Duress 12.6

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“I feel like I aged ten years, going through that,” Peter commented.

“Kathryn did most of it with one working hand,” Roxanne said.  “Not even a hurt hand.  One of her arms is broken or something.”

Eyes turned to Kathryn.

“Dislocated,” Kathryn said.

Alexis approached her, which meant she came closer to me in the process.

I found myself stepping back and away.  Not entirely because I wanted to give Kathryn and Alexis some space.

Alexis gave Kathryn’s arm some attention, moving it and prodding the joint.  Evan was perched on Kathy’s other shoulder, and leaned forward to watch.

“Eva’s gone,” Ty commented.  “Moment I opened the portal, she just charged through, her brother over her shoulders.”

“Probably thinking she can get a practitioner to figure out what poison it was,” Alexis said.

“Bezoar treatment,” Tiff said.

“Something like that.  We’ve lost our witch hunter.  We’re going it alone.”

I was hearing the words, but only just putting them together into proper thoughts, before the next sentences came.

My head was full of the fluttering and noise and chaos and general heatless fury that had followed the vision.

“I really want out of here soon,” Tiff said.  “One of those windows we passed, the room inside looked like my house, growing up.  The people inside looked familiar, too.”

“I don’t remember seeing any room with people,” Ty said, looking away from the gate.

I wanted to open my mouth, but I was having trouble dealing.  They’d looked me in the eye, talked to me, pretended to be my allies, and all the while, they’d been secretly nursing the idea that, hey, if I got too hostile with Rose, they’d have to kill or bind me.

I looked down at Alexis and Kathrn.  Alexis had told me not to trust my instincts… because my instincts were going to tell me to go after Rose?

“Maybe they’re your Black Fish,” Green Eyes said.  She had passed through the gate and was lying in the snow, almost submerged, her chin at the bottom of the circle.

“Black fish?”

“Yeah,” Green Eyes said.  “It’s more like an eel than a fish, but it follows me, and it has for a long time.  Even here, I can hear it whispering through the cracks in the walls.”

“Um,” Peter said.  “That sucks, I guess?”

She might have sounded a little crazy, to someone without context.

“You okay, Blake?” Alexis asked.

I’d been lost in thought, and she’d caught me staring.

Her look of concern seemed genuine.  Was that the case, or was she better at lying to me than I’d thought?

I couldn’t really feel the thread of spiritual connection to her anymore.

Evan looked back at me, then flew from Kathy’s shoulder to mine.

The movement caught our resident sewer-mermaid’s eye.

“Look at you,” Green Eyes told me.  Her tail was limp on the ground, and her arms were now propping her upper body up, wrists together, upper arms incidentally covering her breasts.  As multiple lights flickered within the hallway, there were periods where her skin appeared almost normal, then translucent as she was lit only by the moonlight above.  Now and again, when a cloud was over the moon and the lights flickered out, only the orbs of her namesake eyes were visible.

“Look at me?” I managed.

I could still feel the birds stirring inside me, agitated and angry.

“I haven’t seen you since we first met.  It’s too bad you need to stay in the mirrors,” she said.

“Um, about that,” Alexis said.

My ‘friend’ turned her body my way.  She reached to her throat and raised the twine that was attached to the mirror.

The mirror was broken.

The fluttering inside me became more agitated.

“That’s inconvenient,” I said, very simply.  My voice and tone were badly out of sync with how I felt.  I wasn’t going to betray what I knew.  Not here, not now.

“It makes sense that this place would try to keep us from leaving,” Tiff said.

Except it’s only affecting me.

Alexis nodded slowly, staring down at the mirror.  She spoke after a delay.  “I don’t know what to say.  I’m sorry.”

Each of the three statements were statements that could be entirely true while not ruling out that she or they had damaged the mirror on purpose.

And, god, I hated thinking that way about people who were so damn important to me.

It was all I could do to stay still when it felt like every bird that had once been content to roost on the branches was now actively moving within me.  If I’d been holding a jar with this much activity inside it, I probably would have dropped it as it shook itself free of my grip.

Yet somehow I managed to keep my body in place.

“It’s not a problem,” I said.  “The last time I left, I was able to just walk out.  It sent me to the mirror as a matter of course.”

“Oh,” Tiff said.  “Oh, that’s great!”

“Yeah,” Ty added.

Was it all in my head, that they sounded less than genuine?  Alexis was only staring up at me.

“Then what are we waiting for?” Roxanne asked.  She couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, and her arms still hugged her body.  “Let’s go.”

“Waiting until the coast is reasonably clear,” Ty said.  He stepped closer to the gate, then stepped back, sticking his hands into his sweatshirt pockets.  “And I just realized that there’s a critical flaw in our plan.”

“Which is?” Peter asked.

“Clothing,” Ty said.  “We weren’t exactly in a position to grab our coats, hats, and gloves.”

I looked at the others.  Sweaters, sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts and blouses, jeans… everyone had boots on, but a sweater and boots weren’t so useful when the temperature was at minus ten.

“No way,” Ellie said.  “We don’t have… I thought we were going back to the library?”

Are we going to head back to the library?”  Peter asked.

“It was broken into,” Ty said.  “The ward should do something, and hopefully they won’t keep trying if we aren’t in there.”

“Hopefully,” Tiff said.

“It’d be nice if the books were there when all of this was done with.  The books are supposed to be protected, so…” Ty finished his sentence with a shrug.

“So where are we going?” Peter asked.  “Church?  Ask for sanctuary?”

“The local church is a major meeting place for them,” Tiff said.  “The enemy.”

Where are we going?”  Peter asked.  “Where do we go when we’ve set whatever fire and they come after us?  This is a really simple question, and if we can’t answer it…”

“We can’t answer it,” I said, “not easily, not well.  There’s no real safe haven, unless we get clever, lucky, or fight like hell to make one.”

“That’s not reassuring,” Peter replied.  “But hey, since we don’t have a place to go, and we don’t have any winter clothes, we can start a fire and maybe stand around warming our hands until the monsters get us and tear us to pieces.  I’ve heard being torn to pieces by ghosts and goblins is one of the better ways to go.  Or,  maybe if they decide to make the ‘killing us’ part take a while, the cold will get us.  Maybe not a quick death, but a medium-length death, at least.  That’s something.”

Christoff put his hands up to his ears, “Stop.”

Peter snapped his fingers.  “Unless they drag us inside.  Then it could take hours, if they even let us die at all.”

“Stop!” Christoff said.  “Shut up!  My brother died and you’re making jokes like this is something to joke about!”

He shoved Peter, two-handed.

Peter, stone-faced, took a step back, catching his balance.  “Be more pathetic, Christoff, it’s a great look for you.  Talk to me when you aren’t so fucking useless!

He shoved Christoff back, far harder.  Christoff, only barely a teenager, was still small, closer to his mom and sister in build than Callan had been.  Christoff fell hard.

Floorboards broke.

I caught the cloth around Christoff’s stomach before the floor gave way completely, lifting him up by his shirt.

“Woah,” Evan said.  “Not cool.”

Mice teemed in the space between the floor and the ceiling below, moving through the area like water in a river, no empty space between them.

“Even less cool!”

Some, as the tide of rodents flowed, managed to scrabble up the wall or up a broken floorboard, running toward feet, or toward Alexis and Kathy, who were kneeling and sitting, respectively.  They both kicked and swatted at the things, sending the mangy vermin running off to nearby holes in the wall and floor.

The floor continued falling through, emptying down into the floor below.  The sheer amount of them didn’t abate.

Had he fallen through, would that tide just have poured down on his head?  Were bugs and rodents literally filling the walls and floors around us?

I set Christoff down, walking around the hole in the floor, toward Peter.

He looked far more afraid than I might have anticipated, backing away several steps before stopping with his back to the wall.

“Calm down,” I said.

“Calm,” he said, both hands raised.

I was closer to the portal, and turned my head to look out.

The lights in the house had died.  Every window and door was shattered, and dark figures ringed the property, some human, some human-shaped, and some most definitely monstrous.

There were too many between us and the place we needed to be.  Setting fire to the glades at the very edge of the property wouldn’t work.  Nobody would be fooled, and it wouldn’t drive away the Others.

“Can you back off?” Peter asked.

I met his eyes.

“I’m not going to mess with the kid anymore.  I was pissed, I was frustrated, that’s it.  I’m cool.”

I didn’t move.

“My brother said back off,” Ellie said.

Ganging up on me.

“Blake,” Alexis said.  “Come help?”

I turned away from Peter.

She was still looking after Kathryn’s shoulder.

I couldn’t look at Alexis without feeling that ugly stirring inside me.  I kept my attention on the shoulder.

“Is this okay?” Alexis asked.  Talking to Kathryn.

“Fix my arm and I don’t care,” my cousin said.

“Good.  Blake, we need the arm at this angle.  I don’t know if I’m strong enough to push it into the socket, so if you could do it?”

I nodded, mute.

“Don’t like being here, huh?” she asked.

“Does anyone?” I replied, despite myself.

“I guess not,” she said.  “Position it like this.  You’re going to want to shove the arm in this direction, firmly.  Like-”

She touched my arm, part of the demonstration.  Fingers touching wood and skin both.

I shied back, flinching.

“Sorry,” she said, quickly.  “I’m sorry.”

Why had I flinched?

I felt anger more than fear.

Anger more than like.  An agitated, alien sort of anger had ripped out so many of the good things and found its way into the resulting voids.

I wanted to blame the Tenements, the Drains, the Abyss, but I couldn’t.

Damn me, damn them, damn it all.

I shut my eyes.

I didn’t want to be that person.  That angry, wounded person.

A second passed.

“What’s wrong?” Evan asked.

I shook my head.  I couldn’t really sigh anymore, which was weird.  I couldn’t stretch, or groan, or do any of the normal things I had used to do, to let the little stresses go.  I couldn’t ride my motorcycle or seek comfort in my friends.

“I don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” I said.

“That’s this place speaking,” Alexis said.  “It’s getting to you.”

“It’s this place, yeah,” I said.  “More than you know.”

“You can’t get bogged down.  Staying in one place is probably a mistake.  You were saying you don’t know what you’re doing?  Let’s do what we can to keep moving forward.  We’ll help Kathy, then we’ll work out a plan, then we should leave.”

“That wasn’t what I was saying,” I said.  “I wasn’t talking strategy.”

I slammed the arm into the socket.  Kathy screamed, a short sound.

Followed by a groan of pain.

It hadn’t worked.

“You did that right,” Alexis said.  “I had the training, while volunteering.  It could be broken, but that’d be a strange break.”

“This place inflicted the wound, in a roundabout way,” I said.  “We might need more extraordinary measures to fix it.  If it’s fixable.”

I saw the look on Kathryn’s face.  A bit of horror.

“Sucks to be you,” Ellie said.

“Blake,” Alexis started.

I didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

“Alexis,” I cut her off.  Talking was easier than listening.  If I listened, I might start thinking about the validity of her words.  “What I was saying before.  I don’t know what I’m doing… it isn’t just the short term.  It’s the long term, above all else, really.”

“You don’t need to dwell on the long term,” she said.

Oh man, that word choice.  From someone who could well be conspiring to put me down the moment I stopped being useful.

I shut my eyes, focusing on being still, not punching the wall or saying the wrong thing.

“I do need to dwell on the long term,” I said.  “I need to have something to aim for, after today is done.  Something more to fight for.”

Something selfish, I thought.

I could remember what Rose had said.  The sooner you realize that there’s no such thing as a true ally…

My friends were still my friends, but they were the furthest thing from true allies right now.

“You’ve got us,” Evan said.

I opened my eyes.

“I’ve got you,” I said.  Not agreeing with him.  You in the singular.  Evan had been pressured into keeping silent.  He’d tried to help me escape the binding circle, and he’d backed me up on nothing but instinct and hearsay.

I stood straight.  “We’ll have to do something about your arm later, Kathryn.”


“Green Eyes, you’re obviously okay with the cold.”  She was in snow right now, and she’d managed well in the frozen-over lake.



“Um, sorta?”

“You two are with me,” I said.  “We’re going to start that fire.”

“With you?”  Evan asked.  “We’re not staying here, are we?”

“No,” I replied.

“Then how?  We don’t have a mirror.”

“I’m hoping,” I said, “That I don’t need a mirror.”


“Ty,” I said, “Or anyone that’s feeling particularly spry… can you borrow some sweaters and sweatshirts?  Layer?”

“Going out into the cold?” Ty asked.  “Alone?”

“With Green Eyes.  Evan too.”

“I guess I could, if Alexis thinks she could open another portal if this one breaks down?”

“I can.”

“Good,” I said.

“What am I going out into the cold for?” Ty asked.  “Winter clothes?”

I shook my head, “But clothes might be a good start.  The real trick, I think, will be the body.”

“The body?” Ty asked.

“Dead branches,” I said, “Ideally.  I wouldn’t mind bones, too.”

“I think I’m starting to get a mental picture of what you’re wanting to do.”

“Hurry and do it, then,” Kathryn said.  “I hear scratching in the walls and it’s getting louder.”

And, from the tension in her neck and face, her shoulder probably hurt like murder.

“What if he doesn’t come back?” Peter asked.  “Then we’ve got even less clothes, and we’re in the same situation.”

“I can bring the clothes back,” Green Eyes said.

“That’s, uh,” Ty said.  “Let’s try assuming I won’t die?”

“Okay,” Green Eyes said.  “I’ll protect you.”

“Thank you.”

“But if I protect you and you do die, can I eat you, before I bring the clothes back here?”

Ty stared down at her.

Please may I eat you?” Green Eyes corrected herself.

“Sure?  I guess I won’t care that much?”

“I’m game,” Green Eyes said.

It took a minute for Ty to collect the offered sweatshirt and sweater.  He declared himself warm enough, and stepped through the gate, joining Green Eyes.  He trudged on through, while Green Eyes moved like a mole through the earth, surprisingly fast, with a hump of broken snow left in her trail.

“Now we play the waiting game,” Peter commented, fiercely kicking one rat that had managed to climb out of the hole in the floor.

I walked to the end of the hallway, opposite the portal.

Standing guard.

I could see the life in the Tenements.  The Others patrolling along their individual territories, the occasional lost soul, like the old man who apparently lived between two floors, crawling with wood and concrete scraping at his back and belly simultaneously.

I smelled smoke, and I turned my head.  Alexis was taking a puff.

“How do I get to be what you are?” Christoff asked Tiff.

Tiff, probably the most approachable one in the group.

“You do a ritual.  You make an offering to major kinds of Other, to central elements, and there’s a lot more involved.  You’re agreeing to a deal, to be a little less human and a bit more Other.  Making a compact to obey certain laws in exchange for being recognized and for being allowed to see.”

“That’s where you agree not to lie?” Peter asked.

Roxanne had stressed that question.  When I looked, Roxanne was sitting against the wall, drifting asleep, her head nodding, then jerking as it moved too fast.

Tiff nodded.  “That’s right.”

“And it’s tied to this karma bullshit.”

“Yeah.  It’s tied to the karma bullshit,” Tiff said, her voice soft.

“Ugh,” Peter said.

“I want to,” Christoff said.

“For Callan?” Tiff asked.

“No.  I just… want to.  Being a little less human sounds good.”

“I don’t think that’s right,” Alexis commented.

He shrugged.

“Christoff is a coward,” Peter said.  “Callan’s old enough he got his chance at thinking he had a shot at the inheritance.  Molly actually got the inheritance-”

“Don’t talk about Molly,” Christoff said.

“Fine.  I won’t.  You’re a chickenshit, Chris.”

“Shut up.”

“Fine, fine.  But I wouldn’t jump on the first out you’re given, just because real life hasn’t been kind.  I thought being an adult, or almost an adult, would be my way out.  Away from the pettiness, away from the idiocy, constantly feeling like I was clawing my way out of some quicksand made of stupidity.  But no.  That’s reality.  Think seriously before you make a call one way or the other, because I don’t think you’re going to get what you want.”

Was that almost a pep talkAdvice?

“Chris,” I said.

Christoff looked at me.

“Molly told me, once, that you were picked on at school?”


“Here, in Jacob’s Bell.”


“Were any of them Behaims or Duchamps?”

“Um.  A Behaim.”

“The clockwork man who tried to pry the doors open back at the library?  Pretty sure that was a gift from the Behaims.”

I saw his eyes widen.

“It’s more of the same, Chris,” I said, turning my eyes back out the window.  “More of the same family against family shit, on the schoolyard and here.  Think about it.”

“Let’s not talk about the magic,” Tiff said.  “Something nicer.  What do you do, when you’re not in school, Chris?”

I tuned out the ensuing discussion.

A handful of minutes passed.

Then the lights started going out.

I thought it was an isolated incident at first, looking up as the lightbulb almost popped in its hurry to go black.  Not a flickering death, like it was struggling to stay lit, but sudden blackness.

But the pop was actually thousands of other lightbulbs doing much the same thing, throughout the building, and the building opposite this one.

Everything went dark.  The hallway was only lit by the moonlight that streamed in through the open gate.  Here and there, there were open fires in other apartments, a section of building that perpetually burned, and a scattered handful of apartments where residents had put together makeshift campfires.

Like an almost starless night out there.

The empty void of space.

“What’s going on?” Evan asked.  He was whispering so quiet that I could barely hear him.

