Execution 13.2

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“I have no idea what happened there, but I can confidently say that probably could have gone better.”

“Yeah, Evan,” I replied.  I’d collapsed onto my stomach, and I didn’t turn my face away from the ground as I spoke.  “Yeah, it could have.”

“Are you dying?  Hole in the stomach usually means dying.”

“Not dying, Evan.”

“Do you need help moving?  I work my mojo and help lift, like this,” he said.  Tiny talons grasped a branch at my shoulder.  He tugged, flapping his wings.

“I just need to think for five seconds,” I said.  “Where’s Green Eyes?”

“Close.  She found a hiding spot.”

“Good.  So long as she’s safe.  Something’s going on with the bell.”

“Something’s going on with you.  Guy extends his hand, and you shake it with a broken sword?  Except you stabbed it, so that’s, I dunno, it’s like someone goes in for a fist bump and you shake it instead, but way, way worse.  Even if he’s a bit of a jerk, that’s-”

“It wasn’t me,” I said.

“Looked like you.”

“Evan,” I said.  “Molly stepped in.  She doesn’t want anyone making deals with the Behaims.  What I did there, I didn’t do by choice.  She interrupted the deal, stopped it from happening.”

“Oh.”

I began to climb to my feet.  Wood creaked and snapped, my midsection precariously close to breaking in half.  There wasn’t any structural integrity there.  I had to lean against the wall.  I wasn’t quite in an alley, but it was a narrow bit of one-lane road that almost didn’t qualify as a road.  The building next to me might have been a small cinema, once, but there were only patches of differently-painted brickwork now where the big signs had been.  My fingertips dug into the parts of the brickwork where the weather had eroded the mortar, much as I’d climbed on the walls in the Tenements.

“Same problem we’ve been running into for the last while,” I said.  “Can’t break the pattern.”

“Rose said something similar, a few days ago.  About your gran and the diaries, or something.”

I could hear Evan, but I couldn’t place him.  I looked at my shoulder, where I’d last felt him perch, and he wasn’t there.

A moment later, I found him, perched within the gaping hole in my abdomen.

“What did she say, specifically?”

“That, um, your gran struggled to change stuff, according to the diary.”

“Elaborate?”

“Can’t.  That’s all Rose said.”

“Right,” I said.  “Damn.”

Rose had deterred me from reading the diaries, way back near the beginning.  Back when she’d lied about knowing who we were and where we’d come from, when she’d lied about doing the ritual.

Now, just recently, it had come up again.  Rose thought the diaries might have clued me into what I was, and the true origins.  That we were cut from the same metaphorical cloth.

I needed to read those diaries.

But it wasn’t like I was going to get a few days to just sit down and read anytime soon.

As I made my way back to the main street, I could see the Others that the Behaims had been keeping as protection.  Will, the guy I’d very nearly slashed, had managed to wrangle most or all of the clockwork people.  There were other Others, however, who were very clearly free.  Zeitgeists and bogeymen from film.

The clockwork people were assuming a defensive position, facing off against Others who had been the Behaim’s allies until only moments ago.

They backed off as Alister’s clockwork knight stepped forward.

That knight apparently spooked them.  Because they could see something I couldn’t, maybe, or because they had knowledge I didn’t.

I could step in to help.  Flank the attackers, save the Behaims.

I wasn’t sure that I should.

Would it make a difference?  I suspected the Behaims had things well in hand.

But helping the guy I’d just been planning to kill, someone who was arguing for all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons, someone who’d participated in the attack and quite possibly sent that ken-doll clockwork man to pry the library doors open?  It was kind of hypocritical to turn around and save his life.  I hadn’t changed my mind on anything between the time I’d tried to kill him and now.

On the other hand, it was maybe poor form to go from almost accepting a deal with the Behaims to joining the other guys in attacking them.

“Any wisdom, Evan?  I feel like I should step in, but rationally…”

“No,” he said.  “Not much wisdom here.  My brain is roughly the size of a corn kernel, I haven’t had a heartbeat for half a year, about.  I’m pretty sure I’m brain dead, technically.”

“Don’t make excuses.  You learned to play poker.”

“This is more complicated than poker,” Evan said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Definitely more complicated than poker.”

“I cheated, anyway.”

“Yeah.”

I turned my back on the scene.

There was far more movement than before.  Other attacking Other.  Further down the street, a pack of people ran.  Moving in something pretty damn close to a formation.  Unpracticed, driven by necessity and a bit of intelligence.

Back in December, I might have been one of the people running.  Now I was one of the monsters.  I didn’t rush, and I didn’t run.  I couldn’t, with the holes in my body, for one thing, but I was trying to get a sense of the situation and make sure I didn’t rush headlong into trouble.

I was, I realized, approaching the spot where the Others and the practitioners were meeting.  Where the chaos was thickest.

My mind was whirling.  Trying to figure out a direction.  Even the Behaims were too strong to touch.

I’d planned to pick people off, to find a chink in the armor and exploit it.  But the metaphorical armor didn’t have many cracks.  Molly was doing the same thing I’d planned, and Molly had been exploited.

I didn’t want to be a pawn, but ever since the beginning, I’d been a bit of driftwood in a roiling tide.  A part of a much greater machine.  I’d struggled to bring about change… and I wasn’t sure I liked how I’d succeeded, if I’d succeeded.

“In the interest of making it less complicated,” I said.  “Our biggest enemy isn’t the Behaims, or Conquest, or the demons.  It’s the status quo.  I guess I didn’t realize how much reality wanted to hold onto it.”

“What do we do, then?  Go back to Ty and the others?”

I shook my head.  I didn’t want to see them.  If there was something to do, that was one thing, but if I was going back and all I was doing was telling them I knew they’d effectively betrayed me?

“No,” I said.  “I don’t want to, and I don’t think it would help.  We wanted to create an opening, and… I guess Molly created a bigger one.  We just need to figure out how to use this, before things start settling down.”

“Before dawn,” Evan said.

“That’s the most obvious deadline,” I replied.  “I think this may be the most critical point.  What happens before dawn determines what happens during the day, and everything after that.

A tall Other strode into the middle of the street.  He wore what appeared to be a black skirt that trailed from a heavy belt that was about a foot tall. His chest was bare, and what looked to be disconnected bike or chainsaw chains trailed from his waist, arms, and neck, each chain ending in something wickedly sharp.  Sawblades or caltrops of welded-together nails.  He had long hair and an almost feminine cast to his features, owing to a lack of body fat, but he still looked eminently masculine.  The muscles and the scarred skin helped on that front.

He stopped, his skirt and chains forming a barrier in my path, too broad to leap over, even if I were feeling spry.  Some chains were almost black with blood and other bodily fluids.  One ended in what looked to be a chunk of goblin.  Another, it seemed, was hooked into a living body.

The body belonged to a Duchamp woman, maybe fifty or sixty, who had the bit of metal caught in her calf.  A big, hook that might have gone around a steel cable, the point sharpened, was sticking through and around one of the two shin bones.  The woman was very much alive, and her hands and feet had been scraped raw where she’d fought to crawl through snow and salt and over cold pavement, simply to avoid being dragged by tugs against an open wound.

Now that the Other had stopped, she was fighting with frozen, bloody hands to work the big, awkward hook out of her leg.

The Other paid her no mind, his attention on me, his expression grim.

I raised the Hyena as a just-in-case measure.

“I have no interest in you,” he spoke.  His voice carried well, like the echo from a deep well.  “I could take the bird, if you offered.”

“The bird belongs only to the bird!”

“What do you want them for?” I asked.

“I have a quota.  Souls to be cast down into the workings of the Machine.  You are clearly black with the Machine’s oils.  You would be redundant.”

“You’re talking about the Abyss,” I said.

He inclined his head slightly.  “Yes.”

The Duchamp woman gasped in pain as she managed to get the hook out of her leg, pushing with the bend of her wrist and base of her palm, rather than frozen fingers.

“The bird has some of the Abyss in him,” I said, as I watched the woman crawl away on elbows and knees, making a point to keep hands and feet off the ground.  “A transfusion of power from me to him, not so long ago.”

“He is also small in body.  I’m no longer interested in him.  I’m going now.  Nine more to collect.”

Without even looking, the Other tossed a chain in her direction.  The end was covered in roughly twenty fish hooks.  The chain draped across her shoulder, the mess of hooks dangling between her arm and body.

One sharp tug, and a good two-thirds of the barbed hooks set into flesh at her armpit.

He moved on.  Tall and strong as he might have been, he was forced to lurch due to the chains that trailed behind him.  Left foot forward.  Right foot brought up next to the left.  Right foot forward, left foot brought in line with the right.  Hooks and blades and chains dragged furrows into the snow.  Where they skipped up and touched ice, a car bumper or the edge of the sidewalk, he was strong enough for the blades or hooks to cut through fiberglass or a bit of concrete.

The woman shot me a pleading look as she scrambled to keep up on frozen hands and feet.  She managed to find her feet, and for a second I thought she might walk after him, but she took a fraction of a second too long.  He took one lurching step forward, and she was tugged, sent sprawling.  From there, it was all she could do to keep up.

“Are we going to help her?” Evan asked.

I tightened my grip on the Hyena.

The bell was so loud.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself.

“We can,” he said.

“What makes her different from Will, back there?”  I asked.  “I’m not saying we won’t or that we can’t… but a lot of people will need help.  Enemies who sent monsters to kill Callan, or condoned it.  She’s out here, a representative for the Duchamps.  She didn’t decide to sit this whole thing out.”
“If that’s your only rule to decide who dies, an awful lot of people oughtta die tonight,” Evan said.”It’s up to you.  I promised I’d help stop the monsters… I’m just not sure who the monsters are, here.”

“Guy with chains talking about throwing people into a big machine is a good bet,” Evan said.

“You know what I mean,” I said.

“I know what you mean, sure, but I’m not sure.”

“It’s up to you,” I said, again.  “I want to.  I itch to step in and stop him.  But I’m not sure I trust my instincts, and I know it doesn’t make sense.  The monsters are picking off our enemies for us.  Or occupying them.”

“I’m really not the person to ask,” Evan said.  “Which is why I suggested going to talk to Alexis or Ty or someone.”

I shook my head.

Not that Evan was wrong, per se.

The bell continued to toll, cacophonic, jarring, setting every spirit in me stirring.

