Malfeasance 11.11

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When mom and dad come home, they’re going to be soooo mad.

Flooding house, oil and broken glass at the base of the stairs, shattered back windows, at least three people in need of a hospital visit, one of whom was folded into the couch.

Oh, and the bombs.

If they showed up at the wrong time and tried to force their way in…

I shook my head.  Too many ifs.  If we took too long, if Andy got to my friends, if Alexis wasn’t okay, if one of my friends were hurt, dying, or dead

I didn’t like the feeling that took hold of me as I thought on that subject.

I relocated myself to the kitchen floor.  There were places where the residue from the extinguisher made the water too muddy to reflect anything.

The mirror Peter had been holding was gone.  Covered, broken, or cast aside to a place where it couldn’t reflect anything I could use.  Peter, too, was missing.  From the water or whatever else that was on the stairs, I suspected he was already up there.

“Evan,” I called out.

Evan came flying to me from the bookshelves.  He started to land on the edge of the counter, but shied away and landed on the toaster instead.

“Water,” he noted.  “And, oh poop, witch hunter.”

I didn’t have a good angle to see Eva.

“Clever, Bloody Marv,” I heard Eva speak.

“Wasn’t quite my idea,” I said.  “Also, Bloody Marv?  Really?”

“Gotta call you something.”

I considered reminding her about my name, then reconsidered.

I’d given it freely in the past, just talking to the junior council, but there was a sense of danger about Eva.  Her willingness to harm, her sheer resourcefulness.

“Thorburn Bogeyman,” I said.

“T.B.?”

“Whatever,” I said.

I moved to the one intact picture frame by Eva, watched her pace a little.  A restless tiger in its cage.  She kicked the doormat until it blocked off the water that creeped closer to her.  Her body was dusted white from the fire extinguisher’s spray.

She had the machete in one hand, the dark green orb cupped in the other, and the fanny pack with the grenades slung over one shoulder, apparently collected when she’d run past the pool of oil.

It was, in an odd twist, a reversal of the situation they’d had with us.

One more pressing threat upstairs, a lesser, hobbled threat downstairs.  Couldn’t ignore them both.

If I went upstairs to help Peter deal with Andy, I risked letting Eva run rampant.  Much as they’d done with us.

If I stayed here with Eva, well, Andy wasn’t quite the threat Eva was in a fight, but I suspected he could deal with Peter rather easily.  Neither was a fighter by nature, but Andy, I imagined, at least had practice.  Armor, too.

The water on the stairs was coming from the second floor bathroom.  Andy would have heard.

“Only one more to go,” Eva said, unaware that I was close to her, ready to strike if her pacing brought her too close to the frame.  “Pretty sure.”

One more?

“One more what?” Evan called out.

“T.B.?” the witch hunter called, almost taunting.  “I’m talking to you.”

I could see her body tense.  She approached the doormat, putting one foot on it.

Ready to make a break for it?

I switched locations.  “I’m listening, I’m just not sure why I’m supposed to take the bait.”

She chuckled to herself.

“Evan,” I whispered, “Go check, help if you can, don’t get shot.”

Evan took flight, wings flapping as he headed upstairs.

“I’m asking,” the witch hunter said, “Because I want to know if you’re there.”

“I’m here,” I said.

By asking periodically, opening a dialogue, she kept me here, watching her, keeping her from making a break for it

She thought time was on her side.

Yet the house was flooding.  Water crept on a variety of surfaces.

“You’re a new bogeyman, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Damn,” she said.  “I always wanted to know if it sucked, being bound.  Stuck inside some old antique until someone releases you.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t know,” I said, glancing back.  Nobody in the stairwell.  Light covered much of the second floor hallway.  Where footsteps landed, the reflection was disrupted.  I couldn’t tell where the footsteps were, only the cadence.

“Andy said it’s hard, being a bogeyman.  You spend a while in the Abyss, or Limbo, or whatever name you want to slap onto the ground level of reality, and it chews you up and spits a monster out, right?”

“Something like that.  Haven’t heard it called the ground level before.  Doesn’t seem much like reality.”

“Yeah, I bet,” she said.  “You want Andy for that explanation.  Mayans or someone thinking that all reality was basically chaos and void before the first gods set it straight.  Humans following after, smoothing off the rough edges.  I’m getting bits wrong already.”

“Sure,” I said.  The entire world was essentially like the Drains, in another time?

“Let’s say I whip out a thing and use it to bind you.  Nice old fashioned thing with a lot of weight and power to it.  Do you just stay inside?  Or is it more that you go back to the place you came from, Limbo or wherever, steadily getting worse, and you pop out when the container gets opened?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Which of the two is worse?” she asked.  “Stuck inside some container or another, all dark, just waiting for a few decades or centuries, or going back to the place that made you a monster?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“When we capture an Other, there’s a guy we call.  Specializes in disposal.  All the little whatsits and doodads get relocated somewhere proper.”

“That’s a spooky idea,” I said.  “A warehouse full of boxes with monsters inside.”

She snorted.  “Fuck that.  Hole in the ground and poured cement, way out in the middle of the scads of protected land we’ve got here in the great white north.  Nobody’s going to dig much in permafrost, except our guy that’s sticking cursed items and bound monsters in the ground.”

“If you’re trying to scare me,” I commented, “I don’t feel fear in the same way, anymore.”

“Ahh.  That’s no fun,” she said.  “So if I just happened to tell you that one of the people upstairs has a bomb glued to them, that wouldn’t affect you at all?”

I glanced upstairs.

“Hard to picture something like that,” I said.

She made a sound, not quite vocal enough to be a chuckle.  “I had my bushwhacker to her throat, Andy rigged the bomb.  Level on the top.  Tube with water in it, big fat bubble?  Fluid is conductive, right?  If the bubble moves to intersect one of the wires, the current can’t conduct, the bomb blows, and you get diabolist all over the walls and floor.”

“Telling the enemy how to defuse your bomb?”

“Not quite.  I saw Andy build it, or I was in the same room watching TV while he built it, same thing, but I couldn’t defuse it if you gave me twenty tries.  I’m just saying.  Last I saw, other two were cornered, afraid to even get close.  Rune of exile on the thing to keep it from being tampered with by other spirits, keep the boom muted.  She’s shaking, trying not to shake too much, or she’ll go out with a bang.  You can’t feel fear, or you don’t feel it the same way.  How do you feel, hearing that?”

“Not good,” I admitted.  “Angry.”

She sounded like she was enjoying herself as she spoke, “How would you feel if I told you that while we were putting the bomb on her, I watched your other friends, safe inside their circle?  Every time they moved, I gave her a little tap.  Right at the collarbone.  She bled.  She screamed lots.  If it was wood and not bone, I’d have left notches.  Maybe I still did.”

“If you’re trying to get me angry,” I said, my voice low, “That works.”

I heard her chuckle.  Or cackle.  One or both of the two.

I moved back to the window behind her.

She had the cabinet by the back door open.  There were brooms and mops inside.

She spoke while she worked.  “They’re all bleeding, one’s probably dead, by the way, and the other one can’t move with the bomb strapped to her.  Forty minutes to half an hour, and none of that’s going to be different.  The boggarts and shit come crawling in through the woodwork and they’re going to do horrible things to those people, to the Thorburns you identify with, to all the others.”

She can lie, I told myself.  The self-assurance wasn’t very effective.

I watched, unbeknownst to her, while she propped two mops up against the window.  She hooked an old towel from the closet over them, so it covered the shattered mini-window.

“You there?” she asked.

I had to relocate to answer from the kitchen at the end of the hall, so my nearby voice wouldn’t tip her off that I had a little window.  “I’m here.”

“Are you really that much of a monster already?  You don’t give a damn?”

“Believe me,” I said, “I look forward to showing you just how much of a damn I give.”

She offered me that cackle-chuckle again.

When I returned to the spot nearest her, I saw that she’d moved on from the window.  Stopping the draft?

No.

She was working to set up the same thing with the window to the right, propping up brooms, not using a towel this time, but coats that had been hung up by the door.  Alexis’ was one.  She drew the billowing, shifting curtains over the coats.

She hit the light switches a few times.  The hall light and kitchen lights alternated on and off until both were off.

I was shunted.  Back to the puddle, still growing as the sink overflowed.

