Mala Fide 10.6

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Mags and Molly on the one hand, my friends on the other.

My first instinct was to break a window, get their attention while they were together.

The old me would have, as far as I was ‘old’ at all.  The ‘me’ that I’d been around the time that I’d approached Evan, up until Ur had inadvertently cast me into the Drains.  I’d been getting more confident, and my ‘trust my gut’ approach to this whole thing had given me momentum, while leading me headlong into disaster.

The Blake that had fought Conquest would have broken the window.

But that wasn’t a long-term solution.  I’d have their attention.  But what would I do after that?  I couldn’t fight.  I could maybe break glass, maybe reach through like Rose had.  I had limited means of attack, and I was more vulnerable than they were, to boot.

Worse, I knew that doing what she’d done had taken a lot out of Rose.  She’d recovered.  I didn’t recover so much as I changed.  Those changes led down a road.  If I lost something, there was no guarantee I could replenish it.

I was tense as I watched Sandra and Jeremy go their separate ways.  It wasn’t worth it.

The problem wasn’t limited to my general inability to fight or defend myself if I go their attention here.  If I went to one place or another, what could I do to help?

Communicate.  Warn.

I moved past Sandra, skipping across patches of light, barely paying her any mind.  Had people been able to see, they might have been able to make me out in the mirrors.  Stepping into view, glancing around the surroundings, then disappearing, moving on.

I saw people, a few gathered Others, ghosts, and then Johannes, in the company of Faysal Anwar.

Sandra and Johannes, converging on the same spot.

An impromptu meeting at the church.

I knew where Mags had been, and if she was invited to the meeting, then I knew the route she’d take.  If she wasn’t invited, then she needed to know so she could mount a defense.

Mags was near Hillsglade, and Hillsglade was one stop.

I reached the front of the house.

Nobody in the living room, nobody visible outside.

Damn it.

I drew the Hyena.

I struck the window with the pommel of the weapon, all of my strength behind it.

It didn’t bounce off so much as it slid.  If the spikes weren’t already embedded in the near-permanent holes in my fingers and palm, I might have lost my grip entirely.

The barrier against my interference apparently included stopping me from breaking in, literally speaking.

Screw Rose.  Damn her.  If my friends got hurt because of this, I’d…

I wasn’t sure what I’d do.  I couldn’t think straight.

I heard a laugh, from some place beyond my ability to see.  They weren’t here, but they were getting close.

No time.

Would I be made to watch, unable to act or change the outcome?

I estimated the distance.  I had time for a quick conversation, and that had to be better than standing here being useless.

Mags.

I pushed myself away, breaking into a run.  I headed in the direction I’d last seen Mags walking: directly south of Hillsglade House, toward the lake.  The idea had been that they’d have some space to chat, and heading that way meant they were downplaying the risk of running into locals.   I’d headed west from that point, to the other end of the narrow beach, where the skating rink had been put together.

There were a lot of crummy little shops and businesses here, punctuated by clusters of nicer looking businesses, where people had moved in and just gotten things off the ground.  Amid convenience stores and dry cleaners that looked like they’d been around since the thirties, there was a fancy upscale place selling women’s yoga clothes or something, and a place selling mountaineering, kayaking and canoeing equipment that looked like it didn’t have anything that cost less than a hundred bucks.

Odd places, for the economically depressed town.  Were the business owners banking on the city’s expansion, or were these businesses some kind of abstract indication of Johannes’ influence creeping into the city proper?

Past the shops.  Dinky, dingy houses.

Past the houses, the park.  One little patch of light in what should have been a vast tract of green, punctuated by little gardens and statues, riddled with concrete paths.

I found Mags in Molly’s company, at the lakeside.  Mags still had the mirror, tucked into the back of her jeans.  They hadn’t killed each other, and didn’t look prepared to.

Molly had settled in form.  The flickers persisted at the edges, but her body remained stable, with only tearing at the edges.  Her features had distorted, not leaving her unrecognizable, but still a little hollowed out, twisted.

Mags looked like she’d been affected too, but in a different way.  I couldn’t see her face from this angle, but her posture was bent, as if she had a weight on her shoulders.

A pity.  I might have hoped she’d recover a bit, facing down her demons.

Had I?  Facing down Carl?

Still, Mags’ hands were in her pockets.  Not something someone did if they thought they’d have to defend themselves.

Molly noticed me before I could clear my throat to announce my presence.  Mags noticed Molly noticing, half-turned, then pulled the mirror out so I didn’t have to scramble to stay within the reflection.

“What’s up?” Mags asked me.

“Sandra,” I said.  “She knows about Molly.”

Balls.

“She’s convening a truncated council meeting or something, at the church,” I said.

Mags didn’t respond.  Her head was bent.

“What?” I asked.

“She was a… She wasn’t an enemy,” Mags said.

“She is now,” I said.  “I’m pretty sure she’s going after Molly, and you’re included in that, if you finished the ritual.”

Mags nodded.  “I sort of saw that coming.”

“I’d help if I could, but I don’t know what I can do,” I said. “You should get over there, so you can speak in your own defense.  Or run, or whichever.”

She ran her hand over her hair, then patted a bit down at the back where it was sticking up.

“Or… something,” I said.  “Fuck.  This is a joint attack, they don’t want Rose helping you, so they’re attacking Hillsglade.”

“Go,” Mags said.  “Help your friends.”

“I can’t,” I said.  “I’m locked out.”

“You can’t do anything here either,” she said.  “You’re doing less than nothing.  You’re feeding Molly.  She calmed down after you left.”

I looked at Molly.  Though she hung her head, as though she were facing the ground, her eyes were on me.  Her shoulders were too slouched.  Her hands a bit too long, her clothes tattered and dark at the edges.

My influence was a part of that?

I twitched, ready to run.  “You’re positive?”

She nodded, a tight gesture.

“You’re going to handle this?”

“I guess we’ll find out,” she said.  “Go.  Handle that first.  If I’m due some payback for what I did, I’ll face it and I’ll fight every frigging step of the way.”

I started to go, then stopped.  I looked at Molly.  “I remember telling you that if you needed help, you should call me.  I know that didn’t happen for real, but…”

I stopped speaking a full second before we felt it, as though some sort of premonition had hit, or I was like the animals that freaked out before a natural disaster.

It rippled through the city, and it set the windows and mirrors to shuddering.  It rolled through me, a shockwave without any physical force at all.  It didn’t push me or knock me off my feet, and it didn’t stir my hair, but I still felt as though I might have been collapsing or bleeding from every orifice if I’d happened to be flesh and blood.

My body, head to toe, changed, recuperating from countless infinitesimally small injuries.  A one-percent change in every single damn cell, or spirit, or whatever.

Molly, too, was reeling, trying to find her balance, flickering madly.  Mags only looked concerned.

“What the moose dick was that?” she asked.

I could smell it on the air, stronger with every passing second.  Like smoke and dust after a bomb had hit.  The smell was sharp, like overripe fruit and a room where there had been a little too much sex and sweat, without sufficient washing of sheets.  It smelled warm.

It made me think of Carl.  Of a time when I’d been very human, with human comforts close at hand.

The predominant odor was wine, late in its arrival, so sharp I might have wanted to sneeze if I’d been able to.  I could taste it, as the smell reached and touched the back of my tongue on its way down to my lungs.

I felt just a little lightheaded.

What had Faysal said?  I consumed whatever was at hand.

Even this ambient power, apparently.

I was going to get drunk on it.

“Something like this, he couldn’t get away with it if he hadn’t cleared it with every other local power,” I said.

“They didn’t clear it with me,” Mags said.

