Duress 12.1

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Alexis, Tiff, and Ty weren’t doing so hot, to put it lightly.

Alexis wasn’t letting me look right at her face.  Ty looked pale, in addition to the thin lines of red that criss-crossed his face and hands and the beads of blood here and there.  Only Tiff seemed sort of together.  Cut up, but she hadn’t broken down.  Nervous, mostly.  When she hesitated to step out of the sanctuary of the library, I suggested she stay behind and read up on possible spells to protect us.  She’d agreed, and we closed the door, sealing her within.

Not ideal, but we had a lot of very resourceful individuals in very bad shape, and when it might only take one dramatic move like the priest’s smiting to bowl us all over like so many pins, spreading out felt like the better plan.

Against all horror-movie logic, but still the better plan.

Evan was guarding Andy and making sure Andy kept breathing.  Tiff was gone.

Alexis had decided to wear the hand mirror that Evan had brought into the house, which made it harder for me to see just how she was doing.  I could tell how slowly she was moving.  Doubly so when I saw just how spry Eva was.  Periodically, I moved to nearby puddles of water to try to get a glimpse of Alexis’ face, but couldn’t make much out.  She seemed to notice me and look away before I got a really good look.

Bad cuts.  Worse than Ty or Tiff had suffered.

Together, we made our way down to the ground floor.  The sink had stopped overflowing.  Someone had turned off the water under the sink, or something like that.

Entering the living room, the most obvious fact was that the Thorburns weren’t in great shape either.  Roxanne, face swollen, hand black and blue, Kathryn with a bruise crawling across the side of her head, and Callan, who looked like he’d been to hell and back, but had been rolled out of the couch, alive and breathing, sitting up with his arms around Christoff, hair plastered to his head with sweat.  Ellie looked okay, but was pacing.

I could see them tense as Eva came down the stairs with us.

“Holy shit,” Ellie said, her pacing stopping immediately.  “What the fuck?  The psycho bitch?”

“Ratface Thorburn,” the witch hunter commented, “We meet again.”

“Fuck you,” Ellie said.

“We’ve got her brother hostage,” Peter volunteered.

“So we call the police now?” Kathryn asked.  “Turn her in?”

Ellie snorted.

“No,” Peter said.  “This isn’t half over.  She’s an asset.”

“It can be over if we leave,” Ellie said.

“You’ll die,” Alexis said, with a rough edge to her voice.

That roughness, the suggestion that she wasn’t doing well at all, was maybe a bit more credibility in the Thorburn’s eyes.

“The bombs-”

“You’ll die,” Alexis repeated herself.

A long, drawn out scream echoed outside.

I could see everyone react with fear, Eva excepted.  She turned so the side of her body and face faced the front door.  Presenting a smaller profile.

Nothing came of it.  Seconds passed without further incident.

“Bombs aren’t the problem,” Alexis said, even though there was no need.

“I think we’re due some answers,” Kathryn said, stern.

I glanced at Peter.  He’d dropped one line, which made me want to ask a hundred questions I didn’t have the time to ask.  I wasn’t sure I didn’t share the same sentiment.

“We’re-”

Another scream occurred nearby.  It was joined by an outcry, almost a cheer.  A group.  Soldiers on a battlefield, pumping themselves up before the charge.  Whatever had started out there hadn’t finished.

A window at the back of the house rattled.  Something fell over.

There was an impact that made me think a car had run into the side of the house.

“Gonna go check,” Ty said.

“Sure,” I said.

From direction and the impact, I could only assume it was Midge.

I wasn’t sure what it would be that would occupy Midge for more than a few seconds.

I spoke, “I need each of you in different parts of the house.  Thorburns, you’re spreading out.  Don’t pick a fight-”

“Ha,” Ellie said, agitated, “No chance of that.”

“Just call for us.  Don’t run, don’t mess around, don’t make noise unless you’re spotted and you’re shouting for assistance..  Stay put, arm yourselves, wait.”

Or we could stick together,” Ellie said.

“Ellie,” Peter said.  “Listen to him.”

“Peter,” Ellie said, meeting her little brother’s eyes.  “I trust you more than I trust any of the rest of these assholes except for maybe Christoff, who couldn’t lie to save his life.  I still don’t trust you nearly enough to listen and obey some random fucking-”

Another crash sounded outside.  A dull bellowing.

“They’re at a window, I think I can stall them!” Ty called out.

“-instructions,” Ellie finished, her voice a little smaller than before.

Peter pressed on, “Use your head, Ellie.  I know you’ve got a brain, even if you don’t use it.  Grandmother was into something big.  Bigger than any of us want to realize.  What we’re up against, they’re the sort of people who don’t want to be noticed.  People who are very good at hurting other people without getting caught.”

Spies?”  Ellie asked, her voice arch.  “I’m supposed to believe that James fucking Bond or the S.K. are outside our house right now, trying to break in for some-”

“Ellie,” he cut her off.  “These are covert operatives who are nowhere near as polite as the spies you get from movies and books.  When it’s all over, we’ll probably be in pieces in garbage bags, if we’re lucky.  More likely, they’ll be really inventive in how they torture you, torture me, torture the kids…”

“Peter,” Callan said, speaking in a low voice, both hands on Christoff’s shoulders.  “Don’t spook the kids.”

“I’m not spooked,” Roxanne said, with a note of awe.

Ignoring the fact that one eye was so swollen it was a puffy line in her face, she looked fascinated.  Not unafraid, but more terrified and interested both.  She was as tense as a guitar string, attention rapt.

“I’m spooked,” Christoff said, his voice small.

“Then man up.  If your balls are going to drop, let’s have them drop now,” Peter said.  “Ellie, these guys are going to fuck us up if we don’t listen very carefully.   I’m pretty sure these assholes could and would feed us to hungry livestock or burn us alive.”

“In a small town in Canada,” Ellie said, skeptically.

“Think about it,” he said.  “Why the fuck would a major covert organization set up in a big city, with thousands or millions of eyes around?”

“I can think of a lot of reasons,” Ellie said.  “Don’t try to mom me, trying to derail me with bullshit.  Let me think, spies have jobs?  International jobs?  This shithole doesn’t have anything resembling an airport.”

“Fuck me,” Peter said, under his breath, “Why are you only smart when it helps you be wrong?  Help me out, Blake?”

“I never said it was spies,” I said, being intentionally vague, “Though some of those people out there make pretty effective spies.  It is shady and it is a mess of secrets some people are willing to kill to keep.”

“Fine, whatever.  When did you get this epiphany, Peter?” she asked.  “You figured it all out, you heard or saw something, and now you’re just as much an expert as the asshole with an internet connection and camera-mirror shit that’s talking us all through this?”

“Obviously,” Peter said, “It was while you were sitting in the basement, pissing around.”

“Obviously,” she said, glaring at him.

She was getting scared, but she was exercising that fear as hostility.  Probably a survival instinct she’d picked up somewhere along the way.

“Listen to him,” Peter said.  “Trust me.  I’m still on your side.  Our deal stands.”

She scowled.

The plywood at the front window of the living room rattled as someone or something banged on it.  I reacted instantly.  “Back!”

Kathryn was the only one who hadn’t connected to exactly why I’d given the instruction.

The sound, the light, and the reverberation that knocked Alexis back were all out of sync by fractions of a second.  Even my world was disturbed, as the surface of the water from the flooded and flooding house was distorted for a moment, reducing my territory to the few good sources of reflections I had available.

My view of the scene was limited to my ability to peer through the shaky, zig-zagging little circle that moved every time Alexis did.

I was only able to stop and peer through when she found her footing and stood straight.  There were more shadowy figures standing outside.  A half-dozen ‘people’ and what looked to be four or five children, standing far enough away that the light from the living room ceiling didn’t reach them.

Eva crossed the living room, while everyone else backed away.  She stood at the window, looking down.  “Got one of them.  Hi, guys.”I couldn’t make out the response.

“Scared?” Eva asked, spreading her arms, gun in one hand, knife in the other.  “Don’t be.  Come on up to the window.  I won’t bite.”

“Kathryn,” I said, in the quiet.  “Take Roxanne upstairs.  Bedroom across from the bathroom.  Do not go in the bathroom.  There’s a bag with knives in the closet.  Stuff Ellie stole.”

“What?” Ellie said.  “No.”

“Up high,” I said.  “Get the knives out of the bag.”

Kathryn and Roxanne fled upstairs.

Callan and Christoff would have to stay here.

“Ellie,” I said.

“Peter’s pep talk didn’t convince me,” she said.  “What makes you think I’m listening?”

“Because I’m telling you go to go up to the third floor.  Shutters are closed, all you have to do is holler or scream if someone gets the bright idea to come in through the window.”

“You can’t possibly believe someone’s going to-”

“Ellie,” I cut in.  “It’s probably the safest places in the house for you.”

She considered that for a second, “Where were those other three hiding?”

“Hidden room on the second floor,” I said.  “You can’t get in there, you’d attract attention by trying, and you’d probably get hurt one way or another, nosing around there.  Third floor, bedroom, safe place.  Stay put, don’t move around.”

“I like being able to move around,” she said.

Midge made more noise in the backyard.  I was pretty sure something very solid had broken.

“Then, fuck it, just stay on the third floor,” I said, exasperated.  I wasn’t terribly in tune with my emotions and she was still pissing me off.

“What about the tower room?  That one room that sticks up?”

What did one say to a woman who’d always gone against the grain, always rebelled, and fought every damn step of the way, even when not fighting probably would have been easier and more beneficial for her?

How was I supposed to convey to her that it would be the worst idea in the world to break into that room, when telling her would only make it more enticing to her warped brain?

“Well?” she asked.

“I’m kind of interested too,” Peter said.

“Why do you think my brother and I showed up?” Eva asked, turning her head away from the people outside.

“Hm?” Peter asked.

No, I thought, but I didn’t have anything to interject with.  This was entirely the wrong thing to be saying to Ellie and Peter Thorburn.

“We brought bombs, we brought guns and tasers and grenades.  Those assholes out there, I know some of them.  Little lady out there wants to stitch your mouth and eyes shut, stitch your hands to your sides and your legs together, and leave you like that.  I’m not even joking.  All the sick freaks and monsters are coming this way, and they’re coming because of what’s all the way upstairs.”

