Mala Fide 10.7

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My mind was a haze, my emotions caught in some horrible, undefinable place.

I liked humanity, I hated people, but certain individuals were immensely important to me.

Four or five of those individuals were now at the mercy of our enemy.  Jeremy Meath walked into the library, accompanied by his satyrs and maenads.

I tensed as a satyr reached for Rose, fingers brushing the side of her face, her lips, and her throat.

“Don’t,” I said, from my vantage point in the hallway.

The satyr ignored me.  “She’s breathing.”

“Be careful,” Jeremy said.  “They were in Fell’s company for a time.”

“I am being careful.  I see her, hear her breathing, smell her, feel her,” the satyr said.  He smiled wickedly, “I could taste her.”

“No.  That’ll do.  Bring her here,” Jeremy said.  He walked around the writing desk, pulling the chair back.

The Satyr scooped up Rose, showing an easy sort of strength.  Rose’s head lolled, arms dangling at her sides.  Her fingers moved unconsciously, as if she were dreaming.

When I saw her eyes, only for a moment as the Satyr rounded the desk, I could see only whites.  They’d rolled into the back of her head.

She was placed in the chair.

“We’ll need restraints,” Jeremy said.

A satyr produced a pair of handcuffs from a back pocket.  One of the maenads was wearing a chain for a belt, held in place with a combination lock, and began unwinding it.

“Thank you,” the priest said.  “We’ve got several captives here.  Anyone else?”

“Not here,” another satyr said.

“I’ve got restraints on me,” a third chimed in, grinning, “but they’re for men only.”

Jeremy looked down at Ty.  “Let’s not subject the young man to that.  Search the cabinets.  Be wary of traps, sniff first, check the surroundings, communicate with those near you so they know what you’re doing.”

He paused, glancing at me.  “Keep your distance from reflective surfaces while you’re at it.”

The satyrs and maenads fanned out.  Jeremy worked with the satyr to chain Rose to the swivel chair, leaning her forward to wind the chain in and out of the bars in the back, under and over the arms, and around her body.

“Jeremy,” I said.

“Are you surrendering?” he asked, without looking my way.

“No.”

“Are you picking a fight?”

“No,” I said.  “I want to negotiate.  Talk this out.”

And I want to distract you in the hopes that you make a mistake here.

“We can talk when I’m done.  If you want to leave, I won’t try and stop you.  Arcas, do me a favor and lay that mirror flat on the ground, very carefully.  Don’t let it face anyone, and leave the cloth in place.  Maybe use a cord or your own shirt to tie the sheet in place, to be sure.”

He was talking about the full-length mirror that had a sheet thrown over it.  Back when Rose and I had occupied the house together, it had been her window into the library, giving her access to the books.

“We could break it,” a maenads said.

“I would if I was sure there wasn’t anything inside it,” Jeremy said.  “We’re doing this carefully.

“You’re just ignoring me?” I asked.

“I don’t think I can catch you just yet, and I’d rather do this right.”

He opened the drawers of the desk he’d just chained Rose to.  He pulled them out of the desk altogether, checking the bottoms, and then stacked them on the desk’s edge, one by one.  “Aurope, take these through to the nearest empty room, stack them out of sight.”

One of the maenads hurried to obey, carrying drawers that were stacked one on top of the other, three high.  I had a glimpse of the contents as she approached me.  Old pens, including fountain pens with stylized tips, letter openers, a syringe, and bottles of ink, with tidy little scrolls of paper.

“Cuff her ankle to the desk,” Jeremy said.  “No, not the leg of the desk – she could free herself easily by lifting the desk up.”

“It’s solid wood.  I couldn’t lift it, and I’m strong.”

“Strong like bull,” a voice said, from the sidelines.

The satyr grinned.  “If she’s strong enough to lift that, she’s strong enough to break the cuffs,” a satyr said.

“I won’t rule anything out, and I know people are capable of amazing acts when they’re scared enough.  Here, this bit, where the drawers were.

I heard the click of the cuffs.

“The bird?” a maenad asked.

Evan.

Evan was key here.

“Evan!” I shouted.

“Buh?” I heard his voice, faint.

“Fly!  Fly away!”

“No go, mirror dweller,” the maenad said.  “Bird in the hand.”

“Literally,” said the satyr that was busy unspooling a roll of twine.

“Thank you for adding to the dialogue,” the maenad said, sarcastically.

“Oh,” I heard Evan, though I couldn’t see him through the bodies that were in the way.

“Now would be a great time to escape,” I told the bird, ignoring the various Others.

“Can’t,” he said.  He was talking like he had his mouth full.  Drunker than I was.  I wasn’t sure how that really worked, since he had a beak, not lips, and his ‘speech’ was something else entirely, but whatever.  He added, “Not good.”

“No,” I said, clenching my hands.  As fuzzy as some of my senses were around the edges, my voice was still clear, at least.  “It really isn’t.”

“Bring the bird here, Metrodora” Jeremy said.  “I’ll be with you in a moment, mirror man. If you’re willing to stay there and cooperate, we can negotiate.  If you want to leave, that’s fine as well.  Right this moment, though, I need to secure things here.”

I stared, my expression grave.

He turned to his maenad companion.  “Right.  I’ll need him right here.  Down on the floor.”

The maenad knelt beside Jeremy as he set down books on the ground at the base of the desk , stacking them atop one another to form a box of sorts, utilizing the space between the stacked texts.

I was tense, watching.

If they were going to contain him, they had to let go.  He had a window of opportunity.

If I had any sort of bond with Evan…

Suddenly in action, I turned to search my surroundings.  I didn’t have anything to cut myself with that wasn’t the Hyena, and I didn’t want to use that.

“A little bit of wine,” Jeremy was saying, in the other room.  “Like so.”

“Aww, you’re wasting it,” a male voice.  A satyr.

“Don’t know what he is, exactly, I’m relying on my tried and true approach.  Stand ready, you two.  Metrodora-”

“Bird goes in between the books?” she asked.

“Yes.  Arcas, when I anoint the circle, I want you to drop the book on top, carefully.  It’s like a lid.  A container within a container.  I’ll say a prayer over it to seal it for a third layer of protection.”

I couldn’t find anything sharp in my little patch of world.  The drawers were in darkness, leaving me unable to retrieve the mirror equivalents of tools Aurope had carried away.  Why did the furniture in this house have to be so solid?

Rhetorical question.  I suspected I knew why: the occupants had long been anticipating something like a siege or something within the house wanting to get out.  Every little bit mattered.

My eye fell on the swivel chair.  The mirror to Rose’s own.  Not entirely in the darkness.

We were reflections of one another?  Maybe her paralysis was my path to action.

I grabbed the back of the chair with both hands, lifting the chair over the desk.

On my way to the window, I twisted my entire body to swing it at the door frame.  Wood splintered, the chair back largely detaching from the base, four prongs of sharp wood sticking out.

“Here we go, blood to seal the deal,” the priest said, “and a prayer, hm.”

I slashed my palm with the wood.  The tattooed flesh didn’t cut.

I grabbed my sweatshirt, lifting it, and slashed at my hip instead.

Dropping my sweatshirt and wiping my hand in the same motion, I slammed my blood-wet hand against the glass.

Come, Evan!”  I shouted.

The timing was as ideal as it could get.  The maenad Metrodora was in the process of putting him in the ‘box’ of books.

“My power for you!” I said.  But Evan was already free, flying through the gap in between the box and the approaching lid.  He plunged past the border of the circle, stray feathers scattering as if he were scraping against something that wasn’t even there.  The ensuing flight was ungainly, devoid of coordination and straight lines, like a sloppy paper airplane that just happened to be flapping its wings.

He made it through the doorway from the library to the hallway, though.

Connection, I thought.  Our connection had been cut, but that didn’t mean new and different ones couldn’t be formed.

I was a hollow Blake-shaped thing, all the gaps filled with Drains-stuff and spirits.

Evan was a dead little boy’s soul, molded into a bird body by the familiar ritual, the gap from our missing connection stuffed with more spirits.

If I was, as Faysal said, instinctively devouring spirits to shore up the gaps, then Evan was probably doing the same.

I knew he’d be receptive to taking anything I had to offer.  I just had to give.

And now he was free, flying under the influence.

The connection I’d just forged, giving him a bit of myself, apparently drew him toward me.  A moth to a candle.

“Stop,” I said.  “Don’t-”

He turned, flapping wildly in some attempt to stop or stall his forward movement.  He succeeded in only making a sharp right, sharp left, and then hit the mirror.  He dropped out of my field of view.

“Fuck,” I said.

Jeremy was striding our way, flanked by maenad and satyrs.

With one hand, he swept the frame off the wall.

I moved before it could shatter.  Other pieces of glass were falling, leaving me no place to go but down.

The second floor had only a few pictures and windows.  Less than there had been the last time I’d been there.  I headed straight for the first floor, instead.

When I looked, craning my head to see, I could make out the patches of light, distorted because I was viewing them from the wrong side, winking out, one by one.

I’d apparently made myself enough of a nuisance that he wasn’t interested in talking.

My hand was still bloody, though the gash at my waist was closing, knitting together like knotty wood, an instant scar of sorts.

Evan was an escape artist, so to speak, he’d evaded the Hyena, and spirits of freedom and survival and whatever else had been attracted to him, shoring up his soul in a kind of anti-wraith way.

If someone was going to help here, it would be him.  But he couldn’t even fly straight.

I heard Evan’s voice, growing louder on the approach

“Crap, crap, crapcrap, crahp, craahhhhppppp…”

Evan turned, bumping the wall as he rounded the bend in the staircase.  He managed to fold his wing in before he collided, keeping it from snapping or breaking.  He didn’t start flapping until he was far enough away from the wall, and his reactions were slow.  He nearly hit the ground before he managed to fly again.

A satyr and maenad jumped down to the landing behind him, not wasting a second in continuing down the staircase, chasing him.

“Oh crap!”

“Over here!” I shouted.

He clipped the couch as he turned, spiraling violently before he managed to get his bearings.  Having learned from his mistake upstairs, he didn’t try to perch or stop abruptly.  He set himself down, legs pulled up against his body, and coasted on the hardwood, spinning in a half-circle as he slid.  He came to a stop with his back to me.

He was darker around some of the edges, as though feathers were stained.  He really had taken in a bit of me.  A bit of the Drains.

“Stay put,” I said.

He pulled his wings and feet tight against his body, shortening his neck.

I held the Hyena in plain sight.

The satyr cleared the couch with an easy jump, one hand on the back of the piece of furniture.  The maenad slowed, pacing with a kind of menace in her eyes.

“Crap,” Evan said.

Both the satyr and the maenad had stopped where they were.

“Here, birdy, birdy, birdy,” the satyr said, singsong.

“Nuh uh.”

Whatever else was going on, they were spooked by me.  That counted for something.

Evan was flying poorly and wasn’t successfully putting together any words longer than a syllable.  Even those lone syllables weren’t that well put together.

We had to make do.

A book flew through the air.  I dodged to the front window, where a single pane was intact enough for me to stand in.

It had been thrown by the maenad.  The satyr was free to lunge for Evan.

“Crap!”  Evan dodged out of the way.

I pressed my hand against the window.  I closed my eyes.  “Spirits, I know I’m not a practitioner, but I could use help.  As you managed the giving, please take.  Give me the poisons that course through Evan Matthieu’s-”

Another thrown book.  It hooked on the curtain, losing much of its momentum, and glanced harmlessly against the window.

“-body.  Let me be the one who is drunk on the priest’s illusions.  I offer power, and I offer it knowing I might permanently change as a consequence.”

Nothing.

Fuck you, spirits, I thought.

Too complex.  I couldn’t manage the complex stuff.  Simpler stuff only.

Options.  There would be no convincing these Others.  I couldn’t reach them to hurt them.  Something in the environment?

“Evan,” I said.

“Gah!” he shouted, turning less than sharply in an attempt to avoid the satyr’s reaching hand.

“Did Rose set up anything?  Countermeasures?  Ready summons?”

“Ahhhhh!”

“Evan!”

“Yes!  Crap!  Help!”

Great.  There was possibly an option, but Evan wasn’t in a state or a position to spell it out.

We needed breathing room, but these creatures wouldn’t stop anytime soon, if my brief skirmish with the maenad earlier was any clue.

He veered toward the maenad.  She didn’t glance his way as she picked up another book.

But I saw muscles tense in her legs.

“Back!” I shouted.

Evan steered himself back and away.  His reactions were slow.

The maenad twisted on the spot, reaching for him.

He managed to stay out of the reach of her arms, dodging the satyr.  The maenad had to move around the satyr to chase, which gave Evan a chance.

He managed to wedge himself into the one-and-a-half inch gap between the tops of the bookshelves and the ceiling.

