Execution 13.9

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The two satyrs looked just a little too smug, as I reunited with the splinter group.  It wasn’t a nice smug or funny smug.  It was the kind of smug that people enjoyed when they’d pulled something on you and they knew there was nothing you could do about it.

Green Eyes was breathing hard.  Her hair was mussed up to a point that even ‘swimming’ through the snow wasn’t pushing it all straight back away from her face, she had nasty looking bite marks on her collarbone and shoulder, and a claw scratch on her arm that looked oddly frayed, as the scales there had broken away and pointed in odd directions.

“Where’s chicken nugget?” Green Eyes asked.

I pointed at my torso.

Her eyes went wide, and her mouth dropped.

“You bastard,” she said.

“What?”

“You ate him!?” she cried out.

I realized I’d been pointing more at the middle of my body than my upper chest.  I was about to respond, when my thoughts ran aground wondering if she was upset because I’d beaten her to eating Evan or if she was upset because she liked him now.

“He didn’t eat me!” Evan’s voice was muffled, emitting from within my ribcage, sparing me from having to find a way to gracefully word my next statement.

Green Eyes gave me a suspicious look.

Evan wormed his way forward until he managed to stick his head through a gap in some more knotted branches and ribs.  “See?”

She gave him a look that was just as suspicious.

“We need to move, at some point,” I said.  “Get where we need to be.”

“With Jerry?” one of the satyrs asked.

“No,” I replied.  “He’s doing… whatever he needs to do.   Each person we take out is one more clue the enchantresses need to pull it all together.  I’ve brought down six out of seven of them.  There’s one left.  If they’re going to figure it out, they’ll figure it out now.”

“They’re good at this,” one of the satyrs murmured.

I nodded.  “The last one is alone, independent from the main group.  He’s not well liked.  The spellbinder.”

I looked pointedly at the satyrs.

“Who?” the first satyr asked, brow furrowed.

“The one who went off alone,” the second said.  “Quiet.  Smelled like shea butter, sandalwood, and tobacco?”

“Shay what?” Evan asked, head still sticking out.

“Shea butter,” the satyr said.

“Why would someone butter themselves up?” Green Eyes asked.

“I think he used it for shaving, going by the nuances of the smell.  But it’s good for the skin, helps with healing, and it carries other scents well,” the satyr said, the words adopting a faint roughness as he spoke, almost as if he were purring.  He extended an arm.  He was definitely purring as he said, “Smell.  Tobacco, sandalwood, and shea butter.”

Green Eyes sniffed his wrist, then broke into a smile.

“Enough of that,” I said.

The satyr shot me a sly smile.

“You’re wearing the same stuff as that guy?” Evan asked.

I poked the bird’s head with one finger, pushing him back inside.

“No.  It’s useful to be able to decide how you want to smell,” the satyr said, arm still extended.  “Cinnamon and myrrh, for when you want to cozy up.”

“I like that,” Green Eyes said.  “It’s been so long since I smelled nice smells.”

“I thought you’d like it.”

More annoyed, I said, “You’re wasting time.”

The satyr didn’t quite manage to look apologetic.

“It’s useful.  Now I know what the guy smells like,” Green Eyes said.  I was about to concede that it was useful, when she added, “We should keep one of these guys around.”

I ignored the statement.  “Do you know where the spellbinder is?”

“No,” the satyr said.  “He left to hit some key areas where local monsters gather.  Goblin shack, goblins under the bridge that serves as a gate to the Sorcerer’s domain, the woods where the hag lives, and some others I’m not remembering.”

“The faerie hangout,” the other satyr said, stepping away from Green Eyes to stand beside his fellow.

“He could be anywhere in the city,” the first satyr told me.

“I figured as much,” I said.  “You can’t find him by sniffing him out?”

“Not unless we want to backtrack alllll the way back to the lakeside and then follow the same path he took,” the satyr said.  He adopted that same smug grin from before.  “Moving slower than he’s moving, if we want to be accurate and not get sidetracked.  We might never catch up to him.”

He was putting emphasis on words, rubbing it in in a way that made it hard to call him out on.  Practically telling me that if I tried to rely on him, he’d sabotage me.  Sabotage Jerry, in a roundabout way.  It was doubly irritating because I wouldn’t have called him out on it if he’d said it outright, I’d have shrugged and accepted that his loyalties fell at least partially with Sandra, and that the satyrs had reason to resent me for killing some of their own.

But by implication and by denying me the chance, he made it doubly infuriating.

The maenads were the High Priest’s warriors.  The satyrs were… more versatile, I imagined.  Quick, with sharp senses, capable of defending themselves, and readily weaponized in a social conflict.

Making them hard to deal with here.

I didn’t rise to the bait, even as the tolling of the bell in the background was like a push on the shoulder.  Familiar enough at this point that it was almost like a friend goading me to take a dare.  Just do it, and it’ll be satisfying.

“I’m not surprised,” I said.  “That leaves plan A and plan B.”

“You mean plans B and C.”

“Relying on the satyrs was never plan A,” I said, as I made eye contact with the satyr who’d just been trying to provoke me.  “Plan A is… no, let’s call it Plan B.”

“Plan B is supposed to be the plan that works,” Evan said.

“Well, if there’s any symbolic power in that, we could use it.  It’s a long shot.  We call someone back at the house.  See if they can’t use magical means to find the guy.  Except we don’t have phones, unless the satyrs have one and are willing to share.”

“Dead battery, was listening to music,” the first satyr said.

The second shrugged, patting his pockets.

“Thought not,” I said.  “Meaning we need to find a pay phone, or borrow a phone, one way or another.  Then we’d need to get ahold of someone, hope they weren’t too busy and that they had the knowledge needed.”

I ran my hand through my hair.  Very little of it draped into my eyes, these days.  It had snarled into longer lengths, held together by grit, as if I’d let particularly grimy clay into it, solidified by cold rather than heat..  A few twigs were snarled in there, and I wasn’t sure they’d ever leave.  More likely they’d grow and set down roots.

“What’s plan B?” Green Eyes asked.  “Run?  Six is enough?”

“No,” I said.  “I’d rather do seven than six.”

“Six is pretty good,” she said.

“Seven is an important number, Jerry says,” one of the satyrs commented, arms folded.

“Three, seven, twelve,” I said.

The satyr nodded.

Green Eyes only looked puzzled.

“It’s practitioner stuff,” I said.  “More than monster stuff.  Magic numbers.  Beat someone three times, counts for more, holds more sway with whoever’s there, watching.  Do it seven times, that’s something too.  We should finish this.”

“You’re missing bones,” Green Eyes said.  “You were supposed to grab some.”

“If the opportunity comes up,” I said.

“That goblin kicked your ass good,” Evan said.  Then, after a pause, he added, “Mine too.”

“I walked away.  That’s what’s important,” I said.

“The night’s almost over.  I think.  I’m not a very good judge of time.  It was a few years since I saw the sun, or the moon,” Green Eyes said.  “I like the idea of stopping, get some food, keep each other company.  But if you think we should…”

“I think we have to,” I said.

“Okay.”

“What’s plan A, then?” Evan asked.

“This, right here,” I said.  “Waiting.”

Waiting?

“Waiting,” I said.  “Though we could stand to get to a better vantage point.”

“I’m wondering if he’s cracked,” Evan piped up, sticking his head out at a different point.  He dodged my finger.  He poked his head out elsewhere.  “Not making much sense.”

“Assuming the enchantresses haven’t figured out a trick to find out where we are, despite the Evan influence,” I said.  “What are they going to assume we’re doing.”

“Going after the spellbinder,” the first satyr said.

“What are they going to do in response?”

“Warn him?” the second satyr asked.  “A phone call?”

“They’ll send some help.  A warning wouldn’t be enough,” Green Eyes said.  “We follow the reinforcements?”

“Yeah,” I said, my voice soft.

“Assuming we can,” the first satyr said.  “What if ‘help’ is a spell.”

“Evan breaks spells.”

“Or if they drive?”

“How many people do you see out there driving?” I asked.  “Why didn’t your High Priest drive?  Why didn’t any of them?  Rhetorical question.”

“Ha,” Evan said, barely audible from within my chest.

“I don’t know,” the satyr said.  “Why didn’t they?”

I pointed.  Reluctantly, the satyrs followed.  Green Eyes was already moving to my side, following.

I spoke as we traveled.  “Because in a war like this, where an awful lot of things you don’t want to pick a fight with look human if you’re standing far enough away-”

“Like you,” Green Eyes interrupted.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.  Thank you,” I said.

She smiled.

“Anyway, I imagine that a lot of the sort of things you don’t want to mess with, like genies, that goblin I just dealt with, they’re human shaped.  So if you stand far enough away, or if you’re dealing with a crowd, you have to wonder.  You hold back.  But something in a car?  It’s going to be a practitioner, and I don’t think many practitioners can practice while driving.”

“They’ll travel on foot, maybe assisted by practice,” I said.  “Evan’s unable to fly, so we’ll have to be quick, we’ll have to be smart, and we’ll have to be lucky.”

“Because luck has really been with us?” Evan asked.

“It has,” I said.  I thought of the karma hoarder I’d stabbed.  “Eerily so.”

We climbed onto a garage roof.

“Don’t look directly at the enchantresses,” I murmured.  “Take in the scene as a whole, focus on details, or the people accompanying them.  Green Eyes, same idea as before.  Use their fear to gauge if they’re watching.  We can’t let them see us if this is going to work.”

“Yeah,” she said.

We’d hunkered down on our bellies, only our heads visible above the garage.  I was at the one edge, Green Eyes beside me, and, naturally, one of the Satyrs had settled beside her.

“Cinnamony,” she murmured.

The satyr on the far side of her smiled.

I really didn’t like that they were using such simple means to try and manipulate her.

She saw me looking, looked at the Satyr, then turned her eyes forward, ignoring me.