“That would have been warning you,” I said.  “And if you’re colluding with Thorburns, as your relationship with Molly suggests, that means they might see telling you as a risk that they’d tip Rose off.  I’ve got to go.”

“I don’t get it,” Mags called out.  I was already leaving.

“Someone’s throwing a party at Hillsglade House,” I called out.  “Molly, what I said before – if you need help, call for me and stall.”

“What if you need help?” Mags asked.

But I was already gone, too far away to answer the question.

It wasn’t a long trip.  Three paces, leaping across darkness.  Another five paces, this time taking a route that took me away from the house, but positioned me for another step across the reflective surfaces, jumping a considerable distance in the process.

I arrived at the front window of the house.

The interior of the house was no longer dark, but had a peculiar hue, like the light was shining off wine red and gold surfaces.  The smell was thick, The barriers had been breached.  The tail end of Jeremy Meath’s group was still making its way into the house.  They moved as a group, fanning out through the rooms.

I stepped inside, in a manner of speaking.

Whatever Jeremy had done here, calling his god in to ram down the metaphorical gate, it had changed the atmosphere fairly dramatically.  The air was heavy, even on my side of the mirrors, thick as though the place had filled with smoke, the smell of incense and faint perfumes joining the smells that had wafted out as far as the lakeside.  The lighting was skewed, and the impact of the divine act had knocked books from their shelves, unsettling and moving furniture.  I saw two women climbing over and under a tipped-over bookshelf in the hallway.

In this light of red and gold tints, I could see their real features.  Their facial and bone structure was different, though not unpleasant.  Their movements were languid, as they easily crawled across the spaces, as if they were simultaneously very flexible and very strong.

They might have reminded me of lions, with that grace, predatory slant to their features, and general strength, but they were panting hard, bronzed skin flushed red, and when the one in the rear looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was following, her pupils were pinpoints.

I moved up to the window overlooking the turn in the staircase.

The lead Maenad wore a snake, coiled up and along the one arm, around the back of her neck, and down the other arm.  It was the color of red wine, with a diamond pattern of white along its back.

I felt like, given general fairness, that snakes should only be big or poisonous, not both.  That snake looked like it was both.

“Search,” I heard Jeremy speak.  He was on the second floor.  “Turn it upside down.  We know they’re in here.”

“I can smell them,” a satyr spoke.  He had full-size ram’s horns on his head, hair spilling down thick and coarse over his shoulders and back, but the horns were heavy, and his legs those of a goat, his body perpetually leaning forward.  One hand rested on his knee, while his horned head swung ponderously from left to right.  “They smell scared.”

“Scared is good,” Jeremy said.

I had a better look of him as he turned my way.  The satyr’s nose was flat and wide, his eyes narrow.  He was muscular, but he had a barrel chest.  If satyrs were supposed to be expressions of male fertility, this guy must have been created when unibrows were considered sexy.

A little different from the other Satyrs, who blended the qualities of beast and man in a kinder, more artistic way.  They stood straight, they didn’t slouch.  They looked more boyish.  Not quite modern-day male models, but all were guys I imagined could hit on women at bars with some success.

“They’re here somewhere,” he said.  “A treat to whoever finds them first.  I don’t want to ask for help if he thinks we can manage it ourselves with the resources we have at hand.”

I knew where they were.  The question was, did he have the resources to, or did I have time?

I crossed the length of the hallway, passing within two feet of the priest.

I can,” the Maenad leader said, as she reached the top of the stairs.  She had the fluid strength of the lion, the snake around her shoulders, the features of both on her face, her eyes bloodshot.  She panted, nostrils flaring.  “I want that reward.”

She extended her hand, and the snake began to slither forth, unwinding from her right arm to raise itself up from her left.  It extended its tongue, and turned its head, pausing for a fraction of a second to hiss, tongue out.

I followed its line of sight.

The bookshelf, where the lower entrance to Grandmother’s hidden library was.

That was all I needed.

I could be patient, sure, but there were times for action.

Quickly, quietly, I crossed picture frames and mirrors, until I was right next to her.

I wasn’t sure how this worked, or how far I could go.  This wasn’t the sort of thing I could practice.

Still holding the Hyena, I hit the glass of the picture frame as hard as I could, stabbing through.

Glass flew.  I didn’t see if it did any damage – that same glass was my window into seeing that world.

I felt my footing break apart as the glass scattered, darkness opening up.  What little footing managed to exist rose and fall and shrunk in area as the glass turned over in the air, taking in less light, less connected to the glass that had neighbored it with every split second that passed.

But I wasn’t gone.  I hadn’t been relocated.

The window was still there, broken as it was.

Remembering Rose’s actions in the police station, I reached through with my open hand, blind, remembering only the position of things.  I aimed for her wrist.

I got a handful of snake instead.

Strong as the maenad was, and as quick as the snake might be, she was using the one  arm to support half of the weight of a snake that could have weighed a hundred or more pounds.  Her strength didn’t break the laws of physics.  When I moved her arm, it swung, as the snake adjusted for the movement.

She wasn’t able to just tear her hand free.

I, on the other hand, was able to move the Hyena.

My hope had been to grab and slash her wrist.  In reality, I grabbed and slashed the snake.

My footing disappeared, and it was all I could do to pull my arms away from the jagged edges of the aperture before I got slashed.

I fell and was shunted, relocated to the window at the end of the hall.  I was dropped unceremoniously on the ground, and felt my body react to the impact.

‘Ground’, in my case, was limited to the floor that others could see reflected when they looked at the glass.

See being an operative word here.  They were looking at me now.

When I raised my head, gathering my bearings, I saw the Maenad passing off her snake to her nearest neighbor – the animal had been sliced to the spine, muscles and guts severed.  It bent in an angular, forced sort of way where it had been cut.

Cords stood out on her neck, veins visible here and there across her body, but her face was eerily blank, all of the emotion in her eyes, lower lids raised.

When she moved, she moved fast.  A lunge, crossing half of the hallway.

I ran.  She shattered the window behind me.

My travel from one pane of glass to another was nearly instantaneous.  She matched me in speed.  By the time I arrived in the next picture, her clawed hand was already slashing toward me, skin marred by a dozen light scratches.

I moved, then moved again, without looking.  I heard the two pictures break in short succession.

She didn’t give me a chance to think, much less act to stop her.  She came after me, moving to hit the surfaces I occupied.  Every wall was littered with pictures of nature and sublime landscapes, and she seemed to increase in speed as she found me in each one, hitting a picture before the glass had finished falling to the floor from the last.

I could have slipped away, moving halfway across Jacob’s Bell, but my gut said I shouldn’t.

Didn’t want to rely on my gut or my heart alone.  I’d made that mistake before.

Couldn’t duck into the mirror in the library.  There was no patch of light, either because the door was closed, or Rose had covered it.

Without the time to form a complete thought, I had to form a half-thought instead.

I moved, I ran, and I crossed the hallway, zig-zagging.

Her companions were fast enough to move out of the way as she came through the group, chasing.

The hollers were faint, but I could hear them cheering her on.

With the vapors of wine and smoke heavy in the air of my mirror-realm, I felt my awareness slip.  I moved too slowly.

She shattered a picture I occupied.

I was shunted to the next.

She shattered that one too.

I wasn’t able to ground myself.  Something felt wrong with my body.  I was in an unfamiliar hostile environment, and it took me a second too long to reach the next place.

That one second was enough time for her to get impatient, using one hand to sweep three pictures from the walls.  One hooked on the peg, and flew through the air across the hall, punching through the window at the far end.

I found my feet.  She was coming right for me, hands outstretched as claws.

I didn’t have time to run.  I thrust out with the Hyena instead, stabbing at one of the reaching hands.  The blade penetrated the glass, and I felt it make contact.

