Gathered Pages (Arc 10)

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Notebook 27:
Note:
  Archiving paper letter, sent.

Mr. Samaniego,

Thank you for your latest shipment.  It was just what I needed.  My sister was thrilled with the katana, and intends to use it regularly.  I did pass on your warning about katanas being far less effective than they appear to be in movies and video games, but she didn’t seem to care.  I’m caught between worrying she’ll get killed when it breaks at a critical moment or fall into a funk and be impossible to deal with for a week.

All the same, the gift bought me a week of her listening to me.  That matters a lot.  Thanks again.

To answer your question, things are heating up here, but are still under control.  A storm is brewing, and things that would stay away have been gravitating closer.  It isn’t the other practitioners at work.  I can’t help but imagine savvy crows lurking near a place that will soon be a battlefield.  Your offer for help is appreciated, but wouldn’t go over well.  I don’t know about the other locals, but Sandra has made it clear she knows who you are and would rather you stay away.

When you next collect from the black stipend, can you put some of it toward a bid for plastic explosive, low priority.  While you’re in that neighborhood, can you double check the rocket fund?  I could use the extra firepower if things go south.

I’ve finished the wiring on the radio.  It’s a week earlier than you asked for.  Recording and live feed options.  The live feed will kill batteries, so I included some with a good lifespan to them just in case, in a second routing.  To activate the hidden camera, use a pen or something else to depress the space between the AM and FM buttons.  I’m interested in hearing if you can see the camera lens without turning it on.  Reminder: your average practitioner will be able to look and see if something’s watching them, even if it’s a camera.  It’s a little heavy too, thanks to the extra batteries, you might want to watch out for that.

My best to the kids.

– Andy

Notebook 27:
Note:
  Archiving paper letter, received.

Andy boy,

Good go with the camera.  Not so bad.

I opened it to dig out the extra battery and live feed.  Too much of a giveaway.  The detail work and hidden lens were good as they were, much better than anything my hands can do.  I can put just about any gun or an engine back together, but I can’t put tiny holes in the front of a plastic radio without making a hash of it.

Don’t worry about the camera being seen.  It’s not for any wizards or whatchits.  One of my crew has been acting funny.  Whole reason you’re supposed to operate in larger groups.  More eyes.  He’s still got his senses, but he’s dodging the cameras he knows about.  Might be drugs, might be witchery.  Might be he’s a clever something else who took his memories along with his face.

I’d leave it like it is and keep an eye on him, but my ex dropped the kids off (here of all places!) and I saw the man talking with them.  It’s enough to concern, if he’s unsafe.  We’ve got a new recruit, about your age, and you know I like to be careful with the trainees.  Too easy for bad influence to take hold as they mature.  I’m not specifically naming your sister here.  Not specifically.

The kids are fine.  Thanks for asking.  Long winter’s getting to them.  They only get a few hours of daylight that isn’t seeing them stuck inside a classroom.  I do what I have to, and they do their thing.  Keep me motivated, pop into my mind when it’s down to the wire and I need to dig up a bit more something to push through.

The quartet in ‘Magog picked up all the C4 we had to dole out before I could get your bid in.  Supplies are running low, with the last source we had getting arrested.  I know you said Eva was messing around with your grenades, and I know Mac taught you how to rig a daisy chain pin pull.  I stuck a belt of pineapples in your shipment.  I can’t imagine it’s unwanted.

Rocket?  I have serious reservations about giving you that RPG launcher, boy.  Either you’re using it, and I don’t think you’re equipped for it, or your sister is using it, and we’re talking a slew of other problems.

Consider asking for help instead.  Offer still stands.  I trust your sensibility, Andy boy.  If you think you need seven (now eight) good witch hunters to cut down the riff raff, you know we’re good for it.  We’re all in this together, Andy boy.  You two, me and my guys, the Magog nuts, the Montreal organization.

If you say no, then I’ll accept that.  I’ll trust your sensibility a little less, but I’ll accept that.

You know those files that Mac always had us fill out?  Wouldn’t mind seeing your best attempt at one.  I’m particularly interested in just how much danger you think you’re in.  A big part of the reason we interact is to share knowledge.  If you or Eva get yourselves into trouble, the rest of us need the details to walk into that situation with our eyes open.

-Samaniego.

Notebook 27:
Note:
  Andy’s personal notes

The diary section.  Having sat here trying to figure out what I should do, I can’t help but see the open book and know I really should.  If anyone picks up the top book off the stack of volumes, I’ll say here what I said before.  I was never good at this.  Eva’s better at it than I am, which is weird, since I’m the book guy.  She tape records it, but she still does the personal diary bits pretty consistently.

I’m writing stream of consciousness because if I stop, I won’t get going again.  That’s the big problem with me.

When we got our training and they gave us all the tools we need to do this, they kept going on about how important the diaries are.  They made us read some too.

I think my problem is that I think too much.  Most of us who start this when we’re kids, we don’t live long enough to leave anyone behind.  Humans have an instinctive desire to leave a legacy.  I don’t like myself enough to want to leave anything of myself behind.

The tone of things is changing.  Everyone’s excited, Eva included, and all I can think about is what comes next.

Notebook 27:
Note:
  After Action Report (Andy & Eva)

Job commissioned by council.

Incident was raised by Joanna Duchamp, the younger, corroborated by other members of the younger council – informal group of practitioners consisting of Behaims, Duchamps, Maggie Holt and possibly padraic.

Grade schoolers in Joanna’s classroom reported a shallow puddle in the woods east of school.  Stones and branches that were dropped into the puddle disappeared, leaving no trace, only muddy clouds.  Children were joking about pushing each other in, or threatening to throw the boots or hats of others into the muddle.

Joanna was unable to show us the way.  My suspicion is that the puddle noted her approach.  Contacted young neighbor and got directions.  Eva and I went to look.

The puddle was a manifestation of a frog spirit.  We rigged a treated wire snare for a countermeasure, and Eva stood by with a weapon.  We disrupted the manifestation to raise the frog spirit, and killed it with a treated wire snare.

Frogs should be hibernating for the winter.  It concerns me that a frog spirit would be active at this time of year.

Our resources aren’t fleshed out enough to identify it in more detail or look up why.  I received mail from Samaniego two days ago, and I’ve been meaning to respond.  Tomorrow.  Am tired after two long hikes past the school in one day.

Notebook 27:
Note:
  Archiving paper letter, sent.

Mr. Samaniego,

I’ve attached backups of all my files.  See .crypt 1 through 26 and ’27incomplete’.  You’ll need a program to open them.  I included a notepad document with some directions on how to get that program.  I wanted to protect all exchanges – to access pages where you and I exchanged correspondence, you or I would have to supply the password.  The same goes for my conversations with Creevey.

Your offer for help is appreciated and accepted.  I would still ask you to please steer clear of Jacob’s Bell.  My need for help takes another form.  If your trainee is still there, I would very much appreciate if you could have her set up something online for sharing information.  A slow but steady stream of guests have been arriving over the past week, and I can’t keep up, going at the rate I have been.  Eva’s fine, Eva runs on instinct, but I need to research what we’re up against, so I at least know what to steer her away from.

Please see pages 120, 122 and 150 in volume twenty six and pages 45 and 60 in volume twenty-seven.  Also, I described a series of creatures on page 71 of volume twenty-seven.

Help with identification would go a long way.

Eva and I would very much like to have our rocket launcher.  I talked about it with her, in the sense of the general situation, and she agreed.  No jokes, no apparent manipulation.  I think she realizes that things are getting more dangerous, and recognizes the need for more firepower.

If Eva and I are on the same page about something, that’s indication enough.

-Andy

Notebook 27:
Note:
  Archiving paper letter, received.

Andy boy,

You had to ask about the computers, huh?  I’ve put the new recruit on it.

If the two of you are on the same page, yeah, I’ll go with it.  I’ve asked around about your weapon, and passed on the files.  The others will get back to you.

Good luck.

-Samaniego

Notebook 27:
Note:
  Andy’s personal notes, after action reports.