I saw a small smile creep across her face.  It got wider, until her teeth showed.  Narrow, long, and sharp, interlocking like a piranha’s.

Was she playing me?

I didn’t like the idea.  It stirred up all kinds of ugliness, like a footstep in a clear puddle kicking up clouds of black, vile mud.

“The smell of cinnamon makes me think of food,” she murmured, still watching the house down the street.

The satyr edged away from her.

Green Eyes, apparently unaware, leaned forward a bit, eyes narrowing, as if she were looking at something, her shoulder pressing into my armpit.

“What?” I asked.

“I saw movement,” she said.  “Wasn’t important.”

She settled down, the soft part of her chin resting on my arm, while her shoulder remained tucked into my armpit.

“I didn’t see nothing,” Evan said.  “You’re crazy.”

I turned my head.  He’d crawled out from inside me, and made his way under the back of my sweatshirt to my neck, just his head peeking out.

“Careful about lies,” I said.

“Oh yeah.”

“It’s okay,” Green Eyes said, not lifting her head as she talked, so her chin made my arm move with each word, “I am, just a little.”

“Okay,” Evan said.  “But if you’re seeing stuff that isn’t there-”

“Evan,” I said.  “Let it be.”

“But-”

“Let it be,” I said.  “And don’t expose yourself.  We might need you in fighting shape.  Focus on rest.”

“Hmph, shutting me up, stowing me away,” he said, retreating just a bit under my sweatshirt.  He stuck his head out again, “don’t think I didn’t hear that chicken nugget comment earlier.  I figured that out too, you hear?”

I reached up to poke at his head again, but he was already gone, disappearing inside my shoulder.

The snow fell.  There was activity in the house, people moving across windows.  A general sense of agitation.  A few too many people, perhaps, crammed into one house, unless it was a demesne – and I wasn’t seeing anything special through the windows to suggest it was.  Those numbers in that kind of space wasn’t a big problem when things were quiet, but things weren’t quiet.  Several recent deaths, high stakes surrounding everything, and people were probably limited to the common areas.  Restlessness.

It was more peaceful where we were.  I didn’t breathe, but Green Eyes could.  I couldn’t feel much, not heat or cold, exactly, but I could feel the pressure of her chin, and the movement of her body with each breath she took.  I could feel her heartbeat, distant.  It was almost reassuring, like having a heartbeat and lungs of my own again.

Quiet, calm, laced with a kind of tension.  As if we were snipers, waiting for hours for a possible shot.

Time was running out.  Was my guess right?  Would this work?  Or should we send the satyrs out to find a pay phone?

Were they capable of figuring out who the last target was?  All they had to do was connect the last dot.  Through magic, enchantment, any number of divination tricks, summoning spirits.

Or they could ask.  They just had to figure out, to hear where I’d gotten the names from, and then they could grill the various kids in the chatroom.  I had little doubt they could get the information they needed out of people.

Would they walk into the metaphorical crosshairs?

It didn’t do to dwell.  I glanced at Green Eyes, and noted the bite mark on her collarbone.

“How’re you holding up?”

“Wish I got to eat more of the people we stopped,” she murmured.  “Wish you got more raw bones and dead wood in you.  But all in all, this is good.”

She snuggled a little closer.

Having been where I’d been, experiencing what I’d experienced, knowing it was only partial, I had no grounding in what to do.  I’d had girlfriends.  I’d had more than enough tender moments, back at Carl’s compound, but now, like this, being what I was?  The only reason I wasn’t panicking at the idea of physical contact was because I’d left so much of myself behind.  I’d disconnected from Blake the human.

But maybe this was a possibility because we were monsters.  Green Eyes was probably never going to be a tool to manipulate me.  I wasn’t about to be something she could look at as food.  Or at least, not quite, in both cases.

I settled one hand on her back, and pulled her closer, more to reaffirm that it was good.

She made the smallest noise in the low part of her throat.

Evan piped up, “While we’re talking about food, you wanna know what I never did when I was alive?  I never had sushi.”

“I was getting to be fond of you, nugget,” she said, “Don’t go and change my mind.”

“Well, I liked you pretty much right away, so there.  Maybe I’m just a better person,” Evan said, his head poking up beneath my sweatshirt, a little lump at my back.

“If you are, then learn to be quiet when a girl’s trying to enjoy a moment with the boy she likes,” she said, very gently pushing the lump under the fabric down.

“Oh.  Oh, dangShoot,” he said.  “Didn’t realize.  Now I feel bad.”

He sounded genuinely upset.

“Don’t,” Green Eyes said.  She stroked one section of the sweatshirt.  I could only assume Evan’s head was under it.  “It’s good.”

“Speaking of good,” one satyr spoke up, “You were right, bogeyman.”

I could see people moving out.

I watched, noting the number as they continued moving around the side of the house.

The number was the most important thing, here.  It set the tone of the coming confrontation.  How hard a fight would it be, and who would be fighting?

There were two big possibilities here.  Either Sandra would send a select group, or she’d send everyone that was willing to go, with only stragglers remaining behind, I assumed.

“Five,” I murmured.  “Ten.  Twelve… 

“Fifteen,” Green Eyes updated the count, as three more left the house.

“No lucky number.”  This from the satyr that had been cozying up to Green Eyes.

“No,” I agreed.

The group added up to twenty.

Probably closer to being everyone that was willing to go.

Good.

That was ideal.

We moved quickly, down from the roof, then along the sides of the street.  As planned, it was Green Eyes and I in the lead, the satyrs trailing behind.

Sandra was there.  More confirmation that it wasn’t the elite contingent.  Sandra wouldn’t have left the people with doubts alone to commiserate.  It wasn’t that she was manipulative, which she was, at least a little, but more that, well, she had a group to look after, and I would have stayed behind, if the positions were reversed.

I caught a glimpse of Needledick the Goblin King.  His familiar was with him, still humanoid.  He’d collected the axe I’d driven into the one Ritchie Brother’s groin, and held the serrated sword again.

I’d left the axe behind on purpose.  A spur of the moment thing.  It struck me as the kind of thing the goblin would come after me for.

I really didn’t want to pick another fight with a goblin of its caliber.

The diagram drawer was there too.

If we accidentally gave ourselves away, we’d have him to deal with again.  I didn’t want that either.

If seven was our lucky number, and if all went according to plan, then succeeding here would be key.

If I’d had a heart to stop, it would have stopped as I saw the diagram drawer look back, his fear spiking and staying at the new height.

Recognition?

He said something to the practitioner beside him.

The fear rose a bit more.

We reached the main street.

More open area, less cover to help us.  More white behind us, making us silhouettes against a pale background.  Without speaking a word, we collectively fell back a bit more.  Even the Satyrs, I imagined, had hunted enough to have instincts on this front.

I was only beginning to consider possibilities for slowing them down and getting ahead of them, now that they seemed to be moving with more direction, when Sandra acted.

A gesture, a movement, her chalice raised high.

The group blurred, as if I were wearing strange bottle glasses, and then the colors shifted, growing more stark.  When they moved, they moved fast, out of sync with reality and the space around them.  One footstep covering the length of two parking spaces, the legs not stretching, the individual not moving in any odd way, just… moving farther.  The heightened colors left a trail behind them, odd, veering too far in odd directions.

In moments, they were gone.  Down two blocks, then around a corner.  The trail of colors dissipated in their wake.

Leaving their pursuers, us, in the dust.

“Did they see us?” Evan asked.

“No,” Green Eyes said.  “There would have been more fear, or less fear.  They were the same.  They were just-”

“Covering more ground,” I finished.  “Did they leave smells?”

“Yes,” the first satyr said.

“You can track them?” I asked.

Yes,” the satyr said.

We switched roles.  The satyrs led.

This was complicated.  I wished I knew Sandra better, to guess how she thought, how she strategized, and what she might do in this sort of situation, everything on the line.

It, in the end, took five or ten minutes to catch up.  Others watched us, and with each one, I had to wonder if they’d left watchdogs, guardians, reporting back to them.

The calm was gone.  There was only tension.

Yet Green Eyes looked positively rosy with good cheer.

“Which place is this?” I asked.  “It’s not the bridge.  Not the woods, unless I got really turned around.  Goblin shack?”

“No,” one of the satyrs said.

The scene came into view.  I stared.  “God dammit, why can’t it be simple?”

It was, in large part, an ordinary section of street.  A dead end, with a house at the far side.  The eclectic decoration around the house, which included a tarp-covered fountain and several rather elegant little statues standing in a snow-covered garden, pretty much told the entire story.

The Duchamps had gathered.  They had spread out, occupying the end of the street.  Several sat on car hoods and bumpers.

The Spellbinder, as it happened, was easy to pick out.  He looked so ordinary, if a little stone-faced in expression, with drooping cheeks and larger ears betraying his age just a bit.  His hair was parted to one side.  I could have figured his identity by process of elimination, after stalking the Duchamps enough times tonight.  I didn’t have to.

A diagram sat at the far end of the street.  The simple, stark, straight-line-and-geometry diagrams were to this what printed writing was to cursive.  Flowing lines, curving, like elaborate musical notes or calligraphy, all with a pattern in mind.

Which was fitting, given the Faerie in the center of the circle.

At least, I hoped it was a Faerie.

There were two girls in red-and-black checkered scarves.  They were identical in appearance, but different in dress.  Both had unruly curly hair that was only slightly more manageable because it was damp with snow, both had earmuffs, albeit with different styles.  One knelt in the center of the circle, slumped over.  The other stood between Sandra and Needledick the goblin king.

Each possibility worse than the other.

The entire group was arranged to protect the spellbinder.

Except he was no longer my focus.

“Mags,” I said.

The girl standing between Sandra and the goblin king shook her head slowly.

My eye flickered to the girl sitting slumped in the circle.

I thought of the story I’d heard of the spellbinder.

He’d bound his wife.  Enslaved her mind, spirit, and body.

Mags?

