Gathered Pages (Arc 13)

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A cold evening of red bells

I never liked dates.  This makes a fitting entry for tonight’s diary.  I’ll remember it better than a number.

I skirt the truth.  I portion it out and hand out thirds to make a whole, and the world lets us be.  I like to think I amuse it.

I promise to leave, and I do, but I take a roundabout way to do it.  A twisting path that, if I am careful to drag my feet, will not take me out of this place until things are very nearly over.  I must only keep moving.

The one with the name Maggie Holt promises to leave, and she does.  The guise is discarded.

I was asked to go because we are a threat, another form of interference for the blighted Rose to worry about.  I agree to this as well.  I do not participate any further.

In word, in name, in intent, I follow the terms of the agreement.  I put pen to paper with cold fingers on the frigid streets of this accursed town, and I give these ideas weight.

But I am bound to this place by the orders of my Queen, and I am bound to it by my own perverse interest.  It is interesting, is it not?  I could hardly stay away.  I observe, and I chronicle.

There are so very few here who understand what is really happening.  There are many, I think, who would put a value on any record of these happenings, to piece it together after the fact.  The Duchamp family works with the Court and the Court may well wonder what happened to its fine allies, to the highborn and noble faerie who were given as pets to the Duchamp families.

Information I can sell, if I am careful in how I position myself.  If I let the Court corner me, they may use coercion as their currency.

Sandra tried to convince me to help, to turn my talents toward resolving this situation.  She talked of the Dubh Sgaradh at the house on the hill, and when I shrugged it off, she alluded to the Court’s visit.  Not telling me that she would perhaps hint at some of the lies I’ve told, for that would make an enemy of me, but letting me find the idea on my own.

An accomplished liar remembers his lies.  I cannot, of course, lie, but I do tell half truths, and a half truth could be said to be half a lie.  Just as I piece thirds of truths together into a whole, others might piece half-lies together if I am not careful.

Better to have those half-lies bound in a physical form, where they cannot be put together, each marked clearly on a separate page.

Should I need it, it is useful to have my thoughts on a page, in case I need to discard the ones I have.  One cannot be too careful, when the Court does their investigations.

It would be unfortunate if the Court found out I had left the bounds of my prison, under a different name.  For that, they would most likely kill me.

More unfortunate, if they found out I had interfered in local politics.  My punishment is to remain here, my hands tied, tortured with idleness.  If they discovered I had amused myself, hah.  For that, they would not be so merciful.

Worse still, I suspect, if they discovered that I had befriended miss Essylt and mister Keller.

Easy facts for the Court to discover, and Sandra had an idea of the punishments that awaited me if the Court found out.  Our lady Duchamp did not truly know the punishments, but who can, without experiencing them?

She thought to blackmail me, and made three mistakes.

The first was simple.  I want the Court to come looking.  What fun!

By the time I’ve circled the block, winding ever outward, the blighted Rose is gone, the situation settled.  I need only look at Sandra to know that she’s lost.  She stands quiet and alone in a crowd, as others talk past her.

A tie of hair in my pocket, wound around my finger.  My finger, in turn, winds around a lock of hair at my ear.  Winds it in, as a corkscrew penetrates a cork.  Let it reach the scalp and take root.

A shake of the head, a toss of golden hair.  All done in plain sight.  It’s clear the focus of the Duchamp contingent is elsewhere.

My jacket turns inside out while I still wear it.  My hands come out the sleeves smaller, with gloves on.

The rest is simply changing how I think.

Adopting a role.

I have to put the pen and booklet away, and transcribe from memory at another time.

A paraphrasing of the events on the Night of Red Bells, I

Essylt and Keller knew how I think.  They were waiting by the time I approached the collected group of Duchamps.

I let my eyes widen, taking in a breath at their beauty, but the rest was subtle nuance.  As though I had emotions I was bottling up.

Essylt allowed me a small smile of amusement.

“Why,” she told me.  “Miss Joanna.  You wouldn’t be awed by someone like me, would you?”

A clench of the jaw, as if steeling myself, fleeting eye contact, a look away.  I had to keep moving, and beckoned for her to follow, while averting my gaze.

“You flatter,” she said.  She made no attempt to hide that she liked it.  She and Keller fell in step behind me.

Who?” Keller asked, his voice a whisper, the word curt.

I glanced at the crowd as we circled them..  I had my suspicions that someone had spoken about the possibility of attack.  The actions are guarded, the glances turning outward.

I moved in shadow, ninety-seven strides away, but keen eyes could find me.

I looked at the eyes.  I looked to see who studied the distance, as evidenced by the size of their pupils, the movements of their eyes, and their posture.

There.  One man, with a gaze like an arrow.

He turned his attention in my general direction, studying the shadows.

He looked left, I quickly slipped right to evade his focus.  He looked right, and I slipped left.  I was obscured by the patterns that dance in the darkness when one stares at it with the naked eye.

Another spoke up, and the man turned around to listen.

Almost disappointing.

“I’ll need company,” I decided, answering Keller’s question.  “One Behaim, one Duchamp.  So the numbers are in our favor.”

“What’s our plan?” Essylt asked.  “I’d like to see the expression of someone who fell into my clutches because they were looking for an evil from without.  Wary of a stranger to this dreary little hole, more than a familiar face.”

“If someone’s familiar with you, Ev, they’re not going to ignore you as a threat,” I said.

She sniffed.  “I’ll deign to take that as a compliment.  I’ll make it happen, miss Joanna.”

“I’m sure you will!” I said, a little more lively in demeanor now that I was fitting into the role.  “It’s almost a challenge!”

Essylt looked down at me, smiling.

I smiled wide.  Easier to be someone young.  Scarcely a teenager, only a little jaded by the world.  Guileless.

Essylt’s gaze lingered a half-second too long.  Critical.

But she wouldn’t tell me that I was missing a key part of my disguise.  That would be insulting.  Much as Sandra had communicated without communicating, Essylt could say a great deal with a fraction of a second’s worth of eye contact.

Joanna was the younger sister of Penelope Duchamp, daughter of Erica Duchamp, and not yet engaged.  But she did have other ties.

I reached into a pocket and withdrew a thin metal flute that might have had more engraving to it than actual physical material.

