Duress 12.5

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The holes in the bookshelf were widening as claws and weapons pierced the wood.  With each thrust, each chunk that was torn away, there were books that fell from the shelves, the railing and ladder-stairs popped and creaked as metal strained.

“Should that be happening?” Peter asked, looking around.

“The doors have only held up this long because they’re part of a distortion in reality,” Tiff said.  She was drawing in chalk on and around the bookshelf, while Ty was drawing on the floor.  Alexis had a book open.

“I’m asking again, should that be happening?

“In an ideal world?  No,” Tiff said, her attention on the diagram she was drawing out.

I could recognize bits and pieces here and there.  I recognized one of the symbols in the dead center, writ large, as an elemental ward, one of the more elementary ones we’d learned from Fundamentals.  Not containing, but pointed outward, with fractal-like lines extending out from the four points of the diamond.

Ty, on the other hand, was drawing a diagram on the floor.  The diagram was more of a wheel or Ouroboros.  The snake eating its own tail, the diagram fed into itself.  Not facing outward, not facing in.

“A gate,” I observed.

“I’m hoping so,” he said.  “Alexis?”

“We need to sacrifice something of value, destroy it irrevocably, and say a few words.”

“Define ‘value’,” Peter said.

“If you have to ask, it’s probably not valuable enough,” Alexis said.

“I’m starting to hate this whole thing,” Peter said.  “Karma, which apparently means you can’t lie, but when you want details, you can’t get a damn straight answer either.”

“You’ve basically summed up the last few weeks of my life,” I said.

“That’s reality,” Ellie said.  “Everyone tells you to do this, do that, there are rules and they fuck you in the ass if you obey them, and if you don’t obey them, then they fuck you in the ass.”

“There’s a lot of ass-fucking going on in your worldview, huh?” Peter asked.

“Fuck you,” she said.

“I think,” Tiff said, “that just like real life, you can be kind, honest, and decent, and it’s something that helps you, even if it’s in subtle ways.”

“Says Tiffany,” Ellie said, “Happy go lucky, smile and it’ll all be alright!”

“Shut up,” Alexis said, looking up from her book.  “You don’t know anything.”

“I know that I got dealt a bad hand.  Shitty family, get diagnosed with a learning disorder finally, and it all makes sense.  But it’s when I’ve already decided to drop out.  But oh, hey, mom and dad didn’t notice I had problems because they were too busy divorcing.  I drop out, dad mostly disowns me, mom helps me get by only if I do favors for her.  I figured it all out pretty damn quickly, how everything works.  If I want something, I have to deal with others to get it, and everyone I deal with wants to take advantage.  The only way I’ve figured I can make it is if I lose well, or if I don’t play their fucking game.  Be a good little loser.  But oh, hey, if I’d actually just smiled and been a good girl, it’d all have worked out fine.”

The sarcasm was thick with that last line.

“I’m not getting into this,” Tiff said, hunched over her diagram.  Alexis came to her side, book in one hand, a wooden box in the other.  Tiff took the wooden box and set it on a shelf, as part of the diagram.

That Tiff was hearing Ellie at all was kind of amazing, considering the variety of claws and other limbs that were starting to reach through the holes that had been opened in the door.

“You’re not getting into it because you admit what you said is stupid?”

“Ellie,” Alexis snapped, “Shut up.”

“I can speak for myself, Alexis.  Ellie, I’m not interested in discussing it,” Tiff said, her voice tense, “because I think you’re wrong.  You guys don’t have a monopoly on shitty families, and you don’t have a monopoly on shitty circumstances.  My family’s personalities were worse, I’m pretty sure my upbringing sucked more than yours, and I still believe what I believe.  Keep your chin up and persevere and there is a way through all this.”

“Your family was worse?  How?”

“Their personalities were.  If you go outside just personalities, you get the whole ‘dark magic’ thing going on in the background, and yeah, your family wins.  But for personality, a lack of basic human decency, my family trumps yours.  They weren’t fancy or complex or even varied in their horribleness, but they were bad, and bad enough that I’m not interested in discussing it or elaborating.”

Ellie opened her mouth to answer that, but the death glares from a few others and an increase in the intensity of the pounding on the doors kept her from actually speaking.

“Valuable thing,” Alexis said.

Ellie reached into her vest pocket and pulled out a trinket.  There was a woman’s face cut in ivory, against a tarnished silver background.  It swung on a silver chain.

“I thought I stopped you from looting the house,” I said.  “I didn’t see you pocket that one.”

“That was you?”

Alexis took the brooch.  “Works.”

The brooch was placed in the center of the gate.

The scratching and pounding had stopped.

There was only silence outside.  No growling, no footsteps or splashes, no laborious destruction of the wall.

It was not a good silence.

“Hurry,” Christoff said.

“Having the thing isn’t enough, we need to destroy the valuable object,” Alexis said.  She still held the book.

“I don’t have a sledgehammer, sorry,” Evan commented.

As if the word sledgehammer had invoked something, a heavy mass slammed into the bookshelf doors.  Several of us stumbled.  Books all across the library fell from their shelves, and even the floorboards shifted position so they didn’t all lay flat, before they resettled into their old positions.  Approximately.

The damage to the doors had spread, every hole almost twice as big, every crack three times as long or twice as wide.

The doors wouldn’t take many more hits on that level.

“Holy shit,” Peter said.

“What was that?”

“Fuck,” Alexis said, eyes back on the diagram, “We need to annihilate this pendant now, and get out of here.  Think.

More silence from outside.

“Biggest, heaviest thing in the room?” Peter asked.  “Desk?”

Our eyes collectively fell on the old writing desk.  Old fashioned, it probably had as much overall mass as a grand piano.  I’d tried to move it alone, when Rose had trapped me in the mirror, and I’d failed.

“All together,” Alexis said.

Everyone, Eva and me excepted, gathered around the writing desk.  A collective effort to lift it-

Another slam on the door.

The cracks and holes opened further.  The mirror I was dwelling in rocked side by side violently enough that I thought it might fall over.  Peter caught it.

Metal yawned, and dust fell from the ceiling in plumes, every joint and joist, nail and screw in the room straining and popping as reality found itself at odds with the configuration of things.

I could see a figure on the far side of the doors.  Deep brown skin, eyes like  liquid gold, hips wrapped in wispy white cloth that was gossamer-fine.  Genderless.

“Djinn,” Alexis said, breathless.  “Lift.

The Djinn turned his back, walking away.  It was going to come back, most likely, and it was going to act.

Fuck.

Big and bad enough that the brainless little homunculi were afraid to approach while it was taking point.  The scariest Others that rational individuals steered clear of were steering clear of this thing.

The group waddled over toward the diagram, table held between them.

“Careful,” Alexis said, voice strained with the burden. “If we mess up the lines, we won’t get another chance.”

I knelt, my face almost pressed against the mirror.  “Left.  Alexis, Ty, swing your half left a half step…”

They moved.

If all four legs came down…

I saw Roxanne step away, more in the way than helping.  “Roxanne, move the tome to your right, put it under the back leg, furthest from the pendant.”

“Why-”

Do it!” Kathy hissed.

Roxanne did.

“A little bit right,” I directed.  I saw Roxanne back away.  Now!”

They dropped the desk, hard.  A leg that was a three-quarter foot by a three-quarter foot in solid, laminated wood came down.  With the books on the far end, the one leg came down independent of the rest.

It broke the pendant.  It also punched through abused floorboards.  As the other leg on the same end came down, it did much the same, if rather less seriously.

“Shit,” Ty said.

“It didn’t work?” Tiff asked.

“It didn’t work,” Alexis said.  “It was supposed to open up the gateway in the moment of-”

The Djinn hit the doors again.

Third time’s a charm.

The door broke.  Tiff’s ward went off.

Snow.

Even without the ability to see connections, I could make out how the sudden formation of snow followed certain patterns.  Cold air flowed into the room from outside, and where it did, snow appeared, growing in size and intensity as it did.  It followed the same general outline as the fractal pattern, causing snow to build up and spread across the shattered door, reinforcing it.

The floor continued to crack and break, something giving way.

The writing desk had punched a hole in the floor, and the hole widened as the pressure of the desk’s weight overwhelmed the integrity of the floor.  The desk went onto its side, and then down.

It seemed the pendant wasn’t an acceptable valuable object, but the writing desk served.

I hoped there wasn’t anything too valuable in the drawers, because we weren’t getting it back.

Not from there.  The space below was hostile.

“Oh god,” Green Eyes said.

She recognized it too.

Not the Drains.  But not the house either.

Some other part of the Abyss.

The Djinn had disappeared as the snow had appeared.  Maybe it didn’t like cold.  Maybe it had done its task and decided to go.  But other Others were now making their way forward, some having more difficulty than others against the miniature snowstorm.

Eva was making her way down the ladder, her brother’s wrists bound together, his arms wrapped around her shoulders.  Strong as she was, she was struggling with the burden.

I hated to say it, but if she was going there with that sort of burden, it would probably kill her.  I’d hoped to have time to hammer out the rules, to give them some idea of what to anticipate, and how to prepare themselves.

“Grab what you need and go!” I shouted.

I moved to the mirror Alexis was wearing.

We descended together, as Alexis leaped to the nearest available platform.

If I’d had time to warn them, I would have told them not to trust any footing.

It gave way.

The fall was, as falls went, pretty damn rough.

I managed to catch Alexis partway, wrapping my arms around her, and absorbed the worst of the impact.  Bent nails, broken glass, and spikes of wood tore at my back and sides.

One of my hands found a handhold.  I latched on, feeling my shoulder nearly jerk free of the socket as the sum total of her weight and mine hung from the one arm.

There was no footing beneath us.  As the fixture collapsed, it fell.  Fragments of wood and chunks of rubble hit the wall and bounced off, or hit other pieces of falling debris and bounced off that.  It disappeared into oblivion, far, far below us.

Joining the writing desk, I imagined.

A steep vertical surface, air thick with choking dust, fog, and darkness.  As far left as I could see, vertical surface.  As far right as I could see… more vertical surface.  Up and down… the same.  Disappearing into darkness and fog, a good kilometer or five.  There was far more light than there had been in the drains, but it was almost more hostile.  Red and orange, flickering violently.

The nooks and crannies that dotted the surface, irregular, were windows.  Spaced too far apart, or clustered, they took different forms.  As if sections of building had fallen and somehow jammed together, like a game of Tetris.

Several hundred feet away, running parallel, there was another building of the same composition.

As the lights in one building died, the lights in the other made up for it, or happened to go out at similar times.  A fluorescent light hung half-off the ceiling in the room opposite me, and it made the shadows of handholds dance deceptively.  In other places, dirty and burned lightbulbs cast a mottled, dappled light onto the wall, suggesting handholds where there were none.

Apartments.  The surface Alexis had aimed for had been something like a flimsy fire escape or a window washer’s platform.  Or, more accurately, it was a trap, rigged by some local resident or another.

“Fuck!” I heard Ty hiss.

When I looked up, I saw that he’d found a handhold, only to discover that it was serrated with broken glass.  He fought for a foothold and failed to find it, as his fingers bent into a clawed position, trying to avoid the worst of the glass.  Blood ran down his hand and arm.

Peter had wrapped his arm around a piece of wood that stuck out from an area of the building where things had simply blown out.  His bad hand was now fighting for traction, as the wood creaked.

I couldn’t quite make out the others, due to angle or the like.

My arm strained, creaked and popped as I raised Alexis up, lifting her.  She huffed out a small breath, halfway between a gasp and a whimper, as her hands found purchase in a gap where brick became wooden slats.  Her arm jerked as silverfish came boiling out.

“Got it?” I asked.

“Not really that good,” she said, her voice strained.

“You won’t find good here,” I said.

“Got it,” she said, her eyes scanning me.  I wasn’t sure whether she was answering my question or statement.  “You’re out.”

I looked around.

“I’m home, I guess,” I said.

She didn’t have a response to that.

I abandoned her.

Climbing, I ignored the rats that lurked just out of sight, ready to bite as I found a handhold.  I held firm when I tested a foothold and it proved to be only rubble, crumbling and falling.

Christoff was struggling to climb up to a ledge.  There was a note of panic in the movement.

“Christoff,” I said, my voice as low and soothing as I could get it.

I could see him tense.

He tensed more as he looked down and saw me.  Rather than freeze, he started to climb faster.  Not out of fear, but because it was the only thing he could do.  Up there was a horizontal surface.

My branch-covered fingers dug into stone, oblivious to the scratches and scrapes they endured.  I clawed out a position and climbed up.

“Help,” he said.

“Focus on finding a place to hold on,” I said.

“Up there-”

“It’s a trap,” I said.  “I guarantee you, it’s a trap.”

He was breathing harder with every passing second.  Fear was winning.

“Find a place to hold on,” I said.

He nodded, a tight gesture.

Roxanne, a short distance away, had wrapped herself around a section of wall.  The part of her that was more indoors was serving as a platform for innumerable earwigs to flow over her and through her hair.  She shook her head, and made small sounds, digging her longer fingernails into her ear, speared and dead bugs scooped out in the curve of her nail, along with blood.  I wasn’t sure if it was the bugs making her bleed, or if the panic of having bugs crawling beneath her clothes and into her hair, eyes, and ears was driving her to dig into her own flesh.

Evan flew up to me, wings flapping.

“Help her,” I said.

“What?  Man, bugs are not a part of my diet.  Except for that one time I was trying to fix my power running out and that was bad and ick and-”

Help her,” I said.  “And save your energy.  There aren’t a lot of safe places to roost and rest those wings.”

“On it.”

He flew to Roxanne’s shoulder.  I saw a glimpse of him pecking at the bugs that were making steady progress towards her ear canal.

By the time I reached Peter, Green Eyes was there.  Her tail wrapped around the wood, and her arms strained as she held it up.

Tiff, Eva, and Ellie were all in the same place.  Ellie was managing the burden of her brother and still managing to keep Ellie from slipping, her shoulder offered as a foothold.

Kathryn… I was pretty sure I could make out Kathryn further below, standing on a window ledge, about two floors below me.

“Kathy,” I said.

She looked up at me.

“There are good odds that monsters will lunge out of those windows to grab you,” I said.

She started making her way to the side.

I headed to Ty, who was still struggling.

His breath fogged from the cold as he panted, accepting my help to drop down to a position about five feet lower than he’d been.  There were wooden slats with spaces between, and a light shone from within.

The lights were on inside, some old fashioned, almost torches in sconces, the  others were fluorescent, flickering constantly.

Ty found a position, holding onto slats that wobbled when he moved his arm, only one side nailed in.

“Is everyone stable?” I spoke, trusting my voice to carry in the near-silence.

I didn’t get much in the way of responses, but nobody said no.  Their focus was on not falling, and the seemingly endless drop below us.

“There’s no relief here,” I said.  “No respite.  We need to move fast, get out of here before it gets to be too much.”

“Inside?” Peter asked.

I moved over, peering into a window.

It looked like a bad motel.  A television was on, but showed mostly static, the image flipping over and over, flickering.  There was a threadbare armchair, a wall with paint missing, and paint chips littering the floor.

Too easy.

I didn’t know what this place was, but the rules had to hold true.

“Let’s limit how much time we spend inside,” I said.  “This place is meant to ruin us.  Break us down and spit us out.  If you see something that looks safe, assume its a trap.”

“We need to head northwest,” Alexis said, “Only two hundred feet.  Cardinal directions should hold true.”

Only.

“Which direction was northwest?” I asked.

She held one arm out away from the wall, so she could point off to one angle, off to one side.

We’d have to go over and inside.

“Green Eyes?” I asked.

“What?”

Oh, she sounded pissed.  She didn’t like having to come back.

“How are you managing?”

“Considering that I don’t have feet, and there’s only so many handholds?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Considering that.”

“I’m fine.

“I think… we’re mostly okay, by virtue of being bogeymen,” I said.

“Yeah.”

“We’ll help you guys out where we can.  Slow and steady is better than rushing.  We just need to head a bit to the right, then we need to find a way in.  Ask if you need help or if you can’t find a way.  Okay?”

I heard one okay from elsewhere.  I really hoped it was someone I knew, and not a stranger’s voice.

“This place is going to get to you,” I said.  “Tiff, Ellie, all that stuff you were mentioning?  Alexis?  Your time on the streets?  The longer you stay, the more you let down your guard, the more it’s going to dredge up that stuff.  It’s going to put ideas in your head…”

“Let’s just climb,” Alexis said.  “And hope we get out before we run into that.”

I wanted to say more, to prepare them, to explain the different things, but my arms didn’t get tired like theirs did.

“Okay, go,” I said.

I felt an almost genuine fear for the welfare of my friends, watching as they climbed.  The building was so pitted and worn that there were spaces to hold on or stand on, but they were treacherous.

“My hands are tired already,” Christoff said.

“Callan died to buy us time,” I said, turning to check on him. “If there’s strength to be found, find it there.

He nodded tightly.

Behind him, something slithered out of a window.  A man with a centipede body from the waist down, long hair and beard, homeless guy chic, pale and skeletally thin, he had pale, rainbow-hued eyes like a bug’s to be found between eyelids that were stretched taut, unable to fully close over the orbs.

Ignoring us, he climbed the side of the building, and his upper body disappeared into a crack in the wall.

The lower body continued to climb and crawl after him, almost unending.

Six or so seconds later, the tail end of the lower body, bearing an earwig-like set of pincers, disappeared the way the upper body had gone.

When I looked from my oblivious younger cousin to Ty, I could see the alarm on his face.  The fear at what Christoff had completely missed seeing.

How easy it would have been for the centipede man to just grab Christoff.  A tug, a pull, and Christoff would be falling.  Holding Christoff, he could have carried him off, and there was little Christoff could have done.

“Oh god,” Peter said, under his breath.  “Oh god, this sucks.  This sucks, this sucks…”

Roxanne shrieked, loud.

“Roxanne!” Kathy called.

“They’re crawling under my clothes.  I…”

She screamed louder, a different sort of scream.

“Roxy!” Kathy said.  “Pay attention!”

“They’re under my skin,” Roxanne said, almost like it was the least reassuring mantra in the world.  “They’re under my skin, they’re under my skin, they’re under my skin.

Her voice grew higher pitched and edged with pain, her body tenser, with every utterance.

They’re in my skin.  They’re inside me.  They’re under my skin.”

When I looked, I could see the red lines tracing maze-like paths across her body.  Here and there, something popped out, a tiny black wriggling form, traveled an inch or two over the outside of her skin, then burrowed again, blood welling at the entry and exit sites.

“There’s nothing there,” Peter said, flat out lying to her face.  “Whatever you think you’re feeling, there’s nothing there.

“This place is psychological,” Alexis said.  “The book said as much.”

Roxanne shook her head, tightly.  She wasn’t moving.

“I don’t know what to do,” Evan said, before pecking at one bug that had emerged, spitting it out.  “She can’t hear me.”

“I can hear you,” Roxanne said, in a small voice.

The others were making forward progress.  Roxanne was dead last, only just behind Kathy, who was struggling with the climb, and Peter, who wasn’t functioning well with one hurt hand.

“You can hear me?” Evan asked.

“Different rules,” I told Evan.  “Less layers separating you and them.  Besides, I don’t know how much innocence you hold onto, here.”

“Oh.  Hi, Roxanne!”

She made a sound, whimpering.  She shook her head, and bugs flew free, but her hand very nearly slipped.

“I said hi!  I’ve been grabbing bugs off you, least you can do is-”

“Hi,” she said, her voice tiny.  “Please stop talking.”

“It’s like Tiff said,” Evan told her.  “Chin up, persevere, and you can make it through.”

She shook her head, a small gesture, as if even a normal shaking of the head threatened to unseat her from her precarious position on the wall.

I edged closer to her.  The bugs, and one hurt hand, and all the rest of the abuse from Eva’s beating earlier, and she was the youngest one here, Evan excepted.  She needed the most help.  Green Eyes was with the main pack, further ahead, and I’d have to trust them to the wall-scaling mermaid.

“I can’t move,” she said.

“You can do it,” Evan said.

“I can’t move!  My… I keep getting shooting pains down my arms.  The bugs are eating me, they’re eating me!

Going shrill again.

“Channel that fear,” Evan said.  “Keep moving.”

“Fucking bird!  I will grab you and I will take you down with me if you don’t shut up!”  Roxanne shrieked.

Evan looked up at me, helpless.

I was only about fifteen feet away.

“I’m going inside,” she said.  “I can’t-  I can’t-”

Evan flew away as she reached a window, climbing in past broken glass with enough panic fueling her actions that she wasn’t careful.

Evan landed on my shoulder.

“It’s okay,’ I said.  “You tried.  Help Kathryn.”

It took me ten long seconds to reach that same window.

“Roxanne,” I said, peering inside.

The interior was haphazard, the floor tilted so the left side was lower on the left, the right too high.  At the other end of the hallway, maybe twenty feet away, it was the opposite.  A window marked the exit onto the other side of the building.

Impossibly tall and broad, it was only twenty or so feet thick, here.  One room thick.

My cousin was sitting on the floor at the base of the window, head buried in her arms.

“Roxanne,” I said.  “If we don’t go, we’re going to get separated.  There’s no going back home if that happens.  We need Ty to draw the circle.”

“It hurts.  I’ll… I’ll walk inside.  It’s not as cold in here.”

“The place will mess with your head, and it’ll lead you away from them.  There’ll be places, I’m sure, that won’t have routes, understand?  This place is under no obligation to be convenient.  Just the opposite.  It’ll let you think you can follow them, and then you’ll hit a dead end, and you’ll have to go outside, on the wrong side of the building.  This is what it wants.”

“Roxanne… what would your dad say?”

“Dad?”

“Uncle Paul.”

“He’d say… I don’t know.”

“Then I’ll take a stab at it,” I said.  “He might tell you that all the others are coping.  They’re dealing.”

“Bugs aren’t eating them!”

She looked up at me as she said it.  The rents in her flesh, the scars, were reminiscent of how Callan had died, the poison eating along the paths his veins marked in his skin.

“They’ve got their own stuff to deal with.  But the place is going to try to scatter us.  It’s going to fuck with everyone, in turn.  Do you want to be the one who failed and got lost, when everyone else succeeded?”

“That’s stupid,” she said.  “I’m not some stupid idiot that can be convinced like that.”

“Roxanne,” I said, my voice quiet.  “Man the fuck up.  You don’t get to give up here.  For once in your life, you don’t get a second chance.”

Oh god.  I had so many memories of my dad and Uncle Paul talking in just that tone.

I didn’t stop.  “This place, it has a kind of intelligence.  Think of it as a person, doing its utmost to fuck with you.  Okay?  Fuck with it back.  Win.  Get out of here.

It was a language she spoke.  It struck home.

Mute, nodding, she found her feet.  I offered her a hand and she took it.

She startled.

Three feet away from us was a man in a rumpled business suit, tie too tight at his neck.  His hair was mussed up, like he’d just woken up.  His sleeves barely reached past the halfway point on his forearms, and he wore no socks or shoes.  Hands and feet both were covered in deep gouges that disappeared beneath the fabric of his suit.  His face pulled into a wide grimace, not quite a frown, not quite a smile, just pain and ugliness, every one of his teeth visible, even the molars and wisdom teeth.

There had been zero sign of his approach.  Not a sound.

“No,” I told him, firm.

His lips moved too fluidly as he closed his mouth, licking his lips for a moment.  The mouth closed, lips moist, but it was almost out of place on his face, like it wasn’t centered.

“Okay,” he said, barely opening his mouth.

I kept a wary eye on him as Roxanne eased her way out of the window.

He didn’t move.

“My hand,” she said.  “It’s hard.”

I watched the man in the ill-fitting suit as I followed her out, straddling the window and finding a foothold.

“Climb onto my back,” I told her.  “Focus on holding on.”

The man didn’t budge an inch.  He didn’t shift his weight, barely breathed…

Roxanne found handholds in the branches at my left shoulder and the open hole at my right side.  Her legs wrapped around my midsection.

I inched away, getting as far as I could from the window before I turned to look for the next handhold.

“You stink,” she said.  “Like gutterstuff.”

“Cope,” I told her.

The main group was so far away.  Three-quarters of the way to where we needed to be.  Kathy was still below, but she was halfway or so.

We’d almost backtracked.

I wanted to be there before they went inside, because all signs pointed to these apartments being occupied.