All the same, I only responded with a, “Shh.”

The rush of wind grew more intense.  I felt the building sway.

It was, in the midst of all that dark, something moved.

Not between the two buildings, but on the far side of the building opposite us.  Where there were hallways like this one, with windows on either end, rooms with a great many windows, or giant holes in the face of the building, like a room had been clean torn out, I could see through to the other side.

The building opposite was so tall that I couldn’t see the terminus, so wide and so deep that the edges disappeared into utter darkness.

I could only see the head and shoulders of the thing that walked by, a pale silhouette, almost but not quite obscured by the oppressive darkness, slivers visible at a time, lit by the fires here and there.

When things were this dark, a little light apparently went a long way.

A fierce wind followed it, stirred by the movement of something so vast that its head took up almost my entire field of vision.

The building shook like a boat on stormy water.  Rats scurried and screamed.  Windows rattled.

I thought I maybe even saw bodies fall from the sides of the building opposite.

It took a solid five minutes for things to stop moving.

The lights came back on, in a matter of speaking.  The same weak, maddening flickering and buzzing of old lightbulbs and wiring.  The lights maybe a little more intermittent and dimmer than before.

Half of the others had actually stepped outside.  Kathryn hadn’t moved, and Roxanne hadn’t woken.

Roxanne was on her side, whimpering.  She got more agitated by the second, almost thrashing.

“The skin-crawling bugs?” Ellie asked.  She was outside, despite the cold.

“Nightmare or a terror dream, more likely,” Alexis said.  “Roxanne, wake up.”

I thought of the nightmares I’d experienced while I was in the Drains.

“Wait, Alexis,” I said.

But she was already touching Roxanne.

Roxanne startled awake, but she didn’t shake off the nightmare.

“Bugs,” she said.

She dug her fingernails into the skin of her forearms.

“Give her space, this place is getting to her!” I raised my voice, but the noise and the shouts and the voices of others almost drowned me out.  Some heard me, looking at me, but Alexis wasn’t one of them.

Or, more likely, Alexis was the type to look after the wounded birds.  Like she’d looked after me, or looked after Tiff.

“Roxy!”  Kathy shouted, starting to rise to her feet, then failing.  Uneven floorboards and one arm that hung limp at her side.

Roxanne managed to drag her fingernails through two or three inches of her own skin before Alexis got to her.

Alexis seized Roxanne’s wrists.

Roxanne reacted about as badly as I might have feared.  She tore free of Alexis’ grip, and reached behind her.

“Knife!” I shouted, already running forward, hopping over Kathryn.

Roxanne struck out, kitchen knife held the wrong way, blade pointing down, the weapon too large for her frame and a one-handed grip.

But, all the same, Alexis shielded her face with her hands.  The action meant the knife only cut the tip of her nose, but it also meant that her palms were sliced open.

I reached Roxanne, and seized the knife.

Alexis, for her part, lunged, throwing her arms around Roxanne.  Pinning her arms to her side with a hug, hands held away so the cuts didn’t touch Roxanne.

“Stop,” Alexis said.  “Stop.

Roxanne was panting, head jerking, fighting to escape, for long seconds.

“Stop,” Alexis said, calmer.  Calming.

Roxanne stopped.

“I’m never going to be okay again,” Roxanne said.  Almost mournful.

“Shhh,” Alexis said.  “Relax.”

“If it’s any consolation,” Peter commented, “You’re a Thorburn.  You were never going to be okay in the first place.”

The look that Tiff shot him was one of utter appalment.  Not an oft-used word, but it wasn’t an expression that was often seen, either.

“Oh,” Roxanne said.  “Yeah.”

She might have sounded a little bit calmer, saying that.

When I looked back at the window, I saw a familiar face.  Or half of one.  The man with the ill-fitting suit was just outside the window, peering in, his eyes over the windowsill like a crocodile’s over the water’s surface.

No,” I told him.  “If you want one of us, you can think again.”

One arm reached over the windowsill, and it pointed.

At the open window.

I looked back, then looked to him.

“Want out?” I asked.  “We can talk.”

Green Eyes was the first to appear.  Her eyes glowed in the darkness of the night sky, the lower half of her face covered by snow.

“Mission successful?” I asked.

Ty emerged as well, trudging through snow.

“That, right there, is the biggest faggot I’ve ever seen,” Peter commented.

Ellie sniggered.

“Faggot as in bundle of sticks, I get it,” Ty said, not even cracking a smile as he deposited the sticks outside the gate.  “I bet you think you’re brilliant.  You know, there was a time when I wondered what the Thorburns actually did that made people hate them so much.”

“Good work,” I said.

Ty nodded, then stopped as he stood in the doorframe.  “And that is?”

The man in the ill-fitting suit sat in a binding circle.  Alexis’ hands were bound in makeshift bandage, but the dust here was making me worry.  Tiff knelt by the binding circle, with Christoff at full attention, watching the process.

“Company,” I volunteered.


Rather than answer, Tiff turned to the man.

“Should you be willing to accept and bound to the strictures of the proposed agreement, you’re free to leave and make use of our gate,” Tiff said.  “Behaims, Duchamps, or the North End Sorcerer only, and only if they practice, only if they’re twenty or older.”

The man in the ill-fitting suit nodded, stood, took a tentative step toward the edge of the circle, then broke into full stride.

Green Eyes made a noise at him as he passed.  Almost a snarl, but not quite.  Asserting dominance.

“Down, girl,” Peter said.

She made the noise at him.

“We got the sticks,” Ty said, “Lots of branches falling off trees, with the cold.  And, do you want to show him, Green?”

Green Eyes propped herself up.

She had a bone clamped in her teeth.  She opened her mouth and let it fall into the snow with the sticks, then wiped away the copious amounts of drool with her forearm.

She raised a hand, holding herself up with only the other, and I saw three more bones held within.  She switched hands, raising the other.  Her fingers were wrapped around a spine and a ribcage that lacked a few ribs.

“Wow, that’s…” I wasn’t sure what to say.

“Did you kill a freaking deer?” Peter asked.

“Too clean to be a fresh kill,” Kathryn said.

“That’s human bone,” Green Eyes said.

I don’t think she could have said that with less confidence, I thought.  I didn’t volunteer that observation.

“Where did you get human bone?” Alexis asked.

“The Briar Girl,” Ty said.  “We ran into her, I asked permission and gave a gift to get permission to keep exploring, collecting branches.  We chatted, and, well, the way she phrased it, she was getting annoyed with the Others that were attacking the house traipsing through her territory.  On a completely unrelated note-”

“She was making dolls with bird skulls, and there was one that she couldn’t be bothered to finish making,” Green Eyes finished for him.  “She was so frustrated, what was it she said?”

“She gave up and declared it trash, a project never to be picked up again,” Ty said.  “I’m hoping that means what I think it means.”

“That she doesn’t own it,” Alexis concluded.  Ty nodded.

“Huh?” Christoff asked.

“Police can look through your trash, because by throwing it out, you’ve given up all ownership of it,” Ellie said.

Ty nodded.  “So we got sticks, we got bone…”

Here was the test.

“Feel like an art project?” I asked.  It was the hardest thing in the world to do, to act normal.  To make this leap of faith.  “Do you need me to strike a pose, to get you inspired?”

I saw them exchange looks, and it killed me.

Checking with one another.

I knew, now.  The Tenements might have been showing me the worst possible thing, but the vision hadn’t been lying.

I managed to stay still, even as my degree of agitation stepped up a notch.

If I moved, it would be to hit a wall, or to scream.

I managed a light smile, so my body language wouldn’t fail to match the levity of the question.

“How are we doing this?” Ty asked.

“Bundle it together,” I said.  “Bones in the center of each bundle.  If the wood bends, try to wrap it around.  Match the shape of the body.”

“We might need a few more trips for sticks,” Ty said.

“Maybe,” I agreed.  “Let’s see.”

Unsure whether to build it on the outside or in the Tenements, we used loose electrical wire from the tenements to hang an ‘x’ across the portal.  Building it at the threshold.

It was, as it happened, like being crucified in reverse.  The body came together on the ‘x’, bone, then sticks, bound in place with string.  Ty’s stock, for the nails with Ofuda attached.

Somewhere distant, a resident of the Tenements screamed, a feral sound.

Out in the real world, there was a distant crash, and a cheer taken up by dozens.

Whatever their feelings, my friends gave their full attention to the project, rubbing cold hands, then resuming work.  Alexis’ hands were hurt, but she gave direction to Ellie, Roxanne, and Christoff, who seemed happier with something to do.  Ellie and Roxanne traded off, which amounted to them doing nothing about half the time, but Christoff remained hard at work.

“Take a break,” Ty told him.  “I’m actually capable of doing the magic thing, and I’m all-in with this stuff, and I’m taking some breaks.”


“You’re really into this magic stuff, huh?”

“Not sure anymore,” Christoff said.

“Then take a break.  I don’t want anyone losing fingers to frostbite.  We’ve got enough damaged hands and arms right now.”

“Nah,” Christoff said.


“Revenge,” Christoff said.  “Shut up and let me do this.”

Ty sighed, and resumed his own work.

It was… vaguely human shaped.  More empty space than branch and bone.  As the others turned to putting the twigs that had broken off and shoving them into the empty spaces, I stepped forward.

“I’m fucking done with mirrors,” I said.

I tore off a section of branch-entwined rib, and stuck it through the thing, to where the ribcage was missing some.

“I’m done standing back and letting them come after us.”

I used Roxanne’s kitchen knife to shave the larger, gnarliest branches from my arm, and put them in place.  I wasn’t sure if they clutched or if the wood merely settled in a different way with the weight of the wood on top.

I didn’t look at my friends.  I didn’t want to see the look they would be sharing, as if they weren’t sure they’d made the right call.

“I made promises.  I’m keeping them.”

Tearing, loose bones, branches and feathers from my gut.  My stomach was empty inside, the wood plentiful.  I hadn’t nourished that human side of me in a long, long time.

“I’m moving forward for my friends,” I said.

When I tore more away from my chest, slashing at myself with the knife when the branches and bones snagged, it was maybe more violent than it had been before.

“I’m doing this for Evan, because I believe in the promise I made him,” I said.  “I’m going to kill the monsters.”

I continued to tear at my chest.  I was losing steam, feeling weaker.  There was flesh there, and I didn’t hesitate to add it.

“I’m sufficiently convinced,” I said.  “That those bastards out there are monstrous enough to qualify.”

I grabbed at spirits, and shoved them into the effigy.  I couldn’t speak, too weak, lacking energy.

There was only the innumerable, violent, chaotic noises of the Tenements and Hillsglade house, in the silence, as I grabbed spirits that no longer had body cavities to hide within.

Last of all, I found my heart, struggling to evade my grip.  Larger than any spirit yet.

Tearing it free, I lost my strength.  I felt Evan at my collarbone, gripping me with tiny talons, flapping, as if his tiny bird body could somehow hold me up.

But I was like a puppet with most of my strings cut.

My friends didn’t step forward to help.  Maybe they were afraid, maybe they didn’t want to interfere, maybe they had other reasons.  But they didn’t step forward to help.

Green Eyes, still on the other side, reached around, embracing the body, and put a hand to my chest, stopping me from crashing into the thing.

Her other hand touched my wrist, and raised my hand and my heart up to the other body’s chest.

With my knife, I used the last of my strength, fueled by the one or two spirits that lingered within my body, and I cut one of the wires.  The body tumbled backward, almost see-sawing on the remaining wire, and I tumbled with it.

My body crumbled to dust.

The effigy-body landed in snow.

I curled new fingers, and I felt the wood crawl.  Flesh, too, sought purchase on the new body.  Not much, but it was some.  I felt my face grow in.  I wound the loose wire around the looser parts of my body as it consolidated.

“Thank you,” I spoke, as my tongue emerged.

I stood, wobbling on limbs that were a little weaker.

Without looking back at the humans, I headed in the direction of the house, Evan flying alongisde me, Green Eyes crawling through the snow.

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

406 thoughts on “Duress 12.6

    1. To be fair, we beat Worm, which is Wildbow’s previous work. Now, what I’d like is for Worm and Pact to continue occupying the first and second slots, until of course Pact concludes and we meet Wildbow’s third saga.

      1. I don’t see any reason to keep voting up Worm. Other authors also do good work and they deserve the chance to be recognized. Worm is done, let it go. We don’t want to create the situation, years down the road, where they ban authors from putting up more than one story because Wildbow has taken up too many of the top slots and isn’t letting anyone else have their time in the sun, i.e. don’t be a Behaim.

        1. To be fair, there’s only one other work on topwebfiction that garners enough votes to be even close to competing with Worm or Pact. The problem isn’t just that we keep voting for a finished work– the Wildbow following is just FAR larger than most other webfic fandoms.

        2. I disagree. If Worm is better than other works, good enough to use one of your seven or so votes on, then that quality isn’t diminished because the serial has concluded.

          1. Seconded. There are still many, many people who haven’t yet read Worm. Why on earth would we want for it to not be promoted on the most appropriate place for new audiences to find it?

    1. I looked down at Alexis and Kathrn.
      Kathrn -> Kathryn

      It was, in the midst of all that dark, something moved.
      Delete “It was,” I guess?

      Should you be willing to accept and bound to the strictures of the proposed agreement
      and bound -> and be bound

      Bundle it together,” I said.
      Missing initial quotes.

    2. As the others turned to putting the twigs that had broken off and shoving them into the empty spaces, I stepped forward.

      This feels like half of two different sentences that got missed in rewrites.

    3. Typos:

      • “The floor continued falling through, emptying down into the floor below.” -> ?
      • “The sheer amount of them didn’t abate.” -> “Them” refers to the mice?

      • “long term” -> “long-term” (several times)

      • “short term” -> “short-term”

      • “like a room had been clean torn out” -> “cleanly”?

      Other stuff: The chapter beginning could make it clearer that everyone is still in the Tenements in front of the gate.

    4. lightbulb / lightbulbs
      usually light bulb

      capitalization on this seems inconsistent – previous chapters use both lower case and capitalized forms

    5. [missing open here]Bundle it together,[CLOSE] I said. [OPEN]Bones in the center of each faggot. If the wood bends, try to wrap it around. Match the shape of the body.[CLOSE]

    6. We’re going it alone. –> doing?

      Making a compact to obey certain laws –> contract

      It was, in the midst of all that dark, something moved. –> this is not correct, but that’s all I can say for sure. Something ‘that’ moved?

      in a matter of speaking –> ‘manner’ (?) of speaking

      Bundle it together,” I said. –> opening quotation mark needed

  1. Blake is now a scary man made of nought but wood and bone.

    Also I love Green Eyes. She’s a monster but she’s just so nice about the whole thing.

      1. She’s more than polite. A real monster wouldn’t ask for permission before devouring prey. Green Eyes instead opts to not go for the kill herself, and only eat the remains if she got permission from whoever inhabited them. That’s pretty respectful.

        1. She didn’t ask the giant if she could eat him. Seems to me that she’ll ask if she can eat you if you’re a friend, but if you’re an enemy she’ll just eat you regardless.

      2. nah, shes nice. polite people don’t openly tell you they plan on eating your corpse or want you trapped in a lake dependent on them for survival so they won’t be lonely, or almost call you morsel.

        there are some things one simply doesn’t say out loud.

        (the statement of please was to clarify she wasn’t attempting to trap ty into having to answer yes with her use of “can i?”)

    1. I’m rather impressed that the three most likable, moral characters in the group are the three who aren’t actually human. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if (or should I say when) Blake will stop considering Alexis, Ty, and Tiff his friends.

      1. He’s due a little realization. His memories are mostly false he knows this, and how they’ve behaved toward him in “reality”. Why they’ve latched onto Rose makes no sense to me either as their connections with her aren’t any more “real”. Survival I can understand, and resources if she survives, beyond that though…. But Blake’s #1 priority should be finding out exactly who and what he is himself, deciding just what he wants to be and then moving forward on that. He should be having a long talk with either Johannes, or Faysal, as there was a opening toward all of that, they made the offer.

        1. She was good to them when they needed help. They’re paying her back. Then they went through the past month alongside her, so friendship was forged by the fires of adversity.

          It was probably very moving and emotional.

          1. considering the “person” she has shown herself to be time&again, I can’t see it as being very moving and emotional, especially now that she’s also tainted with Conquest.

        2. his memories aren’t likely to be false, thats not how dividing a human works, gaps are filled, not entire sections from whole cloth to force ties to random people.

          if rose is right and he is an unevenly divided person with specific bits removed to one side or the other and granny shoved inconvenient things like friends and ties to other places out of the way then those would be real.

          1. I’ve gotta say, your name is kinda awesome. It’s beautiful I’m its simplicity while at the same time lacking any grandiose pretenses.

        3. No, Blake’s memories are mostly real, just altered and incomplete, and the one who originally experienced these memories wasn’t Blake, but Rake or Rose Prime or however you want to call the original. From that perspective, both Blake and Rose have exactly equal “claims” to their friendship with Alexis & co.

          1. Do we know this for sure, though? Clearly that is what Rose thinks, but I don’t know that there’s really solid evidence one way or another.

            1. Well, Rose was confident enough of it to say it, and in a war practitioners really can’t afford to lie. (And we know she was awakened at that point; she even used a rune.)