“Oh god,” Callan said.  “Stitch-”

“What’s upstairs?” Peter interrupted.

“Come on, Pete,” I said, miming his tone from earlier.  “What do you think?  What’s the worst possible thing it could be?”

“Worst possible-” he started.

“I’ll give you a damn hint,” I said, before he spoke thoughtlessly aloud.  “When Rose and I talked about it, we talked about it in terms of contamination.”

“Enough said,” he said.  “Upstairs, Ellie.”

“What are you- no,” she said.  “That isn’t enough said.  That-”

“Bioweapons or radiation or some shit that has all the other organized crime psychos scared shitless,” he said.  “I don’t want to know, neither do you.  Go.  Those guys outside look restless.”

I heard Ellie’s retreating footsteps splashing on the wet floor, even though I couldn’t see her.

There was a sound of breaking windows.  The only windows I could think of that weren’t broken already would be the ones in the basement.

“Basement,” I said.

“Right.”  Peter rose to his feet, heading back to the hallway.  He shut the door and I heard him dragging something.

Blocking the door.  It probably wouldn’t help much.

A second and a half later, there was a banging, a rattle of the door repeatedly being slammed against the blockade.  Peter began to move other things in the hallway, supporting the position of the table more than he was trying to block the door.

I could remember when I’d assumed the outside walls would hold off the Others for hours.  It hadn’t been twenty minutes.

The absence of one person in the living room apparently gave the Others outside a bit more courage.

They advanced a little.

“Hey,” Eva called out.  “I recognize you, that means you should damn well recognize me.”

“Yeah,” was the response from outside.  A male voice.

“You know you don’t want to get on my bad side.”

“We’re not here for you, Eva.”

“You damn well better not be.  As I was saying, you don’t want to get on my bad side.  How would you like to do me a favor?”

No, Eva,” I intoned the words, like an adult might to a wayward child.

“You want in?  Go right ahead,” she said.

“I will kill Andy if you fuck with us here!” I said.

She hesitated.  But in the moment she turned to reply to me, she saw Peter coming out of the hallway, weapon in hand.

He could see right through her, just like I could.  She was betraying us, right here.  He’d acted on it.

Said a lot about him that he could be so damn clever, but when the situation called for it, he went straight to ‘blunt object to face’.

He swung the fireplace poker over his head and down.  Eva didn’t have time to bring her whole arm up, so she only raised her elbow, moving towards the descending poker.  Her elbow caught Peter’s wrist and deflected it.  The poker came down  a fair distance to the side of her.

Peter had an instant of eye contact with Eva, a deer in the headlights with his face a matter of a foot from hers, before she hit him.  Two punches to the head, a kick that seemed primarily aimed at disarming him, stepping on the poker that still touched the ground, then wrapped her arms around his upper arms, pinning his arms to his side while she brought her knee into his side.  Staying right up close, not giving him any room at all to act.

I saw a knife flash in her hand.

She hadn’t had a knife a second ago.  Concealed?

Eva didn’t stab Peter.  The Others were making a move, and she shifted her grip and flung Peter to the side.

“Alexis,” I said, as they approached the window, moving through snow with long, powerful strides.

No response.

She hadn’t responded in a whileFuck.  I’d been so focused on external events-

“Alexis!”

Callan reached over to Alexis, who was half-sitting on the arm of the sofa, and took her wrist.  I didn’t get to hear his verdict any more than Eva got to finish dealing with Peter.

The Others were adroit, hopping up the two or three feet to the window itself.

The faceless woman was the first I noticed.  She stayed on the bench beneath the window, the curtain blocking the full view of her face.  Her cigarette glowed.

Did she have a supernaturally good sense of light and dark, like I had with reflections?

The other Other was a bald man in a suit, thin enough to be skeletal, with a pinched mouth and eyes too large for his head.  He clasped a pocketwatch to his chest with one hand, the other straight down at his side.

Fuck me.  If the Behaims had bogeymen on call, this would be the type, wouldn’t it?

“Blake,” I heard a voice.  The third Other to enter through the window.  The unassuming, boring Pizza Man.  The Revenant.  His eyes glittered dark, his smile was like he was in on some grand joke, wry, as if he was about to burst into excited laughter at any moment.  “Didn’t know you were here.”

Not a hint of his fatigue and tiredness from before.

“I told you that it was dangerous to mess around here,” I said.

“I know,” he said.  “But that thing your other cousin did.  Man.  I’m excited.  I could barely keep her still.  There aren’t many acceptable targets or acceptable times to express my excitement.  Then an opportunity like this comes up?  Know what I mean?  This is going to be something to behold.”

“I don’t know the feeling, but yeah, I think I understand.”

The clock man was paying attention to Peter, who was on his rear end, hands and feet on the ground, staring up.  The clock man’s expression was frozen as he advanced on Peter.  A light smile that revealed some teeth.

“Shit,” Peter said, crab-walking away.  He found his feet, but the clock man bent forward, placing the clockless hand on his collarbone, and shoved him back.

Peter and the clock man disappeared into the hallway, Peter retreating, stumbling for footing, and the clock man swiftly advancing, maintaining his hand in the one position.

I’d have intervened if I’d seen it coming.  It was so sudden.

And, on a level, a part of me wanted to be near Alexis.  I shook my head, moving to the water that pooled on the living room floor.

I saw the clock man back away a step.  Peter was slumped against the closet door in the front hallway.

With shaking hands, Peter pushed his upper body away from the door, as if it took some effort.

The doorknob had shattered on impact with his body.  The resulting piece of the doorknob was a prong of metal, now crimson.  The blood that dripped off it in strings was thick, as if it wasn’t just blood, but other bits clumped in there too.

I could see the blood at Peter’s shoulder where it had speared him.

“Fuck,” Peter said, slumping to the ground beneath the door with a light splash.  “And now my pants are drenched.  That’s going to bug me all night.”

The clock man left Peter like that, backing into the living room, dusting himself off, the exact same expression on his face.

He traced one finger along the television set, thoroughly destroyed in the localized explosion at the window, and then picked up a piece of glass.

“Eager, aren’t you?” the revenant commented, smiling a little wider, “Not that I’m objecting.”

Shit.  I’d almost liked him, and now he was living true to his nature.

I’d never liked the parable of the scorpion and the frog.

I liked it even less now.  It made me think of Green Eyes.

I liked her too.

“Sorry, window-dweller,” he said.  “But big things are happening.  There’s value in being a part of them.  I don’t know what you had planned for this bunch, but you had your chance to do it.  Now the rest of us get a shot.”

He headed for Callan, the clock man headed back for Peter, shard of glass in hand.

I could deal with one, but not both.

Eva was just standing there, next to the window.  The remaining Others just outside weren’t venturing inside.

“Eva!” I shouted.

The warning tone was enough to stir her into action.  A part of me suspected it didn’t take much.  She wanted to participate.

She went right for the revenant.  He was unarmed, she wasn’t.

I’d seen her fight people.  I got a chance to see how she fought monsters.

Eva put herself in the revenant’s way, and the revenant threw a punch.  She was ready to block, deflecting a blow from something much stronger than she was, knife flashing out to cut his throat.

Against anyone else, and a hell of a lot of anythings, she might have ended the fight right there.

But the revenant didn’t stop.  He threw another punch, and clipped her.  She went with it, turning her body to absorb the force of the blow, then struck out with her knife, using the turn to hit that much harder.  Going for the side of the neck, this time.

“Yeah,” the revenant said.  “Knew I shouldn’t pick a fight with you.”

I was already in the water, trying to find a way to work around the distorted surface.  Too many feet splashing.

The clock man walked with care, Peter in his sights.

Peter rose to his feet, then ran upstairs.  He fell twice on his way to the stairs, first at the spot of oil that sat surrounded by water, then on the stairs themselves, with a piece of glass caught in the underside of his shoe.

The clock man followed, walking.

Eva kicked the revenant bodily in the chest, shoving him into the hallway and out of Callan and Christoff’s sight.

Then she really went to town.

He moved his arm, and I didn’t even get a chance to see why, because she was ready to stop him with one arm blocking his elbow.  One leg was positioned behind his knee.  The whole of her body mass served as leverage, her shoulder pushing his upper body, her lower legs planted firmly on the ground.

His free, unblocked hand got a grip on her collar.  Her knife severed the fingertips.

I glanced at the clock man.  He was just at the bottom of the stairs.  Peter was at the top.  Once the gap was slightly wider, I could appear between them.

For now- I reached out of the water and gripped the revenant’s hair as he started to rise, hauling him down, his head cracking against the wood.

Eva threw the knife, planting it in the revenant’s throat.  As if she was setting her shovel into the ground, she stomped on the handle, forcing it through.

Two hands came up for her legs.  She backed away a step.

To stand, he had to pull the point of the blade out of the wood beneath him.  I had a glimpse of him, the handle of the knife, not the blade, jutting through his neck.  The blade stuck out the back.

“You’re-” he said, but his voice was almost too distorted by the intervening object to make any sense.  He grabbed the blade with one hand and pulled it from his neck.

A toss in the air, and he caught the handle.

His wounds closed in a matter of a second or two, except for the throat wound, which was too wide.

Eva made a quick motion, he reacted, ready to catch her or defend himself, but it was only a feint.

She did it again, once or twice.  In those seconds, the throat wound finished closing.

“You’re trying to behead me,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

“That doesn’t work against everything,” he said.

“It’ll work here.”

The basement door rattled, the things in the basement still periodically trying to get out.  I could see narrow, long-fingered hands clutching around the open door, trying to get a grip on the table, so they could shift its position.

Eva paused, took a half-step back, then kicked the basement door.

Severed fingers dropped into the pool of water.

I looked upstairs.  I could sense the distortions in reflections.

Peter had gone straight for the third floor.

The clock man was just reaching the second.

I saw my window of opportunity and moved.

I appeared, drawing the Hyena, and swept the broken blade through his ankles.

He stumbled, catching the railing, but I reached up to grab his waistband, and found the leverage to pull him down toward the stairs.  The gaunt clock man tumbled.

In the process, I could see Ty at the end of the hall.