No longer than the span of four fingers on my hand, it had four holes along the top.  Had it found its way to the hands of mundane humans, it might have cost tens of thousands.  The humans, in turn, might have decided it was cursed.  The sounds it made were beyond the realm of human ears, but not beyond human ken.

Keller’s work.

It wouldn’t find its way to the hands of mundane humans.  No antique collector would put it to their lips and use it to attempt a piece, only to hear expert variations on that piece each night they drifted off to sleep.  Every night, every rest interrupted as their memory searched for the completed, perfected work.

For two minutes, I played.

“Aristoxenus,” Ev noted.  She now wore the shape of a Behaim lad.

“She likes the Greeks,” I said.

“She does,” Ev agreed.

I was halfway through the second song before Letita arrived.

In the form of a chickadee, she settled on my wrist, eyes closed, as she listened.

Disgraced, not quite banished, her placement here in the service to a young girl had been intended to remind her of the fate that awaited if she did worse.  The three of us were meant to be a threat, kicked dogs, broken Fae.

The Court had underestimated my winning personality.

I put the flute away.  Letita stayed, not speaking.

A few heads turned as we stepped out of the shadows and into the light.

JoannaChloe?”

“Hi Auntie Marge,” I replied.  I didn’t quite stop, but I shuffled my feet, restless, excited, rubbing my hands together.  Walking forward a fraction at a time, on the outward spiral I was traveling away.

“What in the world are you doing out?”

“I was asked to come here,” I said.

“Asked- I’ll need a word with your mother.  It’s dangerous.”

“I have Letita.”

“I can protect my charge,” Letita said.

“It’s dangerous in ways that-”

Auntie Marge closed her mouth as an argument between two women rose in pitch.

“-Have nothing to do with the monsters prowling the city,” Marjorie told me.  “Why were you asked to come here?”

“I was supposed to help against the Thorburn Bogeyman.”

Really?  Nevermind.  That’s done.  It’s… resolved.  Look, I should get you home.  I’ll have a word with your mother another time.  A twelve year old should not be here, with everything that’s going on.”

I invited a touch.  Subtle cues.  I’d already draped my hair over one shoulder.  the shoulder closest to her was bare, but for the jacket I wore.  The rest was height, distance, and the suggestion of anxiety.

Marjorie reached out to place a hand on my shoulder, partly reassurance, partly to guide.

“Abernathy?” she asked.

Essylt didn’t respond.  A frown, a glance toward the larger group.

“This isn’t Behaim business,” Marjorie said.

“It’s junior council rules,” Essylt said, gruff, defensive.  “I’m neutral, along with all of the kids and some of the monsters.”

Amusing, Essylt pretending she wasn’t one of the monsters.

“The junior council back each other up.  She couldn’t come alone, or with just Chloe.”

“Small mercy, that,” Marjorie said.  “We might need to hold onto any ties we have with other families.  Even if it’s the loyalty of the youth.  Thank you for watching over Joanna and Chloe, Abernathy.”

“Sure,” Essylt said.

Oh, she did like to be less proper, when she had the chance.

There was a sound of steel being drawn from a sheath.

Like the movements of a dance.  Turning around, backing away.  One hand clutching Auntie Marge’s wrist, to control how she moved, to keep leaving.

As bends in the rule went, it was silly, but it had been established, and a faerie must do as a faerie must do, even if it’s a silly, self-imposed rule.

The Goblin King’s familiar had drawn a blade.

An argument grown too heated.

“I was promised certain connections,” the Goblin King said.  “Connections I see dissolving before my eyes.”

“Calm down,” the Architect replied.  “You’re making this worse, not better, by bringing violence into it.”

“Violence?”  The Goblin King asked.  “This is mere emphasis to a goblin.”

“Slitting a throat is emphasis to a goblin,” Teresa Duchamp commented.

“Good point, good point!” The Goblin King declared, obviously agitated.  “Yes.  Should I start doing that?  Or could Sandra Duchamp please break her silence to tell me that I didn’t just waste the last six years of my life supporting a family that’s clearly unable to follow through on promises.”

Sandra looked up to make eye contact with the man.

Delicious.  Fantastic.

There was an art to the interplay between Faerie.  Cleverness, layers.  But sometimes one wanted the equivalent of trash television when they were looking for amusement.

The Goblin King’s emotions ran high, while Sandra stood on a precipice.  Someone would walk away wounded, here.  Maybe not a physical wound, but something vital would be lost.

“I should get you out of here,” Marge said.

“Is Sandra going to be okay?” I asked.  “I want to watch.”

She pursed her lips.

Then, coming to a decision, she used the hand on my shoulder to guide me away.  I resisted just a fraction, but I let her make some headway.  Continuing my slow travel away.  Still moving slow enough to see the show.

Sandra’s troll moved at her side as she squared off against the Goblin King.

“We’ve been reasonable with you,” she said.  “Tonight’s events were-”

“Reasonable my ass,” the Goblin King said.  “We’ve all been very politely ignoring the so-called elephant in the room.  Our children?”

“Ah,” Sandra said.

“Blond haired, blue eyed girls.  I’ve seen the photos.  Each looks just like their mothers.  Nothing of their fathers in them.”

Sandra was mute.

“Nothing to say?  No clever words?  No more trickery?  Why couldn’t you tell the Thorburn monster anything?  Show some conviction, bitch!”

A bit of a snap to his words, bite.  Given a push, he might have literally started biting.  Alas, I’d sworn to avoid interfering.

“Believe me,” Sandra said, her voice level.  “I don’t lack conviction.”

“You failed,” the Goblin King said.  “Your trap didn’t work.  You let several of us die.”

“The ones who died were the worst of you,” Teresa Duchamp said.

“Don’t defend the Thorburn’s actions,” Camille said.

Ah, an exquisite sort of torture, this.  A feast for the senses.  Thousands of details, body language, eye contact, word choice, the size of the cloud that their mouths produced when they huffed, sighed, or spoke.  Everything that was happening had countless implications.  My imagination was afire.

I write this and I admit, I didn’t let the Thorburn win.  That had more to do with other agencies at play.  But if I didn’t try my utmost, knowing that this would happen might have had something to do with it.

