRC. Then we started getting stuff like Isadora and her rock explanation. When we finally heard Ur was cutting connections its pretty obvious what the result would be.

            The memory thing is a bit of a surprise, but we’ve seen one-sided connection severing before. Cutting a connection to someone can keep them from noticing you, while you still know about them. Even Isadora’s ability to distribute the damage shows that a connection loss won’t eliminate memory. Its HOW Ur ripped apart the connection that caused the memories to go.

            Mags is the biggest example of one-sided effects when a connection is lost. She remembers everyone else, but they can’t recognize her.

            1. Like I keep saying (to be fair, long after you posted this) Maggie didn’t have her connections severed she had her identity stolen. The outcomes for her and Blake are fairly similar, but the mechanisms are quite different. To further complicate matters, Maggie’s current state may be at least partially due to her (or the universe) being glamoured into believing it.

          2. Svefg bss, gubfr riragf qba’g dhnyvsl nf Qrhf Rk Znpuvan orpnhfr gurl’er abg erfphvat gur urebvar sebz pregnva qbbz. Frpbaq bss, juvyr gurl’er zber vzcerffvir, gurl’er abg zber vzcynhfvoyr. Nsgre nyy, qrsrngvat pncrf be sbhaqvat betnavmngvbaf vf qvssvphyg, ohg vg’f abg vzcbffvoyr (naq, va snpg, jvyqobj qvq uvf orfg gb rkcynva ubj fhpu guvatf jrer cbffvoyr, ol qrfpevovat gur gnpgvpf hfrq). Urnyvat Gnlybe be cresbezvat oenva fhetrel jvgu n senpxvat ohyyrg vf vzcbffvoyr; V fnl gur sbezre orpnhfr bs ubj shaqnzragnyyl fperjrq hc fur jnf naq ubj rirelbar ryfr onfvpnyyl pbapyhqrq gung fur jnf n ybfg pnhfr, naq gur ynggre orpnhfr vg’f oenva fhetrel jvgu ohyyrgf!. Gurer’f “nyjnlf xabjf gur nafjre, vs gurer vf bar” naq gura gurer’f “qbrf jungrire gur nhgube arrqf”. Pbagrffn jnf pyrneyl ba gur svefg fvqr sbe arneyl gur ragver fgbel, ohg pebffrq gur yvar qrsvavgviryl gurer.
            Nf sbe Pnhyqeba erzbivat cbjref…nfvqr sebz n guebjnjnl guerng zbfg bs gur fgbel ntb, jr unq ab vaqvpngvba gung gurl pbhyq qb gung naq ab vaqvpngvba nf gb ubj gurl sbyybjrq guebhtu. Va fhpu n qrrc naq qrgnvyrq fgbel, gung’f n cerggl ovt bzvffvba, rira vs vg’f bhgjrvturq ol ubj gurl zntvpnyyl svkrq Gnlybe.
            Gung’f abg rira trggvat vagb gurzngvp vffhrf be nal bs gung.

            Well, let’s start by noting that the “falling-through-the-cracks” thing was mentioned with respect to someone who wasn’t actually eaten by Ur–. There wasn’t enough to hold them anywhere, but there were enough to remember them by. Let’s also point out that there was zero foreshadowing that anything Ur– did eat could have remaining connections (unless you count the half-remembered girl who various characters used the ability to remember as proof that she wasn’t actually eaten), and it was clearly stated that everyone who Ur– ate would be forgotten by everyone. Everyone, no matter how strong the connection. Are you going to tell me that Mags’s connection to Blake after her re-affirmation was stronger than that Blake had with Alexis or Rose? (To say nothing of how it survived long enough for Mags to do the ritual, since the ritual was done when Rose & co were able to get to Jacob’s Bell relatively quickly, suggesting that it happened after Blake got nommed unless Rose dropped everything to go there.) And that c is kinda pointless; it’s a weak argument, not in the least because there was zero foreshadowing that that would affect anything.

            TL;DR: If you’re going to kill a protagonist, don’t bring them back next chapter!

            1. Maggie Holt’s connection to Blake was cut. More specifically, it was eaten by a demon of Darkness, meaning that it is permanently, irrevocably GONE and there is no way to ever get it back.

              Mags, of course, lost that connection even earlier, when Padraic took it. That’s the reason she was able to remember Blake. There was no connection, nothing for the demon to follow back to her.

              She presumably has a connection NOW, though. She made a new one, at the same time she laid claim on some of her other connections and her new name. To clarify, this happened AFTER Blake fought the demon and fell through the cracks.