Three dead things that might have been gargoyles or winged goblins lay beside him.  He was unaware of me as he swung his hammer to finish crucifying one, affixing it to a picture frame by slamming a nail through its wrist and wing.  He rose, pressing the picture frame against the window, gargoyle sticking out-

I didn’t ask.  My focus was on the clock man, who was still falling down the stairs, hamstrings cut.

By the time he finished his ten-foot tumble, I was waiting on the landing where the stairs made a ‘u’ turn and were just a little wider.

The clock man came to rest on the waiting Hyena.

I was shunted to the base of the stairs, and looking down at the reflection, I could see up, where he’d been.  A cloud of black ash.

I moved back up, and saw the timepiece sitting on the broader stair.  The only thing that remained.

Reaching through, I collected it, drawing it into my realm and opening it.

No hands.

But it didn’t belong here.  The Hyena did, it was mine, claimed and reclaimed.  The timepiece disintegrated like my footing did when the reflections shattered.

I found it back in the real world and stabbed it with the Hyena.

One down.

Countless Others to go.

“-Bomb!” Eva was shouting.

“You really think I care about a bomb?” the revenant asked.

“Your friend-”

“Her either?”

They were struggling.  Eva was winning the fight but losing the war.  She was cornered, the bomb behind her and the revenant in front, and no exit on either side.  Every time the revenant charged, she was forced to back up.  When she pushed back, she hurt him, delivering grievous wounds, but failed to regain the ground she’d lost.  None of the wounds lasted.  Couldn’t kill a dead man.

“Eva,” I said, “What do you need?”

“I kill unnatural motherfuckers like you with nature.  Fire usually works.”

Wooden house.”

Blade, then.  I’ll do it the old fashioned way.”

“I’ve got a blade,” I said.

“And,” the revenant responded, “that’s my cue to abandon this particular fight.”

He backed away from Eva, and ducked back into the living room.

Eva and I both found our way into the living room as well.

Callan was standing, Christoff behind him, Alexis to his right, slumped back against the couch.  I could see how deep some of the wounds on her face were.

Was this the old ‘outrun the bear’ strategy?  Leave the nigh-comatose girl as bait while making a break for it?

“How are you doing?” the revenant asked his companion.

Sitting on the window ledge, the faceless woman was kept from intervening by the presence of innocents.  She tapped her cigarette a few times, impatient, and let the ash fall into the shallow pool of water that covered the living room floor.

Others were standing behind her, impatient, but not wanting to cross within a certain distance of her.

It said a lot.  She was actively helping to keep Others at bay by being as scary as fuck, and I wasn’t any less worried.

Her foot joined the cigarette with the tapping, making a series of light splashes in the water.

“I know, baby,” the revnenant said.  “I’m suspicious we’re in the clear, but I don’t want to bet on it.”

Her tapping intensified for a second, then stopped.

She drew herself to her feet, in a grand sweeping motion, head bowed a little, her hair masking much of her face.

Damn it.

“Apparently you want to bet on it, though,” the revenant said.

“Her face,” Christoff whispered.

“You know,” Callan said, coldly, “When you’ve got an ugly scar on your face, spy convention is to drape your hair over that side, and leave the normal side alone.”

She stood up straighter, and used her free hand to fix her hair, combing it back with her fingers revealing her face as it was.

“Or it’s… that doesn’t make sense,” Callan said, suddenly confused.  “That mask-”

She slowly shook her head.

“Not a mask,” the revenant shared.  “Well, looks like we’re all-in.”

“All in?  What’s the bet?” Callan asked, still leaning to one side, one hand on Alexis’ wrist.

“That we can go to town, and we can get away with it,” the revenant said.

Shit.

I went straight for the faceless woman.

Same plan as the clock man with the broken clock.  I sliced her ankles.

I was shunted, moved back to the kitchen.

I had to wait for things to settle down to even see what was going on, but people were moving so damn much.  Eva was no doubt at the center of it.

Something told me, though, that of all people, the faceless woman was apparently capable of recovering from cut hamstrings.  A fast recovery, no less.

“Callan, take Christoff and Alexis upstairs!” I shouted.

“I can only take Christoff!” he said, his head turning to try and find where I was speaking from.

“You’ll take Alexis, damn it!”

“Blake?” I heard Alexis mumble.

Chaos.

“Alexis,” I said.  “Cat’s out of the bag.  If there’s anything you can do-”

“Gave too much blood already,” she said, feeble.  “Strengthening the library.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Alright, you did good, getting us this far.”

“This doesn’t look good,” she said.

Eva was sparring with the two Others in the living room.  I could see the agitation on the Others outside.

“No.”

“If… I’m thinking maybe since I’m not at my best, I’m all hollowed out inside, you can take me for a ride?”

“I don’t think I can wear the Alexis suit,” I said.  “I’m too solid.  Doesn’t feel like I can.”

“Oh.”

“But that’s not a bad idea,” I said.

Books fell to the ground as Eva struck the faceless woman and knocked her into the bookshelf.

A retaliatory swipe of fingernails left gouges in Eva’s upper arm, as if she were made of soft clay.

“Fuck!” Eva shouted.

The revenant tackled her.  Not trying to hurt, or to hold.  Just something between a hundred and sixty and a hundred and eighty pounds of weight right there, limiting Eva’s movements, while Eva stood a matter of two or three feet from the bogeyman who could knit flesh with a touch.

Eva fought back, but her hand was moving in a palsied way, fingers bending wrong, almost as if they were trying to bend backwards.

Her nerves had probably been fucked up by that one swipe of claws.

She managed to throw the revenant off her, tossing him to the point where the coffee table had once been, and she backed away, panting hard.

That she was putting up a fight at all was amazing unto itself.

Callan crossed my field of vision and nearly stepped on me as Christoff helped him in the direction of the stairs.

“Christoff,” I said.  “Help Alexis to the ground.”

“She’ll have to crawl,” Callan said.

“That’s fine.  Just… help her down,” I said.

“You’re- not really there, are you?” he asked.  Looking toward the stairs.

He was unnerved, confused, not thinking straight.  Seeing the faceless woman had broken him into this world.  He wasn’t processing much of anything, by the looks of it.  Topping it off, he’d been beaten up as badly as anyone.

Except maybe Andy.  Andy was, as far as I knew, still out cold.

“Callan,” I said.  “This is what Molly was dealing with.  This world, this craziness.”

He looked around, as if he was trying to find me.

His expression creased.

He was an asshole, stubborn, absolutely brutal in how he dealt with others.  It was like the younger siblings had learned from what the older ones had gone through, and had gotten more clever.  The older ones, they were simpler.  Kathryn was a bulldog, tenacious.  She attacked and she didn’t let up.  Callan… he wasn’t equipped with status.  He didn’t fight so much as he blindsided.  He was half again my age, and he hit people where it hurt, picking and choosing when and where he did it.

He’d cost Paige the recommendations she needed to get the hell away from here and get to a good school in the U.S., going straight to her teachers.  He and his friends had probably been responsible for the vandalism of Kathryn’s restaurant, after we’d all heard Aunt Jessica talking about how they were expecting someone prominent to pay a visit and review it.

Callan had, I was pretty damn sure, been the one to knock over my bike in a fit of pique on the day Grandmother had passed verdict on the heirs.

But, at the end of the day, he’d cared about his immediate family.  Even though I’d been too young at the time to remember, I suspected he’d had high hopes about being the heir, but he’d given up when grandmother had laid down the law about it being a female heir.  Gave up on a lot of levels, maybe.  He’d never gone on to great things.  Alternated between working jobs in Toronto and working jobs here.

He’d backed Molly all the way.

“You couldn’t help her, but you can help us,” I said.

Eva was doing her best to fight with a revenant behind her and the flesh-stitching Bogeyman in front of her.

I couldn’t wait for Callan to act.  I couldn’t give more convincing.

I moved forward, and I lunged for the revenant this time.

He moved his leg as I cut, and I only got the calf.

It was all Eva needed.  She saw him falter, and backed away, using him as an obstacle to fight the Bogeywoman with.

That was all the help I could give.

Alexis was being lowered into the pool of water.

“Cold,” she said.

I hadn’t even realized.  The window was gone, exploded, and cold air was flowing into the room.  With all the water…

I hope this helps.  I reached into my chest and retrieved a spirit.

Reaching through the water, I pushed out, and I pushed the spirit into her.

She gasped like I’d thrown cold water on her.

In an instant, she was paler, her eyes black from corner to corner.  The edges of the shadows on her face and body darker and rougher.

I was weaker, and it was energy I probably couldn’t afford to give.

My hand brushed her shoulder before I was cast aside by the lack of footing.

“You feel like this all the time, Blake?” she asked.  Her voice was almost haunting, as if everything I’d heard for a long time had been muffled by the mirror, but her voice was as clear as a bell, resounding here.

“Feel like what?”

“Empty.  Cold.  Broken.  Distant.  Like… the worst night of waking up on the streets, when nothing’s right and you’re shivering and hurt and dirty and hungry, and you know it’s going to be a long time before you can do anything about any of it, and you get this feeling in the pit of your stomach.”

I lowered my head.  My feet were almost in line with hers.  I looked down at her, and she looked down at me, keeping only a partial eye on the ongoing brawl.

“I do.  But it’s my natural state,” I said.  I thought of what Peter had mentioned.  “Something-”

“Incomplete,” she said.

I could hear the resonation of her voice, so clear.  So closely linked to me, thanks to the spirits I’d given.  Alexis was using a marker to draw on the arm of the couch.

Incomplete.

That word felt important.

“Sorry to spend some of what you just gave me, but-  Television!”

Eva’s reaction times were freakish.  Alexis hadn’t finished speaking the word before Eva kicked the revenant.  He crashed into the shattered television set.  Something sparked, and fire erupted.

He staggered, head and shoulder aflame, burning more with every passing moment, then went to the window, throwing himself through.

“Go,” Eva said.  “No grudges.”

She wasn’t talking to him.

The faceless woman went after her companion.

“Upstairs!” Alexis said.

Retreating.

With the faceless woman gone, all the Others who’d been clustered outside came in.

The front door detonated.  A small blast, not even reaching down the length of the hallway.  No fire, which was probably a part of the runes on the thing.

It did damage the blockade at the basement door.

A dozen bogeymen, goblins, and other assorted monsters were in the house.

We had to give ground.  Ground floor lost.

Not even forty minutes had passed.