I looked back toward the window just in time to see the man’s head emerge.  Slower and more fluidly than a person should be able to move, his head at an angle that would have only worked if he were lying down or standing on a wall, it was more like a puppeteer was extending a cardboard cut-out through the open window.  His bloody, cut-up hands emerged, a bit too late, gripping the windowsill firmly.

His expression was neutral as he stared.

I edged away, and against my better judgment, I took risks, reaching further, testing things less carefully.  My body was strong and it didn’t get tired, allowing me to rely more on one grip.

I saw one Other emerge, then another, poking their heads out of windows three floors above Kathryn.

Clowns, female, their paint smeared on so thick that it made their flesh look like paper mache.  The colored-in parts looked half-done, like it was smeared on in crayon, pastels, or charcoal.

The noose fell, missing Kathryn.

I redoubled my efforts, striving to cover more ground.

They reeled it in double-time, until the noose was halfway between them and Kathryn, and let it drop again.

Evan flew up, wings flapping, and the noose moved aside before it could settle around her neck.

The lights around Kathryn went out, and the next attempt was conducted in near-pitch darkness.

When the lights came on, Kathryn was struggling to keep upright while removing the noose from around her wrist.

I felt Roxanne’s arms tighten around my neck.

Evan hopped down to help her, working on undoing the knot.

One of the silent clowns jumped from the window.  The other end of the rope was wound around her arm.

I hurried to close the distance, but there were no handholds in the brick.  I was forced to backtrack, paying for rushing with a loss of time.

The rope went taut.  It was connected to something in the clown’s room, which made the falling clown a counterweight.  It went down, and Kathy’s arm was hauled up.  She lost her footing, and was forced to catch at the top of a windowsill with the elbow of her free arm.  When the initial momentum was gone, she dropped again, and caught herself again, legs dangling for a few seconds before she found the previous footholds once more.

She weighed more than the clown did.  That meant she wasn’t pulled up endlessly.  She was, however, suspended in place.

Evan continued working on the knot, and I continued heading over to her location.

A peek backward showed that the man with the ill-fitting suit was still in the window, staring.

A peek downward indicated that the clown was fumbling around its person.

Drawing a knife, it clamped the knife in its teeth.  It began walking up the side of the building, reeling itself in as it went.  Towards Kathryn.

Twenty feet away, fifteen, ten…

The knot came undone.

The clown fell about ten feet before its counterpart caught the rope, stalling its fall.

Faster, I thought.

We were equidistant from Kathy now, but I was burdened, and the clown acrobat had clearly done this before.  Her face was determined, though her eyes were literally empty – there were only black spaces rimmed with red where the eyelids had been cut out.  She had a light smile on her over-painted face.

“Roxanne, if I leave you behind,” I said, “I’ll be able-”

“No,” Kathryn said.  Her voice was strained.

“You’ll-”

“My arm is dislocated,” she said.  “There’s no point.  There’s nothing you can do for me.”

Ah.

“Focus on Roxanne,” she said, “And when you’re done getting her to safety, go to fucking hell.  Bringing us here?”

I didn’t have a response.

Hooking one arm inside a windowsill for leverage, Kathryn stuck out one foot in the direction of the taut rope.  She wound the rope around her leg, and then swung it.

The clown was forced to dance to the right as her rope moved.

Kathryn did the same thing in the other direction.

The clown moved like a pendulum, back and forth.  Its forward progress had slowed.

Kathryn met my eyes.

I edged downward, aiming for the rope.

If I could get between them…  I did have the Hyena.

The clown danced left, then danced a bit right, and clawed her way a few feet higher up the rope, until she was fifteen feet below Kathryn.

Another dance to the left, playing along with the momentum, within two feet of me.  A dance to the right-

A window shattered.  A large hand seized the clown by the throat.

The rope fell loose, still swinging as the clown girl let go.

The clown’s arms went limp at her sides as the hand continued to squeeze.

The hand let go, and the clown dropped.  Tumbling down much as the debris had.

I passed under Kathryn, then climbed up, to give a wide berth to the window the hand had reached from.

The lights went out, then came back on again.

Something dropped.  It might have been a sink, or part of a toilet.  But Evan was in flight, and gave Kathy a push.  She swayed, and was forced to catch at antoher handhold with her sole good hand, in order to stop from falling.  The chunk of porcelain disappeared into the void below us.

“Don’t,” Kathryn said.

“I just saved your life!”

“Save it better!” she snapped.

She was panting, and I could see the shine of sweat on her brow, despite the fact that it was cold enough for our breath to fog up.

She looked up, wary for more ‘slapstick’ falling objects, and then edged along to another spot, finding another handhold.

“Kathy,” Roxanne said.

“Get going,” Kathryn said.

“But-”

“Get going, you little idiot!”

Roxanne was the one being told to go, but I was the one doing the work.

I continued following the others.

Kathryn, in turn, followed me.  With only one arm that functioned at all, she had to be doubly sure of footholds, and sometimes there was only one, one place to put her foot down while she lunged for the next surface to grab, with swaying, flickering, and misleading maps of light and shadow.

She followed the route I forged, and remained silent as I mentioned the various handholds and footholds, what was good, what to watch out for.  No breath for a thank-you.

Rose let the book drop onto the coffee table.  She stood there, staring down at it, another two books stuck under one arm.

Her expression was grim.

“What happened?” Ty asked.

“One second,” Rose said.  She scrawled a symbol on the coffee table in chalk, looked around, then circled it.  “Need to make sure we have privacy.”

“What’s going on?” Evan asked, flying closer.

“The benefits of doing research,” Rose commented.  “I found him.”

“Him?”

“Our recent visitor,” Rose said.  “Blake.”

“Oh,” Ty said.  “Shit.”

Shit indeed,” Rose said.

“He’s in the books?” Tiff asked.

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Is he for real?” Alexis asked.

“He thinks he’s telling the truth.  For the most part, he is,” Rose said.

“Then that’s… not a bad thing, right?”  Tiff said, a bit of cheer in her voice.

Alexis picked up the dropped book.  She turned it over, then opened it.

Evan hopped up, cocking his head as he read over Alexis’ shoulder.

“No title?” Ty asked.

“It’s not a text,” Rose said.  “It’s a diary.”

“Oh.  Your grandmothers.”

“There’s a lot to be said for what gets left out,” Rose said.

“Left out?”  Evan asked.

“In the diary, she talks about binding the Barber.  I was doing some fact checking, so I could be sure there were no surprises with the dead man’s switch, and I noticed the discrepancy.

“What is it?” Alexis asked.

“A power the Barber has.  Blake is a vestige.  It’s a question of how it was made.  And why.  The Barber is a demon of ruin.  It ruins by way of reflections.”

“Reflections?” Evan asked.

“Cut right down the middle.  Or, more likely, cut out a quarter.  Let them get filled in and shored up as vestiges are prone to do.  One gets the friends.  One gets memories of school.  Another gets the ability to study.  Another gets the ability to fight.  Trauma to one, repressed memories to another, and all down the line.  Where there’s overlap, there’s enough memories to spare, or the spirits are filling it in.  Things get exaggerated in vacuum, expanding to fill the empty spaces.”

“You’re both vestiges?”

“I’m pretty sure we aren’t,” Rose said.  “We’re both more vulnerable to possession, but that’s not the point.  The bigger part gets to be real, the smaller part is the vestige.  But the way it’s done, there’s always conflict.  Which is the point.  The Barber makes his victim destroy themselves.  Fight tooth and nail for everything.  If one side survives, well, there’s nothing saying the Barber can’t cut away more of them.  Do it again, until all you’ve got is a ruined, mad, pathetic husk.”

“But Blake wasn’t-“

“The hostility was raw,” Rose said.  “It’s supposed to be subtle, but… coming from  where he did, I’m betting the subtleties have been ground away.  The way this works, one of us is destined to destroy the other.  Believe me, I definitely want to get rid of him, especially now that I know.  If he finds out about this…”

“He’ll want to destroy you.”

“He was telling the truth, when he said you were his friends.  If he finds out,” Rose said, speaking very carefully, “that he could get you back, get all of his old life back, simply by defeating me, that he could make headway by diminishing me, even, that we’re in a tug of war for every aspect of the existence, that we’re being driven to the point where one kills the other…”

She was rambling, and had lost the thread of her own statement.

“Rose-” Alexis said.  “What he said, it matches up with this.”

“He’s not real,” Rose said, “The diary says as much.  When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.  He’s… I’m going to need your help.  I’m going to need promises, because we can’t fly blind here.”

“But I like him,” Evan said.  “He’s got birds on him, and birds are awesome.”

“Then- fuck it,” Rose said, “Like him all you want.  But I’m going to have to ask that you stay quiet.  I’m genuinely frightened.  The stories that go with the Barber…  it’s usually a build-up, regular interactions with someone who overlaps too much with you.  Then conflict comes up, and the damage is… as bad as it gets.  Life-destroying.  And neither of us are complete people.  It’s pretty easy to do damage to each other.”

“It’s different here, though,” Ty said.

“But the pattern is still holding.  Grandmother used it, but it’s still the same thing.”

“Why?” Alexis interjected.

“Because she wanted a tailor-made heir.  Cut away all the bits she doesn’t like… like my having friends and ties to another city, or interests.  Retain the parts she does.  Then, when all’s said and done, if I can’t beat my reflection, maybe I don’t deserve to be her heir.”

“You want to lie?

“We have to,” Rose said

She injected a bit of Conquest into her voice.

Continuing, she said, “We can’t afford to be weak right now, or to have to watch my back for an attack from a fragment of my reflection.  I’m not denying it’s going to be messy, but we need to stand together.”

The others accepted.  Influenced, but not forced.  They made the call of their own accord.

It was only after the others had fallen that Evan finally relented to the pressure and promised to stay silent.

I felt the birdlike flutter in my chest jerk, twitch, then splinter, as if it were multiplying.

My entire body shuddered with the ensuing vibrations, as if I had a flock of birds within me.

“Blake,” Roxanne said.  She was slipping.

It took me long seconds to go still again.  I caught her wrist and pulled her up.

My chest heaved.

I’d stopped climbing.

But only just.  I’d been moving while the Tenements showed me a glimpse of the past.  We were nearly at the place the others had gone inside.  Ellie was looking out the window.

I looked back, and saw Kathryn making slow progress behind me, hugging the wall, oblivious to the damage she was doing to her one good hand, fingertips, cheek, and knees bloody where they’d been scraped raw.

I climbed up enough to hand Roxanne over, then headed down, giving Kathryn some support.  She wound up needing it, climbing up to the window.

I was last to ascend.

Ty was already opening the way.  A gate to the foot of the hill, outside Hillsglade House, near the trees.

Alexis glanced back and smiled.

I couldn’t smile back in return.

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458 thoughts on “Duress 12.5

    1. “I’m asking again, should that be happening?“
      two opening quotes instead of an opening and a closing

      lightbulbs
      usually light bulbs

      assume its a trap
      assume it’s a trap

      antoher
      another

      I saw Roxanne back away. Now!”
      I saw Roxanne back away. “Now!”

      Ellie was managing the burden of her brother and still managing to keep Ellie from slipping
      Eve was managing the burden of her brother and still managing to keep Ellie from slipping

      This is what it wants.”
      “Roxanne… what would your dad say?”
      isn’t it convention to leave off the closing quote if the next paragraph is by the same person?

      The noose fell, missing Kathryn.
      first mention of a noose, perhaps “A noose fell…

      The chunk of porcelain disappeared into the void below us.
      odd italisization

          1. I read Jim Butcher talking about what had to change when he made his stories into a TV series. One of the big ones is that all significant characters had to have names that started with a different letter. What he said is that the abbreviations for characters in the script used only the first letter and it was a very strong convention.

            So Eva / Ellie and Molly / Maggie violate the convention.

            But I think there’s more behind it – I think we have all seen the text where each word has the correct first and last letter but the middle ones are mixed up. And most people can read the text fairly well. So it is likely something in the human brain that keys on first and last letters more than on the others.

            So, it just shows that Wildbow is human. I may have my doubts. 😉 The only other person who I know of who put out good writing this fast is Isaac Asimov, and I think Wildbow has him beat for speed. Now go for the lifetime volume too… Seriously, fast, competent writers are amazingly rare.

            1. “I read Jim Butcher talking about what had to change when he made his stories into a TV series. One of the big ones is that all significant characters had to have names that started with a different letter. What he said is that the abbreviations for characters in the script used only the first letter and it was a very strong convention.”

              Man, adapting Superman must be a bitch since half the cast have the intials LL.

            2. David Weber has stated that he writes 10k words per day, which is staggering even by Wildbow standards. But 10k or so words two or three times per week is no slouch, so don’t think I’m down-talking Wildbow here.

            3. Re: David Weber: Wow, what a huge bibliography. But there’s no way he manages to write 10k words per day on average. On his website (http://www.davidweber.net/faqs/index/page:1/series:0), it said “When a book is coming together properly for me, I’ll usually hit between 5,000 and 7,500 words a day.”, but that’s certainly not his speed averaged over a full week, month, or year. Besides, it’s unedited text, and editing takes a lot longer. Web serials are really different from writing normal books in that regard – some book authors write a whole first draft of a book and then rewrite it to the point of throwing out most of the original text.

              You did cause me to update to consider the possibility that there are actually authors who write faster than Wildbow, but 5+ times as fast still seems highly improbable.

              Time for some numbers! If David Weber wrote 10k words per day, 5 days per week, then he could publish a 200 page book every single week! He appears to have actually written 71+ books between 1991 and 2014, but that’s still “only” ~3 books per year, rather than 52 books à 200 pages, or 26 à 400 pages…
              (In comparison, Wildbow currently writes 2-3k words per day, which corresponds to ~12 books à 200 pages per year nowadays.)

              Sidenote: David Weber apparently had to switch to voice-activated software after a huge wrist injury, and this actually made him more productive. Boggles my mind.

    2. Typos:

      • “Old fashioned” -> “Old-fashioned” x2 (though I guess I’ve pointed out that specific item often enough by now, heh)
      • “eyes like liquid gold” -> extra space

      • “The group waddled over toward the diagram, table held between them.” -> Unfortunate phrasing, because the last paragraph talks about homunculi and Others, and one might misunderstand who “group” refers to.

      • “Ellie was managing the burden of her brother and still managing to keep Ellie from slipping” -> “Eva was managing”; also, “managing” appears twice

      • “I felt Roxanne’s arms tighten around my neck. Evan hopped down to help her, working on undoing the knot.” -> The “her” here refers to Kathryn, but might be misinterpreted as refering to Roxanne.

      • “Oh. Your grandmothers.” -> grandmother´s

      Other stuff:

      • “while Ty was drawing on the floor.” is repeated soon after as “Ty, on the other hand, was drawing a diagram on the floor.”

      • In the paragraph beginning with “Something dropped.”, the italics seem off.

      1. Well wasn’t it the third time’s a charm or the snow ward worked as the few words without actually saying it, by which the Abyss has its own rules.

    3. The interior was haphazard, the floor tilted so the left side was lower on the left, the right too high.

      Not necessarily a typo, but seems weird. Maybe “so the near side was lower on the left”?

    4. so the left side was lower on the left –> slightly redundant

      She swayed, and was forced to catch at antoher handhold with her sole good hand, in order to stop from falling. The chunk of porcelain disappeared into the void below us. –> another, and italization is off

      “We have to,” Rose said –> needs period, period

    1. I mean, seriously? Evil Clowns? I’m gonna have nightmares. At least the Drains were spacious, but this house of horrors was a goddamn nightmare made real. Roxanne probably didn’t make it out okay either.

  1. Alright Blake time to get your murder on and destroy Rose because obviously the Drains would never lie to you. The Drains are you friend. It’s just looking out for your best interests. Now get betraying.

    1. I don’t think there’s any chance that it’s a straight-out lie. The witch (who seemed reliable) heavily implied that Blake had to visit three times to learn three truths about himself; this is the second part.

      However, I think that it’s likely incomplete, just like it was before.

      1. The Tentements showed him the past like the Drains had showed him the present. It’s not a lie, it’s just choosing to show him what it would take to hurt him the most in order to make him change. The bitter truth.

    2. I honestly don’t see “murder rose” as Blake’s first reaction. One of his big things is telling the system to fuck off, and this seems to opportune time ignore destiny and try to make-up with his fated arch nemesis. That’s not to say he won’t be pissed she kept it from him, but I don’t think he’ll go full on adversary.

      1. Honestly, my read on Blake is he’ll try to find some way to fix it. That’s what he does. Even faced with the fact that his doppelganger is a mortal enemy by inescapable nature, he’ll look for some way to heal the breach. He’s a lovable bonehead that way.

        1. I’m betting on a ‘become a real boy’ solution at this point. I don’t know how he’d do it, but having both Rose and Blake become real, fleshed out beings seems a great way to fight the Barber.

      2. And I think I know how he’s going to do it: if the Barber creates Vestiges by cutting apart a reflection, then all you need to do to defeat his power is put the mirror back together again.

        And, fortunately, the Drains have changed Blake into a being that’s capable of doing exactly that: he’s hollow inside, so all he has to do is shove Rose inside him, or let Rose rip him open and wear him like a Blake-skin suit.

        Then Blake/Rose winds up a Bogeyman-Practitioner hybrid with a drip-feed of power and corruption from an Incarnation of Conquest. Hilarity is practically bound to ensue.

          1. They may never be able to re-merge into the original, but one maybe able to give all of themselves to the other. Like a more extreme version of when Blake bled himself to give power to Rose. Basicly one lets the other absorb them.

      3. Well, naturally Blake’s going to try to fix it. Rose on the other hand… my best bet is on “bind, lock in box, bury box, forget about box”
        Once she gets a free moment, of course (hahaha who am I kidding, nobody rests around here)

    3. I have no idea where you’re getting all this hostility against Blake. To date, Blake has been by far the most patient and reasonable character in this series by far. To the extent that I frequently curse him for being too much of a pussy that is never able to give his all to a fight for fear of hurting the people trying to kill him.

      1. “I have no idea where you’re getting all this hostility against Blake. To date, Blake has been by far the most patient and reasonable character in this series by far. To the extent that I frequently curse him for being too much of a pussy that is never able to give his all to a fight for fear of hurting the people trying to kill him.”

        This. Blake has always shown amazing restraint and concern with others. How many people could really deal with the shit he keeps getting thrown at him without snapping? He’s always shown admirable restraint and concern, even as he keeps becoming less human. I mean I’ll admit it. By now I’d probably be trying to brutally murder any Duchamp or Behaim I could if I was in Blake’s shoes, cause I’d have lost it long ago.

        1. I want him to get angry, though. His patience is certainly admirable, but at this point, he really ought to get revenge for people trying to kill his friends, and killing Callan, and wrecking the house, and selling him out to Conquest, and so on…

          (Well, all that was before the revelation in this chapter. But I still want him to take revenge on Behaims, Duchamps, Johannes and the witch hunters. Rose may possibly have an excuse, but the rest don’t have any whatsoever.)

          1. Even as much as I curse at Blake, to an extent he is right though. It not the Behaim childrens’ fault they were brainwashed. They didn’t get to pick their family and the environment they grew up in. If I were to speak for myself I would say I wouldn’t end up as the cunts those children grew to be but the blame largely rests with their parents. Same for the Duchamps. Johannes though, hasn’t really done anything overtly evil so far, and as much as I’d like to say Sandra is misguided her actions suggest she is a bitch that needs to be put down.

            It was the Behaim and the Duchamp elders that decided to murder an innocent girl and Maggie made a terrible mistake, but she was deceived by those cunts. So yeah, a number of the elders have to go, they’re a sorry bunch of assholes and I definitely would entrust the future with Sandra who tried to kill off Blake just for existing.

            As for Rose, I honestly do think she is a bit selfish but yeah she hasn’t done anything worth killing her over so far and we’re missing a part of the story, so we haven’t seen the context behind her actions after all Blake was missing for a month. She is a bitch but she isn’t evil on the same level as the Behaims and Duchamps. Oh right, the absolute worst one who deserves death the most is that witch in the cottage.

            1. I didn’t mean Blake should take revenge in the insane karmic “an eye for an eye” version where he harms the children of the enemies because his friends were hurt. No, I meant taking revenge on the adults. Doesn’t have to be murder or torture or involve physical pain at all, but they certainly have to pay in proportion to the insane harm they caused (or tried to cause – they certainly expected their attack to kill anyone present in the house), ideally in a way that leaves them weaker off and Blake’s side stronger. Trophies like the Hyena or Letita’s lock of faerie hair come to mind.

              Take away or destroy all their implements and practitioner powers for a start. Or find a version of doing this that doesn’t get punished by the universe.

              Obviously Blake isn’t in any position to actually do any of that – and by now everyone probably knows how to bind him – but he also isn’t powerful enough to forever protect everyone he cares about from these unceasing attacks.


              Concerning Johannes: The attacks on Hillsglade House involved all three major Jacob’s Bell powers. The djinn that ultimately broke the library door was Johannes’, and that’s enough to make him a valid target for revenge. Not to speak of the many Other attackers who may have also been sent by him. The clockwork monster was a Behaim construct; but the revenant who poisoned Callan and nearly killed Peter was probably sent by Johannes or one of the Duchamp husbands.

              Oh, and there’s the whole issue of the vestige torture park, but I’m not sure if Blake knows about that. That’s a long-term issue and completely irrelevant until the battle for the Lordship is over. But the torture committed there is very real – the vestiges there are just “lower resolution” versions of Blake, and Blake, at least, is fully capable of suffering.

            2. Eh, Crone Mara was old when Corvidae was new. She’s a jerk, and should be made to face justice for her bodysnatching trick alone, but otherwise she’s not entirely unjustified. Evil, but mostly in her home life, as it were.
              Sandra wants power, but if she’d had the selfishness to keep her son despite destroying the Duchamp all girl spell, she’d probably be a lot happier, and dead. She just follows the older Duchamps too much.
              Johannes actually seems to deserve the position of Lord, even if his methods are a bit repugnant, and seems like he’d be both fair and reasonable.
              Laird is dead, and can’t speak in his own defense, but seems to have had a bit of a destiny that he was trying to avoid. He was a jerk, but ot entirely unlikable.

              The actual situation seems to boil down to just about all the established powers being, if not idiots, at least far too set in their ways, the people who want change being either fairly new or seriously abusing vestiges, and everyone else mostly following along with their faction. Crone Mara is the only one I’d say deserves to die, but then I remember Callan and decide that Andy, in the Church, with the Rocket Launcher is almost certainly justified.

  2. And there goes the popular idea that Blake is Barbie. On a side note, I thought Granny couldn’t actually sicken me anymore than she already did, but I was wrong… It also explains the Blake/Rose raw hatred dynamic, and why Faysal was willing to help him. Namely, making him stronger makes it more likely the two of them will destroy each other in their inevitable Battle Royale.

    1. Idle tinfoil hat theory:

      What makes Rose so certain that Granny wanted her to win?

      Blake has a lot of strange things stuffed into him, but more than anything else he wants to change the system. This was one of Grandma Rose’s desires, too, so it seems extremely weird that she would give it to a throwaway.

      I think she has a bigger plan at work than Rose (or Blake) suspects.

        1. Agreed. However it was supposed to play out originally, I’m pretty confident him losing a fight to a First Choir demon was not included.

        2. Probably.

          But remember, making predictions about the future is a thing in this setting, so it’s hard to completely rule anything out.

        1. Yeah, at a bare minimum, Grandma Rose clearly had a bigger plan in mind than just ensuring a heir. Her dialog in her flashback chapters makes it clear that her plan with Barb (which presumably split Blake and Rose) was part of a bigger scheme to change the entire system; Rose’s interpretation of it just doesn’t make sense in that light.

      1. My tinfoil hat theory. Who said that Barbie only cut them into two pieces?

        I also suspect Blake is the original now. Rose says that when a man is cut in two. Interesting she didn’t say woman or person. And I notice she used the Conquest voice to get them to agree.

        Of course this is also coming from the drains, which are trying to break Blake.

        1. How would the statement have been finished if a woman had been cut in two? Would the resultant genders be reversed?

          Looking at Rose’s statements there, I see nothing stating that he/she was a man before being split. She may know otherwise — or she may be assuming it, because of course she’s not going to jump to the conclusion that she’s the one who’s soulless.

          Blake does not strike me as soulless.

            1. He wasn’t, initially. In fact, initially Rose seems to have been heartless, or at least she lacked a heartbeat. Blake clearly had one when he was the real one (it’s mentioned in the early chapters.)

              I wonder if the journal might have changed when Blake was eaten by Ur, come to think of it?