The end of the hallway was dark.  In the gloom, the reflections might as well have been covered by fabric.  I didn’t have a view of a surface I could stand on.

Damn it.

“Don’t mind me,” she said.  “I always liked the dark more than the light.”

“Somehow,” I replied, my eyes on the ground I stood on and the kitchen that was reflected beyond it.  “That doesn’t surprise me.”

“S.O.P. against any Others who are reliant on a certain environment.  You deny them their environment of choice.  In your case…”

She trailed off.

Looking down, I could see the kitchen ceiling below me.  Water flowed, and the surface rippled as the water made waves.

A small, dark object sailed high, flying from the patch of darkness, diagonally across the kitchen, and into the living room.

I saw smoke.

My first thought was what Andy had mentioned about an incendiary grenade.  Setting the house on fire.

My second thought that even Eva wasn’t that heartless.  She cared about her brother, and he was on the second floor.

It was only smoke.

With the kitchen light off, the light that currently reached the reflective surface of the water was the little light that came in from the living room, the overhead light in the center of the ceiling, and the slices of light that escaped around the edges of the plywood that had been boarded up over windows.

The smoke obscured that light.  A lot of it was low to the ground, maybe only waist height, if I was judging it right, but that was still high enough to block a lot of the light from the water.

I backed away before I could get shunted again.

I heard footsteps splash, and couldn’t do anything about it.

“You think you have a clever answer?  The water?” she taunted me.  “It doesn’t make a difference, Thorburn Bogeyman.  The sun is setting, and all I need to do is cut the power, and you’re outta here!

God damn, she was enjoying herself.

Why was it that only the really crazy types enjoyed themselves in situations like this?

I didn’t take the bait.  I remained silent.

“Hello?” she asked.

I didn’t respond.

“Huh,” she said.

A second later, she was running.

It caught me off guard, and my reaction was slow.

She passed me, easily.

She leaped over the puddle of olive oil, now in the process of being diluted by water, ironically impassible to me, water mixing with oil to create a mess of small reflections instead of one big one.

She was faster than me.  Or maybe she was the same speed, with the benefit of having the head start and experience.

I, however, had the opportunity to take shortcuts.

I went up.

Second floor.

Eva was cresting the top of the stairs, cradling the fire extinguisher against her body.

Hyena in hand, I cut.  She, in the same moment, saw me and leaped.

The blade grazed her boot.  Nothing more.

She landed on her side, squeezing the trigger on the fire extinguisher, carpeting the water at the top of the stairs, and many of the stairs besides.

I was forced downstairs.

I wasn’t sure why it was downstairs, when the closest position would have been just behind where she’d landed.  I didn’t have time to think about it.

I headed upstairs, putting myself in the bathroom.

Peter was inside, sitting on the counter by the sink, feet on the lid of the toilet.  One of his hands was pressed into his armpit.  The shower was on, the shower head removed, and the hose leading to the shower head dangling over the edge of the tub, gushing water onto the floor outside the tub.

“Peter.”

He jumped.  “Geez!”

“You’re hurt.”

“Ah, yep.  Guy out there got my hand.  Pretty sure I have a broken finger.”

“Guy and the girl are both out there,” I said.

“Hm.”

“She’s mucking up the water.”

“They blocked the underside of the door, too, not much water getting out,” he said.  “This was as far as I could get without getting beaten up or zapped.”

“It was good,” I said.  “Only a step in the right direction, but nice work.”

“Uh huh,” he said.  “Keep talking like that, and I’ll start thinking you’re not really some long-lost Thorburn cousin.”

“Hold that thought,” I said, absently.

I ducked back outside. The hallway was obscured, but the water had leaked across the hallway and into the room opposite the bathroom.  Rose’s.

I waited in there, listening without the noise of the shower or the distraction of Peter.

“Should have grabbed something from the kitchen cupboards,” Eva said.  “Sprinkle it here and there.”

“Wouldn’t go that far,” Andy replied.  “There’s a simpler option.  Linen cupboard.”

Yeah!

“I already checked these cupboards.  You could hunt around upstairs.”

“Fuck.  Don’t want to do chores when I might miss the fun stuff.  We could strip the bed.”

“Bedrooms are a little flooded.  Upstairs is dry and safe.  I like keeping things simple.”

“Right.”

“I’ll stay here, keep an eye on the bathroom, staircases, and watch for the practitioners.”

“You can’t just blow the bathroom door away?”

“I used all the bombs on the exterior windows and doors.”

“Shit… and on the kid upstairs?  Before they locked themselves up again?”

“…Yeah.  Look, Eva, stop stalling.  Go get the sheets.  It’ll take a minute, two minutes tops.  Almost less time than you’ve spent complaining just now.”

“Ugh.”

“I’ve never known you to prefer waiting to doing something.”

“Uh huh.”

“Am I wrong?”

“I’m supposed to be calling the shots,” she said.  “You do it off-the-job, I do it on-the-job.”

“Then call the shots, Eva,” Andy said, sounding exasperated.

“You stay put, I’m getting some stuff to throw on the ground and block the reflection.”

“Sure, Eva,” he said.  “If you say so.”

And,” she said, sounding a little more excited, “do you think you can kill the power?”

“The breaker box is probably in the basement.  With the rest of the Thorburns and the tear gas.”

“Fuck!  And they rigged the stairs, covering it with oil.  I’ll break a leg going down there.”

There was a note of interest in his voice, “Did they?  It’s fine.  Look, Eva, you want to hurt them for whatever reason?  Just make them stay put.  They’ll hurt more than anything you can do.  Right now?  They’re staying put.  We keep the Bloody Marv out of the way for thirty more minutes, and we’re free and clear.”

“Kill the power, and the Thorburn Bogeyman won’t be able to protect them when it gets dark.  Helps us now, and helps us later.  It’s part of the plan.”

“Hm.”

“No?  Yes?”

“I’ll figure something out.  Go.  Sheets.  Please.”

“Going!  Turn out the lights you don’t need!”

I heard her footsteps and the light splashes of her footfalls.  The water was probably less than an inch deep, it wasn’t much.

The light in the hallway flicked off, and the light that reached under the door disappeared.  I still had light from the bedroom window.

Before I could raise my eyes, I saw a movement.

Tiny.

“Evan,” I said.

“Blake!  I couldn’t get to Peter and I couldn’t go outside, so I came here.  You said to wait here, before.”

By the vanity mirror atop the dresser.  Right.  I hadn’t even thought about that.

Andy was possibly shutting off the power.  Eva was getting sheets to cover the hallway.

“Are you ready to kick some ass?” I asked.

“Always.”

I thought for a second.

“You can open doors.  Can you… open a way for me?”

“Huh?”

“There’s crud from the fire extinguisher in the water.  Can you get rid of it?”

He leaned over the dresser, tilting his head as he looked at the water.

“In the hallway?” I asked.

“Oh.  I can try!”

“Good man.  Hold tight.”

Had to stall Andy and Eva.

Andy first.

He worried me more than Eva did, frankly.

How to stop him from futzing with the power?

I closed my eyes for a second, visualizing the house.

Was there a chance?

I headed downstairs, dropping straight down.

The first floor was pretty flooded.  Water reached into the hallway and living room, while Eva’s doormat barricade had, somewhat ironically, helped me.  By blocking the water, she’d freed it to take the path of least resistance.

And the best path of least resistance was down.

I headed down.

The basement was flooding.  Trickles of water streamed down the walls and pooled on the floor, much of it too dusty to see.

The basement windows were small enough that even Roxanne would find them a squeeze.  The lightbulbs were old and orange.  The water made for a reflective surface, and there was light.

The gathered Thorburns were still coughing, making sounds of pain.

Tear gas, apparently, wasn’t something you bounced back from in a matter of five or ten minutes.

“Hit the breaker switches,” I said.  “Then turn everything back on in… five minutes.”

“Who?  The guy from the mirror?  Where are you?”

“Now,” I said.

I didn’t wait for a response.  My gut told me that if I tried to convince them, they’d argue.

With nobody to argue against, they’d only be able to obey.  Hopefully.

I headed back upstairs.  I moved to the bathroom.

“You locked in?”

Fuck me!” Peter exclaimed.

“Not if I can help it,” I said.

“I’m- no.  Yes?  I locked myself in.”

“Thirty seconds, open the door, head into the hallway.”