              Which of course was all foreshadowed in Histories 7. Rose Senior’s book even goes as far as to explicitly state that “that which is destroyed can be replaced”.

            2. If there was no connection before Ur ate Blake, Mags shouldn’t have been able to remember Blake before that. After all, the reason Ur makes people forget other people is that it eats their connections.

              “That which is destroyed can be replaced” is pretty weak foreshadowing; it’s vague and could be applied to anything at any time. You know what would have been better foreshadowing? Not having told us that Ur–‘s eating got rid of things permanently!

            3. No, the half-remembrances of the Knight girl weren’t used as proof that she wasn’t actually eaten. Her friends didn’t have half-remembrances of her. They had tangential things that could only really be explained if someone like that had once existed, which they posited were proof of a sort that someone like that had really existed. In Blake’s case, everything tangential to his presence is easily explained simply by Rose’s existence.

              Conquest may or may not be pointless — we don’t know what happened to him. In this “new version of reality”, did Rose bind C? Did Conquest get free (again, or has he always been free)? Wasn’t Conquest stashed in one of Blake’s toolboxes? Is everyone who had a connection to Conquest, i.e. those who still supported him after he was bound, still looking for him?

              Now, Mag’s had a connection to Blake because, at the time Blake’s connections were cut, she didn’t have any connections to anything. ErasUr chomped all of the connections from Blake to anything/anyone else. Mags had no connections to anyone, and her mind didn’t rush to override her memories of Blake with memories of Rose because her connections weren’t altered by a powerful demon.

              Now the interesting questions and things are going to be how people respond to Rose when their memories have them reacting to “that person” (previously Blake and now Rose) in a different manner. Take Alexis, for instance. Did she ever romantically want to be involved with Blake? Now that same memory of affection is attached to Rose. How will/does Alexis feel about that? If Alexis pursues a romantic attachment with Rose, how will Alexis feel when Blake returns and the truth is revealed?

            4. No, the one Knight could remember her name. This was explained by saying that she had some connections left (ie, to the guy that remembered her name), but she fell through the cracks anyways. Just like Mags was going to.

              Point C, not Conquest. That’s why it was a small c.

              If Mags had no connections to anything, how could she have had a connection to Blake? Your attempted explanation is contradictory.
              And if she did have a connection to Blake, why didn’t Ur– eat it?

              Yes, that will be interesting.

            5. @greatwyrmgold: I guess I just wasn’t bothered by that in Worm, as you were. But:
              Jr xabj ab qrgnvyf bs jung Pbagrffn npghnyyl qvq. Va Fcrpx 30.7, fur fnlf “Cneg bs gung? Vg’f hc gb lbh gb jva gur svtug, gb gnxr pbageby naq xrrc gur nqzvavfgengbe sebz pynvzvat rirelguvat lbh unir, yrnivat lbh n furyy.”; naq va Vagreyhqr (Raq), Gnlybe fcrphyngrf gung Pbagrffn zvtug nyfb unir pnegrq ure gb Cnanprn be Obarfnj (jub obgu unq fubja novyvgl gb svqqyr jvgu cnffratref va gur cnfg). Sbe nyy jr xabj, gur ohyyrgf jrer whfg zrnag gb qvfnoyr Gnlybe, engure guna svk ure. Naq nf V fnvq, Qbbeznxre’f sngr – ehaavat bhg bs raretl gb cbjre uvf novyvgl – pbhyq nyfb unir orra gur fbyhgvba.
              Fb V qba’g pbafvqre guvf n Qrhf Rk Znpuvan. Ohg gb or ubarfg, va guvf pnfr V jbhyqa’g unir zvaqrq vs vg jnf bar – guvf jnf gur rcvybthr, Gnlybe’f nqiragher jnf bire, naq sbe Jbezirefr vg qvqa’g znggre jurgure fur fheivirq be qvrq, fb fur zvtug nf jryy fheivir.

              And concerning Blake, I never saw it as a Deus Ex Machina – it was ultimately just an Offscreen (not-)Death in which we specifically never saw Blake himself get eaten or die. And plenty of readers predicted this or a similar turn of events based on the clues left behind in 7.11 and Histories 7; just check the comments. What more justification than that do you need?

              I thought my explanation for why Mags (and no-one else) would remember Blake made perfect sense, and I don’t understand your criticism of it.

              Finally, from what you wrote, I’m unsure whether you think Ur actually did eat Blake? If so, check chapter 7.11 again. Blake was still perfectly safe where he was; Ur ate his connections (to “the individuals just outside the buildings”) so Blake couldn’t wait for local rescuers.