I dodged out of the way before the footing was completely gone, crossing the hall.

She grabbed the now-empty frame off the wall, hurling it at me, then turned on her toes, following after.

I crossed the hall again.

She followed, reaching-

And stopped.

Her claws were an inch from Jeremy’s face.  She panted hard, painted nails twitching.

Damn.  That half-plan had been to try and bait her to hit the one person who wasn’t fast enough to duck out of her way.

It seemed her loyalty to him overrode her anger.

“Stop, Kakia,” he said.

“Serpent… was… gift…” she said, panting out one word between each quick inhalation.  She still dropped her hand, her face close to Jeremy’s, eyes not leaving him.

“I know.  I was there when he gave it to you,” Jeremy said.  “I’m not pleased either.”

I didn’t need to catch my breath, but I did need my bearings.  I took stock of my surroundings.

Three reflective surfaces here.  Once they were gone, I could only go upstairs or down.

“You’re the mirror dweller Sandra mentioned,” Jeremy spoke.

“Yeah,” I said.

“That snake was a gift from my god to a favored servant,” he said.

“That’s unfortunate,” I answered.

He turned until we were facing one another.  His maenad lowered her head until her forehead rested on Jeremy’s shoulder, still panting, fingers held in a claw-like position to the point that the straining of her fingers made them each move independently, as if she couldn’t hold them completely still.  The wounded hand bled, blood dripping down her fingers.

“Unfortunate,” he said, as if he were trying on the word, “You have little idea how right you are.”

“That sounds ominous,” I said.

“You’re crossing a god,” he said.  “It should.”

“I’ve seen a god,” I said, “I think, anyway.  I haven’t seen your god, though.”

“No?  I thought we’d crossed paths.”

“You came after me in Toronto,” I said.  I thought back to the conversation and intimacy I’d seen just a short while ago.  “I believe it was on Sandra’s behalf?”

“If I did, it was for her, yes,” he said.  “I don’t remember you or what I did to you.”

“You sicced Conquest on me,” I said.

“Was that what I did?  Hm.  Set it all in motion.”

I could see the restlessness on the part of his people.  They formed a protective circle around their priest, but they couldn’t sit still.

“Hey, Jeremy,” I said, conversationally,  “Would you happen to know what protocols are for dealing with very abstract demons?”

With the word ‘demon’, many of the Satyrs and Maenads tensed.

“You’d have to be more specific,” Jeremy said.

“Any protocols at all,” I said.

“I know of the most important one,” he said.  “You don’t deal with demons of any type.  Common sense.”

“Which is why you left the Etobicoke imp alone?  Pauz?” I asked.  “And the demon in the oil factory?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll give you a little lesson then, no reciprocation asked for,” I said.  “When a demon is abstract, it’s not necessarily bound to all the normal rules we are, in terms of shape, state, time or place.  With me so far?”

“I wasn’t the most exceptional student, when I attended school,” Jeremy said.  “I struggle with lectures.”

Try,” I said.  “Commit this to memory.  Of the two abstract demons I’ve met, both followed the same minor rule.  If you see it in a reflective surface, that’s because it occupies that surface.  Your eye is reflective, Jeremy.  The eyes of your minions serve too.  Look directly at it, and it has you, and it isn’t ever letting go.”

“How inconvenient,” he said.

Very,” I said.  “As far as I’m aware, there’s one in this house.”

Give Jeremy a cookie.  He didn’t look half as scared as even his murderous maenad did.  She didn’t move her head, but her eyes widened.  The others reacted, looking at one another.

“You could be lying.  There are no guarantees you’re bound to tell the truth.”

I shook my head.  My vision wavered.  I was feeling the influence of this heavy perfume, smoke, blood, and wine that all sat so thick in the air.  “Not lying.  If I am telling a deliberate falsehood, I give your god permission to strike me down.”

I saw one or two Satyrs step back.

“It doesn’t work quite that way, but close,” Jeremy said.  “Where is this supposed demon?”

“Last I saw, it was in the house,” I said.  I decided to bend the truth.  “It can’t leave.  I would like to keep you from leaving with it, accidentally or otherwise.  That’s in my top five concerns right now.”

He didn’t take my bait and ask what the other four were.  “If the demon was a concern, the occupants of the house would be a lot more afraid than they are.”

“It’s scarier than the demon in the factory,” I said.  “As rankings for demons go, it’s  few steps up.  I don’t like Rose, but I trust her not to fuck that up.  You… I’m much less inclined to trust your lot to keep from accidentally fucking up.  When I killed the snake, I was protecting all of us.”

“The responsibilities of being a diabolist’s favored pet,” Jeremy said.

“Eh,” I said.  “You got one of those three labels right.”

“I have my own responsibilities,” he said.  “When I wield power, it isn’t with lines on the floor and carefully worded contracts.  I only ask.  I can change the wording, pick the phrasing, decide the poetry of it, and read old texts, from my god’s days of glory.  But when I want to practice, I only speak.  A single word will suffice.”

He wasn’t murdering me or getting us all killed while he talked, so there was that.

He continued, “My challenge is to show I’m worthy.  In the heat of the moment, I don’t need to do anything special.  Outside of those moments, I have to curry favor.  There aren’t any gauges, no measurements I can take.  I have to watch for signs and trust him to show me his pleasure or displeasure.  If I overstep, asking too much for how little favor I have, he may punish me.  If I hold his favor but do not spend it, he might revoke it.”

“Easy to get wrong,” I said.

“I don’t shape how it manifests.  He does.  But when he works…”

“He can knock down all the barriers in a house that’s supposed to hold up against a pair of angry chronomancers and enchantresses.”

The atmosphere here… I didn’t even have pumping blood, but my head pounded.

“Yes,” Jeremy Meath told me.  “That snake was his.  You killed it.  You maimed his servant’s hand.  For all intents and purposes, there is a gun pressed to your head as we speak.  There has been since you hurt that snake.”

I shook my head a little.  “Can’t be that simple.  You would have said it already.”

“I need answers before I have my god smite you.  Where is the Thorburn Cabal?”

You should be asking where the demon is,” I said.

“Eryalus?” he asked.  “You smelled something foul when you entered the house.”

The ugly satyr spoke, “Above us.”

“Has it moved?”

“No,” the satyr said.

Jeremy looked at me, spreading his hands.

“If you upset Rose,” I warned, “there’s no guarantee she won’t give the demon a command.”

“I’m not concerned with upsetting Rose,” he said.  “I want to find her and her cabal.  Now, second try.  Where is the Thorburn Cabal?”

“Ask your god to point you in the right direction,” I said.

“Asking him for trivial things I could earn and achieve on my own is a fast way to lose favor.  For the third time, where is the cabal?”

Three times.  The answer I gave here mattered.

I’d spooked his minions by mentioning the demon.  Maybe I could take advantage of that.

“She’s in an area that, as I understand it, involves warped space,” I said.  “One step to the side, and, how did you put it?  Above us?”

Which was technically true.  It was a two-floor affair.

I could see his jaw set, eyes narrowing.  There was no softness in his face, however worn and rumpled he might otherwise look.  How could a priest of drunken merriment and debauchery look so joyless and cold?

“If that’s the case,” he said, “We could all be dead.  You’ll definitely have to tell me where she is, so I can stop her.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“What do you think I did, mirror man?” he asked.  “I needed to disarm the diabolist and her cabalists of their greatest weapon, which we just talked about, and I needed access.  My god granted me both with one fell stroke.”

Jägerbomb,” a younger satyr said, snickering as if it were far funnier than it was.

Which wasn’t hard.  I didn’t think it was funny in the least.