He was silent.

I had to trust my knowledge of who he was.  Problem was, Peter was both an opportunist and a coward.  Either way, he’d convince himself it would all work out in the end, whether he was avoiding a reality or taking a risk.  I wasn’t sure which of the two ideas would win out.

“You should get a chance to beat that guy’s face in,” I told the Opportunist.

The lights went off. I was shunted out the door, back downstairs.

Again.  The closest location should have been Evan, across the hall.  Annoying.

I headed back to Evan.  “Door.”

He hopped onto the doorknob.  It was faux crystal, probably made of plastic, like an oversized diamond with rounded edges.  He gripped it with his talons and let his body weight turn it.  He fell, catching himself with a flutter of his wings.

I reached through the puddle, and gave the bottom of the door a push.  Light streamed into the bedroom from the hallway.

Evan wheeled around, then flew down the length of the hallway, feathered body just tracing the water.  The grit on top of the water parted like grease in a dramatized soap commercial.

I followed after him, footsteps splashing, as a glowing road, lit by the purples and oranges that streamed through the window, opened before me.

Andy was kneeling in the water, holding a twisted length of metal in pliers, a coarse glove on the hand with the tool.  He was looking up at the light, confused.

No reason to cut the power when it was already cut.

It also served as a distraction, putting him off balance.

He turned his head as Evan passed by.

I bent down, reaching through the path that was now open to me.

I wrapped my arms around Andy’s shoulders and throat, pulling him down.

The Hyena, still in my hand, always in my hand at this point, in these circumstances, touched his neck.

E-!” he started.

“Shut!” I spat the word in his ear.  Not even a full ‘shut up’.

I didn’t have long.  My footing was destroyed.  I could only cling to him, and hope to bide time until-

Peter approached, holding the ceramic top of the toilet under one arm.  His right hand was messy with blood, especially around the fingertip.

At the last second, he swapped it to a two-handed grip, holding it at the middle.  A chunk of old, age-stained ceramic that had to weigh twenty pounds.

“Jesus, Peter,” I started.  “Don’t-”

I was relocated to the end of the hallway.  The disruption to the water’s surface too much for me to stay.

From the end of the hallway, by where Evan had perched on the windowsill, I saw Peter bring the end of the lid down on Andy’s head, Andy’s hands going up to stop it, but lacking the strength of leverage to accomplish anything.

I could hear it.  The sound of the impact.

“You’re really making me doubt your family credentials, cousin,” he murmured, slumping against a wall for leverage as he got to his feet, not out of any weakness or disability, but because he didn’t have a hand free, and it was easier than letting go of the toilet top.

I couldn’t appeal to his goodness, to mercy.

“Part of the strategy,” I told him.  “We need them alive.”

“He’s alive.  I might have broken his jaw and cheekbone, but he’s alive,” Peter said, straightening.  “Lesson numero uno for Thorburns.  Go for the jugular.  They’re trying to kill us.”

Eva appeared at the end of the hall.

I’d seen her angry, after Roxanne had tried to hurt her brother and failed.

She only stared, chin at an odd angle, a little too high, her head tilted slightly, hands behind her back.  No sheets, that I could tell.  The light from the window behind Evan didn’t quite reach her, so she was lit by the light above the stairwell, behind her.  Silhouetted.  Cold air blew in through the broken window, making her hair stir.

“Great,” Peter said.

Her voice was quiet.  “Is he dead?”

“He could be,” Peter answered.  “You take one step, I aim for his throat with the next swing.”

“Doesn’t work that way,” she said, shaking her head a little.  “He’s the one who keeps the mad dog, me, on a leash.  Taking him out of the picture is a pretty fucking stupid thing to do.  He’s the one who listens to reason, not me.”

“You refer to yourself as a mad dog?” Peter asked.  “Man, I thought my family had the lion’s share of ‘fucked up’.”

“You want to see ‘fucked up’?” she asked.  She raised her hand.

Grenade.

“Tear gas?” Peter asked.

“No.  Incendiary grenade, with the pin out.  My hand on the lever is the only thing keeping it from going off.  This house is largely made of wood.  Do the math.”

I could see Peter tense.

“If I don’t think I can carry him out,” she said, “I’ll cremate him.”

“Along with the house and its occupants?”

She didn’t respond, her eyes on Andy.

Without warning, she approached, taking long strides.

I could see Peter start to raise the lid, ready to take Andy out of action.

This time, the coward won out.  He backed away.

I moved to meet her.

She kicked the water, the resulting spray disrupted the reflection.

It bought her two paces.

Evan, though, flew past her.  The momentum of his passing, eerily out of sync with his tiny amount of actual mass, forced her to stop moving forward and put one foot out to the side to maintain her balance.

It was all the time I needed.  I twisted around, then bent, reaching through the reflection.

I seized one foot, arresting her forward movement.

She fell onto her side, then lifted her leg away from the ground.  My arm was extended, until the whole arm was sticking out of the pool of water.

I didn’t see it coming until it was too late.  She levered herself around, leg still high, and used her other leg to sweep my arm, water spraying as it skidded in the water.  A full-force kick right at my elbow.

Wood splintered and snapped.  Bone, if I had any, broke.

I barely felt the pain.  It was secondary.

I was relocated downstairs.  It cost me precious seconds, as I got my bearings again.  My arm sat at a skewed angle, and the wound crawled.  It was as if the branches were fingers, and they were scrabbling for purchase, blindly groping.

I had to put the Hyena down for a moment while I twisted my arm around into the right position.  The fingers wrapped around the wound, meshing together and mingling into a great ugly, horned knot of wood.  Feathers and bits of bone stood out from one portion as if a bird had been crushed and killed as the wood had come together.  I flexed my hand.

Back up to the hallway.

The witch hunter had drawn her machete from some sheath inside her jacket or pants or some other hidden place, and was advancing on Peter, weapon held high.

Evan flew past, trying to put her off balance.  She moved the blade but missed him.

“Evan, back off!” I ordered.  “Peter-”

Peter raised the piece of ceramic as a sort of shield, moving it right as he watched the weapon.

She punched him, hitting him from the opposite direction.

She punched him with the grenade.  Hand still gripping the grenade and the lever, she hit him full-force in the face with the chunk of metal.

The second hit came from the opposite direction, a backhand.  Peter lost his grip on the lid, balance clearly gone.  It broke as it hit the ground.

She drove a knee into his middle, knocking him over.

I bent down, catching her foot with one of my own, and pulled them out from under her.  Stupid, to knock her over when she held the grenade, but what other option was there?

We didn’t all go up in flame, which was nice.

I even managed to grab the machete, pushing it away.  It practically hydroplaned on the thin layer of water that covered the hallway.

All three of us brought down, fighting at its ugliest, in a heap, scrabbling, fighting dirty.

I had to step away, waiting for the water to settle.

Peter wasn’t putting up much of a fight, but I might have said he’d lost the fight from the second he took that first punch unprepared.

Getting on top of him, she hit him over and over again.  Right, left, right, right, right, left.  Whichever fist and direction would hit better in the moment.

Evan hovered around her, out of reach.

He can do his thing twice.  But every time he goes for a third try, they get him.  It had happened with Ur, during the fights with Conquest, with Duncan…

Seeing the opportunity to act again, I reached through the water.  My arms encircled Eva’s head and shoulders in a full Nelson, pulling her backward and off Peter.

“I’m letting go of the grenade in five, four, three-”

I switched my grip, seizing the hand that had the grenade.  I was losing my grip on reality, sinking back into the mirror realm.  As she twisted her wrist around, preventing me from getting her, I found my hand on only metal.

“Heh,” she said.

She let go, then rolled away, twisting out of my grip.

If I’d been one to experience true fear, that might have been the moment I’d lost it.

Instead, I found myself shunted, no place to go but the nearest reflection, a live incendiary grenade in one hand and a body made largely of wood and feathers.

I didn’t let myself experience paralyzing fear or panic.  I hurled the grenade into the great expanse of darkness between patches of light.  It found a patch of light far away from Hillsglade House, instead, skipping across darkness much as I might have.

I headed back upstairs.

I’d expected to see her taking Peter to pieces.  Instead, she was kneeling by her brother.  Peter was limp on the ground.

“I hear you,” she said, without looking my way.

“Hi Eva.”

