Malfeasance 11.7

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“Symbols,” Alexis said.  Buying time to think.

“Symbols you went out of your way to hide,” he said.  “You really should sweep more, if you’re strategically redecorating.  There’s very blocky spaces on the floor where dust hasn’t settled, which means books or boxes were moved very recently.  It’s really obvious if you look at it from the right angle, where the sun comes in through the window and reflects off the floor.”

“So you looked and you saw the markings on the floor.”

“Yeah,” he said.  “It’s recent, probably, since they weren’t around when I was here for my grandmother’s death.”

He let that hang in the air, as if he was trying to make a point.  It’s your turn to talk, not mine.

It was obvious enough what he wanted her to talk about.

Alexis leaned over to look into the living room, where Kathryn, Callan and Roxanne were watching TV.

“Hmm,” Peter said.  “It’s a secret?  Something you don’t want them to hear about?”

Alexis didn’t answer the question.  Couldn’t.  “I’m wondering why you didn’t tell them before you came to me.”

He shrugged.

Putting the ball right back in her court.

I could have broken a window, but I didn’t like just how small a number of reflective surfaces we had nearby.  What happened when I effectively removed all the workable area inside Hillsglade House?  I’d effectively lock myself out.

I wasn’t sure Rose would go to the effort of buying mirrors just to give me some room, not when she wasn’t all that keen on me.

“It’s complicated,” Alexis said.

“I’m not surprised,” he replied.  “Hard to imagine there’s a simple explanation.”

“At least one of the people who could break in and come after us believes in things like ghosts and goblins,” Alexis said.  “We thought we could use this stuff to protect ourselves.”

“Oh,” Peter said, nodding, “That makes a lot of sense.”

“I think I’m going to go check on the others,” Alexis said.

“Wait, wait, hold up,” Peter replied.  “I’m still a little confused.  You’re willing to draw stuff around the house, and sure, I get where that’s sort of an idea, maybe, if you’re dealing with someone crazy.

“We’re dealing with a few people who could be called crazy,” Alexis said.

“Great, great,” Peter said.  He smiled.  “So why not, I dunno, barricade the doors and windows?  Or call the police?”

“Police are in on it,” Alexis said.

“RCMP, then,” Peter said, without missing a beat.  I couldn’t tell if he had the answer ready before she’d asked, or if he was just quick.  I wasn’t sure which was more impressive.

He’s as smart as Paige, I thought.  He just walked a very different path.

“RCMP wouldn’t work.”

Why not?

“Because,” Alexis said, pausing for a second to decide on an answer.

“Because what?” Peter cut in.

“Because-”

“If you have to think of the answer, you’re not being honest,” he said.

I leaned closer to Alexis’ ear, a foot away from the little picture frame I was standing within.  “Grandmother had her thumb in-”

“You’re hesitating,” Peter said.

“And you’re being an asshole,” she retorted.

“-something illegal,” I finished.

“Whatever,” he said.  “I’ll go tell Ellie, and we’ll figure out which would fuck you up more: calling our parents in or calling the RCMP ourselves.”

“Do that, and you’re just going to be fucking with everyone here,” she said.

“I’m not really seeing the problem with that.”

“Yourself included,” she added.

“Ah.  Is that if I mention the strangeness here to family or if I call the RCMP?”

“Both.”

“Okay,” he said.  “So the logical conclusion is that grandmother was involved in some sketchy stuff.  Which… kind of makes sense, given the type of people that’ve owned the house or married into the family.”

“That’s the gist of it.”

“Well now I’m more curious.  It couldn’t be drugs.  Prostitution doesn’t make sense.  Counterfeiting?  No, counterfeiting wouldn’t get the attention of the sort of crazy people you’re talking about.  Wouldn’t make this many enemies.  Stop me if I’m getting too close.”

“Tantamount to giving you the answer,” Alexis said.

“Well, yeah.  So this level of crazy has to be rooted in something.  Something with history, even.  Ideology.  Nothing militant, probably not racist or cultural, it’s a white bread small town here.  Not political, I don’t think, maybe religionReligion gets people pissed off and acting funny, but religion wouldn’t piss off the RCMP unless it was scary religion.  Something extremist or bordering on a cult.  But what’s a cult without cultists?”

“If you want to talk to yourself, can I leave you here while I go have a smoke?” she asked.

“You’ve got me curious now,” he said.  “I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about this.”

“Be curious, then.”

Super curious, as a matter of fact,” he said.  “All put together, though?  Not sure I’m buying it.  It’s a little over the top.”

“Wait until dark,” I murmured.

I saw Peter’s head turn.  “I could swear I heard something there, and it wasn’t the T.V.”

“Maybe the craziness you’re talking about is infectious,” Alexis said.  “You want proof we’re for real about all this?”

“Yeah,” Peter said.

“Then sit tight.  Spend the night here.  Then decide.”

“Giving you a chance to pull something.”

Ty walked by, carrying a piece of plywood and a hammer.

Alexis sighed.  “I’m starting to see where Rose got to be how she is.  I need a damn smoke.”

“Trying to run from me again?” he asked.

“No,” she said.  “I’m not going anywhere, only taking a break.  You hold onto that thought, or maybe even take a fucking second to think that you don’t lose anything if you wait and see.  You might even get something out of it, find some way to leverage it, I dunno.”

“Waiting was always part of the plan,” Peter said, shrugging.  “You sound annoyed.”

“I am annoyed, and tired.  I’ve barely slept and now I’ve got this garbage to deal with.”

“Aw.  Poor girl,” he said.

“Okay,” she said.  “That’s it for this conversation.  Gonna go have my smoke.  You go do whatever it is you do.”

“I’ll come with,” he said.  “I could do with a smoke too.  Can I mooch one cigarette off you?”

“Um, no, and no,” she said.  “You guys are going to get me chain smoking again, just when I was stopping.  Fuck.  This is a mess.”

“Yeah, keep pretending you have it bad,” Peter said, his voice thick with sarcasm.  “It’s kind of hard to muster up any sympathy for you.”

“Don’t presume to know who I am,” she said.

“I don’t.  I know about us though, about the family.  You think it’s bad dealing with me?  I’ve had to spend my whole life dealing with a dozen people who’re just about as bad as me.  And most of them?  They got a better end of the bargain than Ellie and me.  I was never going to get the property.  But I still had to wade through all the shit and crap that came with the fight for the inheritance.  My sister wasn’t much better off.  She never had much of a chance either.  Most of us thought Ivy had a better shot than Ellie.”

“You saying my name?” Ellie called from the next room.

“Yes, I’m calling you a miserable loser!  Now fuck off!” he shouted back.

“Fuck you!” she called back.

Peter smirked.

Standard sibling interaction for the two, apparently.

“The gist of your argument, then, is you’re using crazy to deal with crazy because shit is crazy and my grandmother was into crazy illegal stuff,” Peter said.  “And I’m supposed to just hang around and wait to see how crazy it really is, for proof?  Are you seeing the pattern here?”

“I see it, I don’t care.  You can do what you want,” Alexis said.  “I’m going to have a smoke, alone.”

She stalked off, thoroughly agitated.  Evan took off from her shoulder and joined Ty, who summarily headed upstairs.

Peter remained where he was.

I, too, stayed.

“So?” Ellie asked.

Peter craned his head to one side, checking down the length of the hall, to see if anyone was at at the bend of the stairs.  “One second.”

He took a second, walking part of the way upstairs, returned, then headed around to the back of the house.

“Well?” Ellie asked, as he came back.

“Cigarette girl is legit scared,” Peter commented.  “For her life.”

“You think?”

“Yeah, think so.  She was just about ready to swing a punch at me, on nerves alone.  She’s got a good poker face, too.  I don’t think Rose was fucking with us.  Or she was including a whole lot of truth with the occasional lie.”

“You mean Rose isn’t crazy?” Roxanne asked.  A part of me felt like Roxanne was playing up her role as the ‘child’.  The baby of Uncle Paul’s family, clinging to her position.  She was starting to approach the point where she couldn’t trade on ‘cute’ alone.  I wasn’t sure where she’d go later, from a strategy perspective.

“Not ruling anything out when it comes to Rose,” Peter said, taking it in stride.  “But a lot of stuff doesn’t add up here.”

“I had that feeling, talking to Molly,” Callan said.

“Hey, that reminds me,” Peter said, “when you talked to her, did your sister ever act guilty?  Ashamed?”

“I don’t like what you’re implying.”

“No, fuck that, Cal,” Peter said.  “This is important, and I’m not implying jack shit.  Did she seem guilty?  Like she was up to something or grandmother roped her into something sketchy?”

“Nah, she didn’t seem guilty,” Callan said, reluctantly.  “Mostly scared.  Like these guys are.”

“That’s a clue,” Peter said.  He stretched, yawning, and checked again to see if there were any eavesdroppers, “They’re probably telling the truth about something coming up tonight.  We should have a plan.”

“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t rope us into it,” Kathryn said.

“You know you have to get on board.  We need the numbers advantage, or we won’t manage anything,” Peter said.

“I started my own business, I run a restaurant, and I’m a mom.  I think you’d be shocked at just how much I can manage on my own,” she said.

Peter raised his hands in surrender.

“This entire thing reeks of bullshit,” Callan said.  “You reek of bullshit, too, Pete.  I’m going to do the reasonable thing, sit back, and assume the simplest reasonable explanation is true.  Peter’s wrong, the locals are fucking with the Thorburns, just like they’ve been doing to my family since I was born.  Same pressure and all the other stuff that affected Molly like it did also got to Rose, who’s always been a loner, and that’s why she’s freaking out.”

“Okay, yeah, that’s wrong,” Peter said.  “But whatever.  You’re out, then.  Christoff’s out by association?”

“Yeah, I guess,” was Christoff’s response.

“The Walkers have walked.  Kat?”

Kathryn, Kathy if you’re somehow unable to pronounce my full name,” Kathryn said.”

Kitty, then.  are you on board?”

“You haven’t said what we’d be on board with.”

“Let’s say they’re telling the truth.  Something happens tonight.  We could take advantage, snoop while they’re distracted…”

“We can snoop now,” Ellie said.  “Maybe we get caught, but so what?  What’s the worst they could do to us?”

“The other option is that we can use Rose’s friends as body shields,” Peter said, ignoring his sister.  “Which is an idea we should be considering anyway, if it gets that bad.  You don’t have to outrun the bear.  You have to kneecap the guy who’s outrunning you.”

“Just out of curiosity,” Callan said, “Why are you implying we’d back each other?  Not counting my little bro, I despise you fucks.  Why can’t I throw you to the wolves?  I’d enjoy that.”

“Bear, not wolves,” Peter said.

“Whatever.”

“And the reason we’re not fucking with each other is because if they win,” Peter said, his voice low, pausing to look over his shoulder, “Rose wins.  And fuck Rose, am I right?  If we win, on the other hand, the house changes hands.  First to Kitty-”

“Fuck you,” Kathryn said.  “That document said it goes to Ellie after me, and I know you’re backing your sister.  You’ll have a knife in my back the second I get the property.  You’re on your own, you greasy little shitstain.”

Peter sighed.  “Ellie?”

“Sure.  I’ll slum it and work with you, how’s that?” Ellie asked.

You, slumming it by working with me?  You’ve been to fucking jail.”

“That actually sounds pretty accurate,” Callan said.  “Her slumming it.  Don’t think too highly of yourself, Pete.”

“You’re just stirring up shit,” Peter said.  “Whatever.  Ellie and me, then.  I guess it’s every family for themselves?”

“Nah, I’m with you guys,” Roxanne said.  “Got to be better than TV with only a hundred channels.”

“Not on my watch,” Kathryn said.

“You’re not my mom,” Roxanne said.

“I’m your de-facto mom, until the others get back.”

Roxanne smirked, a fake smile as cutting as any scowl or glare could be.  “Can I strangle myself with my de-facto umbilical cord, then?  I’m doing what I want to do, and I want to do this.  Remember the Christmas before last, when I didn’t get the phone?”

