Duress 12.3

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“Keep your eyes closed,” Alexis told the Thorburns, uselessly.

Silly.  The Thorburns that hadn’t yet collectively opened their eyes and looked around.

To be fair, it was kind of a miracle they’d obeyed this much.  Fear, it seemed, went a long way.  Not all the way, necessarily, but when the entire house probably reeked of blood and other noxious smells, I imagined it helped win over those fight or flight instincts that were so warped in this particular family, and get them back to their more primitive roots.

At the second floor entrance to the library, the clockwork man was straining to push the doors apart.  Ty held one of the sliding bookcases that formed the door, Alexis and Tiff were at the other, and despite their efforts, the clockwork man was holding his own.

Callan left Christoff behind, nearly slipping on a bloody footprint on the floor of the library as he headed to the door.  He added his strength to Ty’s.

The automaton lost a little bit of ground, fingers almost touching.  Tiny gears were at each knuckle, and as its hands drew closer together, the gears came close to touching.

Green Eyes twisted around to face the door.  I could see Kathryn and Roxanne step back as the mermaid moved across the floor using her arms, the natural moisture of her body reducing the friction as she moved forward.

I wasn’t sure if her sudden approach was a factor, if someone reacted with a bit of fear and lost their grip, but the automaton managed to push the doors apart.

Two little toothy guys came crawling through – one above the automaton’s head,  scaling the surface to cling to the underside of the second stage of the library, while another crawled between the clockwork man’s legs.

Green Eyes got the second, pouncing on it.  The first crawled up and around to the railing, then onto the second floor, lurking, before it made eye contact with Eva, kneeling at her brother’s side.  Ellie was a short distance away, having crawled back from Andy.

“Get them,” Eva said, “I’m not going to stop you.”

It scampered away on all fours, circling above us, fingernails and toenails making faint clicking and shuffling sounds as it disappeared from my field of view, lurking somewhere above.

I was stuck in the larger of the two mirrors, slowly recovering from a dozen scratches, and a gaping hole in the center of my body.  I could step outside, but the shutting of the door meant even I didn’t have passage.  I could step to the mirror Alexis wore, but the window was small, and she was active.  The risk of being locked out, unable to stop the problems inside the library from coming to pass, kept me from leaping behind the clockwork man and trying to interfere with it.

A brave little sparrow flew down, sweeping past the clockwork man.  Making some attempt to push, to drive him back or put him on his heels.

Nothing.  He only narrowly missed being torn to shreds by the group waiting behind the man.

Something clipped him, and he struggled to fly as he came back.  He landed at the edge of the desk, a short distance from me, his head jerking this way and that as he tried to take it all in.

The group was making more headway on the door.

There was a loud click, another k-chunk, and the automaton lost most of the ground it had gained, the bookcase doors sliding within an inch of being closed.  Sparks flew as spinning gears on different knuckles touched.

But in that click and shifting of gears, it had gained new strength.  The assembled group couldn’t stop it from pushing the doors apart, until its arms were outstretched to either side, the bookcases held apart as far as the automaton could manage.

The skeletal thing with great bone praying-mantis limbs ducked its head under the automaton’s outstretched arm, stepping into the library.  Three more homonculi passed under the mechanical man’s other arm.

Ty and Alexis’ paper tags touched the skeletal thing, and the papers stuck, a mixture of two very different handwriting styles.

“Nope,” I heard Eva say from upstairs.

The thing brushed at itself with one of its scythe limbs, and the papers came free.

She knew.  Is it an anti-practitioner measure?  Something special made for coming after people and creatures like us?

Green Eyes pounced on the scythe-armed thing, teeth gnashing as she bit into the bones of its shoulder and neck.

But it was only bone and tattered cloth.

There was refuge in simplicity, it seemed.

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

Largely ignoring her, it turned toward Callan.

“Shit!” Callan said, his voice higher pitched at the end.

Like a fencer with a foil in hand, the thing stepped forward.  From the elbow on, its limb was like a great rib, sharpened at one side and drawn to a point.  It moved faster than I would have expected.

Callan’s throat opened up, blood welling.  He clasped one hand to his throat, eyes going wide.

Shit.

Black veins opened up around the wound site.  Where they traced the faint blue and red lines at his skin, the skin cracked.  The wound yawned open.

I could see his expression. The fear. The thought crossing his mind, the expression of agony, as he opened his mouth and tried to scream, but only burbled blood.

“Callan!” Christoff shrieked.

Christoff was just at the cusp of being a teenager and being a child.  In that cry, he was a little boy again.  Callan was his role model, old enough to be his father figure.

Maybe ignoble of me to think so, not so different from thinking ill of the dead, but he really could have done with better.

The black veins of poison, venom, or magic-induced necrosis were reaching Callan’s face now.  As the skin cracked, blood fell out in spurts or trickles, before the necrosis turned it black.  The skin between the dark tracks in his flesh was turning gray.

He half-coughed, half-spat blood, as if he could somehow clear his throat enough to say something, and failed.  Bowed over, face pointed at the ground, he charged.

He barreled right past Green Eyes and the reaper-thing.

“Callan!”  Christoff shouted, louder than before, a little more desperate.

Without even looking, Callan barreled into the left arm of the clockwork man.

The arm didn’t budge.  Metal, held firm by resistance, like a piece of the building. Had we been more coordinated, maybe Ty, Tiff, and Alexis might have been able to ease up the pressure and stop trying to push the doors closed, giving the clockwork man less bookcase to leverage himself against, but we weren’t, and they couldn’t.  If they eased up, there was nothing to stop him from simply striding inside, the remaining Others following.

Callan sprawled at the automaton’s feet, and one of the homonculi seized the opportunity to bite deep into his thigh.

More of the homonculi swarmed him, burying him beneath their collective mass.

The rest of the people in the room backed up until their backs were to walls or furniture, as the reaper-thing ventured to the room’s center.

I couldn’t do anything.  Even if I were there, I couldn’t save him, and I wasn’t in a position to use the distraction.

I was here.  With all the others.

“Kathryn,” I said, addressing my oldest cousin.  “Peter.”

Kathryn looked shell shocked.  She’d cursed Ellie out for being too slow on the draw, but now that they were confronted with the entirety of this reality, Kathy was the one having trouble getting a grip.

She’d dressed business casual, and it seemed to accentuate how very out of place she was.  She might have wanted to look more like a lawyer, more imposing than her two hundred pound build would suggest.  She was tall, her dirty blonde hair dyed brown and tied back into a severe ponytail, and her suit jacket made her broad shoulders look broader, while masking her stomach.  In a courtroom or business meeting, she would have been a tyrant.  Now she was the second tallest person in the room next to Callan, who was in the process of losing a few feet of height to tooth and claw, and probably the heaviest.

Help him,” I told her.

Ten or twenty minutes ago, I might have added, ‘Or you all die.

But Kathryn looked at me.  She could see all of me, not just a face with lines across it.  A body that was more branch than flesh, with only skin and bone and muscle down the center of my face, the sides of the neck, and down the center of my torso.  My sweatshirt hung open, so I could reach into the side of my chest, and the shirt beneath was tattered enough to show the damage.  There was more flesh at the legs and buttocks, out of sight, and I hadn’t yet seen my groin turn to wood and bird, but I assumed it was a matter of time.

I still had a gaping hole in the middle of my chest.  It had narrowly missed my ‘heart’.

It was, perhaps, the final piece she needed to grasp all of this.  I was pretty sure I didn’t need to belabor the obvious.  The Thorburns were fucked up, but they weren’t stupid.  Mostly.

I think she got it.  She took the lead, grabbing the chair by the desk.  Holding it by the backrest, she swung it at a homonculus, killing the thing.

The reaper-thing moved its arm-scythe, raising it a fraction, and Kathryn threw herself to the side, almost falling in her haste to back off.

Only a slight movement of the bone scythe, but Kathryn had reacted severely.

Callan was still struggling as he was eaten alive by both the toxin and the homonculi.  Alexis, Tiff and Ty were a dangerously short distance from the reaper, still doing what they could with the bookshelf, keeping the clockwork man in place.

Peter was circling around, and the reaper seemed particularly interested in him.

Kathryn had a clear path to the bookshelf, automaton and just behind the automaton, Callan.

She didn’t take it.

“I’m a mom,” Kathryn said.

“So?” Peter asked.

The reaper was still tracking him, turning as Peter walked around.

“I’ve got people to look after.”

So?  Do something, then,” he said.

I couldn’t understand how she even had to think about it.  That such a line of thinking was even possible.  Self preservation, yes, but she was trying to rationalize her way through this.  Invent some way through it.

Did she expect us all to tell her she should hang back?  We’d handle it on our own?

She had, I suspected, spent the entirety of her life with someone else available and ready to take the fall for her or cover for her.  Where others might have gotten spoiled or indolent, Kathryn had flourished under the combination of Uncle Paul and Aunt Steph and found some ambition.  She had a desire to be something more from Uncle Paul, knowledge on how to game the system from Aunt Steph, and unlike Callan, Kathryn hadn’t suffered the crushing disappointment of realizing she might never inherit the house.  She’d found her own path.  A path with a lot of victims and scapegoats left in her wake, but a path nonetheless.

This, right here, was Kathryn in a situation that was utterly alien to her.  The murder-reaper-thing, the clockwork man, the homonculi, a hallway drenched in blood and a long-lost cousin in a mirror weren’t the things she was having a hard time dealing with.

I suspected it had more to do with the fact that she was, for maybe the first time in her life, the only one truly accountable for her actions and their consequences.

More homonculi slipped into the room. Kathryn swung the chair, striking two, and the remainder backed away, unwilling to venture further.