            6. Cnanprn naq Obarfnj pna fperj jvgu cnffratref, lrf, ohg arvgure fubjrq gb novyvgl gb erzbir cbjref, juvpu jbhyq or gevpxl fvapr vg jbhyq erdhver phggvat bhg n puhax bs oenva. Nyfb gevpxl? Cnanprn fcrpvsvpnyyl fnvq gung fur qvqa’g guvax fur pbhyq haqb jung fur jnf qbvat, rira orsber Gnlybe fperjrq hc ure urnq rira zber. Nf gb gur qvfnoyvat guvat, vtabevat jung jnf fgngrq nobhg gur checbfr bs gur gjb ohyyrgf, fubbgvat fbzrbar, va gur urnq, naq bayl qvfnoyvat gurz vf…engure qvssvphyg, fvapr lbh’er onfvpnyyl cresbezvat n fcrpvny xvaq bs oenva fhetrel gung qrfgeblf (ng zvavzhz) n plyvaqre bs oenva tbvat sebz rqtr gb rqtr juvpu vf gur fvmr bs n ohyyrg, cyhf pnhfvat ovgf bs fxhyy naq jungabg gb tb guebhtu gur oenva, pnhfvat oyrrqvat, rgp. Vs nalbar pbhyq qb vg, Pbagrffn pbhyq, ohg V guvax vg’f n ovg bs n fgergpu gb fnl nalbar pna.
              Qbbeznxre ena bhg bs cbjre orpnhfr uvf cbjre jnf cbjrerq ol n qrnq funeq. Orfvqrf, gurer jnf mreb vaqvpngvba tvira gung guvf jnf gur pnfr.
              V ybbx ng vg cerggl zhpu gur bccbfvgr jnl. Gur ureb fheivivat qbrf abg vaureragyl znxr n fgbel orggre; gur ureb fubhyq fheivir vs gur fgbel hc gb gung cbvag fnlf ur fubhyq fheivir, znlor rira vs vg fnlf ur PNA, ohg vs vg fnlf ur qvrf, gur ureb fubhyq sevxxvat fgnl qrnq! Vf gung fb zhpu gb nfx?

              We saw Blake get eaten. We saw people forget about Blake, we saw the world settling. He died. wildbow said so. And yes, readers predicted that Blake would survive. Readers of OotS predict that Belkar will survive past the end of the in-story year, too, and I don’t give those theories any greater weight than I did the ones about Blake surviving. People don’t like their favorite characters to die, and while that’s fine, it shouldn’t be taken as evidence that those characters will come back.

              You and many others have explained. Here’s the thing:
              1. Yes, Blake fell through the cracks. You know why? Because Ur– ate his connections. Ur– eats connections. That’s what he does. Then the people are gone. It’s what he does.
              2. Similarly, Urr- ate all his connections. Then Mags continues to remember Blake, and strengthens her connection with Blake, and no one notices the problem? Either Padriac completely stole her connection so Ur– couldn’t eat it (in which case Mags would have forgotten all about Blake long ago–because stealing/breaking connections does this, as shown by Ur– himself), or Padriac didn’t and Ur– should have eaten her connection to Blake.

            7. My,you sem to have confirmation bias against everything that seems to kill a protagonist but doesn’t,no matter how well founded in story it is.

            8. Blake never did say he was eaten.You assumed,and you are projecting assumptions because you hate protagonists surviving,because you have some tragedy-obsession.

              Oh,and let me explain you why Mags remember,if I grasp how the universe works correctly,it should go like either of these

              1)The angel transported her to a point of time after the nomming,thus she was nowhere when the connections dissapear,thus her connection was nowhere and couldn’t be eaten


              2)The demon couldn’t claim something used on a demense ritual without challenging the one who did the demense ritual ,thus he couldn’t eat it

              or,most probable

              3)Ur did not eat memories,he eats connections,but the universe retcons memories in order to reaffirm itself.Mags,being less than real,was not important enough to have her memory retconned.

              All 3 supported by cannon,everything foreshadowed,includingg how Blake survived(he couldn’t be nommed due to diagram,so the demon used another means to get rid of him)

  29. .. He’s essentially dead to the world, but going To Climb back out of this underworld, reclaim what he lost, and confront the one he trusted but betrayed him… He’s trapped in this labyrinth, and needs to best it while finding the doorways out, the keys to the doorways, and possibly beating the gatekeepers and their quests….He ALSO got a mermaid kiss. I

    It’s official, Blake’s going God of War on the place!!