“Who could forget?”

“Remember what I did?  How I eventually got the phone?” Roxanne asked.  “And after?”

“Specifically?  No.  I remember it all as one prolonged, high pitched sound,” Kathryn said.

“Exactly,” Roxanne said.  She sounded positively gleeful.  “You really think you can beat me when daddy and mom couldn’t?”

“I think if you make a peep and sound the slightest bit like you sounded then, I’ll smack you,” Kathryn warned.

“I’ll call that bluff,” Roxane said.  “Hit me, hard as you can.  I’ll hurt you worse.  You have no idea how good I am at getting people in trouble.”

Kathryn scowled.  I saw her clench her fist.

“Kitty,” Peter said.  “I’m offering to take her off your hands, when the time is right.  Stop arguing by reflex, and take three seconds to consider the blessing I’m bestowing on you.”

There was a brief pause.

Kathryn frowned.  “You forfeit all remote privileges, Roxie.  You sit there, you shut up, you sit still, and you don’t fuss while Callan, Christoff, and I watch what we want to watch.  I won’t get in your way when Peter needs you.”

Roxanne squirmed.  “Ugghh.”

“Take the deal or leave it.”

Alright,” Roxanne said.  She looked at Peter, “If this isn’t any good, I’m taking it out on you.”

“We’ll manage something good,” he promised.

Peter, Ellie, and Roxanne.

The three most problematic cousins, banding together.  I let my head tilt forward, forehead hitting the glass.

“What was that?” Peter asked.  “That didn’t come from upstairs.”

“I heard it too,” Ellie said.  “Is it that bird?”

“Didn’t see a bird,” Peter said.  “And I’m pretty sure the bird is upstairs.”

I could see Peter looking around, triple checking this time for eavesdroppers.  “Let’s call this discussion quits for now.  We’ve got about, huh, when does the sun set, this time of year?”

“Around five,” Callan said, sounding exasperated, his attention now on the television.  Christoff had the remote.

“Then we’ve got just over five hours until it’s dark.  Let’s sit back, observe, and see what opportunities arise.”

“Whatever,” Ellie said.

“I’m gonna walk around the grounds,” Peter said.  “See what’s up.”

“And pester cigarette girl?” Ellie asked.

She’d overheard more than she’d let on.

“And pester cigarette girl,” Peter said.  “Keep the pressure on, see what cracks.”

Ellie shrugged.

I sat and watched a bit longer, as Peter got his boots and jacket on and stepped out the front door.  The others settled in to watch the television.  Only Ellie seemed restless.

Right.  Safe enough to move on.

I popped upstairs.

There was, going by the windows and picture frames that were still intact, no way into the library except to leap to the point where the full-length mirror was.

What were the odds the circle had been fixed and that I’d be trapping myself by leaping in?

No, I’d tested my luck and found it wanting.

I headed downstairs, checking on the other family members, and then collected the document with all the terms and conditions of the custodianship and inheritance.

I sat down opposite the library doors, and I set to reading.  I wasn’t just going over the legal terms, but the notes in the margins.  Three different handwriting styles.  I could assume one was my dad, or Rose’s dad, one was Uncle Paul, and one was one of my aunts.  Very possibly Aunt Irene trying to keep her eye on things.

About five pages in, I realized this wasn’t the first draft.  One or two notes in the margins were a part of something bigger that wasn’t present.  Copied over or reworded from a previous draft.

This was the product of several examinations of the document, the family poring over every page as a group, picking apart the word choice, turning their minds to how they might take advantage.  They’d debated it, brainstormed, and collaborated.  Then they’d gone to the beginning and done it all over again, with a fresh set of eyes, maybe different people reading it.

Reading it thoroughly, front to pack, notes included, I could imagine what a chore that had been.

It would have been heartwarming that they’d made the effort as a collective, if it weren’t for the fact that they were doing it to screw a fellow family member over.

I saw a shadow move across the hallway.  It came from the staircase, and I didn’t have a vantage point to see.

I headed upstairs, bringing the paperwork with me, thumb as a placeholder.

I caught a glimpse of Ellie on the staircase.  Heading further up.

The ‘fourth floor’ was only one room.  The ‘tower’ with the Barber dwelling in a circle.

Tense, I headed down to the ground floor, looking for some window I could use to communicate with Alexis.

Nothing.  No window I could peer through gave me a view of Alexis.  There was only Peter, walking as far away from the house as he could get without walking on a slope, treading a circle around the property.

I headed back up, straight to the third floor.  There was the mirror in the hidden library, but there were so many ways that could go wrong.  What was to say Rose hadn’t set a trap around it?

I’d break a window.

I was in the process of drawing the Hyena when Ellie reappeared.

Too fast a reappearance.  Either the door was locked, or there was some other deterrent in play.

Fuck me.  It was too dangerous to have someone wandering around.

She moved down the length of the hallway, passing me, checking every room.  Satisfied that she was unobserved, she moved quickly through each room.

As she got closer to me again, operating in a room opposite a picture frame, I was able to watch her work.  She opened the topmost drawers of a dresser, lifting up socks, bras and underwear in a variety of muted colors – blacks, beiges, whites and grays.  Tiff’s or Alexis’, I imagined, since Rose was making do with whatever she could use of Grandmother’s stuff.  Ellie retrieved a sealable freezer bag filled with jewelry from one back corner.  It disappeared into her backpack.

She turned her attention to the top of the dresser – pill bottles were checked.  Two bottles disappeared.  She opened little boxes and kits on top of the dresser, finding more jewelry, bracelets she held up to the light, before stuffing them into a sock and slipping the sock in her bag.  The now-empty box went back onto the top of the dresser.

Another box was opened, flatter, once a shiny black, now worn in places.

I recognized the old fashioned tattoo machine that Ellie held up.  One of the ones, if I remembered right, that Alexis had considered making into her implement.  As far as I knew, she hadn’t gone ahead with it, but it was something she put a lot of sentimental value into.  One had been a birthday present from me to Alexis, a thank-you for the work she’d done on my arms.  Others had been birthday presents she’d given to herself, bought at a time when she’d had to scrimp and save for weeks to get a few hundreds of dollars together to make the purchase possible.

Ellie slipped it into her bag.  The box went back where it had been.

Two more boxes checked, nothing taken.  She put everything that remained into the position they had been before she’d raided it.  More or less.

She stepped out into the hallway, then paused.

Listening.

I reached up, and I knocked on the picture frame.

I could see her startle.  I could feel the fear that simple action provoked.

Good.

I knocked again.

She spun around, looking to the end of the hallway.

Somehow, she managed to convince herself it was nothing.  She disappeared into the next room.

A phone, plugged into the outlet by the bed, was slipped into one pocket, quickly enough it could have been an unconscious maneuver.

A box was pulled out of a luggage suitcase and opened- revealing a set of home-made knives.

Ty’s stuff.

Box shut.  The box with the knives included were slipped into the bag.  It rattled.  She paused, grabbing a set of socks, and stuffed them in, jostling the bag.

Not a cat burglar by any stretch of the imagination, but she’d done this before.

I held my tongue and kept to watching as she went through everything, a kind of rage simmering within me.

Ty’s room took only a minute.

She headed down to the second floor.  Same pattern.  She checked every room first.  This time, however, she was interrupted.  Stepping out of what would’ve been Rose’s room, she found herself face to face with Alexis, who was heading up the stairs.

“Can I help you?” Alexis asked.

“Which room am I sleeping in?  Want to drop off my shit,” Ellie said.

“Beds are all taken,” Alexis said.  “If you want to stay here tonight, you’re staying in the living room.”

“Whatever,” Ellie said.  She brushed past Alexis as she headed downstairs.

Alexis went up to the third floor.  I considered following her, but something held me back.

Some people put a lot of stock in the better part of human nature.

I believed in the worse parts of Thorburn nature.

Ellie reappeared, not fifteen seconds after Alexis had gone upstairs.  She started doing another quick check of each room.  She didn’t enter the rooms, but she definitely looked.

Right.

I headed upstairs, just in time to find Alexis entering the library.

“Alexis,” I said.

She jumped.

Christ,” she said.

“Do me a favor?  Hold the door for me, and move that mirror out of the circle?  I’ll update you when I’m back.”

She frowned a bit.  “If they find this place-”

“I’ve got your back.  Please?”

She offered me a little nod.

I returned to Ellie.  From the mirror atop Rose’s dresser, once grandmother’s dresser, I had a view of Ellie as she collected antique brooches, pins, earrings, necklaces, and other old fashioned jewelry.  I lurked to one side, so I wouldn’t be right in front of her.  When I’d spoken and moved before, I’d drawn attention.  They probably didn’t have a clear view of me, but they could see glimmers.

I moved to the bedroom window.  I knocked, sharp.

She spun around.

I was already back in the mirror atop the dresser.

She didn’t look in the mirror as she resumed her looting.

I refocused my attention.  I let the bag she was piling the stuff into be reflected into my space.

Reaching into my chest, I found a spirit.  It almost quivered with anticipation, sensing the emotion.  Feeding on it, even.

The bird fluttered a little as I shoved it into my version of the bag.

“Bonds of sympathy,” I whispered.  “I bind like to like.”

Ellie stepped back, walking around to the door, peering through to make sure she didn’t have company.

She was working faster when she returned to work.

“Both contain the stolen belongings of Alexis.  Both contain the stolen belongings of Ty.  Both contain the stolen belongings of Rose,” I whispered.

I saw her pause again, looking up.

I felt the connection.  I wiggled the bag.

“I do this,” I spoke to the spirits, “In retribution for actions against me and mine by Ellie Thorburn.”

Ellie fidgeted a bit, gripping the strap of her bag a little tighter.

Did she feel the sentiment.

She reacted, as her bag moved, looking down.

Ellie!” I screamed the word, slamming my hands against the mirror, face thrust forward, eyes wide and teeth bared.

She threw herself back, ass hitting ground, and tossed the bag in the process.

I winced, realizing the damage that might have done.  The bag on my end moved as hers did, flying through the air, tearing out of my grasp.

There was a weakness to this technique, I realized.  The people and the objects in the real world had more weight.

All the same, she’d let go of the bag.  Her first thought and priority was her own well being.

My priority here was the bag.

I slid it across the floor, into the open closet, and lifted it up onto the top shelf.

It was almost in plain sight, if she took one step to the right.  But Ellie had picked a darker fabric, and it bit her in the ass now.

With a measure of satisfaction, I watched as she scoured the room, her attention on the ground, under the bed, behind furniture.

Her actions grew more frantic.

With every worried glance at the mirror, I felt myself regain a bit more power.

Dangerous, I knew, to risk indoctrinating one of the innocent, but I was pretty sure this little stunt had more than paid for itself.

I’d protected my friend’s things, too.

She did a double-check, examining every obvious surface, ignoring the less obvious location that was the closet.

The sound of a distant door opening and voices ended her search prematurely.  Deciding on discretion, she quickly stepped out of the room.

Her fear continued to feed me in little ways.

I hoped it fed both parts of me, bolstering the aspect of me that was Blake Thorburn, thoroughly pissed about what she’d done to my friends.

Before heading upstairs to reunite with the others, I checked on the Thorburn group downstairs.

There weren’t many surfaces I could dwell in, and the surfaces I did have available weren’t good ones.  The reflective side of the toaster in the kitchen, the window in the hallway, the staircase window, the window by the back door, and the window in the back door.

My view of the scene was consequently very limited.  A tall woman striding into the front hallway, passing by the picture frame so quickly that I couldn’t make her out.

From the toaster, my view was slightly distorted.

Eva.  She’d walked right by the doorway between the living room and the front hallway.  Nobody had glanced at her long enough to realize they had a stranger among them.

The front door opened again, closing quickly.

“Hey Peter,” Ellie called out from the living room.  “A word?”

“Mm hmm,” A male voice responded nonverbally.

Andy, not Peter.