The satyr leaped onto the bookshelf, hands and feet on the individual shelves.  The maenad wasn’t far behind.  One hand groped in the gap for Evan.  I saw only the paleness of his feathered belly as he squirmed his way to the side, moving to the far end of the long row of bookshelves.

He couldn’t make a daring escape like this, I couldn’t necessarily help him, and if we waited, things wouldn’t get much better for us.

Damn it.

I didn’t have the abilities of a proper practitioner.  I didn’t have options.

I’d do what the maenad had done to me, attacking from a distance, but I was pretty sure that anything I threw through the window would be fake, breaking with the window.  I didn’t have anything suitably solid I could grab and throw.

Well, no, that wasn’t true.  I had the Hyena.  I didn’t trust my ability to throw it effectively.

Something else…

If I was going to turn the tables by doing what the maenad had done to me, why not take it a step further?

If I had no power or options… the natural conclusion was to bluff, and hope this pair wasn’t too brilliant.

“I now invoke all the powers and knowledge personally taught to me by my grandmother,” I said, speaking low and grave.  “I call on the instructions she gave me in this very room, the words she gently imparted to me in the antechamber upstairs.  I call on the tutorings of demons she summoned on my behalf, everything that was given to me so I might know the words to speak to kill a god.”

Not technically a lie, as I saw it.  When I invoked all of those things, I was invoking nothing.

But both the satyr and maenad looked at me, eyes wide.

Evan flew free, slipping out of the cranny behind their turned heads.

“Deus nihilis,” I started.  “Nex-

That was enough to get them to act.  If not because they bought it, I imagined the idea was still pretty insulting.

They weren’t keen on closing the distance and getting stabbed like the greater maenad had.  Killia or whatever her name had been.  The maenad grabbed a book instead.  An old leather-bound dictionary with gold at the edges of the pages.  The sort that predated the internet, a one-stop place to find any given word.

She hurled it at me.

I shoved my hands through the window.  Glass shattered.  The local section of the mirrorverse went dark.

I caught the book.

I leaped over to the dark reflective screen of the television set before I could get shunted, because moving faster was key here.

Still holding the book, I threw it, two handed.

Glass shattered as the dictionary punched through.

I was already moving to the side.  I stood in the hallway, with only a sliver of a view of the living room.

The satyr was sitting down, hand to his nose, blood flowing from the cracks between pages.

As far as they’d seen, they’d thrown the dictionary at the window, only for it to disappear as the window broke, reappearing a second later from the nearest reflective surface, apparently slamming into the satyr’s head.

I was glad it had worked.  If I’d merely dropped the book instead of bringing it with me, I would’ve had to catch the next one, throwing it back blind in the same motion, before the window finished breaking.  Less effective.

Damn, all the same.  I’d been aiming at the maenad.  More dangerous, as far as I could tell.

I saw Evan flying in short bursts.  Still not a straight line, taking evasive maneuvers with nobody chasing him, or just trying to get away with no idea how.

“Evan,” I said.  The satyr and maenad snapped their heads around to look at me.

Evan stopped again, doing his skid-landing in the hallway, coming to a stop a short distance to the left of me.

The satyr started to stand, wobbled, and fell.

The maenad grabbed him by one horn, hauling him to his feet.  He leaned heavily on her.

What now?  Reach for me and I’ll cut you.  Throw something at me and I might throw it back.

They didn’t want to walk by me, either, and that meant they couldn’t go back upstairs.

“What now?” Evan asked.

“Trying to think,” I said.  I didn’t feel as unfocused as before.

Were the effects wearing off?

“Are you feeling better?” I asked.

“Some,” he said.

I nodded slowly.

Not necessarily a good thing.

That meant Rose might be waking up.

“The stuff you mentioned.  Countermeasures and traps?” I asked.

“There’s some stuff with the deeb- diabluh- the evil books.  Pack of dust stuff, uh, powder.  Some more in the shelves.  cards.  She didn’t even tell the others, but I sleep in there and I preted’d to sleep and watched.  She doesn’t want ’em to tamper with any of it.”

“Good to know,” I said.

“My head hurts.”

“It’ll get better,” I said.

“There was this big bang, and then bluh,” Evan said.  “Couldn’t see, couldn’t stand.  Rose said to go in the library and then tried to close the door with Tiff.  The crow man said somethin’…”

“Corvidae?” I asked.

“Yeah.  Corb- Crow man said somethin’ and Rose was scared.  She banshid’ him instead of fin’shin’ the door.  Tiv and Ty didn’t get the door closed, and then it all went fuzzy.”

I watched as the maenad paced, dragging the satyr with her, as if she thought she could find an angle to attack from.

“What did Corvidae say?” I asked.

“That he’d look after her while she was sleep’n.”

“I get it,” I said.

“Really?  I can’t even talk right.””

“You’re drunk,” I commented.

This is been’ drunk?  Bluh,” he said.  “What’s wrong with people?  Why would you want this?  Can’t even fly proper.”

“People don’t fly,” I said.

“You know what I mean,” he said, sounding amazingly affronted.  It went beyond the indignance of the young and the surliest inebriated and combined the two.

You fly, though,” I said.

“I’m not people,” he somehow manged to pronounce the word like he was saying ‘peephole’.  He sounded even more belligerent as he raised his voice, “I’m a god-dammed bird of fire and awesome who just isn’t on fire yet.”

“Damn straight,” I said.

The maenad was watching us.  Her eyes moved from me to Evan as we talked.  She was following the conversation.  The satyr looked like it had a little more control of its faculties than it had.  A fast healer?

I couldn’t move to hold the conversation elsewhere without giving up the spot that kept her from reporting to her priest.  Evan wasn’t coordinated enough to fly up to me, and I couldn’t bend down, either.

That made detailing a strategy difficult.

“I need a mirror,” I said.  “Something that can be carried.  I need you to think.  Have you seen any kind of compact or hand mirror with Rose, Tiff or Alexis’ stuff, in the bathroom?  Grandmother’s stuff, even?”

“Dunno,” he said.

Damn.

“I can look,” he said.

“Wait,” I said.

But he was already taking flight.

In a way, my short skirmish with the elder maenad had been helpful.  While it had broken a dozen pieces of glass, it had scattered that glass over the floor upstairs.  It had also given me a very practical way of assessing just how my particular relationship to the mirror world worked.  The speed I could move, the way the worlds came apart.

The maenad here gave chase, pushing the satyr so he’d land on the armchair before bolting forward, after Evan.  She was almost on all fours as she crossed the couch, dropping close to the ground.

I lunged, stabbing through, but she was out of my reach.

I moved, switching to the nearest window.

Evan would be on the second floor, checking the bathroom.  The problem with the second floor was that my short skirmish had destroyed just about every reflective surface.  Only a couple of small picture frames remained, as well as the mirror in the bathroom.

I didn’t want it to come that close to the wire.  If she confronted Evan and I there, I wasn’t positive I could protect Evan and the mirror at the same time.

“Jeremy!” she shrieked, as she reached the second floor.

She was staying low, moving on all fours with about the same ease and speed that I might move on two.  Muscles stood tense in her arms and legs, her eyes bloodshot.  At this height, I couldn’t quite reach her.  I’d miss like I had before.  I wasn’t sure I could get ahead of her to hit her the next time either.

The closest thing, apparently, that Jeremy had to soldiers.

But even if she was flexible, there were limitations.  Her body bent more easily, but it still moved like a human did.

Crawling, she couldn’t look up.

I got ahead of her, gripped the hyena, and plunged it through the glass.

My arm bent.  I shoved, pushing the frame away from the wall.

Letting it fall.

I held the blade out, and felt it make contact with something.

I wasn’t able to retract my arm before I was shunted off to the nearest location.

The maenad lay on her side, both hands on her ankle.  I’d raked the back of her calf and her ankle, slicing them.

Meaning I’d very nearly missed.

Evan left the bathroom.  A small hand-compact shed light.

“They’re coming!” the wounded maenad screamed.

“Higher,” I said.

Evan flew higher.  The area in the compact’s reflection grew wider.

I skipped over, running to keep up, fighting to stay within the compact’s area as Evan swerved.

“Free Rose, free the others, or uncover the mirror in there,” I said.  “Hold off on the traps until I say, unless you don’t see any other option.  If you can, get close to Jeremy, give me the word, I’ll stab.”

“‘Kay,” Evan told me.  “Stabby mirror.”

I would have felt more confident if he didn’t nearly clip a wall as he said it.

They’d cleared all the reflective surfaces on the third floor.  Even the windows on either side of the hallway were broken or covered, as far as I could tell.

All I had was the mirror Evan held.

My way was clear, but Evan wasn’t so lucky.  When he flew to one side, I had to adjust.

When he flew lower, passing through the doorway, the amount of floor space I had shrank to maybe four feet across.

Then, just as quick, he soared higher.  The image reflected in the compact mirror was a bird’s eye view of the library.  I saw tracts of detail, and areas of nothingness where surfaces weren’t captured in the mirror.

“You can’t expect to win,” Jeremy called out.

“I can’t stand by while you go after my friends!”

“The same friends who locked you out?” he asked.  “Who left you to rot?”

“Extenuating circumstances!” I called out.  I positioned myself more or less where I thought he was.

“One word, and I can end this,” he said.  “What can you do?”

“One word, and I can end this,” I retorted.

“Gone,” I heard Evan’s voice from far away.

“What?” I asked.

“Gone,” he said.  “Crap, crap, crap!”

“What’s gone?”

“The stuff!”

My view was only of the empty library.  My window into the real world was a good twenty feet overhead, a circle about as wide as my palm.

Sounds and estimation were my only insights.

“Plan C!” Evan shouted.

Plan C?

Then he swooped, swaying a little as he fought to maintain his balance, and I knew.

Regardless of what happened, when I broke the mirror, I’d get shunted elsewhere.  My ability to act here would cease.

I held the Hyena in both hands, eyes trained on the little circle that was shedding light.

It swept toward me.

“Now!” Evan called out.  The voice sounded weird.

Not Evan.  It was Jeremy’s voice.

The little compact broke, and my footing disappeared with it.

At the same time, light flared, another reflection opening up.

I was shunted, dumped onto another patch of light.

I picked myself up.

I could see a pizza slice of the library, one quarter of it, bookshelves.

When I turned around, I could see the source of the reflection.  The full-length mirror.

Reflected, I could make out Rose, still in the chair by the desk, Jeremy, and my friends, with a satyr and maenad standing nearby.  The satyr was holding a leather thong.  A sling.

I had an idea of what had happened.

A rather bleary-looking Ty picked Evan up gingerly.

“Is he okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Ty said.

“Good,” I said.  “Guess you got me, priest.”

“Yes,” Jeremy said.  “You got my attention.”

I had a bad feeling I couldn’t place.

Stepping closer to the mirror, I could make out the mark on the floor.

They’d moved the full-length mirror, placing it in the circle he’d started to make for Evan.

He’d then broken the one mirror that held me while they removed the cloth, moving me to the nearest available surface, the one inside the circle.  Maybe he’d closed it after.  Maybe he hadn’t needed to.

I’d been bound the same way Conquest had.

“How did you know how the mirror thing worked?” I asked.  “You shouldn’t-”

“I told him,” Rose said.

I stared.

“I had a plan, Blake,” she said.  “Those three know it.  Evan knows it, even if he doesn’t always get it.”

“He doesn’t like the idea of using monsters,” Ty said.

“Monsters?” I asked.

“I set up a dead man’s switch,” Rose said.  “Me and Barbatorem.  If I die, he’s going to get out.  While you were breaking windows downstairs, I was talking with Jeremy.  It’s not a victory on either side, but it’s-”

“Grounds for negotiation,” Jeremy said.  He looked displeased.  “I’ll leave you be while I look after the two I sent downstairs.”

He left the room.

Rose waited for him to go.

“If he had to walk away, it would be a loss,” Rose said.  “As it stands, I’m giving up some things, and he’s leaving me and the others alone.  The house doesn’t have barriers, so it’ll be tough at first, but… we’re okay.  We were going to be okay from the start.”

“What was the deal?” I asked.

“You,” she said.  “I gave him what he needed to bind you, told them how to disarm the traps Evan knew about.  At the end of the day, they only want things to be manageable.  I made them pay me for it, in a roundabout way.  Deflected their first move.  They also wanted me to agree to certain terms of war.  I’ve accepted this time.”

“But you’re using a demon?  You’re tainted by Conquest, Rose,” I said.

“I know,” she said.  “They know.  Do you think we’ve been sitting on our hands, while I slowly went crazy?  We discussed it, we talked it over.  We have all these books, you don’t think we have a way to break Conquest’s hold?  We decided to keep it.  It’s a power source.  So long as I’m sure to spend it regularly, he doesn’t get too much of a grip on me.”

“But the demon.”