I was a monster.  I didn’t deny it.

But I was aware of how I’d nearly killed Will Behaim, and now I couldn’t help but think about how he had a family.

I was mixed up, and the bell was disturbing my thoughts, twisting them around.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself in a fight against a genuine enemy, if I’d start thinking about how they had a family, or a history, how they might be okay.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself to spare someone who needed sparing.

With every step the chain man took to carry him further away from me and Evan, it became harder to justify closing that distance, chasing, to rescue her.

“She’s old.  She’s supported the Duchamps through at least two generations,” I said.  “Marrying off daughters and sisters and cousins.  Forced marriages, denying them freedom.  Perpetuating an ugly cycle.  She’s here.  She’s…”

I was having trouble convincing myself.

“Yeah,” Evan said.  “But the other guy has hooks and chains and stuff, and he flings people into the Abyss.”

There were distant screeches.

I was reminded of the Drains.  The cold, the noise, the fact that there were no right decisions.

Except I wasn’t in the Abyss.

I was here.  In Jacob’s Bell.  One hour’s drive away from my hometown, the home that was no longer mine to return to.  I was here, and in the midst of this decision, I was being forced to confront myself, much as the Abyss had forced me to consider my origin, and the Tenements forced me to consider my present reality.

“I made you a promise, Evan.  To stop the monsters.”

“I think the spirits forgot that promise?  I did.”

“Anyone that needs the spirits as an excuse to hold to their word is a pretty shitty person,” I said.  “I don’t trust my instincts.  What are yours?  Is he a bigger monster than she is?”

“I don’t know, Evan.  But I think you’re right.  We need another voice to help us figure out a strategy, and we need help, but the Behaims are out for blood, because of what Molly did.  The Duchamps aren’t likely to be in my good books.  I’m not sure how to reach out to the junior council, even if I hadn’t tried them, not so long ago.  Johannes… I don’t trust him, and I don’t even want to show my face near him, knowing the kind of power his familiar can sling around.  That doesn’t leave many options for people to talk to.”

“No, I guess not.”

“There’re the Thorburns,” I said.  “Fresh eyes on the situation.  But if I go do that, if I contrive to make them practitioners, am I adhering to the pattern I did before?  Backing up the status quo?”

“There aren’t many things you can do that haven’t been tried already,” Evan said.

“No,” I agreed.  “You’re right on that.”

“Briar Girl?”

“I’m pretty sure she’s sitting this one out.  Probably protecting her forest.”

“The woman in the woods on the other end of town?”

I shook my head.

“I don’t know many others,” Evan said.  “Green Eyes.”

“If we’re looking for a voice of reason,” I said, “I’m not sure-”

“Hi,” Green Eyes said.

She’d crawled out of the shadows at some point in the last few seconds.  Evan had been greeting her.

“Heya!” Evan said, a little too cheerfully.  “We’re trying to figure out where to go for help.  Kind of hard, when most people want to kill us.”

“Molly,” I said.

“Oh.  The psycho ghost that’s causing all these problems by ringing the bell?  Who just possessed you?  Well, at least she probably doesn’t want to kill you.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Call this an act of desperation.”

This?

MollyMolly.

I turned my eyes skyward.

“Okay,” Evan said.  “I’m with you.  I have no idea what you’re thinking, but I’m with you.”

“The ringing changed,” Green Eyes said, her fins flaring out, “Just a little, but it changed when you spoke.”

“It’s changing every second,” Evan said.

“If she’s the one with the bell, then she hears,” Green Eyes said, with certainty.

I couldn’t draw in a proper breath.  Or I could, but the air only went out.  Seeped between branches, stirring the snow that had collected on me into light clouds.

The branches of my body were marked with the lightest of frosts.

When I roared the words, the snow unsettled.  Air drawn in through those same cracks and up through my throat, out my mouth, carried those snowflakes.  Not quite the fog of breath, but something else.

Molly Walker!

Would she answer?

Could she?  Was she trapped in this new form, a knell of chaos, or was she unable due to the danger it posed?  No doubt she had a great many enemies.

I got the answer to my question as Molly appeared before me, the bell growing louder, until it distorted vision.  The distortion in vision worsened, clarified, and became her.  My cousin.

She’d changed, becoming one with half of a broken bell that was nearly four feet tall.  The top of the half- bell rested on one of her shoulders, the rim at the bottom near her knee.  She didn’t bow under the weight.  She was taller, narrower, as if she’d been physically warped.

“Thanks for coming,” I said.

“Don’t thank me.”

She didn’t sound happy.

“I know you didn’t like what you saw there.  Me talking to Alister.”

She shook her head.

“I get it,” I said.  “But desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“I think that’s the sort of thing Laird might have said, before he signed off on me getting tortured to death,” Molly spoke.

Something in her tone had enough force that I felt the spirits in me react.  Evan hopped back, out of the hole in my midsection, and flew back, around, and up to my shoulder.

“We can’t hold onto the past, or we’re just going to perpetuate things.”

“I heard you say something very similar to the junior council,” she said, in that same tone.  “Try again.”

She was really not happy with me.  Fuck.

“Laird paid for what he did.  He died in an unpleasant way, and he did it at my hand.  Alister wasn’t a part of what happened to you.”

“You’re arguing with me,” Molly said.  Her features shifted slightly, a reaction to her change in mood, yet not a simple change of expressions.

“I’m stating the facts.  I’m on your side.  All of this, the chaos, the hurt, the… endemic problems that are running through bloodlines like some disease, it all needs to stop.  And I’m starting to see the merit in using this to stop it.”

I showed her the Hyena.

“You let one live, and you failed against the other.”

“If you saw that, you saw the fight against the others.  I’m not talking blind, directionless violence.  I’m talking…”

“Culling,” Molly said.

“You heard that too,” I said.  “Yeah.”

“Keep talking.”

“I called you because we’re running out of allies.  You and me are in pretty similar situations.”

“Do tell.”

“We’re at the point where our usefulness is running out.  The moment things quiet down here, or the local practitioners get a firmer hold on their creations, they’ll probably put an end to you.  Make you the next target.  They want things stable, predictable, and the both of us, we’re a possible threat to that stability.”

“I’ve heard this too,” she said.

It was eerie, how she kept saying that.  How was she able to follow along so easily?

“You’re powerful,” I said, as an extension of that same thought.  “I don’t know how or why, but you’re powerful.  Let me remind you, the Thorburn diabolists have been powerful, but they’re also targets.  I was, Rose is.  The next heir probably will be.  With the Thorburns more or less down and out, what do you think happens next?”

She was listening.  When she didn’t cut me off or dismiss me, I felt like I had license to continue.

“I’m on your side, Molly.  Believe me.  But there’s only so much we can do in the next handful of hours before dawn.  What’s happening here, I’m not sure it’s the answer.”

“You want me to stop,” she said.  Unimpressed.

If I were human, I might have withered beneath her glare.

Holy fuck, she’d soaked up a lot of raw negativity in the past day.

“No,” I said.  “No, I don’t want you to stop.”

Saying that, I had her attention.

“But the aimlessness of it, it’s not helping.  We need a goal.”

“Goal?”

“Yeah.  What does it help, if you whittle down each group just a little?  Kill twenty Behaims, twenty Duchamps, kill or turn a few of Johannes’ allies… at the end of the day, we’re right back where we started.”

She was silent.

“The deal you were going to make with the Behaims,” Molly said.  “It wasn’t confirmed.”

“No,” I said.  “We never shook on it.  Verbally, we never clarified it.  It was all ifs.”

“You want to attack one.  Weaken one side.  Upset the balance.”

I nodded.

“The Behaims-”

All of them were responsible in a way,” I said.  “Laird is dead.  Don’t hold on to your grudge against the Behaims.  Think Molly, don’t just ride on instinct.”

“Yes.  The Behaims will be expecting you.  And they have Rose.  Rose knows what you are and how to stop you.”

“Exactly,” I said.

“Johannes is safe.  In his demesnes.  You warned him.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“You want to go after Sandra,” Molly said.

“I think it makes sense.”

“And after?  Johannes takes power, safe within his demesnes.”

“After,” I said, “I’m hoping the Behaim and Duchamp organizations are still partially intact, and someone can kick down the doors like they knocked down the barriers in Hillsglade House.”

“After that?”

What a change, from the simple ghost who couldn’t see past the, well, past, to this.  An entity with an agenda.

“After that, I don’t know.  It’s impossible and borderline insane to plan with this many factors in play.  But if we can take the advantage, we can upset the balance again.”

“One mistake, one failure, and someone can take power.  Even if we succeed…”

“If we succeed, we’ll have made them regret what they did,” I said.  “We’ll have left the door open for change, if we haven’t changed things in the course of it.”

“That’s not good enough.  I need more.”

“I can’t give you more,” I said.  “It is what it is, and it’s better than what you were doing.  It’s… almost constructive.”

“Or we just destroy it all,” Molly said.

“Your family included?” I asked.

She bowed her head a little.

“Callan-” I started.

“I know,” she cut me off.

“The Other that attacked him, the Homoculi, they were egged on by the ringing of the bell.”

“That’s on Sandra, it’s not me,” she said.  Her voice was more distorted than ever.

“It’s a bigger problem,” I said.  “A systemic problem, one that involves all of us.  I can’t give you anything more concrete in the way of plans.  I can’t give you power or answers or strength or any of that.  All I can do is say I promise.  I swore to Evan that I’d deal with the monsters.  I will strive, in the midst of all this, to root out the true monsters and deal with them.  It’s the third time I’ve promised this.”

“Third?”

“The third,” I said.  “To Evan, to myself as I realized what I was in the Abyss, and now to you.”

I could hear the bell go quiet.

Eerily similar to the moments before she’d taken control of me.

“The last I saw, Sandra and the priest weren’t that far away.  Closer to downtown,” Molly spoke.  She sounded surprisingly like Molly, albeit with a tone as though she were nursing an awful lot of hurt near her heart.

I looked south.  Toward the lake.

“You’ll want to wait,” Molly said, in her very normal voice.  “Another few minutes.  The priest is praying, and you’re hurt.”

“Blake’s tough,” Evan chimed in.

“Yeah, no, I’m pretty hurt,” I said.  I tested my arm.  The wood was patching itself up, but a whole joint was harder to put together, and I suspected I was low on fuel.

