Malfeasance 11.1

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My existence was reduced to a pizza slice of reality.  A triangular section of a room with light shed from a window high above that I couldn’t see.

Nothing to read, nothing to do, and nobody to talk to.  I couldn’t even punch the wall to vent my anger, because I didn’t want to risk hurting myself.

Screaming, though.  I could get away with screaming.  Even if I knew it wasn’t necessarily making me any friends.  Without the need for breathing, my scream could be a howl, continuing well past my usual lung capacity.

My throat started hurting, though, and I had to make myself stop.  The last thing I needed was for the Drains to get a grip on that.  I’d wind up sounding like some movie monster.

I couldn’t do anything.  My thoughts were chaos and every single damn bad emotion it could summon up, all mixed into a pot of something with no outlet.

I didn’t need to pant for breath as I stopped.  I saw the birds on my arms with their beaks parted, midway through their own screaming.

Pausing to look around at my surroundings for any possible clue, I found little except for the edge of the desk, no books perched on or under it, the side with the drawers beyond the scope of the reflection, floor and wall.  No chair to sit in.  Nothing I could pound or throw to vent my frustration.

I looked at the circle on the other side of the mirror.

Could I reach through the mirror and break it?

Maybe.  It would be hard, with no guarantees.

I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of what might happen if I was trapped in a circle with no mirror to go to.

I’d leave the option open for a last-ditch effort.

I’d brought the chair around, and did what I could with the section of desk.  I tried to move the desk, but my fingers slipped on the wood.  If I got low enough to grab the one stout, half-foot of leg at the base, I couldn’t get leverage or traction on the ground or surrounding area.

Easily an hour passed as I used the Hyena to chip at the desk in an effort to create a handhold.  Two oblong, splinter-ridden holes that I could fit three fingers inside.

When I tried, I couldn’t get it to move.

I tried to use my sweatshirt, slinging it through the two holes and then around the leg, and didn’t get it to budge.  Only the beginnings of a tearing sound.

I drew a finger in the dust on top of the corner of desk, marking the progress as shadow moved and the light moved to one end of my little slice of reality, only to disappear.

Afternoon became night, as the line in the dust was joined by brother lines, punctuating hours.

Once the light was largely gone, I didn’t have any way to track the passage of time except my own thoughts.  Where my own heartbeat or breathing might have helped me punctuate the minutes, it was different now.  It was based on my thinking, my remembering to do it.  When I forgot, it could feel like a minute had taken an hour, or I’d let time slip away, realizing only moments later how far my thoughts had traveled and how long that might have taken.

I thought about Alexis, and picked apart my time at the commune, searching it for discrepancies.  If it still hurt or stung, recalling that, I told myself that at least that made me a little more me.

I mulled over memories of time spent with my friends, and their current relationship to Rose.

I didn’t like the gaps, the incongruities.

Why had they been my friends to begin with?

I’d had an apartment.

As far as I could tell, the universe took the path of least resistance.

I now had time to think, and I didn’t like where my thoughts were going.  Had my life been based on someone else’s?  An outside source that could fill in the gaps, a life that I could step into?

That wasn’t me.  Not how I wanted to operate, to be.

Revenants were, I knew, something between a zombie and a bogeyman.  They came back from the dead, usually with a mission in mind, and a specific timeframe or pattern they needed to follow.  Most didn’t know enough to keep themselves going after they achieved their success or failure.

The revenant, I knew, could sometimes get away with being a hero, insofar as a vigilante was a hero.  They weren’t the types to turn a criminal in for the cops to prosecute, after all, but when a gang killed enough people in horrible ways, the revenant could rise and eliminate them.  Another example I’d read had been a soldier that had surrendered, along with his comrades, only to watch each be tortured to near-death and then brutally executed, with him last.  He’d returned a year to the day to hunt down the enemy soldiers and deliver punishments that were worse.  In certain circles, he’d been seen as a hero.  A benevolent spirit.

Not so common for bogeymen.  If I even was a bogeyman.

Rose had alluded to the idea that she knew what I was.  That there was something I hadn’t caught onto, dangerous knowledge that made me too dangerous to be allowed to walk free.

I spent some time dwelling on that too.  It gnawed at me.

Where it gnawed at me, I changed.  The branches finding just a little bit more ground.

I looked at the pale sparrows that hid in the branches that had climbed over my entire body.  Minor damage became tattoo, and became more physical branch where there was already tattoo.  Serious damage allowed for larger spirits to find their way inside, and they took the form of the birds.

I traced lines of branches and felt the raised portions.

“Don’t suppose you guys could poke your heads out and help me?” I asked.

I blinked.  The birds had moved closer to my hands, peering at the mirror.  Some looked more like sketches than real birds, their eyes just circles with shaky lines circling them a few times.

I extended my hands closer, touching the surface, looking away, waiting.

When I looked again, they’d moved closer, clustering at my arms.  Where I’d had branches around my hands, a feather or two stuck out.

When I looked again, they’d retreated to their hiding spots.

“Thanks for trying,” I said.

I dropped my hands to my sides.

“I’m going to go crazy if I only have my thoughts to occupy myself with,” I said.  “I hope you don’t mind if I voice my thoughts aloud.  Bit of a one-sided conversation.”

None of them moved, except for one on my forearm.  It might have been one of the originals, taking the spot of one of the birds that had been tattooed on.  He was one of the most realistic, and he was the only one who was looking at my face.

“Well, you listened,” I said.  “I like you.  I’ll call you Lefty.”

Was talking to yourself a sign of impending madness if you were a frankenstein hodgepodge of reflection, drainstuff and spirits?

I shut my eyes, resting my head on the wall, facing the nonexistent ceiling above me.  “Well, Lefty, I’ve got to talk to someone, to distract myself from the fact that I’ve been stuck in solitary by the people I tried to save.  It isn’t helping any.  It’s sort of killing me, even.”

Lefty had his head cocked when I next looked down.

“Maybe that’s a bit of a fib,” I said.  “It’s not destroying… all this.  But it is killing the Blake in me.  I’m not sure what happens, if this takes over.  If you take over.  I haven’t changed quite enough to see if my emotions or mindset change.”

I looked at my hands, turning them over, left hand first, then right.  When I looked back at my left hand, Lefty had moved around the circumference of my arm.

I clenched my fists.  “Which isn’t to say I’m not really upset.  If Rose is telling the truth, and she doesn’t have Conquest as an excuse to be doing what she’s doing, then that makes me ten times as pissed off… and it also means that doing anything to her is off the table.”

I placed my arms over my knees, thumbs tracing the lines of tattoos, the raised lines of branches that reached under the tattoos, as though I’d stuck something just beneath the surface of the tattoos, and I felt the actual branches, which were standalone.

I was glad I hadn’t picked anything else.

“What’s the worst thing I could have picked for tattoos?” I asked Lefty.  “I liked some pretty dumb cartoons as a kid.  If I was the sort of person who held onto nostalgia, instead of loathing my past, maybe you’d be a pastel-colored bug with a symbol on its back.  What do you think?”

Lefty remained silent.

I took my time, doing an inventory of my physical condition.

My right ribs and the bone of my pelvis at my waistline were the worst spots, branch mingling with bone,  I’d fallen hard when fighting the temple guardians, Tweedle Dee, Dum and whatever the third one was called.