              More importantly, the explanation fits well – it explains why Blake & Rose never got along from the start, why they share similar (same parents etc) but not identical pasts; why the top half of chapter 1.01, and particularly Blake’s discussion with Rose Sr. is so weird (because it’s incomplete); why first Rose, and now Blake, became mirror dwellers; why Rose remembered being chosen as heir (Molly turned out to be just a custodian); etc.

              Rose even mentioned in 1.01 or 1.02 that she saw the same visions Blake saw. Blake didn’t previously tell her about them, so Rose shouldn’t have known about them unless she’d had them, too (though a lawyer could have told her, if their knowledge of demons actually is that precise). Which suggests that their original was probably split / carved up at that point.

        4. As far as I understand whoever that person was before being split into Blake/Rose had all of their traits combined, probably including those friends.

        5. I’ve been in a situation with some similarities to Blake’s, regarding friends who suddenly pull closed door meetings and discuss you. Its cowardly and childish in the extreme.
          What I do know from it, is he should act on it. Immediately. Thoroughly.
          If it were me? I’d arrange for time alone with each of them, tell them I knew, imply it was another of them who told me. Probably with some kind of statement like “you may not remember, but we were friends once. You don’t do this kind of thing to a friend, and while I’ve been out here sacrificing myself so you don’t die, you’ve been keeping this from me. Real friends would realize this isn’t right and do something.”
          That wouldn’t be the approach with tiff, but eh. Get them to promise they won’t tell rose about it and let you take it up with her.
          Later, when talking to rose, start by telling that you know, that honestly she’s not been acting like she deserves to be out of the mirror. Drop that swearing them to secrecy was a dick move that’s cost you all at a critical time (implying that someone told) and that trying it again would just cost more (implying you got them to swear to a secrecy. Which you did.)
          Now the shoe is decidedly on the other foot. Rose feels like they betrayed her to you, your friends are a little closer to you, being that you called them on and absolved them of that guilt. Situation reversed.

    1. Well, as long as the meat is properly tenderized it would be fit enough for the three of them. Here’s hoping the Fae corpses are still around, because a little glamour might come in handy so he can pass in public, outside of a mirror.

      1. Doesn’t look like you can loot or steal glamour. It has to be given by the faerie.

        She frowned a little. “Glamour isn’t the province of humans. It must be freely given. It is too fragile to handle otherwise. Too personal to each Faerie.”

    2. What’s the saying? We create our own monsters? I think that the Duchamps, Behaims, Johannes, and Rose’s Cabal just made a doozy create himself.

      Briar Girl’s cool though.

        1. Which I think is just more of an argument for her being cool. She doesn’t tiptoe around these issues. If she thinks you ought to be dead, she’ll try to kill you, if you convince her otherwise then she’ll leave you be. End of story.

        2. True, she did try to kill him. But unlike Sandra and Laird, she was also willing to accept his arguements on why she didn’t want to do that, and why it would be better to stop trying to kill him.

  2. Whelp, chalk up a win for the Tenements. I almost feel like the epilogue is going to be a pair of diabolists scanning through their books for something powerful but not too dangerous to summon, and finding “Green Eyes and the Thorburn Boogieman: Always summoned together, these spirits posses a great aptitude for combat and are tied to distrust, betrayal, and hunger. Offer at least ten pounds of meat.”

    Also, I think we just met Ornias.

    But the pop was actually thousands of other lightbulbs doing much the same thing, throughout the building, and the building opposite this one.

    Everything went dark. The hallway was only lit by the moonlight that streamed in through the open gate. Here and there, there were open fires in other apartments, a section of building that perpetually burned, and a scattered handful of apartments where residents had put together makeshift campfires.

    Like an almost starless night out there.

    The empty void of space.

    I could only see the head and shoulders of the thing that walked by, a pale silhouette, almost but not quite obscured by the oppressive darkness, slivers visible at a time, lit by the fires here and there.

    When things were this dark, a little light apparently went a long way.

    A fierce wind followed it, stirred by the movement of something so vast that its head took up almost my entire field of vision.

    The building shook like a boat on stormy water. Rats scurried and screamed. Windows rattled.

    I thought I maybe even saw bodies fall from the sides of the building opposite.

    It took a solid five minutes for things to stop moving.

    The lights came back on, in a matter of speaking. The same weak, maddening flickering and buzzing of old lightbulbs and wiring. The lights maybe a little more intermittent and dimmer than before.

    Certainly sounds like our guy. Yeah, I can see why someone would be worried about that showing up.

        1. Actually, it’s even possible the Tenements portion of the Abyss is his demesne, if he’s a sort of creature that can have those.

        2. Well, the Lawyers do know how to enter the Abyss and this is probably Jacob’s Bells version of the place…

          Wait, didn’t that mean Maggie almost fell into the Tentements at one point?

        3. Whoever/whatever that was, it seemed to me to be so big, so bad, that even the scenery didn’t want to draw attention to itself. I think that’s why the lights went out — even the Tenenments, the building, didn’t want to draw any attention from that guy.

    1. Actually, I’m pretty sure Ornias would be orders of magnitude worse than whatever that guy was. If that’s any consolation.

      1. Remember that this building is so tall it looks like it’s separated from the adjacent one by a bottomless pit hundreds of feet across, and they’re level with his head. Also, he didn’t seem to be doing anything, but all the lights went out at once from his mere presence and did not fully recover.

        1. Yeah, but Ornias destroys [em]stars[/em]. Think about that for a minute.

          As big as this guy is, he’s still small fry to Ornias.

          1. Ornias devours light, and every time he uses his power, all fire everywhere gets a little bit weaker. After this thing passed, all the lights started flickering more intermittently – just by existing, it was making light sources weaker around it. If it’s not Ornias, it’s almost certainly one of its kin.

            1. Every time he uses his power, all fire everywhere gets a little bit weaker? I don’t recall reading that, what chapter was it from?

    2. Why ornias? There are other big demons out in the darkness. Ornias is just one of them. We never got any indication of his shape or size other than “powerful”, did we?

      1. Leaving lights permanently dimmer is Ornias’s thing. I got the sense from the notes on demons that the top-level members of the Choir of Darkness are all distinct.

          1. Nope:

            The same weak, maddening flickering and buzzing of old lightbulbs and wiring. The lights maybe a little more intermittent and dimmer than before.

            They’re worse than they used to be.

        1. Huh, if that story is even marginally accurate in the Pactverse then he’s the first entity to be bound by The Seal Of Solomon.

          Actually, that might explain why the Lawyers gave Blake his name. Since he’s bound he’d presumably be less likely to kill Blake outright and level the town when summoned, but is still powerful enough to intimidate anyone in Jacob’s Bell and too dangerous to use against the Lawyers.

    3. “Also, I think we just met Ornias.”

      Oh, dear that has horrifying implications. Now if I’m right Onias is from the choir of darkness. Urr was trying to eat the drains and is also from the choir of darkness. What I’m getting at here is this. Urr’s going for the drains wasn’t just a one off thing a single demon was trying for. I’m worried the Choir of Darkness is making a concentrated effort on the drains.

      1. I feel as though it’s a side effect of being a demon from the 1st choir.

        When you eat away at everything, you’d naturally become more likely to skirt around the abyss.

      2. Actually: if that is Ornias… add, Urr… add the Lawyers… stir in the Abyss…

        The Lawyers have to be well aware of what the demons are doing to the Abyss: they’ve all been in the demonology game long enough to work it out. 😦

        Dammit: I think there’s a really horrible game going on here: the Abyss is being corrupted (and gobbled). I suspect binding demons got deliberately corrupted to make diabolism loathed, when it is actually one of the few weapons against demons. Thanks to being loathed, demons could “help” a few… hence the Lawyers. The Lawyers, in turn, let demons get the kind of foothold into baseline reality they’ve already got with the Abyss…


        Here’s hoping the Abyss is trying to make Blake into a one-Monster demon-buster and Abyssal saviour — and Lawyer-muncher. 😐

    1. What’s interesting is he now loses a part of the mobility that he had before. There’s power to be gained with his new body, but also less ability to do the cool things he did before.

  3. Well done Blake, carve out your own heart, like a boss. Our protagonist once more has the ability to act directly on the world, and if that last line is to be believed, has completely abandoned his humanness in the process. We are now rooting for the monster, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He carries the shattered soul-blade of a defeated goblin that wounds its victims in way that don’t heal, he feeds of the fear of his victims, he has stared into the Abyss as It stares out of him now.

    1. Not quite, the last couple of paragraphs mention that there’s still a bit of flesh left on his new body. Despite everything, he hasn’t given up on humanity yet… and that’s what makes him such a compelling character to root for.

      1. Last sentence begins with “Without looking back at the humans…” That line by itself tends to imply that humans as a whole are something his mind views as distinct from himself.

          1. He’s just keeping all the good parts – loyalty, determination, honesty… Whatever made him a good person, or shall I say a good human, in the first place. All that’s different is a few scary extra bits.

    2. Pretty sure the Abyss started with the staring.
      When it didn`t leave him alone, Blake started staring back.
      The Abyss might come to regret this, sooner or later.

    1. The number of times the Hyena hasn’t been mentioned, only to turn up again suggests it’s probably with him, but good pick. Plus he did say it was always in his hand now.

    2. The Hyena is his thrice-claimed, basically a part of who he is. I assume it’ll make it’s way back to him, or at least be very difficult to lose, unless won by another. Presumably he can just stick it in his belt and not worry about it since it has a strong attachment to him.

        1. When he originally defeated the Hyena (#1), he gave it to Conquest. Then he reclaimed it when he picked his champions during the competition (#2), but lost it when he was erased by Ur, only to pick it up when he was about to leave the Drains (#3).

            1. #2 definitely counts. Conquest originally made Blake gather all the trophies to gain power, and Blake proposed the competition rules specifically to take those trophies away from him again, to weaken him. #3 is a weaker case than #2, if anything.

              The same logic also helped them when binding Conquest: part of the binding used Rose’s hair, and this worked because Conquest had taken her prisoner and was then been forced to free her due to the competition.

  4. A man of crawling branch and bone
    A nightmare with a human heart
    A bloodless monster bound to break
    A broken man with eyes of shade
    An inky thing of essence wrought
    from echoes.

      1. Wicked wicker walking where, ware the wiry thing. White and wrought, wrecked and won, what a warlike wring. Wracking branching bony bars that burn away the bracken, why the wanton warmongering?

          1. Three little pigs
            Went down for a drink
            And a mermaid offered them a ride
            The first little pig
            Was a morsel
            The second little pig
            Was a challenge
            The third little pig
            Well, that was [i]fun[/i]!

            1. Hey, I really like your poems/rhymes!

              Coding (I’ve discovered through trial and error) on WordPress works with (CSS-style) instead of [] (Old forums style). I have yet to find any kind of documentation on what does and doesn’t work in comments.

              Anyway, to write fun, you’d write fun (without spaces).

            2. Whelp, apparently the software auto corrects formatting, which ruins my demonstration…

              Here’s another try:


              Remove the line breaks and it should read fun 😛

          2. A man with arms of bone and heart of flesh
            Sees the truth of things, becoming Other.
            His life his enemies try to smother
            Blake’s survival with theirs does not mesh.

            A being with heart of flesh and arms of wood
            Sent to the abyss by hands not of man
            Escaped the underworld, now needs a plan
            Bound a monster, safety where once none stood.

            He sought his friends where none now exist.
            To his monstrosity, he now succumbs
            For a house besieged he drowns in death.

            Escaping defeat he maketh a list
            Returning to the abyss he becomes
            A monster of wood with a heart of flesh.

            1. There once was a Thorburn from Jacob’s Bell
              Whom all were determined to send to Hell
              But he outlasted them all
              And rose up from his fall
              Though most of his humanity he had to sell.

  5. I wonder what Blake looks like now?

    New power trio: Blake/Green Eyes/Evan. They are totally going to mess with the humans.

    Did Blake’s nature change? Will he gain some practitioner powers? Can he still collect and shoot spirits?

    So I guess Blake is kinda like a male, white, and much less terrifying Maeg Mora (that was her name right? She’s the one character who’s name I always forget. The lady the body swaps with shildren)

    Green Eyes, still on the other side, reached around, embracing the body, and put a hand to my chest, stopping me from crashing into the thing.

    It’s official: Blake/Green Eyes forever!

    1. I don’t know. She’s much more polite than him. When was the last time he asked nicely before consuming someone’s dead body for sustenance?

    2. I imagine Blake looks pretty metal now. I mean the tree man with some flesh bits and a broken sword, the scary mermaid, and the random bird striding their way out of the underworld… Tell me that doesn’t look like an album cover to you.

    3. Don’t Blake, Green & Evan make a perfect family unit?

      Also elementally they are Wood/Earth, Water & Air(Fire?).

      They should make a powerful unit if they ever become summonable under the laws of Solomon.

  6. Pretty Gutsy move, tearing yourself apart piece by piece and stuffing yourself into an untested new “body”. Blake respect points +30

      1. as long as the spirits can see it to be impressed. so its probably a good thing it was built on the threshold in front of a window

    1. Seriously, what is with the anti-Blake circlejerk going on around here? Blake has tried his best even at the risk of his own life to keep from harming innocents. He stands hand and shoulders above just about everyone else in terms of morality. Yet people are going around screaming ‘zomg Blake, how could you be so evil as to feel angry for being betrayed by your friends’. Are we reading the same story here?

      1. Probably association with Taylor. She was holder than Blake, got betrayed harder many times and never once was saddened and ‘oh boo hoo my friends aren’t 100% sided with me, the weird mirror dweeling monster’. I know why Blake is pissed, but come on boy, you’re a monster now, and you’re almost literally made of anger, anger against Rose, the only person keeping the three guys alive at the time, did you really expect them to trust you despite all evidence that you would end up killing their protector? That seems so childish, where Taylor could bear the responsibility alone and do what is best for her friends without actually needing them Blake seems to need approval of his friends and for them to be grateful, that’s what makes, at least me, angry at Blake.

        1. Gbgnyyl qvssrerag crbcyr, jvgu gbgnyyl qvssrerag vauhzna vasyhraprf-Gnlybe unq n zhygvqvzrafvbany funeq va ure oenva qevivat ure gb gnxr pbzznaq, Oynxr unf n unys-zna irfgvtr angher gung jvyy chfu uvz gb pbasyvpg jvgu Ebfr haqre nal pvephzfgnaprf naq unys obbtvrzna. Oynxr NYFB unf zrzbevrf bs fnvq sevraqf orvat gur barf jub chyyrq uvz hc bhg bs uvf ybjrfg cbvag cer-jrveq-fghss. Gnlybe pnzr sebz n phygher gung npprcgrq gur rkvfgrapr bs cbjref naq vaqrrq tnir gurz n uvtu fgnghf jurer rirelbar tebjf hc jbaqrevat vs gur jbeyq zvtug raq ng nal zbzrag qhr gb Raqoevatref-Oynxr vf sebz n phygher jurer guvf qbrf abg nccyl, guehfg vagb n cfrhqb-srhqny zntvpny phygher jurer ur pbafvfgragyl tbg gur fubeg raq bs gur fgvpx jvgubhg nal cer-njnxravat pbagrkg sbe xabjvat ubj gb qrny jvgu vg. Oynxr unf unq ovgf bs uvf irel ernyvgl evccrq bss, jvgu uvf sevraqf orvat bar bs gur bayl guvatf ur unf vagreanyyl gb tebhaq uvzfrys ng nyy, uvf jubyr zbgvingvba.
          Gurl’er gbgnyyl qvssrerag pvephzfgnaprf jvgu gbgnyyl qvssrerag crbcyr, naq Gnlybe zvtug unir orra n terng jneyrnqre ohg fur jnf nyfb nyy fbegf bs fperjrq hc ba ure bja zrevgf-V’z abg pbaqrzavat ure va nal jnl sbe gung, ohg V nyfb qba’g guvax vg’f snve gb pbaqrza Oynxr rvgure.
          Ubj jbhyq lbh srry vs fbzrbar jnf lbhe jubyr zbgvingvba sbe pyvzovat bhg bs uryy, bayl sbe gung crefba gb fcvg va lbhe snpr nf fbba nf lbh tbg bhg?

            1. Oh f*… SORRY! I can’t edit my post it seems, spoilers unintentional and sincere apologies. Please delete if possible? Again, sorry… and I always hate getting unintentional spoilers myself… I’m a careless POS. I should have thought… I am really sorry for any trouble, but could my above post be deleted please?

      2. I’m pretty sure the circle jerk is more or less anti-everyone but Evan and Green Eyes, and maybe Mags’s former dads, they seemed like alright guys.

        1. secret demons. they went along with the “i have no daughter” bit way too easily for pseudoinnocents who even if they lost ties to the name had plenty more to go on and should have been able to at least pick up the pieces afterwords with mags

          1. But they have a daughter. Maggie Holt. It just happens that Mags isn’t her and that Maggie disappeared. Or did I misunderstand something?

          2. I gather that they have been picking up the pieces. Padric hijacked the name and made it impossible for people without significant mystical perception to realize the girl in the checkered scarf was Maggie Holt and not someone who happened to look like her. They now know what happened, but their emotional link to her was outright stolen. Padric still has it.