There was a larger crowd outside.

Do something!” she cried out.  I wasn’t sure who she was saying it to.  Everyone was already doing something, or were too injured or incapacitated to.  Unless she wanted Roxanne and Christoff to leap into the fight.

What she was saying didn’t matter so much as why.  Why was she demanding help?  Because she just couldn’t compute that this was on her.

Damn it, I hated my family.

“Go, Kathryn!” I said.  “Just go!”

She moved.  Failure to compute or not, she’d been on the verge of action, and my words propelled her forward.

With the sound of her footsteps, the reaper-thing turned, arm raising.  Green Eyes used her tail to try and bind the arm down, as if she was tying the skeleton thing down.  One more contortion among many that kept her on the offensive, her full body weight piled on it without making it so much as bend, doing her best to stay out of the way of those twin scythes.  Even as she worked to entwine it, the reaper still twisted its arm around, upper arm pressed against its body, the bit past the elbow jutting out.  It walked toward Kathryn, spike of bone sticking forth.

Peter threw a tome at it, striking it in the back of the head.  Same mistake that Green Eyes had made, trying to fight it or bite.  It didn’t function along those lines.  It didn’t have flesh to wound.  The only hurt that probably mattered was a bone-breaking level of hurt.

Even if he’d hoped to only distract it, it was a futile gesture.  It wasn’t human, and it wasn’t bogeyman.  It operated under different rules.  Seek out one target, dispatch.  I wasn’t sure how it defined what qualified as a target, but it seemed to like going after people, especially moving people.

I could see how close the fully-pinned-down arm was from the end of Green Eyes’ tail.

“Green Eyes!” I said.  “Back!”

She flung herself back, more snake than fish, and the force of the movement did serve to put the reaper off balance.

It was the distraction Kathryn needed to run past Tiff and Alexis, still holding the bookcase, and reach the automaton.

The old wooden chair crashed into the automaton’s legs.

The legs didn’t budge.

A man made of metal, it seemed, was pretty damn dense.

Where Kathryn’s strategy differed from Callan’s however, was that she wasn’t aiming to just hit the thing.

The chair remained where it was.  Gears and moving parts at the joints caught on the cross-shaped piece of wood that the individual wheels were attached to.  Something hitched, and the metal man’s leg jerked.  It took a step back with the one leg, repositioning.

The reaper drew its arm back, its attention on Kathryn.

“Kathryn!”  I shouted.

She turned to look, and belatedly brought the chair up.  It was a miracle more than anything that kept her from getting stabbed – the back of the chair she was holding caught the bone spike that was being stabbed at her, and by bringing up the rest of the chair, she knocked away the thing’s arm with the seat.

I could see the fear in her eyes.

Trust your instincts, I thought.

If nothing else, we Thorburns had a streak of stubbornness running through us.

She swung the chair at the reaper, and the legs caught in the spaces between the reaper’s bones.

But the arms weren’t bound anymore, and the thing could easily reach around the chair to attack Kathryn.

She pulled away, backing up, and the reaper decided to hit the old wooden chair instead, cleaving the seat from the section with the wheels.

It said a lot about just how shitty the homonculi were in a fight that Ty, Alexis and Tiff were fending them off pretty damn well with periodic kicks, while still holding the bookcase-doors in place.  So long as they kept their weight against the shelves, the automaton was frozen, unable to reposition itself.

Green Eyes approached the reaper, but it wheeled on her, no pun intended, and she stopped where she was.  Using her tail, she knocked the seat of the chair in Kathryn’s general direction.

She did the same thing she’d done before.  The seat of the chair was shoved into the clockwork man’s knee, and moving parts caught the wood.  The already damaged wood splintered, breaking, and was swept up in the mechanisms.

Unlike the prior leg, this one simply moved back as far as it would go, unresponsive.

Losing its grip, it moved its other leg forward.

The leg jerked.

Callan’s hand gripped the heel, keeping it from moving forward.

He couldn’t possibly be alive.  Not for much longer, anyway.

He’d grabbed it earlier, and held it even now.

Kathryn brought the chair down on the clockwork man’s arm, and the entire clockwork man went down, collapsing.  The library doors moved along their rollers, shutting as yet other Others tried to push forward, making their way over fallen bodies and swarming homonculi.

I could make out the click as the doors shut.

I could hear the pounding and scratching as the Others tore at the bookcases.

The defenses weren’t just physical, though.  I couldn’t enter, and the doors had held up to even the smiting of a god, when the defenses across the rest of the house had failed to.

But that was a sword that cut two ways.  The things battering on the door took any number of forms, and some, invariably, could be forms that could break into the library.  If the library was a section of folded space, there were attackers that didn’t care about space to begin with.  It was only a matter of time before they made their way into the library.

Or, as I noted the reaper’s presence, they could break out, and let others inside in the process.

Looking up at the second tier of the library, I could see Eva at the railing.  She was standing by her brother, who was still limp, leaning over, apparently content to watch.

With the section of floor ringing us above, it was like we were in a gladiatorial arena, all of us against the monster, me trapped in the mirror, the rest in various states of injury, awe, or confusion.

“My brother,” Christoff said, focus on the closed door, and not on the reaper.  He didn’t cry, his face didn’t crumple.  I would have thought he looked stunned, but his eyes were too alert, albeit moist.

“Was dead already,” Peter commented.  “He tried to sacrifice himself heroically and he fucked it up.”

“No,” I said.  “He held the machine’s ankle.”

“If you want to make shit up for the kid, that’s cool, but trust me, Callan’s not worth it,” Peter said.

“I can’t lie,” I told him.  “Pretty damn sure I can’t lie.  One of the rules.  So if I say I saw Callan hold that thing back enough for us to close the door-”

“Okay,” Christoff said, cutting me off.  “Okay.”

I kept talking anyway.  “He did good, Christoff.  I’m not his biggest fan either, but he did good.”

Christoff set his jaw.

With the door closed, the group that had been keeping the door in place was now free to spread out, giving a wide berth to the reaper.

Or whatever it was.

Touch of death, skeleton body, scythe arms, and tattered rags.

I was also aware that there were a few homonculi lurking about.  One or two that had apparently collapsed as Kathy had hit them with chairs or one of my friends had kicked them were gone now.  Slipping away while our collective attention was elsewhere.

Ominous.

The mortals ringed it, while I watched from the mirror.  Now and again, I moved to the mirror Alexis wore, trying to get a better view of the reaper.

No, I wasn’t helpless.  I was loathe to spend power if my connection to this world was as tenuous as it had seemed to be earlier, and I didn’t feel like I should imbue an object and attack the reaper or Eva.  It would be too easy for me to take too much, or for them to retaliate and cast me out.

If I couldn’t get in while the doors were shut, what did that say about my ability to get out?  What happened if the mirror broke?

There was only one place that would take me.

Okay, maybe two, but I really hoped I wasn’t due a visit to hell.

No, I wasn’t limited to just standing here.

I broke into a run, heading for the shelves, climbing the ladder to the second floor.

I found the bookshelf on types of Other.

Risen: a treatise on the animate deceased.

Morte Vilify: Perversions of Death.

I began flipping through.  I cheated, looking only for the pictures.

Nothing in the first book.  I set it aside.

Perversions of Death, then.

All of the pictures were in the middle.

Wood cut images.  I found something damn close to the reaper in one picture, joined by two others.  The reaper-alike had a long jaw and fingers stretched out to the same length as its forearm, the tips sharpened.  It had one brother with flesh attached, bloated fat, spiked orbs hooked to a swollen, distended tongue, from dangling genitals and from the intestine that protruded from its middle.  The third was gaunt, but had skin draped over it, heavy iron rings causing the skin to stretch down.  Her lower teeth were exposed, while the skin formed a dress around her lower half, the skin of her breasts wrapped around her chest and hooked in front with a large metal ring on the upper.  The skin of her hands was joined together and folded around, so her arms formed a permanent loop.

The Bane is form’d of one with a blight of body, already within the grasp of Death, they yet hold a breath of life.  The Dark Necromagus must be at the bedside of the deceased as they cross over, to catch the breath in a prepared vessel.  Thrice must the blighted man be bestowed that foul breath that escapes the mouth of the long dead, as airs and humors bloat the corpse, the soul released at death introduced between each to accept and accommodate those airs most foul.  During these times the body will be well restrained, as the soul will be in the worst of agonies and the body will not be limited to their normal strength.

“Tell me how to kill it,” I said.  “Come on…”

Those Magi who practise with the dead in ways most profane take some time to prepare the Bane, according to the nature of the blights that claimed them.  For a blight of bone, the skeleton will be stripped, softened and re-hardened by alchemic admixtures.  For a blight of the lower stomach, the intestines will be dragged out and repurposed

Skipping ahead.

Peter had protected himself from one of the scythe-claws with a book that he was now holding in front of him with both hands, but the scythe was eating away at the paper, and the point was drawing closer to him.

The others had a chain wrapped around the other scythe and were trying to hold it back.  Tug of war, against one individual.

I kept reading.

The Bane is oft used as a devise against those who practise, for death has already taken them thrice over, while their spirit and soul are inured to the worst torments and agonies.  Barriers will serve their purpose, but hexes and deleterious magics will often glance off the Bane, rendering them a potent devise against the unwary.  Without expecting their workings to go awry and come back to them, such a Magus might find themselves dealing with their own practises and the Bane both.

The creator must deliver their instructions to the Bane with gravest care, as the Bane is obedient to a fault, the soul broken many times over.  Once destroyed, the Bane will never return.  

Still nothing about how to destroy it.

When defending oneself against a Bane…

Here we were.