My view of the front door was narrow, when I watched from the picture frame in the hallway.  I had to press my head against the side of the mirror to view from the right angle, watching as the door leading into the hall closet was opened.  Andy no doubt stood so the door would block any view of him.

I saw Ellie step into the hallway, and knocked on the glass.

She paused.

I knocked again.

Too little, too late.  She turned back around just in time to get a mitt pressed over her mouth, simultaneously pressing her against the wall.  Andy shoved a taser into her neck.

He held it there, easing up the pressure enough that she could slide down the wall to the ground.

The pair shifted positions, Eva at the corner by the kitchen, where she could watch the staircase, kitchen, back door, and hallway at the same time, a machete in one hand.  Andy stood to the right of the door leading into the living room, taser in hand.

Directly opposite me.  Eerily calm, brown hair slightly in his half-lidded eyes, beneath a dumb hat with ear flaps, brown on the outside, lambskin or something on the inside.

He pulled off one mitt with his teeth, then shoved it into one pocket.  He let the taser dangle from a wrist-strap while he pulled off the other mitt.

He moved his hands in a series of gestures.

Eva responded.

I watched as she stuck out her tongue, then bit it.  Her eyes closed, her head rested against the corner of wall.  Almost as if she were meditating or in a daze.

Andy slid down to the front door, opened the door, then closed it.

“Ellie?  Peter?”  Kathryn called.

Eva took the distraction to move past the kitchen door, disappearing around the bend to the space where the back door was.

I beat her there.  For one instant, we made eye contact.

“Hi,” she said.

I swung the Hyena, aiming to break the glass.

She beat me to it.

Glass shattered, a few stray shards tinkling as they hit the floor by the back door.  I relocated myself to the little window that was part of the door.

She broke that too.

Toaster.

I had a view of the Thorburns standing, ready to investigate.  Callan grabbed a poker from beside the fireplace.

This was going so wrong so fast.  If we failed here-

How would we even survive the night, when all the creepy crawlies and Others had a chance to come out of the woodwork?

I headed upstairs.

Alexis was waiting by the door.  She looked anxious.

“Witch hunters,” I said, before she could say a thing.

I could see the color drain out of their faces.

“Should we-”

“Anything you can send is good,” I said.  “But don’t come down yourselves.  Lock yourselves in.”

“I can help,” Evan said.

“Come out, stay in Rose’s bedroom,” I said.  “There’s a mirror in there.  I’ll signal you if I can, to come free the others.”

“If they don’t kill the others,” Ty said.  “Because Witch Hunters can kill people.  Even innocents.”

I swore under my breath.

I ducked back downstairs.

The little picture frame I’d been using to peer into the hallway and living room was gone.

Only the toaster remained.  I could have used the television set, but it was on.

They knew about me, they were planning for me.

Andy was nowhere to be seen, from my limited vantage point.

Eva wasn’t in the kitchen or the living room.

The pair had outright disappeared.

“I don’t care what she said,” Callan said.  He had a phone in hand.  He held it to one ear.

“That sounds suspiciously like a dial tone,” Kathryn said.

“Fuck me,” Callan said.  “Not 9-1-1, then.  I know some guys.”

It took him a second to dial.

“Dial tone again,” Roxanne commented.

Shut up!” Callan hissed the words.

“This is fucked up,” Christoff said, his voice small.

“Yeah,” Roxanne said.

“Ellie isn’t responding, so she either ran or something happened,” Kathryn said.  “Peter, far as we know, never came back.”

“Those assholes,” Callan said.  “They planned this.”

I would have laughed, if the situation wasn’t as bad as it was.

The explosion, I suspected, caught everyone by surprise.  There was no clink of metal on hardwood.  Nothing thrown.

Andy’s work.

Light, noise, disorientation.  I recovered fast, but I could feel my eyes crawling, as if they were healing from some minor damage.

I saw Eva striding into the room.  If Callan was able to see, he would have only caught a glimpse of the girl with the machete before she disarmed him, blade striking the poker.  He was doubled over, and she brought her knee up into his chin.

I had never, not once in my varied years, seen someone deliver a roundhouse kick in real life.  Eva did it like it was easy.  One step forward, another, pivot, kick.

Kathryn threw her arms up in a vain attempt to protect her head.  It wouldn’t have made a difference, had the kick connected with her head.  Instead, the blow hit her right in the stomach.

There was nothing I could do.

Christoff ran, staggering, disoriented.  He reached the hallway, and walked right into Andy’s waiting attack.  A jab with the taser.

The kid was barely a teenager.

Eva’s kick hadn’t taken out Kathryn, or Callan for that matter.  That wasn’t how it really worked.  One well-executed blow didn’t usually knock someone out, and when it did, it often came with brain damage and long-term impairment.  It did, if done right, essentially take them out of the fight.

Eva thrashed Kathryn, blow after blow, until Kathryn fell and made no motion to get up.  She stepped back to assess the situation, saw Callan trying to struggle to get up on all fours, a crawling position, and stomped on his shoulderblades.  His already-bleeding chin collided with the floor.

Leaving only Roxanne.

I couldn’t act without cluing Roxanne in, and I wasn’t sure there was much I’d be able to do, even then.

“Please,” Roxanne said, eyeing the boarded up window.  “I’ll tell you where the others are.”

“Do,” Eva said.

Roxanne scrambled to get away from the older girl.  Like Christoff, she moved straight for Andy.

“They’re upstairs somewhere.”

“That’s not clear enough,” Andy said.

“Please.  I don’t know anything more.  Tie me up, but don’t hit me,” Roxanne said.

“I’ll zap you,” he said.  “You-”

With a knife or a letter opener, Roxanne stabbed him in the groin.

There was a metal on metal sound.  Andy backed away, stunned, but unbleeding.

“Stab my fucking brother!?” Eva screeched.

Her foot collided with Roxanne’s face, full force.

Again and again, she kicked the fallen girl.

I watched, silent, as Andy eventually managed to wrestle Eva away.

“Upstairs,” he said.  “We have a job to finish.”

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237 thoughts on “Malfeasance 11.7

  1. Well, there’s some Thorburn ass getting kicked. But not the right ones. When are the adults gonna get some? Is it too late to dig up Granny’s grave and give it to her too?

    Also, beating the shit out of teenagers would seem pretty bad if this wasn’t crossbow girl doing it, she’s downright restrained.

    1. The Good News: Those Assholes got what’s coming to them.

      The Bad News: Those Assholes are “innocents” that are needed as human shields against Practicioners & Others.

            1. The practitioners think they control the witch hunters, but Andy has an RPG he’s planning on using on the church someday. They’re deluding themselves if they think the hunters are controlled.

    2. “Well, there’s some Thorburn ass getting kicked. But not the right ones. When are the adults gonna get some? Is it too late to dig up Granny’s grave and give it to her too?”

      Oh I don’t know, this chapter really established Elle at least as a pile of shit.

    3. In Eva’s defense, when someone tries to stab you in the groin they’ve pretty much surrendered all rights to not getting their ass fed to them.

      1. He had Tasered her family, was invading the house she was staying in, and although I may like Andy as a character, it’s because he’s normally polite, keeps a semblance of order among the local goblins and bogeymen, and doesn’t really like killing people. I’d like him to stay around and healthy long enough to try his rocket launcher gambit, but I’d probably be okay with both him and Eva dying in battle very soon. Feeling regretful about killing doesn’t mean he’s terribly sympathetic. Kind of the inverse of several characters in Worm, actually.

        In short: Roxanne may be a jerk, but was totally within her rights to stab Andy. And neither of the Witch Hunters were within their rights to use excessive force on the bystanders. Even if there was a chance that said bystanders were actually monsters. Lead with sleeping gas, jerks!

  2. Aw, nothing like a Pact chapter to make us realize that family is a really special, extremely messed up thing.
    I gotta say that Eva kicking Roxanne in the face was an amusing image. Right up until she kept kicking a young girl when she tried to defend herself from the people that had just beat the freak up of her family members. Gosh.

    I liked the Thorburn bait-and-switch. Witch hunters are scary.

    1. These witch hunters are psychotic criminals who beat the shit out of a half dozen (relatively) innocent victims, all of whom remember them. I will be very disappointed if they’re not both in jail after this.

      1. The Thorburn kids identifying Andy and Eva has two potential snags.

        1-Can’t identify anyone if your dead. Even if Andy and Eva don’t kill any of them, they will probably be followed by people or things that will.

        2-Lets not forget all the practicioners covering for them. Go to the police and I imagine you’d get something between them just not believeing you to them having a dozen people who saw them at the coffeeshop at the time of the attacks.

        1. In Andy’s chapter, he mentioned that the practitioners were not capable of reliably getting him out of jail while Laird was out of town. This goes double, presumably, now that he’s dead.

  3. Holy fucking shit, Eva and Andy are metal as fuck. Taking out all of the innocent-ish Thirburns though? Dick move. Although it IS nice to see them getting their asses handed to them.

    1. Although, let’s not forget Psycho Peter. He is smart enough to turn the tables and do something spectacular. If only he wasn’t such an asshole… Such potential wasted on pettiness!

      1. That’s the Thornburns through and through though. They have so much potential, it’s just been horribly twisted by association with their grandmother/mother and later each other.

  4. I like a Peter. All the other Thorburns can go to Halifax.

    Loving seeing a Blake go monster on Ellie.

    I wonder if this was the original plan, to remove Rose and send the Jaegers in. Or could the Jaegers actually be rebelling against the counsel? Perhaps Andy just wants to recruit the Blakeguard.

    How does a practitioner even allow their stuff to be stolen by a mundane? I would have to assume that the moment they notice it’s lost, they just follow the connection.

      1. We’ve only seen them hurt Thorburns who, ironically enough, are not allies to either Rose or the Blakeguard. By taking them out, they give Alexis and company some breathing room to talk and arm themselves. . . Or to kill, not sure yet.

    1. I actually kind of like Ellie, I have a thing for really sleazy and klepto characters, and I kind of sympathize with her clearly being at the bottom of the Thorburn pecking order.

      I doubt that Andy and Eva are acting alone here. They’re probably going by orders, but I also very much doubt that this is the entire plan. It’s possible that the attack is meant to get Rose out of the house so she can be arrested and taken to the mental hospital.

      1. Or hostages to take away her support. They’ve never met Blake post Other so the fact that they know of him is due to Jeremy passing along what Rose taught him to buy time or Alister, meaning this was a coordinated tactile strike to neutralize her power base.

      2. But Ellie’s a thief. Larceny is bad! Blake can kill a cop and be redeemed in my eyes but Ellie’s actions really turned me off. Once a thief, always a thief.

        1. I didn’t mind the thievery so much by itself, but the theft of personal belongings with sentimental value really put me off. And it’s as bad that while the victims, our protagonists, may not care about the money, they can not afford these kinds of distractions right now. (I was similarly put off by Peter’s inability to accept that Alexis may be bad off.)

          Besides, Ellie stole pills. What the hell, girl? Are you trying to get someone killed due to lack of medication? We know Alexis has a heart condition …

          And @Reveen, Rose is already no longer in the house.

          1. Yeah, stealing a bunch of cash is one thing, stealing things that obviously have a lot of sentimental value or are necessary for a person to work or survive is just a giant dick move. Ellie is just as bad as Buttsack, for all I care.

            1. “I didn’t mind the thievery so much by itself, but the theft of personal belongings with sentimental value really put me off. ”

              Yeah. Some things can’t be replaced.

            2. I would probably grow to like Buttsack, given only slightly more slant towards him hurting people for fun and less towards trying to destroy their lives. Ellie would need more development, but could probably be managed with enough time and focus. Either way, she’s one of Wildbow’s sad but despicable characters. I tend to find them sympathetic, but find the completely unrepentant ones more interesting.

              While I was writing that, I realized that Faerie are the ones who cause mischief for fun, and generally don’t care much that they hurt people in the process. Goblins try to make people miserable, and don’t really do anything not directly related to the endeavor. Maybe goblins are some kind of metaphysical counterpoint to Farie, created not by but in response to them.