“It’s managed, Blake,” she said.  “Frankly, it’s none of your business.”

I tensed at that.

“Because I’m just the monster,” I said.

“You’re a monster, but that’s not all you are,” she said.  “If it helps you feel better, I did some research, we discussed some, and I’ve got a pretty good working theory on what you are, now.”

I remained silent, waiting for her to elaborate.

She didn’t.

“Dammit, Rose,” I said.

“If it helps,” she said, “We believe you now.”

“But you’re leaving me trapped?”

“Yes.  Had to happen, now that we know.”

I looked at my friends.

Of all of them, Alexis looked the most unhappy.  An unlit cigarette dangled from her lips.

“Alexis,” I said.

“I’m really sorry,” she said.

“About what?  What’s going on?”

“We can’t move you easily,” Rose said.  She turned the mirror until it faced the wall, not the bookshelves.  “This will have to do.”

“Hey,” I said.  “Wait, woah, fuck no.  That’s not giving me an answer.”

“It’s best if we don’t tell you,” Rose said.  “As I was saying, we can’t move you easily.  If you’re willing to be quiet and not kick up too much of a fuss, we can leave this like it is.  If you make a problem of it, then I’ll have to put down a rune of silence, or maybe even erect a temporary wall.  I don’t want to do that.”

I was silent, but it wasn’t out of any kind of obedience or cooperation.

My hands clenched at my side, I stared at her.

“Did Conquest get to you, or are you ten times the bitch that Grandmother was?” I asked.

“More likely the latter,” she said.  She turned her head.  “What?”

Jeremy spoke, offscreen.  “We’ll be taking our leave.  Something’s come up.  As agreed, we’ll vacate the premises.”

“What came up?”

“Things went… poorly, with our local ambassador.  The wraith is free, not bound as a familiar, and may have started off a chain of events.”

“I’ll come,” Rose said.  “Assuming you won’t try to harm me?”

“No.  This might need all available hands.  I’ll explain on the way.”

I watched as they filed out, one by one.

“Sorry,” Alexis said.

Outrage seized my throat.

Ty was among the last to leave.  I saw Evan in his hands, moving to stand rather than lie on his side.

He saw me, and offered me a wing-salute and a wink.

Maybe my only ally in this, and it was against his will, but he was still leaving.

The doors slammed shut.

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230 thoughts on “Mala Fide 10.7

  1. Hey guys. Thanks for reading.

    Good news. Banner on Topwebfiction, check it out when you next vote (tonight?). It was done by Rook, who puts art up on her blog here.

    Secondary thing: I’m changing the donation thing, but it’ll be a bit before I make all the changes involved and fix the wording on the donation page. The gist of this – the target amount for donations is $2250, and gives 2 updates for the month.

    So, basically:
    * One chapter in the queue, and that’s the first chapter (this Thurs).
    * Patreon counts for $1,325.50, and that’s one chapter and change toward the next goal. (Next Thurs)
    * With $924.50 total in Paypal donations, there’ll be a third for the month.

    After that, there shouldn’t be more than two updates a month, but the goals are easier to meet, and it’s just a lot simpler to handle, in terms of paperwork. Which is the big thing – it’s just getting to be pretty chaotic and time consuming trying to manage things. I think the natural route to go is something simpler. This way, I can go to one place and get one number (Checking the monthly total) and I don’t have to add up a ton of small numbers to figure out where we stand. More than that, I don’t have to constantly adapt and make that really stressful decision to increase the target amount.

    I’ll have a ticker and (I’m thinking) a little calendar up on the main page at a later point, along with a clearer description.

    I’m hoping this isn’t a problem on any level, and I’ll try to answer questions or concerns. I want this to work for everyone, but I’m hoping to write as a career, and making the process simpler frees me up to handle that.

    1. Have a bit of an ear infection and I’m housesitting at a place without any air conditioning, so I was sort of out of it today. Really hoping this came out okay. Even mediocre would be a win, as far as I’m concerned.

          1. Really? I always found the most visceral combat sequence to be from shadowstalker’s interlude in worm. I could perfectly visualize what was happening.
            This one was clear but that one felt crisp.

      1. Je l’aime. It was clear, precise, interesting to read, charged with just enough emotional impetus, and all that good stuff. If you’re getting as bad a heat wave in Ottawa as I am in Niagara, man that sucks about the air conditioning. Hope the ear infection clears up soon, those can be annoying as hell.

            1. Maybe Wildbow was trying to write the name of another town, but he’s written “Jacob’s Bell” so many times that his computer just auto-corrected it to that name, out of habit? 😉 Or perhaps Wildbow’s the one who’s gotten used to writing Jacob’s Bell all the time?

              (Or maybe Wildbow is an interdimensional Time Lord space alien wizard Planeswalker, who can travel into his own fantasies at will?)

            2. @Pencil-Monkey
              Being an inter dimensional time lord capable of inhabiting ones own fantasies sounds great until you remember that these are Wildbow’s fantasies. Specifically, where everyone gets screwed over by the universe unless they’re amoral and evil. At which point the protagonist screws them over. Pyrrically. And it turns out that the bad guy was justified all along. Except not really. Or were they?

            3. “Being an inter dimensional time lord capable of inhabiting ones own fantasies sounds great until you remember that these are Wildbow’s fantasies. Specifically, where everyone gets screwed over by the universe unless they’re amoral and evil.”

              Wildbow could probably write some great fanfic about Odysseus*, with a happy ending, for once.

              After all, Wildbow’s stories seemingly tend to operate by the maxim of “Everybody loses, Nobody wins”. 😉

              Badump-Tssh

              *Or one of Terence Hill’s movie characters.

    2. I’m a bit confused.

      I’ve not read for quite a bit as I tend to binge read (That was how I read worm and it was a great experience) so I am only looking at comments from Wildbow every few months to try to divine when a good chunk/section is done.

      I’ve just left my Patreon contribution going even though I’m not reading as Wildbow has still got to eat but I’m not sure if Patreon is now going to be cancelled for something else by Wildbow after reading this comment.

      Obviously costs are going up for Wildbow as it is no longer $1000 for a bonus chapter and there is a 2 bonus/drink minimum before we get stuff.

      Should I stop Patreon and go back to donating directly or is something else going on in the pipes? It all seems a bit mysterious and complex for what is at the end of the day just a running total where wildbow gets a fair wack for the sweat of his brow.

      Just being a bit clearer on how you want to be paid would help matters but you are a skilled writer and not an accountant at the end of the day. The looseness of language might be a reticence to discuss anything to do with cash/money in a public setting, I feel for you on that issue but I want to be sure that if I don’t check in for 6 months that you are still getting your money and I don’t have to chase around to get it to you.

      cheers

      Drew

      1. Patreon still counts!

        My total target amount is $2250: that’s what I need to live in reasonable comfort, basically. I’m most comfortable writing two bonus chapters a month – more and I start to get burned out. Patreon gives more than half that, so that’s one bonus chapter already paid for every month. Patreon is still counting towards the total!

        Deduct patreon’s amount from that $2250 and the amount that remains is what I wrote above. $924.50. That leaves paypal (or money order or whatever other means people want to put together – email me) to cover the gap. If more people sign on with Patreon, that’s cool – I’ll adjust the target with that in mind.

        Read what I’m saying as ‘I’m lowering the required amount from $2500 per chapter (which was a stopgap measure while I prepared for my brother’s wedding) to $1125 per, but I really want to stop fussing about spillover, adjusting target amounts constantly, and reaching the point where I have 5+ chapters in the queue to write.”

        1. Really? That’s 27k per annum; not very much, but then, I guess you’re probably living by yourself so you don’t have much in the way of expenses.

          You’re making sure to set aside a portion of the money for paying your taxes, right? According to this page: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/fq/txrts-eng.html, you’ll want to set aside 15% for federal taxes, and about 5-10% for your provincial taxes (depending on which province you live in).

        2. That’s fine then, I’ll leave the Patreon donation running if that is okay with you.

          I guess it sounds simple enough to set the donation bar for the first 2 bonuses per month at the level you suggested and then just have an exponential increase for further chapters in a given month.

          $5000+ for bonus chapter 3 would mean that it would be only on a pretty good month you would be pulling overtime, and maybe that buffer of cash would help with the workload perception a bit?

          Anyway if you ever decide to change how you do funding in the future (For Tax reasons or just to streamline) make sure to Email people not just post in the comments as you will miss the binge readers like myself who still want to pay.

          Cheers for your ongoing hard work.

    1. “We’re doing this carefully.“
      two opening quotes instead of an opening and a closing

      base of the desk ,
      extra space

      he somehow manged
      he somehow managed

      1. “I won’t rule anything out, and I know people are capable of amazing acts when they’re scared enough. Here, this bit, where the drawers were.
        need a ” at the end.

    2. Typos:
      – “Some more in the shelves. cards.” -> “Cards.”
      – “Have you seen any kind of compact or hand mirror with Rose, Tiff or Alexis’ stuff, in the bathroom?” -> “Rose’s, Tiff’s” (well, there might be a more readable version)

      The typos in Evan’s drunk rambling are presumably intentional, but in case they are not:
      – “preted’d” -> “pretend’d”
      – “banshid’” -> “banishd’”

      1. Oh, and ideally Rose’s dead man’s switch should be rewritten. With the current phrasing (“If I die, he’s going to get out.”), it’s completely pointless, and it shouldn’t have given her a bargaining position with Jeremy.

    3. “I didn’t want it to come that close to the wire. If she confronted Evan and I there, I wasn’t positive I could protect Evan and the mirror at the same time.”

      Should be “If she confronted Evan and me there,”.

    4. “The doors slammed shut.”

      The library only has one door. Unless that is metaphorical. Or Blake could somehow hear the front door also.

  2. Daaaamn. Rose is a cold hearted bitch. She has been scheming fairly well though, but I find some serious problems with her plan as using Conquest as a power source. Talking it throug isn’t always the best thing and using a trophy as a power source? That’s a dangerous game she’s playing.

  3. So, two possibilities. Either there’s a timeskip to when they come back, or Blake breaks out of this binding like a pile of soggy leaves because they [i]left the protagonist in a metaphor-based trap and left him alone[/i].

      1. Non, no no, Anwar told him that he was currently ‘eating’ every spirit around him to fill up the void. Assuming that the binding itself is composed of spirits required to enpower it, what’s stopping Blake from ‘eating’ them?

        1. Well, I doubt they’d use a binding that draws on spirits when you consider how troublesome it is for him to move. Even so, who’s to say the binding isn’t preventing any spirits from entering.

    1. Blake would probably get shunted away to the nearest available mirror-space. However, the circle is designed to keep him in place.

      Irresistible force, meet immovable object.

      (Or rather, the outcome would most likely depend on which of the three involved parties is going to break first: mirror-space, the binding, or Blake. Either way, something is bound to go SPLAT.)

  4. It would be nice if, as a custodian formed from something inside the house, Blake the Scar still had some sway with the goings-on of the place.

    Still, outside of the small surprise, Wildow keeps pushing the point that Blake has no influence.

    1. ok, so from re-reading i get the idea that blake is something more complex and maybe dangerous than just a vestige/boogeyman, man i cant wait until we found out what in, say, five chapters from now (i propose he is an actual ,bona fide, demon granted by the lawyers and molded by the reflection through barbatorem)

      1. Something dangerous. But he he changed so its why Rose added the “what you are, now”.

        Blake was suppose to die. Grandma Rose probably did not plan on Blake getting his connections devoured by Urr and Blake returning from the Drains.

        Hell, Molly going crazy is probably Blake’s fault.

        1. Oh, good point about Molly. Given that she’s set something in motion, and that Blake might have agitated her and set her in motion, all practitioners might want to see him bound away somewhere.

      2. “i propose he is an actual ,bona fide, demon granted by the lawyers and molded by the reflection through barbatorem”

        The lawyers might not have made him a demon; granny RDT could have constructed the Blake/Rose mirror-vestige duality in a regular demon-free version (Demon Zero? Diet Devil? All The Corruption, None Of The Calories?). However, once he was dumped in the Drains (which Faysal puppydog referred to as “The Abyss” in an earlier chapter), he absorbed a ton of that place’s ambient fucked-up-ness. Faysal is an angel, and although he admitted that he isn’t as knowledgeable as he’d like to be, he sounded fairly sure about the Drains being a part of the Abyss, i.e. the abode of demons. Furthermore, it makes sense that ErasUrr’s connection-severing effect could shunt its victims straight to Hell.

        TL;DR – Blake/Rose was probably a regular vestige to begin with, but after Blake’s connections were severed, the void inside him has been filled with tons of spirits from the Abyss. In other words, he’s bulking up on demonic carbs, which could easily mutate him into true demonhood, given time.

        1. Well reading what Someguy said above, about Blake eating every spirit he comes across, perhaps they are afraid of Blake for that very reason. He’s become some sort of other and magic eating Blake hole.