            2. Ur just erases connections, and reality floods in to fill the resulting vacuum. This changes memories, but not the past. Andy’s notes on Blake just disappeared; they didn’t change.

    2. Belatedly, I should add: This also explains Faysal’s generous offer to Blake (giving him a body if he joined their side.)

      If Blake had agreed, that would have killed two birds with one stone — Blake, as an ally, would be eliminated as an enemy; and Rose would be reduced to his visage again, eliminating her and the entire Thorburn threat. I guess Faysal didn’t trust Blake enough to go through with it without getting his agreement to be their ally first.

      1. Actually, I think it’s more likely that Rose would have been eliminated entirely – in order for Blake to become as human as possible, he has to regain the portions of himself he lost when he got cut by the Barber, and in order for that to happen, they would have to merge – and if anyone can create a path to enable them to do that, it’s Faysal.

  3. So yeah, sorry to everyone who thought Rose had a good reason to keep secrets from Blake and was protecting anyone else, but, well.

    Fuck her. I don’t feel that Blake should kill her, but only because I don’t want him to be a murderer; and because I think he’s better than she is.

    1. but she did have a good reason, she was scared blake might try to destroy her just so he could have his friends and his life back. now the reasonable thing for blake would be to try and dispatch those suspitions, unless he actually plans on hurting her out of dumb resentment

      1. And she’s going to try and off him once she’s done using him. It’s a two-way street.

        But what you forget is that Blake forced himself out of the Drains for their sake, not Rose, but to keep his friends safe. And here they all just stabbed him in the back by agreeing with Rose of their own volition. Every single act from this point on and every act before he’ll look at it through those lens, knowing they chose her over him. It caused him emotional pain and that pain equals more of him falling to the Abyss, more spirit-birds and branches.

        And since you only deal with a Bogeyman by banishing them back to the Abyss or sealing them, and she already tried one method, you know he’s going to be paranoid.

        1. I dunno that they did stab him in the back. Honestly, from their perspective, what possible good could come from telling him? It just seems likely to set him and Rose against one another and that’s in noone‘s best interests.

          Of course, we know that this information will lead Blake somewhere awesome ‘cos he’s Blake. But they don’t know that.

          Wonder what visions the others are getting right now…

      2. Being scared that someone might hurt you absolutely does not justify murder in any form. Rose’s actions in that flashback are straight-up reprehensible; Blake accused her of being just like Laird and Sandra (who wanted to murder him and, later, her, based on the same logic — that they’re supernaturally dangerous and might hurt them in the future.)

        And he was exactly right, and that was exactly how she was thinking. All of her attempts to keep him in the dark were based solely around an effort to protect herself at the cost of someone she knew was basically another thinking, sentient being. She made no attempt to determine if he would actually hurt her; she made not the slightest effort to negotiate or to communicate about the problem. She went straight to “protect myself by murder”, and any sympathy she might have gotten from me vaporized at that moment.

        Fuck her. Rose is just as bad as Laird was. This reveal straight-up makes her one of the story’s villains in my book.

        (I mean — like Laird, she’s not someone with no depth, no. But she’s another cowardly, self-interested practitioner determined to protect themselves and their status quo regardless of the cost to anyone else. Keep in mind that she is not just sacrificing Blake with this decision — some of the connections he had with her friends were vital to them, and she knows that they were damaged. She just doesn’t give a shit when it’s her life on the line; she’s not willing to take a risk for their sake because she’s scared. It is an understandable reaction, but still a reprehensible one.)

        1. “Fuck her. Rose is just as bad as Laird was. This reveal straight-up makes her one of the story’s villains in my book.”

          Agree

          1. I don’t trust this reveal. It comes courtesy of the worst place in the universe. The last reveal he got here that was intended to set him against Rose was missing some pretty damn vital context.

            1. Yeah, I’ll include the caveat that the Abyss could be leaving out some vital context.

              But still, I don’t think the slice we’re seeing here is entirely a lie — it lines up too well.

            2. What context was missing in his original Drains vision(s)? They showed Rose saying that she’d lied earlier about becoming a practitioner and that it wasn’t going to happen again, she was going to become a practitioner this time. Then there was his merge with Carl, but that was his trial, it wasn’t part of the visions that the Drains was showing him.

            3. The second vision, where Rose refused the rules of engagement, was the one that was missing context. It looked like Rose was going murderous and crazy, but she had a cunning plan.

              Admittedly, it fit the same pattern as Blake’s cunning plans, but still.

          2. Blake is being influenced by the drains. But lets not forget what has been influencing Rose. There’s whatever Corvadae is up to, and there’s Conquest. Hmmn to utterly destroy and opponent, and take everything they have for yourself, to believe you are destined to fight until only one remains…

            I’m not saying Rose lied. I’m saying that she told the truth as she sees it. And the fact Corvadae was around only makes me more suspicious.

        2. Not “Might” hurt you. “Is a piece of you that was carved off by a demon so thoroughly that you can’t even remember it and is going to destroy you, based on empirical evidence.” Rose was terrified-and we have no evidence that she was planning on destroying Blake, she just convinced the others not to tell him about it so that it wouldn’t flip some switch and turn on his murder mode. If anything, the fact that she was willing to trust him with their lives shows that she’s desperate and maybe, just maybe, willing to go out on a limb.

          Furthermore, Blake’s connections with his friends, by all evidence, are completely irreparable, but not irreplaceable anyway. They were eaten by a First Choir demon. Rose has, according to Alexis, tried her best to help them with that-which could be manipulation or a genuine desire to reconnect with the friends that belonged to her progenitor. Or both. I’m guessing both.

          Also, they haven’t been lying, otherwise they would have done a much better job of it. They’ve just been not telling him what he is, very openly.

          1. Rose indicates at the start of her speech that she wants to destroy Blake:

            “It’s supposed to be subtle, but… coming from where he did, I’m betting the subtleties have been ground away. The way this works, one of us is destined to destroy the other. Believe me, I definitely want to get rid of him, especially now that I know. If he finds out about this…”

            And I absolutely and completely disagree that her intuitions about their shared nature justifies murdering him. Again, your logic is no different from the logic Laird and Sandra use to murder the Thorburns. Blake was exactly correct when he compared Rose to them. Except that Laird, at least, can credibly claim to have been protecting other people; Rose was only protecting herself. So, fuck her. Seriously, how is she any different from them?

            Blake was willing to fight the drains when it tried to turn him against Rose. Blake has been trying to screw destiny and change the system at every turn. Rose? The first time she discovers the system puts her in any direct danger at all, she goes straight into sociopath-mode.

            Regarding his connections: Faysal indicated that the connections could heal, and Rose’s freak-out at them talking to Blake makes it fairly clear she was afraid they would (since that would weaken her position.)

            1. What we see is literally her reacting immediately after discovering that a massive portion of her memories were stolen from her and turned into an Other that’s potentially destined to destroy her. She’s probably having a complete existential freakout. We have no evidence that she continued to do so, or did not reconsider.

              Also, Faysal indicated that the connections could heal-but implicitly not all of them. I doubt the ones that were explicitly stated to have been eaten by a first choir demon will heal, because that rather goes against the whole point of being a first choir demon.

            2. His connection with Evan very explicitly did heal; there’s no other real explanation for how rapidly Evan came to sympathize with him. I mean, Evan was already plotting against Rose to break him out when he should have only had about ten minutes worth memories of Blake.

            3. “What we see is literally her reacting immediately after discovering that a massive portion of her memories were stolen from her and turned into an Other that’s potentially destined to destroy her. ”

              No, Blake was real. Rose’s memories weren’t cut away from her and turned into an Other, Blake’s memories were cut away form him and turned into Rose. “When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.” Blake was Granny’s choice for heir, because he walked away from the family, because he said screw it and just wanted to change everything, but Blake couldn’t ever inherit (being a man) so she cut Blake with the Barber and made Rose specifically so Blake/Rose could inherit. Blake is Granny’s plan. Blake is supposed to be the real person. Rose is only there because Blake got himself into a fight with ErasUr, lost all his connections and since Rose is the stronger one now, Rose gets to be real.

              Blake is not really a bogeyman — like Pinocchio, Blake has the chance to grow into a real boy (presuming he can find a way to build himself up a lot or tear Rose down or whatever).

            4. Blake fighting Rose for the chance to be real cannot possibly end well. The Barber’s MO is to split people into parts and have them fight to be the real one, destroying them both. Playing into that is stupid. I do not think Rose is playing into it, I think she locked her opposite number into a circle in the hopes of finding a way out.

            5. Good points, all of you. I think that Blake needs help from an Angel of the First Choir, a decent Incarnation, or something similar to patch him and Rose with. What he’ll actually end up doing is anyone’s guess, but ought to be fun to watch.

            6. Also, as to Blake’s Familiar Bond healing, I suspect that as a relatively minor demon Ur would need to eat at least one full end of the connection in order to destroy it completely. It didn’t. The spirits take the path of least resistance. If the bond was strong enough, it should stretch back over the hole, as it were. Rose was just uniquely positioned to take the loose ends.

              And my bet is still on Rose being not quite herself, and not being objective enough under pressure. The disadvantage of having a heart belonging to someone more complete, I suppose.

        3. Take into consideration that Rose is the perfect heir created by Grandma Rose. Think of this theory for a second. I believe that Blake was the original. Grandma pulled the traits out of Blake that she believed would make the perfect heir. She then set it up so Blake and Rose would switch when Blake dies. Take this for example, “When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.” This leads me to believe that Rose is the fake and she has realized this, but she will do anything to remain the “real” person.

          If this is true then maybe she is incapable of feeling compassion or wanting to coexist with Blake. If Grandma Rose was truly creating the perfect heir she would give it all of the traits to make it successful. I think that is why she then named Rose after herself, because Rose is her greatest creation.

          1. Grandma wanted Blake as heir — we keep seeing that Blake really wants to change the system, which is what Grandma really wanted as well. Blake is the one fighting, Blake doesn’t really want to summon a bunch of demons. Rose, on the other hand, wants to maintain the status quo, she was all for summoning demons first off. Blake is what Grandma wanted, but Blake couldn’t inherit. So she snipped him a bit with the Barber and created Rose. With Rose as an heir, Blake got to inherit and Grandma got her perfect heir (well, as perfect as she could make).

          2. Neither one of them is “the real one”. Barbatorem is a demon, and can’t really create. He just splits a person, and lets the parts gather whatever stuff is floating around until they’re more or less whole. Both Blake and Rose used to be the same real person.

            1. Yes, but was that real person a man or a woman? Were they named Rose or Blake? Did they run away from home and make new friends in Toronto or not?

              They are both real, but only one set of memories actually happened

            2. I want to say Rose is the real person, because Ivy doesn’t make sense otherwise. BUT if Rose had all the needed traits for “the perfect heir” that we’re assuming Granny was after, why snip her? So then it’s Blake as the original, but then we’re back to wondering why Ivy isn’t named Rose. And why all the pieces that wanted to change the status quo ended up in the male half of the cut.

              Epileptic Tree time… Granny wasn’t after an heir in Rake, merely a confusing sideshow. Something to keep the others and Others in Jacob’s Bell occupied while some other portion of her plan manifests. So you have Molly as first heir. Up to now I’d been assuming that she was just there to give the Lawyers time to set up the Rose/Blake thing, but what if a Granny actually wanted someone who could still be nice despite the bullshit the family put her through. Now, if she dies it most likely means hostile action on the part of the family’s innumerable enemies, so the proper response is to fight back. Rake has proven quite able to do that, next is Kathy, who seems like she’d be able to continue fighting, Ellie, who’d likely play weak and then stab a couple people, Roxie, who’s most definitely full of moxie, fighting spirit, and vim, then Ivy, who was 2 at the start of the story.

              She’d get to see, or hear stories about, all the ugliness that her cousins suffered through. But, because Granny’s dead already, wouldn’t have to deal with the contest for the House. If the preceding heirs are each able to hold on for a year or three, she’d even be nearing the point where she could start Practicing. She’d have a reason to try to change the system, and after a decade of war between the Thorburn Heirs and the town, people might be willing to listen.

              So my theory for the reason Granny split Rake, he/she had attributes desirable for making Jacob’s Bell understand killing heirs isn’t kosher, but was too gung-ho, requiring some way to keep it in the fight for longer. If Barber splits it, and the two of them keep bouncing in and out of mirrors whenever they die, they will last longer, and do more damage than if she’d left them as Rake. One gets the Thorburn charm, one gets a desire to fix things, so long as they’re not both out of the mirror at the same time they can’t kill each other, so they instead act as a rabid dog focused on the enemies of the house.

            3. I’m guessing Blake was named well, but probably not prophetically. The original was probably a man, probably not named Rose, possibly named Blake, and presume that if Barbatorem carved a woman the result would be another woman. I could easily be wrong, though. It’s partially based on real world genetics, and those probably don’t have much effect on old fashioned creatures like the Barber.

            4. Hey P, cool theory. Shame I disagree with you so much, we seem to have a lot in common.

              Only realized as I was typing it how funny that was. I swear, I don’t think we’re evil twins!

        4. To play Rose’s advocate:

          Let’s say Rose has the ability to try to figure out a way out of her dilemma that does not involve murder. This does not mean it is the rational thing to do, in an ethical system where one places oneself above any one other person.

          You see, she isn’t just afraid Blake will try to kill her. Blake is meant to kill her and she is meant to kill Blake. As far as we know, Barbie’s mirror images do not consciously choose to kill each other, it just happens. Thus, the chances that there is a solution that does not end in someone’s death is probably too small and risky to pursue (one has to wonder if she did bother to research peaceful resolution methods). Further more, if you find her actions reprehensible, you might have to accept that she might have had no choice, because she is following a pattern set by Barbie.

          There is also the fact that she does have the heart and the soul, she might be more real than Blake is. In this world, being an entity capable of thought is not necessarily the only descriptor of worth. Besides, if she is more real than Blake, if Rose was created in order to cut away parts of the original person, like this person’s friends, doesn’t it mean that Blake’s friends were originally Rose’s (or of this original person)? This isn’t clear, because we do not know the circumstances in which Blake was created.

          Don’t get me wrong, I find her actions horrifying, but not villainous. What I do find despicable is that she has been using Blake, taking advantage of him to further her goals. Or has her? Has anything changed between the time of this revelation and now? It’s been a few days since that.

          I also find far more reproachable that the people who were originally Blake’s friends sided with Rose (I know the connections shifted, but still), that they allowed this to pass and that, as far as we can tell, they didn’t have Rose investigate peaceful resolution methods.

          1. I’d like to emphasize that Blake’s vision happened shortly after the gang had met Blake. Everyone was shocked and scared, as acediamonds points out below. While any proposals that Rose et al. figured out something helpful are just speculation, it is important to consider that whatever they did and said at the time happened while they were scared and confused.

          2. “There is also the fact that she does have the heart and the soul, she might be more real than Blake is.”
            Maybe Rose lied, maybe she fixed/cooked the book. Maybe Grandma was wrong. I think we can safely say that Blake has shown more heart, more compassion, more empathy, than Rose has. Based on how we know that Rose lied the first time around, I’d say that she was probably lying this time too.

            1. The books could be completely accurate and still not apply to Blake. Remember that, [i]immediately[/i] before having any interaction at all with the Blakeguard, Blake was tampered with by an angel. I presume the tampering was meant as a counter-gambit to destabilize the Barber’s evil schemes.

              I doubt it takes much to give a bogeyman a pure heart, after all, if the bogeyman accepts the alteration of his own free will.

            2. Or maybe Rose read what was written in the book, but what was in the book wasn’t accurate. This would have been when Corvadae was around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if changing a few lines in a dairy to make some people enemies isn’t something he’d do.

              And I want to say this in general while it’s on my mind. It is not accurate to say a practicioner cannot lie. They can lie, they just have a penalty for it. A practicioner can lie just fine if they feel the hit to their power is worth it. In fact I’ll be amazed if just such a thing doesn’t happen in this series.

            3. Another point about the book: It can’t possibly refer to Blake specifically. No one knows who got eaten in the factory, even people who were presumably married to them. That means paperwork relating to them either got rewritten, got lost, or it just became impossible for anyone to read what was on it.

            4. Good point on the book. Though Ur doesn’t rewrite reality but only alters memories, so what’s in the books is accurate, but possibly incomplete. Remember Andy’s chapter – all notes on Blake simply disappeared.

        5. come on, we have seen multiple times that the praticioner world is “kill or be killed” she is not selfrighteous like laird who had a prejudige agains demonologists, she is just scared shitless of a boogeyman she has no memory of that aparently is fated to destroy her and has a lot of reasons to hate her

        6. When did Rose try to outright murder Blake? Worst thing she did was block him from the house and bind him while she tried to figure out what to do. Both sensible precautions when she doesn’t know to what extent he’s inclined to turn on her and try to steal her life, and not significantly harmful to Blake.

      3. Except Rose is the one that lied when she was in the mirror. Blake wanted to save her. It was one of his goals. Blake has been honest while being in the mirror.

        And while Rose used Conquest to influence a decision, Blake told Alexis that he could read her body language at the time and that she should be careful.

      4. You mean she is scared that he might be almost as bad as she is? That’s like murdering someone because you are worried that they might one day decide to punch you. Blake repeatedly showed that he had her best interests at heart, while Rose repeatedly showed that SHE DID TOO.

    2. Blake’s already a murderer, he killed Laird awhile ago.

      And Rose’s reason is fairly legitimate. Given their precarious position as the number one enemy of Jacob’s Bell, having to worry about getting slowly drained by Blake or outright killed is a fair concern, especially since Blake came back from the Drains and is a boogeyman known for being irrationally angry.

      1. Laird was not murder, they were in combat. Killed, maybe, but Laird stepped onto that battlefield knowing what was going down and not helpless.

        And while Rose may have an excuses, she fucked up by getting him involved. Blake already realizes that he couldn’t care about Rose properly once he returned. But the fact that his friends concealed this from him hurt the most of all, because ultimately they chose Rose over him and were planning on eventually killing him for it.

        1. The scene Blake just saw probably happened right after his reunion with Rose and friends during 10.1, which is before they had much interaction with him, and mind you during that conversation Blake admitted he was angry at her. They made promises then, so even if they wanted to tell Blake later after they bonded with him and realized he was a pretty good guy, they can’t without taking a major power hit.

          There’s nothing, I think, that points to them actually planning to kill him beyond Rose’s panic right after discovering her existence could possibly be taken. It’d be strange for them to hang out with him while he was trapped if they were going to kill him. I don’t think his friends are the kinda people who could/would do that.

          1. Rose is the one who’s going to pull the trigger, not them. But they know that and are hiding it for them. Whoever his friends were before, they’re Rose’s friends and practitioners.

            They put themselves in a tight spot. They hide it from him and torment themselves because he acts so nice or they confess and thus take a hit of power. The lost power can be regained, but the trust from making the promise in the first place would be damaged, even more so now that he knows about it.

            1. Yeah, they are certainly in a tight spot. I’m not sure I would blame them for the lost trust, since they were in a rough spot of not remembering Blake and having no emotional connection to him. I mean, it’s one thing to know that Blake is telling the truth and another thing to feel it emotionally. Same reason why I don’t blame Blake for feeling betrayed.

              This isn’t a good moment for anyone to lose any power, given everyone is trying to kill them. I do think that if Rose were to try and kill Blake now or in the near future, his/her friends would stop her and vice versa.

      2. It’s true that Blake already killed Laird. I would amend that to saying that I don’t want to see him give in to something as fucked up as this.

        But I absolutely do not feel that Rose’s reason is remotely legitimate. Again, this is the exact same logic Laird uses to kill Diabolist. Blake has never threatened her. He has never expressed an intent to kill her, no matter how pissed off at her he sometimes gets. He has been resisting the pull that drives them against each other, constantly.

        She hasn’t. She gave in the instant she really felt it. Because, again, she’s a coward. (And it’s not just because Blake was a strange Boogieman — again, read what I said above. She understood that Blake was a vital piece of the lives of many of her friends, and that their lives had been damaged and lessened by his loss. She just didn’t give a shit. All she cared about was protecting herself, regardless of the costs to anyone else. She’s a poster-child for everything that’s wrong with the practitioners of Jacob’s Bell.)

        I don’t feel that she’s worse than Laird or Sandra, I guess; but I would lump her in with them as ‘part of the problem’ at this point.

        1. This is also in the other reply I just made above, but that scene was immediately after Rose discovered what Blake and her were, right after she just met Blake for the first time where he said his anger was directed at her. We don’t know if she changed her mind about wanting/trying to kill him in the time between that scene and where we are now.

          I’m not saying Rose is a good person, because she’s not. She probably got the selfish half while Blake got the selfless half when they were split but while her actions are motivated by self-preservation, I feel her reasons are pretty legitimate from her perspective and from that moment in time.

        2. On the flip side, history says that the parts the Barber makes WILL destroy each other. Even if Blake has held his aggression in check, she has very good reason to believe that it will not last and he will undermine/kill her given the chance. As for her friends being damaged by his loss, I’m not sure there’s much she can do about that. The connections that did exist have been destroyed by a demon of ruin, and it seems unlikely that any amount of interaction with him can help that (at least, not any more than forming new connections with anyone else). Finally, the statement that she want’s to “get rid of him” is definitely the worst, but remember where this is coming from. You barely survive being introduced to the magical world, a number of skirmishes and a huge battle in Toronto. You run back to Jacob’s Bell with your friends only to end up with the entire town gearing up to take you down. A mysterious Other then shows up, knowing everything about you, claiming that all your friends are his. You do your reading and find out he is a piece of you (that is everything you are not) that was split off and is destined to steal your friends, your life, and then destroy you. If she intends to kill him, that is definitely wrong, but just as definitely understandable. Also note that she says “get rid of him,” which could easily include options other than killing, and that there could be any number of mitigating circumstances that the drains didn’t bother to share.

          1. If that scene happened before they trapped Blake in the circle, then she definitely had him at her mercy right there and decided not to try to get rid off of something that she believes will kill her.
            Or maybe she was just afraid he would come back again regardless.
            She apparently is confident enough to meddle a bit with the Barber, so she could have told it to wound Blake?

            If Rose believes the conclusion she came to, I don´t blame her at the moment, till she shows how she handles it further.
            We have seen what Pauz and Urr could do, so getting told that a demon of even greater power already set things in motion that are going to kill you, if you don´t act might be quite shocking for her.
            It is unlikely, that the Barber fabrications can be undone by sweettalking or that EITHER side of the reflections gets off better in the end.

            Of course, I still think there is a catch somewhere.
            Basically no part of Rose Sr. plan sounds like a good idea at this time.
            The lawyers involvement; using the ability of a greater demon on your own heir and then not warning her about it, thus possibly killing her and letting a demon-creation run loose; deciding she wants to change tradition and then going and make her heir-transition much worse than her own seemed to be. Including another family into her plan and then only using him for maybe getting a bit time at the end?

            But at the moment, whatever granny was planing doesn´t really change what Rose and Blake believe and neither actually tried to kill them yet.
            So I don´t blame either till they go for the kill (or something worse).

            1. Rose must have been told or found out some things. We don’t know what exactly Rose Sr. did or did not tell her, but anything Rose knew regarding Blake would have been erased by Ur, anyway.

      3. Laird wanted to die — the sooner he died, the longer his son got to live. So Laird kept putting himself in situations where he could be killed. In hindsight, it was actually incredibly noble of Laird to do that… noble as far as Laird’s family went — it was pretty crappy for Blake.

  4. “Because she wanted a tailor-made heir. Cut away all the bits she doesn’t like… like my having friends and ties to another city, or interests. Retain the parts she does. Then, when all’s said and done, if I can’t beat my reflection, maybe I don’t deserve to be her heir.”

    Well, that explains tha- wait, no it doesn’t. There’s still the basic logistical issues that mean both of them have to have existed in some form. Rose has to have been female and named Rose, because Ivy is not named Rose. Blake had to have existed and probably been male, because someone had the friends and being female would have totally changed the interactions with Carl. Lastly, Peter seems to have memories of both of them minus collateral damage from ErasUr, since Blake was friends with Paige and Molly and Rose wasn’t because house fight.

    On another note, going to the Tentaments remains the worst idea. It’s actually worked out even worse in practice than I expected; Green Eyes has terrain advantage in the Drains. None of them are very good at sheer vertical walls covered in traps.

    Also, welcome back malevolent insect swarm! Been a while!