“Survived?  Damn.

“Survived.”

The fury had gone quiet again.

What was going through her head?

“There goes my trump card,” she said.  “Other trump card didn’t do much.”

Other?”

She held up the green orb as her answer.

“Can I ask?” I asked.

Her voice was low, almost menacing.  “You can ask, I’m not saying.  I’m going to give it back to the owner on my way to the hospital.  I’m proposing an exchange of prisoners.  I walk out with my brother, you look after your… numerous wounded.”

I didn’t answer.

“Right,” she said.  “Taking that as a yes.”

“Eva,” I told her.  “The claymore or whatever by the back door, the bombs on the windows, the bomb on the front door… double edged sword right now.”

“Seems like one edge,” she replied.

“If you try to leave,” I told her, “I’ll throw something at those bombs.  At the door, the claymore, whichever.  I’ll take out you and your brother.”

“Not smart,” she said.

“Doing what I have to,” I replied.

“Your beaten up buddy there-”

“Isn’t a buddy.  But if you go after him, I’ll fight you.  We can continue to lock horns until the sun goes down.”

“Ahhh.  That’s your plan.”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t expect me to help.”

“I expect you to try to survive the night,” I said.  “Correct me if I’m wrong, but what’s coming is pretty damn indiscriminate, isn’t it?”

“Nah,” she said.  She smiled at me.  “You’re pretty boned.”

I stared at her, long and hard.

I am a Thorburn, in one way or another.  I know deceit when I see it.

This wasn’t the first lie she’d told me.

“Evan,” I said.  “Go upstairs.  Unlock and open the door.  Talk to the others.  So long as Andy’s hurt, Eva’s mostly a non-threat.  She won’t leave him so long as I could go after him.”

She scowled at me.

“There’s no bomb on any of them.  See how they’re doing.  We have only a few minutes to prepare for sundown.”

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156 thoughts on “Malfeasance 11.11

  1. This chapter was a joy to behold and to read. Although I’m thinking an immediate theorycraft session on why exactly Blake isn’t shunted to the surfaces he’s expecting to be shunted to is called for.

    1. Well, it’s either an attractor TOWARD something or a repulsor AWAY from something.

      My bet is on the green orb Eva has.

    2. Rose and the other practioners, as well as Andy and Eva have turned that house into a soup of magical energies in various degrees of degradation. Disrupted wards, etc.

      If it is something deliberate, I’d say he’s either being pushed away from the library by something the cabal is doing to protect themselves, or… the other Jacob’s Bell practitioners have set up some sort of mechanism to draw Others to a place of their choosing. Nothing that can’t be resisted, but strong enough that they will go there if they have nothing more pressing to do.

      1. Someone else pointed this out earlier (perhaps in another book), when a character thinks, “Oh, that’s interesting, I wonder if… but I don’t have time to think about that now, back to battle or whatever!” That thing is darn important and should not be forgotten. It will come up again.

        It seems like he’s being drawn to the basement, doesn’t it. And as far as we know, during the whole course of the story, even before he was in the mirror, he never ever went down into the basement (as I recall it). I wonder what’s down there, whether it’s something that he wants to find, or something that he’d rather not have find him.

        1. My theory is that he hasn’t spread the Drains enough and the Drains is pulling him back. He needs to kill or at least terrify to keep himself in the world.

    1. lightbulbs
      usually light bulbs

      downstars
      downstairs

      reader understanding problem:
      This chapter:
      The water on the stairs was coming from the second floor bathroom.
      Last chapter:
      He stepped from the living room to the kitchen.

      He turned on the taps at the sink, full blast. Then leaned back, and kicked the tap.

      So, the last the reader knew, Peter did the kitchen taps only. The water from upstairs is unexpected. All it would take is a rewording of the sentence:
      There was water on the stairs coming from the second floor bathroom. Peter must have started a flood there also.

      How to stop him
      double space

    2. This chapter was awesome; their enemies might become their temporary allies.

      “Shit… and on the kid upstairs? Before they locked themselves up again?[insert quotation mark here]

      missing capitalization:

      I bent down, catching her foot with one of my ow[n. a]nd pulled them out from under her. Stupid, to knock her over when she held the grenade, but what other option was there?

  2. Okay, Eva has problems, but she pretty much had the advantage the entire time. It was awesome and fearsome at the same time, and the sad thing is that cremating him would probably be more merciful than what’s coming.

    1. We don’t know that for a fact. Maybe Sandra is just planning a surprise “We glad you’re not insane” party to welcome Rose back from the asylum… With cupcakes and streamers and stuff…

      1. That’s brilliant! Just as the other parties come to settle their differences and make peace with Rose, they find a torn apart and flooded house, a hurt and mutilated witch hunter, and a slew of people that have lost degrees of innocence. This will make Sandra look so good in comparison that they mark her Lord on the spot!

      2. The icing says: “Whosoever should consume this cupcake agrees to forfeit a monthly tithe, be it power or boon, in the service of the family Duchamp, and moreover declares under pain of disconnection from the world to refrain from any action that can be construed as acting against the stated or implicit interests of the family Duchamp or any of its members, with the exception of those members explicitly declared banished from the family Duchamp by the matriarch Sandra Duchamp or her successors to the position.”
        It’s very fine icing. They applied it with a hypodermic needle.

        1. That’s a legitimate tactic. A good practitioner should be able to see the connections between the cupcakes and Sandra. And if someone isn’t a good practitioner, they shouldn’t be eating food from someone that they shouldn’t have trusted in the first place.

  3. Blake’s so scary. What does it say about him that he makes a better monster than practitioner?

    If I wasn’t a fan of TB, I am now!

    Awww. Eva’s actually little softy. She’s like a baby Panda. I want one.

    Interesting seeing a big magical fight where everybody can still lie. I don’t think we’ve seen that before.

    I am curious as to the answers to Eva’s questions. I guess it depends on the binding. I believe it was mentioned that Midge would return to Limbo when not in use but June stayed in the hatchet. I fear Blake may very well find the answer soon.

    1. I can see Eva as a panda. A Panda Cheese panda. If you’ve never seen a Panda Cheese commercial, look on Youtube. Eva definitely reminds me of that particular panda.

    2. Midge, Corvidae, Davy Jones and the book girl were summoned, though. Blake escaped from the Drains on his own. In that, he’s not bound to the same logic and we can’t extend what we know from the other cases to him.

      Even Green Eyes escaped through a portal that suddenly popped in front of her, which could make her case different still (not summoned, and didn’t face her own challeging exit route either).

      1. Belatedly, I realized that the method Faysal used to release Green Eyes (a portal which Blake had to use) was probably intended to ensure that Blake took the lion’s share of the karmic burden for calling her out, if there was any.

        Which is totally fair, of course, since it was Blake’s request, Green Eyes was a totally unknown to him, and Faysal was being pretty generous for granting it in the first place. But it somehow didn’t occur to me that that was probably the reason for the somewhat unusual method he used to bring her out (creating a portal, but leaving it behind for Blake to use after he left.)

        1. All I thought was that Faysal observed and finally thought I got the chance to do something weird. Faysal had to be creative to not disturb anything in the universe to evenly down there in the process to analyze somewhat the abyss/drains to create a portal that didn’t mess around with it own set rules.

          In return the karmic burden has to be in which that the favor had be to be unconventionally creative to create the connection. Something akin of that the universe seemly looks like it’ll allow for the angel to be creative.

  4. I like Peter better and better with every chapter he’s in. I really wouldn’t mind if he became a practitioner, I feel like he’d be a more useful than most of the Blakeguard. Paige will definitely be pissed though, if she ever makes it to Jacob’s Bell.

  5. Damn, Blake’s really coming into his own as the Thorburn Boogeyman. The skipping between reflections is a bit of a double-edged sword: Sure, he can only exist in mirrors, but he effectively gets teleportation by jumping between reflections. An cage with the entire thing reflected, so the actual bars of the cage keep him from getting to the edge of the reflection, would be enough to contain him.

    1. No it wouldn’t. Remember, he can choose what’s in the reflection as long as he can exert enough presence. He can simply exert himself to overwrite a few of the bars and walk out. While Others like Faysal could overwrite his control because they are probably more powerful, inanimate object that aren’t keyed to him won’t work….