The girl standing between Sandra and the goblin king shook her head.  “No, Blake.”

“No?”

“That’s not Mags either.  Well, unless he decides to call himself that.  It’s not like the name belongs to one person in particular.”

I looked between the two girls.

The girl beside Sandra raised a hand, and pointed at the spellbinder.  “He got the faerie for me.”

“You might consider it a gift,” Sandra said, “for goodwill.  My family has long dealt with faeries, and Padraic is a bastard.  I’m content I can smooth over any hurt feelings.”

“I’m Maggie again,” Maggie said.  She smiled, but it wasn’t the smile that should have gone with the statement.  She hugged her arms close to her body.

“The ambassador is supposed to be impartial,” I said.  “You can’t side with them.”

Mags is the ambassador,” Sandra said.  “She doesn’t have the name, she doesn’t have the title, or the obligations.  If she takes on any bad karma due to any lingering ties to the title, that will be dissolved when I become lord and do away with the job.  Maggie, of course, will be free to go.  No consequences.”

“It’s almost everything I wanted,” Maggie said.

“And your family?” I asked.

Maggie hugged herself a little more.  “Like I said.  Almost everything I wanted.”

I nodded slowly.  “I was assuming you were talking about this, us.  Will I be the second Thorburn you kill?”

“Harsh,” Maggie said, her voice cracking a bit, as she dropped to a whisper.  “You don’t hold back.”

There was a pause.  The tolling of the bell continued in the background.  I could only assume Molly was resting, or she’d be here.

“Screw this!” Evan piped up.  “You were cool!”

“I’m still cool,” Maggie said.  “Believe me.”

“Nuh uh!”

Needledick took a step forward.  He drew a weapon, and laid the handle in Maggie’s hand.  A trench club, not unlike a short baseball bat, with spikes at the tip, to lend it a bit more oomph.

Maggie gripped the weapon in both hands, the leather of her gloves squeaking against the handle. In this short dead end of a street lit only by two streetlamps, I could make out the tension at her jaw.

“Is this how this plays out?” I asked.

“You’ve had a good night,” Sandra said.  “Picked off several of ours, striking out of the cold and the darkness, from several angles, disappearing from even our ability to see you.  Winning over Jeremy was an especially good bit of luck on your part.  There’s a lot to be said for momentum, and this was the best way I could decide on to break yours.”

“Well, it’s a good way to do something,” I said.

Maggie nodded.

“Once, I mused on how similar we were,” I said.  “We might have even talked about it.  Do you remember?”

“You’ll have to be more specific,” she said, staring down at the weapon.

“We both want the hell out of this town.  I think it stems from the same desire.  We want to be free, and this place sucks.

She reached up and grabbed the fabric of her shirt, right over her heart.  “Believe me, I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t want to be free of this place for good.”

“The key difference, though,” I said, “Is that you wrap yourself up in more bondage to get free, while I… lose myself, I guess.”

“Bondage?”

“You’re their puppet, doing what they say.  Doing things the way they want you do to them.”

“Yeah.  I am,” she said.  She couldn’t make eye contact.

“Part of my success tonight is due to the fact that I’ve started to play my role a little better.  I’ve defined who I want to be and why, and I’m following that path.  Can you say the same?  Is this who you want to be?  Or are you their pawn, again?

She stared down at the weapon.

“Moving speech,” Sandra commented.  “But a deal’s a deal.  She already agreed to our terms.”

“A benefit of changing identities,” Maggie said, “Is that you get to leave consequences behind.”

She straightened, and looked me in the eye.  She turned on Sandra, backing away, moving in our direction.

“Yes!” Evan said.

“Breaking a deal makes for bad karma,” Sandra said.  “Doing it when you’re in a precarious position-”

Drat you,” Maggie said.

She swung the club.

The ground and air shimmered, tremoring, and many of the Duchamps stumbled backward.

“Yes!” Evan cheered.

She’d avoided attacking in the direction of the circle.

“Get back,” Sandra said.  “Use the circle for cover.  She won’t-”

“I might,” Maggie said.  “Take it from me, Sandra, you do not want to get on his bad side.  I know.”

As if to punctuate the statement, the Faerie in the circle screamed, features distorting.  A guttural, male scream, cutting right to the core.

Maggie backed up further, and shot me a winning smile.

“Yes!”  Evan said.

Green Eyes hissed, and Maggie practically jumped out of her skin.  She jumped even more as Green Eyes snapped.

“No!” Evan said.

“Maybe don’t bite the allies,” the first Satyr said.

“Agreed,” Maggie agreed.

The other practitioners were moving.  Reorganizing.  Getting implements out.

I watched each.

Sandra’s troll emerged, from stoat to full size.

A fight.  War.

Too many things to keep track of.

Hyena in hand, I put the point to Maggie’s throat.

It all settled.  Things going quiet.

“No!” Evan said, louder than before.  “What?  No!”

I met Maggie’s eyes.

“Drop it,” I said.

She dropped the weapon.

There was a long pause.  Very nearly silent.

“What gave me away?” Maggie asked.

“Green Eyes.  I don’t think the reaction fit to Maggie’s.  And I’m not so optimistic to think that things would go this well for me.”

“Yeah,” Maggie said.

“Fool me once,” I said.

“I fooled you quite a few times, in Toronto,” she said.  “More than once.”

“Well you didn’t get me here.  That’s your Faerie pal, in the circle there.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“I could stab you,” I said.  “Free Maggie.”

She shook her head.  “Wouldn’t get the name back.  But if you let me go, I’ll leave until all of this is over.”

“Suppose I have to,” I said.

She backed away, then ran, moving faster than any human should.

The other Maggie stood from the circle.  She moved her arms and swept up the diagram, wrapping it around herself like a drape, as she backed away.  I saw the Spellbinder fall in step beside her.

“That doesn’t end this,” Sandra said.  “You’re outnumbered, and we’re positioned.”

“And, I’m guessing, the Spellbinder is nowhere near here.”

“Nowhere near here,” Sandra said.  “I sent him home.  He already left the city.  You won’t get your seventh kill for the list.”

I nodded slowly.

She flicked a hand.  The trench club flew to one side.  When I looked down, I saw that Green Eyes had been inching closer to it.

“I’ll surrender,” I said, very deliberately, “I’ll end the fight, let you have Jacob’s Bell if you can earn it, even support you, if you so desire, with one condition.”

“One condition?”

“Yes,” I said.  “Yeah.  All I need you to do, is swear to me, on your family, on your title, on your power, that you’ll stop with the fucked up arranged marriages.  You’ve told others in the family, you swore to them, you’ve implied, I want to hear it from you, that the Duchamp family will no longer continue catering to husbands like the ones I’ve killed.”

“You’ve killed a variety of husbands,” she said.

“Stop prevaricating,” I told her.  “You know what I want.  I want you to tell me, straight out, that I’m wrong.  That the Duchamps aren’t going to take the lordship and then keep doing what they’ve been doing.  Do that, you win here.”

The wind whistled.

There was no answer she could give.

I’d created the cracks.  Created sides, fostered arguments and doubt.  Put people on two sides with the six previous kills.  All I needed was one more.  A seventh.

“I can’t give you an answer, one way or another,” she admitted.

Which was, in its way, an admission of defeat.

I backed away slowly, my arms spread.  The others joined me.

Nobody moved to stop me.

I hadn’t gotten my seventh kill, using the list.

I’d achieved my seventh win.

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198 thoughts on “Execution 13.9

  1. Ran into a minor snafu with the update – sometimes I submit the post and have the time scheduled for 00:01 on the day in question, and it doesn’t go up at the scheduled time – I usually catch it within a minute or five and resubmit with no issues, but I just moved over this past weekend and am sorta tired and frazzled with most of my stuff in boxes and one minor maintenance issue (bathtub, sink, kitchen sink not draining) I had to run by my landlord today, so I kind of missed it this time. Sorry to those who were refreshing a lot, and sorry it’s late.

    Going along with the move to a different city, I’m setting up a different P.O. box. The old one will be defunct soon enough (and I’d only be able to visit it, like, twice a year, when I go through Ottawa), so anyone sending anything in the coming month may want to wait until the new box is set up. As per usual, it’ll be on the donate tab beneath the header image (or just go to the homepage and add /donate/ to the end.) Probably doesn’t matter too much, as I’ve had, I think, two pieces of mail from fans, to date, and the box hasn’t paid for itself, but it’s more important for mail from official sorts like interested publishers or agents for Worm.

    On a sorta-kinda-not-really-related note, just putting it out there, but the discussion of possible Worm Merchandise came up on Reddit here:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/Parahumans/comments/2n15dw/wildbow_asks_worm_merchandise/

    Thanks for reading. Am looking forward to having more elbow room and peace and quiet, at least after the more hectic month of December is done with.

    1. Don’t know about Canada, but here in NZ you can get post forwarding set up for 6 months for about $40. Might be worth considering.

      1. In the US, you can stop by your post office (or go online to the USPS website) and fill out a postal forwarding slip, for free. I don’t know how long it lasts, but I once got a piece of mail forwarded at least a few months after I’d changed addresses. I didn’t know that some places in the world make you buy that.

        Ah, I just looked it up. In the USA, online mail forwarding is $1.06 for six months to “verify that you are who you say you are”. If you go in person to a post office, it’s free.

        1. if i was gonna mess with somebody by having the mail redirected for some reason or other I feel like I’d be $1.06 committed anyway 😛

          1. You have to use a credit card, and the billing address on the credit card has to be the address from which you’re moving. It’s not the cost that’s the issue; they’re using the payment info as ID.

        2. I haven’t done it in about 6 years, but I think forwarding is supposed to last 6 months. I’m pretty sure I actually got mail forwarded for longer than that.

        1. OK, my question: is Spikedick the practitioner or the familiar? Blake fought the familiar, right? Or was I mistaken about that?