          1. best pun i heard in the whole week, and blake said evan absorbed “spirits of resistance” by resisting the hyena, so god knows what kind spirits he absorbed. the spirits of bullheadedness? spirits of hope? spirits of “i.miss-my-goddamned-bike”?

            1. Blake and Evan should team up and call upon their inherent bird-themed similarities to fuse their powers and the spirits they’ve absorbed.

              Chorus: Thorburn Tweety Powers, Activate!

              Blake: Shape of… A motorbike!

              Evan: Form of… A god-damned bird of fire and awesome! (Actually, better make that a ghostly skull… of fire and awesome!)

        2. I’d almost agree… except for one thing. ErasUrr seems to be trying to consume all that is in the Drains. A demon attempting to eat Hell when most of the really dangerous lot are out of the place? Doesn’t seem all that legit to me. -_-

          The Others that exit are also far from being “demonic”, for all they can be right nasty. Desperate, in the main, with few resources for survival both on the outside and inside the Drains without complications. Also, full of rage… but, none of this automatically equates to “end everything because reasons”.

          The Drains may be called “the Abyss”, but it actually works like the last-ditch place to try escaping total disintegration and the resulting total negation. Ergo: it’s essentially anti-Entropy, for all its negative connotations… 😐

          Transmutation of people and creatures can either be positive, negative or a mix of both… but, it doesn’t automatically scream “end of existence”. For all we know, Urr’s attempts to mess with the Drains over the years may be causing the acute negativeness that people associate with the place. 😛

          1. Excellent point. Also, it’s kinda nifty how Blake’s experiences in the Drain compare with his (fake) life on the streets; in both cases, he was, literally or figuratively, trying to eke out an existence and avoid the hazards of life without a security net, after having fallen through the cracks in society and hit rock bottom.

            Wait a minute… When Blake was struggling to survive on the streets, Alexis saved him and helped him get back on his feet, and there’s clearly some kind of unresolved sexual tension, or at least a complicated form of infatuation* between them.

            When Blake was struggling to survive in the Drains, Green Eyes helped him out, and she’s flirted with him on several occasions.

            Is the universe (i.e. Wildbow) setting Blake up with analogies to the major elements in the life he’s lost, to help fill the void left behind?

            *Possibly one-sided, probably not any kind of star-crossed lovers – this is Wildbowverse, after all, where a twinkling star in the night sky is most likely an incoming meteorite, that’s about to konk you on the noggin.

        3. No, the Drains change things not eliminate them. Ur was eating the drains, which has a vital part in the universe in churning out monstrosities… for some reason. Most likely Granny made him out of something else that was meant to die with him, only for it to now to be released upon the world like a plague.

        4. I’m not so sure about the Drains/Abyss being specifically demon-centric. Faysal at one point suggested Blake was wrong about that being a place of Entropy, but instead a place of Change. A compost heap may seem like a place where things just break down, but it, as part of that process, creates fertilizer…

  5. Well, bad faith and deception indeed. The people Blake is fighting for have caged him. Par for the course, really.

    On the one hand, Rose is discussing things with her crew. Plus. On the other hand, she acts like a total controlling ass. Minus.

    What exactly has Rose so scared about what Blake is? He was created by Barbatorem, but apparently that particular ritual was left out of the instructions that RDT left on Barbatorem. On the other hand, Rose has been dealing with the demon in the attic, so maybe she pieced it back together.

    1. There was mention earlier of Motes. Of baby demons still growing into their powers…

      Just saying, reflections, wounds that don’t heal right. Just saying, there’s possibilities, and Paraniod Rose is crazy, not stupid. She may be assuming.

      But then, considering what grandma dealt with…

      1. Interesting idea! Ur reproduces by budding. We don’t know how Barbatorem reproduces (if it does), but the one type of semi-independent being it does produce is by cutting reflections out. Blake as Barbatorem’s offspring is an interesting idea, and would explain why people hate and fear Blake. And why a diabolist like Rose would know how to bind him.

        1. I do agree that Blake is Barbatorem-themed, but shouldn’t Faysal have sensed it if Blake was truly demonic? In fact, in 10.5 he had this exchange with Blake: “I’m not human,”“[No.] But for something only one or two steps removed from humanity, you’re doing well enough to count, as I see it.”

          And the way I understand it, Rose bound Blake like one would bind anything in a mirror, like they bound Conquest:

          I’d been bound the same way Conquest had.
          “How did you know how the mirror thing worked?” I asked. “You shouldn’t-“
          “I told him,” Rose said.

          And given that Rose knows about Conquest’s binding (and his taint), it stands to reason that she’d have retained a somewhat accurate memory of how he was bound, including how he moved between mirrors.

          1. Good point. Faysal should have spotted Blake as a demonic mote / imp if anything should have. So I retract my “Blake is a demon-spawn” thinking.

    2. Barbatorem is of the Choir of Ruin. Perhaps Blake is tainted by ruin? If so, then you can’t really have him as a player on your team.

      1. I dunno… Look at the ridicolous amount of effort they went through to bind Blake. At least the Duchamp’s and the Thorburn coven were in on it, and they felt it was a big enough deal to call in Jeremy, negotiate with each other (That never happened while Blake was heir either), to call in Jeremy for help from a god, and for Rose to let all the defenses of the house be destroyed. They all agreed to put stopping him above anything else. It’s like he’s the pactverse equivelent of a Endbringer or the Slaughterhouse 9.

        In short whatever he is, they are scared of him.

        1. No, Jeremy came to take Rose down. Rose, when she woke up, forced Jeremy to negotiate with her, this was not planned out from the start.

          “I set up a dead man’s switch,” Rose said. “Me and Barbatorem. If I die, he’s going to get out. While you were breaking windows downstairs, I was talking with Jeremy. It’s not a victory on either side, but it’s-“

          “Grounds for negotiation,” Jeremy said. He looked displeased. “I’ll leave you be while I look after the two I sent downstairs.”

          “If he had to walk away, it would be a loss,” Rose said. “As it stands, I’m giving up some things, and he’s leaving me and the others alone.”

          “What was the deal?” I asked.

          “You,” she said. “I gave him what he needed to bind you, told them how to disarm the traps Evan knew about. At the end of the day, they only want things to be manageable. I made them pay me for it, in a roundabout way. Deflected their first move. They also wanted me to agree to certain terms of war. I’ve accepted this time.”

          So, Jeremy made Rose back down a bit, and that was enough. The Duchamps were worried about Blake causing things to escalate.

          1. Okay, that clears things up.

            So Rose, while Blake was downstairs trying to save your ass, again, you were busy screwing him over. Again. I know the Karma system works so ass backwards and stupid in the Pactverse, but you’d think screwing over someone who’s trying to save you would net some real bad Karma.

          2. Or Rose knew that by rejecting the offer the first time in the Church she would make them pay for it later, meaning she got benefits where the others had to do it for free. She had to know that she couldn’t take them all in a fight.

            1. Yes. Every fear, every desire, can become a bargaining point. One reason why non-attachment is so liberating.

  6. That strange exchange with Corvidae seems important. Rose had to have slept already with him around, why is it such a danger to do it while incapacitated? And danger enough that she failed to shut the library in order to unsummon Corvidae.

    And Blake says he gets it. Is there something I am forgetting?

    1. She probably doesn’t get attacked when she usually sleeps – Corvidae’s mention that he’d take care of her during her unconsciousness sounds ominous when you think about what he can do.

      Give the house to somebody else to ‘protect’ Rose from Jeremy, for instance. Or worse.

          1. From his smile to Young!Mara, I’m getting the hunch she was the one who summoned him the first time ever to mess with the european settlers way back. Since that wasn’t enough to make them leave, he’s still around.

        1. Bogeyman don’t usually have an interest in women in that way. We’ve seen him cause a fight between two major powers in Toronto and Blake has mentioned how he sees Pica as more of a threat than some other things he’d fought while Rose mentioned that Bogeymen go after a specific target or they want to see the world burn.

          If he fudged with her connections he could probably do the same thing Pauz did and feed Conquest with her power or make it so she ends up in a situation where demons start coming down. Even the Diabolist don’t want that.

  7. “I set up a dead man’s switch,” Rose said. “Me and Barbatorem. If I die, he’s going to get out.”

    Imagine if Molly had set up the same thing. Can you see why that would have been a bad idea?

    People die, sometimes unexpectedly. You shouldn’t try to unleash demons upon the world when it happens. That’s the ultimate in selfishness. If I were the judge of karma, hers would be about as low as it can get right now.

    And to not TELL anyone about it until they’re actually in the house trying to kill her is just idiotic. There’s no point to the dead man’s switch if people don’t know about it. If those guys had wanted her dead, she’d be dead, secret dead man’s switch or not. Ok, she didn’t expect them to be able to break into that house and knock her out, but they DID. She’s only been practicing a few months. She doesn’t really know what’s possible. Which is exactly why she should not be messing with demons.

    1. And to not TELL anyone about it until they’re actually in the house trying to kill her is just idiotic. There’s no point to the dead man’s switch if people don’t know about it.

      It was to be announced at the Council Meeting on Monday. As you know, the Thornburns love surprises.

      1. I’d say that the Thorburns rather dislike surprises. They like it when everyone else is surprised, but that’s just strategy. Real surprises are far too compromising, difficult.

        1. Yglorba’s comment is a reference to the doomsday device in Dr. Strangelove. It is a relevant reference: that the Russians didn’t tell anyone about the doomsday device there was a very unfortunate thing.

      2. Well, admittedly if you tell your ennemies beforehand they might try to find a workaround. And they’re certainly not going to expend ressources trying to kill you without having found said workaround first. Presumably Rose wanted this as a “get out of an attack free” before she made it public.

      1. How many of them actually keep a demon in their attic rather than call them up? Can you imagine having Pauz in the room above, whispering the same things he would do to Laird in your ears as he tried to find a way into you?

    2. “Me and Barbatorem. If I die, he’s going to get out” sounds like misdirection. “He” probably refers to someone else entirely.

    3. It is possible that there isn’t actually a Dead Man’s Switch, she just made that up to get Jeremy to make concessions, and Barbertorem is just so dangerous that any reasonable person would have to make a few concessions just to make sure he wasn’t released. I would, just to be completely sure that they didn’t actually have a Dead Man’s Switch, especially after Rose has already proven herself an unpredictable wild card.

    1. I dunno,I think she has some way of controlling them

      Rose,on the other hand,needs a very big furniture.

  8. RRRROOOOOOOOOOOOSE!!!

    Wow, she is really making it harder for me to like her.

    Despite what she said post-Ur, I don’t think she botched the Awakening on purpose. The bag of holly was tied on her side the same way the iron was tied on Blake’s.

      1. Careful! Beware of treading too close to Worm spoilers, the tall grass over there is thick with disgruntled Wildbows. 😉

        But speaking of which, what are the odds that Blake’s tattoos will suddenly change to include a little inverted omega symbol?

        1. Wait would that make Blake the end? Of the universe? Or since its on him he would be bringing the end. Like some sort of Endbearer.

          1. Okay, now we’re getting into Worm spoiler territory.

            (…And since Blake is now infused with spirits of the Drains, surely he’d be more of a Bendbearer… or a U-Bendbearer.)

            Badump-Tssh

      1. Except that she can’t lie now, and Jeremy would have been extremely careful with the terms of something as important as getting Blake off the table.

        1. We haven’t actually seen Rose do the ceremony yet, however. Maybe she can lie with impunity. Maybe she used holly again and it does something slightly different on the real world side of the mirrors.

    1. I have to agree. There isn’t really any suspense left – we know Blake is going to get screwed over at every turn, no matter what. And even if something good happens, it’s still a mixed victory at best, if not just a setup for an even bigger fall.
      There’s really no point in sympathising with the characters or feeling suspense, as we know what is going to happen, even if we don’t know how exactly. A little variety would be great, because, honestly, the story has been pretty blandly one-note so far, which really saddens me, because I like the premise and the main character far more than those of worm, and I’d love being able to hope and gnaw my nails for Blake and his ‘friends’.

      1. Ditto. So much ditto.

        Hopefully, now that Blake isn’t the Thorburn heir, he won’t be paddling up the Massive-Karmic-Debt Creek with his bare hands all the time. Of course, since Rose is saddled with the busload of bad throbbin’ Thorburn Karma, and since Blake feels compelled to stick around (after all, most of his ‘fake’ friends are staying with her), he’s bound to suffer a lot of fallout from her.

        Still, if he beg and pray and cajole and get down on our collective knees, maybe Santa Wildbow will let Blakemas come early, and deliver a chapter, nay, a paragraph – a sentence, even – where Blake can relax and have fun.

        Maybe he’ll recover June, and get her to help him and Green Eyes to do the Ice Bucket Challenge.