    2. That’s okay, I don’t trust Rose.

      So I wonder what Rose’s night has been like. Kept any members of the family alive? Maybe the friends you actually got to choose you? Oh hey get pissed enough to renounce your humanity and rip your own heart out to power a scary new body?

      1. Ultimately, it’s up to the author whether characters get awesome scenes or not. Rose did move into a political lion’s den – that would certainly be enough for several arcs’ worth of interrogation (and possibly torture), mutual manipulation, political maneuvering, fighting Conquest’s influence, etc.

        Of course, we’d probably just hear her stories, rather than actually experience them chapter for chapter (though an interlude is possible), so that would still make the protagonist’s experiences stand out more.

        But I’d still be quite surprised and disappointed if Rose didn’t have a few awesome stories to share when we see her again. In particular, she’d better have gained something huge from her weird plan of leaving the house of her own volition, and for all appearances leaving her friends to die.

          1. That wouldn’t be anywhere near enough. The house is ruined, and everyone nearly died. So they’d better have gained something of commensurate value. Keeping the lawyers out of the house is just surviving for one more day. In fact, right now the lawyers are more likely to get the house than before, if the “malfeasance” clause applies.

            Or to put it differently: If Blake was responsible for their successful defense or survival, then Rose ought to have made a corresponding major accomplishment on offense.

        1. The fact that we haven’t gotten anything much for Rose despite the fact she’s the second most important character after Blake makes me think Wildbow is doing it on purpose.

      2. They thought she was mentally unstable right? I’m sure I’m very wrong but I’m picturing her in a straight jacket in a padded cell, heavily sedated yet with eyes bulging out of her skull, trying to pronounce the word Ornias seven times.

        1. She was being taken for evaluation. They won’t sedate her unless she’s dangerous to herself or others. Not that I would put it past the Duchamps or Behaims to get her sedated, but it would have to be very, very heavy. She chokes out the lawyers or worse a few times, and things could get really ugly really fast.

  7. Oh boy. I’m feeling queasy about the whole effigy thing. Kinda hard to know what the repercussions are from something like this.

    Just so we’re clear, I’m totally ok with Blake eventually destroying Rose. At least Blake has Evan by his side and I seriously think Evan is the best of them all.

    Peter is going to be a very scary practicioner too. If he doesn’t die and decides to follow the path that has ruined his family for generations to come.

    Poor Blake, betrayed by his friends. Twice betrayed by Rose. This does not bode well at all.

    1. I wonder what’ll happen when it hits the third time. It’s gotta happen, and I can’t see it ending well.

      1. I imagine it will involve a combination of the following words. All, Hell, Breaking, Loose. Possibly litterally.

  8. “But if I protect you and you do die, can I eat you, before I bring the clothes back here?”

    Ty stared down at her.

    “Please may I eat you?” Green Eyes corrected herself.

    Green Eyes just earned her way into my top 5 Pactverse characters, possibly even top 3.

      1. Probably.

        It used to be Evan, but Evan’s awesomeness has been acknowledged several times in the story. I think at this point, he’s just expected to be liked.

        Fell had the title for a bit, but he died and we haven’t seen him in a long time.?

        I second the motion to name Green Eyes the Ensemble Darkhorse

        1. like a nice one. the please wasn’t for politness but clarity.

          “But if I protect you and you do die, can I eat you, before I bring the clothes back here?”

          Ty stared down at her.”

          try answering no to the first version when you lack the ability to lie and can clearly see her teeth 😛 or dealing with a yes.

          ““Please may I eat you?” Green Eyes corrected herself.”

          not a trick, i really am just asking to eat your flesh if i try but fail to save you

          1. if it was just polite the yes to the 2nd one could easily have been taken as consent right then and there…for ty being careful enough the first question(even though he said yes anyway) I’m surprised he wasn’t more wary of the 2nd version.

            1. It says that she corrected herself, indicating she meant the question to be taken in the previous context. It was not a new, separate request.

            2. yeah, but with all the fuss the belheim kid made about the location of pauses and periods in what blake had said about liard(get out of here, i’ll try not to hurt him too much circumstances allowing FULL STOP or kill him FULL STOP) trying to name him forsworn by placing the caveat in a separate statement form the murder it seems like the spirits don’t care so much about what a reasonable person would think or even intent so much as exact wording.(like how they can’t follow bond villain traps and blame the death on the sharks rather than the guy who tied the victim to the dipping mechanism) time for that stare seems a bit like a full stop and her correction wasn’t explicitly stated as such(didn’t say “i mean can i please eat you”)

              maybe I’m over analyzing it

            3. I think it’s less you over analyzing it as it’s the Behaims. Most people would view Blake saying that as I’ll try not to hurt or kill, but due to poor wording the Behaims were trying to twist it into shapes it wasn’t supposed to be at the time. Of course, if Green Eyes was a fairy, then yeah, don’t touch that sentence with a ten foot pole, which is probably why Ty paused in answering, asking himself, “Can I trust this scary monster lady to not just eat me on the spot if I say yes because she craftily worded her request in a way to let her do it?” Upon realizing with the ‘please’ that she doesn’t have a crafty bone in her body it turns into a simple request of “Rather than cremation, have you ever thought about being eaten by a mermaid when you die?

  9. Ah shit. Here’s hoping Mags (since she’s the only Blake-affiliate still in commissions) can bind Blake’s ass before gets another town slaughter under Mag’s feet.

    Actually, I’m guessing Mags is going to end up being the hero antagonist to Blake. Since the blood and darkness prophecy seems to revolve around her, and it’s pretty obvious Blake is going to get his blood and darkness on.

    Another thing I’m wondering about is Evan. Is he going to fall off the Blake wagon too after he realizes what his buddy is going to start doing? Or is he going to continue being completely oblivious to what’s happening around him?

    1. Stop trying to make Blake the villain, he’s never going to become the villain. Have you seriously been reading the same thing as everyone else?

      1. Yeah. He’s stating he’s going after monsters. He’s got a crap-ton of them right up the hill. And the binding explicitly mentioned when they set that Bogeyman loose that he’s not to go after anyone under the age of twenty and only if they practice. His targets are pretty clear.

        The moment he carves up someone who doesn’t have it coming is the moment he’s slipped off the bandwagon.

        1. “Have it coming” is something that can change pretty quickly. First the serial killers have it coming, then the drug dealers, then the shoplifters…

          Blake getting a giant humanity loss is a pretty big warning light for motivation slippage.

          1. You’re acting as if anything that isn’t human is somehow damned or bad. Blake didn’t become less worth by deciding to let go of something that was steadily slipping away anyway. Practitioners aren’t that nice either to all those clearly sentient beings around them.

            And yes, in a world without a central justice system anyone who kills is a fair target to be killed in turn.

            1. “And yes, in a world without a central justice system anyone who kills is a fair target to be killed in turn.”
              Fixed it for you. 🙂

          2. I have yet to see proof that humanity = morality, and a lot of evidence against that idea. Blake seems to be shaping up as an other of justice, more moral than any human we have come across yet.

      2. You say villain like it actually means something in this serial. It don’t.

        There’s been build up to both bad mini-apocalyptic shit happening and Blake being at the center of it for a while now, this isn’t an out-there interpretation.

        1. I’d say your interpretation is pretty damn out there. Like I have no idea where you took a wrong turn but you’re clearly lost. Just where have you gotten the suggestion that Blake will turn into a homicidal maniac? There’s literally zero evidence for what you are suggesting will happen so do take me through you warped reasoning because I’m not following it so far.

          1. Calm down, please. We’re all entitled to our own opinions and story predictions aren’t we?

            I’m not saying I agree with Reveens theory, but I can see where he/she gets the idea and could make a bit of a case for it.

            We started with Human Blake, not wanting to have anything to do with his nasty family. He is okay in his current state, has a group of friends, and is absolutely in love with his bike.

            Then he (d)evolves to Diabolist Blake, who with almost every thing he does, while trying to improve things for the people he cares about, only makes things worse and ends up making them part of the very thing he wants to protect them from.

            Then we have Abyss-bent Blake, who still, with the fucking best intentions tries to help the people he cares about. Only, they have realised that he might turn homicidal on Rose sooner or later and choose to abandon him for Roses sake (it’s important to note that I’m talking from his perspective here) –that girl who took all the connections with the people he cares about– the minute he sacrificed. That same group of people that, he realises now, has been lying to his face for quite some time now.

            Then, he creates a new body that’s fed with all this pent up fury and frustration.

            Is it really that hard to go from there to homicidal maniac? It only takes one wrong turn….

            For example, I can imagine him tearing through Other after Other in a blind rage, all the while repeating “Gotta save my friends” hour after hour until someone, let’s make it Green Eyes or Evan, or even cooler: one of the other Bogeymen he talked to earlier, taps him on the shoulder and points out to him that he ran out of Others an hour ago and was actually tearing humans apart instead.

          2. I don’t necessarily agree that it’s where Pact is heading, but I can see it. Every time Blake goes to the Drains it changes him, makes him more angry. He’s still destined to go one more time.

            Add to that the fact that his reasons for fighting are his friends (who he’s just learnt have been plotting against him behind his back) and leaving the world a better place than he found it (which is looking increasingly impossible). He’s also become more ruthless in combat, willing to maim and kill not just other Others like himself but also humans like Eva.

            Take steadily increasing Fury, add an increasing feeling that all your anchors are misguided and pointless?

            He’s not there, but yeah, I can see Blake coming out of this just wanting to lash out at the world that’s screwed him over again and again. Lesser people would have hit that point already and everyone has their breaking point.

      3. I’ve been supportive of Blake up to this chapter, but he’s definitely starting to lose it. The Tenements got to him, much more effectively than the Drains had.

      4. The fact that Blake’s likeable doesn’t preclude him from being a Villain. This is the same guy 1) Used children to infiltrate enemy territory 2) Beat a pretty Faerie unconscious using an old pipe 3) For a long time used the ghost of a woman that constantly reexperienced freezing to death as his primary weapon 4) practiced Diabolisn, 5) Murdered a man who was giving him a hug 6) dragged 2 separate groups of innocents into this horrible world 7) kidnapped a police officer and held him for multiple days 8) (indirectly) basically doomed Toronto 9) currently derives power from scaring innocents 10) Held an innocent hostage in order to have leverage against her fiance 11) attacked a kid with a weapon who’s wounds don’t heal Normally.

        That’s just off the top of my head. Blake’s done more actions that could be considered evil. One could try to justify everything Blake’s done, but after doing so much, even if done for the right reasons, the possibility that Blake’s a villain must at least be considered.

          1. Uh… the Duchamps his age that we’ve only really seen one of? The one who aside from attacking Blake seemed rather nice, relatively speaking?

            I mean, Sandra and Laird are bad news, but our sample pool for how bad the others are is tiny.

            1. And, who had no problem attacking somebody random because she was told to… and, they weren’t family or anybody she had been brought up to respect?

              Who has been manipulating people’s connections since about 12? Consider what this means? How many hearts has she broken? Friends severed? How much of this was “just following orders”… or because she could? If you think going to high school with a manipulative bitch was hard enough when they were a popular it-girl, imagine one who could twist you around her little finger quite magically and you’d never know… At a time when impulse control is, perhaps, not a forte. 😛

              Oh, she’s nice enough. To people she knows and respects. 😐

            2. Um… assuming a given Duchamp must be a manipulative high school “bitch” because she’s a Duchamp isn’t really different from assuming that a Thorburn must be a frothing demon worshipper because he’s a Thorburn. Or assuming that because Mags uses goblins she must be just like them and likes to order her minions to beat up hobos for sport.

              I mean, for all we talk about how the Behaims and Duchamps are drinking the kook-aid on anti-Thorburn propaganda we exhibit a lot of the same behaviour with regards to them. They’re Duchamps, they must be evil bitches! etcetera etcetera. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wildbow was doing that on purpose.

              Also, most people don’t know that “just following orders” is a valid excuse as far as international law is concerned, as long as the orders aren’t blatantly immoral.

            3. I think that’s kind of the point. Assuming a Duchamp is a manipulative bitch because she specializes in connections is no different than assuming Blake is going to go off the slippery slope because he’s a bogeyman and looks like a monster.

          1. Pretended to be a child, putting himself at risk rather than children as you’re suggesting
          2. No, it’s justified to a greater or complete degree because the “pretty faerie” was attacking him with a sword
          3. There is little reason to believe that in the pactverse, a generic ghost like her actually has either sentience or sapience. It’s wayyy more likely (and has been close to confirmed in story descriptions) that ghosts are just imprints that have degrees of power and personification, which makes Blake, again, not being evil.
          4. Uh, you mean when he bound Pauz, the imp, only initiating contact with it under duress from another? Or are you referring to his repeated attempts to destroy a lower-level demon of darkness and void?
          5. Reading this, I have to believe you’re trolling. No words.
          6. True, if we could actually see Blake’s karma I think these two separate events would’ve definitely hurt it the worst. It wasn’t out of malice or something though, he had partial justification.
          7. Police officer that was himself breaking the law by attempting to kill Blake? Using and abusing the powers of his office? Nah.
          8. In what way does he have the majority of the fault for that? He didn’t initiate anything, the fact that he played a medium role in its escalation doesn’t qualify him for “dooming” the city.
          9. Again, that’s a facet of his nature rather than a source of power he’s created and is using for himself. You don’t get to call him a villain for resisting that temptation when he’s clearly in need of it.
          10. What? Last time I checked, that was Rose’s plan rather than anything he did. In fact, I’m pretty sure I remember him, after having woken up, arguing strongly against her actions?
          11. Which kid was this? Was he already threatening Blake and putting the lives of either Blake or his friends at risk?
            1. He’s talking about the card trick guy, yeah I have no idea how he’s trying to pass him off as a child either.
        1. 1) Used children? You mean took the appearance of child to infiltrate the territory of the people actively trying to kill him? That deception counts as using children?

          2) Skipping over your joke.

          3) “Ghost”. Apparently you didn’t read the detail where it said the ghost is an echo, as in not an actual person nor the spirit of a person. Even despite that Blake still felt guilty for it.

          4) Yeah he’s going to need that practice for when the demon/s will inevitably be the final enemy he has to face. That’s why they’re so important the story and Corvidae may play a part in releasing that.

          5) You context is severely damaged. Try rereading some things.

          6) “Dragged”… now your English vocab needs some work as well. As for the second one, Thornburns are hardly innocent, they would also be dead right now if not for Blake.

          7) The police officer who deceived a child to kill an innocent? That one or the one who literally tried to shoot Blake? No wait, that one is alive unfortunately. Seriously, context is your friend don’t fight it so hard.

          8) Indirectly, so you’ve already given the context and you’re just accusing Blake for the actions of someone else.

          9) Yeah, he kind of got killed and turned into a bogeyman, except he came back to life just for the sake of saving his friends.

          10) The hostage who literally tried to shoot and kill Blake and was actively trying to do the same at the time. So what did Blake do? When he had the chance to kill that guy in self defense he didn’t, as much as he knew that he would be a thorn in his side.

          11) That child wasn’t a child, seriously what age does he have to be for you to consider him an adult? 30? How old are you? Also that child is a huge cunt and is actively working to ensure the demise of Blake’s friends.

          Literally, no instances that you have mentioned can paint Blake as being even remotely a bad person. What’s next, that he got angry for being betrayed by his friends? Is he also not allowed to feel emotions? That he doesn’t identify as human because he’s recoiling from the damage dealt by discovering that his closest connection to his former life has abandoned him?

        2. 1) if i remember right, HE was infiltrating using glamour to mimic the appearance of a child himself.,
          2): the “pretty lady” was trying to murder him with a bladed weapon
          ,3) the ghost was nothing but the imprint of freezing to death, unlike Evan it had no conscious or awareness outside its “loop”,
          4) was forced into Diabolism by repeated murder attempt’s and literally no other recourse,
          5) the man hugging him was psychically forcing him to experience being repeatedly raped, as part of his latest attempt to kill a member of the Thornburn family
          6) will concede the point
          7) the Police officer was a Serial killer out for his blood who had the local force in his pocket
          8) memory of that isn’t clear, could you please elaborate?
          9) another point i’ll grant you
          10) was attempting to convince one of the aforementioned Serial killer’s accomplices to back down without killing him, since the local police force was hopelessly corrupt
          11) if i recall correctly, the kid in question was intending to kill his Friends ( and rose), or draw them into a situation where agents aligned with his family could.

        3. Reminds me of the times Taylor got to list her various evil deeds. 🙂
          Blake has thrice refused an angel who offered to help him, choosing instead to ally with a diabolist trying to take over Jacob’s Bell. Blake once kicked a bunny rabbit to death, and squeezed its guts out through its ass with his hands, in order to control a demonic entity. Blake bound the soul of a small child to help him, and used it to destroy a police officer’s career.

        4. Sooo….. I think you need to specify what it is you think it means to be a villain or evil.
          Those actions weren’t evil. They just sound bad. Take america for instance. You can say all the bad things that country has done, but it is by no means an “evil” or “villainous” country. It’s just a country that is very lenient towards the idiots who have power.

          When most people talk about villains, they are referring to both intent and actions. Shooting someone isn’t evil or the work of a villain. Attempting and succeeding in murdering someone with a gun, however, is. The difference being is the former could be an accident or self defense. The latter is both the action, and the intent.
          In the former, the action is the same, but the intent is TOTALLY different.