“You’re telling me you went after the one person in Jacob’s Bell who has the most dangerous knowledge around, the one person who can tap into world ending forces, who’s maybe a little hard to anticipate to begin with, and you got her drunk?”

“I’ve been led to believe my god impaired her faculties,” Jeremy Meath said.  “As I said, doing what I do is far from an exact science.”

“If she calls on the wrong name,” I said, warning.

“She won’t, not anytime soon,” the priest answered me.  “My god is a god of madness and drink.  She’ll be insensate, for now.”

“For now?”

“I imagine there’ll be a window of time when she’s lucid enough to act, and still far enough out of her gourd to do something stupid,” the priest told me.  “If circumstances were better, and she didn’t already have something summoned, this would have been perfect.”

His expression didn’t change from that stony stare, as he made that admission.

His minions looked more than a little freaked out, though.

“You leave, I find her, we mutually prevent anything stupid from happening, and Sandra gets to do whatever she’s planning to do to Mags and Molly,” I said.  “You and your god win.”

“It’s not that simple.  When my god created this situation, he posed a challenge to me.  If he simply gave me what I needed, what would that be worth?  I have to work for it a little.  His era of gods are especially fond of making the little mortals dance,” Jeremy said.  “If I walk away from that challenge and fail to dance, I disappoint him.”

“Seems to me,” I said, picking my words with care, not breaking eye contact with him, “Following a god like you do is very nearly as tragic an existence as being a diabolist.”

His expression changed for the first time in a good while.  A light smile.

“I think you might be right, mirror man.  There’s a reason I’m here.  When someone like Sandra, the departed Laird Behaim, or even Conquest do battle with a diabolist, they’re busy trying to win, while the diabolist knows they can win.  It’s merely a question of how little that diabolist can get away with losing in the process.”

“Rose and I have surmounted plenty of obstacles without summoning or dealing with demons,” I said.

Jeremy stroked the hair of the Maenad who hadn’t moved her head from his shoulder.  She’d stopped clenching her claws, and now held her injured hand against her chest.

He continued, “But the mindset is still there.  If you two truly needed to, you could call in a favor, call a name, find a book, or remember an author’s name from one of your books and chase it down.  With your diabolist, you can theoretically pick up the raw firepower you need to remove every single one of your enemies from the table.  But you don’t.  We have to hold back, because the price is often too high to pay.”

“I think I want to be more optimistic than that.”

“Okay,” he said.  He shifted his weight, and his injured maenad backed off a bit, giving him space.  “Right now, we’re playing a game of chicken.  Rather than an onrushing car or train, there’s a diabolist of impaired faculties in the building.  It would not be surprising if she woke up and then acted with her faculties thus impaired.”

“That’s the gist of it,” I said.

“As an optimist, you would have the advantage.  Maybe she’ll simply sleep it off.  Maybe she’ll act benevolently.  As her ally, too, the odds are with you.  She’s more likely to come after me than she is to hurt you, am I right?”

I was silent, and utterly still.

“On the other hand, she’s in close proximity to your other allies, who are very likely to be collateral damage.  I don’t know if you know this, but she’s been tainted by Conquest.”

“I know,” I said.

“Then you know we have every reason to expect that taint would have more sway over her when she’s not fully herself.”

If he didn’t look quite so grim, I would have thought he was enjoying this.

“If you crack first, you might well show me the way to her.  I would try to be fair.  Killing her would only transfer ownership to the next heir.  We don’t want that.  I don’t want to hurt or kill her cabalists either.  We can keep her and you contained and organize your release from captivity when the Lordship is settled and full attention can be devoted to the dangerous diabolist and her mirror-dwelling pet.”

“Or you crack,” I said.

“Or I crack.  I call on my god to show the way, and in the doing, I disarm myself of my primary source of power.  You hurt the snake, and that counts a great deal against you.  I could probably assume that’s enough that he’d grant me the favor, despite the disappointment in me.  But probably isn’t certainty, and   I’d normally be unwilling to call on my god for three great acts in a single week, let alone a day.”

“Our game of chicken,” I said.

“A good game for an optimist to play.  It’s not about who wins,” he said, “It’s about who loses the least.”

“Or,” one of the Maenads said, “you could send us after him.”

He turned his head to answer her.

I ran, not even listening to the words that escaped

However much I wanted to be an optimist, I couldn’t, not when this much was at stake.

“Demon upstairs,” I breathed the words, “Don’t follow.”

Technically true, but misleading.  I just needed them to hesitate.

I stepped from the edge of the mirror space, and I leaped.

Moving up, more than anything else.

Up to the next floor.  To the meager, short-reaching light that the picture frames shed into the hallway.

They were already moving.  They were fast.

I found the bookshelf, which was supposed to open into the real world.

I just had to reach the handle before they got close enough to see me and what I was doing.  The benefits of being inside a reflected surface.  If I couldn’t, I could run.  I could get help.

I wasn’t sure what form that help would take, but I needed to check.

It was unlocked.  The way into the library was clear.

The reason it was unlocked, however, was something else.  It was open.

The house had been Jägerbombed, as the satyr had put it.  Pictures had been knocked from walls, books from shelves, and the entire building had been rocked, with barriers suffering for it.

And, perhaps, a divine hand had nudged things to this particular result.

The lock had jostled open.  The bookcase was partially ajar.

I looked from my reflected bookshelf to the one opposite.

I ran.  No regard for safety.

I lunged through the mirror.  Reaching for the bookshelf, blind.

If I could push it closed-

The darkness claimed me.  My hand didn’t touch it.

I was shunted.

By the time I found my feet, I could hear the noise of the bookshelf sliding open.

It opened wide.  Rose, Evan, Alexis, Tiff and Ty lay collapsed on the ground.

Jeremy strode in, as I pressed my hands against the glass, unable to stop him.

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137 thoughts on “Mala Fide 10.6

    1. “Something like this, he couldn’t get away with it if he hadn’t cleared it with everyone other local power,” I said.
      – every instead of everyone?

    2. Very,” I said.
      missing opening quote

      You should be asking where the demon is,”
      missing opening quote

      and I’d
      locals. I’d
      extra spaces (both 3 spaces, first should be one, second two)

    3. Wow, this chapter was full of typos.

      Plain typos:

      • “if I go their attention here” -> “got their attention”
      • “The flickers persisted at the edges, but her body remained stable, with only tearing at the edges.” -> Seems like the first and third part of the sentence are essentially the same.

      • “The smell was thick, The barriers had been breached.” -> “thick. The”

      • “A little different from the other Satyrs” -> “satyrs”

      • “rose and fall and shrunk” -> “rose and fell”

      • “it’s few steps up” – “it’s a few steps up”; also, there’s an extra space

      • “and I’d normally ” -> three spaces, rather than one

      • “I ran, not even listening to the words that escaped” – missing period

      • “heading that way meant they were downplaying the risk” -> doesn’t this mean “underestimate the risk”, rather than “minimize the risk”?

      • “But you don’t. We have to hold back, because the price is often too high to pay.” -> “You have to hold back”? That phrasing seems weird, as if Jeremy was a diabolist or something.

      • “As an optimist, you would have the advantage.” – That sounds as if Jeremy claims Blake is an optimist (which no-one is, in Pactverse). Maybe replace with “Optimistically speaking”?

      And generally, even in this chapter there’s no consistent capitalization of things like “Satyrs” or “Maenad”. (Whether “Maenad” is capitalized or not seems almost like a toss-up.)


      Unclear or weird passages:

      • I found the first ~7 paragraphs almost incomprehensible: Only by ~para 8 does the text say that the “get their attention” part from para 2 refers to Sandra and Jeremy, NOT to Mags and Molly and his friends. The text led me to believe the opposite.