    1. That was fucking scary. Bugs crawling around and inside a person, clowns, and a weird businessman. Creeped me out.

      As for the Rose/Blake reveal, there’s obviously going to be more to this since the Abyss gave it to Blake and it’s always a little bitch and likes to keep some key parts hidden.

    2. What I think happened is that originally, Rose was all of that. She must have spent some time in Toronto where she found the friendships, but then RDT cut that part away. The universe bent backwards to rationalize both of their existences, so a lot of things were rewrote to allow for the existence of both a “Blake” and a “Rose”, like the reverse of what happens when somebody falls through the cracks.

    3. Carl’s interactions wouldn’t have changed, and maybe would have fit better with a female Thorburn.

      Also, Tiffany and Alexis have been implied to have gone out before.

      The only thing that stands out is the Molly/Paige/Blake friendship, but that could be altered where the fake Blake claimed they “drifted apart” when in reality they broke up because of the female heir announcement.

      1. Or maybe they just got partitioned over to Blake after holding steady as friends? Rose’s background is completely friendless-I mean, in her section in Histories 8 it is actually implied that she has never actually had any friends.

        1. That’s what I’m thinking.

          Carl’s interaction isn’t scary from the perspective of him attacking and pinning some malnourished guy on a bed, but a girl? Yeah, you see where where the panic sets in.

          I also think that it fits with Molly/Rose/Paige better, too.

          I’m personally thinking that the connections were shifted over, but altered in places for consistency. Sexes were changed, acts were slightly altered and reasoning were made up on the spot due to the gender difference and lack of aspects for each party.

          Rose was never with friends because Blake got them and the trauma. Blake never got the parents because it fit with how they treated rose – naming her after the grandmother.

          1. Whoa whoa, I object.

            Carl’s interaction isn’t scary from the perspective of him attacking and pinning some malnourished guy on a bed, but a girl? Yeah, you see where where the panic sets in.

            What part of being raped as a man is less scary than being raped as a woman? The rest is fair, but I would argue that the emotional trauma is MORE severe, not less so.

            1. He was pinned down and threatened, but not sexually assaulted.

              The Blake never registered Carl’s ambush with any sexual implications, but it could easily be construed that way considering how everyone acted and how Blake reacted and treated it.

              Also, most* guys don’t assume they’d fall under sexual predation anyway unless it was made abundantly clear that’s what’s going on.

              It looked like it was to several outside observers, it could easily be describes as such, it was remembered similarly as such to the victim yet he doesn’t think it was.

              tl;dr I think my theory fits, but it isn’t my fault that it does to me. Blame society.

              *Not everyone is the same.

        2. They were Blake’s friends originally, then Grandma cut Blake and made Blake/Rose. There may have been something else involved, but that’s what we definitively know now.

      2. The big indication that the one of them who experienced the cult (henceforth known as cultperson(tm)) was male rather than female is that Carl kept sending women to seduce cultperson and keep them in the cult.

        We don’t know Rose’s orientation, so it’s not impossible, but it doesn’t really seem to fit Carl’s vision for his cult, which was fairly clearly gender delineated – men did the heavy lifting, women provided domestic and ‘recreation’ duties.

        And remember that cultperson had just finished a job putting up fences for a farmer, which is heavy physical labour that women are generally not employed to do.

        It’s not impossible that cultperson could have been female, but it would have been more unusual in a few ways if they were…

    4. because someone had the friends and being female would have totally changed the interactions with Carl.

      This actually makes things make more sense on the Carl front. Since Blake pointed out that someone had to be in the place he took up in his friends’ lives in Toronto, I’ve been assuming it was probably, though not definitely, a woman. Male-on-female rape is more common than male-on-male rape, after all, and nothing else in the memories about Carl indicated he otherwise preyed on men.

      Also, original-Rose would have been attracted to girls, probably? If the Barber gave that attraction to Blake, did he leave Rose asexual–something Grandma might have approved of, as it’s one less temptation or distraction from securing power?

      since Blake was friends with Paige and Molly and Rose wasn’t because house fight.

      Except in this universe where Rose ran away from family bullshit and became homeless and got tattoos and ended up on the bad side of a cult leader, she would be almost the same as Blake, so maybe that’s just something the Barber and Ur combined have taken away forever now: the Paige-Molly-Rose friendship.

      I mean, think about it. Somehow, in Blake’s memories, Paige-Molly-Blake were a trio of friends. Paige and Molly, despite being cousins and rivals, were friends. So the competition making it impossible for Rose to be friends with either of them? Might be just a gaping hole where demons have passed through.

        1. Not having preferences is arguably preferable to having the wrong ones for continuing the family line.

          Rosalyn said that the heirs before her married more out of convenience than romance anyway, and said the more successful ones married absolute bastards.

        2. That still doesn’t make any sense to me. Rose Sr. can split a man in two to create a woman, but can’t do anything about Paige’s orientation? Or can’t even comprehend the idea that Paige might be willing to have children with a man she doesn’t feel anything for (or via artificial insemination or whatever) in order to continue the family line?

          I suppose Rose Sr. might have been too conservative to consider those things, but it still seems really weird that she’d go to all those lengths and still leap to “nah, gay = not an option because they will never have children lol.”

          (I’m also not completely certain why Rose Sr. is so determined to see the family line continue forever into the future — how does anyone benefit from this? In some ways, the Thorburns leaving no heirs is for the best for everyone involved — but there could be rules or contracts or oaths we’re not seeing; various demons might get loose if the Thorburn line is extinguished, say, or it could go to some branch of the family that would be even worse. Although if that is true it might be worth letting everyone else know.)

          I mean, I suppose she might simply want her family to continue as an end unto itself, but that didn’t seem to be her primary concern in the flashback chapters.

          1. Maybe the property goes to the lawyers if the family line ends. There must be a reason why selling the property and ending the family line was never an option, possibly related to the Thorburn karma, or whatever originally made the Thorburns diabolists.

            The same question also applies to Fell’s ancestors – if they had had the option of never getting children, then someone would surely have ended their line.

            1. I don’t believe Fell’s family had been through very many generations. Joseph was a young man when he was forsworn. He’s probably only Fell’s great-grandfather. Give it a few more generations for the family line to lose all hope…

          2. This line of thought reminds me:
            I’m not convinced Paige got picked last because of the whole orientation thing. Especially now that we’ve really met Peter
            -they’re probably the most suited for the practitioner life out of all the Thorburns
            -I mean ffs, Paige is studying to be a lawyer
            -inheriting the house isn’t exactly a good thing, is it? Especially if you want to get anything done
            -seems odd for someone so conniving to put Paige last on the list, essentially making her the last hope, because gay. She had a reason for most other things

            I’m sticking with the theory that Paige is the favored child in this setup
            …speaking of which, where is Paige? Why didn’t she show for the family meeting? I mean, sphynx, but I don’t think the rest of the family would buy that as an excuse

            1. Plot twist; Paige is another reflection, that got the real properties Rose Sr. wanted in the heir.
              Having Blake and Rose much further top makes sure the two Vestiges are dead by the time it is Pages turn.

              No idea why she would be gay if Rose Sr. wanted the line to continue though or why she hasn´t shown any other traits we would expect from a reflection, like growing stronger or weaker and I think it would contradict Isadoras explaination about the stones falling together with Blake, since Blake dying would have meant Paige would have gotten stronger…

              Ok, that speculation is highly unlikely, even by my standards.

              Then again, not as unlikely as the idea that most of the Thorburns alive are reflections and that is why they are so content at fucking each other over.
              (/joke)

      1. I don’t know, Blake’s whole problem with Carl was that Blake could see how all of the people in the little commune were being manipulated by Carl.

        If it had been Rose in that situation, Carl wouldn’t have been trying to keep her complacent by plying her with girls to sleep with. Carl would have been sleeping with Rose himself – it’s pretty heavily implied that the whole free-love setup they had involved basically all of the girls sleeping with Carl and being more than a little in love with him.

        That would change their dynamic a lot.

    5. No, Peter has memories of Blake. Rose didn’t exist before this — memories of her was the universe twisting itself to allow for her existence and that’s probably where the lawyers came in. Grandma wanted Blake to inherit. So she cut him and the book said that the heart and soul created a female half (but I think Rose the younger lied about getting a heart and she just got the female part).

      1. Reading her exact statement (“the book says…”), she could have even avoided lying by writing that into the book herself.

        Although in both cases there’s a problem with her lying: She would have had to refuse to let any of her friends see the diary afterwards, since if they read it themselves the game would be up. I suppose that leaves Grandma Rose or someone like Corvidae modifying it…

    6. It does, I think. Granny takes an heir with traits she likes, but can’t inherit because it’s a he. Granny uses the Barber to cut out the destructively suicidal and aggressive traits, along with all of the outside-the-family connections. What remains, the majority, is rendered female and left with everything else (personality traits and local family connections). As previously noted, in the aftermath of a demon attack the universe tries to reorganize itself in a way that makes sense, glossing over the really weird parts. A woman named Blake would be odd, so the female part gains a name that she would’ve had if her parents had a girl instead. A person without those particular traits would probably have never left, so to the best of everyone’s knowledge she never did, and in the manner of vestiges what experiences and memories she had of home were exaggerated to fill up the spaces that were cut out. Blake’s memories were also exaggerated; it’s really subtle, but I think I can see an awful lot of overlap between Blake and Rose’s memory. Except for one thing I don’t remember: At what age did Blake abandon his family, and what is the latest memory Rose mentions having? If Rose’s memories end before Blake’s begin, then we might have an answer.

      I could be wrong, though. There’s an awful lot going on, here.

      1. The name problem is a bit more indirect than that. Blake’s parents would have named their firstborn girl Rose. Ivy is not named Rose. Therefore, Ivy is not their firstborn girl.

        As for timing, they both remember meeting Grandma Rose on her deathbed.

        1. Unless the Universe changed the babies name to make things make sense. Also if it was so important that a girl be named Rose to butter grandma up, why didn’t any of the other family members name a girl Rose?

      2. Hmm, when did Granny Rose specify that the heir had to be female? If it was after [main character prime] was born, it could have been male and just named Rose. Would it be a dick move to name a male child “Rose”? Yes. Would his parents care? I really don’t think they would, if it would curry favor. And we know [character] grew up resenting his parents anyway; this would be just one more reason.

        I rate this theory as ‘low probability, but amusing’.

  5. Hi guys,

    General status update.

    Feeling pretty wiped out, and getting a bit nervous about quality, because my focus is not entirely there. Got some real life stuff going on and am busy trying to find a new apartment. What that’s meant for the past couple weeks has been that I’ve been writing one day, traveling/seeing places the next, writing the next day, then looking for places again. There’s been very little downtime, and I’ve always been the type that’s functioned best with a day of hard work (and I have no problem doing 14 hour days to get a 7k word chapter out) and a day of rest and mild errands, with more serious errands on the weekend.

    I’ve seen places that were great, and been pretty discouraged when I couldn’t get them. I’ve seen places that were tolerable, but my home is also inevitably my office, as I write as my sole source of income, and if I sign a one-year lease for an apartment and it turns out badly (like the lightless place with like, two 4′ square windows on two stories and a mother with two very young tots in the adjoining ‘plex) it could impact the writing and thus impact everything. I’d rather suffer now and be ok in the future. So I’m being just a little picky while I’m also feeling the squeeze, so to speak.

    That’s not really your concern, but I thought I’d explain where my head is at. If quality dips (here or in the near future) please bear with me. I know I’ll get some readers urging me to take a break, but I’m fairly insistent on staying on course, because a break would hurt more than it would help, in virtually any and every circumstance. I’ve had a few days in the past couple weeks where I wouldn’t have updated if I wouldn’t have been breaking a 415+ chapter long streak, and I know I’ll have those days in the future.

    I’m admittedly glad to have a week coming up with no bonus update. Bit of time in the middle of next week to maybe have a day off in the midst of more apartment hunting.

    1. Sorry to hear about all that! I think the quality is still great, though.

      But as far as where your head is at and how it affected the story… do you think your recent experiences have had anything to do with the fact that your characters just had to traverse a world filled with endless creepy evil apartments? Hmm?

      I couldn’t help but wonder when I made the connection between Blake and co’s experiences and yours! Hopefully most of the apartments you have been to have not been as bad as the ones your characters just traversed; my recommendation is not to move into any place with bugs that devour you from the inside out and evil clowns who try to catch you with a noose.

        1. By-the-way, wildbow, you’re cool, I love your stories. I’m sure if we met IRL we’d get along just as well as I get along with everyone else in real life. 🙂

        2. OK — you’ve seen a few earwigs, woodlice and cockroaches in places that need a steam cleaner badly… Got it.

          But, seriously: if you need a week (or two or three) to focus on real life, give yourself that, mate. 😐 It’s not unheard of for people to take time off work to get moved in places, you know… [wags finger]

    2. Good luck finding an apartment! I know those things can be a bitch (so to speak) because the problems aren’t always immediately apparent, and the landlords are never gonna tell you about the horrifying ass-devouring alligatoctopus in the toilet or stuff like that, so you have to keep double-guessing them if they seem a bit shady and can we just agree it’s a pain?
      Maybe you could hold back writing bonus chapters for a while, and writing them as soon as you’re settled? Might give you some lovely precious downtime you appear to be needing right now.
      Remember, the community here is your friend and wants you to succeed. We’re behind you here! Go Wildbow! (Insert bullshit emotional stuff here)!

    3. This has been one of the most emotionally intense chapters for me, maybe in third place, with the chapter where Blake loses to ErasUrr being on top.

      I haven’t noticed a dip in quality, though I did find it very hard to figure out how the tenements were mapped. That might just as well be me, I never pay much attention to the spatial layout in stories and always get lost.

      Keep up the great work!

      1. Re: Mapping the Tenements: It’s a separate realm of reality, and one designed to break down its inhabitants into their component parts. Consistency need not apply.

      1. Well being put upon and broken down and worn dead tired is what the drains is all about. Or hell Blake’s life in general. So I’d say your doing a good job channeling things into your creative work.

    4. If it makes you feel any better, finding a good place is 90% luck anyway.

      Especially if you use Kijiji or something, then it’s like Russian Roulette.

    5. I can’t think of proper verbal encouragement in that situation except for platitudes, so I’ll refrain from that.

      But have you considered asking your Canadian readers for help with the apartment search (on your blog, in the comments, on Patreon, or elsewhere)? I don’t actually know whether your readership is large enough to include a meaningful number of readers close to where you (want to) live, but asking is probably worth a try. (This would probably work better if Canada’s population density wasn’t ridiculously small. Germany’s is 66x that of Canada.)

    1. I would not be surprised if Rose simply lied there, taking the hit to her karma and power because it was absolutely essential that she get her connections on her side.

      Nothing in Blake’s actions, thoughts, or personality so far have suggested that he lack a heart or soul, so if she got the one from the ‘split’, I would assume he got someone else’s somewhere along the line.

      1. Nothing saying that you can’t grow a new heart. Maybe that’s where Carl came from. Granny found the ghost of the guy, shoved the poor SOB who went through that into one reflection, and then packed him away….

        And who’s to say she didn’t do this to the other eligible heirs? If she went this far, she would have hedged her bets.

        1. This chapter seems to indicate that Carl was simply a real person — Blose (I guess that’s our name for the original person who was cut to make Blake and Rose?) had a real life and real experiences; and Rose notes that it would make sense to leave traumatic experiences on the side that was intended to be sacrificed.

          Given that, there’s no reason to doubt that the whole episode with Carl was just something ‘Blose’ naturally experienced.

        2. I can’t imagine it’s easy to hedge your bets when it comes to demons. There’s an inherent risk to using them in the first place, and doing it more than once (especially with the same demon) is just setting yourself up for disaster. Why give the thing you’ve trapped and bound more ways to act in the world?

          Rake, I think, was close enough to her ideal heir that she thought the risk was worth taking. If it failed, she lost what probably couldn’t have been an heir in the first place (so, effectively nothing). If it succeeded, she suddenly has the ideal heir. It’s a very calculated risk.

          Funny that she’d cut out the “I must change the status quo” bit. And it’s hard to imagine that wouldn’t have repercussions further on down the line, what with potential future heirs coming from someone who was effectively tainted/modded by demons.

      2. Blake literally lacks a heart now, and given how he’s been filled up by spirits, I wouldn’t be surprised if he lacked a soul as well.

      3. And even if Rose didn’t lie, we have Corvadae to consider. Sticking a fe in front of “male” to generate strife and suffering is just the sort of thing he’d do.

    2. I think the heart part here could also allude to Rake/Blaise/Prime’s original personality – ergo, Thorburn brand of assholery.. Which Rose, the female half ended up with. It would kind of make sense, I don’t see Rose willingly taking a power hit in the middle of the war by telling such a major lie.. They’d be able to see the change in spirit interactions too. Like how Mrs. Lewis did it with Blake waay back, maybe?

      1. “I don’t see Rose willingly taking a power hit in the middle of the war by telling such a major lie” Rose didn’t really say that, she could have been quoting the diary. She said, “The diary says as much. When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.” That means that the diary could be wrong and Rose wasn’t telling a lie. It could be that the original “person” was female and things work differently when a man is split and when a woman is split. Perhaps multiple other things were tweaked, or multiple other people were split. Perhaps the part that retains the heart/soul is always female, and then Granny worked some more mojo in some way.

        There’s plenty of other explanations that don’t equate to Rose lying so, “She wouldn’t want the power hit from lying” isn’t a good reason to toss aside that theory.

        1. IIRC, Rose Sr. always put a disclaimer at the top of every new entry in her diary, shown in an early History Chapter.
          She also made the decision to want to change things around that time.

          By the time she did that entry on the Barber she had years(?) of precedent in writing that disclaimer, so it wouldn´t look out of place or suspicious and she could write in that diary whatever she wanted.

          So Rose Sr. simply lying is an option.

          Why she would want to mislead Rose/Blake is another question though.

  6. TInfoil Hat time…
    So to summarize, Blake is a vestige carved off the whole ham, Rose being the other half. From the way Rose described it, the Blake we know would most immediately resemble the one we know – Male, and his friends genuinely his. Grandmother had Barbie cut out the parts she deemed undesirable for the perfect heir, and exaggerated his need to be that ‘little warrior’, leaving the choice bits in Rose.

    It’s assumed through past experience that these two halved will come crashing back together, destroying one or both. Blake though, he isn’t fond of binary answers. I think somebody’s going to attempt uncarving the thanksgiving turkey.

    This may have very….interesting interactions with Ur. Half of the being’s connections were cut, but the other half took them up. What then happens when the two halves come back together?

      1. Part of the oath being swearing to never attempt to put the other into danger when it can’t be avoided and without appropriate disclosure to the other?

    1. I think the connections are going to stay as they are, possibly with some rejiggering to match the reformed entity. As I understand it, Blake’s connections were cut. Whatever had been set up to swap Rose in took care of the Thorburn history for her, and she had connections to the Blakeguard from the challenge. Things shifted around until everyone’s connections and memories managed to give a vaguely coherent narrative that fit with the present if people didn’t think about why some things happened too hard.

    2. In a surprising twist both will become real. And they will have the Wonder twins powers.
      “Shape of Leviathan!”
      “Form of the Pacific Ocean!”

  7. i really dont see no reason for blake to take this the bad way, he could easly be like “well whatever, rose and i are destined to destroy each other? you know what they say, fuck destiny”

    1. That’s not the problem. His problem is that his friends, and his familiar, lied to him. Rose was intending on offing him all along and they knew it. They even gangpressed Evan into it. So not only did they take a hit in power for telling a lie, but now that he knows and as a result the number of spirits inside of him from the Abyss have grown and will have a larger influence.

      1. Yes, this.

        The worst part is that the drains had been trying to turn Blake against Rose all along, and he resisted it. Constantly. Despite his instincts, he was trying not to give in to the pressure that was turning them against each other. He’d already chosen to screw destiny.

        Meanwhile she straight-up intended to kill him all along and talked all his friends into supporting her in this.

        1. Blake did get the fighter spirit and idealism(“people are basically good”) of the duo. Rose got all the common sense, logic, and cold pragmatism.

          So it was in his nature to say fuck this bullshit, and in hers to accept the bullshit at face value–it’s very clearly spelled out, it’s fated, these are the rules of Barbatorem– and plot accordingly based on it.

      2. Rose was intending on offing him all along and they knew it.

        No she wasn’t. Remember, she had Blake trapped inside a circle at one point. If she wanted to kill him, that would have been the time to do it. Break the mirror while he can’t get out, and he’d be dead.

        It’s quite possible she wanted to reabsorb him, though.

        1. Again, Bogeyman who are destroyed in the world go back to the Drains. She kept him because there was no guarantee he wouldn’t come back even angrier than before and this time sans the politeness of introducing himself.

          When he moved the mirror she ordered the Other to break it next time, but only because it had gotten worse enough to the point she had to deal with either enemies outside or the Bogeyman on the inside and all her protections were gone.

          She has Conquest in her head and, despite stating otherwise, we also know she and the others were willing to lie to cover that up. They all take a hit in power for that and if called on it a bigger one. Like weaker incarnations would seek out another to absorb, she may want to take him back in, but not with the Abyss inside of him.

        2. No, it was heavily implied that if the mirror is broken when he can’t get out, he goes back to the drain. She doesn’t have an immediate way to kill him; her goal was almost certainly to isolate him and cause him to diminish until she had everything and he disappeared.

          This is also part of the reason she was so pissed about his friends talking to him; any attempts to heal the connections with him would directly hurt her.

          (Note, again, what I mentioned above — these connections were important to Blake’s friends. They were damaged by losing them. But Rose doesn’t seem to have cared about that; all she was focused on was protecting herself at any cost.)

          1. Yep. I mean, his obvious weakness, being a wickerman, is fire.

            But he’s on the other side of the mirror, and you can’t reach his side without breaking the surface, tricking him into taking something into his realm, and shunting him elsewhere or banishing him back to the Abyss.

            You’d have to trick him into entering reality for long enough to douse him in napalm.

            1. Rose did have Barbatorem though.
              Rose Sr. used him, so there should be notes on how to make it do commands without it turning on the Diabolist.

              If she were without any morals, Rose could have attempted telling Barbatorem to do his thing with Blake (fate worse than death, but not dying and thus not necessarily hitting the Drains and stated to maybe hindering victims from going to an afterlife – which could also mean not going to any place like the Drains in his Boogeyman – case), leaving him a ruin of a body and dealing with him later personally.

              Might not have worked, but she could have tried and as far as we know she didn´t.
              So she didn´t go for the kill when she could have.

            2. Ya know,dealing with demons in this story is not for the ruthless selfish evil people,its for the really stupid,the really nihilistic and the really,really ,really skilled.So no,this wasn’t an option.

              Besides,there are levels of evil.One person might be selfish,coldand uncaring to a murderous degree,but he might still not want to deal someone a fate worse than death,or risk having the world diminished forever.

  8. Nice plan from Grandma Rose. To save Rose the trouble of being killed, have the vestige be so combat-oriented that it kills itself. Make sure they’re separated in a mirror too, just in case. Pity Ur messed it up… maybe. Without Blake, Alexis and the rest of the Thorburns would have died.

    I guess the best path for Blake would be to try and give the middle finger to the Barber and actually try to work with Rose. Failing that, try and find some way to merge himself with her to restore them? Fat chance of Blake going for that, though… but then, he’s pretty selfless. If he got promises from Rose to protect his friends and work towards his goals (perhaps a promise to destroy Ur as soon as the Lordship contest is done?), maybe he’d be willing to bite the bullet.

    1. I guess the best path for Blake would be to try and give the middle finger to the Barber and actually try to work with Rose.

      Sure, but the problem is that Rose has shown no inclination that she would go along with that. She straight-up says she wants to kill him in this flashback, and there’s no reason to think she would suddenly change her mind on that.

    2. Failing that, try and find some way to merge himself with her to restore them? Fat chance of Blake going for that, though…

      Rose would be an even harder sell, seeing as how she already has the upper hand here.

      Though the image of Blake entangling her in branches, bird spirits burrowing their way into her soul as he attempts a merger/takeover did leap into my head involuntarily.

      The tragic circumstances of fate and inevitabilty have finally revealed themselves: To reclaim his Self, Blake has to give up one of the only pieces of his Self he’s manged to hold on to: his moral high ground. He has to kill in cold blood solely for his own gain.

    3. Have you perhaps considered that Dear ole’ Grandma, having already chosen to sacrifice Molly by having her inherit first, might not be willing to sacrifice further?