          2. Ellie may not know what has sentimental value.
            I mean, seriously, it’s a fucking tattoo iron.

            … for all we know, she just stole pain pills or something else she’s addicted to.

            1. If those were two bottles of painkillers Ellie stole that’s not a whole lot better. That indicates someone with a temporary or chronic pain condition who needs those pills to avoid agony.

              If the pills are worth stealing, odds are pretty good that they’re important to whoever you’re stealing them from.

        2. i bet you $50 that lard never took any oaths, just fiddles with peoples perceptions here and there, and suddenly everyone remembers him and several of his relatives being genuine, law-abiding officers. maybe killed several people and filled the spaces, to make the effect more realistic perhaps? lets face it, a pretty large majority of the practitioners so far are on the edge of sociopathy at the best. after all, any oaths to protect and serve, and to uphold the law are extremely inconvenient, especially when you are attempting rape someone, which as far as i know, is against local law. murder too.

            1. I don’t think he’d have even needed that. The Thorburns, by merely existing, are a threat to his community. Unless if his oath of office specifically forbade action, or specified that upholding the laws is more important than protecting the community (lawful stupid as it were) then in order to do the most good for the largest number, the Thorburns must be removed. It doesn’t even require as many mental gymnastics as leaving Blake to walk home at night after promising to see him back to his door.

    1. Crumb on, Blake! You can do it, you can take out Raggedy Andy and Krav Maga Eva! You crust need to tRye harder.

      (Puns aside, what would happen if Blake tried to break through the reflection in the toaster? Mirrors, windows and sundry glass items shatter easily, but would the metal rip, or tear, or bend, or explode? Or would it simply be too resilient for him to punch through?)

      1. I think at most he might make the toaster move or something. Cover the walls in metal foil though, and we’re getting somewhere interesting.

        1. He can’t make the toaster move. It doesn’t reflect itself, so it doesn’t actually exist in his world.

          He can have one of his spirits move it the way he did with the mirror, I suppose; but it was clear that they start to fall apart the moment they’re outside of him, so they’re not good for more than a small push.

          I wonder what would happen if he had two mirrors set to reflect each other, though, producing infinite reflections? I’m surprised he hasn’t tried that yet.

          1. It doesn’t reflect itself, so it doesn’t actually exist in his world.

            Actually, there is a reflecting surface in this world (since he can see through it). If he pushes hard on that, he probably won’t break through the metal, but it might cause it to move in the mundane world as well.

            With glass and such it’s well established that interacting inside the mirror-world has an analogous effect in the outside world. For example, knocking on glass causes sounds in the real world, which means vibrations carry over, at least in part. Breaking glass also suggests that force carries over, although the fact that glass shatters and, more importantly, that things can cross through, confuse the matters.

            I think there was also one case where he caused a picture to fall from the wall, though I might be misremembering that.

            1. If he was able to apply that much precision force, he wouldn’t have needed to use a bird to move the mirror in the library.

            2. I don’t think he can apply force with precision, but he might be able to just knock things over. It’s usually not a good idea with mirrors and such, which could be why we haven’t seen him doing it yet.

            3. Causing the picture to fall shattered the glass in it, which didn’t matter to him since he was stabbing through it anyway at the same time.

    1. Um, I know this is bad of me to say, but can we wait and see? I’ll try to confirm as early as possible, but I’m traveling tomorrow and I’ve got stuff to look after in the near future.

      Traveled this month to look for places, was really counting on finding something, and it fell through. I just got turned down today for the one apartment I found that I really wanted. I just really underestimated how much demand there was for places here. Area’s booming, and within 10 minutes of one listing going up, there were about 600 views on it. I’m up against competition.

      Kind of need to get stuff sorted out, and writing on Wednesday might be a problem, depending on how things unfold. No disasters looming, but kind of had a plan and the plan fell through, so yeah.

      It’s not very professional of me to say it, but I’ll write the Thursday chapter on Wednesday if Wednesday works and won’t if it doesn’t. I’ll be sure to add a note on Saturday’s chapter if there’s a Thursday chapter people might have missed.

      I should have the weekend largely free, and want to use it to get a proper calender, ticker, and rewrite of the donate page up.

      1. I don’t really see how that would be bad or unprofessional to say this. Priorities come first by virtue of their very nature.

      2. Heads up! I was recently in a similar situation, searching for a flat with several friends. This is a very uncommon constellation around here for people who don’t study anymore, so most landlords were very reluctant to take us as tenants – but in the end, we still found something despite competing against conventional families.

        1. And I am still searching for a flat with student friends, but we’re from germany so we don’t have a SSN (yet) and no credit history to speak of, so we have it even harder!

          We are playing trump aren’t we? Please tell me we are.

          No in all seriousness, I don’t think anyone’s blaming you for taking time off to deal with RL stuff. We won’t get any thursday updates with you starving under a bridge either.

      3. It’s a solid reason to miss a planned Thursday update. I believe you’re still perfect for Tues/Sat. Home is where your computer is. I hope it all works out for you swiftly. And remember, a plan is just a list of things that don’t happen.

      4. Take your time. Sometimes real life happens. We’re in this for the long haul. Or something.

        My condolences on the apartment search =(. When my sister wanted to move in together with her boyfriend, it took them almost a year to find an apartment in Munich. Students right out of uni, and it’s not like they could spend 24/7 on the apartment search, either. It’s time-consuming and emotionally draining, to check out each apartment along with gazillions of others, only to get declined in the end.

        So I can definitely sympathize.

  5. Hmm, this could be bad for the erstwhile Thorburn allies. If Andy and Eva get away, how do Blake’s friends prove that it was Andy/Eva who did the damage? The adult Thorburns are going to be out for blood. This could be leading into a pretext for Duncan to lock up the rest of the Thorburns cabal.

    1. I don’t see that happening. The Thorburns are witnesses & victims, and they are the types to hold grudges. Do you really think e.g. Roxanne (whose face may have been permanently disfigured) would settle for less than revenge on the true culprits?

      We got 99 problems but this ain’t one.

      1. Agreed: and, Peter is currently AWOL. He knows it wasn’t the Blakeguard behind this, but somebody who came in from outside.

        About the only thing that would unite all Thorburns would be… a definite, outside attack on what they consider their feud. They’d known it was possible before: but, there’s a world of difference between “possible” and “multiple casualties”. 😛

      2. Bear in mind that Rose (and the ex-Blakeguard Cabal, by association with her) still suffer the onus of the whopping Thorburn Diabolists’ karmic debt.

        Murphy’s Law of Karma states that if there’s any conceivable or inconceivable way, no matter how contrived or counter-factual, for the events to be interpreted so as to make Rose & Co. suffer, that’s the explanation that the rest of the Thorburn WTFamily will most likely arrive at.

  6. That was unexpected. And satisfying to a degree.

    I wonder what document they received listed the order of heirs. Blake’s letter?

  7. Roxanne is pretty hardcore for a twelve year old. Too bad Andy has the foresight to wear some sort of cup.

    On the plus side, the rest of the family might stop thinking Rose is batshit crazy now since multiple members of the family remember getting their asses kicked by two random intruders.

    1. Look forward to the next episode of The Feudin’ Thorburns, where Peter explains to the so-called “adult” Thorburns that Cigarette Girl had threatened them all by implying that if they waited around in the house, they’d get to see the crazy shit that Granny RDT was involved in for themselves, and then two psycho siblings (no, not any of our family, dad, two psycho siblings who aren’t Thorburns) showed up and beat up everyone, and then kicked us in the nadgers when we were lying down.

      Obviously, Rose’s weird friends must’ve been in cahoots with them.

      (See previous comment about the Thorburn Karmic debt, and how it will most likely continue to fuck with Rose & Co. at the most inopportune times.)

  8. Tiff: Alexis, the Witch Hunters are on the way, The Thorburns have been incapacitated, and Ty is trying to make out with a Mermaid. What are we going to do?

    Alexis: All hope is lost. If only there were a hero to save us.

    *cue music start to play

    Tiff: What in the world is that?

    *Evan burst thru carrying a Magic Mirror

    Evan: Bird Boy and Scary Tree are here!

  9. I have a feeling,that Blake will use the bag of belongings from his other friends to use to end this event, until the next day’s night

    I could imagine that Peter screws Eva up with his sharp-tongued wording from time to time. In which it could seem like Andy just said you two are almost akin like a couple after this ends.

    1. Included in that bag are some of Ty’s knives. I think Blake could do pretty well in a fight if he started using them against the Witch Hunters.

      1. Oh, that’s a great idea! And Blake did tell everyone to go into Rose’s bedroom, where he put that bag.

        Also, Blake actually has a bit of a knife theme going on (Hyena; a gazillion scissors in his old apartment; he’s praised Ty’s knives before, etc).

        Though given what he’s up against, Blake winning is not that likely, and it would come at the price of terrifying his allies. (Incidentally, that would be a very Taylor-ish development.)

        1. It’s becoming increasingly worrying how much Blake is growing to resemble the Barber. The knife thing, the reflection stuff, the nack for penetrating defences.

          From the wiki (http://pact-web-serial.wikia.com/wiki/Barbatorem) on Barbatorem:

          Demesnes Infiltration: Barbatorem is capable of infiltrating other practitioners’ domains, but it cannot infiltrate the homes of non-practitioners.

          Blake has the same. He can’t even see inside the homes of non-practitioners, but he’s very good at getting into places he isn’t wanted.

          The Hyena even prevents healing, like wounds inflicted by the Barber.

          Blake was made by Barbatorem. I wonder whether he’s a mote, or otherwise tainted by the demon.

          1. He can’t even see inside the homes of non-practitioners, but he’s very good at getting into places he isn’t wanted.

            You got that the wrong way round. The only houses he’s shown not being able to enter & see into were all practitioner houses with explicit protections. And he could enter his old apartment, though technically it wasn’t his anymore.

        2. You know, that knife theme is a bit ominous when you think about it, given his possible origins and nature. Why did he have gazillion scissors in his old apartment?

          1. There’s usually an innocent explanation (here: Blake as handyman) besides the ominous explanation.

            I fished in the kitchen drawers. All disorganized. As if my apartment had been taken apart, destroyed, and then put back together and cleaned, with an emphasis on sentimentality and how frequently I used things.
            I had five pairs of scissors and they were all at the very bottom of the drawer (6.05)

            I mean, we have lots of scissors at home, too, but we’re four people while Blake is living alone. And he’s got a toolbox which likely contains even more scissors. That said, if this story didn’t include a blade-themed demon, I wouldn’t have worried about that number. So perhaps “gazillion” was a bit of an exaggeration.

      1. Anyone else think that Blake would sure get a boost from using that tattoo gun on someone? Like Ellie? Perhaps in a Dolores Umbridge sort of way? “I must not tell lies.” “I must not steal.”

        You know, that’s probably why boogeymen eventually kill their victims. At some point, you’ve scared them so much that they are faced with the inevitable conclusion that the supernatural is real, that you are real, and at that point if you don’t kill them and they go do crazy stuff, you’ll have to take the karma backlash for introducing them to the supernatural. I mean, a tattoo gun tattooing something on me? That’s pretty incontrovertible proof that something is up.

  10. That’s… a lot of witnesses. I suppose enchantment could do something about it, but it can’t be cheap and it risks further indoctrinating witnesses. I guess the real question is if they can breach the library.

    Anyway Eva has definitely crossed into the psychopath territory. Before she was just killing Edward Cullen’s and other monsters of the world. Now she’s kicking children.

    Also even if Roxanne is a little sociopath by Blake’s assessment she is really stabby when its time to be stabby.

    1. I thik this was Plan B.

      Rose made it, so that a bunch of innocents stayed in the house. It prevented the practitioners from sending in others without risking revealing to much to the Thorburns. So they countered with Witch Hunters.

      Rose might have a dead man’s switch, but Rose’s friends do not. Hell, they might just torch the damn house after killing Rose’s friends.