      And then he’s a Bogeyman, not human. He’s stronger than he was as a human and could probably bend wrought iron at this point.

  6. So Blake Thornburn verse the Witchhunters. Winner Blake Thornburn. Flooding the house was a winner of a move.

  7. I don’t think Eva would have thrown the grenade even if her brother was killed. She has a warped attachment to him, but is ultimately a sadistic sociopath whose main priority is herself.

    1. She is mad and sadistic,alright,but a character whse main attachment is himself does not do a job he/she accepts won’t let him/her live until 30

      1. I don’t know. For the most part the Bogeymen are the most likely to participate since they feed off fear and killing a practitioner is big potatoes for them. Djinn are already powerful and are creatures of Balance like Isadora, so it stands to reason that the presence of a demon, Barber, would be painful and the worst place to be when you have Bogeymen around who would probably munch on those divine fragments.

    1. I thought that had switched sides to go with Team Molly. Although the Revenant did pass through The North End, IIRC. I think they would be more likely to scavenge fear and kills.

        1. Letting them loose on the town, probably. Letting them on a sanctioned safari on the diabolist property, not so much.

  8. Also: a fractured cheekbone and jawbone is a SERIOUS injury. As in, urgent CT scan of head and maxillofacial surgeon review ASAP.

    Andy deserves it, of course. But he is effectively out of the game for at least a day while he goes to hospital to rule out extradural bleeds and such. Eva will go berserk

    1. He probably has access to magical healing as part of the deal that makes him an official Witch Hunter for Jacob’s Bell.

  9. Blake, the Thorburn Bogeyman, is a being born thru the power of darkness. It’s only thru facing Us that he was able to change his nature and unlock his potential. Interestingly enough, this creature who is the result of Dark constantly finds himself reliant on the Light. It is only from the Light God that Blake escaped Ur’s Dark. Without light, Blake loses his foothold into the “real” world. Blake’s world, however, is one filled with dark. One could say that Blake lives in constant Twilight.

    Perhaps Blake’s true nature doesn’t deal with birds or trees or even mirrors. Perhaps his is a nature dealing with Balance. Just as Blake is a creature reliant and wielding both Light and Dark, he affects the world for both Right and Wrong. He sees a world that is cruel, unfair, and wishes to change it. He wants to make a better world, a Balanced one, without the extremes that currently exist. He even repurposed the core elements of this world, the Spirits, to this end.

    Whether Blake realizes it or not, he has found his place in the world. Blake will bring Balance.

    1. Great ideas. Balance sucks, by the way. Balance in Star Wars is what ended up destroying all the Jedi Knights, bringing the number down to (in movie cannon) one Sith and one Jedi, and then the last Sith died and only the one Jedi remained. Like Blake said, most people would prefer it if the odds were just slightly in their favor.

      1. Not only that, but Blake’s method of bringing balance is powered by the Drains. He likely end up carving the highs to fill in the lows, grinding everything down, constantly and relentlessly until the return of the great elemental chaos… Which strikes me as the likely reason for the existence of the Drains, fettered entropy gnawing at its chains.

      2. Actually in Star Wars the Sith were imbalance and balance is no Sith. So technically you could have had 50 billion Jedi, no problem as long as there were no Sith.

        1. Ah, but the one who was destined to bring balance to the force killed almost all the Jedi. I guess you could argue that he cleared out the Sith too, though.

          1. But the point is that the Balancing of the Force never required the Jedi be nearly wiped out. Only the Sith needed to be wiped out for the balancing. There is no balance between the light side and the dark side, the the dark side is itself the imbalance. Things went wrong with the prophecy when Anakin fell to the dark side. When Vader came back to the light, and chucked the Palpatine down a shaft, that balanced the force.

            1. One could argue that it WAS actually a balance between light and dark. If you look at the force as having two sides, light and dark, then the destruction of one side doesn’t equal balance, IMO

            2. Except, If I understand it correctly there were never meant to be two sides. Really it was just supposed to be the one, and the presence of the Dark Side threw it out of balance.

        2. There’s this whole theory that there was a light side, a dark side and a kinda of central part to the force: Jedi in the centre, Sith in the dark and some long lost force/ the original purpose of the Jedi in the light. The lack of balance being that we have grey and dark, but no light, so to bring balance we need to get rid of the dark. Can’t remember, where it came from though.

          1. That probably came out of the EU. Much as I don’t like some things Lucas has done, he’s the guy who had final say on what was cannon. And apparently he said it was that, and it seems like they aren’t too fond of the “Grey Jedi” concept.

            1. Only published stuff is canon. Lucas may get to decide what is and isn’t canon – but his opinions don’t become canon until they’re actually published in a canon work. He neglected to actually explain the ‘balance of the force’ thing anywhere in canon, so it’s still up in the air.

              A bit like J K Rowling saying she considers Dumbledore gay. That’s nice, but you forgot to actually put that in the book.

  10. Blake’s ability to reach through reflective surfaces and actually do things is growing quickly. Previously, his arm would start to disintegrate very quickly outside of the mirror. Now, he passes things back and forth far more easily and his attacks stick around long enough to do significant things. Eva used that to his disadvantage when she tricked him into bringing the grenade into the mirror, but overall it is a big advantage. The Thorburn bogeyman is getting even more dangerous. He is the Energizer Bunny of bogeymen – he just keeps coming no matter what you throw in his way.

    1. I really wonder about the thing with the incendiary grenade, actually. Can Blake now carry and bring arbitrary things into the mirror world?

      Also, things in the real world are still supposed to have more “weight”, so even though he’s very versatile, he still shouldn’t go around grappling people when he could use his blade instead.

      1. He could do that in the first place. Remember when that satyr threw a book at him, and he caught it, jumped to another reflection, and chucked it back out?

        1. I said this in the comments for 11.10, but I’ll reiterate: I bet Blake could steal explosives from the Witch Hunters and keep them, then throw them through reflective surfances in the future.

          Ideas include: reav-view mirror of a car on the freeway, bathroom sink while target is brushing teeth, toilet while target is subjected to the call of nature.

        2. Oh, you’re right.

          Though whenever Blake exits a solid surface, it’s destroyed, which is rather inconvenient for carrying things around. But that problem doesn’t exist with liquids. (And in the first place, e.g. the faerie could do this without destroying the solid surfaces, so I assume this is just a temporary issue for Blake.)

          I’m curious to see where that leads. Do real things dragged into the mirrorverse have a lifespan, after which they disappear or fall through the cracks? And what happens if Blake leaves them behind and goes somewhere else?

          Now that I think about it, we don’t even know whether the grenade landed back in the real world, or whether it exploded in the mirrorverse.

            1. Blake has to break the reflection that’s creating the light-patch directly for something to exit the mirror world, though. He threw it out into the darkness-given that most reflections big enough are made by windows, admittedly, it may well have broken something.

      2. My question is, what happens if he grabs (or even takes the reflection of):

        1. A cellphone. Can he make calls? Maybe a tablet PC or even a small laptop — would it get wifi? Can he get electricity from the plugs in the mirror world? Any of these things seem extremely useful. He’s been out of contact a few times, so I would think grabbing a cellphone would be high priority.

        2. A light source. If he had a battery-operated lantern, would light emanate from his mirror? If Eva shut off all the lights, would that light allow other mirrors around him to keep reflecting? Getting his hands on a few real glowsticks to produce lights (hard to put out, easy to toss into the real world) would also be nice.

        3. A laser. I suppose the setting doesn’t have death rays, more’s the pity, but a laser pointer to shine at people’s eyes (or just to point things out) would be a useful tool, if it can shoot through the mirror.

        4. A real gun. Unfortunately, this would destroy mirrors when fired, and would require a constant supply of real bullets, but it would be a useful thing to have as a last resort, and even when out of bullets he could use it as a bluff once people are aware that it works. In fact, technically he doesn’t need a real gun — a reflected gun would work as long as he has real bullets.

        5. A mirror. What happens if he takes a mirror into his mirror? Can he use it in any way? At a bare minimum, a durable real mirror he could throw out of other mirrors would be exceedingly valuable — maybe even an entire set of them, or a deck of cards coated in tin foil, so he has a reliable source of expendable mirrors he can toss into the real world. Alternatively, a few small bottles of olive oil to use as mirror-bombs. Olive oil bombs would also be useful in that they would let him avoid breaking large numbers of mirrors when he needs to pass things back and forth.

