Malfeasance 11.4

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“Game?  Evan asked.  “This is a game to you?”

Alister held up the deck again.  The card facing us was Temperance.  “Balance, union, opposites, agreements, and compromise.  An earlier reading suggests you’ve killed before, but you don’t want to murder me.  If I suggest a deal, a gentleman’s agreement…”

“You think I’ll accept?”

He smiled.  As smug as he was, a thin-lipped snake’s grin would have fit him, but he had very full lips, as characteristic of many Behaims.  When he spoke, it was with confidence.  “Yes.  I well and truly believe you won’t deny the agreement, if it’s fair.  No killing, no permanent harm, nothing that would alarm the locals, beyond our small battleground here.  I’ve got a ready-made spell in play.  No interference.”

The bell continued to echo in the background, as if punctuating everything that happened.  A sound that altered the tone of things as sure as a red tint or darkness would on a visual level.

If I’d felt top-notch, at full strength, I might have gone after Alister before he could get his footing, and the sound of the phantom bell might have played a role in that decision.

As it stood, I felt just a little shaky.  A little less like Blake and more like a broken reflection, sticks and spirits all glued together with Drainstuff.

What did it cost me if I said no?  If I refused to play fair and acted the hypocrite?  Caused the chaos Rose was worried I’d cause?  I’d lose a bit more Blakeness, I was sure.  I needed to feed the inner bogeyman and replenish the spirits before I risked it.  I didn’t want to crumble or fall back to the Drains.  Not like this.

“Fine,” I said.  “Consider this my declaration of war.  We’ll make this an even contest.”

“What about me, huh?” Evan asked.  “I bit out a chunk of your uncle’s eyeball.”

“I’ll try to remember to be careful with my eyes, then,” Alister said.  “When I speak of you, I speak of you as a pair, a situation unified.  Which, I imagine, isn’t too far off the mark?”

He showed us the card at the bottom of the deck.  The two of cups.

“That’s getting irritating fast,” I said.  “Just agree, Evan.  It makes the most sense.”

“Ugh,” he said.  “Fine.  Deal.”

Even as I’d mentioned the irritation the deck was causing me, I was thinking about it.  The deck was important.  Was it his implement?

I paced, moving from surface to surface.  Hearing the bell toll, I felt like I had in the Drains.  Sitting still was almost like giving up.  I had to keep moving, stay active.

Alister turned, keeping me in his sights, using one hand to cut the deck in half, then rotated the top half around one finger until it was on the bottom.

I could see how he kept the deck in his peripheral vision.  Cut, combine halves, bottom of the deck visible, showing different cards.  Answering questions he wasn’t asking aloud.

“That deck,” I commented.

“It could be a scam,” Evan said, loud enough for Alister to hear.  “Feels like it’s all fakery.”

Good bird.  Challenge what you thought could be challenged.  Break the glamours and other illusions.

Alister smirked, but didn’t look at the bird.

“You’re smiling, but you’re not saying he’s wrong,” I said.

“He’s wrong,” Alister said.

He said it so confidently.  I almost lost my stride.

“Evan could be onto something,” I said.  “Bravado, showmanship, appearances.  You show off well, but is there anything beneath the surface?  It’s not a scam, but only because people buy into it.  Like glamour?  Or even certain magics that desperate practitioners try to pass off as chronomancy?

He didn’t flinch in the slightest.

“Prophecies are something that have cropped up in any number of cultures and times,” Alister said.  “Any number of stories, myths, epics and legends.”

“They have a common theme, though,” I replied.  “Very frequently, the actions of the people involved in the prophecy help bring the prophecy to come to pass.”

“True.  Does it matter?”

“Maybe Evan’s right.  Maybe we should just ignore the cards, ignore the prophecy.  Put it all aside and take you out of the picture, so to speak.”

Alister cut the deck and raised it, bottom card facing me.

A naked man lay on the ground with a red cloth draped over his buttocks and legs, a number of long blades stuck into his back.  I saw the ‘x’ in the corner.

The tolling felt like it was fractionally louder.

Going by Roman numerals… Ten of swords?

“I don’t know what that means,” I said.

“Bad end,” he told me.  “The plan leads to catastrophic failure.”

“For you or me?”

“For you.”

“Why not Death?” I asked.

“Death as a card isn’t quite what it sounds like.  The ten of swords, by contrast, is a loss so complete you don’t need to worry about further losses.  There’s a kind of peace you have to make in the face of absolute failure.”

“I’ve been there more than once,” I said.  “Your card has it wrong.  Things can always get worse.”

The knell was louder still.  I tried not to let it inform my actions.

“Can they?” he asked.  He had to keep turning around to keep me in his field of view.  Good.  He shrugged a little, cut the deck, then showed me the two of wands, not even looking at the cards.  “Rose is currently debating what to do.  She’s on the brink of a decision.  Does she send you help?  She’ll decide to, very soon.  Act recklessly, and you’ll lose what little faith she’s placed in you.  The fallout… well, things can get worse, but it’s the sort of loss you never recover from.”

If I’d had a proper heartbeat, my heart would’ve been pounding at that.

Well played, Alister.

That was scary.  Scarier in a way than the Drains.

I could handle the Drains, on a level.  I’d done it once.  I’d been miserable, but I’d done it.

Handling Rose, though?  The best I’d done to date was form short lived partnerships, only to see them fall apart.  I could totally believe that I’d lose my shot if I fucked up.

Not that I was willing to fuck up.  By breaking myself out, I’d promised myself that I’d make things better as a result.  Besides, I was willing to admit I had an ulterior motive.  I didn’t want to fuck up and screw Rose over because that would prove Rose right, and I was way too pissed off at her to do that.

“It’s easy to blame those poor souls that got involved with prophecies in the epics and the myths, say they walked right into it, but when you’re actually facing the prospect,” Alister said, “it isn’t such an easy thing to handle, is it?”

“You’re making a lot of very definite statements,” I said.  I tried to fake him out, changing the direction I was walking when he didn’t have a clear view of me.  He didn’t miss a trick.  “Dangerous for a practitioner.”

“Useful too,” he said.  “The spirits like it.  Keeps things simple, with everything being less effort for them to arbitrate.  It puts me on better terms with them, because I make it all easier.”

That deck.  It was his implement, I was almost positive.  It was at least part of how he professed to know everything that was about to happen, or at least narrow things down enough to make a good guess.  So long as he could, he could make confident statements, the spirits would be happier with him, and they’d help the statements come true out of goodwill, just like bad karma had been dragging me down and introducing problem after problem for the entire time I’d been human.

That deck was at the center of his ability to perpetuate an upward spiral.

It dawned on me that I’d been walking into trouble this whole time.

Not walking into his prophecy, but something else entirely.

By giving him chances to show off the cards and make predictions, I was letting him score points.  Every spirit that was nearby, maybe excepting the spirits inhabiting me, was getting to be very pleased with this young man who made it all simple for them.

His hand didn’t stop moving, cutting the deck, reordering it.

“She’s decided, with the counsel of her acquaintances.  The cavalry is on the way,” Alister said.

The card he showed me was the Chariot.  The white-crowned man, ostensibly Conquest or Conquest’s man, standing before a starry backdrop, a ruined city in the background, sphinxes pulling the namesake vehicle.

A little ominous, all things considered.

“You were the one attacking Hillsglade House,” Evan piped up.

“Yes.  One of them, but very recently, I did send a few zeitgeists to test the metaphorical waters, ravage the windows and shutters with the vagaries of time.”

“I don’t know what a lot of that means,” Evan declared, “But I know that when someone attacks you, the rules say you can hit them back.”

“You’re not wrong.  That’s-”

Evan flew past Alister.  He only barely moved out of the way as the sparrow practically bounced off his face.  Ricocheted like a flung stone.

Evan passed me, doing a wide loop to get his bearings and look for a spot to land.  He was apparently not that keen on the post box where the snow was a foot deep and powder soft.

“The deck,” I said, my voice low.  “If you can.”

“Got it,” he said.

Alister touched his face.  There was a scratch at his eye socket, and a dot of blood on his nose.

“I thought you said you’d watch your eyes,” Evan said.

“I said I’d try to remember to,” Alister said.  He used the side of his thumb to remove one drop of blood from the side of his face, but it was replaced a second later, fresh blood welling out.

He used his free hand to reach into his jacket.

Golden light appeared around him, realigning until it formed ribbons punctuated by Roman numerals, the edges serrated with zipper-like teeth.  They interlocked, ran crosswise with one another, and parted, rotating around him, forming a faint, rapid tickticktick that blended in with the knell of Molly’s bell.

I heard a faint sound, like a great piece of machinery grinding to a sudden halt, the noise of the sudden stop playing back in reverse, followed by the tickticktick reversing.

A dot of crimson flew from Evan’s foot, darting to Alister’s face.  No sooner had it made contact than the injury was gone.

The golden ribbons disappeared, becoming diffuse golden light, then regular light, then nothing at all, indistinguishable from reality.

“Don’t worry,” Evan told me.  “When we took down the circle around the house, Rose was able to do it because chronomancy is mostly fake.”

“I know,” I said.

“I don’t think he can really reverse time to fix a tiny scratch,” Evan said.

But my eyes were fixed on Alister’s green eyes.  I could read his expression, and I could see the slight smile.

“I can,” Alister said.  “I did.”

“Generations upon generations of conservation of power, and you spend it to heal a scratch that could heal naturally?” I asked.

“It could leave a scar,” Alister answered.  “Easier to turn back the clock six seconds than do it by a whole hour, when all of this is said and done.”