“But when you’re standing in front of the TV, nobody’s going to tell you you’ll make a better door than a window.  Because you are a window.”

I could see the impatience on Molly’s face.  She wasn’t one for idle humor, even while we were waiting.

She wasn’t really Molly.  She’d become something else.

“Where’d this power come from?” I asked.

Molly shot me a look.

“You’re awfully aware of what’s going on here.  You’re generating so much rage.  I’d expect a ghost to affect one person like you’ve affected me, but… you’re affecting all this.  A huge amount.”

“Sometimes, in the right time or place, an idea can become a spirit, and a spirit can become a god,” Molly said, in that ordinary voice that made me think of a Molly who’d never thought of gods outside of visiting church once a week.

“A god.  You pick this up from one of your books?”

“No.”

“From Mags?”

“No,” Molly said.

“Because Mags is the only-”

“I don’t want to talk about her,” Molly said.  “She’s not part of this.  And I’m glad for that.”

“How is she not a part of this?” Evan asked.  “She’s an ambassador.  You’d think an ambassador would be busier in a time of war.”

“She’s with the small council.  She’s keeping- I don’t want to talk about her,” Molly said.  “I hate her and I don’t and… it’s easier not to talk about her.”

Read the tone, Evan, I thought.

“It’s gotta be important if you’re becoming a god, and Rose said Blake gave you power and Mags gave you power, and-”

“Evan,” I said.  “Let’s listen to Molly when she says she doesn’t want to talk about something.”

“Thank you.  I’m not saying I’m becoming a god.  It’s… only an idea.”

“That’s a hell of an idea,” I said.  I looked out over the town.

“Scary idea,” Green Eyes said.  “I’ve never met a happy god.”

Just about everyone present glanced at her.  Green Eyes didn’t elaborate.

“Sandra is mustering her strength,” Molly said, a change of subject that felt just a little forced. “I’ll create a distraction.”

I nodded.

“What will you do?” Molly asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “But I’ll hurt her somehow.”

“We,” Green Eyes said.  “I’m not leaving you again.  Not when you got a hole in you the last time.”

I nodded.

“You have ten minutes,” Molly said.  “Then I hit them.”

I moved.

My goal wasn’t Sandra.  At a run, I could get to the lake in two to three minutes.  Get within sight of her in half that time.  Even injured.

One arm held the other in place, tight against my abdomen.

Green Eyes followed, surprisingly quick.  Evan was in the air.

“I need bodies,” I called out.  I glanced at Green Eyes.  “Already dead!”

“Bodies?” Evan called out.

“Unattended!”

Getting further down the street, heading southeast, I saw the park at the end of ‘downtown’, insofar as Jacob’s Bell had one.  Hillsglade House was almost directly north, the lake and Sandra directly south.

Evan was already circling over a pair of buildings.

Playing the role of the buzzard.

As I drew nearer, I realized there wasn’t an alley between the buildings.  Here, the shops were just starting up.  Many were closed.

The furthest point from the newly revitalized area at the north end.  Closest to the marsh and the forest that the city wanted to expand into.  Close to the park.

It was like returning to the tenements.  I climbed a section of display window that was covered in iron bars, then reached for a windowsill.

After the Tenements, even being injured, with one arm only partially working, serving only to hold my position and give me a chance to raise my right arm, this was cake.

Green Eyes was even faster at climbing than I was.

We reached the rooftop.

A dozen birds congregated on a pair of corpses.  A couple, pecked to death.  A telescope had toppled beside them, and snow collected on a book that was still open, pages facing the sky.

Green Eyes lunged for the nearest bird.  She caught it, and stuffed it in her mouth.

Two of the other crows exchanged glances in a very human way, then took off with the rest.

Approaching the bodies, I brushed the woman’s hair aside.  It was only after I moved it that I saw her face and recognized her as a Behaim.

Using the Hyena, I carved flesh from bone.

Using raw strength, I tore carved bone from body.

I pressed carved bone into the cavity.  One folded segment of spine went into my middle, which still gaped open.  Almost like intestine.

The bone found its place, and the wood closed in around it.  At the shoulder, I doubled down on bones, replacing what I’d lost, then adding some.  The wood closed over, almost eager to get a grip on the still-bloody bone.

“Better?” Evan asked.

I nodded.

We were almost out of time.

But I felt strong enough to hop down from the two-story building’s roof.

We approached the lake.  It took less time than I’d thought.  Evan landed on my shoulder.

An awful lot of Duchamps and their husbands were there.  They were pulling together in what looked to be a last-minute defense.  Protecting themselves against their own Others, scurrying this way and that to patch up defenses that had gone awry.

A strategic position, away from the city proper, far from Johannes’ demesnes, and close enough to act on the house if need be.  Fortified.

Molly’s initial jolt had, at a glance, made all of the weak bindings break.  The secure bindings held, as did the better relationships.  In the midst of the chaos, Sandra and the high priest of Dionysus were standing on the dock, giving orders, talking.  The priest’s followers were gathered around him.

I braced myself for it.

It was still bad.

Molly attacked.  Full force, focused on the Duchamps.  Two, three, five times as intense as she’d hit me, to disturb the spirits and briefly take possession of me.

I saw the attempts at rebuilding a defense fail.  I saw Others that were being reined in suddenly turn, breaking free.  A dozen traps went off, and there was fire, and distortions in space.  A flickering of what might have been a doorway to someplace else.

But in the midst of it all, Sandra and Jeremy barely even flinched.

Seeing it, I knew.

There was no chink in this armor.

“Back,” I said.

“Back?” Green Eyes asked.

“We promised, you promised-” Evan started.

“There’s no way to win this,” I said.  “Getting through all that?”

“So we run?” Evan asked.

“No.  We attack from another angle,” I said.

We headed in the opposite direction.

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148 thoughts on “Execution 13.2

  1. Hi guys.

    Was super duper distracted today. I’m working on arranging a move, and that means utilities and setting up a wad of stuff, and all the appointments and phone calls I was expecting over the past week just happened to come up today. Water, electric, internet, a thing about my cochlear implant, my landlord is doing final touch-ups on my new place and wanted my preferences on interior design, and I had a call back from a friend who was going to help me move some stuff, and virtually all of it involved several steps (like double checking details or passing on messages to people, like my landlord).

    In light of those calls and appointments, I’m sort of making a small adjustment, and moving the second donation chapter of this month from next week (the 13th) to the 20th. Long story short, I need internet set up in my new place, and they told me to be available between 8am and 5pm on the 13th to let the guys in to hook stuff up, but I’m moving to another town, and physically getting myself over there is… a bit of a task. I’m leaving a window of opportunity to just be there, lack of internet (and ability to write) or no, in case the landlord can’t arrange something.

    If the 2k benchmark is somehow hit, then the third chapter for the month will be on the 27th. It’s more likely the 2k is just going to absorb anything in excess of the more typical 2 bonus chapters a month.

    TL;DR: Next Thursday chapter on the 20th, not 13th!

    Votes on topwebfiction are appreciated, as ever:
    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=pact

    And, as always, thanks for reading. You guys are great!

    1. Also, in response to rampant commentary on what I considered a more or less innocuous sidenote on my last post-chapter report, in terms of Pact ending, Twig, and Worm2…

      The goal, stated almost from the beginning, was for Pact to be about half the length that Worm was. Now, in terms of wordcount, I think it’s already past that point, but in terms of the number of chapters/arcs, we’re only getting closer to that endpoint.

      My personal feeling is that, well, real life sort of got in the way during the early part of Pact – my mom was (and still is) in the hospital an awful lot, and my brother had a very logistically complicated wedding way out in the middle of nowhere, and there was a bunch of other minor stuff. I’d actually planned to move in April and I’m only getting underway now, which maybe says a lot.

      But the long and short of it is I sort of struggled to find my stride, in the midst of it all. I like Pact’s world, but because I was off kilter for so much of the writing, I feel like key parts drag on too long and it took far, far too long to get to the meat of the story. I don’t know that it’s quite in the position where I’d really want to sit down and edit it, short of a publisher reaching out to me and expressing interest in doing something with it.

      I enjoy writing Pact, and I enjoy the comments and I love the commentary. But when I look at the whole, I feel like I could do better. In contrast to Worm, the writing in Worm was rougher, but it was, barring a few rough patches, the best work I could put out with the skills I had at the time. Worm as a whole feels more like a whole than Pact does, if that makes any sense.

      So that’s my thinking in terms of Pact and putting Pact to rest. I don’t want to rush it, though I’ll be glad to move on to something fresh that I can put my all into, with minimal distractions, and it may well be that Pact needs 5 more arcs or 6 or 8, to tie up the loose ends and come together. It ends when it needs to end, no sooner, but we’re approaching that point.

      I do plan to return to the Pactverse, but Twig won’t be that return (I’m surprised at how many people think Twig will be more Pact).

      1. I look forward to seeing your more refined writing skills in your next endeavor. I’ll stay with Pact till the end, for I love your writing, though I’m not to fond of this setting and kinda hate the genre. I expect a fun ride for the rest of Pact and am eagerly anticipating Twig, whatever that may be.

        1. I’m not sure, these days, doing deconstructor Medieval Fantasy would make it seem as if the Author is simply jumping onto the Game of Thrones Bandwagon.

          1. The problem with trying to deconstruct medieval fantasy is at this point it’s been done so much all that’s left is a pile of bits of metal, wood, and leather.

            1. I don’t know, Peer was pretty original. It’s just that Caspar left a bed taste in a lot of people’s mouths, mine included. (Which is probably, among other reasons, why we’re following Pact and not Peer)

              Although speaking of Peer, has Rolf’s character found a niche anywhere? It’s not his fault his son was a whiny, timid layabout with more brains than sense.

            2. Honestly I could not get into Peer at all. I mean that litteraly, I read a few paragraphs, then just waited for the next one.

              Face didn’t appeal much to me either, but that’s because I don’t particulary like deathmatch stories.

            3. I really liked Peer and hope Wildbow will one day continue the story. I loved Casper’s being thrown into the world of the Court’s Political Intrigue and the Big shake up in the last chapter. I could use a little more Peer in my life.

            4. First off, the superhero genre had been deconstructed for a quarter century before Worm debuted (if Watchmen isn’t a superhero deconstruction, I don’t know what is), yet Worm had plenty of material to work with.