  30. Didn’t the Goblin Sword fall in their with him? Even if it’s broken, it’s probably barter material. Or will he reforge it into his God-slaying blade that harvests from Others and gives him a portion of their power as he leads the to war?

    And for some reason I’m hoping he gets transformed like the Demi–Fiend from Shin Megami II: Nocturne. I mean, it’s not like he’s using that blind eye, now is he?

      1. Yeah he did; he was using it as a talisman or something I think.

        OTOH, Blake doesn’t seem to have any of the other stuff he brought with him either; I guess all of that stayed behind and was eaten by ErasUr.

        1. …Talisman? He WAS thinking about using it as an impliment, but decided against it and I don’t recall him using it at all. And yeah looks like only the things he had on his person during the fall kept. Which was nothing.

          1. He had the Hyena corpse on him when he entered the factory. Check that chapter again, it’s specifically noted.

            1. Yeah, I missed that entirely. I also apologized to you and whoever else for totally missing it in a later chapter

            2. Sorry, I was so proud to have noticed it that I didn’t wait to read comments on all chapters yet 🙂

  31. I love the fact that this abyss exists. The Others that leave this place are going to have some very interesting powers. Blake has to be careful with what he uses to fill his gaps or else he’ll come back out a rat person. The possibilities here are endless. Insects, rats, fish, frogs, snails, little reptiles, blood, birds etc… could create some truly horrifying others.

    And now onto some questions that tickle my interest.

    If one were to actually cook there food in here, if they can with all the rain, would they get some affinity to fire?

    If Green Eyes had eaten Blake as he is now, she would have become more human wouldn’t she?

    The presense of practitioners and Blake’s own sight blindness indicates that he has actually ceased being a practitioner for now. If he escapes, will his practitioner status return on its own, or will he have to go through another awakening ritual? How will his ritual change if he does?

    What happens if someone eats non-standard food for sustenance, like wood or books?

    The escape paths are definitely going to be a serious threat to Blake. There is the obvious water challenge of swimming against a super strong current, if he were to go with Green Eyes. He is most likely going to go for a ground based challenge so I have to wonder what that will be. I’m thinking either gladiatorial combat or a sprint up a temporary and collapsing mountain.

  32. Rose was likely thinking “It’s either him or me” and all those times she got silent or frustrated when he was acting nice to her was her conscience gnawing at her.

  33. Now I’m not as concern as the botched awakening as others are. Because that could mean anything. What does freak me is that after being apprehensive about Blakes actions with magic the entire first part of the story, she’s going straight to Granny Rose’s library of ultimate evil.

    I don’t think she’s quite an evil person. But we do know she’s a dyed in the wool Thorburn who’s probably drunken the Kool-Aid just as much as we insist the kids of the other families have. It’s Rose Sr. who’s the bastard in this situation, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a resurrection gambit on her part.

    I’m guessing the next steps for Blake are to get out of the abyss and haul ass to Jacob’s Bell to prevent Rose from doing demon shit that a. proves the Behaims and Duchamps absolutely right about the Thorburns b. gets his only friends killed in the crossfire.

    1. Has everyone forgotten Blakes dream? Him, wielding the Hyena sword, ErasUr infestation in his eye, in front of Rose, in the midst of her summons, Pauz on her shoulder?
      If this isn’t a buildup to that…

      1. well shit! that probably is something to look out for. I wonder how much of Rose’s goings-on we’ll be able to see from Blake’s perspective while he’s in the labyrinthe/underworld place

    2. It’s not “Granny Roses’s library of ultimate evil” it’s “Granny Rose’s library of immense and extensive knowledge, including instructions for essential rituals, such as the awakening ritual, which they want to do, but also happening to contain extremely powerful weapons.”

  34. From Histories 6.x:
    “She’d done it for a good reason. She’d done it well.
    She had embraced diabolism as a way to protect others.”

    I’m still thinking Rose’s purpose is not destructive and that would include her heirs. Is there really a rule that says Rose and Blake can’t both exist? That might have been Rose’s lie because she could protect Blake and his friends better. Two diabolists might have unleashed unrestrained and overwhelming destruction upon their heads.

  35. I like Blake, I wanted Blake to survive. I want Blake to give the finger to the Lawyers in particular and demons in general. But I don’t like this story arc so far.

    Put simply: The survival of Blake’s memories is the result of an unfair puzzle.