      • “I heard a laugh, from some place beyond my ability to see. They weren’t here, but they were getting close.” – Again, this doesn’t make clear that “They” and “they” refer to Jeremy & co, not Rose & co.

      • “You’re going to handle this?” […] “Go. Handle that first.” -> Again, “this” and “that” refer to different things, and it’s not even clear to what, exactly.

      • Also pretty incomprehensible: “I knew where they were. The question was, did he have the resources to, or did I have time?”

      • “I aimed for her wrist.” -> Again, it’s not very obvious that “her” refers to the Maenad. The last mention of “her” was 6-7 paras earlier.

      1. There aren’t any gauges, no measurements I can take.

        -Not sure if this is an error or intended, since Jeremy had the torches in his condo as one measure of Dionysus’s “mood.”

  1. By Bacchus’s dangling grapes, that’s a rather terrifying amount of power being thrown around. Jeremy can call in divine nukes.

  2. Poor Blake. Still, Obvious trap is obvious.

    This chapter seems a little short, relatively speaking. Is it, or is that just in my head?

    It’s interesting seeing how Priests work in the Pactverse. They’re like an entirely Other form of practitioner.

    Jägerbomb. . . this word brings to my mind the idea of an explosion of tiny hunters with swords, bows and guns (and possibly anthropoid robots). Am I off? Does the word come from mythology? How does it apply?

      1. I think its pretty much what it sounds like. A “hunter bomb”, only instead of the bomb being guided intelligently, the effect of the explosion is.

        1. That’s what I don’t understand. How is the name appropriate or even apply here?

          Maybe I misread, but the Jägerbomb was basically a Booze Blast, right? It opened doors and made the enemies drunk (and incompacitated). Where is the connection to hunting and how is the name funny?

          1. Jägermeister is a drink with a high alcohol content, when you love alcohol but hate beer, you tend to get to know lots of different drinks

            1. There is no connection to hunting. They got bombed, blitzed, smashed out of their gourd, completely zonked unconscious, totally drunk on the floor. Jager (excuse the spelling, i don’t want to go look up the a) is a crazy high alcohol drink that gets you drunk fast if you belt it down. There is a Jagerbomb drink, but in my experience, a Jagerbomb is smashing down the Jager’s because you want to get bombed, blitzed, totally punch drunk, etc. It’s a pun of sorts — common to American fraternity houses, I suppose, if nowhere else.

          2. No offense, but seeing so many readers going “Jägerbombs? Is that some kind of weapon?”, and then launch into a highly erudite discussion about the idea, I can’t help but picture Dionysus and Bacchus, along with all their frat-boy disciples in their “PARTY NAKED” t-shirts, staring at each other for a moment and then, in a raucous semi-coherent chorus, bellow: “NEEERDS!” 😀

            Admittedly, I’m hardly one to talk (seeing as how I’ve been drunk exactly zero times), but still: pretty hilarious. 😉

        1. I think a Jägerbomb is a mixture of Jägermeister and energetic drinks, the fusion of the counter effects of alcohol and caffeine can be very much like a bomb, you are all fine and dandy one second, but then you go to dance or try to stand up and well, it all goes to hell. Since english is not my mother language, I know alcoholic drinks by other names and as such I might be wrong

        2. As others have said, it’s a drink. It’s rather powerful in the sense that you feel hyper instead of drunk, which makes you think you’re more sober than you actually are, until you find that the ground is a lot closer to your face than your feet…
          The context is, their god essentially blew up the defences, like a pipe bomb. But he made it into a rather lame joke, saying instead of bombing the defenses, he jagerbombed it.
          It’s not a good joke. Well, unless you’re drunk, then it’s probably hilarious.

          The other context is, Blake’s faculties are more hampered than he thinks. Which might be why he led them so easily to the library, and lost the game of chicken.

            1. I wonder if Blake is going to get more horns, fur, and/or grape branches on his body with all this ambient power and his void in himself that he fillls with whatever he can

            1. (mine was a girl genius reference,but yours works too.Also,since rule of 3 requires 3 different references…):yes,its a bomb designed to kill all the titans.

    1. “It’s interesting seeing how Priests work in the Pactverse. They’re like an entirely Other form of practitioner.”

      Traditionally, Clerics and Wizards (or for that matter, Divine and Arcane magic-users in general) have always been very different flavors of spellcasters, according to the Dungeons & Dragons rules. It warms my geeky heart to see Other worlds in the universe that behave accordingly.

      (PS: I see what you did there.) 😉

      1. In traditional D&D (I lost track after 2nd Edition) Clerics are disappointingly like Mage, just with different spell lists.

        IIRC, there’s a very cool divine magic system floating around for GURPS which is very like what’s described here: You literally just make a reaction roll with modifiers to see if your god gives you what you want. Modifiers include how well you’ve been living up to your obligations as a priest, how big a thing you’re asking for, and how well it falls within the god’s domain of control (bonuses for asking Thor to smite someone with lightning, penalties asking Aphrodite for the same).

    2. Anthropoid robots? Ah, of course – once somebody gets around to writing a Pacific Rim/Wildbowverse crossover fanfic, there’s going to be loads more Jaegerbombing going on.

      And Behemoth from Worm will probably turn out to be a Kaiju. 🙂

  3. So… where are Rose’s summons? I don’t imagine she’d have dismissed them; she seemed to be keeping Corvidae summoned 24-7.

  4. “Our game of chicken” An unconscious Evan makes a face in his sleep.

    Gotta say I’m liking Jeremy more and more these days. I think he’s now a prisioner of his god in a way.

    I wish we could see a drunk Rose mumbling random stuff. It would be fairly entertaining. I bet the next chapter is Rose bitching about the killer headache she has while Barbie goes on a rampage.

  5. If Jeremy’s threat is correct, now that he knows where Rose and company are, he can call for his god to smite Blake. Blake would probably be torn apart from a direct hit from a god, even a mostly-forgotten one like Bacchus/Dionysus.

    1. I wouldn’t call him forgotten in the slightest. Weakened? Yes. Barely worshipped? Yes. Forgotten? Not at all. Greek/Roman mythology is relatively common knowledge in many parts of the world.

      1. Yeah, the gutteral god of light in the drains is the forgotten one. But damn, Blake better act fast. I’d say think fast, but he’s getting drunk. Worst case scenario is Rose doing something like letting the Barber loose. And I really don’t think that’s company Blake would want in the mirror.

      2. And I feel like considering he’s the God of intoxication/hedonism/whatever, he’s preeettttty powerful in today’s modern world, even if people don’t worship him by name.

        Also makes me wonder why Conquest didn’t just relocate to, say, the middle east. Or Russia.

        1. My understanding is that Conquest is specifically the Incarnation of Conquest in Canada; there is already a separate Incarnation of Conquest in the Middle East, etc.

  6. Personally, given the god they serve, I recommend Blake process the remains of the snake with ginseng into Snake Wine (c’mon, if you’ve committed blasphemy already, you might as well go the whole hog) then take shots of it with meals once he learns how to consciously “eat”.

    If he’s in a hurry, he could just eat it’s gallbladder instead to improve the flow of energies within him.

    1. a) There’s not a chance in hell that Blake has the time, right now, to make the wine. (first off, where exactly will he get Ginseng?)
      b) Isn’t the gallbladder more towards the tail? I don’t think Blake has that part.