Met with the unnamed practitioner, placed tape with conversation transcript in the Holt file.  We left on amiable terms, despite Eva’s initially hostile response (threatening to shoot the practitioner).  I’m concerned about Eva, and it’s not something I can address with Mac, Creevey or the Magog group.

We walked different paths from the beginning.  Different forms of training, different amounts of time spent with Mac’s group, Creevey, in Halifax, and with the talons in Rhode Island.  They trained us in all the basics, but they emphasized our strengths too.  While I was learning to use a hunting rifle, Eva was hunting goblins with a sword in hand.  While I was learning about the basic principles of the practice in Halifax, Eva was in London, Ontario, doing god knows what.

I’m increasingly worried that something went wrong.  That she ran into something and it got to her.

I’m not sure it was one of the monsters.  Not in the fang and claw sense.

We had two jobs on behalf of the council, keeping things tidy while they get their ducks in a row.  Non-allied threats are still lingering.  Goblins are supposed to sleep for sixteen to twenty-two hours a day, but I’ve noticed goblins have been more awake and active than that.  Ghosts are cropping up, and they should be quieter than they are.  Old echoes are stirring.

Things move so slowly that we don’t see the gradual changes, but the monsters who live for centuries do.  I’ve wondered for a long time why the monsters gather in the same places the practitioners do.  The obvious answer is that the practitioners follow where the monsters are, drawing on the power the monsters can give them.  But I don’t think that’s it.  The monsters should want to avoid the practitioners, who are the best equipped to bind them.

The second answer is that monsters are practitioners.  We know about some cases.  See Mara in the files for Jacob’s Bell.  It’s a common theory with Faerie, and obviously the likes of vampires and werewolves, which are much rarer and more monstrous than conventional media would have us believe.  Again, it’s an answer, but it doesn’t feel like ~the~ answer.

This is a thought I’m putting together as I put pen to paper, something I’ve thought about in the shower, but what if the monsters are following practitioners because there’s some fallout we’re not fully aware of?  What if we’re gouging reality?  I sit in on the council meetings, because I don’t trust Eva to go alone, and I won’t stop her from seeing what she views as ‘the drama’.  I watch Sandra and Johannes interact, and I see them practicing.  A part of me wonders, are each of those displays generating some attention?  Are some or all of the monsters detecting magic in the air like sharks in the water detecting magical signals or sniff out blood?

They become a little less human over time.  They make compromises, and they might unwittingly be inviting the monsters into Jacob’s Bell.  Sandra does it because it’s the way it has always been done in her family.  Johannes does it with the future in mind.  Both do it to be on top.

I think about that.  The selfish actions, and the unwitting damage they may be causing.  I don’t like it, but I have to keep doing what I do.

Promises.  Responsibilities.

Eva is all about action.  She doesn’t like to sit still, and when she does, she turns on the television and tunes into something that lets her turn her brain off.  Or blares music so loud that thinking is impossible.

For a long time, she was better than me.  Maybe she still is, standalone.  If Sandra needed to die, I think Eva could do it.  I could do it too, but not without drawing on expensive tools, planning for days or a week.

It felt subversive, giving the girl with the scarf weapons.  It wasn’t something I should have done, standing where I do.

There are promises to keep.

In the interest of keeping those promises, we went after two of the monsters.  Trying to keep things under control.

In the middle of the day, we had to deal with a gnome or brownie or fairy-cousin of some sort.  A little person disguised as one of us, going door to door with a clipboard.  There was something questionable in the fine print.

The rules are strict when it comes to going after the regular people.  Our hunt wasn’t successful.  It was fast, it was tricky, and we weren’t coordinated enough.  It was one of the monsters that’s been around so long it knows most of the conventional tricks.

Eva blamed me for letting it slip away.  She was probably right.

I was inspired to write this entry by the meeting with the girl with the scarf, because I definitely want better records if memories are being altered, and by the night that followed, because a thought crossed my mind, and it felt like more of an epiphany.

Eva and I both had guns.  Shotguns with rock salt for a ghost.  Not perfect, but it slowed it down.  The echo went as quickly as it’d resurfaced.

The police came, hearing the gunshots.  We couldn’t afford to get caught without the practitioner police chief in town to get us off the hook.

The close call made me think.  I was tired, I don’t have a lot of stamina on a good day, and for a moment, I nearly considered giving up.

I nearly gave up on my promise to Mac.

Hearing Eva yell at me, I felt like it was a role reversal.

What if I’m as bad as she is?  I’ve yelled at her so many times for getting into hairy situations, for taking risks, or making blind leaps, picking a fight without knowing exactly what she’s fighting.

But she’s a genius, in terms of talent.  She can go toe to toe with a faerie that’s glamoured itself up as a vampire, harboring some of the best traits of both, and still cut the thing’s head from its shoulders.

The thought hit me that I’m just as bad as she is.  To want to get arrested.  To have it end.  Knowing that she’s behind bars, and so am I, and the responsibility is over.  No caring for the sister who trained in how to fight monsters and became one.  Just me, a prison cell, and a book.

To end my existence.

Realizing that was a wake up call, hearing it from Eva’s lips doubly so.

I don’t want to go down that road.

That means being more regular with my diary entries.  Polish my skills.

The promise to Mac still holds.  He was my teacher.  More of a dad than anyone was to me.  I owe him too much.  As infuriating as Eva can be, Mac saved her for me.  Mac saved me from me.  He saved my parents, even if it was with an ice pick through the temple.

It’s my duty to see the promise through.

Andrew,

I know we haven’t been in contact, but three people have been in touch with me in the past week, asking my advice in identifying the creatures you’ve described this past week.  Rather than let the irritations continue, I’m going to the source.  You’ll have ten deliveries in the next two weeks.  Boxes of books.  My secondhand tomes.  I’ve already marked some pages where you raised questions or named details, my best guesses, off the top of my head.  Please tell your teenaged witch hunter peers to stop pestering me about the computer nonsense.

-Creevey

Notebook 27:
Note:  Andy’s personal notes.

The girl with the scarf is now ‘Mags’, a local ambassador.

Rose, too, has returned.

They always pushed paper in training.  The idea that paper is more permanent than the digital.

My papers are getting awfully messy, with big gaps in the files.  For any poor soul that has to dig through my teenage ramblings, any gaps in the files are because Eva opened a window and some of the pages blew out the window.

I think there’s more to it than coincidence.  Too specific, as events go.

The files that went missing seem to have something to do with the younger Rose.  They cover the point in time when Rose Thorburn the younger replaced Molly Walker.  Trickery, or did the universe want to erase traces?  Even my memories of Rose are fuzzy and nonspecific.  It feels somehow like it’s the first time I’m seeing her face.

She did offer me support, at a time when I was feeling pretty grim.

She brought a cabal with her, and they look fairly new to all this.  It reminds me of me, back when I started the training with Mac.  Every monster was a whole different kind of frightening.  Molly Walker was like that up until the end.

Rose feels different than when she left, somehow.  Now, as I think about how her predecessor handled everything… I think about how Rose coped, and I wonder ‘how did she handle it?’ and I can’t come up with much.

When I asked Eva, Eva reminded me of the techniques we learned.  Right off the bat, she found the discrepancy.

When we ask, “How did Rose manage?”, we struggle to answer.

When we ask, “How did the second Thorburn heir manage?” we can mutually agree that the heir was almost eerily in step with this world.

As witch hunters, free of any vows or ties to the world the monsters and practitioners inhabit, we’re protected against the trickery.  A measure of innocence can challenge that reality, and clearly see the emperor without his clothes.

It’s the youths that are going to make a difference.  Good or bad.

Notebook 27:
Note:
  After action reports.

Eva’s commented on the change in my outlook.  We’re working more effectively as a team now.

Eight threats targeted and chased down in the past week.  Eight victories.  I even allowed myself to get excited about it, as we found our stride.  Eva in close, drawing attention, me at a distance.