There was a gap in the branches and bones.  I put my finger in there.

I felt one of the bird spirits brush past it, and the hand came out as fast as if I’d touched a hot stove.

I stood, because sitting wasn’t any more or less comfortable than standing, and sitting prompted a little too much thinking.  I paced, and parts of me snapped and popped with the movement, suggesting I’d been sitting for at least an hour in total.

It hadn’t felt like an hour.

Still, it was better than the alternative, the time yawning on for what felt like hours, when only minutes had passed.

If sitting made me think, then moving made my emotions stir up.

Something had happened to Mags.  My friends weren’t in a better position than before.  Rose was…

I didn’t want to think about Rose.

“What’s the solution, Lefty?” I asked.  “How do we fix all this?  If it’s a monster that needs killing, that’s a whole lot easier.  But this is a flawed dynamic.  I can’t set it on fire or trap it in a binding circle.”

Lefty only looked up at me with beady black eyes, no expression on its face.

“Do I take a cue from the vigilante revenant, and carry out the sort of task that a bogeyman is supposed to, only with an acceptable target?  Or do I take the Blake route?”

I continued pacing.

“I could have handled that last bit better.  I was a little inebriated.”

I heard the door open, and turned, though I couldn’t hope to see it.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Hey,” I heard Ty’s voice.

He stepped into view in the long mirror, visible from head to shin.  He wore a sleeveless t-shirt and pyjama pants, and had Evan perched on his shoulder.

“You look a bit like a swashbuckling pirate,” I commented.

“Yarr,” Evan said.

“I meant Ty.”

“Yarr,” Ty said, smiling a little.  He plucked at his pyjama pants.  “Reaching a bit, but I think we’re all tired enough to buy into it.

“I’d say ‘Evan want a cracker’, but I don’t, so I won’t,” Evan said.

“Good call,” I said.

More seriously, Ty said, “Sorry we didn’t stop in earlier.”

“Would’ve been nice,” I said.

“If I thought you needed water or food or something else, I would’ve found the excuse to come to you, but as it was…”

“I was musing on the subject earlier, but I think I’m still degrading, like this,” I said.

“Wearing away?”

“Starving, falling apart, something like that.  I don’t know the proper term for it.  But a part of me is dying, and I think the ugly parts might gain ground.”

I could see a note of concern on his face.  Not quite to the point where I thought he was feeling concern for me.  I was still a stranger.

“You do need something then?” he asked.

“Peace,” I said.  “I need peace.  The turmoil is, as far as I can tell, literally eating me up, inside and out.”

I saw his expression change, just a little bit more concern.

“I don’t think I can give you that,” he said.

I wanted to fidget, to bounce my leg in nervousness, in some representation of how I was feeling, or for the outlet.  But it wasn’t something that came naturally.  I was still, and in being very still I was very inhuman.

“I feel pretty horrible about it,” he said.  “Dunno if that matters.”

“Matters some, but it doesn’t help,” I said.  “I don’t want you to feel horrible.”

“We were suffering from the worst hangovers to date-”

“First hangover!  And probably my last!”

“-and doing our best to shore up the defenses.  Four walls protecting us, and not a lot else.  More than a handful of things slipped in and needed to be dealt with.”

“I could have helped,” I said.

“Probably,” he said.  “It’s like, four thirty in the morning, and I’m pretty out of it.  I heard you talking, and Evan was flying around, which isn’t quite silent.”

“Not bumping into walls anymore,” Evan said.

“…I thought I’d just stop in, before one of you disturbed the others.  It was pretty clear you weren’t asleep.”

“I don’t think I sleep anymore.”

“I can,” Evan said.  “But it’s not like it was before, when I was alive and all.  Back then, I could wait til I was tired, lie down, and sleep would come.  Now I have to look for it.  It’s more like a nap.  Maybe that helps?  You can try doing it like I do?”

“Maybe,” I said, though I wasn’t sure it did.  “Thanks.”

Ty stepped out of sight.

I wasn’t sure if I was in the clear to ask Evan about the wink and salute earlier.

“You know, when you said thanks, I totally thought you’d give Ty a dad look.  Or a mom look, like Rose sometimes gives, or even Ty sometimes.”

“A dad look?” I asked.

“I can’t do it.  I don’t have the right face muscles.  You know what I mean?  That look like you’re just pretending to take me seriously, and you’re pretending so badly you just gotta look at someone like, ‘ha ha, we’re not really taking the kid seriously, am I right?'”

“It’s different if the dad does it or the mom does it?”

“It’s two totally different looks, though I can totally see the man having the mom look while the mom has the dad look, depending on what kind of parents they have.  And Mags obviously had a dad to give her the mom look.”

In the midst of trying to keep up and wrap my head around the dads and moms, I caught that last bit.  My attention snagged on the had.

I felt like I was missing so much, spending time in the Drains, and now spending time here.

“I’m not about to be condescending with you, Evan,” I said.  “As far as my memories go, I didn’t really have parents to model my behavior off of.”

“But Rose did?”

I made a so-so gesture with my hand.  “Enough.  Maybe the opposite.  Rose got too much attention.”

“Tiff too, in a bad way,” Ty said, returning.  He held up a pack of cards, still in the box.  “Same general type, in that respect.”

“Sure,” I said.  “Is everyone okay?”

“They’re managing.  Mags isn’t in anyone’s good books after the wraith thing.  They’re using her to try and hunt Molly down.”

“And the state of things?”

“Ugly.  The fights so far are small, contained.  Nothing that’d scare the innocents, but aggressive.  Can’t speak for the others, but I was glad to get back here, even with the lousy defenses.  Once it got late enough in the day that there weren’t people on the streets, other stuff came out.”

“Yeah,” Evan said.

Ty took a seat, cross-legged, on the floor.  He paused, then leaned to one side.  “What the hell did you do to that desk?”

“Made holes,” I said.  I didn’t lose anything by admitting, “I wanted handholds, to see if I could move it, drag the reflection-version into view.”

“That’d be difficult.”

“It was,” I said.  “Didn’t work.”

“Probably for the best,” he said.

He paused, shuffling.

“Hold ’em,” Evan said.  “C’mon.”

Ty gave Evan a look.

“Deal me in,” Evan said.

Ty reached around, grabbing a book, and placed it so it sat open, standing up, blocking his view of Evan’s cards.  He did the same for me, dealing the two cards face up, behind the books.  It looked like he’d done it before.

Nothing interesting in the book.  A glossary of alchemical symbols, it looked like.

He doled out what looked like copper coins from another nationality.

“Real money?” I asked.

“Found them in the cupboard about a week after we all moved in,” Ty said.  He issued the stacks of coins.

We played ten quick hands in relative silence, only speaking in single words as our turns went around, and, in Evan’s case, when he tried to move coins with his head and knocked over the stack.  In such cases, it was usually a muttered cuss word and summary pleading on Evan’s part for Ty to pile up the coins again.

The bids were small, one coin per, but all the same, Evan had a few more coins than Ty or me.

“Maybe Go Fish,” Ty said.

“But I like winning,” Evan said.

“This is a regular thing?” I asked.

Ty raised his eyebrows, “Poker?  No.  Because Alexis-”

“Usually wins,” I said, simultaneously with him.  When he gave me a funny look, I said, “When it comes to poker, anyway.  I know that much.”