…care must be taken, as the Bane is a thing of blight, and will blight all it touches.  Many will alter their Banes to make this contact easier.  Fire will serve if the Bane was carelessly wrought, but many will be coated or painted to protect their flesh.  One might surmise that the Nosferatu are a natural variation of the Bane, insofar as they are natural.  The Nosferatu, if this theory were correct, would incubate spirits of death within them, and depositing them within a victim, inviting them to and from the veil of death.  The blight, both pre-existing and given, would be one of the blood.

As such, consider the same methods that function on the Nosferatu.  A length of green wood will serve as a conduit for the living energies to vacate the dead prison that confine them.  Natural energies, too, will suffice, with daylight, running water from a natural source, lightning strikes, clean fire if the Bane is not pre-treated, a spike of crystal, or a stalagmite with a history of attachment to the ground serving to provide this conduit of natural forces.  Like the Nosferatu, the Bane is a wretched thing, and death should be seen as a mercy.

The Bane was partially wrapped in chain.  It hacked at the chain with one of its bone scythes, and Ty intentionally dropped the chain, making it too slack to cut.

The chain around the undead creation was starting to look a little worse for wear.

“It’s called a Bane.  Green wood is supposed to kill it,” I said.

“Nope,” Ty said, snatching up the chain off the ground.  The two different ends of chain were being held at opposite ends of the Bane, “All out, unless that wood you’re made of is green.”

“No,” I said.

The chain snapped, a link breaking.  Ty nearly lost his balance as the sudden slack in the chain loosed.

The chain had caught on bone.  It was still caught, only one arm somewhat free.

“Running water,” I said.

“Opening the door is a bad idea.”

“Wouldn’t work.  Needs to be from a natural source.  Lightning.  Not sure of that needs to be natural either.”

“Lights in here are spiritual, not connected to the house,” Alexis said.

“Column of stone?” I said.

“No go.”

“Crystal spike.”

“I’ve been in every nook and cranny of these cabinets,” Tiff said.  “I’d have noticed that.”

I nodded.

I saw Peter’s head raise.  “Bitch.

We collectively looked.  I had to step to Alexis’ mirror and then back to the larger mirror to move down to the lower level and see.

Eva had a stake in her hand.  She was leaning on the railing, and tossed the stake in the air, catching it.  One mistake away from dropping it and letting it fall to the floor below.

“Green wood?” I asked.

“Cut earlier tonight.”

“Give it here!”  Ty called out.

“You can go fuck yourselves,” Eva said.  “This is my insurance against that thing, but I don’t have any reason to save you.”

More links broke.

I saw Evan take to the air, sparrow wings flapping.  Whatever hit he’d taken earlier, he was still in one piece.

The witch hunter caught the stake, and didn’t toss it again.

“If you try, little bird,” she said, “I will stake you.  Your tricks won’t work.”

Evan was a soul in a different form, just like the Bane was.

I wasn’t entirely sure the method of soul extraction wouldn’t work on him too.

“Evan,” I said.  “No.”

“Dang,” he said, before settling on the railing opposite Eva, the furthest point in the room from her.

My eye fell on Ellie.

It would have been perfect if Ellie had been willing to play ball, to steal the stake and make her way downstairs.

But this wasn’t that kind of scene.  Ellie wasn’t that type.

If she had the stake, I could trust her to run away and maybe get it to us.

“What else did the book say?” Eva asked.  “There’s one obvious option, but it doesn’t get mentioned that often.”

One obvious option?

“Daylight?” I asked.  The only thing I hadn’t mentioned.

“I bet you wish the sun was rising anytime soon,” she said.  “Think twice.”

I felt like it was on the tip of my tongue.  I’d read something not so dissimilar, once upon a time.

“She wants us to do it,” Peter commented.

She wanted us to do it.

Right.  I had to look at her through the lens I used to view the Thorburns.  Through the twisted, fucked up viewpoint.

She wanted us to hurt.  To suffer.

Ah.

“Bone,” I said.  “Like a green stake is living wood, a fresh bone…”

Exactly,” Eva said.

“Christoff,” Peter said.  “You’ve been useless so far.  You’ve-”

“You’re not serious,” Alexis said.  “He’s a child.”

The last essential links broke.  Kathryn and Alexis fell as their end of the chain lost its tension.

“Someone better volunteer an arm,” Eva said, “Or everyone here volunteers their life.”

The noble Roman above the gladiator pit where lives were being fought for.  She was reveling in this.  Sadistic enjoyment.

Except, if I remembered right, things had never been like they were in the movies.  It was all for sport, and few lives were lost.

Which made Eva worse than some of the more decadent and corrupt emperors in Rome.

Fuck.

The Bane turned on Peter.

“Why me?” Peter asked.  “Third fucking time.  The fuck?”

“Karma,” I said.  “Apparently you’ve racked up more bad karma than any of us, except maybe me, and I’m inside a mirror.”

“Karma?” Kathryn asked.

“Lies,” I said.  “Lies are one.  Even if you’re not a part of all this, it adds up.  Wronging people, breaking your word…”

“I’m fuuuuucked,” Peter said, backing away from the Bane.  “Fuck me.  Kicking myself for ever thinking this stuff was cool.  Even with the scary stuff… if there’s karma, I’m so completely and utterly fucked.”

“More than you know,” I said.  “You inherit the house, you inherit all the bad karma dating back generations.  We weren’t good wizards, in case you weren’t aware.”

“Shit,” he said.  He tried to feint to the left, then dodge right, but the thing wasn’t fooled.  “Ah fuck.  Fuck me.”

Was I willing to do something with sympathetic magic?

What could I do that they couldn’t?  My bones weren’t necessarily alive.

Breaking through the mirror?  I hadn’t been able to hurt the faceless woman.  What if I tried to use the Hyena and failed here? I’d have one mirror left and the problem would still be here.

The Hyena was almost the opposite of what we needed here.

“Ah no.  Shit,” Peter said, as his options for escape started to run out.  The room was circular, but there was furniture at the edges, and as fast as he could duck to one side, the Bane could follow him.

“Chop off your arm,” Eva taunted.  “Stab it through the heart or face.  You seem resourceful.  I give you one in four chances you’ll manage it.  One in ten you’ll survive the attempt.  It’s delicious.”

“Ellie,” Peter said.  “I… wish I had something clever or meaningful to say.”

Ellie moved to the railing, gripping it and peering over.  “You’re an asshole, Peter.  Don’t you dare die.”

“Seeing what happened to Callan-”

“I didn’t see.”

“It’s gonna be a bad one.  Um.  If you make it out of this, you can have my stuff.”

“Fuck you, I don’t want your stuff,” Ellie said.

“Alright,” he said.  There was a note of finality in his voice.  “Right.  Cool.”

Ellie scrambled to the side.

Charging Eva.

She took the kick hard, crashing into the railing.

“Please,” she begged.  “Please.  He’s my brother.”

“I don’t give a fuck,” Eva said.

Ellie crawled forward a bit.

“I’ll do anything,” Ellie said.

“I don’t want anything you have.”

It was, perhaps, a meeting of polar opposites.

Eva was the alpha dog, the one who won fights.  The snarling bitch that commanded respect by virtue of how badly she could kick your ass.

Ellie wasn’t.  Ellie was a coward, the type to hang her head and slink off out of sight.  She broke the rules and stole the scraps.  Alone, she begged and wheedled and cheated to forge her way.  As part of a group, she thrived, she mooched.  She was the omega.

It was common to think of the Alpha as the superior, to imagine that if we were wolves, we would want to be Alpha.

Ellie, I imagined, had never wanted that.  She’d learned to take her licks.  Even when she’d taunted the witch hunter earlier, baiting kicks, she’d been cultivating an impression.

Now, crawling forward, taking more hits, distracting, taking advantage of the fact that the witch hunter was watching out for the sparrow that might try to steal the wooden stake, she managed to throw herself forward four or five feet, taking another hard kick in the process.

She held a hypodermic syringe to Andy’s throat.  I could see the expression on her face.  Taut, like every muscle was drawn tight.

One momentary look, a meeting of eyes, eyes glittering with righteous anger, and she slammed the plunger down.

Eva kicked my cousin hard in the face.

“What was it!?”

“Save him!”

“What was it!?” Eva kicked Ellie again.

But Ellie had been to juvie and she’d been to prison, and she’d been the omega there too.  A thief, living on the bottom rung.  She was… easy to hate.  She’d taken beatings there too.

She wouldn’t break with this much.

“Save him,” she said, her voice in a different tone.

Rather than take the ladder, Eva leaped down, landing two paces behind the Bane.

Peter had opened a cabinet door and was using it as a meager shield.

Eva staked the thing through the back.

It crumbled into its constituent parts.  I saw a wisp of something person-shaped flow out of the base of the stake.

“There,” Eva said, standing back.  She turned to glare at us.  “Done.  Now you’re going to tell me what you gave him, or I’m going to kill you.  If you gave him drugs-”

“Poison,” Ellie said.  “There’s stuff in the cupboards.  I grabbed some while we were in here.  I filled the syringes.”

I glanced at our resident sparrow.

“She was rummaging.  She did something in the cupboards, until I told her she might let a monster out,” Evan said.

I nodded.

“Fuck,” Eva said.  “Poison isn’t some magical shit where you give the antidote and he gets all better.  If he’s dying and something is getting to him…”

“You’re going to help for the next few hours,” Ellie said, gripping the bars of the railing, her face pressed between them, glaring down.  “You’re going to have to trust us.”

“Trust you?” Eva asked, looking around.  “You’re some of the saddest, most disgusting excuses for humans I’ve ever met.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed.

Fuck, we were sad.  We were disgusting.  But Callan’s dying action, and Ellie stepping in to save her brother…

“Thanks,” Peter said, looking up at his sister.