The bell continued to ring in the background.  It was an odd sound, with a cadence that made it sound like it was constantly getting louder, but it wasn’t.

“Well,” I said.  “I’m… almost lost for words.”

“That’s sort of the point,” he said.  You’re-” Cutting the deck.  Pause.  Cutting the deck. Pause. “-Something of a container for spirits.  You’re impressed on a level, the other spirits in the area here are impressed.”

“I’m more appalled than impressed,” I said.  “I’m kind of glad I told the people I did that they should be wary of nominating you.  If I hadn’t, they might have let the others nominate you without issue.”

“You put a roadblock in my way?” Alister asked.  “And here you are, being appalled that I mismanaged my time.”

He was following me a little too easily, but he could be surprised.

How could I use that?  The cavalry coming to aid me wasn’t necessarily a good thing.  I needed to do something decisive fast, or his prediction could come true.  But I couldn’t ignore the prophecies, either, or I’d walk right into that ‘ten of swords’.  Bad ending.

This was a game, so to speak.  It was all about framing things, positioning.  Being in the right place.  Evan had caught him off guard.

That he was willing to expend power to show off to the spirits said something.  We might never burn through the entire Behaim stockpile, but if he did keep doing that sort of thing, I would very much like to be a little fly on the wall when he had to explain it all to the Behaim elders.

Assuming they had a form of accounting.

Positioning.

He’d outlined the rules of this little ‘game’.  He’d spelled out what was going to happen.

If it did happen, he won.  Somehow.

I needed to postpone.

I still had the book.  It was still tied to its brother by sympathy.

I scrawled out a quick message to Rose.

‘Hold ‘help’ back’.

I cut off the cover and threw it.

“Didn’t change anything,” Alister called out.  “It’s all slated to unfold.”

He was using his words to garner an advantage.  Could I use mine?

“Alister,” I said.  “What do the cards tell you about my sword?”

He didn’t look away, per se, his eyes still fixed on me, but he did lose focus.  I’d seen him cut that deck a few too many times.  I could tell when he hesitated a fraction.

The Five of Coins.  A woman in a tattered shawl and a child, walking under a window of stained glass that displayed the namesake coins in the working of the window.

I used the hesitation the card provoked.

I didn’t move left or right.  I moved  through him.

If he was going to turn around to keep me in focus at all times, I’d make him turn all the way around.

He did a partial turn, and I moved again.

Just one tiny hesitation, and I had the slightest of edges.  If we were making individual moves, I now had the benefit of the first move.

“What does it say, Alister?” I asked.

“Adversity.  Loss.”

“What does it mean, Alister?” I asked, staying out of his sight.

He didn’t answer.

“You don’t know?  That has to cost you points with the spirits,” I said.  “Maybe Evan’s right, maybe what you do is a sham, and you’re just conning the spirits.”

“I know what it means,” he said.

Prove it.”

“That’s alright,” he said.

He managed to find me, locking his eyes with mine.  I raised my arm, and Evan took note of the signal, flying.

Evan went straight for the deck.  Problem was, Alister was expecting it, and held the cards firm.  He punched the bird out of the air with the same hand.

Evan hit snow.

I winced.  Evan didn’t necessarily heal through any connection to me.  Any damage he sustained…

Alister didn’t waste a breath.  He backed away from me, and reached into his coat.  He threw down a piece of paper, then stepped on it.

“Tick,” Alister said.

The paper broke away into a swirl of sand.  I heard that same tickticktick whir I’d heard earlier, only it had a cadence to it like a chitter.

A clockwork arachnid, with a bulbous behind.  An hourglass was built into the behind, suspended in a globe.

“Guard me,” Alister ordered.  “Focus on the bird.”

Noting that he’d gleaned an advantage, I somehow felt fractionally better than I had.  Stronger.

Had I scared Alister, just a bit?   Or had the Hyena scared him just a bit?  Enough that he’d wanted to summon something?

Busying himself with Evan and the summoning had let me slip away again.  I walked on the edges of reflections, so I could step to the next window or mirror with a single stride.

I got to the car closest to him, and I smashed the window.

The crash was violent, and in the moment the side window broke, I could hear the bell pealing loud, unfiltered by the glass but more muted at the same time.  It was something that was absorbed and blunted by the blowing wind and the atmosphere of Jacob’s Bell.

I realigned myself just in time to see that Alister had barely flinched.

“A feint,” he said, holding his deck up.  The tick had interposed itself between himself and Evan.

“You apparently didn’t like what the card said about the sword,” I told him. “You don’t feel like sharing.  Why?”

“The deck is mine to use, not yours.”

“Weapons can cut both ways,” I said.  “Don’t want me making declarations to the spirits, Alister?”

Evan flew at him, then veered off as the tick raised its forelimbs, lunging at him.

It still got Alister’s attention.  Whatever foresight he had, he’d wanted to see what unfolded.  A casualty of wanting to use his deck to keep track of what I was plotting.

Pressure.

I decided to use the moment.  Crossing the street to the nearby car, reaching the side window.

The tick was still focused on Evan.  It was a dumb thing.  Probably a minor spirit.

I stuck my arm through the window, and speared it in the head.

I was shunted, cast off to one side.

The tick, by contrast, was dead.

The faint ring of the bell seemed to mark its slow, mechanical death.

I smiled a little.

“You want to know what the sword does?” I asked.  “It leaves wounds that don’t heal.”

“Ah,” Alister said.  “Too bad.  That was a favorite little summoning of mine.  I can’t ever repair it?”

“Evan here managed to dodge that fate, being left with an injury that wounded his very soul, leaving his ghost insane with agony.  I could theoretically do the same thing to you.”

“I can undo it,” Alister said, moving himself to a position in the middle of the street.  Evan was perched on a car, and I was in the largest window nearby, at the front of a house.

“That’s what the cards are telling you?” I called out the question.

Common sense is telling me.  The cards are telling me something else.”

“Beggar woman and the church window?” I asked.  I couldn’t remember the cards.  “Loss?”

He wasn’t about to give me an answer.  I only needed his attention.

If something was getting to him, then I’d use that.

I shattered another window.

“Another-” he started.

I carried through with the same motion, drawing the broken blade against the back of a car.

He didn’t finish the sentence, caught off guard by the vicious metal on metal screech.

He might be able to see my next move, but if I was quick, he couldn’t see the one after.

“Enough of that,” he said.  He still managed to sound confident.

But a part of me fed off of whatever he was feeling.  It was less like a rush or a high, and more like waking up after being half asleep.  Stepping from the bleary fog of having just woken up into a cold shower.

I felt clarified.

The bell continued to toll in the background.

“Want to see if you can undo the damage I can do with this sword?” I asked, and my voice carried.  “The agreement you proposed was that I wouldn’t cause any permanent damage.  If you can undo it, then it’s not permanent.”

“It doesn’t matter.  Your ‘help’ is arriving.  Delayed, but arriving all the same.  She might give you the benefit of a doubt, but she can’t relinquish control.”

“Evan,” I said.

“On it,” he replied.

He took flight, heading in the general direction of Hillsglade.

Stopping help from coming.

“Offer still stands,” I said.  “One slice.  I can reach through glass, mirrors, even some ice.  If you’d rather I stay away from the face…”

“A bluff,” he said.

“Which part?” I asked.  “Me avoiding the face?”

He set his jaw.

“You’re good,” I said.  I continued to pace, zig-zagging, so I was always in his peripheral vision, or behind him.  “Clever, talented, born to the right family at the right time, in the right circumstances.  All the things a person needs to be great, in this modern day.  I’m not just talking about practitioners either.”

“Envious?” he asked.  “How sad.”

“No,” I said.  “Somehow, I always took it in stride.”

A thought crossed my mind.

A gamble, but all the same.  “Do you know how I remember spending my eighteenth birthday?  Can your cards tell you that?  Or are you going to show the spirits how incapable you are a second time?”

He didn’t hesitate.  Deck cut, card displayed.

A woman in a tattered shawl and a child, making their way through the snow beneath a stained glass window.  The five of coins.

I chuckled a little, pleased that I’d managed to rope him into showing the same card.  “Adversity and loss.”

You just drew the trap card.

If he’d refused, I’d still have gleaned an advantage.  It had been a win-win, with a very good chance that I’d been wrong, and my background would have turned up a different card.

Such was the nature of the game he had posed.  Positioning.  Getting the other guy into a position where he was cornered.

“You have all those advantages, Alister, but you’ve got one thing that’s always going to hold you back,” I called out.

“What’s that?”

“You’re a fucking Behaim,” I shouted.

I slammed the Hyena into a window.  The glass broke.

It took a second for the glass to stop tinkling, clattering onto ice and the floor inside the house.

“Your Evan can only stall them for so long,” he said.  He wasn’t smiling with his mouth, but those bottle-glass eyes were sparkling.  He was enjoying this, fear aside.  “The Others arrive in a moment.”

That was the problem, in the end.  I was blind.  I didn’t know why he was pleased about that.  I didn’t get his aversion to the Five of Coins.

He, on the other hand, could see everything coming.

That was, as I’d just revealed, a double-edged sword.

Rule of three in effect.  One minute to get him to draw that card a third time.

Hell, if I did that, I’d have beaten three Behaims, and achieved my third victory by rule of three against the family.

I even had an idea on how.

I’d just been talking to the two cats about taking the direct approach.

“Surrender,” I told him.

He barked out a laugh, “What?”

“I’m not just an Other, Alister.  I have all the memories of being a practitioner.  I’ve got victory in my grasp.  Surrender, and agree to turn down the position to lead the Behaim family.”

“Why would I do that?”