She’s listening to me more, even.  It’s always been her propensity to ignore people she doesn’t agree with.  I think she agrees with how we’re doing things now.  Block escape routes with traps, wait until they’re in the right position, then attack.  Things aren’t fixed.  She’s still more reckless than she once was.
It helps that we have less administrative work, with Mags taking on the messenger duties, standing by at meetings.  She doesn’t have a lot of firepower, but there’s a symbolic element to it.We remain ninety percent positive that one bogeyman we dealt with was attached to Rose.  Testing the water, seeing how responsive we were.  We crossed paths a few days later, and it felt like she was showing me just a bit more respect.It’s now impossible to keep track of the local guests.  No less than twelve practitioners under Sandra, twenty monsters working for or doing favors for Johannes.  I’m getting four hours of sleep a night, staying up reading, and sleeping in thirty minute bursts during the day to keep going, but I have more drive than I had when I was sleeping twice the amount.

The remainder of the action reports are as follows:

  • Eva baited a skinchanger into an old boathouse past the marina.  I crushed it with a deadfall trap.
  • Went with Mags to help with goblin hunting, helping to herd them to a place where she could bind them.  I believe they’re still bound, and she’s waiting them out.
  • One Nightmare-type monster was invading dreams.  Targeting normals.  Not affiliated with Johannes or Sandra.  Found wandering the streets in a human guise, spotted through the trickery with innocence, cut down with katana.
  • Junior council pointed us at a new child at school.  We followed.  No parents or furniture in house, never slept – only stood in the house.  Executed quietly, no blood was drawn by cuts.  Plant matter at core.
  •  Investigation by Sandra led us to second wooden person.  Adult, fought back.  Immolated by molotov.
  •  Arrogant practitioner among first outsiders to make open bid for leadership.  Small bomb under seat of car.  Sandra and Duncan, the new police liason, diverted attention of authorities.
  • Backwards Man required special means of tracking, as the human-like monster functioned by operating backwards in time.  Wounds occurred in his future, our past, making it impossible to make anything stick.  Came after us with knives.  I distracted while Eva slipped by to invade his apartment.  Destroyed the object at the crux of his nature.  Investigation into ties to local Chronomancers was initiated and dismissed.
  • Practitioner was posing as a tertiary member of the Duchamp family.  Sandra’s records showed no such evidence of marriage.  Simply trying to hide in the background.  I took him down with the second shot from 150m range with a hunting rifle.

I don’t enjoy the killing, but I was proud of that last one.

Things are accelerating.

Notebook 27:
Note:
  Council Notes

Samaniego told me to keep logs, in case something happened to me.

If something happens to me in the near future, this is going to be at the root of it.

I’m writing it as I remember it:

Mags entered the church.  Molly ‘walked’ a half-step behind her.  Not quite floating, not quite walking, not walking like someone would walk on the moon either.  She didn’t really have feet, either.

Andy studied the ghost, pen ticking on his notebook as he leaned against the stage.

He’d visited it before, to study the thing, even considered getting rid of it.

Now it was active, alive, and it looked meaner.

“We’ve got a problem,” Eva said.

“Yep,” he said.

“We were just talking about you,” Johannes commented.

“I don’t suppose you want to start over from the beginning?”

“We were talking in generalities,” Sandra said.  “Unlike the demesnes claim, it isn’t always obvious if someone has carried out one ritual or another, like the familiar ritual.”

“That’s an invitation to share,” Johannes said.

“Oh,” Mags said, looking between them, “I thought you’d say more.  You had to have discussed more than that.

“We’re not your enemies,” Sandra said.

“Yet somehow I don’t think you’re baking me a cake in here,” Mags said.

“When you wanted to claim the title of ambassador, I’d like to think we were gracious.”

“It wasn’t entirely selfless,” Mags said.  “You stood to gain too, removing a problem from the board by making it a non-entity.”

“If we’d stood by and let you continue down that road,” Sandra said, “You would have become a non-entity all the same.”

“But not without making a mess,” Mags said.

Sandra sighed.

“Is a three week span enough time for you to lose your sense of appreciation?” Duncan asked, from the sidelines.

Andy looked at Duncan.  As factions went, Duncan was a non-player.  Or he wanted everyone else to think so.  The real risks were the two people who were in Duncan’s company right now.  A young and talented chronomancer, and an older member of the family.

He would be very surprised if the young chronomancer wasn’t the one to ascend to the head of the house.

Mags spoke with a terse tone, “I don’t think I’m showing a lack of appreciation.  I’m just a little miffed that you’re questioning me, instead of giving me the benefit of a doubt.”

“You’ve upset your neutral position.”

“I’ve done exactly what you guys did for me.  I took a wild, unpredictable element and I made an effort to normalize her, to keep things quiet.”

“With no ulterior motives?” Sandra asked.

“With no mind to consequences?” Johannes added.

“I paid lots of mind to consequences.  I just pushed them aside,” Mags said.

“I really did want to support you,” Sandra said.  “But you’re making it hard.  You’ve upset your neutral position.  If we don’t challenge you for a flagrant violation, picking one side in the conflict, then our word is worth less.”

A self-imposed bondage of rules and law, Andy mused.

“A flagrant violation on the surface only.”

“Tell me how it isn’t a violation,” Sandra said.  In a serious, quiet voice, she added, “Please.”

“Molly,” Mags said, not looking at the ghost.  “Do you harbor any love for the Thorburn family?”

“My immediate family yes.”

“For Rose?”

“Definitely not Rose.”

Mags spread her arms.

“Thin as arguments go,” Duncan said.  “It’s fine because she’s not particularly fond of her family?”

“That’s all you’re going to get, and that should be all you need,” Mags said.

“Is it now?”

“I asked, she said no,” Mags added.

There were a few exchanged glances.

Andy made a note in his book.  Not an entry, but something to inform his entry when he wrote it.  Besides, it gave him something to do with his hands.

He hated these meetings.

“You still asked,” Duncan said.

“Thin, as arguments go,” Mags retorted.

“Enough,” Sandra said.  “No bickering, please.”

Mags shrugged, sticking her hands into her pockets.

Duncan took a second to compose himself, before speaking in very deliberate, authoritarian tones, “You were the one to resurrect her.”

“Accidentally,” Mags said.  “I think.”

“Regardless of what happens, you’ve upset the situation in Jacob’s Bell.”

“I got the situation under control.  No real harm done.”

“That’s for us to decide,” Duncan said.

“Can we not let Dudley Donut here keep talking?” Mags asked.

“Wherever blame lies,” Sandra said, “We need to deal with Molly Walker’s spirit.”

“No,” Molly said.  “I don’t need ‘dealing with’.”

“You’re quite sentient, as ghosts go,” Johannes commented.

Andy saw Mags look at Faysal, then Johannes.

Something up there.

“That was a whole other issue,” Mags said.

“What I require,” Molly said, “Is an apology.  Amends.”

“Very sentient,” Johannes commented.

“Not helping,” Sandra told him.  “What sort of amends?”

“A child from each group,” Molly said, staring.  “A meaningful sacrifice from Johannes, who doesn’t have a child to spare, but who stood by and let me be killed.”

Andy saw Eva’s hand go toward her weapon.

He put his hand on her wrist, shaking his head a little.

“That’s, uh, not going to work,” Mags said.

“I think everyone present agrees with the ambassador,” Johannes said.

“I don’t,” Sandra said.  “Can I take the ‘sleeping beauty’ loophole?”

Molly gave Sandra a curious look.

“Not death.  But removed from the family all the same.  A loss, a sacrifice all the same, a child sent away, never to return?”

“Do you swear this?” Molly asked.

“No,” Sandra said.  “I don’t swear.  I don’t have a child of my own to give up, and I suspect I’d struggle to find a mother who’s willing.  It’s only a thought.”

“I’m not willing to do even that,” Duncan said.

“And I would still be in a position of making a meaningful sacrifice,” Johannes added.

“This is the way it always happens,” Molly said.  “My grandmother, my parents, my aunts and uncles.  They’re greedy, selfish, they refuse to face the consequences.  Those consequences get passed on to the young.”

And the young are tasked with changing the status quo, before they become the problem, Andy thought.