    To contrast this, examine Rose’s non-awakening, which was a fair puzzle. We were told from the beginning that Rose’s awakening circle and objects did not react the way Blake’s did. Ms. Lewis danced around the subject when Blake asked. Looking back at how Rose managed to get her summoned creatures during the Conquest contest shows she didn’t actually use more than knowledge and the Thorburn voice (6.8, search for ‘Thorburn voice’) and we know by several examples, e.g. June, that the Thorburn voice has power all its own. Now that I look at it retrospectively, we never see Rose actually using magic or the Sight. So the fact that Rose isn’t awakened was mildly deceptive but nevertheless a fair puzzle.

    In contrast, we are told repeatedly that demons of the first choir (Choir of Dark) totally destroy. The book excerpt goes into that in great detail. We have a lot of evidence that Urr destroys connections and the related knowledge and memories, even if most of the evidence is necessarily indirect. We have a lot of evidence that Urr can also destroy physical objects and beings: the factory free of debris, Blake ‘sees’ Urr eating goblins in the first attempt at the factory, we see Urr eating a hand in the second attempt, Isadora notes that the earth itself under the factory has been devoured, etc.

    Urr’s apparent inability to destroy Blake’s physical body is a harder puzzle but still fair. Urr touched Blake in the first factory attempt but failed to wound him. And the factory had no obvious bloodstains despite the fact that supposedly many people had fallen there. On the Other hand (pun intentional), Urr is ‘shown’ devouring goblins and itself sometimes. So maybe Urr can’t actually devour humans or maybe Blake fell through the cracks before Urr got his physical self. So, the survival of Blake’s body is fair.

    But we have no prior evidence that connections and associated knowledge and memories eaten by Urr should survive for either side of the destroyed connection. That makes Blake’s knowledge of his name, Self, and memories of his friends completely unprecedented, an unfair puzzle.

    If there was prior evidence, please let me know.

    1. Think about Mags. She had her connections robbed from her, and while she knew what as up, everyone else either didn’t know or had to piece things together from the information they still had.

      This is also the first time we’ve seen the point-of-view of an Urrased character. Before this, we had no idea what the effects would be. Urraser has been shown to be crafty – seeming to create things via destruction, like a sculptor carving a statue from a block of stone. With that level of precision, it’s possible that it chose to only eat Blake’s connections instead of eating him as part of some diabolical plan.

      In many ways, this is arguably worse for Blake. If he didn’t remember his friends, he could forge new relationships with these people with relative ease. But talking to people who don’t remember him while he remembers everything, and watching Rose have all of the connections that he’s supposed to have, is going to be incredibly painful.

      And he’s still not out of the sewer yet.

    2. The way I see it is this. When Urr ate Blakes connections, that made it so the cracks would start trying to swallow him up. The cracks were simply faster than Urr was, and when the cracks got him Blake was no longer in the same place as Urr.

    3. Histories 7:

      “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.”

      ErasUr doesn’t erase memories, or at least didn’t erase Rose and Co’s memories, for one because were outside the factory, so ErasUr couldn’t get to them, but fundamentally because ErasUr doesn’t do the memory erasure. If ErasUr took people’s memories, they would be replaced by nothing; in fact, the victim might be incapable of remembering anything ever again. Rose and the Blakeguard didn’t have their memories destroyed. Rather, they were re-written to be consistent with the fact that they don’t have, nor did they ever have, a connection with Blake. Demons don’t create; they destroy. When ErasUr destroyed Blake’s connections, it wasn’t ErasUr that destroyed their memories; it was either the universe replacing those memories, or it was their own minds doing it. Blake didn’t need to do this because he fell out of reality, and so didn’t need to fabricate new memories in order to integrate himself into the universe that rejected him.

      1. That’s an interesting theory. But then I don’t understand what “connections” are – it implies that from Blake’s POV, losing his connections had no consequences whatsoever beyond falling through the cracks; all that mattered was that his friends in the real world lost theirs? I don’t think I can buy that.

        All that said, if your theory is right, what does it predict will happen if Blake returns/is revived/whatever? Would his memories get erased then? Or, even earlier, would he lose his memories on the way out, since they are incompatible with “the universe that rejected him”?

    4. Put simply: The survival of Blake’s memories is the result of an unfair puzzle.

      You managed to put that far more eloquently than I did.

      Though I’m only complaining about the “memories of his friends” part; only Blake’s connections were eaten, so why would he lose memories of his name or Self?

      1. What is stored in each server in this net of connections? If Blakes memories of his friends are stored at his side cuting the conection only server the others access to the information.
        Have anyone else noticed the similarities between this world and the internet?

        1. Nice line of thinking! The ‘server’ feels loneliness and (normally anyway) the deep despair of this eroding realm, while being forced to make concessions and compromises, till before they know it, they’ve become a nefarious Other.