Fourteen hours until the crack of dawn, give or take.

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200 thoughts on “Duress 12.1

  1. Arc 12! Bonus chapter!

    Schedule should now be found on the Donate page, along with notes on the new target amounts. Am working on a graphic for the sidebar, but the last time I did it, it turned out ugly, so going to make a second attempt soon at working out a ticker that conveys the information well.

    In short, 1k for the first chapter, then 1.5k for the second, and 2k for the third, for a given month – non-cumulative. That makes it a semi-ridiculous 4.5k total for three bonus updates in a month, but it’s semi-ridiculous for me to be writing 70k+ words/11 chapters in a month, so that’s ok in my book! Most months, going by pattern, there should be 2 bonus updates, but excess will carry over toward a third, so there’s incentive.

    I’m liking it as I have it down. Let me know your thoughts.

    I’ll let others do the linkspam. 😉

    Thanks for reading!

    1. Hello wildbow, do you have a rough wordcount for Pact ? Nothing precise, just an approximate total wordcount up to now.

      A dedicated reader handled Worm, and that was a massive timesaver. Wish they’d come back for Pact as well. Delicious stats were delicious.

      1. I’ve been turning Pact into an E-book (for private use only, no distribution) and at the moment the stats (including the next chapter previous chapter buttons, not including the comments are:
        675,636 words
        1924 pages
        Characters (no spaces): 3,020,663
        Characters (spaces): 3,709,091
        NB: some of the chapters were compiled before the typo threads did their magic, so the actual stats may be slightly different.

      2. I’ve been collecting data on Pact. (retroactively collecting data from Worm too).

        I posted what I’ve collected up through Mala Fide on reddit (someone’s already provided that link). I’ll keep collecting data and share occasionally.

  2. Maybe it’s like one of those tower defense things and you can let the tower or whatever take a few hits while you get the rest of your ducks in a row. Maybe?

      1. The Pact world’s version of Plants VS Zombies is gonna be more like Plants VS Zombies VS Fae VS Boogeymen VS Piranha Mermaids VS Wraiths VS Angel Dogs VS Tweedle-Dee & Tweedle-Dum & Bandaged Profusely VS Clockwork Automatons VS Trolls VS BarbatoLY CRAP THERE’S A DEMON IN MY EYE IT’S IN MY AIIIIEEE.

    1. “I’m spooked,” Christoff said, his voice small.

      Right after this the formating gets really screwed up, no paragraphs in between sentences or anything. Intentional or not?

      1. Not intentional. WordPress likes to fuck with the formatting now and then and delete the paragraph breaks. It’s infuriating, though I’ve mostly figured out what causes it and can avoid it. Pops up if I copy the text in from an outside program (does it to the whole doc, alternately double-spacing where there should be one-space paragraphs, or deleting all paragraph breaks) or if I leave the doc for any reason (which happened here, in a limited section).

        I’ve been able to avoid it for long enough that I forgot to anticipate it. Had to quit out of my browser because it wasn’t updating word count or properly formatting, and text was appearing at one character a second, came back in, and that’s where it broke. Have to manually replace the paragraph breaks.

    2. Fricking fracking wordpress, deciding to delete my paragraph breaks on me.

      Fixed, I think. Manually went down to add the breaks where they’re supposed to be, let me know if I missed anything.

      1. If I had to guess, I’d say you are having formatting issues because of different text encoding between your text editor and wordpress. If your editor has an option to save with UTF-8 encoding, that should clear up most issues (hopefully).

    3. “Evan was guarding Andy and making sure Andy kept breathing”

      The double Andy seems distracted; unless you were going for that, the second one should be a “he”.

      1. I agree that the sentence sounds odd but a “he” in that spot would refer to Evan himself, thanks to the subject/object grammar rules.

    4. Typos:
      – “Got one of them. Hi, guys.”I couldn’t -> missing spaces
      – “the revnenant said” -> “revenant”
      – “I couldn’t give more convincing.”

    5. Not sure if this is the right place, but Arc 12 is between Arc 1 and Arc 2 in the Table of Contents in the right hand side bar. There’s also a missing bracket in Arc 5.

    6. criss-crossed
      crisscrossed

      a bit more credibility in the Thorburn’s eyes
      a bit more credibility in the Thorburns’ eyes [since multiple Thorburns are listening / seeing; otherwise could be correct]

      guys,”I
      guys,” I

      tasers
      Tasers [brand, but also used generically]

      pocketwatch
      usually pocket watch

      clockless hand
      clock-less hand [compound adjective]

      revnenant
      revenant

    7. “Shit,” Callan said, watching the various measures fail, “Shit, shit, shit.”

      Largely ignoring her, it turned toward Callan.

      Given the second sentence, the first should probably be said by someone other than Callan?

      1. Obviously someone’s going to look at Blake’s hand and discard a nonland noncreature card. Wait, does the word have any other meaning? :p

        1. That could be a game ender, since Blake doesn’t really play creatures and is clearly not drawing enough mana. You just know his win condition is sitting there in his hand, completely unusable.

            1. Well, I meant “doesn’t really” as in “doesn’t do a whole lot of”. Though I’m not sure if Lefty would count as a creature just yet, but he’s well on his way.

    1. Wildbow’s chapter titles usually apply to more than one event/theme in the chapter. According to our computer overlords (Google):

      archaic: forcible restraint or imprisonment

      That fit’s Rose’s predicament.

      threats, violence, constraints, or other action brought to bear on someone to do something against their will or better judgment

      It is fair to say that all of the Blakeguard here are performing acts against their better judgement (dangerous summonings, spells drawing off their inner cores) due to threats and violence. The other Thorburns would probably agree that their actions are under duress. The witch hunters are in the house right now under duress. The real question is whether the other powers in town are trying to get the Blakeguard to do something specific or just hoping the Thorburns will die under the onslaught.

  3. Hmmm. Things are not looking good. Its only been 4O minutes of siege and things have already come this far. Truthfully I can only see this being resolved in 2 (and a half) ways.
    1: people legit die. Blake and his companions cannot last all night at the rate this is going. 2: outside intervention comes to interrupt the nights activities (Perhaps Andy wakes up and calls the Brotherhood of Which Hunters)

    I know Blake mentioned it, but I still can’t help but think he’s kinda in a horror setting. Splitting the power up may not be for the best.

    Hmmm. Alexis is weak. Blake gave some of himself to her. Green Eyes became a mermaid from eating aquatic things. Green Eyes should eat Alexis to become an Alexis mermaid. The best part is, she’ll have some of Blake inside to satisfy her desire for him.

    I wonder what Type was up to. I don’t think we’ve actually seen him Practice before. Summoning Demona?

    Evan, we need you!

    1. Option #3: the situation looks bad, so Tiff decides to do something incredibly stupid with the library of demonic lore and the situation gets about a million times worse.

        1. Oh yea of little faith. If the attacking Others catch them, they’ll probably be dead by sundown.

          Summon the wrong demon, and they’ll wish they were that lucky.

            1. Oh yeah, Green Eyes is another character who managed to be almost instantly likeable. Really it’s mostly just Blake and Rose who fell down on that front. Alexis was a bit flat too, but that’s about it.

            2. To be fair, by this point in the story I did too (even if he does keep throwing
              himself into things half-baked most of the time) . He was just a slow starter.

            3. What would you do?I always ask this to people who belitle the protagonist’s decisions,and accept they are right only if they can tell me.

            4. Fair question. It’s more the ongoing pattern of behaviour that’s irritating but I’d probably start by not escalating things at the town council by offering demon amnesties (and hence, implying an intention to use demons).

              Ideally I’d probably try to reach out and try to make peace first. The key point of contention here seems to be use of demons, which I don’t much like either. I’d probably seek out help to defuse the ‘nukes’, going beyond Jacob’s Bell if necessary (which would, ironically, probably end up with me in Conquest’s clutches, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a smart move based on the available information). I’d be of the opinion that the demons and the library probably should be destroyed and would work with the town council to achieve that.

              Then I’d probably move onto establishing a noble organisation to do Right (there’d be plenty of idealistic young people who want to be heroes). And as the one who awakened them, I’d collect my karma surcharge on their every righteous deed.

            5. Congratulation,you just chose the route that would be most reasonable if a)the predecent of a peaceful Molly didn’t exist and b)Laird hasn’t told you he intends to kill you once you are no longer useful no matter what you do with the library,plus c)your terribad karma would screw that up anyway.

              In one felt swoop,you lost Laird’s reason for keeping you alive for now (ato keep Johannes occupied),the lawyers goodwill and your greatest weapon,ensuring you will die,make only a small dent to the karma and (to your current information,as you do not know about Rose yet)leave the Diabolist library to someone who will probably use it.Assuming you didn’t burn it,which,from Laird’s words,would unleash all sorts of horror into the world anyway and lessen your family’s karma.Either way,nice job dying,creating negative karma and damaging the worlld irreparably.

              And all that is with information he had back then.

            6. Karma is going to be an issue regardless of your course of action.  You just have to do your best to work around it.
              Yup, Molly is a cautionary example. But Molly also appears to have bunkered down in the house rather than reaching out and trying to build a support base. So we’re ruling that option out.
              Yes, Laird comes across as antagonistic and opportunistic from the very beginning. I don’t know that everyone in town would feel like he does if offered a disarmament deal. If they do, well, that’s why I expressed a willingness to reach out further afield if necessary.  Plus I don’t really believe Laird’s threat that he will kill me either way. If I’m no longer a threat and leave town, I doubt he’d particularly bother pursuing. His interests seem tied to Jacob’s Bell.

              I admit I hadn’t factored in the lawyers and I don’t remember that bit about the books being dangerous if destroyed.  The latter can probably be dealt with either by finding someone who can counter that or by finding a way to contain rather than destroy them (give it to evangelists to protect rather than diabolists, for example).  The lawyers are scary but that’s not going to change no matter what you do. Unless you want to be on their side (and you really, really don’t), your best bet is still to break free and try to find outside help capable of dealing with them.

              Let’s be honest: Blake has the author on his side. Every second thing he did could have easily led to “nice job dying, creating negative karma and damaging the world irreparably”. None of them did because that would make for a crappy story. Multiple times Blake has done ill-advised things and was lucky that they turned out to be exactly what the situation called for because: protagonist.