“Don’t,” Mags said.  “Whatever you’re thinking of doing-”

“They killed me.  You killed me.  I believe you, that you’re willing to make amends.  What comes next-”

Andy didn’t stop Eva from raising her weapon.  A pistol loaded with salt shot.

She fired.

The wraith was fast to move out of the way.  Unexpectedly so.  Mags yelped, throwing herself to the side.

The wraith’s voice echoed through the church, “I can’t promise you’ll walk away unscathed, but I won’t come for you, murderer.  The others, the old ones… they have to face what they did.  The city does.”

There was a long pause.

“Angry ghost,” Johannes commented.

“Wraith,” Andy corrected, thinking of the books.  “Eva and I have dealt with a number of ghosts lately.  She wasn’t one.”

“The difference being?” one of the younger Behaims asked.

“A little more unpredictable,” Andy said.

The bell at the top of the church tolled.

Eva glanced at Andy.

“Go,” he said.

“Which way?” she asked.

But Sandra was already pointing, pulling out her chalice.  Eva was faster, crossing the floor in two steps.

The bell tolled a second time.

“Faysal?” Johannes asked.

Both sorcerer and dog disappeared in a flare of light.

Third toll.

Andy crossed the floor, offering Mags a hand.

Balls.” Mags said, accepting.  “I tried.  I could’ve contained her, kept her calm.  But she’s too angry.  I would have left her behind, but she’s tied to me by blood.  I didn’t think she’d be this angry, after I’d calmed her down a little…”

“What’s she doing?”

Fourth.

“Starting something,” Mags said.  “Don’t you feel it?”

“No.”

“Each toll, it’s filled with negativity.  Each one is worse than the last.”

Fifth toll.

“Everything in the city is going to feel it,” Mags said.  “They’re going to think it’s a signal, and that’s enough.”

Andy felt a peculiar calm settle over him as the bell continued to toll.

He thought of the promise he’d made.

To serve loyally, in Jacob’s Bell.  To keep the people safe.  He could do that.

But the promise to Mac had had contingencies.  If things got bad enough, and things were bad, he had another responsibility.

Mags looked up.  “Thirteen tolls.”

He offered her a light smile.  A witch hunter could lie.  Oaths weren’t binding.

One of these days, after years of loyal service, when it didn’t put too many people in danger, he’d skip the council meeting, and act while they were all in one place.

He had a rocket launcher at home for just that purpose.

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150 thoughts on “Gathered Pages (Arc 10)

          1. A cleaver other?or an axe other?

            gasp,an axe other?or June?

            GASP,Wooly headed lamb IS JUNE,THAT PROVES IT

        1. I’d actually advise against voting for Worm. It’s awesome, but it’s also been finished for almost a year. Better to let the currently active serials occupy the top positions. With Pact at number one, naturally. Still, it’s your vote.

          1. I’d advise voting for Worm. Top Web Fiction should point users towards the best stories possible, and if the best stories happen to be Pact and Worm, so be it. It’s not like the other serials are invisible when Worm is in spot #2, they’re just slightly further down the page.

            If the goal is for new, active web serials to be discovered, it seems like the onus is on Top Web Fiction to provide a ‘completed’/’incomplete’ filter, not on the voters to refrain from giving votes to a good (many would say the best) web serial.

      1. Yeah, Andy and Eva are basically Hunter: the Vigil characters who are rapidly going increasingly crazy from all this supernatural bullshit. Textbook.

      2. Andy strikes me as a bit of an idiot, with that last bit. I thought he was supposed to be the smart one, but he doesn’t seem to realize that blowing up the council won’t have any benefit. The heads of each group end up dead, maybe. Andy and Eva will certainly die. But then the city is up for grabs. All factions at war, Johannes’ monsters loose, new practitioners moving in to grab a piece. Fire and blood like Jacob’s Bell has never seen.

        1. I see from his viewpoint, these people have basically been acting like magnets for the Others and drawing them in. Look how much his work has increased since they decided they needed a Lord. If he kills Johannes, then his demesne and everything in it will probably fall into Limbo. If he kills the heads they can’t pass the poison down to the next generation.

          Getting rid of the old to make way for the new. If something crosses a line, the he can put them down.

          1. Also, as it’s very clearly portrayed, the new generation comes to these meetings as well. And whoever isn’t strong enough to come, won’t be strong enough to take over after. In effect, they’d rid the area of the “practitioner taint” (just to give it a name).

          1. Not to me. But it does make sense, to a degree. Just remember that he and Eva killed the tree child without mentioning if it was hostile, carbombed an arrogant practitioner who only maybe did something worse than declare candidacy for lordship, and sniped a guy to death for posing as a Duchamp. He might just have good reason to want his collective bosses dead, and then this confirmed that he should.

        2. I think he’s believes getting rid of the heads of the families would allow the younger generation some measure of freedom from their parents’ debts, and break the cycle of the old ways. Not sure it’ll work, though, kids can be assholes as well.

        3. I think you’re underestimating Andy and Eva. Blowing up the council meeting takes out all the major players (unless the meeting site is warded against that, which wouldn’t surprise me). The families would still exist, but would be in disarray. If they struck back against Andy and Eva (assuming for argument’s sake that they know who to blame) I doubt they’d be doing so in a very organised and efficient way. Running circles around enraged others is what Andy and Eva do for a living and practitioners aren’t that different.

          Did you notice, BTW, that he said he’d skip the meeting? Eva always attends and both their absences would be too suspicious. He’s willing to sacrifice her.

          1. Did you notice, BTW, that he said he’d skip the meeting? Eva always attends and both their absences would be too suspicious. He’s willing to sacrifice her.

            And note the resentment in his diary entries: saying she’d become a monster, griping about taking care of what used to be his sister… 2 birds 1 stone. Eliminate the practitioners and their radiation attracting Others, eliminate his now-useless mad dog partner. And planning way ahead in asking for the rocket launcher (and plastic explosives) at a time it wouldn’t be suspicious.

    1. Eva’s instincts here weren’t wrong. At that point, the wraith was obviously about to do something horrible either way, and if she’d been a bit faster she might have cut it off at the pass. She failed, but given that the wraith didn’t even stop what it was saying, I don’t think her shooting at it was what set it off.

    1. Mags never said that in so many words… Or conformed or denied much of anything… It is sorta nice to see a manifestation of their sins coming back to ahunt them.

    2. Nope, either she rejected or she was interrupted. Either way, we have a vengeful wraith capable of spreading Negativity in a town filled with foreign Others and practitioners.

      Blood and Fire and Darkness #2 coming right up.

      1. Actually I don’t see Mags or Molly denying that their are Familiar and Practitioner, I fact if they were I wouldn’t be surprised to see this chain of events. Molly wants revenge, and that won’t change if she is a familiar. So Mags now has to get revenge for Molly, but will want to do it in a ‘better’ way.

        Molly is really sharp, and I would not put it past either of them to use this as a method to manipulate events.

        Step 1: Do not let them know about the familiar.

        Step 2: Break negotiations by requesting something ridiculous. Note that even if they acceded, the request wasn’t for anyone death per se, but for their lives, something more versatile.

        Step 3: Start real revenge by moving everyone out of their operational zone. It is more likely that house will fall in full chaos than if things are slow enough for negotiation.

        Mags would actually /still/ be neutral, she is just kicking off the festivities a bit faster this way. Not something that is necessarily good, but not what people expect.

        Whether any of this is actually what is going on, idk.

        1. i quite like this theory for why the conversation seems a bit disjointed towards the middle. And that would mean Jeremy wasn’t telling the truth, even if he thought he was, last chapter. Sadly, she knows that if she pokes a hole in this particular metaphorical pressure cooker then things are probably going to get even worse than they otherwise would.

      2. Right. The end of 10.7 happens after this Histories chapter. Jeremy was certain that Molly wasn’t bound, and that she wasn’t stopped: “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.”

        On the other hand, we never saw this wave of negativity happen in arc 10. Maybe said wave was somehow interrupted, or Hillsglade House was reasonably safe against it?