        He could play Trivial Pursuit with Ambassador Mags for half an hour, before Molly shows up and flips the table.

        Or he could play video games with Evan. (No, wait, that would require him to reach out of the mirror, most likely. Umm, he could play SingStar with Evan.)

        Please, Wildbow. Please.

        Just give Blake a little itty-bitty moment that isn’t packed with suspense and drama and awful shit going down.

        More importantly, give the readers a chance to relax. If you keep escalating the drama by throwing more and more horrible situations in the path of the main characters, and never provides a bit of contrast by giving the readers some fluff and low-key recovery time, the Jacob’s Bell Shit Vortex quickly loses its impact, and so does the story. Give the story time to breathe, just a little.

        1. I thought this chapter was comparatively tame, as things went. At the very least, Blake’s life was never in any real danger.

          And while the ending looks like a betrayal, there’s enough ambiguity that it needn’t be one. At the very least, “he’s safe now”, so to speak. Isn’t this kind of what you wanted? :p

        2. “Of course, since Rose is saddled with the busload of bad throbbin’ Thorburn Karma”…

          This makes me think of something. Rose has the family karma debt now. And bad karma makes people badly predisposed to you. To what extent is that debt affecting Blake’s perception of her?

          1. To what extent is that debt affecting Blake’s perception of her?

            Oh snap. He’s like “Rose is off her Rocker” when all he has had are a few Drain induced visions and a second (awfully measured) response after he snuck into the house.

      2. I think part of the problem is since there’s a delay between chapters, you have more time to agonize over what’s going to happen next. If it’s anything like worm, since this arc is a bit of an action/climax arc, there will be a slower one after it, or perhaps some kind of interlude arc.

    2. I think your reading the wrong story. Blake always get’s fucked over. There’s a whole group of us who want him to have a genuinly, unambiogously happy ending just because of how much he gets fucked over. It won’t happen, but we still want it.

      1. Dunno,vg unccrarq gb Gnlybe….jryy,n ernfbanoyr unccl raqvat,abg n “lbh trg lbhe rirel jvfu shyysvyyrq”bar,ohe fgvyy…

  9. So… What is Blake? The most obvious answer is a demon of some sort, though I doubt that Wildbow would make it that easy. Whatever he is, the group seems to think that he is a massive threat, and that letting him know what he is, is worse than leaving him in the dark.

    So, what do we know about Blake? He was able to confuse the spirits as to what he is, allowing him to be a practioner temporarily, he was thrice bound to the drains, he is the result of grandmother rose’s devilish deals with Barbie and the lawyers, he can empower fallen gods, he could summon fallen angels, he has only been beaten by a demon, he can create.

    Crack theory of the day, Blake is either a damaged angel or a captured fey.

    1. Well what are being that are hard to “move”? Those that are connected to their surroundings, like aspects and elementals. What could confuse spirit well enough that it could be a practitioner? Id guess homunculus or an aspect with an avatar or possibly confused fey( due to blakes strong grasp on glamour) but im really leaning on a homunculus because or the crafted memories and programed personality

    2. Many, including me, have theorized that the barber was involved in Blake’s creation. He might not have, though, or he might have been, I don’t think the story specifies.

    3. Trying to interpret Rose’s words and actions is always interesting. In this case:

      • “You’re a monster, but that’s not all you are” -> Lots of possibilities. Most likely a type of being already foreshadowed somewhere.

      • “If it helps, [we] believe you now.”“But you’re leaving me trapped?”“Yes. Had to happen, now that we know.” – They believe Blake that he wants to help, and still trap him. Could be because Blake is dangerous, or because he’s in danger. He’s devouring everything around himself and losing himself, after all.

      • “It’s best if we don’t tell you” – Best for him? That might indicate faerie and glamour, among other things. But there had better be an excellent reason for not telling him. If Blake is freed and screws things up because nobody told him anything, I’m going to be mad. Conversely, if it’s best for them if he doesn’t know, then Blake might be able to escape once he finds out.

      • “If you make a problem of it, then I’ll have to put down a rune of silence, or maybe even erect a temporary wall. I don’t want to do that.”

    4. Damages 2.2:-

      “Vestiges. They’re… like shadows. A simulacrum is an effective double of another individual, a near-perfect simulation. You’ve got doppelgängers, Others that copy a person’s appearance, hiding inside a simulacrum. A reflection of a person, but with something different and frequently malevolent at the core. Erasing a person so they can take over their lives. Usually ending in disaster and murder.”

      “Fit somewhere in the middle. A flawed simulacrum, or a ghost that left a deep enough impression in reality that you can use that impression as a mould. Memories, complex thought, they’re flexible. There’s a book on vestiges in the library. They’re interesting to work with because they can be altered. Strong enough that you can mould them, without them being too rigid.”

      WMG:-

      1. Note that Blake as we the readers know him is the flexible mould that has been altered by his experiences.

      2. Thanks to those alterations, the Blake we know may become strong & distinct enough to separate & release that “malevolent core” or as the Jacob’s Bell Practitioners’ fear, Blake’s alterations & experiences may be making ‘that’ stronger resulting in a “Chestburster Scenario”.

      3. Complete paranoid theory: The “malevolent core” is Barbatorem’s own reflection & sooner or later it will want to go back.

      1. Good point with that quote. If Rose thought Blake was e.g. (similar to) a doppelgänger, that would justify much of her distrust towards him. (And knowing Wildbow, there’s always a chance that the words “erasing” and “reflection” here were subtle foreshadowing for revelations coming months later …)

        Incidentally, in Histories 6 Rose Sr. all but said she’d use Barbatorem to “carve out a reflection” as protection for her heir. I usually thought this meant the mirrorscape or some sort of abstract way of creating Blake, but maybe it was meant somewhat literally? That is, Barbatorem would torture someone to the point of creating “a ghost that left a deep enough impression in reality that you can use that impression as a mould”, the basis for whatever eventually became Blake.

      2. “Could you-” Rose started. She stopped as we did – Ms. Lewis had peered into a room and stopped in her tracks. “Could you do something like that to fuel a vestige? To make the false copy more real?”

        Ms. Lewis smiled a little. “Theoretically. But there is a fragility to it. An idea is an idea, after all, and if you dismiss it or if you challenge the lie and win, then it is liable to fall apart. This is in addition to the fragility a vestige already has. I can say with conviction that this would do you more harm than good.”

        “Oh,” Rose said. A little disheartened.

        Ms. Lewis didn’t hold back, “Glamour thrives on attention, on interacting with our senses and being validated. A vestige is like gossamer, and any interaction does damage to it. It’s a contradiction, and that makes for an exceedingly dangerous balance to strike. Damage one element and it all might collapse.”

        1. The important part here is not the talk about vestiges, since we’re apparently still not sure what exactly Blake is, but rather Ms. Lewis’ line “I can say with conviction that this would do you more harm than good”, since she actually knows what’s going on.

          And if Rose knew about Blake from the beginning, it’s interesting that she felt disheartened.

  10. The Rose-Blake relationship is the most interesting in the story, due to the complicated mix of conflict and partnership mixed into it. It also keeps changing all the time.

    As it continues though I see very little chance of this not ending badly for Rose in the next few chapters.

    1. Damn straight! ^_^

      That little bird has sooooo got to learn how to phoenix up some day! And, when (I’m not even going to countenance “if”) he does, it’ll only underline the awesome that is Evan. 😀

  11. I getting depressed now. Blake can’t seem to catch a break. Always 1 disaster after another with little to no silver linings.

  12. Okay, first reaction: RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE

    Second reaction: Whelp, I’ve been saying for a couple of story parts now that Blake has way too much of a positive flow going. Something like this was bound to happen.

    Third reaction: This makes no sense. How was Rose in a position to bargain for anything?
    I don’t understand how we got from “Haha! We have the diabolist and she is knocked out!” to “Yeah, we are going to go ahead and leave the diabolist alone now.”

    I mean, killing her is not the only way to ensure she isn’t a problem anymore.

    Tis story part is the first part that ‘at first read’ makes me step outside of the story and think “wait, that doesn’t make sense.” But maybe after rereading it slowly it will make more sense.

    1. Rose is in a position to bargain because Jeremy needed to prevent Blake from leaving Toronto or be foresworn. He’s almost screwed that up, but if he prevents him from ever returning, it’s basically the same. Only Rose could bind Blake.

      Sound reasonable? It’s my take on it. Plus Rose may have other, unmentioned bargaining chips.

    2. I agree, the buildup to this conclusion could use some work.

      • That Rose had a summoned demon should have been common knowledge from Blake’s declaration in arc 2 (minus possible memory shenanigans). If a dead man’s switch was all it took to stop Jeremy, what was the point of him attacking in the first place? Just because he and Sandra “only want things to be manageable“, to get terms of war?
      • I agree, Rose’s dead man’s switch should be rewritten; as currently phrased, (“If I die, he’s going to get out.”) it’s completely pointless. Just keep her permanently bound or sedated, or use mind control or something.

      Basically, there was no need for Jeremy to settle for this outcome; as it currently stands, he could have achieved a total victory.

      (I know his words in 10.5 were “I agree, no chaos for now […]. Only enough pressure to get the results we need.”, but there was no need for chaos. And that Sandra said “This may be our only window to deal with the Thorburns”, which could also imply a deal, i.e. the actual result. But still, why settle for less than total victory?)

      1. Basically, there was no need for Jeremy to settle for this outcome; as it currently stands, he could have achieved a total victory.

        I agree that it’s odd that Jeremy just didn’t just bind Rose and kill her cabal, but it’s odd in an in-story way. The first thing that comes to my mind is that doing so wouldn’t result in a total victory for Jeremy. Blake doesn’t have all of the information; he doesn’t know what went down during the deal and therefore neither do we. Some scenarios I can think of:

        1. Jeremy’s motivations are not totally in line with Sandra’s.
        2. Sandra’s plan is more complicated than we have been led to believe.

        3. Sandra just wanted to get Rose to agree to the war terms. She’s not ready to upset the fragile “peace” yet by killing a major player.

        4. Blake was the real, or main, target.

        5. It’s a matter of rock-paper-scissors. Rose is one of the biggest threats in Jacob’s Bell, and perhaps the only person with enough firepower to take on, say, Johannes and his angel familiar. Sandra might be confident in handling Rose, but also needs Rose to take out people she herself cannot.

        6. Jeremy was legitimately worried that he’d lose his life. Blake had injured 3 of Jeremy’s people (plus a snake). Evan, a possibly unknown spirit, was loose in the house, and evidently had knowledge of traps to spring – traps put in place by a diabolist.

        I’m favoring 2 and 3, with 4 as the complementary side option (Blake, as a free agent, could also upset the fragile peace). 6 is the runner up, and 5 has a special spot in my heart.

        1. There would have been no need to kill anyone, just bind them and set up the equivalent of Laird’s time shenanigans. He could have done exactly what he said in 10.6: “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.”

          1) True, while Jeremy is on Sandra’s side, his god may have somewhat different plans. (We saw that with their baby.) Still, I thought his god might currently mainly be interested in smiting Blake…

          2) and 3) could well be true, of course, but given how everyone has treated all Thorburns in the story so far, this seems so weird. Dealing with diabolists is always a bad idea, doubly so if they have a karmic debt. Same with 5): Nobody should be confident that they can handle the diabolists.

          4) was indicated in Histories 9, but somewhat contradicted by Sandra’s words in 10.5 (e.g. “This may be our only window to deal with the Thorburns”).

        2. Point on 6, Blake got pretty damn close to killing Jeremy. Plus invading a house is bad karma and killing the owners is worse. Plus the spirits are probably biased too. Especially if Rose offers them pizza and beer. I don’t think Jeremy was in a position to work an effective binding on all of them AND deal with Blake/Evan.

  13. I have to give Jeremy his due respect. The man battering-rammed his way into the home of a diabolist, where ungodly horrors may have awaited him, and then proceeded to masterfully secure and contain the entire Thorburn cabal and the Thorburn boogeyman. Such a feat takes both liquid courage and more brain cells than any drunk has a right to possess. I don’t like you, Jeremy, but bravo.

    In fact, everyone was on their A-game this chapter. Blake’s combat moves, especially knocking over the painting as he thrust the Hyena through, were all pretty smart, and he managed to be enough of a problem that Rose could use him as a bargaining chip*. Even if I was not fond of her using Blake like that (or her behavior or her attitude or really anything she’s done lately), Rose managing to bargain her way out of this mess is also impressive. Finally, Evan’s flying would put ace pilots to shame – and drunk Evan is hilarious.

    *Unless Jeremy was still bound to the promise he made to Sandra to deal with Blake in Toronto, meaning he always intended to bind Blake.