Don’t,” she spat the word.  “Don’t you dare.  When this is done, I’m going to hit you five times for every time she’s hit me.”

“Sure, Ellie,” Peter said, smiling.

The pounding and the scratching continued on the doors, upstairs and downstairs both.  I could see dust fall from the edges of the shelves, and I wasn’t sure that there weren’t cracks on the backs of the bookshelf doors that hadn’t been there before.

They would find their way inside.

Worse, I wasn’t sure what the Thorburns would do if they stayed cooped up here.  Kathryn, Christoff and Roxanne were all glancing around the room.  Ellie was focused on us – she’d already looked around.

Peter, the idiot, was using the edge of his sweatshirt to hold the fallen scythe-bone from the Bane.

Evan landed on the corner of the desk beside me.

“Sorry,” he said.  “Letting them in-”

“Was smart,” I finished for him.  “It’s good.  We’re mostly safe.  Except for Callan.”

Christoff’s eyes went to the floor.

“These doors won’t hold,” I said, mainly to distract the remaining Thorburns from looking too intently at the books and trinkets around us.

“No,” Alexis said.  “Tiff, you’re the best one at the protective stuff.  Can you do something?”

Tiff nodded.

“We need a plan,” I said.

“I’m open to hearing any plans,” Ty said.

“If this continues, we’ll have only one place to go,” I said.  “The fourth floor, maybe.”

“That’s the worst idea I’ve heard out of your mouth,” Alexis said.

“I know,” I said.  “But I’m about to trump it.”

“Oh boy,” Peter said.  “This should be good.”

I was thinking of the number of times that fire had been referenced since we’d come inside.  Eva and her incendiary grenade, Alexis and her Ofuda.

The trick was figuring out how to phrase the plan so I didn’t sound like a complete lunatic.

A good minute passed, while I turned the words over in my head.

No good way to phrase it.

Leaving me no choice but to tell them, knowing I sounded utterly insane.

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225 thoughts on “Duress 12.3

    1. I am calling it now. FIRE BIRD EVAN gets his wish and saves the day. Oh wait this is wildbow, the day is never saved, only doomed.

  1. There’s no way in hell this will end well. For anyone. I’m not even talking about Demons or Fire, but killing Callan will causes a shit-ton of problems for whoever set this up.

    That whole ‘No Grudges’ thing stops once somebody gets killed and the pre-teen witnesses his brother die like his sister….

    1. Well if everything had gone according to plan, there wouldn’t be anyone left in the Thorburn family to seek vengence. At this point all the other players in Jacob’s Hell are trying to wipe the Thorburns out.

      1. Except no. Even if they disappeared Rose, Paige is still alive. And Isadora remembers Blake. Also, there’s very few things as old-timey as wiping out everyone that had a hand in the murder of your extended family, so I feel the Sphinx would actually approve of a roaring rampage of revenge…

        1. Hmmn, true. Though they may just wipe out most of the family, until they get to Ivy, and just use all the years they’ve got till they have to really worry again.

  2. Suddenly a Thorburn dies and I don’t feel good about. Dicks even in death. The nerve of some people. Also, I kinda enjoy the fact that as much as Eva is threatening and all that, they keep finding ways to make her help. When she saves Andy they are very very fucked.

    And now comes the fire!

    Really, at this point that almost seems like a sensible option.

    Poor Christoff.

  3. Typo Thread!

    “I would have thought he looked stunned, but” cuts off, could be intentional, but those usually have ellipses.

    1. homonculi -> homunculi

      “striking two, and the remainder” cuts off abruptly.

      “Kathryn and Alexis fell their end of the chain went slack.” missing ‘as’ or ‘when’.

    2. Typos:

      • “homonculi” -> “homunculi” x7

      • “Kathryn looked shell shocked.” -> “shell-shocked”

      • “Self preservation, yes,” -> “Self-preservation”

      • “Everyone was already doing something, or were too injured or incapacitated to.” -> singular/plural mix-up; solved e.g. via “or too injured”

      • “Wood cut images.” -> “Woodcut”

      • “from dangling genitals and from the intestine that protruded from its middle.” -> No idea what the 2x “from” in this sentence refer to.

      • The Nosferatu […] would incubate spirits of death within them, and depositing them within a victim, inviting them to and from the veil of death.” -> “spirits of death within themselves, and deposit them”

      • “Not sure of that needs to be natural either.” -> “if that”

      • “No go.” -> maybe: “No-go.”

      • “She was the omega.” -> “Omega”? In the next line, “Alpha” was capitalized twice.

      • “and she’d been the omega there too” -> again, maybe “Omega”

      1. from dangling genitals and from the intestine that protruded from its middle.” -> No idea what the 2x “from” in this sentence refer to.


        seems clear enough to me. intestines protrude FROM its middle. spiked balls hanging FROM the intestine

    3. “Ellie scrambled to the side.

      Charging Eva.

      She took the kick hard, crashing into the railing.”

      I assume Eva kicked Ellie somewhere between sentences 2 and 3?

    4. How the witch hunter so willing to go down fighting if it meant helping Andy. –> ??? ‘was’ so willing to go down?

    1. As massively abused as this song as been, I can’t help it.

      Burn it down,
      Burn it down,
      Can’t take this shit anymore.
      Burn it down,
      Burn it down,
      Till its ash and is no more.
      I don’t care,
      what the lawyers say
      let the flames rage on.
      We’ll probably be eaten anyway.

  4. Andy is poisoned, Eva is pissed, callan’s dead (try explaining THAT to the family!), Blake wants to di something with fure in a very flammable wiiden house, the Thorburns are now aware of magic and everybody is soooo royally fucked.

    This sounds like about the right time for shit to get worse.

    1. So how pissed is Molly going to be when she finds out Callan is dead. She already wanted one family member dead from each group.

      I think its over for Andy. I doubt the Thorburns let him live. Pretty sure Eva is getting betrayed as soon as this is over. She is a mad dog. Too dangerous to leave alive. Next time she wont take prisoners.

    2. Callan might not be dead-dead; the book mentioned that vampires were a form of natural Bane, so it’s possible he might have wound up becoming some sort of undead from the corruption instead. At the very least, he’d probably form a pretty badass ghost.

      1. I vote Ty brings him back as some sort revenant thing, the burning desire he demonstrated in his final moments might be enough to start him along the way.

          1. He was still clinging to the ankle. Oh my, maybe Callan will be the Bane’s rebound and go after the maker. That would be nice.

      2. with all the wards on that house and the fact hyena(only a moderate gobbo) was able to scare off evan’s death leaving his soul where it was, had he died in the library or presmiting he’d probably still be there

          1. Evan wasn’t hurt by the Hyena. He merely died on its domain, with the Hyena keeping natural psychopomps away, and the Shepherd didn’t claim him.
            Cue soulful imprint.

          2. Nope, IIRC the Hyena was so scary for other Others, that the spirits responsible for taking Evan’s soul to Heaven or whatever just didn’t show up

    3. They just have to have some freaked out Thorburn run up to Barbie’s room and not avert their eyes. I’m pretty sure Barbie escaping his circle would be worse.

  5. Suprisingly with Callan’s death, I did’nt care.

    So in this case, Blake suggests setting the attic on fire letting loose the Barber? Or are they finally giving Evan what he wants making him go all firebirdy?

      1. He was a jerkass, but even he didn’t deserve to die for something like this. An ass-kicking, maybe. But he got stabbed in the throat, rotting alive, and being eaten by homunculus who look worse than Pauz. His death was on par with his Sister’s.

    1. So, why is everyone bent on eradicating the Thorburns? They don’t want the demon freed. This sounds like the sort of thing one wants to keep tabs on.

      Now, consider the house starting to burn down. What would the outside observer see? They’d see the demon’s prison burning down. They’d have a vested interest in stepping in to do something.

      And if not? well, kill em all with fire.

      1. I’m sure that if you asked them the anti-Thorburn colilition would say that they are trying to kill the Thorburns because they are a dangrous group of diabolists, they are an unpredictable wild card, and they have several lifetimes of bad Karma, so you know they are bad.

        However remember, practicioners can lie. If they have convinced themselves it is the truth. That’s what those senior Behaim’s were concerned with. At the heart of it, even if they believe those things, are they the genuine truth, or just the things they’ve convinced themeselves of? Or is their real reason that they want the lordship, and the Thorburns are in the way, they are carrying on the grudges their ancestors had against the Thorburn ancestors, and they are letting themselves be influenced by the bad Karma? Are their motives really the petty ones, and they’ve just managed to convince themselves it’s the noble ones?

        As for outside observers, lets not forget what kind of influence the bad karma is going to have on them. The Thorburns and Blakeguard are the ones who will be getting the blame.

        1. Huh. That presents an interesting avenue for attack though. If the Thorburns can make a convincing enough argument that Team Anti-Thorburn’s stated motivations don’t hold water then they’ll take a big karma hit, maybe even be forsworn.

  6. Peter’s freakout was hilarious. I can bet that learning that Karma exists would put him and all of the other Thorburns in a panicked state.

    1. Peter is my second favorite character after Evan. His freak out definitely helped fortify that already existing preference.

    1. Well keep in mind we really don’t know what Rose is thinking. Hell in a lot of ways we don’t know Rose at all. We also don’t know what her night has been like.

  7. Eva is a prime target for death now in my books. Something very bad is going to be done; the other Thorbuns will be awakened or maybe Ornias will be called.

    1. Well, right now Blake is apparently planning to set something on fire.

      Note that the Jacob’s Bell practioners, who want to keep people from getting their hands on the diabolism library, rejected the idea of lighting the house on fire.