      She has plenty of grandkids. With Rose an Blake split, an at first separated from each-other in different worlds, there’d be a better chance that they survive the initial hostilities, maybe even gather some Thorburn power.. And when they do tear each other apart, well, that means they survived long enough to be their own worst enemies, which means then next heir should be able to manage on their own.

      1. Also remember that they would have been split by grannies ideas of desirable traits. And Grannie Rose was not a people person. Further more her efforts would have been poisoned by the family bad karma making things even more likely to go wrong.

        1. The karma wouldn’t necessarily have been a problem – for all we know, Rose Senior’s plan regarding Blake & Rose was put in action posthumously by the lawyers, rather than herself.

  9. Remember this?

    “A simulacrum is an effective double of another individual, a near-perfect simulation. You’ve got dopplegangers, Others that copy a person’s appearance, hiding inside a simulacrum. A reflection of a person, but with something different and frequently malevolent at the core. Erasing a person so they can take over their lives. Usually ending in disaster and murder.”

    I would say Blake is closer to this then he is to a Vestige at this point.

    1. But that would require there being two components to Blake, a true self, and a disguise wrapped around it.

      But he seems…pretty indivisible.

      1. Blake/Rose — one is the true self, the other is the disguise. Whoever has more power gets to end up being the ultimate true self. It’s like Jet Li in The One.

        1. Actually, I think they’re both “true”. That’s the tragedy, here. 😦

          As the “human” bit can fluctuate between them (depending on who has most of it, when), neither is “false”. It might be comforting for Rose or anybody else to want to think in terms of “true” and “false”: but, I think that’s Barbie’s great, big trick. Both “reflections” are true and false, since neither can be “the original” unless they find a way to merge.

          And, even then, the whole experience of being divided? Makes sure they deviate from what they would have been without the whole snippety-snip. 😐

    1. Limbo, the first world, the Abyss, basically the house of horrors here and the drains and the forest are all part of one giant swirl of chaos. Different countries on a single planet….

      But really, what type of messed up stuff happens to create the evil clown?

      1. But really, what type of messed up stuff happens to create the evil clown?

        Are you serious? Clowns are naturally evil. There’s a constant metaphysical pull dragging them towards malevolence.

      2. Drywall and dust ingrained into the skin, maybe a few nasty reactions with blood from the mouth, nasal inflammation or rubbing the eyes too much to create the makeup. Lack of speech like bat!Blake.

        Carnivorous due to the lack of anything normal to eat. Working in groups with weaponry due to the weaknesses and advantages of being mostly human in a human enviroment while being surrounded by monsters like the earwig man and the silent businessman.

        I can picture a small group who find each other in an apartment and struggle for months, slowly becoming the circus boogymen due to erosion.

          1. honk-honk 😀

            Although, given what you might find in Apartment World’s cupboards, I daren’t imagine what’s in the tins or fridges… (damn, that’s a lot of Silent Hill 4 coming back to bite me). xP

            Expired overly frosted sugared sugar flakes with a clown on the front… laced with something that’s not sugar? Tinned clown? A harlequin ladybug swarm of doom? The attack of the make-up cabinet time forgot? [shudders]

    2. There’s a “Forest” abyss, there’s a “Drains” Abyss, and now this “Tenement” area. Earth, Water, and Air. Is there a Fire-themed abyss? If so, is Hell a real place in the Pactverse?

      1. I think it’s more that the Abyss you enter reflects the area you entered it from.

        Enter from a house, you end up in crazy houses. Fall into the cracks under an old building, you fall into the drains. Enter from a cabin in the woods, you end up in the forest, etc. Someone who was on a ship that got lost in the mists at sea would probably find an endless spooky mist-filled ocean or a field of shipwrecks.

  10. Just gonna chime in on this again. Who says that Blake isnt the larger portion? since they are both “vestige-like”. The revelation in the Drains wouldn’t be still true (Blake being a vestige, and just negating the part about Rose being one too…. thus leading to conflict and ruin) Also if memory serves Rose was the one who started with the hostilities initially ( after the whole conquest thing). Me thinks Rose can lie (messed up awakening ritual), and has been lying the whole time. Especially about key arguments about her being the more human one (the whole-er one) and her being the one who grandmother wants to win.

    Things are working out waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too shitty for some major working (Demon influence) not to be present. Just saying

    removes tin hat

    1. We know for a fact that Blake was the larger portion, since initially Rose was in the mirror and he was in the real world; their positions only swapped when Ur damaged Blake so severely that he was less than her.

      Note that Rose must have been a much smaller part, because even Blake bleeding himself out directly into her was not enough to swap them. This is why Rose mentions that sometimes she just cuts off a quarter, for instance — she’s smart enough to realize that, at least based on the available evidence, Blake must have gotten much more than she did to begin with.

    2. Who says that Blake isnt the larger portion?

      “The diary says as much. When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.

      It’s not clear whether “a man” is meant in the old-fashioned, gender neutral “mankind” sense of “a human being,” or if this implies that the original Thorburn that lived in Toronto and got tattoos looked like Blake, rather than Rose.

      Probably the former, because of the “Rose, then Ivy” thing, and Molly’s ghost did say Rose is next in line, assuming that’s actual evidence and not just a sign that the Barber’s futzing of connections also enchanted a ghost.

      1. If the split happened before Molly’s death, but Blake was only “activated” when she died-in fact, even if he was activated beforehand, and everyone knew that Rake’s parents had twins now, one of whom had run away and was a handyman-then Molly’s memories might not be reliable. I’m inclined to believe that Rake was female, since I don’t think it damages any events too badly, whereas if Rake was male it runs into the Ivy-name-thing.

        1. The problem with this is we’re only seeing things from the family side – as in, most of the viewpoints were seeing are about the person who stayed. They would have zero knowledge or understanding of the person who abandoned their family for life on the streets. And we can’t see it any other way, because Ur erased things from the Blake side of life.

      2. That’s why Grandma split Blake — she liked his chutzpah during the “Granny is dying, come say goodbye and figure out who the heir is” deal. She set it up in advance so that if Molly died, Blake would be split into Blake/Rose, with Rose as the next inheritor which is the only way that Blake could legally inherit (being male)

        1. Not just legally inherit; the Thorburn Diabolist is female. That’s why Rose was always the one who could reliably command Others even though she wasn’t a practitioner, because she had the accumulated Thorburn reputation and bargains backing her up.

          1. That’s one theory. Another is that Rose just taught herself to speak with the Thorburn voice and so is recognised by the spirit world as a Thorburn. When Blake used that voice it worked for him, too.

            Hmm. Which opens an interesting Avenue of attack if one could similarly mimic the Behaim voice…

        2. Trouble with that is that Granny Rose must have set this all in motion long before the night she died, which was when Blake told her where to go.

          Unless you’re suggesting that that actually happened much earlier and reconstructed memories moved it? There really would seem to be no need for that though – it wouldn’t disrupt anything had it been earlier.

    3. Me thinks Rose can lie (messed up awakening ritual)

      She purposely messed it up the first time around. After Blake got eaten by Urr, she did it again, properly. If she hadn’t done it properly the second time around, she wouldn’t have been able to trap Blake in the circle, or set up the dead man’s switch.

    1. That’s a good call. I don’t think that Rose’s interpretation here is correct (or at least, not complete), but it would explain why Blake is so hostile to her in that scene.

      Although I do wonder when the cut was made. Was the Barber able to do it while sealed? If it was after Rose Sr’s death, that leads to a lot of questions, since at that point he was sealed in the attic with no obvious way out — perhaps the lawyers could have done it, but it still seems a bit off.

      1. If that whats happens when a man is cut and the female reflection is good
        Then does that mean when a female is cut the male reflection is the good one then?
        Cause a lot of the specifics of magic has been pretty misleading

          1. one gets the heart and soul so the human bits right?
            If male is cut the female copy gets the soul and stuff
            If female is cut the male copy gets the etc?
            So was rose just keeping the crew in the dark and let them come to a wrong conclusion? cause we know it was rose who got cut and she didn’t keep any good parts right?

      2. She called the heirs into her room individually when she was dying. I’m guessing that that’s when she split Rake in half. Connection manipulation could keep anyone from noticing the sudden extra cousin, and the fragments from noticing each other.

          1. It would make some sense, wouldn’t it? If everyone dies, then Paige wakes up with a manipulative asshole in a mirror.

            If we went with that hypothetical, then progenitor Paige/Peter would probably have been shuffled between Steph and Paul’s custody, picking things up from both. Where Paige is trying to make it on her own, Peter is lazy and coasts through life on natural intelligence.

            The only issue is that, well, Paige and Peter know that the other exists, and they had a pretty significant scene at the reunion, what with Peter being directly responsible (Paige thinks) for her being last in line.

      3. The lawyers already said something like…

        The blonde woman responded, “Because matters were too complex for her to handle on her own, it was an economical route to take, she needed power that she wasn’t willing to spare, and we offered.”

        What’s off about the lawyers triggering the splitting of the heir? They manage everything else in general about the heirs in line. They could come and go in the house as they pleased. So performing a contract with Barbatorem upon the moment of Molly’s death isn’t really crazy.

      4. Nothing prevents a deal being done after X amount of time.

        {Rose senior} “Hello Barber, I’m running out of time tonight, so take note: you have to scare the first heir shitless so they leave the protection of the house. That’ll get her dead pretty soon, so after she kicks the bucket, you have permission to leave the circle and go cut Rose in that particular fashion – hands a weird butcher map of Rose – then come back and wait for further instructions. Ta-ta !

        Also, this is probably why Rose senior told her children about needing a granddaughter. If she didn’t have a lot to choose from, she couldn’t pull that kind of plan. Although I think I put too much evil on that interpretation…
        Planning to kill off your own descendants is probably more bad karma.

        1. It probably isn’t, actually. The karma system seems to view the family line as a single unit. It’s unlikely to weigh in one way or the other if that unit self-harms.

  11. “What was grandmother’s agenda?” I asked.
    “Can’t make an omelete without breaking a few eggs, right?” she asked, but there was no mirth in her expression. I could see dark circles under her eyes. She glared at me. “Enjoy your fucking omelete.”

    — Molly, Mala Fide 10.4

    And another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

    1. Good catch!

      Hm. I was about to wonder whether Molly actually existed, or whether she was another part that got carved out of Rose (because she knew things she shouldn’t). But then I thought of Peter’s revelation from 2-3 chapters ago – he apparently remembered Molly, Paige and uncut!Rose being friends, and Barbatorem apparently transferred that friendship over to the Blake part, which made Peter remember Rose as a “no-life sad sack loser with no friends”.

  12. Thinking by typing…

    Roxanne’s problem was probably worse because she believed it. Welcome to your nightmare.

    The commentary from ‘guy’ about how the dynamic would have been seriously different if the original B/R/l/o/a/s/k/e/e were female instead of male actually makes sense. So, my current bet is that the original was male, but RDT gave very specific directions on the cut so that the “half” that turned out female had the parts RDT wanted it to. Looks like fishscratchfever beat me to that idea.

    I like the name Tenements.

    Something’s a bit off here: It now seems likely that Laird recognized what Blake was. And he was heavily cooperating with Sandra, so she probably knew. And yet they tried to kill him several times, which would have resulted in RDT’s “ideal” heir coming to the fore. Shouldn’t they have helped Blake become more powerful? If he wins, there’s a good chance he would still be male, and males can’t inherit Thorburn power. That would be the way to stalemate or even “win” against the Thorburns: finesse/force a male heir, and then back him against the other Thorburns so he stays in power. Theoretically, that could even break the Thorburn line.

    “You want to lie?“
    I don’t get that they lied – they just didn’t tell Blake what was going on.

    I am not with the “Rose is evil” crowd just because demons are so damn good at what they do and so dangerous. “A demon created a vestige that is destined to destroy me” actually seems like a good reason to kill the vestige. If you are a Pact practitioner. Practitioners’ callous handling of sentient vestiges and similar fragile sentient beings has always gotten on my nerves – Johannes’ use of child vestiges as Other food cemented him as thoroughly reprehensible in my eyes, “angel” familiar or not. Rose really should have used a solution of the type that HJPEV did in HPMOR (rot13 to avoid spoilers): Jura haxabja rarzvrf znqr gur Znysblf nggnpx uvz, ur znantrq gb npghnyyl nyyl jvgu gur Znysblf vafgrnq. Rose’s immediate jump to “kill it” was unwarranted and ultimately stupid.

  13. Unless Rose lied, she remembers being the first heir. So, are both Molly and Blake carved from the original first heir, with Rose being what is left? Because Molly really does seem to be working against Rose – turning Jacob’s Bell into a giant enraged-monster buffet hurts Rose more than it does the Duchamps, the Behaims, or Johannes.

    1. I think Molly was real. She’s from another family and a different age, so sectioning up the original wouldn’t yield her. I’m willing to file first heir status under “lost in the shuffle”. After making such a big deal about granddaughters only, Blake couldn’t be the first heir, but sending Rose in first would make sense. This works however the original was set up, since once the cuts were done Blake was in the world and male.

        1. Molly wasn’t stuck. Molly’s ghost was clearly just that at first – a non-sentient psychic echo of Molly’s death. It only became more than that because it was fed power. It’s not Molly.

  14. Comments:

    1. I really like that opening a gate doesn’t just require nebulous “power”, but actually requires a sacrifice of something of value – apparently something to which one was attached, or something Corvidae would consider stealing from you.

    2. Great lines: “You guys don’t have a monopoly on shitty families, and you don’t have a monopoly on shitty circumstances.” and “Third time’s a charm.” and “It seemed the pendant wasn’t an acceptable valuable object, but the writing desk served.” and ““There’s nothing there,” Peter said, flat out lying to her face.” and “wall-scaling mermaid” and “And when you’re done getting her to safety, go to fucking hell. Bringing us here?” and ““I just saved your life!” “Save it better!” she snapped.”

    3. “I felt an almost genuine fear for the welfare of my friends, watching as they climbed.” – You don’t say. Blake scores one more in the my-plans-are-pure-craziness department. I completely agree with Kathryn… Wow. For a moment, I expected him to bring everyone back as Others.

    4. Evan really has to learn how to read the mood…

    5. I’m still mad at the Abyss for so easily spilling Rose’s secrets. Sure, it uses these visions to grind Blake down, but I still wish Blake uncovered these secrets in a more satisfying manner (e.g. by combing through books, or by overhearing something). Rose had no way of protecting herself against this. And if the Abyss has to be a dick, why can’t it be an indiscriminate dick and show Blake visions of all his opponents’ secrets, as well?

    6. On that point: The Drains tried to grind Blake down, and at least some of the visions from there were definitely supposed to trick him (e.g. making Blake think that Rose got along better with her parents than he did). The Tenements are probably doing the same. (Some mitigating factors off the top of my head: Rose showed Blake something resembling kindness when she imprisoned him in the mirror; and during his escape attempt, she even specifically asked him “If I move [the mirror], will I destroy you?”. And if Rose just wanted Blake dead, then she could’ve just killed him by throwing him back into the abyss while he was bound.)

    7. So, what happens next? Blake charges straight at Rose?

    8. This would be another great point for a POV switch to Rose. Maybe we’ll at least get her Histories chapter now?

    9. Hm. Does this make Barbatorem sufficiently scary now to be considered stronger than Ur? Ruining someone by splitting them into doppelgangers and making them fight and destroy one another certainly is an amazingly cruel way of torture. But in terms of large-scale damage, I’d say Ur still wins out via the consequences of Blake’s erasure.

      1. Barbatorem’s power has more applications, though. It was previously mentioned that he could “cut out” your ability to use magic, and now we know how. He removes your magical abilities by slicing them out and making another you with all your magic and the desire to kill you with it. I’m willing to bet he “heals” you by literally carving out the injured parts like a scalpel, which A) leaves you open to possession and B) gives you an unadvertised doppelganger made of what hurts you.

      It looks like what is known in-universe of the Barber’s powers is cobbled together from the aftermath of his attacks. Other characters have only ever seen the survivors: one person attacked by Barbatorem can no longer use magic and professes no knowledge of such, another one has full awareness but is trapped in a body with no limbs or sensory organs, and yet another one literally has no soul. There’s no in-story reason for them to know what was removed or how it was, and so they don’t. Interesting.

        1. When you type #. at the start of a line, WordPress seems to assume you’re starting a numbered list and does it from 1. That’s why people are using an R-paren instead.

  15. My current theories:

    1) The original Thorburn was Blake, and Rose was the inferior portion. Rose is female and had the same name as Grandmother, because the latter put a bit of HERSELF into “Rose” to flesh it out, so it can at least operate as a vestige. Rose is, in a sense, both Blake and Grandma Rose.

    2) Blake and Rose were TWINS. Grandma Rose probably leveraged on some twin-magic fuckery to allow the Barbie to operate on them as though they were one entity. It would explain why the parents of Blake/Rose named their daughter Ivy, instead of Rose as a means of sucking up to Grandma for the purposes of getting a house; they ALREADY had a daughter named Rose, they just didn’t remember it due to said fuckery.

  16. Notes:-

    1. Blake Vs. Rose, who’s the greater/lesser, original/fake doesn’t matter. What matters is that in the act of engineering leftovers in reality Granny made a deal with the Barber…So where’s The Screw?! As we have seen with Pauz, demons by nature would screw over the deal and the plan no matter how beneficial it would be for them not to, so what did the Barber do or not do as the case may be to screw over Granny’s plans?
    2. Since Blake & Rose are driven to opposition, this means that the more Blake cares for and protects his friends, the more Rose is driven to sacrifice them as disposable pawns? How can they not see that by now unless Rose has been keeping them too tired and off balance to join the dots?

      1. This is good news since the more Thorburn Rose behaves, the better a person Blake would be.

      2. If part of Blake’s nature is Ruin, does this mean that the reason he got more power in battle was because he brought Ruin to “Creations” like the Homunculi and the reason he loses power was because he was protecting something/someone?

    1. 1) I think the “screw” is that the arrangement is inherently self-destructive. Granny wanted to use it to produce her ideal heir, and all Barbie had to do was wait for it to fail spectacularly. He is from the choir of Ruin, after all.

  17. More comments:

    1. Aaaaah, okay, that explanation of how Blake and Rose are related is interesting. Makes it completely obvious why Blake and Rose could never see eye to eye. I’m assuming the basis was female, i.e. uncut!Rose, because Rose Sr. needed a female heir. So Alexis & co really were her friends, originally.

    2. “The way this works, one of us is destined to destroy the other.” – Well, Blake managed to screw up one prophecy in the messiest way possible. Makes me hope it will happen again.

    3. “He’s not [real]. The diary says as much. When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.” – Two points here. Firstly, the quote still allows for Blake being a mote. Secondly, Barbatorem actually cut his leg in two with his shears in 1.07. Not sure why he did it in front of Blake. Demonic irony? Or a demonstration of what he’d done? Blake was definitely wrong when he thought Barbatorem hadn’t acknowledged him.

    4. Argh, is Blake incapable of planning because Rose got the “planning” part of their personality?

    5. Now we now what Blake was originally (though the mote part is still an open question), but not yet what Blake is now, i.e. what the Abyss turned him into.

    6. I don’t think this outcome fulfills most of the lines à la “It’s best if we don’t tell you,” so quite a few might count as lies. Somewhat typical – very few circumstances truly justify these words.

    7. What the hell was Rose Sr. thinking when she set up Blake as the “little warrior”, if that diminished her heir? How the hell was this ever supposed to work out well? Was Blake’s death supposed to make Rose whole again, and his loss to Ur screwed that up? Rose isn’t the “tailor-made heir”, and neither is Blake; instead, they are two victims of one act by a torture demon…

    8. And wow, Rose Sr. split off all the parts of uncut!Rose she didn’t like, and set them up to die? What the hell? This is worse than brainwashing. The original person died for all intents and purposes, when Barbatorem did his cruel work. I can’t even imagine how uncut!Rose was like before her friends and instincts and whatever else were removed. It’s hard to blame Blake or Rose for any of their decisions if their personalities aren’t primarily due to nature or nurture, but rather due to (kind of) demonic torture.

    9. I wonder whether Rose ever despaired when she found out her personality was artificial, similar to Blake finding out he was a vestige.

    10. I really wish we had some indication of what Rose Sr. or Rose were planning by now. Or their motives. Creating the “ideal heir” (actually, demonic torture ability victim) surely can’t have been the entire plan? Because if that was it, then Rose Sr. should’ve just accepted the deal with the lawyers.

    11. If I were Blake or Rose by the time I’d found out what Rose Sr. had done to me, I’d genuinely consider letting the world burn, and then taking the out offered by the lawyers. I mean, what the hell? Rose Sr. gave her heir the mission to reduce the karmic debt. A debt that was apparently amassed partly by using TORTURE DEMONS on their OWN HEIRS.

    1. I’m with the people that think there’s more to the plan. Rose Sr. was planning this since Laird was little, IIRC. It was not a last second, “young Rose is actually almost perfect, except for that whole wanderlust, bohemian, tragic cult thing she’s got going on… let me make a deal with a demon to fix it.” Even if one of the heirs had turned out perfectly, she would have carved out a reflection.

      It’s totally possible that the split created was extremely calculated. One piece gets the pieces that make it look like it’s a fire-and-forget warrior designed to do exactly what everyone seems to think: cut out the disagreeable parts of the heir, tune them to self-destruction and protection, and explode within a few weeks after tanking a few deadly attacks. But there seems to be a lot more lodged in Blake than is needed to accomplish that; him turning out as a protagonist capable of avoiding his projected dark fate may be the life’s masterpiece of a woman who understood pacts better than anyone else we know of. And she was helped out by one of the most powerful chronomancers, which may have given her some insight into how things would play out in the future.

      Rose Sr. may have figured out how to leverage the inherent demonic friction of the pact to actually generate a stable pair bond greater than the sum of its parts, with the chaotic dissipation of energy at the edges pointed at overturning the status quo in a desirable way, and their paths channeled to take in new spirits/incarnations to shore up the damage.

      Blake/Rose isn’t an ill-conceived trick to accomplish a few goals at the start of a new generation. It’s an extremely intricate clockwork weapon designed by a diabolist and chronomancer at the top of their games aimed at the heart of the unsustainable status quo of practitioner society.

      1. Where is it said that Aimon is one of the best chronomancers?

        Anyway, can I say I loved this little post of yours? I fully agree with it, and it was accomplished wonderfully.

        1. Presumably, the best chronomancer she could get, who we’ll recall was the head of the family and thus had all the raw power the family could muster at his disposal.

      2. Hmm Hmm: agreed. Blake is way more than people took him for when they noticed the Rose-Blake existence thing buggering up their plans. And, if that wasn’t part of the design, I’m a cabbage.

        Just as I suspect Rose is way more than Blake might currently be taking her for, too.

        Granny Rose was a sly, old witchy-bitch. But, even with potential wrinkles in her plan (Urrm, wonder who/what?), I think her pair of guided missiles are still pretty much on course. 😐

      3. I like this, but although I think Gran was talented I don’t think she was that talented. Something needs to go wrong with her plan, perhaps many things.

    2. Now that we know how Blake was produced, I definitely don’t think he’s a mote. We see in Ur’s chapter how it produced motes; not as a direct result of its power, but more like budding fueled by use of its power. Blake was created as a direct result of Barbatorem applying his power.

      Actually… (Worm spoilers, rot13)
      Gur jnl qrzbaf va Cnpg jbex vf IREL fvzvyne gb ubj gur fhcrecbjref va Jbez jbex, whfg jvgubhg ur ubfgf. Gurl unir n fcrpvsvp ernyvgl-nygrevat cbjre jvgu nccyvpngvbaf yvzvgrq fbyryl ol gur hfref vzntvangvba, naq serdhrag hfr bs guvf cbjre pnhfrf vg gb ohq bss vagb nabgure ‘ragvgl’ jvgu fvzvyne cbjref. Cnhm’f cbjre vf cebonoyl fyvtugyl qvssrerag sebz Naqenf’f, abg whfg va fpbcr ohg nyfb va sbez. Nqqrq obahf: obgu ner vzcbffvoyr sbe n ivrjre gb shyyl pbzceruraq, naq vg’f vzcyvrq gung jung jr’er frrvat vf abg ragveryl pbeerpg.

      1. We see in Ur’s chapter how it produced motes; not as a direct result of its power, but more like budding fueled by use of its power.