      1. a) Ontario and British Columbia are where most North American ginseng is produced. Just get Rose or Mags to purchase it from apothecaries specialising in Traditional Asian Medicine or place an electronic/mail order.

        b) On the other hand he can’t get the whole of the snake at all since it’s still in the real world while he’s stuck in the mirror-verse… There goes another pipe dream. 😦

    2. “Personally, given the god they serve, I recommend Blake process the remains of the snake with ginseng into Snake Wine (c’mon, if you’ve committed blasphemy already, you might as well go the whole hog) then take shots of it with meals once he learns how to consciously “eat”.”

      Oh, are you referring to Habushu, or Habu Sake, i.e. Japanese snake wine?

      http://www.weirdtwist.com/2013/01/japanese-snake-wine-habu-sake.html

      “Some Japanese believe this snake wine increases the male libido because the habu snake can mate 26 hours straight [insert joke here.]”

  7. Well that’s not good. Although Rose’s summons probably aren’t dismissed. It occurs to me that the Barber might already be in play a familiar to Rose and ready to strike as a guardian.

    1. Yup. The Barber gives the impression of still working on some of Grandma Rose’s contracts.

      And, we have no idea what were in those. <_< Were I Jeremy, I'd be a bit less positive about being able to get Dionysus to harm Rose. Particularly in the psychologically abstract. 😐 He’s already caused some damage via the Conquest thing, and that’s pretty much in the abstract, as is: that’s Barber’s home turf.

      What are the odds that admitting to that, even in a not-very-well-functioning (thanks to Jägerbomb) collection of in-turned demesne could be… a mistake? << He's admitted: when it comes to diabolists, there's a ton he doesn't know. What he doesn't know is likely to strangle him and make his god a little unhappy with him, if he's not careful. –

      1. What he doesn’t know is likely to sever him from his god, get awfully creative with his body structure, and do other things no one really wants to think about.

        I’d forgotten the part where Barbie could supposedly cut a person off from the afterlife and surgically remove their powers. He could probably cut the connection between Jeremy and Dionysus, too. Mr. High Drunk had better hope Rose is sober enough to not do something stupid like that.

  8. Yeah… Sure!

    Blow up the barriers of a diabolists house and let loose things that are all bound up.
    A drunk barber running around taking pounds of flesh from everyone and sharpening the entire cities knife sets (I know it doesn’t work that way).. =)

    1. Jeremy would know because he was in Toronto. He would have presumably told Sandra. It’s in Sandra’s interest to tell the other Jacob’s Bell practitioners since it makes Rose seem more unpredictable, dangerous and untrustworthy. (and Sandra’s totally right anyway). So that’s why everybody knows.

      1. Also, it might have something to do with a local goblin called Skidmarkmustache, who snuck up behind Rose and stuck a piece of paper with the words “KICK ME” written on it, to the back of her shirt, which all the other Practitioners promptly started sniggering at. 😉

      1. Or she severed the connection to Conquest with the Barber cutting off the influence. Or simply murdered Conquest with the Barber. I suspect the Barber could do that, cutting off Conquest from the acts he derives his power from.

        Somehow I don’t see that as a much improved option.

          1. That would be the sane option. Although I’m not sure what I would be okay with being tainted/empowered by an incarnation.

    2. Because she’s probably not talking to people outside her circle, and when she does she’s not going to trust what they have to say (especially if it seems like an attempt to discredit her.)

      She barely even listened to Blake, who should have been at least a neutral party in her eyes. She’s not going to listen to her enemies when they tell her she’s tainted — even though she knows they can’t lie, she’ll find a reason to dismiss it.

  9. Maaaaan, this arc is heavy on the cliffhangers!

    Increasingly, I’m finding Jeremy an excellently written villain: he’s sympathetic, but not so much that I don’t want to see his ass get kicked.

      1. He’s seemingly working for the god of date-rape drugs and other such nastiness. And the things he trucks around aren’t particularly nice. He may not have risen to the level of serial-killer-that-eats-people, but he is def on team evil.

        1. Dionysus is the god of intoxication, ritual madness, religious ecstasy… and that of revolution, subverting the “oppressive restraints of the powerful” etc etc. I think hemming him in as “date rape drugs” is a bit much, considering that big bro Zeus is more of a rapist than he, anyways. And as far as we know Jeremy hasn’t actually used seduction-powers, considering he still seems to be pinin’ for Sandra. I just think that if you look at the spectrum of Pact characters, he’s not even close to the worst in terms of actions taken.

          1. Jeremy is probably close to the best in terms of characters. Especially in major players. The North End Sorc has his torture of vestiges factory. I think the only people we can put above him are a few of Blake’s friends. Even Blake sicced Pauz on Conquest.

        2. God of date-rape drugs? Where did you get any of that? Surely not from anywhere in the story.

          Besides, Wildbow dislikes using rape as a cheap plot device, so I very much doubt it’s suddenly going to make an appearance here.

        3. Fact:very few gods of polytheistic systems are gods of only good or only bad things.

          The fact that his domain happens to include some bad things does not make him an evil god.

    1. So, has anyone pointed out the amusing “coincidence” in having Molly and Mags teaming up, yet?

      Y’see, the name Molly is a pet name derived from either Mary or Margaret – just like the name is Maggie is short for Margaret. 🙂

      1. I didn’t know Molly was derived from those names, actually.

        Wait a minute, if Maggie’s derived from Margaret, couldn’t she have used that to counter Padraic? Or did her parents actually gave her an official diminutive name?

        1. Possibly somewhat, but I can’t imagine that would be a pleasant life for either of them. Margaret would have all the nice boring official stuff; born to parent, adopted, claimed as a dependent, goes to school, etc. However she would still lose all the stuff she did under the name of “Maggie” more or less.

          Maggie OTOH, seem to be the Maggie that everyone used to know, but not actually be Margret in any legal sense. Which makes very little sense and would probably be a devastating contradiction to a Faerie. He would probably also get some, but not all of her oaths and promises which would be all sorts of messed up.

          1. Besides, it’s common to name your children in the diminutive form, so there’s no reason to assume her birth certificate says anything other than “Maggie”.

  10. Interesting chapter. Tons of typos, though. (See above.)

    Misc. Comments:

    • I like that Blake finally acknowledges that “my ‘trust my gut’ approach to this whole thing had given me momentum, while leading me headlong into disaster”.

    • “Not lying. If I am telling a deliberate falsehood, I give your god permission to strike me down.” – Great idea.

    • “How could a priest of drunken merriment and debauchery look so joyless and cold?” – Because he’s also a priest of “blood lust” and “naked fear”, as we know from his Histories chapter.

    • “We can keep her and you contained and organize your release from captivity when the Lordship is settled and full attention can be devoted to the dangerous diabolist and her mirror-dwelling pet.” – Yes, this is why Rose had to participate in the battle for Lordship.

    • Now we finally know how Dionysus could still survive to the 21st century: he’s the frickin’ GOD OF TROLLS (or rather, of frat boy pranks). Making the diabolist drunk? Insane.

    • “or were these businesses some kind of abstract indication of Johannes’ influence creeping into the city proper?” -> Did anyone understand that? I didn’t.

    • Great lines: ““The responsibilities of being a diabolist’s favored pet,” Jeremy said. “Eh,” I said. “You got one of those three labels right.”” and “He wasn’t murdering me or getting us all killed while he talked, so there was that.” and “I need answers before I have my god smite you.”

    • I loved Jeremy’s description of the diabolists: “When someone like Sandra, the departed Laird Behaim, or even Conquest do battle with a diabolist, they’re busy trying to win, while the diabolist knows they can win. It’s merely a question of how little that diabolist can get away with losing in the process.”

    1. ““or were these businesses some kind of abstract indication of Johannes’ influence creeping into the city proper?” -> Did anyone understand that? I didn’t.”

      Jacob’s Bell is a fairly podunk little backwater hamlet. Johannes probably holds the biggest monopoly of power in the area, having grabbed a sizable chunk of land as his Demesne and using it to cement a foothold for a variety of allied Others. Maybe Blake suspects that Johannes’ power grab and relative wealth is influencing the town in subtle, metaphysical ways? “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

    2. Johannes made a pretty big deal about how humanity’s tendency to progress at a very rapid pace is what’s allowing them to win against the Others. Businesses and other symbols of progress being a sign/result of his influence makes sense.

      His area would probably be a pretty nice place to live if it didn’t keep taking little fragments of you.

    3. I think because Johannes’ demesne is the “new” part of town, near the road, with people coming from Toronto and new trendier stuff happening to innocents. What Blake is noticing is that perhaps some of that influence is leaking into the town to cover metaphorical “town injuries” in a similar way the bird spirits cover Blake’s injuries.

  11. More comments:

    1. Oh great, Blake had finally gotten freed of his karmic debt, and now he’s already incurred the wrath of a god. If that’s not bad karma, nothing is.
    2. Also, this happened not one arc after Blake survived the Drains with the inadvertent help of a forgotten god. The universe loves balance, and Blake can’t catch a break…

    3. The rules of Ur’s memory erasure seem inconistent: Blake’s cabal remember the events in Toronto as if Rose had done them all, so why doesn’t Jeremy remember sabotaging Rose in Toronto?

    4. Similarly, in arc 2 Blake warned everyone in Jacob’s Bell that they already had a summoned demon; if the memory of that scene hadn’t been erased, Jeremy should have been told. Sandra is manipulative, but she genuinely cares for her husband. I can see her sending him into danger, but not willfully into blind danger.

    5. I figured if Blake was sufficiently desperate, he could (try and fail to) save Rose & co by freeing the Barber from his prison. Luckily, he can’t; after all, the Barber’s room is free of reflective surfaces, and for good reason.

    6. Where the hell is Rose’s bodyguard army of Others? Blake saw them in his visions in the Drains. Maybe they were killed since then, but then Rose would have simply summoned new ones, right? Also, Corvidae appeared in 10.1.

    7. I don’t think Rose & co should be so easily defeated, so let’s count the ways in which this could be a deliberate trap:

    • “They smell scared.” – “They” might not be Rose & co. What about kidnapped innocents, or ghosts, or something? And did they even have the time to get scared after falling unconscious to the Jägerbomb?

    • In 10.1, Ty told Blake they had a plan, and asked him if he could trust them. This scene be that plan.

    • Blake’s sudden appearance in 10.1 prompted Rose to expel him from Hillsglade House, with the words “It seems we’re going to need to shore up our defenses to prevent intrusions from more oblique angles”. That seems like a major point in favor of a trap.

    • As I mentioned above, all of Rose’s Others are missing.

    All that said, a major point against this being a trap is that Jeremy was able to reach the library. If the books are burned down, the Thorburn Cabal is doomed.

    1. I think the explanation for Blake retaining his memories had to do with him being a Vestige or some type of Other. Still don’t know why that’s an explanation, though.

      1. The explanation for Blake retaining his memory was that Ur cuts connections, it doesn’t erase the memories. The memories are “erased” because the universe abhors a vacuum and fills it. (See the beginning of Histories 7.) Blake’s memories were fake, so there was no vacuum for the universe to fill.

        That I understand, but I don’t understand why the Thorburn Cabal seemed to remember things as if Rose had done them instead of Blake, while Jeremy doesn’t remember sabotaging Rose in Toronto.

        I really wish the results of Blake’s erasure had been made clearer somewhere.

        1. I don’t understand why […] Jeremy doesn’t remember sabotaging Rose in Toronto.

          We don’t really know he doesn’t, do we? Jeremy just said “Was that what I did? Hm.” Maybe he remembered doing it to Rose, but he has a good poker face.

          It could also mean that he doesn’t remember that part at all. After all, the universe doesn’t have to fit everything absolutely logically, it just has to roughly fill in the blanks so the cracks aren’t obvious, and it probably does that with “minimal effort”.

          If you lose an arm, you remember some sort of accident because otherwise you’d be wondering about that missing arm, since everyone else obviously has two arms. But if you lose something that neither draws attention to itself by not being around you, nor has many “third-party” memories related to it, it’s not necessary to replace the lack with much.

          We’re told right in the first encounter (Collateral 4.2) that Jeremy didn’t “attend court” with Conquest much. I don’t remember him meeting Blake afterwards, or if he did at least it wasn’t a big deal. So it’s probably easiest for the universe if he just forgot Blake completely, or maybe he just thought he spent a bit more time at a party or something like that.

          In contrast, people on whom Blake had significant effects (like Laird’s family) need something to explain those effects (e.g., both Laird’s missing and their going to Toronto), and thus they probably remember Rose doing them because she’s the most obvious candidate.

    2. Yeah, but we don’t know what’s been happening in the house the entire time Blake’s been banished from it. Rose couldn’t have made it into her demesne because there would be open combat invitations in that case, but she could’ve moved the books somewhere else….

      1. she could not establish a demesme in the house anyway, see first arc, which also would not have helped, because of the “one step below a god” rule.

        but, I second what mondsemmel called, in a very admiral Acbar kind of way: “[Of course] its a trap!”
        Come on. all of them in the library, door slightly ajar. Thats genuine trap material.
        But, if it is, despite near obviousness, not a trap, then there are still a number of potential plot twists at hand:
        * Calling the lawyers (Blake)
        * Blake follows an hunch, calling Jeremy forsworn
        * Evan not sleeping and doing something heroic and/or stupid
        * The barber being released and walzing around, since all barriers and the house got weakened/knocked over
        * Deux ex interruptus: the whole process is interrupted by Jeremys god, for whatever reason
        * Deus ex interruptus 2: Interruption from Faysal/or other fast moving other, notifiying Jeremy that what he is doing would not be a good idea, since the council meeting voted against that particular plan.
        * Wildbow happens

        1. Good points. That said, I don’t think Blake can still meaningfully call the lawyers – they might appear, but he has nothing to barter with. Also, I don’t think any local Other will interrupt; recall Blake’s line “Something like this [i.e. the Jägerbomb], he couldn’t get away with it if he hadn’t cleared it with every other local power”.

          But I can see the Barber getting freed somehow, Dionysus trolling anyone and everyone, and an interruption by an Other from Toronto (e.g. Isadora).

          Oh, and now that I think about it, if Sandra hasn’t taken sufficient precautions, the other Thorburns (i.e. the muggles) might suddenly show up at Hillsglade House, forcing Jeremy to withdraw lest he lets innocents come to harm.

          But I still find the trap thing more likely.

        2. Or we find out that it’s Others who have been made to look like Rose and company who are passed out on the floor and Jeremy and crew are about to be bushwacked by the real Rose and company.

    3. About the wrath of a god: yes-no. That can work two ways: if Blake’s actions and history go contrary to how Jeremy painted him or otherwise show Jeremy to be an inept vessel… it goes the other way around. 😐

      This is the catch: Jeremy has kind of assumed that Blake has no godly support or higher purpose to anything that he does (Diabolist supporters: Always Chaotic Evil). This is incorrect: to get out the Drains, he got direct divine intervention by a forgotten god still trying to hold the cosmos together in its capacity as an upholder of light, order and creativity. In a place that’s near an angel that also does that same thing that can (and has) opened doorways to where that god can be found…

      That god may be nameless and forgotten to most, even in the Drains, but… compare and contrast with The Party Boy and Professional Madman of the Greek Pantheon. Which is currently acting in the better interests of All? Who judges, if not those that go directly counter entropy?