          The same goes with Blake. SOME of his actions were pretty terrible. But the intent or goal was usually heroic or good-natured.

          The examples you listed were all seriously reaching. You could very easily portray blake as a villain, but all of the points YOU listed were not close to being villainous.

          Your argument is probably the same as most of the local powers’ arguments on why blake and co. need to be stopped (when they knew who he was). I’m not saying they are wrong, they have very good reasons for doing what they do/have done. That just means they are slightly justified, but not right.

        5. Maybe, but context matters here:

          1.) Didn’t kill said children and said enemy played a large role in killing his predecessor. It was petty sabotaging their demense, but considering the circumstances it was taking out an enemy asset. Granted, using the Goblin was a stupid call.
          2.) That “Pretty” Fae tried to kill him and then enslave him on the orders of her master. Beating her with a pipe was self-defense/duel and he drew the line at torture. What was he suppose to do? Stand there and die?
          3.) Said Woman agreed to binding in exchange for staying warm, a mutual trade.
          4.) Not a crime in itself, Karma be damned. The only problem was that he didn’t toss the book with Pauz’s ass into a ditch and then cover it in concrete. The witch hunters were onto something there.
          5.) Said man left him in a position to be taken advantage of and was an enemy combatant during a contest where lives were on the line. Not murder, killed maybe.
          6.) Give me alternatives. It was the horrible world or guaranteed death.
          7.) Said Police officer tried to do the same, on top of aging him until he was a withered old man.
          8.) …. Okay, Laird started the chain effect when he had Molly killed, but fine. I’ll give you that one. For now.
          9.) That’s not crime in itself. You can’t help how you were born or were twisted into a bogeyman by a system of the universe.
          10.) She invited him in and he didn’t do jack to her. She could have left after he had gotten there. He didn’t use magic either to bind her will, unlike her husband.
          11.) Again, duel and he was directly threatening Blake’s household.

        6. Sure, if you ignore reality and word everything to be as misleading as possible, Blake could appear evil. But so could an incarnation of pure good. Your argument is absurd.

          1. Thought that too by the time he referred to a rape-equivalent as a “hug” but by that time I was too emotionally invested to stop.

          2. Take another look, I did have to double check that he wasn’t just being sarcastic. But this part seals it “That’s just off the top of my head. Blake’s done more actions that could be considered evil. One could try to justify everything Blake’s done, but after doing so much, even if done for the right reasons, the possibility that Blake’s a villain must at least be considered.”

            Despite a couple of jokes sprinkled in there, that dude was being entirely serious.

        7. 1) Used children to infiltrate enemy territory
          –said child, I believe, was also a practitioner, so he was fair game that way or is the member of a faimly he was fighting against. Also said enemy were trying to hurt him and were responsible for the death of his cousin .

          2) Beat a pretty Faerie unconscious using an old pipe
          –she started it and tried to kill him with a sword

          3) For a long time used the ghost of a woman that constantly re-experienced freezing to death as his primary weapon
          –remember most ghost here aren’t the souls of people, they are their emotional imprint. So it wasn’t that she constantly re-experienced freezing to death she WAS the experience of freezing to death

          4) Practiced Diabolisn,
          –only a little bit. The way he acted he was more like a demon hunter that a Diabolist.

          5) Murdered a man who was giving him a hug
          –said man held him down to get mind raped (if we are talking about Lars)

          6) dragged 2 separate groups of innocents into this horrible world
          –if we are talking about magic in general yes for the first group (his friends), as for the second group, they were screwed either way, this way they had a chance.

          7) kidnapped a police officer and held him for multiple days \
          –said police officer broke his oath of office (attacking him, complacent in his cousin’s murder) and tried to hurt him multiple times and literally told him to his face that they would kill him eventually

          8) (indirectly) basically doomed Toronto
          –not his fault and so far we don’t know how that will play out

          9) currently derives power from scaring innocents
          –not sure about that. it seems to be more he get’s power from other spirits

          10) Held an innocent hostage in order to have leverage against her fiancé
          –said Fiancé was not innocent and tried to use equally horrible tactics against him. Not excusing it, but it was a tit-for-tat kind of thing. He also never hurt her or directly threatened her.

          11) attacked a kid with a weapon who’s wounds don’t heal Normally.
          –said kid is not innocent, is part of a group that wants to kill his friends, and did say he could heal it

    2. I pretty strongly disagree that Blake becoming evil is a forgone conclusion, or even particularly likely. I mean… he hasn’t really done anything evil yet. Even in his own thoughts, he still talks about friendship and justice and fairness. I think the story will be less interesting if he does fall to the darkness.

      I find it so much more interesting that many of the monsters and dead people that are around now seem to be more genuinely decent than some of the actual people. Like monsterousness is more a state of mind than a state of body, which I like.

        1. whoever originally set up the system like this, of course. given how the pactverse appears to function, it appears almost certain that somebody with more power then morality primed the pump at some point. and got devoured by a Daemon, if there was any justice.

          1. That is perhaps a little unfair. When (presumably) Solomon set it up, the current system was probably a big improvement over the status quo. Some nasty flaws have shown up over time, though…

            1. Yeah,like how ‘an eye for an eye,a tooth for a tooth”was far more just than the previous status quo of “disproportionate punishment”but still had some problems

    1. He hasn’t done that since the moment he decided he was nothing more than a vestige.

      (Which was sorta inaccurate, turns out, he was a piece of a person, incomplete– but the Drains tricked him into giving even that up.)

      What’s new is that, unlike nine paragraphs earlier, he stopped referring to them as his friends.

      1. well, he did say he was doing things for his friends – he just no longer counts the humans among them.

        It’s pretty sad when a flesh-eating mermonster is a more reliable ally than those you’re trying to protect.

  10. I still trust Blake more than Rose
    because like, Rose found out about the fact that neither of them was the “real” one, and they’re both only part– and had no problem asserting that she should be the one that gets the most power. I feel like Blake would have felt terrible about making a decision like that.
    Also, his “friends” knew this, and knew that both Blake and Rose were being affected by various different non-human elements and they chose Rose because…? Because she was there? Because it was convenient or..?
    Blake, seems like he’s moving on, at least :] Onward, Thorburn Monster!

      1. but! shouldn’t they have felt bad after learning how similar Rose and Blake are? and especially after learning they were originally Blake’s friends? That was my thought process

        1. Who says they didn’t feel bad? It’d explain why they decided to go keep him company when he was bound awhile ago. That happened after they found out about the Rose and Blake situation.

          1. True, but I guess I expected them to side with him or be a bit more neutral in Rose v Blake, all things considered. I would edit the original post to say they didn’t care enough, or didn’t show it enough (for my blake-centric emotional view)

            1. Remember that they don’t have much reason to trust the words that come out of his mouth. Aside from some strange connection they can’t quite explain he’s just some scary-ass wood creature who showed up in a mirror one day.

            2. Remember also that the vision occurred at some point prior to putting him in the circle, potentially quite a bit earlier. Likely even before the second time they communicated with him, since they’d want to confirm he wasn’t an enemy agent before communicating with him at all.

              That’s the most obvious way the Tenements have to screw with him without sending a false vision. Just leave out any reconsidering they may have done since.

          1. They still had free will and knew she was possessed by Conquest. Evan didn’t cave until all the rest did and he’s an eight-year old soul. You’re telling me they’re weaker willed than him?

            It ultimately came down to whether they wanted to trust someone who they maybe knew in the past but couldn’t remember, or someone who helped them in the present. We aren’t faulting them for their choice, only the fact that they’re using him while knowing that once he’s outlived his usefulness he’s done.

            1. Blake thinks they’re planning to kill him once he outlives his usefulness. All we know is that they promised not to tell him about his “mirror doppleganger designed to fight to the death” status.

              One subtle potential hint that they aren’t:

              “It’s not a problem,” I said. “The last time I left, I was able to just walk out. It sent me to the mirror as a matter of course.”

              “Oh,” Tiff said. “Oh, that’s great!”

              “Yeah,” Ty added.

              Practitioners can’t lie. If Tiff says it’s great, it means she thinks it’s great.

            2. “Practitioners can’t lie. If Tiff says it’s great, it means she thinks it’s great.”

              Technically Practicioners can lie. It’s just they are punished by a loss of power if they do. That said, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t think it’s great. For a more negative interpritation, she feels it’s great that he can just leave because then she won’t have to feel guilty when they banish him back to the Abyss. More positively she could still be planning to banish him, but is glad he would be able to come back.

              It means she thinks it’s great, but doesn’t tell us what great actually means.

            3. 8 yearold, but also the freedom oriented little determinator who survived something that made even the various deaths too afraid to show up.

            4. IRRELEVENT. if you are fiddling with someones mind to influence their actions, by definition they are NOT acting out of their own will, but according to yours.
              it doesn’t matter if you puppet them into stabbing their S.O to death with a knife while they scream inside own their head , massively amplify their anger during an argument to the pint of inducing psychotic rage, or spend several years whispering into their skull, subtly altering what they THINK they are hearing people say over time, or even just constantly projecting “i am your friend. i know best. do what i say” into their mind whenever they do anything other then act as a yes-man.
              altering someones low-level decision-making process to make them comply with your wishes is no different then taking control of their central nervous system and speaking out of their mouth. again, no matter how you try to spin it, if the vision is accurate about THIS part, rose knowingly controlled Blake’s former friends to agree to help her kill him at some point. claiming it was of their own free will is like claiming you arent responsible of eh actions of someone whom you abducted, strapped a bomb collar to the neck of, and ordered to rob a bank or die. the actions were their own, the one who decided to carry them out was the person holding the strings.
              what Rose is SHOWN doing in the vision (will cheerfully spend dozens of posts singing her praises if/when its shown to be distorted or an outright fabrication)
              is no difference then then the actions of that character form worm.. i think the one who projects an aura making people see him as a friend/harmless, even as he kills them. only difference is the attempt at actual subtilty
              sorry for the ranty post T_T

            5. I disagree. Rose also tapped Conquest’s power during her confrontation with the Thorburn family, and we saw how it worked – it makes her less easy to intimidate, and in turn makes her somehow more intimidating. It certainly doesn’t make her the perfect puppetmaster.

              If you consider “speaking to someone intimidating” sufficient to absolve someone of their entire responsibility, then the concept of “responsibility” doesn’t exist. All human interaction is manipulation at some level, and Rose’s use of Conquest’s power didn’t seem stronger than, say, talking with a person of high status, or political power, or lots of money, or charisma. Or someone to whom you’re very attracted, or someone with a beautiful voice, etc. pp.

              Yes, all these things influence your decision, but so does lack of sleep, lack of food, being injured, being distracted or worried about other things, etc.

              And remember what Conquest is actually capable of. The strongest power he demonstrated was forcing Rose to spill everything she didn’t want to tell him, but he could only do that in his own domain, and after he’d already claimed Rose as a hostage. Before that, Conquest was still very intimidating, but Blake and Rose (who are far more susceptible to possession than normal humans) were still able to reason in his presence, and ultimately bargain their way out of his domain. And anyway, Conquest mostly controlled them with real threats, rather than just compelling words.

            6. The damning moment for his friends as far as Blake (and I) was concerned was when he was about to get a physical body and they all looked at each other like “is this really a good idea, what if he goes murderous?” This shows a near-complete lack of trust. Though I think there is still hope for them, I also think Blake is completely justified in no longer considering them his friends.

    1. What makes you think Rose didn’t feel terrible?

      What makes you think she didn’t have a problem in private?

      All you see is the presentation she gives to her allies, after she’s already made up her mind. There’s no way to know how hard it was to make that decision in the first place, managing a zero-sum situation.

      His friends chose the course of action that involves only one person having a reason to plot the destruction of the other, rather than two people plotting each other’s destruction. And they also had an instinctual trust of Rose, even though they knew it wasn’t natural, since they hadn’t known her very long as far as their memories were concerned.

      1. it felt like it was Rose’s instinct to maintain her dominance (maybe from conquest taint) but when Blake realized something similar when he was the “human”, his instinct was to find an obtuse solution to benefit both of them

    2. See that is the missing piece of the puzzle. There must have been a compelling reason. About Rose, I do think she is selfish but I don’t think she is ultimately an antagonist in this story. She called herself a bitch, that shows self awareness, more importantly that shows that she feels shame for her actions.

      The problem with Rose, I think is that she is defensive and unable to trust other people. Blake got the connections, she didn’t. So she never experienced what it feels like to be able to trust other people. Before Urr, ultimately she didn’t want Blake dead. She was conflicted about the possibility of her becoming human versus dead Blake.

    3. “I still trust Blake more than Rose”

      I’m in this camp. I think it has a lot to do with the fact I know what Blake was thinking. I won’t say he was smart, but at least I know why he took the actions he did. We know what he feels and thinks. But other than one brief moment, we don’t know these things for Rose. We can assume either way I suppose, but one thing I feel is that Blake cared far more for Rose’s well being than she ever did for his.

      The ultimate twist and irony would be if in the end Rose is the real fake, monster and thief, with this realized only after Blake has accepted that it is him.

      1. agreed. dispite the alarming rate Blake seems to be loosing his Humanity, he’s always expressed empathy and actually seems to care about his friends, even if at this pint he is extremely upset by an apparent betrayal., while Rose seems more and more to be obsessed with looking after #1, and to be blunt, seems to be treating them like Tools or things, not people. to be blunt, i don’t think she Cares about the cabal as much as saving her own neck.

        1. Also what are friends to Rose? I’m sure we’ve all seen things where someone has a definition of friendship or love that most of us consider… Not.

          1. also agree. her script did NOT have her running away like blake did in his. she grew up in a Thornburn household her entire life, with all the implied neglect, abuse and being twisted inside that implies.

            1. im also suspicious because we have seen nothing that shows how she thinks of them herself, and given how cynical the series is, defaulting to assuming she sees them as nothing more then disposable tools is as actually not that irrational

            2. I keep saying this. Rose said she was more a Thorburn than Blake. That ain’t a good thing Rose.

  11. Okay, so let’s make a tropes list to be added later:

    1.) Break the Haughty – Compare Roxanne before she got into the Abyss and after. It did a number on her.
    2.) Fan Preferred Couple – Green Eyes x Blake. And Maggie x Blake. I’m good with either.

        1. That lightbulb thing is definitely his style. It could be one of his motes, but it’s almost certainly connected.

          1. Not his exclusively. Given how deep Wildbow draws from Mythos and myths and his own terrifying imagination, for all we know it could be how Santa Claus gets around without being seen on Christmas or some ancient god of Dark.

          2. He passes and makes everything just a little bit less effective. It seems like demons are running even more rampant in the Abyss than in the real world. And if the Abyss is the recycler of the world… well we have issues.

            1. Demon’s lessening the Abyss makes horrible sense. If the Abyss acts as the recycler, by lessening things in the abyss, demons ensure there is less to eventually be returned to the real world.

        2. I’d call it more likely than it being some other enormously powerful character we haven’t had mentioned yet, given our prior knowledge of Ornias and the stuff we saw (lightbulbs, starless void).

    1. I’m a little conflicted what to add to Roxanne. She didn’t think she was scared of much. As it turned out… her Why Did It Have To Be Snakes? were… creepy crawlies.

      Granted, rather special ones. [shivers] (To what extent is Roxanne a bogey, now? She’ll have something of the Abyss inside her, after all this… :|)

        1. Only if she switches from knife nut to worm-flinging psycho. Else she merely got a stareful of her own Abyss.

    2. I think Mags, formerly known as Maggie, will come to a violent and/or very unpleasant end, possibly posession by a wraith.

      1. Methinks Mags is a bit too tough to be victimed off screen. I think she’s going to factor into the rest of the story far more than we can guess.

    1. Pretty much my feeling on that. Every time Blake is talks about or thinks of himself as or is talked about as an Other, I die a little inside.

      Blake is ignoring the slippery slope of losing humanity. He’s simply ski jumping down it.

    2. Well, it’s been happening for a while. [sighs] At least there’s still one take-home message: he’s still on their side, regardless of his increasing distance… and for the time being. He’s still fighting monsters (and, he may be including himself in that bracket). 😐

      The problem for the Thorburn cabal is simple: if he starts regarding them as rogue practitioners along the lines of the nastier Beheims and Duchamps… they’re in trouble: because that’s close to “monster” territory.

  12. This was nice. The ridiculously complex action scenes that wildbow is famous for often go over my head. Main character building themselves a new body by physically ripping themself into it? I get that.

    Blake in the mirror, however, was nice and safe from everything but his steady loss of humanity. i’m guessing he’ll lose at least one appendage within the next chapter. Probably not more. That’s being saved for the last arc.

    Green Eyes and Blake…I don’t normally ship, but these two…they are both awesome characters in their own right, especially Green Eyes, the Other who will politely ask for permission to eat you if you die. And she has it for him, yeah, but in the most monster-ish way possible. Just a hilarious ship.

    1. Oh, that’s right. Now if he gets injured, he doesn’t have a safety zone to bungee back into. Blake could totally die right now.

      1. Like all bogeymen, Blake can’t directly die, but he can fall into the abyss and be ground down to nothing.

        But I agree – gaining a body isn’t just an advantage.