    2. I guarantee the Thorburns (some of them, anyway) will be contemplating ways to make her dead the second she’s no longer useful. Of course, they’re no match for her, but they’re sneaky.

      Honestly, I think I’ll be glad to see it if they pull it off. Eva’s completely rabid; she needs to go.

      1. Some? Roxanne probably still has that Butcher’s Knife. Kathryn will probably coax her into doing it since she wailed on both of them, Ellie knows she’s screwed seven ways from Sunday for the poison and Peter for knocking him out in the first place, so they know what the score is.

        Christoff is probably the only one who doesn’t have a stake in it and he’s going to be in mourning.

  8. Oh Christ, Blake, whatever plan you have now it had better not involve the B-word. Because if the Barber get’s out, he’s going after your friends first.

    He could also be thinking he could maintain a controlled blaze in the middle of their rickety wooden house, which is merely incredibly fucking stupid, a vast improvement over anything involving demons.

  9. The Thorburns are proving surprisingly clever, stubborn, and resilient when the chips are down. Green Eyes also has a pretty impressive land speed, apparently.

  10. Not sure if anyone has mentioned it recently, but Blake still remembers that he has the OTHER fail-safe, right? The one that begins with “O”. Plan O7. Even if he is not a practitioner, other practitioners should be able to activate that.

    1. Ornias is, I pressume, very indiscriminate and the Others are probably too stupid to care. They also don’t have any way to use Ornias as leverage against the enemy practitioners because they don’t have a way to communicate with them. One way or another, the enemy practitioners seemed confident enough demons wouldn’t be a problem.

      1. In a DnD game I was running, one player had a druid/summoner character and wanted to send a summoned xorn to go scout a dungeon then return. I had the creature return then acted out, “Yabba, hoobity lababa xiclimeck.” The player was confused until I pointed out that the xorn only spoke Terran and that the character didn’t understand Terran. “But I can normally summon him to fight and stuff for me.” I pointed out that once he summons the creature, it attacks his attackers based on its best judgement, unless he has a way to communicate with the creature. I also pointed out that he had a Comprehend Languages spell that he knew. “But I don’t want to waste a spell slot just on talking to it.” Well, hey, them’s the breaks. If you can’t communicate with the thing you’re summoning, you’re going to be really limited in what you can do with it.

          1. If you did, either it was someone else or it was one of the players from that group as it wasn’t me — I haven’t posted in that subreddit recently.

    2. The Big O is definitely an end-of-the-world scenario. The longer this story goes on, the more often I have the thought that the only good thing that can happen to Jacob’s Bell is it being utterly wiped off the map, but I don’t think Blake is to that point in his thinking.

      1. I honestly think the whole town is going to fall into the drains soon. Sadly there are possibly some actually innocent and decent people in the town.

          1. In its short Interlude scene, Ur planned to bear its motes before escaping the factory, which could take another decade.
            That said, Blake may have scared it into taking earlier action, if his guess that creation counters it is accurate, and if a part of Ur isn’t still inside Blake’s eye.

    3. potentially earthkilling threats don’t really count, it was bad enough when he thought it was meteors, now he knows its sparks of metaphorical and literal light that would be called down and removed from the world.

      1. If they use a bunch of ugly demons, there’s a possibility that some inquisitors from Toronto will come calling. If he uses the big O, first of all Oprah will sue him, and second every inquisitor in the world is going to be showing up on his doorstep. Plus he makes things more difficult for every generation of humans for the rest of eternity, and I think he’d rather die than see that happen. If there was a way to dim himself for all of eternity instead, he’d probably go for that, but he wouldn’t be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  11. I greatly dislike Ellie, but she acted fantastically in this chapter. I find her attitude really intriguing.

    What does it say about me that my first thought regarding setting the house on fire was I worried about all those unique and valuable books being lost?

    To be fair, they are practitioners, they can control the fire. Until they can’t…

    I am not sure why Eva would cooperate from now on, unless I missed something. Her brother is poisoned, but Ellie doesn’t know what poison it was, so Eva won’t get the antidote out of her. Maybe Ellie would tell Eva where she found the potion, or maybe not. If anything, the death sign hanging over Andy’s head might be a reason to not fight anymore.

    I’d love to see another Histories chapter about Eva and Andy. Have they ever had an encounter worse than this? Have they ever found themselves closer to death than right now, or having to cooperate with the enemy? How old are they, anyway? How many years of experience do they have?

    1. Eva can’t really get Andy to proper medical attention, and she can’t root around for any antidote that might be in stock without letting the Thorburns grab Andy.

      1. She can’t trust the Thorburns not getting close to Andy and trying something, one way or another. The moment she finds an antidote, yet another thing could be used against Andy.

        Also, here is a thought. This is the second time Andy is used as leverage against Eva, and the second time he gets hurt. What happens the third? He dies if the Thorburns succeed? Eva finds a way to save him and goes ape-shit on everyone in revenge? Andy dies regardless and Eva kills everyone?

        1. I dont think Eva and Andy are surviving this. Maybe thats why we got the histories about their mentor. Maybe he and a group will show up to wipe out the “thorburn cabal” after this is all over.

          Ellie gave Andy either:

          a. a saline solution or something non-lethal
          b. a poison with an antidote
          c. a poison that will kill Andy before any antidote can be delivered.

          Now that the thorburns have met the teenage assassins, I doubt they will let either live if they have a grudge. Next time Andy and eva wont be looking to neutralize targets.

          1. So Eva isn’t killing everyone and running to the hospital with Andy based on the slight possibility that there is an antidote?

          2. I can’t find much sympathy for either of them. Especially Eva, for obvious reasons, but they both went in there to wipe people out in their own home. Whatever falls on the witch hunters now, they brought it on themselves.

            1. Actually they were hired to leave them to die when the Others came. Defer responsibility and all. But honestly, Andy shouldn’t be out cold for more than twenty minutes if he got knocked out.

              Otherwise he might be looking at brain-damage… on top of poisoning.

            1. Not all that ridiculous. The Thorburns are a tricksy clan, and while Eva has all the interpersonal skills of Bitch, she can still be lied to and fooled, and dies just as easily to a knife in the back.

            2. Dude,Bitch has better interpersonal skills,0 is better than -1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

        2. Do you really think she can get him from the house to the hospital on her own while it’s nighttime and there are a bunch of Others? He’s easy prey and a fortified location is better than trying to get him there when there’s no guarantee they’d make it.

            1. The air isn’t the problem, it’s when the air bubble gets caught in someplace like the heart.that you have a problem. If she injected air into muscle, it won’t really be a problem. But I thought it said the syringe had green stuff in it, so I don’t think it was empty.

    2. To have Andy survive long enough to be admitted into an ER to get dialysis or whatever else he’ll need… she’ll have to actively work towards helping the group as a whole, full-time, not just her and him… and them only when she feels like it. 😛

      Something she should have actually computed before, given the indiscriminate nature of the Others being sent, but didn’t, thanks to the “All Thorburns Are Horrible, Nasty People Who Deserve To Die” propaganda blinding her to the obvious. -_-

      1. She’d be in a much better position if she just had to fend off Others that decided to attack the two of them specifically. Presumably some of the Others are more obedient and wouldn’t attack her if she doesn’t interfere.

        Fighting her way out while hauling an unconscious person is another matter entirely.

    3. these books can’t be safely destroyed…iirc the plan was something along the lines of collapsing the house on top of them, pouring concrete and covering the thing in runes to be guarded forever

  12. The trick was figuring out how to phrase the plan so I didn’t sound like a complete lunatic.

    A good minute passed, while I turned the words over in my head.

    No good way to phrase it.

    Leaving me no choice but to tell them, knowing I sounded utterly insane.

    “…. Your insane!”
    “Says the person talking to the tree man in the mirror”

  13. Fuck the rest of the town and their extended families. They are just as bad as the Thorburns even if they dont use demons. It goes back to what Ben said to sticking to the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.

    The Thorburns are horrible people, but they dont deserve this. The rest of the town is the one acting like the monsters they believe the Thorburns to be.

    So if the Thorburns survive the night, how much does it hurt Duchamps, Behaims, and Johannes. Even if they do damage to the house, and kill a few, does it count as a victory?

    1. I think the plan was to kidnap the Thornburn’s via Witchhunter, and kill/hold-hostage the Cabal via monster. Get Rose to deactivate the switch or force her to deal without her Cabal. Quite frankly the plan is shot.

      Instead they initiated the Thornburns, innocents BTW, are now probably responsible for said Thornburns, Rose is running Conquest so she won’t disarm the switch. The monsters appear to be causing structural damage to the library, but the rest of the house can’t be good either, and its not like the Thornburns won’t run up to the fourth floor if they have too, so the Barber might very well go free anyway.

      And it cost them too. For all intents and purposes the Witchhunters are gone. Even if they don’t die I doubt they will continue to (pretend to) be loyal. They lost multiple Others already, Corvidae, a god, was given free reign to attack them. They will probably eat bad Karma for any of the recent initiated Thornburns if they die, or worse, live. And they are devouring their Karma supply since they attacked the house, (and then dodged retaliation.) Plus they should already have some Others coming their way due to the fact they bounced. Oh and damage to the House isn’t much of a loss since insurance will likely cover the vandalism/break-in, and having a shit ton of contractors is really cool when you’re hiding in the library.

      They need to kill more than a few Thornburn’s to call this a win. They need to at least keep the numbers in the Rose Garden from going up.

      All that ignores the fact that Rose still has Blake’s offer for an internship and a favour. The real winners in this conflict are probably the ones who didn’t participate. Crone Mara is probably doing pretty good.

