Duress 12.8

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Time to be the monster from the monster movies, I thought.

Dozens of practitioners, each and every one capable of binding me, or calling in help.

The advantage, conversely, was that they thought I was trapped in the mirror.  At least, they did until Johanes elected to share that pertinent detail, or at least until one of the Others or Witch Hunters we’d just dealt with reported in.

The advantage of surprise.  With luck, the fire would suggest that they had won.  With better luck, they’d be misled into thinking they’d won by too much.  That someone had made a mistake and now the house burned, threatening to let a demon loose.

As I looked back over my shoulder, Hillsglade House was backed by a pitch black sky, the overcast sky blocking out even the moon and the stars.  The smoke, the snow on the ground and the clouds nearest the house on the hill were lit up by the orange glow of the two fires.  It was hard to ignore.

Evan’s underbelly was pale as he relocated to the roof of a nearby house.  Green Eyes crawled through the snow, blending into the pale snow.

Then there was me.  When I resumed walking, the house to my back, the branches of my arms, legs, neck and body all snapped and cracked, more like I was a man moving through a thick tangle of branches than a man made of branches.

Once I found my momentum, though, my body remained pliable.  Only movements that broke from the flow elicited the noises of breaking and creaking wood, or scrapes of wood against bone.

My feet were bare, and the snow muffled my footsteps further.  I was virtually silent as I moved between houses, avoiding the open streets where practitioners were gathering in clusters.

I headed between two houses, along a shoveled path that led to two gates, each opening into backyards.

I was approaching the group that had been nearest the house.  A fence enclosed the backyard, separating me from them.

“-did it?” a woman was saying.

“I’m suspicious it was the Behaims.  Every time the topic of demons has come up, the Behaim leadership are so blasé.  You don’t act that way around demons unless you’re very confident you’re safe or you’re stupid,” another woman suggested.

A man spoke, “Couldn’t it be stupidity?  The stories I’ve heard of their misadventures here and in Toronto… I’m not sure how to put it politely.”

“It’s easier to let yourself make mistakes when a fix is often a turn of the clock away,” another man said.

“They’ve been doing more,” the woman said.  A Duchamp, had to be.  “They went to Toronto and made a play there.  They dealt with the Thorburns on several occasions here.”

“Saying they failed only because they tried more doesn’t elevate them in my eyes.”

“I’m not trying to elevate them, dear,” the woman replied, making it the least affectionate ‘dear’ I’d ever heard.  “But they’re stubborn, and in our little spars in past decades, they’ve managed to hold their own.”

“How?”

“Big guns,” another man said.  “Chronomancy, you’re tampering with one of the fundamental aspects of reality.  Put up a fight, scrap, trade blows, and wait until you have an opportunity to deliver the knockout blow.”

“Essentially,” the woman said.

“What if it’s the Sorcerer?”

“Johannes?”

I hurdled the fence, using my empty hand on the top of the fence to make it possible, enjoying just how light my body was.  The action required ‘muscles’ I hadn’t exercised, and the resulting crack of wood made their fear spike.  I could feel it.  Alarm, attention.

A small bird flew across the street.

They relaxed.  I could feel the fear fading.

“If the Thorburns have dropped out of the running-”

“Rose is at the hospital, she might not have heirs, but we have to kill her to end the line.”

“We should get our bearings first.  The moment she dies, we have no reason to play nice with the Behaims or Johannes.”

“More importantly, they have no reason to play nice with us.”

I drew closer to the corner behind them.  Five people were gathered together, two women and three men.  I avoided looking at them.

Safety in numbers?

The other member of the group was a distance away, talking on the phone.

I could hear her, too.

“-inside.  I already talked to her about the snowballs she put in the freezer last night.  She went to get them after dark, and if the lecture- yes.  Snowballs.  I don’t know why.  Either she wants them to become ice balls or she’s saving them until spring.  Yes.  No, I don’t care what the reasons are.  I don’t want your cousin going out tonight, for any reason.  It’s dangerous.”

The group of five were facing the house, allowing me to approach the Duchamp woman that was on the phone.  Standing just far enough away that she wouldn’t be heard.

My eyes and thoughts remained elsewhere, as I approached.  No use giving her a cue.  If she was looking for connections and saw one appear with great haste, it would be a giveaway.

My footsteps were silent.  I didn’t breathe or have a heartbeat.

I pressed the Hyena to her throat.

I heard her breath catch.

One finger touched her lips, shushing her.  She nodded slowly.

I was close enough that my ribs touched her shoulderblades.  I could make out the artificial voice on the phone.

“It’s two in the morning and she’s still up.  She doesn’t listen to me, mom.  I can tell her and it makes things worse.  It’s like every time I tell her to do something and she doesn’t listen, there isn’t anything I can do to punish her, so she gets more bold…”

I moved my finger away, but I held it up as a warning.  She started to turn her head toward the group, but the Hyena’s blade pressed tighter against her throat, my hand moving over her mouth, arresting the movement.  I could feel the blood that was drawn as the rougher and sharper bits of my wooden fingers dug into skin.

I wouldn’t let her force a connection, even one as simple as eye contact.

I want to be out there with you.  Helping,” the voice on the phone said.

“You’re helping right now,” the Duchamp woman said.

“I want to help more.”

“Please believe me, Lola, it’s better you’re not out here right now.”

Mom, I’m not some kid anymore, and if things are serious enough, I should be there.  I’m engaged, which you okayed.”

“Lola, I really don’t want to fight-”

Mom.  I’m not picking a fight.  I’m saying if you think I’m mature enough to get married, I’m mature enough to participate.  You might need my eyes…”

The voice on the phone trailed off.

“Lola?”

I used gentle pressure to urge her to retreat, until she’d retreated to the corner I’d peered past.  Almost leaning against the fence, with me obscured by the surrounding shadows and the fence.

“Your thread looks wonky.”

“You shouldn’t be able to see my thread from the house, sweetie.”

“Your voice sounds funny too.  Tight.”

“Lola, please.”

“What’s- what’s going on?”

“There… there are some treats in the cupboard with the pots, toward the back.  I was planning on sharing them with you two later, if you were up.  If you want to bribe your cousin into obedience, so tonight is easier, you can.  Whatever makes tonight easier.”

“Mom?”

“It’s…” her voice cracked a little.  “…Not looking like it’s going to be a good night.  That’s all.  Don’t worry.  I don’t think you’re in any danger?”

I shook my head slowly.  The woman watched me out of the corner of her eye.  After a moment, she nodded.

“You sound different, mom.”

“I love you, Lola.  Whatever our differences have been, I love you.”

I pressed the Hyena against her throat, with just a little more force.

 

“I love you too, mom?” Lola made it sound like a question.  I wasn’t sure if it was that she wasn’t sure about the love, or if she was just unsure in general, given circumstances she didn’t totally grasp.

“I need to look after the situation here.  I’m going to say goodbye now.”

“Bye, mom.”

Reaching across her chest, I pressed one fingertip to the phone she still held up with one hand, touching the red button on the smartphone’s screen.

Call ended.

I heard her sigh, long, but silent.  Something wet touched my hand, and for a second, I thought I’d cut her.

Looking across the street, I could see Evan, perched on a car.  Green Eyes was lurking in the snowbank, much as a crocodile might lurk beneath water, only the upper half of her head and face visible.  Her eyes reflected a green light, as if they glowed from within.

I saw Evan move, cocking his head.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Joyce,” she said, barely audible.

“Joyce,” I said.

The name hung in the air.

“I-” she started.  “What are you planning?”

“Shh,” I interrupted.  “I’m disposing of the rot.  Culling.”

I could feel the effect that last word had on her.

More silence.

“Your family attacked me and mine.  This is wholly within my rights,” I said.

She only nodded.

“Swear me an oath,” I said.  “If I have any doubts, any suspicion at all…”

I left the latter half of the sentence unfinished.

Phone still held to one ear, she let out a shuddering breath, inhaled, and then spoke, her voice a near-whisper.

“I, Joyce Anne Duchamp, swear… I will return straight home, I will sit on my hands and refrain from practicing until sunrise.  I will not intentionally communicate with anyone until sunrise, unless I would be unquestionably assisting you, or if the words, sentence and intent are neutral.  I- I swear I will not act or interfere against you or yours in any way from here on out.  I hereby pronounce myself removed as a threat to you and your allies.”

“That’s a damn good oath,” I whispered, “But you need to give it weight.”

“I swear all this- on my name, on my blood, on my daughter… for my daughter,” she said.

I wasn’t sure I liked that she’d sworn on her daughter.  That didn’t sit comfortably, considering just how affected I’d been by Grandmother Rose throwing around her metaphysical weight to use and abuse her grandchildren for her own gain.

But maybe Joyce was only listing the things that sprung to mind, things she valued.  She was doing it for her daughter.

She was spooked.

I moved the Hyena, and I gave her a push forward.

“Joyce?”

One of the guys in the group had focused on her, as she stumbled a bit, back into the light.  Under the streetlamp, the tracks of tears on her cheeks glistened.

“What’s wrong?” one of the women asked.

“Gail…” Joyce said, opening her mouth.

By the terms of the oath, she wasn’t supposed to speak except to help me.

“What’s wrong?  Is it Jessie?  Lola?”

Joyce was frozen.

What the hell was she doing?

“Come, Gail,” Joyce said.

I’d thought the Duchamps were good actresses, natural manipulators, trained to lie from a young age.  Joyce was proving the exception, unless I was missing something.

“Joyce, I’m not-”

Come,” Joyce said.

Gail went.  I retreated further into the shadows as the woman crossed the distance from the group to Joyce.  Joyce seized her hand like someone grasping at a life preserver.

“Do you need help?” the other woman in the group asked.  “Did something happen to one of your girls?  What’s going on?”

I could see Joyce hesitate.  “Just Gail.  You… stay where you are, Jan.  We’ll come back this way later.”

“You’re not making any sense,” one of the men said, sounding particularly annoyed.

“I know,” Joyce said.

That said, tugging on Gail’s hand, she strode away.

“It’s that damn bell,” one of the other men said.  “Makes everyone batty.  I’m surprised they haven’t shut it down, yet.”

The bell?

I could barely hear it.

Why?

I watched as Joyce and Gail disappeared out of sight.

What was the logic there?  Why did I have a vague feeling that Joyce had just played me?

No, not played, I realized, as I saw the situation.  The oath was real, the terms were real, but before she’d even finished speaking, she had decided that things would play out like this.

She’d told me she wouldn’t interfere.  I’d told her that I was cutting out the rot.

Did this mean that, in her estimation, Gail didn’t constitute rot?  That the ones who remained did?

I looked at the four who remained, my eyes averted from the blonde woman who was almost definitely a Duchamp and almost certainly an enchantress.  All the same, she might have sensed something, because she turned back to look over her shoulder twice as I examined the other members of the group.  I was forced to step silently back.

No, that was it.  One member of the group.  He wore a wedding ring.  He was connected to her.

Once I knew the rules, I could take a closer look, avoiding looking at the husband and wife pair.  Off to the side was one man, not fat but solidly built, with a leather jacket that made him look even bulkier, and a dark, wiry beard that didn’t go with the close-cropped hair on his scalp.  He resembled the husband in the pair.  A brother, perhaps.

The other man looked out of place compared to the two guys, who looked very much like bikers who had cleaned themselves up but couldn’t give up the general trappings.  He had neatly parted brown hair, sharp eyes, and a cleft chin that might have been attractive if it wasn’t so pointed.  He wore a scarf and a stylish, form-fitting jacket with four brass buttons arranged in a square, his pants cut to a slim fit, and he carried…

I saw his implement.  A crystal ball with a skull in the center, tucked in the crook of his arm.

Looking at it, I was immediately reminded of the Bane.  The undead thing with scythe-arms.  A tormented soul.

Gail’s husband.  Joyce had separated wife from husband.  She’d done it very deliberately.

It was a leap in logic, but it somehow felt right.

“The tree looks like it’s going out.  Something’s cutting down branches,” one of the large, bearded men said.

“The fire in the back, though,” Jan commented.

I hoped the fire hadn’t raged out of control.  It shouldn’t have, but stranger things had happened.

My eye passed over Jan as she spoke.  Once more, she looked back over her shoulder.

“Janice?”

“Something’s there.”

“Sandra said the Apple of Discord would concentrate attention on the house.”

“She did,” Janice said.  “But the hairs on the back of my neck keep standing up.  Something is there.”

Collectively, they turned.

“Was it something that affected Joyce?”

“Maybe,” Jan said, peering, as if she could make me out.  “Maybe you were right.  If the Thorburn situation is resolved…”

“The Sorcerer?” her husband asked.

I stepped further back into shadow.

Still, as the men fanned out in front, they kept moving in my general direction.  I’d hopped the fence into a little bike path or a narrow road that was only a car’s length wide, and short of hopping over the fence, which would certainly get me spotted, I had nowhere to go but back, further down the unlit path.

I saw Jan draw an athame.  Hers wasn’t wavy like Mags’ was, but curved like a crescent, the blade on the wrong side.

Images of faces flickered between the orb-encased skull and the necromancer’s fingertips, as he caressed his implement.

The two bearded men simply looked as though they might be able to kick my ass without the benefit of being practitioners.

As they shifted position to enter the alley, I saw Green Eyes behind them, crawling across the street.

Jan’s keen awareness alerted her.  She turned.

I switched immediately from retreat to attack, striding forward.

They stopped in their tracks as they saw me.

The two bearded brothers broke into grins, the one in the lead first, then the one just behind his left shoulder.

Before I’d even finished thinking out the word ‘ominous’, Green Eyes had lunged.  Jan caught her before the mermaid could bite, hands on Green Eyes’ upper arms, pulling her head back before the mermaid opened her mouth impossibly wide and then slammed her teeth together, a matter of an inch or two from her face.

Jan’s husband, beaded guy number one, was distracted by the noise, looking back.

Just in time to see Green Eyes bring her tail up and around Jan’s waist, encircling most of it, pushing shirt and jacket up, tail touching skin.

There was a term for what happened next.  Working as a handyman, learning my trade, I’d heard the stories.  Wear a ring while operating a lathe, or wear a watch when you miss a step on a ladder and get it hooked on a surface, well, sometimes you wound up degloving yourself.  The angle and hardness of the ring or the watch trumped the tensile strength of skin, and the skin just… slid right off.

I’d never, however, heard of someone having most of their midsection degloved.  The tail was strong, the hooked scales barbed, and Jan simply fell over, like she couldn’t process what had happened.

The necromancer reached out, and the images of faces danced out, much like a flash of electricity.  Green Eyes took one to the collarbone, reeled, and then disentangled herself, ducking under a fence, a canvas of bloody skin still hooked to her tail.

The two black-bearded men were still caught off guard by what had happened.  The one in the lead headed back to rescue his wife, while the one behind him focused on me.  They almost collided with each other, in their attempt to deal with the issue.

My new opponent shouted something guttural, almost musical in single syllables, bringing his hand back as if he was going to swing a punch.  “Moc, zlo, bru!

I stepped back, expecting him to fling something my way.  I didn’t expect an actual punch.  His fist accelerated, and he covered far more ground than I would have expected, slamming his hand into the middle of my chest.

“Zlo, bru, ohenn!”

I hadn’t yet caught my balance when flame appeared, a roiling explosion a screaming face at the front of the forefront of it.

Rather than get burned, I let myself fall.  The flame passed overhead.

“Ohenn, dolhu!”

The fire seemed to slow in the air, as if the explosion was suddenly happening in slow motion.  The dark parts and the bright parts seemed to become more distinct.

The flame dropped, almost liquid, congealed.  Napalm-like.  Burning oil.

I rolled to one side.  It splashed into the ice and snow where I’d been lying a moment before.

But in rolling, I found myself lying between fire and fence, my heels almost touching the wing-tipped toes of the Necromancer’s boots.

He hit me with distilled echoes, every single one of them a dying memory.

What I experienced was very similar to having my vision go dark, darkness creeping in around the edges, the vision that remained getting spotty.  Thing was, it happened all at once.  I might as well have been hurled into a deep, dark well, with only meager light at the top.

I could hear the Drains, the wind whistling out of sync with the creaking of unstable architecture in the Tenements, distant howling and screaming, the gnashing of machinery, faint songs or tunes that might have been a carnival.  Disconnected from it all, I was aware of the existence of some monstrous bird-bat-thing, only partially formed of a dozen fluttering spirit-hearts.  A shadow of a very dark thing, making itself known.

I didn’t deal with demons when it would have been a hundred times fucking easier.  I didn’t deal with the lawyers.  Why do you think I’d deal with you?

I had to claw my way back to reality.  Out of the well, past the darkness that creeped in around the edges of my vision.

I was out and up for about one second before the Necromancer hit me again.

Back into the well, now with visions and sensations to go with all the fleeting images.  A small village, desolate, in the midst of a dense forest, with a screen door attached by only one hinge, caught by the wind so it slammed incessantly against the doorframe.  Every sensation was raw, as if the place laid every last nerve bare.  Something, I was pretty sure, lurked in the woods.

A festival.  A crowd of Others and lost souls, bumping and jostling, leering, cheering, screaming.  Here and there, the screams were real, as someone failed to keep up, lost strength and showed vulnerability near the wrong partygoer.  The buildings that framed the narrow street had no windows, entrances or exits, more like tombstones than any place people lived.

I fought my way free.

My fingers caught the wire fence, and I heaved myself forward and to one side, almost bouncing off the fence in my haste to move to one side before he could hit me again.  Not the sort of movement I might have been able to do if my strength wasn’t disproportionate to how light my body was.  Not that I was that strong, but moving around was easier than when I had first arrived.

The benefit of causing fear?  Feeding, for lack of a better word?

I stepped close, faster than he might have expected.

He stuck his implement out, trying to touch me with the crystal-encased skull, and I thrust the Hyena at him.

I was just a little more adroit than he was.  The Hyena went into his chin, stabbing upward, through the bottom of his mouth.

I grabbed his wrist before he could stick the ball in my direction again.  Using the leverage of the broken sword through his chin, I twisted him around, forcing him to stumble to my right, acting as a living shield between me and Bearded Guy Two.

Leaning closer, I murmured, “I wonder why Joyce thought you deserved to die?”

I saw his eyes widen a bit.

“Did you say or do something, that she needed to save Gail from you?  She was willing to betray her family to get rid of you.”

The eyes widened further.

I twisted the weapon, then dragged it out of his neck, not pulling it free, but cutting out to one side, off to the corner of his chin.

As he staggered, I kicked him.

“Dolhu, vbreg!”

As the Necromancer went down, something caught him, and he was thrust in my direction, through the flames that still burned atop ice, clothes igniting on contact, carrying the fire forward.

I hopped up and back, my thighs resting on top of the fence.  In the doing, I just barely avoided having a burning body fly through my kneecaps.  The bleeding Necromancer crashed into the fence, instead.

I went backward, put my feet under me, and ran, putting a shed between me and him before I went over a fence and into another backyard.

That damned beard guy.  He was chaining effects, there was a rhythm there.  Something like something-fist, fist-fire, fire-something, something-fling.  I didn’t know the language, and I didn’t know the rules.  There were particulars, but I didn’t know how to exploit them or combat it.

Almost like a dance, one step leading to the next.  I could imagine that practice and care were making each word act like a rune, invoking spirits.  Speaking a private language they shared with spirits, utilizing momentum.

With the cover of a wood-slat fence, I was able to circle around.  They were standing shoulder to shoulder, one facing in my general direction, the other facing the other side of the narrow alley-street, where Green Eyes lurked.

If we pounced, I had little doubt they would catch us in the air.  Strike us down.

They’d known I was weak to fire.  Or they’d guessed.

I suppose it was a pretty easy conclusion to draw.

Couldn’t close the distance before they could blurt out two syllables or so.

Next best thing…

I stood, appearing on one side of the fence, and I threw the Hyena at the one with his back turned to me.  It turned over, pommel over blade, spinning through the air.

The guard hit him, not the blade, but the spin brought the blade into the back of his head.  Not hard enough to pierce skull to brain, but enough to stay in place.

“Vbreg, b-”

Seeing his brother with what seemed to be a sword embedded in his head gave him a half-second’s pause.

Evan descended, taking advantage of the delay.  A lone sparrow, going for the eyes, giving the man more than a half-second’s pause.

Green Eyes, for her part, came over the fence, taking advantage of the chaos, right for the face of the other brother, biting, her teeth scraping more than they severed.  Her tail swung around, bludgeoning the one Evan was attacking.

Almost casually, I hopped the fence.

“Tell me,” I said.  “Would an impartial observer call you monsters?”

“Fuck you!” the one said, clawing Evan away from his face.  He flung the sparrow to one side.

Not quite a confirmation.  Mr. Rogers might have been a little flustered, in such circumstances.

He looked like he was about to do something, until I pressed the blade too his brother’s side, careful to avoid Green Eyes.

“Have you hurt innocents?  Have you struck your wife or child?  Taken pleasure in the pain of others?”

“Tell her to leave my brother be.  You already took his wife from him.  She’s taken his face.”

“Tell me, first.  Would I see you as monsters, if I got to know the two of you?  By standard Canadian values?”

“We follow traditions and practices handed down through our family.  Given to us by the ogre shamans of the cold mountains.”

“That’s not a no,” I said.  “All you have to do is say no, and I’ll leave you be, with apologies.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he started another short chant, “Vbreg, Jisk, R-“

From the moment he’d opened his mouth, I was already turning.  The Hyena pierced his solar plexus, and it was like the air had gone out of his lungs.  The ‘r’ sound became a growl, then a moan.

Belatedly, the one Green Eyes was fighting fell clumsily to the ground.  She scrunched up her bloody face, then worked to pull her tail out from beneath the man’s mass, before she resumed eating, biting into the softer meat at the front of the neck.

“Let’s not be so hasty next time,” I said.  “I wasn’t sure Jan over there deserved that.  We need to be careful, moving forward.”

Green Eyes had to gulp three or four times to get the full mouthful down, her gills flaring with each gulp.

“Smelling her brought back memories,” Green Eyes said.  “Bad ones.”

I approached Jan’s degloved body.  She’d already bled out, and her eyes stared skyward.

Bending down, I sniffed.

I didn’t have superhuman senses, but even beyond the reek of blood and other bodily fluids that came with a grisly end, I could smell the distinct reek of alcohol.

“Being a drinker isn’t grounds for executing someone,” I said.

“No,” Green Eyes agreed.  She looked a little sullen.  “But she wasn’t a someone anymore.”

“I’m not sure that-”

“She wasn’t,” Green Eyes said.  “I promised I’d be good and I was good here.  I followed the rules you gave me.  I smelled it on her.”

“Okay,” I said.

I looked at Evan, who gave me his best bird shrug.

I dragged the bodies together, and as I reached the Necromancer, he fought me, weak.

He had what appeared to be a doll in one hand, fashioned of some soft material.  It wore another man’s face, hyper-realistic, distorted in agony.  In moving the necromancer, I’d broken a black ribbon that stretched from his neck to the doll’s.

I watched as he struggled to wind the ribbon around his own neck with hands that grew steadily weaker and clumsier.  Once the connection was formed, he touched his thumb to his bloody wound, running it along the ribbon, from himself to the doll.

A hyper-realistic wound started to open on the doll’s throat.  His own wound started to close.

He stopped, his hands trembling, and the transfer reversed.

The Hyena’s effect taking hold?

I watched him try and fail again.  Using ghosts as some sort of repository or sympathetic replica, to take his pain.

No, a ghost wouldn’t be enough.  Just like with the Bane, something like this might well require a soul.

Very gently, I pulled the doll from his grip.  The ribbon came undone again.  Weak hands reached for and failed to grab the doll.

“Be free, soul,” I said, before cracking the doll down the middle.

The agonized face separated, and a moment later, the doll’s face was only two depressions for eyes, a bump for the nose, and a line for the mouth.

I put the halves of the doll on the ground.

There was enough blood on hand.  I couldn’t see the spirits, but I could imagine the same rules held true.  Blood had power.

Right now, we had to be discreet.

Using the available blood, I drew a circle around the four bodies.  Hopefully breaking connections.

I left the Necromancer behind, bleeding out in the circle, and hoped there was karma in that.

“Come on, Green,” I said, “It might be better to be a little hungry, as we keep this up.  There’s more troublemakers around.”

She nodded, grinning.

“There are Behaims,” Evan said.  “Just a block over.  I think they heard stuff, but they decided not to come.”

I nodded.

We moved as a group, much as we had before.  Green Eyes was bloody enough that she didn’t quite blend in, but that was negligible at best.

Behaims.

I didn’t expect what I saw.

They’d called back their Others.  Clockwork men, children and old men shrouded in rags that hid their faces.  A giant surrounded by sand.  A bogeyman that aged with every step, before giving birth to herself in about two seconds flat, her placenta becoming a red dress by then time she’d aged to five.  I saw another technicolor Other, too.

“We’ll need to do readings,” a man was saying.  He had an abrasive tone to his voice, vaguely irritating.  “Figure out where Johannes and the Duchamps stand.  This is going to get very messy, very quickly.”

“Especially when they see what we just did,” one of the youngest Behaims present spoke up.  I wasn’t sure, given the winter clothes he was swaddled in, but he might have been Owen, one of the Behaims to show up in Toronto.

The abrasive-voiced guy spoke again, “It’s not the right way to do this.”

“No,” Alister said, “Probably not.”

I’d heard the abrasive voiced guy before.  He was one of the ones who had argued on behalf of Alister.  Against peace.

Good enough.

The Behaims were dispersing, moving in groups.  I saw the guy with the voice rounding up his Others.  Clockwork men.

There was a power to be had in attacking the unassailable.

Strike, then run.

“Green Eyes, head back the way we came, ambush anyone who comes after, that’s older than twenty,” I whispered.  “Evan, give me my escape route.”

“Will do, chief,” Evan said, wing-saluting me.

Easy enough, as the Behaims split up.  They were individually vulnerable, but they felt like they were safe.  I could strike and I could run.  I knew how the time magic worked.  Barring some major intervention, they wouldn’t catch me.

And if they were doing readings on the other major players… they wouldn’t be doing readings on me, necessarily.

I slipped close to the clockwork-man wrangler.  Again, I put the blade to his throat.

I cut.  Blood showered onto the snow.  I turned to slip away, ready to attack another group from another angle.

Reality wrenched.

I was back where I’d started.

The clockwork wrangler was unhurt.

I noticed that Ben, the decent-ish guy, was now staring me down, a few paces away.

Had he done it?  No, that wasn’t a perception trick.  Something bigger.

I frowned, ready to back away.

Something barred my path, the broad side of a lance.

A suit of armor, clockwork.  A knight, about eight feet tall.

But unlike any of the other things, it was inlaid with gold.

It vibrated with power, as if an immense heat came off it.

I felt a little bit like I had around the djinn.

“Blake,” Alister said, behind me.

I turned.

I saw Alister.

“Meet my new weapon,” he said.

The weapon barely concerned me.  If he was even talking about the suit of armor.  The thing the Behaims had said would put them back on the map.  A secondary issue at best.

Alister had company, standing next to him.

Rose.  Holding his hand.  They almost matched in height and sheer pretentiousness, standing side by side.  Rose wearing grandmother’s old clothes, Alister being just a little too stylish and fashionably dressed for a guy in his late teens or early twenties, hanging around Jacob’s Bell.

She’d had a plan, apparently.  Obvious enough.  She’d wanted an opportunity to chat with certain people.

The plan, as it turned out, involved an engagement ring on her finger.

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392 thoughts on “Duress 12.8

    1. I hadn’t yet caught my balance when flame appeared, a roiling explosion a screaming face at the front of the forefront of it.

      • Missing a “with” after explosion

      then time she’d aged to five.
      the time she’d aged to five.

    2. Typos:

      • peering, as if she could make me out.” -> All in italics.

      • “beaded guy number one” -> “bearded”

      • “a roiling explosion a screaming face at the front of the forefront of it.” -> “at the front of the forefront” is weird

      • a hundred times fucking easier” -> would typically be “a hundred fucking times easier

      • “There were particulars, but I didn’t know how to exploit them or combat it.” -> “or combat them”

      • “until I pressed the blade too his brother’s side” -> “to his brother’s side”

      • “There’s more troublemakers around.” -> “There are”

    3. Five people were gathered together, two women and three men

      Maybe i am bad at reading, but still:
      2 women, 3 men.
      2 women (Joyce and Gail) went away, then there are 4 people left, one of them is a woman (Jan)

      Uh what?

      1. He’s eighteen, she’s twenty. A bit young for a romantic marriage, but not at all for a political one. Definitely young for becoming heirs of their respecive families, particularly Alister (because he wasn’t the only Behaim candidate).

        1. Oh, and he probably has 6 years worth of experience in the practice (IIRC people typically get awakened by age 12), while Rose has 2 months’ worth, though his might have been calm (wasn’t he in Toronto?) while hers were full of conflict, which should balance things out quite a bit.

      1. Joyce’s probable thought process:

        “Hm. Okay, he hasn’t immediately killed me. Suggests he’s capable of reason. He wants to get rid of rot…suggests he has some semblance of a moral code. Oh, hey. My son-in-law is a monster who deserves to die. That’s handy. And I don’t actually care about Jan or her weird ogre-shaman husband, so…”

        1. Might add “Jan and her weird ogre-shaman husband are monsters that deserve to die” in there too. Maybe. Depends on how much you trust Green Eyes.

          If the Ogres here are anything like the Warhammer kind…

        2. He shouldn’t have been making necrophilia jokes involving her daughter. I suppose he could have been a decent guy, but no not with the Bane. Not like, say a strapping young diabolist who doesn’t want to use demons. But the Duchamps missed their chance there.

      2. I think Prodigy_Newling is talking about Rose.

        We don’t really know enough about events yet to be totally sure, but it does look an awful lot like that.

      3. I’m not against Rose but every chapter her actions seem to become more and more questionable. I had thought this is intentional to put doubt in the readers’ mind before the big reveal, but now I have to think about the fact you’re pretty much wrong about all of your predictions so she really might be just plain evil.

        1. when she was still ‘on our side’ I thought she was just a whiny, mean, bitchy girl whose good side just hadn’t had the chance to pop up. Now shes just a backstabber willing to sell those closest to her for the smallest of gains.

          1. In fairness, way back when when Pizza Revenant and No-Face were (apparently) torturing a pizza boy (actually Pizza Revenant) Rose was the one who was all for charging out with nothing but salt in an attempt to rescue the poor guy.

            OTOH, this good side doesn’t seem to have shown itself since then.

        1. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Her deal with Alister could very well have included the safety of her/blakes friends [I wonder if she considers them such by now, knowing they were hers in a way too, even if the memory isn’t a part of her existence] –
          at least to the extent the Behaims can provide it.

          We still get a Rose POV that puts her in a much more sympathetic light. Considering we’re seeing everything from the perspective of the guy whose ultimate purpose had been to destroy her before he was thrown into the bogeyman factory, it’s entirely possible our view of Rose is slightly biased. Of course hostility against Blake is as much a part of her being as hostility against her is part of Blake’s, so we’re actually perceiving her in the worst possible light.

          To be fair, nobody really seems to like her in in-universe either.

          1. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Her deal with Alister could very well have included the safety of her/blakes friend

            At the very least, they seem to have retreated their Others from the house.

            To be fair, nobody really seems to like her in in-universe either.

            True, though karma is probably a big factor in that, and if our view is biased through Blake’s narration, we might get a skewed interpretation of everyone else’s attitude as well.

      4. Oh I’m sure that what we’ll here from Rose is that Blake fucked up her brilliant perfect plan, and how if he hadn’t everything would have somehow worked out fine for her friends (not so sure about the family). Dispite the fact that it clearly wouldn’t have.

    1. No, she didn’t. She has exactly as much reason to care about Alexis, Tiff, Ty, and Evan as those four have to care about Blake, for exactly the same reasons. Add in Conquest Sauce being poured on her brain, the potential for dead dirtbag cousins, and precog-guided social-fu by Alister…

      It’s not surprising she’d abandoned the people that mistook themselves for Rose’s friends in favor of marrying into a family that could pay off the debt of her karmic burden.

      1. 1) Rose did call them her friends. 2) She helped them in Toronto, and has kept them alive for a month. 3) She’s karmically responsible for them, and would suffer the backlash if they died.

        In fact, the whole point of attacking Hillsglade House while Rose was away was to kill the Cabal. The idea was that even if Rose’s dead man’s switch triggered, the karmic backlash of the dead Cabal would likely make Barbatorem attack her.

        1. 1) You and all call people we like friends. Thorburns call useful people that put up with their shit friends.
          2) She was maintaining her ablative armor.
          3) Is that still the case with Blake’s return?

            1. Actually I wonder if there might be a loophole there, thanks to the Barber. Rose seems to think that she and Blake are destined to try and take from one another. If that is the case then Blake could gain connections by taking them from Rose. Otherwise if he no longer has those connections then he and Rose would have lost the connection that forces them to compete.

  1. WHAT.

    I was not expecting this at all. How would marrying (or pretending to marry) into the Behaims help? Truce? Resources only available to family members?

    1. Well, for one thing…now it means that in order to win this, Rose only needs to wipe out the Duchamps and Johannes. Not the entire Behaim family.

        1. “Well, the arc is named “Duress”, after all…”

          That would be the nicest possible interpetation for Rose. I’m not so sure how her friends and family fit in here. She may reveal next chapter how she had a “brilliant” plan to keep them safe. That really couldn’t have worked with do many murderous others sent by all the factions, not just the Behaims.

          The worst case scenario is that she decided that she wanted the family out of the way, and that Blake was doing too well winning the team over, so they needed to go.

            1. I’m hoping that Alister starts hanging around Hillsglade House and referring to Blake as “brother-in-law-to-be.” The entire courtship should involve trolling Blake as a key part.

    2. In hindsight it makes sense. Rose cannot win on her on. Rose cannot even stalemate on her on. So she must ally with at least one of the major powers. Allying with the Duchamps means marriage to a Duchamp female – not unworkable, but harder. Allying with Johannes isn’t in the cards. So, what side is left?

            1. I dont remember what he said. But the guy just got engaged to someone that was created by a demon of the choir of Ruin. That cant be good for his family.

  2. I love when a story has its hooks deep enough into me that I have actual verbal reactions to it – in this case, saying, “oh, that’s so gross” out loud at the Green Eyes/Jan bit and “what the fuck!” repeatedly at the ending. Good stuff.

  3. Way to go Rose! Take out a whole third of your enemies with one fell swoop! Also, Alister is a bit of a bastard, and his family has plenty of money and influence so hey, good catch!

    Now if you can just play nice with Blake a little while longer you can send him after the Duchamps and Johannes and your rewind-button means you can be less frightened of him stabbing you in the back, and actually let him do his job, which is killin’ your enemies!

    1. Actually, that’s a damn good point. The betrayal caused by the carved mirror image is supposed to unwind quickly in the end. So if she has something that can undo any quick damage, she is well-set-up.

            1. Well the moment it gets out that the Behaim’s are united with Rose, Johannes and the Duchamps will move together to to deal with this, as it is a huge threat, and something of a doublecross by the Behaims.

  4. “Smelling her brought back memories,” Green Eyes said. “Bad ones.”

    I didn’t have superhuman senses, but even beyond the reek of blood and other bodily fluids that came with a grisly end, I could smell the distinct reek of alcohol.

    “Being a drinker isn’t grounds for executing someone,” I said.

    “No,” Green Eyes agreed. She looked a little sullen. “But she wasn’t a someone anymore.”

    “She wasn’t,” Green Eyes said. “I promised I’d be good and I was good here. I followed the rules you gave me. I smelled it on her.”

    Well, Green Eyes has a point the booze Jan had been drinking could be Soylent Green Innocents.

    Also, Rose has terrible taste in men.

      1. Maybe she too had some sort of disease that would kill her, so she was drinking spirits to stay alive and then drinking spirits to numb the pain of drinking spirits?

        1. Its been mentioned that when you do the ritual, you become a little bit less human (some practices probably make you even less human). Might be a loophole Green Eyes can exploit. Especially if she considers anyone who has done the ritual as fair game (pun intended).

          1. Or Greeny had some horrible incident in her past involving a drinker. Something that makes them set her off.

            Also it’s pretty telling that Joyce didn’t try to get her to come with her.

            1. It’s very possible that Joyce let Blake go after them not just because she thought the necro was a monster, but also because the four of them would be able to take out Blake, but didn’t want to risk Gail’s life. And now she has to deal with the guilt that she got a family, sucks.

            2. If she did that, she’d have violated her oath. Reread it; it’s very restrictive, e.g. this part: “I- I swear I will not act or interfere against you or yours in any way from here on out.”.

              And she’s doing this for her daughter yet swore on her daughter, so she really can’t afford any risk of breaking this oath, ever. If she did break it, she’d end up in the same position as Fell’s ancestor whose whole bloodline got enslaved to Conquest.

            3. “I will not act against you” doesn’t mean she can’t take inaction against him, namely letting Blake do his thing and cross her fingers that he family wins.

            4. The inaction loophole is pretty solid, I think. Not solid enough that I’d push it with stuff like creating a dangerous situation and then not warning Blake about it, but letting him get into a fight she didn’t set up and expects him to lose is a safe move. Otherwise she’d be required to actively assist him at all times.

  5. Well, Rose got hitched. I’m sure the wedding will be fantastic. I’m not a fan of red weddings usually but hey, first time for everything.

      1. Purple has its moments, too.

        But, if Andy has a say, you’ve really got to try coordinating with a lovely display of fireworks: I’d go open space and outdoor tent just to pack as many people in for the show as possible. ;P

        1. How could Andy successfully crash a Behaim wedding? They have their chronomancy, and turning the clock back by just a few seconds to undo their deaths and subdue the culprit hardly even cost much.

          1. I’m not going to say they deserved what they got, but the first three books might as well been subtitled Fgnexf znxvat cbbe qrpvfvba.

  6. Well, Blake, you get kudos points for not being genocidal (familicidal?) and actually picking your targets.

    No kudos for getting someone killed who you might not have wanted to kill because you can’t for the life of you be bothered with subtlety. Green Eyes says she was bad but I question the judgement of a fish monster who spent who knows how long in the abyss.

    Oh, and congratulations to Rose! I’m just going to assume that she and Alister genuinely fell for eachother until the next chapter dashes those hopes.

    1. Well, neither of them is an enchanter, so at least both parties are probably fairly rational. Unless she used Corvidae on him, of course.

      1. Alexis summoned Corvidae, but as far as I renember, she set him on to choose his own targets from a range of acceptable ones. The Behaims were included in that. Soooo possible that this is some sort of outcome of this.

      2. Unless she used Corvidae on him, of course.

        I bet that’s exactly what happened. Or Corvidae simply asked himself: “What connection will cause the maximum long term damage to everyone in the area?”

    2. Yeah, I’m lovin’ how he makes others confront whether they’ve acted well or not, by canadian standards, and then decides they’re free game if they’re not. Best not to live by American standards. Blake might get’cha.

      1. Do a U-turn at an intersection? Dead.

        Voted for Harper? Dead.

        Drink American beer instead of supporting Ontario craft breweries? Soooo dead.

      2. Slightly more witty Ogre Shaman; Multiculturalism is a Canadian value… glass houses buddy.

        Then again, Canada is really horrible when it comes to actually being meaningfully multicultural so fits. Heh

      3. There are far fewer differences between Canadian and American values (or Western values in general) than between those and Biblical values or the values enforced by karma and the spirits. So it’s an excellent question to determine monsters, if you have enough time to wait for the answer.

          1. Actually, the question was whether the guy would be a monster according to generally-held contemporary values. As opposed to, say, his own values or Aztec values.

            1. I understand that. It was an important clarification given how practitioners tend to weasel with words. But remember that the answer to that question decides whether you live or die.

              Mondsemmel seems to think it’s a great fit for that purpose and genuinely identifies monsters. I’m not so sure. Not so long ago the answer to that question would be ‘yes’ if you were a homosexual.

              Humanity has a long history of looking back and realising how narrow-minded our ancestors have been andbI’m really not willing to assume ours is the first generation to get it all completely right.

              To take an example from this very Web serial: would you be considered a monster by contemporary Canadian standards if you… sought out demonic entities to make deals with them? What if you murder a cop? Are contemporary Canadian values even suitable for arbitrating the complex world Blake and Co. find themselves in?

            2. Irreverant,remember 2 things.

              First,a monster,not a criminal or a villain

              Second,according to values,not law

              These 2 mean that a few years ago you wouldn’t consider a homosexual a monster,because while you might consider him a sinner and a criminal,the values weren’t such that a label as heavy as monster would apply.That label,generally,that can never apply to non serial murderers,and even they need more than that to be defined a monster (a soldier wouldn’t be,the Punisher wouldn’t be,Blake wouldn’t be),and it tends to be harder to get as a label even than the “that person needs to die/be executed” label,which could go to sinners,witches,the unproductive,criminals,lepers,even the poor,for some societies ,but still wouldn’t equate the victim of unfair by our standards judgement to a monster.

              Also ,Western values might not be perfect,but the western culture does have the most accepting non imaginary culture yet.By what standards should he judge them?

    3. If it’s a concensual arrangement and trading her friends and family away were part of her dowry then they deserve each other. Though I’m inclined to doubt the consensual part. This is the Behaims after all, Alister walks in and says “Marry me or me and my family will see your friends dead.” Rose swears to marry him only if he swears to leave his friends alone, so he swears “I won’t kill or maim your friends.” And because Rose accidentally kept the singular in her promise… Well shucks, I guess the family can take action, just not Alister, who can still help by providing readings.

  7. Well, it took a couple generations, but it seems the love shared by Granny Rose and Simon will finally materialize thru Alister and Rose. Good for them.

    “Tell me, first. Would I see you as monsters, if I got to know the two of you? By standard Canadian values?”

    . . .

    “That’s not a no,” I said. “All you have to do is say no, and I’ll leave you be, with apologies.”

    I like this. It makes Blake a more classy monster, as supposed to a rage filled, mindless killer. This should be his new modus operandi.

    I like to imagine that Alister is basically wearing a golden mecha. That, or he has one next to it. Can we call it Hyaku Shiki?

    I wanna see more Lola.

    I’m intrigued to see how this confrontation will go.

  8. Good for Rose! This is the best of all routes. Fulfilling her commitments to the lawyers, gaining allies to save her friends, and hopefully Blake won’t let himself be used by the barber to destroy rose, and resist the impulse to get in a fight and let his anger rule him. He’s got the tools to see when he’s being used, and is already somewhat aware, will he break through into a wise, wood, and bone boogyman?

      1. Ummm,for a being of unaturally high anger who has difficulty having other feelings,he holds back his anger spectacularly,I do not get why this is a joke.

        1. Yeah, all things considered I’d be leaving a trail of maimed and broken bodies in my wake if I had bogeyman anger and his reasons to be angry. Blake is being phenomenally restrained, and at great risk to himself.

    1. Except that she doesn’t seem to have done anything to save her friends using her new allies. The Belhams were discussing their next step when Blake arrived, and it was “how do we break the news to everyone else.”

      As far as she knows, her friends are in that building getting murdered by Others. She doesn’t seem to be doing anything about that.

      (Though, I will say — this whole setup seems a bit off to me. The Belhams are suddenly all right making a pact with an out-and-out Diabolist? There’s something we’re not seeing here.)

      1. Well, the Behaims have also withdrawn their strike force, so it’s entirely possible that she has up-to-date information on events in the house.

        1. all that would amount to is “library was breached, her cabal is nowhere to be found, group of others outback are cooking some kind of meat”

          1. Uh, no, the Behaim Others would almost certainly be able to confirm that the cabal managed to escape, even disregarding how their masters have prophetic powers. They likely went in right after the Djinn blasted open the library.

    1. That may have been part of Rose’s motivation. Alister (or some Behaim) was suppose to wed one of the Duchamps, literally wedding the two families together. If Alister marries Rose, then he can’t marry a Duchamp.

    2. Wow, I really didn’t get your comment originally, but yes, it seems very likely that one of the brothers was Lola’s fiancé. (Original context: “They found me someone who wanted someone distinctive. Guy ten years older than me I’ve met once, for an interview. […] My fiancé is coming into town with his brothers. He’s helping.” (11.09))

      And it’s also ironic that Lola’s mother saved Gail but not the fiancé of her daughter, and this (plus mentioning the ogre shamans) implies that Lola was apparently going to be married to a monster, or to part of what Blake would consider the “rot” in need of culling…

      (I wonder what’s the worst they do. According to Wikipedia, the answer may literally be “eat babies”.)

  9. Blake is doing a good job of building up his mythology; a man made of birds and branches who hunts down monsters.

    And there’s another point in the “Rose is the Big Bad” column.

      1. ….what faction?

        Her family were at the mercy of Witch Hunters, and her cabal at a coalition of Others that by all rights they shouldn’t have defeated. This looks more like betrayal at it’s highest level.

        1. The Rose Faction. Rose’s side seems much more secure and powerful than it did a day ago.

          The real question should be, who is included in the faction. Is it her Cabal and the Behaim?s Just the Behaim? Just the Alister supporters? Blake/Green Eyes?

          Rose is in a much better position. We just don’t know who she considers on her side.

            1. I agree. It looks like betrayal. Custodians to take the beating and punishment while she made a deal and caught Johannes and Sandra by surprised. I doubt she predicted Blake would convince everyone in the house to go through the drains and start a fire outside. A Behaim other also killed Callan.

              So Behaim/Duchamp wedding called off?

              Will Blake gain allies in Peter and the other Thorburns (Christoff) by convincing them that Rose served them up to be slaughtered?

            2. I suppose this is a better posistion for the Rose faction. Question is, who is actually in the Rose faction? For all we know at this point her friends and family were supposed to be killed in the attack. Hell them actually surviving it seems unlikely to be something to set up, and would be more in spite of her actions than because of them.

              And lets remember, it’s not like Blake has a monopoly on bad plans.

          1. Alister has the weapon, so he is (head of) the Behaim faction now. Whatever the specifics of the engagement, it’s definitely between Rose’s faction on the one hand, and the Behaims on the other.

            And she did get the Behaims to pull back their Other assault, at least.

            1. This. I don’t get why everyone immediately jumps to full on betrayal. That would be really stupid on Rose’s part. For all we know the betrothal/marriage deal just went through a short while ago and withdrawal of Others from her premises was part of the terms. She may be well doing the best with what she’s got.

            2. Yeah, I feel pretty confident the deal only just got finalized. I don’t see any particular motive for the Behaims to participate in the attack after making the deal.

              First, there’s no reason for them to cripple Rose after allying with her. Her allies become their allies, and if they were worried about a double-cross they could just require her to swear an oath prohibiting her from using her allies against them.

              Second, even if Rose wanted to slaughter her Cabal, she wouldn’t want to wreck the house in the process. That would take a big chunk out of her power and thus significantly diminish her influence with the Behaims. Likewise, if the Behaims wanted to destroy the house they would have firebombed the place long ago.

              Either it just took a while to get the deal set up without the Duchamps present, or the Behaims let the attack run to improve their negotiating position.

            3. Seems to me that Rose is almost certainly doing this to protect her circle. Even if she’s operating purely out of self-interest (which I don’t think she is, BTW) the circle are a big part of her negotiating power. They have to know by now that the circle have escaped. If Rose can call them off and stop them from being thorns I’m the Behaims’ side, that’s quite the bargaining chip.

  10. Theory Time!

    Maybe that isn’t Rose. Perhaps the weapon is a timeline fishing pole. The Behaims manipulate a timeline, then real in the results. I think the girl is Ivy, raised up in a dystopian future in which demons destroyed Canada. Alister then came along with a plan to save everybody. Adult Ivy agrees to go back in time and marry Alister in order to save the world. (And somewhere along the way, I’m sure they Fell in love or something)

  11. We have reached critical smug. As long as Evan makes it to the end, I no longer care. Kill everyone and burn the whole town down on your way out, Blake.

            1. It’s re: Madraic’s line about Evan’s name back in the Toronto arc. Search 6.07 for ‘imposing’. Then come back and double check who we’re replying to.

            2. “Not a very imposing name. I was hoping for Blake’s familiar to have a name like Melmoth the Skull-Fu-“
              She stopped short, then frowned. “Melmoth.”

  12. boy i cant wait to see if blake is going to take this the worst way possible or if he will understand that this really is the best strategy

    1. With the betrayal still raw from the revelation he had in the Tenements, while he’s all hyped up from the earlier fight, after she abandoned his friends to the horrors of the night? Give it 5 seconds before he rips a spirit out his chest and sails the Hyena into their faces.

  13. Look, Rose has to marry him so that when she kills him she’ll inherit all the Behaim’s stored power. With just a betrothal, she doesn’t get anything when Alister dies. So… is it really an engagement ring on her finger or was there a quickie Vegas-style Justice of the Peace wedding? If it’s a wedding ring, Alister’s fair game. If it’s just an engagement ring, then Blake is going to have to chill out for a while and go run after some other monsters.

    1. Surely they would include some kind of clause in the marriage contract to make sure she can’t just kill him as soon as the ring’s on her finger?

  14. also its a good time for them to have this interaction
    “im doing whats best strategically, blake, deal with it”
    “oh yhea? well suck on this lemon: i found out the truth about what am i”
    oh to be a fly on that wall….

          1. I like to think Lefty’s the one giving Alexis some oomph right now. She matters enough to Blake for that to happen – or at least she used to. :/

            I bet Blake is deliberately fighting monsters so he can postpone thinking about his old human friends. Not entirely a bad idea, given the situation.

      1. Not if it joins him willingly, I think. Blake is really on some level a composite of sentient spirits who’ve all joined together for the ride; a lost soul is no real different, and depending on their beliefs it’s not that odd that one might decide to hang out with Blake rather than going off to whatever afterlife may or may not await them.

        1. When you put it like that… It becomes apparent that blasting him with death echoes was the stupidest move anybody could make: Blake can handle thanks to what he has become… not to mention the bits of his history he retained.

          It’s like blasting a wraith with negative emotion. 😛

          1. On the other hand, Blake is great against physical damage (except for fire, presumably), but weak against possession (Conquest, glamour, and the influence of the abyss come to mind). From that perspective, that attack sounds really appropriate against a bogeyman.

            1. Purity and Innocence will beat blake? Though, those just might beat most things…

              Still can’t wait for evan to tap his nature for something more, If we care this much about evan from outside of the story, he must have crazy good karma.

      2. Nope,there is even predecent on Van Hoheneim,of the manga of FML,who is one of the most heroic characters despite having inside him the souls of thousands he was ,indirectly,responsible for killing (and FML is NOT a grimdark story or a story where everyone in villainous)

  15. I never liked Rose, and I will never like Rose. If she were sainted in the next chapter, I’d say, “Welp, too bad, I still think you’re a bitch.” I have no clue if this is a setup or not, but no matter what, I still don’t like Rose.

    I just needed to get that out there. Looking back, it’s a bit repetitive.

  16. Eugh Rose marrying Alister? That squicks me out for some reason, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe because Rose marrying for power seems so much more… Rosalyn, and she’s seemed to be trying to stay away from that?

    Come to think of it, is it possible that Rosalyn used Barbatorem on herself, sometime before the start of 1-1? Leaving enough of herself behind to ensure she passed the house on smoothly, and leaving the bits she wanted to live on the most with Rose? It has been mentioned that Barbatorem more often cuts people into quarters… though I’m not sure who that’d make the fourth. Mainly just amused by how horrified Blake would be upon finding out.

  17. Rose might not be evil. Well might not have backstabbed her friends. Alister just demonstrated people fixing power against the Hyena. He may have offered Rose resurrections for her friends in exchange for her assistance. Rose can offer the Barber and use it as a targetted strike cutting out what Blake calls the rot. Everyone lives happily ever after.

    It appears the Duchamps don’t know about the lawyers. Because the extermination of the Thornburn line is the worst possible outcome.

    Side note: I thought for sure that the weapon Alister was getting was the knowledge of diabolism. And it appears Alister is capable of fixing Hyena wounds with copious amounts of power.

    Final Note: So Green Eyes can smell some bad people. That’s two people the Drains either tried to or did turn into monster hunters.

    1. “He may have offered Rose resurrections for her friends in exchange for her assistance.”

      Somehow I doubt true ressurection is easy, if it’s even doable. If that were the case, Fell for example would have been brought back, or someone else would have offered it by now.

      1. Depending on what souls do when someone dies, resurrection via chronomancy might be possible until the soul is irretrievable, but the cost would quickly become prohibitive based on how long that someone was already dead.

        In any case, saving someone who was just killed (for some definition of “killed”) by the Hyena apparently works.

        In case of Fell, the Shepherd collected his soul, so maybe Fell could actually be resurrected, but again – who would pay the price, and for what reason?

        1. Chrono resurrection should be possible indefinitely so long as they can afford to reverse time by that much. However, I think that would be expensive enough that it’s not in the deal.

          That said, I think Rose’s plan to keep her friends alive has gone pretty well. It seemed to be “have them fend for themselves until she gets back” and now she’s back and all the people she likes are alive and mostly unharmed. Sure, that’s largely because of Blake, but she did know he was staying there when she left.

          1. That said, I think Rose’s plan to keep her friends alive has gone pretty well. It seemed to be “have them fend for themselves until she gets back”

            That’s not a plan; it’s insanity. Just because they ended up surviving against all odds doesn’t mean their odds were ever remotely good. In the first place, Rose probably couldn’t have predicted a) the witch hunters, b) Blake allying with the Thorburns and revealing Pactverse to them, c) them willingly going into the abyss to survive, d) the fire (why else are the Behaims outside now, anyway?).

            The original defense was based on markings in the house etc (which the witch hunters destroyed), and using the Thorburns as innocent human meat shields, which failed badly.

            (All that said, I’ll suspend judgement on this part of the plan until Rose has a chance to explain herself. Her friends certainly never displayed any doubt in her, and in fact asked Blake not to trust his instincts towards Rose – they wouldn’t have done that if they thought Rose had betrayed them.)

            1. Yeah, I’ll grant that Rose wasn’t expecting the witch hunters. If they hadn’t disrupted the diagrams and taken up a good chunk of time, the fixed defenses would probably have slowed the assault considerably. Johannes could have forcibly breached them, most likely, but he’d probably rather let the other factions waste resources or he’d have sent his Djinn in first.

              I would definitely say the odds of everyone but Rose holding for a few hours would be better than everyone holding all night.

            2. There is the deadmans switch, but that only works until the attackers get something they think can take him. I think Chronogolem there counts.

            3. Point about the few hours thing vs whole night. Just because this isn’t a “perfect” or a “good” plan doesn’t mean that its not the “best” plan.

            1. As noted, there’s probably a reason that practitioners don’t do it constantly. I’d be willing to bet that cheating death is expensive. If your method seems cheap, that’s either because someone else is paying or the universe will present you with your bill at a later date.

              In the specific case of chronorezzing, it almost certainly bypasses any general problem with resurrection because it causes people to never have died in the first place. Time manipulation is pretty expensive, but the Behaims have been saving up for generations and didn’t have to rewind very far.

            2. Time is an expensive resource to save up, and the Behaim’s have been burning through it lately. And I bet goldie isn’t cheap to run either. Eventually they won’t be able to do the short hops back, as they won’t have the reserves for that. I suspect this engagement with Rose is their knockout blow. Having her on board is their plan to throw off the others, and attack them from an unexpected angle. The problem is that angle is demons, and there is so much that can go wrong it isn’t funny.

        2. Left-field possibility: Alister anticipated Blake trying something crazy and dropped him into a sandbox/dummy timeline as he approached. Blake takes an action, Alister dismisses the sandbox and drops Blake back into the ‘real’ reality where he never actually did anything, giving Alister both the surprise advantage and knowledge of what Blake’s plan was.

          If chronomancy can mess with the perception of time, it might be able to do that. A very wild guess, though.

          1. That would also explain why Blake remembers what happened; you would expect that if it was just a simple rewind on the area, Blake’s memories would have been reversed along with the death (hence, he wouldn’t remember killing the guy and wouldn’t even be aware he got rewound.)

            1. Znlor gur erny fhcre cbjre jvgu gur PuebabXavtug vf gung ur pna eha gjb fvzhygnarbhf gvzryvarf — yvir guebhtu bar gvzryvar juvyr ybbxvat ng gur shgher naq znxvat qryvorengr pubvprf onfrq ba gur nhthevrf, gura yvir guebhtu n frpbaq gvzryvar juvyr ntnva ybbxvat ng gur shgher naq znxvat gur bccbfvgr pubvprf, gura ng gur raq bs n crevbq bs gvzr ur pna pubbfr juvpu gvzryvar ur yvxrf gur orfg gura pbyyncfr gung gvzryvar vagb gur “erny” gvzryvar.

              Well, ErasUr has to be somewhat resistant to his own power, or he would have accidentally eaten himself long ago. Blake, with a bit of ErasUr in his eye that’s perhaps growing and taking over, is perhaps resistant to having memories of past events wiped and connections cut in that manner. Perhaps, for everyone else except Alister, that guy never did die.

    2. Really I think she only has the ability to tell other from human, without moral judgment. That doesn’t necessarily make her a monster hunter, just perceptive.

      1. It’s skinning someone alive. That is pretty damn gruesome. But on the upside being degloved by a hug from a mermaid is pretty damn memorable. Green Eyes just needs a few more witnesses next time, and she’ll leave a hell of an impression.

  18. “Disconnected from it all, I was aware of the existence of some monstrous bird-bat-thing, only partially formed of a dozen fluttering spirit-hearts. A shadow of a very dark thing, making itself known.”

    This seems important somehow. When the Drains showed Blake that alternative future dream, didn’t he end up as a scary bat bird? Bat wing with bits of feather, at the very least. This would mark the second time we’ve seen it, particularly in connection with the abyss. And why is it “partially formed of a dozen fluttering spirit-hearts”? Blake has a fluttering spirit heart inside him, doesn’t he? And it recently multiplied…

    Quick thought, maybe this is what’s under the Blake vestige we know and love?

    1. Seems more like someone offering him a deal. Like how the barber gives boons in exchange for blood, flesh, or smelling like it. I think Blake will eventually take it if he ends up in the drains because his current body is too fragile.

    2. wasn’t that his black fish? the thing he flew against in the wind tunnel(in the drains monster potential future)

      sounded like the drains was offering more power(in exchange for a chunk of his humanity points again)

        1. He had three shadows. Three “black fish” that he confronted. Past, present, and future. Which include Carl, the visions of his friends, and the possible monster-future.
          The first confrontation led him to give up his nature of being a human being, and accepted being an Other. Second was about him accepting that he can’t get his friends back, and that them being in trouble is entirely HIS fault, and all that “make the world a little bit better when I’m gone” thing failed miserably, and the last confrontation was him accpeting that he needs to give up even more of his humanity, and the things that make him more human. It included giving up his bike, which I still don’t get WHY he had to give that up, but whatever.

          Basically, his black fish WAS carl.. and he had two more.

          1. While both are devices to break you down I wouldn’t say that Carl/Blackfish and the Visions are both in the same category. Not in the way that old practitioner woman in the Drains had explained it at least.

            1. Really? because SHE was the one that said he had “Three” that he had to confront, and that one was usual but three was unheard of (to her).
              I could be wrong about this next bit, but I thought she said something along the lines that these shadows can sometimes come in a physical form, like carl or the black fish, and sometimes as visions. If so, then wouldn’t they be in the same category?

            2. Yes, but I think ‘Black Fish-like’ refers specifically to the concrete anchors, not the dreams or glimpses.

  19. Makes sense. This seems to be part of the original plan. Thats why Laird wasnt suppose to be killed (makes negotiations harder). Good move for Rose. That was the point of teaching Laird about Demons, and as mentioned in this chapter, why they arent concerned with demons. They did tell Rose to marry a bastard. Is this why Rose stopped the fight between Alister and Blake?

    Thing is, for me it looks like she sacrificed Blake’s friends and her family. No way she was expecting them all to survive this long. Everytime I start to like Rose, she does something like this. Hopefully this arc doesnt end with Rose and co. sending Rose back to the drains. Wasnt he suppose to go 3 times? All night he has been almost sent back. Talk about escalating the conflict between the two.

    Hopefully we get more Ben. I like that guy and as Blake said, he was decent-ish,

    I was going to mentioned this last chapter when people where talking about the Hyena. The barber always appears with a blade of some sort, and can make blades sharp. Now Blake always carries the Hyena, not to mention its wounds are hard to heal.

    1. Yeah, people have been making the Blake / Barber connection for ages, but it seems to have been debunked by the recent reveal of Blake and Rose’s true natures.

      You’re right about this probably being the original plan, though. I wonder if that’s why Rose was so upset when Blake brought his friends into the equation, knowing that it would lead to this?

      I think it’s at least possible that Rose was counting on Blake rescuing them. Her last words to him before she left were “Have to think of the others. I’ll have to give you the benefit of a doubt.”

      This doesn’t explain why she wouldn’t make the plan clearer if that was the case, but…

      1. “I’ll have to give you the benefit of a doubt.”

        that you wont kill me while I am at a disadvantage.

        She did hint she would be out soon though.

      2. Well, she didn’t really have time to explain in front of the family. She seems pretty sure she can trust him with her friends lives. I don’t think she was expecting the witch hunters.

  20. Maybe the Barber isn’t really the terrible evil demon that we think he is. Let’s consider the facts.

    The Barber shows up in times of war and is always found in places where lots of people have died. He was attracted by the rotting carcasses set out with his name carved on them, with the baby set up on top of the heap.

    What if, and this is going to be a tough sell at first so bear with me, but what if the Barber is really a good guy? I know, that’s the complete opposite of what we’ve all been thinking, but what if?

    Let’s say that there’s this guy, we’ll call him Blake. And this Blake guy has devoted his life to killing monsters, which is going to involve him going into bloody times and places of war, to hunt down those people responsible for those bloody times. This guy he recently slaughtered a police officer in Toronto. Just slammed a wood spike through the guy’s neck, after promising not to kill the guy, at least that’s what the guy’s son said. Then this guy Blake appears in a small town, waltzs into this den of diabolists that we’re all trying to wipe out (which is good, right? diabolists=bad, everyone knows that), he waltzs off with them, inducts a bunch of innocents, then dances out into the street and kills more people in cold blood. He ripped the skin off Kathy’s mom (I made that name up)! Flayed her alive, apparently. And the big thing, he wasn’t consumed by Darren’s necromancy (I made that name up too). This Blake guy has to be evil, to be in tune with necromancy, to not succumb to that sort of stuff. Everyone knows you can’t kill Lawful Evil with blasts of unholy power, they shrug it off like water. But I bet that Blake guy is weak to Holy Cleansing Fire. He must be evil.

    Ok, back to reality. Consider, Blake killed Laird — most of us said it was justified, but how did it appear to Laird’s son? Blake killed a group of people who were “monsters”, but how will it appear to everyone else? Perhaps people tolerated them, thought that they were bad sorts, but “not the sort who should have died in that terrible manner, nobody should die in that manner.” Perhaps the people that Blake killed have people who love them — maybe it’s a twisted Stockholm thing, but i’m sure they had someone who loved them, maybe even people who had made up their mind to love them and then had that path stolen out from under them. Yes, Lola is freed from that rotten marriage, but it was her rotten pre-arranged marriage and now she’s going to have to sit on the sidelines of her family and get passed over for anything important (maybe).

    What do we know of the Barber’s actual victims? Nothing. Maybe they were monsters, maybe they deserved to die. Maybe we only know the hearsay that has been spread about the Barber, much like the hearsay that has been said, and likely will soon increase, about the Thorburn Bogeyman.

    We don’t know exactly what the Barber is, nobody does. Maybe he’s a goblin, maybe he’s a demon (both canon options), maybe he’s someone who was thrust down to the drains and fights to right the world by killing monsters, Punisher-style?

    What if the Barber was attracted to the carcasses precisely to find out what sort of monster would have set out those carcasses in the first place?

    And consider this final point, there was a live human baby on top of those carcasses, and that baby apparently escaped the whole thing completely intact. The baby was inside a circle with the Barber, a circle that nobody could reach inside of without violating the sanctity of the circle and releasing the Barber, and the baby made it out apparently unharmed. What other demon would do that? What other demon would have been capable of holding itself in check like that? Maybe something that wasn’t a demon, that wasn’t a goblin, maybe the thing in the circle with Uncle Carl, oh, was that the right name? Maybe the thing in the circle with Uncle C-something was just some sort of bogeyman who was doing its darndest to rid the world of monsters.

    And maybe that’s what set Grandma on her road to remption, her path to believing that things could be changed. If something like the Barber could actually be good, then her world view was obviously skewed and there was a chance to reform everyone, and make everything better.

    Maybe it’s not that Blake is actually the Barber, maybe with all that chronomancer power that Rose now has access to, and with the ability to send someone back into the past, maybe the Barber is Blake.

      1. Yes. Clearly, the torture demon capable of turning someone into a husk of their former self by splitting them and having the copies fight each other…

        …is, in truth, the actual and unsung hero of the story.

        Actually, why stop here? Surely Ur is similarly misunderstood?

        1. Those people are just greedy assholes. Who has Blake been compelled to conflict with? Not Rose, the first chunk of the story was him trying to help her out of the mirror. In fact, splitting something into two halves is Mitosis and DNA replication a key part to all life.

          The Barber is clearly an angel of life and growth. He has also been known to help people out by cutting out the portions of them that would have otherwise sent them to hell or the like. Basically the Barber can cut out rot.

        2. The thought occurs to me, if you really wanted to kill monsters, but you really wanted to keep people alive, and if you had a blade which could create wounds that would never heal, then developing the ability to cut the badness out of person would let you kill that “monster” while simultaneously keeping them alive. Then, because of the good vs evil bit, of course the resulting two people would fight. Some people, however, only have a little evil in them and only need a quarter of themselves cut out. Some are like that necromancer or Crone Mara or Corvidae and might need 3/4 of themselves cut out or whatever.

          Point is, we don’t actually know what the Barber has done, how he did any of it, and why he did any of it. All we have is hearsay, and the hearsay regarding him sounds an awful lot like it could be applied to Blake.

          Just what is Blake now, if someone had to formally classify him? Is he between a goblin and a demon now or is he something else? How would the Duchamps classify Blake? How would the Behaims classify Blake? How would Rose classify Blake?

          1. You’re right; what you said in your first paragraph is certainly food for thought. At the very least, it indicates that his ability could be used for good, though this is wholly separate from whether it’s original purpose is to be used for good.

            All that said, I’d say the clearest indication that the Barber is demonic – of the things we know definitely happened, though the books so far have been truthful enough – is that he can remove memories, like he did during the summoning when he erased all memories of his former name. And IIRC that’s something we’ve only seen demons do.


            Another epileptic tree (which I don’t actually believe): The Barber is Solomon turned demonic. His act of splitting people into reflections was what he originally did to judge people, as in the story of the two women arguing over whose baby had died, which is resolved when Solomon offers to cut the baby in two.

            1. Perhaps the cutting the name away is just related to his cutting ability. Maybe his real name is Blake. 😉

            2. You’re right; what you said in your first paragraph is certainly food for thought. At the very least, it indicates that his ability could be used for good, though this is wholly separate from whether it’s original purpose is to be used for good.

              Ornias once put the stars in the skies, and now he calls them down. Maybe “powers that could be used for good, but aren’t” is one of the calling cards of a true demon? Conversely, I’m pretty sure we can all see how Faysal’s power could be used for evil, if he were to start opening paths that led to ruination rather than healing and improvement.

        3. All demons are really the good guys? The world is a horrible dream state that everyone is trapped in, and the demons are in fact trying to save them and wake them up?

        4. gotta destroy reality, its somehow really bad. earth went to seed centuries ago, time to burn it down and start anew.

          creation went wrong, god is pinned beneath some girders and they’re trying to cut just enough to rescue him. it’ll all get patched up once they get the big guy out.

    1. It’s worth noting that the best classification Granny could come up with for Barbie wasn’t demon. It was something in-between demon and goblin, and so far she’s the most knowledgable about demons of anyone in the story. And even then she stated that labels are dangerous.

  21. Mmm. Practitioners should have a way to communicate or see remotely what is going on with their summons. At least give them cellphones?

    ” […] more like I was a man moving through a thick tangle of branches than a man made of branches.” This seems significant; could it be allegorical? Is Blake the man moving through the thick tangle of branches, trying to get somewhere?

    So! Snow balls! When my boyfriend was a kid, he and his dad made a bunch of snowballs and put them in a bag. Then they put this bag in the freezer, with the intention of conserving them until summer. Later my boyfriend threw a snowball at his dad, hurting him, because the snow ball had, to their surprise, turned into ice.

    “The bell? I could barely hear it.” Could the bell be getting to you? Is this why you can’t hear it? It has become ingrained in your mind, it is influencing every one of your actions.

    ” […] faint songs or tunes that might have been a carnival.” And you just scared away everyone with a fear of clowns xP!

    I love how my expectations are always subverted. I was expecting Blake et al. to stay all night in the house. Turns out they only stayed there a little over an hour!

    I am very worried that Blake will corrupt Evan…

    Finally, regarding the ending, WHAT THE FUCK.

    1. Pact is a very interesting story… It constantly surprises me with its twists and turns. I find its narrative to head in a very different direction to Worm.

      See, in Worm we would see constant escalation. Things would always get worse, and bigger, even when one couldn’t see how they possibly could. Cnenuhznaf svtugvat rnpu bgure? Znxr gung tnatf. Tnatf svtugvat rnpu bgure? Znxr gung vagb n jne sbe gur pvgl. Bu, naq qba’g sbetrg bhe orybirq tnat bs cflpubcnguf jub bayl jnag gb jngpu gur jbeyq ohea. Fcevaxyr fbzr Raqoevatref naq fbzr zbafgref. Gura nqq n pbhcyr qbmra zber. Nsgre lbh ner qbar jvgu gung, onxr haqre gur chevslvat sverf bs na nyvra zvyyvbaf bs lrnef byq, juvpu vf qrfgeblvat nyy bs uhznavgl npebff ZHYGVCYR HAVIREFRF.

      Pact hasn’t scaled nearly that quickly or that far, yet. Yes, I am well aware that there is still quite a few arcs to go and that there is a lot of potential for escalation. But while the situation keeps getting more and more intense, and the faiths of everyone involved seem bleaker and bleaker, the conflict hasn’t gone outside the city. In fact, the conflict hardly puts innocents in direct danger. What we see a lot of is the story revealing new information, or people’s schemes coming into play, making the narrative bend, twist, bifurcate; strangling the peace of mind out of our characters. All while feeling comfortable on its own little step in the curve of escalation.

      I am not saying anything bad about either story, in case I sound like I am. Rather, I just find it very amusing and interesting.

      1. I consider this one of the reasons Pact hasn’t been as engrossing as Worm. Things kept getting worse for Taylor but they got worse because she was climbing a hill of harder and harder challenges. Things keep getting worse for Blake because he’s trying to climb a hill of challenges that someone’s coated with oil while wearing a backpack full of heavy vipers and while gnomes keep hitting his kneecaps from behind with hammers.

        Taylor clawed her way forward while Blake is doing his best and still backsliding constantly.

    2. I am very worried that Blake will corrupt Evan…

      Yeah, I’m pretty concerned with Evan’s silence during this chapter, considering that he’s hardly the kind of bird who would want to go around killing people.

      He could be thinking it over, or the Tenements may have gotten to him and he’s wishing he had a camera. Well never know unless we get a POV chapter damn it.

      Also, I really hope that whatever our bescarfed ambassador is doing while this is going on, it’s really, really, really important.

      1. Also, I really hope that whatever our bescarfed ambassador is doing while this is going on, it’s really, really, really important.
        Cue psycho queen goblin in 10…

        1. That exactly why her being here would be great. If Mags is present, then any attempt at subterfuge by the Behaims is blown wide open, and if they attack her they’re letting everyone else know they’re never to be trusted.

          And then she defends herself with a goblin dog pile.

          Though I probably shouldn’t complain, she has a wraith to wrangle.

    3. ” […] more like I was a man moving through a thick tangle of branches than a man made of branches.”

      I figured that was an allusion to the same (as of yet unrevealed) thing that made Andy and Eva think this:

      When we ask, “How did Rose manage?”, we struggle to answer.
      When we ask, “How did the second Thorburn heir manage?” we can mutually agree that the heir was almost eerily in step with this world.

      Also, when Maggie tried to visit Crone Mara, nature totally got in her way, presumably because the area around Crone Mara’s cottage was essentially her equivalent of a demesne.

      So maybe this has something to do with Blake being a vessel for spirits, and therefore fitting in well with the world.


      Or maybe it was a reference to Blake not being his wooden body – because what he actually is is either his spirit heart(s), or possibly (due to the Barber connection) the Hyena. When he occupied the new body, his flesh and tattoos formed there anew, implying that he’s neither of these things.

    4. “So! Snow balls! When my boyfriend was a kid, he and his dad made a bunch of snowballs and put them in a bag. Then they put this bag in the freezer, with the intention of conserving them until summer. Later my boyfriend threw a snowball at his dad, hurting him, because the snow ball had, to their surprise, turned into ice.”

      I assume they have one of those self defrosting freezers?

      those things are also the main cause of freezerburn…I’d rather just have to chip ice every few years(provides an incentive to clean it out every so often anyway.

    1. We were all wondering what Rose was doing that night. Now it seems like she might have been enjoying a romantic moonlight diner before her date popped the question. So romantic!

  22. Hey Blake, I dunno about you but leaving a necromancer to bleed out while surrounded by his dead family in a circle of blood, seems like an excellent setup for someone to swear some undying revenge?

    1. Well, to be fair, they aren’t really his family. I mean, his mother-in-law tried to get him killed. That’s a much better reason for undying revenge.

    2. Worse idea than that: He told the necromancer that Joyce effectively sold him and the others out. Leaving him alive means that, if he somehow survives, he can go after Joyce to retaliate; and also means that Joyce could find out that Blake didn’t bother to keep her betrayal secret, likely negating any goodwill he might have earned by letting her go.

      1. Oh shit, you might be right.

        Worse yet, if this comes back to hurt Lola or even kill her that undermines whatever hope Blake had that he could convince the junior council to help change things.

        Sooo… Blake fucks things up because he had to petty towards his enemies. Just like old times.

        1. Well, the universe is supposed to reward Bond villains, but to which extent has that actually been true? Conquest, for instance, would certainly have won if he’d been content with anything but absolute victory.

          1. The Bond villain thing is true, but the problem is, Bond villain behaviour is mocked for a good reason, it’s not exactly conducive to victory.

            So you have to choose between playing to the spirits and opening yourself to fuckups and actually doing the job with no bullshit and… y’know, win?

            1. I’m with you on this one. All the times he talked I couldn’t help but think why doesn’t he go Slit-Pipe Mcgee like he did on the Behaim only to have Alister screw it up. At least Green Eyes was quick on her end.

              Why does he care about Karma and spirits on his end? He’s a Bogeyman, his bread and butter are fear. The universe itself chewed him up and spit him out. The only spirits he should care about are the ones in his body.

  23. no. bad blake. bad!

    you don’t find the type of necromancer who makes banes and bottles tortured souls to transfer his wounds to(which they feel) cut on him a bit and leave him alive for the karma trusting him to bleed out and then die

    1. Not finishing off defeated enemies is an important thing – you’ve got to leave your enemy a tiny chance to survive the “inescapable” situation because the Universe likes Bond villainy.

        1. …hit enter too soon, no edit button…

          i forgot to mention the “surrounded by corpses and a pool of probably magical blood” part.
          (if nothing else telling him lola fed him to blake wasn’t the smartest thing)

          then again if the world made any sense the things this guy did had some karmic pricetags of their own so hopefully this is just his time to get screwed over. but i wouldn’t count on it just there.

          1. Amen. The spirits rarely work things out for Blake. He’s already a Bogeyman and other assorted issues. Slit his throat and ensure the kill before moving on. I mean, necromancers and valkyries are the one practitioners you want to make sure are dead and cremated, otherwise Ghouls and Revenants.

    2. While I agree with the Horror Story Truth that you just stated, there’s also the fact that the necromancer seemed completely absorbed in making the connection from himself to the doll with the soul in it. He might have other tricks, but I’d say that it’s likely none of them would save him from death.

      On the other hand, he’s a necromancer. He might be able to control how he dies, in such a way to create a damn potent ghost or vestige.

      The coup would have probably been a good idea here.

      At the same time, remember that he’s playing to an audience here as well. Not just Evan, who has a kid’s ideas about justice, but the rest of the practitioner community.

      1. At the very least, he can probably turn himself into a ghoul or something. Remember how they were said to be the result of practitioners who use death-magic dying way back in the Toronto chapter where they appeared and Blake and company threw eggs at them?

  24. Well, dear grand ma ma DID say to marry a bastard…. Still, I wouldn’t put it past Rose to have an even more manipulative scheme in play. She could also be drugged, but that just seems too obvious.

  25. keep in mind rose is as much half a person as Blake is, and she was set up by grandma to be an effective mastermind. Who do you think ended up with the originals sense of loyalty and compassion?

  26. Grandma Thorburn saw a path out of evil, and she shared part of that plan with Aimon Behaim. This is all probably part of that – and Rose is probably worried that Blake could destroy that plan.

  27. So Rose has either willingly betrayed the others, or Rose has been coerced into betraying the others.

    If Rose and Blake have been split from one another, than I can readily believe Rose betrayed them willingly. Blake may have gotten all the honorable bits, and the fact that he never truly died means that Rose doesn’t have an honorable bone in her body.

    We’re going to see an anger level from Blake next chapter that we’ve never seen before. I suspect that this is intentional. I suspect that, using chronomancy, this event has been choreographed to try to end Blake.

    In simpler words, Blake, in the words of Admiral Ackbar, it’s a trap.

    Rose knows she has no true connection to Blake’s friends. She hates her family. She knows what Blake is, and what that likely means for their relationship. She has the spirit of conquest pushing her to be in conflict.

    BUT… how much did Corvidae and Mara have to do with Rose and Alister? Remember that Corvidae doesn’t just affect connections between items and people. Remember how he got revenge on the priests. I don’t see exactly how Mara might get involved, but she’s always been an unknown, and not friendly towards Europeans or their descendants.

    I’m wondering if next chapter is going to be Blake vs Rose and Alister, or Blake vs Corvidae and maybe Mara. It’s entirely possible that Wildbow will come completely out of nowhere with something else too. I could potentially see Isadora showing up here due to her connections to Paige. Very doubtful, but possible.

  28. Grandma charged her heir with tasks and one of which was to marry

    “Find a good man to marry. By this, I don’t mean that he should be decent and kind. Such may be a detriment. You will need an ally in this, and a man who can support you in more mundane matters will give you strength in this world. I reckon many of the best partnerships in the recent past came about when our family married bastards rather than gentlemen.”

    1. The ‘in more mundane matters’ bit is interesting. Roslyn’s father was apparently a Blackguard rather than a practitioner. I wonder if Rosen marrying another practitioner goes against the spirit of Roslyn’s intent.

  29. I’m worried that the bell is barely audible to blake.

    Also worried that Rose, the one who would like very very much to end blake is now married to one of the most problematic chronomancers in the story, AND has a doom-knight at his disposal that can turn back time at the drop of a dime…

    ALSO worried about where in the actual HELL corvindae is!

    Oh, and when Alister introduced blake to his new weapon… was he talking about the knight, or Rose?

    … is THIS what RDT and amos had planned?

    Lastly… well played Rose. I mean, duchamps want things as they are, johannes wants change, but his version of change isn’t the most moral, and behaims don’t care, they just want to come out on top and be part of the “in” crowd with whoever wins. Plus, thorburns couldn’t win by themselves, so that’s probably the best ally. Did she REALLY need to hold his hand though?

    Blake’s screwed, isn’t he?

    1. “Blake’s screwed, isn’t he?”

      I believe the proper phrase is “Blake is even more screwed, isn’t he?” See being Screwed is Blake’s normal state. He can only get more screwed.

      1. Good point, my bad.

        But seriously, there is so much going on with him that I honestly think the starting/brainstorm description for blake that wildbow had for him simply said “guy who gets f*cked by life, death, and everything inbetween… has bond hair. Maybe tattoos.”

    2. when Alister introduced blake to his new weapon… was he talking about the knight, or Rose?

      You guessed it… ‘yes’.

        1. He gets an alliance with the Thorburns, Probably made some additional demands as part of the deal; if he could get Rose to swear an oath against summoning demons he’d neutralize their diabolist problem pretty effectively, because the house and associated power and contacts are locked up with Rose.

          1. And all it cost were her followers and family, who she never really liked but had the lady balls to insist that she stayed when things were bad while Blake ran (shoe’s on the other foot now), in exchange for the Behaims who will likely treat her with as much backhanded respect as they can to keep the spirits happy but knowing that the Thorburn line ends with her since she’s not likely to keep the last name and assorted power….

            Really the only complaint I’m having here is the betrayal in itself. Had her friends not trusted her they could have taken the first train out of Jacob’s Bell and wouldn’t have been caught by the Witch Hunters. The family… well, they were innocent and therefore afforded some protection, which they all collectively decided to bend over sideways and screw to make sure the line ended with her.

            If it was some Romeo and Juliet thing I could get behind it. And if she’s free now, do I want to know what happened to the rest of the Thorburns who took her in…well, mostly just the kids.

            1. Nah, Alexis & co really had no choice whatsoever in this matter once Blake awakened them. Rose had to save them from the effects of Ur’s erasure (Ty, at least, might have gone insane otherwise), and as for fleeing afterwards: an awakened practitioner without books ends up like Maggie did with Padraic. Or worse, if people can somehow detect that they were related to a diabolist.

            2. No, I don’t believe this is a betrayal. Rose had a plan, and executed it, and her friends potentially knew about it (“Instead of us trusting you, can you trust us, instead? Rose has a plan, and if you’re a copy of her or she’s a copy of you or whatever it is, can’t you trust that the plan is a good one?” (Ty in 10.1)), and the Thorburn faction is now better off than before.

              I agree that if the part where her friends survive was along the lines of “You survive in the house while I execute an ultra-risky diplomatic gambit”, or better yet “Blake is going to keep you alive somehow“, then that was insanity on the level of Blake’s typical plans.

              But so far, there’s no need for this to be a betrayal.

  30. Umm… why is the bell barely affecting him a bad thing?

    Remember, everyone who can hear it clearly feels the negativity. The fact that he doesn’t simply means he’s not that its not the source of his aggression.

    1. Not barely affecting him, him barely hearing it. As in, it may have sunk into his personal background noise so that he doesn’t notice that it’s affecting him.

    2. The nice interpretation is that the tolling of the bell is just passing over him with minimal effect, because either he’s not the target of its negativity or because he’s unusually resistant to it. The former is kind of plausible, given that he’s one of the few people in town Molly wouldn’t have a legitimate grudge against.

      The unpleasant interpretation is that he’s not hearing it because he’s already so steeped in rage and vengeance and murderous intent that the bell is largely indistinguishable from his basic emotional state. That is, it’s affecting him less- or he’s noticing the effect less- just because it’s trying to push people into a mindset which he already occupies. That would be… worrying.

      But Pact being the sunny and cheerful story that it is, I’m sure most people are buying the nice interpretation. Right?

    3. I recall that new practitioners were less able to here it. Maybe Blake is getting in touch with his mortal side?

      1. This is an interesting point. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking “why can Blake barely hear it,” but “why do these particular practitioners hear it so loudly?”

  31. This was an awesome chapter. Well done. I particularly loved the parts with Joyce, and the ending…

    Comments:

    1. Great lines: “I’m disposing of the rot. Culling.” and “I wonder why Joyce thought you deserved to die?” and “They’d known I was weak to fire. Or they’d guessed. I suppose it was a pretty easy conclusion to draw.” and “Tell me, [would] an impartial observer call you monsters?” and “They almost matched in height and sheer pretentiousness, standing side by side.” and “The plan, as it turned out, involved an engagement ring on her finger.”

    2. Hm. It can’t be a good sign that Blake can sense fear now, can it? Didn’t he judge fear from body language before, rather than sensing it directly?

    3. I really liked that oath. Incidentally, I don’t think Blake ever told Joyce who he was affiliated with, and yet she swore she wouldn’t harm his allies. Now, it’s easy enough to guess who whe belonged to, given that it was supposed to be Thorburns vs. the rest at that point, but still – imagine if she got it wrong for some reason…

    4. When the empty line after “I pressed the Hyena against her throat, with just a little more force.” appeared, I assumed Blake had killed her. Brilliant, Wildbow!

    5. “Sandra said the Apple of Discord would concentrate attention on the house.” – Ah, was that what the witch hunters were carrying? And that’s apparently a real thing, and can be read up on on Wikipedia. (And this shows that it wasn’t Molly who wanted this one-sided carnage.)

    6. Insofar as Blake can actually do this, killing those deemed monsters and disarming the rest is a great compromise. But he can’t possibly always find out whether his opponents are “monsters” by outside standards. That said, necromancers and ogre shamans? Clear-cut enough.

    7. “I promised I’d be good and I was good here. I followed the rules you gave me. I smelled it on her.” – Others really have a hard time not being straight-up monsters…

        1. I have a hard time with “diabolism” as a term for those who traffic with demons and devils, just from the Camarilla and White Wolf’s World of Darkness, where diabolism lowers your generation (makes you stronger) or raises your blood potency (makes you stronger), depending on which version you’re playing. I know that’s not its dictionary definition, but you know.

          1. Diabolism is the actual dictionary word for trafficking with the devil.

            White Wolf are terrible for misusing words they’ve grabbed from all over the place. Examples include ‘Toreador’ (meaning bullfighter) and Brujah (Spanish for witch) as vampire clans that have nothing in common with their names.

        2. That is a good point. But from all we’ve seen, essentially all practicing diabolists are monsters (whereas neither Blake and Rose have done much of anything involving diabolism so far) … and Johannes, the guy with the angel, isn’t faring any better by standard Canadian values.

      1. Well,the necromancer was clear cut,and he quizzed the ogre shamans to make sure they weren’t like him,so yes,clear cut.

  32. More comments:

    1. So it turns out that the true Behaim chronomancy actually is capable of turning back time even against the Hyena. Good to know.

    2. Aaaah, Rose, that is brilliant. Ahahahahaha… I said I’d be disappointed if Rose didn’t gain anything from this ploy of hers, but depending on the specifics, this could well count as a gain more than commensurate to the attack on Hillsglade House. I really hope we get to hear or see the context of how Rose brought this about, though.

    3. I really don’t think this is a betrayal of Alexis & co. First of all, the Behaims stopped their assault, implying an alliance or truce with the Thorburns, rather than Rose joining the Behaims. Secondly, Rose always had a plan, one which the others seemed to know about, and this might have been it.

    4. This is the first time Blake meets Rose since he found out about her apparent betrayal. I’m curious what Rose has planned for him, and how Blake will react to her now.

    5. Incidentally, the fact that Alister has the weapon means he’s the new head of the Behaims.

    6. An alliance between Behaims and Thorburns is appropriate on many levels – they were Blake’s first enemy in the story, but Blake won numerous victories against them, and even killed Laird; Blake talked to Ben & co; the intended wedding between Behaims and Duchamps (in 1.1) is replaced by this one; Aimon loved Rose Sr. and participated in the summoning of the Barber, Laird was taught diabolism to protect himself, and now Alister might fully join the diabolists (Rule of Three); and the Behaims are certainly bastards enough to make good husbands in the eyes of Rose Sr…

    7. And then there’s the whole issue of Rose Sr. wanting her heirs to think long-term, and do better than her, and part of that surely involves making any allies whatsoever. And if the alliance with the Behaims works out, the Thorburns might end up having a future even if they don’t become Lords.

    8. Oh, also: With Blake’s fire trick at the House, Johannes finding out about it, and Rose allying with the Behaims – all this means that the alliance against the Thorburns is totally broken up. So there really won’t be another equally coordinated attack on the Thorburns.

    9. Corvidae could really mess up Rose’s plan. I certainly hope someone tells her they used him…

      1. Corvidae could really mess up Rose’s plan. I certainly hope someone tells her they used him…

      From the Thorburn perspective, I agree with this. From Corvidae’s perspective, something tells me that this is Corvidae’s doing. If I am reading the history right, he has been working to tie two families together for some time towards some destructive end. From the reader perception, we know whoever uses Corvidae loses something important each time. So what will the Blakeguard lose for this latest attempt?

      In terms of the overall narrative, terms like “fundamental force” has come up way too often when talking about the Behaims’ use of time magic. Tying in demonic power is not, not, NOT good. This suggests an attempt by the demons to attack time itself. Remember that in the Black Lamb’s Blood back story the plot was to cause a war between fundamental forces of the universe to the detriment of all involved and therefore towards damage to the universe itself. This looks like another similar attack at a different angle.

      1. Remember that in the Black Lamb’s Blood back story the plot was to cause a war between fundamental forces of the universe to the detriment of all involved and therefore towards damage to the universe itself.

        That’s been this whole story, innit? The entire thing basically involves pointless wars between powers that leave everyone fucked over with some outside force on the sidelines egging everyone on. Like Pauz and Padraic. All that’s missing is the outside force for the conflict at the start of the story, and I’m sure we’re going to get a… relavation concerning everyone’s favorite old lady.

      2. What will the Blakeguard lose? Seems pretty easy to answer to me. Blake. Not that he’ll die, but he’s constantly being pushed and pulled away from the people he once thought of as friends. I really don’t see Blake returning to a human state now. He might stay as some sort of monster hunter, maybe even score a motorcycle and sidecar for himself, Green Eyes, and Evan, but I think his days of close associations with humans are over. He’s becoming too immersed in Otherness.

        Of course, I’m not writing this! If Corvidae is making it happen, or at least nudging it along the way he wants, then a bit of conflict or an agreement with him might change things.

      3. There are a few possibilities, but whatever it is it will probably be fairly big. Rose seems like an obvious choice as of right now. But does anyone own Rose? Blake is possible but it has the same problem. Maybe he could steal the library or the house, but seems too much even for Corvidae, plus the lawyers would probably step in. He could probably take a book from the library, but the books are STILL protected and the library itself was nearly unassailable, the books would be even harder AND the Blakeguard probably won’t even notice one missing book from the huge array of them.

        Anyway Corvidae took the shears.

  33. I wonder if this chapter is the end of this arc or if we’ll get one or two more and ramp the tensions up even higher before breaking it. I can’t help but feel that this meeting of Rose and Blake will be a major breaking point for the story.

    There’s a ton of ways to go from here. Rose’s alliance with Behaims can be a brilliant move that saves her friends of an utter betrayal, depending on the details. How does Blake’s better understanding of his relationship with Rose affect his attitude towards her? Can he control his more destructive instincts? How will Rose want to handle Blake from her new position of power and greater security? Will she decide to play it safe and have him destroyed here and now or will she see him as something more than a sign of her own ruin?

    I’m really hoping we’ll get the answers to these next time. Guessing at the pairs motivations and true feelings has been interesting and entertaining thus far, but the outcome of this meeting like this feels like it should, for a change, have clear and resounding outcome.

    It would fit with the rule of three as well. Depending on how you look at it, this is the third coming together of Blake and Rose after their respective positions have shifted.

    First they meet as the custodian and the girl trapped in a mirror.

    The second time they met, he was the vestige and she the heir.

    Now, for the final and third time they meet as the Other who remade himself and Rose Behaim-Thorburn.

    Each time time the power dynamic was different and they could only guess at what the other intended. This time the pattern should be broken and their relationship should take its final form.

    1. I like this. But if it’s not a betrayal on Rose’s part, I hope they both table their personal conflict until after they’ve ensured that the remaining Thorburn faction is safe.

      It would be rather… unfortunate… if they returned to the portal in the Tenements, only to e.g. find Alexis gone, and then see her re-emerge as a bogeywoman or revenant a few months in the future…

      I also like your list of the Rule of Three. Another list might be Blake interacting with Rose after finding out stuff about her: 1) Isadora’s prophecy that he’d die and Rose would take his place, then 2) Blake finding out he was the vestige while in the Drains, and 3) the latest reveal in the Tenements, revealing his Barber-based origin.

  34. I just realized that if Blake survives, he’s almost certainly on a collision course with Mara.

    Mara is human, to some degree. Based on the Corvidae and Maggie/Mags chapters where she was involved, I suspect that she preserves herself through the centuries by body-jumping.

    When the body she inhabits is too old, she transfers herself into the body of a captured child as the captured child’s mind is transferred into Mara’s old body. Blacker magic allows lots of different methods where she might procure children for this need of hers. She apparently then kills her old body and captures the captured child’s soul in a doll much like the necromancer we saw in this chapter.

    I think this qualifies as a monster, even if horrible things were done to her and her people centuries ago.

    1. No, you slightly misunderstood. She doesn’t transfer herself into the body of captured children; she switches bodies with her own children. Reread the last Corvidae part of Histories 11.

      It’s a different brand of evil.

      And Blake can fight Mara all he wants, after he’s made sure everyone he cares about is safe. Attacking Mara while she’s apparently staying out of the battle for Lordship would be a colossally stupid move.

      1. That’s the thing. I’m not sure that Mara is staying out of the battle for the Lordship. I suspect she’s a driving force behind it, her and Corvidae. I don’t think either of them want anyone to win. They want as many people to LOSE as much as possible.

        1. Which means that their goals align with demons and the abyss nicely.

          Which would also mean that Blake is being played. Hard.

          This is why you do not trust smart Others. They probably should have bound Corvidae into a dildo and threw him into the lake.

          1. If Corvidae and Mara are sufficiently mad at the world to sacrifice their own existence to facilitate giving demons a sufficient foothold into the mortal world to end the existence of the world itself, then we could see the story grow even darker.

            If things get that dark, then Johannes’ familiar becomes a lot more appropriate to the setting, and we might later discover that Johannes is more than he appears. We still haven’t gotten a good explanation for how he managed to gather such a huge area under his personal control.

            1. Indirectly we did. We know that one of his special tricks is spacial manipulation. He probably saved up for a long while, shrunk that area to the size of a pea for a night, declared it his demense and nobody noticed or cared because it was so tiny, then snapped it back to real size the next day (or an hour later or whatever). He’d just have to wait for an evening when all the Behaims and Duchamps were meeting together, set up a bunch of goblin wards, etc.

            2. Apparently whatever he was doing either in preparation for claiming his demesne or just generally building power was enough to draw the hostile attention of angels. He mentioned that the angels probably should have sent someone from the Third Choir (Structure, opposite of Ruin), but his case was ambiguous so they mistakenly sent Faysal (7th Choir) instead. Anybody remember the 7th Choir’s thing? Regardless, whatever he did was either damaging to the structure of the universe or taking advantage of it somehow in a way the angels felt should be stopped.

          2. Not necessarily: just because an old grudge you have may be being used in a demon-inspired long-term plot you likely know nothing of doesn’t mean you “align” with them.

            Nothing we know of either Corvidae or Mara suggests they’re willing to watch the entire of existence burn to get revenge for what was lost. 😐

            If anything, they’ve both got patience coming out of their ears and are willing and able to play the long game to get something at the end of it beyond even less than an ash-pile they can’t exist on. 😛 (Even if, in her case, I suspect “being left to my own plot of land that is as much a part of me as my future daughter will be, as always” is probably the main game in town for her.)

            1. Everything we know of Corvidae suggests he’s willing to watch all of existence burn; he just has to take the long road to accomplish it. He is a curse made manifest, made to harm – and in that regard, not really all that different from Ur.

            2. Since when does “getting back at the settlers” equate with a wish to see all of existence burn beyond the bedrock (after all, not all of those with Algonquin blood are dead… or Mara would have a lot more problems)?

              Because, I’m not seeing it. 😐

            3. Because – at least to the extent that “getting back at the settlers” remains his only goal – this doesn’t include self-preservation, nor a clause not to harm the Algonquin. So Corvidae wouldn’t intentionally harm the Algonquin, but he shouldn’t care about harming them via collateral damage from freeing a demon.

              Corvidae is a classic example of “be careful what you wish for”.

          3. They probably should have bound Corvidae into a dildo and threw him into the lake.

            I don’t like what you would have the cast force upon Green Eyes.

          4. Nah, they should have forced him to assume his raven form and then shoved him inside Blake’s ribcage. He’s the same sort of aggregate bird-spirit as all the other little birds inside Blake, after all. 😉

    2. No, she doesn’t capture children. Their her children. She has them so she can transfer herself when she needs to. As she told Corvadae, the real question is where do the men come from?

        1. But they need to be Algonquin men. Otherwise, she herself ceases to be significantly Algonquin in descent eventually, doesn’t she?

          I mean, I don’t know how she thinks about her identity, but I don’t think she’d want to end up looking like one of the Europeans.

    3. If Mara’s statements in Corvidae’s history are any indication, she’s actually been doing this for long before the Europeans arrived. She was already a monster.

    4. Especially since Blake’s go to question translates to “Would you be considered a monster by the standards of the colonialist invaders who despoiled your world?”. Pretty much the only possible answer to that is a big “Screw you!”.

      1. Yeah I did see that, just didn’t see any mention of a fifth, lol. I know it was wishful thinking. I will give you money wildbow plz i must know what happens next!!!

        1. On the good side, here’s the update schedule for the next while as I understand it:
          4 days from now
          3 days from then
          2 days from then
          2 days from then
          3 days from then
          2 days from then
          2 days from then.

  35. On the “Culling”:
    Oh man, that fight. Blake is a real human-tree. And a real (anti?)hero. With Green Eyes they would make a great homicidial bogeymen duo.

    “Shh,” I interrupted. “I’m disposing of the rot. Culling.”
    I would crap myself at that

    On the twist:
    Aww shiiit.

    Somehow it feels we are closing on the end of a story?

  36. You know I’m not sure Blake will be getting out of this one. Rose knows about Evan, and possibly Green Eyes, so his escape route might not work. Not to mention depending on how bad the Behaim’s want him out of the way (or Rose wants him gone) they can keep resetting to stop him. What’s more Rose has very good reason to want to get rid of him. And now she doesn’t need him nearly as much as before. He could end up bound or banished, but even that is only if she can’t outright destroy him.

    In short, I think Blake might really need outside intervention this time.

    1. In short, I think Blake might really need outside intervention this time.

      Good thing there’s a freshly released Bogeyman with permission to go after Behaims and he’s in a whole nest of them.

    2. I could see Blake getting captured or bound; it could be that his getting bound by Rose is going to be another Rule of Three thing (the third time, he will probably be forced to use the Abyss to escape, which will also satisfy his third visit there.)

  37. Okay.

    So, good things maybe.

    Rose is not in immediate danger of harm? That’s probably good, right?

    The bright side, one of the things that Blake values, friends (uhm maybe not anymore so much) are probably now safe from Behaims, but not Sanda and Johannes.

    (Yeah, not feeling the positive right now.)

    But the Behaim Thorburn alliance has probably been negotiated with Blake going down the river.

    And the new value that Blake adopted, justice, to slay monsters, is most certainly against the interests of the new alliance.

    If Allister was at all spooked by Blake’s violent intimidation from earlier (new weapon? dick size much?), I think it quite likely Blake’s back on the betrayal carousel.

  38. You know what I like? Despite the weapon being present, that Blake tried to stop him from getting, he completely ignored it for Rose.

    Alister: “Blake, meet the weap–”
    Blake: “Yeah, we’ll get to that in a second. Rose WTF?”

        1. “Rose, tell me your plan wasn’t to rely on me keeping everyone safe as everybody else threw everything they had at the house. Because that is a horrible, horrible, plan.”

          1. I’m not sure why people keep laying that specifically at Blake’s feet. Maybe Rose just had faith in her circle to hold out long enough to effect this plan? Especially since she probably didn’t know about the Witch Hunter assault and assumed they had plenty of time to get the house’s defences back up.

            (Having said that, I still suspect this was a Hail Mary rather than Rose’s initial plan).

  39. Hahahahaha, poor Rose. Poor poor Rose.

    Alister is one wrong reading away from losing to Blake by the rule of three and being the third Behaim leader to lose to him using the rule of three. Karma is EXTREMELY in favor of Blake in a Blake vs Alister scenario. And then he goes on and marries Rose… the bringer of bad karma, and the fated enemy of Blake.

    You think that karma lead blake to step into Rose’s and Alister’s weapon of doom to be defeated? No no, this is their downfall.

  40. If Green Eyes wraps herself around you, she only comes off with your skin still attached…

    Overly attached girlfriend, much?

  41. I said it last week and I stand by it again. Rose and the others get way too much criticism for not working with Blake.

    When your demon made other half destined to kill you or die trying says let’s be allies, you do not say yes no matter how compelling it makes it sound.

    When you’re the villagers and a being of unclear origin affiliated with diabolists talks about overturning the current order, you do not say yes no matter how seductive it sounds.

    Everything Blake has done, flail against the natural order, wreck toronto, create chaos, weaken rose at inopportune moments with her allies, fits into things that demon cause and effect chains tend to do. Demons are the Cookie Monster. You quarantine from their cause and effect and pray it’s enough.

    Rose Sr, however, she may be evil. If the barber costs its victims the afterlife, such as they might earn, and demon boon recipients are really just subtler victims, then it seems kind of like granny Rose let the demon barber of meat street destroy her granddaughters eternity….

    1. “Demons are the Cookie Monster. You quarantine from their cause and effect and pray it’s enough”

      You do realize that since Rose is also the resault of the Barber carving up the original she would have to the quarentined as much as Blake.

      1. Also, there’s no evidence that demons are that forward-thinking. As such, their plans do not necessarily go as they expect, if they have plans to that extent.

    2. For what it’s worth, the Barber can only sever people from positive afterlives. Yay…
      On a happier note, even that ability is only rumor.

  42. Couple of quick thoughts: while I feel as though Rose has utterly fucked up, she has not betrayed her friends. The Behaims are not attacking them which, you know, is worth for something!

    My first impression to this marriage was disgust, but I wasn’t sure why at first. See, the reason everyone has gone after Blake is that he is an evil, scary diabolist. We all know this is just a pretense, a façade, but still. However, now that the Behaims are married to the Thorburns, they took this façade and buried it five metres in the ground. They are basically saying “yeah, you got us. We are just doing it for power”. Eugh.

    1. Blake initially spent so much effort on trying to resolve the conflict, to absolutely no avail. (Though he did end up killing Laird, the one seemingly most opposed to the Thorburns.)

      So I’m really curious how Rose managed to convince the Behaims, when Blake’s efforts in this regard were all for naught.

    2. Or Alister is saying “Hey, guys the Thornburns aren’t actually evil and maybe we should stop backing them into corners.”

  43. So in the absence of a new chapter, I shall amuse you all with the dream about Pact I had.

    So Blake gets wounded by this headless horseman type other, but for some reason it makes it so he will have these three big scabs that when he peels them off will have important information. Oh and for some reason because it happened to him, Rose gets this too. Oh Rose and Blake are enemies and in different places physically.

    There was something involving the Behaims summoning a Spinosaurus in there. And somehow Blake ended up engaged to Sandra.

    So eventually Rose and Blake realize from the magic writing scabs that as long as they both exist both will be weakened until they fade away to nothingness, since neither of them is actually a whole person. So they agree to meet at this campground that also has magical signifigance. Blake decides that he will be the noble one. He prepares to give up everything he has to Rose so she will be a whole person. He starts to do this but then the Behaims and Duchamps show up and bind him in a mirror, and he’s stuck watching Rose waste away, and is powerless.

    Then I went on to dream of equally weird, but utterly unrelated things

    1. So entering the mirror world prevents mystical twin wasting disease. Got it.

      So, what in the world is a spinosaurus? And if Blake was going to get engages to someone, he could do a lot worse than Sandra. I like her.

        1. I think Jeremy, if he were to honestly ask Bacchus or Dionysus or whoever about it, would be ok with an open relationship. It’s not as though he worships Hera, after all. The rest is just details — Sandra is only a bad enemy because she doesn’t really know him. Green Eyes and Evan can come along for the ride. Plus the satyrs and such would be super great karma for Green Eyes, she could scare them, they’d forget everything, then she could scare them again, they’d forget everything, rinse, lather, repeat until nothing could take her back to the abyss.

        2. While we’re on the topic of mariage prospects, as of this chapter, there is now at least one Duchamp girl who’s likely back on the market.

      1. No putting Blake back in the mirror made it so he couldn’t keep Rose from wasting away.

        A Spinosaurus is a very large carnivorus dinosaur. Recently they discovered it was also aquatic.

        1. You left out the most important detail about Spinosaurus: they’re freaking awesome.

          Actually, I can totally see a Behaim taking a Spinosaurus as a familiar, what with the connection to time and all. Maybe as an automaton, maybe just its spirit, maybe a robot dinosaur. One who dabbled in necromancy could probably use the full-on skeleton. Harry Dresden style.

    1. What exactly are you referring to? The closest I found was Blake’s vision from 9.3:

      Johannes spoke up, “Your circle will be obvious and easy targets to weaken you. Surely you’re not that heartless.”

      Tiff fidgeted, hands out of view behind the back of the pew in front of her.

      “It certainly looks like I _am_ that heartless,” Rose said.

      “They’re open game, then?” Johannes asked.

      “_Try_,” Rose said.

      I don’t see why the spirits should be able to distinguish whether “Surely you’re not that heartless” was spoken as a statement or as a question (and I assume it was meant as the latter), but even if Johannes misspoke there, it would at worst count as a lie, costing him a bit of his power for a time. Which is bad during a conflict, but not nearly enough to lose.

      People can only be (or be named) foresworn when they break an oath, in which case they actually do lose everything.

      1. Heh way too late to be read, but whatever.

        Rose Sr’s comments about Behaims as clockwork soldiers now seems lot more literal. Wonder if the family pays the price as a collective or if someone has to be sacrificed. Fuck you Alistair if its the second, the necromancer had the excuse it was to save his life but you? Ambition.

        There’s a lovelly symmetry to Pact actually. The actual Blakeguard: earth, air,water… And mentions of a lurking fire elemental in Johannes demesnes. Blakes familiar seeks fire while Blake must avoid it.
        those details seperate literature from novels.

        1. Pretty sure Chronogolem is powered by their stored time. It was implied they could only use their weapon if Alister became head of the family, which would mean they needed to open their power bank. Theoretically it could also be activated by human sacrifice, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that requires death if there’s a large enough power source available.

      2. And Spirits cut you slack for believing wrong. It was also said in the Present Tense, so Rose could have changed her mind. Finally, it referenced the line before and her circle is pretty clearly not an easy target.

        I do note that Rose said “looks”. She hedged. While it might be the way she talks, that seems to be that she is saying that either a) the circle is not an obvious target. (They are.) or b) The circle is not an easy target. It sounds to me like she is confident in her ability to protect the circle. And if she really was that heartless I think she would have called him out just to chunk his power.

        Of course, since she does have the phone number of a certain law firm its possible she just meant that any successful attack against her circle results in an immediate call to her attorney.

      3. The adjudicating spirits may not be infallible but for the system to work even as well as it does, they have to be capable of clearly understanding the nuances of language. Even if Wildbow has forgotten the question mark, ‘surely’ makes that sentence a question.

  44. I’d thought the Duchamps were good actresses, natural manipulators, trained to lie from a young age. Joyce was proving the exception, unless I was missing something.
    She didn’t swear to only remain silent to help Blake, or anything about body language. She promised not to try to communicate with anyone, but she didn’t promise to try not to do so. Maybe?

    Most of those syllables the one guy is using translate as words, but not all from the same language and not into words that really fit. Interesting. Perhaps not unsurprising.

    A bogeyman that aged with every step, before giving birth to herself in about two seconds flat, her placenta becoming a red dress by then time she’d aged to five.
    …I don’t think I want to know what made that “–All you zombies–” bogeyman.

    The plan, as it turned out, involved an engagement ring on her finger.
    I saw this coming from the moment Rose was mentioned a couple paragraphs prior. She’s finally catching up on Grandma’s terms.
    …Although this means the Behaims will probably have access to diabolism before too long…at least Alistair isn’t crazy enough to use it. Right?

  45. I’m kinda confused

    Wasn’t the only reason that Alistar was afraid of Blake during there fight because he couldn’t heal wounds caused by the Hyena sword via Cronomancy?

    If so why isn’t Will dead? If not why was Alistar even remotely worried at there previous fight?

    1. It’s not that he couldn’t heal them, it’s that his draw for doing so was Five Of Coins, representing poverty. Fixing them would be expensive.

  46. So I was listening to this song

    And,I noticed that,despite being inspired by shadow of Mordor,it gets more appropriate for Blake with each passing chapter,for some unfathomable reason.

    1. That does have some cool similarities. I think Clockworks (also by Miracle of Sound) has some lyrics that apply just as well, so maybe it’s a running theme with Miracle of Sound that Pact happens to align with?

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