          1. Mr. Hal, whose first name is, oddly, more obscene than that of the goblin in question, is the practitioner. Gallowscream is his familiar. It suggests to me that Goblins and Demons follow a similar pattern in their weak>medium>superior forms, or at least that powerful goblins sound less puerile and more dangerous.

    1. solidified by cold rather than heat..
      -Two periods.

      “Anyway, I imagine that a lot of the sort of things you don’t want to mess with, like genies, that goblin I just dealt with, they’re human shaped. So if you stand far enough away, or if you’re dealing with a crowd, you have to wonder. You hold back. But something in a car? It’s going to be a practitioner, and I don’t think many practitioners can practice while driving.”

      “They’ll travel on foot, maybe assisted by practice,” I said. “Evan’s unable to fly, so we’ll have to be quick, we’ll have to be smart, and we’ll have to be lucky.”
      -It’s not exactly a typo, but the ‘I said’ breaks up the speech, makes it seem like he’s responding to a missing interjection.

      He stuck his head out again, “don’t think I didn’t hear that chicken nugget comment earlier. I figured that out too, you hear?”
      -Don’t

      And the Duchamps are broken.

    2. Typos:

      • “What are they going to assume we’re doing.” -> “What are they going to assume we’re doing?”
      • “What if ‘help’ is a spell.” and “What if ‘help’ is a spell?”

      • “don’t think I didn’t hear that chicken nugget comment earlier.” -> “Don’t think”

      • “Those numbers in that kind of space wasn’t a big problem” -> “weren’t”

      • “I could have figured his identity by process of elimination” -> “figured out”

      Also, I was confused when Blake started talking to Mags/Maggie without being instantly attacked by the entire Duchamp contingent – I thought he was farther away from them.

    3. “Anyway, I imagine that a lot of the sort of things you don’t want to mess with, like genies, that goblin I just dealt with, they’re human shaped. So if you stand far enough away, or if you’re dealing with a crowd, you have to wonder. You hold back. But something in a car? It’s going to be a practitioner, and I don’t think many practitioners can practice while driving.”

      “They’ll travel on foot, maybe assisted by practice,” I said. “Evan’s unable to fly, so we’ll have to be quick, we’ll have to be smart, and we’ll have to be lucky.”

      First paragraph shouldn’t have an end-quote, because it’s followed by the same person talking.

      1. He stuck his head out again, “don’t think I didn’t hear that chicken nugget comment earlier. I figured that out too, you hear?”

        “don’t” should be capitalized.

  2. We can tell it’s Wildbow when he manages to write the most adorable relationship I’ve ever seen written.
    Between a monster mermaid and a wooden boogeyman. With a ghost-spirit-kid-bird as the cool little brother.
    In fact, it will turn out that Pact was a paranormal romance all along, not urban fantasy like we’ve been lead to believe.

    1. Just a note: I am not the kind of person that goes “aw” at romantic stuff, usually. I went “aw” repeatedly here. REPEATEDLY.

    2. Hear, hear. Seriously, the only way Evan could become more the “cutely annoying and downright sweet little brother” was if he were to get a physical human body back.

      But, I don’t think he’d really want to forgo flying by now. Unless he’s promised as scooter at the very least. xD

  3. My question: If all of these things are going so well for Blake on camera, what in the world is going badly off camera to make up for it?

    1. Well, Jeremy is the current bad karma guy. Presumably something terrible and fitting is happening to him. Or possibly Rose and Alister. Maybe Alister is meeting his new in-laws.

      1. Some body carried away a book, and some early morning jogger is going to find it, and take seven tries trying to figure out how to pronounce Ornias?

    2. Blake is Corvidae’s puppet. With the enchantresses ruined, Corvidae is free to cripple all and sundry, and catch Jacob’s Bell in a weave that will cause suffering for generations.

    3. Let’s see:

      -One or two of the husbands having been plants in the chat placed there by Sandra or whoever else. Blake kills a couple people who didn’t deserve it, giving Sandra ammunition to discredit him.

      -Molly rolling in to attack the Duchamps now, either forcing them back together or weakening too much and setting up an opening for either Behaims or Johannes to move in. Creating a new, status-quo reinforcing balance of power.

      -Someone attacking the junior council, pissing off the Duchamps enough to reformed, or even worse. Killing enough of the JC that not enough people are left to change things for the future. The adults aren’t going to.

      -Jeremy revealing whatever the hell thing he’s actually planning.

      I mean, there’s so many openings for Blake’s plans to get fucked. Take your pick.

    1. Blake is the dad who tells the youngest to be careful, Green is the mom who wants them to eat well so they’re more then meat and bones, Evan is the kid brother, and Mags is the cool older sister.

  4. Fun thing to note… the Number of wins here is even more significant if you take it as part of the grand scheme beyond simply being ‘lucky’.

    Seven is the number of renewal and revitalization. It is the signifier of CHANGE.

    Seven years bad luck from breaking a mirror is because it was thought that it took seven years for anything in your system to completely cycle out of it, that by the end of seven years you were in effect a new person compared to who you were before, or at least that you COULD be a new person.

    Essentially this means that Blake just achieved an even bigger coup than he might have realized. By ending this challenge on seven wins, with the seventh aimed at the head of the enemy, he’s just hit Sandra and the Duchamp camp as a whole with the impetus for Change.

    She just took a hit under a symbol of change and renewal… her hold on her faction has been fractured by it.

    Blake just created his chance for change, and did it under what is effectively the numerical symbol for change.

    Meaning ultimately that there’s a REAL chance for him to actually pull off what he wants to do, and he just created it almost unwittingly. Hell Sandra just HELPED him create it by sending the Spellbinder away and making HERSELF the target of the final win.

    Also Green-Eye’s+Blake is probably one of the healthiest relationships he’s ever had… The two of them remain super adorable together.

  5. I liked the bit with the Satyr and Green Eyes. I was so very scared for the Blake and Green Eyes. Then:

    “think of food”

    🙂

      1. To be fair, she’s been trapped in the Drains for at least a year or two. She hasn’t exactly had a lot of romantic attention of any sort. I can’t blame her for liking it when a reasonably attractive satyr expresses interest in her.

        1. And I see how the satyrs see so much action — they can control how they smell? And they’re working for a God who likes drinking and wild parties? Hmm, what sorts of drugs are addictive when you smell them?

    1. That isn’t completely fair to her. She did let the worst husband (as far as we know) escape so Blake couldn’t get his seven kills, but that’s not the only reason. She let him escape because he is her ally and she was never concerned about how bad of a person he was. We have no reason to believe she ever wanted him dead.

      I’m not saying that Sandra is good at all, I am just saying that letting escape the spellbinder does not tell us anything new about Sandra. It shouldn’t worsen our view of her. Keeping the spellbinder in place would be completely out of character of her.

      1. And we have zero information on whether or not the spellbinder managed to spellbind Sandra or anyone else in any way. Maybe, in a family who watches connections, he only set up a slight “I’m your ally, you always want to protect me, no matter what.” Who knows… only Wildbow knows what evil lurks in the heart of a practitioner.

  6. I’m wondering if there’s any significance in Blake’s current trio with Evan and Green Eyes being his third potential team of allies, and thus being better at working together and/or more awesomely fantastic to read about (His first being Rose and Maggie, his second the short lived potential alliance with Pizza Guy and No-Face Lady). Probably I’m grouping them completely wrong though,and in the end Blake’s most useful allies will end up being Pauz and Bleeding Profusely.

  7. And the Duchamps are out of the (lordship) game!

    I love Evan! He is the cutest. I also like how the discussion about having eaten Evan in the comments reflected itself in the story. Those satyrs sure sound tasty… I kind of feel bad about Green Eyes playing with Blake, even if it was all in good fun. And they are so weirdly cute together.

    I wonder where Molly is. She doesn’t seem like the kind of being that would need rest, or which would allow itself to rest with something so insulting to her going on. I can only assume something has happened to her (unlikely, the bell has been tolling throughout the chapter) or that she realised it was a play.

    1. The good news is… as a practised emotion reader, she’s probably better at identifying a wider range of emotions than Blake is. She pushed his buttons just far enough to read his reaction clearly to reassure herself that, yes: he’s still interested…

      Then made it all a joke at the Satyr’s expense.

      I also can’t help thinking that she’d rather not eat the Chicken Nugget while he’s still alive and being cute. Although, Evan is going to have to get used to that nickname. 😀

      1. I’m thinking it’s more that she doesn’t want to eat something that’s so obviously useful for cutting connections, hiding, and otherwise escaping from stuff. Later, once things calm down, once things are back on a more evan keel, I mean even keel, I’m just so hungry, I mean practical, I’m a practical person and it’s practical to keep him alive… That’s probably the sorts of things that she’s thinking.

        1. And cute. Seriously, don’t forget how important that is. 🙂 Evan doesn’t just appeal to those blokes around him with Big Benevolent Brother genes and who have a healthy connection to their inner kid, but… put any female of 16+ near him for any amount of time and you’ve got a good bet on getting the mothering hormones kicking in. 😀

          Betcha even Sandra Duchamp would find it very hard to hurt that bird, should she ever actually spend time with him. (I don’t think she lies about being a frustrated nester.)

  8. Wow, I’m actually really surprised that he achieved a win without losing an equal or greater amount of something else. I’ve gotten to used to your equivalent exchange approach to try/fail cycles, I suppose.

      1. I think I’d rather be skeptical and paranoid about every seemingly good outcome than even consider holding out for hope only to have it get squashed.

        1. As a previous comment was speculating, the bad stuff probably happens off sceen somewhere else.
          I just think of Corvidae running around, with a very vague description of what to do…

        1. I figured by now everyone noticed that if things end on an up note for Blake at the end of the chapter, that means next chapter is going to really have things go badly.

    1. “Wow, I’m actually really surprised that he achieved a win without losing an equal or greater amount of something else.”

      But it was a seventh win. Seven is the number of perfection and completeness. That would mean this is a total win against the Duchamps.