  36. I think that Evan should be Ty’s familiar. They have more in common. And green eyes Blake’s familiar…fish and fowl or neither 😀

    I was also a little confused by the description of the “sewers” like a couple people mentioned. Those comments made me think about it and I began to picture an Escher like purgatory, kindof cool and interesting to look at unless you’re actually there.

    Thank you Wildbow for both Pact and Worm! I’m loving it!

    1. Nice question! It does seem that Blake is free to acquire another familiar again, should he ever be able to leave and become a practitioner again (likely, me thinks, but not without serious toil).

      1. Though could any familiar be as awesome, and fit as well as Evan?

        Getting out isn’t the trick. The trick will be for Blake to get out without loosing too much of his humanity or himself.

  37. Other reactions:

    It is interesting that Green Eyes doesn’t think she is bound to truth. Every other Other we have seen so far seems to be. Or perhaps that is because she was human but not a practitioner and she hasn’t been summoned and bound to the Seal of Solomon.

    So, this is one of the pits that practitioners pull beings from. It seems like anything coming from here would be a bit weaker, but then there’s Midge to consider. Is this where Midge hangs out in the times between summonings?

    Green Eyes seems a bit more lucid and personable than the situation would normally suggest. Hmmm… something that will be used later or just a way to have an in-story narrator? Both?

    I saw a flash of Rose’s face in the gutter…
    Bit of a double meaning there, perhaps. But I think the real meaning is that he is looking out through reflections now and the water provided enough of a reflective surface.

    Everyone is assuming the worst of Rose. Remember that:

    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.

    What if Rose’s awakening really didn’t work the first time and her statement is the result of finding other reasons for existing events? I don’t think that is really what happened, but it is a possibility. Even if Rose did mess up deliberately, is it even possible for two Thorburn heirs to activate at once? That may have been one of the restrictions on the inheritance and would give a valid reason for Rose throwing the first awakening. On the balance of evidence, however, Rose appears guilty of serious deception. Let’s see if she can redeem herself, or if she turns out to be the final enemy.

    1. It is interesting that Green Eyes doesn’t think she is bound to truth. Every other Other we have seen so far seems to be. Or perhaps that is because she was human but not a practitioner and she hasn’t been summoned and bound to the Seal of Solomon.

      Except Rose with the whole space unicorn thing (maybe. I’m still thinking she’s a unicorn masquerading as a girl).

    2. Green Eyes was a human who was turned into an Other, but she never took an Other’s Oath like Evan had to and was never bound by the seal of Solomon.

      Think about it, most Others can’t directly hurt innocents without just cause. However, all the Bogeymen can so far. It’s part of their description, having a penchant for murder and terror. If we take into account what we’ve learned about Limbo, then it’s possible that Limbo is generating new horrors that can act in roles that take up urban myths and gives them connections until they are bound or destroyed by practitioners.

  38. Huh. So… But has the thought that Johannes is Blake after some timey winey shenanigans occurred to anyone else?

    Here there be epileptic trees.

  39. “But if you do get to one of the exits, there’s usually someone or something there, or so I hear. They sit there and they get in the way and they make you work to get past. Usually, you’re really tired, and they eat you. Or you can put up a bit of a fight, and they make you promise to do something for them. To carry something back.”

    I’m assuming that Green Eyes got things wrong and garbled up that there are multiple exits out of this place; based on Ancient Sumerian mythology, the Underworld has seven gates to pass through so I’m speculating that Blake will have to pass through all seven of the guardian’s tests or pay a toll to go to the next layer. So in this current layer, he would need to prepare two or more functional tools of power to pass the tests or pay the toll, go to the next layer to do the same until he can get back to the Mortal realm.

  40. To those worrying that Rose didn’t look into an explanation about Blake, keep in mind that we don’t know how that conversation continued after “tell me what happened to Blake”.

    The conversation could easily have been cut short from multiple things such as Mags passing out after winning her claim on her name or the numerous unbound goblins in the area getting ready to attack.

    Inversely, Mags may have simply chosen not to fully explain unless given power for a deal, or she wanted to investigate herself because of not trusting Rose.

    Double inversely, Rose may have been wary of Mags because of Maggie in Toronto or even got an explanation and is going to awaken herself to try to investigate or even call this “Blake”.

    All I’m trying to say is that there was an entire conversation that we weren’t privy to and don’t even know the results of. We can’t definitively put a mark against Rose because of a conversation we haven’t actually seen.