    3. yeah, that was never gonna happen. if everybody who died got to be a ghost pet death’d be pointless it was always obviously a one off for evan

      1. Dude, Molly isn’t a human soul. She’s a Wraith. An embodiment of the original Molly’s last moments of suffering, shored up with hate and Maggie’s blood. Probably a fair bit from Mags, too. I’m actually not sure how long Molly was dead for before Padraic took a new name, though, and being one of the primary connections to a practitioner probably had an influence.

        Evan was a one off thing, but that’s because he was a mostly whole soul, wrapped in a few spirits and a ghost. The Shepard captured Fell’s soul, but Fell probably didn’t leave a ghost, and either way it required special circumstances at the location of death both times to keep the soul from passing on.

        In short: Molly isn’t any more human than Blake, and while actual character deaths have been few and far between, there really haven’t been any takebacks. Count someone as dead only if they’ve moved on, and don’t whine. Welcome to Pact.

  1. Yes. Yesssssss.

    And so the Innocents fight back. With rocket launchers.

    Molly is a terribly smart ghost. I hope we get a little bit more of her before she burns out in her negativity. Let’s hope this doesn’t affect Mags too much. Things are bad enough as it is.

    Good chapter!

  2. Holy shit Andy, that’s ambitious. I guess we found out why we think he’s a little crazy. I liked the chapter, and the hint dropped about Blake working eerily well in this world was something to think about.
    What’s Molly going to do? A lone wraith might not be able to do all that much. It’d be nice if Duncan got hurt by her though, he’s shaping up to be as bad as laird.

    1. As bad as Laird, and half as smart.

      Blake for Lord of Jacob’s Bell. Because he’s the only one who seems to care about people in general.

          1. Heh. “It is done. We hereby acknowledge Blake Thorburn, Incarnation of Freedom, as the Lord of Jacob’s Bell.” BOOM.

            Can I get a more subtle way to explain the joke? The one I came up with one feels too direct.

    1. whatchits
      witches? but maybe deliberate

      wake up call
      wakeup call

      it.We
      respect.It’s
      missing spaces

      liason
      liaison, although the other spelling is used occassionally

    2. Not a typo per se, but I expected the description of what happened at the church to continue to be in Andy’s perspective, after he wrote that what happened there “as he saw it” followed. I think the story wouldn’t lose anything if it was told by him, being his most faithful description, and his commentary would be interesting to read.

  3. Well then. This chapter was really interesting. Andy and Eva do make a really cool and interesting combo.
    Also, what is Molly doing? Apparently, it’ll be felt through the entire city. Maybe a sorta-kinda-likea-Jaggerbomb? But with negativity instead of drunkeness? Maybe it’ll affect Blake in his binding.
    I can’t wait for Saturday!!!

  4. So Andy is the good guy! . . . I think. . . Maybe . . .

    So can Andy pull a Char and kill the counsel with a rocket to the face?

    Encrypting a message while sending instructions on how to beat the encryption at the same time just seems like bad security to me. Smh, Andy.

    As expected, Molly is the Big Bad. Can her negativity blast power Blake and free him from his bondage?

    Not one of my favorites, but I kinda liked this chapter. I always enjoy getting glimpses into the world and hearing about different types of Others and Practices. I love world building.

    1. I wouldn’t call him a “good guy”, although I think he seems like a possible ally for Blake, since at least they’re both thinking along the same lines.

      Murdering all the practitioners with a rocket launcher, though, isn’t going to solve anything. There will be some survivors, inevitably, and there will be ghosts and traps and heirs and who knows what else. (And — I mean, even if it’s possible to kill Johannes with a rocket launcher, what exactly does he think is going to happen to all the horrible Others in his domain once it begins to fall apart?)

      1. Given the company in Jacob’s Bell, as the size of an explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of solving approaches zero.

      2. Murdering all the practitioners with a rocket launcher, though, isn’t going to solve anything.

        I beg to differ. In my experience, killing people with rockets generally stops them from causing problems. The only problem is, you’ve got to make sure to kill them to death, and I mean real death, not to being mostly dead.

        1. Y’sure about that? Because killing everyone would also mean killing the younger generation that is recognized by this chapter as having the potential to make things better. And b. “people causing problems” absolutely, positively includes Blake, Mags, and Molly.

          1. Doesnt matter if he blows up the church with everyone inside. More people will show up and make a bid for power.

            I imagine when word spreads that there is no localize power in Jacob’s bell, there will be lots of practitioners showing up.

            also, unless he kills the thornburns earlier that day, he is pretty much handing them leadership since they only keep one active.

    2. Can her negativity blast power Blake and free him from his bondage?

      Well, was she one of the heirs who wanted the house downed or yearned for the inheritance? I can imagine influence it if she can the town. Answer:

      She looked so abjectly miserable, standing there, restless, nervous.“I don’t want it,” Molly said, stepping forward.

    3. I don’t think the witch hunters are really good guys. They’re basically operating under a scorched earth policy. While they can kill regular Others and practitioners, there are far meaner things out there that can’t be done away with simply by steel and fire, and don’t particularly care if you’re innocent or not – your karma doesn’t matter much when you’re an embodiment of death and rot and ruin and every other kind of demon we’ve seen.

      This is going to make me sound like a huge weeb, but it’s like the Quincy from Bleach. Yes, their solution works, but it’s not effective in the long run. In our time with Blake, while I am loathe to admit it, we have seen problems and monsters that cannot be beaten with a well placed rocket launcher.

      When the witch hunters find something like a boogeyman, they kill it. But we know from the drains that that simply allows the boogeyman to come back eventually, just as mean. More effective to bind such an entity and toss it down a very deep and dark hole, something the witch hunters cannot do. If they were forced to fight with something like Conquest, they would lose.

    4. He probably gave instructions on how to open the encrypted file but he didn’t give the key. They key is probably a experience only Andy and the other person share and maybe it wasn’t even mentioned.

  5. Typo Thread Deployed:

    Incident was raised by Joanna Duchamp, the younger, corroborated by other members of the younger council – informal group of practitioners consisting of Behaims, Duchamps, Maggie Holt and possibly padraic.

    Padraic needs capitalization.

    1. Typos:

      • “Maggie Holt and possibly padraic” -> “Padraic”, or even “and Maggie Holt (possibly Padraic)”

      • For consistency, the signatures “- Andy” (includes a space) and “-Samaniego.” (no space, period at the end) should be “-Andy” and “-Samaniego” (no space, no period)

      • “That means being more regular with my diary entries. Polish my skills.” -> “Polishing”

      • “Andy’s personal notes, after action reports.” and “After action reports.” -> earlier, it was “After Action Report (Andy & Eva)”

      • “there’s a symbolic element to it.We” -> missing space

      • “a bit more respect.It’s” -> missing space

      • ” Investigation by Sandra” -> extra space at the start

      • ” Arrogant practitioner” -> extra space at the start

      • “police liason” -> “liaison”

      1. “I’m caught between worrying she’ll get killed when it breaks at a critical moment or fall into a funk and be impossible to deal with for a week.”

        should read “and worrying she’ll fall”, or something like that. Not grammatical as it is.

  6. One of the things I’m really liking about Pact is that it has this huge sense of history – others that have been around for thousands of years, families that have practiced for generations- but it also has this relentless build up towards change. Blake wants to shake up the status quo to break the cycles of entropy and negativity that each generation seems to build on. Johannes wants to break the status quo and build some kind of new social order separating others and humans in a way that is good and/or terrible for everyone involved. Even Aimon and Grandmother Rose were clearly plotting something. Heck, Eras-Ur has some sort of long term plans that it wants to see come to fruition in about ten years. And now we learn that Andy, the person whose job is literally to keep anyone from breaking the rules and putting people in danger would really like to utterly smash the status quo by killing everyone with high explosives.

    Wildbow’s been slowly revealing this rich tapestry of a world for us, and by the end of the fight for lordship in Jacob’s Bell, that entire tapestry will be on fire. The forces that seem to want stability like the Duchamps or Isadora are in for a rough time.