      The magic numbers:
      3 – power
      7 – perfection
      12 – persistence(?)

      1. Wow! I did not know that what I did would make the font so big and bold. It was supposed to be the same size as the rest with a divider underneath it.

        1. It could be because WordPress interpeted what was supposed to be the divider as “Make it Big” What exactly did you put in there? I know that if you want italics you put what it in between two * astrics.

  9. Also, the reunion Madraic went much better than I expected for all parties involved. Gotta love Blake’s newfound karma pool for making this happen that way.

    And wildbow, of course.

    1. Of course, the message that Blake needs to pass to Mags now is to get her to make Padraic swear by the Faerie Queen’s sovereignty, name & power to take on all the bad karma he had accrued in Maggie Holt’s name before taking back her identity.

  10. I think Blake being a boogeyman and killing the everliving crap out of the Duchamp men has got to be my favorite arc so far. Usually I would write about how things are obviously going to get worse, but I don’t even mind about it. This arc was just scrumptious.

    And really, Green Eyes+Blake is only slighty less good than Blake+Fell. I’m just glad they can find comfort in each other, given that the universe seems so set in making them have a bad time.

    And Evan! Bless the nugget.

    1. The best part of this chapter was how he turned it into a win. Sandra really thought she had him checkmated. That she was set up to totally sneak a viper into his camp. And how many of us thought Green Eye’s reaction was odd? I mean I just figured she was warning off a rival. Not being an evil detecting mermaid.

      And now Blake has shattered the Duchamp families ability to trust Sandra. They know she can’t or won’t stop the arranged marriages. That carrot that was dangled in front of Penny (I think it was Penny) that if she went through with her awful arranged marriage at least he sister wouldn’t have to? It’s gone. They know it was never real.

      1. I interpreted that as Green Eyes doing exactly what it looked like, but Maggie’s response tipped Blake off that some thing was up.

  11. Nice ending. The younger generation will definitely know the marriages wont stop. Duchamps have split in half. Those willing to do whatever it takes and those who dont want to be currency.

    Keeping the lordship would’ve been just as difficult as winning, and would need powerful allies to keep people from challenging them. Just like Rose Sr. told her heir to marry a bastard. Sometimes you need people who are willing to do the dirty work.

  12. I am sort of hesitant to say this out of fear of the likelihood of being proved horribly wrong: but is it just me or does this seem like the first chapter where Blake hasn’t gotten massively screwed one way or the other? (that being said, still paranoid about the karma hoarder going down so suspiciously easy)

    1. During the Toronto arc Blake did pretty well fighting Pauz, the Hyena, Duncan and Conquest et al. Granted, he ended up getting himself… vanished, but he did very well overall. In fact, I, and maybe some others questioned why Blake was able to just keep going despite the fact he hadn’t rested much at all between fights, or was able to come out ahead certain fights so easily. (This got eventually explained by Blake being an Other).

        1. I think it was something to the effect of the act of Urasing him sent his very being to the Abyss, everyone else was feeling the aftershock of that “transportation” as a lack of memory but the result for Blake was having to now deal with being in the Sewers.

        2. Yes it was. But only in passing

          Because his memories weren’t crafted or forged by natural means, not really
          This is going to be a bit confusing because I’m terrible at explaining things. Sorry in advance.

          When Urr did its thing, it erased connections to blake. However, blake never really had actual connections from him to his family and friends, his memories were fabrications from the split and spirits filling in the gaps. His memories are literally part of him, and exist as long as he does. So even though he doesn’t have the connections or ties to those people anymore, he feels like he does and will as long as he is a vestige-thingy or whatever he was before boogeyman. The only connections blake-blake actually lost are those he made since 1.2 (when he was persumably split from Ross), but since he held on to all the slightly-fabricated memories up until that point, he also held on to those ones as well (the same way mags held on to her memories of blake by holding on to her memories and identity as “mags”).

          1. Perhaps a simpler way to put it: the default state of a human is memory-less, so when you sever their connections they lose their memories. However, the default state of a vestige is however it was crafted, memories included.

    2. Honestly, I think he just played a dangerous game and lost. The Karma hoarder has probably played that gambit several times before and won, such is the size of his store, but Blake just has so much momentum and justice on his side that he came up snake eyes.

      1. There has also been some concern about how well Blake could perform since he’s increasingly loosing his fleshy bits. But I wouldn’t worry, he’s made of wood and bone.

            1. I would imagine all you need is an appropriate piece of wood, a knife, and a little woodworking skill.

              Alternatively the Internet.

            2. Born of Prayers, there’s this fascinating new company called Google. If you look into them, they will help you find the answers to whatever question you might have.

  13. Pact: A tear-inducing and cute tale of a treant-man, a mermaid and a highly intelligent sparrow adopting one another and creating a fun-loving, playful and deeply-connected family.
    The trio then set out to mend and make right all the social injustices perpetrated in a community of bigots and corrupt leaders, finding friends and allies in the most unlikeliest of places. (By murdering everybody in charge, creating insurrections and marrying family members into highly-connected powerful authority figures.)

  14. Oh, holy cow, I just had a thought, which may explain the burning you can smell. Anyway…
    1. We just saw that Sandra is, well, she’s not a completely good person at heart and might have a hard time personally answering that question, “Are you a monster?”
    2. We can see that she basically has Padraic-levels of glamour, possibly because of Padraic, but given the “spellbinder”, et al, a lot of that was probably Sandra.
    3. The spellbinder has been somewhere else, we don’t know where, but somewhere else.
    4. Someone, ostensibly the Benevolent, went down really easily the page before this.

    What if “Benevolent” was someone spellbound to act like Benevolent with a bunch of glamour to make that person look like Benevolent? (And Green Eyes was off doing something else so didn’t get to make her anti-glamour check or whatever she did to figure out the Maggie situation).

    What if “Benevolent” was an innocent, and Blake is so monstered up that he wasn’t able to trust his instincts and realize that she was an innocent? Yes, he wins vs the Duchamps, the family is down, but they win against him with the argument that he needs to be bound by the Seal of Solomon to prevent anything like that from happening again? Especially once the Duchamps team up with the Behaims to take on Johannes.

    It’s very easy at this point to get super meta and to start wondering just how deep the rabbit hole goes — what is real, what are we really seeing, how much of what we’re seeing is another Maggie situation where Maggie turns out to not be Maggie?

    1. I’m hoping the Benevolent was similar to the story of the man stuck on his roof while floodwaters rise, turning away any and all boats arriving to help, insisting that “God will save me”. The story ends with the man drowning, showing up in Heaven and asking God why he didn’t save him, God replying that he sent all those boats. My comparison is that the Benevolent may have become so focused on the very concept of karma pulling his ass out of the fire that he lost site of the fact that karma granted him an opportunity to save himself and he turned it away. In this story that’s essentially a deconstruction of the modern supernatural genre, I think a message that hubris trumping any and all magical intervention would be perfectly fitting.

          1. I’ve heard different versions. Basically, each time it’s the rule of three — the man rejects three seemingly normal attempts to rescue him, each time saying that he’s going to wait for God to save him, then afterward he’s told that each attempt to save him that was seemingly free from God’s efforts had actually been orchestrated behind the scenes by God.

            There’s also the quicker single-shot version. A man was reroofing his house and slipped and started to slide down. He quickly prayed to God while he attempted to scrabble for purchase when he was caught at the last moment by a slightly bent nail that was protruding from the roof. He then called out, “Nevermind, God, the nail saved me.” Some versions of that story end right there, some versions have the nail then coming loose.

            There are multiple versions of the story, but they all use common storytelling tropes and the point is that God is actually behind all these “rescue attempts” but the man is too blind to realize that.

    2. I don’t think so. Sandra would have thrown that out. Told Blake he didn’t get seven wins because he didn’t kill the actual target. Pulled off a C-c-combo Breaker. Robbed him of his momentum. But she didn’t. So I think that the Benevolent is done for.

      1. And how many defeats tonight has Sandra faced?

        1. Failure to take wipe out the Thorburns at Hillsglade House
        2. Defeated by Blake’s rampage
        3. Betrayed by Jeremy at the worst possible time

        I wonder if the Rule of Three applies there too since this all happened in very short order? Blake had seven victories, she had three defeats.

  15. Annnnnd the facade is broken, and all Sandra really cares about is plain for all to see. shame.thought she was better then this, but it turns out she’s just another power-hungry practitioner, merrily throwing her friends and families to the wolves if it gets her more power. probably sleeps like a baby at night, just like Lard did. wonder who she sells out next.

    1. That’s not the only possible explanation. Blake asked Sandra for an absolute oath, for a guarantee, and that’s the kind of thing humans just can’t give.

      Also, in this situation, answering “yes” would have gained Sandra Blake’s support, but quite possibly have lost her all support from the Duchamp husbands. That’s why Blake thinks “There was no answer she could give”. He didn’t ask her a trick question, but he did create a situation which made it essentially impossible for her to answer.

      1. It is in her best interest to accept that deal. Or to at least alter it to the point it can be possible within her power. Like, she can promise to do everything in her power to stop forcing marriges, and discourage persuasion/coersion/manipulation on that front, and to abolish “arranged marriges” but to keep “arranged engagements” that can be called off at time between both parties are of legal age and the time of the actual marrage for any reason.

        Sandra mentioned how she wants change and to fix the duchamp process and to make her family better. But the thing is, she isn’t the first head of the family to want that. I’m sure there were tons before her with the same goals. It never happened. Blake knows this, and knows how the victims of this family become it’s perpetrators of the problem. THAT’S what he called her out on.
        She knows, and understands why her family does terrible things like that, but she can’t deny the pros nor the cons of it, having been a perfect example of BOTH.

        Her original goal has been to change the taint in the family and the bad practices, but not anymore. Now she wants to keep things the same. But admitting that will lose her support. If she truly wanted to change the family for the better, Blake’s offer is a fantastic one.
        First, she combo-breaks him so he can’t get a boost with the seventh win. She removes a threat and gains powerful allies. Jerry promised to ally himself with blake and blake’s plan/ambition, so getting blake on her side gets her husband back on her side as well. Getting a thorburn on your side can help her deal with the rose-alister combo. Plus, blake and his allies are powerful. Blake is above-average on the Other-danger-scale just by being what he is, add in the face he’s also a practitioner adds to his uses/danger. Plus he has Thorburn knowledge that can be used against the dead-mans-switch and rose in general.
        Plus, blake is the opposite of enchantresses in many ways, which can help them to shore up their shortcummings.

        Plus, he’s gained traction and an ear of some of the most powerful players here. He even had enough karmic weight to stab the benevolent. Having someone like that vouch for you and support you on the council is something one would literally pay for. And the only thing it costs her is something she used to want taken away. But now that she considers it a price not worth paying, she can’t take the offer.

        1. It wouldn’t have been a combo breaker. It would, however, have turned the combo to her benefit. And Blake’s. He proposed a win-win, she couldn’t accept, her only other option was surrender. It was kind of awesome.

          1. It would be a combo break, just not one against him, but one against her.
            He gained six wins against her, and she got six losses against him. So she breaks the combo of her losses. He still gets a positive outcome, but it isn’t technically a “Win” in the regards of “who won between the two”, because there is no loss. It would most likely be a draw in the eyes of the spirits.

            Had she taken the deal, she would be with six losses and a win/tie (depending on the details of the deal, and how it was worded between them), which would effectively break the combo of her seventh loss in a row from Blake.

            It’s similar to how alister tied with Blake, even though he was on the ropes and blake had the upper hand. Only in this hypothetical case, they both get the upper hand.
            (although depending out the oath was worded, it could count as a loss on Sandra’s part. But that’s playing semantics… granted, EVERYONE in this world plays semantics, but it hurts my head trying to do that for too long…)

            1. Remember, you don’t have to have had the upper hand to use the finisher in a combo. Last challenge in a set always has the highest stakes, for both sides. We saw this with the Lord mentioned in Familius, when she turned the nightmare creature against the rival candidate who sent it on the third try. If Sandra could have made that oath, turning a powerful enemy into an ally by putting Blake in her camp, she’d inherit his momentum with the spirits and almost certainly keep him from backlash. It’s part of what made this move so clever; he made the win condition be to ally with him and the lose condition to leave him alone, he really had no way to come out of it behind without serious interference.

      2. Sandra could have answered. Blake vowed to Evan to kill monsters. On the surface, it’s a rather ambiguous statement — what is a monster? Sandra is old enough and wise enough to have made a similar statement, if she wanted to. The problem is that she knows darn well that she has no intention of making that statement.

      3. she could of. all she had to do was swear not to cynically force her family into abusive marriages to gain more power. that was ALL she had to swear. and she’s conclusively proved she doesn’t care what happens to anyone else, as long as she gets out ahead. it was EXTREMELY EASY TO ANSWER, and would of done a huge amount to stop the rifts in the Duchamp Family form growing wider, but she just couldn’t give up her favorite tool. he wasn’t asking for her to stop trying to butcher his family, he wasn’t asking her to swear to DEFEND the Thornburns. all he asked was she STOP selling the women of her line essentially as slaves to psychopaths and she instantly refused. please stop defending her.

      4. Exactly. If she says “yes I’ll stop arranging marriages” she alienates all of the husbands and potential husbands, but if she says “no I can’t stop arranging marriages” she alienates all of her relatives, who were under the impression that that was the end goal. Sandra had no perfect answer there, and ended up not answering at all, which alienated both sides.

  16. im still very worried about whatever Rose is up to. it’d PERFECTLY match her recent behavior (her rising instability with the reveal of her and Blake’s possible nature/ the taint of conquest spreading though her mind) for her to suddenly show up and start obsessing killing Blake/fucking everyone else over.
    unless she is playing one HELL of a shell game, she’s pretty much decided to screw her friends and family over and defect to the people who had molly violated to death with corkscrews simply to save her own hide. even if she does have the soul, sometimes from her actions it feels like she doesn’t have a heart, if you get my meaning. or a self preservation instinct, considering who she’s currently apparently shacked up to…

    the reason i really do not like her as a character is, there frankly seems to be little to make her sympathetic at this point. she just feels liek another manipulative pracey looking out for number one. maybe some more viewpoint chapters/ scenes so we can see more of what she’s currently THINKING would help?

    1. Well you got to understand that we are seeing things from blake’s POV.

      And here’s the thing, blake and rose are literally crafted to hate each other and try to undermine or remove the other. So our perspective is always going to paint her in a terrible light. Even if he saw more chapters from her POV like we had with maggie/mags, we would still dislike her once we went back to blake’s perspective.

      If you try to put yourself in her shoes and try to get a feel for her version of events, blake seems crazy and she seems a lot more likeable.
      Actually, I’ve been meaning to wait until this story is done (to fill in some gaps I still have about her) and then I plan on writing pact-fanfic that’s essentially the same thing from rose’s perspective

      1. Yes.

        Rose’s problem from a narrative standpoint is the fact that the viewpoint character rarely bothers to think about things like the consequences of his actions or how other people feel about him, and generally does whatever the hell he wants. So naturally we translate Rose’s behaviour as a being a bitch for no reason. Rose trying to bind Blake comes off as a horrible betrayal instead of “holy shit how do I stop this crazy fucking mirror monster from getting us all killed”.

        Blake’s more emotionally stable friends with better social skills seem to sympathize with Rose just fine, and I doubt it’s because they’re dirty traitors.

        1. Agreed on all counts.

          In rose’s eyes, she was just a normal girl who was suddenly informed about this magic nonsense and also informed that there was a man-made monster who was her stand-in while she was trapped in her “haven”. She wasn’t really given a choice in the matter, thinking he wasn’t real.
          When she came to feel differently about him, she regretted it, but what’s done is done. She even called herself a bitch for going through with dooming him, real or not. Telling him she could lie or that he was the “fake” wouldn’t help anything, and would just make things worse, as there was never a second to pause and take a breather- he needed to be on his A-game or he’d die, and telling him he was designed to die wouldn’t have helped, only hurt him.

          Then she forgets all that, and out of nowhere this monster who clearly wants to kill her comes along and says he “wants to help”. There’s no reason to trust him, as the main way to get out of the abyss is to be full of hatred and rage, to the point of not being able to be reasoned with, along with the fact he can probably lie, and there’s an entire CITY of magic-users and monsters that want her dead, including faerie, with the skills and experience needed to craft a convincing but hard-to-prove/disprove story and who love to put on acts and plays.
          Then she finds out the aforementioned monster is destined to try to kill her, or at least take away as much from her as he possibly can, added to the fact that he doesn’t have a heart or soul and isn’t a real person. Plus with the war going on, having him run free is too risky. And what the f*ck was going on with her dead cousin’s ghost that somehow became sentient and murderous after talking to him?

          Honestly, binding him was literally the nicest thing she could have done, and the second safest thing she could have done for the sake of her “cabal” (that only became aware of this world because of blake’s recklessness).

          Her actions so far have been pretty rational and sometimes kind-hearted. If she was as much of a bitch as blake thinks she is, and as heartless as some of the readers think, I doubt the barber would still be bound and I know that blake wouldn’t be alive.
          Plus alexis, tiff, and ty would have been left to fend for themselves, as they are a liability to her and others.

          Oh no, the traitor. How dare she -_-
          (sarcasm)

          1. Are you oversimplifying Blake to spin him as a villain?You can do that with anyone,ANYONE,Blake might not be a saint,but heisn’t as bad as you are trying to paint him by deliberately accentuating his worst actions without any context.

      2. blake and rose are literally crafted to hate each other and try to undermine or remove the other.

        Blake managed to ignore that from the get-go. When in power, he promised to help her escape. When not in power, he prioritized his friends over saving himself, even going so far as to ignore the repeated betrayals by Rose.

        The “made to hate each other” thing is just an excuse. Rose just isn’t a team player.

        1. Rose came to that reading Grandma’s diary. A lot of what Grandma has written pans out… so, trusting it isn’t stupid.

          Maybe a little short-sighted, as Grandma may have wanted her to draw this conclusion. Or could actually have been mistaken. Even a damn fine mind can get things wrong from time to time. Or, just wrong enough. 😐

        2. Not quite. I’ve been rereading, and blake was overly suspicious of her from the start.
          Sure he wanted to help her and made promises, but even with that he always suspected her and it was downright abnormal the amount of times he had ideas and theories that she was causing him harm intentionally or unintentionally.

          When the topic of possession came up and with his tattoos acting weird, his first instinct was to blame rose, despite the fact that the first conclusion most people in his position would draw from would be the council of practioners who all want him dead, AND the fact he (before the topics came up) read about even in demesnes Others can attack you, including through your dreams.

          And yet he didn’t even consider those but in passing.
          The only reason he felt comfortable trying to help her was because he believed that if he died she would die too. Multiple times he wonders if rose was trying to do something bad to him on purpose but then he reasons that doesn’t make sense because her fate is tied to his. If it weren’t for that, the two would’ve been at ends countless times

          Then he finds out that she will take his place once he dies. From that point, he trusted Fell and Maggie more than her, despite the fact that rose was a more trustworthy (and that is saying a LOT, considering we knew she’s been lying to him this whole time)

          Repeated betrayals? In her eyes, it wasn’t betrayal. Not at first anyways. Then she felt terrible about it, but she couldn’t just undue the two weeks. She had to compartmentalize her self-hate because she knew nothing she could do would stop blake from doing what he wanted, nor to stop blake from departing this world. Nothing she could do at all, so she HAD to keep up the lie. It’s the best option.

          Rose isn’t a non-team player at all. Just the opposite. She’s WAY more of a team player than blake has ever been.

          Seriously, reread the story like I’m doing. Some things about blakes mistrust in her don’t add up. They seem too forced. Not so much to draw suspicion to the fact, but retrospect is 20/20 (especially when you have written from of events…).
          He acts for most of the entire story as if she were like jerry- an enemy turned kind-of ally for now. But there is ZERO reason for him at the time to behave like that. He’s LESS suspicious of maggie than he is of rose, and that’s even before the toronto war.

          We, the readers, have been tainted by blake’s distorted point of view. His lens that he sees the world was ENGINEERED to see the worst parts of rose

          1. We, the readers, have been tainted by blake’s distorted point of view. His lens that he sees the world was ENGINEERED to see the worst parts of rose

            Not just in regard to Rose. But everything Blake thinks and does is warped by the fact that he’s hard-wired towards conflict. Sitting down with Rose and having a frank discussion or trying to negotiate with her is never truly considered. From Blake’s point of view, anything other than direct bold action is a waste of time and won’t solve anything, despite the evidence against that mindset. And since Blake is the viewpoint character we’re led to agree with him.

            1. I just feel I need to say this. Even if Blake’s plans suck, that does not automatically make Rose’s good. They can both make sucky plans, fuck shit up, be idiots, and make serous messes. Even if Rose’s plans are better, that doesn’t make them good. For example lets say person A has a plan that would gets five people needlesly burned to death. Person B’s plan would only get four people needlesly burned to death. Person B’s plan is better, but I would hardly call it good.

              Rose’s plan was not good. It depended on too many unknown factors. It doesn’t matter if one faction decides to call off their forces if everyone else is already dead. Or if the other factions decide to finish them off while they have the chance. They were seconds away from something getting in and killing everyone when they went into the Abyss.

              Just because Blake is inclined to think the worst about Rose doesn’t mean he’s got to be wrong, and she’s got to be right. Just because Blake fucks up, that doesn’t mean Rose can’t too.

            2. Reveen and harden….

              You are right,which makes you WRONG

              What you show us is the instictual,knee jerk reaction of Blake,what he was programmed to do,blaming him for instictually mistrusting her is like blaming someone for instictively trying to break his fall with his arms in a scenario where hewould die anyway,or a trained commando getting killed by aliens on hand to hand combat because he used fighting tactics perfected gainst humans instictually.Both of these sound stupid,but thats how instict operates,it gives you a fast response in very litle time,which tends to save your bacon but can be wrong,to a dangerous degree even.

              Instead,look at every scenario with Blake and Rose more carefully:despite hids instictual reaction making him naturally hateful of Rose,each time attention was drawn to logic,or even fairness,these forces prevailed over his instict.He even made some pretty big leaps of faith,trusting her,giving her more power and pull for their decision that he had too,BLEEDING HIMSELDF OUT TO SAVE HER,etc.Every time there was a force that could trump instict,he tried that.

              And after returning,what did he do each time he met Rose?Diplomacy roll.That is,despite having valid from his point of view reasons to hate her,and ,if not for Molly,he would have even succeeded.

              You two are subtly racists,you blame Blake for his naure,yet he has done nothing but fight it.He has lots of “evil”thoughts,but what does he tend to do?Diplomacy roll,try to find peaceful solutions,trusting Rose,trying to channel what he cannot dismiss to people who deserve it,showing admirable self restrain regardless of his nature again and again and again.

              I am not saying Rose is wrong,her actions are logical,she tried diplomacy roll too,and she trusted Blake when she had minimal logical reason to do so,so she is prolly not a bad person or worse than Blake.I am just saying you judge Blake for highly illogical reasons,for being a monster,for being created by Barbatorem,for having feelings he couldn’t help have,for fighting after trying a lot more other solutions that many less conflict driven people would try,for trying to channel even that to targets who are somehow acceptable….

          2. If you know much about mythology and stories, wondering if your mirror doppelganger is plotting behind your back is incredibly reasonable. The important thing is that Blake gave Rose the benefit of the doubt, which is a favor Rose didn’t return.

            1. If you also know about mythology and stories involving doppelgangers and prophecies, you know that thinking your mirror self or other half plotting against you and assuming they are trying to get you usually ends in your demise and could be avoided if you trusted them a little.

              Blake NEVER gave her the benefit of the doubt, he doubted her at every turn. He just conceded and didn’t act upon it most of the time (consciously anyways) because of the whole “can’t lie, and she made an oath” thing. Speaking of- she tried her damnedest to make blake NOT make a binding oath. She tried. And failed. Because blake is uncontrollable and reckless.

            2. Oh,wow,harden,you really blame a being created to hate Rose for instictively hating her?Virtually every time he had a reason to surpress his instict he did,and some times (every time after he went out of the Drains)where he had reason not to surpress it,he still did.

              Bravo,you are blaming a man for his nature despite the fact that man has tried his hardest to alter/ignore that nature.

          3. I can’t feel sorry for Rose, personnaly i think she’s a total Btch .
            Think about it, she fucked her own awakening on purpose in order to be able to lie to Blake, that means she actually planned to f
            ck him up in the future.
            Then consider the fact she’s mainly protected in the mirror world while Blake litteraly bleed for her many times, he got trashed and nearly got killed many times while she was remained unharmed most of time.The only moment she had a rough time was when she got chained by Conquest and at that time she didn’t even resist before blurting out everything she knew about Blake to him.
            Do you think that discovering the fact that she was a vestige makes it more redeeming, i disagree, though she was a vestige she had everything, she posseses the power of the thorburn through her voice, Blake is virtually powerless without her and then later she’s the only one who has access to the books. Blake could only count on himself, on the little bit of knowledgehe had.
            His plan are fcked up? Of course he hardly had times to think, she wakes him up, forcing him to acknowledge the existence of magic, then he discovers that everyone in town hates him, they are all against him, later he learns that because he is a male he doesn’t get the full power of a thorburn heir (he can’t even use the Barber), he is at the bottom of the food chain while everyone preys on him, and Rose would you say, she is hardly a nuisance at this time they don’t care about her . Blake nearly got killed i don’t know how many time while she is mostly safe in the mirror.
            Blake had all the reasons to be suspicious of her, think about it he is a practitionner and that means listening to ones intuition, having precognitive dreams, and that means that in their own ways it was the spirits themselves who pointed to Blake the possible treachery of Rose so i don’t think he was overly suspicious of her.
            I can understand the fact that she might have been sorry for him when she learned that he was fated to die and was to replace him and that she might have regretted having lied to him after all her existence was at stake. But i truly can’t forgive the fact that since she became human she f
            cked him up even more.
            First she helped alexis and the others but this is mainly done in order to have allies to help her, and she even admitted that their actual relationship is one in which she has dominion over them and that she prefers them to be under her grip ( implicitely refusing them to be equal to her).And then when Jeremy attacks her she finds it better to seal him while in fact he did everything he could to save her.It was obvious at this point that though Blake might hate her he still prefers to help her so his friends can be saved, he put his friends before even himself. She could have at least given him the benefit of doubt.
            What i truly cannot forgive is the fact that she can blame Blake for being a dangerous boggeyman while in fact she was ready to use anything in order to win the war.Then she get engaged with Alister and can say that she did it to save the over screw her, she could have done that before everything escalated.
            She even put herself out of harm knowing that the others were hardly prepared to face what was coming, she knew their chances to survive was slim.
            She even implicitly admited that she was ready to sacrifice everyonebecause her grip on them was getting weaker,
            She’s a b*tch, she only care for herself, if someone can be used she will use him or her until that person escape her control and that’s what happened she was ready to sacrifice her friends because their connection to her are getting weaker, while Blake was ready to sacrifice himself to save them even though he had no connection with them, they treated him like an ennemy and yet hed did all he could to help them, to support them.
            Yes i hate Rose and i have all reasons to do so.

            1. As others have repeatedly pointed out, Rose thinks she deliberately botched the awakening ritual but that doesn’t automatically make it so. When Urr erased Blake from existence, Rose was left not knowing that Blake had ever existed and, by extension, that she had ever been trapped in the mirror world.

              So she’s was just left knowing that she didn’t use the standard awakening ritual. Since it’s pretty hard to accidentally mix up iron and holly she figures she must’ve done so on purpose but can no longer remember why she didn’t do it ‘correctly’.

              At this point I’m more inclined to blame Rose’s botched(?) awakening on grandma Rose’s machinations than to assume contemporary Rose planned it.

              Likewise, Rose didn’t deliberately seek sanctuary in the mirror world – Grandma Rose forcibly put her there.

              Others have covered the rest in more detail, but Rose’s actions have actually been fairly reasonable, considering the circumstances. She’s dealing with a bogeyman who she is reliable informed will be driven to destroy her due to his origins.

              Assume for a moment that she’s as much a victim of Grandma Rose’s machinations as Blake is. Would you do much differently in her shoes?

          4. “downright abnormal the amount of times he had ideas and theories that she was causing him harm intentionally or unintentionally.”

            i think you made a typo and meant “apparently 100% correct” since its only paranoia when it isn’t true

            1. I am pretty much certain not every action Blake was worried about was actually intended to screw him over. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure she actually was actively trying to screw him over at all. She said she deliberately botched the ritual after Blake’s connections got EraseUr’d, so I am not quite convinced that’s what actually happened.

              Anyways, he was more worried about her than “Maggie” and had less reason he was aware of.

      3. Rose CLAIMS that, and cheerfully dances off to Marry someone while her Cousins are being slaughtered. she’s somewhat undermined her credibility there.

        1. How so?
          How is her credibility undermined at all?
          What she claims has physical evidence to support it in the forms of the books and diaries.

          She chose to marry alister FOR her cousins. Because here’s the thing- even if everyone survived this night, they could strike again the next with even more power. They could even set up ambushes in parts of the abyss or other worlds so they can’t escape again. Rose’s move circumvents that so there is a LOT less power on her enemy’s side, and more on her side.
          It’s literally better than blake’s previous plan (before he found out about the marriage) in every way.

          She didn’t seem cheerful or happy. She doesn’t actually want to marry him, as far as I can tell, but she knows she needs to, and she wants the power his family brings to the table. If you read worm, taylor made a similar choice MULTIPLE times to “lie in bed with the enemy” as the saying goes, for the greater good, even though she seemed like a traitor in the eyes of others.

          the same thing applies here. From rose’s eyes, blake is probably one of the worst things to happen to her in the past two months. From blake’s eyes, she’s just the worst thing he knows that resembles a female human. They are BOTH bias and BOTH are in the right in their own ways.

        2. She dances off to marry someone because that would stop the Behaims from trying to kill them. Because unlike Blake, Rose realizes that if they keep trying to solve their problems by hitting them, they’ll eventually lose.

          I mean, maybe I’m weird. But I don’t see how a character trying to use nonviolent methods makes them an asshole. It’s better than martyring herself like a dumbass and getting everyone killed anyway.

          1. It did work. That puts it way ahead of the plan where she stays in the house and they all die horribly. Plus Callen at least gets an afterlife, so even he’s better off with this plan.

            1. her “plan” didn’t work. they’d have all died if not for the bogy she had no reason to trust doing something she had no reason to think would be tried or possible or safe and even then they nearly all died long before she was able to secure an alliance.

            2. ross just couldn’t plan for shit(which i guess makes the hobo plan make sense) so its no surprise neither chunk of him can plan either.(although blake did pretty well just here if only he’d had enough of rose’s bits to keep better track of his chesspieces)

            3. Her plan was “Blake and the others work something out”, which is precisely what happened. I will admit that was a long shot, but she didn’t seem to expect the witch hunters. Without their intervention, the house would have been much easier to defend.

              Sure, it’s still not a guaranteed win, but certain victory isn’t always in the cards.

    2. I don’t agree that she defected and screwed over her friends and family to save her own hide. By making the deal, she got the Behaims to stop targeting her allies and teamed up with them against the other two factions.

      Of course, the process of doing this did require leaving the others to protect the house, but saying doing so constituted betraying her friends assumes that they’d be more likely to survive if she stayed. There are four big problems with that assumption:
      1. It ignores how making the deal reduced the forces arrayed against them. Specifically, the Behaim superweapon.
      2. It gives Rose entirely too much credit in terms of personal firepower. Could she really stand off Faysal, the super goblins, all the Djinn, Jeremy’s cohort, and all the other various heavy hitters we’ve seen under the control of the other factions? Simultaneously? Sure, they didn’t attack the house, but they could have if needed.
      3. It assumes that Sandra and Duncan’s plan to force her to leave the house did not in fact force her to leave the house.
      4. If she made the deal to save her own skin, then she was more likely to survive making the deal than defending the house. And if she died defending the house, The Barber would get loose and proceed to attack whoever he felt like, probably starting with the people in the house.

      1. it DOESN’T matter. she could of TRIED. she could of fought beside them. they escaped ANYWAY, with casualties. with Rose there NOBODY need have died other

        1. Rose wasn’t at the house, but that does not mean she wasn’t trying to save them. The plan is extremely simple:
          1. Rose leaves the house and negotiates with at least some of the other families.
          2. Assuming she isn’t lucky enough to swing an alliance before nightfall, the house gets attacked.
          3. The other families are reluctant to weaken their positions by committing too much to the attack, particularly since Rose isn’t there. With three practitioners, Evan, Blake, and the wards they’ve set up, the defenders hold.
          4. Rose completes her negotiation. Now she and the others are allied with one of the other major powers.

          Alternate plan:
          1. Rose stays in the house
          2. The other families launch escalating assaults against the house.
          3. Eventually, Faysal, the unstoppable time robot, and Jeremy launch a joint assault against the house. Everyone inside dies.

          1. Not to mention that if she dies, the Barber get’s released, and no matter what else happens her friends will die. Either directly targeted by the Barber or targeted for revenge because of it, or just killed in the unsung chaos.

            Oh, and the Barber goes on make the universe that much more fucked. People seem to forget that part.

  17. I’ve been glad to see Blake finally getting out of the ground down to the bitter dust and barely scraping by.

    Realize we get a reversal and a triumph, but this was nice to see. I was almost worn out by the other.

    And I’m hopeful green eyes lasts. The fantasy novel looked interesting, but killing the female potential lead off so early just ashed it for me.

    Anyway, thank you for this last set of three chapters.

  18. Is it possible that Blake inherited some of the remains of Mr. Benevolent’s stockpile when he broke through / bypassed the ‘karma armah’?
    This almost seems too easy.
    Meta-Knowledge Danger Sense Tingling

  19. I’m going to venture a wild guess here that Sandra lost on purpose. If she had agreed to Blake’s offer (and she probably could have talked him into some sort of a reasonable bargain), it would have limited the amount of damage done to the family and possibly would have improved their postion (if they could point the Thorburn bogeyman at some of their opponents). But Sandra didn’t do that. Sandra appears on the surface to be the ruthless leader of the Duchamp family who is willing to do anything to win the Lordship of Jacob’s Bell. But we know from the interludes that this isn’t her true identity; it’s really more of a mask over her true self – a fiercely independent woman who doesn’t actually care about the Duchamp family name and power but who does care about her sisters and cousins who have been forced into marriages against there will. Sandra lucked out in her union with Jeremy – she found a partner who was both powerful and compassionate. We know that they have some sort of plan for dealing with the Duchamp family curse but we haven’t seen what that plan is yet. Maybe part of the plan came to fruition tonight.

    1. I would kill to see Blake’s reaction to “Oh, you think you changed things? No, you were just a pawn in my ‘just as planned’ to change things!”

      I actually think that this is a more positive situation than what we got. Because this way the Duchamps are more likely to be able to survive as a power base that can help against Johannes, Molly, and the Goblin bullshit Maggie was running from.

      Otherwise, if this is a legit collapse of the family, they’re no longer very useful and the defences against blood and darkness are that much weaker for it.

      1. the kind of ally who would literally sell their own sister/ niece/cousin to be mindraped into nothing more then an obedient toy in exchange for a little bit more influence and power is not the sort of ally anyone in their right might would have. you’d be watching over your shoulder every waking moment, wondering when they’ll decide to turn on you, and make no mistake, i think pretty much EVERYONE in the family know this is happening. nobody’s ever cared enough to even speak up, as far as we’ve been shown. the whole family is toxic. break their influence beyond repair and move on, i say.

        1. Lol. Among Blake’s current allies are a cannibalistic mermaid, an evil ass wraith who just wants to kill everyone and is driving the others in the town into indiscriminate killing sprees, a priest of a capricious god who’s servants are a double edged sword at best. And against Blake is the Behaim clan and fucking Johannes. Blake really has no room to stick his nose in the air and turn down potential allies.

          Also, the idea that all of the Duchamps are rotten and none of them care about the arranged marriages is directly refuted by, like, the fact that Duchamp children freely offered up husbands for Blake to kill and the fact that the family is being split up over this. They’re no more universally toxic than the Behaims and Duchamps assume that the Thorburns are universally toxic.

          1. “cannibalistic mermaid”…she never ate someone who wasn’t dead,and she only killed ,while out of the Drains,people for reasons other than eating them,mostly for vigilante justice (the only justice,since the crimes of practicioners are not tried in court)and self-defense, except maaaaybe for the Duchamp she degloved,and thats up for grabs whether it was vigilante justice (she believed it was)and an act in warfare to boot.

            I’ll concede the Molly Idea (not Wraith)being kinda evil ass (note the Duchamps,Johaness and Behaims created it),but Blake’s negotiations with it limited the damage of an oppoment he couldn’t afford to face ,so that the minimum of innocents would be hurt,ideally none.Note he tried that with the Duchamps too,he always tries diplomacy regardless it being opposing to his very being,because itts the right thing to do (thats the highest virtue to me-surpassing your nature to do the right thing)

            I agree,no family is entirely comprised of toxic people,but some are toxxic nevertheless..I think,that over time the 3 families evolved into monstrous ideas and traditions,so the families should be destroyed,but their indivindual members spared,even the high level ones-destroy the system,spare its cogs-.RDT destroyed the Thorburn idea by skipping a generation and Blake destroyed the Duchamp idea by convincing them nothing will change….there will be some poetry if Rose destroys the Behaims idea,no?

    2. consider that there’s a good chance she’s become the mask. this would of been a PERFECT time to show her “true colors”

  20. Wildbow, if you have a moment to answer I’d greatly appreciate it.

    I have recently started writing a short story and while it wasn’t inspired by Pact, I notice its setting is in many ways similar to the Abyss. My story’s world isn’t too dangerous to the characters per se, but everything is twisted in some way or another in order to make a very unfriendly world where one can’t find peace of any sort. My question is, if you don’t mind me asking, from where did you draw inspiration for the Abyss?

    Thanks in advance :3!

  21. evan is feeling better than expected, thats good. guess blake won’t be accidentally healing a wooden cage around him with his bogy part trying to make him one of his spirits afterall

  22. I think it says something about what happened to Green Eyes in the Abyss that she assumed Blake ate Evan, so readily.

    I didn’t like the idea. It stirred up all kinds of ugliness, like a footstep in a clear puddle kicking up clouds of black, vile mud.
    Ah, I think I see why more bogeymen aren’t in stable, healthy relationships.

    I should have known the Maggie thing was too good to be true…

  23. Somebody else may have mentioned this, but I want to jot it down before I forget. 3, 7, and 12 are the lucky/significant numbers, apparently. Why 12? Well, it’s the satyrs saying it, so probably because 12 is the number of major gods in the Greek pantheon (aka the Dodekatheon).

    Incidentally, 6 is a mathematically “perfect number”, with its factors adding up to it (1, 2, & 3).

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