“I beat Laird.  I beat Duncan.  I won using the rule of three twice.  With this, right here, I can have victories against three of you, three of which use the rule of three.  That has to count for something.”

“It does, assuming you’re not bluffing.”

Straightforward approach?  I could do it.

“I’ll tell you how I can win,” I said.  “I’m going to attack you.  If you use your deck to predict and avoid the attack, you’ll probably draw that card, because it’s associated with this blade.  Somehow, I don’t think you want me to force you to draw it three times.  That’s what my instincts as an ex-practitioner are telling me.”

“Why do I need to draw anything if you just told me?” he asked.

He wasn’t smiling anymore.

I was.

“Why indeed?” I asked.

I broke the window, changed locations.

Broke another window.  I arrived at the next spot and saw him covering his face and head with his arms.

I shifted position, battered him further.

I knew I was scaring him.  I could feel it.

He didn’t have his ability to view the deck.  To know what was coming.

Anything I did could be the attack I’d mentioned.

He backed away a step, so I moved directly behind him.

“Surrender!” I shouted in his ear.

He spun, deck in hand, but didn’t look.

He didn’t open his mouth.

Fine.

I reeled back, and I flung the Hyena through the window.

If I could reach through, so could the Hyena, in a way.

It passed through, flying blade over pommel.

He dodged it.  No looking at the cards.  Only human ability.

The Hyena clattered to the ground.

I could hear the echo of the bell, louder than ever.

“Well,” he said, “The bird failed.  That’s it.”

I watched the Hyena spin in place on the ground.  No ice nearby, but the bulge in the crossguard and the shortness of the broken blade let it spin briefly.

I could make out the Others.  Rose’s bogeymen, a small contingent, coming for help.  Alister turned, backing away as rapidly as he could.

I closed my eyes.

I willfully relinquished my presence on this mirror realm.

I let the real world be reflected as it was.

The Hyena spun lazily on the ground a few feet to my left.

“Sympathetic magic,” I murmured.  I said a few words in latin, and I fed one spirit to the reflected sword.  “Shape, borne of the same goblin, delivers the same blows.”

He heard me.  He snapped his head around.

The real Hyena was still on the ground.

I put my foot on the top of the reflected one, then kicked it.  It and the real Hyena skidded across the road, catching on a ruff of snow and skipping a foot and a half into the air, spiraling.

Alister threw himself to one side.

I was already using the gap between reflected spaces to cross the distance, getting ahead of the reflected Hyena.

I stopped it with the bottom of my sneaker.

Alister wouldn’t move fast enough to dodge it.

I didn’t have to offer surrender.  He knew he could end this with a word.

He didn’t.

I kicked the broken sword in his direction again, sending it skidding his way, every part of it bladed, spiked or otherwise hazardous.

I watched as it veered off to one side, as if a magnet were pushing it off course.

“Enough,” a woman’s voice called out.

Sandra.

“About time,” Alister said.

Sandra was joined by an Other.  A tall Middle-Eastern man with a long black coat trimmed with gold.  He wore sunglasses, but I wasn’t sure the glimmers of light I saw on the lenses weren’t his eyes shining through from beneath, rather than reflections.

“What a mess,” she commented.

“Timely arrival,” I said.

“What we’re doing here isn’t just fighting each other for Lordship.  We have to prove we deserve the position.  Knowing what’s going on is critical, if we’re going to earn the trust of the neutral parties,” she said.  She walked amid the broken glass.  “I have something of a web spun across Jacob’s Bell.  I can feel the weights of certain events and entities.”

Oh.  So this was it.  When Rose’s Others arrived, so would Sandra.  The fight would be over.  She seemed perfectly at ease, picking her way through the glass.

“I’ve arranged it so I can arrive promptly on any scene I feel requires intervention, if unchallenged.  I can tell you this, Blake.  Everyone is prepared to challenge the Thorburns.  Any action on your part will provoke a response from others.”

She was heading for the Hyena.

I beat her to the reflection, grabbing it, and sliding it.

Two more steps took me to the nearest window.  I punched my hand through, retrieving the blade before I was cast aside.

“More mess,” she said.

“The rules don’t disallow mess, Sandra,” Alister said.

“Expectations of the council discourage it,” she said.  “Let’s clean this up so we don’t have to explain yet another gas explosion.  Everything in its rightful place, please.”

She drew her chalice from her bag and tapped it against the nearest mailbox.  It sang, a ring of metal on metal, every bit as pleasant as the gouging of the mailbox hadn’t been.  She touched it to one shard of glass.

The bits of glass vibrated.

“Back you go,” she said, authoritarian.  “Where you’re meant to be.”

The glass danced, slid, hopped and jumped until it reached the window panes, fitting together like a dozen individual jigsaw puzzles.

“Eblis?” she asked.  “It’s easier for your kind than it is for anyone else.”

The tall man snapped his fingers.

Like lightning, the seams disappeared.  I saw reflected areas appear around every window I’d broken, like a flash of lightning.

“Hm,” she said, sounding a little satisfied with herself.  “Thank you.”

I wondered how the spirits took that.  If Alister got credit for a show like the removal of the small scratches, what kind of cachet did Sandra have?

“This concludes my duty to Johannes for this day,” Eblis said, his voice as deep as the rumble of thunder.

“That’s between you and him,” she said.  She turned her attention to Alister and me.  “You two are done.  I would like you two to agree this is a draw.  We leave it at this.”

Was it a draw?

If the Behaims disapproved of this display here, they might refuse to give Alister the lordship.

I’d had him on his heels.  Without intervention, I’d have beat him.

“I agree if he does,” Alister said.  He was still on the ground where he’d fallen.  Where he’d be bleeding if I’d hit him with the Hyena.  He might be able to undo it, but he hadn’t wanted to.

All the same, he looked just a little smug, lying there.

But this won’t go the way you want it to, I remembered his words.

I had to weigh what this meant.  The consequences.

The bell tolled in the background, and I tried to shut it out, to think clearly.

If I refused, claiming the victory, I’d have denied him what he wanted.  I’d remove the Behaims from the playing field.

But would I be risking what he’d suggested?  The ten of swords, the loss I couldn’t recover from?

It went both ways, didn’t it?  If I’d refused to play fair, I’d have lost Rose’s trust.

If I played fair here, would I gain it?

What was that worth?

This wasn’t what I’d wanted at all.  I wasn’t reducing the risk to my friends.  If anything, I was condoning it, allowing him to get whatever weapon I’d heard about.  He’d still be free to send zeitgeists and test or wear down the house’s defenses.

“This was a fair competition, with rules established in advance.  We played by the rules, we kept the civilians out of it,” I said.  “Interrupted as it was, there was no clear winner.”

“Wuh?” I heard Evan, a short distance away.

“I agree,” Alister said.

What?” I heard Evan, again.

“I’d offer you help in standing, but there’s only so much I can do from this position,” I said.

“I’m fine,” he said.  He found his feet.

“Take your bogeymen back before we have an incident,” Sandra said.  “If you want to wreak havoc, do it after dark.  Alister, I believe you’re late.”

“I am,” Alister said.

Wasn’t he eighteen?

I didn’t ask.

“Fine,” I said.

“Turn around!” Evan called out.  “Back to the house!  Hup two three four!”

One of the Others near him swatted in his general direction, annoyed.  Evan avoided it, taking wing.

“I’ll see you later, Al,” I said.  “We can pick up where we left off, maybe.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” He answered.  “I learned so much about you.”

I took the faster route back to the house, beating Evan there by leaps and bounds.

They’d put a board up to cover the broken front window.  It made my navigation a little harder.

I saw Tiff, reading.

“Tiff-”

She dropped her book, uttering something inarticulate that was made up entirely of vowels.

“Can you get Rose?”  I asked.

“I’m here,” Rose said.

“It’s done.  It was resolved… amicably,” I said.  “I wasn’t able to slow him down.”

“Okay,” she said. “Thank you for keeping me in the loop.  Though I’m not happy you delayed my minions from arriving.”

“We’re okay?” I asked.

“No,” she said.  “But we’re better than we were.”

“Just don’t fucking try to bind me again,” I said.

“We’ll see,” she said.  “I won’t unless you give me a reason to.  Which you probably will.”

“You gotta answer some questions, Rose,” I said.

She folded her arms.  “I don’t have to do anything.”

I was pretty ready to break some more windows at that point.

“But I can invite you in,” she said.  “No mischief, no harm intended.  Just… get inside.”

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184 thoughts on “Malfeasance 11.4

    1. Potential typo / omission:
      There’s no description that Rose’s Others arrive, or how they look like, or anything about them. There’s only a paragraph describing Sandra’s arrival. I was kind of surprised when Evan ordered Rose’s Others to go back, considering I hadn’t seen them mentioned before.
      Maybe a paragraph got lost?


    2. mismatched quotation marks:

      [OPEN]Game? Evan asked. [OPEN]This is a game to you?[CLOSE]

      [OPEN]That’s sort of the point,[CLOSE] he said. You’re-[CLOSE] Cutting the deck. Pause. Cutting the deck. Pause. [OPEN]-Something of a container for spirits. You’re impressed on a level, the other spirits in the area here are impressed.[CLOSE]

      missing double-space at end of sentence?:

      “That’s sort of the point,” he said. You’re-” Cutting the deck. Pause. Cutting the [deck. P][ause. “]-Something of a container for spirits. You’re impressed on a level, the other spirits in the area here are impressed.”

      “You apparently didn’t like what the card said about the sword,” I told [him. “]You don’t feel like sharing. Why?”