  7. It seems strange that Mags hasn’t tried to tell more people that she was once Maggie Holt. Shouldn’t Andy have been aware of that somehow, someway? Or maybe we just didn’t see that bit where he acknowledged it to himself.

    1. I think everybody already knows who mags is at this point. She may be hesitant to specifically mention that Padraic is Maggie Holt because she still plans to reclaim that name one day and doesn’t want to strengthen Padraic’s hold on it.

    2. Abandoning her past sure causes a lot of confusion and difficulty for the town, but I believe the idea was cutting off ahead of the wound, because she’d still be hurt from the metaphorical/spiritual holes and unraveling of her identity.

    3. I was under the impression that she couldn’t, like when someone brings up a subject and you suddenly forget the word you wanted to say. Besides, she was still pretty obviously Maggie Holt, enough so that Eva and Sandra were able to remember and connect the dots.

    1. For the record, I also think that attempting to blow everyone up with a rocket launcher is a super bad idea.

      Can it even happen with a bunch of chronomancers around?

      1. Chronomancy is (mostly) a trick based around altering perceptions of time, remember. It doesn’t help if you get taken out in one big surprise attack.

        1. No, that was the fake discount chronomancy they used. Actual chronomancy has been said to be possible, and was in progress when Blake interrupted them. This rocket plan is not going to go well.

  8. “I’ve attached backups of all my files. See .crypt 1 through 26 and ’27incomplete’. You’ll need a program to open them. I included a notepad document with some directions on how to get that program. I wanted to protect all exchanges – to access pages”

    I just want to note, with Public Key Infrastructure you don’t need so much cloak & dagger. Each person has a Secret Key & a Public Key. Public Keys are stored in a bank. When someone wants to send you something only you can see, they encrypt it with your Public Key, and only your Secret Key can unlock it. That’s the simplest explanation without all the knitty gritty.

    /end sysadmin

    1. Probably a countermeasure in case someone gets access to the computer or manages to find a spirit that is able to magically spoof the secret key by using magical magic

    2. It’s entirely possible that that’s what the instructions involve; even with that setup, you’ll still need to explain it to anyone who’s not already familiar with the process and software. It’s not so much cloak & dagger as it is making sure that the recipient knows what to do with the files.

  9. Andy’s got the right idea here, I think, but he’s not accounting for all the angles. Rose and her dead man switch would throw a wrinkle into anything they try. There’s no reasonable way to get the entire practitioner population into the church at once. That doesn’t stop the fact that the goblins currently infesting the town would go weapons-free if the checks on them suddenly vanish. Killing the previous generation would leave feelings of resentment, and again there’s no reasonable to get just them into the church (or into any singular building for splodification purposes) without collateral in the new generation. And so on and so forth.

  10. It would be pretty cool if Blake manages to put himself together by a combination of taking everyone’s memories of him in Jacob’s bell as well as the Molly Wraith and Evan and making them a part of himself again, kicking out the spirits that have taken residence in him
    using Rose’s version of the awakening ritual maybe

    Not that this is actually going to happen (my theories about this story are so consistently wrong that I’m pretty sure I can predict what will NOT happen in the story just cus I thought of it)

    1. Oh, and by this point conquest has managed to completely take over rose, but Blake kills her (accidentally, like every one of his other murders) thus finishing his & conquest’s game.

      1. I still think Rose Sr. used Molly as a sacrifice.

        My theory is that Blake activated Molly. She never talked until they met. Perhaps there is a connection between Blake an Molly. Is it possible that Rose Sr. used Molly’s death to make Blake?

        What is the point of making Molly the 1st heir (molly claims she was never the first heir) and go to the trouble of making Blake for Rose. Maybe a thornburn had to die for Blake to be made?

        About Carl, another user theorized that Rose experience’s were given to Blake. That it made the pregnancy incident in the Ranch would have more impact if there was a chance of Blake/Rose getting pregnant. What if Molly was the one in Carl’s cult?

        1. I lean away from the cult experiences actually belonging to Rose because Carl treated men and women very differently and Blake’s memories clearly reflected a male experience.

  11. Comments:

    1. Reminder: This is the rare kind of chapter where anything and everything can be a lie. Not just the reveal at the end, but everything. Even the other correspondents are witch hunters.

    2. “As factions went, Duncan was a non-player. Or he wanted everyone else to think so.” – Surely if he wanted that, he shouldn’t have announced his candidacy for the Lordship?!

    3. Great lines: “No caring for the sister who trained in how to fight monsters and became one. Just me, a prison cell, and a book.” and “Mac saved her for me. Mac saved me from me. He saved my parents, even if it was with an ice pick through the temple.” and “I paid lots of mind to consequences. I just pushed them aside”.

    4. And here I don’t get the rules concerning practitioner lies again. If Johannes can so easily say “Angry ghost”, to be immediately corrected by Andy, then I assume he doesn’t think such words are considered lies. And if that’s the case, I don’t get why Sandra was so worried in Histories 9 that hers and Jeremy’s words were somehow turned into lies by Blake’s erasure and subsequent escape from Toronto.

    5. Concerning Molly: Why the hell is she so strong to make things problematic for everyone? Did Blake’s influence do that to her? If so, how? Also: damn it, Blake.

    6. Still concerning Molly: Maybe the Jacob’s Bell practitioners will call the Shepherd here. He’s the specialist for dealing with ghosts and wraiths, after all.

    7. I LOVE that chapter ending. I don’t expect it will ever actually come to this – several Jacob’s Bell practitioners seem way too savvy to die like that – but still. (Also, narratively, there’s the Unspoken Plan Guarantee. From TV Tropes: “When the characters come up with a plan to save the day, its chances of success are inversely proportional to how much the audience knows about it beforehand.”)

    1. I wonder if Pauz has somehow been absorbed by Blake, or maybe Pauz is leaking into Blake just like Conquest is leaking into Rose. Thus, Blake’s (Pauz’s) very presence may very well uproot/reverse normal social structure. The winner becomes the loser, the mighty becomes the fallen, etc.

    2. 4) – Johannes never said that Molly was an angry ghost, he just said the words “angry ghost” without specific context, so I wouldn’t say it was a mistake/lie

    3. “As factions went, Duncan was a non-player. Or he wanted everyone else to think so.” – Surely if he wanted that, he shouldn’t have announced his candidacy for the Lordship?!

      He didn’t have a choice; he seems to be the eldest Belham right now, and there wasn’t time to line up anything else. Failing to produce a Belham candidate would have been suspicious.

      And here I don’t get the rules concerning practitioner lies again. If Johannes can so easily say “Angry ghost”, to be immediately corrected by Andy, then I assume he doesn’t think such words are considered lies. And if that’s the case, I don’t get why Sandra was so worried in Histories 9 that hers and Jeremy’s words were somehow turned into lies by Blake’s erasure and subsequent escape from Toronto.

      My assumption is that it’s because Sandra’s words (and Jeremy’s response) took the form of a promise — she promised Jeremy he would recognize the boy, and Jeremy promised to stop him. Johannes was just making a statement of fact. If he’d said “Upon my position as the Sorcerer of North End, I declare that that is unmistakeably a ghost”, he would have been in trouble, but otherwise the spirits probably use context to distinguish between words that promise to do something in the future (which you are bound to no matter what) and words that are just statements of fact (which have to be true according to your perceptions.)

      It’s also possible that Johannes did take a tiny power ding from that, but that (since it was a minor misstatement between two very similar types of Others) it wasn’t really noticeable.

      Whereas with Jeremy and Sandra — even though it wasn’t a big ritual oath, it was still a matter of Sandra talking to him for the first time in ages and invoking their longstanding ties to get him to agree to do something important to her, while promising to him that it would not be too difficult. Those are big commitments regardless of how you word them, and the spirits would have taken note.