    It’s like assuming Blake had crossed some horizon and was going to release Barbie when a chapter ended with him saying he wanted to destroy the Behaims and Duchamps. When more info about the conversation came, things became clear.

  41. I’m fairly sure Blake simply isn’t a Practitioner any more, that the only things that leave the Hollows are Others.

    Seems like a fairy simple ecosystem, you either die, becoming food for other things, or you change, get strong enough to persist, or change even more, and get very very strong but even more monstrous.

    To get out you either get strong enough to reach an exit, bargain with a Guardian, if you can last long enough against them that they even bother. Or you get strong enough that you become something a Practitioner considers worth summoning.

    And yeah, I don’t think all Others come from the Hollows, just certain classes of Others, I mean, Evan is an Other technically, and he could become a Firebird without ever setting foot here. Boogeymen though probably, goblins…maybe. Maybe things like James Corvadae (Have to admit I actually quite like Corvadae, he’s not that bad.)

    Blake is going to become something Else I think. Not sure what exactly, we’ll see. He won’t be taking the exit that involves the current out certainly, water has never really been Blake’s thing. Not his style.

  42. There has to be a way to track cut connections, to be notified when a connection is cut, and to restore that connection. I’ve postulated this before, but based on what’s going on, I think a stronger case can be made for “cut connection tracking” and reestablishing connections, because of the lawyers.

    The lawyers deal with people who deal with demons, right? One lawyer already said that many (most?) of their clients are worse than Blake by a good margin. Well, those evilish people aren’t going to want to uphold their side of a Faustian bargain. Those evilish people are going to have access to things like ErasUr, and the Barber, and Corvidae, and other connection cutting/rearranging demons. If the lawyers want to ensure that they’ll get their pound of flesh, they have to have a way to track cut connections and reestablish them, or their clients will simply cut their own connections to the lawyers (and possibly everyone else) then merrily skip away.

    For instance, you take everything you own, you sell/give it away to a shell corporation, give away your name, then jump into your preestablished ritual to set yourself up as the shell corporation. You set up servants with the strict instructions, with the instructions set to refresh themselves on their own at set intervals, cut the connection to the servants to test things out, reestablish the connections, then go get yourself eaten by ErasUr or any other connection cutting demon, with the servants set to pick you up, take you back home, and reestablish you as the new master.

    Heck, people try to stash away money and items and cut their connections to everything and go live a new life by themselves on a private island somewhere in real life. I’m certain people in the Pact universe have tried to do the same thing. Where magic is involved, you’d be aware that this is a very real possibility, that someone might simply bleed a couple drops and swipe their finger in a line and boom, connection mostly cut. A few other measures and the connection could be completely cut.

    The lawyers are powerful enough that their very presence and their desire to get paid and see that their clients get what’s coming to them from the law firm are a powerful argument that the law firm at least (and possibly others) have to have measures in place to avoid people doing to themselves what happened to Blake/Mags with other measures in place to come back from that. Not to mention the Sphinx’s memory.

  43. Awesome chapter! I love that you didn’t leave it any longer to get back to Blake, Wildbow 🙂 I’m just happy to see him alive, though there was plenty of wiggle room for it, especially by the end of Signature. Cool place he’s in, and the thoughts I have when I consider that this dimension is ‘designed’ is that it’s some sort of desmesne.

    Rose isn’t as bad as all that. She didn’t purposefully throw spanners into the works at any key point, when she could’ve easily done so. She’s definitely a bit bad though, ye. I’m sure what she’s done can be re-spun, especially considering Worm’s motto of ‘doing the wrong things for the right reasons’.

    Back to the desmesne thing, if he is in some large desmesne right now, could it belong to someone who is in league with Urr? If not, what kind of being would want to create such a place? I don’t get the feeling it would be a demon, wouldn’t they want something far more horrific? I guess we haven’t had the best chance to see what this place can offer though, in terms of horror, yet. If it is an Other’s work,

    Also, Blake thinks he is not a wizard any more. This can’t be right, because his tattoos still reflect a magical influence. He supposes that though, perhaps because he has no sight. But what if connections simply don’t exist in this dimension, which would explain why he has no sight. It might be far more surreal than all of that though, given the fact that his hand is split in half, yet he can still move his fingers, and can’t feel pain..