      1. Actually, I don’t think the families will be held responsible for the Thorburns. It has been said before that the spirits are lazy and that they won’t follow the trail of responsability too far (to the Behaims or Duchamps, for example). It is more likely that they will blame whoever had a direct hand in inititating them (most likely, Blake, since they spoke to him through a mirror first).

        Apologies for any mistakes or the like. English is not my first language

        1. I’m pretty sure the spirits do track sendings back to the sender. Its why bounces happen and diabolists can get bad Karma. Blake may have talked through a mirror, but that wasn’t what got them in. Only Peter made it through on that basis. Blake might get some, but it was the sendings that forced them into the library. The faceless woman in particular for Callan.

  14. One last thing. So, uh, it’s been what, an hour and twenty minutes since night fall? And they are stuck with a psychopath held at metaphorical gunpoint and Omonculi doing who knows what in the library and they are already down one person? And they are still.. how long does night last during winter in Canada? Fifteen hours? They are still fourteen or so hours away from dawn? Eh, they’ll be fine.

    Also, Callan’s death was… surprising. It came out so suddenly. Damn.

    1. On the flip side, demons are The Worst Thing Ever. Summoning and using them does permanent damage to the world. No matter how much you screw over a few people, its better than screwing the rest of humanity until the end of time.

    2. The longest night in Toronto is approximately 15:05, and that’s on Dec 21. While I’m sure someone has a guess for what the month is currently, I’m not sure. I can say that it’s unlikely to be the 21st there now, if only because schools still in session.

  15. RIP Callan. Although, dying at the gate of the Thorburn library is probably the worst place for spiritual rest.

    Peter probably needs some clean underwear.

  16. Trust your instincts, I thought.

    No. Bad. Don’t do that

    Oh wow. Fire involved, and he said (assuming he can’t lie) that this plan will TRUMP the stupidity of going into the room with one of the most badass demons to be bound by the seal of Solomon, with a group of “innocent” thorburns….

    I agree with Peter. This is going to be good.

    1. If this is the blood and darkness Mags was worried about, it’s pleasantly contained.

      If it isn’t, I guess we know who will directly cause it.

  17. Huh. I expected half of our protagonists to be dead by now, and Blake to turn full on demonic. This moment of respite after all that frantic fighting is… unexpected. I don’t know what to think about that.

    Comments:

    1. Doomed doomed doomed doomed doo-doomed, doomed doo-doomed…

    2. As much as they’re all doomed, I liked to see the “innocent” Thorburns being inducted into the practitioner world in the most extreme way possible. And this chapter also perfectly illustrates why not even they deserve to die. Ellie was particularly great.

    3. Great lines: “There was only one place that would take me. Okay, maybe two, but I really hoped I wasn’t due a visit to hell.” and “Which made Eva worse than some of the more decadent and corrupt emperors in Rome. Fuck.” and “I’m [fuuuuucked]. Fuck me. Kicking myself for ever thinking this stuff was cool. Even with the scary stuff… if there’s karma, I’m so completely and utterly fucked.” and “That’s the worst idea I’ve heard out of your mouth,”“I [know]. But I’m about to trump it.”

    4. Trust your instincts, I thought.” -> Yes, Blake, combat situations are the only situations where your instinct are actually useful. Situations where they aren’t useful: when you have the bright idea of lighting the house on fire.

    5. Some of the homunculi are still unaccounted for. That’s bad. Even if they’re weak, they could easily interrupt a practitioner ritual, or damage one of Blake’s mirrors, or give someone a fatal disease.

    6. Apparently, some Others really are able to sense karma. I really liked Peter’s reaction to that whole revelation.

    7. But if “innocents” can accumulate karma, then I really don’t understand how Eva and Andy can still be alive.

    8. Eva is insane in one-on-one fights against Others. Especially if she’s prepared.

    9. The house is swarming with Others, right? How could Barbatorem possibly stay sealed? In fact, why hasn’t he been accidentally freed already?

    10. Blake, you want to set the house (or maybe some of the books) on fire? Go right ahead…

    1. 7) I don’t think they accumulate nearly as much, and the universe hands out positive karma for acting as its hitman. Also, there’s some ill-defined protection for innocents.

      9) He’s on the fourth floor, and the room is locked. Right now the fighting is confined to the first three floors.

    2. 7) I actually think the witch hunters are in the + for karma right now. I mean, yes they kill people pretty much unprovoked, but they do so to protect innocents and fulfill oaths, and they usually do give warning before doing anything. They’re really serious about their oaths. That counts for a lot.

      1. They don’t kill to protect innocents; they are less like practitioner police and more like hitmen. They do whatever the Jacob’s Bell Council tells them to do. Until Andy snaps, maybe.

        And they didn’t go after Rose, who may not have done anything too bad herself, but at least shoulders the Thorburn karma. No, they went after Alexis & co (who, as far as we know, haven’t done anything bad so far) and the Thorburn innocents. Admittedly in a way to game the karma system – they just wanted to disable their defenses and let the onslaught of Others do their bloody work, rather than get their own hands dirty.

        1. Even as council hitmen, their targets are mostly monsters. Alexis and co are fair game since they’ve sided with Rose in a declared war. Also, the witch hunters don’t take as big a hit for hurting innocents, because part of the penalty comes from bearing responsibility for introducing people to the supernatural and any harm they suffer as a result.

  18. So, the Thorburns finally hear about karma and the smart one gets the problem:

    if there’s karma, I’m so completely and utterly fucked

    The problem here is that they are still not going to work together (except by necessity), attempt to dig themselves out of their karma pit, or stop looking for easy solutions that hurt other people. They are very much in a horror film, but unlike most they at least partially deserve it.

    Speaking of karma, there’s more to be had: assuming any of the rest of the Thorburns get out, they have to explain to their parents just what happened that night and they are going to sound more defensive, evasive, and crazy than Molly and Rose did. That conversation should be quite fun, but only for spectators.

    1. If it was possible to explain away the destruction in Toronto, then the same will surely happen here. Maybe the house spontaneously collapsed and Callan was buried under the rubble? Or it was arson…

      There’s also the ironic fact that whichever formerly “innocent” Thorburns survive this might well either be forced to join Blake & co as practitioners because they’ve lost their protections against Others. Or, at the very least, they’ll no longer care about inheriting the house, and in fact do everything they can so it stays with the current heir, i.e. Rose.

      1. “Or, at the very least, they’ll no longer care about inheriting the house, and in fact do everything they can so it stays with the current heir, i.e. Rose.”

        I tend to disagree with you there. Peter had the smart reaction but he was always described as the smart one. The chance that a bunch of grifters and manipulators is going to walk away from this is low – the ones not seeing this are going to be very difficult to convince since they haven’t seen the show and the ones in the house will eventually fall back to their normal habits unless they are continually reminded of the problem (or dead). If they realize that magic and karma are highly controlled by manipulating ambient spirits they will get even more overconfident because that is what they do in life – manipulate people.

        I think the most “reasonable” the remaining Thorburns will be is to nominally support Rose (statements but no measurable help) and pressure her for as much magical help as they can get. And I think that is optimistic.

        1. Good point. I guess I might not have been cynical enough.

          On the other hand, the order of custody (not even necessarily inheritance) after Blake/Rose is “Kathy, then Ellie, then Roxanne, then Ivy, then Paige” (from 1.02). Paige is out of the running. Kathy, Ellie and Roxanne are currently living in a horror movie (and have even seen one of their cousins die). That only leaves Ivy, who’s only two. But her turn might only come if Kathy, Ellie and Roxanne died.

          But you’re right, the Thorburns aren’t known for making particularly good calls in life. And the older generation might continue fighting even if the kids no longer want anything to do with the house.

          (All that is assuming the elder Thorburns will even survive whatever Sandra & co planned to do with them.)

          1. Look at that order and look at who’s in the house of horrors. They meant to wipe out the heirs until the baby was the only one left and there was no one who could awaken her with the rest being dead. Since Rose’s parents were the only ones who were required to leave to fill out her paper work and would take Ivy with them, everyone else was on the chopping block.

            1. Good point – this now appears to be another “wipe out all the heirs at once” attempt by the locals. Of course, in this case the Others are also being stirred up by a not-dead-enough-and-really-vengeful Molly. So, even dead Thorburns work against other Thorburns! (That statement applies to Blake as well.)

            2. Except Molly actually gives a damn about her brothers and now one of them is dead. She’s already stirring up a storm of negativity, so if she senses that one of the connections she had has been severed, or the sheer amount of negative feelings that her mother and brother will give out about this, then it will get worse.

              Assuming that the rest of the house’s residents survive the night, everything is going to go south in Jacob’s Bell because for all the restraint Rose and Blake have had they’ve made this real personal. Not to mention we’ve got the crow spirit still out there messing with connections, so I suspect the Duchamps and Behaims will be at war soon enough.

            3. And they completely deserve it. At this point, pretty much all Jacob’s Bell powers have proven themselves utterly unfit to govern as Lord. (Unsure about Johannes – I don’t know whether he also sent some attacking Others.)

              By all means, let Rose become Lady of Jacob’s Bell, and bring in the Inquisition… (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

              Incidentally, the best part about Callan’s death is that Molly’s wraith caused it. The Thorburn innocents would have been much, much safer without her bells.

            4. I would note that when this all started the local powers got together and discussed implementing rules of engagement that would have forbidden this attack. Rose was the one who outright refused to agree to be bound by them.

            5. Except they’re not targeting her. They’re targeting everyone around her and had been doing so even before the house got smote when they called in all the other Thorburns.

              And she consented to the rules in exchange for a ceasefire after binding Blake. They’re still going against their own rules. It’d be one thing if these random Others simply saw an opening and took it.