              Second off, while elves and dragons are nowhere to be seen, Pact is a decent deconstruction of urban fantasy, and tackles a number of classic fantasy tropes in the process, notably the concept of objective Good and Evil.

              Third off, the genre’s going to be reconstructed sooner or later.

      2. I think the main thing about Worm that I liked more than Pact was that Worm had more sympathetic supporting characters (as in, a larger number of them, although they were also more sympathetic), and devoted more time to developing them. Pact has gotten a bit better lately in this regard (the younger Thorburns managed to come across as sympathetic, say, and Green Eyes is around more), but often it seems as of characters are shuffled around too quickly for us to get to know them — I honestly still mix up most of Blake’s friends.

        1. i think what i liked more about worm is that there was a very clear sense of progress been made across the chapters even if it was for the worst it felt we were going somewhere. and also a much more consistent main cast.and also a protagonist who was better driven as in who had priorities and objectives that made it easy to root for her, whilst blake usually feels aimless

          1. I personally found Blake’s priority of “Oh god everything is trying to kill me” to be a bit more motivating than Worm’s protagonist’s priorities, which tended to be morally ambiguous and more than a little bit insane, but I can definitely understand the appeal of agency. Or at least the appeal of not having the protagonist kicked around for about thirteen arcs and constantly failing to find stable footing-I would have honestly found Blake’s story a lot more interesting if he’d had time to breathe at any point, or if there had been a point where things weren’t immediately trying to kill/enslave him. Time to get to know his friends or Toronto, or even the beautifully toxic Thorburns.

            1. After the Tenements gave Blake an all expenses paid trip to crazytown, I think Taylor officially has less insane and morally ambiguous motivations. I mean, Taylor would almost certainly have stepped in against chain boogeyman.

              Also, we did have a time when no one was immediately trying to kill or enslave Blake, and he promptly got in a fight with Ur.

            2. My problem with Blake’s survival priority was that it didn’t lead anywhere. He didn’t gain anything by surviving, his situation didn’t improve, and so it seemed like the story hardly advanced.

              And his continued survival made his enemies look weak.

            3. I think the survival priority gave it a “villain of the week” kind of feel, where you know nothing much changes from incident to incident. Blake purportedly changes from incident to incident, he’s lost his body here for example, but since he feels just as desperate in every situation the changes don’t really matter.

            4. My problem with Blake’s motivation is that unlike the characters in Worm he never really develops an overarching goal. Taylor wanted to save Dinah/the world. Rachel wanted to get all the dirty homo sapiens to leave her alone and so on. So they have things they want that go beyond the enemies in front of them.

              Blake by contrast seems constantly defined by his enemies. He wants to protect himself and his loved ones, but rarely thinks about what this entails in the long term. So he spends most of the story flailing around and fighting. Now, there turns out there was reason for this in hindsight. But I characters defined by just fighting with nothing concrete to fight for to be hard to connect with.

              Well, now Blake has a concrete motivation. But if it’s a real goal and not a justification to do what he’s always been doing remains to be seen.

            5. also +1 this. that was also part of what i was thinking. blakes thing felt more like a headlong tumble as the story dragged him along faster than it felt like it was set up for since he never got to do anything.

            6. I tend to agree. Worm had entire chapters of comparative downtime and it really did help with the pacing. Pact becomes a grind after a while.

              It also skipped over that initially ‘getting to know you’ stage. Chapter one of Worm is a typical day for Taylor. Chapter one of Pact is a very atypical day for Blake. As a result, it was entire arcs before we really had a good idea of who our protagonist actually is as a person. Even half a chapter in arc 1 where Blake hangs with his friends in Toronto would lay some very important groundwork for the changes that are about to befall him.

            7. Irrevenant,how can chapter one of Blake constitute an atypical day if it was his first day to exist?Or do you imply it was too calm?

            8. Wildbow did a wrap up post at the end of Pact. I went into my concerns about Pact in more detail there where spoilers were no longer an issue. I’ll be interested in your input on that when you get there.

              I think that a big part of why I found Blake so hard to root for at the beginning is that Wildbow hamstrung himself with his choice of premise: Blake comes across as kind of a shallow character who does unconvincing things. There’s a good plot reason for that – Blake is a newly minted half-person created to act in that specific way. But because that’s the twist, Wildbow can’t tell us that, which leaves us in the situation of following a vaguely unsatisfying main character until the reveal – at which point we finally become able to properly understand and empathise with Blake.

              Wildbow put himself in a situation where he could neither write a fully-fleshed out main character, nor explain why the main character wasn’t fully fleshed out and take readers on an exploration of what that means. Pact became great after a while (‘cos Wildbow. :)) but that did make Pact much harder to get into than Worm and I suspect that’s a big part of why the Pact community is so much quieter.

              To actually address your question:

              It’s a little unclear whether Blake was actually at Granny’s deathbed or if he only sprung into existence as heir once Molly died (in which case, everyone has a false memory of the day Granny died).

              Real or false memory, Chapter 1 skips over four months of Blake everyday life. Obviously you wouldn’t want to see those four months in detail but that’s where we’d normally learn at least a little bit about Blake’s life and get a feel for who he is as a person so that we’re invested in him as a character when all this stuff starts happening to him. As it is, we really only started understanding Blake’s background once he was forced back to Toronto.

              But again, Wildbow was probably hamstrung there by having to reflect in the narrative how shallow Blake’s existence as a person actually is. Otherwise the twist wouldn’t have rung true.

              I sometimes wonder how Pact would’ve played out if Blake’s nature was known to the reader (but not to Blake) from the beginning rather than being a twist. You’d be trading in a plot surprise for improved reader understanding from the very beginning of who Blake is and why he acts the way he does. It might be a worthwhile trade – it might even be more gripping for the reader that way. Which has more dramatic impact: a killer suddenly pops up from the back seat and attacks the hero while he’s driving; or we see a killer hide himself in the back seat of the hero’s car, the unsuspecting hero drives off then, after a moment’s quiet, the killer attacks?

        2. yeah.

          i saw wildbow say he thought bits dragged on too long and came to say I was feeling the opposite, it seemed like we rushed through everything…but this is actually much more what I would have meant if I’d gotten that typed before seeing this.

          so basically just +1 on what yglorba said

          1. Sort-of. I think that the Conquest arc in particular dragged on a bit. Part of the reason for this was because everyone knew we were going back to Jacob’s Bell eventually and were tapping their feet for this; and part of it was that I, at least, didn’t find Conquest a very interesting character — if you look at the interesting Worm characters, say, or the interesting ones here, they’re either mysterious or have room to grow or both. Conquest was neither — we knew almost everything about him from the start, and he was explicitly incapable of growing or changing in any meaningful way. And he wasn’t even that intimidating as a threat, because every reader knew the core of the plot had to go back to Jacob’s Bell, and Conquest was mostly disconnected from that.

            But I agree that there weren’t enough “quiet” scenes to get to know the characters. I wouldn’t have minded more time in Toronto if it was spent learning about the magical world and exploring Blake’s connections with his friends and Rose.

            I liked a lot of the early scenes where Rose and Blake were figuring out how magic worked and making general plans, but we didn’t get that with many of the other characters; and ever since Blake was eaten by Ur (really, before that — ever since Rose was yanked away by Conquest) interactions between them have mostly consisted of them glaring at each other and spitting angry words.

            I mean, Rose said earlier that they’re not friends, and in the last chapter she said she really disliked him, and… that’s what it comes down to. It feels like they have no connection at all beyond what’s been magically forced on them. Like, I don’t even mean they feel like enemies — Alister feels like a rival for Blake. Rose feels like a random stranger who he is unfortunately locked in a struggle with because magic. Even if she’s his twin, it’s hard to feel any connection to her as a character.

            Which is a problem when a huge part of the plot seems to hinge on how they relate to each other.

            And even with the scenes it spent building them up, Blake’s friends sometimes seem more like emotional MacGuffins than characters. Maybe part of this is due to their memory loss after the incident with Ur — everything we’d seen of them before had been in the context of their relationship with Blake, and we didn’t really see enough of them to fall in love with them beyond that, so afterwards it felt almost like we were meeting totally new characters.

            I should say that I’m still enjoying the story, though — I definitely liked meeting the younger Thorburns and hope we see more of them, say. The last flashback with Alister was also cool. In fact, I generally find I like the “normal” people’s perspectives more than Blake’s, maybe because it’s easier to relate to someone when they have a support network to interact with. Part of the reason I think commentators keep acting like Blake is an angry crazy guy is because he usually has so little emotional support to play off of or to humanize him… figuratively and literally. Whereas in Worm, Taylor had a lot more longstanding characters to interact with, and they served to humanize her even when her powers pushed her the other way.

            Of course, perhaps dehumanizing Blake is to a certain extent the point…

            1. I actually disagree about getting to know Blake’s friends post-Urr : Blake is our viewpoint character and you’d lose a lot of the impact of that “my best friends are now all total strangers” thing if we’d been seeing them in the interim.

              Otherwise, totally agree.

              Obviously, Evan is Blake’s emotional support and contrast. Which is why it’s problematic that he didn’t come into the narrative until the fifth arc.

      3. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve read a lot of professionally published shit that’s much worse than Pact was at it’s lowest point.

        And I’ll say this. Setting up a Pact RPG wouldn’t be too tricky.

      4. I do have to agree that Worm feels like it meshes together a lot more smoothly than Pact. Pact is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as good.
        Anyway, all the support from your fans! Take it easy and write like you enjoy writing. More important than what a bunch of strangers on the Internet think of you.

        1. Seconded! I was beginning to feel like I was the only one who liked Face.

          A lot of people seem to have written it off as just another deathmatch story ala The Hunger Games. But it was clear from even the small sample that it was a lot more than that. From the fact people went back to ordinary lives during the day (but are still fair game) to the mystery around our protagonist’s past to his suddenly inherited family that he’s not well-equipped to deal with to the mysterious parties behind the competition there was a lot to be explored and the potential for many, many complications.

          I really would’ve liked to have seen where that was heading. I know Wildbow would have surprised us.