There was something special that came to the fore when mortals were involved.  Dealing with another faerie, immortal until killed, there were layers on layers involved.  Schemes and double crosses over double crosses until one could lose track.

With mortals, it was temporary.  Like sculpted ice or a sand castle in the tide’s reach, it wouldn’t last.

Here, in this time and place, it was all the more temporary.  Sandra had tried to blackmail me, and had graciously conceded when I didn’t bow to it, offering a chance to deceive Mr. Thorburn instead.  Her blackmail had failed for three reasons.

The second reason was that I had no reason to expect any of these individuals to still be here, when the Court came calling.  Humans knew my secrets and didn’t even know that the important ones were secrets.  Yet I had no reason to expect they would live long enough for it to matter.

I saw the Goblin King’s posturing, the threats.  Sandra’s deflections, where she spoke at all.

“You failed, Sandra,” the Goblin King spoke.

“Yes.”

“Your own husband turned on you.”

“I don’t deny that, but there’s context that colors it.”

“You need to step down,” the Goblin King said.  “I need to never have to see your face again.”

“I can’t step down,” Sandra said.  “There’s too much in play.  Other deals I’ve made.”

“How very unfortunate,” the Goblin King said.  The words were a threat.

Old Hildr stepped forward.  Gallowscream the goblin familiar stepped forward as well.

Noble of Sandra to do what she was doing.  I doubted the Goblin King was aware, but I suspect many of those present were savvy enough to see.

Falling on her sword.

If she stepped down, the individual to take over would inherit an impossible situation.  They would fall as well.

Sandra wasn’t Faerie, but she had picked up some things in her time as the Duchamp ambassador to the Court.  She was making the Goblin King do exactly what she wanted him to.

No enchantment at all.

Marjorie nearly slipped on ice as she pulled me away.

The old fool nearly pulled me down, stopping my slow but steady exit.

But Ev, sly as she was, elbowed me back, moving forward to try and ostensibly fail to help.

She would leverage that to gain some advantage over me.

The fight started, very nearly in the same moment.  Troll against Goblin.  The Goblin a master combatant, the Troll a physical powerhouse.

But there were two others participating in the fight.  As the goblin circled around, old Hildr showed her back to the Goblin King.

A silly mistake, for the Goblin King to try and capitalize on that.  He moved forward, and Sandra acted.  Drawing a line between the King’s head and Hildr’s hand.  Hildr’s blind grope found its mark.

Gallowscream froze.  His eyes narrowed, the pupils drawing together into snake-like slits.

The Goblin King remained where he was.  The Troll’s hand was cupped around the upper half of his head.

“Shit,” he said.  It seemed to dawn on him just how bad his situation was.  “Shit!”

“I made promises,” Sandra said.  She sounded tired.  “A great many promises.  I could have Hildr kill you, right here and right now, but there are consequences for breaking my word.  I’ll say only this.  Leave.”

Hildr let go, and the Goblin King stumbled back.

She didn’t even make him swear.

“You didn’t even make me promise?” he asked, echoing my own realization.

Sandra’s demeanor shifted.

In her gaze, I could make out some of the best portrayals of the Lady Macbeth I’d seen.  Stark.  Cold.  Weary.  Aged many times over by one short span of time.  Regal and a touch broken.

She appeared a touch unhinged.  In that, she found a security that an oath from the Goblin King couldn’t have provided.

One without much to lose.

So much invested in this fight for the Lordship, into the family, and now it was all in shambles.  The family no longer trusted her.

But it had been the right play, to let the Goblin King go.  To put the power in his hand.  Had she made him swear, she might have removed him as a problem, but she would have had to deal with the rest.

These next moments would prove the true mettle of her character.

Oh, how I wondered, in those delicious heartbeats.  How would you handle this, Sandra Duchamp?

When she spoke, her voice was clear.  “The deal is done.  Those who came at our request are now free to leave,” Sandra said.  “Contact me in one month’s time if you have grievances, but give me that month to resolve this situation.  It is salvageable.”

As clear and simple as the message might have been, her eyes didn’t lose the dangerous gleam.

It hinged on the Goblin King.

Was his spite greater than his gratitude at being spared?  Was he willing to pay the cost to personal fortune by returning mercy with viciousness?

How goblin was he?

Gallows,” the Goblin King spat the word.  He turned.

Gallowscream sheathed his blade with enough emphasis to be saying something, before following his King.  Hildr noticed and grunted a matching non-word.

A point to Sandra.

There wouldn’t be open slaughter here.  Not because of this.

A point, I imagined, to the Thorburn Bogeyman as well.  Our blighted Rose.  The Duchamps would be intact enough to help him accomplish other things, but not so intact to be a threat.

“Disappointing,” Essylt muttered, in her guise as the young, rotund Abernathy Behaim.

The look old Marjorie shot him was one of shock and indignation.  Essylt managed to feign chagrin.

“I would slap you,” Marjorie said, “If I didn’t think it could cause trouble for the family.”

“What family?” Essylt asked.

I had no problem keeping the smile off my face.  I made eye contact with Keller, who was dressed up as Chloe Behaim, and I could see the mirth in his eyes.

The older woman’s face had colored with a pink that had nothing to do with the cold.

Let’s go,” she ordered.

We’d lost our chance to keep watching, but this had reached a conclusion.

Keller elbowed me.

I followed his glance.

A crow?

The Thorburn’s crow man.

Perhaps it is better to write that it was Crone Mara’s crow man?

Ordered to interfere with the enemy.  Doing just that.

He met my gaze, then Keller’s.

Bags had been dropped to the roadside so diagrams could be drawn.  The crow broke eye contact and climbed up to one open bag.

Displaying an uncanny strength, it emerged with a gun held in its beak.

Moving up onto a spot where a coat had been left folded atop a snowbank.  Depositing the gun atop the coat.  Moving a cell phone from the coat pocket to the bag the gun had occupied.

As we’d evaded attention, taking advantage of the Duchamp attention being elsewhere, the bird was operating almost in plain sight.

Marjorie continued to drag me away.  Both Essylt and Keller started to lag behind, watching.

There was a rare note of admiration in their gazes as they watched.