        Wouldn’t that perfectly apply to Blake becoming the mote, though? If Barbatorem is capable of “creating” motes at all, it would presumably be through the act of ruining someone. That would make Blake the doppelganger mentioned in 2.02: “A reflection of a person, but with something different and frequently malevolent at the core”.

        1. I think we’re starting to get into why RDT doesn’t like classifying things too much. Blake is an entity created by a demon for the purpose of destroying something.

    3. Aaaaah, okay, that explanation of how Blake and Rose are related is interesting. Makes it completely obvious why Blake and Rose could never see eye to eye. I’m assuming the basis was female, i.e. uncut!Rose, because Rose Sr. needed a female heir. So Alexis & co really were her friends, originally.

      That makes no sense. First, what does Rose Sr’s need for a female heir have to do with the original gender of “Rake”? Obviously (assuming Rose’s interpretation of Grandma Rose’s goals is correct) when she split Rake in half she intended the female part to survive and inherit, but that has absolutely no relevance to what the original person’s gender was.

      Second, we know that Blake was closer to what the original was like, because he was the one who ended up in the real world at first, while Rose was stuck in the mirror; they only swapped once Blake was reduced enough by Ur to ensure that Rose was “bigger.” The way the duality works is that whoever has more of the original at any given time gets to be real while the other becomes a visage. (And since Blake at one point bled himself directly into Rose, and that still didn’t swap them, we can assume that he was much bigger to begin with.) When Rose corrects herself to say “…or, more likely, cut out a corner”, she’s talking about herself as the quarter — initially, she had very little.

      1. You are right, I was too quick to say the original was female. I wrote that before the gazillion predictions that the original was male appeared.

        My original case was more along the lines of “You shouldn’t be able to continue a female line by turning someone female via practitioner shenanigans”, so the original would have had to be female. But the spirits in Pact are simple or dumb enough that they probably allow that.

        That said, there is a stronger case to be made for the original being female:

        • Rose has memories of being chosen as heir at the original meeting. It seems both her and Blake’s memories would somehow fit together to make a whole. Why would Rose Sr. have said a female grandchild would inherit everything, only to then name a male as the heir at the meeting? (But yes, her memories might also have been added artificially, and we still don’t know what exactly was up with Molly.)

        • Pauz’ taint reversed the connection between Rose & Blake and made Blake stronger to the detriment of Rose, which even put her into a coma. That implies that Blake powered Rose before. I’m unsure what that implies – shouldn’t the originally bigger part be able to drain power from the remainder?

        • In Conquest’s domain, Rose seemed to have a real body, and of the duo, Blake was the one who felt pain at being hugged. (“She was a real, physical person, here, it seemed.” (4.3))

    4. Re: 4 – If there is “enough” of something in a vague way, both splits can get parts of it, e.g. Blake and Rose both having a very similar childhood trauma memory. And they are not 1/2 the IQ of an original person, and they can both talk, both think close enough to act human (mostly), etc. So the idea of the two “halves” adding up exactly doesn’t work. There is still some clear loss for both sides though.

      Re: 6 – Agreed. See one of my other comments in this chapter.

      Re: 7 – RDT was probably very strapped for resources by then. Smart resource management, ruthlessness, talent, and a lot of knowledge probably kept her semi-independent to the end, but that doesn’t mean she had a huge amount to spare. And how many spirits would agree to work for a diabolist’s heir? Splits can still (presumably) learn and grow, and can definitely take in spirits to fill the voids. Also see my reply to 4 above – exact division does not work as a concept here. Put together, I think it was the best plan at the time, and making your heir fight for their existence is sort of par for the course for diabolists.

      Re: splits in general – Anyone here played Oblivion? This is very like the Shivering Isles, town of Split. The game is relatively old, but just in case it would be a spoiler, rot13: Rnpu erfvqrag jnf fcyvg vagb n znavp naq n qrzragrq gjva jub jnagrq gb xvyy rnpu bgure. Ohg fhvpvqr jnf chavfurq unefuyl (rafynirzrag bs gur tubfg) fb gur gjb fvqrf pbagenpgrq gur cynlre gb xvyy gur bgure.

  18. Ha I knew it! I always suspected that Rose was a reflection of grandma, carved by the barber to be the perfect heir.

    Never would’ve imagined Blake being a vestige though, wildbow got me on that one

  19. Warning – Wall Of Text

    Very Interesting. I suspected after the last few chapters that we would find that Blake was a real person in some way.

    Barbatorem was apparently used to section whoever Blake & Rose were before, making two individuals. The normal purpose of this act, based on what we know of demons, is to create conflict and accelerate entropy. One presumes that Rose Sr. wanted to use it for another reason.

    The key here is, WHAT was Rose Sr. Trying to make happen? She was an expert in demonology and summoning. She lived a long life with a great many enemies and a heavy family karmic debt. This, almost by definition, makes her clever, knowledgeable, and insightful. Her actions that we have seen so far also make it clear that she was not afraid of sacrifice, was not afraid of risks, and could be damn ruthless.

    She also, at one point in her life, wanted to protect her future family from what she, herself, grew up with. Did that young woman’s hope die, eventually, or is that where we should be looking for clues? How could all of this end with the Thorburn family having no connection to magic?

    At this point, if that was what was wanted, things seem to have completely gone off the rails. The Thorburn family has just had a mass-introduction to the world of magic.

    Or was this part of the plan? Think about the family Karma. Now there are a bunch of “enlightened” Thorburns that can either make the family karma better or worse. Despite their dickishness, at least some of them feel for each other. Callan sacrificed himself trying to save them. That’s gotta be a huge karma boost for the family. Knowing self-sacrifice.

    At this point, I’m wondering if Rose Sr. might have arranged this whole thing with the express purpose of scaring the shit out of all of her descendants so badly that they begin to understand the consequences of the magic that their family has a gift for. The ones that survive the experience will, hopefully, be burdened with a much less heavy karmic debt, and perhaps a clearer understanding of just how bad things can get. They might even abandon practice altogether. With a low family karmic debt, they might even be allowed to do so by the rest of the universe.

    At the same time, Rose Sr. used Demons for this purpose. Demons twist and distort things. It is their nature. But Rose Sr. certainly knew that. She had to know that once she was dead, with nobody to watch over things, the nature of demons would cause everything to go to hell. Pun intended.

    So what options were open to her? I am beginning to think that our Rose Sr. might have taken a more direct hand. I think Rose Sr. might have become a partner of Mann, Levinn, and Lewis. It’s even conceivable that she IS Lewis. We do not know how strongly demons are bound by human concepts of time. If she did, though, she didn’t do it for the reason described at one point by the lawyers, to wipe away family karmic debt. She might have simply requested that she be able to guide her family’s actions after she passed on the family title. This would let her bump and prod things to push her family onto the path she wanted. She would help to corrupt other demonologists for the demon lawyers while simultaneously working to drive her own family out of practicing magic?

    But then again, we’re back to square 1. What did Rose Sr. want? What was her goal? If what she did at the end of her life was driven by the revelation from her diary in the early parts of Pact, she wants her family to stop being practitioners. I’m not seeing this happening at this point – it looks like the opposite is happening. Unless a lot of young Thorburns die.

    I’m pretty sure at this point that Rose Sr.’s plans have fallen apart. If they haven’t, and she was intending to put her family through this, or something much like it, then she’s become even more scary. More scary than using a demon to mutilate the soul of your intended heir.

    I’m really hoping that we can get some insight into Rose Sr’s thoughts soon. I’m surprised there has been no attempt by either Rose or Blake to try to raise her ghost, if there is any sort of remnant left. If Rose Sr. had huge, far-reaching goals, then it’s possible that she has a ghost, and that ghost would be preoccupied with her plans, if she didn’t become a demon lawyer. Then again, she probably took precautions against that, to keep her enemies from raising her ghost and forcing her to tell them her plans.

      1. I can’t remember where, but I think the lawyers confirmed it. Not only that, if RDT had taken the deal, the family karma burden would be gone.

        1. The family karma wouldn’t be gone if Rose Sr. made a different deal. What that might be, I can’t begin to say, but why are the Demons acting in her interest after she’s dead? Or are they? I’d say they almost have to be, because otherwise, they would be trying to tear apart anything Rose Sr. tried to do to help her family. Demons destroy by their nature. With the power they wield and the opportunity they have had, they could certainly have ended this story long ago…

          Rose Sr. did something, and I don’t think it was the house contract. I think that contract has been around for a very long time. It might be new though. Was it ever stated that Rose Sr. was the one who had the house contract drawn up, or is it something that passes to each heir in turn?

    1. The demon Urr and Blake’s tenacity that lead to Laird’s death undid any plans Rose Sr. had. Rose mentioned she was confused when she arrived instead of her enemies being confused. She inherited friends she wasnt suppose to have.

      The clusterfuck in Toronto resulted in the High Drunk showing up at the mansion and destroying the wards which lead to the home invasion.

    2. I’ve been theorizing that plan A was for Blake to die, Rose to pop into the real world, and Blake to become her mirror monster. I mean, having a mirror monster around is really handy.

      However, Blake managed to get himself killed the one way that totally ruined the plan. He was supposed to serve as a decoy, but no one could remember he’d existed so he didn’t make people think they’d taken out the experienced Thorburn heir. He fell into the Drains, so it took an unreasonably long time for him to show back up as mirror monster. If the plan had been for him to die for real, then that got mucked up.

      Come to think of it, maybe Grandma Rose really did intend for ErasUr to eat him, and he didn’t die thoroughly enough. It’s a way to cheat the Barber’s rules; if Blake got annihilated, Rose would win the realness contest for keeps without taking additional damage.

    3. “I’m surprised there has been no attempt by either Rose or Blake to try to raise her ghost, if there is any sort of remnant left.”

      I shuddered at that. The ghost of a practitioner who was awakened for a month and concentrated on defensive magics is causing all sorts of havoc (Molly). The ghost of RDT would be asking for far, far worse. RDT probably put as many protections on her spirit as she could think of, and if she went to the hell-equivalent here, that means raising her would be robbing from demons, an act guaranteed to get malefic ire.

      1. In Pactverse, ghosts are psychic imprints of horrible deaths. We actually saw RDT die peacefully, and apparently this memory was accurate. So she couldn’t leave behind a ghost. (I actually wonder why Aimon’s father left an echo behind.)

        What happened to RDT’s soul, on the other hand, is an open question, considering RDT supposedly took a harder road by rejecting the deal of the lawyers.

        1. Hrm, we saw what we thought was RDT dying peacefully. A practitioner and demon lawyers would have no problems making the Thorburn family think that was what they were seeing. At this point, I’m not fully certain that she’s dead – she might have simply passed the torch to her heirs and been taken to some sort of refuge somewhere else by the demon lawyers. Everything seems to point to Rose Sr. dying, but I can’t remember a funeral being mentioned.

          I’ve even considered that Blake and Rose Jr. might actually be the result of Barbatorem dividing Rose Sr. after she took his other deal several times to lengthen her life. Other arrangements would have had to have been made for her to survive the process of partaking of the youth and then being split, but the demon lawyers have connections which could likely have managed that.

          There are just too many unanswered questions, and too many potential answers. My head hurts, LOL.

          1. I know Pactverse spirits are easy to trick, but it seriously shouldn’t be that easy to “pass the torch [i.e. your bad karma] to your heirs” without dying properly. You’d think the Thorburns would never have accumulated their massive amounts of bad karma if that part was trickable.

            Then again, there is the lawyer deal – but part of losing your bad karma involves passing the property along to the lawyers, rather than an heir of your own blood, plus losing your entire past and identity.

            1. There seems to be two types of karma. Bloodline karma, and personal karma. At the earliest age that we have any insight into Rose Sr., she didn’t seem to have been saddled with the family karmic debt yet. This seems to indicate that if she were to give up the mantle of the Thorburn heir, she would then pass the bloodline karma on to the new heir, and her personal karma would be what the universe would judge her by. I will say this seems to be too easy and abusable, but if you look at how a lot of practitioners seem to operate, there’s a LOT of apparent cheating going on.

              I really don’t think Rose Sr. is still alive and dodging the family karmic debt. I am not entirely convinced she’s dead either.

  20. “Oh, she sounded pissed.”

    “I’m fine.

    Hah! Poor Green Eyes, this must be hell for her. Almost literally.

    “A window shattered. A large hand seized the clown by the throat.”
    The hand was tired of all the racketing!

    “When the lights came on, Kathryn was struggling to keep upright while removing the noose from around her wrist.” Rule of three :3

    I find it cool that the Others always adapt to their surroundings. It gives the world so much life! Climbing others and hunting tactics to use in vertical spaces (throwing porcelain, hah!). However, why aren’t flying others common in this world? We didn’t see any. It just seems like the most obvious adaptation.

    So! Granny disgusts me! I had hopes that maybe she had a plan that would benefit people. Now… well, I am less hopeful that she would care about the well-being of others, given the kind of extremes to which he went to set her plan in motion.

    This new revelation kind of plays into my theory of what demons are. Demons and imps aren’t just powerful others that like doing bad things, they have the ability to spread chaos through their creations. Be it motes (Urr), incestuous groups (Incest demon), brain-washed animals, including humans (Pauz); or mirror copies. Another possible characteristic of demons is that they spread through radiation; I don’t know if Rose’s and Blake’s wrong-doings count as radiation. Nobody seemed to notice if they did, but they surely have made the lives of everyone they have met worse, intentionally or otherwise.

    When was Blake, and possibly Rose, created? It doesn’t feel necessary anymore that Blake was created when Molly died, but I am too tired to think why.

    Someone mentioned that in Rose’s recollection, she was the first heir. Did we ever solve this mystery?

    Is it possible for the mirror images to acquire new characteristics the other half also has?

    Why can’t Blake lie?

    1. HM! Is Rose really the perfect heir? I am not talking about her being incomplete being a weakness, like someone else pointed out, but maybe Rose intentionally wasn’t designed to be the best possible heir.

      1. Could Blake abandon his friends? Maybe team up with peter and other Thorburns. Peter was already remembering being jealous of Blake. Maybe Blake needs a new crew.

        Sticking with his friends would just lead to conflicts with Rose. I dont think they can work together anymore. Each one will want their plans and ideas to be used.

        Blake can lie. The witch him to keep up practitioner rules because it would keep him more human.

        It might be possible for Rose to get some characteristics of Blake. Blake was suppose to die. Instead Urr happened and Rose had to fill in for Blake. She gained friends, which she wasnt meant to have.

    2. Flying does seem like the obvious adaptation, but it’s probably not the most easily attainable. Anyone who falls into the Tenements is going to focus on climbing and gripping before they do anything else, since that’s the only immediate option they have for survival. And when they finally do get to a point where they aren’t immediately concerned with surviving and can focus on other things, they’ve already adapted and specialized to the point where they’re really, really good at climbing and hanging on. At that point, flying is no longer necessary.

      Also, flying isn’t particularly useful indoors and it’s nowhere near as useful for ambushes in a place that’s mostly vertical instead of horizontal. I think it’d just make them a target more than anything else.

      1. I think I agree on the first part. On the last part, flying gives the the ability to scout an incredible vast region and you can easily pick off Others from the walls, windows or you could even climb into their respective apartments and attack them there if you are really strong. Flying also means you can find “safe” places to place yourself and not worry about falling, and escape easily if you must.

    3. It’s odd that you point out demons are build for spreading. I think you are right, but in real life it’s the opposite, chaos tends to prevent replicator dynamics more than aid it because replicators are precisely built so random noise is far more likely to break them than improve them.

  21. I don’t totally blame Rose for acting the way she did… it’s best to keep in mind that she has no memories of Blake at that point, and a random boogieman just barged into her sanctuary and showed hostility at her.

    Combined with the newfound knowledge of what Blake was, her reaction was reasonable.

    Besides, blaming Rose is kinda like blaming Blake anyway, they are apparently the same person, just in two halves. Both are extreme in their own ways, and both are victims.

  22. Finally, FINALLY I understand why Blake is such a relentlessly do-goody Boy Scout, and ALSO why Rose seems to have no remorse or compassion in her dealings with him.

    He got all the heart. Exactly the thing that Granny Rose would NOT want her true heir to have.

    1. Didnt Rose Sr. once wondered if you could tell lies while writing a diary? I think she was scared of writing lies. Maybe the whole diary is filled with lies. True there are things left out like Rose says, but its convenient that it specifically gets mentioned that the female retains the heart and soul. Like someone mentioned Rose was the smaller piece until Urr.

      1. She later noted (after the tryst with Aimon, IIRC) that saying “nothing in this diary is meant to be binding” grants no protection.

    2. I seriously (violently) doubt that it’s as simple as “Blake good, Rose bad” considering how Blake has good intentions but rarely stops to think about how his “heroism” might actually hurt people.

      Howabout we goo with Blake got the morals, Rose got the ethics. Since Rose, aside from her Conquest taint, seems less likely to go for the “punch all the bad guys” route.

        1. What makes you think either of them were ever any good at planning? So far, Rose’s plans have mostly been just as bad — remember they’re in their current situation because of her brilliant “give myself to them and leave my friends with no deadman’s switch to protect them” plan.

  23. “When a man is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female.”

    Doesnt that mean that Blake was the one cut. Sort of like Eve being made from Adam’s rib.

    Blake seems to have more heart and soul than Rose (opinion biased because of Blake’s pov). Why would the one with the heart and soul not get any friends, and why would that one be the loner?

    I think Rose is jumping to conclusions.

    The barber is meant to be used as a weapon to destroy other practitioners. Cutting out of piece of a practitioner and having them fight. Then cutting another piece out of the survivor and having them repeat the process over and over.

    You can make other deals witht he barber. Medical treatment (leaves you open to possession), Blades sharp enough to cut connections and reflections, and extended life.

    Its possible Grandma Rose already payed a price to create Blake/Rose. Why would Blake be adamant about getting Rose out of the mirror world if he was working against her?

    Though Rose did lie when she was in the mirror world and has been the most hostile of two. She was angry that her life was stolen since the beginning.

    1. Well, it says when a MAN is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is female. I think it’s fairly clear at this point that Blake has the heart and soul here, so I suspect that when a WOMAN is cut in twain by the shears, the part that retains the heart and soul is male. That would indicate that Rose is the original, and Blake the one who retained the heart and soul.

    2. Its possible Grandma Rose already payed a price to create Blake/Rose. Why would Blake be adamant about getting Rose out of the mirror world if he was working against her?

      This strikes me as important, yes. Rose doesn’t remember it, but when she was in the mirror, Blake showed absolutely no trace of hostility towards her that I can recall. That doesn’t line up with how she thinks this works, which implies she’s misinterpreting something.

      1. IIRC Blake always acted mistrustful towards her. He wanted to help her, yes, but he always remained somewhat suspicious, and their dynamic in conversations, planning etc. often bordered on the dysfunctional.

        And then things got worse after Blake was tainted by Pauz and Rose by Conquest, accompanied by Blake tying himself to the world via the familiar ritual and awakening his friends. Rose must have seen that as the very real danger of being supplanted.

      2. I dunno. While Blake wasn’t actively hostile towards her, I had the perpetual sense that he was uncharacteristically suspicious. He was on better terms with someone who had admitted to torturing Molly to death and was unwilling to explain apparently being possessed by something very nasty than he was with Rose.

        It’s unsurprising Rose would be the more openly hostile of the pair, since she’s the more aggressive one and was also chafing at being trapped in the mirrorverse.

        1. Rose did mention its suppose to be subtle.

          I think the mistrust began early when Blake found out of the Barber and noticed Rose lived in reflections. Blake was more dismissive of Rose than openly hostile which angered Rose. Perhaps they were on their way to becoming enemies. For most of the story their has been a Blake vs Rose dynamic.

          Still, despite the distrust, Blake said he would do everything in his power to help Rose and get her out of the mirror. It was binding. Rose agreeing to work with Blake wasnt binding though. It might not have been Rose’s fault though. She followed the instructions and in the vision she wasnt sure why it hadnt worked the first time (again, she had the ability to lie when she said this).

          I just find it hard to believe that Rose Sr. would have the reflection made if they were meant to destroy each other. What if Blake made the same connection Rose made? What if he got worried and decided to bind Rose or destroy her before she became a threat?

          1. I think there’s a part of the plan after making the reflections that may have been derailed or has yet to come into effect. It’s highly unlikely she could get the Barber to make non-hostile duplicates, but she could have him make hostile duplicates and arrange for something else to either make them non-hostile or eliminate one and give all the traits she wants to keep from that one to the other.

          2. Random thought: If Blake was actually recognised on some level as the Thorburn heir (which he probably was since he inherited the house) due to magical tomfoolery re: his gender, isn’t it possible that he qualifies as the female half with the heart and soul?

  24. So, last time he was here, the Drains actually convinced a human to turn into an Other. Good job, Drains. Let’s see how far you go this time.

    1. I wonder if the rest of the group got visions?

      Did Alexis see a vision of her and Blake? What better way to create conflict between Rose and Blake then give the friends memories of Blake. Its easy to see Blake as the enemy when all you know is boogyman blake. But seeing a memory of the real blake might push them in Blake’s direction. Leading Rose to counteract because Blake is stealing back connections.

  25. “Because she wanted a tailor-made heir.

    Yeah this calls into question the old logic that Blake used before, to conclude that he must have been the vestige in the mirror all along.

    Why was Paige made last, if this heir-tailoring is apparently at work after all?

    Even if it weren’t, that always seemed a weird reason to disqualify her, if it’s solely about marriage and reproduction, because gay people have gotten married to the opposite sex and reproduced for long, long time. And RDT is clearly not above sacrificing her grandkids’ happiness for a greater cause, did she really put Ivy ahead of Paige just in the hopes that she wouldn’t have to be forced to marry someone she had no interest in? It’s not like the marriage has to be, or is even likely to be, motivated by love anyway.

    I really wonder if there’s more to it.

  26. Such a perfect vision of hell. Vicious handholds on a sheer surface, every place that hints of rest is a trap.

    So is Blake going to walk out of the mirror and onto the green hillside?

  27. Quotes from Grandma from just before she died:

    “Well, this is refreshing,” she finally said. Her voice was clear. Not an old person’s voice. Certainly not a ninety-year old’s. “It feels like all the rest of them are dressed like they can’t wait for my funeral. Or maybe they’re too cheap to buy two outfits for the occasion.”

    “You remind me of my father,” she said. “He had passion, and an interest in justice.”

    “I only want to understand my grandchildren before I make my decision.”

    “The house stands. I’m picking the young lady who I feel can look after it.”

    I think it’s plain that she liked Blake, but she needed him to be a young lady. So she planned to have him cut up and a female version made of those cut off bits, wrote the female half into the will so that Blake could inherit, then set the ball rolling. She wants someone who can change the world, change the town, change the family, and erase the debt.

    Blake has fought for her vision the whole time. Blake’s been the one to suggest moderation, that they shouldn’t be summoning demons and bogeymen if they can help it, while Rose has been all about summoning those things. Blake has tried to persuade the younger generation, while Rose couldn’t really give a flying fig about them.

    Blake is what Grandma wanted, but he was male. So she rigged it and set it up with the lawyers so that the Barber could go out and cut Blake.

    You know, I bet Molly was cut as well, and part of Molly was thrown into Blake. That would explain the real Molly/Blake connection, and any hint of female rape that the real Blake might have.

  28. On the other hand, Rose aptly pointed out that when a man is cut, the heart and soul make a woman. However, she never did say that a man was actually cut — perhaps when a woman is cut, the heart and soul go to make a man. Perhaps Rose lied by omission there in an attempt to convince the Blakeguard that they should back her.

  29. Anyone else think tiff ty and Alexis are becoming pretty impressive (Scourge) practitioners? Blake is like ‘yo guys, how bout we Abysswalk outta this mess?” And Ty is just like “Sure no big, got a priceless antique to smash?”

  30. I think that asking who is the “original” is missing the point. The original got cut into two pieces and Blake got one piece and Rose got the other. The real question is where the divide is, and who got what from the original.

    We first see Rose in Bonds 1, Blake has:
    -A body (he’s in the world, Rose is in the mirror)
    -A heart (“My heartbeat felt slow”. Bonds 1.1)
    -Intuition (Bonds 1.2; his ominous feelings)
    -Fairness (Bonds 1.2; he gives Joel his keys)
    -The ability to feel cold. (Rose lacks this!)
    -Memories of leaving home.
    -Mistrust of Rose. (“The more time I have to think about all this, the less I feel like I can trust [Rose].”
    -Bravery (Rose freezes up in a fight)
    -Access to the legal documents.
    -Tattoos.
    -Friendships.