      “Okay,” she [said. “]Thank you for keeping me in the loop. Though I’m not happy you delayed my minions from arriving.”

  1. Watching Blake go to work, demonstrating that he knows enough about tricking people and messing with their heads is very satisfying.

    Its funny. He doesn’t need huge outlays of power, because his entire strategy is based on out of the box thinking that ends up challenging what his opponents believe or expect.

    1. There are several things he could have done there:
      – Connection magic “Take this power, and with it, restore the connections that define you not just as glass, but as pieces of this window, until the connections are unneeded for you are drawn back into your essential form.”
      – Entropy- or time- reversal
      – Application of heat
      – Glass-specific magic (Verromancy?)
      – Other things

    2. Strictly speaking, in Islamic theology, Iblis is /the/ Djinn. According to their telling of the fall of the angels, the one then known as Azazel spoke against God and refused to bend the knee to Adam, henceforth he was known as Iblis, father of devils. I’m reading this as Lucifer being Johannes’s lapdog.

      Of course, Eblis might just happen to be a random Other with an awkward name, like knowing a guy named Adolf Hatler, or Kyle Marx. At which point being a desert or fire spirit would most likely give it the ability to fuse glass.

      1. I do not think there’s a single Lucifer/Satan/Beelzeebub/Iblis/etc… in tis universe. But even then, any of those should be a demon and it would be seird for Sandra to deal with a demon (even provided by Johannes) considering how much everyone hates the Thornburns for that.

        1. If a Horseman of the Apocalypse exists as an Incarnation of conquest, couldn’t a Lucifer/Satan/etc exist as an incarnation of treachery or evil, or something to that extent?

      2. That’s not quite correct. Jinn, in Islamic theology, are a third order of being aside from man and angels — unlike angels, they are free-willed, and therefore not inherently evil. Iblis was the mightiest of them, but refused to kneel to man (who God said was his greatest creation) and was therefore cast out. Some Jinn sided with him, but others did not, and continue to exist in the world as free-willed beings in the same way humans are, capable of being good or evil.

        He was never an angel, though; in Islamic theology, angels have no free will and therefore cannot fall, fullstop.

        (Of course, no idea whether any of this theology applies in the Pact universe.)

        1. Referring to them as fallen angels is a convenient shorthand though. Seeing as most of the tales that have made it into the western culture regarding Jinn are those specifically regarding ones bound for all eternity in bottles, at least until some foolish fisherman frees them, it is fairly well implied that they were bound by Soloman for a reason, and it’s probably not for suggesting free ice cream Mondays.

  2. Hmmm, very interesting. I loved Blake getting stronger, clearer by scaring Alistar. Alistar seems like a very bad choice for a Behaim family hea. He’s far too reckless, and honestly he’s not experienced enough.

    Blake is a super force of nature with the Hyena, and not even time shenanigans can erase that cut! Tr hyena now officially has the effect of the Gae Bolag and as such is scary af.

    The olive branch is extended, hooray!

    1. I can see a cycle beginning to turn here:
      Blake scares people, draws sustenance
      Blake uses that power to do scary things with the Hyena and sympathetic magic
      The little tricks begin to be absorbed into him: He can influence things through their reflections by instinct, he can inflict harsh, slow-healing wounds with a touch, he can command his spirits more easily
      The fear he inflicts through application of these tricks sustains and powers him
      He gets stronger, and the fear that feeds him influences him, making him more terrifying, closer to his Other nature
      Until he becomes the nightmare that hides in the mirror, only tangentially loyal to his humanity
      At least, until some practitioner binds him, kills him, or something gives him back his humanity.

  3. This redirected the contest. Blake agreed to some fair and careful play and didn’t actually lose anything obvious. And he did stall Alister’s momentum a bit. This was one of the clearer and cleaner wins even though it was minor.

      1. Nope: Tt actually knows real style. Alister is (so far) a Smug Snake who can only dream of being at Tt’s levels of Manipulative Bitchiness and Magnificent Badassitude.

        [Warning: tropage. Google at own risk of losing hours to TV Tropes: use the buddy system if you venture upon a Wiki Walk to get you out.]

  4. Alister reminds me of Tattletale. The bottle glass green eyes, the cocky attitude. My favourite Behaim by far, he seems to be a much cooler antagonist than both Laird and Duncan.

    On a side note: Hells yeah Rose and Blake are almost pals again.

    1. “My favourite Behaim by far, he seems to be a much cooler antagonist than both Laird and Duncan.”

      Well Laird’s shtick was pissing off Blake via massive asshattery. Actually I think he was trying to commit suicide by Blake after the first Council meeting. Duncan’s shtick was being incredibly incompetent. Alister’s shtick is being cool so the spirits like him.

      1. Alistair is a cocky little shit. No, listen, hear me out. He’s always checking his cards, making sure he’s right. In gaming terms he’s someone with a guide, constantly checking it to make sure he’s doing things right. It’s easy to beat the boss when you know where he is, what his movement pattern is, and that he’s weak to the axe in the hidden room right before his.

        The other thing is he burns right through the Behaim’s stores of time, for even the littlest thing. Right now he can justify it because he’s winning. But he also gambles it. And one big loss is all it’s going to take to cripple the Behaim’s for generations. Think of it as though he’s from a wealthy family and he’s been put in charge of investing their money. Right now the risks are paying off, but at some point he’s going to invest recklessly in the wrong stock, and everyone looses everything.

        Finally, there’s been some comparing him to Tattletale. I can see this, but he doesn’t seem to have learned a lesson Lisa learned most painfully. The limits of his ability. Lisa learned the hard way the drawbacks of her power, and the painful way what can happen when she is reckless with it.

        1. Those things are true, but at the same time, I could see Alistair ending up on Blake’s side eventually.

          Ultimately, it looks, from what we can tell, like Alistair’s ultimate goal is to change the way things work; this lines up with Blake’s goals. Additionally, we haven’t yet seen any indication that Alistair is as hung-up on his worldview as Laird was. And, finally, it’s clear that Aimon and Rose Sr. had some sort of plan in mind, one that, again, sort of seems to line up with Blake’s goals — they may have diverged at some point, and it’s unclear how much Alistair was on board with that (Laird certainly didn’t seem to be), but basically, Alistar’s flaws seem like things that could be addressed with character development.

          Of course, we haven’t seen enough of him yet to really be sure.

          1. I was under the impression Laird was in on it. At first he was trying to give Blake a kick in the rear. “Hey kid, some people are gonna try to kill you in like a month and you have this library full of magical books. Get trucking.” And Rose did come back with a circle and an incarnation in tow. Also I think Laird was committing suicide by diabolist at the end there.

            1. Maaaaybe, but remember, he can’t lie. I would have to go back over his statements and see if he said anything that indicated clear hostility to Blake or a clear desire to harm him, but it seems like it would be difficult for him to hide that from the rest of his family, since he’d have to avoid ever making a clear statement that he wants to eliminate the Thorburn family.

              Which is going to be tricky, because the elders know he’s not bound the way he should be and are constantly going to be pressing him for concrete statements about what he’s doing. Especially since at least some of them have to at the very least suspect that Laird was Rose’s student.

              (For that matter, how does that work? It doesn’t seem like something that could be done secretly, but it seems bizarre that the Belhams would allow someone who was trained by a Diabolist to lead them, even if it was theoretically for self-defense.)

            2. Well, remember that Laird not only knew that he was going to die, he was purposefully setting up his own death. The sooner he died, the longer his son would live, after all. So, knowing that he was going to die, he may not have been overmuch concerned with power hits from lying. He may have allowed his personal power to wane, especially since he had the full Behaim power behind him and could afford to, when necessary, avoid relying on his own personal power.

        2. It certainly sounds like he’s set up either for a lesson of some sort that breaks off some of his rough edges, or for a great fall. The more people point out the similarities between him and Tattletale, the more I’m hoping it’s the former.

  5. Historically, I absolutely LOATH time and fate magic. I despise it in Mage, I despise it in other forms of media, I despise it here.

    But that is probably just because I don’t think in the right way to use it myself. If I could take advantage of that shit, I would. No questions asked. And that is because it is so absolutely broken. I’d hate to have it used against me, I hate the arrogance and self-assurance that inevitably comes packaged in its users, and I hate how its so damn difficult to beat. But I respect it for being hard to do properly and for being thoroughly effective.

    Basically, I’m saying that this is a great example of what true Chronomancy and Divination magics should be in my opinion. Really well done.

    (Eat a dick, Alister.)

    1. As others have pointed out, basically every school of magic is broken within its own sphere of control. The ability to summon demons is totally overpowered and difficult to beat. The ability to control time is completely overpowered and difficult to beat. The ability to mess with people’s connections is completely overpowered and difficult to beat. Being priest to a god is completely overpowered and difficult to beat. etc. etc.

      Pact magic seems largely to be ‘balanced’ by the fact that everyone is wielding unstoppable power. Well, everyone except Blake, anyway. xD

      1. Also,by the fact that its not an at will superpower,or a certain times per day superpower,or a pay mana to use superpower,but a very costly power:Demons make your victories suffering,Chronomancy costs more time that it gives (sure,the titanic reserves make someone OP,but not the magic,it took generations of a big family to build them),and a god can Smite you at any time i]f you mistep too much in your dance for him.Conquest,boogeymen,the fae,perhaps even Isadora,most Others require some sort of fuel (would this make goblins OP?they have certain predispositions,but do not seem to need a fuel).The astrologist needs infrastructure and the Sisters flame.The knights paid litle,were weak….and paid for their weakness.The eye needs destruction,the Sheperd swore an oath of silence….