        1. The only advantage is that he can move in the world easier, but he can’t move as fast as in the reflections, he can’t surprise enemies, and if he gets staked by green wood chances are he would get the Bane treatment.

          1. I don’t think green wood would kill him; he’s not a dead, tortured soul, and there isn’t even any clear target for a stake. Fire, on the other hand…

            Speaking of which, Evan now definitely can’t become a bird of fire anymore.

            1. I dunno, they just need one more and they can do a four-element team.

              Probably want two more, though, Blake as Wood, Green Eyes as Water, Evan as Fire, and two for Earth and Metal.

            2. i donno…wind seems more useful than earth and metal when blakes already pretty earthy…i’d rather have heart. heart is hella op even without summoning anything

            3. Blake’s got a better link to Wood than Earth, and there’s probably a prize for collecting them all.

    2. I dunno. Blake could still have access to the mirror world, just like Conquest and Faeries. Maybe not likely, but given his connection to them I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion he’s forever out of the mirror world.

  13. Damn me, damn them, damn it all.

    Well, then. The world didn’t explode as soon as he said that, making this the third time, so that’s good. I think this might mark a departure of sorts. Not from his humanity; he still has skin showing, and maybe not from his friends. Not yet. Hmmm…

    Blake backed away when Alexis touched him. I think this is a perfectly natural reaction, even though Blake didn’t. However, could this be something else? Blake used to be afraid and uncomfortable of physical contact. However, in the Drains Blake had decided to leave the bad parts of him behind. Has that one particular monster come back to haunt him?

      1. They have! Just…not with Blake. I mean, Rose is doing amazing in terms of telling her friends about stuff that could come back and bite them.

        1. And during that effective communication with Rose they swear not to communicate something important with Blake regardless of circumstances. It’s like they’re selectively blind to the trope Poor Communication Kills.

    1. When Blake thought that ominous line for the third time, it totally looked like him abandoning his humanity. He even leaves “the humans” behind by the end of the chapter.

      I’m not sure whether he did one in the abyss (which would make this the third time), but he certainly did a re-take of his practitioner ritual here, reaffirming his new goals and values.

      1. Blake’s SOP basically involves putting himself at risk to pull anything. Can’t remember any plan that didn’t go that way, really.

        Also, damp wood, in a chilly -10°C night. Drenched in spirits and bits of human guts. His pent-up rage will burn him worse than flames.

        1. Heck, grannie Rose might not have left Blake with the parts needed to do any other kind of plan. We don’t know exactly how the split worked, if certain traits were given to just one of them, or if they had to be mutually esclusive.

  14. So, if Blake has abandoned the vast majority of his humanity, as well as his mirror-connections, does that mean that he’s abandoned his nature as a Barbatorem-created Vestige and instead become an entirely different sort of Other?

  15. Blake you have humanity! You can nurture it! Make it grow! You aren’t Roses enemy! Stop believing the lies the Abyss feeds you!

    1. problem with that is she has been constantly treating HIM as an enemy. or a THING, a problem instead of a person. something to be controlled, contained and disposed of when no longer useful.

    2. That would require time, and people to stop trying to kill or worse him and his now former friends. Since those are things he never seems to get, it would appear humanity is a luxury he can no longer afford.

      1. the ironic thing is, no matter how far he falls (within reason, of course), he’s likely to have more humanity then a lot of the major player practitioners we’ve seen so far. long as he continues to comprehend what a friend is.

  16. “I’m never going to be okay again.”
    “If it’s any consolation, you’re a Thorburn. You were never going to be okay in the first place.”
    “Oh. Yeah.”

    The Thorburn family is a gift. A beautiful messed up gift, and I love them all and I want to read an entire book centered on each of them.

  17. ‘the part that retains the heart and soul is female’; the part about the heart (which stopped beating in the Drains, along with his breath) makes this particularly interesting to me. (Rose also has a heart, of course.) Now, is Blake’s a /fake/ heart, or does he possess (/has he regained) part of the ‘real’ heart..?

      1. But IIRC Blake didn’t even have a heartbeat before? And wasn’t his chest cavity sufficiently empty that he could even hide a book inside? So where’d he pull the heart out from?

        1. “Last of all, I found my heart, struggling to evade my grip. Larger than any spirit yet.”

          “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.”

          there are three explanations I can think of:
          1.Rose lied
          2. Black’s heart is not a heart at all
          3. BlackRoseOriginal was a women

            1. Black’s heart is not a heart at all

            This. It’s one of his bird-spirits. He’s mentioned feeling it batter around inside his chest whenever he should have started getting scared ever since he accepted his Otherness.

  18. You know, Biar girl kind of reminds me of Bitch. Anyways, loved this chapter, beginning to really hate Blake’s friends and love the Thorburns, at least the third generation. Green Eyes is nice, Evan is awesome, and Blake is awesomely terrifying. Rampage of Revenge, here we come!

  19. Why in the name of Asha Vahishta would Blake want his humanity back?

    From the story so far, humans are the worst, most duplicious, self-serving, bigoted, uncaring, warped, demented bastards in the entire universe. Very few of them are worth it as people at all.

    In a world with the “Humans are Bastards” trope, why want to be one?

    1. are you serious? the humans aren’t great but the non-humans are completely awful beyond description. the faeries? Conquest? why would that be preferable to being a flawed human?

      remember, we’ve only seen the humans stories from one side. they probably have justification for much of what they do. the non-humans, on the other hand, are openly psychopathic sadists.

      1. Isadora. I’d say Faysal, but that’s probably cheating. That’s still a pretty short list (throw in Green Eyes, maybe, but she’s still in transition; what about Briar Girl’s familiar? Or, heck, Jeremy’s non-bacchae goons?), but it’s basically a sign that the Order-oriented Others are something resembling decent, when they’re not eating people who disappoint them.

        1. isodora finds people that won’t be missed too much and eats the ones she can’t own or mentor into something she’d want to own


    1. Great lines: “Oh man, that word choice. From someone who could well be conspiring to put me down the moment I stopped being useful.” and “That’s, uh, [let’s] try assuming I won’t die?” and “If it’s any consolation, [you’re] a Thorburn. You were never going to be okay in the first place.” and “I bet you think you’re brilliant. You know, there was a time when I wondered what the Thorburns actually did that made people hate them so much.” and “I don’t think she could have said that with less confidence” and ““Thank you,” I spoke, as my tongue emerged.”

    2. Can’t Blake be the slightest bit suspicious about this vision, and about the abyss? Not to speak of being suspicious of his own anger, when he’s just heard of what the Barber does to his victims? You’d think Blake would learn from the last time, but apparently not.

    3. Well, at least he’s realizing that he terrifies everyone. Peter’s reaction…

    4. ““Please may I eat you?” Green Eyes corrected herself.” -> Oh dear.

    5. Wow, it would have been incredibly ironic if Alexis & co survived all the Others, only for one of them to receive a lethal blow from a possessed Roxanne.

    6. When Blake offered to bring an Other outside, I really feared this was going to be a Blake Plan, and he’s bring half the Tenements to the outside world…

    7. Why does the binding circle work in the Tenements? Didn’t Blake think there were no spirits in the abyss?

    8. “I’m sufficiently convinced, [that] those bastards out there are monstrous enough to qualify.” – Now which bastards is Blake referring to? Just the Others? Or everyone declared as valid targets for their newly recruited Other? And does that include Rose?

    9. We really need character motivations. Blake’s motivation is still just an adapted form of “kill the monsters”? Really? We also still have no idea what Rose is fighting for, 12 arcs into the story. Secrecy is all well and good, but at least show us their overt or pretend motives, rather than none at all! (This is why I really wish we had more character interludes, like in Worm.)

    1. 2 the abyss hasn’t outright lied. not sure it even can. it can chery pick visions but that feels pretty cut and dry

      9 whats wrong with “kill the monsters”? its pretty consistent. he originally told this to evan, hes thought it to himself, he told this to the angel who’s name i can’t spell, and now he said it again….

      bullet point time
      from what we’ve seen of him his motivations seem to more or less be 6 things(which come down to just two, and one a prerequisite to the other)

      -“i want to stop getting dragged into this shit, (also i just want to be free ride my motorcycle and chill with evan )

      • but I have power now and feel like its my responsibility to destroy or bind demons where i can along the way, (and also protect my friends and such)

      -and since I AM forced to deal with this rigged retarded fuckery I wanna flip the board and start fresh. the system hates me for no damned reason and I hate it, right now things will go on like this forever unless something changes. (also i must do something, this is something, i must do this)

      leading to his monster bits saying “GRR KILL THE MONSTERS, I’ve seen enough to be convinced these guys count. grr kill these guys”
      which seems like a pretty reasonable motivation for something like what hes becoming. (remember even in the drains’s potential future he was a top tier predator, a hunter of monsters too far gone to satisfy any one of his “this is a person” tick boxes. when he’d lost everything else he still had “kill monsters” and “i want to fly”)

      “kill the monsters, maybe then I can be free”

      1. cut and dry to clarify means not taken out of context(not that somebody didn’t have further scenes doubting that decision. this sounds like it was made after they first remet him and before they bound him

      2. I didn’t expect “kill the monsters” to unpack into something this interesting. Thanks for that!

        My issue with that attitude is simply that the true monsters in the story, from Blake’s perspective, should never have been any of the summoned Others, or bound demons like Ur, but rather the hostile Jacob’s Bell practitioners (and, admittedly, free hostile Others like Padraic). Killing monsters is all well and good if they’re attacking you and you’re fighting for your life (like right now), but otherwise, it doesn’t solve anything.

        I’m not denying that he’s been consistent about his motivation; I’m saying it’s inconsistent with his other goals: you can’t leave the world off better if you get killed in pointless fights; you can’t protect your friends if you pick new fights before winning your existing ones; you can’t be free while everyone wants you dead; etc.

        Last time, that line of thinking made him fight Ur, and he lost essentially everything as a result. Maybe he’ll learn this lesson once he loses Evan, Green Eyes, or Alexis?

        1. I would say Ur was a pretty serious threat, even if it weren’t breaking out of the factory over time. Ur has killed over a dozen people that we know of in the fairly recent past, and inherently we don’t know about most of the people killed. I rather respect Blake for wanting to put a stop to that. It went badly for him because he was really stupid about it.

          I mean, there wasn’t much in the way of time pressure. Sure, he wanted to avoid continually putting it off until he died and Ur was still sitting in the factory eating passerby, but he could have gotten some people to keep anyone from entering the factory and gone in a week later. It’s pretty much certain there’s something in the library about fighting abstract demons, and he could have gotten more backup for exploiting the weaknesses he knew about. The Astrologer specializes in manipulating light, the Sisters can provide disposable assets and fire spirits, and he could have summoned up some light-related Others with time to look.

          No matter what Blake decides he wants, it’s not going to go well if he can’t plan properly.

          1. I honestly don’t think he was that stupid in the way he confronted Urr. He was organised, he brought heavy firepower, and he had every reason to assume it would go well. The only reason he wasn’t successful is that Urr’s vulnerability to fire turned out to be less absolute than they had thought.

            1. Well, that’s the sort of thing that should probably have been tested or read up on before Blake entered the factory in person. Plus, fire is a pretty unstable weapon to use if he wasn’t going to just Molotov the place from outside. Which would probably have been a bad idea because it’d wreck the binding and wouldn’t necessarily get everywhere inside. Using non-fire light would have avoided the smoke issue and been easier to slowly push forwards without leaving gaps. Ideally, the only things entering the factory would be glowing Others so Ur can’t safely attack them even if a hole opens up.

            2. Blake’s initial foray into the factory could be considered a test. They knew fire worked and nobody anticipated the smoke issue. Any further testing would’ve just put the testee at risk – better to go in hard the first time.

              Urr isn’t exactly the sort of thing that can be researched given that everyone who ever saw him has been erased. ‘Urr’ isn’t even his real name.

              Yes, non-fire light seems like it would’ve been preferable, but for all we know, Urr has an answer for that too.

              There’s a heavy hindsight bias in criticising Blake for this. It’s far easier to see the flaws in something once it goes wrong, and we attend to assume that because it’s so obvious now, they were idiots not to realise that then.

              There was room for improvement in the way he went about that, but there always will be with any plan. There was no reason up front to believe that it wouldn’t work.

            3. Forgot to add: Blake was also under time pressure. He needed to consolidate post-Conquest Toronto before it fell into civil war (which is what a joint effort at dealing with Urr was intended to achieve) and head back to Jacob’s Bell to deal with issues there.

              Had he dragged out the Urr project he risked losing the very temporary support he had from the other practitioners as well as the risk of having to head back to Jacob’s Bell before the job was done (Council Meeting, etc.).

              He made what seems to be the best available call under the circumstances with every expectation that it should have worked. He was just unlucky that Urr proved to be even more insidious than he first appeared.

  21. There are few cuts deeper than betrayal. There is nothing harder to restore than broken trust. Even if they don’t remember him, Blake’s friends made their choice, and the die is cast. Perhaps they made the only decision they could with the information they had, but in the end Blake learned all they wanted to keep from him, and I cannot say he is the better for their secrecy.

    1. Blake can still forge new relationships. His connection to green eyes and Evan still matters. Even though none of them are human anymore, I think they can retain some – maybe even regain – humanity, by ….

      doing human stuff. Not betraying your friends among them. Acts of mercy, kindness, patience, consideration. Kickstarting virtuous cycles etc.

      Can Ty, Alexis, and Tiff be forgiven?

      1. Sure they can.

        I mean, they didn’t actually do anything yet aside from keep a secret from Blake, because they had no idea whether they could actually trust him.

      2. What’s so great about humanity? I kinda gotta tell you, if it weren’t for the whole Hell aspect of the Abyss I’m thinking being a little less human would kick so much ass…

        Did we have this dicussion before, because I’m getting Deja vu….

        1. Not feeling the deja vu, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t.

          Good things about humanity, hmm. It’s a big assumption, but I would assert that the ability to feel empathy and trust are tied sharply to humanity. That the part of Blake that cares about others is sustained by his remaining humanity, and when his humanity is permanently depleted he won’t have the capacity to care about anybody but himself. I’d also assert that most of the aspects of himself that he likes, takes pride in, would also be lost.

          This is intuitive though. I’ve got no proof of these assertions.

        2. There’s the fact that becoming an Other inevitably leads you to being consumed by a single negative trait. The humans aren’t nice, but they’re also multifaceted, while your average Fae is all sadism and arrogance, and goblins are nastiness and spite made manifest.

          Blakes in real danger of being consumed and defined solely by his anger and hatred, at which point he won’t be Blake anymore.

          1. Except that you left out Djinn, Sphinx, Angels, Demons, etc, etc.

            Being Other isn’t a bad thing, it just means being different. The problem here isn’t that he’s becoming an Other, it’s that he’s becoming a Bogeyman in specific. And even then the problem depends on the type.

            The only thing offsetting about Green Eyes is that she has a taste for man-flesh, like Isadora, and her time in the Drains may have skewed her perspective on human morals… but she’s so polite.

            1. Don’t forget her Black Fish, which sounds like a Pactverse version of a little devil sitting on her shoulder, whispering temptations into her ear.

              And her calling Evan a bird morsel.

              And her liking the bell.

              She certainly seems well-meaning, but if she gets wounded or emotionally hurt enough, her Other nature might take over, and we could end up with a disaster.

          2. Humans can have (proverbial) devils sitting on their shoulders, too. Green Eyes or Blake might not be perfect; they might have a lot of nasty impulses to them, and in the wrong situation they might do the wrong thing.

            But if you’re gonna tell me they’re worse people than Duncan, Laird, or either of the Roses, I’m gonna laugh in your face. As far as we’ve seen, Blake’s ultimate desires have always been to make things better. That doesn’t mean that he lacks baser instinct, but unlike (say) Rose, he doesn’t give in to them.

            (Also seriously why the hell are people treating Rose as if she’s any more capable of making good decisions than Blake is? We’ve seen nothing but one catastrophically terrible idea after the next from her. From her insistence on summoning Boogieman against Conquest to her decision to keep Blake in the dark to her decision to go away to the asylum more recently, all her choices seem to have been catastrophically bad.)

            1. I hardly care whether someone has good or bad intentions. What I care about is expected outcomes. By that metric, Blake will have to spend a long, long time to compensate for his two biggest mistakes: awakening his friends (expected outcome: putting them in permanent danger), and attacking Ur (expected outcome: Blake’s fated death; Blake’s erasure harming everyone like what happened to the Knights – and something similar actually happened).

              Concerning Rose: I totally agree about the leaving-the-house-of-her-own-free-will part, and I can’t see how that could possibly have been a good decision, even from her perspective, but we should still wait until we see the actual outcome of that decision before we call it catastrophically bad.
              If Rose had stayed and the Others had attacked Hillsglade House anyway, the only thing she could have done to meaningfully change the outcome would have been freeing Barbatorem, and lots of readers seem to think it’s better to roll over and die than to ever use demons…

              But I don’t agree about your assessment of her other major decisions:

              • Summoning bogeymen during the competition: Absolutely the right decision. First of all, Blake named her as one of her champions, and that was the only way for her to actively help Blake win the competition. IIRC consensus on the Midge disaster was that Padraic sabogated her summoning. Since no-one expected that, summoning her can’t be considered a bad decision. Corvidae: Not even Rose Sr. knew that Corvidae sabotaged his summoners. And without the bogeymen, and Corvidae’s help in particular, Blake would have definitely lost the competition.
              • Keeping Blake in the dark: She must have made that discovery and decision immediately after 10.01, where it certainly made sense from her perspective. More generally, how was this ever the wrong decision from her POV? The only reason the secret was revealed (despite the rune and the intact house protections) was because the abyss is apparently omniscient or omnipotent, which nobody in-story seems to be aware of.

              What else was there? Was helping and befriending Alexis & co (whether out of genuine concern or for ulterior motives) a bad decision? Was saving Evan?

              (And Rose did all that despite the tendency of her Thorburn karma to screw her over no matter what she does.)

              So yes, on balance, I’d say Rose’s plans certainly have had a much better success rate so far than Blake’s ever had.

      3. Perhaps someday he can forgive them, but I don’t know if they can ever have the as good a relationship again. Right now the hurt is too new, too raw. It’s like finding your girlfriend and your best friend having sex in your bed and forgiving them while the sheets are still damp. And right now, they may even still be conspiring against Blake, even if they are begining to have second thoughts and doubts.

        And lets not forget things from Ty, Alexis, and Tiff’s side. They may be begining to feel they made a mistake, or have doubts about their choice. Now that they’ve gotten to know him. Now that he’s done his damn best to keep them alive, and given up a part of himself to help Alexis, while Rose took off, I have to wonder if they aren’t regretting their choice. Even if Rose was the original, even if she is the bigger part (And no telling if that’s really the case) Blake may have gotten all the stuff that would made him their friend in the first place? Even if Blake does forgive them, can they bring themselves to look him in the eye?

        1. I don’t know that it has to be a binary choice. I mean, they don’t seem to have promised to help kill him, just not to tell him (so that he wouldn’t freak out and potentially kill Rose). And their friendship with Rose appears pretty genuine-the scenes we saw of them working together had Rose genuinely relying on them for emotional support and to tell her when it was okay to use Conquest. Even the fact that Rose actually, you know, communicates with them and tells them everything she can of the whole story instead of giving them parts of it and generalizing like Blake does, with Conquest and with Blake, makes me think that Blake did not get all the good friendship qualities of Rake.

        2. Breaking a cycle of mistrust and betrayal has to be good for good karma. But it’s still very hard to do.

          There’s some sympathy for those three. I would suspect they look at withholding information from Blake as a very necessary and neutral move, and don’t quite see it for the harm that it causes him.

          But it feels very lose/lose for Blake. If he holds them accountable for betrayal, would that even lead anywhere good? Would they just accuse him of proving them right, that his anger at betrayal means that he’s not a good ally, retroactively justifying their decision to betray? If he continues to strive on their behalf, they’ve suddenly got a wealth of positive feedback regarding their decision to continue to treat him poorly.

          In the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, you can coax a defecting opponent toward cooperation by using the “tit for tat + forgiveness” strategy. But even then, that’s a simulated case where the two parties are equals. They are definitely not equal here. Blake is disempowered: he’s an Other, now that he’s not as vulnerable physically he’s very vulnerable emotionally, and has nigh unto begged for better treatment from his “friends”, declaring that the cold shoulder is literally killing him. Which they either don’t believe, don’t understand, or don’t care.

          It can’t continue as it stands, not forgetting that if their crisis goggles weren’t on, they’d be telling him, “So sorry, guy-who’s-kinda-Blake-whoever-that-is, you were really nice, but Rose says you have to go away permanently, so bye now.”

          They’ve front loaded an imminent betrayal. They’re practitioners, so it’s likely their sworn to it, even if they’d want to change their minds.

          Can Blake coax Team Rose Thorburn into accepting him for real and not for this hoax of a friendship? That’s probably the longest shot, but it’s also probably the only viable victory condition for him. Even fighting for Rose’s ascendency to ruler of Jacob’s Bell and succeeding, would only mean a victorious and powerful Rose would destroy Blake as a lingering threat. I can’t imagine there’s anything he could do (in terms of victorious and successful engagements with Rose’s enemies specifically) that’d make her not move against him.

          1. I agree with most of what you are saying, but one part was purely counter-intuitive for me:

            “If he continues to strive on their behalf, they’ve suddenly got a wealth of positive feedback regarding their decision to continue to treat him poorly.”

            So, how does seeing someone trying hard to help you reinforce a decision to treat someone poorly? (positive feedback = reinforcement; negative feedback = disincentive)

            1. Sure thing! It’s the idea that, if a person s doing something to you, and they receive no feedback from you that you want them to stop, they have no motive to stop. They might not even know that you want them to stop. If Blake were to continue concealing his rage and hurt, they might conclude that he’s okay, and the status quo is positively reinforced.

              It also relates to another idea. That if you repeatedly forgive someone for wronging you, they’ll consider the forgiveness trend to be an invitation to continue wronging you, since there’s no real negative consequences for them.

            2. Basically, if they don’t tell Blake about his nature and Blake then works by their sides as their loyal ally they can pat themselves on the back and go “Yup, not telling him was clearly the right thing to do – look how well it all turned out”.

          2. Rose basically rushed them into choosing between her or him. Now the question is did they choose wisely? I doubt they are too happy about her forcing them so quickly.

            If Rose had ever managed to extract any oaths or promises from Blake’s friends involving sealing or destroying him it becomes even worse. Meaning the only way to not doom his friends would be to let them hurt him. Though so far that doesn’t seem to have happened.

  22. The idea of the heart and soul being female is odd. According to virtue ethics it was the male who had the mind and soul while the female had the body.
    Did Rose lie?

      1. If you’re right about that link, that would imply that splitting up a woman would leave the spirit with the male half.

        Not that Rose was intentionally deceptive; she doesn’t appear to recall being in the mirror. It is quite possible she believes the situation is reversed from the original configuration.

    1. wouldn’t be the first time and not like shes letting go of the journal to see for themselves in that flashback. blake certainly seems to have those things even as a reflected bogy

    2. I’m still inclined to feel that Rose either lied, or that the book lied to her, just because it feels off — Blake certainly hasn’t been portrayed as heartless or soulless in any sense so far.

      But it’s possible there’s just more going on than her or Blake are aware of.

  23. The one thing that stood out for me in Blake’s behavior is that he controlled it. He controlled both his anger and his behavior under ridiculously trying circumstances. Determinator indeed.

    And then, in the midst of his rebirth, he reaffirmed his aims. Keep his promises. Help his friends. Destroy the monsters. Those are quite similar to what he started out with.

    Now, what he considers friends may have just changed… When Green Eyes helped a new Drains resident she really didn’t know just how many-fold she would be paid for her help. Actually, this is at least the second and maybe the third time Green Eyes has been a significant help to Blake.

    1. “And, god, I hated thinking that way about people who were so damn important to me.” [about Alexis]

      So, at least of the beginning of this chapter he is still thinking of them, maybe not as friends, but as important parts of his existence. So, no, I don’t think Blake’s definition of ‘friends’ has shifted away from the Blakeguard, I think it has expanded to include Green Eyes (Evan was already there).

      1. As the chapter went on, Blake picked up on more and more things in what they were saying, what they weren’t saying, and how they said it. And as he picked up on these things he realized that he couldn’t trust them anymore.

        And here’s the sad thing. They may never truly be able to be his friends again. Not since Rose got them to agree to be silent about his true nature. It doesn’t seem that there was an oath, but their was in implicit promise. And that’s the damage. If the two are destined to compete with one another, then at a vital moment Blake’s friends chose Rose, and she was able to cut him off from the strongest source left of Blake’s humanness.

        1. Frankly, I think what Blake needs to do is call them on it. Tell them the truth, that he got a vision in the Tenements of Rose telling them about him, and demand to know what they intend to do in the future. Not now, of course, it’s so not the time for that, but as soon as the attack is called off for whatever reason.

          Assuming that he can get a straight answer that’s not “We’re totally planning to kill you as soon as it’s convenient”, forgiving them seems pretty reasonable. Their reasons to extend him any more trust than Corvidae got eaten.

          1. This whole story, Blake has been pretty good about actually bringing up those tough topics and talking through things so that they don’t become a bigger problem later on. I fully expect him to volunteer at some point that he had that vision, and to ask them what their stance is now and whether there was some other reason to not tell him other than, “We want to use you until you die, or we kill you, whichever comes first.”

          2. If he calls them on it then the Spirits will acknowledge it. If they lie then they lose even more power, and if they tell him they’re breaking a promise, which will cost them a greater amount. They can take the hit, but not while they’re in this type of situation and not while in Jacob’s Bell at all, where we’ve seen just how far they’d go to take them out.

            1. This. The problem is that in this situation, there’s no way he can tell them he knows without forcing them into a corner that will cause problems for someone. If they acknowledge he’s telling the truth, they’re foresworn for breaking their oath to Rose. If they lie, they take a power hit for lying to his face. All they can do is remain uncomfortably silent, which helps nobody.

            2. It’s really not that hard to take the third option: “I honestly would love to tell you but I’ve sworn not to, sorry”.

              Alternatively, there may be wiggle room depending on the precise nature of the oath. If all they swore was “I promise not to tell Blake about his true nature” then they’re free to say “We swore to Rose that there were things we wouldn’t tell you, but we have no intent to cause you harm.”. They could even say something like “We regret having made that oath now that we’ve gotten to know you, and we’re sorry”.

    2. Actually, he may have redefined not just what he means by “friends”, but also what he means by “monsters”.

      And I really wish he had a better motivation than this. Isn’t it essentially just “Help allies, defeat/kill enemies”? And hasn’t he learned anything from fighting Ur?

  24. “She opened her mouth and let it fall into the snow with the sticks, then wiped away the copious amounts of drool with her forearm.”

    Green Eyes is drooling over a human bone. Not surprising, just one of those details that made me smile when I caught it.

    1. YOU try carrying something in your mouth for any length of time and not filling it with drool 😛
      especially food

      (me, i can barely hold something in my teeth without either chewing it or gagging after a minute or 2)

      1. I second this. I’ve had to hold flashlights in my mouth while working on projects, and I always need to clean up afterwards. Depending on posture, sometimes not just the flashlight or my face, either.

  25. Right. Blake talks about needing something to fight for. Some goal in mid or something like that. Did he ever once consider that Rose has one? Why the hell is she doing ANY of this?

    And if his goal is to just destroy some monsters, this story is going to get lame really quickly.

    I freaking love green eyes.

    I wish someone took a picture of peter getting scared as hell by blake.

    What does blake mean by not feeding his human nature in a long time? Hasn’t it only been like two days since faysal fed him? Also… how is he going to feed his humanity without the angel-dog?

    They do realize that eva probably bartered their location for some beazor treatment, right?

    Blake used the knife?? Where the fuck is the hyena? I assumed he put it somewhere so he could climb but… that thing better not be lost! He JUST got it back… AGAIN!

    1. “What does blake mean by not feeding his human nature in a long time?”

      My stomach was empty inside, the wood plentiful. I hadn’t nourished that human side of me in a long, long time.

      He didn’t have a human meal in weeks. Not Green Eyes’ idea of a human meal, either.

    2. Using the hyena would have left incurable wounds that very well could have made the body switch fail an have just killed blake

  26. I am kind of confused by so many people in the comments trying to figure out and arguing about who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in this story. Most good stories are more nuanced than the Hollywood trope of one-dimensional good guys beating up dimensionless bad guys.

    In Worm, the characters were more than just their labels with something good and something bad in each one of them. Why would you want the characters in Worm to be any less human? Why would you expect the motivations and causes of conflicts to be any less realistic?

    1. Ayup. This pretty much.

      Tell you guys what, let’s just say that bad thing are going to happen, and there’s no clear guarantee that all of these bad things will be done by the Bad People and Blake’s hands will stay clean.

    2. Exactly. Here, here! 🙂

      Blake’s done some good and some bad. Ditto Rose. Alexis hasn’t always covered herself in glory, but her messes are understandable. Even Corvidae is faithful (despite unforeseen knocks)… for all that means for other people. Mara is creepy as all hell, but you can see why she’s the grumpiest of the grumpiest. 😐

      Even the Duchamps and Beheims have their positive moments and most genuinely love each other (for all their warped sense of ethical conduct). Who doesn’t like Ben, for instance? 😀

      1. I don’t really like Ben. I get the impression that he’s looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, really.

        “Oh, it was all better in the past, not everyone rules-lawyered each other to death then!” Yeah, I doubt that. I doubt it severely. Practitioner society has a massive inclination towards clever bastards figuring out ways to lie without lying, I refuse to believe that people like that are solely a modern phenomenon.

        1. I think he was mostly lamenting the fact that it’s the way that things are done, not that it was better in the past because that’s what led up to the present. He recognizes that they’re all shooting themselves in the collective feet by refusing to break pattern.

  27. So, once this night is over, what do you think will be the aftermath?
    1.) All of them can’t reasonably cover up Callan’s death.
    2.) Roxanne is disfigured and probably less human.
    3.) The rest are injured and possibly infected.
    4.) Blake has a physical body and can’t go around spying as easily.
    5.) Molly is going to be pissed
    6.) Negotiation is off the table when you try this sort of massacre and fail. That ‘No Grudge’ thing falls really flat. Rose might argue for it, but the again Blake isn’t acting in her interest so much as their interest align.

    1. The problem being, it isn’t finished. Things are probably about to get much, much worse.

      You don’t need to worry about covering one death after half a town blows up.

    2. “So, once this night is over, what do you think will be the aftermath?”

      1) Well they could disappear the body. Assuming it doesn’t come back as a natural version of the Bane to eat the guy who sent it.
      2) Roxanne probably will get flesh burrowing powers or bugs that do it for her.
      3) Yeah that’s not good. However the Drains showed that injuries down there might be tougher to heal, but they can be repaired with yarn. I think they’ll be okay.
      4) He can probably get into mirrors the same way he got out.
      5) Congrats! Molly now wants two children. She is also probably getting a power boost from all this. Not to mention her whole gathering Others to herself bit; she now has more to gather after all the Others got summoned, but didn’t get to eat anyone.
      6) The Duchamps and the North End Sorcerer are probably getting wiped. Andy is sending them a rocket next meeting. Karma is a bitch. They need to go have a meeting about now, and it would just be the perfect moment for Andy to not show.

      This attack failed in just about the most spectacular manner possible. You called in a bunch of favours and in the end you just shoved a bunch of Thornburns into the Abyss. One Thornburn boogyman was bad enough. Now there are five more on the way.

  28. I’m always kind of confused by the lack of sympathy for Rose in these threads. We all go “No Blake don’t summon the demon!!!!” because we know that no matter how useful, the demon is always bad news. It always spreads rot. It is evil. It always does net damage because that is its nature.

    Imagine you’re Rose. You wake up one day to discover that you’ve been imprisoned in a mirror by your zany but lovable grandmother and some simulacrum is running your life. What would the fans have you do? Instantly be completely honest with this creature. Then you learn about demons. Do you know this simulacrum is demon made? Well…. yes. Granny was a diabolist after all and as workings go this is pretty big, stands to reason it’s within her specialty area after all. Having learned this, you KNOW this is going to end bloody. This thing has hijacked your life and no matter its intentions (and by the way you certainly do not know its intentions only what it professes – but is this thing even human? It seems to be but you can’t be too sure) you know this ends up being a total disaster for you. Because demons.

    And then you find out exactly what this creature is, and you learn you’ve been right all along, that it is destined to battle you to the death, that the look of rage it extends to you is and will always be a portent of battles to come. Oh sure, MAYBE we can stand against fate…. said every diabolist ever who suffered infinitely while regretting ever thinking that this time they, with their special wisdom and unique willpower, could make demon deals worth it. No, this thing will try to kill you NO. MATTER. WHAT.

    Any response short of “drop everything and kill it with fire” at this point is overwhelming (and likely mortally foolish) charity on the part of Rose.

    1. If you apply this reasoning sufficiently strictly, then Rose has to kill Blake, and then herself. She may be more human than him at this point, but they are both victims of Barbatorem. Or rather, they are both all that remains of a victim of Barbatorem.

      This is why I wish we knew more about the character motivations. I don’t even know if Rose is planning for the long-term, whether she expects to survive.

      And what exactly do the Jacob’s Bell powers have to do before the diabolists retaliate with no regard for their own life, wellbeing or happiness? Aren’t we already past the point where using demons is the lesser evil?

      I mean, it’s completely obvious that Thorburn diabolists either end up killed or use demons at some point, so why not skip the part where things go worse and worse, and use the demons before the situation becomes so desperate that your sanctuary (the house) becomes a battlefield? Imagine if they’d had demonic protection against Dionysus – the house would still remain intact.

      Or alternatively, if things can never become bad enough to use demons, why not commit suicide and be done with it? Why the futile struggle to survive while doing the right thing when your enemies make it impossible to do the “right thing”?

      (To quote Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: “I know how that part of my life story goes, so I’m just skipping over it. If I can predict what I’m going to think later, I might as well go ahead and think it now.”)

      1. Not necessarily. Rosalyn’s mother didn’t appear to have this problem, for one, and Rosalyn literally went to school with an Inquisitor on the teaching staff. This is pretty clearly a recent development-the locals are trying to wipe them out in part because they’re diabolists, yes, but the land is also a factor.

          1. She didn’t conceal her name, and the Thorburns were quite infamous already – her father taught her what to say whenever she got ganged up on because he knew she would end up like that.

      2. I do not think there was any point at which summoning a demon would have appeared to be a good idea. Before they hit the house with the power of a god, it seemed like the defenses could stand up to just about anything. The only Jacob’s Bell resident who might have been able to muster up that degree of raw power was Johannes, and it’s likely Rose Sr. had specifically reinforced the house against Angels and Dijinn to protect against him. After the house got hit, they haven’t had the time to set up the proper ritual, binding, and instructions to use one without making things worse for them personally.

        There’s also the little issue where demons are literally the incarnation of everything getting worse, and at least some of them damage the entire world every time they’re summoned. The collateral damage from the house attack was confined to the Thorburns in the house; Pauz would inflict collateral damage everywhere between the summoning point and the target just by passing through.

      3. If the choice is either actively use demons or die, you should probably die. It would be more pleasant.

        Remember that for the most part, diabolists can’t control demons. Unless you’re a fucking master the demon will eventually break out of your control, and the first person it will fuck is you.

        1. Even if you’re a fucking master, that thing that you ask it to do? It will bite you, or humanity in general, in the ass, no matter what preparations you made. It’s a small law of the Pactverse.

            1. No, demons are probably endtimes bad, it’s just endtimes bad is worse than we thought.

      4. Cold war:how Sovet Union or America should think,by your logic:

        Why save my nukes for when things get desperate enough?shouldn’t I use them before they become desperate to destroy these filthy capitalists-dirty comies?Or,alternatively,if nukes are so bad,shouldn’t I just surrender to my oppoment/kill all my citizens instead?

        Yeah,your logic works on narrative causality,would be pretty good logic on Discworld,but in real life it sucks .Seriously.And,no matter how gender savvy the characters in Pact are,they do not believe they are in fiction to think that this way of thinking is remotely sane.Who said i gotta use all my resources?unlike the Yu-Gi-Oh tvseries,a real match of Yu-gi-oh is more likely to end with some face down cards unflipped,its not absence of gentre savviness to think you are in a realistic world.

  29. Blake, Green Eyes and Evan should, once out of sight of the humans, jump back into the void and recruit the goblin dragon.

    Just picture the scene: the humans enter the regular world to find Blake riding a Dragon, killing Other after Other while Green Eyes Eats the remains.

    1. They’d go back to the Tentements from Jacob’s Bell, but honestly they could have maybe have gotten the clowns to target the Duchamps. I’m still trying to figure out what it was that grabbed the one trying to kill Kathryn. Not that I’m complaining.

  30. Assuming Blakes vision was the truth, even if it’s a bit selective, Alexis and Ty need to realize that everything Rose said about not trusting Blake’s motivations also apply to her. Conversely, Blake is giving them no credit whatsoever for the fact that they have now had a chance to actually work with him. They may have adjusted their attitude to match even if they are still bound by promises.

    1. It’s the whole “running on high octane rage” thing. Added to the generalised “let’s not communicate with the strange treey-birdy guy” thing. 😐

      The trust issues both ways haven’t exactly helped matters. 😦

  31. quote: I freaking love green eyes.

    ssssshhh don’t tell Wildbow, that is the magic word for him making her suffer. xD

  32. Caught up again which is always good. My only comment is that someone could ask blake to be their familiar and it would solve the trust issues and the need to kill rose

  33. “The Briar Girl,” Ty said. “We ran into her, I asked permission and gave a gift to get permission to keep exploring, collecting branches. We chatted, and, well, the way she phrased it, she was getting annoyed with the Others that were attacking the house traipsing through her territory. On a completely unrelated note-“

    “She was making dolls with bird skulls, and there was one that she couldn’t be bothered to finish making,” Green Eyes finished for him. “She was so frustrated, what was it she said?”

    Incidentally, is anyone else really curious what Ty was going to say here?

      1. I thought so too, but then it wouldn’t have been on a completely unrelated note, right?

        I mean, then it would have been:

        “She was getting annoyed with the Others that were attacking the house traipsing through her territory so she was making dolls with bird skulls etc…”

        I think Briar Girl either mentioned something about Blake that was either too friendly or too unfriendly in Green Eyes’ eyes. Or she did something to Briar Girl she didn’t want Blake to know.

        If you look at this part from Breach 3.2:

        “For the feorgbold, I had to dig up and barter for the corpses no one would claim. I walked from here to Toronto and back, a full day and night to get there, longer to get back, dragging the body in a suitcase behind me. I purified them, I washed them utterly clean, I decorated them with care, and I gave of myself to bring them forth. Are you so power hungry that you imagine all of us are itching to depose the current powers?”

        She has gone through a lot of trouble for those skeletons, but now she suddenly has a spare one that isn’t working?

        My bet is that either Briar Girl said she likes Blake and that for him she could spare a skeleton or Green Eyes showed her proverbial fangs and pressured Briar Girl into giving one up.

        1. Your version is probably true. When one character interrupts another character in a Wildbow story, what that first character was going to say always turns out to have been really, important to the story. Either Briar Girl or Green Eyes (or both) really likes Blake and bartered or gifted that, or someone threatened someone, or perhaps it will allow Briar Girl and/or Green Eyes to exert some measure of control over Blake or something else entirely…

          Whatever it was, what would have been said will turn out to have been very important. Blake or someone will have an apotheosis later about it, “And then I knew what Ty would have said, these bones are blah blah, and yadda, yadda, super important stuff.”

  34. I still wonder if perhaps Blake didn’t come from Molly. If traits were split, then it should be like they were mirrored, right? One person should have received left-handedness, while the other person should receive right-handedness? That would cross out Rose as a source for Blake, but it wouldn’t cross out Molly.

    1. That might make sense if the original person was perfectly ambidextrous. But otherwise, why should splitting a person’s traits ever result in one left-handed and one right-handed person?

      1. Why would splitting a person’s traits result in one brave person and one cowardly person? When you get split, one side gets X traits and the other side gets !X (not-X) traits.

        1. I imagined it more along the lines of the character creation in some RPGs: You have various stats (strength, agility, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, etc.), all of which start at 1 or at the minimum level for a human, and then you get some extra points to distribute, resulting in a character that excels in a few categories: a dextrous rogue, or intelligent wizard, wise druid, etc.

          In that sense, splitting a person would mean generating two new characters, but splitting the extra points from the original among the two. Alternatively, if splitting amplifies the traits, it would mean that both get the full set of extra points, but each can only spend them on a few of the categories in which the original excelled. I.e. splitting a dextrous & cunning rogue might result in a very dextrous person, and another very cunning one.

          The comparison isn’t that great, but that’s one way in which this could work.

      2. Well, the Barber apparently cuts reflections, which should swap apparent handedness since mirrors do that because… You know, I’ve passed physics courses that cover optics but I still don’t know why that happens.

        So them both being right-handed is a clue that either they’re not from the same source or their creation didn’t have anything to do with reflections.

        1. Here’s the trivial explanation of why mirrors swap handedness, and why writing appears to be reversed: The mirror doesn’t do that. What it does is swap front and back of an image. If you stand with your back to a mirror, both you and your mirror image have the same handedness.

          However, you yourself can’t look at the mirror image that way. So you yourself turn around 180°, or turn a book 180° so you can see its reflection in the mirror. The mirror still just swaps front and back, and yet your handedness suddenly appears reversed, as does text in a book.

          The answer may be uncomfortable, but it’s unavoidable: From the beginning, you were the culprit! The mirror was entirely innocent!

    2. Y’know, maybe we interpreted that whole thing wrong.

      The Witch said that it was odd that Blake’s handedness wasn’t mirrored if he were a reflection of Rose.

      We’ve been thinking that means he’s a reflection of someone other than Rose. But what if it simply means that he’s not a reflection in the traditional sense? If he and Rose are effectively two halves of a whole rather than mirror images, there’s no reason either of them would be a southpaw.

  35. ““If it’s any consolation,” Peter commented, “You’re a Thorburn. You were never going to be okay in the first place.”

    The look that Tiff shot him was one of utter appalment. Not an oft-used word, but it wasn’t an expression that was often seen, either.

    “Oh,” Roxanne said. “Yeah.”

    She might have sounded a little bit calmer, saying that.”

    Oddly enough this sort of thing might actually be helpful for them. It’s a Thorburn thing. The sort of thing that might help them keep being them.

    Something else that caught my attention re reading this. The Thorburns helped put together Blake’s new body. That has to have some sort of symbolic meaning. Or in this world actual meaning.

    1. you thinking something like them building something instead of distorying/tearing down, or something more meaningful?

      1. He is the Thorburn bogeyman. Thorburn-made, Thorburn-remade.

        Waiting for step three, unless I already missed it.

      2. Something more meaningful. He’s had the Thorburns included in his rebirth. For better or worse family helped make this new self. And I think it’s particurly meaningful that the ones who stayed right with him and helped him through at the end were Evan and Green Eyes.

        1. Next week is a yes no. [Edited – didn’t realize it was a five week month, I’m dumb).

          To clarify though, Patreon money (presently $1573/month) goes toward the bonus chapters at the start of the month, which guarantees that the 1k target for week one is met. That leaves the 800 (leftover from this month) plus the $573 and change (leftover from Patreon after the 1k is spent on week one) going toward week two, leaving us at 1300 toward the second chapter of the month.

          Essentially, we’re $127 shy of the $2500 target (for two chapters) for next month.

          1. Indeed, 5-thursday months happen, something around 4 times a year ?

            It would break the clean pattern you have going to pull a chapter on those… I vote for spreading the extra chapters differently next time it happens (january 2015).
            Maybe 1st-2nd-free-4th-free instead of two consecutive weeks.

        2. “Ohhh.
          Two weeks off for me, then!”

          Whatever you want, boss man. Frankly, I was happy enough to get a Tuesday update this week. 🙂

  36. I feel like people are kund of hard on Rose, or at least the Rose-that-was.

    If Blake was made by carving out a quarter of Rose, it looks like Blake got all of Rose’s capacity for friendship and her literal friends.

    At least, my interpretation is that Alexis and co were Rose’s friends until Blake was made, giving Rose her friendless backstory and also potentially robbing her of the ability to make friends.

    I don’t think Rose can help being what the barber made her.

  37. Is it weird that I think it would be hot if Green Eyes and Blake hooked up?

    I mean, they’d have to get creative because at least one (and possibly both) of them do not have human genitasl. But still… I definitely see potential.

      1. in all the old stories the “mermaid problem” didn’t exist.

        either she actually had two tails that could part like legs(as seen in the starbucks logo) or they joined slightly farther down the upper mid thigh than currently depicted so all you’ve gotta do is bend her over.

        we know from the drains flash forward that it was possible somehow so I’m thinking shes got a set something like a dugong’s

        1. (i mean unless bat blake had a completely changed but oddly complimentary set, or they stuck to oral, or touching, or maybe just kissing and non (directly) sexual physical closeness)

    1. I’m pretty sure that Green Eyes does, at the very least. Whether or not Blake does now probably depends on whether or not he regrew that particular piece of flesh after he transferred into his new body; his mirror-body probably did, at the very least.

    2. actually manatees and humans are surprisingly comparable physically, so she kinda might. blake on the other hand….his ability is the more dubious of the two imo

  38. Finally caught up! Woo hop! Hey guys, so this is my first time commenting on Pact, I loved Worm but got on board around when it ended(finished it in June) and starting getting really into Pact which just gets better and better. Glad to finally be a part of some active discussions.

    Ok so first of all the Tenements freak me the fuck out, and I never wanna get caught in the abyss what with the claustrophobic Drains and acrophobia inducing Tenements. I was literally on edge the whole time they were climbing. However, it was a bit confusing figuring out if characters were in another area in the Tenements (when they kept mentioning outside) or if they were back in the real world.

    As for the nature of Blake’s humanity/morality, I think the fact that he’s still trying to help the people he cares about and fulfill obligations he believes he has very indicative of how much he’s actually beating the Abyss, the vision it showed him was to get him to give up, to completely reject his humanity and leave these people who have “left” him. But he’s not, no matter what he feels he’s still gonna do right by them which is awesome and shows the Otherness isn’t winning completely. I dont think Blake will go dark side. Since I’m a Potterhead it’s easy for me to analyze this way and Blake is such a fucking Hufflepuff. He’s the tenacious badger, valuing fairness even if someone doesn’t mind it being unbalanced in his favor. He’s loyal to people who don’t necessarily trust him and see him as a potential enemy. He’s empathetic, open-minded, tolerant and would rather a simple life of travel work and friends to fighting monsters, but he WILL fight them, why? Because it’s the right thing to do. Since these traits are closely linked to his character it’d be hard going for him to lose it. Whoever wants him to baddy is gonna have their work cut out for them.

    Also to be fair to the Trio, Rose made them promise not to tell, whatever doubts they have or conflicted feelings, they can’t break the promise, they can’t afford whatever bad karma it generates when they need all they can get to survive the night.

    I suspect we’ll have a Rose interlude soon since she is among the more of our mysterious main characters in terms of motivation, but lemme tell you why I think she’s making the play for Lordship. If she doesn’t participate she’s still fucked, as a Thorburn she’s public enemy no. 1, once the dust settles whoever wins is then going to focus on her, having a helluva lot of power at their disposal, the best case scenario is that the new Lord kicks the Thorburn cabal out of Jacob’s Bell.

    So she joins the competition for Lord and if she wins she has the grudging respect of the practitioners to not try anything and the power to deal with them but it does open her up to threats outside the city, she’s still fucked but competing is the lesser of two evils.

    I don’t like Rose, but she’s the “sad sack loser” the girl with no friends taught that she can’t trust anyone and has to manipulate people to get what she wants like the rest of the family, and had the best chance of the Thorburn women to become heir. In that vein I can understand her actions towards Blake and how she seems to play things to the chest with everyone. I don’t necessarily like it but with her upbringing you can’t expect much else.

    Damn this was long, haha.

    1. If you consider Blake Hufflepuff, I suppose Rose would be an obvious candidate for Slytherin.

      Now ask yourself: What would the original (Rake?) have been like, before being carved up into Blake and Rose? A Hufflepuff with ambition? A conscientious Slytherin who values their friends?

      PS: Welcome to the comments!

  39. If Rose and Blake were once the same person, and traits were carved out to make a separate person, and if Blake got the “I care for my friends and I have friends” bit, then can we really blame Rose for not actively supporting/caring for the Blakeguard? I’ve thought myself, and seen others post, that Rose is an uncaring b*tch, but perhaps this is like blaming an ordinary person for not being so attached to their toaster. Yes, it makes great toast, I’ve had mine for years, but if I had some spare money and happened to be at in the toaster aisle at a hardware store, there’s no real reason why I wouldn’t want to trade up a model. Not too many people have emotional attachments to their toaster — no offense intended to those people who do.

    1. you’re not emotionally attached to the toaster?

      and now? “good news everyone, i’ve taught the toaster to feel love”

    2. Yes, it’s very hard to blame Blake and Rose for any of their apparent mistakes or personality faults, given that they’re both victims of a mid-tier demon. And the way they were created is similar to abducting someone and then brainwashing them.

  40. There have been a number of clues suggesting that Rose and Blake may have once been the same person. There have been a number of clues suggesting that Blake and Molly were once the same person. Well, how’s this for a novel idea — Rose, Blake, and Molly were all once the same person.

    Rose thinks that she was supposed to be the first heir, right? Maybe she was. And then part of “the original” was split off to become the Rose that we know. And part was split off to become Blake. And what was left of the original, Molly, well we don’t really know everything that happened to her, but if she was lacking traits that we see strongly expressed in both Blake and Rose, there must not have been much left to her.

    Why three? This could be a way for Grandma to ensure that whoever the world sees as the first heir is a cottonpuff, a nobody, a completely nonthreatening person who doesn’t make any overt moves at all, in an attempt to lull people into a false sense of security. All of the important things are safeguarded — the heir can’t get rid of the house, a cottonpuff won’t get rid of the Barber, and nobody in town will take the books. Grandma can rest assured that Molly could and would let people run roughshod over her, and it wouldn’t impact the later heirs in any detrimental way.

    So, new idea, Rose/Molly/Blake were all the same individual, once upon a time.

    1. Perhaps that’s why Molly died. The townspeople were afraid of a new Thorburn, didn’t know what sort of Other she may have bound, decided to get rid of her, had Maggie send some goblins after her, and it turned out that Molly had nothing, no backup, no weapon, no Other(s), nothing. And that’s why they didn’t try to bind/kill/whatever Blake first thing, because they were afraid that he’d be another nothing, and that the universe would start to frown on them running roughshod over two different essentially defenseless and helpless individuals. That’s why, with Blake, they tried to scare/talk him out, then moved towards strategies of pure containment.

  41. Green Eyes is so adorable.

    I’m surprised everything’s worked out so well. They stuck in the Abyss for a couple more hours, Blake ripped out his heart, and all they’ve got to show for it is an embodied Blake, a bit more freak-out and a bogeyman attacking their enemies.

  42. Honestly,I see no problem with a Blake that embraces his Otherness,as long as he keeps his moral qualities.


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