      How sure could be we that Dionysus would not go “oh, crap” and withdraw all support, once he realised that he’s just tried to help take out somebody linked to trying to hold the whole shebang together via his High Priest? You can’t party hard when there’s nowhere to party, after all. No matter how many grudges you might have against him. 😛

      1. Hmm, Blake with a personal god, like Widdershins and Olgun? Now that would turn Jacob’s Bell right upside down.

        I doubt it’s anything so obviously in his favor, though, to be honest. Karmic debt or no, Blake seems destined to suffer. He’s scrappy and clever, however, and I can see him worming out of Dionysus’s bad graces one way or another.

      2. That sounds a little too much like a good thing happening to Blake. We all know that should a good thing happen to Blake, something will happen that not only negates it, but makes his situation much worse than it was before the good thing happened.

    4. Argh, and the biggest point in favor of this being a trap: The arc is titled “mala fide”. Online dictionaries tell us this means “In bad faith; with intent to deceive”, though in a law context. Well, then.

    5. Risking the library would be extremely dangerous if it would be easily destroyed. But Laird implied that such an act was impossible or extremely dangerous. Plus I bet Rose has probably scanned all those books. Also that may not be the actual library, space-warping can perform all sorts of asshattery.

      Oh the lawyers will probably put everything back together again. Like last time.

      A point in favour of the trap: Fell demonstrated the art of making illusions of people.

    6. One possible reason to deliberately let Jeremy reach the library might be because it has built-in defenses they can bring to bear even in the case of an assault like that — logically it would be the most well-protected room in the house.

      Also, I don’t think it’s possible to simply burn the library. Laird treated the idea of the Thornburn legacy being safely relinquished as impossible — even in his best-case scenario, he described it as being “sealed under concrete”, not destroyed. The books are the crowning achievement of Rose Sr’s life (and her ancestors), and will logically have the strongest static defenses she could devise.

  12. To counter Dionysus’ influence, please call upon Bilious the “Oh God of Hangovers” to keep him at bay.

    1) To increase the “Oh God’s” influence, please prepare a concoction based on the following:-

    -One, cup of tomato juice with cayenne pepper, sugar, and lime.
    -Two cups of Water with a dash of salt and sugar
    -One glass of Wheatgrass.
    -One cup of Ginger tea with honey & lemon.
    -One cup of milk thistle tea

    2) Once the all of the above concoction has been drunk down, soak yourself in a mustard bath for 20 minutes.

    3) When dry from the bath, proceed to dab Tiger Balm on the back of your neck and temples, massage it in.

    4) Now sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Bend your left knee and cross your leg over your right, placing your left foot on the floor beside the outside of your right knee. Rotate your torso to the left so you are twisting your body. Bring your right arm across your body and place your right hand on the floor beside your left butt cheek. Use this arm to help you twist even more. Inhale big belly breaths. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

    5) With your body fully relaxed, you will now feel a sudden urgency from your bladder. You may now proceed to charge towards the nearest shrine of Dionysus to piss into the wine.

    1. You forgot the Wow-Wow* sauce in that anti-hangover cure. Shame on you. 😉

      • For the nearest equivalent, mix equal parts Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco with nitroglycerine: use carefully. Alternatively, try recreating the original Bow-Wow Sauce (heavily based on port, vinegar and pickles — including the incredibly bitter pickled walnut) it’s based on. In both cases: say good-bye to your taste buds.
      1. Those are some very solid suggestions, but Blake’s current intoxication problem might be solved more expediently with a pot of strong Klatchian coffee.

        Of course, if he sobers up too much, he could end up getting knurd, which would probably be pretty dangerous in a world like the Pactverse.

    2. IIRC, the fastest and easiest hangover cure is a bacon sandwich, or anything else with a lot of carbs.

      Or if you want to avoid the hangover part altogether, hang an IV over your bed and hook yourself up to that all night. Of course, this involves poking yourself with a needle while drunk, and is generally considered excessive or insane to begin with… but it’s very effective.

      1. A hangover is mostly caused from being dehydrated. So make sure to pound a glass or two of water for every glass of alcohol you drink and you’ll be fine.

        1. Excellent advice for a night out drinking, but a little late to help our hero, sadly.

          What he needs is some Gatorade. Godorade? Something that hydrates and protects from divine wrath.

  13. probably someone asked this already but couldnt blake jump into the eyes of someone considering they are reflective surfaces as well?

    1. I believe there is a size limitation, though it isn’t very clear how that works. I think Blake needs to fully fit in the reflected space. This is why Blake can’t fit into very small glass shards.

      1. It’s probably something more akin to “concept hax” than the size of the mirror. That is, Blake and other vestiges can occupy “whole” reflective surfaces, but not “broken” ones, regardless of size. This is why Rose could occupy small bike mirrors and the like, but not the larger shards of a window that she had broken.

  14. Blake should offer them some food and drink. He is Rose’s reflection, and he bought some food so he is totally responsible for helping to be a host!

    On that note, I think an effective defense against enemies would be putting a sign on the fridge offering food and drink to all who enter.

    1. They don’t have to accept. They can just ignore and keep going. Accept gives both the host and guest protections from each other, so it is common to do to foster peace when interacting.

  15. The Blake creature just plain needs to get himself some damn POWER! He should logically have a talk with the Angel, it made some great offers and he knows it was offering knowledge of him to potential enemies, he should be able to barter that for something. The Angel and it’s master want to do a deal with him, and he knows they’ve kinda sold him out, there ought to be a base there for a deal, he could make the argument he’s owed for that.

    1. Faysal offered Blake an alliance, and Blake rejected it. They owed him for getting him attacked, but not for anything else.

      To the contrary, Johannes and Blake are basically enemies by affiliation. There’s no such thing as selling an enemy out. Knowledge is purely a commodity to barter with.

      1. Blake did, however, get some credit for what he did against and found out about ErasUrr with Faysal. Small though it may be, credit like that is worth quite a bit.

        Blake and Johannes are not in the same boat by any manner of means, but he did claw himself away from the “Thorburn = automatic entropy-generating machine” assumption by some margin with both Practitioner and Familiar. 🙂

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

    But he missed asking the important question. In the chaos that follows, but what is the chaos? Is it solely the reordering of things, which may be disorienting? Is this a longer term prophecy — is the blood, fire, etc. what the chaos really is? Is this a more far reaching future prophecy meaning that Rose will be able to dispatch whoever kills Blake now, during the chaos of blood, fire. and stuff?

  17. And now for some unhinged speculation, with circumstantial evidence at best:

    • The arc is titled “Mala Fide”, which means something like “In bad faith; with intent to deceive”.
    • This means it’s very likely for there to be multiple cases of illusion and deception in this arc. Besides, Sandra is making her play here.

    • One such case of deception seem to be the bodies of Rose & co in the library. But what if they aren’t the only deception?

    • Who else in this arc could be an illusion, a fake?

    • … What about this new Molly? Possibly even both Molly and Maggie in the scene of this chapter:

    Molly had settled in form. The flickers persisted at the edges, but her body remained stable, with only tearing at the edges. Her features had distorted, not leaving her unrecognizable, but still a little hollowed out, twisted.

    Mags looked like she’d been affected too, but in a different way. I couldn’t see her face from this angle, but her posture was bent, as if she had a weight on her shoulders.

    From 6.05, when Fell created the simulacrum of Blake:

    He was so beaten-down that I almost expected to see fraying around the edges of his clothes.

    (And the whole scene in 6.05.)

    That said, the “fraying around the edges” thing has occured in the context of ghosts before (specifically, those of the Shepherd).
    As I said, I haven’t found anything solid.

  18. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that this could harm his relationship with Rose and co even further — Jeremy can truthfully say that Blake led him straight to them.

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