Malfeasance 11.6

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Rose gave Evan a piece of cheese puff from a bag, then took her time rolling up the bag and binding it closed with an elastic.

“No objection?” she asked.

“I don’t know yet,” I told her.  “You haven’t elaborated on anything.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, her voice pitched low.  “They’re testing the water, seeing if our resolve holds up when the pressure is on.  It’s… it sucks, but we have to call them on it.”

“I need more details than that,” I said.

“They’re going to take me away,” Rose said.  She leaned forward, arms folded on the kitchen counter, “It’s even possible they’ll lock me up or drug me.  The dead man’s switch… they’re counting on the idea that I’ll crack before they do.”

“They’ve got-”

“Rose?” I heard the voice from the living room.  Dad’s.

“-A guy who can read the future,” I said.  “And Laird knew how to counter demons.  He can share that knowledge.  You can’t play chick-”

Rose?” Roxanne piped up, her voice perfectly pitched to pierce anyone’s thoughts and seize their attention.

“-en with someone who has no reason to be afraid,” I finished.

Aunt Steph appeared in the doorway, and Evan took off, flying around Rose.  She took the warning for what it was and turned around.

“Problem?” Aunt Steph asked.  She smiled, but it looked forced.  All of her smiles did.  Uncle Paul’s first wife, they’d had Kathryn, Ellie, Paige and Peter.  She’d gone the stay at home mom route, let herself go in the worst way while Uncle Paul kept himself more or less presentable, and when they split up, never really pieced herself together again.  At present, she was wearing clothes that were surprisingly nice, almost certainly dry cleaned or brand new, and her hair was professionally cut.  Whatever her attention to the broad strokes, she missed the mark in the details.  She was groomed in a perfunctory sort of way, basic makeup and a comb through her hair, and she’d missed areas.  A mole sat on the side of her neck with coarse hairs sticking out of it.

I didn’t like to judge people by appearance.  If I did, I wouldn’t have liked Alexis like I did.  Alexis’ hair was sometimes like Aunt Steph’s, an afterthought more than something she focused on, and even Aunt Steph would have paid more attention to fixing her teeth.  The big difference was that Aunt S’s grooming issues were a symptom of something else that was going on with her personality and worldview.  Rather than work, she’d lived off the teat of child support and disability allowance that was almost certainly trumped up.  Ellie and Peter, the two children that had gone to her in the divorce, had followed a similar road to very different destinations.  She’d given them only the bare minimum they needed to get by, and as far as I could tell, had taught them that if they wanted more, they needed to manipulate others to do it.

I could imagine a world where the stars had aligned differently and grandmother hadn’t tainted or taunted the family with the inheritance, and where I actually sort of liked my family, as a whole.  A world where the general nastiness hadn’t bubbled up and out and twisted them.  In this theoretical world where I could see my Uncle Paul or Callan or any of the others at Christmas and exchange presents, I suspected I’d still have a deep seated dislike for Aunt Steph.

“I was taking a moment,” Rose said.

“Maybe you should ‘take a moment’ later, when you don’t have the rest of the family in the other room, waiting for you,” Aunt Steph said.  I could imagine she thought she sounded sweet, saying it.

Maybe you should go fuck yourself, I thought.  Rose met my eyes, and I could tell we were on the same wavelength there.

“Of course,” Rose said, turning.  She stood straighter, and then she smiled.  I would never have been able to do that.  She tapped the counter in front of me, and her inflection was slightly different as she said, “Have to think of the others.  I’ll have to give you the benefit of a doubt.”

“Good,” Aunt Steph said.  She smiled, and it was a smug, too-pleased-with-herself sort of smile.  If I hadn’t already known what they were doing, that smile would have given the show away.

But Rose’s words there hadn’t been for Aunt Steph’s benefit.  They’d been for mine.

She was going ahead with this.  Damn it.

She held out a hand, and Evan flew to her outstretched finger.

“Dirty,” Aunt Steph commented, frowning.

“I should be able to flip the bird to people,” Evan said.  My head snapped around to look at him.  He continued, “It’s called flipping the bird, so why can’t a flippin’ bird give someone the finger?”

My eye moved over everyone in the living room.  Evan had been heard only by Rose and I, as far as I could tell.  The family had made deals with Sandra, Johannes or Duncan, but there was nothing to suggest they’d been clued into the real goings-on.

Rose was silent, ignoring Aunt Steph’s comment as she headed back into the living room to rejoin everyone.

I remembered her words.  ‘Have to think of the others.  I’ll have to give you the benefit of a doubt.’

Rose’s plan, apparently, was to hope that Sandra, Johannes, Duncan, Alister, and all the rest backed off and let her back before the dead man’s switch kicked in.  Which meant that the rest of us were left with Hillsglade House to look after.

That meant Evan, Alexis, Ty, Tiff and I all needed to survive, and we had to do it while the defenses of the property were a fraction of what they had been.  If Johannes and Sandra were cooperating enough to arrive at Alister’s side, and Sandra wasn’t leaping at the chance to take Alister out of the running, there was some kind of deal in place.  That meant all of our enemies were probably gathered in a loose coalition against us.

Putting aside grievances to deal with Rose and her dead man’s switch, and quite possibly Molly as well.

Rose knew it, but she still wanted us to stick it out.

Fuck.

I couldn’t let it come to that, if I had any chance to avoid it.

When I returned to the living room, I could see the others gathered.  Uncle Paul had one armchair, Aunt Jessica stood behind him, with one hand on Roxanne’s shoulder, another on James’.  Very protective.  Mom and dad –Rose’s mom and dad- were sitting on the couch, taking up more space than they needed, with Ivy as their ready excuse.

Aunt Steph nudged Ellie, and Ellie reluctantly vacated the chair for her mother, before standing next to Peter.  Kathryn shifted a bit away – the oldest of the cousins, mother to the first of grandmother’s great-grandkids, she didn’t have her kid with her.  I wondered how that worked.

“We’re worried about you, Rose,” Rose’s dad said.  “We talked earlier, I tried to make that clear.  Your mother and I have talked it over.  I want you to know that whatever comes next, we didn’t want this.  We agree it’s probably in your best interests, but we didn’t want it to play out this way, not when we were just starting to reconnect.”

“Da,” Ivy piped up.  He reached down to brush her hair with his fingers, tidying the part in her wisp-thin blonde hair.

“You can’t have it both ways, dad,” Rose said, raising Evan up to her shoulder.  “You don’t get to trash my clothes and leave me without anything-”

“That was an accident,” her mother said.

“-And you don’t get to meet with all the others and discuss strategies for getting me out of the house or selling the house out from under me and then turn around and pretend to be my ally in all this.”

I saw Ellie smirking, almost as if she agreed.  Then again, Ellie, the third oldest of the cousins, was probably the least proficient when it came to the finesse side of things.  She probably thought all the cloak and dagger stuff was bullshit.

“I’m your family,” Rose’s dad said.

“You’re my relative.  You’re far from being my family,” Rose said.  “Unless you want to tell me what the rest of these guys have planned?”

“We discussed that,” he said.  “While we don’t agree with the timing, we think everyone will be happier in the long run, the way things are.  Please cooperate.  If you just… go…”

He trailed off.  Rose had one hand to her face, and was laughing softly, laughing only to herself.

When she moved her hand, the look in her eyes was alien.  Cold.

Her dad lost his train of thought.

“I grew up with you, dad.  I have a rule when it comes to you, you know?  It makes dealing with you easy.”

“A rule?” he asked.

“It’s really simple.  Whenever you say something, I flip it around.  You say you’re doing this to make everyone happy?  No.  What you really mean is you’re doing this to make you happy.  You want us to be a family again?  I hear that, and I interpret it as ‘you aren’t my daughter’.”

“That’s unfair,” Rose’s mother cut in.

Paranoid, even,” Peter chimed in.  He just couldn’t resist dropping that barb.

“This is exactly why we’re worried about you,” Rose’s dad said.  “You’re not of sound mind, you’re not making good decisions for the family or the inheritance.”

“Wait,” Rose said, raising a finger, “I got this.  Give me a second.  ‘This is exactly why we’re trumping up charges against you.  You’re just a little too clever right now, and we don’t want you outplaying us in terms of the inheritance.’  How’s that?”

“That isn’t cute, funny, or productive,” Aunt Steph said.

“It’s a little funny,” Peter said.  His mother shot him a look.

“What’s that even about?  Trumping up-” Uncle Paul started.  “What in the hell are you talking about?”

Rose smiled slowly.  “You act well, Uncle P, but someone already gave it away.  I have an idea of what’s in that contract.  Some people are supposed to turn up pretty soon, aren’t they?  They’ll take me away, and I’ll wind up talking to a shrink or locked in a padded cell, all doped up?  That’s how you think it’ll go?”

Jesus.  I could feel the atmosphere in the room change.  I’d dealt with demons, I’d dealt with other monsters, and I’d done my time in the Drains.  This was a different kind of creepy.  The expressions didn’t change, nobody moved, but in the act of putting on poker faces, there was a collective sort of pause.  A moment where nobody else in the room exchanged glances or moved, because a glance or a movement could potentially give it all away, confirming Rose was right.

Six adults and seven children who were so versed in the lies and deception that they could all manage to avoid reacting in surprise.

“It wouldn’t normally work, but you’ve got a friend, someone local, who can pull strings?” Rose asked.  “I know.  I’m pretty sure I can handle it.  I’m betting I’ll be out soon, even.”

Aunt Steph piped up, “This is that paranoia-”

“Stop,” Rose cut her off.  “Just stop.  I know the details.  A member of this family pointed me in the right direction, a little earlier.”

She briefly met my eyes.

Clever, Rose.

The facade cracked, the poker faces slipping as some members of the family looked at one another.  A lot of eyes turned Ellie’s way.

“You want to game me?” Rose asked.  “You have little conception of what’s really going on.  You raised me to play this game, to scheme and backstab and to see through lies.  One member of this family thought they could achieve their goals by passing the information along to me.”

“So you say,” Uncle Paul said.

“Do you know why the policeman and the community leader held a meeting and decided to reach out to you?” Rose asked.  “They’re just a little bit worried about me.  Think about that.  Consider the idea that maybe the house and the money it’s worth is one of the least important things here.”

“There’s more money in play?” Aunt Steph asked.  “You got the assets on the property.  Something valuable?”

Rose smiled, spreading her arms.

She was divulging information she maybe shouldn’t.  In fact, she was very much the egomaniacal villain from the movies and kids cartoons, who explained far too much of their master plan.

I wondered momentarily about that.

Rose was falling back on the little bit of Conquest that was inside her.  Why?

Because she was scared, or hurt.  If I put myself in her shoes, it would have sucked, knowing that dad hadn’t been on the up and up when he’d said he genuinely wanted to be a family.

Some people hid behind an act.  Rose had a whole other side of herself to hide behind.  Tapping into the Conquest inside her was one thing, drawing strength from it, but if she was using it as a crutch, consciously or otherwise, then that was a problem.

Power had a price.

“You’re distracting from the subject at hand.  Your knowing doesn’t change anything,” Uncle Paul said.

“We’ll see,” Rose said.

The family was sufficiently distracted.

I didn’t trust myself to give away a piece of myself.  I needed to strengthen myself before I acted.

Nothing suggested the family knew about the practice.  Even if they did, I should be free and clear with a little mischief.

I stepped around to the front window, and I smashed it.

Every head in the room turned my way.  I could feel the note of fear, and smiled a little as I stepped off to one side.

“The hell was that?” Uncle Paul asked.  He’d sprung out of his seat.  “Gunshot?”

“No, gunshot wouldn’t make a window explode like that,” Ellie said.

“How do you even know that?” Peter cut in.

From the television set, I could see the family at the one side of the room, peering outside.

“I saw someone,” James spoke up, he was a kid between Paige/Peter and Roxanne in age at fourteen, wearing glasses.  As far as I was aware, he wasn’t as bad as Ellie or Peter or Callan or Roxanne, but that was more a case of them being horrible excuses for human beings than him being particularly good.  He was a nasty little shit who’d been prone to sprees of vandalism and hanging around with equally nasty grade schoolers around the time I’d left home.

“There’s nobody out there,” Uncle Paul answered.

“I believe I mentioned something earlier about there being outright attacks on the house,” Rose commented.

Technically true.  Misleading, but true.

I could feel the unease growing.  Ivy was whimpering, apparently picking up on the atmosphere, and Rose’s parents were shushing her, bouncing her in place.

Then Ivy’s eyes fell on me, and she broke into actual tears, squirming.

“Company’s here,” Uncle Paul commented.  He didn’t try to hide his smugness behind a poker face.

“Man!  A man with bad face!” Ivy cried out, almost fighting to get further away from me and squeeze herself further into her mother’s embrace.

Peter grinned.  “Your uncle does take some getting used to.  I know I’m still working on it, after nineteen years.”

His father shot him a look.  “Don’t be childish.

“Black line face man!” Ivy cried out.  “In the T.V.!”

I stepped out of the television before anyone turned their heads.

One picture was up on the wall in the hallway.  I vaguely recalled it being knocked to the ground, but I supposed someone had picked it up and hung it again between the time the priest had invaded the house and the present.

From the hallway, I watched the family.  I still held the reflection of the paperwork that Uncle P had brought.

I reached into my chest.

No birds available.

“C’mon,” I muttered to myself.  “I scared Tiff, I scared those guys…”

Nothing.

Damn spirits, I thought.  You want more?

Replenishing my power wasn’t that easy, it seemed.

A moment later, I returned to the window.

“Bad man!” Ivy shouted.

Heads turned.

Roxanne raised her eyes.  I might have thought she was young enough to be innocent, but she looked right past me.  At most, I might’ve been an odd shadow she wouldn’t notice unless she was looking for it.

James, at fourteen, was two years Roxanne’s senior.  He saw me.

Why the difference?  Was it that James was quieter, more studious, less exposed to the ugliness of the world?  Or was it that James had never truly grown up or defined himself outside of the shadow of his parents and their desires?

All the same, he caught a glimpse of me.  His eyes went wider.

I wish I was more apologetic about this, I thought.  Just scaring them.

I smashed the window, but what I didn’t expect was for James to raise his hands, flinching as I moved my arm.  In the doing, he put his hands right against the glass.  Glass flew, and with the jumble of people, there was more chaos this time.  James fought to get away, and hit others in the process.  Kathryn fell, and knocked over Roxanne.

Fuck.

No time to do anything about it.  Back in the hallway, I reached into my chest for the second time, and I collected one bird that had been stirred into activity by the excitement.

I pushed it into the paperwork I held, then watched the scene.

Dad was on his feet, mom was focused on Ivy, who was shrieking, while the rest of the people in the room, Rose excepted, were trying to untangle themselves in the space between the armchairs and the now-broken front window.  Rose stood behind the couch, her back to the kitchen door, watching it all impassively.

“By the bonds of sympathy,” I said.  “Crafted by the same coalition, drafted by the same beings, equal in weight.  I bind this to that and forge a connection of like to like.”

I moved the contract, sliding it off the table and beneath the bookcases.

Ivy continued to scream.  When she did speak, it was in gasps, between wails.  “Wanna go!”  Screech. “Wanna go!”

James was crying.  He held his hands in front of him, and there was blood on them.  As his mom and dad tried to help him, he flinched away from the more sudden movements of nearby family members.  I had to strain my eyes to see in the midst of the chaos, but the cuts were shallow.  A lot of the blood came from one short cut at the hairline.

I hadn’t planned on hurting him, not like that.  But all the same, damn.  I did feel stronger after all that.

Uncle Paul stepped away from Roxanne, leaving her to Aunt Jessica.  He grabbed the man purse or soft suitcase or whatever the accessory was supposed to be called, and then looked to the coffee table.

“Where is it?” he asked.

“Your son is hurt and you’re focused on something else?” Aunt Jessica asked.

“He’s fine.  Just spooked.  Rose took the damned contract.”

“I haven’t moved from this spot,” Rose said.  “Right mom?”

Caught between loyalty to the group and her charade of wanting to be the dutiful parent, I could see Rose’s mom hesitate.

“Rose honestly hasn’t moved an inch,” she finally said, holding Ivy against her shoulder.

Uncle Paul scowled.  “Find it.  I’m going to talk to the men in the driveway and ask if they saw something.”

“I’ll come with you,” Rose’s dad said.

Then they were gone, moving right past me as they entered the hallway and turned a hard right.

I saw Aunt Steph duck down, no doubt to search under the coffee table.

I reached between the legs of the bookshelf, grabbed the reflected contract and lifted it up, pressing it against the underside of the bookshelf.  Through the bond of sympathy, I held up the contract in the real world.

A good fifteen seconds passed.

“I can’t find it,” Aunt Steph finally admitted.

I relaxed, putting the contract down.

“You need to,” Rose’s mom said.  “There’s pertinent details in there for…”

“For you to get me sent away?” Rose asked.  “I’m not sure it matters.  They’re bending rules like crazy to make this possible in the first place.  Which is why it’s not going to stick.”

“We’ll see,” Aunt Steph said.  “I need to talk to Paul.”

“Aunt Steph,” Rose said.  “One thing.”

I reached the little patch of glass that I could peer through, a porthole into the real world.  Aunt Steph was a matter of feet away.  Rose’s mother and Ivy were right next to her, apparently joining her on the way out the door.

Rose continued, “Did you consider the fact that they want me out of the house so they can destroy it?  Or that if the house just happened to burn to the ground, it might render the area worthless?  That everything that our family did in terms of the inheritance might be for nothing?”

“The value’s in the parcel of land.  It has nothing to do with the house,” Aunt Steph said.

“You read that contract backwards and forwards.  If there’s a problem and it’s judged to be malfeasance on our part, the property goes to the lawyers, not any of us.  What’s to say the lawyers won’t just turn around and sell to the city?  We’d get virtually nothing if it played out that way.”

“That’s not how it’s going to play out,” Aunt Steph said.

“They’ve pulled strings to get me stuck in a hospital.  A local hospital, right?  If it’s deemed to be a psychological problem, then I could get stuck in there indefinitely.  You’ve been so focused on getting me out of the way like that that you’ve failed to consider the thing at the core of this.  There are powerful people in Jacob’s Bell who want us gone.  All of us.  They want us gone to the point that there’s a ridiculous price tag on the property, that they’d break laws and manipulate the system to get me out of the way, and you don’t think they’d take the simple, expedient route to getting rid of us by simply burning it all down, the first chance they get?  You don’t think they’d call in similar favors and pull similar strings, so the police department is a little slower to arrive, or the fire station misses the call?”

If it was as easy as burning the house down, they would have done it already, I thought.

But she’d basically told Aunt Steph what the problem was.  If the house was left undefended…

“Ellie and Peter can stay,” Aunt Steph said.

“Don’t volunteer me,” Ellie said.

“Those two don’t know what to watch out for,” Rose said, as if it were very matter of fact.

“I know how to watch my back,” Ellie said.

“If you did it, my children can do it,” Aunt Steph said.

“There’s a chance their lives will be in danger,” Rose said.

“This is that paranoia thing again, isn’t it?” Peter asked.

“Idiot,” Ellie said.  “She’s not really paranoid.  If she says my life’s in danger, I’m listening to her.”

“Molly died.  Do you think that’s a coincidence?” Rose asked.

“That was murder?” Ellie asked.  Rose had her full attention.

“It was,” Rose said.  “Then it wasn’t.  I don’t think it’s anything particular now.  Just… glossed over.”

“Don’t fucking use my sister in your games,” Callan said, a distance away.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Rose said.  “They alluded to it being suicide.  If you think they’re right, that she was the type, and she was in that state, look me in the eyes, tell it to me.  I’ll drop the subject of Molly’s death right here and right now.”

Callan looked away.  “That doesn’t mean you’re telling the truth.”

“Fine,” Rose said.  “Let’s leave it at that, then.  Consider it on your own.  They’ll put me in a hospital, maybe for the rest of my life if they can get away with it, which they can’t, and they’ll pull some sketchy stuff.  You think you’re safe?  That this house is?  That the money is?  You’re really willing to put your kids in the line of fire?”

“Eh,” Peter said, shrugging.  “If it comes down to the money or us, mom’ll take the money.”

He sounded so nonchalant about it.

Though they weren’t identical twins, obviously, he bore a striking similarity to Paige.  Where Paige was prim, proper, crisply dressed as a matter of habit – no doubt Aunt Jessica’s influence, Peter was all about favorite pieces of clothing that he had sentimental attachments to, wearing them until they were frayed.  He had tousled hair that had been lightened to a near-white, and eyes that were exceedingly sharp.

I heard Uncle Paul’s voice, even if I didn’t have an angle to see him.  I’d destroyed the front windows beyond the point that I could occupy them.  “They’d like to see Rose.  It’s time to go.”

“Think twice before you force my friends out,” Rose said.  “They’re able to tell you who and what to watch out for.  If you’re smart, you’ll bow and scrape and at least pretend to be nice to them.”

She passed by me, and gave me a sidelong glance.

Evan took flight before Rose was out the door, returning inside.

“I’m going to take James to the hospital, make sure he doesn’t need more attention,” Aunt Jessica said.  “Watch the house.  Roxanne, stay for now.”

“Sure,” Peter said, smiling.  “I’ll look after her.”

Aunt Jessica gave him a look.  “Kathryn?  Can you look after things as the adult here?  Keep an eye on Rox?”

“I’ll watch her,” Kathryn said, sounding unimpressed.  Roxanne shot her oldest sister a look.  There was nearly a twenty-year difference between them.

The door closed.  Aunt Jessica and James gone.

“…Coward,” Peter threw a final retort.  Sharp tongued as ever.

Kathryn, at thirty-two, was the most senior cousin among those who’d remained.  I was honestly surprised she’d stayed, given she had the excuse of a baby to look after.

Callan flinched as Evan flew by.  Not a fan of birds, apparently.

Callan was two years younger than Kathryn, taller, stronger, and narrower.  Molly’s older brother. He looked vaguely uncomfortable.  was it because this was the house his sister had spent so much time in before she died?  Or because he didn’t like what Rose had insinuated about it being murder?  Things had been glossed over magically, but the dissonance was real.  If it weren’t for Christoff, his younger brother, I suspected he wouldn’t be holding it together as well as he was.  Both of Callan’s hands rested on Christoff’s shoulders.

I didn’t know much about Christoff.  When I’d ran away, he’d still been wearing footie pyjamas.  He hadn’t evinced much personality in the short run-ins I’d had with him.

Ellie, with tattoos far less cool than my own, more a hodgepodge blend of different tattoos that didn’t flow together.  The sort of look one picked up if they allowed themselves to be practice for a tattooer friend.  A novice tattooer’s doodles more than tattoos with theme or thought put into them.  She still hung back in the living room, lying on the couch where Rose’s parents had sat with the baby, far from the window.  Four years older than me and Rose, she looked younger and smaller than Rose, just by virtue of a slight slouch.  I’d likened her to a weasel in appearance.  She had an extensive criminal record, but had managed to avoid doing too much time.  Aunt Steph’s natural talent and lessons in gaming the system turned to simply getting away with shit.

Peter, Ellie’s younger brother, was at the far end of the room, almost completely opposite me.  He’d never been as outgoing as Ellie, nor quite so lazy as his mother.  From what I’d been able to pick up in conversations with Paige, he coasted through life on natural talent and intelligence.  If anyone got in his way, be they teacher, fellow student or whoever, he made them regret it.  Ellie was more the type to hit someone.  Peter would have had made teachers cry.

I remember how he’d made his own twin sister cry.  They’d gone in to see grandmother together, and he’d left Paige devastated.

And Roxanne… Roxanne looked oddly at ease, all things considered.  I wasn’t about to toss around words like sociopath, but… well, when the time had come for her to tell very specific, very loaded lies about people in the interest of maneuvering for the inheritance, she’d done it without flinching.  She seemed remarkably calm, considering how spooked and bloody her older brother had been, and all the talk of danger that had been bandied about.

Alexis, Tiff, and Ty, I noticed were standing on the stairs at the end of the hall.

“You’re staying?” Alexis asked.

“Rose was trying to convince us to be nice to you and not force you out,” Peter said.

“She’d be right,” Alexis said.  “There’s two kids in town who’re the children of a professional killer.  One has bombs.”

Bulllllshit,” Callan said, drawing out the word.  “I lived in this town for most of my life, if you think I’m going to buy that-”

“Then don’t,” Ty said.

“I believe you,” Peter said.

Ty’s eyebrows went up.

“I have other questions,” Peter said.  “Like how the fuck do you guys know Rose?”

“We met in Toron-”

“Or,” Peter said, “Why is Rose different?  That’s kind of the same question.  Because the Rose I knew was a no-life sad sack loser with no friends.”

“Right now, here, she’s been fighting for her life because of a thing her grandmother set into motion,” Alexis said.  “We’ve been helping her.”

“Oh, I see,” Peter said.  “You have certain talents that make you indispensable when there’s a threat of something like arson or murder?”

“Um, basically,” Tiff said, looking like the exact opposite of a person who had ‘indispensable talents’.

“This is ridiculous,” Callan said.  “This isn’t an action movie.”

I looked at the others.  Kathryn was silent.  The kids looked a little spooked, except for Roxanne.  Ellie was leaning forward, her attention trained on the conversation.

“I’m going to go use the facilities,” Callan said, “Then I’ll put something over that broken window, if you just tell me where stuff is.”

“I’ll help with that,” Ty said.

“Stuff’s upstairs,” Alexis said.

“Tea, anyone?” Tiff asked, almost hopeful.  She only got glares and blank looks in return.

“I’ll have some,” Alexis said.  “Just give me five.  Kathryn, if you’d like to-”

“Don’t even,” Kathryn said, “I’m not taking orders from a freeloader.”

“Then we’ll postpone sweeping up,” Alexis said.  “I’ll handle it in a minute.”

Alexis disappeared.

“What do you think?” Kathryn asked Ellie.

“I’m taking Peter’s lead,” Ellie said.  “He’s still a kid, but he’s smarter than me.  If he sees an opening, we should go for it together.”

Kathryn nodded.  “You’re going to be good?”

Ellie snorted.  “I might grab some of grandmother’s stuff.  Get some of the inheritance we’re due.  Be easier if you watched my back.”

“Share,” Kathryn said.

“‘Kay.”

Slowly, people sorted themselves out, the youngest kids moving to the living room with Kathryn.  I heard the television come on.  I couldn’t wrap my head around just sitting around while cold wind blew in through the shattered window, but… that was them.

Alexis held her phone to one ear, roaming the house.  Evan was perched on her shoulder.

Not talking to anyone.  Just wanting an excuse to talk to thin air.  To me.

I offered a tiny whistle.  She found me.

“You get any of that?”

“Eavesdropped.  Missed the little stuff.”

“Well,” I said.  “As last-minute defenses go, filling the house with innocents, if that even works for these guys, it’ll slow down a lot of the stuff they could throw at us.”

“It’ll slow us down too,” Alexis said.  “We have more defenses to put up.  But I guess this is better in a way.  No practitioner is going to want to risk cluing these guys into what’s going on in reality, not with the amount of badditude headed our way.”

“We’ve got until dark, then things get messy,” I said.

“Yeah.  What can you tell me, going in?”

“Only that you should watch out for Ellie, Peter, and Roxanne.  Ellie’s a bit crook.  Peter’s a con artist in training, just the type to take that route, smart as he is, and Roxanne’s… toxic.  I can explain more when we have more time.”

“Okay.  I-”

I made a sudden gesture as I saw a shadow behind her.

Peter.

“Hey,” he said.  He smiled.

“Hey,” Alexis said, voice low.

He stepped close, and she backed away a step.

“So,” he said.  “Couldn’t help but notice the symbols on the floor.  There’s a story there.  Are you going to share details, or should I bring it up with my sister and cousins?”

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189 thoughts on “Malfeasance 11.6

  1. “Oh those? Some design of Rose’s grandmother. She felt they were necessary in some way. I think Rose’s Lawyers’d strongly recommend that they not be removed. She was weird like that, to hear Rose tell it.”

    Easy peasy.

    1. Yeah, that sounds like it would work. Except the Thorburns are the type of bastards to pick at anything, and would probably mess is up just to be dicks.

    2. If you keep telling the Thorburns about the lawyers, eventually they’re going to want to meet the lawyers… and that just might count as you cluing them into magical stuff. Perhaps the lawyers should remain on the sideline.

  2. “Ellie, with tattoos far less cool than my own, more a hodgepodge blend of different tattoos that didn’t flow together. The sort of look one picked up if they allowed themselves to be practice for a tattooer friend. A novice tattooer.”

    Sort of like… Blake’s tattoos would look, if he were a real person?

    1. Hey, are you saying Alexis is a novice tattooer? Well Blake might be just a bit biased, I think I understand what Blake is saying. Blake’s tattoos have a theme. Birds and branches. They flow nicely. Ellie’s are just a mess of different unrelated things. It’s like seeing someone who has a panther on their forearm, a gear on their bicep, and Ronald Reagan’s face on their chest. WTF is the theme?

      1. “Isn’t it obvious, my dear Negadarkwing? It would be referring to Reagan’s legendary 1985 speech to the Mechanimals, a group of animal-like aliens implanted with robotic parts! Among the group, the Mechapanthers were the most receptive to his ideals (while the Mechafoxes straight out insulted him), and would form a strong alliance with him that would come in particularly handy for the development of the Star Wars Initiative!”
        This was history class, with professor Abul Sheet.

      2. This seems like such a bad idea on Rose’s part. There’s just way too many things they could do to her without killing her once they have her alone — they were talking about aging Blake into decrepitude, for instance. They don’t even have to use magic directly — with the enchantresses working to cover it up, nothing actually prevents her from suffering some horrible accident that costs her her eyes, or makes her quadriplegic, or things like that.

        1. Man, I think you misunderstood the “dead man’s switch”. It’s not actually activated by death, but she has to take active care of the circle binding Barbatorem. If they take her eyes or her ability to move, the circle degrades and Barbatorem escapes.

          1. Does the enemy actually know that? Rose keeps calling it a “Deadman’s switch” and I don’t believe she’s explained to anyone outside her circle that it’s actually a upkeep process.

        2. Yeah. When Rose said “we’ll give them me” I was anticipating glamour or some other identity fake out (Corvidae tying the sanitarium’s connections with Rose to someone else?). This just seems like a bad idea.

    1. “Tell me I’m wrong,” Rose said. “They alluded to it being suicide. If you think they’re right, that she was the type, and she was in that state, look me in the eyes, tell it to me. I’ll drop the subject of Rose’s death right here and right now.”

      Unless she’s talking about her own death then she should be talking about the subject of Molly’s Death

      1. Script says zero capitalization or quote typos except the above one! Also fun chapter.

        Going to stop mentioning double-space typos unless asked to. I don’t really pay attention to them.

  3. God these people are toxic. Peter is definitely the smartest out of all of the family members not in on the inheritance. I sort of want Blake to go around scaring the shit out of them at every turn in order to gain a little power.

  4. Wow, scaring children… tut-tut-tut. For shame, Blake. For shame.

    And it’s not like Peter’s going to get anywhere in this conversation. Even if he threatens to bring it up with the crook and the spoiled brat.

    1. Seriously, he’s fishing, badly, and all Alexis needs to do is blame them on Rose’s grandmother. Seriously.

      Alexis: “Oh those? Some design of Rose’s grandmother. She felt they were necessary in some way. I think Rose’s Lawyers’d strongly recommend that they not be removed. She was weird like that, to hear Rose tell it.”
      Peter: “Huh, that doesn’t really add up. What about -”
      Alexis: “Eccentric. I don’t really understand it all myself.”

      1. Shoot, she could blame it on Rose. It’s true and they’re already sending her to a mental hospital. Not to mention if they’re still here when night falls, that’s when they wish they had left.

        Because let’s not kid ourselves, innocents or not, they won’t have any problem with storming the place to take Rose’s allies and resources off the map.

        1. Ah, but Rose is to “dead or cracked” as Barbatorem is to “Free to wreak havoc.” That’s the point of the dead man switch. Because in the process of grinding her down Sandra et al. will eventually trip that dead man switch. I guarantee it. Rose would have to be pretty far gone to consider relinquishing the control it gives without a fight, assuming of course that the farther she goes the less belligerent and Conquest-steeped she becomes (a rather big assumption in and of itself).

    2. Wow, scaring children… tut-tut-tut. For shame, Blake. For shame

      No, it’s appropriate. As Monsters Inc taught me so many years ago, a child’s scream is a great power source.

      1. Except only one of them actually tried to hurt said child. Accident on Blake’s part and it leaves an impact, but still for shame. I mean the poor kid saw it coming and panicked only to get glass in his face.

    3. In all honesty Ivy is the only one who didn’t deserve it. Although this will probably end up being another step for Blake towards becoming a horrible inhuman monster who must die for the good of the world.

      1. Poor girl’s going to have nightmares….

        But it also gives him a foothold in the world to keep the Drains from taking him since James and her are going to remember this for at least a few months.

        1. Assuming ‘a lifetime’ is 70 years, they would have to break 70 mirrors to get 7 lifetimes of bad luck. I can see them having broken that much glass so far, but it wasn’t all mirrors…

  5. Yummy! Sweet, sweet chaos. It fills the soul.

    I like getting a more in depth look at the next Practitioner generation of the Thorburns. I hope to see more of them.

    Peter seems pretty quick witted and cool headed. He would make a fine practitioner. It’s a pity (or a blessing depending on your point of view) that the Thorburn power and practice is passed on to the Ladies of the family.

    I didn’t realize that Blake’s recharging himself with fear=regaining spirits. I thought those were two different processes. The more you know

    I wonder how the Non-Practice generation would have turned out if Granny Rose didn’t force herself to keep all of them in the dark. Perhaps, knowing the truth, their hearts wouldn’t be as twisted and corrupted by greed as they currently are. . . Or they might just have been fundamentally the same and a Jacob’s Bell would be a crater.

        1. I thought more along these lines: Blake doesn’t have the Sight, so he can’t see normal spirits. But when he regains his strength by scaring people (or maybe when more cracks form in his human side), new spirits settle in him and are transformed into something he can see, touch and use.

          1. Different people, different rocket launcher. But same intend.

            I was talking about inquisitors. Like the one(s) which were mentioned to reside in Toronto. A cabal with access to all the knowledge of several generations of a rather “successful” diabolist family line, and comprised exclusively by members of said family? They would lay waste upon the Thorburn estate.

            1. As Blake learnt to his chagrin in the factory, heavy firepower is often not the answer when dealing with demons. Bring fire and they hide in the smoke and grow stronger.

              I suspect that those with a background in dealing with diabolists try to avoid the brute force approach. Dead man’s switches are probably common and there are so many ways it could go badly wrong…

    1. Peter seems pretty quick witted and cool headed. He would make a fine practitioner. It’s a pity (or a blessing depending on your point of view) that the Thorburn power and practice is passed on to the Ladies of the family.

      And I just realized that, considering Grandma’s advice on marrying bastards, Rose could marry her cousin.

  6. Oh, poor little Ivy. Scared by a boogeyman.
    Blake should just break more things so Peter can’t keep annoying Alexis. Also Evan should just peck the hell out of his eyes. For fun.

    Also James saw Blake. That was interesting. I wonder how does this whole innocence stuff work?

    1. I think it’s a hybrid of “experience-induced Weirdness Censor” and “Others are really good at staying out of sight.” Adults “know” that this sort of thing isn’t really possible, so they put the idea of, say, a guy’s reflection being the opposite gender out of their heads ASAP. Kids don’t know this stuff, so they have a better chance of remembering this sort of thing. I bet James is going to remember the freaky branch-faced man who exploded the TV in his face for a long time.

    2. It just means that James hasn’t started to filter the world through adult preconceptions quite yet. In some ways, it makes him more vulnerable (the seeing the creepy). In other ways, it probably means he’s even safer — as he can see the creepy, but the creepy can’t outright try to murder him without major repercussions. 🙂

      Of course, considering that you can get fates worse than death… I’m not sure how much of a consolation that should be. 😐

  7. Peter specifically mentioned he would bring up the symbol thing to his cousins and Paige, the younger Thorburn generation. It seems like they might have a separate alliance and plan to screw their parents out of the inheritance, which is reasonable since all the parent seem to suck ass.

    1. He doesnt seem like the type to make an alliance. If he is smarter, he probably looks down on the rest of the family. I think he is curious, wants answers, and will try to use the answers to his advantage.

  8. It’s time to set sail! Now launching, the S.S. PeterXAlexis! What makes this a great ship, is that it opens up a the possibility for a love dohecahedron amongst Blake, Tiff, Alexis, Peter, and Green Eyes (the Blake/Mags ship is holy and shall remain separate).

    1. Hellllll no. That family as a whole is caustic, but outside of Blake (who has other issues) Paige (who is Isadora’s pet), and Molly (who’s dead), you do not want to sail any ship unless you like rough and unforgiving seas.

      In fact, looking at how screwed up their parents are, I’m surprised any of them entertain the notion of having kids again.

      1. Yeah, it says something that Grandma Rose, the Diabolist who used a kid as Barber Bait is still one of the more likable and less assholish Thorburns.

        1. I think the big difference is that Granny Rose had good, or at least understandable reasons for what she did – to protect the Thorburn line against its enemies and possibly to make the world a better place.

          The rest of the Thorburns are nasty pieces of work over a financial inheritance that none of them seem to actually need.

  9. Wheels within wheels… Seriously, the Thorburns could probably go toe to toe with the Harkonnen. 😛 Let’s count the factions…

    Rose & Co. And, Blake. That’s one-and-a-half. ;P
    The Senior Team Thorburn: I’m thinking that there’s a possible three-way split, there, for all they’re almost united for the moment.
    The Junior Team: own agendas? Well, duh. xD Ellie and Peter are a decent unit, at least: classic duo — brains and brawn. Roxanne shows promise as an all-rounder, but doesn’t get me as a natural team player. Ivy is cute but cacophonous: benches. James… probably needs seasoning before he can be a decent faction. Although I think he’s about to get it, somehow. Poor sod.

  10. 1.) You know what, I’m actually terrified of what would happen if their entire family were practitioners. I mean, the 12 year-old is a budding sociopath, which doesn’t speak highly of their parenting skills, and Ellie’s a crook by trade. Could you imagine the unholy terror they would reap if they got their hands on the ability to manipulate connections or demons or augury.

    2.) It’s kinda sad that Peter acknowledges that his mother would choose money over her children, and that Rose can pretty much tell her parents are gaming her when they don’t even know the game being played. Again, this family is fucked up in ways that are too realistic for comfort.

    3.) When Rose called them out on trying to get her sent away, she should have said a little bird told her while holding up Evan. That would have been hilarious, and true since Evan told her what Blake told him.

    1. I am calling that Peter is already awakened (or had his eyes opened otherwise). Or at least soon will be. Or dead.

      Peter, due to his connection to Paige (and i a talking siblings talk and not metaphysical stuff), may have gotten some clues. And Paige may or ay not be awoken and in a sort-of familiar bond by now. Questioning his sister of her recent funny behaviour would end with him either devoured by a Sphinx or awakened. Guess the former didn’t happen.

      Peter seems like a good bet to ally with among the Thorburns. He cannot inherit, and he is more or less non-aligned with the rest of the lot, if not outright sabotaging them.

      But he is dangerous nontheless

          1. We know he did. There was the whole scene in 1.01 (Peter’s “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”, and “What? You thought I’d be on your side?”), and Blake correctly guessed it in 7.09. Paige didn’t outright reply, but she averted her eyes and reacted hurt.

            That first chapter also makes me highly suspicious that no, neither Peter nor any of the other remaining Thorburns are at all suited to being practitioners. Peter is a manipulative bastard, but even in that he couldn’t hold a candle against e.g. the local faerie or Sandra.

            (Incidentally, the first chapter also indicates that Peter and Ellie, at least, won’t backstab one other.)

      1. He was rather quick to accept the thought of our witchhunter duo being a distinct likelihood, even though they were only referred to obliquely. <.<

        I wonder how many clues various Practitioners have left the Peter-Ellie duo to pick up over the years in and around Jacob's Bell that point in the direction of what really goes on… With two sets of eyes, you've got a chance of joining more of the picture up.

        And, I get the impression that both of them might have frequented crowds where clues were available to be gleaned. Besides which, with Ellie's background, Peter would have to be a complete dunce not to spot the evidence of a real terror campaign when he stepped into Hillsglade. 😛 Or think about poking out about how it was being done (if only for pointers).

        1. “would have to be a complete dunce”

          Not at all – remember Maggie’s Histories chapter or the scene when Blake awakened his friends: It was basically impossible to convince Innocents (children and adults alike) that something strange was going on. This wasn’t normal scientific skepticism against the paranormal: even overwhelming evidence was dismissed or given an alternative, nonmagical interpretation.

          Maggie was an exception because she had that incriminating photo, and Blake’s friends likely accepted the awakening only because of their strong (artificial) connection with Blake.

    2. All these Thorburns deserve whatever is coming to them. And all of them would self-destruct within days if they ever became diabolists. Or they’d screw up, take the out offered by the lawyers, and end up giving the demons another foothold on earth.

    3. “3.) When Rose called them out on trying to get her sent away, she should have said a little bird told her while holding up Evan. That would have been hilarious, and true since Evan told her what Blake told him.”

      As funny as that was, she sowed some (more) discord by implying that it was a member of the family who told her. So it seems she’s aknowledging Blake as family.

      1. It’s kind of sad that the main thing Rose and Blake can bond over is their mutual dislike of their extended family. Seriously, both Rose and Blake suffered so much at the hands of their parents and family…

        And there’s also the interesting contrast between how the parents treated Blake (male, can’t inherit) and Rose (firstborn female, can inherit).

        Befriending Alexis & co might have been as healing an influence for Rose as it was for Blake. And at least in this chapter, Rose did call them “friends”.

        1. One had to deal with being unwanted, and the other had to deal with being wanted. Honestly Rose probably had it worse there. I would likely be easier for Blake to get away from the family.

  11. The Thorburns scare me by envisioning how much the family debt will grow if they ever awaken. The only thing that could be worse would be the family debt shrinking due to how they treat each other.

      1. I have serious doubts that the extend of their actions would remain the same if they were to awaken.
        more like:
        Human sacrifice thuesdays,
        Fallout Thursdays,
        Deal with the Devil Saturdays

        “What do we learn from this, boys and girls?” The teacher for applied malfeasence asked.
        “If the devil comes knocking, be sure not to live behind that door.” Came the sing-sang of a dozen cheerful teenage diabolists.

  12. Great scene. I can always tell good writing when there is a dozen characters and I don’t confuse any of them.

    Rose’s father is serial killer wicked. Tugging at Rose’s heartstrings while stabbing her in the back is unforgivable. No wonder Rose is a little messed up.

  13. Blake hates his family too much, it’s unrealistic. He ought to have more sympathy for them. How is it possible that everyone in the family is evil scum except for Rose/Blake? I think Grandma might have built Blake with a few emotional biases he shouldn’t have.

    1. Diabolist genes, a divisive issue hounding them from birth, and possibly of a small leak of bad karma that, despite the protections afforded to innocents, was dribbling into every interaction.

        1. They’re really not. Blake just got fed up and left. He’s trying to be good person primarily because of his friends, by his own admission. Rose is manipulative, just not so openly vile, similar to Paige. I suspect that a contributing factor was that she had no siblings, so nobody to betray her-she ended up a withdrawn loner with no friends and a core of steel.

          1. Good analysis for Rose, but I don’t share your perception of Blake. Blake seems like a genuinely nice guy, he hasn’t done anything mean throughout the story as far as I remember.

            1. You may have noticed how he maimed his fourteen-year-old cousin in this chapter 😛

              But seriously, yeah, Blake’s a good person. He’s good because he tries to be good, and he tries to be good because he was broken down and put back together by good people. See his conversation with Andy back in arc 3-I suspect that Blake before running away wasn’t so nice, in his memories.

            2. To be fair, Blake isn’t real. I suspect his grandmother could have pieced together nearly any set of personality traits for him that she liked. He probably isn’t, truly, a product of his upbringing.

          1. Someone who cared about Rose and nothing else would have been a good bodyguard. Someone altruistic would be a liability to Rose.

            I’m starting to think Grandma might not have done very much detail work in creating Blake. Maybe she got someone else to do it, or she used a very imprecise process like taking someone else as a template.

            1. Remember that Blake was created after Rose Senior’s death. He came into existence in the visions scene in chapter 1-1 right when (or very shortly after) Molly died, weeks or months after Rose Senior’s passing.

              So besides the fact that Blake was likely based on a real person, much of the remaining detailed work on Blake might have been that of the lawyers, rather than Rose Senior’s.

            2. Blake wasn’t so much a bodyguard as a clay pigeon/decoy, I think. He’d go out and draw fire so Rose could learn from his fights and read up. A bit of sloppiness could have been intended.

            3. Well, admittedly I don’t think bodyguard was a good word choice. He’s active by nature, according to Rose, so maybe he’s more like a soldier, meant to go around and destroy as many as Rose’s enemies before he dies and Rose replaces him. Someone altruistic actually accomplishes that well considering most practitioners in Jacob’s Bell are assholes and he wants to protect his family from them, also to keep everyone away from the demons so the world in general is better.

              But yeah, I agree with you that I don’t think Grandma Rose programmed every single trait Blake has into him. Using someone else as a template seems likely considering we have no idea where Blake’s friends came from.

    2. If Rose is a terrible person just like everyone else in the family, that resolves the above. It also would explain why Grandma put Molly on the list ahead of Rose, it would make sense to pin hopes on a good person with little capability if the alternatives were worse.

      Where did Grandma go wrong in raising her kids, I wonder?

      1. I really wish we had an edit button.

        Just remembered that Grandma was a bad person too, according to Blake (very weird that Grandma would create Blake with dislike for her, however). Given that Grandma wasn’t nice, it’s odd she would prioritize the least evil members of the family when deciding who gets the property, it seems like if Grandma was bad then she wouldn’t care about the morality of her successor. Personal grudges might have been involved, I guess, but that seems petty and doesn’t really fit with what we’ve seen, and the property is hardly a reward.

        1. Another question lol, why are all Thorburn heirs girls?

          Overall, I really think there is a ton of family history that has gone unexplained. I think that we will be seeing a few wham surprises coming from this history in future chapters.

            1. They already mentioned how that worked though. If they ever have a male child, it is likely they will lose their power.

            2. “Thorburn” is an old Norse name. I think that traditionally in Norse mythology magic was a woman’s practice (Odin and Loki are exceptions). Could be a leftover from that.

          1. I think they’re all girls for the reason Rose Sr. outlined in her letter — it creates a sense of continuity. The more the heir resembles their ancestors, the more of a claim they have to the accumulated respect among spirits and Others that their predecessors accrued. Hence why Others might call them by those names.

        2. I think that she’s setting it up in terms of threes. Assuming Rose’s list from chapter 2 was accurate, after Rose (the third heir) it’s Kathy, Ellie, and Roxanne-putting the twelve-year-old creepy kid after the adult heirs is throwing the town a curveball, and it’s a second iteration of three, so Roxanne has her chance to succeed on her own. After that, it’s Ivy and Paige, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she hadn’t put another vestige in there to make Paige heir number nine.

        3. Pretty sure she set it up to give the heirs a chance of success, rather than ranking them favorite to least favorite – being early to inherit likely to keep the inheritance. In fact, she probably put Molly first as a sort of virgin sacrifice to power whatever voodoo made Blake, since she was less-than-likely to survive and one of the purer members of the family.

      2. There’s the fact that she probably wasn’t fit to be a mother.

        Remember, her own was distant from her to protect her from the backlash and as non-practitioners she couldn’t explain it to her children why she was doing the same. In Amon’s chapter we learned she was incredibly awkward in dealing with her own child and she offered him up as demon bait. We haven’t seen Charlie, but chances are he’s straight-up insane since he had to deal with Roselyn when she didn’t have a clue what she was doing parental-wise.

        Her children weren’t essential to whatever her master plan was, only her grandchildren, and her family was hated, bringing them up in an environment where they had become shrew to survive and this in turn seemed to have spurred the adults into bad habits, like spoiling their kids rather than leaving them distant like Rose, marrying people who clearly aren’t idea partners, and being bastards in general. When you add that up to include the idea of bad karma, you realize that they had the odds stacked against them.

        The difference is that Paige and Molly seemed to try and get out, with Paige straight up leaving for another city and school, while Molly wanted out.

        1. The bad karma is a mitigating factor, but as you point out, it doesn’t absolve them of all responsibility. After all, some Thorburns (Molly, Paige, Rose/Blake) managed to turn out okay. Comparatively speaking.

          (I’m definitely including Rose in that list because she’s come this far without ever using a demon. If we ignore the dead man’s switch for now, which she may have partly set up to protect her friends.)

          1. How does dead man’s switch protect her friends? I thought it put them in more danger, she is untargetable so her friends must be targeted instead to coerce her.

            1. Because the alternative is that the house just gets stormed, burned down, and everyone is killed. Without the demon as a last line of defense, the story would have been over the moment the demesne protections went down. Without diabolism and these defenses, Rose & co just can’t compete against a full-scale assault.

              As-is, Rose’s enemies have to worry that if they hurt her or her friends too much, they will most likely die for it. Now they have to perform a kind of balancing act, testing the waters to see just what they can get away with. At the very least, it limits the scale of their response.

              Or to reverse the question, how else was Rose supposed to protect her friends after Blake awakened them? Many outsiders considered them her “cabal” from the beginning, and cabals get put down along with the diabolist in charge. How could she have kept them safe? Even if they’d stayed out of the fight for Lordship, that would’ve just postponed their demise for a few weeks or months, without giving them any chance to affect the outcome.

            2. “As-is, Rose’s enemies have to worry that if they hurt her or her friends too much, they will most likely die for it. ”

              Actually since it’s the Barber, death would be a preferable outcome.

      3. “Where did Grandma go wrong in raising her kids, I wonder?”

        Well there was that time she stuck her infant first born on a heap of festering boar carcasses as bait… And all the Diabolism… Serously, don’t forget about demonic radiation. And then there is the petty and the mundane. Families have gotten this rotten and ugly in real life, even without a tens of millions of dollars inheritance on the line. With it, you can get downright murderous.

      4. From what I’ve seen, Grandma Rose pretty intentionally created an atmosphere where the next generations grew up as conniving bastards, since they’d make for better practitioners. They needed all the practice they could get before they got the wolves sicced on them.

        1. The downside of that plan is that it made several them complete bastards, who aren’t exactly going to do much to fix the family Karma, and really shouldn’t have access to demons.

    3. Gradma Rose’s advice is to marry a complete bastard. The kids become little bastards and grow up to marry greedy/vindictive/cunning people. The cycle continues.

      If you family deals with devils and demons, its probably better if you grow up in that type of environment. Because if you are willing to screw your family over, imagine what you are willing to do strangers that are openly hostile.

    4. I completely disagree. Imagine growing up in that atmosphere of constant distrust and backstabbing. If anything, it’s surprising Blake doesn’t hate them more than this: “because even if I dislike my cousins, I don’t want them to have to face this situation and get killed off.” (1.07)

      1. An atmosphere of constant distrust and backstabbing could be good. Ben mentioned how practitioners tell the truth but still try to deceive.

        When Blake made the contract with Pauz, Pauz was just waiting for Blake to make a mistake with the wording.

        1. Yup yup. And being pathological backstabbers without any experience at practicing honesty (in fact, probably the opposite) is going to get them very quickly killed if they become practitioners.

          1. Practicioning was never about being honest,it always was about tricking people who know you are telling the truth into trusting yu be technically not telling lies 😛

            Seriously,name one honest practicioner.Even the ones who are morehonest by nature,like Blake,Blake’s friends and Isadora,HAVE to rely on being dishonest by telling the truth,just like everyone else.

  14. I love Peter’s characterization here. He might not have the Thorburn legacy, but his mind (i.e. raw intelligence + perception + acceptance of uncomfortable truths + manipulation) makes him potentially quite dangerous enough in his own right. There’s no way he’s not going to figure out the masquerade here and at some point make the choice to become a practitioner. The only question is who is going pay the karmic debt of cluing him in return for gaining a powerful (if somewhat untrustworthy) ally. And I suspect that the karmic debt actually won’t be that bad if he has mostly figured out everything by himself already. Blake doesn’t like him (with good reason), but he has the potential to make a great ally (if he doesn’t cause everything to go down in flames first). He reminds me a bit of Tattletale, actually.

        1. Not if he simply lets the pen and paper into his world, writes the message, then slams it against the mirror to get the mundanes’ attention. (Not, I might add, strongly enough to break said mirror. Just enough to get their attention)

    1. I liked Peter’s character. Hope he sticks around for awhile.

      Why does Blake hate him though? He did screw Paige over (he unwillingly did her a favor). Perhaps it was retaliation for something Paige did or said. Blake is under the impression that Paige was a better than the others, but in this reality Paige and Rose were never friends. Blake’s opinion is also based on hearsay/2nd hand knowledge from Paige who is biased.

      Did Peter grow up in Jacob’s Bell? Because if he did, I dont blame him for using his intelligence and cunning to lash out against people that got in his way. Everyone in town hates the Thorburns. I wouldnt blame him for retaliations.

      There is just something about wearing the same clothes because they had sentimental value that makes me think he isnt that bad.

      then again Blake called him a con man in training.

    2. On the other hand, one good jedi mind trick….

      ‘Alexis looked up at him, her face confused, and moved past him as though on her way to look for herself. Opposite him, her hand described an arc, as though scattering something across the line between Peter and the symboled floor, and her finger glistened red from a fresh-torn scab.

      “What symbols?” she asked him.’

  15. Hopefully the library door was closed before this happened. That room needs to stay hidden and secure.

    I wonder what the chances are that the Thorburn family are going to ignore the locked attic door. I would guess just about zero. Now, are any of them impetuous, willfully resistant to good advice, or malicious enough to open it, lock or not? Who gets Barbatorem in their eyes?

    1. The unawakened can’t see demons, therefore no demon in the eye. At least, from what I’ve seen so far. Good thing, too, or demons would be much scarier than they already are (don’t look anyone in the eyes, not anyone)
      They could still mess with the binding circle, which would be bad, but I think enough power has been invested in it that the universe wouldn’t want someone erasing it with no power behind their actions.

  16. Okay, this will sound crazy, but what if Rose wants a couple of the other Thorburns to become Practitioners.

    It could be a way to use the Conquest power. Maybe as head of the family (heir), she can use Conquest’s power to force the Thorburns to her will. Every time one tries to get out of line, she uses the power.

    1. Hmm, how are the liabilities if they stumble upon magic themselfs? If there was no-one to “introduce” them to that world, but the found it themselfs, their faults are their own, or not?

      Also, if the stumble upon magic and more or less “force” you to tell them, how does that count? I would recon including a liability phrasing like:
      “Not by my own volitation, but by your own request, I introduce you to this world. Be your faults none but your own. You have been warned.”

        1. I bet if it’s something really blatant like, “Look, dude: I know you do this magic stuff because I’ve joined the dots. I want in and I’m not going to listen to a no: tell me how.”, then the practitioner is pretty much off the hook. 🙂

          After all, most Innocents will go out on a limb to not be interested or just plain not believe. Those who do get very interested rather easily probably had “Practitioner” stamped on their metaphysical genes from day one. 😛

          1. Not likely. The spirits are pretty general in terms of things. If they left the door to the library open, which isn’t likely given that Rose knows that Ellie is a thief, then she’d be responsible for introducing them.

            And no reasonable person is going to teach people like them the practice, because they’d abuse it and add to bad karma

            1. But what if, say, an Other sent by Johannes sabotaged the library door? Who would take the blame then? (All that said, it would be suicidal of anyone to add more diabolists into the fray…) Still the Thorburn heir, owner of the books?

              That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rose stationed her Others inside the library. Protecting it is of the utmost importance, after all.

          2. Wasn’t that how Fell, or someone in his line, got in? They grabbed a book and from that moment on it was inevitable — they were going to read it, figure everything out, and demand an in.

  17. overplayed the danger thing to the point it sounded false. should have left it at the molly bit. the contract killer bit sounded silly.
    undermined whatever else. knowing when not to speak is a skill practitioners should learn early.


    if expanding on it was needed could more legitimately talk about how the town harassed molly, made her feel isolated. wouldn’t let her sleep, liard messing with the investigation, knowing he had something to do with an order to lure her into the woods and hurt her badly. being openly threatened by the big families with local power ect. standing to gain significantly with them gone and not wiling to delay for the waiting period…
    they know they’re working with them to railroad rose, they’d be terrible at what they do not to consider they’d do the same to them

      1. Yeah I’ve heard. Honestly I don’t even know if she’s still wearing that scarf. Has it been mentioned since she got her desmesne?

        1. Mags doesn’t have a demesne. She altered a demesne ritual to give her a metaphorical place to fit in the world, not a physical one.

  18. Rose was awesome this chapter. And you do a great job of making the extended Thorburn family seem worse than even the Jacob’s Bell practitioners…

    Comments:

    1. Wow, this situation looks amazingly bleak again. I don’t particularly like Rose’s plan, but I don’t really see what else they are supposed to do, either.

    2. Actually, I do have one idea: If Rose still has a favor available from the lawyers, it might have been worth it to restore the house’s demesne protections, or to help her claim the house as her own demesne. Though not if Jeremy could still disable them so easily. The price she’d have to pay for the favor would be high (e.g. what if she had to do her errand for the diabolists while the war was still going on?), but she needs the defenses. Without them, things will just get worse, and she’ll end up having to ask for the favor in far less favorable circumstances.

    3. Great lines: “You’re my relative. You’re far from being my family,” and “I got this. Give me a second. ‘This is exactly why we’re trumping up charges against you. You’re just a little too clever right now, and we don’t want you outplaying us in terms of the inheritance.’ How’s that?” and “Six adults and seven children who were so versed in the lies and deception that they could all manage to avoid reacting in surprise.” and “This is that paranoia thing again, isn’t it?”“Idiot, she’s not really paranoid. If she says my life’s in danger, I’m listening to her.”

    4. Incidentally, Rose’s words about family mirror Blake’s from 1.07: “Above all, I think I’m doing this for my real family. For the friends I made who gave me support when I needed it most, so I can demonstrate what they taught me.”

    5. Poor Rose. If you reverse every statement by her dad in the vision of 9.05, the result is not good. And with the benefit of hindsight, Blake’s interpretation “Rose has a better relationship with her parents than I did? Good for her.” makes no sense, anyway. How could “his” parents possibly have been different form “hers”?

    6. Innocents: I had kind of thought Innocents wouldn’t see Others, but now I understand how things actually work. Also, Blake wounding an Innocent like James and accidentally drawing his blood… that can’t be good. And inviting Innocents into the house as protection was an interesting idea, but dealing with Peter will be a pain. Peter may well threaten to destroy the symbols and stuff if he’s not told the truth. Oh, and Rose’s Others are somewhere in the house…

    7. “You read that contract backwards and forwards. If there’s a problem and it’s judged to be malfeasance on our part, the property goes to the lawyers, not any of us.” – Why would the contract include such an insanely dangerous line? Also, “malfeasance” is the title of the arc. Ominous.

    8. “Rose was trying to convince us to be nice to you and not force you out” – That line made no sense to me whatsoever. With which right could Peter possibly force anyone out of that house? Even if one considered Alexis & co “freeloaders”, the owner of the house allowed them to stay there. Peter & co are just temporary guests, and could easily be thrown out.

    9. I must say, I’m going to be mad if our protagonists screw up to the extent of allowing any other Thorburns access to the library, or to Barbatorem. It would be bad enough if Ellie stole some kind of practitioner book lying around and Rose & co had to shoulder the resulting karma hit.

    10. When the dead man’s switch first came up, several commenters thought Rose would quickly break under pressure. I didn’t understand those at all, given how she reacted around Conquest.

    1. Re #5: Rose was at least valuable in her parents eyes (as a potential heir). Blake wasn’t. So, whether the relationship was actually better, the parents at least took better care of Rose than they did of Blake. That may be what that sentence means.

      Re #7: Ultimately the lawyers want footholds in the world. From what we have seen, that means either areas that are theirs by right or practitioners who work towards the lawyers’ aims. Since we assume RDT was actually smart, that means the malfeasance clause is in the contract because RDT got a huge concession in return. The creation of Blake was apparently a deal with Barbatorem rather than with the lawyers, so the question of what the concession was is an open question (in my mind).

      Re #8: Collusion/manipulation of the local legal authorities would be enough to throw Blake’s friends out, at least temporarily. Guess who has that? Also, the Thorburns can just make life completely miserable for Blake’s friends to “encourage” them to leave.

      Re #9: Yeah, I had that thought way back. We know from RDT’s history that an unawakened practicing a ritual can be hurt in ways that true innocents cannot. That probably includes hurting others also by weakening seals – what happens if the idiots get in the attic? So if the Thorburns notice those “missing” dimensions on the second floor or (easier) notice the locked attic, various sorts of literal hell are likely. The library is well-protected as long as the Thorburns never find the key or see it open, but the existence of a locked attic door is obvious.

      1. Re #5: I simply meant that Blake’s parents were dicks, Rose’s parents are Blake’s parents, and ergo, Rose’s parents were also dicks. Or, to put it differently: Blake’s/Rose’s parents only cared about the inheritance. Once Rose made it clear that she wouldn’t share, she became just another obstacle to them.

        Re #7: Yes, I’m very curious about the foothold thing. That said, I think the lawyers promised to play (comparatively) fair. That said, Ms. Lewis proved that they love their word games, too…
        On a related note, while the foothold needn’t be property, I think the lawyers themselves aren’t footholds. From 2.04: “A room, a house, a pen, a sword, a companion.” – Besides the Thorburn house, that could also include the Hyena or Blake if a part of Ur remained in them (remember Blake’s nightmare). Or Blake’s original, if he turns out to be Barbatorem’s demonspawn. Maybe Rose Senior offered one of her companions up, e.g. her husband, Blake’s supposed grandfather.

        (And to go one step further into the territory of crackpot speculation, note that “Ur” appears in “Thorburn”.)

  19. This was a wonderful chapter.

    I really love the Thorburn family as characters. Amazing manipulative bastards. If they ever do awaken, Jacob’s Bell is fucked when it’s going up against these guys.

    1. No way. They’re a bunch of backstabbers, and the only reason they can be remotely effective as a group is that they have a common goal. Once the money issue is settled one way or another, they’ll fight among themselves again. Or go their separate ways, or something.

      And most of their manipulation wouldn’t work on practitioners or Others anyway, given the Thorburn reputation and karma.

      1. Yeah, the other families are atleast families instead of a pack of mutual parasites.

        Though I actually sympathise with Ellie a bit, because a. She’s what Blake could have ended up like, easily, and b. She’s probably a huge negativity gopher for the rest of the family, the one who everyone treats as the bad egg to shift it away from themselves.

  20. “I should be able to flip the bird to people,” Evan said. My head snapped around to look at him. He continued, “It’s called flipping the bird, so why can’t a flippin’ bird give someone the finger?”
    Evan, Evan, Evan…

    “It’s a little funny,” Peter said.

    Peter grinned. “Your uncle does take some getting used to. I know I’m still working on it, after nineteen years.”

    “Eh,” Peter said, shrugging. “If it comes down to the money or us, mom’ll take the money.”

    “I believe you,” Peter said.

    “So,” he said. “Couldn’t help but notice the
    symbols on the floor…”
    I like Peter.
    Mind, his descriptive paragraph makes him sound like a certain Hegemon in his younger years, but he at least has a sense of humor about the twisted game his relatives play. He sounds somewhat like a manipulative bastard, but he’s coming off as being against the kind of tricks that the family plays on each other. Honesty’s good in my book.

    “This is ridiculous,” Callan said. “This isn’t an action movie.”
    I think it would be categorized under “Fantasy” or “Horror”.

    Interesting development. I wonder if the Thorburn Circle is going to get a new Thorburn?

    1. I think we should take Peter’s comments as less honesty and more just trying to piss off his relatives. Totally seconding that I like Peter.

      1. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s Peter reminding me too much of the other Peter, but he doesn’t strike me as the type to piss off people with power over him by saying things he doesn’t even agree with.

        1. I think he agrees with them, but it’s a matter of intent–he’s not saying them because he’s the persecuted minority speaking the truth or anything, he’s saying them because he knows that to be reminded of their own and numerous faults rankles the family.

          1. Again, Peter doesn’t strike me as the type of person to annoy people by saying something he doesn’t even believe in. Emphasis added in hopes of making my point clear this time.

  21. Why Rose didn’t consulted lawyers or demanded to see therapist first, ? You really can’t put away someone in mental institution just like that. :<

    1. Duncan and Sandra tweaked a lot of things to make this acceptable from an exterior point of view.
      The orderlies were probably informed that she was aggressive and could hurt whoever tried to examine her. It’s a local hospital, so the staff is also naturally biased against the crazy Thorburn girl.

      “Better get her sedated and bound before checking if the suspected diagnosis is sound.”

      1. And anyway, laws are meaningless without anyone to enforce them. The local police are colluding against Rose, or are at least kept from meddling. There are no innocents Rose could call for help who wouldn’t be diverted by Sandra. And so on.

        On the other hand, from this perspective, the presence or absence of the Thorburn family was irrelevant: Sandra, Alister & Johannes could have just appeared in front of Rose’s doorstep and told her to go with them, or else.

        All that said, I’d also have expected Rose to display way more resistance towards being removed from the house. Though it would likely have proved futile, couldn’t it at least have delayed things?

        1. Putting up a fight would have ended with her tased or some other counter-measure. Her plan is pretty simple as things go, rather than some convoluted mess that can spiral out of control. The longer I stay, the longer you have a demon that can enter into demenses and capable of inflicting body horrors that can’t be fixed on everyone. The barber can’t go into normal households, so it’s prey ends up being the practitioners alone, and given it can move like Blake can through reflections, they’re pretty much boned.

        2. As for why they didn’t just show up personally, I assume that doing it this way is better Karma — this establishes a narrative along the lines of “Rose is insane and had to be hauled off”, which makes them look a lot better than “the biggest local powers appeared at Rose’s doorstep and personally strongarmed her into taking them away.”

          Additionally, it’s not at all certain that they could beat her, even all together, and it would be a huge risk — Rose is a diabolist. If all three of them arrive at her doorstep all at once and force a confrontation, she could decide it’s worth using a demon to take them all out at once, and she might suffer less backlash than usual because they were the ones who came to her house and attacked her personally. She can’t do that with innocents. That’s also, I assume, why almost all the attacks so far have been indirect or through intermediaries.

  22. Haha, WOW. I knew Blake’s family was shit, but DAMN.

    I mean, as screwed up as the Behaims or Duchamps seem from our outside perspective, atleast we’ve seen some capable of non-toxic relationships. These people becoming practitioners would be the worst fucking thing.

    I can see why people would hate them and want to get rid of them, I would too. But unfortunately that trickled down to Blake.

    And Rose I suppose.

  23. All the Thorburn family dysfunction in this chapter is deliciously horrible. Manipulative schemers going head-to-head is one of those things I like in fiction.

    I have to admit to being a little put off by the description of their Aunt Steph as ‘living off unfair disability allowence’, though. Having met more than a few good people coming from bad situations, who were living off government money because they truly had no other options despite their efforts, and seeing them still get a huge amount of totally undeserved scorn and contempt may have colored my opinions a bit.

    I know that there are people who genuinely do take advantage of the system, thus screwing over those who actually need it, but statistically there are a lot less than the common stereotype would have us believe. There’s this whole really gross idea that poor people are just somehow morally less that I don’t think should be perpetuated.

    So, yeah. I know that’s not probably what Wildbow was going for, here. It’s just that after years of seeing the whole ‘teh evil welfare queenz r ruining everything’ scare tactic get trotted out every time my country has a presidential election, I automatically cringe when I see that.

    1. Interesting point. It is quite possibly an observation that tells us more about the observer than the observed. Note that Blake assumes Aunt Steph’s welfare is unneeded rather than actually knowing it. And Blake is the sort of person who left home and lived on the streets rather than stay with his family. Either he couldn’t get welfare himself or he was too stubborn to ask for it. Either way, that’s almost certainly colouring his perceptions of Aunt Steph.

      Plus there’s always the filter of the Thorburn karma…

  24. Another thought that continues to throw me for a loop is that Grandpappy Thorburn apparently doesn’t exist. He is never mentioned and Grandma had no pictures of him. That means that either the Thorburns are all Aimon’s bastard grandchildren as well or he’s been erased. Given that the Barber is noted to have erased people from others memories, its likely that Grandpa is actually one of granny’s failsafes.

    1. We’re assuming she didn’t sacrifice him or one of her family’s enemies screwed him over. There’s always a chance he just left because he couldn’t put up with the callousness of the situation. Hence why she says to marry a bastard.

    2. Another way for people to disappear is for them to join the Lawyers (it’s noted that your impact on the world vanishes when you do.)

      Rose reacted with absolute horror the first time she saw the lawyers, and was stunned into silence for most of their introduction chapter. Initially we were meant to assume that this was because she saw something as they entered, but I don’t think that that’s the case anymore — I think something about them horrified her; either she recognized one of their identities, or she was horrified because they were the ones who gave her her initial debriefing and therefore know the truth about her and Blake.

      If you reread that section, she asks a lot of questions that, in retrospect, seem like they’re trying to guide the conversation away from dangerous topics — at one point Blake expresses annoyance that he was trying to follow a line of thought about something that bugged him in what they said, and Rose kept changing the subject, derailing his focus.

      However, a much more mundane answer is that he died young, probably before Blake’s generation was born, and Rose Sr. never spoke about him because he was ass-deep in Practitioner stuff and therefore couldn’t really be discussed safely. It’s not like she actually seems to have spoken much to her family anyway (in retrospect, of course, she was protecting them from her bad karma, and protecting herself from accidentally breaking her oath by revealing something. Although she also implicitly conceded to Blake that she did in fact dislike most of them, since she didn’t deny his accusation that she enjoyed seeing them scrabble for the inheritance.)

      (And if one of the Lawyers is going to be a historical character, the most obvious choice would be Ms. Lewis, since she’s been the most developed. She can’t be Grandma Rose, because the lawyers said she didn’t take their deal, but perhaps the Great-Grandma Thorburn? This would explain why she’s so friendly to Blake and Rose. The only problem is that as far as we know, if she’d accepted that deal it should have discharged the family debt.)

      1. IIRC the explanation for why Rose seemed horrified was that she had just learned she had the Thorburn Voice. But yes, assuming she was really unawakened or Innocent (I can’t see how she’d have summoned things or had the Voice, but okay), she may have seen through the lawyers, too.

        Incidentally, that she’d gotten her debriefing there is possible, but not that likely:

        “You took your time,” I said.
        “We were [prompt]. But if it helps, we can start the timer from the moment we made eye contact.” […]
        “Twenty nine minutes and forty seconds left on the clock.”

        So Rose had less than 20s alone with them, and given all the dialogue before that line, quite possibly zero.

        All that said, Rose could have called the lawyers at some point in Toronto without Blake’s knowledge, I guess.

      2. Here are some possibilities:

        • Ms. Lewis was genuinely nice: maybe she had recently been promoted to partner status (as she described, recruits who work well enough get named early and free the previous practitioner from their plight) and still had some human compassion/empathy left.

        • Just another way to get hooks into prospective recruits. Working under senior members who can be nice is more enticing than working for complete monsters. Honey’s better than vinegar even for diabolists.

        • Wildbow will eventually happen (or has been happening all along) and this is meaningful for other reasons.

    3. Good catch. I can’t believe no-one, in-story or out-of-story, hadn’t brought that up before. Was he Ur’ed?

      Although the “grandpa is Aimon” is just creepy enough to fit in also. But the Thorburns don’t have the Behaim blocky looks.

  25. Anyone else looking at the male Thorburns for more vestiges? James is one potential vestige, given he is apparently tuned into the spirit world, as is Peter given how already practitioner-y he seems. Though I suppose the older generation must have had some male children…
    It would be a neat trick, having Paige and Peter tag-team. They both seem like they’d make for fantastic practitioners, even if Paige is a Sphinx-toy atm.

  26. in the event of malfeasance the property goes to the lawyers, not any of us.” – WHAT THE HELL ROSE SR?!
    thats insane considering who and what the lawyers are and represent.

    I can see a “fuck all the bastards” revenge clause giving it to lawyers in the event of no surviving heirs but allowing a property that large to be a foothold for demons because the house went unpainted is insane.

    1. Well, Granny Rose had to exchange something for the goodwill of the lawyers. Maybe including that clause is one of the concessions for having their help. The lawyers do after all have their own agenda here; they aren’t allies of the Thorburns in the way, say, the Blakeguard are.

  27. Hey, given that some of the Thorburns here seemed to have some inkling what was up, I remembered that Blake wrote a letter or testament or something to warn future heirs if he passed away. Does anyone recall in which chapter he does that, and what was in it? I just couldn’t find it.

      1. Thanks. I only searched arcs 6 and 7; no wonder I didn’t find the letter there.

        If we can assume that its existence wasn’t erased along with Blake, then I highly suspect one of the Thorburns in this chapter found or received that letter.

        Where might Blake have put it? He wrote it (and presumably deposited it) back when the house was still trapped by Laird, so it wouldn’t have been in the house. Maybe he left it in his apartment in Toronto? Do we know? And if he did leave it in that apartment, someone must have found it before Blake was erased. Otherwise there should have been no connection whatsoever between the Thorburns and the apartment.

        (Peter may be from Toronto.)

        Oooh, and Corvidae could have set up some shenanigans with the letter, guiding it to an unintended target. We do know he was trying to sabotage Rose & co. And this connection would likely have been strong enough to keep it from being erased along with Blake.

        1. Renember what happened to the records of the local witch hunters. Every record of Blake “happened” to disappear by a “natural” cause. The universe twisted to cover up the loss.

          I didn’t factor the letter in when I called Peter to be soon or already awakened. It would be one possiblity that he found it or it found its way into his hands, by magical shenanigans of course. Whom this would benefit I could only wildly speculate. The sphinx?

          1. The Sphinx is clearly anti-diabolism, and she was not amused when Blake formed his “cabal”. In fact, she extracted the promise from Blake that he’d never teach his “cabal” diabolism. And she even took in Paige to remove one potential Thorburn heir in a non-lethal way. All that taken together should remove her as a possible culprit.

            Good point on the missing witch hunter records. More generally, I’d assume that only connection manipulators (e.g. Corvidae, Sandra) could have kept the letter anchored in reality once Blake was erased. If someone read the letter before that, they might well have forgotten its contents afterwards.

        2. I dunno: Peter’s savvy could just be “growing up around weirdness that doesn’t hide itself as well as it thinks it does — as blood-kin to those hip-deep in it”, rather than any specific Big Clue. <.<

          After all, Maggie got into magic thanks to a troll attack: that was magic hardly bothering to hide, thanks to the reliance on the Weirdness Sensor most people have. 😛 Yes, most of Innocents who survived never twigged and made excuses. But, Maggie did not — and, not just because the Troll Lady butted in. Even without the two interventions, I doubt she'd've stopped digging into what happened.

          Think of how somebody from a powerful line of practitioners might be wired to easily fall into magic… and, it makes sense that some won't use the protective filters as well most. 😐

  28. If only Rose had use one of those bag-clips. Then she could have thrice-bound the cheese puffs, preserving their crispy freshness until she returned.

    1. I think, considering Blake’s opinion of using his powers to help clean up, that spirits don’t really like being used for such menial tasks. I wouldn’t be surprised if in doing so, the spirits tainted the cheese puffs with mold or something.

  29. I know Blake doesn’t like his family, but he doesn’t need to be so damn petty about it.

    Ellie has tattoos “far less cool” than your own? Come on, grow up.

    1. And you don’t judge people by their appearance? Really? Didn’t you refer to Sandra Duchamp as a “PTA bitch” several times?

      1. Reveen, when I first read that, I thought you were criticising yourself. I’ve seen that on other discussion forums before, and was amused. Then I noticed I was wrong =(.

        Concerning Blake: to be fair to him, prejudice isn’t that bad if formed against people whom you already dislike for more legitimate reasons. Ellie is already thinking about stealing etc. And Blake certainly has no reason to like Sandra.

        1. I know but talking shit about her tattoos? Saying she looks like a weasel? That’s just childish, man. It makes me wish he’d say it to their faces so he can get slapped in the mouth.

          After they stop screaming because of the scary-ass mirror man of course.

          1. Considering Ellie’s track record and apparent personality, the weasel comparison seems exceedingly apt (since the insult indicates dishonesty), even disregarding any potential similarities in looks.

            And this is not a family that insults each other to their faces. It’s the creepy, scheming kind.

            I read the tattoo thing mostly as Blake taking pride in his own.

            Oh, and as a more general point, whether it’s his sense of aesthetics or his personality or indicative of whatever entity he actually is, Blake has previously made a point of criticizing things he didn’t consider them put well together.

            Most recently, from 11.03:

            It bothered me on a fundamental level, seeing people take poor care of what they had. There were a lot of things like that that I saw from time to time. Why build a family if they were going to be lazy about it? Why get a car if they were going to let it fill up with bags from fast food places and let stuff clutter the floor of the vehicle?
            […]
            This… where was the focus?
            What, if anything, was the occupant’s pride and joy, here?

            1. “It bothered me on a fundamental level, seeing people take poor care of what they had. There were a lot of things like that that I saw from time to time. Why build a family if they were going to be lazy about it? Why get a car if they were going to let it fill up with bags from fast food places and let stuff clutter the floor of the vehicle?”

              You know that’s very interesting. Why? Because it means he dislikes seeing things fall into ruin.

  30. Soooo….I,too like Peter as an antagonist,but,most importantly ,I think I nticed something peculiar.Wish I had been here in the past to post it,to hear unbiased opinions,but still….I treat the story as if its written at the time I read.

    So….Based on Blake’s dream,he was created right after Molly died,after what we thought was a first chapter timeskip…but then,what about the events shown before the time skip?They somehow seem to vivid to be implanted memories….and I mean his memories about his discussion with his grandma,the rest could be self insert,as he didn’t play much of a role.

    So,on a hunch,I looked at it and I discovered that RDT held a cup of tea (no plate mentioned)and that she gave it to her nurse,which was on her left,to refill it,implying she was left handed,or did a lot of aknward moves just so she didn’t have both the lawyer and the nurse on the right side.Her nurse,later,checks her hand for pulse,which is implied to be her left hand for the same reasons.

    On the rest of the story,there is a conspicious absence of mention of which hand she us…ok,I am grasping at straws,but I rarely make a theory,usually the stories are either crystal clear to me to the point i can predict everything,or not clear at all,if they are good.

    Point is,if Blake was RDT’s reflection it would explain a lot….the distrust,the dislike,Rose saying she is 10 times a bigger bitch than her grandma,His conversation with his grandma (it was with himself…)and grandma’s reactions…..of course,othe things would be complicted,like his friends and the tattoos….hmmm….damn that story is hard to see though.

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