    4. About the lying: you’re not lying when you make a mistake. Johannes was wrong (or not completely correct) so he wasn’t lying. In this case it’s even less of a problem. First of all, Andy can lie so Johannes can’t be sure he was wrong in the first place. Second, wraiths are probably still considered ghosts anyway, so “[angry] wraith” is simply more correct than “angry ghost” since it indicates Molly has passed a (vague-ish) threshold into wraith-hood.
      As for Jeremy’s words becoming lies: he said he would take care of [making sure Blake didn’t return]. Blake has returned to Jacob’s Bell, so what Jeremy said is not true. No one’s called him on it in front of the spirits so he may be able to find a way to argue with the spirits before someone names him forsworn. Jeremy didn’t make a mistake and get corrected, he made a statement that turned out to be wrong. He shouldn’t have made his statement open ended in time, making it kind of a promise.

      1. I feel like Johannes has power to burn, so he’s never had to be as disciplined as the other major practitioners.

        1. But Johannes is way more disciplined than them, at least in some senses. Remember to which absurd lengths both he and his familiar go to accomodate their guests, answering questions and offering favors in excess of what would be needed (Maggie in arc 8, Blake in arc 10).

          Practitioners and familiars influence one another, so it’s an open question whether this is originally Johannes’ personality or Faysal’s angelic nature or something else (e.g. calculated behavior to maximize their karmic balance like Laird did in arc 1).

          1. My impression was of the kind of generosity that a wealthy person is able to indulge in. Creating a good first impression, an opening for a working relationship and later accusations of ingratitude should the recipient prove uncooperative. I meant, in particular, discipline about statement truth-value. There has to be a basic level of care, but Johannes seems incautiously plainspoken for a practitioner.

      1. Maybe anyone who doesn´t announce candidacy wouldn´t be accepted as lord by the others and Others, even if they somehow come out on top.
    5. It wasn’t any statements that turned into lies. Jeremy promised Sandra that Blake wouldn’t return to Jacob’s Bell. A broken promise is much more important than a minor and knowingly done lie. And lies unknowingly told aren’t lies anyway.

    6. 4) Angry ghost is technically correct,classifications are fluid anyway,if you call a glamoured faery a vampire it wouldn’t be a lie due to fluid classifications.
      5)You do not have to be very strong to blow up a power keg,doubly so if you specialise is flames (the flames being an allegory for negative feelings and death for revenge)

  12. Is it just the irony of Pact that it actually seems sane for Andy to want to kill everyone and just be done with the Jacob’s Bell Country Club Practitioners?

    In any other story, a character wanting to kill everyone else would have to be a crazy villain. Here, this almost seems naturally sane and rational.

    The Old Order changeth, yielding place to New.
    The World will change, and so will the power in the few.
    A reign of blood, fire and darkness to pass,
    Lest a broken wooden man, a fiery brave lass
    Rise to mend what was torn asunder
    By generations of tears, rage, plot and blunder.

    The Tenacious Warrior cometh, his strength compassion,
    To fight the war for peace, running himself ashen.
    The Girl Who Hunts Power cometh, for having lost all she has,
    Will forge her anew, in a sharper, stronger cast.
    The Innocent Killer cometh, to refashion the old,
    To save the world from itself, with a cold heart of gold.

    1. I agree. It’s as if muggles had to fight wizards in Harry Potter. From the POV of the muggles, blowing the whole lot up makes quite a bit of sense, particularly if the speculation is correct that Others are attracted by practitioners. Get rid of all the practitioners, and the Others might go somewhere else.
      Makes even more sense when your parents (and probably also your mentor) suffered a fate worse than death at the hands of practitioners or Others, and your sister (?) is in a comparable situation.

      That said, and I just realized this now:

      “Don’t you feel it?”
      “No.”
      “Each toll, it’s filled with negativity. Each one is worse than the last.”
      […]
      Andy felt a peculiar calm settle over him as the bell continued to toll.

      So despite claiming the contrary, it could well be that Andy is affected (and he either lied to Maggie or genuinely didn’t realize it). Which tells us two things: Firstly, he’s usually saner (though not necessarily sane) but currently not at his best (similar to Blake vs. the Jägerbomb).
      Secondly, if the bell guides Andy’s thoughts or emotions along that line, it might have a similar effect on everyone without protection. It’s easy to see how this could start the blood, fire and darkness event.

      1. Really hope that the rocket launcher gets put to better use, though. Like blowing up a high-ranking demon’s face.

        Having power really does make you a HUGE douchebag, as it seems. Worm really blew up any notion of respect for authority in Wildbow’s stories. Oh the number of times I wished that Taylor would blow up all the major capes fucking with the system using a rocket launcher…

        The bell is probably affecting him, though, as you say. But what about that Innocence thing? What is this “Innocence” anyway?

        1. Innocence (Innocents) vs. practitioners in Pact are like muggles vs. wizards in Harry Potter. Andy has “innocence” as a witch hunter because he hasn’t gone through the awakening ritual to become a proper practitioner. Joel and the non-practitioner among the Knights would also qualify.

          We’ve got plenty of ideas and suggestions how innocence might work, but AFAIK it’s all rather vague. I mean, maybe the bell couldn’t ever affect Andy, or maybe Molly-the-wraith can ignore innocents. Innocence protected some of Blake’s cabal-to-be from joining him, but on the other hand, it didn’t protect Maggie’s hometown from the goblin assault, nor the normal children in Maggie’s school from the goblins. Blake can’t go into homes of innocents, etc.

          And as I understand it, in her Histories chapter Maggie lost some of her innocence by taking that incriminating photo, quite a while before she was awakened. So losing one’s innocence seems to be a rather gradual process, which makes me wonder how witch hunters can preserve theirs despite interacting with Others so much.

          Conversely, practitioners become more Other as they practice.

            1. Specifically, it sounds like that with training you can learn how to consciously put aside a worldview tainted by association with practitioners and Others, and see the world as a “muggle” would.

              The awakening ritual, then, would presumably prevent one from being able to do this — perhaps because doing so would be lying to yourself and to the spirits about what you know.

        2. Extensive Worm spoilers in here.
          Gurer jrer tbbq nhgubevgl svtherf va gur Cebgrpgbengr. V fhfcrpg gung guvatf jbhyq unir orra pbzcyrngyl qvssrerag vs Gnlybe unq zrg fbzrbar yvxr Purinyvre be Qentba gung svefg avtug bhg vafgrnq bs Nezfznfgre. Nf sbe gur CEG, Pnhyqeba jnf vagragvbanyyl znxvat gurz fhpx nf cneg bs gurve oevyyvnag (gung jnf fnepnfz) cynaf.

          Abj va ure pvivyvna yvsr, gurer jr qrsvavgyl frr fuvggl ngubevgl svtherf. Abobql rire fgbbq hc gb be chavfurq Fbcuvn naq Rzzn nf gurl qrfgeblrq Gnlybe nf zhpu nf gurl pbhyq. Rira nsgre Gnlybe jnf ybpxrq va gur ybpxre, naq unq gb or vafgvgvbayvmrq oevrsyl, gurl tbg njnl jvgu vg orpnhfr ab bar jbhyq pbzr sbejneq naq Rzzn’f sngure guerngrarq gb fhr gur uryy bhg bs crbcyr gb vagvzvqngr gurz. Ubarfgyl Rzzn vf hc gurve jvgu grnpure sbe gur punenpgref V qrfcvfr zbfg va Jbez. V unir gb jbaqre jung gur fpubby jbhyq qb jura varivgnoyl gubfr guerr ovgpurf qvq fbzrguvat gurl pbhyqa’g fjrrc haqre gur eht, yvxr trg fbzrbar xvyyrq? Jryy gunaxf gb Yrivnguna, jr arire qvq svaq bhg.

          Think I went off on a bit of a tangent there. What I was trying to get to is that there were some decent authority figures in Worm, later on. It’s sort of like how most practicioners we’ve met are dicks, but a few, like Fell’s brother from Maggie’s backstory, and the Astrologer are decent folks. Good ones exist, we just see the dicks.

          1. We also see one who might be good ones in the background. But since we don’t actually SEE them, we just assume they’re dicks.

            Just sayin’.