        Dunno what Sandra’s family price is,but she had to abort her children,so it cost her,and I think they have done something that cost the whole family something.As for Johaness,I think its the fact that he sits on a huge goldmine that makes him so powerful as to fight big families with multigenerational reserves,he pays as steeply as anyone,but he has tons of money to burn,probably more than any single other forces,and he is turning a net profit per day despite his extravagant spendings….yup,Johannes is OP because he has the most powerful ability in Pact,enough power to convert to OPness with litle to no negative consequences.

  6. I can’t help but be amused that our protagonist basically had his little schoolyard fight broken up by a local matriarch.

    Honestly, it just goes to show that Blake isn’t going to get anything good done until he or someone else connected to him gets some modicum of social clout. He can’t solve his problems by breaking shit forever.

      1. Sorry: I tried linking and it didn’t work. Tarot de Marseille — the more traditional kind of deck that solidified the template for both the number and type of major and minor arcana which has become widest spread… And, which was primarily designed as a gaming deck (although, you need really big hands for the original sizes). Pamela Coleman Smith aka Pixie. 🙂 She drew the art for the less game-capable Rider-Waite deck, which was specifically designed as an occult deck. (Do not get me started on the topic of Arthur Edward Waite, thank you very much… <.< If you ask me, as bad a crook as Aleister Crowley — if not quite as badly in need of psychiatric intervention.)

        Hope that helps. 🙂 And, do Google Pixie: as eccentric as they came, but quite a dear and a fine storyteller (I have been lucky enough to read some of her Anansi tales). ^.^

  7. Ok, I’m a little confused. is there now a copy of The Hyena in the real world? Blake duplicated it in his Realm, right? If he gets the original back, could he dual wield Goblin Swords?

    1. He got the original back. Sandra tried to pick it up, he used the Sympathy magic to get it close enough to a surface that he could reach through (breaking the surface) and collect it.

            1. End up awesome? He was basically using telekinesis to control a flying broken sword. That’s already awesome!

          1. So, he plans on making more then, I hope. Like, 100 of them. Give them to all his allies and stuff. Give one to Mags, she wanted a sword anyways. Fun fun fun.

        1. Mirror-world copies follow somewhat obscure rules — objects don’t move in synch, normally, etc., and it seems likely that objects not around the light patches in the mirror world simply don’t have copies there — but it’s logical that if an object ceases to exist in the real world (because it was pulled into the mirror world, in this case) that causes the mirror-world copy to wink out.

          1. As long as Blake maintains his influence on the mirror!Hyena, it will remain.
            I suspect the next time he ‘updates’ his mirror-surroundings, it may weaken or disappear altogether if he’s also carrying the real!Hyena on his side (i.e. no reflection to sustain the copy).

  8. I love how Evan just attacked with no warning.

    Alister is a little shit. Wasting magic just to heal a Small wound.

    So, will Alister get the position?

    1. Alister is a little shit. Wasting magic just to heal a Small wound.

      I disagree. Showing off your massive power and preventing scars earns Alister some style points, and as we know, style matters in the Pactverse.

      1. I disagree. Time was established as resource that takes a lot of work to accumulate. You put in a hundred hours for one. Or was it for one minute? Either way it takes a lot to gain. That’s why the Behaim’s are so prone to just manipulating perceptions of it. Alistair is very much the trust fund kid. Rich, sleek, and convinced he’s the shit. Thing is he’s always had the family fourtune backing him up. He didn’t earn it himself, but he sure likes to burn through it. He’s the kid who takes over the family buisness, buys himself thousand dollar suits and porshe’s to look good, and starts agressivly investing. Thing is, he thinks he’s infalliable, and will eventually make on hell of a bad deal, and ruin the family.

        Also the kid has HUBRIS in spades. No way in hell the spirits won’t enjoy seeing him fall if the chance arises.

        1. If it is 100h of savings per minute needed he just spent 10h for A) preventing permanent harm to his face, thus keeping the competition alive (and saving Blake from a bit of bad karma there), B) Style and impressing of spirits and C) Keeping his blood out of the hands of that ghost sparrow who’d love nothing more than to become a bird of blood and fire. 10h probably get saved up by 10 Behaims on a single good day. Sure seems. worth it to me.

          1. Alright, hard numbers time. Because the Behaims seem a solidly middle class family we’re going to assume that the expected yearly income of a Behaim is expected to be $68,860 Canadian. Assuming they earn that working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (including paid vacation), then a single Behaim Hour is worth $33.10. Because 10 hours is the number that “seems worth it” that’s what I’ll use, thus $331 to cure a little wound that would’ve healed itself in time.

            Source for average: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/famil108a-eng.htm
            And so others don’t need to look it up, $1 (CA) = $0.90 (US) so, the cost of his boo-boo was $298.

            1. That assumes that every hour is worth what their boss would pay them if they were working. If they lose an hour of (for example) sitting around in the evening watching TV, the cost of that hour is minimal.

            2. It’s probably a real struggle to get anything built up, though. How inclined would you be, after knowing that it’s a real possibility that you might flash through your life and miss everything, to flash through times and possibly miss out on your own life, when you know that 1) you’re only getting back a tenth of what you give up and 2) you’re not going to be the one who actually gets the benefit of using that tenth. How inclined would you be to want to pay into a social security system with a crappy rate of return when you know you won’t actually benefit from it… ok, that might strike too close to home for young workers of today. Let me think of a new analogy. 😉

        2. I don’t think it’s so much a “I don’t care how much power I spend on stupid stuff” thing as it is a “I have so much power I can spend it on stupid stuff”.
          It’s like…I remember reading that some species of antelopes have a behavior where, when they are confident they can outrun a lion, basically dawdle for a brief moment before they run away. The idea is that, if the lion can’t catch the antelope, it’s best for both to just not have the chase, and that behavior gives a good indication to the lion that this is the case (if a slow antelope tried it, it would risk getting eaten if its bluff was called). It’s something like that–“Don’t mess with me, we’ll both be better off.”
          That’s how I see it, at least.

  9. Thank you for keeping me in the loop. Though I’m not happy you delayed my minions from arriving

    I love how Rose straight up calls her summoned Others, minions. She’s well on her way to becoming an evil Overlord. It’s a good thing Th read the list.

    1. I don’t happen to think so. 😐 There is this phenomenon you can name “sarcastic deck syndrome” that can turn around and bite a reader.

      Readers that get SDS thanks to either being in the wrong headspace, over-worked or just plain confused as to what they’re reading can find their readings being very double-edged and cutting them, while also supplying info for who they’re supposed to be reading for. <.<

      I can't imagine that's a good thing to happen for a Practitioner with a deck as an implement, for all it can be versatile and easy to carry around (particularly if you use one of the pocket decks, rather than the traditionally sized monsters). 😛

    2. Maybe. Sure, it gives a good bit of information if you know how to use it, but using it as your Implement leaves certain…weaknesses. It implies randomness and passivity, for instance. and, of course, you can be manipulated the way Blake manipulated Alister this chapter. Plus, aside from divination, it doesn’t have much of an affinity. A tarot deck is a fairly niche implement.

      That’s just off the top of my head, mind.

      1. It implies randomness and passivity

        I think that depends on the practitioner. The spirits generally punish direct, uncompensated action. So it’s key to be aware of the ebb and flow of power, and the connections between players. With a tarot deck implement, a diligent practitioner can know where to pluck and strum the strings of power to achieve their goals without disrupting the greater harmony – an ability practically required for high office. An ambitious practitioner might attempt to actively choose a fate for a key player – we’ve already seen Alister venture into these treacherous waters – yes it’s risky, but you can have a literal trump card on your side.

        aside from divination, it doesn’t have much of an affinity

        I’d say that, on the contrary, few other implements can achieve affinities with such a broad range of the significant aspects of life.

        1. You misunderstand. The Implement on its own, without any kind of knowledge of the Practitioner using it, is what determines what kinds of properties it has. No matter what the Practitioner, if he has a sword, it’s going to be useful mainly for aggressive actions.
          Tarot decks are fairly random, because they’re decks of cards. They’re hard to use effectively under most circumstances and are more associated with parlors and shops than battlefields and vaults. The cards are used for divination and not much else.

          And I’m not sure what you mean with that second part.

  10. Yeah, Blake def should have simply rejected the fight. Not made a formal declaration. That would have chunked Alister’s power. Instead he just got a draw. Well, I suppose Alister burned up an excessive amount of power, and loss a summon, but I think the lie would have done more damage. He probably still could have had that nice chat and he would have had a pretty strong claim to victory.

    Question: Wasn’t it implied that Divination was rather expensive in terms of power? Alister is sucking on that well like no tomorrow if so.

    Next note: Okay, Blake has gone full on poltergeist with his Sympathy Magic.

      1. Especially combined with sympathy magic. He attacks your reflection, and what happens in there is reflected back into the real world.

        That’s some horror-movie shit.

        1. Yeah, but I don’t think he has the neccessary power to put that off. Breaking a connection is easy depending on the skill level of the practitioner and sympathy magic works on that with spirits.

    1. It wasn’t a draw, though, and Blake never agreed that it was. It didn’t ‘have a clear victor’, but it might have an unclear victor.

      1. Agreed: in reality, Alister could say he’d won. But, the person who impressed the people around most by taking charge and dictating terms was probably Sandra, not him.

        Blake? He pushed Alister to a position in which he could very well get a longer-term dip in power and prestige. That’s not an immediate loss, but it is a form of a win — but, also the delay he wanted. <.<

        This is not what the Behaims as a whole would want, when they're trying for the Lordship themselves. And, that is supposed to be why they'd picked Alister over Thomas. The kid just undermined the very reason he was a contender for head of the household by not winning this stunt as devastatingly as he went in promising he would. 😐

        If anybody got shafted most by the Ten of Swords, it was probably Alister (although, Blake might wake up to trouble, later). Quite literally for the poor kid in the duel. All those breaking mirrors around him were done by a sword, for crying out loud — so he was enclosed by many sword strokes and shards of ruin. But, also more figuratively: there’s the potential for longer-term boxing-in and ruination through the loss of prestige or an accounting with the local powers that be. Not impressive, if you’re an onlooking Spirit mulling things over, I’d guess.

        Powers that be, judgement, facing the music, law and retribution (either earned or misapplied): the major readings of Swords. I’d also like to point out that some decks (including this one) generally ascribe the element Air aka the spiritual element to Swords: so, it’s likely the worst suit to fight Blake with — he’s got a thing about freedom and justice by turning the tables on those who’ve earned retribution or retaliation in the eyes of himself or others, for all he’s bleeding Spirits. Cups might actually have hit him harder, if cleverly used — for all they look to be the lucky suit on the surface: Water, luck, emotions, passiveness, home, family ties, health and love — these are touchy subjects for the guy.

        All in all, beware cards that can cut both ways when reading — Swords and Coins aren’t particularly nice suits (most Coins are very two-faced when you look at them). <.< And, in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, many Wands are pretty beastly, too, if you go by the surface reading only: they have a theme of obstacles you can overcome — with time, patience and hard work as well as being about working and building on yourself as well as your occupation. 😐

        1. Just what does the ten of swords mean? Alistair said it was the sort of defeat you don’t come back from. So absolute anhillation? Or the compleate loss of all your goals? Because look at Blake’s goals. Self preservation was in third. A complete loss for Blake might look pretty ugly for everyone else too.

          1. Vicipedia dicit:

            In its upright or positive light, the ten of swords represents absolute destruction, being pinned down by a multitude of things or situations. The person lying on the ground, defeated and bleeding, may also represent a feeling of hopelessness and being trapped by emotions or mental anguish, since swords represent strife and the mind.

            The Ten of Swords is the most grim card in the deck, more destructive and reminiscent of death than the Death card itself. Again, the dark clouds depicted above the person signify despair and a terribly bleak situation. However, upon closer examination of the images in the card, any real death or destruction, like all things, may not be permanent. There is hope regardless of the situation: the golden sky in the distance suggests that this is the worst the querant’s situation could possibly be, and that things will only improve.

            In the card’s reversed state, it symbolizes a troubling situation that will continue for a significant amount of time. The card suggests that the subject should not despair in difficult times, to avoid ruining future prospects for success.

            1. So in other words it’s exactly the same as Blake’s life has been up until this point. Even as nasty as it sounds, it still has the possibility of getting better, and lets face it, Blake has gotten experience with that kind of situation.

          2. Thanks to bogdanulb, you got the highlights (or, depressing lowlights) of the Ten. It’s actually a bit worse than stated, even: the Tens of the suits can intensify the cards around them to mirror their meaning, particularly the minor suits. But, not exclusively: the only immune ones in the deck that can overturn modification? The Fool and the Aces. And, that’ll depend on where they turn up. <.< Please note: not all readers use the intensification and dampening factors of cards in combos. Combing cards is as complex as traversing reversals. 😛

            The Tower is just as dangerous, if in a more metaphorical way — the good news is, the Tower suggests you can rebuild once the pertinent aspects of your life that you have built until now have been knocked down and destroyed. Get the Tower followed by 10S? Run for the hills: ain't no rebuild in the offing. 😛

            1. Hmm… I don’t get that vibe. What puzzles me is Alister pulling the 10S and saying it was the Result of the game they were “playing” (the position in a spread or layout that wraps the reading up) and not a Relationship position (which would reflect a catastrophic, permanent wrecking of a close tie or ties). That’s more than odd. <.< Results usually go at the end of a reading, not the beginning, after you've only just shown the Signifactor to the client (the Fool to mean Blake). The more usual position for the first would be: the Past (or a past card — depending on the spread, you can have any number).

              I think Alister may have totally screwed the spread up (even if it's just a simple line-and-count one): or, lied about what was in which position after seeing what the card was and ascribing it to a position after the fact. 😐 Stupidly bad thing to do, that, if so… there are conventions in both games and reading layouts. And, ascribing a position to a move after seeing a card is beyond breaking conventions. It’s outright cheating. 😦

              Note: the Fool followed by the 10S. The Fool right next to that can mitigate the devastation or turn it on its head — Alister treated it as the 10S somehow trumping the Fool. Um… not so: Fool beats minors, especially the Tens. He was using Blake’s ignorance of the conventions and readings… dumbass move: the strength of the Fool always lies in ignorance: that’s how it turns into the Wise Fool given experience. 😛

  11. Ok, so it seeems that Alister is storing up time-fixy magic, then (as was discussed at the Behaim roundtable last chapter)? And he’s using it for pretty trivial shit, as a way to bolster his style/image/presence?

    I mean, sound like a normal 18 year old kid, tbh
    so I get why Ben doesn’t approve
    who wants an 18 year old to lead a family? nahhh

    Anyway, I LOVE that Blake gets power from scaring. I love it, it’s awesome. And it’s really neat how he can do all these mirror-world tricks without losing power. I know it was in a chapter before, but it really solidifies that this is his domain, this is where he has the upper hand.

    I really wish Blake was able to claim his third victory against the Behaims on this one, but I understand why not. The third will likely be far more dramatic, so there’s that to look forward to. (I mean, hopefully…)

    And Rose. Meh. I still don’t like her, but I don’t hate her as much. So @nn0y1n6 th0!

    1. The benefit of a relatively young patriarch is that he should be alive to lead things for several decades. Better to have a Lord who can last half a century than one who’ll die within a couple decades.

      1. Better to have a Lord who can last half a century than one who’ll die within a couple decades.

        Not if he’ll squander the family fortune in six months. It’s not like they have only a couple of youngsters, and even if most of the others are too young right now, it feels kind of silly for a family of chronomancers to gather power for generations and then to lose it because they couldn’t wait a few years for a good kit to grow up.

        1. The problem is that they need one /now/ not in five years. If Laird hadn’t died everyone would be taking about those wily chronomancers and their ability to plan for anything. As it is, Mr Spannerindaworks has destroyed something like 30 years of planning and they’re trying to fix it at the worst possible time.

          1. I understand your point, and I even partly agree. But it still seems silly that a family of chronomancers, with a very-long term program of accumulating time and power (and I got the impression they did it for much more than 30 years), should get in trouble because they’re running out of time.

            Yeah, sure, there are some precipitating events right now. OK, but you’ve been planning and gathering resources for decades at least, why is Jacob’s Bell the end of the world? If you really can’t do it right, do it later, somewhere else. What they’re doing sounds like saving money for (at least) a lifetime, then giving it to a kid to play roulette. (Maybe even Russian roulette, depending on what Wildbow’s planning.)

        2. If he will, yeah. From what I’m reading, that expenditure of power wasn’t mere recklessness, but basically intimidation. “I have enough power that I can blow it on stupid stuff–don’t mess with me.”

          One of the reasons I interpret it this way is that it means the Behaims aren’t idiots.

  12. He’s way too reckless with power expenditure. Ben was right on that front. He’s putting on a good show, but the expense has to be greater than the immediate gains. Not to mention if Rose hadn’t sent her agents then he would have cost them their third lost….

    Also, what would happen if Blake pulled someone in through a large mirror?

      1. Others don’t need demesnes, those are for practitioners.
        Fell told Blake that Conquest’s domain wasn’t one, for instance.

        My guess is that Others’ link to spirits is more direct, and they can pull demesnes-grade stuff through sheer charisma.
        Think of it like Blake’s Lefty. Just a random spirit patching his holes, but he made him work for it successfully.
        Extending this further, with more varied spirits (elementals, maybe emotions, and so on) you have a large palette to affect the world around you with.

        The trick is not losing your nature to your clique.

  13. Someone got it right that Alistair reminded them of Tattletale. Enjoying thinking their the smartest person in the vicinity. Evan is doing so much work as a familiar, watching him and Blake corner their opponent was just a pleasure to read. Hope to see the duo kick more ass in the future.

  14. I was rereading that funny part where Blake involuntarily startles people, like, all the time:

    “Tiff- She dropped her book, uttering something inarticulate that was made up entirely of vowels.”

    and then I suddenly realized that Tiff is a practitiioner and as such can feel it through a connection when someone calls her. Imagine what it feels like to be called by an abyssal ever-hungry Blake.
    When he tugs on your being, it’s like he’s about to snatch you and eat you!

  15. wait.. I just thought of this… why doesn’t rose have an implement or a familiar yet?? unless she does and we don’t know because she’s been keeping blake out of the loop… maybe that’s about to change! (ha)

    1. If the lawyers pushed her like they did Blake she should have one of the three either already or very soon. The Demesnes seems unlikely. They are turtling so it would need to be attached to (or in) the house, and it def should have come up during the attack. Rose doesn’t seem to keep many others around, just Evan, Conquest and the Barber. Evan certainly isn’t Rose’s, while Conquest and the Barber should have protected their Master if they were Rose’s, but maybe.

      The implement seems the most likely if she has any of the three. We haven’t seen her perform magic, and she had like a month of Conquest taint to burn and not much else to do with it.

      1. The lawyers might not push her as heavily, though. With Blake, the reason they were pushing him was because he was an expendable pawn — Ms. Lewis basically tells him this straight-up; he should just choose whatever Demesnes, Implement, and Familiar gives him the most immediate power, because he’s not going to be around in the long term anyway. (Not as a practitioner, in any case.)

        With Rose, it is (probably) different. Yes, she needs immediate power, but she also has to think long-term, which means pushing her into an instant decision is not necessarily in her best interests.

  16. Good chapter but a draw was probably the weakest possible way to end it, especially with Sandra rolling in as the Deus ex Machina.

    1. More of a Diabolus ex machina,Blake was kcking Alister’s ass,Wilbow didn’t want to sacrifice Alister so easy,prolly because he still has some role to play

  17. The contest itself was awesome, very nice choreography.

    But I don’t really understand what were the rules.

    I well and truly believe you won’t deny the agreement, if it’s fair. No killing, no permanent harm, nothing that would alarm the locals, beyond our small battleground here. I’ve got a ready-made spell in play. No interference.”

    “Fine,” I said. “Consider this my declaration of war. We’ll make this an even contest.”

    So it sounds like they’re agreeing not to permanently harm each-other, and not to be interrupted? But then:

    “Want to see if you can undo the damage I can do with this sword?” I asked, and my voice carried. “The agreement you proposed was that I wouldn’t cause any permanent damage. If you can undo it, then it’s not permanent.”

    But if he couldn’t undo it, wouldn’t Blake be the one who would be forsworn, for having caused the damage? I get that Alister refuses to try because he would be injured, but why is Blake willing?

    And then Alister seems to want the contest to be interrupted, either by Rose’s minions or by Sandra. But isn’t that just a violation of their agreement? Why aren’t they both forsworn now?

    1. I did a double-take at that part, too, but I read it as Blake calling Alister on not wanting to acknowledge the Hyena’s permanent-damage thing. So it was like (Hollywoodified de-subtled version:)
      BLAKE: What’s your deck tell you about what my sword can do?
      ALISTER: [looks at deck, “oh shit” face] Ummmm…
      BLAKE: You scared yet?
      ALISTER: Nahhh, it’s no big deal. [style points for nonchalance]
      BLAKE: No big deal? Oh, you have a way to fix its damage, then?
      ALISTER: [hedges, implying with his attitude that he can but not actually saying it]
      BLAKE: In that case, it won’t be a violation of the terms of our agreement to use it to [lunge at Alister’s face] CUT YOUR FACE [deliberately misses], will it? Haha, made you flinch.
      i.e., if Alister was so confident that he could undo damage done with the sword, he should prove it and earn points with the spirits for (a) correctly predicting that he could undo it and (b) puncturing his enemy’s “booga booga booga” move, which would in turn let Blake use it in the contest according to their rules. And if he doesn’t do that, then he’s implicitly admitting that he’s not confident he can undo it, so loss of style points (and possibly karma; I’d be surprised if the spirits look kindly on people going around saying “I can do that” and then refusing to try to do that on the grounds that they might fail). Either way, Blake gets an advantage he wouldn’t get if he let Alister’s “I can undo it” go unchallenged.

    2. No interference = no interference should happen with the unpowered locals. I guess that’s unclear.

      If Blake hurts Alister and Alister couldn’t heal it, it would be because Alister lied. The onus would be very much on Alister, as would the consequences.

      1. “No interference = no interference should happen with the unpowered locals. ”

        I for one thought that was the implication. Alister was saying the unpowered locals wouldn’t interfere? Anyway the whole agreement relied heavily on things implied. Otherwise it would just be a string of nouns.

      2. Oh, so when Alister said “I can undo it”, he basically took responsibility if Blake permanently hurt him; if he hadn’t said that, then Blake could have gotten in trouble if he left permanent damage.

        Thanks!

    3. I liked that bit. “So you can undo damage I do, can you? Well, then I guess I’ll just stab you with the sword, because it’s not banned by the rules of the contest.” Presumably, whatever happened to Blake wouldn’t be as severe as an incurable sword wound would be to Alister, so the latter would be inclined to admit that no, he probably couldn’t heal the wound dealt. That would naturally mean he loses pull with the spirits.

      Win-win–either Blake is forced to go back on his agreement and Alister takes a pretty big wound, or Alister loses some of his spiritual influence. (Or he’s forced to spend some power to fix the wound, maybe, but that’s pretty close to a lossless victory.)

      1. Read Wilbow’s word of god a litle above-if Blake were to hit him,it would be Alister’s fault,not Blke,because he said he could heal it,therefore he would take both the physical hit AND the power hit for violating the terms,plus another power hit for lying.

        Sandra saved his ass.

  18. Having seen Alister in action, I don’t understand how Ben’s criticism from 11.3 applies to him at all. As a reminder, here’s the quote:

    “I believe in balance. I believe in living in accordance to God, the spirits, the elements, and the natural order of the universe. Living that way makes us strong. You _know_ this.
    […]
    I think we’re getting away from that. Not just us here, not us as a family, but _everyone_. We deceive our enemies with misdirection and omission, while paying only lip service to _truth_. We lie to _ourselves_, damn it, because if we believe the wrong thing, then the spirits cut us an awful lot of slack. We’re all just being… fundamentally dishonest.”

    Surely Alister is the poster child for being amazingly in tune with the spirits? Evan and Blake repeatedly tried to call him out on being a fake, and he brushed them off in the most direct words possible.

    From what I can tell, Ben’s only problem with him is that he thinks Alister has been lying about using the Behaim time reserves: “Lead them to think that you spent all they gave you, that the threat is dire, while you’re busy pocketing excess.”

    From what I’ve seen of Alister, I want him to succeed the Behaims. Yes, he’s an antagonist, but in contrast to Duncan (and presumably Timothy, the other candidate), he’s an interesting one.

    1. He’s fucking with the spirits by posing, by using divination to weigh the scales in his favour and using the families time to cover any fuckups he makes.

      Karma… I think its supposed to be a simple system, but its been warped by everyone exploiting it and trying to get good karma while being assholes. Ben’s using the simple definition, while Alister getting good karma without being an inherently good person. Maybe.

      I’m…getting the impression Wildbow is tying karma into a bigger picture, where good karma supports creation & continuation while bad supports entropy & demons. But if you get good karma in the wrong ways? By clipping the coinage of spiritual favour? The books don’t balance, world heads towards entropy and the demons take more before they’re stopped. Maybe.

        1. I like Blake as much as the next guy, but unless he can find some powerful friends who already want to do something like that, he’s not changing the fundamental way of the world any time soon.

          1. While I’ll agree that it’ll take a lot for Blake to change the world, the idea is not without merit.

            It’s worth remembering that the fundamental forces of both the Natural and Practitioner World are controlled and governed by Spirits. Blake is devouring spirits, possibly turning them to his side, and releasing them to the world. The groundwork has been laid for Blake to be amajor catalyst for change.

          2. While I’ll agree that it’ll take a lot for Blake to change the world, the idea is not without merit.

            It’s worth remembering that the fundamental forces of both the Natural and Practitioner World are controlled and governed by Spirits. Blake is devouring spirits, possibly turning them to his side, and releasing them to the world. The groundwork has been laid for Blake to be amajor catalyst for change.

    2. “Lead them to think that you spent all they gave you, that the threat is dire, while you’re busy pocketing excess.”

      Yeah, I don’t see Alister pocketing excess power. That guy burns through it like no tomorrow.

      1. I don’t think Ben would view “I rewound time because I might have ended up with a tiny scar!” as much better than just embezzling it, though.

      2. Pocketing in this case means embezzling. Is he taking little bits of the families time stores and then using them for his own personal use, instead of for the family?

        1. You could make that argument, but ultimately it’s basically down to his motives. Are they more based on not wanting his blood in the hands of a diabolist or concern for having a scar, or is it meant to impress/dissuade Blake and keep a diabolist from having an advantage over the family? As you can see, even the same consequence (Evan, and hence Blake and Rose, having access to some of Alister’s blood) can be interpreted both ways.

          Ben will interpret it one way, but the others might not interpret it the same.

  19. We have Others. We have humans. Some ancient Others are bound under the Seal of Solomon. Some new Others are not. At least one Other (Blake) was previously a practitioner. Practitioners eventually become Others but apparently don’t lose their practitioner abilities. So why can’t Blake regain practitioner abilities?

      1. Being a practitioner is about the same as being possessed. You let spirits in and become a part of the supernatural system, in exchange for adhering to the contract between you and them. It’s something that was made for humans, by humans. Being a practitioner is no different than being a human, only the spirits will do things for them that was set in the ritual and they lose their protections as innocents.

        Magic is completely different from being a practitioner or Other abilities. Just like Padriac can use spirits to deflect bullets and Buttsack can bypass the steel rule to get into their school, you just need knowledge and a power source.

        1. Um… she’s said to be camping on the border between Other and Practitioner. She hasn’t actually crossed over and truly become Other. Yet. 😐

          She’s also maintained that state of only-just-human-ish for centuries. <.<

          1. The fact that it’s possible to be on the border should pretty clearly show that there isn’t a firm line. Moreover, Mara doesn’t really act like a Practitioner; she acts more like an Other.

    1. He can. Sympathetic magic is a thing practitioners can do.

      The issue is that magic is powered by the spirits, and Blake can’t appeal to the ambient spirits, he has to use up his personal power instead. So it’s better for him to stick to small workings.

    2. I suspect that it has to do with the manner he became an Other. Others, as a whole, are not unable to do magic, but Blake is a specific type of Other which can’t.