          Wildbow, if you’re reading this: It was very nice of you to ask the readers which story to proceed with but honestly, given how your stories twist and turn in unpredictable ways, our ability to anticipate which story we’ll enjoy most based on the first few chapters probably approaches nil. ‘Peer’ copped it particularly hard because the story proper had barely started by the end of the sample. You have a much better grasp than us how much potential is in an idea and what you would do with it. Go with the idea you like best. Regardless of what it is, I’m sure you’ll surprise us with it and keep us reading.

      5. I enjoy writing Pact, and I enjoy the comments and I love the commentary. But when I look at the whole, I feel like I could do better. In contrast to Worm, the writing in Worm was rougher, but it was, barring a few rough patches, the best work I could put out with the skills I had at the time. Worm as a whole feels more like a _whole_ than Pact does, if that makes any sense.

        I agree completely with that paragraph.

        Well, I’ll stick around even through the rough times in the writing :).

        1. Ya. Pact is far from bad at this point but Worm definitely eclipsed it in a big way.

          Part of that I suspect is “second album syndrome”. You spent decades working on the world that would become Worm. It’s not surprising that your new story doesn’t have that same degree of depth, texture and ‘wholeness’ – it hasn’t had anywhere near as long to compost and mature.

          You’re stretching yourself as an author writing Pact which makes you a better author but has left this particular story with some stretch marks (couldn’t resist).

          I can’t think of a single author whose every work surpassed his last and I suspect it’s for the same reason. So you’re in great company. 🙂

      6. Honestly, I kind of felt from the beginning that it was going to be hard for Pact to match the expectations created by Worm because of what you said about having been writing in the Wormverse for years before you actually started the story. There’s no “Guts and Glory” for Pact (I think?). While the writing quality at the start of Worm wasn’t particularly polished, the world had already been through a lot of evolution and that was part of what made it so goddamned awesome. I have zero doubt that you’ll get back to that fleshed-out richness of the world in later writing as you get more practice jumping into totally new genres.

        That’s not to say that Pact hasn’t been good. It’s been really good. A criticism that the worldbuilding and background character development in a story isn’t as good as it is in Worm is very uninformative.

      7. I think one of the problems Pact has is that you jump straight in to the story. After all this time Blake still seems like a stranger with no real personality of his own other than he has to protect the things important to him. I really like your story but sometimes the characters feel fake, as if they’re all just mannequins acting out their roles in a play.

      8. In fairness, I think I, at least, have put worm on a pedestal. A really high one that pact just can’t get to, because nothing can. Pact is good and interesting, but yeah, I think it’s too fast paced. No room to breath. I remember echidna created a bit of arc exhaustion, where things just went too damn long in worm, and I think it’s showing throughout the entire pact.

        Pact is by no means bad. I enjoyed it, found it interesting, good, all of that, just like everyone else. But I will say that during certain arcs of worm (the last arc or two, and the second half of arc 20), I literally counted the hours until the next update. I’d look at the clock and think, ugh, still fifty eight hours and thirty two minutes to the next update. God, i can’t wait to go to bed and wake up with a whole seven hours gone from the countdown. I have not felt that way with pact.

        P

      9. The fact that the protagonist of Pact is partly made of wood, as are twigs, probably didn’t hurt the assumptions.

        As to what Pact is…big themes in Worm and Pact were secrecy/deception and the nature of morality. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those again. The title doesn’t necessarily help a lot. Going beyond the literal, I’m thinking of something branching off of something bigger, a part of a whole, or else one of a number of descendants of an original ancestor (perhaps only because I’m a biologist at heart). There’s a bunch of things that could be.

    2. For the record, when you write Green Eyes’ dialogue, those are some of the best sentences in the story. And I think they might be that way because when you write Green Eyes you’re focused on having fun and enjoying what she might say or do, rather than concentrating only on the audience’s likely reaction. With Worm, you gave yourself a long time to think ideas over and to play with different possibilities. Pact probably didn’t involve as much of that, and I think that might be the cause of some of the difference in quality.

      I still like reading Pact of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But I do agree Worm was better.

    3. If nobody else has already done so, I would like to point out to you that if you have a wireless adapter and a laptop, a trip to a local restaurant can probably provide you with a sufficient connection to at least upload a chapter, so you could write while waiting for the internet installer guy.

      It’s even conceivable that there might be public WiFi close enough to your new apartment that you can connect while not even having your own internet.

      You have likely already considered these things, but it sounds like you might be stressing out a bit trying to handle too many things at once, and when they happens, it’s easy to miss easy solutions when it seems that everything is trying to go wrong all at once.

      1. Yeah, I considered it. But there’s no guarantees, and I don’t want to promise a chapter and then not deliver – most places (like public libraries) will close by 8pm thereabouts, so that isn’t really conducive to a 10am to midnight writing schedule. Betting on a nearby source of wi-fi and being unable to write at all when I’m wrong is bad, too.

        1. True, but I do not think any of us would have the slightest problem with getting a day-late release, especially if you mentioned that you were waiting on the cable guy. A lot of us have bad experiences waiting on the cable guy. Some of us have even been cable guys 🙂

          1. I’m betting my fans would be pretty accommodating, but it’s sort of important to me to treat this as something more serious or professional – and updating on schedule is part of that. As there are only two chapters to write this month (barring a few large donations) and I’m giving a week’s notice, it just makes sense to simplify things and not do the chapter on a week where I may have to wrangle the setup of the internet there. It feels better to do it this way.

            1. I misunderstood then. I thought you felt as if you had to do it on that day, and were worried about not being able to. Ignore the fellow who failed to comprehend properly 🙂

        2. “Betting on a nearby source of wi-fi and being unable to write at all when I’m wrong is bad, too.”

          I… I really hope you’re not writing and editing directly in wordpress. I hope you have a local editor, and I hope you have local copies of your writings. (If you’ve talked about this before, I missed it. Either way, a response is not expected.)

    1. “I think this may be the most critical point. What happens before dawn determines what happens during the day, and everything after that.

      -Missing end quotes

      “If that’s your only rule to decide who dies, an awful lot of people oughtta die tonight,” Evan said.”It’s up to you. I promised I’d help stop the monsters… I’m just not sure who the monsters are, here.”

      -Missing new paragraph break after ‘Evan said’

    2. “Anyone that needs the spirits as an excuse to hold to their word is a pretty shitty person,” I said. “I don’t trust my instincts. What are yours? Is he a bigger monster than she is?”

      “I don’t know, Evan. But I think you’re right. We need another voice to help us figure out a strategy, and we need help, but the Behaims are out for blood, because of what Molly did. The Duchamps aren’t likely to be in my good books. I’m not sure how to reach out to the junior council, even if I hadn’t tried them, not so long ago. Johannes… I don’t trust him, and I don’t even want to show my face near him, knowing the kind of power his familiar can sling around. That doesn’t leave many options for people to talk to.”

      Is Evan supposed to say something between these two paragraphs?

    3. Typos:

      • “brain dead” -> “brain-dead”

      • “My brain is roughly the size of a corn kernel, I haven’t had a heartbeat for half a year, about. I’m pretty sure I’m brain dead, technically.” – How does that possibly make sense? Surely Sparrow-Evan both has a heartbeat and a functioning (bird-size) brain? If he does, he just lied.

      • ”It’s up to you.” – There should be a linebreak before this.

      • “even if I hadn’t tried them, not so long ago” – maybe missing a verb?

      • “half- bell” -> “half-bell”

      • “Homoculi” – Heh, the misspellings of this word are getting worse. -> “homunculi”

      • “She’s with the small council.” -> “junior council”?

      • “It was like returning to the tenements.” -> “Tenements”

    4. I’m loving the story. I think Blake is growing into the Barber, a fleshy naked-ish person who smells of gore, looks vaguely like a dead person, and has a permanent wound that just won’t heal.

      There were a few paragraphs in this chapter where I wasn’t really sure who was speaking. Blake would say one sentence, then the paragraph would end, a new paragraph would start and it would seem like someone else was now speaking, but it was still Blake.

      Great story!

    5. Evan said.”It’s
      Evan said. ”It’s

      You and me are in pretty similar situations.
      You and I
      of course, the character could have made that mistake

      A big, hook
      reads better without the comma

      Is he a bigger monster than she is?”
      [line break]
      “I don’t know, Evan.
      missing dialog? isn’t there a convention that if the same character is speaking in the next paragraph the closing quote is not used?

    6. “If that’s your only rule to decide who dies, an awful lot of people oughtta die tonight,” Evan said.”It’s up to you. I promised I’d help stop the monsters… I’m just not sure who the monsters are, here.”

      — is the second sentence supposed to be Blake speaking? The sentences and context that follow seem to imply that it’s Blake but having it as part of the same paragraph here says very strongly that it’s Evan.

      I’m wondering if WordPress took out a couple breaks here

    7. A big, hook that might have gone around a steel cable –> redundant comma

      “What makes her different from Will, back there?” I asked. “I’m not saying we won’t or that we can’t… but a lot of people will need help. Enemies who sent monsters to kill Callan, or condoned it. She’s out here, a representative for the Duchamps. She didn’t decide to sit this whole thing out.”
      “If that’s your only rule to decide who dies, an awful lot of people oughtta die tonight,” Evan said.”It’s up to you. I promised I’d help stop the monsters… I’m just not sure who the monsters are, here.” –> no line breaks here, pretty unclear

      Homoculus –> homunculus

  2. Anyone that needs the spirits as an excuse to hold to their word is a pretty shitty person

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the moral of Pact.

    Green Eyes is so loyal. I’m glad she finally got a bird, though I’m kinda afraid that bird was actually some crazy powerful Other.

    How do you break impenetrable armor?

    If the Legend of Blake grows and enough come to fear him, could he become a god, or keeper of gods?

    So in the end, Blake feels that he can’t trust Humans.

  3. Really Blake, go big or go home. Go straight for Johannes. That would be awfully entertaining.

    Will Molly destroy everything or will she work with Blake to break the status quo? Desperate times call for desperate measures, but it seems there’s never a time that is not deperate.

    Briar girl should totally join the fun pack. They could have their own toy line and everything.

    1. Honestly, damaging Johanne’s power base would be a far more reliable way of destabilizing things. In attacking the other two families he has to bank on creating a very specific level of destabilization so that the families lose power with Johannes being able to just roll in and take.

      I mean, good luck taking out Johanne’s. But sometimes the harder objective is more effective.