              Realistically, this is a situation where you’d be screwed no matter what you did. The best you could do is make the best judgement calls you can based on the situation and hope. A number of Blake’s judgement calls were dodgy but again: protagonist. You have to either judge my suggestions through the same lens or view his through a realistic one. Otherwise you’re not comparing like with like.

            7. Problem here is,ya know,that if Worm was Dark Souls (dodge and wear down the enemy),Pact is Bloodborne (if you do not attack in risky stuations,you might as well give up and die).It is as Blake told Andy:foolish if he attacks,foolish if he defends.

              You do remember Laird can’t lie,don’t you?You do remember that,based on his info from grandma and Laird,his choices were the one who would 100% kill him,his ally,the Others that terrorized him,the other Others that terrorized him,the guy everyone had told him to steer clear off,the creepy grandma who would never help him,the puppet of some crazy Other,and some goblin queen,don’t you?the only halfway viable allies back then were the last 2,and he did ally with them,and they wre practically the weaker players,plus they wouldn’t risk his neck to save him.Also,remember,Molly died once she left the house.Were there an unknown factor he might have acted as you suggested,but all factors were known and hostile at best.Give me reasonable allies,and I’l listen,but do not sacrifice your only weapon for people who will hate you/not care/wanna use you anyway.Or do you suggest he should leave?good luck,they’ll send more after him,he only managed tl survive in Toronto because he had an kinda understanding and because they sent the doofus supremus after him.

              Also,I have a rule:protagonists are extraordinary,if they are saved by skill,no matter how absurd (the skill,the solutions must be realistic and possible),and not luck they are not helped by the author,and Blake was only very arguably saved from Ur twice and by Isadora on Conquest’s war once,and he paid dearly for all 3 of these.

              It is not a question of a good choice and a bad choice here,its a question between a bad choice (Blake’s)and a suicidal choice (yours),because your choice is surrender to people who couldn’t care less,while his is fighting regardless of impossible odds.

            8. Gah, it’s clearly been too long since I read this thing. xO I don’t remember the precise wording of Laird’s threat so I’m not sure if he left himself some wiggle room or not. Doesn’t change the plan either way, though.

              Blake didn’t really try to broker peace with any of the major players he knew of (Johannes, Sandra, Mara), or look to see if there were major players he didn’t know of.

              But like I said, if people in town don’t want to play ball, go further afield. ie. Head to Toronto and talk to the powers that be, maybe rope your friends in from the beginning rather than fighting alone until you get forced out of town.

              I didn’t say surrender – I said work together with other people to achieve your mutual goals. ie. Use diplomacy rather than jumping straight to the attack. Blake dislikes trafficking in demons as much as everyone else dislikes him trafficking in demons. There’s a win-win to be hashed out, even if people are initially resistant to the idea.

              Molly died when she left the house and it’s obviously a risk to do so, but a) all the available options were a risk, and b) that is a risk Blake took several times in canon and pulled off fairly successfully with the aid of glamour. If he used that to do stuff like infiltrate the Behaim house, he could’ve easily used it to sneak around and meet with people covertly.

              Yeah, I wasn’t trying to imply that Wildbow was cheating as an author. If anything, he’s more unforgiving of his characters than most authors. Just, like you said: protagonists are special. Had Blake approached things diplomatically as the protagonist, I guarantee you it would’ve worked out for him (well, in Wildbow terms, anyway). Interestingly, Blake took the diplomatic path in Toronto and it was working quite well. Before his fall, Blake had convinced the Knights, the Astrologer and the Order to work together to destroy Urr. That attempt ultimately failed but pulling together the disparate Toronto factions to attempt it was pretty impressive and would’ve probably been the keystone of a new solidarity, had Blake not been erased.

            9. PS. Obviously I don’t entirely agree with you about everything but you seem to have a great grasp of the nuances of story, character etc. Do you write your own serials? If not, have you considered it?

            10. Coonsidered writing,plan to after getting some more experience (planning to read Dresden files and some Discworld).

              It worked in Toronto because Toronto didn’t have small towns toxic politics.Johannes might have worked,but any assesion of Sandra and Mara say it wouldn’t with them.Perhaps if he glamoured himself aboriginal Mara would have a tiny chance to be convinced,but Laird made it abundantly clear the Duchamps were his allies first of all.
              He was also only allowed to leave because a)Laird let the siege of his home off,since he had the time moat,b)the lawyers helped him (and he didn’t want to call them) and c)he had no other choice,as by leaving he left behind very precious resources and endangered the terms of the contact.Stupid choices do not work with Wilbow protagonist,because they are competent,if Wilbow wanted him to find a diplomatic way,he would have to alter the whole way the society there worked.Also:diplomacy is when you talk as equals and under mutual agreements,surrender is when you give up your only weapon in hopes for the enemy to be merciful and spare you (which would be untrue in the toxic Jacob’s Bell).What Blake did at the meeting was diplomacy,diplomacy very often happens with a sword behind your back,especially if the other side is as unreasonable as Jacob’s bell.Not diplomacy would be attacking them guns blazing,or summoning Ornias.

            11. I’m not sure what you mean by “plan to write after getting more experience”. Don’t you get more experience by writing? 🙂

              I believe you’re still conflating what we know about the Pact setting with what would’ve been a reasonable decision for Blake based on what he knew at the time. He didn’t know of Mara’s hatred for non-indigenous people, he didn’t know if the Duchamps might disagree with the Behaims (if anything, Laird’s “America” analogy suggested the Duchamps were their own “country”), etc.

              “if Wilbow wanted him to find a diplomatic way,he would have to alter the whole way the society there worked.”.

              That’s kind of the point: Pact was at its early stages with a lot of unknowns. Wildbow could’ve taken it in any direction he wanted. He had the freedom for it to turn out to be a society where diplomacy worked or one where it didn’t. He’d already decided to go with the latter, but Blake didn’t know that.

              And no, diplomacy doesn’t only take place between equals. Weaker countries have to negotiate with stronger ones all the time.

              As an analogy, let’s say Iran has a nuclear weapons program that is making America uncomfortable and America is making rumbling noises about it. Iran has no friends amongst America and it’s allies. There’s already a cold war going on and there are ongoing economic sanctions against Iran (in this hypothetical).

              By analogy, you’re saying Iran’s best course of action is to go the UN and say “Okay, which countries want to sign up for us to not nuke them in exchange for a peace treaty?”. That’s insane! Just because you only have the one stick doesn’t mean that waving it at larger, more powerful countries is a good idea! Trying to threaten America into doing what you want can only backfire.

              America’s primary concern with Iran in the first place is that they have nukes. Negotiating in good faith to disarm the nukes would remove America’s reason to attack and, more importantly, removes the legitimacy for America to attack and would put Iran in a better position with the rest of the global community (quite a few of whom also have concerns about America). America is going to be reluctant to attack Iran without a legitimate reason at that point because once they start doing that, all the other countries will start wondering who’s next on their list.

              It doesn’t always work, of course. Iraq disarmed their WMDs and America found an excuse to invade them a few years later anyway. But it’s still amongst the best of a range of bad options.

              You’re right that Blake’s approach was diplomatic. But it was an aggressive, confrontational diplomacy where a more gentle approach was called for. What I suggested actually isn’t that far from what Blake did. The big difference is that Blake said “Sign on with me and I won’t hit you with my stick, but I’ll still hang onto it just in case I want to in future, hmmkay?” whereas I suggested he put down the stick once everything is peacefully resolved rather than looming threateningly overhead with it.

          1. more experience=absorb some other authors way of doing things.I’d really rather draw it in comic,but my drawings are so atrocious it couldn’t even work as a bad quality stick comic.

            Wilbow couldn’t really do that,though,he seems to decide on the setting and backstory before the story starts,and just let the motivations collide,at least from what I saw from his notes.

            Blake knows full well with whom he is dealing,remember granny’s notebook?we didn’t,know ,but when he went,it was him that noted Mara’s unwilligness to cooperate with non aboriginals,it was his thoughts that introduced all the players,he had researched them.

            I didn’t say diplomacy takes place among equalls,I said people need to conduct diplomacy as equals,big difference.Realpolitic dictates that a weaker country can negotiate with a stronger one if it has something to leverage,making them as equals for the discussion despite one being not truly equal to the other.Sure,a country might give things to a country that has nothing but goodwill to offer,but that is either philanthropy or intend to make the country dependent and profit from it.The fear of spiteful behaviour (destroy us both)is leverage,as Greece has shown.Sure,Greece is not in a good place,but when,in the past,it surrendered as goodwill,it only sunk deeper into debt.2 bad options,my friend,2 bad options,go down fighting,or surrender and hope the other guy is merciful?

            Only problem here is America does not,in your analogy,want for Iran to disarm the nukes,it wants,on threat of death,for it to showcase its nukes so that the Soviet Union dooes not attack America and,once the war with the Soviet Union ends,it wants for Iran to give it its nukes,give it its national sovereighty and genocide its citizens,and it will do that no matter what Iran does,THATS insane.

            Moreover,in this case,the national community either doesn’t care ,cares but cannot and won’t take on America no matter how unjust it becomes,or hates Iran more than America anyway.In this case,people dislike Iran more than America,and will keep disliking it despite injustice.And again,Blake knew it thanks to Laird,the siege and granny’s notebook.

            Moreover,I left that for last,the strategy you described would be perfectly sound on a conditional:Iran is the only country that has nukes.Sure,that is ridiculous in the real world,but in Jacob’s Bell?suprise,it is true.So the only way for a country every other country want gone,used and gone or just do not care,is to enforce Cold War via MAD.Hey,its the reason WW3 didn’t happen,though the MAD there was reliant on both countries having nukes,but in this case having everything else vs having only nukes works too.

            Every othe plan had 1% chance of working,this had 10%.Bad odds,best odds.

        2. If it’s possible to summon anything worse than Barbie, Tiff is probably going to find it.

          On the plus side, at least that’ll deal with the Barbie problem.

      1. Is she the one who didn’t promise to not play with demons? I think she’s the one who didn’t promise that.

        Option #4: Blake’s landlord and Goosh show up with the RCMP. Boogeymen and such get shot to death, massive Karmic backlash ensues for Sandra and co for introducing all of them to the behind the veil.

        Option #5: Rose finally breaks down and makes a deal to keep her friends alive. With the lawyers. Not Sandra.

        Option #6: One of the bombs ends up blowing out some supports and the fourth floor collapses.

        Option #7: Granny’s friend, the writer of Black Lamb’s blood and Angel Summoner shows up. Because she’s been hinted at several times now.

        Option #8: Tiff figures out how to use paper girl to go get them munchies while stashed in the library. Ty figures out how to get Wi-Fi in the library. They have a lan party until Rose gets back.

        1. I red it as “…and the fourth WALL colapses.” and tried to visualise Blake & co. suddenly realizing they are in a Wildbow story. They wouldn’t be too pleased I imagine.

          1. If WordPress allowed for the added coding, Wildbow should totally get somebody to do an animation of Blake looking terrifying, which randomly pops up and peers through your computer screen while you’re reading, and then quickly disappears again. (Or maybe it should appear when you’ve reached the end of whatever chapter the 4th wall gets broken in, and you post a comment, then: BOOGITY-BOOGITY-BOO!)

            Addendum: If you post Worm spoilers, Blake.gif appears, snarls at you, and then gives the inside of your ‘puter screen a quick wallop with the Hyena before disappearing, leaving an overlay image that makes the screen look cracked and splintered.

        2. “One of the bombs ends up blowing out some supports and the fourth floor collapses.”

          Read that as fourth wall. Got scared.

          1. Despite innumerable examples, I have still not learned to read to the end of a comment thread before posting.

    2. We need Andy’s rocket launcher! 🙂

      Best way for the quick to deadly to SALTY explosions! No hard trouble, except it literally and metapohically TOO SALTY for the siege raiders! 😀

  4. Now I know that Ellie is justifiably freaking out this chapter and being contrary is probably a defensive mechanism, but I must say, I’m really disliking her this chapter. . . and last chapter. . . and every chapter. I don’t like Ellie.

        1. I guess I meant that more in the sense of, she is supposed to have traits that we view as negative. Perhaps I am incorrect here too; comparing Ellie to Umbridge was a little too far though.

        2. It’s not easy to like her, but she still ranks higher than Laird in my book. Probably won’t change until we get some more whammy twists coming up.

  5. I can’t wait to see what Green Eyes can do, that should be fun. Also, blake needs to get a new stronger weapon than the Hyena, something that’s longer.

    1. I don’t know man. The Hyena has been working really well for him. Particularly its ability to make wounds that don’t heal… Wait, except that one other? What was up with that – that was the Hyena that inflicted those wounds, right?

        1. Yeah good point. I forgot about the nerve damage she inflicted to Eva. It kinda makes more sense from that perspective, it’s more like her power is countering the Hyena’s.

      1. I thought the other was healing from knife wounds from Eva. Blake never stabbed the revenant. The one other he did stab exploded into a cloud of ash.

      2. That other was the exact reason I was thinking he needs a new weapon. It seemed to me that it did heal the wound, which is concerning to say the least I reference to blake’s power level.

        1. The Hyena’s power prevented the Faceless Woman from healing her injury, if she’s even capable of regeneration, so she just fixed her injury some other way. Presumably by molding her flesh (recall the scene where she remodelled Pizza Guy’s face in arc 1 or 2).

    2. The Hyena is fine; the problem is that Blake is unable to maintain his body once reflecting surfaces disappear. So I’d say his weapon is fine, but he needs to become more like the Bloody Mary so he can actually fight for more than seconds at a time.

      1. Even if blake can manage to cement his position and be able to fight somewhere he’s still restricted movement wise. Longer reach would definitely be hogue for him.

      2. Is it possible to project a reflection into the air somehow? It’d just be an optical illusion, but glamor magic seems to thrive on that sort of nonsense.

        Doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would come up, though.

        1. On that note, I really want to know how Blake would operate in a room where the floor, walls, and ceiling were all mirrors.

          1. Hell, I want to know what a pair of mirrors facing eachother so the reflections bounce back to infinity looks like to Blake

          1. http://www.optigone.com/
            better link

            so yes, but with this you’d need to bury a mirrored ufo half the size of a house and blake would be stuck in a small circle. also if he can’t stand on an oiled puddle i’m not sure he could actually climb inside one

            (also these attempt to show it.

  6. Oh man, this is gonna be fun

    I bet Eva is perfectly capable of kicking ass even with one arm messed the hell up. Also if Blake feeds off the fear of humans, maybe he can feed from the fear of others too? I bet he can terrorize some goblins with the Hyena. He’s a pretty scary sight already.

    Good chapter! I like all the action. It’s obvious this is not gonna end up well, but hey. Nothing ever does in Pact.

  7. Three parts I was confused about:

    1.) “I glanced at Peter. He’d dropped one line, which made me want to ask a hundred questions I didn’t have the time to ask. I wasn’t sure I didn’t share the same sentiment.”

    • Share what same sentiment? With who?

    2.) “The basement door rattled, the things in the basement still periodically trying to get out. I could see narrow, long-fingered hands clutching around the open door, trying to get a grip on the table, so they could shift its position.”

    • Did I miss something? Since when were there things in the basement? I can only remember he Thorburns being there and getting tear-gassed.

    3.) “Something told me, though, that of all people, the faceless woman was apparently capable of recovering from cut hamstrings. A fast recovery, no less.”

    • Is this despite the Hyena’s unhealable wounds effect?
    1. Concerning 1): Kythrin says “I think we’re due some answers”. “He’d dropped one line” refers to the Histories scene last chapter where it seemed like Peter remembered Blake. So while Blake doesn’t have time, he shares Kathyrin’s sentiment.

    2. 1) I’m guessing the sentiment that they are finally due some answers.

      2) In an earlier chapter it’s described as being flooded. Blake advised them to switch the light on. Alexis let out all the Thorburns earlier. Can someone else help us out as to what we missed?

      1. There is a brief scene where Blake heard windows shattering and realized the only intact windows left are in the basement. He then sends someone (Peter?) to put up a barricade at the basement.

  8. I was reading this while at the bar with some friends, at least three very cute girls came to ask me what I was reading.
    My response?

    “Sorry, I’m busy”

    Oh Wildbow, what have you done to me?

    1. I work nights, and don’t have a ton to do when I get to work, so this normally isn’t an issue for me. But the rare Friday or Monday night I end up going out, and midnight comes, and I lose all interest in my surroundings for a while. Including on a date with a girl once.

      1. I showed Pact to my girlfriend once. She read the first couple of paragraphs and said, “This is boring how can you read this?”

        She is no longer my girlfriend.

        1. Sorry, I agree with her. The first couple of paragraphs are boring.

          The rest is far less boring, but I do find myself with a bit of “tell us what happens already” and a lot of “how does this stuff work? oh yeah, magic, so could be anything, no point trying to infer the rules from incomplete information”. Someone else has expressed that second sentiment before, right?

          And then I remember the big reveal in Worm, (the chapter with all the chapter titles in it, I think?) and I figure, “Muppets. In Manhattan”.

          1. To be clear, that wasn’t Wildbow-censoring. Also the Worm was a little more rules-based than “magic”.

      1. The correct answer was “A really awesome web novel called Pact. It’s free, so you should read it. The author puts up at least two new chapters a week. You should also check out his previous one, called Worm.”

    2. C’mon! You should have told them. Given them a link or something. You just failed to make 3 people’s lives more awesome.

  9. “Evan was guarding Andy and making sure Andy kept breathing. Tiff was gone.”

    That “Tiff was gone” doesn’t make much sense to me. Gone where? In the library? That was mentioned two paragraphs before.

    Why has no one mentioned the guy in the mirror looks like a tree? Do they just not notice? Or is it too hard to see?

    SO! From the way it was emphasized, I say that Blake is incomplete. What could it possibly mean? What is Blake missing? Would he feel better if he was incomplete? Probably not, given how Rose et al. think it is a terrible idea for him to know what it is.

    I don’t know if and how many people will die tonight. I am hoping no one dies, but, it’s a Wildbow story. However, at least some of the cabal need to survive. After all, it is what Rose’s enemies are using to blackmail her. That’s not reassuring at all. Nope. Of course some of them are going to live, but will all of them live? :<

    1. I don’t know if and how many people will die tonight. I am hoping no one dies, but, it’s a Wildbow story.

      I’m calling Alexis, pouring out her blood and spirit for Blake in one final gesture, like Corvidae’s father did for him. Then in grief Blake spends the power to end the fight in spectacular and gruesome fashion … only to look on in helpless horror as it is revealed that this very act was part of the enemies’ plan, making their total victory all but certain.

  10. Re-reading how Corvidae draws strength again, made me wonder if there are other spirits that feed similarly on different concepts like say Obsessions by travelling the Conventions Circuit drawing strength from squeeing fanboys/girls; what they do and sacrifice is a form of wordhip after all.

    1. Makes me wonder if Blake doesn’t feed on something other than fear. Oh, he still gets something out of the connections it gives him. But, part of me wonders if he doesn’t actually power-up by other means he just hasn’t found, yet.

      1. Well, Faysal did tell Blake to eat more of himself to really be nourished. What that means exactly and where he can go to fond more of himself is…

    2. I figured that was exactly it. Conquest benefits from war and violence and destruction (9/11 was mentioned explicitly as a major source of power in Sandra’s interlude); Blake worshipped the forgotten god in the Drains for a moment by making a guttural scream, etc.

      However, this has a disadvantage, too: When Others gain power this way, they also become more set in their ways, and acting against their natural inclinations weakens them.

      Crone Mara is a good example. She’s gained immortality but wants to/has to spend her time on menial tasks, rather than on, say, accumulating knowledge from books or powering up in other ways.

    1. Right as a fire starts, too. We’ve had the darkness and blood for a good while now, I was expecting goblins at the first spark.
      It didn’t disappoint.

      The floor is probably still flooded/wet enough to prevent damage in the short term, but it still feels relevant.

  11. Such a bleak chapter. Things really do get worse. And worse. And worse. And worse. And worse.

    Comments:

    1. Great lines: “Against all horror-movie logic, but still the better plan.” and “Ratface Thorburn, [we] meet again.” and ““I’m not spooked,” Roxanne said, with a note of awe.” and “Why are you only smart when it helps you be wrong? Help me out, Blake?” and “How was I supposed to convey to her that it would be the worst idea in the world to break into that room, when telling her would only make it more enticing to her warped brain?” and “I’d seen her fight people. I got a chance to see how she fought monsters.”

    2. I’m always amazed about the lengths to which people go to rationalize away the existence of practitioners and Others. It’s seriously amazing. But that will stop after this night; there’s no chance any of the Thorburns won’t have lost their innocence by then.

    3. The presence of innocence held some of the Others at bay, though only for a very short while. Why? Due to the Seal of Solomon?

    4. Eva’s betrayal was amusingly short-lived, and Peter’s reaction to it amazingly prompt.

    5. “I’d never liked the parable of the scorpion and the frog.” – Oh wow, that parable (google it) really applies well to Others.

    6. “But it didn’t belong here. The Hyena did, it was mine, claimed and reclaimed. The timepiece disintegrated like my footing did when the reflections shattered.” – Ah, interesting. So things dragged into the mirror world don’t survive there all that long. Or rather, they seem to land back outside the mirror world?

    7. “If… I’m thinking maybe since I’m not at my best, I’m all hollowed out inside, you can take me for a ride?” – What an amazing suggestion.

    8. “In an instant, she was paler, her eyes black from corner to corner. The edges of the shadows on her face and body darker and rougher.” – Poor Alexis. Incidentally, now Blake has formed connections with Evan and Alexis both. (And Evan also became greyer, darker.) The situation may force Blake’s hand, but it looks like the outcome will be him subverting Rose again and taking her connections from her. Like a doppelganger or something.

    9. Oh, also, this might make Green Eyes jealous…

    10. “Empty. Cold. Broken. Distant.” – Curiously, anger isn’t among this list of Blake’s emotions.

    11. So Blake is “incomplete”. Interesting. Maybe he’ll become complete by merging with the Barber?

    12. Ironically, it was Blake who started the whole thing with Molly, making her lucid and unintentionally feeding her. If that hadn’t happened, this nightly assault would have been at a far smaller scale, or it wouldn’t have happened at all.

    13. And I still don’t get what Rose was trying to accomplish by leaving the house on her own. Did she prevent anything from coming to pass, given the actual outcome?

    14. At this point, their only chance of survival is either a) Rose returning and somehow bringing the cavalry along (e.g. somehow forcing Sandra & co to save them), or b) Blake turning into a full-fledged demon / becoming “complete”. Incidentally, the arc title is “Duress”, and it’s conceivable that Blake’s friends will be forced to tell him what he actually is under duress.

    1. “And I still don’t get what Rose was trying to accomplish by leaving the house on her own.”
      She accomplished one very important thing, she’s not there and will come back at near full strength while most of the town will have spent their big guns.

      1. The problem being that Rose’s strength derives from a) her connection to Conquest (which is useful in this situation, but dangerous long-term; and she’s up against connection manipulators like Sandra), b) her role as a scourge (one who deals with bogeymen and the like), which doesn’t help at all now that they’ve run out of things to summon, unless it also helps her banish Others she hasn’t summoned, and c) diabolism, which is always the higly problematic option of last resort.

        From my perspective, her most useful option would always have been staying next to Barbatorem’s binding, ready to release him in a controlled fashion at a moment’s notice. (Though depending on what exactly Blake is, that option may not have been available.)

        Besides, while Blake & co are up against all the unaffiliated Others, Rose is up against Sandra and Alister and Johannes. And their families and allies. All that while essentially unarmed.

        1. Interestingly, most of the summons were unavailable to Alexis and Co. They assumed that their enemies had summoned and disposed of them so that team Blake couldn’t utilise them. But what if it was Rose who summoned them and has them somewhere on standby?

        1. Neither has she (so far as we know). You can’t judge from your experiences, you have to judge from what she’s likely thinking. Sure, she might be going through a One Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Clockwork Orange bit, but maybe it’s more like It’s Kind of a Funny Story (not likely, given wildbow, but then characters don’t know who their author is).

    2. Regarding 11) I haven’t paid much attention to the comments lately (I really detest this platform for browsing comments.). I’m curious, where is this theory based on ?

      1. Blake has a gazillion similarities with the Barber. The fastest way to see that is to reread the final part of chapter 1.07; every part of the Barber’s description has parallels with Blake. e.g. the Barber is “malnourished” while Blake is a “starving giant”; the Barber cut open his leg while Blake cut open his ribcage. And from the descriptions of the Barber in 1.06-7, the Barber is a”warrior” while Blake is the “little warrior”, and so on.

        Someone even suggested Blake somehow was the Barber and the thing in the attic was the reflection he carved out, but that theory sounded too unlikely for my taste.

        From my POV, the most likely thing is Blake being a mote created by the Barber. How does that tie in with Blake being “incomplete”? Well, here’s a quote by Faysal from 10.4:

        You have the appetite of a giant, and you aren’t aware of it, but you are devouring everything you can get your hands on. Spirits flood to fill the emptiness inside you. When Blake Thorburn became something _Other_, a great many connections were broken. You came _undone_, in a great many ways. You were broken, and now you are a shattered vessel.

        Besides losing his important connections to Rose and Evan, this might also have included his connection to the Barber, if he is his creator. I suppose that would make Blake a demonic mote without its master, or something like that. In any case, coming into closer contact with Barbatorem would likely do something to make him complete. Given that the Barber “carved out a reflection” (6.x), merging seems like as good a guess as any.

        PS: If you dislike discussing Pact in the comments, have you considered using the Reddit at /r/PactWebSerial/ instead? It’s bad for discussing chapters but might work fine for discussing theories.

        1. Wow, thanks for the recap! Based on that information it’s almost impossible that Blake doesn’t at least have a connection with the Barber.

          I like discussing Pact in the comments, but working through all the comments from top to bottom can be confusing. It’s not always clear who is responding to whom, well, for me anyway.

          Thanks for reminding me about the subreddit. I usually drop a line when a chapter goes up, but there’s not a whole lot of activity there. I did just now (thanks to you) discover the post ‘Theories about Blake’.

        2. “When Blake Thorburn became something Other

          That would kill the Mote idea. How can he BECOME other if he was a Mote to begin with?

          1. It wouldn’t. We know he was a vestige from the start, after all. That is, an Other. (Or a human turned into a vestige e.g. by the Barber; same point). Faysal is just referring to whatever happened in the Drains as Blake “becoming” an Other.

            Besides, Faysal wouldn’t know the specifics of Blake’s origin, anyways.

            1. Have to say the whole ‘Blake is a demon/mote/demonic’ theory has never made the slightest bit of sense to me. We’ve seen with demons, despite their complicated nature some pretty categoric traits. We’ve seen Blake create things, and he doesn’t emit nasty demon radiation, so unless it turns out every single scene in the entirety of Pact so far was all a hallucination I do’t buy it in the least.

            2. Blake himself said he was cursed with an inability to create, and that Alexis saved him. We know the first choir, darkness, can’t create, but Barbatorem’s choir is ruin. I don’t think we ever got a clarification on the whole all-demons-can’t-create-thing.

              Here’s a not at all comprehensive discussion of the topic of Blake-as-mote: http://www.reddit.com/r/PactWebSerial/comments/2iew0w/theories_about_blake_spoilers_allup_to_1111/

              And to turn it around: If Blake isn’t demonic, why does he have so many parallels to the Barber? Why did his attempts to improve the world leave everyone worse off (aftermath of Ur)? Etc.

              Concerning demonic radiation, I figured not every demon had that. It makes sense for Pauz (who subverts the natural order and affects & manipulates those around himself), and possibly for e.g. for the incest demon from Black Lamb’s Blood, but not for Barbatorem (who tortures and directly hurts others) or Ur.

            3. I have to admit, it also doesn’t make sense to me for Blake to be a slashed-to-ribbons-and-smooshed-with-other-things mote. <.<

              That would defeat the whole purpose to having motes in the first place: how can they craftily spread entropy about if they can't remember that's what they're supposed to be doing? There's a limit to being a Manchurian candidate, after all. 😛

              Blake is the one who is convinced he can't create anything… based on what? Falsified memories? Memories that might have been doctored so he wouldn't try creating things and find out that he might be pretty darned good at specific forms of it, maybe? Forms that might hint as to his actual origins, perhaps?

              Who knows: you're the one who keeps banging on about demons and motes. But, not all of the rest of us are convinced Blake has much to do with either beyond, maybe, having had the Barber for a "doctor" at some point. -_-

            4. IF Blake is a mote of/or the Barber, then he could be an attempt by Rose Sr. to change things for the better.
              We know, she wanted to change things, but so far the whole heritage-deal seems to play the tradition she despised completely straight.
              There has to be a catch somewhere.
              Blake could be that catch.
              He doesn´t like the way his familiy works and wants to change things for the better and he wants that because of his memories (created by Rose Sr.).
              What casts a bit of doubt on any theory about Blake having a continued role in the plans of Rose Sr., is that it seems he wasn´t supposed to be around anymore at this point (maybe).

              On the other hand, if someone had the knowledge to use demons for her own ends, it would be Rose Sr..

              Changing the Barber or a mote of him to become a force not dedicated to make the world worse would be a pretty big deal and might be possible for all we know.
              (Maybe there are high-tier demons around that invert the way things work and using that ability on lower-tier demons/motes would change them to something more constructive.
              Or maybe the false memories Blake has are also supposed to give the demon/mote he once was the „human factor“.
              One can hope, Rose Sr. found a way to twist a demon into something better. And that would be marvelous ironic, seeing how demons usually twist things to be worse.)

              Blake not knowing he once was/is a demon/mote would make sense.
              There would be no point in letting a demon loose on the world before he is changed enough for him to safely know.

      1. She was more-or-less forced to leave, since she was involuntarily committed to psychiatric care. Leaving peacefully means they’ll only be able to hold her for a day or so before a psychiatrist decides she’s not enough of a danger to hold her without consent and she’ll keep the house.
      1. But she could have just stayed. It’s not like the muggles have any chance of removing her from her premises if she doesn’t want that. And in theory, her dead man’s switch should have kept the practitioners from taking her by force.

        More to the point, Rose’s opponents have blatantly ignored the law whenever it didn’t suit their purposes, e.g. by killing Molly or by putting a bounty on Blake’s head. Why should they adhere to the law now and ever release her?

        And even if she is released and is allowed to keep the house, she’ll be faced with nothing more than a ruin.

        1. Remember, if a practitioner introduces innocents to the supernatural and then they get hurt, that backlashes on the practitioner. Innocents also have some unclear degree of protection against some Others. That’s the reason they’re keeping the other Thorburns around; the attackers have to be careful about employing attacks that could hurt them. For this reason, attacking innocent police with Others is a really bad idea. Also, fighting police has a way of escalating, until they bring enough firepower to overwhelm her, other practitioners take notice, or she builds up so much bad karma an Archangel comes for a visit.

          Similarly, while it’s true that their enemies don’t care about breaking the law, I’m willing to bet Internal Affairs will care if they do.

          Lastly, resisting could cost her the legal title to the house, which the Lawyers would likely consider failing to uphold her responsibilities as heir. I’m not sure what would happen then except that it would be bad.

          Of course, while she’s gone the house is vulnerable to supernatural assault. That is, in fact, why Sandra arranged all this to begin with. She could stay, defend the house, and start a war with Canada while breaking a contract with demon lawyers, or she could leave and hope everyone else can defend the house.

    3. To be entirely honest, I do find it a bit odd that Blake would develop tree, branch, and bird attributes if he’s related to the Barber in some way. Yes they’re based on his tattoos, but the reason the Drains went with that at all (and the reason they seemed to act as his “karma meter” and his morphic resonance) is that they hold major significance to him and are most likely indicative of his true nature. I mean sure, Blake and Barbie do have a lot in common what with the mirror-powers thing, but Blake has a lot in common with other creatures that can cross over into mirrors too, and it’s not like the Barber is mirror-locked quite like Blake is. And the problem with Blake being the Barber’s severed reflection is that the Barber IS his own reflection; to cut his own reflection out is to just step out of the mirror.

      I think the biggest key to Blake’s secret identity is that he’s converting spirits into little birds. Whatever this means, he needs birds somehow. It’s a little too oddly specific to be a power source… maybe the spirits are trying to replace something he lacks? And I don’t just mean in a power vacuum sort of way. The spirits are trying to fill in the holes in his essence, and to do so they take the form of a flock of birds? Seriously, what the fudgeruckles?

      1. This combined with giving Granny a smidgen of healthy paranoia are what keep me from backing the Tomato in the Mirror theory. On Granny’s side, you’re saying she gave a demon that’s so scary there are specific instructions on how to talk to him the ability to have a piece of itself wander around outside its binding, with only it’s word that it wouldn’t find a way to subvert said work-release and then brutally murder every Thorburn in existence. That goes past crazy-smart and right into batshit insane gnawing on the idiot ball territory.

      2. I think Blake is in some way or other related to Barbatorem. That he is a mote feels most likely because:
        * Rose would probably not let Barbatorem itself free of the circle.
        * Both the Pauz arch and the Ur arch introduced us to the concept of motes.
        * Since blake returned from the abyss, he has been carrying around that blade and has been reinforcing Barbatorem like characteristics.

        That said, I dont think thats ALL that Blake is. If Blake was merely a mote, he would be something more like Pauz or the motes of Ur, and would not serve the plans of the elder Rose. So, to begin with he must be wrapped in some kind of false, stolen or half-true human guise – the vestige thing.

        Alexis saved him somehow – by adding another layer on top of the vestige thing, the tattoo (which is art and creation, possibly serving as a kind of seal on the mote part of Blake)

        Now when he officially became an Other/Bogeyman he has been feeding the tatoo-layer of himself the most – thus the birds and branches overpower the vestige parts. Thats why he can be associated with birds and branches despite being a mote of Barbatorem.

        On those lines:
        Bogeyman layer – focus on the tatoo – birds and branches – fed by being a boogeyman – also links to Blake’s identity as a practitioner, Evan and such.

        Vestige layer – focuses on Blakes memories of being a Thorburn. Weakened by dismissing memories as false. (Maybe it would be strenghtened by trying to reconnect severed connections..) – this layer is probably the center of Blakes identity as human.

        Demon layer – Inability to create, leave things in worse condition, cause harm that can not be reversed, toting around a blade, being in the mirror realm. – This layer is probably strenghtened by using the ‘Hyena’ and by using and mastering the mirror realm.

  12. Blake and Eva are an awesome fighting team! But I’m worried that Blake is going to run out of reflective surfaces. Hopefully mirrors are part of every witch hunter’s kit.

  13. Holy crap! What a chapter! Woo! So much action. I think this has been the most clearly described action sequence I’ve read from Wildbow so far. I could follow everything without having to reread once! There were so many interesting things!

    I’m curious how receiving the spirit from Blake will affect both him and Alexis in the future. I’m sure it’ll have more repercussions than just Blake losing some power and Alexis gaining some. – It’s also very interesting that Alexis suggested that he could take her for a ride. Also rather careless mentioning how hollowed out she was feeling, given their proximity to a large amount of others, what if one of the other Others heard and did possess her…
    — It’s even more interesting that she mentioned that Blake was feeling incomplete. It feels as if we’ve been given another big hint about Blake but it doesn’t make much sense right now.

    And wow! Eva is really kicking ass. It’s nice to see her turn her aggression towards the Others for a change.

  14. Feel kind of bad for Andy, he’s almost reasonable and when (if) he wakes up he’s probably going to wake up to a total clusterfuck and a mauled/dead Eva.

    I can’t see the witch hunters getting out of this, because if they do they are presumably going to come back with backup and attempt to rail Blake&co six ways from Sunday. Eva for sure, but if she goes down then I assume Andy will, at the very least, take revenge.

    In other news, something’s gotta give and I can only assume it’s going to end drastically and explosively, and probably involving demons.

            1. Besides, it wouldn’t even matter if he “technically” wasn’t a demon. We know summoning him would permanently reduce the worldwide efficiency factor of energy conversion. Ur can’t hold a candle compared to that.

            2. That raises a very good question. We know angels can’t destroy (according to what’s-his-name Johannes’ familiar), and we know demon’s can’t create. But we also know angels can fall, which I assume (?) would mean angels can become demons, and thereby lose the power to create but gain the power to destroy.

          1. Demons of the First choir can’t create. Anyway, I’m betting that the line between demons and angels isn’t so clear cut as we would like. Hell its the First Choir. Not the First Choir of Angels.

      1. Or you know, Pauz could make his appearance and cause 6 ways of hell. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Briar Girl didn’t make an appearance. Her deal to gain territory can’t be fulfilled if the Thorburns are killed.

  15. This. Was. EPIC. Fourteen hours of hopeless action to go! Oh man, I can’t wait for when the Barber gets loose, it’ll almost be like an Endbringer arc or something! Sooo cool.

  16. Wildbow, this is probably late, but…who made the Pact banner at the very top of the page, and what does the image consist of? Any hints about the story, or just graphically intriguing nonsense circles?

      1. Yep. Tried to make my own magic circles, sucked & ran out of time, used a set. Wouldn’t mind a proper Pact banner at some point, but the story’s well past the halfway point, so I dunno.

        1. It’s never too late for a new banner. Just like it’s never too late for a TV show to do a new opening, preferebly one that gets rid of the character who hasn’t done anything for two seasons and promotes that cool character who was added since then.

  17. This is the best written action scene of Pact so far (and pretty far up there in spatial complexity, so it’s great that I’m able to follow along with it). Kudos. It helps that this situation is just out-and-out fun. A group of untrusting and untrustworthy people, who would otherwise be metaphorically and literally at each other’s throats, are forced to band together against a home invasion of the things that go bump in the night. This is the most invested that I’ve been since the Scarf-Girl arc. Let me count the reasons:

    Blake is at his most dangerous, thanks to Peter. Extra-strength Thorburn Bogeyman, just add water.

    Eva’s going head-to-head with Others, and even if she’s not coming out ahead, she’s coming out much less behind than any human has a right to. She’s a wonder to behold. This is clearly why she’s allowed to exist in the world; sometimes you need monsters to fight monsters. Just point her in the right direction, and stand back.

    Peter’s being clever and helpful, and was brave enough to charge Eva with a poker even after the beating he took earlier. Are we sure he’s a Thorburn? I trust him about as far as Ivy can throw him, but I can’t help but like him.

    Roxy is being creepy, and trying to steal Eva’s title as the resident psycho. Keep gunning, little one, you’ve a long ways to go.

    Alexis is nearly all bled out. Sad, but interesting.

    Finally, Ty’s upstairs crucifying things. You know, as one does.

    I’m going to enjoy the next few chapters.

      1. That would make sense. Gargoyles are guardians of buildings, and the Thorburn house needs all the defenders it can get right now.

      2. Nah, it’s home improvement, Ty is binding them into “grotesque” form with water spouts through the mouth. With all the damages from the battle, along with general wear & tear due to lack of time the house needs all the improvements it can get. I’m assuming the Hillsglade House is Gothic with flying buttresses?

    1. He is called the revenant on a regular basis. Even though that is a generic term, right now we have only met one revenant, so it is as good an identifier as any.

  18. Speaking of… personalities?… that need some TV Tropes love… Question: do people consider The Drains/ The Abyss/ Limbo character enough to get written up as one? In the Bogey section?

    1. Nah, it’s a setting with an intent, and because of the nature of the setting, mechanisms fall into place to fulfill that intent. It would be like calling the Matrix – or Johanne’s demesne – a character. However, if you list the actual Bogeys in the setting, the explanation for them would fit nicely.

  19. I’ve caught up! Archive bingeing worked!
    Well, things appear to be kinda sucky for our heroes. Either one of them is toast, or they’re going to have mental trauma.
    I just love how uplifting Wildbow’s stories are.

  20. …and Callan, who looked like he’d been to hell and back…
    You’d think Blake would be a bit less eager to say that, since he more or less literally has been.

    I hope this helps. I reached into my chest and retrieved a spirit.
    Reaching through the water, I pushed out, and I pushed the spirit into her.
    She gasped like I’d thrown cold water on her.

    Is this a bad time to make a joke about how Alexis has Blake inside her?

    What a lovely situation.

      1. The Drains have all the classical characteristics of hell, except that people sent to Hell deserve it.

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