  14. Is it just me, or did that last part suggest the rest of the council were trying to get Mags to take Molly as a familiar? I can’t figure out what that would do for them that they couldn’t get via simpler means.

  15. This rather sucks for Blake. Trapped where he can’t leave, nothing to see, nowhere to go, nobody to talk to, nothing to read.

  16. Why didn’t Jeremy need permission to enter the house? The answer seems to be ‘because a god’ which is pretty much bad writing IMO. The rules governing practitioners seem to only apply selectively according to the whim of the author.

    1. Maybe. But it was mentioned in an earlier arc that there were other rituals besides the one Blake did to become a practitioner.

      Jeremy’s powers are more than likely based on faith and devotion, aswell as keeping his God happy.

      The god probably wont be pleased with Jeremy this time. The god never liked Sandra (the torches burned lower when Jeremy married her). The snake got killed. And one of the maenads got injured, and based on what happened before, the Hyena wounds dont heal easily.

    2. To the contrary, it’s excellent writing, and was actually foreshadowed. Subtly, though. From Gathered Pages, arc 2:

      Stories abound of practitioners who never left their demesnes. A place that is entirely theirs, where they are a step below a god, and a place where they are safe.

  17. I’ve been following Pact since the beginning, but seems like it’s time for me to stop.

    From the start the story has been a mass of despair and things going wrong. I get it that escalation is pretty much Wildbow’s schtick, but this is now beyond the pale. We already know how much of a bitch the universe can be in this story, and how much of a cockwipe most characters are, we do get that. Hammering on the same point over and over is not good writing – evocative, sure, but not good.

    I don’t want to watch a human being slowly ground down to nothing. Five chapters ago, I’d’ve said Wildbow would have had to do something awesome to salvage this. But he’s passed that point by now and no payoff in my mind can justify the amount of pain and disquiet the story has brought.

    Goodbye, Wildbow, and good luck.

      1. Yeah, same here. Like… if you actually look at the pactverse, Blake should have died. A long time ago. Practically in the first practitioner scene. Hell, he had weird-ass masked eerie bird-monsters chasing him down. But no, he’s faced massive amounts of opposition and utter shit thrown at him and he’s still fighting. Same with Taylor. No spoilers, but just think of the stuff she dealt with. Hell, think of her very first cape battle. If anything, I don’t think there’s “pain and disquiet” so much as there is “way OP’d everything”.

      2. I think the big difference with Worm is that in Worm, Taylor was (almost) constantly struggling because the threat level of her opposition kept escalating. So, even though she rarely caught a break, it felt like she was achieving something, climbing a ladder (albeit one with some unanticipated rungs).

        But Blake can’t catch a break in a different way. Instead of struggling against an increasing level of opposition, he keeps having the rug pulled out from under him every time he starts getting somewhere.

        Blake inherits his grandmother’s house and has to defend it against the family enemies. Haha, just kidding – we’re barring him from the house.

        Blake makes an ally in the local practitioner, Maggie. Ha ha, just kidding – it’s not actually her and by the way, she’s too screwed over herself to help anyway.

        Blake starts overcoming his personal intimacy issues and finds a potential special someone? Nope, none of it was actually real.

        Blake falls out of the world, finds himself trapped in another realm and manages to claw his way back to reality? Ha, not really! He’s just trapped in a different alternate realm now.

        Blake fights desperately to protect his friends? Said friends screw him over and imprison him.

        It felt like Taylor was slowly clawing her way forward. Conversely, it feels like Blake is struggling desperately to pull himself forward but is dragged backwards far faster than he can ever make progress.

        As others have pointed out, it doesn’t help that Taylor had goals she was progressing towards whereas Blake pretty much just has “try to survive without making things worse than they already are” – and is failing at even that.

      1. To be fair, if I had been reading this about five years ago I would have jumped ship too. It’s not completely dark, but knowing he’s going to get screwed over tends to sour you a bit.

        I read it not for how he gets screwed over, but to see how he gets out of it and rises above….

        That being said, if the ending isn’t a happy one the billy club comes out.

        1. Of course any time he rises above it’s very tempered by the knowledge that he’s going to be smacked back down. Often by what we thought was his good achievement.

          Yeah, Blake needs to get the happy ending. Not the sorta happy if you squint at it happy ending, or the estoiric happy ending or the “He died, but he died happy cause he saved his friends” happy ending. The one he gets to stick around for and enjoy.

        2. I would’ve jumped ship five years ago too. At this point, the only thing keeping me reading this is that Wildbow built up a large reservoir of goodwill with Worm. I trust him to pull this out but, had it been anyone else writing it I would’ve given up arcs ago…

          1. I…I wouldn’t,the writing is too good,and Wilbow manages to hit well….there is a reason ancient greeks liked their tragedies,negative feelings from stories are helpful and cathartic,as long as the author is good.

            Art that can evoke emotions is good art,even if the emotions seem negative.From what I saw from the people leaving,it was more darkness induced audience despair than apathy,that says good things about Wilbow.The darkness of Wilbow can creep and keep on hurting you-unlike most darkk works.

      1. I do understand and empathize with mors’s position, although i don’t agree with it. Something like that is why I stopped watching Once Upon A Time. Every episode seemed to end with a newer and bigger betrayal by someone and I was just walking away from each episode feeling heartbroken. Eventually I decided that although the middle of each episode would resolve the emotional cliff that the end of the each previous episode ended on, I was just spending far more time feeling depressed and personally betrayed by characters that I was emotionally invested in, so I decided to stop watching.

        This story is a little different, however:
        #1. Updates come more frequently than once a week.
        #2. There are plenty of good points here and there.
        #3. The ultimate ending of Worm.

  18. Comments:

    • “Four or five of those individuals [who were immensely important to me] were now at the mercy of our enemy.” – Blake wasn’t sure himself whether to include Rose. And then he gets apparently screwed over, again

    • Yes, Corvidae, very classy. On the upside, he’s banished now; on the downside, someone else could now summon him to fight the Cabal.

    • That Rose knew about Conquest’s taint makes perfect sense, certainly more than “Do you think we’ve been sitting on our hands, while I slowly went crazy?”. She’s still playing with fire, but given that she could negotiate a draw with Jeremy, we know she can manage this influence right now. As power sources go, this is certainly interesting. People should level up when they beat a big bad, after all.

    • In any case, Rose is still herself; the problem is that 10 arcs into the story, we still don’t know what that means, nor why she has to keep everything a secret.

    • If I understand Rose right, are the house’s barriers now down permanently?

    • “As it stands, I’m giving up some things, and he’s leaving me and the others alone.” – We don’t know to which terms of war Rose agreed, but the content might be interesting. What did Rose give up?

    • Why did the Thorburn cabal suddenly become so lucid? Did Jeremy dispell the effects of the Jägerbomb? I wouldn’t expect Dionysus to do something like that.

    • So the arc title refers to the bad faith binding of Blake, mainly. Still weird not to see any illusions. And since someone said the titles are also usually subverted, this one is, kind of (“If it helps, [we] believe you now.”).

    • Incidentally, shouldn’t Jeremy and Dionysus still be extremely unhappy about Blake for everything he’s done, to the point of smiting him?

    • Oh dear, Molly’s wraith seems to have set the blood, fire and darkness thing in motion. Mags, please be reasonably safe, or at least reasonably alive…

    1. “If I understand Rose right, are the house’s barriers now down permanently?”

      On the plus side, that would make it easier for someone else to scurry into the Thorburn mansion and help Blake – assuming any of his limited number of allies know he’s there, or that any scavengers who take advantage of the situation would be inclined to aid him.

      “So the arc title refers to the bad faith binding of Blake, mainly. Still weird not to see any illusions. And since someone said the titles are also usually subverted, this one is, kind of (“If it helps, [we] believe you now.”).”

      Thinking of faqundo’s earlier comment (further up the page) about Blake being a “bona fide demon”, the idea of the title “Mala Fide” being subverted raises some interesting suggestions regarding Blake’s status, and his current taxonimical Otherkin classification. (Is he a bona fide demon, or a mala fide demon?)

      “Oh dear, Molly’s wraith seems to have set the blood, fire and darkness thing in motion. Mags, please be reasonably safe, or at least reasonably alive…”

      Didn’t the prophecy specificy that she was going to be involved in three bouts of blood + fire + darkness? Has it been three incidents already? If not, she might be guaranteed to be safe (for a given value of ‘safe’), or at least survive for the last inning.

      …Unless, of course, the prophecy only applies to Maggie Holt = currently Padraic.

      1. Speaking of illusions, what the hell is this sentence meant to imply?

        “Be careful,” Jeremy said. “They were in Fell’s company for a time.”

        1. I think that was Wildbow addressing the speculation last chapter that the Rose & co lying there were illusions à la Fell’s fake Blake. That’s why the satyr responds “I am being careful. I see her, hear her breathing, smell her, feel her […]. I could taste her.”

    2. Re: the lucidity, I get really impression the Jaegerbomb just wore off over time. It’s effects on Evan had been gradually lessening before that, remember?

  19. I don’t get what Jeremie is doing as well. Okay, Rose has a dead man’s switch. How is that an insensitive to unchain her? Keeping her in captivity would be the best way to ensure she stays alive. It would be like SWAT breaking into the house, knocking out all the terrorists and then deciding to leave, because there is a nuclear bomb inside. Well, duh!

    Molly-wraith is apparently Endbringer level dangerous, because now we have enemies teaming up to deal with it out of the blue.

    Also Blake’s status went from “You have wronged my god, you are dead” to “If you want to leave, that’s fine as well.” and then “As long as I can bind him, I don’t mind letting a dangerous diabolist go”. Just pick something already.

    1. Molly-wraith is apparently Endbringer level dangerous, because now we have enemies teaming up to deal with it out of the blue.”

      Not necessarily. Remember that Jacob’s Bell is currently a powderkeg, waiting for someone to drop a match. If Molly attacks someone, it could easily trigger further acts of retaliation and quickly escalate into open war between the various Practitioner factions. Jeremy would want to prevent that, if only to protect Sandra and any other of his allies in town.

    2. They wanted Rose under control and, to be fair, nobody wants to deal with demons. Remember, his policy is to have nothing to do with them and they were banking on there not being anything already summoned. Killing her means a demon that can lurk in your eyes and sentence you to a fate worse than death was free and by the rules of Karma they’d be responsible because they were warned and killed her anyway.

      Blake was a bigger threat at the moment and needed to be dealt with, so as long as she agreed to the terms that she refused to the first time they could call it a draw. Remember, the universe states they need to be Bond Villains to avoid bad karma building up. Besides, he doesn’t have a way to kill him short of calling on a fickle god, binding him was all he could do and regardless of what he was, Blake still had knowledge from his time as his custodian and could find someway to screw her over if she handed him over to her enemies.

      And the only way I could see Molly being such a huge threat is if she got a butt-load of negativity from something major.

    3. Molly-wraith needn’t be Endbringer-level or particularly strong by herself, but the “chain of events” she’s set in motion is probably the next occurence of blood, fire, and darkness. The original event wiped out Maggie’s hometown, so it’s natural that the practitioners of Jacob’s Bell would be concerned. (But Endbringers are on another level still.)

  20. Random thought: if the Hillglades House barriers are a little the worse for wear… What is Briar Girl (and her boss) up to doing?

    Because, if anybody is in a position to know and be interested in moving outside other people’s expectations (including, maybe, Sandra’s), they are. 😐

      1. Doubt it. For one, even if the protections broke we don’t know the demesne did as well.

        For two, she would be challenged by Rose, who really wouldn’t want to screw that up or give up the glades without a large amount of compensation, which Briar Girl can’t give. Cue Barber and assorted Horrors.

        1. That wasn’t the kind of thing I was pondering. 😛 But, if Briar Girl (and friend) can get a sneaky peak into what is going on or even influence things only slightly… it could help Blake. In some way.

          Can’t think how, off the top of my head. But, Blake did make a promise with her (even if she may not remember it). There is still a flapping part-connection, there.

  21. I didn’t really like this chapter. It doesn’t make sense to me. It seemed to easy for Meath to break into the house. If symbols are everything in this world, not to mention the very special nature of this particular house it doesn’t make sense to me. A house is a very special and powerful symbol, often of the “self” (according to Jung).

    1. Mah friend,a god is not a very special and powerful symbol,a god is literally something existing on the top of the food chain in most,if not all,mythologies.

      God vs house?perhaps if the house had angelic defenses,or godly defenses (demons are destroying,so I think demonic defenses wouldn’t work/exist),but in any other scenario?just no,im betting on the god.

  22. They certainly have a use for Rose. That dead-man’s switch would be ridiculously easy to negate, especially for someone of Jeremy’s class of mythological affiliation.