    While Rose has:
    -Knowledge (she knows Rose is dead)
    -The ability to smash mirrors.
    -Knowledge of how cars work. (Blake lacks this in 1.2!)
    -Access to Beasley (he contacts Rose first)
    -The Thorburn Voice.
    -The ability to plan ahead. (Blake never does)
    -Talent with art. (Blake lacks this)

    Rose gains a heartbeat, body and Blake’s friendships after Blake gets eaten by Ur; Blake loses all of these things. That seems in line with Rose stealing them from Blake through their doppelganger connection.

    Anyone got anything else they can thing of?

    1. I think heartbeat and body automatically go to whichever has more of the other stuff. Also, Rose didn’t get Blake’s friendships. Blake’s friendships were wiped from reality. She kept the connections she’d had with Blake’s friends courtesy of their cooperation while fighting Conquest.

    2. “Rose gains a heartbeat, body and Blake’s friendships after Blake gets eaten by Ur; Blake loses all of these things. That seems in line with Rose stealing them from Blake through their doppelganger connection.”

      But Blake lost his heartbeat after the whole Carl replay, IIRC. In null 9.1 his heart is pounding. He had all that stuff until he gave it up.

  31. Let’s talk about how stupid this is.

    Rose says RTD wanted a tailor made heir, That she wanted said tailor made heir to NOT have friends and ties to another city. This makes no flipping sense. If that was true, then she wouldn’t inherit all those ties once the male half died.

    With this being said, I don’t belive any of the conclusions Rose drew from.

    What we know-
    Barber has a fourth power. He cuts reflections. He is a demon of ruin. His power splits up someone, The one that gets the most is real, the other is vestige. A man gets split, and his soul portion becomes female- however, if one part survives, barber can do it again.
    Blakes family have two different memories regarding ivy’s older sibling. One where the sibling is friends with molly and paige, another where the sibling is a loner. Molly said “enjoy your omelet” when mentioning why grandma fucked her over. They are both prone to possession

    What we DON’T know-
    Who the real person is. Who the origin is. What happens if a female is the orgin/who gets the soul. If Rake was the first, or if Molly was the first, barber split molly up into molly and rake, and Rake won, so barber tried again. Why Blake was the one destined to die instead of Rose, if they are destined to destroy one another. If either of them is possessed by something greater than just s few bird spirits. Where the fuck corvindea is or what he took as his price. And, most importantly- Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

    As much as I hate to say it, if the Origin was a female, it makes alexis’s rescue make a lot more sense. Alexis walks in, sees Carl holding down a young girl until said girl starts crying and pleading to be taken back into the cult, then she clobbers him upside the head.

    Huh. So grandma didn’t want the bits of Rake that were a fighter, has strong intuition, has tattoos or called her a rancid cunt with all due respect?

    Ah, so the person Peter remembers, that he was jealous of, were molly, paige, and Rose? That makes a bit more sense- three girls around the same age, each considers themselves not like their family members and not normal… Sounds like friend material to me.

    1. Now that we know Blake can get his old life back, I think Peter was remembering being jealous of Blake. The fact that Blake basically told his family to fuck off and left to go have a life of his own. Perhaps jealousy of Blake’s friendship with Paige. Unlike Tiff, Alexis, and Ty, Peter is trusting Blake. Perhaps this creates a new connection between the two. Peter probably sees Blake as someone that can introduce him to the magic world. Meanwhile, Rose is suppose to be friendless in his memory.

      “Hmm, there were two more. Sharp blades, I can’t imagine a good use for that. To carve out a reflection? I wasn’t so clear on that one.”

      “I am. As protection for my heir goes, it’ll serve.”

      Like I said before, I dont think Rose Sr. would create the reflection if they were going to fight each other. That offers no protection at all. The way Rose described the Barber is how he would be used against an enemy. Rose Sr. wouldnt use it that way against her heir. I’m guessing Molly’s death was the payment for the reflection.

      We have to look at it as a way for protection for the heir. We already know Blake was a place holder to give time for Rose to learn. Someone mentioned that when Blake died he was probably meant to become the reflection. Before the drains showed visions to Blake, Blake considered Rose a friend. If he was meant to become the reflection, he would’ve served as Rose’s guardian. He would’ve acted as the warrior for Rose. Rose (heir) gets a free guardian. A familiar that isnt really a familiar, so she would eventually get one of those too.

      1. Well, blake already protected Rose. his job is more or less done in that regard. He bought time needed to induct Rose, give her 24/7 access to the books, and a pawn to go out and test the waters she couldn’t (like, how to beat a faerie, or what NOT to say to a sphinx). Without Blake, she would have been helpless.
        Rose didn’t have the benefits of the other families, she only had a short time to get inducted, and no one to tell her the basics, nor no one to arrange a familiar for her. That’s where Blake comes in- guards her, keeps her safe, goes through trial-and-error so she doesn’t have to, and exposes her to Others that she may or may not form a familiar pact with.
        Not to mention, the way things were SUPPOSED to go where that she would get the three forms of powers without having to lift a finger, if Blake survived that long and died in a cleaner fashion…

        In that regard, he’s done.

        He wasn’t supposed to learn that, nor survive long enough to kill rose, nor learn HOW to kill a reflection.
        I don’t think there’s much more to the intent RTD had, I think that was her goal. As to the specifics… well, who knows.

        What I don’t get is this- RTD planned for Rose to be able to lie. She altered the mirror-verse awakening book for this purpose. But when the hell did Rose find that out? She showed blake the book, and asked if they should both do one ritual vs the other, and left it up to him. He was the one that chose to do what molly did. If he didn’t notice which one molly did, he might have done the same ritual, noticed it didn’t work, and they both would have tried again using the real one, and neither would be able to lie.
        Which was a VERY narrow miss for this all to happen…

      2. Sooo… someone just pointed out something to me, and I think it totally justifies about everything you just said, so I thought I’d share it with you.

        Their theory is that Blake isn’t Rose’s reflection that was cut out like Rose thinks, but Molly’s reflection.
        It would explain why her ghost was so damn hostile toward him, and why they seem to be total opposites (Molly spent a lot of time at home, learning defenses, and being all things anti-blake), and also supports your claim that the reflection-vestige-thing that blake is was supposed to be a protection and that having them destined to destroy each other would contradict that.

        If this is true, It means Blake (or whoever the original person was… Bolly? Make?) really was chosen, and why Laird said “You, blake, you remind me of someone else”. RTD chose blake, had it so his female half died and since he was still only half (more or less) of a person, could be bonded to Rose, the real heir, to protect her and serve as her guardian without the whole “destined to kill each other” thing.
        It ALSO explains molly’s “Enjoy your fucking omelettes”

  32. Lol, can you guys imagine if Rose is RIGHT? That means that she used to be a badass who grew up on the streets, had tattoos, owned a bike, and was in love with Alexis. I can see why RTD wanted to cut some of that out…

    Although that actually surprises the hell out of me. If Rose was the original Rake, and as such was a female, how did she grow up on the streets and in a cult without being almost raped once? You’d expect that to happen at least once…

      1. fair… Although since Blake acts like a rape victim, a LOT, I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to keep the memory in there if the feelings are still there.

  33. Question: why do so many people want the abuse Rake/Blose/Whoever went through to be perpetrated on a female? Blokes get abused by blokes and women, too. Just as women get abused by blokes or women.

    The memories with Carl can make sense for whatever the gender of the original was without having to jump through any hoops. [sighs] It makes no more sense for rape to “better fit being female” than it does for “being good at long-term plans” to be “better fitting a male”.

    1. Also: the abuse didn’t have to be rape, either. 😛 Physical and psychological abuse can take many, many forms and be “as bad as rape is supposed to be (in our culture)”. Considering that rape isn’t necessarily the “worst” kind of abuse anybody can be faced with (it depends on the person, usually).

    2. Yeah-Blake breaking down at that moment and begging is pretty much universal in terms of gender or trauma.

      Given the strong emphasis he’s always placed on his own (perceived lack of) masculinity, though, it’s definitely tempting to lean towards “Blake/Rose was male” because that reaction to something like that is…very male, culturally speaking. Like, a woman could definitely have that reaction, but Blake really, really fits for me as a male survivor of trauma.

      1. The part of Carl’s story that works better for a female is the pregnancy thing. Casual sex is fine until it gets real and you realize you can get pregnant.

        The part that makes sense for male is that Carl kept sending girls to Blake. There is no indication that Rose is gay like Paige.

        Young men get raped too. In this Blake gets emasculated by Carl before Alexis shows up.

        1. Eh, the pregnancy is equally coherent for both. Sure, it’s a more personal risk for a woman, but it really mainly served as a clue that Carl was manipulating everyone. They knew Carl was the father because the girl used a condom with everyone else, so it’s not like they didn’t have contraceptives.

          1. Honestly, for me the whole thing works better if it’s Blake who was Carl’s victim than Rose. It plays with the traditional gender roles. You expect this kind of story for a female far more than a male, and for me it just works better this way.

  34. Thoughts:

    1. So neither Blake or Rose is the original but we don’t know if the original was male or female or who is closest.
    2. I think Granny Rose’s plan is probably more subtle than throwing Blake under a bus. She complex in that she’s ruthless but surprisingly altruistic (for a very cold, long sighted version of altruism). All of this is aiming towards the change she wanted. Rose may be the heir but it’s not actually about the heir because that will hardly matter once everything is turned upside down.

    3 I hope Blake remembers how the abyss twists things and that this isn’t the whole truth.

    Becka

    1. Bingo: Grandma wanted things to be turned inside-out and upside-down. Also, Corvidae is involved in this up to his eyeballs. Inside-out and upside-down are practically what he’s about. ;P

      Which is why I strongly suspect that, even with things almost going off the rails from time to time… they probably haven’t quite managed to leap off. If anybody is qualified to counterweight whatever Barber can do, it’s him with his connection tweaking and bits-seeing. He’s likely been nudging everything back to roughly follow the game-plan (if a bit battered) all this time (nothing says he actually gets totally banished when Rose tries to send him away — or that he was all that far away to be summoned from in the first place: tricksters are pains like that). After all: Granny Rose and he seem to have been on practically on the same page about just how much Jacob’s Bell sucks. And, she seems to have never held to the “Others are always exactly as described by the literature” school of thought. Which means… a lot about how she could get along with a lot of them, I think. [shrugs]

      (A lot of what Rose knows about Others has an awful lot of “it is recorded that this one is this and does that so this and that will be in play”. Granny could hide a whole lot of stuff behind the unsaid in all that… let alone in the diary. 😛 Like “oh, and most of that is crap because e.g. the people who labelled this one this at the start got it badly wrong and everybody else has built on that mistake ever since”.)

      What are the odds that keeping The Plan ticking is just what Corvidae-who-may-not-be-as-anybody-would-think-of-a-bogey-as-being wants, too? Even if things and connections have to be tweaked here and there to do it? Granny might have been “a descendant of settlers”… but, nothing says you can’t be friends with somebody who is roughly pulling in a direction you like in a way that makes being used by them (as you use them in turn as per your directions) worth it to you in the long term. He put a lot of time into getting pieces in place: why ignore one who actively played your game… to an extent?

      1. Afterthought: Granny doesn’t like humans much. Why can’t she have produced two heirs? The human, all-too-Thorburn one (however that turns out) to fulfil the whole “what everybody expects” side of things. And, the Other one?

        Because… if she’s trying to trip the Lawyers up: making Rose the “true Thorburn heir” (and, you get what you want, you soulless bastards — and you can choke on it, because it won’t go as you expect) from all the bits she didn’t want the Other heir (my legacy as I really want it to be) to have?

        Rose has outs in all this without the whole “kill Blake” thing if she wants to be “a whole being”: Conquest and the Lawyers. Blake has an out, too: “choose being a different Blake” — he’s equipped with the concept that once something has changed, you can’t necessarily go back to being what you were before, so you don’t always have to try for it (Carl), but can move on to something different. [shrugs]

        Bitch on wheels, our Roselyn. But, there is compassion there, if any of this is remotely on target.

      2. I think Corvadae’s interlude makes it very clear he isn’t keeping anyone’s plans on track but his own, and maybe Crone Mara’s. He’s a curse, made to cause white people suffering.

        1. Aye I don’t see Corvidae being very much interested in creating a positive outcome for any human, unless it causes greater harm.

          Now, it is possible that Rose Sr. played Corvidae and has convinced him to assist in her machinations because it will cause great harm to the other families in town.

          Oh, boy, I just realized how Rose Sr. might have used Corvidae, and I think it matches everything together from Barbatorem, Corvidae, the lawyers, and Rose Sr.

          Will put that in it’s own separate bit at the end.

          1. You got exactly what I was getting at: connections. Rose and Blake are still very connected. They can’t be otherwise, being, at root, a single entity (regardless of any changes they’re undergoing apart). 🙂

            And, that can be messed with — to either get them actually fighting each other, or to point their tendencies elsewhere… or even misdirect their need to be “whole” by killing each other entirely elsewhere. 😉 They’re very attractive raw material.

            There’s probably been much in all this for what he wants to do for him to toe lines more than usual. (And, I get them impression Rose Sr liked dastardly Tricksters — it could even work both ways: she’s kind of one herself.)

    2. I think Blake was cut out of Molly, not Rose (or at least, not entirely Rose). A few reasons:

      1) The witch in the drains pointed out that Rose and Blake are not reflections (in a handed fashion). That leaves the question, who might it be?

      2) What do we know about Molly? She was alone, afraid to ask for help, and afraid to take any action for four months. What about Blake? He surrounds himself with friends and takes action, any action, at any time. Sounds like the missing pieces to me.

      3) Molly’s ghost went berserk when she saw Blake. That sounds perfectly reasonable given the circumstances.

      4) People assumed Blake came into existence at the end of chapter 1), but why not the beginning instead? That’s the beginning of the story, isn’t it? No reason Blake couldn’t be filled in on details at the end of the chapter instead. If he had been created at the end of the chapter, why was he in Toronto at the time? Doesn’t add up.

      5) Vestiges are harmed when they touch people. Blake had that problem out of the mirror, Rose does not.

      I think this makes more sense, and that Blake and Rose don’t get along because Rose is a jerk. Granny cuts out the useful pieces from Molly to make a guardian for her precious Rose, then sends the leftovers out to get crushed by the town (can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs). Doesn’t explain Blake’s memories of growing up on his side of the family, but maybe he needed those to take the place of heir to protect Rose.

  35. I wonder if one of the clowns has horns and a Capricorn shirt…

    Eh, probably not. Still, it’s kind of funny to imagine Gamzee down there with the monster clowns.

  36. Wouldn’t Urr eat the connection between Blake, the barber, and Rose? Or is the Barber too powerful to be affected by the choir of darkness.

    1. Or… maybe it found out somebody else rather bigger was playing games with this morsel. Back away. Slowly. Trying not to look as if you almost buggered their game up. 😀

      Let the Abyss do whatever and start whistling innocently, hoping you haven’t trod on toes too hard in a way the other one can’t degrade their own way. (Look: no real harm, no foul… right?)

    2. Good question. I’d also been wondering how Blake could get visions of Rose & co while he was in the Drains. I could understand him not losing his memories because they were somehow fake, but the connections part was definitely weird.

      1. I think Urr doesnt take memories. Its more messed up when someone remembers everyone in their life, but they all have no clue that person ever existed. Then the drains use memories to influence the person.

      2. I think stuff went a little funny because Blake didn’t get eaten and promptly fell into the Drains. The connections broke, but he missed the bit where everything updated to match. Likewise, Mags didn’t lose her memories of him because she didn’t have a connection for the changes to propagate over.

        1. And since Rose popped in to take his place, she inherited some of Blake’s backstory. If Rose was meant to be the perfect heir, that is gone now because she has friends, a history of trauma, repressed memories. Everything Blake had. All in all it made her like a normal person since some of the stuff cut out was jammed back in.

          1. I don’t believe she got any of Blake’s backstory. Either Blake kept it or it got obliterated. Here’s a bit from Rose right after the factory:

            It jarred with… with this. The smoke, the fire, the fact that someone had just died and she had no idea who, why, or how.

            The others were similarly lost, similarly distraught.

            Reeling.

            She felt no particular connection to them. They were, what, one step removed from her?

            Her connections were friend-of-friend, except with the person in the middle missing.

            1. That in itself is weird isnt it? If Rose was human, she wouldnt have any protection to Urr’s effects. She would simply roll with it without question.

              What are the chances other Thorburn kids have been cut? Roxanne is pretty messed up for a kid. Ellie lacks courage.

            2. Ellie lacks courage? Ellie was the one that stabbed Eva’s brother with a syringe of what she said was poison after letting Eva kick her several times so she could get close enough. Ellie might prefer to attack from hiding or surprise, but when the cards are on the table, she isn’t a coward. She has to know that Eva, psychobitch, is never going to forgive her for injecting her helpless brother with poison. Peter at least fought Andy, Ellie attacked him when he was helpless. I’ll be very surprised if Ellie doesn’t get the everloving shit kicked out of her by Eva after this is over, if Eva and Andy live. If Eva lives and Andy does not, I don’t think Ellie will survive.

            3. Speaking of Elle, we got a huge ammount of backstory for her in the opening of the chapter, and it sure does explain a lot.

      3. Hypothesis:
        Once connections to Blake were cut, the Universe changed people’s memories and connections to fit this. Blake was already in the Drains by the time this happened, effectively making him invisible to the rest of the Universe, so it couldn’t or wouldn’t bother changing Blake’s memories.

  37. Regarding the issues with the cult memories and Rake’s Gender.

    During the flashback, everyone but Alexis and the cult leader were played by Other actors. Blake suggests himself that this was because those two were the only two real interactions there, and that everything else might have been false. Today we learn that false memories will fill in the gaps left by the shears. So things like Rake sleeping with girls at the cult and the like can be dismissed. Likewise, with Alexis, I’m fairly sure the two never hooked up- Blake saw her as a friend, although Alexis (who is bi) was interested. So it’s still entirely possible those were Rose’s memories.

  38. So we back to going BOOHISS ROSE instead of BOOHISS DUCHAMP&BEHAIM. Or is this just a general BOOHISS NOTBLAKE?

    I mean, we see Blakes internal monologue. Rose does not. So it seems massively unfair for us to judge her for not immediately assuming that Blake isn’t just trying to manipulate her and her friends. Especially since she’s the only one of the two to actually stop and think what Granny Rose’s plans might be and do appropriate research, so there’s a lot she could know that we don’t.

    Besides, nothing Blake has done since coming back from the Drains has ended well for anyone. So they have scant reason to be all that grateful.

    1. No. Rose seemed scared when talking about it. She also realized that she is not completely real. Blake also mistrusted Rose as soon as he learned about the Barber and reflections. There is also a lot we didnt see when Blake was in the drains. Like how Ty, Tiff, Alexis have now been practitioners longer than Blake and know more.

    2. Alright, let me write a bit in defense of BOOHISS NOTBLAKE.

      I mean, yes, protagonist-centered morality is obviously not objective or accurate. But I think that trying to view a story ‘objectively’ is a mistake. This story is, mostly, written from the POV of Blake, so I feel that you get the most out of it (at least on a first read-through) if you try and place yourself in Blake’s shoes, even if you don’t always agree with him.

      You’re not supposed to sympathize too much with Rose right now. And while you can read things that way, I find that it leads to a dissonance when reading each new chapter, because you’re no longer following Blake’s mindset and have therefore pulled yourself out of the story a bit.

      1. Perhaps. But buying into Blake’s POV too much can prevent you from thinking about the other characters and how they could be sympathetic if not for the narrative bias. Which I think does a bit of disservice to the story and what Wildbow may be trying to do. He could rip the cloth off the table at any moment.

        Besides, I don’t think Wildbow flat out intends for the audience to sympathize or not sympathize with the characters, he said as much recently.

        1. Part of what I love about the 1st person POV of both Worm and Pact is that the narrators aren’t always reliable. Their perceptions can be distorted, their memories can be changed, their feelings and intuitions can misfire, etc.

          The current chapters are a good example – Blake is still trying to protect everyone, and he still worries somewhat, but he’s really becoming less and less human; for instance, he shows essentially no emotions even when his friends are in mortal peril.

  39. Oddly enough I’m less worried about Blake’s reaction. The spirits he is currently playing host to, protecting, and getting all buddy buddy with, they don’t like lies all that much.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that. Blake himself can lie, supposedly, but the spirits hanging out in him might just up and leave if he does it too much.

    2. Those spirits are his. They’re with him for the sake of becoming stronger and staying out of the Abyss. They’re not the spirits found in the normal world, but from the Abyss since the moment he bled himself out and nearly slipped into the cracks before and after.

      It’s also why they usually try to run when he reaches into his chest, because they don’t want to be used… except Lefty….where is Lefty, now that I think about it?

  40. I just realized Blake got screwed because or Rose and co. They told him not to trust his instincts which is what has help him the most. What good is it to let Alaster go free by calling it a tie? He could’ve had his third victory over the Behaims. But his friends told him to not trust his instincts. So what now? Alaster inherits and the house is still attacked by others? In what way did letting Alaster off with a tie?

    And now it turns out the joke is that they thought Blake’s instincts were telling him to attack Rose.

      1. I don’t think Blake could have won that solo. His reinforcements arriving was the Ten Of Swords for him, which basically translates to “very bad”.

        1. Checking more specifically, one of the things it indicates is betrayal. The available reinforcements? They included Corvidae.

    1. The told him not to trust his instincts because his instincts fuck things up consistently. The face that they thought killing Rose is one of those instincts is just a bonus reason.

      Blake’s instincts help Blake, sure, in fights. Everyone else get’s screwed.

      1. Toronto is pretty messed up since Blake showed up.

        Does it mean that Rose has been going against her instincts? She once mentioned she didnt trust herself.

            1. It’s been a month. If the Sisters haven’t gotten The Eye on a leash then that’s on them.

              And technically the whole Conquest incident started due to Sandra telling her ex-husband to stop Blake from coming back. And that can be traced back to Laird screwing him over with Padriac.

            2. That’s getting too far into “Ned Stark caused the Red Wedding” territory.

              Blake was the one who picked a fight with Ur and got his connections erased, the breakdown of Toronto was caused by him.

            3. I think it’s a bit silly to blame Blake for the breakdown of Toronto. Remember, it largely broke down because he was a stabilizing influence that was removed.

              (And I think it is fair to assign more of the blame to Rose. Look at it like this: What we saw, before Blake was erased, was what happened when Blake was the active Thorburn heir — he cared about Toronto and took the time to try and smooth things out eg. with the Astrologer and the Sisters, preventing things from getting worse. When he died, Rose took his place, and she didn’t give two shits about the city, so she left immediately. If Rose had been the sort of person to care about the city and try to protect it, she would have replaced Blake as the person who mediated in situations like that; or she would have done so after Blake died, since her memories at that point, while confused, should have indicated that it was necessary. She didn’t do any of those things; her reaction was straight-up “why am I still here, I don’t care about anything in Toronto.”)

              I mean, I wouldn’t completely blame Rose, because she wasn’t really the one who set up that entire situation or anything — but blaming Blake seems silly. The only reason Toronto exploded when he was eaten by Ur was because he was the only person who was really stepping up to protect it.

              …wait, actually, thinking back, a big part of the problem was caused by Corvidae, who Rose insisted on using despite Blake’s objections (and, it was implied, mostly because Rose wanted to feel useful and powerful.) I think it’s totally fair to blame Rose for that, especially since Blake tried to fix things afterwards and Rose completely did not give a shit.

            4. Far as I’m concerned Toronto was going to have the shit hit the fan sooner or later. Because it’s Lord was Conquest, and everyone else can be divided into to camps. Those strong enough he can’t currently dominate them, and those weak enough that he could. Not so bad if your in the first group, but not so good if your in the second. And honestly I’m reminded of Terry Prachett’s bit about Dictators. You shoot him it does nothing to solve the problems that let him rise to power.

              Blake was a catalyst. But sooner or later something would have disrupted the balance of power, and the conflict would have happened. Because their lord was freaking Conquest, a being who’s very nature is absolute dominance.

            5. No, blaming the outcome in Toronto on Blake’s actions is completely fine. The problem is blaming it on Blake himself, because he couldn’t really act any differently – he was a hammer in search of a nail, and couldn’t stop. Still, he totally should have tried to find any other nail to hammer.

              Still, he was the one to cause the disaster:

              • Blake suggested the competition with Conquest. He also made Rose one of his champions. Rose only used Corvidae when Fell was killed and they didn’t really have any options anymore. Without Rose’s use of Corvidae, Blake would definitely have lost the competition.

              • And then he got erased, which disoriented everyone. Rose didn’t even know things would go bad in Toronto; in fact, I don’t even know to which extent she remembered the events there. And she had to help their friends who suffered from acute erasure symptoms, and that required the books from Hillsglade House. Also, she wasn’t safe in Toronto. After Laird trapped the house, the Jacob’s Bell practitioners were almost hands-off (except for Sandra -> Jeremy), but after Laird’s death, that certainly didn’t hold any longer.

            6. Ah, and concerning Conquest: Essentially everyone but Blake and the Knights knew that Conquest was a figurehead. It was convenient to have an immortal being in power, because mortals in Lordship positions tend to get killed, which sparks unrest. Isadora was not happy about Blake’s competition with Conquest precisely because of what would happen even if Blake won.

            7. Personally I feel that Toronto was a powderkeg that was going to blow sooner or later. Blake may have been the match, but sooner or later their was going to be an explosion no matter what.
              1-Conquest, by his very nature always seeks more power and dominance. Sooner or later he’s going to do something.
              2-Conquest may be a figurehead to the most powerful groups in the city, but he can still force at least some of them to do things they really wouldn’t want to. Just look at what happened to the Astrologer’s mentor.
              3-The Drunk has never really given up his ambitions of being lord of the city. If he sees an oppourtunity, he’ll take it.
              4-Urr. See the thing I’m wondering is did Urr ever eat any major player that decided to deal with that demon in the warehouse?

  41. I feel suddenly and acutely sorry for Rose.

    I mean, I thought it was Blake who left for Toronto and made artist friends while Rose stayed behind and played the system – but it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter which of them is the “original”, there’s just one person split in two – and Rose had all of that taken away from her.

    Blake’s friends don’t remember him, but they would have been Rose’s friends, too, and she lost all of that completely.

    Rose is the same person who used to want to get away from the Thorburns and make a different life for herself outside the system, but the parts of her that were capable of that got cut away.

    Demons: making everything worse for everyone.

  42. I actually had a more difficult time with the last chapter. The revelation for the betrayal was hard hitting, but now, since I understand the motivation for the behavior it’s not quite as agonizing.

    Just the same, Rose asked them to chose her at the expense of Blake, and they all agreed.

    So, now that Blake’s aware that he’d been rejected by the people that’d be fighting so hard on behalf of, he has to make a decision.

    Sever ties, or persist.

    It did reveal something pretty important that I missed before. I had thought that Rose had told his friends something about him (Blake is bad because drains contamination) that they had to keep secret from him (swear not to tell him so), so that lead them to reject him (I renounce you, no you don’t get know why). Instead it appears that they made a decision to reject him (Rose over Blake), and then were not telling him why because it’d provoke his hostility (You’re our enemy, but you don’t know this yet, please help in the meantime). It also explains why they wouldn’t accept anything negative that he had to say about Rose’s decision making, since they were guarded against him acting to undermine Rose.

    Who knew friendship was zero sum?

    1. I think Alexis might have gotten a memory of her and Blake. Why else would she smile when she has been avoiding him all the time.

      1. I don’t know. I think it might be guilt though. She’s had deep feelings for Blake, was hit the hardest by losing him, and she also renounced him. Avoiding him may have been her best course not to lose her nerve or reveal that he’d been betrayed.

      2. I do wonder what the Abyss showed or did to the other characters. It seems to have an agenda (it is clearly determined to turn Blake against Rose), but it’s not clear if that agenda is part of some universal will or if it’s a specific “path of least resistance to Boogiemandom” that is specific to each individual.

        My guess would be the latter, really. Interestingly, it also showed Blake images of Toronto falling apart — I wonder why? Although I posted above that you can sort-of assign some blame for that to Rose (summoning Corvidae and then not bothering to fix things after the contest was over), it doesn’t seem like a very visceral sort of thrust in that direction — that sort of logic might make Blake frown and say “she really should do better”, but it’s not going to turn him into a revenge-driven monster. Given how most of the Drains’ other pushes are emotional, I would assume it was trying to push him towards something else, maybe not Rose-related.

        It might just have been to keep him from giving up, since it wants him to keep moving and to change.

        1. Argh, now I worry whether Green Eyes also saw anything. Maybe a Thanksgiving dinner with a bird looking like Evan as the main course? Or romance with Blake, with all other females present dead?

          PS: IIRC the Drains showed Blake the aftermath of Toronto (and the fate of his friends) to show him he’d failed: all he’d wanted was to leave the world better of than it had been when he’d started, and yet the world was far worse off for his existence.

        2. I figure the Drains showed Blake the collapse of Toronto to demoralise him. He’s repeatedly said that his main goal is to leave the world better off than he found it. The Drains were showing him that, despite (or because of) all his efforts, Toronto was worse off.

  43. It occurs to me that there is another way Rose Sr. carving the desirable traits from the ones. Without the other trait’s to counterbalance them, the “good” traits might not be so good. It’s like that old Star Trek episode where Kirk gets split in two. Yeah his evil half is a beast, but his good half is a pussy. Cut out those friends and the selflessness you might get someone who is most concerned with themselves, not reducing the family debt, or fixing things like you wanted.

    1. Ture. Someone that fucks things up on accident might be as bad as someone that does it on purpose. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. They are dealing with a demon from the choir of ruin. I doubt either of his creations would make things better. But then, why would rose Sr. make them if her goal is to reduce karmic debt?

      Blake realized that he made the world worse by simply existing, and he is still out there fucking around taking people to the drains. Were the Thorburns suppose to get attacked or did Blake’s presence help chip away at their innocence? For all we know the others were told to avoid the kitchen (why have Eva and Andy capture them if they are going to be killed by others anyway). The others didnt attack until Callan became fair game, which is when he asked what was wrong with the face.

      1. Hard to say at this point but, innocence or not, locked away or not, it’s hard to believe that the Thorburns wouldn’t have been killed in such a massive Other attack. Some of them seemed the sort to take orders like ‘avoid the kitchen’, but many didn’t. Also, the kitchen seemed to be pretty central to the house plan. The Others might not even be able to teach the upper levels without passing through the kitchen…

  44. OK, We know that Rose Sr. used the Barber to cut up someone and make individuals who would normally fight one another. That’s clearly not what she wanted. She wanted the parts to work with one another, or at least not try to destroy one another.

    What I think happened:

    Molly is the original heir. The Barber was used on Molly. Blake AND Rose were extracted from her. Perhaps at or near the time of her death, perhaps years in the past?

    Normally, it seems that a split person would have sought one the other parts of themselves, and been in conflict. That’s where Corvidae comes in. Rose Sr. brings him in and has him scramble their connections. Instead of trying to seek one another out and be in conflict, they are intentionally connected so as to limit conflict.

    When Molly died, Rose and Blake both got part of what had been part of Molly. However, Blake never really died to give Rose the parts of himself and Molly that were in his possession.

    All that in fighting in the Thorburn family? That was where Corvidae put the hate connections that would normally have existed between Molly, Blake, and Rose. He took what good feelings existed between the other family members and swapped them with the vestige hate connections, but spread the connections out so they wouldn’t quite be at a killing level, diluting them.

    I think this fills in a whole lot of gaps. I’m sure some of you can poke holes in it though. What am I missing?

    1. I agree about Molly being a sacrifice. The whole cant make an Omelette without breaking a few eggs thing sticks out. Whether she was used for the Barber, who knows.

      Your theory might work. I think I can add something else though.

      Perhaps Rose Jr. did exist, but she died. That means her parents had to scramble and have another child, which explains the age gap between Rose and Ivy (I know being a runaway disappointment does too) . So, Molly gets carved up (Blake and Rose get recklessness and courage) leaving Molly as a coward. Everyone already remembers Rose’s parents having an older daughter, so thats where the reflection gets placed.

      1. “Perhaps Rose Jr. did exist, but she died. That means her parents had to scramble and have another child, which explains the age gap between Rose and Ivy (I know being a runaway disappointment does too) . So, Molly gets carved up (Blake and Rose get recklessness and courage) leaving Molly as a coward. Everyone already remembers Rose’s parents having an older daughter, so thats where the reflection gets placed.”

        Interesting, that could work.

    2. Thorburn karma and normal human weakness is enough to explain the hatred and infighting in the family, though Corvidae may have helped things along a bit.

      I don’t think Molly was split: Peter remembers Paige and Molly being friends with someone, presumably the original Blake/Rose.
      But more importantly: the memories of everyone who was split should fit together to make a whole, and Molly had different parents, a different relationship with Callan, etc.

      1. We don’t know how long ago the split occurred, if it occurred. Corvidae could probably have connected the children with whatever parents he wanted, provided that they were young enough to not have huge numbers of connections. Most people don’t realize it, but swapping children among family members was not unheard of, even into the 1900’s. You wanted a boy and your sister wanted a girl? You had a girl and your sister had a boy? No Problem. Swap. Happened to two people in my family.

        Since it seems that connections are at least somewhat plastic, if the child was split, they would want to keep it’s parts separate, or they might properly reform again?

        There’s a bunch of loose ends possible, but Wildbow’s also got rules mixed in that we don’t know, I’m sure.

        I still have to admit that the fact that people seem to have clean memories of Molly seems to indicate that she was not split. Ah well, it was a good thought. Well, I thought it was 🙂

        1. Thats why I think a dead original Rake would exist. It is probably easier to fill in the gaps if everyone already remembers Ivy having an older sibling.

        2. “You wanted a boy and your sister wanted a girl? You had a girl and your sister had a boy? No Problem. Swap. Happened to two people in my family.”
          Wasn’t there something about this in Worm? You know when you have something on the tip of my tongue? Well, it’s not that close, I have something tingling on the edge of my brain, suggesting that there was a connection here somewhere. Feel free to respond in rot13, I guess, if you figure it out before I do.

  45. Very happy with this chapter. Rose always seemed kind of flat. Makes a lot of sense if she’s literally missing chunks of her personality.
    Certainly speculation to be had as to how the whole story fit together with Blake’s memories being real as well as Rose’s. Aand neither of them really had clothes that belonged to them at any point, except for Blake’s sweatshirt, so we can’t really get gender from that. Fun times for all.

      1. It was his tribute given to the witch in the Drains, who then gave it back to him as a parting gift. I think it was his own clothing – what he was wearing before he braved Urr. It also took on the essence of the Drains, I remember.

  46. Random thought: one of the possible explanations that we heard in 8.1 for how goblins got to be the way they are was that they were what was left over after the Fae cut off all the bits of themselves that they didn’t like. Recall, also, that Bake seemed to show a natural talent at glamours back when he still had that lock of Letita’s hair.

  47. This, oddly enough, is the first bit of information I’ve seen in a while that gives me hope for a non-terrible ending for our protagonist. Both Rose and Blake are two halves of a whole that could learn to work together, stronger split then they ever could be whole. If they forged a pact between themself, they would be one person encompassing both human and monster, practitioner and other.
    I wonder if the Abyss didn’t give him that vision as reward for good work done. He learned something that was hidden from him, something that was essential to both diffusing the situation with Rose and his own survival. Whether it’s nature is change or ruin, Blake is an excellent agent for the Abyss.

  48. Everyone has been saying that Rose is very being incredibly irrational because Blake has not shown any malice towards her. While it is true that Rose hasn’t seen any malice, nor Blake has demonstrated any malice, if my memory serves, Blake has been willing to kill Rose.

    I could be remembering wrong, so anyone feel free to correct me, but when Blake was informed that Rose was tainted by Conquest, he was ready to dispose of Rose if he deemed it necessary. Barbie does not need to create two mirror images that will hate each other to the bones; it just needs to create copies that will look for an excuse to kill each other. Tell me that if winds hadn’t blown another way, if Blake hadn’t had the opportunity to talk with Rose, but kept seeing her abusing her power and endangering his friends, he wouldn’t have tried to kill her. Not because he hates her, but because he thought it was necessary in order to protect his friends.

    If it is true that Blake and Rose are meant to kill each other (supported by multiple accounts of similar cases, though they might be biased), and she probably has no reason to believe otherwise (although we, the readers, might), it is reasonable that, at least, she has set up measures against Blake. Trying to kill Blake might be going too far, but it might turn out to be safer for her than otherwise. And that’s not going into the fact that, for all we know, she might have changed her mind long ago.

    1. I was thinking along similar lines.

      Blake Does tend to go for direct, unilateral solutions, doesn’t he? I would be a bit fearful of him if I were Rose, that’s for certain. At best he’s confused and irrational. At worst, he’ll go for the throat if people who he considers his friends are being hurt. In her eyes, Blake is potentially incredibly useful, but dangerous. Rose has been learning about how to deal with useful and dangerous beings, and I would be willing to bet that there are none of her books which tell her that it’s OK to make friends with such a being. There might be time to explore that later. After everyone in town stops trying to kill the Thorburns.

      We, the readers, are not seeing things from anything even remotely like Rose and the others are. Our emotions are clouded by our feelings for Blake and our understanding of Blake when he was human, or at least when he thought he was.

      We might find out later that Blake can once again become human, if he wants to, but for now, the Other in him is very much present.

  49. Wow! What a chapter! Holy hell! Nice bomb you dropped there Wildbow, in those last few paragraphs. Completely unsuspected, slap right in the face: HERE’S THE DEAL WITH BLAKE AND ROSE.

    I hope Blake realises the Drains Version 2.evenmorefuckier might very well have served him a distorted image to get at him. God reading about that place gave me more anxiety than the previous Drains did. Imagine having to be super alert / paranoid without a single chance of catching your breath, for as long as you are there

    Really interested in how things will procede! Just hope Blake won’t be all mopy about this new information!

  50. Random thought: Corvidae has got his mitts on the very aspect of the very thing he’s meant to get revenge for…

    You know, I think the Conquest-who-previously-came-from-Toronto is in for a really bad century when our Crow bothers to let him out on his on aegis. 😛 Worse, thanks to the connection to Rose, Conquest is likely to think of him as “dangerous, but useful: I can control this one” — particularly if a clever crow bends the knee. Ha ha ha ha ha. Sure you can, buddy.

    1. Yeah, I am not even mad about the spirit of vengeance from the First Nations getting ahold of the literal personification of Canadian Colonialism. It’s completely fitting.

        1. That is a really good point, and I hope nothing happens regarding it until this story is complete. Or unless it’s a major plot point. I’d just rather not spend a lot of time listening to some Wizard of Oz brag on about what a big bad dude he is.

          1. I think that part of the reason Conquest wore thin so fast as a villain was because it didn’t feel like there was anywhere for him to go.

            There was no big mystery surrounding him; we knew exactly what he was and what he wanted. And he was completely one-dimensional with absolutely no potential for personal change or character development.

            It reminds me of something from later in Worm: Gur jnl Wnpx Fynfu onfvpnyyl guerj njnl gur pbcvrf bs Gur Fvorevna, orpnhfr fur jnf ab ybatre vagrerfgvat bapr ure frperg jnf erirnyrq. Fnzr guvat urer, gubhtu Pbadhrfg arire unq n frperg gb ortva jvgu.

            1. Plus Conquest repeatedly was in a position to just declare the game won, but he threw these wins away because they weren’t sufficiently absolute victories. For character with such hybris, the only way to go is down.

              (For instance, what if he’d never let Blake & Rose leave his domain when he originally captured them? Or what if he’d used his “You will tell me everything you don’t want to tell me” power on them at that point?)

            2. I agree with you on Conquest. The problem is he’s exactly what he says on the tin, and nothing more. Look at some of the more popular incarnations of death in fiction. For example both the Discworld Death and the Niel Gamain Death have their love for life that gives them an interesting duality to work off of.

      1. If only it were that simple. Corvidae was turned back on the First Nations successfully and even his “father’s” sacrifice was unable to undo that fully. So Corvidae can hurt both sides now. The guaranteed downside for non-aboriginal Canadians is that when they use him, they always lose something important and that detail is apparently hidden, so they can’t plan for/around it. The only reason Mara sees this situation as a clear win is she is the only aboriginal in the mix and she is not participating in the fight, so any damage Corvidae does is to people she hates. But this is false thinking – if demons get lose or inherit the property, everyone loses.

        The larger problem is archaic versus modern morality. The archaic morality is that the son inherits the sins of the father, so sending Corvidae after modern non-aboriginal Canadians is OK in that thinking.

        So, if it were as simple as “the spirit of vengeance from the First Nations getting ahold of the literal personification of Canadian Colonialism” I would have no problems with it. But the current situation is a clusterfu** with Corvidae planning a long-game disaster.

        1. That bounce was a relatively temporary one: both Corvidae and his “father” worked to make it so that the original goals, although warped, weren’t negated. Yes: Bad Things happened to the Algonquian tribe who sent him thanks to whatever it was Corvidae (fairly reluctantly) did as a result of the bounce. But, Bad Things were happening, anyway: the most that could be done would be a speed-up of the craptastic nastiness. 😦

  51. Rose leaves the house. Blake’s friends and relatives are now the primary defenders / defenses. So Blake tries to protect them, especially his friends. Which makes him more likely to be destroyed or sent back. If he is destroyed or sent back then Rose has a respite in dealing with her split enemy.

    I wonder if that was a factor in Rose’s thinking?

    Non Sequitur: The comments thread got long for this chapter. I guess a major revelation will do that.

  52. Rose is still karmically responsible for her friends because Blake’s connections reverted to her, so she really shouldn’t put her friends in danger just to get rid of Blake. Besides, Blake downright told her “If you hurt them? Or if you gamble them and get them hurt? You will answer for it.”

    This plan would risk an outcome that cost her tons of karma and ended up with Blake alive but a whole lot angrier at her. (Blake still ended up angry at her, but Rose couldn’t have expected the Abyss to reveal her secrets to him…)

  53. When characters aren’t mentioned for too long in a Wildbow story, I just have to wonder what happened. So,

    WHAT HAPPENED TO EVA?


    My running theory is that after climbing down the ladder, the pair got consumed by the Abyss/Apartments, Eva overwhelmed by her inability to both carry and climb without dying. The two lost and became Other, held together by their own power source – their dependence on technology.

    Eva lost her legs and then her joints with her limbs, her skin bleached and weakened. Her face was covered by a pitch black mask through which only her eyes glowed. Andy suffered the same, but due to the poison looks rusted and old. They are now undoubtedly a pair: Eva and And-e.

  54. Looking at the comments of others indicating what we know of Blake and what we know of Molly, I’m beginning to think that Molly and Blake were the ones split by Barbatorem. Molly was content to stay in the house and learn defensive magics. Blake was the opposite. Molly’s ghost’s violent reaction to Blake when she saw him is also what one might expect from a vestige meeting it’s other half. Blake’s been scrambled by Ur, and then the drains, so it’s understandable that he might not have the normal reaction to the other half of a vestige.

    Molly’s reaction is completely at odds to Blake’s memories of her feelings towards him, which makes me look even more closely at the two of them once being one person. Corvidae might be stirring the pot in ways as well.

    This would explain why Rose Jr. at one point said she thought she was the first heir. Molly was never an heir. She was a decoy. Just like Blake was never an heir, he was also a decoy.

    Now… That’s two decoys that successfully drew aggression down on themselves. Is Rose decoy #3 ? That whole thing with threes. I’m not sure about that, because I think Isadora would have seen it. Then again, maybe she has seen it. She did start a relationship with Paige… Perhaps Isadora and Rose Sr. worked together in some way for a common goal?

    Rose Jr. has the voice though, the power to command, so she may actually be the heir.

    Wildbow, I’m going to stop chasing shadows here. The last few chapters have been extremely well done, and I’m seeing things leading all the way back to the first few chapters. After you finish Pact, I’d love to hear how you organize your writing, if you are willing to discuss it.

    1. Hrm, also, Mags was feeding Molly power through blood as a sort of penance. That connection might be why Mags maintains some connection to Blake. If Molly and Blake are parts of a whole person, then the connections Mags was creating with Molly might have helped her maintain connections with Blake in some way.

      So what would we call Molly/Blake Make?

  55. Let me just say, the fact that the demon/s is/are going to be freed is a foregone conclusion. I mean that’s what this entire story builds up to, there is a reason the demons have been given such great weight, and that is because they are essential to the plot. In the end Blake will have to be the one who defeats the demons. The rest of the story is just cheese, it’s the yummy delicious middle part that gives the story flavor.

  56. Quick question- any idea WHY the desk slamming the floorboards count as destroying a valuable thing? Did they destroy something very important without even realizing that was the holy grail of writing desks or something?

    1. I figured they didn’t need to sacrifice something of monetary value – why would the abyss care about money, anyway – but rather something of sentimental value, something people spent time or money on, or something with a long history, etc. Generations of Thorburn diabolists might have written their letters, diaries and books at that writing desk, so it would certainly count.

      1. Agreed: tears will have been shed as a result of that desk. Lots and lots of tears, given the subject matter (money, land grants, political shenanigans planned… demons.) Laughter had, too — maybe. Although, Thorburns don’t get me as the “share gossipy good news” types, in the main. 😛

        1. “Dear practitioner,

          Oh man, and then the demon just split her right into two! You should have seen that! Her organs just dropped onto the ground, bowels swinging around. It was hilarious.

          Sincerely,
          ___ Thorburn.”

        2. Grandma used to bend people over that desk, and she was bent over it too. Lots happened in that room, on that desk, and that desk had meanwhile been imbued with the memories of that time. Not to mention, the lock to some room up those nearby stairs had been mystically bound to that desk… but that’s a small matter compared to all those years and years of memories.

          1. Actually, having written that, I wonder if the desk wasn’t involved in Rose’s deadman switch in some way? Perhaps the Barber is loosed on the town. Seriously, with what happened when the blood & fire curse was levied, there’s got to be more blood shed than we’ve seen so far.

          1. Given that the desk doesn’t have arms to grab onto the wall with, it probably just kept falling, if the magic ritual to open the gate didn’t destroy it in the first place.

      2. I think Harden865’s point is that, in order to open the gate, they needed to destroy something of value. The desk falling into the gate to the Abyss can’t count because that gate would not be open unless the desk had already been destroyed. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.

  57. screw rose. seriously,anyone noticed how convinced she is its a him-or-me scenario? like somethings DRIVING her to DESTROY her other half?
    All that aside, if the vision actually IS accurate, she is just as bad as her grandmother/ elders of the other family’. by definition if you are magically/psychically manipulating someone into doing what you want, regardless if you are hamfistedly making them agree with everything you say, hitting them with an aura of dominance leading them to automatically agree with anything you say short of telling them to kill themselves, or fiddling with their mind subtlety to..guide them into doing what you want, they are NOT acting form their own free will, period.

    if she is knowingly fiddling with the minds of people who believe themselves wholeheartedly to be her long time friends,she’s lost any aspect of likability she ever held from my POV

    on another note, do you think the SMARTEST thing Blake could do outside immediate danger would be to immediately confront the group with what he saw and give them a chance to challange it/ reveal any parts of it that are fabricated?

    1. Before Urr, Blake was a vestige, a tool Grandma made to help her and be destroyed when it wasn’t needed. After Urr, what’s this Blake thing?

      The smartest thing under which circumstances? Your last sentence is a bit confusing.

  58. So Rose says that she was planning on getting rid of Blake anyway even before she got the revelation that he was doomed to try and destroy her?

    Okay yeah I’ve got to sit on the anti-Rose side of the debate now.

    1. On a rethink, though, I’ve got to remember that Rose doesn’t remember most of her history with Blake. To her he’s just this random mirror spirit that showed up in her house, claimed he knew them, and insisted on helping them whether they wanted his help or not.

  59. Oh god. I had so many memories of my dad and Uncle Paul talking in just that tone.

    It’s what she’s familiar with. It works.

    “And when you’re done getting her to safety, go to fucking hell. Bringing us here?”
    Kathryn? Fucking hell can’t possibly be worse than here.

    A few injuries, one potential bug issue, and the typical unavoidable mental or spiritual wear-and-tear…pretty good for a trip through the Abyss.

  60. So I won’t hate on Rose,I really won’t,her circumstances give her benefit of doubt,and shehas lost some parts of her and is affected by Coquest.

    I will,however,say what at least one of the two parts of me would think:fuck ruin,fuck destiny,I’ll do my best so that neither is destroyed and,if unavoidable,I’ll ensure it won’t end in ruin because it will be on self sacrifice,because fuck it all.

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