    2. Yeah, it’s so horrible that Eva kicked the poor defenseless little girl that just tried to kill her brother… Of all the things that Eva has done in the story, the one where she responds to violence with violence is the one that’s making everyone realize she’s not “good people,” really??? Sure, after the first couple kicks to the face, you could argue she’s going overboard, but one case of kicking children does not a psychopath make.

      1. You do realise that any court would judge this as self defense,right?If a guy storms my home and starts tasering my relatives I have every reason to taser stab him.Roxanne’s character plays zero role on this,the circumstances are ultra justifiable on her favour.

    1. Not really, Peter is far to rational to be compared to old man Henderson. A Henderson like chacater would be pretty welcome in this story though.

  11. Typo thread. Also liked Blake vs. Ellie.

    • front to pack -> front to back
    • Roxane -> Roxanne

    mismatched quotation marks:
    [OPEN]Kathryn, Kathy if you’re somehow unable to pronounce my full name,[CLOSE] Kathryn said.[CLOSE]

    uncapitalized after end of sentence?
    “Kitty, the[n. a]re you on board?”

    1. Typos:
      – “old fashioned” -> old-fashioned x2
      – “Did she feel the sentiment.” -> “sentiment?”

      Unclear or strange sentences:
      – “The sound of a distant door opening and voices ended her search prematurely.” – Feels weird somehow. I kind of expect to read “voices closing”, or something…
      – “Alexis was waiting by the door.” – Which door? The library door? Blake’s sentence “Come out, stay in Rose’s bedroom” made little sense to me without the context of where they currently are.

  12. Maybe the job is to neutralise Barbie. If we take Andy and Eva’s point of view and sprinkle a heavy Buffy mood in the air, it would make sense.

    Disable the head honcho, then storm the place and kill the big bad demon with some sound plan (that won’t work) and an indy ploy (that just might).
    With that done, they can keep Rose out of the field for as long as they want.

    1. Yeah, I get the feeling that what happened was that Johannes, Alister, and Sandra came to Andy and Eva and said, “hey, Rose has a demon on a dead man’s switch that could go off and potentially destroy the entire town, depending on which choir it is. We just took her out of the action. Clock’s ticking.” And then Andy resolved to move up his timetable on Plan Rocket Launcher once they were done saving the town from its own insanity again.

    2. I dont think they can kill the Barber. The safest place for it is in its bound circle.

      The job is killing rose’s friends. They are only disabling the Thorburns for now.

  13. I think there’s been enough time to go back and really look at Blake’s visions.

    https://pactwebserial.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/bonds-1-1/

    First the visions that came four months after Grandma died, on the night Molly died

    A table. On one side, Duchamps. On the other, Behaims

    “Huh,” Lair said. “I’d hoped she would slip in her old age. A shame, she made other arrangements.”

    Sandra folded her hands in front of her. “That was… noteworthy in scale. Kind of her to point the way, but she was never crude. We’ll need to know what she did before we move on.”

    “Agreed,” Laird said. He opened a pocketwatch, glancing inside. “For now, let it be. There is enough at stake here that someone is bound to make a play.”

    Sandra nodded. She turned her attention to the pair on either side of her, a blonde girl and a dark haired boy. reaching out for their hands. “I believe we were talk* about wedding plans?”
    *should be talking, hasn’t been fixed


    closed my eyes, trying to shut it out. When I opened them, I saw a room, everything turned to a right angle. A house, messy, with pizza boxes and garbage here and there. Two twenty-something individuals, a boy and a girl, approached, getting so close their faces filled the field of vision.

    A lurch, and the view was righted.

    “The metronome?”

    “Something big just happened,” Eva said. “Told you. Just now, I told you.”

    “You’ve been ‘telling’ me for a while now. This doesn’t mean we should do anything.”

    “You’ve got no balls, no balls. We should investigate, and, just to be safe, we should investigate with weapons in hand.”

    “I don’t- no, Eva. This is dangerous, and-“

    “And what? We should ignore it all?”

    “It’s dangerous.”

    “So are we, little brother. So are we,” Eva said.

    [They then discuss weapons.] “Anything that can knock the metronome over isn’t human anymore, or it won’t be for long.”


    Padraic knew Blake was watching, clued in Maggie, scene ended.


    Wild girl, don’t remember her name as she hasn’t appeared in the story for a while, but her familiar clues her in, scene ends.


    A weathered aboriginal woman, brushing a young girl’s hair with a broad-toothed comb. It might have been an ordinary scene, except it was the dead of night.

    She picked up a chain, then shackled the girl at the wrist. She noted the observer, then scattered the image with a wave of one hand.


    The dog looked up. It spoke, “Johannes.”

    “Mm,” the man in the throne said. “‘Lo, stranger. Listen, I don’t think you should believe what any of them say about me. If you need help, I can offer it.”

    “For a price,” the dog added.

    “For a price. Resist the urge to dismiss what you just saw, you’re in a bad enough situation as it stands. Now do yourself a favor and wake up.”


    Ok, reflections on the above.

    • What ever happened to the marriage that would have bound the Behaim and Duchamp family together?
    • Blake may or may not have been human — I think we can ignore this now that Blake has switched places with Rose.
    • So there apparently really is someone who’s chained in that house. Maybe the old woman’s familiar? Maybe something else, but it seems really incredibly likely that there is a second personage in that house and that, so far in this story, we’ve only dealt with one. True, when we saw her, she was masquerading as the girl chained up, but I think there could still be a second personage in that house somewhere who would probably dearly love their freedom.

    Ok, going further back into that chapter, let’s examine some italicized bits…
    Damn me, damn them, damn it all.
    That wasn’t ever the problem, was it?
    Besides, why devote any more attention to your son, when you could just start over? Have that beautiful baby girl you wanted, right?
    (Not italicized: Further down the street, a few of the locals had stopped on a corner to talk. Odd, how they kept looking at me.)
    Blake?
    jeans? Paint-covered… Now?
    The lawyer found me, alive and well, without much trouble.

    1. I don’t remember how we know, but Blake came into existence in/immediately before that vision scene. Anything before was just fake or altered memories.

      AFAIK, we don’t know what happened to the scheduled marriage. Maybe Laird’s death screwed it up? Much could have happened in the month Blake spent in the Drains.

      The main thing I caught here is the witch hunter scene: Blake sees everything at a right angle because he sees the visions from the POV of reflected surfaces, and the metronome had toppled over.

    2. “So there apparently really is someone who’s chained in that house. Maybe the old woman’s familiar? Maybe something else, but it seems really incredibly likely that there is a second personage in that house and that, so far in this story, we’ve only dealt with one. True, when we saw her, she was masquerading as the girl chained up, but I think there could still be a second personage in that house somewhere who would probably dearly love their freedom.”

      As you quoted, Blake sees her taking care of a girl (1.1).
      She was described as “middle-aged” during the first (and only) council Blake attended (2.1), sitting alone despite the ceasefire (the child is too precious to expose).
      Next time we see her as Scarf girl is asking for help (8.4), the young girl is already Mara herself, and her dolls (partially made of bones) sing with children’s voices.
      In her next appearance (9.3) during Blake’s vision, she still looks like a child, so it wasn’t a one-time illusion or glamour designed to trap Mags.

      My take on it: Mara raises a daughter, probably fitting complex criteria. Could be adopted, kidnapped, or her own flesh and blood for all we know. After possibly years of preparation, she jumps into the child’s body, and the girl gets shoved into a brand new singing doll waiting for her.

      That’s how she’s been alive for so long while keeping a human-like body despite her very Other-ish level.

      1. That would make quite a lot of sense actually. Knowing pact, she probably kidnaps children lost in the woods to steal their bodies and trap their souls into dolls for the rest of eternity. Please excuse me while I never go into the woods again.

  14. Also, if Andy/Eva do get up into the Barber’s room, I don’t know what that circle is like, but they both have metal things that would have a reflection that Barbatorem can jump to, possibly.

    1. My money is not on the barber as their target.

      Will stll do not know what Blake IS. Also, we do not know WHAT the dead man’s switch is, or WHO.
      Blake could easily be a demon only bound by Rose being alive, or other conditions.

      Sooo, my money.
      Since my previous calls overlooked the witch hunters, silly me, I guess my speculation must be further and farther apart from what will happen then ever before!

      So, #1: Jermey got clued into something by Rose which made him abandon every attempt to catch Blake to bring him back to Toronto to fulfill his promise. That must have been something spectaculary horrible.

      #2: Rose mentioned a dead man’s switch. It MIGHT be connected to the barber. Rose surely made some kind of contract with the barber, since she spend so much time dealing with him (at least that was hinted). BUT if it was really the demon, then the other bidders would have called the Inquisition by now. It would be sooooo convenient to have the Inquisition take out a bidder without dirtiing your hands.

      #3: Ava and Andy expected Blake, so they are acting on order. Since taking out the Thorburn “cabal” cannot (or “shoud” not be able to) be part of that, since it would fit into a the dispute over the lordship, it is not that. So, their target is connected to the dead man’s switch.

      #4: since Ava and Andy seem ill equiped to take on a demon, I doubt the dead nmens switch is Barbi.

      Hencefore: Blake is Rose’s (twin) brother made (part-)demon by the barber, using Molly’s death as a catalyst. The dead man’s switch is actually Blake discovering that, and facing his “future” trial still outstanding by his ascencion from the Drains.
      My guess is that the previous plan was made so after Blake dies, he reverts to demon, directly bound to Rose at her service. But Ur kind of screwed that up by sending him down the drains.
      Blake is now more than he was created|destroyed (since Demons cannot create, only “cut” things down) to be. He is a human turned demon which believes its a wraith-vestige Bogeyman.
      Du du duh.

      1. Sorry to mess up your speculation, but we do know the exact details of the dead man’s switch. From 11.01:

        “She redrew the circle around the [barber]. If the circle isn’t taken care of, in a way that only she knows how to do, both for how the circle’s supposed to be and how it needs to be taken care of,” Evan said, “The Barber can get out. If it does, then she’s the only one who knows how to bind it again.”

        But yes, if Blake is demonspawn, there’s a very real possibility that the Barber getting free would be connected to Blake somehow.

        1. It is only implied that the dead man’s switch is the circle around the barber. And the information regarding that comes from Evan, who the others used to get Blake into the trap. They could well misinform him so if he says something, its a misleading truth.

          The circle around the barber seems like a real threat, but not explicitly stated as the dead man’s switch by someone other than Evan as far as I can renember. Of course, I am most certainly wrong.

          Damn Pact made me another, NEW sort of paranoid.

          1. Did we ever actually see the Barber?
            IIRC, the room he was supposedly in was empty.

            I don´t think it is really going to happen, but maybe Blake IS the Barber (which atm makes less sense than him being a reflection carved out by him or a mote).
            The circle around the Barber got redrawn? Yeah, because that was when they trapped Blake in the mirror.
            And Rose not being there making Blake escalate seems likely anyway, which could be seen as some sort of dead man`s switch.

            Blake not remembering him being a demon? Might be the change Rose senior tried to make. Some sort of reverse corruption, that turns demons.

            1. Blake saw the Barber at the end of chapter 1.07. The room seemed empty before because Others are invisible to / hard to notice by the unawakened.

              Now, that makes the “Blake as the Barber” thing rather less likely, but we could keep it as a crackpot theory if we invoke the possibility of memory or perception shenanigans.

              The mote thing, though? Exceedingly likely. Check out that Barber scene from 1.07: The Barber is malnourished while Faysal called Blake a “starving giant”. The Barber stuck the scissors into his body (because creepy demon) while Blake stuck the Hyena into his broken hand. And the Barber ripped open his leg for whatever reason while Blake ripped open his ribcage to hide stuff inside.

            2. The Barber was purposefully making it so that an uninitiated human (or witch hunters) walking into that room might break the circle. They’d see scissors that had already broken the circle, and if they walked forward and picked those scissors up, they’d be walking into the very real circle that they couldn’t see, and giving Barbatorem a way out. Once Blake was initiated, he could see the real circle (and Barbatorem).