      1. I disagree. I think that giving Johannes the Lordship would be the best catalyst of change. Remember, Johannes is the powerful newcomer who is working to change the Other/Hunan landscape. The Others Just wanna be in charge or have power. Even if all the major powers are stopped, that leaves Jacob’s Bell as it has always been, a wretch hive of scum and villainy without a Lord to reel it in.

      2. Attacking a guy who not only has enough minions that he personally is a major power and has a literal guardian angel, but stays inside a gigantic area where he can control spatial relationships sounds like… well, a plan so bad I can see Blake suggesting it. Though rather than ending in fire and blood, I forsee it ending in realizing that the names on the street signs spell out a limmerick on the nature of futility when you take the first letter of each one. That’s assuming he doesn’t just transmute the air into pure oxygen and detonate a gas line.

        Much better to bargain with one family, force the other to surrender, then surround Johannes’ demense and wait until he feels like negotiating. Granted, that would require some method of stopping Faysal from just opening a door to beyond the siege lines whenever he feels like, but if you don’t have that there’s no way attacking outright would work either.

        1. Who says they have to attack Johannes right at that moment? They can simply draw aggro & kite whatever he sends out into battle with the Duchamps; when both are exhausted from battle against each other, come in and finish them off.

            1. Honestly, I somewhat suspect that Faysal is going to be the key to Johannes’ downfall (assuming he even needs a downfall — there have been hints that something bigger is going to happen.)

              Back when he was introduced, Blake speculated on why practitioners don’t summon or work with angels more often. I think we might eventually get the answer to that.

  4. Further down the street, a pack of people ran. Moving in something pretty damn close to a formation. Unpracticed, driven by necessity and a bit of intelligence.

    So much for the civilians staying out of this, apparently. Not that I was expecting that to hold.

    “After,” I said, “I’m hoping the Behaim and Duchamp organizations are still partially intact, and someone can kick down the doors like they knocked down the barriers in Hillsglade House.”

    I so would not count on that.

    So, Molly seems to be progressing pretty rapidly, getting stronger and clearer-thinking. It’s a good thing Blake managed to talk her into showing restraint; it really doesn’t seem like the local practitioners are up to handling her. Maybe Faysal can take her.

    Also, she heard about spirits in the right place becoming gods from somewhere, and not from her known sources. I’m guessing her teacher was speaking from experience.

    1. Hmmm Hmmm. That definitely sounds like it could have come from somebody who likes to wear black a lot and tosses Conflict Balls around with careful calculation. 😛

      And, Molly is one giant Conflict Ball, when you think about it. 😐

  5. Well, Evan actually succeeded in bringing out some more of Blake’s humanity. But holy shit that took a while. Too late for that woman, shame.

    It also didn’t account for the fact that Blake’s just about to launch into another Blake Plan. How the hell destabilizing things won’t end in mass death and will result in positive change I have no clue. Oftentimes, when the establishment is violently smashed the consequences make you wish for the old status quo back.

    Well, I like seeing Sandra being hardcore.

    1. Well, at least Blake is hesitating now before leaping blindly into battle against Others of unknown ability. And it’s not like he has any obligation to save his enemies. Still, it’s disappointing that Blake is approaching the moral level of the Duchamps and Behaims-he had a decent run with the trying to be a moral paragon in an amoral world thing, even if it always fucked things up hilariously.

    2. “Oftentimes, when the establishment is violently smashed the consequences make you wish for the old status quo back.”

      Why do you think Grannie Rose waited until she was dead to really kick the festivites off?

    1. There probably some form of debt collectors. You call up the abyss’s minions and don’t pay up? BOOM! Bicycle chain man comes to repo your soul. Look recycling takes a lot of energy and the Machine should get it from a renewable source. Asshat souls.

      Okay, he’s probably not a debt collector, but it would be pretty cool.

      1. I have to say, some of these Abyss sections sound really cool/horrifying. The Machine, in particular, reminds me of the Factory from the SCP-verse. I’ve seen some… memorable depictions of the grinding gears and belching smokestacks of the Factory. That’s how I imagine the Machine.

        1. The Abyss contains the forgotten places, where people are lost. The Tenements, the Drains, the Machine, the Backwoods… probably the Hospital, the Labyrinth, the Prison as well. Actually, if anyone’s read the YA novel Incarcereon, that could very easily be a bit of the abyss

        2. The ghost village/ town. The underpass of a massive spaghetti junction mess of terrible 50s/ 60s “planning” that people drive over every day without knowing its there. The choked-up canal people don’t realise is one. The lost little cove once used as a smugglers’ base. The mineshaft that was improperly capped decades ago…

          Or… Silent Hill’s best mate. 😛

      2. “Bicycle chain man comes to repo your soul”,You inspired me to write this

        Bicycle chain man!Bicycle chain man!

        Out from the night from the mist steps a figure.
        No one really knows his name for sure.
        He stands at eight foot eight, chains and shoulders,
        Pray he never comes knocking at your door.
        Say that you once bought the services of a boogeyman
        But somehow never managed to square away your debts.
        He won’t bother to write or to phone you…
        He’ll just rip your still-beating soul from your chest!

        Bicycle chain man! Bicycle chain man!

        Now you could run. You could hide. You could try to!
        But he always has a way of finding you.
        He will come at your weakest hour.
        When no one is around who might rescue you!

        Bicycle chain man! Bicycle chain man!

        And none of us, are free from this horror.
        For many years ago we all fell in debt.
        More boogeymen were needed to win this war
        And until our debts are clear, we will live in fear! Of the…

        Bicycle chain man! Bicycle chain man! Repo Man! Bicycle chain man!

        based on this

    2. Well, it might not be the Abyss itself sending out the tax collectors (although it certainly looks that way). If you want to make Others to summon and bind later, tossing people and things in there is definitely one way to go about it, if you don’t have a cookbook telling you how to make things like Banes, thanks to not being an alchemist. 😐

      1. The issue is you would have to hunt them down later. It would certainly be a good place to set up shop. Claim a spot there and start the farming.

  6. I’ll be massively disappointed if next chapter doesn’t involve either an epic bird/stoat fight or some awesome mermaid on troll action.

  7. They want things stable, predictable, and the both of us, we’re a possible threat to that stability.”
    “I’ve heard this too,” she said.

    I can’t remember when Blake said something like that to somebody before. Or does she not mean she overheard that from Blake, like she did “culling”, but she heard the same logic from another local troublemaker?

    “a spirit can become a god” sounds like a bit of knowledge Briar Girl or Padraic might have shared.

      1. Agreed, pretty much straight out of his backstory. Having experienced it (sort-of) himself he could probably make a similar thing happen to someone else. And this causes massive problems for his chosen targets.

  8. So Molly appears to be able to smack around the Duchamps and Behaims pretty well. North End Sorc is one visit from the Doctor/Butcher/Barber away from disaster. I think Rose might want to think about calling off the wedding.

  9. (I apologize in advance for the rant.)

    Wow, I did not like this chapter. Blake’s entire thought process was incongruous, and the story took a turn in a direction which made no sense to me.

    Comments:

    1. “But helping the guy I’d just been planning to kill” – Either Molly wanted to kill Alister, in which case there’s no issue with helping anyone, or Blake himself wanted to kill Alister, in which case he lied to Evan. I really thought Blake was going to accept the deal before the bell intervened.
    2. “I’d struggled to bring about change… and I wasn’t sure I liked how I’d succeeded, if I’d succeeded.” – How can Blake think that and then go on to commit this collossal, unforgivable stupidity?

    3 “Our biggest enemy isn’t the Behaims, or Conquest, or the demons. It’s the status quo. I guess I didn’t realize how much reality wanted to hold onto it.” – This makes no sense_. If we accept that, then it means karma has way too much of an impact on people in Pactverse, to the point that every character is just an automaton with no free will or agency. The conflict in Jacob’s Bell wouldn’t mostly be due to the decisions and personal failings of Thorburns, Behaims, Duchamps, and Johannes. It would absolve them of most of their responsibility, and take away a corresponding amount of impact from the story.

    1. And now that Blake has broken with Rose (which might include her faction), why does he even care about Jacob’s Bell or its status quo at all? He’s finally lost all reason to care, so he should just skip town.
  10. Blake vs. the Abyss Monster: The same guy who suicide-charged into Ur against all reason and never thinks before he acts is suddenly paralyzed and unsure what to do in a situation that should be more clear-cut than anything? It’s an agent of the abyss, i.e. an obvious monster, so just attack it.

  11. Blake: you never were Molly Walker’s cousin. You never even saw Molly Walker alive. All those memories belong to another person. And you aren’t even in front of Molly Walker; it’s the echo of her death by goblin torture, a wraith who should be totally incapable of reason, and who shouldn’t care about self-preservation. Why the hell would you say things like “We can’t hold onto the past, or we’re just going to perpetuate things” to an echo?! Holding onto the past is literally all they do!

  12. And then… Blake sides with Molly-wraith. HE HAS NO REASON TO DO THAT. The bell is one of the culprits who almost got his friends killed! This wraith should be almost as much of an enemy as Duchamps and Behaims!

  13. Their goals don’t fit, either! So far, Molly’s bell only demonstrated the capability for indiscriminate, wanton destruction. Molly’s Others won’t even respect young practitioners, or innocents, or anyone Blake would have tried to save; we saw that when Pizza Guy attacked the Thorburn innocents. By allying with Molly, Blake loses his chance of “culling” and instead becomes complicit in her pointless revenge. This alliance not only makes no sense, but it’s also one of the most clear-cut evil decisions in the story. Like using a demon.

  14. On that note: If Blake’s promise to kill the monsters doesn’t include Molly-wraith-god, then it’s worthless. Blake should just kill himself now, before he makes things even worse. At this point he’s certainly monster enough to count.

  15. “The moment things quiet down here, or the local practitioners get a firmer hold on their creations, they’ll probably put an end to you.” – If it was that easy, why didn’t they do it while the cost was low, right after Molly’s wraith began tolling the bell?

  16. Why is the Duchamp army conveniently far away from their houses and children? It’s like they intentionally rushed away from their weak point to leave the protagonist something to exploit…

  17. Evan failed as Blake’s moral tether throughout this chapter.

  18. Interesting. I didn’t expect it to ever happen, but in my perspective, Blake has finally done the truly unforgivable.

    1. I think you are majorly confused on multiple points. Few examples:

      “But helping the guy I’d just been planning to kill” – Blake is talking about Will, not Alister. Blake would have killed Will, if the time-reversal didn’t fix his wound.

      Blake vs. the Abyss Monster – Blake does not automatically side with humans now. His human Self was eroded by Abyss and human friends’ actions. Attacking Ur as a human diabolist practitioner is wholly different from attacking an boogeyman as a fellow boogeyman, especially when he might have chosen to kill the Duchamp woman himself (she came to fight as his enemy).

      Blake sides with Molly-wraith – Talking with Molly was a right decision. Being able to negotiate with Molly and influence her into more goal-oriented actions is at this point probably a good-thing, even though it is a double-edged sword as always.

      The order in which the monster are killed can be very important, and whether Molly or Blake himself should be on the monster-to-kill list is still questionable.

    2. Blake: you never were Molly Walker’s cousin. You never even saw Molly Walker alive. All those memories belong to another person. And you aren’t even in front of Molly Walker; it’s the echo of her death by goblin torture, a wraith who should be totally incapable of reason, and who shouldn’t care about self-preservation. Why the hell would you say things like “We can’t hold onto the past, or we’re just going to perpetuate things” to an echo?! Holding onto the past is literally all they do!

      That’s not really true. As Blake explained in the last chapter, when Ross was cut into two people, he got almost everything; Rose only got the absolute bare minimum necessary to qualify as a functional heir. (Why Rose Sr. would do that is another major question, but Blake’s observation here seems to be correct. At the very least, this reflects Blake’s views at the moment.)

      That means that Blake got Molly Walker as his cousin — that’s why he was friends with her, while Rose only had a vague memory (from the Barber filling in the blanks on the vast emptiness that was left when he gave almost everything to Blake.) The fact that Blake is only half of Ross doesn’t change that fact.

      Also, Blake’s existence depends on maintaining his position in the tug-of-war with Rose. That means he absolutely cannot give up his claim to any part of Ross’ life. Asserting that Molly is his cousin is a way of asserting that he’s a real person with an actual history.

      1. Just because he kept his memories of Molly doesn’t mean they were ever related. Ross was Molly’s cousin and friend. Blake is a different person (“person”) with a different personality, attitude, motivation, and goals. Even if he kept the memories.

        But more importantly, this isn’t Molly; Molly died months ago. This is just an echo. She should be far less human than Blake is, even now.

        1. This seems a bit nonsensical. By this argument, neither Blake nor Rose are in fact members of the Thorburn family or have parents or cousins, since those were Rake’s connections.

          Blake and Rose inherited more than just Rake’s memories and personality aspects. They also got their connections to people and things, which is why Blake had friends. “Molly’s cousin and friend” is a connection that Blake received, and so he was Molly’s cousin and friend.

          Blake also acknowledges in the text that this isn’t Molly. I’m not so sure that she’s less of a person, considering how warped she’s become. She got blood from Maggie for over a month, she got influenced by the things around her. She’s not a ghost anymore, and it’s possible that she might no longer be a wraith soon. She’s changing-she’s more than just an echo, now.

        2. Except Molly clearly isn’t just an echo. If she were, Blake trying to talk her out of focusing on the Behaims would just send her into a loop. Something else is going on. Maybe it’s something set up by RDT, maybe it’s from Corvidae, maybe it’s something about Molly.

          1. Even if something else is going on, Blake has no reason to know that. Everyone assumes she’s a wraith, and suddenly he treats her like she’s a human, rather than a revenge-fueled monster.

            She certainly shouldn’t be a soul: Molly’s ghost remained catatonic for months while Maggie fed her blood, which seems rather different from Evan. Therefore, her soul should be gone, so what’s left can’t be Molly. Otherwise, what’s the point of souls? Are Pactverse souls epiphenomenal (i.e. souls exist but don’t do anything)?

            1. I feel like I should point out here that Blake is also explicitly soulless.

              Blake is treating Molly like she’s a person, not like she’s human. It’s readily apparent from the fact that Blake is the POV character that soulless entities can be people. She’s not Molly, but she has Molly’s memories, her appearance, and some people think of her as Molly. That’s about as close to human as Blake’s ever been.

            2. This is hardly the first time someone has tried talking to a ghost. It’s how Blake got the ice hatchet way back, and Molly never started looping in this conversation. Even in her first meeting with Blake she was unusually coherent, and same with her conversation with the council. Ghosts don’t usually seem to realize they’re dead, but she seemed pretty clear on that point.

              There are lots of potential explanations for her soul, including that she doesn’t technically have one and is just an echo so strong she’s basically the original. Or her soul could have been temporarily stuck somewhere and connected to her ghost later, or just been dormant until fed enough power.

            3. 1) He actually liked her alive and promised her something when dead. Of course he treats her as a person rather than an empty thing: it’s initially sentimental. Then there’s also the whole “I’m not as human as I could be, myself” angle he’s coming from. 🙂

              2) Blake rarely treats anybody like they’re not somebody (even if he thinks they’re pretty disgusting and would rather not go near them even when armed with a ten-foot pole of so-not-touching-you). Heck, he even treated June as a person, even while she was reduced to being in a hatchet…. and, she was much more of fragment than Molly is. 😛

            4. I’d like to contest the explicitly soulless

              From the explanation we are given,The female gets the soul,but that might mean the male gets a replacement to fill the gap.Or that the male can grow one,or gain one depending on how souls work.So,while him being souless is not impossible,it is not necessarily true.

            5. Damn absence of edit buttons.

              Then again,I wanted to add,same goes for Molly wraith,she might have grown a soul.

        3. Let’s be real here. Neither of these people are really the Thorburns they were in life. Blake still has his personality and ties to his humanity, but all of that is gradually being buried by a twisted mockery of himself subsumed by aggression and spite.

          Even if she isn’t quite an Echo anymore Molly is still a simulation of her old self warped into a monster made of anger and indiscriminate sense of vengeance.

          If either Blake or Molly in the past saw what they would become, they’d probably be fucking horrified.

          The only chance for this to end without both of these things turning into full monsters that need to be bound and destroyed is for them to claw back their humanity inch by inch. Evan’s trying damn it, and has had some gradual success. But barring a serious intervention involving several people who are either non-present or on Molly’s shit list I don’t think there’s any hope for them.

            1. I don’t know. For me he crossed the stupid event horizon. The point where he has no hope of dragging himself out of his feedback loop of idiocy without outside help. But the moment he actually becomes totally evil is the moment he rescinds his “no going after the kids” rule. Right now he’s fifty fifty evil.

              Then again, I have this slim hope that part of his plan involves betraying Molly and getting her bound. That would be a karma hit, but who gives a shit at this point?

    3. Disclaimers: All IMO since so much of this is interpretation. And this chapter threw me a little. But there are reasons for most of the behavior you are objecting to:

      Re: first point 1
      “But helping the guy I’d just been planning to kill” refers to Will.

      Re: 2
      He’s realized his attempts to change things haven’t happened anywhere close to what he wanted, is still trying, and is altering his methods.

      Re: 3
      From my perspectice, this has been a major theme – karma is a bunch of little pressures, but it doesn’t let up. In order not to get swept along you have to be determined, powerful, or skilled (pick at least one, preferably two or three). RDT was all three and managed to survive a crushing karma burder. Blake has the first in spades but lacks the other two. But most of the characters (most people) are at most one of the three and get rewarded by the system, so they go along with it. And herd mentality takes over.

      Re: second point 1
      Stated in the text: the enemy is the system. Right here and now things are changing fast enough that he hopes to make a difference.

      Re: Blake vs. the Abyss Monster
      Part of the point is that Blake is weak and knows it. Part of the point is “enemy of my enemy”. Part of the point is Blake is having an existential crisis. Also, except for fairly clear self-defense situations, Blake planned to attack those he attacked, either specifically (Ur) or generally (any monster I can find). I think the point of chain-thing was to be a borderline case that forced Blake to reconsider his priorities.

      Re: you never were Molly Walker’s cousin
      Yes, he was. See Yglorba’s comment.

      Re: Blake sides with Molly-wraith
      He can’t reach his goals himself. Molly is powerful and is actually working against his goals. So, by subverting her he gains power and diverts someone who is working against his ideas. Sounds like a win-win to me. Like a miniature of the odd alliance near the end of Worm. And Blake admits it is an act of desperation.

      Re: By allying with Molly, Blake loses his chance of “culling” and instead becomes complicit in her pointless revenge.
      See above. By allying with Molly, Blake is focusing her power. Remember that revenge for revenge’s sake is something he wants to work against.

      Re: kill Molly-wraith-god
      See above again. If he can divert it, it is not a must-kill monster. And he is trying for change, not revenge.

      Re: If it was that easy
      They were focussed on Rose et al. at the time. And they probably didn’t see Molly as a big threat. And Sandra thought she had it handled. Up until Blake’s forced betrayal last chapter, Molly was hurting the Thorburns far more than she was hurting any of the other three sides, because the other sides were still able to control their summons.

      Re: Why is the Duchamp army conveniently far away from their houses and children?
      Closer to the action. Don’t want to call dangerous stuff inside their own demesnes. And the demesnes are pretty close to impregnable (Barbatorem excepted), so the children are safe, and we know from Joyce’s phone conversation that the children have practitioners watching them.

      Re: Evan failed as Blake’s moral tether throughout this chapter.
      No argument. It almost seems as if Evan switches modes in the middle of this chapter, from “kill the monsters” to “I dunno.”

      1. Re: If it was that easy
        They were focussed on Rose et al. at the time. And they probably didn’t see Molly as a big threat. And Sandra thought she had it handled. Up until Blake’s forced betrayal last chapter, Molly was hurting the Thorburns far more than she was hurting any of the other three sides, because the other sides were still able to control their summons.<

        Agreed.

        Also, I might misinterpret it, but not dealing with Molly-wraith in time was one of the in-character mistakes they made.
        I think all Lordship-contenders are delusional with their personal imaginary "way it should be"-world, where gaining more power for themselves justifies their every action.
        They didn´t care about goblins picking off civilians as long as their own families were safe and now, in the midst of a small war, they didn´t care about what Molly might be able to do, because all of them thought THEY were safe, but she MIGHT hurt one of the others and divert attention.
        They probably hoped one of the others would take care of Molly and use up precious ressources, time and effort while they themsevles would instead use that as an advantage against whoever took care of Molly.

        Personally I find that quite in-character and believable for the Lordship-contenders.

        Tl;dr: Whoever would have tried to deal with Molly would have put himself at an disadvantage and they didn´t band against her, because everyone thought they were safe.

    4. If we accept that, then it means karma has way too much of an impact on people in Pactverse, to the point that every character is just an automaton with no free will or agency.

      Well, karma is actually usually pretty subtle. Even here, it’s only pushing; it’s probably responsible in some way for Molly striking when Blake made the deal and nudging Others into the attack, but if it were really all-powerful Blake wouldn’t be able to push against the status quo in the first place

      And you aren’t even in front of Molly Walker; it’s the echo of her death by goblin torture, a wraith who should be totally incapable of reason, and who shouldn’t care about self-preservation. Why the hell would you say things like “We can’t hold onto the past, or we’re just going to perpetuate things” to an echo?! Holding onto the past is literally all they do!

      It’s pretty clear Molly isn’t exactly a wraith. She seems like pre-familiar Evan but more lucid. I’m thinking her actual soul is still around somehow. Also, it’s possible to make some progress talking to ghosts that are just echos.

      Their goals don’t fit, either! So far, Molly’s bell only demonstrated the capability for indiscriminate, wanton destruction. Molly’s Others won’t even respect young practitioners, or innocents, or anyone Blake would have tried to save; we saw that when Pizza Guy attacked the Thorburn innocents. By allying with Molly, Blake loses his chance of “culling”

      She did manage to drive Blake to attack a specific target, and she seems to be getting progressively more lucid.

      Why is the Duchamp army conveniently far away from their houses and children? It’s like they intentionally rushed away from their weak point to leave the protagonist something to exploit…

      Forward staging area, cuts down on travel time for their summons and creations. I also seriously doubt their houses are defenseless. A number of the teenage girls will have familiars, they can influence their demenses remotely, and they’ve probably got wards all over.

    5. wut wut wut wut?You make no sense

      1)Talking about Will

      2)Beecause he has to keep trying-change needs breaking things.

      3)You still understood very litle of this meaning,didn’t you?If you push the universe to break the status quo,the universe pushes back with bigger fiorce,this has been shown multiple times.This does not imply absence of free will-you are free to break your arm trying to break a rock,this does nnot mean you have no freedom,just that laws of physics restrict you.And you can still find a way to break a rock….The universe abhors change,but its not impossiblee,its just way too damn difficult to achieve because it will conspire to stop you.

      4)because he is a good person?because he wants closure?because he seeks justice?because he is a hero by nature,and damn him if he were to let the tragedy continue,he will stop it even if he has to kill half of Jacob’s bell practicioners?He is saving the ones who are worth it,the ones not yet tainted,the childs,the innocents and the Innocents.

      5)He is a monster because he is monstrous?he was a monster fighting a monster there,as far as he was concerned,and he only acted by inaction between what he perceived as 2 monsters,morever,he asjked Evan because he didn’t trust his insticts,if you want to blame someone,blame Evan,itwas his choice.Urr was another class of monster.

      6)He was,because he is half of the original,not a clone of the original,his memories are real and his.And this might not be Molly,but its an intelligent being,so he negotiated,not an echo,something more,something more like Conquest than June.

      7)Duchamps and Behaims caused the bell ,Molly,the consequences etc.You always have a reason to negotiate,no matter how monstrous the enemy looks.

      8)Wut wutwutwut.Sometimes you read things that are not there,Molly wants
      revenge,so Blake can use her,Molly has no others,Others are affected by her,Others being here is on the Duchamps/Behaims/Johaness’s head.Also TELL ME HOW THE FUCK TAKING A INDISCRIMINATE DESTROYING WEAPON AND TALKING IT INTO DESTROYING THE ROT INSTEAD OF DOING WANTON DESTRUCTION EVEN REMOTELY CONSTITUTES AN EVIL ACTION

      9)Not only did he not promise to destroy all monsters,but monster is a very heavy label to put to someone.Is the concept of deserved vengeance something that needs to be put down?maybe,but its not a monster.Better turn it against the ones who deserve it,and deal with it afterwards.

      10)Because they wanted to use her to atack the Thorbuns,duh.

      11)Because they needed to do a ritual…ok,I’ll give you that one.

      12)did he?I think he succeeded,a moral tether cannot deal in absolutes.

      13)interesting,I didn’t expect it to ever happen,but it seems like you didn’t like the chapter because yourreading comprehension fell to below 0.

  19. Interesting chapter, as always. A few things that stood out.

    1- Green Eyes’s entrance was hilarious. I love her. Note to all authors- demonic mermaids are a terrific source of black humor.

    2- It’s funny. Remember what a big deal the opening of the Birdcage was in Worm? And then, by the time it was actually opened, it couldn’t actually make anything worse. It’s like that with the Thorburns. No one would have considered making them practitioners.

    Now…well, things have already gone past the point where, at least immediately, they could completely screw things over.

    3- Molly. I mean, what the hell.

    Sure, go ahead and become a half ghost, half bell god. I don’t even know anymore.

    Right now, I’m going to care about three characters: Blake, Green Eyes, and Evan. That way, things will hurt a little less in the upcoming massacre.

  20. Wildbow I was wondering do you have any tips for writing? I always wanted to write a story or the like but am afraid I lack the skills to do so. Heck you are a great writer after all, least in my opinion, I never actually got into reading books no matter how hard I tried but Pact? Hell I am addicted… I’d buy a leatherbound book of Pact once its done… although Id be happy with just a physical book.

    1. I’m not Wildbow but just wanted to throw a comment in here:

      Noone starts off with the skill to write brilliantly-crafted stories. People become skilled writers by writing a lot and refining their work.

      Studying and reading is definitely valuable but to become a good writer you need to write.

      Once you’ve put words on a page you have something to look at and say “Okay, X didn’t work very well, so next time I’ll do Y”. That’s a lot more difficult to do with a blank page…

  21. I’ll include the Blakeguard on to that list.

    But yeah, I was scratching my head. Blake wants to stop the senseless cycle by… Killing more people from opposing families? Not a paradigm shift to me.

    1. the senseless cycle continues because all the major powers are at a deadlock, and the people in charge of said major powers are assholes.

      He figures that by upsetting the balance and killing all the assholes, the chaos and bloodshed will finally stop. He hasn’t been human for a long time though, so it was bound to hit this slippery slope at one point or another.

    2. No no, your looking at it wrong. right now there’s senseless killing that just weaken every faction, but in the end wont break any of them. He wants to change that by crippling one side. It’s tactics. Rather than hitting everyone a bit and have them all recover, he wants to focus on one side an take it out of the equation.

      Lets face it, no one’s listening to him right now, but, if he manages to take out one side out of the running? then he has clout.

      Also, and on a completely unrelated note: Chains other was awesome. I we we get to see him again.

  22. I’m glad to hear that Wildbow will eventually be returning to the Pactverse. I’ve absolutely loved this story so far, every chapter has been a joy, and I can’t wait for the next update!

  23. OK. Chain guy is probably the most gruesme thing I’ve read in pact. Seriously, dragging someone still kicking and screaming with giant hooks digging in their flesh? just typing it makes me cringe.

  24. Okay, yeah, that entire section of dialogue with blake and evan was a headache to read. I had to reread three times to sort out who said what, and when.

    He’s heading BACK to the house? WHY?!?!

    I gotta hand it to blake, climbing a building, taking apart a dead couple, mending yourself, and running to a park about 3 minutes away, all in under ten??? That’s pretty fucking efficient.

    Soooooooo… I noticed how molly hasn’t really answered how she got all that power. Just said how an idea can become a spirit, which can then become a god, but never said anything about HER doing any of that, nor how. Was this a misdirection, or am I just getting too used to blake dealing with practioners who can’t “lie” but love to say non-truths?

    1. I’m pretty sure that Molly is being fed power by the old goblin woman that Maggie dealt with. This seems to be the kind of thing she’d like.

    2. I don’t think Molly knows herself, although she’s probably feeding off the war.

      Also, Corvidae is a likely candidate for telling her about that idea. She might be a major step in his plan for the Thorburns.

      1. Well yeah, she probably is feeding off the war, but I mean, look at blake. He’s similar in the sense of being wraith-like and being able to feed off of fear and negativity, but he’s nowhere near powerful enough to have city-wide omnipresence and have city-wide mass agro-bombs.

  25. the opposite direction

    Oh, right. So back north again, either to Johannes, very unlikely, or Hillsglade House with the others.

    attack from another angle
    I’m reminded of Rose calling the mirror world one of the more “oblique angles”. And hey the frozen lake has a reflection to attack from. But that doesn’t seem very useful here.

    Or he could have drawn inspiration from his brother bogeyman, or “bogeybro”, and wants to go back down into the Tenements only to emerge right behind Sandra and her husband and drag them both screaming into the Abyss.

  26. Random question, but does anyone have an easy way to calculate words counts for each of the first five arcs of Pact? In other words, how many total words in Arc 1, how many total words in Arc 2, etc. . .

  27. So, Chains Other: closer to Pyramid Head or a Brother from Void?
    Actually, a Void/Pact crossover would make all kinds of sense.

    1. Frankly, I think the Abyss is quite capable of being its own Pyramid Head if it needs one, two or even more. 😛

      Makes you think, though: all those who come from it have its tendrils in them: how much can it influence them into doing what it wants… if it even wants anything specific?

  28. Wow, Blake no longer considers cutting people’s spines out and shoving them into his chest to be at all weird. He’s definitely losing it.

    I admit I no longer really have a clear idea of what Blake’s goals are or what he’s doing. Is that intentional? So far he’s had at least three “I need to stop the bloody cycle… I know what I’ll do! Everybody come with me!” end-of-chapter epiphanies, and every time he seems to get more and more confused and directionless with them. It’s really sad.

    1. I don’t know if Blake knows what his goals are anymore. And what’s worse, if he doesn’t, he definitely doesn’t know he doesn’t.

  29. One folded segment of spine went into my middle, which still gaped open. Almost like intestine.
    Is this Blake growing more human, or less?

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