              Goblins, Fae like the twins, and Bogeymen are all native in Jacob’s Bell. That can be counted as opportunistic. But the Clockwork Bogeyman, the Zeigeist Automation, the Bane, the Homonculi, and the Witch Hunters are all there at the Council’s beckoning

        2. The thing is, they might not be wrong to think/do so. Karma is an eminently gameable system. Peter, at least, I suspect will be amazingly adept at making it work for him.

          Kathy is probably in trouble though…

      2. Course they may be planning to blame this all on those horrible and creepy friends of Rose’s. Assuming any of the Blakeguard survive this.

      3. In Toronto quite a lot got explained away as “actual humans causing the destruction”. Even with Molly it took Laird to actively cover it up. And in truth, so far all the damage could probably have been caused by a person.

        1. Them kids, always running on my lawn, flooding my house, firebombing the walls, and leaving creepy dead bodies lying around. They’re hooligans, I tell you, hooligans! Now I wouldn’t really care so much if they’d just stop trampling my begonias when they come in the windows, but apparently that’s just too much for them to handle. Darn kids.

  19. Recurring theme: Rose goes away, Blake does something crazy.

    It is enough of a recurring theme that I suspect there’s more than just talking Blake down involved – there might be a magical link between the two that actually allows Rose to control or mitigate Blake when she is around.

    1. I figured it was a narrative problem instead: The whole story centers around the Thorburn diabolists, so when Rose is present, Blake is more of a bystander. For him to act as the protagonist and call the shots (and make all the crazy decisions so typical of him) requires that Rose be gone – e.g. in a coma, or kidnapped by Conquest, or imprisoned by Sandra & co.

      Which is so very weird, because she’s considered the scary diabolist and yet we’ve barely seen her do anything in the story.

      There’s a similar dynamic with Blake’s cabal here: they should have more experience as practitioners than him by now, and have as much fighting experience against non-demonic Others, due to the month Blake lost in the Drains while they were under constant siege – and yet Blake is still clearly the catalyst for everything, and making key decisions like keeping the witch hunters within the house. They went from Rose’s “This discussion was never going to end with you staying.” and later thinking they had to imprison him, to him calling the shots. Within what, two real-time days?

      Even this chapter: Alexis & co are forced to block the door with their bodies, while Blake does the practitioner stuff. Granted, Blake doesn’t have a body to block the door with. But still.

      1. Good points, but a couple notes:
        )It’s already been hinted that Blake was designed for this kind of stuff. As such I think it’s admissible to have him be better in a pinch than more experienced practitioners. Still waiting on the exact mechanics around that.
        ) Seeing things from Blake’s perspective can often make him seem more active than he is. Same thing happened in Worm. If you look again, the only thing Blake did while the others were holding the doors was yell at Kathryn. In fact, all he did this chapter was yell at people. He wasn’t even the one coming up with most of the ideas this chapter, the other Thorburns took a lot of initiative. He’s got a good vantage point for relaying information, that’s all. He’s hardly calling the shots.

      2. I like your contextual / narrative analysis on this and agree that is a factor, but I also agree with xdrngy a bit on his rejoinder.

        Whatever the source, “Rose gone leads to chaos” seems to be a factor in the story. So are any characters going to pick up on the theme and examine it?

  20. So, about Banes… Yeah that’s pretty horrible. Demons might be the worst thing you can use, but it seems like the anti-Thorburn colilition is going for some really nasty shit. Oh they can claim the moral high ground, but it’ll be like saying “We only used mustard gas instead of a nuke, so it’s okay.” Not the worse thing you could do sure, but still horrible as hell.

    Speaking of hell, sure Blake’s taking a trip there. I mean lets face it, it keeps getting worse.

    1. Some of the Others seem like indiscriminate sendings or opportunistic on the part of the free-willed Others, but the Bane’s description says it follows orders exactly. Which means that, either by direct order or by poorly-worded order, the Bane was allowed to kill non-practitioners. As a matter of fact, in a room with a bunch of practitioners and Thorburns, it targeted two Thorburns first. And a Bane is about as nasty a sending as you can get without resorting to demons (agreement with you commentary). The gloves are seriously off now.

          1. Who dabble in necromancy and alchemy considering those homunculus. As soon as this is over, Blake is in his right to go after them, even if not Sandra herself who can defer the responsibility to them. This isn’t something that can be covered by favors or apologies, especially since this was premeditated by them trying to kill their entire bloodline.

      1. I’m wondering who it was that sent it. One of the Duchamp’s husbands? One of the Others that’s working for Johanne? I mean, making one of those things is serious act of evil – working with demons permanently lessens the world, but you don’t need to torture someone to death three times over to practice diabolism!

        1. It’s something that needs to be created with time and preparation by a necromancer. So either it’s a Duchamp husband or one of Johanne’s strays.

          Also, that would mean a Duchamp daughter getting married to a necromancer. The fuck man? Shitty parents.

          1. Yeah, that creepy arranged marriage that the Duchamp girl was talking about when Blake met the Jr. Council is exactly what I was thinking.

            Honestly, I don’t think that Joanna getting the lordship would make it so that Duchamps stop getting married off in arranged marriages. In fact I think it would be the opisate. First getting all these allies by using the Duchamp daughters as bargaining chips worked great for getting lordship, and second now they’d want to strengthen their conncections to other cities in order to prevent attacks, and extend their influence even farther. Time to marry off some girls!

            1. I’d say not likely given that a Bane is a soul in a constant state of agonizing torment and broken and not even the crappiest of families would do that to their own kin, but then I remember what Crone Mara does to her children.

            2. Oh good heavens, that’s creepy. But I could imagine it being done — I’m sure there’s a clause in the marriage contract somewhere that if you attempt to magically force your wife to have a son then the family gets to come turn you into a Bane or whatever. If there was a clause like that, then Jeremy would have been exempt because it wasn’t him doing it, it was his God.

            3. Jeremy wasn’t even told about the Duchamp female bloodline trick; he only knew because his god told him. And when Blake interrupted Laird’s time ritual, the Duchamp muggle husbands didn’t know anything either. It may be an open secret that the Duchamps only bear female heirs, but it’s definitely not public record.

        2. I don’t think there’s enough firepower inbound for Johannes to be participating. If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably created by a Duchamp husband.

      2. The council has mentioned a bounty on Thorburns, and increasing it in the past. Since their has really just been one awakened Thorburn so far, it’s pretty clear that it was for the other Thorburns. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they get out of the house and find out a few other family members had bizzare “accidents”.

    2. “I mean lets face it, it keeps getting worse.”

      You sound almost surprised. There are still so many ways it can get worse I can’t guess which will happen.
      Trainwreck in progress, maybe drop a plane crashing onto it. Sprinkle with a killsat misfire, for good measure. The night is still young.

      1. You mistake my words for surprise. I long ago realized that things can only get worse for Blake. That the biggest twist possible in this story would be an actual happy ending with him alive. No I was warning people. Give up hope and optimism where Blake is concerned. It’s easier that way.

        1. Blake’s actually doing pretty okay for himself now that the Karma is off. I don’t think he has had many downturns in his power growth. A few times his moves weren’t completely effective, and one time he lost the Hyena for less than a chapter.

  21. I am going to have to go back and look, but I thought Blake could lie? Unless he is lying when he says he has to tell the truth…

    1. His proclamation to Ur seemed to have weight, and since then, he’s always acted under the assumption that he can’t lie.

      But Rose initially didn’t believe that, and even the Junior Council members wanted him to take on the Seal of Solomon specifically so they could be sure he couldn’t lie.

      So we don’t actually know whether he can lie. He originally performed the practitioner ritual successfully, so maybe he’s still covered by that. Unlikely, though, given that he can’t see or use normal spirits anymore like a practitioner.
      Or maybe, if he’s somehow related to Barbatorem, Barbatorem’s Seal also covers Blake. Etc.

      In any case, I’m not sure if Rose & co mentioned the no-lies objection once they found out what he was, and imprisoned him in the library. If they didn’t mention it, it’s conceivable that they somehow know he can’t lie.

    2. Blake could lie while he was in the drains, because he was so unconnected to anything and everything. He may still be able to lie because he is no longer a practitioner and doesn’t have the Seal of Solomon, but Ms. Lewis’ statement is no longer persuasive either way.

    3. I’d guess that if he keeps asserting that he can’t lie, (and actually follows through with it and avoids lying,) it’s going to eventually BECOME true. Just gotta convince the spirits.

    1. Only the designated heir carries the Thorburn diabolist karma. The others have bad karma they generated on their own, but the effects are relatively subtle unless you have a ton. The successful ones are clever and tenacious enough to succeed despite the effects.

    2. The Thorburns are by no means “innocent” now. They may not have been formally inducted as practitioners, but the wool has been pulled off their eyes. With spirits regulating the world, any definition is nebulous and ever-moving – that’s part of the reason it’s good to define yourself fully as something, so you can rely on that part of your identity for power, for definition. Consider Blake: His weakest point was the transformative point in the Drains, where he neither embraced his nature as an Other or was able to retain his connection to humanity and practitionerhood – he could not see the spirits, he couldn’t draw on his nature as a bogeyman, he hadn’t consumed spirits, he still had to face his anchors. After he crossed, he gained more power, bit by bit, starting with the Hyena.

  22. I’m curious about what’s going on in the rest of the town right now. Admittedly Blake and co are killing most of these Others outright, but at least a few must be being bounced back. Molly’s bell wasn’t just tolling for them.
    I believe the revenant said something about it being open season. I’ll have to look it up, but I can’t remember if he said something like “you Thorburns” or “you guys”. I imagine the Thorburns seem like the easiest targets, but nothing’s saying nobody’s picking a fight with the Behaims or Duchamps tonight. They might be going after Johannes too, but somehow I doubt it.