    People are worried that demons got a downgrade, since Urr doesn’t look so bad now, but I disagree. Urr hasn’t been downgraded at any point. The only reason you think Urr isn’t so bad, is because you switched POV’s (and subsequently, the lost ‘reappears’, yet is still lost). Additionally, Blake is numbed by something unaccountable right now, but it seems like normal people arrive at this dimension and become utterly terrified, as Green Eyes was testifying to. But even with this numbness, Blake remarks on the loneliness. Perhaps this is what Urr is going for. To have your connections eaten, and then you just die, is actually rather merciful all in all. Would a demon really be happy with that much mercy? Why not take what is there, and keep taking away from it, forcing it to make bad decisions, to sacrifice bits of itself, until it becomes something that autonomously breaks down the world it once loved? This feels much more like a demon’s work than anything else we thought of Urr so far. She actually became far more terrifying.

    A world that creates others, amidst disgusting conditions, would explain a lot about how bad others can get and have gotten before.

    So glad Blake’s alive and well-ish 😀

    1. Maybe Blake’s under (in) Johanne’s demense.

      You know, we only have Blake’s word that he’s alive. Maybe he isn’t. Remember those vestiges in Johanne’s realm? They thought they were alive too.

    2. You assume Darkness demons (if this is darkness)care about suffering…if you are correct,its good news,because Blake’s connections can be repaired.

  44. This just occurred to me from the text where she trailed off before going into Stockholm syndrome, but if Green Eyes changed all over because is Other had sandpapery skin, does that mean at some point they had an inter-species relationship?

    Speaking of which, if Blake married her would he be able to produce a heir given she’s not human anymore?

    I don’t think there’s been any half-Others in the series so far…

    1. Well, she still remembers what a kiss is and the other Other was breathing for her for quite a long while. I’m sure an heir could be produced, but would it be able to survive out of water?

    2. I think Otherness is sort of a spectrum. Like Evan is an Other with a soul, or that familiar who was actually a possessed human. Or the mermaid girl who can still lie.

    3. Yes they definitely did have an inter-species relationship:

      “Pressed his sandpapery skin against mine, and we… yeah. I wanted to…”

      “And we… yeah” is a phrase which hear means “we had intercourse” but she’s just a tad shy about it.

  45. Ok, I just love the idea that Blake is enough of a Disney nerd, that even while he is crawling through a post-existence compost heap limbo thing, he actively has to resist the urge to start debating why Belle’s situation wasn’t Stockholm syndrome in Beauty and the Beast.

    Also because I’m exactly that kind of person too.

  46. Man Reading this was annoying. Not through any fault of your own. But I had an idea for a story that had almost the exact same concept as the place Blake is in, several places each with a theme, water fish, sky birds, stone wolves, grass cats, and fire lizards. So I guess ‘that’s a no go. Still that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the chapter far from it.

    1. Write it anyway. That’s a very high-level description. I guarantee you if you gave that premise to five different authors they would write six very different stories based on it. Individual authors can’t help but add their own individual spin and flavour to an idea.

  47. Okay, lots of people seem to be confused: ErasUr doesn’t alter the past. It erases connections only.

    If you’re into physics, connections can be thought of as the particles that mediate interaction between entities (people, Others, things, whatever). Lose the mediating particles, and the object has no frame of reference within which to exist and falls through the cracks. The object’s previous interactions remain: the tracks through the cloud chamber aren’t erased.

    If you’re into computers, connections are pointers between objects. Lose all the pointers, and the object gets garbage-collected eventually. The objects effects remain: the database alterations stay, other objects’ state remains changed.

      1. They are,losing connections doesn’t change your memory,the universe does,in order to fill a hole.As the universe does not care about those that slipped the cracks,it doesn’t alter their memories.With memories but not connections,one can recreate connections based on memories after some intense feelings of detachmen (which Blake had).

        I think thats how the universe works,if I grasp correctly.

  48. Disappointing to see Blake saved by ex machina, at least for the moment he’s being less of a whiny bitch, though not totally, always too cold, always too wet, always just so arduous.

  49. Disappointing to see Blake saved by ex machina, at least for the moment he’s being less of a whiny bitch, though not totally, always too cold, always too wet, always just so arduous.

    Was really hoping he was dead

    1. I have no idea how that posted twice, another joy of browsing via phone.
      Sorry about that, you can delete the other one @wildbow (how do you tag people)

    2. And I hope you experience what he experienced to see whether he is whiny.You whine unfairly on a lot of chapters,he had enough bad experiences to get PTSD 3 times over (real PTSD,the type hardened soldiers get,a vocation you could probably never do,not tumblr PTSD)

      As for ex machina:him surviving was totally logical,based on prior information (demon couldn’t attack him directly due to fire,we assumed he could,so he attacked indirectly,eating his connections and sending him to the limbo).Remembering prior information might be tad ex machina,even though I have many good theories,but surviving?no,we just couldn’t connect the facts.


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