          2. Even Sandra hasn’t come across as totally unreasonable. She was willing to at least entertain and discuss the wraith’s offer here, for instance (I suspect that part of this is because there are probably people in her family who would want to escape from it, so agreeing to her version where she metaphysically cuts them out of the family would be a way to keep everyone happy.)

            And we’ve seen that the Belham family isn’t entirely unreasonable, though unfortunately it seems like the next leader may be the boy whose father Blake killed.

            1. Her, Sandra herself! “Not death. But removed from the family all the same. A loss, a sacrifice all the same, a child sent away, never to return?” Sandra gets cut out from the Duchamps and she can finally have that son that her husband and his God want and they can go off to happily become the new Lord and Lady of Toronto or whatever while her family kisses her goodbye and sends her off with many presents because she’s sparing the family the loss of one of its precious future brides.

              This could be Sandra’s out. If things get too hairy, if she just wants to run off into the sunset in her husbands arms having a wild orgy of two people, him and her, then she just has to acquiesce to Molly’s request. She just has to claim that she is a child, since she hasn’t born a child herself.

    1. Andy.

      but the council notes aren’t the end of the chapter. end of chapter is from Andy’s pov which will probably lead to the next arc

        1. Because he was writing from the viewpoint of a dispassionate third person omnipotent. I suppose you could argue that it really was a dispassionate third person Other and not Andy who was writing it, but the narrator (presumed to be Andy) said that it would be written as it was remembered and we only hear Andy’s thoughts (nobody else’s) with things like, “A self-imposed bondage of rules and law, Andy mused.” “And the young are tasked with changing the status quo, before they become the problem, Andy thought.” So either it’s an Other who can read Andy’s thoughts, someone’s doing the mental equivalent of putting words in a person’s mouth, or it’s Andy himself who wrote it. Occam’s razor suggests that it was Andy, albeit in a somewhat unusual style (apparently?).

          1. I thought it was just a change of POV for stylistic reasons. That is, up to the line it’s Andy’s writing, including the note of what follows, but then Wildbow told the scene in third person. Andy probably described the same thing it in first person, but Wildbow probably wanted to change style because of the dialogue or something.

            It’s the equivalent of a movie showing a character say “Let me tell you what happened”, and then cutting to a scene that shows what the character would recount.

  13. So Molly basically showed up with a bunch of mean looking others to the council meetings. Its probably why she got taken out.

    I love how some no one outsider got taken out with a car bomb for trying to make a bid for lord.

    So the bells are going to start the war?

    1. I think you misunderstood that line about Molly. I did too, at first.

      It reminds me of me, back when I started the training with Mac. Every monster was a whole different kind of frightening. Molly Walker was like that up until the end.

      Andy doesn’t mean Molly had a menagerie of frightening monsters; he means she reminds him of when he started out, when he found every monster frightening. She “was like that up until the end”, i.e. she never got experienced enough as a practitioner to stop being frightened.

  14. “We rigged a treated wire snare for a countermeasure, and Eva stood by with a weapon. We disrupted the manifestation to raise the frog spirit, and killed it with a treated wire snare”

    The “treated wire snare” appearing twice reads a bit oddly

  15. Okaaaay. That’s scary smart for a ghost, or for anyone really. Wait until the whole town is packed with powerful Others and practitioners who are all expecting conflict and then give a signal that seems to be a call to action. The fact that the council meets at the church and were actually there when the signal was given makes it seem even more legitimate.

    However, the big plot hole, as I see it, is why the powerful practitioners who were there didn’t just stop the bell. Several of them were strong enough that they should have each been able to stop the bell tolling, and if they worked together they should have easily overwhelmed anything Molly had set up.

    1. Molly basically shunted to the bells and everyone left to try and stop her Faysal could probably get to her first, but let’s be real here: How many of the them are decent in a fight against a Wraith?

      Salt doesn’t work. Physical weapons probably don’t. Molly’s strong enough to cause physical interference and use magic. Not the easiest thing in the world to face unless you’ve got preparations in place before hand.

  16. Part of me was yelling “Go, Molly, go, go, go!” during this. 😐

    Yeah: cheering an embodiment of a Very Bad Day who has since turned into a sink of bad days for other people on while she triggers a local Götterdämmerung… -_- Not proud of myself, but can’t help it.

    But, she’s not wrong. <_< How she's going about her revenge is very Not Right (it's not like she's got a whole and balanced emotional spectrum to work with to get it right). Yet, her point is beyond valid.

  17. Yet another place where Mala Fide works for the chapter title. All the town powers were interacting with Molly in bad faith. And boy, has it come back to bite them.

    1. Not to mention Andy. He’s always had the “lol-nope” option available, for all he and Eva toe the line… mostly. <_<

      Irony: Eva and Molly could be an explosive combo, for all she tried to break out the rock-salt. Um. Literally, if they snaggle the rocket stash along with Andy. Eva's got plenty of negative to burn. 😐 So's Andy. But, until the last paragraph, he always got me as less inclined to use it.

    2. Of course none of those assholes will see it that way. They’ll blame Mags for strengthening her, or for messing up and killing her. Or they’ll blame Molly for being a Thorburn. But none of them will feel guilt, and think that, hey maybe rather than treating her as the next scary Diabolist or a pawn in our power plays, we should try to give the scared girl a hand, or at least not make things worse for her.

      1. Ooor they could even feel more justified in what they did than before. Molly’s death at the time was more or less by accident, remember, and now she’s responding by letting all hell break loose, trying to involve more innocents, etc.

        (And that’s why “an eye for an eye” is a stupid policy, no matter whether it’s initiated by a diabolist decades in the past, or by their opponents in the recent past, or by a ghost in the present. Not that Molly’s wraith can help it, of course, since she’s little more than an avatar of vengeance now. I’m just saying, if you cheer for Molly’s revenge then there’s a good case to be made that you also had to cheer for her murder in the first place. The Thorburns earned their bad karma somehow, after all.)

        And screw the universe and its frickin’ need for balance and karmic retribution nonsense, too. Heh.

        1. Also, considering who Molly’s stated targets are going to be cheering her on is pretty hypocritical. Take Lola Duchamp, what exactly makes her being horribly killed by a wraith any different from what happened to Molly? Because she was a big meanie to a sympathetic character one time? Does that mean she deserves to die?

          I’m pretty sure cheering on the death of any character here except for a certain few is cheering on for the situation to get worse and worse and worse.

        2. I’m not cheering on Molly’s rampage. I’m just saying that I doubt those who conspired with Laird will realize that if they hadn’t set Maggie up to attack Molly, even when Molly was doing her damdest to not be a terrifying Diabolist, then they wouldn’t be in this mess.

          “The Thorburns earned their bad karma somehow, after all.”
          Past Thorburns earned that bad Karma. I’m not a big beliver in the sins of the parent passing on to the child.

  18. Nice to see the “Katanas are just better” trope subverted in the begining. Katana’s have gotten a bit over-rated in pop culture. Yeah, they can have a wicked edge, but they also can get dulled easier, then break. Sometimes the more solid build of a broadsword is what you need.

  19. For some reason the group called “The Talons” in Rhode Island sound strangely familiar. By any chance have they been mentioned before in Pact?

    For that matter have any other Witch Hunters been mentioned before (besides the inquisitors in Montreal)?

  20. Is anyone else getting a strong Buffy vibe from Andy? When he talks about going after the various monsters, that’s exactly the image I’m getting in my head. And that goes double after thinking about the rocket launcher.

  21. After a second reading, I now see that Andy only offered Mags his hand to help her to her feet. They were not, as I originally thought, holding hands for some reason.

  22. Also, in case we weren’t certain before, this confirms that Blake came into existence (at least in his current form) the moment Molly died — the gap in Andy’s records only seems to cover the time period from when the Second Thorburn heir took charge, which means that before then, his records would have mentioned Rose (and there was nothing about Blake to erase.)

  23. Anybody notices that,when the universe tries to fill the gaps,it does it by destroying the evidence rather than censoring the brains so that they cannot receive them?

    Wonder how many thngs of the knights got destroyed.

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