    Magically bind Rose? Why would he need to do so? Ball gag so she can’t speak any spells/deals/evil names/whatever plus satyrs, plus addictive chemicals. How hard would it be to break a twenty-year-old white girl enough for her to swear whatever they wanted her to? If some eastern European thugs can do it by the dozens, how much easier would it be for a servant of a god of madness, intoxication and orgies?

      1. I assume the commenter is trying to imply that those qualities make her “soft”. And they have a point, most twenty year olds aren’t going to be battle-hardened vets. No comment on the white part. On the other hand, she’s a practicing Thorburn, so uh… battle-hardened vet it is.

      2. The idea is that a white girl in her 20’s had a relitively easy life- as in, one with the iconic “1st world problems”. Not to say that they aren’t still big problems, but there are others in the world with more potent problems.
        For example, Rose may be stubborn as hell, but what if she was physically tortured? I imagine she would give in quickly enough. She has the guts to do risky things, but they almost always risk things other than herself, or when risking herself is safer than not (when Conquest wanted one of them to be chained, she offered herself, because Blake was bound to do something stupid and make their situation even worse, plus she’d be rather safe for the time being).
        The OTHER stigma with being young and white female is that she was raised somewhat well off- financially. It’s not exactly racist, as much as statistically speaking, 20-ish blond white females are usually not ones who know of the struggles of being poor (literally poor, not “I don’t have enough to live comfortably”. More like “I don’t have enough to live”)
        All that being said- her resilience in the face of adversity is liable to be significantly weaker than someone born in a warzone, or born into poverty.

        Knowing her personality, it isn’t exactly true, but absolutely not false. Physical torture seems like it would work on her, just not perfectly, as she’s stubborn as hell. I would totally put my stock in psychological torture. She seems like the kind that would totally have a breakdown under that kind of pressure.

        1. I got the idea, I just disagree that it’s relevant in this scenario. Torture/metaphysical drugging/whatever else Jeremy could do much trumps all except the most extreme of life experiences.

          1. Yes and no. It DOES, but life experiences greatly impact how much effort he would have to expend. Especially considering he wants to use as little effort possible, so he doesn’t anger his god.
            Jeremy is basically playing with fire, and doesn’t want to use it or anything he gained from it unless necessary, and only use as much as he absolutely needs. That includes forcing his minions to torture or drug someone, if said minions get hurt or bored of playing with Rose, he could lose favor.
            As it happens, he probably wouldn’t lose much, given what we know about Rose so far….

            So it is relevant. Not so much that I would bring it up if I was ereshikigai, but enough that I would not say he’s wrong by any means.

            1. I’m saying that the categories in question are negligible when we’re talking about standing up to torture and drugging. In addition, there’s no need to rely on the broad strokes such categories paint when we already have a pretty good idea of the type of person that Rose is at this point in the story.

              ‘White twenty-year-old girl’ is what you say when you have no other information to judge someone off of and are trying to form an educated guess. But we can say ‘Rose Thorburn’, and immediately have a much clearer idea of who we’re dealing with.

            2. She has a kill switch, supposedly (I still aren’t sure that she can’t lie with impunity). Perhaps she has a literal kill switch — she can snuff herself if she really wants to screw everyone over. Maybe with a few words she can release Barbatorem. She was able to dismiss Corvidae in the time she would have spent shutting a door, as she was falling unconscious. Who knows what other traps she has prepared and is ready to run with.

    1. I’m more concerned with the “eastern European thugs” part. Why do they have to be eastern European? Or anything except thugs? Or anything at all?

  23. I’m just wondering how much of Rose’s deal with Jeremy has also been made in bad faith (after all, he has put her over a barrel to make a deal). She seems to have reformed some idea of what Blake is capable of and added it to what she supposes he is, now.

    Can we say for sure she hasn’t bound him, fully expecting him to find a way to get free and cause havoc? She doesn’t need to tell Jeremy that or even mention it, at all… Blake has, all by his ownsome, proven himself to be a handful. And, she’s probably been quite truthfully explained that he can be tricky… without once suggesting why she might want him to be tricky. 😛 No being forewarn, there; while still being a bit of a bitch to Jeremy and Blake.

  24. The result of this confrontation follows the outline that Jeremy was talking about last chapter for confrontations with diabolists. The attacker is trying to win but doesn’t know they can; the diabolist knows they can win but the cost may make it a Pyrrhic victory. So both sides have to show restraint and often end up bargaining rather than going for a flat victory. So, what do we know changed from this confrontation?

    Hillsglade house has far fewer barriers: moderate win for all anti-Rose factions; moderate loss for Rose et al.; minor win for Blake (no barriers to entry now)
    Rose has agreed to rules of war: moderate win for Sandra, who wanted them; minor win for other factions because it limits the damage; equivocal for Rose et al.
    Jeremy is no longer directly attacking or attempting to bind Rose et al.: moderate win for Rose; moderate loss for Sandra’s faction; minor loss for other factions
    Jeremy has the knowledge to bind Blake: minor win for Sandra’s faction; major loss for Blake (a powerful enemy with a grudge knows a weakness); equivocal for Rose because, while Blake would help her in dire circumstances, he was primarily focused on helping his friends
    Blake is bound in Hillsglade: minor win for all anti-Rose factions; equivocal for Rose (see above); moderate loss for Blake (could be far worse – he could be at Jeremy’s mercy)

    So, overall, it does look like a compromise where all parties who did negotiate took a hit and limited potential damage at the same time. The party that didn’t negotiate (Blake) got screwed by both sides.

    1. If you ignore how Blake feels by the end of the chapter, and instead think about what he was trying to accomplish, and what actually happened, I don’t think he’s that much worse off. All members of the Thorburn Cabal survived, and he’s found out that Rose is still sane. He’s even had a few victories of his own:

      1) Learning more about mirrorverse combat, and finding out that he can fight. – This might partially compensate for Jeremy finding out how to bind him.

      2) Getting the Cabal to believe him: “If it helps,” she said, “We believe you now.” – Major win for Blake. Seriously.

      3) Forging a new connection with Evan. – Moderate win for Blake. (It’s not yet on the level of the familiar bond.)

      And what’s so bad about Blake being bound in Hillsglade House, anyway? He’s apparently escaped Jeremy’s wrath, and even assuming he doesn’t immediately escape next chapter, he’s still safe. (Maybe. Unless the house is really entirely without protections now, in which case he’d be a sitting duck. But that would be weird; as mentioned before, the library is way too valuable a target to ever leave it truly defenseless.)

      I do agree that it’s bad for Blake that Jeremy knows how to bind him now, but from what Rose says it’s likely that him being a wraith vestige is not the whole story. It’s even possible that she’s silent about what he actually is because he could escape his bindings if he knew.

  25. Other points:

    By not agreeing to the original rules of war, Rose turned it into a bargaining point that bought her a little this time around. That was risky but useful this time.

    If Ev and Keller can get into the library or the mirror world, this would be the perfect time for them to mess with Blake since he can’t go anywhere. It is unknown as to whether they can get in. The same can be said for any being that wants to mess with Blake right now. On the positive side, maybe Mags can get in and help Blake. Actually, Molly is even more likely – she probably still has enough knowledge, ties, and inherent permissions to get into the library better than anyone other than Rose and her circle.

    As Euodiachloris mentioned above, Blake may be able to figure a way out. For one thing, there is a chance that the Drains have enough pull on him that he can go there if needed. Of course, getting back is a bit tricky. There’s this demon door stopper who is now very pissed with Blake.

    1. Another random thought to add to all that: Rose has indirectly acknowledged Blake’s Thorburn-ness by admitting to working out who he is and that he was telling the truth about it… within Hillglades House.

      How would that affect his relationship with the family demesnes, bound or not, exactly? After all, her kicking him out the House before has been cancelled and, presumably, destroyed by Dionysus. But, now… she has basically admitted that, rogue monster or not… he’s Family-ish. Even if she has also knifed him in the back to get ahead (which, in grand, old Thorburn family tradition, is practically like saying “welcome home” :P).

      1. I don’t think it matters. There’s only one heir, and (barring some new shocking revelation, which hasn’t really been hinted at) it’s clearly her; none of the rest of the family seemed to have any special privileges with regard to the house.

        1. I don’t think you got my point: the spirits in the place know how the Thorburns act and think as a general rule. It’s all House Rules in there. 😐

          And, Thorburns can have codes and meanings to their words that Jeremy (or even they) couldn’t always get… but, the spirits in there could read using their Thorburn Family Dictionary. Think about how most families have sayings, habits and words that don’t translate quite correctly far from family… and complicate.

          We are talking about a dysfunctional family in which devilish details, backstabbing, dominance games and training from hell are common. And, permission could be given for certain levels of family access as a result of what looks like a blunt attack on another family member simply because of how… odd the family is when it comes to inter-connections. The house is a whole lot of demenses created by different generations of Thorburns in loose concord under the current heir: but, it isn’t one big one.

          What one part does may not entirely reflect on what another will. <_< It's blatantly part of the stacked defensive measures aimed primarily at stopping things getting out they don't want getting out even more than stopping things getting in. But, it could also have other uses. Like semi-maybe-perhaps letting things out they want out at the right time. 😛 If you know the cheat code.

    2. Oh, getting back in is EASY. All he has to do is slip through the cracks. Bleeding himself out again would probably do the trick. Of course, the question is, will he still be himself afterward?

  26. Hi all,
    I’m wondering about some stuff and thought I’d share and see if I get any reactions to them

    Blake is a vestige/bogeyman/?????? amalgam. Barber was involved in the ritual to carve him from the abstract into a concrete form of existence. I was thinking that Blake is an incarnation of an aspect (same genesis as Conquest) eg Defiance, Adversity or Perseverance or something but now I’m thinking that Blake partly originates from an embodiment of The Catalyst.

    • It could be said that he is continually a harbinger of change and usually directly involved against his preference.
    • Rose: Vestige to Human

    • Evan; Ghost to Familiar
    • Mags many layers of change
    • Molly; Ghost to Wraith
    • Conquest: Passive Manipulator of Pawns to Active Central Combatant
    • All the Practitioners in Toronto: As showcased with their adjustments as the Blake effect was removed
    • Green Eyes: Again just provided the opportunity from Drains to here.
    • Fell: Finally took a stand against Conquest
    • Friends: From muggles to practitioners.. or at least aware that they are muggles..

    Etc etc.. I know that because this tale of Pact is a tale of Blake that he impacts upon all the others(pun)[:0]

    I wonder if his time in the drains has inverted his essence (drains=change) Is his essence reinforced by the changes he invokes in others etc…Does he gain strength when others force him to change..??

    I reckon Blake will end up consuming some aspect of Padraig. ((Glamour is a facet of change)

    Finally ..just to defend against others trash talking the epic saga that is Pact. It is not just a swirling miasma of cosmic nega karma and boatloads of oppression, misfortune and bullying….It also demonstrates human grit, a spit in the eye to peer pressure and someone that shows the guts to try to make a bad situation better.. True.. Life shits on the PACT Trinity (Blake , Maggie/Mags and Evan) repeatedly. So what.. not everyone wins the lottery.. shit happens.. usually rolls downhill.. and lands amongst those of us stuck in the gutter. Maybe Hollywood or Disney Land is more your speed.

    AND the Ultimate Final point… It is a testament to the power of Wildbows’ writing that he has evoked such strong emotional empathy. He allowed us to feel for the trials and tribulations of Pact. That is some potent shit right there.. nuff said..Apologies for the rant..

    Blake’s Credo in Pact

    Out Maneuvered——-> Probably
    Out Numbered———> Possibly
    Out Fought ————-> NEVER

    1. I really like that incarnation thought – After all, if you’d create a reflection as a guardian for your heir, what could possibly be better than an incarnation of perseverance or the like?

  27. This would probably bring Blake more problems than it is worth but I wish Blake had called Rose out on being unfair.

    Blake put himself in danger for Rose and the others. It wasn’t his duty, He hardly has a connection to any of them, but he tried to help regardless. In the meantime, Rose took advantage of Blake’s voluntary help and used him as a negotiation piece and put him in a worse spot than if he hadn’t helped. It certainly would be a bad idea to call Rose out on it, they need Rose to capture the wraith and it would get Blake on Rose’s bad side, but damn I wish that had happened.

    Great chapter, as usual. I feel so bad for our protagonist though…

    1. It’s not like this is the first time Rose has decieved Blake. Might not be the first time she set him up either. It’s a big contrast, how Rose has treated Blake in the mirror, as compared to how Blake treated Rose in the mirror.

      I also wonder how this sits with the Blakeguard.

    2. The thing is, Blake is an Other and that leads to some serious cognitive biases. It’s not like he’s an actual person after all. And of course he fought to save Rose’s cabal – that’s what Granny Rose created him to do, after all.