    2. I doubt that they have anything reflective on them. If they did, Blake could probably see the reflections in the mirror world and track/attack them from there.

  15. I fucking hate the Thorburns, but the rest of the town is full of assholes.

    I hope this backfires and ends up giving the Thorburns a common enemy, someone they can focus their nastiness on.

  16. I’m thinking this is the end for either Andy, Eva, or Both. Then their mentor will show up with a grudge.

    Also, seems like Peter got away.

  17. Mmm. First of all, fuck the Thorburns, Blake et Rose excepted. I know that they didn’t choose to be the jackarses they are, I know they didn’t choose to grow up in the caustic, toxic, despicable family they grew up in, but I can’t muster up any sympathy for any of them. They spend all their time trying to fuck with anyone they meet. They just don’t (seem to) care.

    Also, “It would have been heartwarming that they’d made the effort as a collective, if it weren’t for the fact that they were doing it to screw a fellow family member over”. Would it have been heartwarming to screw anyone else over? 😛

    Alexis et al. should have taken a minuter or two to hide their valuables and lock some doors. They knew what kind of company they were getting.

    Here is a theory. The Thorburns seem to be more aware about Blake’s presence than they originally were. Could Blake be slowly making them, subconsciously, suspicious? Their brains might dismiss a stray sound or a reflection without a source a few times, but they might cause suspicions. The suspicions slowly gather up.

    I’d like to think that Andy and Eva are in Hillsglade House on their own volition. They, especially Andy, have demonstrated a pure hatred for practitioners. They might be taking this opportunity to attack some of the scariest in a moment of weakness. But the idea that their goal is to deactivate the dead man’s switch makes a lot of sense. I half wonder if and half hope that we will get to see some rocket launcher action.

    1. The thing is Andy coud’ve used a knife to kill Ellie instead of a taser. Eva could’ve used a weapon instead of beating the crap out of Callen and Kathryn.

      The target could be Rose’s Cabal or burning the books and destroying all the knowledge the Thorburns have collected, thus handicapping the next heirs.

      1. I’m thinking the target is actually the Barber. That dead-man is the most dangerous ploy of Rose’s in play. -_-

        Yes, the library and books are important: but, that demon is the most immediate in the set of dangers. So, it’d make sense to either 1) take out the dead man’s switch somehow or 2) find out enough about the demon to work out how to do that by 3) knowing which books to target as a secondary concern. The Behaims actually do have some handle on defending themselves against diabolism, so they’d probably have an idea about what info they’d need to aim at. If not exactly where it’d be. 😛

        The problem is… nobody besides Blake, Rose and the Blackguard have a frigging clue about the real nature of the demon they’re facing. Laird had enough of an idea to have the gist, alright… but, I doubt he knew the full particulars enough to realise just how easy it’d be to set the nightmare loose. -_-

        1. Eva and Andy can be the first wave. Disable the innocents and practitioners. Then the Others are sent in to deal with the Demon.

          I still think the safest place for the Demon is where it is at. I think an attack is more likely to let it out than actually hurt it.

          There is no evidence to suggest that the demon would leave if it was out of Rose’s control. It would probably just gon on about its business in the town like Pauz was until someone else manages to bind it. Just by being around it will make the world a worse place.

          That would be an awkward conversation. ‘hey Rose, we accidentally let your demon loose and now its skinning people left and right. We were wondering if you could capture it”.

          1. I don’t think the problem is that there is a demon in the town. The problem is that you can’t trust unknown agents. They are willing to take a known risk instead of an unknown risk. I think that the risks might still be higher than the rewards though.

            Yes, Barbie is safely bound, but was Granny Rose competent enough to keep it there permanently? Was Rose competent enough to not fudge up whilst setting up her dead man’s switch? How many situations that the demon could capitalise on are there?

            Besides, I doubt anyone is stupid enough to just charge the demon head-on, without any information or a plan (crafted by Laird or Duncan), except for maybe braindead Eva and a sick-of-living Andy (neither of which are at that point yet). So far, characters in Pact haven’t been idiots.

        2. Eva and Andy are completely unsuitable to deal with the Barber. They’re very good at dealing with most Others and with Practitioners, but all they can do with Barbie is set him free, which the absolute worst case scenario.
          It’s more likely that they’re there as a first wave like Mark suggest. Though I’m not sure anyone actually wants to deal with the demon at this point. I think it’s more likely that the goal is to get rid of as much of Rose’s assets as they can before they have to let her go to deal with the dead man’s switch.

          1. thats why I presume that the the “dead man’s switch” (DMS) is NOT why they are there.

            I have refined my speclation into even more irrational scenarios:
            Andy and Eva are there specifically to knock out everyone, not kill, because that would be interfering with the bid for lordship, and they act on order, because only like this (from Jeremy) they know of Blake (Mags is a possibility, but a slim one).
            They set the stage for the capture&binding of Blake, to be executed by Jeremy and/or Sandra. The whole setup is just to fulfil their promise.

            Arguments for this scenario:
            #1: If it was about a demon getting loose, they could call the Inquisition, which would exterminate the “cabal” and are equipped to deal with the demon. And all that karmic in full karmic balance, because not they themselves pull the trigger.
            #2: Andy and Eva act on order. Indicators for that would be (1) the knowledge of Blake, (2) not killing “innocents”, (3) not just blowing the house up/burning it down
            #3: Andy and Eva are NOT equipped to deal with the demon. No way. Johannes and Faysal would be a better option. (if they subsequently show up, this scenario is in the wind) Therefore they are not there because of the demon.
            #4: Andy and Eva “should” not be there to exterminate the Thorburn “Cabal”, since that would interfere with the bid for Lordship, as already stated. Since they are acting on order, that would be outright cheating, because they professed to have a different role at the meeting and are “out of bounds” of the bid. (If cheating is allowed, then, again, scenario is dead. Also, Andy and Eva can profess as they want, since they can lie)
            #5: Rose will likely be released from the mental hospital before the dead man’s switch as described by Evan takes hold. So getting her there serves only the purpose of enabling a deceisive surgical strike. Renember how easily Blake fudged Duncan’s manipulation in the police station. It serves as a reminder that that sort of manipulation easily backfires. Ok, this time Sandra is in the mix, and she is probably a Master Enchantress and Connection Manipulator.
            #6: The books are a likly target, but it would easily be possible to just blow the house up or lay fire in the night. Enchantresses harnessing a fire elemental to do that damage would be more efficient. They would not need to get Rose out of the way for that.

            The attack by Andy and Eva must have a very specific target to be achieved using non-lethal force (hence the taser).
            The whole operation stinks of “Blake-extraction”. Either they try to bind him directly or someone else comes in as second wave or they try to evict him from the house.

            What is just occuring to me:
            Peter got out of the house, doing a circle. Coincidence? I think not.

            Another possible scenario: Peter is awakened and is about to claim a big part of the property as his demesme! Very absurd, yes, but with Wildbow, everything is possible.

            1. The Inquisition would probably, at the very least, burn the Behaims as well. They did help Conquest in his bid to become a demon-powered Conquest. And they appear to have diabolism knowledge as well. The Sorcerer and the Duchamps might get burned by association. Not to mention the fact that they haven’t told the Inquisition about this for how long?

              And that’s assuming they don’t have any Andy clones who would just kill everything. Which they probably do.

            2. When did the Inquisition help Conquest? During the Conquest arc, it was mentionend that an Inquisitor resides in/near Toronto. It was a statement made as a threat against Blake.

              Why should the Inquisition burn the Behaims? As far as most people know, they are an Influencial Familiy of Chronomancers. The Reader might know that Laird had some sort of Diabolist training, but thats it. Its undisclosed on who else may know this.

    2. He’s not meant to be totally ignorable by Innocents. Just easily dismissable. After all, other bogeymen are known to terrify and kill anybody in a bid to keep their essence together. It’s a bit hard to do either to somebody if they’re totally unaware of your presence and you can’t interact with them at all, no? 😐

      Kids just see them far easier, so get an earlier warning to mess with the game plan. <.<

        1. If it was a horror movie, maybe the more scared someone is, the more they can see Blake. Then they get even more scared of him ( a vicious cycle) until he is able to come out of the mirror and kill his victim.

    3. Here is another thought. Why would practitioners not have firearms to use in dire circumstances? I understand why they don’t use them regularly; it would start an arms race nobody wants to participate in (which reminds me of the first few pages of this comic: http://wizardschoolcomic.com/index.php?id=1). But if you are defenseless, powerless, like our protagonists are, wouldn’t it make sense to keep a handgun nearby?

      1. Laird and Duncan had Firearms.
        But to bring a firearm into a magic duel could either be a faux pas, or -renembering how Maggie aka Padraic deflected Cnquests bullet- be not effective at all.

        My guess is that a bullet works as long as practitioneers are not prepared for them. Which effectivle counts for everything.

            1. But don’t forget: if you were to challange your enemy to a duel first and you are both equipped equally -> karma bonus if you plow his head off (at least the setting gives me this impression)
              Also, if you are attacked, and warn your enemy that you are ready to kill him if he/she does not stop, then the karmic impact from the klilling should be neglectible.

            2. Conversely, if you make a de-facto promise not to kill someone, and get them killed anyway, the universe reacts by making you (more likely to) lose against the reality-erasing monster.

      2. They should have some around for witch hunters.

        In Toronto they mentioned something about a gun not being reliable when trying to kill a practitioner. I think it was something about uncertainty.

        Then again, in Black lamb’s blood the Evangelist and Templars use guns.

        Would be nice to see a practitioner use a gun as an implement.

      3. We have a great reason for why: in contrast to witch hunters, practitioners have to worry about karma. So they prefer deferred responsibility over direct weapons.

        From 7.01:

        “To be entirely honest, I wasn’t aware that was actually a thing,” I said. “Deferring responsibility.”

        “It is,” Laird told me. He’d gone very still, and looked very grim, the lines in his face making his age and stress obvious. “You leave a man standing on a chair with a noose around their neck. The powers and spirits that would decide where responsibility for the death rested don’t necessarily have the wits or the long memory needed to figure it out.”

        Fell sat in a chair, the butt-end of the gun resting in his hand. He’d relaxed a bit since the imp was summoned. “It’s true. There’s a reason practitioners prefer curses and convoluted ends over efficient things like _bullets_.”

        “Ah,” I said. “Interesting.”

        And then there could be other considerations. For instance, in some stories with both magic and technology, using magic screws up said technology. Also, this is Canada, not the USA. I don’t know anything about firearm laws, but maybe it’s harder to legally acquire them in Canada? And Blake & co have no connections to get them illegally.

        But anyway, the simplest reason here is simply that our protagonists haven’t had any time or chance to practice firearm combat. Using a handgun without knowing how to just gets you killed.

      4. Fell had a gun. He was quite proud of it. On the other hand, a gun’s useful, but no more than, say, a knife, and I’m pretty sure the spirits are still able to recognize agency of murder with a firearm.

      5. Indeed. The Harry Dresden School of Magic. One of the reasons I love that series so much is that Harry has a very real-person feel to him, including carrying a gun with him when he can, if he knows he’s going to be in a serious fight.

  18. The second gen Thorburns sound like a bunch of old crooks planning a bank robbery for the first half of the chapter. Also, I really am beginning to like Callan. He cares for his siblings much like Blake and Rose care for Ivy, which I can respect.

  19. Comments:

    1. “I recovered fast, but I could feel my eyes crawling, as if they were healing from some minor damage.” – Worm reference!

    2. “Keep the pressure on, see what cracks.” – I feared Blake would crack before Alexis. And you do not want to provoke the scary monster by harming his (former?) love in life.

    3. Argh. This makes so much sense. If you use innocents for defense, the enemy will use witch hunters for offense. And the witch hunters have no scruples against killing Blake’s friends, nor need they fear the bad karma.