Things had settled.  More in the sense that the individual pieces of a landslide settled in a pile, one piece leaning against the next, ready to continue falling if a key element was disturbed.

This was what I’d come to watch.  It exceeded my hopes, even.

Not just the destruction of the Duchamps, but derailing the plan of the Thorburn Bogeyman.  They’d loosed something they didn’t entirely understand in the midst of their desperation, and now that something was acting.

Putting a gun in the wrong hand at the wrong time.

The man the cell phone had belonged to picked up his coat.  Muscular, tattooed, he seemed comfortable in the cold.  The gun slid off the coat as he moved it.

Sandra’s head turned.

She could see connections being manipulated.  The man moving to catch the gun, much as she’d moved the Goblin King’s head into Hildr’s meaty paw.

“Look at me!” she called out.  “Attention!

She grabbed her chalice, raising it.

My eyes didn’t leave the man with the blond beard, the diagram drawer, the one who’d owned the gun.

Sandra’s words and presence lacked weight, in this moment.  The diagram drawer’s eyes remained on his work, etched on the road.  He took too long to focus on the chalice.  On Sandra.

Hands went to implements.  Recognizing that Sandra was manipulating.  Not, perhaps, recognizing that it was for their own good.

A lesser being might have hesitated.  Sandra didn’t.  She reached for the diagram drawer.  Took his attention.  Turned his head her way.  She had to know that it would make others hostile.

“The hell?” the tattooed man with the gun muttered.  The words were loud in the quiet.

The diagram drawer looked away from Sandra for a fraction of a second.  She tried to wrest his attention back to her, but he’d seen the weapon.

The crow must have been watching from the beginning, to figure out how to do it.  Must have known the man was paranoid, or put some other clues together.  A grudge, some other details.

It must have been watching the Thorburns, too, to know how devastating this would be to their plans.

On seeing that he was facing down a practitioner with a gun, the diagram drawer reacted without hesitation, in the time that practitioner was looking down at the weapon.

He drew a knife from inside his coat and used it in the same motion.  Slitting the gunman’s throat.  He reached for the gun and reclaimed it as the gunman’s free hand went to his throat, in surprise.

Auntie Marge covered my eyes, and I might have killed her for it, if I’d been permitted by the terms I’d agreed to.

But I was only an observer, given the chance.

A work of art.  A tableau, of action and consequences, frozen in a moment.

The Goblin King, now a distance away, reacted.

Ordering Gallowscream forward.  Throwing fragments of etched bone to the ground, loosing more goblins.

His focus was on Sandra and the elder Duchamps.

The diagram drawer placed a wooden box on the ground.  Lines slid off the individual wooden pieces and into the snow, forming a barrier between him and the others.

Then he raised his gun, aimed, and fired twice into the crowd.

The sound was deafening, even with the snow to dampen it.  The ringing of the shot joined the sounds of the bell.

The returning shot, a paper card, burned as it passed through the growing diagram.

From an intricate web of relations to a tangle, a snarl.  No doubt helped by the bell.  A night of exhaustion.

“Penelope!” Sandra cried out, in the midst of the chaos.  “Go, get the younger Duchamps-”

Penelope’s eyes widened, on realizing that Sandra was talking to her.  Before Sandra could finish speaking, Penelope spat in the woman’s face.

Sandra stared, taken aback.  No longer in control.

“Lea!  Maisie!  Jade, Lina, Juliette!”  Penelope cried out, turning.  Her eyes found me and Keller.  “Joanna!?”

“Mother sent me here!” I answered.

Which was true.  My own mother had sent me here to Jacob’s Bell.

“Chloe?  You’re with.  Come on,” Penelope said.

As a group, apparently eight girls and one supposed Behaim boy, we ran.

I cast a glance backward at Sandra Duchamp.

The faction had broken up.  Grudges that had been suppressed now boiled to the surface.  In the midst of it all, the former leader of the Duchamps stood alone.

A paraphrasing of the events on the Night of Red Bells, II

Penelope finished drawing the circle.

She checked her laptop, then looked down at the diagram.

Nervously, she looked over at the door.

Not one minute after we’d arrived, Erica Duchamp had left.  She was the mother of Joanna and Penelope, and I told myself to look concerned, to fidget, to stare off into the distance.

“There,” Penelope said.

Her voice sounded hollow in the stillness of the house.  When she looked at the other girls for confirmation, her face betrayed the same concerns they had.

The anger displayed by the Goblin King had been shared by others, if less obvious.  Yet others were afraid, or upset for other reasons.  The Duchamp camp was split in half, between those that agreed with the removal of the true monsters and those that didn’t.

Lola Duchamp had chosen not to join Penelope here at the house, claiming it was too dangerous to go out.  That sunrise was in less than an hour.

One spark, a flick of a knife, and things had imploded.  The allies had become enemies.  Each girl had a mother, an aunt, a cousin, that might not survive this.  Many had to wonder if their dads or uncles would turn on the family, now that the family was no longer convenient and useful to them.

Couch and chairs had been pushed to the side, a rug rolled up.  The diagram drawn on the floor had circles that displayed the masks of Thalia and Melpomene.  The dramatic masks of comedy and tragedy.  Large, shallow bowls of water were set at different points around the diagram.

“Chin up, girls,” Penelope said.

Almost as one, the collected Duchamp girls fixed their expressions, squared shoulders, and wiped tears from their faces.  Across the room, Chloe Duchamp crossed one leg over the other and folded her hands in her lap.

To all appearances, each of the girls was calm and composed.  Only details here and there suggested otherwise.

Penelope tapped a spoon to the bowl.

It sang.  Water rippled.

An image shimmered into existence.  Then another.

Alister Behaim.

Ainsley Behaim.

Rose Thorburn.

Lola Duchamp.

Mags.  Wearing a concerned expression as she looked around the room.

The ambassador’s eyes fell on me.  The one who had taken her name.

She smiled sympathetically.

I smiled back, but to all appearances, I failed to put on a brave face, and broke eye contact.

“The Duchamps are out,” Alister said.

“Don’t sound so happy about it,” Penelope told him.  “People are dying.”

“I was talking to Craig,” Alister said, ignoring Penelope’s point.  “He explained the terms of the deal you were discussing.  Terms for the junior council to follow, whatever happens.”

“I listened in,” Mags said.  “The wording was right.”

“A bit late for that deal,” Penelope said.

“Is it?” Alister asked.

“You won.  I have a hard time believing you’re going to agree to a deal that ties your hands.”

“Believe it or not,” Alister said, “I’m actually interested in the council succeeding.  I believe in what we’re trying to do.”

“But?”  Penelope asked.

He sighed.

Penelope went on.  “I refuse to believe you’re being utterly altruistic in this.  I grew up alongside you.  We went to the same schools, traveled in the same general circles, despite the age difference.  I know you well enough.”

“I am being altruistic.  But I don’t think you’re going to like how far that altruism extends.”

“Extends?” Penelope asked.

“Rose Thorburn,” Lola Duchamp spoke.

“No,” Penelope said.

“She’d get a spot on the junior council,” Alister said.  “With all associated benefits.  If her friends remained in Jacob’s Bell, they fall under her wing.”

“That’s insane.  She’s everything we’re fighting against,” Penelope said.

“Rose Thorburn the elder was a part of our local council,” Mags spoke.

“Rose Thorburn the elder was a hell of a lot stronger.”

“This Rose is just as scary.  Trust me,” he said.

“If you think you can blackmail us,” Penelope started.

“That’s not what I’m doing,” he replied.  “Believe me, if things hadn’t happened this way tonight, I would be making the same offer.  I’ll agree with what you were offering to Craig, provided Rose Thorburn is included.”

“Stop fighting everything,” Lola said, her voice low.

“Don’t think I don’t know that you helped the Bogeyman do this,” Penelope said.  “I knew that something like this would happen.  I’m pretty sure he planned for it to happen.”

How amusing, I think.  If I hadn’t been forbidden from interfering, I might help, just to see what happens.  Tell them it was outside interference.

No matter.

“I don’t know what he’s planning,” Rose spoke.  “What I do know is that something bigger is going on.”

Ah, so they’ve figured it out.

“Bigger?”

“Alister detected a larger threat.  He told me about it before the engagement,” Rose said, holding up the hand with the ring.  “Something else is pulling strings.  Not a practitioner.  Something powerful.  There are other things at work here.”

“Dawn is in less than an hour,” Penelope said.  “Things will settle down then.”

“No,” Alister said.  “We can’t afford for things to settle down.  If things are left to stand as they are, Johannes wins, and Johannes isn’t cooperating or communicating.  We can’t afford to give him ten hours of daylight and peace to consolidate and strategize.  We can’t afford for the other player to get a chance to step back and plot his next move.”

“You want to revoke the rule that creates peace at dawn?” Mags asked.

“No,” Alister said.  “I’m going to work around it.  The Behaims have a store of power.  I’m going to spend it.”

“On what?”

“Postponing dawn,” Alister said.  “Call it the sleeping beauty effect.  An awful lot of citizens are going to have bedsores and wake up hungry, but they’ll be safe in their beds for at least another twenty four hours.  I’m leveling the field between Behaim and Duchamp.  Rose’s suggestion”

Rose nodded.

“If you weaken yourselves when we still have Johannes to deal with, cozy in his domain…”

“This is contingent on several points,” he said.  “Working together against Johannes is key among them.”

“He’s the new enemy number one,” Lola said.

“And our parents?” Penelope asked.  “The Duchamps?”

Alister spread his hands.

Penelope nodded, “Not much you can do about that.”

“I’m moving forward with postponing dawn,” Alister said.  “Get sleep, if you can.  You know how to reach me.”

He disappeared.

“I’ll negotiate the deals, when the time comes,” Mags said.  “I’ll see what I can do about your parents in the meantime.”

“Thank you,” Penelope said.

Mags disappeared.

Rose remained.

“What?” Penelope asked, hostile.

Unaware of just how much she was influenced by the well of karmic gravity that surrounded even the image of Rose Thorburn.

“I’ll see if I can convince Alister to help,” Rose said.

Her image disappeared.  The water in the bowl gone.

“Manipulative bitch,” Penelope said under her breath.

She sighed.  “Sorry.  I’m tired.  Find places to sleep, guys.  Try to get some focus back.  Two or three to a bed, if we have to.  Joanna?”

I raised my head.

“Share your bed.”

“Okay,” I replied.

I was the first one to the stairs.  I reached the bedroom door with a sign marked Jo on the front, in bright colors.

Opening it, I could see the shape under the covers.

I approached it.

“Jo?” Lea asked.

“Yeah?”

“Could I share your bed?”

I nodded.

I moved the sheets.  Bundled up sheets and blankets, in a human form.

“What’s up with that?” Lea asked.

“I kind of snuck out,” I answered.

Which was true.  I had left Jacob’s Bell, as Maggie.

Half truths.

The birthday celebration

“There you are,” Essylt greeted me.

“Here I am,” I replied.  Padraic again.

She kissed me on both cheeks.

The inside of the Faerie House was luxurious.  Glamour painted every surface.  The front hall had been expanded to a grand hall, with twin staircases leading to a balcony above.

Music played.  Puppets made up with glamour danced.  A clock loomed over the staircase.

Joanna laughed.  “Padraic!”

“Joanna,” I smiled.

“I thought I’d missed you,” she said.  “I’ve got to go home in a few minutes.”

“Of course,” I said.

“I’m so excited,” she said.  “Thank you for this… everything!”

“You’re very welcome,” I told her.  “And you deserve it.”

“Why does she deserve it?” Essylt asked, not for the first time.  Or the tenth.

“Because I’m going to be the youngest practitioner in the family to do the Awakening ritual!” Joanna gushed.  There were lights reflecting in her eyes that would never stop flashing and dancing.  “I’m going to get a familiar, her name’s Letita, and I’ll get to practice.  But I’ve only got five or ten minutes, and there’s so much happening.

“When the clock hits ten, you’ll go, as we agreed,” I said, gesturing to the clock that hadn’t moved in quite some time.  “You don’t want to miss your tenth birthday party.”

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243 thoughts on “Gathered Pages (Arc 13)

  1. Mechanically, I kind of screwed up some stuff in this chapter. I got pretty bogged down with the tense switch in the first part and was forced to abort, but I really, really shouldn’t have done first person in past tense for the remainder, either, because that’s supposed to belong to Blake. That made finding Padraic’s voice harder, and it was hard to start with, so I kind of just muddled my way through. I don’t mind the content of the chapter, I just wish in retrospect that I’d managed it better.

    Ah well. I’m genuinely sorry for the bumpy ride, to anyone that found it bumpy.

    Thanks for reading, vote on Topwebfiction if you feel so inclined:
    http://topwebfiction.com/

    Got a bunch of stuff I want to do for the site this weekend, but there may be some other stuff to do last minute, as I just moved last weekend and I’ve still got to figure out new bills and a bunch of other minor stuff (like getting a proper lamp so I have light to actually write in my living room, which is my usual habit).

    1. I really liked this chapter. It got really strong in the second half. There is something about this chapter that made it seem like it didn’t really fit as a Gathered Pages to me. I’m not quite sure what exactly it is, but the chapter felt more main-storyish or interludesc. More prosey (Is that a word and am I using it right) perhaps? Either way, solid chapter, great Arc.

    2. What has Joanna done so far in the story?

      I have real trouble keeping track of the “junior squadron” of Behaims and Duchamps. I feel like the reveal had a bit less weight because I didn’t know what terrible moves Joanna’s been doing.

      I also didn’t quite understand at the end of last chapter what exactly Sandra was offering Padraic Holt.

      1. Jo sicced Letita, the Faerie swordswoman on Blake while he was traveling with Ms. Lewis to deliver his letter attacking Laird’s reputation. She was also at the party during The Infiltration but basically stayed in the background and talked to Penny. Outside of that, she hasn’t done much (as Jo. As Padraic and Maggie she’s done quite a bit)

        1. Wait wait. This means Padraic has been taking dance lessons at “six-in-the-damn-morning” for months, too. Who knows how he’s been finding ways to relieve his boredom there.

          Would he also have been more keen at noticing Blake’s glamour when he impersonated that six-year-old Behaim?

          1. Would he also have been more keen at noticing Blake’s glamour when he impersonated that six-year-old Behaim?

            Just as I found the events of The Infiltration to be quite entertaining, I’m sure she did as well.

          2. You assume he was actually attending. Odds are Penny would drop Joanna off, and Padriac would toss a glamour puppet to the class so he could have some “me time” before hustling back to be picked up as Joanna by the girl’s mother.

          3. There are three of them to play the girl (and anybody else they wish to). Also, Letita is playing the role of familiar… but, that doesn’t mean any of the other two can’t play the role of Letita playing the familiar whenever she wants to play Jo.

        2. Because it amused him.

          Blake vs Laird? Entertaining and eventually spirals into the events of Toronto.

          Watching a human wearing glamour sneak around the party (there’s no way he didn’t notice)? Why rat him out when I can see were it goes?

          By staying in the background he’s had a decent vantage point, waiting for a chance to act and nudge it towards fun-time. And when he couldn’t, there’s Pica!

      2. I’m not sure of the exact timing, but in Signature 8.1 there’s this:

        Lola was here, a senior, one year older than Maggie, joined by Penelope, Joanna, Chloe and Lea. Not all of the school-age Duchamps, not even half, but enough.
        Gavin, Owen and Craig Behaim were here too, as were the Briar Girl, Patrick, Evonne, and Keller.

        Joanna appears to be present at the same time with all three “unaffiliated” faeries. So either she’s more-or-less free, or another fae is playing her part. (It might be Letitia, as I don’t think she could be unaware of a change, but that would be risky. Besides, even if familiars are not explicitly mentioned, aren’t they expected to be near their practitioner pretty much all the time?)

        1. Two words: Glamour puppets. Patrick, E, and Joanna each only had one line, while Chloe had none, so it wouldn’t be too tricky to be two people at once if the faeries were careful not to draw too much attention to themselves or their puppets.

    3. I just reread this to remind myself who the faerie have impersonated so far and I noticed a confusing typo

      “I made eye contact with Keller, who was dressed up as Chloe Behaim, and I could see the mirth in his eyes.”

      I’m pretty sure Chloe is a Duchamp

  2. Wait. “Joanna” was Padraic the entire time? Even back when “she” sicced Letita on Blake in the abandoned house? D**n chameleons.

    1. Seems like. And, the knock-ons are quite significant. If dear little Jo was actually Joraic when all that kicked off (or even not)… The exiled and disgraced contingent got glamour into the hands of the half of a split individual without a soul. Knowing that they might well use it.

      And, maybe, expose themselves to any with an eye to see. Or, just play merry hob with others’ plans. 😛

        1. Indeed. One should always have a few elements in play that can stymie parts of your plans or even steps of vitally important ones. It keeps things interesting by throwing up variations that keep you on your toes. 😉

          And, Blake and Rose are proving good at playing the roles of “random variable” for him. As well as getting the other Thorburns to do likewise.

  3. HOLY SHIT.
    This is the kind of Fae shenanigans I’ve been looking for. Glamour? Meh, cool. Politics, manipulation, half-truths and misdirection? Pretty good. Stealing a name and claiming it? Getting there.
    This? This is what the fae that go bump in the night get up to.

    1. …I’ll stick faeries with demons on the short list of things I’d avoid if the alternative was keeping company with a goblin.

        1. Goblins are far less deceptive than Fairies. And a fairy will spend a great deal of time toying with you just to make it hurt more when the knifes do come out.

            1. But Goblins, you can never forget they are foul brutes. You always are able to keep that in the front of your mind. Fairies, they turn on the charm. They make you think you have a chance of playing their game and winning. And then they get you because you forgot… Deep down inside they are snakes and scorpions, and will always seek to poison you.

              Hell even the demons we’ve seen so far just don’t have as much bastard in them as Fairies.

  4. Welp, being absolutely fucking hardcore didn’t prevent Sandra from losing control of the Duchamps. But on the other hand the Junior Council isn’t breaking up, so Blake’s chest thumping about change might not be completely in vain…

    …if not for the fucking crow!

    Oh, and the Faerie stole a child and replaced her with Padraic, who can collect identities like Pokemon, great. Can Mags kill him already? With corkscrews?

    1. By trying to make his death “cruel” you’re just playing the fairies’ game. A game they do better, by the by. The proper way is either a baseball bat with nails or just shooting him. I did like the bit about Patty being able to see the actual physical karmic burden Rose is under, which is still rather large, apparently.

      1. I’d say, go to a scrapyard, duct tape random junk into a flail-like thing, dip it in gasoline, set it on fire, and smash Paddy like a piñata.

            1. Their have got to be a few boogeymen in the Abyss that use chainsaws. I’m surprised none of them have gone after Blake yet, really.

            1. Mmm, goblins might be a bad idea; just as you can counter refinement as an intrinsic force with crudeness, you can counter crudeness with refinement, and I think “multiple mook-goblins vs. one faerie” might be one of those conservation of ninjitsu moments.

        1. fire is dramatic, might push it a bit fey, i’d combine it with possibly’s catpiss balloons instead.

          (“smear it with shit if you can” was supposed to go here, but it works on the comment i actually posted it to too i guess)

  5. …..and there we go. Damn it, Pica. I knew letting you out was going to bite them in the ass!

    And did Padaric kidnap a little girl and put her in a never-ending lotus machine so he could take her place? Has he been her every time we’ve seen her? He is a monster!

    1. Well, I imagine he swaps out with Keller and Essyit sometimes. Like when he stole Maggie’s name and had to be in Jacob’s Bell.

        1. … holy shit, you’re right. Joanna hasn’t actually awakened, let alone gained a familiar.
          And Padraic and friends have been faking that connection (and a whole host of others) in front of a whole family of enchantresses, for months, maybe years. That’s really impressive.

    2. It matches the changeling myth where a human child would be taken and replaced by a fairy child.

      The myths vary so the real Joanna could have become a servant of the faerie, raised as one of them, or… eaten.

      This could be the explanation on how these fucks propagate. Just one more reason to Inquisition the fuck out of anything not human.

        1. True, but these bastards really aren’t making it easier to not do it. And when you can’t sort the good from the bad, you know what they say: Shoot em all, let insert higher power or deity sort it out

          Note: I am not supporting the Inquisition, just that the Pact world has gotten a lot darker in the space of one chapter.

          1. You said (paraphrasing) to kill anything not part of the human race. You put the one (human) race above all and condemn the rest (whether they be Alien, Other or something else) as inferior and not deserving of life. That is literally the definition of racism (according to some dictionaries, anyway).

            You humans are all racist!

            1. Perhaps you should look into the greater good? I would also like to point out that our guns are not glorified flashlights.

            1. Difference is that most of the other races were pretty damn human too. These here are more like Rachni or Collectors at best and Reapers at worst average.

        1. …Shit. That didn’t even cross my mind. Here hoping they are fine “Hah, right”.

          Hey, maybe it will turn out that every character in Pact is any of our three favourite faeries! And that they have just set up a very intricate play of which neither of them know about. It would perfectly fit the whole layer upon layer of deception that faeries build.

        2. Exactly. We have a long con going on. (Which is normal.) That we’ve only now caught some of it shouldn’t mean we’ve got all of it. By a long chalk.

          Worse: Padraic is playing his co-conspirators, as well as teaching them (again, pretty normal). Note that he got them to see (and admire) our Corvid in action.

          When you’re getting the spriglets out and about to watch somebody at work and take notes, you know that somebody is frightfully good.

        3. I feel like the charade would have broken down at some point if all the originals got disappeared. The Duchamps are enchantresses, so it would be difficult to trick them reliably with glamour dolls and at some point the fact that four fae are trying to act as at least seven people who are all known by the people they’re trying to trick would catch up with them. Particularly once Padric disappeared off to Toronto.

          Also, I have a bad feeling about how Padric specified the family breakdown of disguises instead of just telling them to get into their practitioner disguises. How many do they have?

      1. Im partial to the theory that the unfair folk started as humans that got the crude parts of their being carved away by a demon.
        As such, i suggest heading to France and picking up an incarnation of justice tied to the French Revolution to spearhead a general human uprising against both elf and goblin alike.

        1. I don’t think that would work out well. I may be wrong, for my knowledge of European history is limited, but according to my understanding there have been many failed French Revolutions (a la Les Miserables) and a one (or a few) successful one(s) that involved Massacring Royalty and those related to Royalty. In all cases, much blood was poured on the side of the People.

          A French Revolution Incarnation would lead to anarchy and/or heavy losses on the side utilizing her.

          Inversely, Justice would be tolled out at the Incarnation’s discretion. It could just end up like Blake, a monster on a killing spree that murders those he deems worthy. First he kills The Benevolent, then The Kind, finishing with The Innocent.

          It would be a dangerous path.

          1. You’re forgetting the inherent differences between humans and others. Others are incarnations of human traits and flaws, goblins are crude, faerie are refine, and are generally shallow and incomplete in their thinking.

            Revolutions by humans against others would actually work since unlike people vs people, we objectively understand how to create a functioning society better than them. The society might not be nice, but it won’t be a total pit of fuckery like just about everything run by others.

          2. I second this. Trying to channel the French Revolution sounds like an absolutely terrible idea that will result in guillotines, waves of revolutionaries couping each other, a reign of terror, and eventually someone like Conquest (Napoleon) takes over. The main reason the French Revolution looks even slightly less than monstrous is that they won enough to write history books about how terrible the monarchs were.

            To put it in perspective: The French Revolution executed more people in one year than the Spanish Inquisition did in its centuries-long lifespan.

            Hell, I’d much rather summon whatever Incarnation or Other might have become of Torquemada.

            1. an incarnation of a Revolution would be a HORRIFICALLY stupid thing to try and weaponize. revolutions are always getting hijacked by whoever is smart and sociopathic enough to butcher all the real idealists and take control. and they always have massive collateral damage. look how Boneapart rode a wave of anti-aristocratic fervor into being crowned a fricking EMPEROR, or who Stalin took control of the fledgling soviet union after having the genuine revolutionaries disappeared or exiled after failing to kill them.

        2. theory that the unfair folk started as humans that got the crude parts of their being carved away by a demon.

          Oh yeah that’s a neat one. It makes the origin story of faerie and goblins in 8.1 dovetail nicely with what we learned about what the Barber does to Granny’s male grandchildren.

        3. As such, i suggest heading to France and picking up an incarnation of justice tied to the French Revolution to spearhead a general human uprising against both elf and goblin alike.

          Considering how the French Revolution ended (Napoleon declaring himself emperor and marrying Marie Antoinette’s niece), I don’t think that’s the best idea.

  6. Hmmm. . . OK. Padraic is officially in my “evil” category. I like him a lot as a character, but stealing the life of a 9 year old for 3+ years is pretty Bad in my book.

    Jim Crow strikes again, causing dissension and riots. I wonder what he kept for himself.

    Back in Arc 2 when we met Joanna and Letita, I criticized Wildbow’s writing of kids. Jo didn’t seem to act right for her age to me. Of course, later Wildbow gave us Evan and showed he can write strong characters younger than teens. Now I must wonder if that was intentional, for Jo was, not a little girl, but an ancient Faerie.

    Not gonna lie, I have a soft spot for little kids. I don’t like seeing or reading about children getting hurt, damaged or even sad. The only chapters of Pact that have truly creeped me out were the Crone Mara chapters. I’m going to go to bed with negative feelings tonight. I hope we find put soon that TrueJo has been living an amazingly happy life these past few years, becoming a Fairy Princess or something like that.

    At least Molly should be happy. . .

    1. Hey, don’t think of it as life stealing. It’s life upgrading! She used to sit in coach, now she’s in first class.

      Why, just look how much happier she is here in Faerie House.

      1. And what happens when she either dies (because honestly there’s no way he’d let this get around so she’s probably dead) or gets out to see that her entire life for years have been a lie? She’ll feel like she spent ten minutes in one place only to learn that no one noticed she had been replaced, and this sick bastard has been wearing a little girl’s skin for his amusement.

        That’s messed up!

          1. It’s not that bad. If this works like other dealings the Fair Folk have had it’s less a changeling and more a fairy hole. As Padraic said, “you don’t want to miss your tenth birthday.” Which kinda implies she hasn’t had it yet, so she’ll emerge in 60 years when he’s bored of her, having not aged a day.

            1. As Padraic said, “you (don’t want) to miss your tenth birthday.”

              Emphasis on “don’t want” not “won’t”, she’ll miss it entirely having aged in body but not mind, losing her youth & her time. 😦

              Unless the connections & memories tied to her identity that Padric subsumed were shifted to her and the time in the “Faerie House” was reshaped in her memories as a midsummer night’s dream; not likely to happen though. 😦

            2. You think it’s not that bad? Now try this: she’ll emerge in 100 years, still being 9 years old. All her family and friends are dead, and there’s no one who’ll take care of her. Not to mention she’ll be thrust into a strange world that is 100 years from where she was.

            3. Tam Lin Time: this group of Merry Gentry have access to chronomancers and any little, highly engineered trifle of their that might have got “broken” or “discarded”.

              Not to mention that fairies and time warps are a well-practised tradition. 😛 I’d put money on the lass coming out looking the age she came in. She might even have been looping a single day on repeat all this time and for how ever long it takes for whatever else it is they need of her. 😐

        1. “honestly there’s no way he’d let this get around so she’s probably dead”

          Nah, look:

          “Why does she deserve it?” Essylt asked, not for the first time. Or the tenth.

          Whenever he goes back ‘home’, she’s still there, with only a few minutes left before she must leave, he tells her she deserved it, and Essylt asks why.
          Every.
          Single.
          Time.

    2. Back in Arc 2 when we met Joanna and Letita, I criticized Wildbow’s writing of kids

      OK, so my criticism actually came in arc 3 (hurray for fact checking!), but my point still stands. Crafty Foreshadowing 10 months in advance is impressive.

      1. To be perfectly honest, that criticism might still stand. Padraic is supposed to perfectly mimic the girl. Unless he doesn’t want to, as a way to foreshadow and break the fourth wall, or to see if any characters pick on the cues and play with that.

          1. Yup, even pointed out in this chapter.

            “Essylt’s gaze lingered a half-second too long. Critical.

            But she wouldn’t tell me that I was missing a key part of my disguise. That would be insulting. Much as Sandra had communicated without communicating, Essylt could say a great deal with a fraction of a second’s worth of eye contact.”

          2. Of course he isn’t, but it’s not as though he doesn’t have thousands (? or hundreds is it?) of years of experience and a tonne of glamour. I don’t expect Padraic to be perfect, but I don’t think he’d let up slip up something like one’s whole demeanor unless he really wanted to.

    3. Oh, it gets better. Nowhere in Padriac’s writing does it detail just what is causing Joanna indescribable joy. Remember all those times the faerie trio would talk to Blake about flaying his skin and making him love it, or into a beautiful instrument of pain? One of these days, Blake is going to find Joanna, and the condition she’ll be in will make the Abyss look kind.

    4. Fae usually are a mix of kindness and evil. Like the stories of kids who play games of hide and seek not knowing the forest they are hiding in has a time warp, or stuff like that..

    5. I’d worry about her wanting to become a fairy princess to actually becoming a Fairy Lady. Some of Padriac’s hints suggests that Maggie going too far into the “Goblin Queen” identity package might actually may well turn her into the very monster who set her on the Blood and Fire path in the first place. Some of what he hints about the Goblin King suggests that, too gobliny might actual be goliny.

      The line between Practitioners and Others? Rather blurry, remember. 😐

      1. Not a faerie princess, a fairy princess. A fairy is less mythologically Fae like and more Disney Tinkerbell like. Little girls like Tinkerbell, right?

    6. I honestly understood it as all 4 parts happening in that order. Meaning, Jo has been there exactly like that in the past few years.

        1. ““Here I am,” I replied. Padraic again.”

          Problem with Wilbow,if you do not read each line carefully,you lose something.Good thing with Wilbow,if you do not read each line carefully,you lose something

  7. And so the deeper monsters avoid being hunted once again. I dearly hope Blake takes the pounds of flesh that the Crone, Padric, and Ur have avoided paying for so very, very long. Take it with fire and justice and blood.

    It is so rare to see a monster suffer, so rare and so glorious.

    1. