Execution 13.7

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I was the monster from the movies.  Difficult to put down, creative in how I killed.  I operated by a pattern, and I accomplished what I set out to do.

In assuming my role, here, in lining things up and knocking them down, in sticking to my word, and in doing justice, I was being rewarded by the universe.  Things were being allowed to go my way.  I didn’t have the burden of Thorburn karma.  I was fledgling, relatively newborn, and the parts of me that were older were being subsumed, eroded away in favor of me becoming more of a monster.  I was becoming less of a fragment of Russel or Ross Thorburn, and more of a complete Other thing.

I had no illusions.  I was walking a fine line, a tightrope.  One serious mistake, and I stood to fall, and fall hard.

The Duchamps were walking through the dark and the drifting snow.  I barely looked at them, my eyes on the ground where I walked, my attention elsewhere.

“They’re going to see us,” Evan said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Is bad,” Evan said, stressing the words, like I was a small child.

“It’s good,” I murmured.  “I can tell when they’re scared.  The trick is to only give them glances of us.  Get them nervous.  Let them worry.”

I glanced at Green Eyes.

“What do you think I was doing when we first met?” she asked.  “I thought if you startled and fell, I could catch you.”

I nodded.

By all rights, I should have been annoyed.  I had concerns about Green Eyes, that went beyond the fact that she openly talked about murdering people.  She was impulsive, and that wasn’t just a problem in terms of the risk it posed to her, but it was a problem in the risk it posed to her victims.

That woman, Jan, I wasn’t sure she’d really deserved to be killed.

“Green Eyes,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“You made me a promise, that you would be careful about who you targeted.”

“Yeah.”

“One of the four remaining targets is the old man in that group.”

“With the necklace?”  Evan asked.

“Yeah.  With the necklace.  His schtick is messing with fortune, basically.  He knows how to play the game, how to get the universe on his side, and presumably that means things go against his opponents.”

“Against us,” Green Eyes said.

“Against us,” I said.

I felt a spike of attention as someone noticed me, peering backward over their shoulder and into the gloom.

I changed direction, picking up speed, and let them put some distance between myself and them.

The fear only heightened, in the moment they lost sight of me.

“You’ll need to be especially careful when we go up against him,” I said.  “You can’t jump in like you have twice now, especially now that we’ve got a guy like him in play.  Even if you think I’m in danger.  Even if we aren’t fighting him, specifically.  Even after, it’s just…”

“Okay,” Green Eyes said.

“Okay?”  Just like that.

“I’ll try.”

“I may need more than a try,” I said.  “If you go after the wrong person, or if his magic kicks in and throws a wrench in the works…”

“I’ll try,” she said.  “I’ll try.”

“You don’t trust yourself enough to be sure?”

She turned her face up to look at me.  I hadn’t realized how dark it really was, with how my eyes had adjusted to the gloom, and my natural ability to see in darkness.  But her eyes glowed much as they had in the oppressive darkness of the Drains.

“Do you trust yourself?” she asked.

I didn’t have an honest answer for her.

“That’s not supposed to be snarky or clever.  It’s a real question,” she said.  “Physically, you’re about as messed up as I am.  But your head?  Your heart?  That’s different.  You get hurt and you fill in the gaps with bits of ‘monster’, but you’re doing it faster than I was.  But the stuff that hurts your body is different than stuff that hurts your head and your heart.”

“You’re asking how hurt my heart and head are?”

“Yeah.”

“If that kind of hurt affects your head, then I feel like I should be more monstrous than I am, there.”

“Yeah,” she said.  “Do you trust yourself, when you think about that?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Fairly sure I do.”

“A small part of me feels like I was the sort of person who didn’t trust herself, even before I was a monster,” Green Eyes told me.  “How can I be sure I can trust myself now?”

“That’s a good question,” I said.  “I wish I had an answer.”

“You’re such a guy,” she said.  “God.  Not every question needs an answer.  Not every problem needs advice.  Sometimes the question is an answer.  My question was an answer.”

“Oh, oh, I know this one!” Evan chimed in.  “Rhetorical question.”

“That wasn’t exactly what I meant,” Green Eyes said.

“But it’s still rhetorical!”

“Shh,” I said, “We don’t want them to hear.  There are some Others in that group.”

It’s still rhetorical,” Evan whispered.  Green Eyes raised her head to stick her tongue out at him.

We were drawing closer to the retreating group.  The conversation was distracting from my thoughts about strategy, how to deal with them before they found a sanctuary of sorts.  Getting them scared was good.  Scared meant they were more likely to make mistakes, or to show their hands.

They were, I noted, putting more creatures in the back ranks.

“I think being with you helps,” Green Eyes said, her voice small.

I glanced down at her.

“With my feeling sure of myself.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that.

Evan looked up at me.  He switched to looking down at her, for just a second, as if he were checking something, then looked up at me.

He hopped in place once, silent.

“Good,” I said.

Green Eyes smiled.

Evan sighed.

Why did Green Eyes seem to associate creepy, predator-ish situations with these sorts of discussions?  In grave danger?  I like you!   Stalking potential victims?  You’re swell!

I had to focus.  We didn’t have a lot of time, and we needed to figure out an angle for attack.  We’d caught them off guard once.  Then we’d hit them from the air… I’d been hoping that the darkness, the cold, and the general ambiance of a town at war would generate cracks I could manipulate.

The way things were going, however, it looked like fear wouldn’t provide any choice opportunities to pick off members of the crowd.  Mason Hall-McCullough, as it happened, had a lot of luck to spare, and it was helping him there.

I could only make out the rear of the group, and I couldn’t help but notice the way the group moved.  Slowing a bit, people changing direction.  The Others were moving more to the sides of the group.  Was something else attacking?

I slowed, and, unable to stick an arm out to stop Green eyes from crawling, stuck one foot out to touch her shoulder.

If we’d been moving, or focused on something else, I might have missed it.  Someone rose to their feet as the last members of the group caught up to them, and fell in stride with the group.  A man with a blond beard.

I caught the look he cast back over his shoulder as he noticed me noticing him.  I felt his fear.  Not as pronounced as some.  He wasn’t as scared, and there was a reason.

“They’re getting away,” Green Eyes said.

“Move slow,” I told the others.

We did.  Smaller steps.

I saw the spot where the guy had stopped.

Almost invisible, drawn in the snow and ice with thick lines of something blue, it had melted snow and ice down to pavement, and was consequently surrounded by a darker outline.  A diagram.  Not a circle, but something complicated.  From my perspective, it looked like a distorted triangle , with complex geometric lines within, the flat side pointed toward us.  The far end of the triangle crossed over, and formed what could have been described as supports for a smaller diagram.

“Huh,” Evan said.  “What is it?”

“A trap,” I said.

“Does the trap have something to do with the box over there?”

“Box?” Green Eyes and I both asked, almost in sync.

“Yeah.  Box.  Far side.  Squiggly bit, circle, zig-zag, then the forky bit, and there’s the circle on the far bit of the forky bit…”

The smaller diagram, supported by the larger triangle.

“Yeah,” I said.

“And in that circle…?” he asked.

“They’re getting away, don’t drag this out.”

“Hmph,” he grunted, which was a very small grunt coming from such a small body, “Wooden box, between the black chunks of frozen slush.”

Green Eyes reached over and grabbed my side for support, fingers encircling branches, to raise herself further off the ground.  “Ah, yeah.”

“Okay, then, doing this carefully…”

I advanced for a closer look.

On the third step, the diagram reacted.

Smoke, as snow and ice evaporated.  The diagram had changed, the supporting lines around the smaller diagram extending further, and to either side.

“Geez,” I said.  I took another half-step closer, and watched as the smoke and lines extended further.  “Reacts to proximity.  Evan?  Be careful.”

Evan flew out, turning immediately, then came back to land on my shoulder.

I saw more smoke rise, almost the sort of thing that could be mistaken as air from a storm drain or a sharp draft of wind that stirred the snow.  The diagram had extended further.

It was duplicating.  Four triangles forming a square, with the box presumably at the center.

It was, it seemed, sensitive enough to react to Evan.

“We should go around,” Green Eyes said.

“We’d lose too much time,” I said.  “We’d lose them.”

I bent down, and grabbed a hunk of frozen slush.  Ice black with accumulated grime, the sort that fell off the underside of a car.  I tossed it, then caught it.

“Can you hit it?” Evan asked.

“I’m not sure I should,” I replied.  “I’m looking at the diagram, and… look.  Some diagrams keep things out.  Some keep them in.  You can look at the way that things point, and infer a lot from that.  Triangles pointing in, triangles pointing out…”

“Point of the big triangle closest to us touches the box,” Evan said.  “The ones that are further away do too.”

“Are you sure it wouldn’t be faster to go around?” Green Eyes asked.  “I’m pretty sure I can keep up, if you don’t go quite as fast as you did before.”

“Smaller symbols seem to point inward, if I had to guess,” I said.  “I don’t recognize the language.  What’s the box like?”

“It’s… sort of like the box of books the priest tried to put me in.  But wooden blocks.  Like a child’s blocks.  What’s that game where you build the tower and pull out pieces?”

“It collapses, then,” I said.  “It’s built to break.”

“Yeah.”

I dropped the hunk of ice.

“We could be going around,” Green Eyes said, practically squirming in impatience.  “Just saying.”

“As traps go, I don’t think we want whatever’s in that box to get out,” I said.  “It could be a curse, an Other…”

“Or a distraction from chasing them,” Green Eyes said.  “A mystical bit of mumbo jumbo to catch your attention and not let it go.  Because that’s how those enchantresses work, right?”

“It’s not impossible,” I said.  I walked around the diagram, keeping an even distance from it.

“Just like that,” Green Eyes cajoled.  “Keep walking.  Or run.  Don’t focus on the box.”

But I stopped.  The four triangles didn’t meet at the corner.  There was a gap between the four sections of the symbol.

Nothing in or pointing to the gap.  Nothing, as far as I could tell, that worked with or included the gap.

I positioned myself carefully, then walked down one of the four paths, between two of the triangles.  It was only a foot and a half wide.

I reached the center of the diagram.  I was careful not to breach the lines of the triangles, keeping my body angled to one side, my hands and arms within the lines.  The only lines of the diagram I actually crossed were the lines of the circle encapsulating the box.

With the side of my thumb, I scratched out the blue stuff, distorting the smallest triangles within the innermost circle, the ones that pointed everything toward the box.

I angled my head one way, then the other, examining the box.  It had been placed with two pieces of ice blocking the view of it from our direction.

Then I reached out and took hold of it.

“What are you doing?” Evan asked.

“Being very careful,” I said.  “Which is a lot easier when people don’t speak very suddenly, right in my ear.”

“I bet.  Screw those jerks.”

I was careful to keep pressure on the right spots of the box, holding its shape by keeping pressure on the edges.

As I drew it out of the circle, backing down the path, it started to shudder.

The box growled.

“I greet you, stranger,” I spoke.

It growled again.

“I bid you to name yourself,” I said.

Inomenos,” the box answered.  “Who are you, to bid anything of me?

“Blake.  The Thorburn bogeyman,” I said.  “What are you?”

You’re not worthy to ask the question, bottom-dweller.

“Am I?”  Evan asked.

“I am Inomenos.  I am a wrong, made by man, released against men.  I have earned a name for myself.”

A curse, given life, I thought.

“You’re bound by the Seal of Solomon?”

Yes.  You’re bound to truth, but you’re not bound to any seal.

“I’ll take your word for it,” I said.  “I’m more interested in the rules that bind you.”

“I am not obliged to answer, monster of the Thorburns.”

“Monster of the Thorburns is far less descriptive than you’re imagining,” I said.  “The family is mostly monsters, honestly.”

Blake,” Green Eyes said.  “They’re gone.”

“Listen, can we cut through the rigamarole?” I asked.

Rigamole.  Cut?  I do not know this word, nor the phrasing.

“Just answer my questions, and I might let you out.”

“What?”  Evan asked.

The box hadn’t answered, so I only offered my first question.  “When you’re free of the box, what are your instructions?”

To devastate my master’s enemies until fifteen minutes pass without my finding them, then to return, and await being bound once more.

“Can we redefine ‘master’ here?” I asked.  “Can you call me master?”

The thing chuckled, from within its box.  “No.  Not a thing such as you.  A mortal, only.  A man.”

“The bird?” I asked.

Yeah!

I continued, “The body is-”

“Insufficient.  Not yet a man.”

“‘Man’ is vague,” I said.  “He’s still mortal.”

Vaguely mortal, vaguely a man, vague in form.”

Evan bristled.

“Okay, scratch that line of thinking,” I said.

Green Eyes gave me a look, and I jerked my head in the appropriate direction.  Might as well get moving.

The diagram continued to unfold like a flower as we approached and walked past it.  When it became complete on all sides, an energy of some sort gathered in the middle.  The snow and ice in the center of the diagram spurted a bit, forming a plume of snow and ice that exploded in a general way, before striking the road again.

We walked at a good clip.  I didn’t want to run, but walking was too slow.  Moving at a light jog let me move just fast enough to watch where I was going.  I definitely didn’t want to fall and let the box fall apart under me.

“Let me explain my line of thinking,” I told Inomenos-in-a-box.  “I want to screw with the guy that summoned you.”

Silence.  Only the sound of my footsteps, the scratching sounds as Green Eyes’ scales scraped over ice, and the distant, faint tolling of the bell.

“He put you in a box instead of just summoning you and pointing you at me.  To me, that says something about his relationship with you.  Am I wrong?  Or would you like a chance to go after him?”

I’m forbidden from harming him until the close of the deal.

“The deal is closed when you’re bound again?”

“Yes.”

Pretty standard.

“Then… okay.  What if we made a separate deal?  So it didn’t get in the way of the one you made with him?”

“Another deal?”

“Are you prohibited from indirect harm?”

“If I intend to harm, even indirect harm is prevented.”

I resisted the urge to curse.  Annoying.

“Then… I swear to release you, provided you swear to grant us the same protection from harm you gave the one who summoned you…”

I would rather remain,” Inomenos told me.  “In hopes you drop the container, or lose it.

“I’m not done,” I said.  “Go after the ones near him.  The blonde women.  Return to him as you’re instructed, but seek out the ones within ten paces of him.  Plague them, torment them, but don’t inflict any permanent harm on them.  Nothing they’ll suffer from, in body, mind, or heart, more than a day from now.”

I have reason to believe they are his allies,” Inomenos said.

“I’ll give you one reason to see them as his enemies.  If you look, I suspect you’ll see that the men do not keep the company of the women.  They’re reluctant to mingle, except where they’re otherwise bound together as family, as married couples.  There is doubt in their hearts, fear, and confusion.”

“If this is so, I will do them mischief.

“Good,” I said.  “Agree to do me and my companions no harm, and to return to your master to be bound if you do not find your suspicions validated.”

“Agreed.”

“Try to catch them by surprise,” I said.  “Before they know you’re coming, the more you’ll achieve.  Time is short.  The more time you can cost them, the more it will hurt.  It’s a good way to do mischief for them.”

“I will try.”

“Go for it,” I said.

I tossed the box to the ground.

It broke into its constituent elements.

Inomenos appeared in a dark cloud, flexing four skeletal arms, yawning until his lower jaw nearly reached his pelvis, where his legless body stopped.  There was only dark smoke beneath.  His face was like melted wax, the teeth few and far between.

He howled, but it was an eerie, wrong sort of sound.  Where most noises seemed like they started from the mouth and expanded outward, his howl was almost like he was devouring sound, drawing it in, and drawing himself forward in the same motion.  He disappeared into the darkness and snow ahead of us.

“Huh,” Evan said.

It didn’t take too long to catch up with them.  It helped that we could hear the screaming.  Inomenos’ screams, more than the rest.

The area was residential, the houses older and not so well kept.  The group was in one house’s front yard.  Snow had cascaded from the roof to block off the door and front windows.

The sounds were horrible, and I wasn’t particularly vulnerable to it all.  Many of the younger Duchamps were bent over, hands over their ears.  One noticed me as I looked at her.  She looked my way, and I could see images dancing across her eyes, as if they were television screens.  Herself, a crowd, in a place that wasn’t here.  It was some place with pillars and marble walls.

The older ones were holding up, though, they each had their own images dancing across their eyes.

They were forming rank and file, implements out.  Lenses, rings, bowls filled with oil.

Trying to bind the spirit.

Slowly succeeding, as its mobility seemed to be getting cut off.

The guy with the blond beard that I’d seen by the diagram was moving through the crowd, toward it.  Duchamp women stepped or staggered out of the way.

“Take a long route, go, do what you can, then get clear,” I told Evan.

He took off.

“And me?” Green Eyes asked.  “You want me to stay back?”

She was pulling the closest thing she could manage to puppy dog eyes, given her translucent eyelids, and a bit of agitation at the end of her tail, twitching restlessly.  I could remember how eager she’d been to keep moving.

“No,” I said.  “You can come.  I think I’ve healed enough.  Here.”

I offered a hand.

She climbed up onto my back, tail encircling my torso.  Her hair draped over one of my shoulders as she leaned forward, elbows bent at angles.

Keep your friends close, I thought.  We focus so much on the ‘keep our enemies closer’ part.

I glanced around, and then took a route opposite to the one Evan had taken, through a backyard.  Circling the group of men that was so distinct from the women.

“Do you know the witch in the Drains?”  I asked.

“I know of her.”

“She explained this bit of fortune telling once.  Apparently I drew the High Priestess with the left hand.  I have to be careful about who I gather around me, or it’ll be disastrous.”

“You’re talking about me?”

I stopped in my tracks.

Maenads.  The High Priest’s bloodstained, drunk murderesses.  Their hair was disheveled, as were their winter clothes, and they had the eyes of animals.  One was perched on the corner of one roof, the other stood between the two houses.

“Shit,” I said.  “Now I’m doing it.”

Doing it?

“Talking about stuff in the middle of a crisis.”

“What were you saying?”

The Maenad on the corner of the roof leaped.  A lump of snow the size of her dropped off the roof.

I lurched to one side, thinking she was going to leap onto me, but she didn’t.  She dodged off to one side, and circled around.

Putting me and Green Eyes in the middle of the two.

“We each take one,” Green Eyes said.

I expected her to leap, saying that, but she didn’t.

“Y-” I started

Green Eyes leaped.

“-es.” I finished.

The Maenad took her head on, fingernails extended like claws, teeth bared.

I didn’t have a chance to see the catfight, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to.  My focus was on the other one.

She moved quickly, and not in a straight line.  Her feet touched the wall of the one house, where siding stopped and concrete began, and she propelled herself over to the railing surrounding one house’s porch.  The entire railing wobbled with the sudden weight, snow flying, as she ran along the top, the toes of her boots scraping ice beneath the lighter snow.

As graceful as a jungle cat.  About as violent, I imagined.  She reached the end of the railing and leaped.

I swung the Hyena for center mass.

One boot settled on my knee, the other hit the knuckles of my hand.  I could see her muscles flex beneath the tight-fitting, unbuttoned  jeans she wore.

She was like that for a fraction of a second.  I saw her nostrils flare.  Even as her face screwed up in disgust, smelling something on the Hyena, she kicked herself away, landing on all fours, elbow and knee deep in snow.

These are his god’s warriors.

One hand reached into her coat pocket.  I tensed, ready to throw the Hyena if I had to.

A handful of cigarettes and joints.

She raised them to her mouth, bit, and let them fall, scattered, onto the snow.

She was still biting an old fashioned lighter that had been in the jumble.

Fire?

Her hand disappeared into her jacket again.

I charged, forcing my way through the snow.

She leaped back to maintain distance between us, and stumbled on something in the snow, and caught her balance, hands going wide to her side.

A flask.

Aw hell no.

Teeth pulled the stopper from the flask.  She tossed back a swig.

Bad.

She hit the lighter with a practiced flick, producing flame.

Still moving forward, I bent low, grabbing at the snow.  Scooping it in one hand, and hurling the handful of snow at her face.

Just a little too powdery.

She spat alcohol through the open flame, letting it ignite.

I had to let myself fall in deep snow that hadn’t been shoveled all winter, to avoid getting ignited.

She took another swig.

I was only halfway to my feet.  I dove into the snow.

I felt heat roll over my back.

Okay.  Snow was a good enough shield.  How much alcohol could she have?

Stupid question.

It was just me and Green Eyes, here.

Right.  Switch things up.

Trust.  Keep my friends close.

I twisted around, rising, my back to my opponent, my eyes on Green Eyes’ continued struggle with the other Maenad.

The Maenad was on top, pinning the tail down with one foot.  Green Eyes had a grip on one wrist, but one of her own wrists was being gripped, fingernails digging in past scale and skin to the meat below.  There was a trail of blood on one lip and a bite mark on her collarbone that was bleeding a lot.

I didn’t think.  I only threw.

Hurling the Hyena.

The Maenad I was fighting sputtered, losing whatever alcohol she’d just taken into her mouth, and screeched out a belated warning in Greek.

The Hyena embedded itself in her sister’s back.

The screech of rage, oh man.

Green Eyes pulled the Hyena free, tossing it to me.  I caught it in both hands, to avoid catching the blade.  She had descended into the snow before I had it in my grip.  Swimming in it.

I saw the remaining Maenad’s eyes widen.  Yes, she could get me, with another swig and a breath of fire, but doing so came at the cost of Green Eyes maybe getting her.

She leaped back to the point between the houses, then backed away more.

She howled, wordlessly.  A mad scream that joined the noises in the background.

Calling for help.

Fuck.

“Green Eyes!” I shouted.

She didn’t pop her head up.

It didn’t take five seconds for the help to arrive.  More Maenads, Bacchae, and Satyrs.

Clambering over the houses, with roofs so easy to reach now that the snow was as high as it was.  Over the porches.

I backed away, but it was slow going, mired in snow.

The High Priest of Dionysus approached down the length of the alley, where the snow wasn’t as high, due to the two adjacent buildings and the overhang of the roofs.  He stopped at the end of the so-called path, so he wasn’t wading in mermaid-infested snow.  His Maenads flanked him.

“Blake,” he said.  “You’ve managed to be an ungodly nuisance.

“Going by the fear I can feel from that group of people, I’ve been more than a nuisance.”

“Yes.  You’ve been other things, but that doesn’t change that you’ve been a nuisance.”

“Point conceded.”

“Any last words?” he asked.

“Why would I need last words?” I asked.  “I’m not planning on dying anytime in the immediate future.”

“It’s a courtesy.  I only need to say a word to my deity to lay you out flat.”

The Maenad said something in Greek.

“Your mermaid, as well.”

“Sure,” I said.

“You’re not going to escape.  You weren’t going to escape the moment they caught your scent, without that damnable bird around to shake it.”

I didn’t have a response for that.

“Just so you know,” he said.  “I have no intention of attacking your friends.  You’re removed, we have plans for Rose.  I fully intend to talk to Sandra and urge her to banish your friends from Jacob’s Bell.  This isn’t their town, and it’s not good for them.  I’m sure you’ll agree it’s better for them if they’re not here.”

“I don’t disagree,” I said.  “Thank you.”

“Despite everything I’ve done,” he said, “I did want to be a good Lord.”

“Despite what I’ve done here, tonight, I only intended to remove the most problematic men from the Duchamp’s roster.  I hoped it would shatter the family’s power base, done right.  Make people think twice about maintaining their alliance with the family.”

“What does that achieve?  They’re still obligated to stay, to help, by compacts made months, years, or decades ago.  Fight in service to the family in a qualifying situation.”

“I needed the Enchantresses alive, if we were going to collectively rally against Johannes,” I said.  “But at the same time, I needed the family broken.  Maybe the husbands will stay and help take the Lordship, but if they know that this is a bum deal, if they’re going to get killed off while the Duchamps walk off frazzled but okay?  If they’re wondering if they’ll get murdered at the request of other Duchamps… can the Duchamps keep what they’ve taken?”

“I see,” he said.  “And if they can’t keep what they’ve taken, will they still bare their necks?  I’m almost disappointed you failed.”

I shot him a quizzical look.

He shrugged.  “I can love the woman, even if I loathe much of what her last name brings.”

“Why?”

“Have you ever had your heart broken?” he asked.  “It’s an important question.”

I had to stop to think.

“I can’t say for certain,” I told him, “But I think, in a way, I am a broken heart.”

He tilted his head a little to one side.

“Jeremy!” Sandra cried out.

Jeremy half-turned.

She stopped, freezing.  “Back away, very slowly.”

Jeremy did.  One step back, then another.

Green Eyes emerged from the snow in front of him.  Her jaws were open wider than a human could pull off, teeth open, a bear trap, waiting to be sprung.  A half-foot from Jeremy’s groin.

He backed away another step.  Green Eyes matched his pace, maintaining the distance.

Jeremy glanced to one side.  “You didn’t smell her?”

From the length of Green Eyes’ snow-crusted hair, Evan shook himself free of snowflakes.

“Ah,” he said, with a note of finality.

His eyes met mine.  Level.  Serious.  Unflinching.

Green Eyes was waiting for my cue.

The maenads and satyrs were waiting for his.

I was utterly still, in a way only a bogeyman could be.

Jeremy was still in a way that only a guy with his private parts in a bear trap could be.

“Green Eyes,” I said.  “Back off.”

She didn’t budge.

“Seriously,” I said.  “Don’t touch him.  It’s okay.”

She remained still for a moment, then backed away an arm’s length.  Jeremy stepped back, and Satyrs drew closer, to protect him.

“Okay,” Jeremy said.

“How much bad karma do you rack up for setting your monsters on us now?” I asked.

“I imagine it’s less,” he replied, “than it might be for turning on one’s wife.”

He turned around, facing down Sandra, not me.

I could see the confusion on the maenad’s and satyr’s faces.

“I love you so much, Sandra,” he said.

“I know,” she replied.  “Bastard.”

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251 thoughts on “Execution 13.7

    1. Eh, she’s really tough and strong, and the whole “Bogeymen don’t die, they just get angrier” thing is in effect. Plus, while she’s impulsive, her decisions have been pretty decent once you remember that she’s made of armor and sharp bits and thus tends to win fights.

      As for the last line, I gather that Jeremy has decided he will take the karma hit for turning on Sandra, because he’s not just a drunk.

      “Despite everything I’ve done,” he said, “I did want to be a good Lord.”

            1. It’s has nothing to do what Sandra has done. It has everything to do with him wanting to free her and by extension her family from the things that wrecked their marriage.

              Their alliance mostly depends on Blake not going through more motive decay and trying to murder the core family, assuming it doesn’t fall apart as soon as he sees the Wraith.

            2. What nickfernan said. Sandra may be head of the Duchamps, but she’s as much a victim of the family as any other Duchamp. Her Histories chapter showed as much.

            3. It’s not Sandra he’s actually turning on. It’s the surname “Duchamp”.

              He really, really loves her and is doing this for what they lost. [wibbles in corner]

            4. sigh the problem here is some of the individual people might not be irredeemable, but the families as entities themselves are Monstrous. on the incredibly unlikely chance that it turns out to be true, im calling the Families themselves having formed into a quasi- or full conscious malevolent entity or entities.

            5. sigh the problem here is some of the individual people might not be irredeemable, but the families as entities themselves are Monstrous.

              The hell? We’ve explicitly seen members of the families that are redeemable (insofar that they need to be “redeemed”). Wildbow’s been hammering in that these people are people with feelings and families and Blake’s been recognizing that.

            6. I think he’s meaning the idea, or systems the families have set up. Think of it this way. The Duchamp family name, the Behaim name, the Thorburn name… These things have been fed by the members of the families until they’ve taken on a sort of life of their own. And they have shackled the the members of the families, binding them in a fate so the family may feed even more on it.

            7. “Think of it this way. The Duchamp family name, the Behaim name, the Thorburn name… These things have been fed by the members of the families until they’ve taken on a sort of life of their own.”

              I think may end up on the list somehow. What was the very first thing she did when the Thorburn relatives logged onto the chat? Person[Th] — she was really enforcing the whole “our families are the most important thing, tradition, etc., etc.”

        1. I think it’s more so he’s taking a stand against the Duchamp family. As we’ve seen from Sandra’s History, in matters relating to the Family, she gives the Duchamps priority. This puts the couple at odds.

            1. She’d gotten pregnant and Dionysus made sure it was a boy, counteracting the magic on her family line. Since Sandra states she doesn’t have children, it’s pretty safe to assume an abortion occurred. It also broke apart the fragile marriage they had considering they genuinely loved one another.

            2. The child whose father he was. The one that Dionysus turned into a boy to break up his and Sandra’s marriage.

            3. Yes, his child. While it’s obviously the woman’s choice to do what she wishes with her body, that doesn’t mean that the could-have-been father can’t be heartbroken.

            4. Yep, Sandra and Jeremy were going to have a boy. But apparenlty whatever the Duchamps did to get their power will be broken if any of them ever gives birth to a son. Since Dyonisis didn’t really like the marriage he made it so Sandra would have a boy…

              Now I know his god loves tragedies, but he seems like the sort to like comedies as well. And when you consider the circumstances of Dyonisies birth… Jeremy should have found a way to magically transfer the fetus into himself so he was the one who gave birth. Hilarity. Like that movie with Arnold.

            5. Funny enough, children have two parents. It is as legitimate to call it “his” child as it would be to call it “hers”

    1. Typos:

      • “Move slow,” -> “Move slowly,”

      • “It’s a good way to do mischief for them.” -> “to them”? or “to do the mischief”?

      • “She explained this bit of fortune telling once.” -> “fortune-telling”

      • “an old fashioned lighter” -> “old-fashioned”

      • IIRC the Maenad, Bacchae and Satyrs weren’t always capitalized in the story.

      1. I disagree with the claim that any but possibly the last are typos.
        *People don’t always talk in sentences, especially when giving commands.
        *”mischief for them” means mischief on their behalf, which is correct
        *hyphenation rules vary wildly by region
        *”

          1. Looking at that page, I think “fortune telling” falls under:
            “Do not hyphenate noun-plus-gerund compounds (present participle used as a noun); they may be written as one or as separate words”

    2. I had concerns about Green Eyes, that went beyond the fact that she openly talked about murdering people.
      looks like a comma splice – reads better without the comma

      schtick
      shtick

    3. The thing chuckled, from within its box. “No. Not a thing such as you. A mortal, only. A man.”
      -From here, Inomenos stops speaking in italics.

      “If this is so, I will do them mischief.”
      -The ‘I’ in ‘If’ is not italicized

      1. Wikipedia appears to have failed me in this regard, but I did notice that Inomenos reminded me of Nocturne from League of Legends, but with two extra arms. And no blades.

          1. Greek here,it sounds kinda like wrath of wine using anciend greek?(menos means wrath/madness,inos might be wine,both have spelling different than the ancient greek ones because it had different letters,but they sound like the right words)

    1. It comes from the same root as my name here, “Innominate”, which means “unnamed”. “Nomenos” is Latin for “name”, and the “i” prefix negates it. Hence “Inomenos” means “no-name”.

  1. Why did Green Eyes seem to associate creepy, predator-ish situations with these sorts of discussions? In grave danger? I like you! Stalking potential victims? You’re swell!

    Because she is the best female character in the entire setting.

    I expected her to leap, saying that, but she didn’t.

    “Y-” I started

    Green Eyes leaped.

    “-es.” I finished.

    See?

    Also, looks like the Thorburn victory party will be well-supplied in the beer department.

    1. Why did Green Eyes seem to associate creepy, predator-ish situations with these sorts of discussions? In grave danger? I like you! Stalking potential victims? You’re swell!

      Because she is a predator, such situations in the company of the opposite gender would be like going out for a dinner & a movie.

      1. Y’know, it could be just as simple as that these situations get her heart racing and make her feel alive and that comes with a corresponding spike in confidence and passion.

  2. Oh, Jerry! You’re so much fun!

    “I needed the Enchantresses alive, if we were going to collectively rally against Johannes,”

    Since when was that the plan? Did I miss something or does Blake’s overarching plan for this Arc seem kinda like cause chaos and plan as he goes along? That monster judgement . . .

    Green Eyes and Evan were wonderful this chapter, as always. A Green Eyes trap is a great trap.

    I really want to see this arc from a Duchamp perspective. Blake walks up and starts killing husbands. Then he sends a bucket missile down to doom another husband. He’s turning Random Others, Bound Others and husbands against the family. Blake’s scary!

    1. He’d said something about how if they hurt the other families too badly Johannes would sweep in and pick up the pieces, though I’d figured he was planning to shatter the Duchamps and rally the Behaims, Thorburns, his personal guard, and the vengence goddess against Johannes.

      Of course, making things up as he goes along has been his MO to date.

      1. I guess what my real question is, when did the plan go from “light the house on fire so that the Thorburns and company can escape the abyss” to take “take your party, go out and break the other factions and then Rally against Johannes”?

        Blake speaks like he’s had this all planned out, but it almost seems kinda delusional to me. As though he’s making stuff up as he goes along while at the same time convincing himself that he has some grand plan.

        1. Blake’s definitely making this up as he goes along. His shifting motives are genuine, though, and I don’t think he was intending to rally against Johannes tonight, he’s just trying (in a very Blake-y manner) to think of the future, and the future holds Johannes and his dog.

        2. Some time between when he set the house on fire and when he set Molly on the Duchamps. He’s never planned all that far in advance.

        3. I think this was knocking in the back of his mind in a “list of things I’d love to do should I ever get the chance” way.

          He does think about what he sees. Even if he puts his lists on back-burners, thanks to more pressing concerns.

          It’s somewhere between the Indy Ploy and Xanatos Speed Chess, without being either one. Quite. Living in the gaps, is our Blake. 😉

        4. I can’t believe his impromptu plans (actually, “plans”) in the war have been working out so far.

          Nobody important died during the house siege! Nobody died on the trip to the Tenements! Blake himself hasn’t accidentally killed a single Duchamp enchantress yet! Green Eyes and Evan are still alive (actually, “alive”) and free!

          Surely things can’t go on like this?

            1. No, no, you misunderstand. When it comes to Wildbow’s fiction, I’m a sadist towards the characters. I’m certainly not worried that anyone might get ideas for what horrible events might befall the characters next.
              (Not that I expect that to happen; IIRC Wildbow said he doesn’t let the plot be affected by comments unless maybe to clarify things people didn’t understand.)

          1. You know how we didn’t actually see anyone die in the Abyss? Green Eyes’ progenitor possibly excepted? I think The Abyss prefers to make Bogeyman rather more than it wants to kill potential Bogeymen.

      2. In hindsight, I think he’s always had a grand strategy/to do list — rally the families against johannes would have been an item on that bit.

        But the details, those he makes up as he goes along.

        — This makes me wonder about Rose: Does she really know what she wants to accomplish?

    2. hes mentioned it before, as for “Since when did that become his plan right now when he initially popped his head out to make a distraction and tell his friends/family the cost was clear to make a run for shelter”… i guess around the time he started doing this instead of that

  3. Now that’s the good stuff. Wildbow’s new demesne must have been established.

    My only dissonance is Evan’s lack of reflection on his first kill.

    1. maybe thats gonna be one of those fine right up til its not things. hes going along with it because like he said he trusts that blake wouldn’t be doing this if these people weren’t monsters.

  4. So, turning on Sandra. Problem with this plan. he failed to keep Blake in Toronto.

    Also notice the box thing said it was a “wrong”? Where else have we heard something described as a “wrong”? Because that was what Isadora and the Black Lamb used to describe demons. Oh and if it is a demon while its not allowed to harm the Duchamps directly, did Blake make sure to account for the people they interact with down the line?

    1. No, no, this was a wrong made by man. It’s some sort of living curse like Corvidae, not a demon.

      I have to wonder why they bothered with the box and circle trap thing given the binding they had on it. I’d expect that to be used for some uncontrollable indiscriminate fire monster.

      1. Misdirection. Make Blake take the long way. Who would be crazy enough to see what kind of monster is inside when it can be avoided?

        1. Somebody who comes from a family line who tends to try talking to what they bind, both before and after. 😛 Even if it’s only to try working out what they’re dealing with.

          Seriously: Thorburns will go out to snark with/at anything once. 😛

      2. Who says that demons can’t be man-made? The Choir of Sin is a thing that exists, after all, and given what Rose the Elder did with the Barber to make her “ideal heir”, I wouldn’t be surprised if a diabolist could make their own custom-made demon out of bits of other demons.

        1. Black Lamb’s Blood appears to imply that “devils” are a sort of demon spawned from a human.

          “Others say they are all devils, at their root. Collections of malign power that take root in people, swelling and transferring from host to host, until they have sufficiently defined themselves.”

          Side note: I think I see another trap in BLB. She advocates BINDING of demons, not destroying them. But that just leaves a way for the demons to be released again. Either they will break out (Ur), or be forgotten and fall into the Abyss (or intentionally travel there, Ur again), or someone will find and free them. But we know demons can be destroyed. Its a trick to divert people into leaving the demons intact.

          1. I would imagine destroying a demon is much easier said than done. So far the only things we know of that can cause true destruction are demons of the first choir. If you smash a demon into little bits or something what happens to it’s constituant wrongness? You take a lump of Plutonium and grind it into dust you now have a pile of radioactive dust.

            Not to mention how hard it actually would be to destroy demons. I mean look at Ur. Huge body, and while it can be destroyed by light and fire, it won’t be easy. Ur was smart enough to make too many nooks and crannies in it’s lair to illuminate. Use fire and it hides in the smoke. And Ur is only supposed to be mid tier. Good luck with something like Onieas.

      3. Just in case Blake, et al, completely ignored it, they wanted to be able to walk in and pick the box back up themselves without possibly having to wait a full day or see their Other walled in by enchantments and unable to return.

        1. No, I can see why they’d leave a method to disarm it, although I’d recommend against it because of exactly what happened. What I don’t get is why they set the trap in the first place. They’d bound the monster not to harm the guy using it or his allies, so I don’t see a reason not to just pop open the box and tell him to go nuts instead of setting up the trap.

        1. To be fair, has Alister ever complained about the diabolists? The rest of the Behaims are absolute hypocrites on this point, but Alister himself went through RDT’s shock therapy, which should have affected his perspective by a lot.

  5. Oh dang. That twist was so lovely.

    Now I fear terribly for Jeremy. And I hope -he- gets the lordship. It would be hilarious.

      1. That isn’t even remotely similar to how cheese is spelled. One would think that with all the spellcraft going on in the story, such wouldn’t be an issue.

    1. His god was never happy with his marriage to Sandra. I guess love makes people do crazy things. Blake hurt badly or killed one Maenad. Jeremy was suppose to protect them. Now they are getting injured and Jeremy is calling in prayers to destroy wards for Sandra, a woman his god was pretty much indifferent to.

    2. That… might actually be what happens. I’d like that to happen. But what will most likely happen is that Jacob’s Bell will be so unbalanced the concept of a Lord won’t make sense.

    3. My prediction (which will turn out wrong, but anyway):

      Either the war ends in a way that doesn’t allow for a Lord of Jacob’s Bell, or Molly or Alister become Lady/Lord. Rose can’t become a Diabolist Lady because that would call the Inquisition on them (“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”). Point in favor of Molly: Lords should be immortal.

      Also, the Duchamp family is successfully split up, and Jeremy and Sandra become Lord and Lady of Toronto.

      … If the demons don’t make an appearance soon and turn their already rather tragic marriage into a “until death do us part” scenario.

      Oh, and not to mention that there’s Andy’s rocket launcher. It might make an appearance during the ceremony of whoever assumes the Lordship.

  6. Dms must just hate wildbow.

    Dm: you come across a box with runes and lines connecting to it since you’re knowledge arcana check was successful your aware that the box contains a powerful spirit.

    Wildbow: can it hear me?

    Dm: yes.

    Wildbow: diplomacy check.

    Dm: dammit again!? I let you keep the man eating mermaid for christs sake!

    Wildbow:…natural 20.

    ….
    Some time later

    Dm: the cleric of dyonosus and his minions have you cornered what do you do?

    Wildbow: diplomacy check.

    Gm: 😤

    1. This is so funny! That’s exactly how it is. Unexpected, but having turned into a monster, you realize that monsters are people, too.

      1. As a GM, the words, “it doesn’t work” come to mind. BS and broken rules only work when I want them to.

        Diplomacy checks are flat DCs, meaning that no matter how powerful the monster is, a min-maxed diplomancer can talk them into being friends. It makes absolutely no sense, and makes games kinda stupid.

        1. It’s fine if it’s something like you get attacked by mercenaries or some monks, and you talk them into helping you against the real badguy. Other things less so… But hey you can be creative.

          “Sadly the lovecraftian horror in front of you finds your attempts to communicate utterly incompriensible and maddening. It uses inproved grab with all 666 of it’s tentacles on you.”

          “Your words sway them. But for the words of a strange outsider to be accepted by their culture you must fight a guantlet of their best warriors. By yourself. Refuse and they will consider you coward and kill you on sight. Should have put something into combat.”

    2. A lot of Pact can be seen through RPG goggles, actually. The powerful players are the ones who know the rules governing reality and how to game them. I suspect any story with a genuinely intelligent and creative protagonist is increasingly indistinguishable

      GM: Okay fine, you took out those two practitioners but the Duchamps are onto you now. Your next target, the Pyromancer, is surrounded by fellow practitioners and they’re still encircled by a small army of Others that you’ll have to fight through to reach them.

      Wildbow: Hey, with this much snow about, someone must be using a bunch of salt on their driveways and things, yeah?

      GM: … Umm, sure?

      Wildbow: And where there’s that much salt they must have a big bag of it in a shed with shovels and metal buckets and tools?

      GM: Sure, sounds plausible. The group is starting to pull away from you now.

      Wildbow: Okay, breaking into the shed, stealing a bucket and stuffing it full of snow and salt.

      GM: O… kay?

      Wildbow: Given how much damage I can do, I should be able to throw this bucket what, 3-4 blocks at least? A five-gallon bucket packed with ice weighs calculates 40lbs and-

      GM: Oh no, no, no, HELL no! You might be strong enough, but you don’t have the accuracy over that kind of range.

      Wildbow: … +3 for using snow against a Pyromancer. +1 for using salt against a magical creature – you did say all practitioners were a little Other, right?

      GM (whimpering): Yes.

      Wildbow: … add one sparrow using its ‘nudge’ ability to guide the projectile and… rolls

      GM:… I hate you.

  7. “Or a distraction from chasing them,” Green Eyes said. “A mystical bit of mumbo jumbo to catch your attention and not let it go. Because that’s how those enchantresses work, right?”

    it actually would have been a pretty good place to stick a monkeytrap

  8. When he married Sandra there had to be some vows. Is he in danger of being forsworn by turning against her? Did he remember Blake and realize he was already screwed for letting him leave Toronto?

    1. Honestly, ever since we first learned about the practitioner “inability” to lie, I’ve been certain that at some point the fact that it’s possible if you’re willing to pay a massive price will come back to bite someone.

      In this particular case, if Jeremy becomes forsworn, his Maeneads and Satyrs get to do whatever they feel like. Which almost certainly involves lots of property damage.

      1. When Blake got possessed by molly I thought he had forsworn himself and that the spirits responded by ripping him apart.

        What happened to Fell’s family was pretty bad.

    2. Given that his god is the god of madmen, this little maneuver might net Jeremy enough of Dionysus’s goodwill to balance out any karmic hit he takes. I bet Dionysus wasn’t a huge fan of Jeremy falling in line with the Duchamps and playing by the rules, after all.

          1. The Greeks were also… um, aggressively misogynistic, and that might extend to their gods as well. They clearly didn’t take that into account when trying to bring Jeremy on the side of a matriarchal dynasty.

            1. Actually, Dionysis had a very strong female following. They’d go off into the forests for wild parties men weren’t allowed to attend and according to legend would rip any man they caught snooping limb from limb. That’s where Jeremy’s Maenads come from.

              Granted, I don’t think that makes bringing one of his priests into a matriarchal dynasty a better idea.

            2. To add to what guy said: the Greeks waaay back when weren’t exactly static. And, not all their values can be measured accurately using our yardsticks over the couple of thousand years of theirs that we’re talking about (yes, they changed over time: time does that to cultures).

              Simply put: their were progressive and regressive aspects to their culture at different times and in different places (it’s not like Greece was a single unit). Like in any other culture. In some ways, they could be said to be rather more liberal in certain attitudes than the Midwest USA (as just one example).

        1. I think this arc has shown there is a lot the Duchamps fail to consider when setting up marriages. And they really better start doing background checks in the future.

          1. It goes with the letter of the law vs spirit of the law. None of them ever lie to the Duchamps. Just like how the Duchamps ask for any girl born without letting them know its a 99% chance that all children will be girls.

  9. “Jeremy was still in a way that only a guy with his private parts in a bear trap could be.”

    This lines wins the prize for best line in any work of fiction ever.

    I’d like to say that I love how Blake is acquiring Green’s habits. It’s cute, sort of.

    Finally, that ending. Wow.

  10. Many of the younger Duchamps were bent over, hands over their ears. One noticed me as I looked at her. She looked my way, and I could see images dancing across her eyes, as if they were television screens. Herself, a crowd, in a place that wasn’t here. It was some place with pillars and marble walls.

    One of the younger Duchamps with memories of a place with pillars and marble walls. The setting sounds Greek, so maybe she’s Sandra’s and Dionysius’ drunk priest’s kid? I suppose when Inomenos does his thing that the Duchamps are experiencing traumatic memories. That this kid had one of her worst moments amidst a crowd at her father’s place is ominous. The least that could be is her seeing her father breaking up with her mother. It could explain her hands over her ears; since she wouldn’t want to hear that argument.

    1. Well, the Duchamps have an awful lot to do with the Fae. Who also go in for refined, classical décor, given the chance. And, who are very much “The Unfair Folk” the Goblins complain about.

      There’s plenty of scope to have bad memories if you got caught up in something with them. 😐

    2. No, for several reasons. Sandra’s kid was a boy and aborted. Second the creature agreed to do no lasting harm to the Duchamps. (Nothing more than a day.) So forcing them to relive trauma wouldn’t make sense.

  11. So he IS bound by truth?
    It was nice to finally get some confirmation about that, as all we had about that included blake just making a proclamation in a mirror factory with no spirits around and only a demon to hear, and since they mentioned OTHER boogeyman should be able to lie…

    Personally, I like the idea of Ross over Russle as a male version of Rose. Just saying

    “Yeah, I bet. Screw those jerks”
    I love evan. And green!

    1. Evan and Green Eyes in this had me giggling like a fool for all the right reasons. ^_^ And, what tipped me over into hyena was Blake’s utter frustration with the pair of them! (Mainly her… but Evan didn’t help the mental jostle any with the whole “rhetorical” thing, either. xD)

      Oh, man: I need stitches.

        1. I can see it now. An unsuspecting sparrow sitting on a lily pad in the water. Some predator goes to swoop in on its oblivious prey… And gets eaten by Green Eyes. She and Even then high five each other.

      1. Rhetorical had my side hurting it was awesome. Along with blake doing the same thing of bringing up tose topics in battle-times.

      1. Yeah. A group of Thorburns singing “One of Us” at you would be… somewhat disconcerting.

        Aaaaaand, now I can’t get the idea of Ellie trying to play base out of my head and huffing about it because she wanted the mic that Kat bludgeoned her way to getting… Without checking to see if, maybe, Peter has let Roxanne anywhere near Electronics for Dummies recently…

  12. So It’s pretty much set in stone that blake killed the pyromancer, yes?
    I expected evan to be more shaken up about being the literal death from above. Oh well.

    Wait, I’m confused. Does that mean Evan was worthy to ask what the living curse was and blake wasn’t? Because he answered almost immediately after evan asked

    1. Yea, seems Blake is bottom scum while Evan still kinda sorta just about counts as human (cause he’s a human spirit unpolluted with Otherness…I guess).

      1. He’s pretty explicitly polluted by Drainstuff, not to mention the familiar ritual, but still, it does appear that he’s human enough.

  13. Ah, this chapter was brilliant. All this creepy humor, most of it related to Green Eyes somehow…

    Comments:

    1. “I was the monster from the movies. Difficult to put down, creative in how I killed. I operated by a pattern, and I accomplished what I set out to do.” – An amusing contrast to Blake’s final thoughts last chapter, where he said he’d be Blake when everything was over. Aren’t these two notions incompatible? Blake didn’t strike me as a kill-for-the-greater-good sort of guy… and in fact, we even call humans who think like this, “monsters”. This line of thinking (though not much else about him) actually reminds me of the bogeyman (bogeywoman) from Worm.

    2. I don’t get karma =(. Why is Blake getting rewarded for “assuming [his] role, here”, and for “lining things up and knocking them down”? I understand why he’s getting good karma for “doing justice”, i.e. for striking at the Duchamps in retribution for what they did to Blake & co, but I’m confused when it comes to the rest. And shouldn’t the Duchamps get corresponding good karma and be supported by the universe when they retaliate against him in turn, again due to “an eye for an eye”?

    3. “Why did Green Eyes seem to associate creepy, predator-ish situations with these sorts of discussions? In grave danger? I like you! Stalking potential victims? You’re swell!” and later “She was pulling the closest thing she could manage to puppy dog eyes, given her translucent eyelids” – The Green Eyes scenes continue to be awesome. It’s an interesting source of creepy humor and adorable creepiness…

    4. “Which is a lot easier when people don’t speak very suddenly, right in my ear.”“I bet. Screw those jerks.” – Hahaha…

    5. I like the kind of stunt Blake pulled with Inomenos here. But to think he complained and worried when Rose summoned Others without his consent, back during the Conquest arc. I’d call this “hypocrisy”, except the current Blake isn’t much like the “Blake” from back then.

    6. “Plague them, torment them, but don’t inflict any permanent harm on them. Nothing they’ll suffer from, in body, mind, or heart, more than a day from now.” – Isn’t that an impossible request? How could Inomenos possibly know whether the way he scares them e.g. won’t give them nightmares in two days, or PTSD, or whatever?

    7. Isn’t Jeremy obligated to kill Blake for what he’s done to the creatures given by his god? IIRC Blake has killed a snake and a maenad now.

    8. That said, I completely understand why Jeremy would turn on Sandra here. Even Sandra herself said she had her own reasons for why she wanted to become Lady of Jacob’s Bell, and I’m suspicious it’s all related to how not being allowed to keep their unborn son broke them apart.

    9. How the hell does this outcome relate to Isadora originally bringing Jeremy and Sandra together? The Sphinx represents balance, and hates it when things spiral out of control. Surely this can’t have been what she wanted?

    10. “But I think, in a way, I am a broken heart.” – That’s an interesting way of framing things, and possibly another hint as to what Blake will find out about himself in his fated third visit to the Drains.

    11. Blake may intend to keep the Duchamp enchantresses unharmed, but he didn’t tell Rose about that, and he certainly gave no such commands to the bogeyman from the Tenements and to Corvidae in particular. This could totally screw up his plans.

    1. Re: #2, it’s sad that the spirits like dramatic action, especially dramatic action which WORKS. In a way, I think ‘good karma’ is highly misleading in phrasing, since it has all kinds of connotations which are just not applicable. In this case, Blake is winning points in the particular game he’s participating in, which does not actually preclude the Duchamps from winning points in THEIR game. It’s not zero sum.

      Re: #10, I think there’s value in distinguishing between ‘drains’ (the place Blake went to first) and ‘the abyss’ (the category of place the Drains and Tenements both belong to). I’m quite certain Blake’s third trip to the Abyss will not be either place he’s been to so far. It’ll be a different kind of horrible instead.

      Re: #11. That’s the danger of improv.

      1. He’ll probably end up in the forest, since that place has been mentioned at least once before. It’s where the faceless woman came from, and I’m kind of wondering what sort of place favors losing your face over.

    2. 2) Karma, at least when you get enough bad karma, apparently operates as a bounty system. The Karma system has marked Blake’s victims in this particular rampage for death, so Blake gets good Karma for taking them out.

      5) I think he was mostly worried about her summoning of Corvidae after he specifically said not to because Corvidae seemed shifty. Also, opposed doppelganger, he’s driven to hate her with or without justification.

      9) I would guess she did not see this coming.

    3. “Isn’t that an impossible request? How could Inomenos possibly know whether the way he scares them e.g. won’t give them nightmares in two days, or PTSD, or whatever?”

      Well the Wrong could just give them the strength to overcome the trauma. Of course, since its a wrong it will probably make them more Wrong as well. But his direct targets will do just fine. Like a psychopathic CEO who works his workers to death!

    4. 2) I think karma wants people to act in a particular way to fit in with a particular order of the universe. Imagine each person as an actor with a role in a play, only the actors don’t necessarily know either their roles or what the play is. People who play along with it get their happy story, and people who go against it have terrible things happen to them and are eventually removed in some contrived series of coincidences. By playing his role as the monster the abyss shaped him into and exacting his vengeance on the families and circumstances that ultimately pushed him towards his demise, Blake is scoring points with karma. Especially when he offs people with heavy loads of bad karma, helping to keep the play on track as it were.

      6) Depending on how old Inomenos is, it could be that he’s just so good at his job that he can make a rough estimate as to where each individual person’s breaking point is. Intent seems to matter a lot for deals as well, and if Inomenos’s intent was to only cause a day’s worth of suffering and not a second more, he might get off easy if someone ends up with lingering effects despite his efforts. There’s also his position to consider: Inomenos was given a specific order. By acting on this order to the best of his abilities, he fulfills his end of the bargain regardless of the outcome.

  14. There was a kind of jarring feeling when I read this:

    “I was the monster from the movies. Difficult to put down, creative in how I killed. I operated by a pattern, and I accomplished what I set out to do.

    In assuming my role, here, in lining things up and knocking them down, in sticking to my word, and in doing justice, I was being rewarded by the universe. Things were being allowed to go my way. I didn’t have the burden of Thorburn karma. I was fledgling, relatively newborn, and the parts of me that were older were being subsumed, eroded away in favor of me becoming more of a monster. I was becoming less of a fragment of Russel or Ross Thorburn, and more of a complete Other thing.”

    Notably, it did not read to me like something Blake would say, nor something that Blake!Other would say, nor, really the same tone as the rest of the story.

    I can’t really put my finger on why so I’ll try to explain the feeling in pieces:

    1. The “monster from the movies” thing feels like something we’ve heard enough. It’s just a a bit too in-your-face to start off a chapter like that.
    2. I feel like these two paragraphs were spoon-feeding me. Every other part of Worm & Pact have forced me to pay attention, to really consume the story and allow it to consume me in order for me to understand it. This felt very like “the author will now give you exposition”.

    3. Along that line of thought, this violates the standard “show-don’t-tell” thing that I love about Pact. Maybe it’s just that, as a more corny villain, Blake!Other needs to internal monologue now, but that’d be a really annoying character trait if he keeps giving us exposition like this.

    4. It’s just all so dramatic – I know the Pactverse functions that way, but what made Blake relatable and likable was his simultaneous awareness that the Pactverse likes storybook plots and the fact that he will never perfectly conform to that. Having him think “Aha, I was the monster, difficult to put down, creative in how I killed, etc…” feels so…cheesy? Overdone?

    5. There’s a sort of weird, out-of-character smugness that I’m getting from reading this. Mostly it’s just that I can’t read it without feeling smug? Like, “haha, my karma is gone, I’m newborn, it’s all eroding away, I’m becoming a complete Other!” It’s an odd read on it considering how much everything is tense. Then he goes into even higher melodrama with the whole “walking a tight line” thing, and the story slowly settles back into prose that feels like it fits.

    Sorry, Wildbow. Not sure if that was helpful, or if this was intended for some deeper purpose, but that really threw me for a loop.

    1. this violates the standard “show-don’t-tell” thing that I love about Pact.

      Really? I’ve always felt that, while by no means badly written, Pact has always been pretty expositiony. That was basically Rose’s role for the first half of the story (or at least until she started summoning stuff). Exposition has always felt like a major part of the story to me. From arc 1 onwards, Blake is either explaining stuff or having stuff explained to him, even by especially by enemies. It’s consistent with the Pactverse basically being a theater/game setting. That’s how I feel anyway.

      1. Ok. Maybe everything else has just flowed better for me. I don’t often see Blake explaining things, more often I see him realizing things, and it seems odd for him to realize those things now, since he’s been kind of going after that effect for a few chapters now.

    2. My read on this is — and it speaks to mondsemmel’s (1) and (2) above as well — is that Blake’s observations here are sardonic. He ended the last chapter with an assertion of loyalty to himself, and now he’s noting that the universe is rewarding him for conforming to a cliche. He’s willing to use the power that he accrues this way, but he’s not unaware of the self-determination he loses as he does so.

  15. Great Lines-

    “I had no illusions. I was walking a fine line, a tightrope. One serious mistake, and I stood to fall, and fall hard.”
    If he doesn’t fall off this I will be amazed. I just don’t dare hope he pulls it off. SUSPENSE!

    “It’s still rhetorical,” Evan whispered. Green Eyes raised her head to stick her tongue out at him.”
    Daaww, Evan and Green Eyes are bonding!

    “We could be going around,” Green Eyes said, practically squirming in impatience. “Just saying.”
    It’s like the married couple in the car, and the guy is too stubborn to ask for directions, isn’t it?

    “Shit,” I said. “Now I’m doing it.”

    “Doing it?“

    “Talking about stuff in the middle of a crisis.”
    Too bad Pact isn’t the sort of story where talking is a free action

    “Keep your friends close, I thought. We focus so much on the ‘keep our enemies closer’ part.”
    Too bad Blake isn’t sure he can be friends with his old friends anymore.

    “Despite everything I’ve done,” he said, “I did want to be a good Lord.”
    I love this line. Hell I love that entire last exchange between Blake and Jeremy. Just so much character in them.

  16. Something I forgot: How is Jeremy not one of the “monsters” Blake has to kill? Blake, remember how your friends almost got killed? Imagine Alexis in Callan’s place. You know how that came about? A certain High Priest of Dionysus destroyed the protections of Hillsglade House, that’s how.

    I know none of your friends actually died, but that’s due to ridiculous luck. You did everything you could to keep them alive, and it shouldn’t have been anywhere near enough, given what you were up against. The expected outcome of breaking the protections of Hillsglade House was that its inhabitants would die, and you should treat the perpetrators as such.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leap at him and kill him there and then, but it makes absolutely no sense that you were far more mad at Alister and Rose than at Jeremy. What the hell?

    (Also, it seems like Jeremy thinks the Hillsglade House residents are still alive. Why?)

    1. What defines a monster? Evil? Cruelty? If so, were all a bit guilty. Being defined as a monster means having that enough evil that it overshadows your other aspects. That’s also how someone can be a benevolent asshole.

      Maybe?

      1. Well, Blake’s definition of “monster” is hilariously inconsistent, since he doesn’t even consider Molly the revenge-wraith-who-even-goes-after-young-practitioners a monster. From that perspective, not considering Jeremy a monster is just one more inconsistency…

        (I’m not sure your definition for “monster” works. What if you save 10 people? Does that entitle you to kill 9 others without being called a monster?)

    2. Blake’s friends and the housewere completely acceptable targets, they were at war after all. If Blake starts calling “evil” over that then he’d be dialling the hypocrisy meter up to eleven, because he himself is guilty of attacking people people incidentally related to his enemies. Hell, killing Alexis would be far more in the “war is war” camp than Jan. Since Alexis was actually part of Rose’s inner circle and actively protecting her and her house.

      1. I thought we’d gone over that issue by now. This Thorburn generation didn’t start the war, so attacking them (including Rose) was Not Okay.

        And Blake is already at the point where he’ll have to kill himself soon for being too much of a monster, so I don’t see how the hypocrisy charge is a problem.

        1. That’s not how war works. It’s not about force retaliating against each other over and over again in turns, it’s about destroying your enemy or forcing them to surrender. Rose announced herself as a contender in the war, so she made herself and her friends acceptable targets.

          If two countries are at war and then another country comes along and declares war on both of them before sitting on their hands then they don’t get to cry foul when there’s bombers flying into their airspace.

          1. Keep in mind Rose’s cabal and Blake never actually started whining about it when Jeremy came after them. When they went after the “innocent” Thorburns sure. But they accepted the risks to themselves and their friends.

            1. And the council got around their agreeing to not target “innocents” by sending the witch hunters to disable the Thorburns and leave them for all the nasty others. That agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

            2. See my response to “guy” below. That was a forced action on Rose’s part; the war against the Thorburns is totally independent of the battle for lordship, so even if she’d declared her whole side as neutral, that would just have postponed their doom until after Jacob’s Bell had decided on a Lord.

            3. You’re forgetting, Rose eventually agreed to that no innocents thing when Jeremy came knocking. At that point going after anyone other than Rose or her friends fell into hypocrisy. Considering the clusterf**k happened after, they still went through with the plan to wipe out their bloodline.

              As much of assholes as the rest of the Thorburns were they didn’t deserve to die like what had been arranged.

        2. The other Thorburns weren’t in the house at the time. That happened after Jeremy blew down the wards and stormed the place. Rose, meanwhile, had declared her intention to claim Lordship of Jacob’s Bell, and explicitly and unilaterally refused to accept rules forbidding intentional attacks against completely uninvolved civilians.

          1. A reminder of the chronology of this war:
            0) RDT dies. Now that the Thorburns are at their weakest, the other Jacob’s Bell factions decide to get rid of them.
            1) Molly is murdered. Blake & Rose come into existence.
            2) Laird targets them from day one. Blake & Rose only don’t get killed instantly because the other Jacob’s Bell practitioners are trying to be careful, and don’t want to deal with the Thorburns until after the battle for Lordship. (Even Molly’s murder at that point in time was an accident.) This ultimately results in the chronomancy trap around Hillsglade House, rather than a dead Blake & Rose.
            3) Toronto happens.
            4) Blake dies. Rose gains a body and returns to Jacob’s Bell as the Thorburn Heiress, with her Cabal in tow.
            5) The battle for Lordship commences.
            6) At this point, Rose has two choices. She can either a) decline to participate in the war, in which case her faction will be annihilated by whoever becomes the new Lord. Or b) she participates in the war and tries to steer it towards an outcome that doesn’t doom her faction.

            No, the fact that Rose chose action 6b) rather than 6a) doesn’t entitle anyone to say that it wasn’t morally evil to attack the Thorburns because they declared war, too.
            And regarding the rules of confrontation: Rose was forced to accept the rules after Jeremy attacked the house, and the rules still worked 100% against the Thorburns. The witch hunters declared themselves as neutral but still attacked the house, etc.

            1. Oh, and I totally forgot that Jeremy is already a total monster for revealing the fact that Blake was a diabolist to Conquest, leading to all the death and destruction there.

              Yes, Conquest was more of a monster, but Jeremy gave that monster information to which its reaction was completely predictable. That means the responsibility for what happened in Toronto lies more with Jeremy than with Conquest himself.

            2. Personally, I’m reluctant to throw the term “monster” around lightly. The Behaims and Duchamps are all enemies of the Thorburns, and on the wrong side, but that doesn’t make them monsters. So far, humans Blake has determined to be monsters are as follows:
              1. A necromancer who tortured someone to death three times to create a rather horrific weapon
              2. A pair of ogre shamans (note that ogres kidnap and eat random innocents) who were unable to honestly say they weren’t monsters
              3. Will Behaim, on the admittedly shakier grounds of sending a clockwork man to attack the house
              4. A guy with a habit of destroying people’s minds to force them to serve him unquestioningly
              5. Someone who wields weapons powered by his siblings being tortured to death and who reportedly would be willing to make more
              6. Someone who is willing to call the Abyss, which is made of bad, into normal reality.
              7. The pyromancer leader of a cartel.
              He’s also provisionally penned in someone who has apparently been manipulating Karma to hide something truly horrible, and siblings who reportedly did something bad. I note that Lola okayed them after asking the order in which they were named, which strikes me as implying something horrifying.

              Jeremy has been on the wrong side, but he’s not known to have gone that far. And I hardly think it’s fair to blame him for the death and destruction in Toronto; Blake was the person who proposed the all-out showdown that caused most of the damage. Granted, giving Conquest a pet diabolist was a bad idea, but I don’t think Jeremy really expected that to actually work out for Conquest.

              I rather think you’re also undervaluing the importance of Rose refusing the rules. The rules only work against her if they forbid actions she wants to take. Unilaterally refusing them all instead of negotiating them down like Johannes was essentially a declaration she intended to gain an advantage by harming noncombatants. Note also that she was participating as a Diabolist, so rejecting that rule meant employing Pauz or similar to transform civilians into berserk soldiers was in the list of things people could reasonably expect her to do.

            3. And I hardly think it’s fair to blame him for the death and destruction in Toronto; Blake was the person who proposed the all-out showdown that caused most of the damage. Granted, giving Conquest a pet diabolist was a bad idea, but I don’t think Jeremy really expected that to actually work out for Conquest.

              I’m not blaming Jeremy for what actually happened; it’s not like he can see the future. I’m blaming him for the expected outcome of his action. (i.e. consequentialism)

              What was the expected outcome of revealing Blake to Conquest? Blake becoming Conquest’s bound pet diabolist, calling down hellfire and brimstone for Conquest.

              That’s what I’m blaming Jeremy for: He was more willing to risk the appearance of demons than any of the actual diabolists in the story. In that sense, he’s more of a diabolist than the Thorburn “diabolists” who never use their powers even when they should. He’s the kind of diabolist who deserves to be put to death.

              And this was all so completely avoidable, too! Maybe Blake deserved to die from his perspective. But then he should have just gone after Blake and killed him directly, rather than willfully risking the Worst Outcome by deferring responsibility to Conquest. Jeremy thought he could use Blake to weaken his own adversary, Conquest, and was willing to risk a Nuke Scenario for that. That’s pretty unforgivable.

              1. Laird is a “jerk”.
              2. The Council decides that they’re too busy to kill Blake now. Maybe later.
              3. The time trap and stuff.
              4. Toronto happens.
              5. Toronto happens.
              6. Toronto happens.
              7. Toronto happens.
              8. Toronto happens and Blake “dies”. Rose gets a body.
              9. The Abyss and Ms. Lawyer tells Blake he’s done.
              10. Blake comes back.
              11. Rose lets people take her away, the Council orders Eva and Andy to bomb the crud out of stuff.
              12. People in the house try to defend themselves.
              13. Blake starts killing people.

              Fixed it for you. 🙂

          2. All the Thorburns, innocent or not, are ultimately on the extermination list. That’s… familicide. Because of things that two generations didn’t grow up knowing about. 😐

            Think on that for a second.

            By acting the way they’ve acted, the rest of Jacob’s Bell basically hurled them at the most dangerous sections of the library as the only means to survive from minute to minute. 😛

            1. As in they dug their own graves. It was mentioned in Black Lamb’s Blood this is the exact reason you don’t try to pull this crap on Diabolist. If Rose had been in the house during that siege, there would be a demon. I wouldn’t even blame her for it, because they pushed her hand.

            2. Actually… if you think about it… the actual dyed-in-the-wool diabolist there is still only Grandma.

              Rose hasn’t (yet) summoned anything. Let alone actively bound any demon to her will. Sure: she’s got one sat there behind wards she can somewhat manipulate. But, she’s not the one who stuck it there.

              Heck: even the ones Blake (semi-)successfully bound was done while he was… in a state of blank not knowing what he was doing thanks to zero training and having to do things on the fly (thanks to having his hand strong-armed up his back).

              But, that’s the foothills of diabolism. Which neither wouldn’t have messed with if they wasn’t being forced to try using any tool available. 😛

            3. Not to mention Molly who had no desire to use Diabolism whatsoever and who tried to be as pacifistic as possible. And the council orchastrated a goblin attack on her. Her death may not have been the goal, but then you wonder what was?

            4. “That’s… familicide. Because of things that two generations didn’t grow up knowing about.”

              Even worse, by now it’s become painfully obvious that most of the talk about the Thorburn diabolists being too dangerous to live is just amazing rationalization, all the factions are horrible, and they just want the Thorburn estate gone so there’s one less contender for the pie that is Jacob’s Bell.

              So the familicide isn’t even justified by the anaologue of “burn the witches”; it’s mainly due to greed.

            5. I actually told a lie: it’s actually three generations since Thorburn (be they girls or boys) from any of the branches were actively trained up to be diabolists. Kathryn has a blissfully unaware kidling.

              Remind me again how important three is as a number when it comes to karmic stuff?

              Wonderful: Jacob’s Bell tried to exterminate a family that had basically broken their own pattern and used the pattern they objected to as a handy excuse. Ten out of ten, dingbats. 😦

              Sooner or later, somebody is going to have to mention that to the spirits at large. Karmic debt vs templates destroyed: decisions have to be made that should have been made a while ago. 😛

            6. Huh? Blake and Rose are RDT’s grandchildren. That makes for two generations.
              And I don’t see how any of this is pattern-breaking; as far as I can tell, there was only ever one Thorburn diabolist at a time.

            7. “it’s actually three generations since Thorburn (be they girls or boys) from any of the branches were actively trained up to be diabolists.”

              Wow, you’re right. “I thought of Kathryn. The next in line. The oldest of us cousins. A woman with a husband and newborn kid.” Yeah, you hit the nail on the head with that one, it has been three generations since any Thorburn (since Grandma) was trained in any way to be a diabolist and the only ones who’ve done anything since then have only turned to it because they felt they had to in order to stay alive because everyone else in Jacob’s Bell was trying to kill them. Hunh.

      2. Friendly reminder: Blake didn’t kill Jan. Green Eyes did. She had her own reasons (maybe not very good ones), but she’s running on her own mental processes.

        Which seem to include a very great intolerance to substance abuse. 😦

        1. Blake let Green Eyes follow him around, gave her instructions, and failed to do anything about it when Green Eyes disobeyed them. Her actions are Blake’s responsibility.

          1. Let’s put it this way. The Undersiders go on a job, Skitter explicitly tells them not to hurt the hostages, but Imp goes and cuts some guys throat anyway. Does Skitter get to shrug and say “Not my problem!”

            1. Which is why he’s angsting about it. But, you can’t puppeteer people around you 24/7, even if you feel responsible for what they do. At some point, they make their own decisions. You carry part of the can, but not the whole thing.

              That particular death is on Green Eyes. And, it’s still unclear if she made a wrong call or not. 😦

    3. Why Blake is letting Jeremy go? K-k-k-k-karma! Blake is trying to set up Karma such that if Jeremy attacks with his monster’s now he’ll get a bunch of bad Karma. Jeremy struck, Blake killed the monster and did the “Let’s be peaceful”. Basically Rose’s deadman switch with Karma.

      Why Blake hates Rose? K-k-k-k-k-karma! Plus maybe Barber. Rose has bad Karma, everyone hates her.

      As for how Jeremy knows they live? Maybe some sort of magic trick. Practitioner?

  17. Blake actually MAY have an advantage in that he isn’t running of a detailed game plan. he has a history of, at least surviving when its unlikely in similar circumstances, and since he’s making things up as he goes, there are fewer patterns to watch and predict.
    a few people have commented about the amount of Chaos he is spreading, i myself think that’s a GOOD thing. the Region has been “orderly” for quite some time, and the guys in charge have had plenty of timer to stagnate and corrupt. the latter more then the former. spot of chaos is just what the Bell needs.

    1. ( i also think having a LOT of practice in rapidly adapting to changing battlefield circumstances and not relying on a single fixed doctrine is an extremely useful trait when one of your opponents is capable of implementing tricked-out time rarely, and altering perceptions of it frequently. now if he had an Allied planner/Strategist who WAS Trustworthy…)

  18. I think Jeremy was throwing the ball back into Sandra’s court. It’s her choice now whether her sweet husband, who really really loves her, and will do what she asks because he loves her, and would lose a cart full of karma for attacking Blake after Blake just saved his private parts, sends his people to attack Blake. And here’s what that means:

    Sandra says attack. Jeremy loses a whole bunch of karma. All the other husbands see the connections that Sandra made her husband lose a whole bunch of karma. Blake’s purposes are furthered.

    Sandra says don’t attack. Blake gets away. Blake’s purposes are furthered.

    1. Another thing: Dionysius made a point of having Jeremy produce a male heir, going so far as to directly interfere with the Duchamp’s magic that gives them only female children. It makes sense to reason that he has a stake in making sure Jeremy has a son for whatever reason. Blake may have just scored big points with Dionysius by calling off Jeremy’s castration. Despite the fact that he killed two of his creatures, Blake could have been granted some measure of protection since he didn’t just completely screw over whatever plans Dionysius had in store.

      1. ive always Disliked the Greek-Roman gods. a whole bunch of petty borderline sociopaths with barely a shred of responsibility between then, makes you wonder how bad a place Jeremy was in to become a servant of DIonysius, and remain faithful after he Vindictively screwed him over like that….

    2. Another thought re: Jeremy comes to mind. Jeremy took a power hit for “promising” to see that Blake stayed in Toronto. The spirits have apparently started to forget about that, or at least it’s not bringing Jeremy down.

      Jeremy has said before that he’s going to take Blake back to Toronto, so that he can “keep his promise” by keeping Blake in Toronto.

      If Blake dies now, wherever he goes, it’s not going to be to Toronto. If Jeremy takes Blake out now, Jeremy not only loses karma for taking out the guy who just spared Jeremy’s most precious parts, Jeremy basically becomes foresworn because either Blake will be dead, dead, or Blake will be back in the abyss. Either way, he won’t be in Toronto.

      Basically, if Sandra gives the kill order, Jeremy is so totally screwed.

      1. Did Jeremy ever promise to do this? In Sandra’s Histories chapter, his actual words were something like “I’ll see to it”. That’s not a promise, so at worst he’d take a temporary karma hit for lying.

        (And actually, he should already have taken that hit when Blake fell into the Abyss, and it’s been more than a month since then, so between this and the fact that Blake was erased, I don’t understand why Sandra and Jeremy considered this a problem at all.)

        1. I didn’t think it was an actual promise. But ★wildbow apparently does. I think, when Jeremy talked with Blake in Toronto, he told Blake that he had promised to keep Blake there. Then Jeremy was all scruffy and disheveled when he arrived in the town and he and Sandra talked about how he’d been hurt. Then, at the house, just before Rose bound Blake and made her deal with Jeremy that was supposed to protect innocents, Blake told Jeremy about what Jeremy had earlier told Blake, and Jeremy confirmed that he’d been wondering what had happened because he had no memories of Blake. Then at some point someone said something about Jeremy taking Blake back so as to keep his promise and regain the power lost from “lying”? Maybe that last bit was my supposition or a another commenter saying something.

      2. Jeremy promised to keep Blake from leaving Toronto. Since the Universe has forgotten that Blake ever went to Toronto, even if the universe somehow still remembers Jeremy’s promise (and it probably doesn’t) the promise doesn’t take effect unless Blake goes to Toronto again. A promise to stop someone leaving somewhere only kicks in after they arrive.

  19. Been awhile since doom crow went out to play. Am I remembering wrong when I think that he has possession of the Conquest book? and Blake’s glamor hair? I hope I’m remembering that right. It could explain Blake’s unusual degree of success here (he’s won before, but rarely so consistently) and mean rather bad things if Blake is the one drawing on C rather than Rose.

    1. to play devils advocate, he might be on a roll simply because he no longer has catastrophically bad inherited Karma, to the point where even the system is acknowledging he’s better then his current opponents. it
      only seems out of place because we are so used to reality itself hating Blake because it was either programmed by an idiot, or by a psychopath who wanted to cover their ass

      1. Keep in mind, good karma is not related to good actions. It’s all about actions that fit, playing your role, behaving as you say it will. Karma wants things to be predictable. At least some of his current upswing is due to fitting that movie monster role he talks about, true, but it still seems a bit much. One of his opponents is a master of karma. They, or he, should be having at least as much good fortune.

        1. That guy does seem to be benefiting from Karma. Blake has consistently been making decisions to avoid targeting him for superficially convincing reasons. He’s decided the guy might be a trap, he’s instructed Green Eyes not to attack without orders, and when he sent the monster back he gave orders that kept that guy off the target list.

        2. Blake has gone out of his way to keep the guy safe. Its hard to get a much more favorable reaction than that. Hell, for all we know the pyromancers last words were “I give you, Karma guy, the remaining years of my life, and all the magical trinkets on me.”

        3. I’m beginning to wonder if karma has to do with the universe’s laziness/efficiency. It punishes people for stepping out of their defined roles, why? Because then they have to update their records, dammit! If you just did the expected, predictable thing they wouldn’t have to adjust anything…

  20. This chapter was creepy-fun, which is kind of an ongoing theme for Pact. Every now and then it really hits home that the genre is Urban Fantasy/Horror, not just fantasy.

    There were a couple things that bugged me, though. When Green Eyes responds to Blake with “you’re such a guy”, and when Blake refers to Green Eyes battling the Maenad as a catfight. Not huge things, but it just sort of felt off to me. A bit too stereotypical.

          1. Skitter runs/hides/sips tea while termites or something swarm Blake
          2. Green Eyes is fast, made of sharp edges, and armored, and I expect her eyes and such are resistant to insect attack courtesy of aquatic adaptions. Also, bugs are high in protein
          3. Skitter is made out of the nightmares of orphans. Also smarter.
            1. Yeah, from fear. He don’t get power from “FUCK YOU”.

              Remember, her and almost everyone she knows have tangled with the S9 and Endbringers before. They’ve death with stuff similar to Blake’s bullshit before, and they ain’t having that shit.

            2. I don’t want to discuss too much here since it would get spoilers. But I would like to point out that Taylor is an amazing problem solver.

              And if you haven’t read Worm go do it. Once everyone in the world reads Worm we won’t have to worry about spoilers anymore.

            3. Blakes problem solving skills are a lot better than many give him credit for. What he lacks in long term thinking he makes up for in improvisation.

              Also just mentioning here I’m not specifically saying I think Blake could beat skitter I’m just saying that its more evenly matched than some are saying.

            4. “Blakes problem solving skills are a lot better than many give him credit for.” – No they aren’t, most of his solutions wouldn’t actually work in real life. Case in point: The “culling” here would so not work.

    1. Skitter still wins. Blake has eyes, ears, and a fleshy face. Plus then “Hellhound” would just tear Blake up like the monstrous chewtoy that he is.

      1. Yeah, Skitter would destroy him.
        Blake’s only possible escape would be to convince skitter he is part of Team GoodGuy, or potentially useful in Skitter’s plans.

        Otherwise…swarm of termites, and it is all over for him.

        1. Although, we’ve seen that practitioners (and Blake, via Evan) basically all have Imp’s power and can “cut the connection” and make people forget about them. That’s pretty darn powerful all on its own.

          1. iirc thats not how it works, i think its more cutting their attempts to use the connection. they don’t forget about him just can’t find him with their extra senses

            1. For other practitioners, sure, because they may be able to sense the connection being cut and hold on to some trace of it, but for normal people they completely forget about you when you “cut the connection”. And if the thing cutting the connections is powerful enough (ErasUr), even most practitioners and reality itself may forget about you. That’s what we’ve seen so far, starting from Laird in the coffee shop with Blake on through the rest of Blake’s interactions with “norms” or “muggles”. If Duncan hadn’t been with the officers who came to arrest Blake by Evan’s body, it wouldn’t have been a problem for Blake to get away.

              And since Taylor is decidedly normal (well, superpower, sure but other than that she’s normal), she would get the full Imp-level treatment if the connections were cut. I bet it’s entirely possible that Blake could draw some sort of diagram and partially bind, or at least hinder, Taylor. In a fight between the two, we shouldn’t have Taylor, with everything she ever learned about her power on one side vs a purely physical opponent on the other. We need to include all the ancillary things about Blake that in this particular story may not really matter that much because virtually everyone else that he interacts with is a practitioner, but that would confer an immense practical advantage when fighting a nonpractitioner.

            2. Ah, but it’s even worse, because there’s no remotely fair battleground for the two.

              Neither Blake nor Taylor are intrinsically powerful; both their power sources are intimately linked with the universes they inhabit. There are no spirits in Wormverse, and superpowers run on physics. If Blake went to Wormverse and didn’t bring his own supply of ambient spirits with him (if they even “worked” in Wormverse), it’s quite likely that he’d just fall over dead (like a zombie pulled into any sensible universe).

              Conversely, if Pactverse and Wormverse don’t take place in the same multiverse (yes, I know Wildbow made an offhand comment about that, but Pactverse really really doesn’t look like a typical Wormverse world), then Taylor’s power source (beware of plaintext spoilers) wouldn’t work in Pactverse, either, and she’d be a normal unpowered human there.

        1. Well that’s unspecific. Do you mean death by bugs, death by giant dogs, or death by bigass pillars of stone?

          Oh, wait you meant either of them could kill the other. Haha, good one!

        2. That actually only has meaning for one of them. You ‘destroy’ Blake and he just fights his way back up from the abyss or is resummoned and the fight continues. Especially since he isn’t an Other with a body in the same way as Midge or Green Eyes – he’s currently inhabiting an elemental body so he may just revert to mirror Blake even if it’s completely destroyed (granted, this has it’s cons as well).

    2. I have two problems with the contest as you’ve laid it out:

      1) Blake at this point is just beginning to flex his powers freely and is nowhere near the plateau you picked for Skitter. You could time it to the day of the first deliberate kill for each of them, maybe. Even still, it’s as if Skitter joined the Undersiders with a minor Tinker power, had it revoked after [pick a spoiler, any spoiler] and turned Stranger for a while, and then lost that and gained her bug power on the day of the matchup.

      2) Speaking of deliberate kills, it’s not really in character for either of them to assume that conflict has to end in death (Blake’s recent executions notwithstanding). As someone — wait that was you! — said above: Diplomacy check. And then they team up to hunt down whoever set them up to kill each other in the first place.

      1. Did you click the link?
        Firstly The point of a verse thread is to figure out if one character could theoretically defeat another in combat. That is why there are unlikely things like justice leage vs protectorate or super man vs hulk.
        Secondly in the link it was mentioned that new abilities Blake displays as the story go’s on can be added.
        Thirdly seeing them team up would be awsome. Preferably as a red and green lantern against black lantern laird and C***. (Stars are spoilers not a swear.)

        Don’t you just love how no one can combo break you in the comments section.

    3. Skitter wins every time. Ignore their power differential; it’s enough that Skitter is sane and intelligent and Blake is… not.

      Skitter would do well in Pactverse after she got to know the rules. Blake would get squished in Wormverse, where his rationalizations wouldn’t work out because there’s no such thing as “good karma”, and so he’d just meet an untimely end.

      1. Actually what would happen is the Undersiders would end up with a couple of new members. The tree monster boogeyman, his mermaid boogeywoman girlfriend and a sparrow. And then every asshole in from Jacob’s Bell to Brocton Bay shits themselves.

      2. For these sorts of comparisons you have to assume the norms of both characters and settings apply. In this case, that the battle takes place in a world that has capes and demons and karma and everything that normally applies to each character or exists in each setting.

      1. i think evan said he didn’t have a pulse since the bird body wore out when he started to fall apart after blake went to the drains, so he did before then…and they’re described as a mortal form so I think they at least do breathe…as far as need even if they did its probably going to be just a matter of drawing more energy through the bond like when he broke his neck

    1. Not sure, but IIRC, Sandra fed her familiar in animal shape(?) and Blake mentioned Evan could poop if he would eat, so I guess he doesn´t normally.

      My guess is, that they have to eat if they would eat it their original form, so no for spirits like Evan, Zeitgeists and beings like angels and yes for somewhat organic beings like trolls.

  21. Wildbow, ever since Blake left the drains, I’ve been loving this story now. I could literally read Blake kicking ass for ages. Really wish these stories never had an end =[ Whatever you’re doing, keep it up 😀

  22. Poor Blake. He’s like a single father with two bickering kids, except that they’re all supernatural creatures who basically everyone in town wants to kill or otherwise screw with for one reason or another.

    He stopped at the end of the so-called path, so he wasn’t wading in mermaid-infested snow.
    How often do you hear the phrase “mermaid-infested snow”?

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