      That’s not how we see him because we’re being shown things from his perspective. But from the outside, he probably looks a lot like some sort of sentry bot that’s outlived its usefulness…

  28. You know who I miss? The lawyers. Was actually expecting them to show up at the end of this chapter, Rose summoned, to get out of the immediate situation. And you’d damn well expect them to make a deal with strings attached.

    1. Too much power for him to handle yet, for a more stable form, he should rank up to a Strix, then to a Rukh, upgrade to Garuda/Suparna then take on the Eye to gain enough EXP to evolve into a Phoenix.

  29. The satyr was sitting down, hand to his nose, blood flowing from the cracks between pages.
    pages
    Either the book itself is bleeding after hitting Marsha Brady there, or that should have been ‘fingers’.

  30. “I’m a god-dammed bird of fire and awesome who just isn’t on fire yet.”
    “Damn straight,” I said.

    Don’t encourage him, Blake. Remember how you felt when Ty did that?

    Again, I’m a bit disappointed that Blake’s the protagonist at this point. Making Rose the protagonist and not switching focus to Blake in the Drains (at least, not yet–instead having a flashback arc later) would have lead to an interesting time trying to figure out what this mirror-thing is. And, more importantly, we’d have a protagonist who isn’t confined to mirrors and who has…you know…agency.

    1. I was initially disappointed as well, but by now I understand at least partly why we couldn’t possibly have gotten a switch to Rose by now.

      Pact is much more based on secrecy and hidden plans than even Worm was. (I won’t spoil anything.) Worm is told from Taylor’s POV, but she isn’t at the center of everything that happens. So we get plenty of interludes with vital info Taylor couldn’t have known by that point, including character motivations and secrets. And yes, there was Cauldron, but they were more of a long-term thing; Cauldron was pretty tangential for much of Taylor’s story.

      In that sense, Pact is fundamentally different. The mystery of Blake’s existence and Rose Senior’s plan to clear the karmic debt of the Thorburns is (still) central to the whole story, and that has a variety of consequences: interludes with less obvious clues concerning major antagonists (i.e. no Laird interlude yet; Sandra’s motivation is still pretty open etc), and tons of secrecy and ambiguity everywhere.

      And crucially, it also means we can’t get any non-ambiguous info from Rose’s perspective. Nothing that clearly tells us anything about her motivation and plans until Blake himself finds out about them.
      Rose’s behavior is always overtly uncooperative or unfair or even “evil”, but pretty much everything can also be interpreted in a more positive light. To preserve this crucial ambiguity, Rose must remain an NPC for as long as possible.

      1. I’d argue that the same argument could be made in reverse, with Rose being unable to figure out the motives behind bogeyman-Blake’s actions or the truth behind Mags’s connection to the wraith.

          1. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that. If the readers had Rose’s POV, they’d be as blind as they are with Blake;s, just with different patches of blindness and sight.

            1. If you mean that the entire story (starting from 1.1) had been written from Rose’s POV, I can see how that could work, but not if the story switched to Rose’s POV halfway in-between.

              To quote from my comment above: “The mystery of Blake’s existence and Rose Senior’s plan to clear the karmic debt of the Thorburns is (still) central to the whole story”, and Rose’s POV would reveal that plan. Basically, I don’t think with Rose’s POV the readers would “be as blind as they are with Blake’s”; instead, we’d have nine tenths of the info. We’d know why Rose Sr. chose Rose, and what Rose is trying to accomplish. We’d know how Blake was created (maybe not easily due to Ur, but Rose could likely reconstruct the true story from the diaries). We’d know how Rose feels about Blake and the Cabal, and so on.

            2. What makes you think Rose Jr knows why Rose Sr chose her, or how Blake was created? And did you miss me pointing out the things that Rose wouldn’t know, like where this Blake-like thing came from, or its intentions/abilities/etc, or where Molly came from (aside from the “she’s been a ghost for a while” bit), or all the other things Blake discovered while flitting about Jacob’s Bell while Rose was stuck inside?

            3. Blake basically explained everything,leaving the mystery to a binary:”is he saying the truth “or “is he lying”?even if the lying part consists of more possibilities,they are still pretty narrow.

              The mystery of Rose’s viewpoint is much bigger,imho.

  31. I’ll admit, this is a great story, but god damn it you need to start working on your pacing just a little. Characters, people, and readers need a bloody break. It can’t be all loss. It can’t be all ‘every fucking thing you do is worse’. I am actually depressed by reading this and not an engaging ‘I want to read more’ way. You made Rose from an interesting character into a horrible person that I really want to just die, along with the rest of the bloody group she has now, so that Blake can move on to trying to help people who deserve it.

    Seriously, I realize there’s still four big ass chapters left as of writing this, but this is… it’s depressing. It’s half the fun it was at the beginning too. A character that always loses isn’t fun to follow, it’s nauseating.

    1. He doesn’t lose,he survives by the grit of his teeth.Heck,I’d say,90% of his battles were victories,just most of them were pyrhic ones,his only loses were twice with Ur,once with out of context Isadora,and once with Laird round 2,5.And once here,but he did protect his friend,and we dunno Rose’s true motives.

      If you have such difficulty the victory becomes all the more sweet.

      1. I’m pretty much with Mark. Worm was downright cheery compared to Pact.

        Blake doesn’t have pyrrhic victories, he has pyrrhic defeats. When he faced off against the Behaims in Jacob’s Bell he made some headway infiltrating the Behaims etc. then lost his house in one fell swoop and had to flee to Toronto. He fought valiantly in Toronto, beat Conquest, started drawing the factions together – and immediately had that all undone by Urr. He escaped the drains, sacrificing some of his humanity to get back to his life only to find that his life is gone and his friends don’t even remember him. He fights valiantly to save them anyway and for his troubles finds that they were just using him as a disposable pawn.

        I can’t recall a victory that Blake had that wasn’t immediately stripped for him.

        Blake isn’t slowly clawing his way forward at great personal cost. He’s scrabbling frantically at great personal cost and failing to stop himself being dragged backwards.

        1. they are victories,a pyrhic victory can be defined as a victory that costed you more than you gained,or that didn’t gain you much or anything at all.

          Victory:he destroyed some skull thingies that tried to kill him WHILE UNAWAKENED
          Victory:he bound 2 ghosts
          Victory:he didn’t fall in the lawyers clutches
          Victory:he got Laird in trouble with the police
          Victory:he beat Laird attempt 2 part 1 (yes,he lost part 2,but he delivered a good blow that set the grounds for rule of 3)
          Loss:he lost the aforementioned part 2
          Victory:he didn’t become Conquest’s diabolist,and he managed to get a reprieve
          Victory:He bound Pauz and,despite the trap,it was an overhelming victory
          Victory:he bound the Hyena,and it might be the only victory he got without negative consequences at all (getting caught by the police was too indirect)
          Victory:he crushed Duncan to the pulpest of pulps,while Duncan had THE advantage.
          Loss:Ur crushed him,but he didn’t lost anything of importance,only 3 goblins.
          Victory:he beat the army of mannequins and Midge
          Victory:he beat the Behaims at the police center,morally too
          Victory:he crushed a small part of the sisters of the flames
          Loss:Isadora damaged him greatly,but she did so with a good intent,judging by the likely effect of the enemy strategy,this might be,despite appearances,a net gain,making in the inverse of a Pyrhic victory
          Victory:he got Isadora’s secret support,the support of a being of Law while being chaotic
          Victory:ok,Rose’s victory,but Astrologers andSisters werecrushed
          Victory:He crushed the Behaims,killed Laird and bound Conquest
          Loss:he was crushed by Ur a second time,this time via worse destruction but,knowing what we know about him,it might have been for the best :he would die soon anyway,this way he gets to survive,plus he sets the rule of 3
          Victory:he prevails over his Shadow,as well as over his other anchors
          Victory:he escapes the Drains,a very hardto escape,though by no means impossible to escape,prison with minimal possible corruption.I think of the people falling there,1 in a 1000 manages to escape (I am being very generous,and I also think that most do not last long in the outside world)and,of them,1 of a 1000 manages to do it without embracing corruption,so Blake is 1 in a million
          Victory:He crushed Ur and discovers his greatest weakness,scratch the Hyena,this is more unambiguous (yes,he is trapped in the mirror world and the Ur of the real world is still free,but none of these make the victory gained there pyrhic or meaningless)
          Victory:he scared 2 faeries away
          Victory:another unambiguous one,he crushed 3 Iaiah and got concessions from an angel
          Victory:He crushed the Drunk’s followers ,including killing a snake of Dionisus ,and put Rose in a spot to negotiate
          Loss:he lost to the Drunk by betrayal,and we still dunno if that was actual betrayal,fake betrayal or otherwise for the best.

          Yeah,some of these are meaningless or painful,but the victories overhelm the losses.

          1. The thing you’re not factoring in there is what is or isn’t achieved.

            Mostly the prize for his extremely costly efforts is to remain free and not die. He scored a couple of short-term victories that were negated fairly quickly whilst his general situation just gets worse and worse. Beating the hyena and retaining the hyena blade has essentially been his only step forward to date. Everything else has been undone or sent him backwards.

            I suppose it’s the nature of karma, but every time it looks like Blake is getting somewhere, the universe kicks him hard in the nads and throws him back down into the mud.

            I’d really like to do a chapter-by-chapter comparison to Worm but spoilers. V ernyyl pna’g funxr gur vzcerffvba gubhtu gung Gnlybe jnf nyjnlf fgehttyvat orpnhfr fur jnf iraghevat vagb n ynetre jbeyq naq snpvat ovttre punyyratrf, jurernf Oynxr unf orra gbea gb fuerqf whfg gelvat gb trg bhg bs gur fgnegvat oybpxf.

            1. Reread my opening sentence.Did I stutter when describing what a pyrhic victry is?

              Also,how can he get anything of value,iff by definition,he owes nothing?he can only start really faining after he falls to the Drains,the story couldn’t develop otherwise,and giving him more victories and power before falling seems just too cruel.

            2. You said “a pyrhic victory can be defined as a victory that cost you more than you gained, or that didn’t gain you much or anything at all.”

              That definition isn’t quite right. How much is or isn’t gained is not part of the definition of a pyrrhic victory. The definition is quite simply (a) you’re victorious and (b) the cost of victory was exorbitantly, or even cripplingly, high.

              Blake’s actual victories generally aren’t particularly costly. He beat Pauz, the Hyena and Duncan at no significant cost, and beat Conquest at the comparatively small cost of freeing Pauz.

              The problem I had with Pact (other than that it took far too long for a likeable character to show up) is that anything Blake gains through personal effort and sacrifice just gets taken from him – usually plus some.

              It wasn’t just the fall into the Drains. First he had the house and library taken from him. Then he had Rose taken from him by Conquest. Then he was cast into the drains, fought his way free and found he was trapped in the mirror world. Then this latest thing where his friends stab him in the back just when it seemed like he was making some progress.

              It would be spoilers to discuss if the trend continues, but yeah. :/ Doesn’t matter what Blake does, the universe just kicks him down again. It just becomes painful to watch after a while.

              If you enjoy it, that’s fine. Opinions can differ.

            3. I enjoy it,because its a story about a survivor,and I think he’ll win.I am pretty sure the theme of Wilbow’s stories is hope-but hope is not really relevant without major,and I mean major,despair and helplessness.

              I mean,Wilbow’s characters have been on the receiving end of what would ve,in other gendres,a hopeless boss fight,and won.Gnlybe rira fheivirf naq trgf n unccl raqvat,ohg frr zl pbzzrag ba 30.7 ba jul guvf jbhyq or n unccl naq ubcrshy raqvat rira vs fur qvqa’g fheivir.gungf sebz gur wnjf bs ubcyryrffarff

              No,Wilbow is not that dark an author,its just that,you know how the narrative makes you think One Piece and Homestuck are light and happy stories,besides of all the dark shit going on the backround?(seriously,if you take the concepts only naked,homestuck is a much darker story than Worm and One Piece only loses because gurer vf ab ncbpnylcfr,naq orpnhfr gur cebgntbavfg (abg gur tbbq thlf,gubhtu gur cebgntbavfg vf bar bs gurz)graqf gb orng gur ivyynva ng gur raq,jvgu gur bayl cevpr orvat jung gur ivyynva unq znantrq gb npuvrir/uheg hagvy gurz.Rira gura,ur ybfg fbzr bs gur zbfg vzcbegnag onggyrf,pbfgvat uvz yvsrfcna naq uvf oebgure,naq fbzr zber zrnavatyrff barf,ohg vgf n ener bppnfvba.

              Wilbow,on the other hand,has the talent to present everything as bleaker than it is,in addition to being a killer GM (fighting a character very much minmaxing-emphasis on the fact you need the min to max-and knowing how to use said minmaxing).

              But seriously,in my “victory”post,I was just arguing pedantics,and,really,your definition of pyrhic victory was the same as mine,gaining little to nothing counts as a big cost to me.

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