    4. The Thorburns are sorry excuses for human beings, but even they don’t deserve physical violence with the very real risk of permanent injuries. Especially the children.

    5. As I understood it, the whole point of the witch hunters was protecting Innocents. When Andy hurt them instead, I lost much of my remaining respect for him. Once you compromise on your own principles like that…

    6. I don’t think the witch hunters can do anything with Barbatorem. They aren’t even practitioners. So what are they here to do? Kill everyone? Burn down the library?

    7. There’s a remote possibility that Peter will come to everyone’s rescue. But what could he do against Andy & Eve?

    8. This… could get ugly. The “Blake snaps after seeing one of his friends killed” kind of ugly, or the “Barbatorem gets free” kind of ugly, or the “library destroyed” kind of ugly, or the “innocents die and Blake & co shoulder the karmic hit” kind of ugly, or…

    1. Witch hunters don’t protect the innocent. They’re hired guns. If you’ve got cash they’ve got firepower.

      No one is knowledgeable enough Han it comes to demons but Rose in JB so they’re probably there to take hostages or kill her support.

    2. They’d use his opposite against him, most likely, the same way you’d use iron against goblins and crude items against faeries. He’s a Demon of Ruin, so they’d probably use the opposite of that. Given the Barber’s medical/mutilation theme, maybe lifesaving medical equipment would work.

        1. When is Blake going to start looking out of people’s eyes? He knows it’s a thing. I wonder why he hasn’t tried?

    3. what indication has there been that karma doesn’t apply to non-practitioners? they may not be cluing them into anything supernatural, but attacking people unprovoked, still sounds like something that would net you neg-karma

      1. As I understand it, karma is based on spirits and therefore only applies to practitioners; it’s something you get involved with via the awakening ritual.

        I found some quotes to back this up, and they seem pretty conclusive (particularly the third one):

        Perhaps this seems unfair, but modern standards of fair and unfair are just that: modern. In this world I’ve imposed on you, there are very old things, and there are very old traditions. Here, the sins of the father are visited upon the son. Or mother and daughter, rather. (1.03)

        The world seeks balance in all respects. Whenever a practitioner works, they pay a price. (2.04)

        Enemies, danger, chaos, and disruption find you more readily. In looser terms, all Others, spirits and practitioners get the sense, innate or otherwise, that they can and _should_ work against your interests. (2.04)

        “I’m not trying to reap any extra karma by sharing details with you,” Andy said. “Those other guys are doing the whole ‘play fair’, ‘see the whites of your enemy’s eyes before you doom them forever’, and that ‘announce your intentions before seeing them through’ garbage. If and when I come after you, Thorburn, I’m not doing any of that.” (3.05)

        1. “As I understand it, karma is based on spirits and therefore only applies to practitioners”. Firstly, the quotes you give don’t explicitly support the claim that karma DOESN’T apply to non-practitioner humans. More importantly from my memory there are lots of suggestions that karma does apply to non-practitioners humans,

          Also as an aside, people who use the word ‘last’ followed by the work ‘chapter’ in comments make it REALLY annoying to ctrl+F around… please stop!

          Pretty sure this quote puts this issue to rest definitively:

          The young man said, “It’s a stopgap measure. Sufficient for the non-practitioners who stumble on ways to give themselves bad karma.” [Damages 2.4]

          1. Hm. That is a good point, and when you brought it up I also remembered Histories 2 where Fell’s brother/relative somehow gave away his good karma:

            “But some of their sins and their mistakes are my sins and my mistakes too.”
            “Ah. You’ve given them all your luck and fortune. All of your slipperiness.”

            But then, if Andy is affected by karma, why doesn’t he feel the need to “play fair”? Surely Andy & Eve would’ve accumulated debilitating amounts of bad karma by now?

            Perhaps it’s not easy to get bad karma as a non-practitioner, i.e. you have to somehow affect a practitioner or Other? Or your bad karma doesn’t matter until you’re awakened?

            1. Practitioners have to be careful about being fair because they vow to take more responsibility for their actions.

              From Blake/Rose’s awakening:

              My word is bound and binding. I ask you respect it as such.

              My actions are my own, but have an equal amount of weight.

              So I pledge.

            2. Not being a native speaker, I don’t really understand the sentence “My actions are my own, but have an equal amount of weight.”

              What is that supposed to mean, exactly? An “equal amount of weight” to what? To myself? To “My word is bound and binding.”? Or to something else?

            3. That would seem to be indicating that their actions are not bound like their words are but still be weighed as though they are.

              I agree that it’s surprisingly vague though given how important truth is to practitioners. Perhaps they did that on purpose.

    4. ““I recovered fast, but I could feel my eyes crawling, as if they were healing from some minor damage.” – Worm reference!”
      No, that’s the last of Ur being burned out of Blake’s eyes. 🙂

  20. The thought occurs to me, Blake gets away with a lot with the power of belief. The Twilight sparkly vampires are cannon in Pact – they’re faeries who think they are vampires. Blake is a created thing. Even when outside the mirror, he should never have been able to become a practitioner, yet he did, because he believed he could. I learned to break Behaim time magic by the power of believing that it doesn’t work. What else can he believe?

    I make it a point to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

  21. Anyone else notice that Andy prepared with a metal cup just in case he got kicked, or stabbed, there? I guess being prepared works.

    1. When your job consists of fighting things that believe swords are still how men kill each other, a cod-piece is a good investment. It’s probably just in his work clothes pile, sandwiched between the silver coated chain mail and the Kevlar vest.

  22. Blake felt the connection from his mirror bag to the real one. Does this mean he is getting his practitioner powers back? To be able to feel the connections like “Shotgun” rather than see them?

    Wow. So, when blake used his mirror-hyena to attack with the real one, this means his opponent could have grabbed i and spun it around, killing blake with his own weapon? That’s pretty dangerous.

    Well…. at least andy is prepared. Didn’t know they made metal groin protectors. I want one.

  23. Blake need to teach all the Blakeguard a new name: “Ornias, Everyone, repeat after me. Say it 5 times now. Announce to everyone that any harm or threat to any of you will have the rest say it the 7th time. Have fun.”

    1. That wouldn’t work. Blake exacted promises from the Blakeguard for them not to learn Diabolism. Besides, Knowing that name is what got Blake in trouble in Toronto.

      1. It’s also dubious whether just anyone can call Ornias, or whether you need a certain reputation, e.g. being a lawyer or the chosen Thorburn heir.

        And finally, Ornias may never have been bound. Summoning the scary demon without being able to control it is… problematic. Might result in a life worse than death etc.

  24. So, one VERY unusual thing I noticed in this story, after Andy tases Ellie:

    He pulled off one mitt with his teeth, then shoved it into one pocket. He let the taser dangle from a wrist-strap while he pulled off the other mitt.

    He moved his hands in a series of gestures.

    Eva responded.

    I watched as she stuck out her tongue, then bit it. Her eyes closed, her head rested against the corner of wall. Almost as if she were meditating or in a daze.

    So Andy, as it turns out, might be a Practitioner after all.

    1. It’s been pretty clearly pointed out in prior chapters that the witch hunters are trained extremely intensively. They have no magical ability. They have some understanding of how magic works and might even be able to perform some very simple rituals for protection or detection. Andy and Eva have zero love for the practitioner community. It wasn’t that long ago that there was a mention of sending Andy a RPG, and hints that the RPG would be used to try to erase lots of problems all at once during a meeting of the practitioners at the church.

      Andy and Eva, when they do act, cannot act with any reservations at all, or they will fail. Practitioners are clever. They have abilities that Andy and Eva can’t match. Andy and Eva must be efficient and decisive. The longer they take to attack the practitioners in the house, the more likely it is that the practitioners will figure out a way to escape, protect themselves effectively, or effectively counterattack.

      There can be a fine line between an effective close combat fast-entry antiterrorist team (The closest real world parallel I can think of here) and psychopaths.

      1. I suspect no few of the most “successful” people in the military of being psychopaths, and I know (as there have been recent studies showing the truth of it) that many high-level business people (ceo’s) are certifiable psychopaths.

  25. …Does Roxanne have ODD?

    Could just be that she’s spoiled and grew up in a crummy family, but it’s looking an awful lot like the Thorburns have a Feint. Joy.

    (Also, hello all — this is my first post in Wildbow’s comment sections. Been reading his stories since I think May 2013, though I first heard of Worm when it got a thread on RPGnet in October 2012.)

    1. Hi! I only began reading in October 2013, when Worm was almost finished. I didn’t really feel like reading the comments when I could just read the next chapter instead.

      But for Pact, trying (and usually failing) to predict what will happen next turned out to be fun, so here I am.

    2. All of the Thorburns have odd.
      (Acronyms work better if people know what they mean. I’m pretty sure one of the D’s, likely the second, is for Disorder, but I’m not sure about the others.)

      Welcome to the group!

      1. I figured most people would try a Google search and note that the top five search results for ‘odd’ (according to the trial I ran just now in an Incognito tab, nullifying any customization for my account) all show the same expansion for that acronym.

        I also figured some of Wildbow’s readers might have heard of ODD from a character of his that’s been diagnosed with it in-story (the Feint I referenced), but I suppose that’s a different section of his fandom that doesn’t overlap so much with the WordPress comments these days.

  26. hey wildbow, i’m very sorry for commenting this here, but i don’t know if you’ve gotten my e-mails? (yeah i’m the boring fan asking for permission to translate worm to brazilian portuguese) please answer me… sorry i keep bothering you with this. best of luck with pact, which is also an awesome story.

    1. Hi. Sorry, email must have gotten lost in the shuffle.

      In answer to the translation thing – see my comments at the bottom of the page in the Worm FAQ, where I talk to another person asking something similar. I outline my perspective there.

      1. To copy paste:

        “So I’ll simply say that it’s very much the same as Fanfiction. It’s not worth my time and effort to go after readers who are doing something relatively harmless – so I’ll say it’s (fanfiction/translation) not necessarily a bad thing, and you won’t earn my displeasure by doing something in that vein… provided it stays harmless.

        It stays harmless so long as you’re not making money off my work, which is one thing that raises red flags, and so long as the authorship isn’t in question (ie. people don’t have to spend days/weeks deciphering whether I wrote it or stole the idea from [fanfiction author/translator].

        It’s a hell of a lot easier and better for my peace of mind if you don’t earn money/solicit money for the translation/fanfiction and if you add a nice clear header/line/mark/page that says something like, “This is purely a fan project and I/we lay no claim to the ideas, characters, or story. The real author is J.C. McCrae, aka ‘Wildbow’, and the original version can be found at http://www.parahumans.wordpress.com .””

        Hope that helps Abelha

  27. Wildbow, just thought I would let you know that tasers emphatically do not work like they are depicted here. Like, not at all. First of all, if you’re not using the barbs that pierce the skin, as in, if you’re “shoving” with your taser, you aren’t even incapacitating them. All you can ever do with a taser used to jab, or a stun gun, is cause pain (admittedly lots of it) and possibly some minor spasming. In order to get the effect you see in videos where tasers are used, the barbs MUST pierce the skin and stay under.

    Even when the barbs pierce the skin, what’s happening is that you’re not able to make much voluntary coordinated movement. You ARE able to scream, as you can see in most taser videos. As such a taser is utterly useless as a way to take someone out without anyone noticing. And that goes triple if you’re “shoving it” into someone’s neck, because that means you are using it in stun gun mode and simply causing a great deal of pain.

    Tasers will almost never cause any medium to long term incapacitation. People tend to lie down and be still after they have been shot with a taser because that’s what being shot with a taser makes you wanna do, on top of the cop being able to just press the trigger again if you make them feel like it. But you regain your ability to move the instant that they stop pressing the trigger. This means that you simply cannot use a taser as a means of long term restraint unless you wait right on top of the fella you’re tasering ready to press the trigger again when they move.

    “Eva’s kick hadn’t taken out Kathryn, or Callan for that matter. That wasn’t how it really worked. One well-executed blow didn’t usually knock someone out, and when it did, it often came with brain damage and long-term impairment. It did, if done right, essentially take them out of the fight.”

    A well executed kick, if it lands solidly, is very likely to knock someone out. Certainly far more likely than a zap. In my personal opinion it’s a good idea to refrain from these sorts of ‘educational’ paragraphs – it’s perfectly fine that your stories have unrealistic parts to them, but when you start talking about how things ‘really work’ in the middle of your stories you set a much, much, much higher bar for yourself.

    And yep, getting knocked out does often lead to brain damage, but that’s the last thing that would ever concern a couple of vigilantes who are willing to use explosives, for god’s sake. By the way, there is actually no way to reliably and completely incapacitate someone who does not want to be incapacitated, quickly, without risking their death or serious injury. If there was such a method anesthesiology would not be such a difficult and respected field. It simply does not exist. You can use blows to the head, or chemical doses (chemical doses don’t work if you want things quiet because people who are shot with darts will scream their heads off.) There’s actually no other way, and neither are safe. Anyone in the hunters’ position would be very well aware of this.

    Electrical means of incapacitation work to stop someone from moving in a coordinated manner, but do not stop them from making noise, and do not work unless in huge, easily deadly doses, or continually applied by barbs that pierce the skin. You cannot completely incapacitate someone with electricity unless you use enough to kill them, and it will be quite loud. And very very unreliable, as you can see by looking through the history of the electric chair. Electricity can be a fairly reliable executioner’s tool if things are set up meticulously, but that’s obviously beyond absurd in a combat situation.

    To incapacitate people quickly semi-reliably without direct risk of hurting them, you can threaten them into compliance. This is also the ONLY way. It’s also practical in a fairly wide range of situations . If the hunters were hippy, thou-shalt-not-harm style vigilantes, that’s what they would do. But of course they aren’t, as they demonstrated several times already in this story, and if they needed someone out of the picture without necessarily killing them they would hit them very hard in the head with a blunt instrument. This would risk killing them, but you’re necessarily risking killing and being killed if you invade people’s homes, and you’re absolutely hyper aware of this if you’re the kind of people those vigilantes would have to be.

    1. He doesn’t knock them out with the taser. He zaps them and then stays near them – he remains within two steps of Ellie from the time he zaps her and lets her collapse against the wall. She doesn’t scream because he covers her mouth with one hand.

      1. Leaving scream through hand (try covering your mouth with a hand and screaming), taser goes in neck, da da da,

        “Andy slid down to the front door, opened the door, then closed it.”

        At this point there’s a completely conscious (and very disagreeable) girl who just had her neck slightly burned in an extremely painful manner on the ground. Why isn’t she screaming her lungs out?

        “lets her collapse against the wall”

        Tasers in “drive-stun mode,” which is presumably what you use when you bother to press it directly against someone’s neck, don’t make you collapse. If he shot the barbs in her neck, it would indeed make her collapse, but she would still be yelling on the ground because tasers don’t make you fall unconscious in either “drive-stun mode” or barb insertion mode. He would also have to keep pulling the trigger to keep her incapacitated. In order to have his taser ready for another shot, he would have to reload his taser and in the process stop shocking the girl. Who would still be screaming anyway.

      2. If you want a realistic answer to using tasers then leaving the victims behind, unconscious, Andy might have tasered them, then slapped an ether-impregnated breathing mask with ether-soaked sponges in place of the filters over her face. (cheaplt buyable masks at any big box hardware store) Or a small laundry bag with an ether-impregnated sponge in it pulled over the head and tied shut. Someone that’s just been tasered won’t have the manual dexterity to get the bag off before they are out, and almost certainly won’t be thinking about holding their breath.

        The sponges with ether in them could be kept soaked with ether and ready for use for a long time through the expedient of simply coating a sponge with wax, then injecting it with ether through the wax, then sealing that hole. When it’s time to use the ether, crush the wax-covered sponge.

        1. For the sake of debate, ether kinda sucks as a fast-acting anesthetic. However, given he can get his hands on a rocket launcher, Andy probably has access to better ones.

    2. Thanks for the detailed explanation! Learning new things every day.

      In my personal opinion it’s a good idea to refrain from these sorts of ‘educational’ paragraphs – it’s perfectly fine that your stories have unrealistic parts to them, but when you start talking about how things ‘really work’ in the middle of your stories you set a much, much, much higher bar for yourself.

      I disagree with that. I don’t mind such “educational” paragraphs at all, and I think they can be very helpful. My arguments would be along these lines:

      The author argument: Worm was considered a first draft in need of editing and polish. Wildbow’s writing speed necessitates a ban on editing past chapters. So it’s fine that the story contains some errors which get pointed out in the comments. Conversely, it’s also good that you pointed them out – authors are human and can have misconceptions like anyone else. If nobody points out their errors, how could they ever be corrected, e.g. in an editing phase or future works?

      The story argument:

      • Most characters in fiction are frustratingly dumb. And if not dumb, then genre blind (-> TV Tropes): They’ve never seen a zombie movie in their whole lives and so don’t know how to react appropriately in a zombie story, etc. Wildbow’s characters are, I’m glad to say, not dumb. They’re all intelligent, or at the very least, genre savvy. (To give one recent example: Rose’s “You don’t split up when there’s a horror movie monster after you”)

      • This genre savvy includes knowing which things are typically depicted wrongly in fiction. The whole stealth-game / action-movie-style one-punch-nonlethal-knockouts are pervasive everywhere. The educational paragraph helps ensure that all readers are on the same page concerning what’s happening: Andy & Eve are pretty brutal, but any method of incapacitating groups of people can cause permanent harm etc. That doesn’t excuse their actions (especially Eve snapping in the end), but it puts them in context.

      • The story is written by Wildbow, but narrated by Blake. Blake doesn’t have to get things 100% right. The way I see it, Blake has just read something like the TV Tropes page “TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life” (beware: time-consuming!) in the past and remembers the contents to a degree.

  28. It is somewhat odd that Blake worries so much about backlash from initiating innocents into the supernatural, given how high the family debt is already. You’d think he would focus on mere survival, because the debt can’t be paid if he’s dead. The amount of debt added by adding another innocent would be infinitesimal relative to the current amount.

    Blake shouldn’t focus on avoiding slightly bad actions but on achieving extremely good ones, in my opinion. Unless, I suppose, karma pursues irony or direct punishment, so that there is domain specific backlash against bad actions rather than just an aggregate tally influencing overall lifetime luck.

    1. These particular “innocents” are Thorburns. Having one as the main target of the karmic credit card debt that targets practioner-blood is one thing. More than one? Hell, no. <.<

      And, take a good, long look at the personalities we've seen on display and remember that what your initiates do reflects on your personal debt, too. 😛 Would you really want to risk having Ellie having direct access to your karmic credit card?

    2. Neither Blake nor Alexis & co suffer from the Thorburn karmic debt (anymore, in Blake’s case). If they involve people now, the karmic backlash will land on them, not on Rose.

      Also, when things involving diabolists go wrong, they go horribly wrong. Case in point: involving Thorburn innocents in the practitioner world will get them killed by the Jacob’s Bell practitioners. Not an insignificant amount of bad karma.

      More generally, once you involve someone in the practitioner world, you share some of their (only bad?) karma from then on, like some kind of Pyramid scheme. If the newly awakened Thorburns survived for a while, they could add significantly to the debt of whoever involved them.

      I agree with the rest, but Blake isn’t really in a position to pick and choose his actions – he’s in a frantic fight for survival right now. If he survives the battle for Lordship and still wants to help Rose, on the other hand…
      And then there’s the whole “slippery slope” consideration: karma can be gamed (e.g. Alister’s divination tricks; deferring the responsibility for Molly’s death; Laird building up a karmic buffer vs. Blake in arc 1). But just because it can, doesn’t mean it should. Ben Behaim had some reservations about this. And Blake is very in tune with his spirits; it could hurt him if he tried to be “selectively” right rather than always.

  29. I wonder if Blake could bring himself into the real world by using two mirrors facing one another…

    Also, if I remember right, Barbatorem can inhabit reflective surfaces. Including eyes. Perhaps Blake is missing a few opportunities to inhabit reflective surfaces that people will not be keen on damaging…

    1. He’s indicated that there’s a minimum size for reflective surfaces to be usable by him IIRC (this should be obvious, or shattering a mirror wouldn’t actually deprive him of a window into the world, just scatter it all over the place.) Additionally, he would lose access to an eye whenever it’s closed, judging by the fact that he loses access to covered mirrors.

  30. Am I the only one who finds Peter slipping out right before this all goes down to be suspicious? There’s a lot of things that could be going on — he could be cooperating with the Witch Hunters and whoever sent them, knowingly or unknowingly, for instance. And this is even stranger:

    Nothing. No window I could peer through gave me a view of Alexis. There was only Peter, walking as far away from the house as he could get without walking on a slope, treading a circle around the property.

    That feels almost ritualistic, somehow.

        1. He seems pretty smart. He was probably hoping to spot something to help him understand what was going on. Failing that, if he saw something he could use against “Rose’s friends” his walk would have been worth it.

  31. Andy and Eva versus the non-practitioner Thorburns:

    If I remember a phrase from Pratchett properly, “it’s like watching a wasp land on a nettle – you know someone’s going to get stung and you don’t care who”.

    On the other hand, then Andy and Eva go after Blake’s friends. Not good.

  32. Somewhere out in Youtube land is a compilation from lots of horror/thriller movies of all the “cell phone doesn’t work” moments. Most of them don’t bother to explain why the cell doesn’t work (although remote locations are often involved), but the idea is there – cutting off people from options like the authorities or backup is necessary for dramatic tension. This is one of the first stories I have seen that explains how that is even possible: in this case, practitioners (enchantresses especially) can cut any connection, which should effectively stop cell phones.

    1. And many other stories pretend that authorities don’t exist (e.g. manga about street fighting: someone gets kidnapped, and nobody even considers calling the police). Here, even if you do have a cellphone, you can’t use it to call any authority figures. Can’t involve innocents, and even the police in Jacob’s Bell are not safe.

      1. Thanks for the additional point I forgot – it is not a good idea to call in unawakened authorities because either you become responsible for them or they get jerked around by the practitioners.

    2. Cell phone jammers aren’t all that hard to get a hold of, especially compared to RPGs. I would be very disappointed if Andy /didn’t/ have a closet full of them.

  33. For those who’re checking in – no bonus chapter tonight/Thurs. Got back from a trip and had errands to run. Need to have groceries to eat, etc. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    1. Boar gotta eat. Nobody will fault you for that. Though I am interested in what extravagant groceries people (and boars) eat in Canada. Chicken Cordon Greene? Spinach Cake? Root Beer?

            1. Fun fact: Tim Hortons is just an elaborate prank we made up to fool foreigners. And nobody actually knows how to play hockey, we just put figure skaters in adapted football uniforms and giggle at the American fanbase.

  34. Got to be better than TV with only a hundred channels.”
    Kids these days. And by “kids,” I mean people well within a decade of my own age.

    I hoped it fed both parts of me, bolstering the aspect of me that was Blake Thorburn, thoroughly pissed about what she’d done to my friends.
    What’s the chance of that happening?

    “Those assholes,” Callan said. “They planned this.”
    Technically true, for a certain set of assholes.

    Well. This is…pleasant. I feel sorry for everyone except Ellie (in no small part because she’ll likely be the most okay once all is said and done).

  35. “Eva’s kick hadn’t taken out Kathryn, or Callan for that matter. That wasn’t how it really worked. One well-executed blow didn’t usually knock someone out, and when it did, it often came with brain damage and long-term impairment. It did, if done right, essentially take them out of the fight.”

    While I’ve pleased to see this recognised considering your other work, Worm, suffers incredibly from this, unintended fatal damage just never happens, it’s humorous in the juxtaposition.

  36. So,we have a combat and planning genius and his friends vs a combat genius and a hard working planning genius .

    Popcorn time.

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