“And Evan wins whenever Alexis isn’t playing, despite the fact that we had to teach him to play a couple weeks ago, and here I am, with something like three hundred hours clocked on online poker.”

“I thought you quit,” I said.

“I did.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve clocked those hours,” Ty said.  “I’d think the little guy is cheating, except there’s no way for him to keep any cards tucked up his sleeves.”

Evan spread his wings, looking.  “Nope.”

“It’s like being a fencer, and you think the other guy’s going to play by the rules, and he just comes at you with a foil in one hand and his other hand swinging.  Except he’s following the rules.  Evan doesn’t fold when he should, which throws me off, but when I try to play it smart and efficient, by the odds, he still pulls ahead wins because he has the devil’s own luck, as the idiom goes.”

“That seems to be how it’s going,” I observed.

“And he doesn’t have tells,” Ty said.  “Tiny bird face.  You’d think he’d have the decency to puff up his feathers when he had a nice hand.”

“Why would I do something like that?  That’s dumb.”

“Kind of loses its shine when playing smart doesn’t win.  I blame magic,” Ty said.

“Sounds like a plan,” I said.

“Or,” Evan said, “Or, or, or, I’m a genius.”

Ty gave me a look.

That’s the dad look,” Evan said, hopping up, pointing a wing at Ty.  “Did you see?  That, right there.”

I leaned back, well past the point where I could see the cards or coins, and rested against the corner of the desk.

“I’ve missed you guys,” I said.

Ty’s expression was hard to read.

Sympathy, maybe.

I hadn’t been on the butt end of his sympathy, not in my memories.

“You fell through the cracks,” Ty said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“What was it like?”

“Dark,” I said.  “Like all of the ugliness of this world we’ve been introduced to, compounding all the worst parts of being homeless.”

“Worst parts?”  Evan asked.  “There are good parts?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Just like there are things that aren’t so bad about prison.  There’s a reason some people keep sliding back to that life, being on the streets or in a cell.  There’s aspects where you have peace of mind, or the ability to just stop worrying about whole aspects of your life because it either can’t get worse or there’s something in place for you.  So you face real life, and maybe a part of you knows that if you give up, stop trying, then you would at least have that.”

“Are you about to backslide?” Ty asked me.  “Slip back through the cracks?”

I thought about how I’d considered breaking the mirror, and the consequences when I didn’t have any place to go.

Any place but down?

“No,” I said.  “I have too much to do.”

Again, a sympathetic look.  The guy stuck in a binding circle, with too much to do.

I thought of my memories.  I thought about how I’d known Ty before I was supposedly created, and I could call on memories to a time after I’d met Ty, but before I’d really gotten back into the swing of everyday life.

Living on a fucked up commune, that was another kind of place I might’ve backslid to… one I’d wanted to, even if it was for one moment of weakness.

But after I’d met Ty, had he had that same look of sympathy for the antisocial guy Alexis had brought in, a guy who spent more time looking out the window or at the ground than at people’s faces?

The memories segued too smoothly into reality.

That made me uncomfortable, somehow.

As if deep down in the Drains, I’d lost sight of something, and now I might never get it back.

I had a thought on the tip of my tongue.  The sort of thing where I wasn’t sure if I should say it, because it might be awkward or stupid once it left my mouth, or I wasn’t entirely sure how to form the thought.

I said it anyway.

“You know what?” I added.  “I did sort of make friends, down in the Drains.”

“Friends?” Ty asked.  “In Bogeymantown?”

“Who?” Evan asked.

“That’s… hard to explain,” I said.  “It was easier to make friends.  I think… well, without the burden of bad karma, it’s easier.  I imagine Rose is having a hard time of it.”

“I imagine you’re right,” Ty said.

“But this, I can’t agree with it, obvious bias aside,” I said.  “This dead man’s switch feels like an even worse idea.”

“We were talking about it when you first showed up, and Rose kicked you out,” Ty said.

“What are the details?” I asked.

“I shouldn’t tell you the details,” Ty said.

“She redrew the circle around the barber,” Evan chimed in.

“Evan, cut that out,” Ty said.

“Pshh.  I’m a part of the team, and I have as much say as you.  If the circle isn’t taken care of, in a way that only she knows how to do, both for how the circle’s supposed to be and how it needs to be taken care of,” Evan said, “The Barber can get out.  If it does, then she’s the only one who knows how to bind it again.”

“I have an idea of how to,” I said.  “And here I am, stuck.  I feel compelled to comment on how convenient that is.”

“It’s not like that,” Ty said.

“Just saying,” I said.

“Can we play more?” Evan asked.  “While we talk?”

I scooted forward.  Ty reached around the books to collect our cards, and shuffled.

Our cards were dealt.

I won with a three of a kind.

I gave that a moment’s consideration.

If I was going to win over Ty… could I win him over?

Under the pretense of needing to move and stretch a bit, I shifted position.  I bent limbs in odd ways to intentionally make parts of me pop and snap.  In the midst of it all, I changed my perspective relative to the mirror, and got into a position where I could gesture to Evan with one hand.

I raised two fingers, pointed at myself, and pumped my hands in the air, a mock victory celebration.  I pointed at him, and drew a finger across my throat, pointing at the cards, and made a mock sad face.

Ty was right.  Evan’s body language was impossible to read.

I fixed my position, resuming a normal sitting posture.

Another hand.

I folded.  Evan won.

“I helped one of my Drains friends get up here,” I said.

“You brought a bogeyman into the world?” Ty asked, just a bit incredulous.

“Two, if you include myself,” I said.  “And it’s a she, so bogeywoman?”

“I’ve wondered how you did it, but explain this part first.  Who is she?”

“Doesn’t have a name,” I said.  “I might not have made it if she hadn’t given me advice and pointed me in the right general direction.  Faysal owed me favors, I called them in.”

“You keep answering questions with stuff that makes me want to ask more questions,” Ty said.  “Okay, putting aside how you got out of the drains, or the form this advice took, or how you were in a position to call in favors from Faysal, do we need to worry about her?  Raise.”

“Not any more than you need to worry about your next Other,” I said.  “Call.”

“I’m out,” Evan said.  “Fold.”

Ty moved my book.  “Damn it.”

My win.

“In fact,” I said, “Evan, if it’s no trouble, could you run an errand for me?”

“Maybe,” he said.  “Going outside is dangerous.  Too many things want to eat me.”

“I named her Green Eyes.  If you could get an escort at a time of day when it was fairly safe, could you stop by the lake?  Just check on her, tell her I said hi, and I’d visit if I could?”

“Is she good looking?” Evan asked.  He wiggled his body one way and his head the other, “Do you liiike her?”

“I don’t know her well enough to know.  But she seems like a good sort, all things considered.  I’m not in a position to be picky, so I won’t rule anything out in the grand scheme of it all,” I said.  I extended my arms, showing off the tattoos.

“I think you do like her,” Evan said.  “I think you might be in loooooove.”

I peered at my cards.  “Raise.”

“Fold,” Evan said.

Don’t be so obvious about it, I thought.

“She’s a mermaid, though, so it’d be awkward,” I said, to distract Ty.

I got two very surprised looks.

And Ty said Evan wasn’t capable of facial expressions.

“Awesome,” Evan said.

“Gotta admit, I’m curious now,” Ty said.

“You liked Isadora,” I said.

“I like new, whatever it is, if it’s entertainment or food or girls.” Ty said.  “Mermaid is new, as girls go.”

“She’s a bogeyman mermaid,” I said.  “It’s not what you’re imagining, I’m almost positive.”

He shrugged.

“Evan folded, I raised, by the way,” I said.

“Call.  Annnd… damn it.”

“I’m worried about how she’s managing, as part of all this.”

“In the lake, in winter, you mean?” Ty asked.

“The Drains are harsher than that,” I said.  “And types like she and I are tougher than you’d think.  Not that I want to push that toughness.  Seems like it’s Blake that takes all the grief, and the stuff from the Drains that gets stronger.”

“I can ask Rose if there’s any problem with you getting a book on bogeymen,” Ty said.  “I’d like to stop you being in here from being bad for you, if nothing else.”

He dealt out the next set of cards.

Come on, I thought.

Evan folded.

Ty and I put our money in.

The cards were flipped over, one by one.

“Raise,” Ty said.

Fuck.

“Fold,” I said.

I remained absolutely still to hide my agitation.

Three wins.

That was all I needed.  Three wins.  A toehold, some leverage with the spirits that managed everything, so I could maybe convince Ty to give me something I needed.

Freedom was one option, but felt a little forced.

A better option would be to get information.  To glean a little something about who I was and why they had me in here.

Except, Ty was better than I was.

I lost the next hand.

We broke even in the next.

I lost the one after.

He was paying attention now.

“Fold,” Evan said, sounding a little bored.

“Again,” Ty commented.

He won the hand.

Leaving me out of money.

“Can I give him my money?” Evan asked.  “I’m gonna fly around the house and see if there’s any trouble.”

“Wards we put up should alert us if there is.”

“Unless it’s a witch hunter,” Evan said.

“I’m thinking you two are in collusion,” Ty said.  “And something tells me it’s a bad idea to let that happen.  Go fly, Ev.  But I think we’re done with poker for now.”

Evan gave me a look, then flew away.

“He was really yours,” Ty said.

“Hm?”

“He’s loyal, and I can see the connection between you two, even now.”

“Maybe, yeah,” I said.

He paused, then said.  “There’s… I don’t remember you.  I’m not even like Alexis, feeling like there’s some Blake-shaped hole in her memories.  I’m sorry if it sounds harsh when I say it, but things make sense, with you gone.”

“I wasn’t real, as far as I can tell,” I said.  “But I’m suspicious someone was.  Maybe someone the lawyers acquired, or another family member, or… I don’t know.  I feel like it was based on something.  That, or it was a really clever piece of work, putting together a lot of reality wholesale, and I don’t even want to go within ten miles of whatever’s capable of doing something like that.”

“It isn’t how demons or diabolists operate,” Ty commented.  “Creating anything.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Which goes back to sacrifice.  Welcome to the thoughts that have plagued me for the last eight or so hours.”

“But whatever the case was,” Ty said, “We had mutual memories before.  And those memories were altered.  Like I said, Alexis feels the absence.”

“We were friends,” I said.  “But we weren’t as close as Alexis and I were.  If you’re looking for a Blake-shaped hole in your memories, you might want to look at your work.  I remember helping you set up.  I gave you feedback.  I was one of the first people you went to when you’d started a new kind of thing and wanted to just share everything you were doing.”

“I’ve been feeling an itch, like I really want to talk to someone about the magic stuff,” he said.  “Maybe that’s the Blake-shaped hole.”

I heard a knock at the door.

Ty turned his head.  “Rose.”

“I can think of five ways what you’re doing right now is a bad idea,” she said.

“Are you going to order me not to?” he asked.

“I don’t do the orders thing.  Slippery slope with big C in my head.”

“Yeah,” he said.  “Did we wake you?  Sorry.”

“The bird did.  Everyone’s up now.  Just checking, so I know, are you still a bit hung over?”

“Yeah,” Ty said.

“Everyone else is too, Evan excepted.  How are you, Blake?” she asked.

“No hang over, and I’m better, after having some company.  You’ve got to at least leave me with a book, the next time you leave me in solitary.  I’ll lose my mind.”

“We’ll see,” she said.  “A novel or two, maybe, nothing magic.”

“How does that even work?” Ty asked.  “I don’t see the cards or the book reflected, and they’re right in front of the mirror.”

I had a glimmer of an idea as to how, and I’d practiced a bit, but I was evasive all the same.

“I could say you’ve just answered your own question,” I said.

“You could, but will you?” he asked, smiling a bit.

“No,” I said.  “I’ll just ask why, if you profess to know what I am, and you know how to contrive to bind me, you don’t know anything about this part of how the mirror realm works.”

“I think I know,” Rose said.  “Don’t worry about it, Blake.  Solitude aside, how are you?”

“He’s falling apart, he says,” Ty commented.

“Stress,” I commented, “Being isolated from those things that make me me.”

“You’ll have to deal,” she said.  “Crepes for breakfast, Ty?”

“We have fruit?”

“I bought stuff on the way back from the late meeting yesterday.”

“Cool,” he said.  He stood and stretched.

“Can I get a recap on the conversation thus far with Blake?”

“You’re doing that paranoid overlord thing again,” he said.

“For my peace of mind,” she said.  “Please.”

“Yeah,” he said.

I closed my eyes.

I’d trained for it, in the course of interacting with Lefty.  Shifting the focus of my awareness.  Letting other things wash over and around me.

The trick, however, was to avoid interfering with the circle.  That would be a nightmare.

I did what I could to make it so I didn’t have any influence or impact on this mirror world, except to devote my focus to the circle, pushing against it.

My presence pushed other influences out of the mirror world.  I imagined, as the effect went, it avoided realities like Ty carrying a book across the room, and dragging it through my midsection.  For a vestige, if I was a vestige, simple interference like that was dangerous.

There was something of a melancholy feeling in my chest as I opened my eyes.  The knowledge that Rose hadn’t been able to pick this up, it pointed to the simple fact that she was real and I wasn’t.

This was my realm, not hers.

The cards, the two books, and the stacks of coins sat around me on the floor.

As quickly and quietly as I was able, I moved them all behind me.

“Breakfast,” Rose said.  “Blake, I’d offer you something in the way of spiritual sustenance, but I think it’s too dangerous.  Try keeping your activity level low.”

I clenched my fists.  “Gee, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Give this a week or two to blow over, and we’ll see what we can do with you.”

“You sound like them, you know,” I said.

“Them?”

“Sandra, and Laird,” I said.

“Which reminds me of Laird,” she commented.  “I’m putting a bogeyman in the room to watch over you.  It worked with him.”

“Don’t be stupid about all this,” I said.  “Come back, talk to me.  Get info from me.  If you’re going to risk them, risk the city with this damn dead man’s switch, do it smart, do it informed.”

“Yeah,” she said.

I heard a violent rustling, followed by heavy footsteps.  Not in my field of view.

“Break the mirror if he does anything untoward,” she said.  “Don’t communicate with him.”

She shut the door behind her.

I found a seat, and carefully moved all my coins to the side, at the edge of the mirror’s field of view, so only someone standing at a strange angle could see them.  The books and cards joined them.

I felt confident now.  I’d find my way out.

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142 thoughts on “Malfeasance 11.1

  1. The writing was interrupted by a 5 minute blackout and half an hour to an hour of the internet being out and a number of red lights on the modem – and it’s not even my internet, I’m housesitting. I panicked a little, and I got to enjoy being on the phone with tech support for the duration of the internet outage, while trying to put it together.

    I’d like to think it was worth it. Touching base.

    Thanks for reading. Please vote on Topwebfiction if you’re so inclined, and thank you for the support. You guys kick ass.

    1. Wait, that guy who keeps nagging us to vote is not here today? I s’pose I’ll do it just this once.

      Every moment you forget to vote for Pact on topwebfiction.com is another moment Evan has to spend as a non-badass-fire-blood-sparrow. Help Evan achieve his dream. Vote now!

      1. I would just like to say that being a firebird isn’t cool enough for Evan. Ne needs to be a Space Firebird! It’s even cooler cause it’s got space power. Vote so this can happen.

    1. I’m calling jailbreak happening in 11.4, or 11.3 if there’s no Thursday update, followed by him fleeing Rose for a bit. There’s only so much you can do with the primary viewpoint character in a binding circle, and while we could follow Mags or Rose for a bit we’d still be waiting for Blake’s great escape.

      1. He might break out and escape in the next chapter. It could end with him fleeing the house. Then go look for Molly in 11.3.

        He probably shouldn’t have told Ty about Green eyes though.

  2. I wanted to like her. I really did. And I’m really hoping that the removal of Conquest’s taint will make her a good person again—except now I feel the need to add, “if she ever was.”
    Wildbow: The man who makes you sympathize with douchebags and hate the good guys. And you can only ever love him all the more for it.

    1. I never was able to like Rose, kept wanting to, but nope. Now though… her death wouldn’t bother me. Ok she’s had it rough, but she just doesn’t do anything to even try and justify her actions.

      1. My ability to trust Rose has been dwindling ever since she told Blake she was more Thorburn than him. Being more Thorburn is not a good thing considering what they are like, and they don’t seem to be the sort to really trust people, but very willing to manipulate them. Her note to herself, and the posibility she did the awakening ritual wrong on purpose also mean we can trust nothing she said to Blake before.

  3. Curious how he was playing with the cards and coins not on his side of the mirror. How did he get cards? Now that he’s swapped them over Jonathan-Strange-style, do they still have a reflection/real-world counterpart? Weirdness.

    1. Their reflections were in the mirror though, and the reflection of a thing is not inherently the thing, except in the case of Weeping Angels and the Barber (and likely Blake if he ever gets out). If reflections were the thing the Blake could’ve just slashed the throat of the maenad when they were playing Tag last chapter.

      1. Well the thing is he was playing cards earlier, so I was wondering if the cards, coin, and book had a reflection, or a counterpart on his side- I seem to remember that they didn’t, but Logically if Ty put them there, Ty’s reflection would have done the same for their reflection. We’ve seen with Rose and the books that an object and its reflection can become disassociated. When Blake pulls them through, he gets the real version, but what happens to the reflection? Is it still sitting on a mirror-bookcase somewhere out of reach?

        1. Blake doesn’t take the real objects. If he moves a reflection on his side, and puts in the special effort to make it “stick” then the reflection gains an independence from the thing itself. The real version is where ever Ty put it. Blake has the reflection, which no longer follows the original around in mirrors.

            1. Yeah, except that he moved the reflections without physically picking them up and carrying them. Rose was carrying the reflected books around, or at least leaving them in convenient places at the house.

            2. Blake figured out how to selectively decide what appears in his mirror world. When he was playing, neither the cards nor coins were on his side of the mirror (for the same reason things like people’s clothes and things they’re carrying don’t appear). With conscious effort however, he was able to bring those things into the mirror world and hide them.

        2. Ty was dealing and placing the cards for both Blake and Evan. That’s what the books were for, since they by necessity had to be face up, they needed something to block Ty’s view.

            1. I’m pretty sure that reflections of living things don’t show up in the mirror realm unintentionally. That’s why otherwise, there would be copies of people in Blake’s realm whenever he looked thru the mirror to see anybody. It’s the same reason why Toronto was empty in Blake’s Realm.

            2. I agree, and that seems really odd to me. Let’s say somebody picks up a book and puts it on a table in front of a mirror. Then Blake comes along. If the person didn’t exist in the mirror world, is the book still on the table?

              Taking that further, if people and things they do don’t show up in mirrors, why do BUILDINGS show up?

              Plus, when someone looks in a mirror, they could see their own reflection plus Blake. What if Blake walks into where they’re standing?

            3. As with the slow-time field, I’ll repeat that one of the upside of having all magic be the work of Others (and not wizards twisting knobs in the fabric of reality itself), it makes sense for it to work as you would “naturally” expect it to work, as opposed to working in a way which is consistent with in-depth analysis.

            4. My running theory is that there are two kinds of “mirror worlds” that are separate.

              There’s the regular, Blake-less mirrors, where people can see themselves, affect the mirrors by moving books and such.

              And then there’s the Blake-mirrors. When Blake moves to a mirror, it creates a new mirror-world based on what was in the mirror when he popped in. Inanimate objects are copied from the normal mirror to his, but the reflections of animate beings don’t. Ergo, if Blake reads a book in his mirror, he is not actually reading the book, but rather a copy of the book.

              This is supported by something I read elsewhere that I’m pretty sure was canon. That unless he made changes to the mirror-world with purpose, they would begin reverting back to how they were in the normal reflection.

              This becomes interesting when we consider Blake’s new ability, taking stuff from reality to his mirror-world. He essentially created something in his mirror-world that did not exist in the normal mirror world. Not a copy, but the real object. I wonder how that will act with switches between normal mirrors and Blake mirrors.

              But then again, it’s just a theory.

            5. I was thinking similar thoughts along delanacio’s. Just around the time I came along to his, I thought that in mirror world every piece of mirror is like a node that gets activated with a magical denizen of it.

              Something like that may even be responsible for continious energy drain in the mirror world.

            6. “it makes sense for it to work as you would “naturally” expect it to work, as opposed to working in a way which is consistent with in-depth analysis.” (a commenter, not from the canon text).

              This makes sense, and Blake can control the mirror verse a little by changing his expectations of how it should work.

  4. Nice to have a couple of sorta slow chapters.
    So, if I get this right, Blake can move stuff from the real world to his mirror domain? Imagine the possibilities! Also, he’s already on full prison-break-plot mode, and I am eager to see what he comes up with.
    Other thought: did naming Lefty give him more power? A stronger connection perhaps? Maybe Blake will end up with a huge posse of named bird spirits. I want “grimbeak” to find its way in here somehow. Why? I dunno. It sounds cool!
    Anyway, let us theorize on Blake’s master escape plan!

      1. Imagine the one-liners man!

        I yelled “Lefty-Loosey!” As Lefty flew from my hand and dove straight into the Enchantress’ eyes.

        I’m just rambling at 40 past midnight at this point now. But that’d be totally awesome. Cheesy, but totally fucking awesome.

        1. I’m actually imagining the awesomeness that is Blake/Evan passing themselves off as a single Other. Blake gets back to the real world in a war that allows him to hop between real and mirror at will, slap a small dentist mirror on Evan’s chest and have him act as the commander of Blake’s bird-spirit army. I can just see the entry in a witch-hunter’s journal:

          “After tracking the Other for a few days we had finally had it trapped in a dead alley. Benny managed to douse the forest spirit with gasoline, but before we were able to light it on fire it exploded into a flock of sparrows and took of into the night. We haven’t been able to leave the safe house for 3 days now, whenever one of us looks out the window the power lines are covered in birds. Even worse, this morning there was a message written on the reflection of the bathroom wall, it read “I do not need to eat.” I fear it may be trying to starve us to death.”

          1. Oh man, that moment when Blake will become Fear Incarnate…
            In other thoughts, what kind of dumbass would diagnose Blake, the Vestige Boogeyman as a “Forest Spirit”! That idiot deserved to die for that fault of respect.

            1. If Blake takes some more damage he’s going to be composed almost entirely of branches and tattoos of branches, plus birds. Not hard at that point to make a mistake, especially if he leave Jacob’s Bell and those in the know behind.

          2. And at that moment, people will not hesitate calling Blake a demon.

            By the way: Calling Blake is a sort-of demon. Choir of Ruin, or Feral? upheval the natural order of think and such.

            But the funny thing is:
            You are what you think you are, up to a certain degree.
            What if a demon thinks it is a vestige which thought it is a human practitioneer?

          1. Hi Miles of Sand!

            Uh, I mean, Evan? who’s Evan? the totally badass and roguishly handsome bird who should TOTALLY get to be blood/fire sparrow? That Evan? Don’t be ridiculous!

    1. I suspect that the fact that the bird is on the sinister (aka left) side is significant somehow. And probably not in a good way.

      1. Argh, good point. Unless there are mirror world shenanigans and in terms of prophecy, his right and left hands should be reversed.

        In any case, by talking to them, Blake might end up with his own shoulder angel & devil in the form of two bird spirits (or a bird and a branch).

        Or maybe Blake is personifying the part of himself that’s Other? Feeding the bird like Mags fed Molly? That’s another way this could be worrying.

        1. I think the fucking spirits need to stop their prejudice against left handed people already. It’s the goddamn 21st century.

    2. No, he doesn’t move anything out of the real world, he just allows reflections to be created (which he can then use on his side of the mirror). Normally, if Blake is in a particular mirror, other people and their actions aren’t. While he’s present, the mirror world is locked and nobody has a reflection. There was no reflection of the books, coins, and cards because Blake was already present when Ty brought them in; but at the end of the chapter, he basically told them “go ahead, pretend I’m not here,” allowing the mirror world to update itself with a reflection of the current state of the real world.

      1. Oh, thanks for that explanation. I didn’t understand that scene when I read it.

        (And to add to that, Blake did move stuff from the real world to the Drains and then to the mirror world (the Hyena, at the very least), but that seems like an exception. And he can move all or some stuff back into the real world by breaking mirrors (again, it worked at least with the Hyena); it’s just that these things typically don’t last long outside the mirrorverse.)

          1. Yes, when he first arrived in the mirror world was an exception, and breaking mirrors allows a very brief interaction between the mirror and real worlds. I wonder what would have happened to the thrown book if he hadn’t thrown it back out again almost immediately? If real objects can make the transition to the mirror world permanently, what about people? Could Blake pull, say, Evan into the mirror world by reaching through a broken mirror to grab him? Presumably people from the real world could leave the mirror world any time by jumping out of a breaking mirror, unlike Blake himself.

  5. I wonder what Blake is planning. Will he use whatever Rose left to guard him?

    The reason it worked with Laird is because he didnt want to get tainted. I think Blake is past that point.

  6. Oh snap! Blake is mastering the mirror realm! Awesome.

    Pity Blake couldn’t get his third win. It seemed pretty clever.

    So Blake’s most intimate companion right now is connected to his arm and named “Lefty”. Hmmm. . . I feel there’s a joke somewhere hiding in that.

    Blake, the monster. Blake, killer of man and goblin. Blake, the Devourer. Blake, hunter of demons. Blake, Lord of the Mirror Realm.

    I do believe Blake is quietly becoming a major threat and a powerful being. Spirits basically control the Pactverse right? They govern the natural laws, enforce oaths and provide Practitioners with power (and take power away). Blake is basically hoarding spirits. If he were to come to friendly terms with them, and actually be able to use them, he would have access to amazing power. He’s already taken the first steps towards that this chapter.

    I wonder what Blake is? What if he’s just some dude that got mind wiped and given false memories by Granny Rose?

    Good old Evan. The Dynamic Duo is (almost) back together.

    I don’t know if its because its late and my brain (except for the faux wax poetic/philosophic part) isn’t working write now, I apparently have a bad vocabulary or I’m feeling lazy, but what does ” untoward ” mean? Could there be a loophole for the bogeyman to exploit?

      1. Lets see…
        “Look into my eyes
        It’s where my demons hide”
        Demons in eyes, check

        “Don’t get too close
        It’s dark inside
        It’s where my demons hide”
        Warehouse, check

        “They say it’s what you make
        I say it’s up to fate
        It’s woven in my soul”
        Trapped by karma, check

        “I wanna hide the truth
        I wanna shelter you
        But with the beast inside
        There’s nowhere we can hide”
        Blake telling his friends, check

        Well shit.

    1. “What if he’s just some dude that got mind wiped and given false memories by Granny Rose?”

      Mind blown.

      Remember how the “time magic” is just altered perceptions?

      What if… sit down. Are you sitting down?

      What if Blake is random-dude-off the street, hypnotized into thinking he’s Thorburn+vestige+whatever? No Barber-shenannies, no creating mirror worlds out of nothing, etc.

      1. Really interesting theory. It’s kind of counter to things like his natural affinity for glamour.

        But conversely, it would explain Blake’s friends. They really don’t seem like the sort of friends Rose would have had, and if Blake had sprung into existence when Molly died, he wouldn’t have had time to make those friends himself.

        Hmm.

  7. So he “folds” himself into one of the books or the coins then shifts them back into the real world, making it look like he escaped already (Body bag Trick)?

    1. He didn’t shift the things into the mirror world, he simply allowed their reflections to appear by getting out of the way.

    1. It looks like there’s only a tiny number of people there, judging by the comments; and all of them, by definition, can see us here (since they visit this site to read the story!) As can every other Pact fan, while most pact fans will never know that Reddit exists.

      I’m not seeing any particular advantages to moving conversations there.

      1. I actually prefer if wildbow just make one reddit for him, I imagine I will be following wildbow for a long time and read all kind of books from him, not just worms

  8. The ending actually kinda reminds me of Ur’s History. Both Blake and ErasUrrr are “trapped” in a realm that they basically control and are extremely confident that they will soon be able to beat the bindings and escape. It’s kinda grim when the “Hero” has major parallels with a Chaotic Evil Demon.

    1. Right. Also, Pact chapters typically end in cliffhangers of despair and disaster, so Blake’s chapter-ending line “I felt confident now. I’d find my way out” feels genuinely ominous. I mean, imagine reading this chapter from the perspective of Rose or Ty.

      1. Don’t worry, I’m scared too. Something is sure to go horribly wrong, and it might not be Blake that takes the hit this time.

  9. Blake’s assets:
    -Hyena.
    -Some bits of wood off the desk.
    -A small number of copper coins.
    -A book on alchemy.
    -Playing cards.

    Proposed escape method:
    Read the book. Pile the playing cards on the ground. Use the bits of wood boyscout style to start a fire, with pages from the book used as kindling and the coins as an offering to the spirits as needed. Using the light of the fire, cast a shadow across the boundary of the circle, into the real world, just like the faeries did back in 10.2. The Bogeyman smashes the mirror, leaving Rose & co with nowhere to banish Blake to.

    1. Hm. But do reflections of stuff in the mirrorverse work like they should in the real world? I know books can be read, but what about everything else, e.g. chemistry? In particular, I would be kind of surprised if Blake could burn things and create light there.

      1. My proposed method(If it was also already thought of…) :
        By using the book of alchemy to carve the bits with the symbols from the book with the Hyena. Place the playing cards into a ritual circle with a outline made. Have the small number of copper coins become the directional points of the compass. So that it becomes a proper ritual.

      1. Required tools for the awakening ritual (from 6.2): “A dagger, [an] hourglass. A skull. A coin…”
        The Hyena might have served as both dagger and skull, but IIRC the skull has been rendered unrecognizable by the Drains.

        And more, from 1.7: “Crystal… myrrh… oil… spice…”
        “Holly and holly berries,” (Rose’s ritual) or “raw iron.” (Blake’s)
        Also, a dreamcatcher, a rose, and something personal; plus token offerings for Others.

        With Evan’s help, it seems like Blake might be able to get that stuff eventually (or find proper substitutions). Assuming that’s what he’s going for.

    2. I feel like it’s time to propose a classic for Blake’s escape method:

      He’ll look in the mirror and see what he saw, he’ll use the saw to cut the book in half, he’ll put the two halves together to make a hole, and he’ll climb out through the hole.

  10. I could just see Blake just talking with “Lefty” more while he’s trying out to see if he could try creating something out of the three books as not actually do anything to disturb the circle. Maybe Blake can somehow create a path.

    1. Wow, this chapter was low on typos.

      ““Reaching a bit, but I think we’re all tired enough to buy into it.” -> no quotation mark at the end.

      “putting aside how you got out of the drains” -> “Drains”

  11. This was a pretty awesome chapter. The whole Poker scene was brilliant.

    Comments:

    1. To reiterate an earlier thought, I still think getting imprisoned was no net loss for Blake. He appears to be quite safe, and he can even talk to his (former, fake) friends.

    2. Great lines: “Was talking to yourself a sign of impending madness if you were a frankenstein hodgepodge of reflection, drainstuff and spirits?” and “I don’t do the orders thing. Slippery slope with big C in my head” and “You’re doing that paranoid overlord thing again.”

    3. The way Rose’s dead man’s switch was phrased last chapter made no sense, but this clarification actually works.

    4. The defenses of Hillsglade House are apparently down permanently. That’s bad. Makes it more understandable that Rose felt they needed a dead man’s switch, though.

    5. Blake seemed to think winning thrice in Poker would be significant. Evan caught on and wanted to support him (“Don’t be so obvious about it“), and Ty caught on and stopped the game. But why should winning thrice be significant only for Blake? What if Ty or Evan won thrice instead?

    6. “I can think of five ways what you’re doing right now is a bad idea” – Emotional attachment to your captive, providing them with information, inadvertently giving them tools, … I would not be surprised if Rose caught on to what Blake was doing. I mean, of course he’s trying to get out. He’s not even pretending to be content about where he is.

    1. re: 6. I think Evan folding every time made it Blake v. Ty, a proper contest, instead of the three-way game it had been before.

      1. Sure, but Blake failed to win thrice, while Ty seemed to have won at least that often. Why should it be more significant for Blake to win thrice than for Ty?

        (Well, maybe it was as helpful for Ty. He caught on that Blake and Evan were colluding, and Rose appeared shortly thereafter.)

        1. I think it’s more that Ty winning isn’t significant for Ty, but Blake is basically in a position where any trio of victories he manages to accomplish in a card game will be more meaningful and useful for him than it would be for Ty. Ty isn’t in as hard a place as Blake at the moment, so while he’ll get karmic leverage he can use on Blake it’s just not going to be as significant for him. After all, it’s just a card game so there won’t be huge karmic shifts either way no matter who wins, but Blake needs every scrap he can get.

        2. Blake did win three times, I thought. The 3-of-a-kind, the one before Blake asked Evan to check up on Green Eyes, and then after Blake fills Ty in about Green Eyes being a mermaid (“Evan Folded, I raised.” “Call. And… Damn it.”).

          1. Blake didn’t have three consecutive victories, though. Evan won between the first and second Blake wins you mentioned. And we don’t see Ty get three consecutive victories either. I think that’s the distinction.

            (And browsing through the other comments, I see JamesNoff has perhaps a better explanation.)

    2. I disagree about point 1… Remember, Blake himself said that he’s filled his holes with spirits of freedom, among other kinds. So being imprisoned seems rather antithetical to his very being, as he is right now.

      1. Yes, being imprisoned is antithetical to his being, but so is not being acknowledged by his friends, being considered a monster after their lives, etc. And part of Blake’s imprisonment was Rose’s “If it helps, [we] believe you now”. The Cabal wouldn’t have had any reason to imprison any random Other, anyway.

  12. “But after I’d met Ty, had he had that same look of sympathy for the antisocial guy …”

    Antisocial= sociopaths.
    And unless this is very clever foreshadowing, I think you meant to say asocial. Antisocial refers to a person who uses other people and has a general disregard for their emotions/pain/suffering. Asocial is someone who doesn’t care about social interactions that much; they like human beings just fine- they just don’t care to be around a lot of them all at once (they’re pretty much the opposite of a social butterfly).

  13. “I’m leaving a bogeyman to watch over you. It worked with Laird.”

    Pfhahahaha, no it didn’t! Laird got to his pocketwatch, stashed the time until the Blakeguard got back to his prison, then used that to foment a dramatic escape.

      1. There’s also the good, old “don’t try fighting like with like: use an opposite, instead”. Both Blake and the bogeyman? Come from the Drains: they’re not totally alike, but they’re damn close to it.

        If push comes to shove, it’ll reduce down to brute force. It might look like the mirrorworld doesn’t give many advantages over the physical. But… Rose doesn’t know the half of what Blake is finding out about the mirrors. 😐 Even if she thinks she knows them well, thanks to her time stuck in there.

        1. “Break the mirror if he does anything untoward,” she said. “Don’t communicate with him.”

          Hmm… can Blake get the guard on his side by saying he already granted freedom to a fellow bogeymermaid to repay for her help ?

          I wonder if there’s some sort of bogey-cred Blake could use. He faced his past and didn’t break, he taunted the monster guarding one of the exit paths, and he pushed through Erasurre with an ancient divinity to reach the outside world.
          That has to be worth some measure of respect for those who ended in the Abyss.

    1. Her memories are distorted by Blake’s removal from them. Perhaps it went down differently in her version of events?

      Or she might just mean it worked up until he had outside assistance.