  20. Awesome chapter. Alister is a great new character, and I liked how Blake dealt with him.

    Comments:

    1. Frickin’ chronomancer cavalry joke.

    2. Blake is learning how to feed his nature as an Other. Poor Tiff, haha.

    3. Great lines: “I didn’t want to fuck up and screw Rose over because that would prove Rose right, and I was way too pissed off at her to do that.” and “You just drew the trap card.” and “She dropped her book, uttering something inarticulate that was made up entirely of vowels.”

    4. Wow, that bell is ominous.

    5. I loved how Blake dealt with Alister’s divination, making him show cards that can spell doom for him as well.

    6. This partial reconciliation between Rose and Blake is kind of weird; it follows rather too soon after their latest altercation. Reminds me of when Blake found out that Maggie had caused Molly’s death, almost lost control in his anger, and then went to her to get help hardly one chapter later.

    7. Also, what happened to all the ominous words about Blake being such a big problem, having to imprison him and so on? I mean, I assume Rose invited Blake inside because she really doesn’t want him affected by the bells. But there must be more.

    1. I think it’s possible you’ve been overthinking things.

      Blake felt betrayed by Rose when she bound him, but he still knows his frightening nature as an Other, and he’s used to dealing with his backstabbing family — and, more importantly, he recognizes that reconciling with Rose is the only realistic way to protect his friends as long as they’re tied to her. Additionally, for a long time before they swapped places, Rose was his only real ally; that hasn’t gone away just because she’s forgotten it.

      And like I said before, I feel that Rose imprisoning Blake was just her taking the easy way out without really sparing much thought for Blake as a person. He’s still dangerous, but I suspect that it is not something that Blake himself (or anyone who was remotely friendly with him) would view as a justification for sealing him up — he’s not, like, going to cause the end of the world just by existing, or Rose wouldn’t have ranked him so low in her analysis of the problems facing her.

      Remember that outside Practitioner who was murdered with a bomb in his car? Same deal. When you’re as crazy-paranoid as these people are (and Rose is really, really, really backed up against the wall), it doesn’t take much to leap to drastic measures like that.

      Basically, I think it wasn’t as big a deal to them as it was to us — again, it’s the serial-reading issue. Read it all at once, it’s a two-chapter aside where Rose, paranoid and hopped up on Conquest, freaks about something she discovers about Blake and, with no memories of him as anything but a boogieman-whatever, manages to convince everyone else to help her lock him in the closet for a few hours until he breaks out and tells her not to try that again.

      (Also, if nothing else, I suspect that Rose might no longer be certain she can convince his friends to go along with keeping him imprisoned.)

  21. Alister didn’t know, before Blake told him, that Blake had won the victories against Laird and Duncan. This does a couple things. 1) It weakens Rose. The universe had probably assigned those victories to her by default until Blake claimed them back. 2) Something will happen with the Behaims because of this. Probably Alister will run over to the other Behaims, point out that Duncan is indeed unfit to lead them and claim that he, Alister, the one who uncovered the truth of the matter for the Behaims, should be the one leading the Behaims.

    Also, completely unrelated and probably false, but did anyone else smell a trap when Rose invites Blake in? Remember Johanne’s demense, the streets that spiral inward and make it into what’s basically a honeypot (trap baited with honey)? Perhaps, in her spare time recently, Rose has been working on something similar with the House. Again, it’s pretty unlikely, I just thought I’d bring it up.

    Also, yes, I do think that the coin roll is emblematic of Blake once again having currency to spend (magical juju), and that he’s going to have to go all hands in to handle what’s coming.

    1. The older Behaims knew. Ben asked Blake if he was the one that killed Laird. Blake also told him about Duncan lying.

      Remember the younger Behaims are kept in the dark. (They believed that Blake was being an asshole that was constantly attacking the Behaims for no reason instead of Laird instigating the confrontations)

    2. I don’t think Blake being the one to beat the others actually makes Rose weaker by the “rules”, as such. Blake and Rose are linked by the whole vestige-or-whatever thing… and he’s always actually been an Other put in place to protect her, even when he didn’t realise it. To all intents and purposes, what he does? Is what Rose has “done”, regardless: package deal. 😐

      He can only make her weaker when he actively does something that blows up, big time (which, upon occasion, he has done: Pauz’s “let’s reverse the polarity” springs to mind).

  22. “They have a common theme, though,” I replied. “Very frequently, the actions of the people involved in the prophecy help bring the prophecy to come to pass.”

    And they are never what you thought. That is constant. Prophecy something you don’t want to happen? Congratulations you helped bring it to pass. Prophecy something you do do want to happen? Guess what, there’s twist and you won’t like what happens.

    And man, does Alistair ever reek of Hubris.

  23. The only way not to fall into a Prophecy is to not hear it. Given how the Behaims love Greek and Roman tragedies, it really shouldn’t be a surprise the kid is Hubris incarnate. I mean, I hate to say this but Laird is starting to look like the most competent of all the antagonistic Behaims…

  24. Some people have speculated that Blake might be an incarnation of freedom or rebellion, or something. How about a heroic figure from mythology?

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/jas/
    The trickster Anansi, originally a West African spider-god, lives on in these tales. Why is this figure so universal? And why did so many African American folk tales recount his exploits, under one name or another? Anansi is the spirit of rebellion; he is able to overturn the social order; he can marry the Kings’ daughter, create wealth out of thin air; baffle the Devil and cheat Death. Even if Anansi loses in one story, you know that he will overcome in the next. For an oppressed people Anansi conveyed a simple message from one generation to the next:–that freedom and dignity are worth fighting for, at any odds.

    Overturn the social order? Probably.
    Baffle the Devil? Conquest, check.
    Cheat Death? Drains, check.
    Even if Blake loses in one story, you know that he will overcome in the next.
    He definitely conveys the message that freedom and dignity are worth fighting for at any odds.

    So, who’s this (bastard) Kings daughter that Blake is apparently destined to marry and what’s this about creating wealth out of thin air — would that be monetary wealth or karmic wealth?

    1. But, he looks less spidery and more tree-y. Tree-spirits in African myth are usually Bad News (particularly in Mashona tales).

      Well, unless you count the Tree of Life (in whichever form he takes): he’s usually OK, as long as you don’t push his buttons. However, that guy’s a major grump who would kill any that deviates from the species norm or the universal Laws too much — in a massive genocide. 😛

      1. He’s Anansi stuffed into a tree so that he can generate power just from standing in the sun, like Superman. Seriously, he’s never tried it, but he’s tree enough that I’d bet he could stand out in a window that gets major sunshine and get some power back. The bird spirits are just a sidenote… for now.

    2. I personally think that he’s the Exile from KoToR 2. They were gaping hole in the Force, Blake’s been described as a sort of gaping hungry hole that devours spirits. They fought evil using questionable means, Blake was a diabolist. They were cut off from the Force, Blake is no longer a Practicioner. And because Evan can stand in for Atton at first glance, All that’s missing is a creepy blind old lady.

  25. Blake is scary. He must be a complete horror to fight.

    Stand too close to a mirror, be cut with wounds never to heal. Stand too close to a glass window, you’re pulled into a terrifying realm controlled by Blake. Standing on a frozen lake, Expect it to crack under you.

    If you try to keep your distance, he can use faux telekinesis on the items around you.

    As you continue to fight this creature, growing ever tired and fearful, Blake feeds off of your feelings to grow even stronger.

    You appeal to the spirits for power only to see Blake devour them and then use them against you.

    At this point, I’d much rather have Blake as an ally than an enemy.

      1. Which two? Blake can attack anything close to a reflective service. Wounds inflicted by the Hyena don’t (easily) heal. He’s shown the ability to grab and take things from the regular world into his Realm if he’s close enough. He has sympathetic magic to affect items in the regular world. He’s been devouring spirits the entire story, and these last couple chapters indicate they may be more inclined to help him than free spirits. This chapter, Blake spoke of feeding off of Alister’s fear.

        What can’t he do?

        1. What can’t he do?

          “Save the people he cares about from a terrible fate and/or leave the world a better place than he found it.”
          Just kidding, only wildbow knows how bad things will get.

  26. Note that Evan is emphasizing the games aspect of all this. We just, in the last one, had a reminder that Evan is a serious games fanatic, having beaten everything available to him in the house (well, whose controller he could work, anyway). He has a deep hunger for a game, and now he’s been told that he’s right in the midst of “Grand Theft Auto: MagicCanada”, a real life MMO game with magic. Anyone else want to place a bet that Evan is eventually going to dues ex machina the world and rewrite everything in his won image? 😉

  27. Damn. Damn, and doubledamn.
    Five of coins is the card of mercy and charity, of looking out for the unfortunate.
    But if Blake’s reading of it is upright, Behaim’s reading of it is reversed.

    That deck is more dangerous than the Hyenasword.
    Ten of swords is a far more dangerous card to draw in a reading than nearly any other.
    Both upright and reversed…

  28. Bizzare plot hole – If he hadn’t declared war Alistar would have been a liar and lost right there. I have noticed that the author tends to really shove the idiot ball down Blakes throat to keep the story going.

      1. To which he simply could have said that by doing it he had crippled the Belhaim’s most likely heir and by extension the entire Belhaim clan.

        As opposed to a contest that he was very likely to fail and even if he had won wouldn’t have gotten anything better then what he had right at that moment.

        I stand by what I said, there is no way this was anything but a deeply bad and stupid move on his part.

        1. Perhaps, perhaps not. But it is an understandable move from someone who is coming to realise that upsetting the applecart isn’t always for the best in the long term. Blake has been playing the wildcard non-stop since the beginning and more often than not it’s bit him on the butt in the long term. He’s maturing now. It’s a matter of finding a balance.

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