      1. Rose is probably just reinforcing the Rule of Three, Attack Behaim Rep. I mean, the guy who tampered with evidence and opened fire in a police station? Molly Murdered? House broken into? Duncan is basically Leet/Uber. Now Sandra has some leverage, she did something similar with Blake in the police station, but Blake broke the connections. Also she and her husband still need to get dinged for that lie, if not forsworn outright. Rose knew she was coming. It won’t end well for them.

        Corvidae… well he just got himself access to glamour (that ring of hair, was Blake’s prize I’m pretty sure), he is a god, and he has free reign. Plus Crone Mara and her centuries of prep for her attack.

        The Faceless Woman bounce and possible reverent bounce are likely the least of the issues. Up thread someone mentioned that natural Bane’s are infectious and its highly unlikely Callan’s soul and soul taker could get in/out of the library easily.

            1. Yup. Away from her, it turned black. The whole “silver-haired, ice-princess, lady-of-war, kuudere” thing is part of her currently selected trope package.

              Girl’s probably a raven-haired, rosy-cheeked shrimp when she doesn’t wear a false ID. ;P

            2. Wait, what chapter did it say her hair was black?

              Also, if he has glamour on hand you can say that the Duchamps are about to experience a very real problem amongst their ranks.

            3. Ag, man! Remember when he was making that glamour-ink using the hair? It was definitely black, then. xP

              I’m being too damn lazy to find you a quote, though. [blushes]

  23. Blake needs to do his “release control to get new reflections” thing so he can get the bane’s claw in one hand, and the hyena in the other, and be an unstoppable killing machine (ok… he can still be stopped, but causing posionous blight in one hand, and unhealable wounds in the other, that’s pretty deadly).

    Midge still alive?

    Where are those homonculi?

    We got the blood. We got the darkness. Aaaaand here comes the FIRE!
    Is this the first itteration of blood fire darkness, or third?

      1. Yes to which? That blake needs to go all ultimate killer of living things on everything outside, midge being alive, or something else? Oooor all the above?

        1. I’m definitely seconding the Bane sword. The one problem is that Blake only really told the others how to kill it, and didn’t do anything himself, so it makes a really crappy trophy on his part…

          1. If in a life and death situation I had to pick between the “scratch you and it won’t heal” blade or the “scratch you and you die” blade, I know which blade I’d choose.

          2. Also, rule of three. Peter fought it three times, and on the third it was killed and he claimed the claw as a trophy. It probably would be a lot more dangerous to Blake than Peter, and given how Blake consumes spirits, he’d probably wind up ingesting spirits of death if he did pick it up, and change his nature for the worse as a result.

          3. well he reclaimed the hyena three times now, and bane sword is Very very close to the hyena, so if he claims this one as well, he can reinforce the ability to claim weapons that are associated with death and loss.
            Plus knowledge is power, and it was blake who found the knowledge of his weakness, which led to the chain of events that caused the Bane to be beaten. So if the spirits recognize this, he’s just as responsible as Buffy-er-Eva is..

            1. We are talking the same spirits who have a difficulty in working out that when a somebody “hangs” themselves, they really need to factor in the one who did the actual pushing… 😛

            2. Yes. Those same spirits. If blake did nothing, Bane wouldn’t have died unless he turned on Eva after killing everyone else in the room. If the spirits gave Blake one of his three wins when he called the cops to stop the time-barrier ritual, the spirits will award him a win for stopping the bane thingy. Blake didn’t stab the Bane, nor did he arrest Duncan/Sandra, but he was at fault for both, and the catalyst for both.

            3. I figured Eva knew exactly how to counter it – why would she bring a freshly cut stake otherwise? In fact, Eva even said the stake was her guarantee against that thing.
              So the ones who should get credit, if there’s credit to be had, are Eva and possibly Ellie, but not Blake.

            4. “So the ones who should get credit, if there’s credit to be had, are Eva and possibly Ellie, but not Blake.”

              Ellie wouldn’t have know that the stake would be really good against the Bane if Blake hadn’t told her.

            5. She’s a witch hunter! Chapter 1.01 even mentioned fighting with vampires. How could she not know? She even said “This is my insurance against that thing, but I don’t have any reason to save you”.

            6. Eva knew, yes, but ELLIE did not. In fact, Eva only brought the thing out to taunt them with it AFTER blake mentioned it. Then she suggested they use their own bones. If not for blake, she wouldn’t have been playing with it to taunt them (because they wouldn’t have known the importance of the thing), the “omega thorburn” wouldn’t have known they needed that thing in order to save Peter, and she wouldn’t have injected who knows what into Andy, forcing Eva to slay the Bane.
              Blake put all that in motion. He used his resources, found the information, gained the knowledge, and kickstarted all that.

              Saying that Blake doesn’t deserve the credit is like saying tattletale isn’t responsible for any victory taylor/undersiders had, even though without her, undersiders would’ve been dead countless times over.

              The spirits acknowledge the whole “knowledge is power” thing and associate with it as such. Blake made a call to the police when he was glamored as a child, and won a victory over him, even though blake didn’t actually do anything, he just informed the police about something, and THEY were the ones who apprehended him and stopped the ritual.

              The exact same logic applies here.
              Blake killed/gained a win over the pocket-watch boogeyman, the twins, and the bane.

            7. I said, “Ellie wouldn’t have know that the stake would be really good against the Bane if Blake hadn’t told her.”
              You said, “She’s a witch hunter! Chapter 1.01 even mentioned fighting with vampires. How could she not know?”

              Ellie, not Eva.

              Eva was taunting everyone and telling them that someone (like Peter) should cut off a hand/arm then try to stab the Bane with their exposed bone.

              Blake read about green (living) wood in the book and told everyone (including Ellie). Eva probably already knew (in hindsight, using a “living” weapon against an “incarnation of death” is probably a good idea), and since the cat was out of the bag she switched from exhorting someone to cut off an arm to taunting them with the green wood stake that she had. Peter noticed that had it, called it out, Eva taunted them with it, and then Ellie made her move.

              Ellie didn’t know that a green wood stake was good against the Bane until Blake told her (and everyone else at the same time). Ellie also didn’t know that Eva had one until Peter pointed out that Eva was taunting them with it.

            8. I think it’s entirely plausible that everyonewho was involved in beating the Bane get some credit for it. Karma is essentially a reputation system – multiple people’s reputation can be impacted by the one event.

            9. Well, yes, but I wasn’t talking about just getting credit itself, but more about getting enough credit and the clout needed to be able to use the bane-blade and to be more associated with death and permanent-damage, and claiming weapons of his foes

      1. Blake’s loss against Ur might possibly have counted. “Maggie Holt” was present there. At the very least, it featured tons of darkness and fire. And e.g. connections could be considered the “blood” part.

  24. You know, Eva’s going to be really pissed when she carries her brother to the hospital in the morning and realizes that she carried in a glamoured Other, while her brother died back at the house. Thanks, Corvidae.

  25. I somehow went into this chapter with the following thought: “I wonder how they’re all going to make it out of this alive?”

    Stupid me. This is a Wildbow story. Silly plot reasons do not prevent terrible things from befalling the characters. Poor Callan. I was starting to like him.

  26. Didn’t the Bane turn to dust? Not saying baneblade wouldn’t be metal as hell, but… Yeah.

    Now I seem to have completely forgotten where Rose went. It’s vexing me.

    Peter may be rightfully scared, but if he’s half as sharp as he’s been played up to be, playing the stoner/redemption seeker angle might be perfect for him. Going proper White Hat, and sticking to it, would help a lot and make for a pretty good character I think.

    1. Nah, just into component parts. So there are still weird praying-mantis scythe bones lying around. Of course, given that the whole point of the green wood was to dispel the forces of death concentrated into the bones, I’m not sure a bane-blade would have more than symbolic value. Not that symbolism is unimportant, but the bit about actually containing a corrupted soul is what made the thing so nasty.

        1. Wait, what? You’re segregated? You’re grounded? If they were being punished, why would they get to go shopping? Sorry, i have no idea what you’re saying.

      1. It’s probably just a sweet souvier in Peter’s hands….

        But where did they get a giant praying mantis bone in the first place to make the thing? Preying mantis have exoskeletons, but not bones.

        1. I assume they reshaped and repositioned the victim’s bones appropriately. When you can reanimate the dead, I doubt a little boneshaping is beyond your capabilitie. The scythes are probably reshaped rib-bones.

    2. Going proper White Hat, and sticking to it, would help a lot and make for a pretty good character I think.

      Or, y’know, going Behaim-style White Hat. He seems like the sort who could pull it off

  27. laughs bitterly oh, isnt that rich! the psychotic bitch claiming she’s better then the kids she tried to murder. wonder how many innocents ( the the usually used meaning- someone who has done nothing immoral) she’s killed as brushed off as collateral damage? i REALLY wish one of the assembled thornburns called her on her bullshit.

    1. Well, to be fair she’s nutty in the head and she knows it. At least she never screws over Andy. But it takes them dying to get their shit together, after they tried to get Rose committed.

      I’m not defending her, but Eva and Andy at least work together fairly well without needing to be prompted.

  28. Man,talk about laser guided karma,the real kind,not the idiot stuff that can be gamed and that obeys 5000 year old rules.So Eva denies a despairing sister the help to save her brother,despite her loving her brother a lot,proving she cannot sympathise with others at all,and that she is an egoist and,worse,she mocks her for it?she gets poison on her brother for revenge.

    On another note,wasn’tOrnias element fire?uh oh.

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