      1. She might be fuzzy on how she knows the things she knows about the mirrors. But, she’ll still know what she learned about living in them as facts she picked up… somewhere and somehow. shrugs

        I still find it odd that she picked a bogey to guard a bogey. 😐 Unless she considers Blake sufficiently not-a-bogey for the like-against-like thing to not be an issue. 😛

        1. Well, like against like works to bind, as well. Set a bogey to guard a bogey. With Blake additionally bound by the circle, he’s at a disadvantage.
          Of course, he’s in his mirror realm, with the reflections of some poker paraphernalia, which he can apparently use to escape.
          I guess?

  14. “Double Down” is a blackjack term, NOT a poker term. This was nearly as jarring for me as the scene where the public defender implies that public defenders aren’t good lawyers.

    1. Well,not so much that they aren’t good lawyers,but….80% of them won’t try their best,and its very likely you end up with someone who does not defend you while having the right specialiation (imagine someone having his first murder case as a public defense lawyer?yeah)

  15. Talking to the spirits is interesting… It makes me curious if, seeing as much of the validity of magical interactions in Pact seem to be judged by spirits, their presence may not be as bad as it seems. Maybe it’s too much to hope for given the way things seem to go for Blake, but it’d be interesting if some of the spirits shoring up Blake’s holes were actually doing so benevolently as karmic payback for his attempts to help others like Evan and Green Eyes.

    I can’t believe Blake can selflessly help or make such tragic and well-intended promises like saying he’d help Rose escape the mirror without some sort of karmic recognition from the spirits that respond to those interactions. Perhaps Faysal saw some of that which was why he was willing to help him as extravagantly as he did.

  16. Not finished reading yet, now at the moment where birds are sticking their heads out.

    Blake, if you would be so kind to gain an ability to turn into a vengeful flock of birds, rending flesh of your enemies from bone? We could call you Horus maybe…

  17. Just realised that Blake is like Johannes.

    In that Blake is like a mobile version of Johannes Demense. He is a walking sanctuary for spirit others. I wonder if that is going to become his strength. A place where spirits reside to be entertained by Blake’s life and in return grant some skills etc..?????

  18. Wait, did Blake win three times? The 3-of-a-kind, the one before Blake asked Evan to check up on Green Eyes, and then after Blake fills Ty in about Green Eyes being a mermaid (“Evan Folded, I raised.” “Call. And… Damn it.”)

    1. He won once, but it wasn’t agains just Ty. It was against Ty and Evan. That victory gives him the idea to try to beat Ty 3 times. That’s why he told Evan to fold, so that the competition could be between him and Ty.

  19. I really do want to know what Rose is telling Blake’s friends that’s getting them to go along with whatever she says. Is she exaggerating the other familie’s willingness to use deadly force? Telling them there are demons after them and only she can protect them? Because I think at this point there should have been some kind of objection, especially from Ty and Alexis.

    Makes things frustrating. Since otherwise Blake could just convince his friends to go home and let Rose have fun with that big-ass troll and the psycho hose beast with a crossbow.

    Note: I mean “psycho hose beast” in only the most positive way.

    1. Ah, but they’re not Blake’s friends anymore, are they? That was the point of the fake memories. Those connections got transferred to Rose. Therefore, they are her friends. And friends don’t abandon friends to big-ass trolls and psycho hose beasts with crossbows.

      Blake can forge new connections, but the ones he had were FedExed to Rose on his trip to the Drains.

      1. It seems like that sort of connection is inherently unstable, full of Blake-shaped holes and fuzzy memories. Alexis feels it, Ty less so, but Evan’s already bouncing back. To be fair, though, I think Evan and Blake just gel nicely in terms of personality. Their connection now might be entirely new.
        Also, doesn’t Evan have a ghost form to use? He might not like it, but becoming insubstantial and capable of communicating with human expressions has to be useful sometimes.

        1. I imagine by this point the Blakeguard are figuring things out. Rose isn’t the same sort of person as Blake, and she admited when she was in the mirror that she wasn’t good at making friends. Her having them for friends is an oddity. But Blake… He fits much, much better. And if they are feeling uncomfortable with the actions Rose is taking, that is fraying away at the friendship that was transferred.

  20. Definitely started out by reading this as 1.11 and cursed aloud several times at how unfairly crazy your writing was.

    Was almost disappointed when I realized I read it wrong.

      1. It won’t be a series of arcs. It will be something resembling the aftermath of a six-dimensional rollercoaster getting hit by a technicolour asteroid. And it will be beautiful.

        1. And, that’s just the intro for Doctor Who, folks. 😉

          …Now, there’s a thought. Ever felt like trying your hand at script-work, Wildbow? The Beeb does actually take ’em from weird and wonderful places…

          1. “Time travel. Thinking of it, its ridicoulus! There is no such thing!” he proclaimed loudly in front of the audience.
            Behind the curtain of the stage, his older self added whispering “yet.”

            Pulling it all off without incurring paradox… that may be the driving force!
            A time-traveler screwed up, altering the world for worse. With the consequence that a time traveler is sent back from the (changed) nihilistic future to kill the (so they think) saboteur. Guess who? Himself.

      2. You cannot,you actively cannot

        Did you know there is a Wilbow in several universes,writing stories for many other universes a Wilbow is?like a universal constant,a Wilbow exists despite there being thousands or millions years of divergense,(in quantum physics terms-quantum physics are not exactly right,But I am saying it as people right now understand it)

        That Wilbow has an aversion,not exacty a hate,about writing things similar to the story of her own universe ,since he cannot draw experience from other universes knowlege using the wilbow there as a unconcious sender.Worm Wilbow dislikes writing about superheroes,Pact Wilbow about urban fantasy etc.

        This is the time travel based world

        And,incidentally,the protagonist will be/was greatwyrm gold

  21. Are you crazy guys? If Wildbow, the guy that made us root for the crazy, psycho and weird bug girl and now is making us root for the inhuman monster made of sticks and birds made a time travel tale he would probably convince us that some of the worst monsters in history were not so bad after all.

    1. Of course!
      You have to be kind of a psycho to be a likeable character. Likeable does not mean ”good”, it means ”not boring” [evil laughter]

      Also, stories about a heroic paladin fighting (and of course winning) for the cause of “good” and “pure” is no fun. A slow and gradual detoriation of said paladin, growing doubt in his superious and eventual decline into rebellion, facing that his actions had consequences for people not entirely good, but also not “bad” or “evil”. And of course, he is NOT winning. Because the rebels don’t win, they bring change at the cost of their lives.
      I would read the hell out of that.
      Or write it, it the time permits^^

      1. Deconstructed-paladin has been done enough to become boring, in turn.

        And if you look at it closely, neither Taylor, Caspar, Wesley, Genevieve nor Blake fit the paladin mould to a t, and it makes them much more interesting.

    2. Possibly they weren’t. Or at least were more understandable in context. History has a distinct habit of stripping away a more nuanced understanding over time to leave a caricature.

      It seems likely that, for the most part, historical people – including its greatest monsters – were human beings with all the complexities and humanity that entails.

      1. There is a movie out there that humanizes most of them.Yes,even Hitler (film:Downfall,the one where the scene with him talking to his generals,,the one which became a memetic mutation with milions of variations with altered subtitles was taken from.)

  22. I just grabbed pactserial.com and made it 301 redirect to the pact website in case anyone is interested. The name was just too long. If you’d like I can transfer the domain to you, Wildbow, and make it the domain of the website.

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