        1. If he does the spirit trick, any laptop he reflects will react the same as a laptop of its model and lifespan would, except there’d be no place to charge the thing. Unless you can charge one by charging the other. Which means that it’d be useful for a whole host of things, esp. if it can connect to the wireless networks that the original can.

          1. Hard to call; it depends on the precise metaphysics. If he can only see things the mirror reflects, I don’t think it would work.

          2. Doubt that would help much; he’d need a lit mirror to shine it through in the first place.

          3. Should probably work

          4. A good idea, with the unfortunate drawback that it only works on things susceptible to bullets.

          5. I doubt he can use it for a nested mirror realm.

  11. “It found a patch of light far away from Hillsglade House, instead, skipping across darkness much as I might have.”

    Uh huh, and whose house did Blake just firebomb? If he’s lucky, the effect is limited to the mirror realm.

      1. Blake took the action that caused the kaboom. Granted, there weren’t any other good options in that situation but by cause and effect Blake did it. “You throw something at me so I throw it at someone else” is not “self defence” by anyone’s definition.

    1. Whew, it would suck if he accidentally skipped it into Johann’s realm. Faysal’s been the only one to really give Blake a chance (or so it has seemed until now). If Blake burned some houses down in Johann’s realm, he might not get the same neutral reception anymore.

      1. Of course, if he burned down the clock tower and stopped the evil bell ringing, people might not mind so much. Ok, taking bets now that the bell stopped ringing and then 3 minutes later, just as people calmed down, he caught the bell tower on fire. Or the school — that’d be a crazy place to burn down, I’m sure the Junior Council at least might not be entirely upset about that.

      2. Blake could counter such accusations with three truths: “Eva owned the grenade”, “Eva pulled the pin”, “Eva intended to burn a house down”. He’ll even get a karma boost for it.

        1. Also, it just now occurred to me that burning down a house with Barbie trapped inside would have released him. So Blake can also claim that he has prevented Eva from unleashing a demon upon the town.

          Hooray for Bloody Marv, the guardian arsonist of Jacob’s Bell!

    2. Hey, a “blood, fire and darkness” event doesn’t happen by itself! Setting that up is hard work!
      (Blood: entire Thorburn family present; darkness: night & Molly’s bell shenanigans; fire: Blake causing an inferno)

  12. How much water does Green Eyes need? She can apparently breath air still (as well as water). Can she walk? If that water streaming out of the house spills down the road into the marsh, and then runs off into some big nearby lake, could she find herself called to the House? She’s used to hunting and living in the dark — she could be a great asset in the upcoming fight this evening (storyline time).

  13. Can the Seal of Solomon be placed on a human, so that the human can’t lie? Because I’d see that as a great way for Rose to induct Peter. “Do this ritual so that you can’t lie, swear to obey my orders, and I’ll induct you and you’ll have magical powers.”

    1. Peter seems to have figured out the “can’t lie” thing, and wouldn’t agree to obey Rose (who he likely distrusts as a fellow Thorburn.)

      Beyond that, that distrust isn’t entirely unjustified; Blake is quite likely to be willing to induct Peter without requiring such an explicit loyalty oath, because truthfully Rose sometimes needs people who are willing to stand up to her. Additionally, oaths are dangerous and bothersome — they could end up with Peter forsworn on a technicality at a time when they really need him, or end up with him forced to take disadvantageous actions because (say) he has to obey a poorly-considered order even after the situation has changed.

      1. On the flipside, oaths are amazing for ensuring trust & group cohesion.
        And for starting a dictatorship… Just do what Suleiman did: Start with your current power base, then beat Others and make them swear appropriate oaths to you. Offer appropriate bribes; extort only if necessary. Then go for larger fish.


        Blake & co should at the very least insist on an appropriately worded oath of the form “I won’t summon demons, or read stuff in the library without permission, or steal books from the library, or share practitioner secrets with innocents (including my family)” for Peter. The advantages would clearly outweigh the disadvantages, even if this led to some bad karma.
        And remember, despite the obvious disadvantages, swearing (and keeping) oaths also makes you stronger as a practitioner.

        I do however agree that insisting on absolute loyalty – in this situation or generally – would be more trouble than it’s worth.

  14. The strange directions that Blake is being pulled in, causing him to appear in places he’s not expecting to go may be very important. It seems possible that Blake might be getting drawn towards a location as part of a larger working. If the other Jacob’s Bell practitioners are trying to attract/gather all the unbound Others nearby and offer them free access to the Thorburn House with no restrictions – with hope that the Others will finish off everyone in the house…

    There might be an unexpected event at the gathering of practitioners…

    “I hurled the grenade into the great expanse of darkness between patches of light. It found a patch of light far away from Hillsglade House, instead, skipping across darkness much as I might have.”

    That grenade is apparently symbolically connected to Blake after he pulled it from the real world into the mirror world. Blake threw it away, and yet he knew where it was going, where it would end up, and recognized it was moving like he could move. It’s apparently, in some way, a minor piece of him after he pulled it into the mirror realm.

    So, we have a hypothetical group of practitioners gathering Others with some sort of attraction ritual. Not a summoning, just a strong draw. Blake is too distracted to really pay attention to it, but that part of him he just threw? It doesn’t have a mind of it’s own. It’s just a grenade. Symbolically part of him, flying through the darkness, being drawn to whatever it is that was trying to draw Blake and interfering with his movements when he wasn’t planning them deliberately…

    I suspect that grenade is going to cause… issues.

    1. I don’t think the grenade is a part of him at all, its just that all things pulled into the mirror world behave similarly.

  15. Oh man. I don’t like where this is going. Survive the night alongside the psycopath and the smart kid with a grudge. I don’t expect Andy to be functioning but I think it is possible he will come back to it and tell Eva what to do.

    I found it interesting how Blake still refers to Rose’s parents as his parents. Don’t think it means much, but it’s interesting. Also, Blake, don’t forget about Rose! If you think your parents are going to flip out, imagine what Rose will do! xP

    Bloody Marv. Hah x3

    “Why was it that only the really crazy types enjoyed themselves in situations like this?”
    Uhm… That answers itself.

    Something I did not quite understand is how Blake reached for Andy’s throat. Was there water on the walls? Was Andy on the floor? Did a Blake’s full body form for just a moment?

    I’m getting Bitch vibes from Eva and Regent vibes from Peter. Anyone else agree?

      1. Mmm. Nah. I don’t get that at all. Though I found it very cool how Blake used the same technique to calm himself down as Skitter did. “She is just trying to get to my nerves. I can confirm what she said later, when I don’t have more pressing matters at hand”.

      2. I get Shadowstalker for Eva. I think Peter is (weirdly, because less screen time so far) more developed than Regent. Regent was sorry of lost in the world, Peter owns it.

      3. When Blake started kicking butt so far above his weight class, my first thought was “Dang, who died and made him Skitter?” But in terms of vibes, I don’t think so. Even without the emotional range he had as a human, he still strikes me as Skitter’s moral opposite: annoyingly determined to do the right thing even when it might be to his active detriment.

        I’ve wondered if the way karmic balances function in the Blakeverse are Wildbow’s insurance policy to guarantee that Blake can’t go down Skitter’s path even if he develops a willingness to do so.

        1. he still strikes me as Skitter’s moral opposite: annoyingly determined to do the right thing even when it might be to his active detriment.

          Wow, that comparison is apt.
          Blake’s impulsive recklessness occasionally makes me want to strangle him; I never had that attitude towards Skitter. Part of the problem is that the “right thing” to do, like acting how one thinks a hero is supposed to act (e.g. confronting Ur ASAP without sufficient preparation), isn’t actually the best way to accomplish the most good.

    1. Except he needs them if the others are going to survive the night and they can’t do that if they get stabbed. You can say the injury is to keep them in place, but when you use a weapon that makes a wound that won’t heal under normal circumstances, that’s straight-up trying to kill them from blood-loss and someone that’s been stabbed will require medical attention regardless.

      1. Not saying it isn’t to be expected. But he had a dream in arc 6 where the Hyena was permanently in his hand, if I recall correctly. The phrase, and the emphasis made by Wildbow (not me), seems ominous.

  16. Blake has high standards, I don’t think many other people would expect peter to have much fight left in him after getting sucker punched with a live hand grenade 8)

  17. Comments:

    1. Wow, the witch hunters are good at what they do. I’d say they lost mainly because of a lack of information, i.e. not knowing Evan was a (former) familiar; without him, Blake couldn’t even have gotten close to them.

    2. I love how Blake casually scares everyone. Speaking of which:

    3. Fuck me!” Peter exclaimed. “Not if I can help it,” I said. -> FINALLY someone reacts to what’s actually said! As a non-native speaker, I always found that curse so very, very weird…

    4. “My arm sat at a skewed angle, and the wound crawled. It was as if the branches were fingers, and they were scrabbling for purchase, blindly groping.” -> Not good.

    5. Blake has become a lot more powerful here. Not a good sign, when that implies that his Other nature is winning out. (Same danger as with Rose using Conquest.) Blake also claimed he felt angry, but I didn’t see any actual signs of anger. Doesn’t sound particularly bogeyman-ish. Somehow, that doesn’t reassure me at all.

    6. Some possible interlude candidates: Eva, one of the attacking Others (e.g. Faceless Woman or the revenant), Padraic, or a member of the Thorburn cabal. Or something totally different.

    7. Forcing the witch hunters to participate in defending the house is … an intriguing idea, but how could it possibly work? Even if Eva wanted to cooperate, I don’t see any of the Thorburns ever doing that.

    8. Is the presence of innocent Thorburns still helpful?

    9. How did flooding the house not short the house’s circuits?

    10. PLEASE please please please please let Rose return now, rather than have her out of commission for yet another arc. It’s not that we absolutely need a diabolist ex machina right now – Blake usually rises to meet the challenge. But it’s just kind of sad if the supposedly scary diabolist never has a chance to do anything on-screen. Rose is one of the most interesting characters in the story, but that’s not worth anything if she can’t show it! Share the limelight, Blake!

    1. 9: breaker’s off right now, so not a problem.
      If the wires are properly in the walls and not in the floorings, a couple overflowing taps won’t cause issues under an hour.

      Now, if the wires are underfloor, it’s gonna smell like roasted pig when the basement Thorburns switch the breaker on in… a few seconds, since most of the 5 minutes were spent chatting with Eva.

    2. I’m with on #10, but for a different reason. “I was gone for all of two hours and someone managed to trash my relatives, the witch hunters, and the house. Why do I have this feeling of deja vu even though I can’t remember anything like this before?

  18. “You’re pretty boned.”
    What does that “boned” mean? Usually it’s like screwed/f**ked (sex/trouble) or stoned (weed). If it’s a compliment, does it have to do with “skinny” or “ripped”?

    Awesome chapter.
    Witch hunters – Thorburned.
    The sundown is coming.

    1. Blake asked if the Others that will attack Hillsglade house are indiscriminate. Eva lied and said that they weren’t, then said that Blake and his friends are boned, or in trouble.

      1. Ah, thank you, Zim.
        I somehow read that “Nah.” as a confirmation of “they are not discerning/discriminating”, rather that denial, and this broke context for me.

    2. The phrase likely comes from the euphemistic term “boner” used to describe an fully engorged penis, in other words, you’re fucked.

  19. Crazy theory coming in!!!!

    We’ve been talking about Blake having been carved by Barbie. But the more I read this makes me think that well… What if Blake flat out is Barbatorem? Can that be?

    1. Welcome to the dark side, where no theory for Pact seems too crazy.
      Seriously, every time I check past chapters for clues I become more and more paranoid that every line is obscure foreshadowing. (Random example from chapter 1-1: Blake looks at his little sister: ““S’alright,” I responded, not taking my eyes off the baby.” – Creepy interpretation: Parallel to Barbatorem’s sacrifice.)

      But to believe Blake was Barbatorem, you’d have to believe that: Rose Senior lied in the letter to her heiress (1.06); Blake’s memory of Barbatorem (in 1.07) was fake; and Faysal seriously dropped the ball when he encountered Blake. Among other things. That seems like a bit too much to swallow for me.

      1. Not to say that I believe this theory, but I can explain those things.

        1. Blake!Barbatorem was sealed in the tower room — the first time Rose read that note, before she was shunted into the mirror. There was an additional set of instructions telling her to perform the steps that triggered the transformation of Barbatorem into Blake.

        2. Knowing that they’d need to hide Barbatorem’s identity, he cut off his own reflection as part of the ritual and left it there. This is what Blake saw in the tower room.

        3. Faysal is aware of Blake’s nature but has no reason to tell him; the longer Blake goes without being aware of what he is, the higher the chance that he will avoid simply becoming a demon again once he learns the truth. Faysal would prefer that Blake believe he is more human (and therefore capable of trying to be human) than tell him he’s a demon and put an end to his efforts. This ties in with something Eva and Andy said in Chapter 1.1 — to some extent, Others are what they believe they are, so Faysal benefits from having Blake believe he is not a demon. (Alternatively, Blake’s belief that he is not a demon is strong enough to fool even Faysal; because like those glitter-vampires, as long as Blake can tell himself he’s not a demon, he’s not a demon.)

        1. For my take on #3, Faysal is measly telling whatever Blake was trying to believe in himself into broader questions/statements that the universe just went no important explanation will be given to you.

          Faysal didn’t get fooled by Blake’s strong enough belief that he’s a demon. In which Faysal analyzed(the double-edged knowledge) that Blake could completely screw himself at the moment. Within to the finishing touches of a plan that the universe went against his time to be covered up to stall the plans of something that seemly it wants to screw up.

          In a random sense, believing Faysal just got a gist of the rest of the forgotten god’s power that was knocked aside/suddenly dropped into the drains. For coming back into the real world,as the new part of the core of being within Blake.

          So basically Faysal benefits from Blake is that he’s going to enjoy more of his stay in Jacob Bell. That Faysal gets to enjoy his own version of chaos,destruction and entropy.(As probably how did it really make him finally really angry) Second off watch how the universe now wants to screw everything up.

      2. Rose Senior could easily lie in the letter to her heir. She was about to die of old age, in the middle of what is basically a magical fort, without anyone around her other than her familiar. Given she is about to die, she wouldn’t care about being forsworn, all the more because there was no on else around to ‘call’ her on it.

  20. Anyone else notice that Evan and Faysal Anwar are both oriented to the same sorts of tasks – clearing and making thresholds?

  21. Andy is gonna beat himself up for this one. Let’s hope he actually survives the night to do so.

    Also Eva actually cares about her brother! Isn’t family nice?

    1. I’m sure that Peter would do the same for, uh…

      Maybe Roxanne? She’s small and easy to carry. Also Ellie. Good meatshield and essential for deniable crime stuff.

  22. Even if it’s a witch hunter, Blake, you should NOT allow someone to name you. Plus, bloody Marv is pretty terrible.

    So… her trump cards were the green orb and the grenade? Well, I’m not sure what a grenade in a mirror world can do, but more importantly- what was the green orb supposed to do?

    The thingy was not supposed to last long, and was given to a female that is between the torburn house and the hospital. Also it’s not supposed to have a noticeable effect of witch hunters for some reason. Is the orb the reason why Blake kept getting shunted downstairs?

    Eva said it probably had “one more” use, but he was shunted away twice afterwards… I wonder if it’s going to become important soon.

      1. And nice one-liner insults/petnames every now and then!

        …actually, now that you mention it- holy crap, she really IS buffy. This can now never be unseen.

  23. The witch-hunter’s plan was to run the clock down and leave mostly-incapacitated people for the nastiness that is coming with sunset. It is very ironic, even karmic, that Blake is now using their own plan against them – he has incapacitated Andy and is threatening to block Andy and Eva leaving by using their own weapons (karmic again).

    So now we have a horror-show setup: a bunch of injured people who don’t trust each other in a dangerous house they can’t leave safely with monsters coming along with the sunset. Oh, and they are in a town that hates and fears them and is actively working against them.

    Callan is in trouble. Hiding him in a folding couch is brilliant… if you are expecting human enemies. Bogeymen can probably find him anyway and the relatives are going to be too busy to go check on him. So, when they do check on him finally it is either going to be a “body in fridge” moment or “monster jumping out at you” moment. (My record for predicting Wildbow is crap, but that’s what I am imagining.)

  24. Something that just hit me. There is an option here to explain who/what Blake is, and it could make Rose Sr. even more monstrous. Blake could have been a twin to Rose Jr. in the womb, or perhaps even after birth… His body and life stolen by demons before he was born, or perhaps even after birth. None of Rose Sr.’s children would have been able to protect themselves from demons reworking their minds to make them forget about Blake.

    Just got a bit of a shiver moment there. Potentially very ugly.

    1. But that still doesn’t explain where Blake’s life style came from.

      We have two main background questions about Blake that point to two phases of his past.

      1) the family past – His memories of the Thorburn family seem to come from Rose. The shared parents, the cousins, etc. seem to be derived from Rose’s experience.

      2) The Canadian vagrant past – He has a couple years after leaving the Thorburns that are unaccounted for. They seem to include a real apartment, real scooter, real landlord, real friends. All of that points to taking someone else’s life over that’s not a Thorburn.

      1. I was merely doing an exercise in thought about how Blake might have really been human at one point, and perhaps actually a Thorburn. Remember that demons can’t create, but they can encourage development in certain ways. The easiest lie to support is a lie grounded in truth.

        It would not surprise me at all if Wildbow doubles back on us. Blake as human, then other, and then fighting to regain humanity again.

        Gender of practitioners seems important, at least in some family lines. Blake might be a real Thorburn, but being male, he may not have gotten the direct connection to the Thorburn innate practitioner abilities.

        Blake’s memories may be more real than we think. They might even be at least in part his own real memories. After what Ur did to him, reconstructing his past is going to be… difficult. I suspect Isadora might make another appearance if Blake has an opportunity to “find himself.”

      2. I think it’s important to note that in Blake’s memories he’s good friends with both Paige and Molly while Rose wasn’t and isn’t. Blake being Rose’s twin killed not long before the start of the story is possible, I guess.

    2. That makes my “if in doubt, break glass” Wild Mass Guess look pathetic in its Nightmare Fuel. o.O

      An alternate universe “Rose” who did actually exist. If not in the exact shape we currently find Blake. That’s the thing about mirrors, reflections and alternates: a demon or any other being may not just be restricted to the Thorburns we know as a basis to create something else. 😐

      1. Definitely not going to say it can’t be an alternate universe version scenario. I can’t remember any indication in the book that there is anything other than this one reality. The mirror world seems to be a magical subset of the real world, the drains are similar in a way. Everything seems to be attached to the one, single human-inhabited reality.

        That being said, I haven’t seen anyone indicate otherwise either.

        Hell, Blake might have been Rose’s firstborn… She’s been planning this for a long, long time. Did we ever get a clear description about what happened to the child who was used to bait Barbatorem? Was there ever a statement as to whose child it was, or what it’s name was?

        Yea, nightmare fuel. Definitely.

        1. “Did we ever get a clear description about what happened to the child who was used to bait Barbatorem? Was there ever a statement as to whose child it was, or what it’s name was?”

          Blake surmises it was either uncle Charles or aunt Irene (in 1-07). He could be unconsciously biased against guessing the truth, though. I still think Charles’ complete disappearance isn’t meaningless.

  25. Speaking of Barbatorem… “Barbatorem is mute, making dealings hard. He will see a contract up to seven times before refusing all further contracts. In this event, one can dismiss him and summon him again, but it must be to offer something else.”

    How many contracts has Barbatorem been offered? How many more times can a favor be asked of him? Does Barbatorem prefer the attic over the drains or wherever he’d go, now that he’s bound under the Seal of Solomon? Or can he cut the Seal out of himself?

    1. One favor was to stay in the tower for the duration of the heir debacle, IIRC. Another was the Blake gambit. That leaves up to five remaining. Darth Granny specifically noted that using Barbie for a targeted death was unsuitable.

      1. As i recall it, Barbatorem doesn’t notice time passing and sees each heir at the heir. There was some sort of record of previous conversations that Barbatorem had engaged in and the heir was supposed to read them to know at what point the conversation was in, but Blake was distracted and never read it. So I don’t think “stay in the tower” is a contract. Blake may have been zero, one, or more. There may be only one left for Barbatorem, or six or even seven left, or anything in between.

    2. What? I read that line as “Barbatorem is mute. To make a deal with him, you must present a contract, which he will either accept or reject. If he rejects a contract seven times, he will refuse to even view further revisions. If this happens, you can dismiss him and summon him again, but you have to offer a contract to have him do something else instead, as he will still refuse to view contracts offering something he’s refused to do seven times.”

  26. Why was it that only the really crazy types enjoyed themselves in situations like this?
    Um…because they’re crazy and you’re not?

    “Keep talking like that, and I’ll start thinking you’re not really some long-lost Thorburn cousin.”
    I’m pretty sure he was rather lost even before the whole Drains thing. And the whole not-really-a-Thorburn thing.

    ““Shit… and on the kid upstairs? Before they locked themselves up again?”
    “…Yeah.”

    Sounds more than a little forced there.

    “Along with the house and its occupants?”
    What, this surprises you by now? You haven’t been paying attention, Pete.

    “The claymore or whatever by the back door, the bombs on the windows, the bomb on the front door… double edged sword right now.”
    Pun intended?

    1. on your third point,it was supposed to sound forced,she was lying about the bomb and wanted to press her bluff.

  27. Stephen King once said that he writes stories by coming up with a situation and letting his characters do their best to deal with it.

    These last couple of chapters (and Wildbow’s stuff in general) have read very much like that. They feel organic – not like an author is writing a plot but like all these characters actually have been thrown into the house together and are each doing everything they can to achieve their conflicting goals. Nothing feels contrived.

  28. You did this in worm but people don’t say acronyms, S. O. P. People would just say what it stands for most of the time. As soon as I read that I knew I was reading a wildbow piece because no one else does that.

    Also you’re fucking kidding about how bogeyman works right. No light fucks them? So one why are bogeyman most associated with the dark, two wouldn’t they have all been shunted for literally fucking miles when humans had just invented fire? What fucking reflective surfaces are there on a dark prehuman earth? Also this whole shunting shit again just emphasises how fucking weak you’ve made these creatures. If they weren’t a practitioner and knew that shaman stuff they’d be absolutely useless. Bloody Mary herself is the least scary person on the planet because bathroom mirrors do not reflect the floor. And if he didn’t have a sword he would be even extra useless.

    Literally all he can do is break his own environment a move which doesn’t even cause harm.

    1. That is how Blake works and is not necessarily typical of all bogeymen. Remember that Rose was trapped in the mirror realm and is now free, so presumably Blake has swapped places with her on top of now being a bogeyman.

      People do sometimes spell out acronyms aloud, generally when it saves time by reducing the number of syllables spoken. People typically say “UN” instead of “United Nations”, “BBC” rather than “British Broadcasting Corporation”, “ATM” rather than “Automated Teller Machine” and I’ve definitely heard people say “S.O.P.” rather than “standard operating procedure”.

      1. Just seems like the rules for Blake are so unclear and it makes the story really unimpactful, is 30 Others just gg, nope apparently not, can a normal human fight off lots of others, I would have said nope, but there I was wrong about that. There’s no coherent atmosphere because you can’t form consistent expectations which is just so dumb for a story where like 90% of it is him in danger. Like he starts ripping his body apart, shouldn’t that kill him, I thought we were worried about things hurting him? No apparently not… Can people not just punch where he’s standing in the mirror realm all that does is shunt him right? Somehow the mixing of water and oil causes him to not be able to be in the reflection (ignoring the fact that they’d lie on top of each other) but what is clearly not a consistent blood spatter on the wall does, or even water itself would be dirty like the ice rink.

        So do they say sop? Or do they say Ess Oh Pee?

        Fair enough that people do use the word, also you said procedure when I think SOP stood for practice. More needless confusion caused by acronyms. The first time I saw it in Worm I had to google it.

        1. Ess oh pee.

          A lot of how stuff works in Pact is unclear because the protagonists are still working out a lot of it themselves. I agree that does make it hard for the reader to know how concerned we should be for the characters in any given situation.

  29. Blake and Peter are having a fight with some kids who like to set traps, in a big house that none of them really owns. And they’ve just left the water running. If Eva calls Blake “Bloody Marv”, doesn’t that make him and his partner the Wet Bandits? 😛

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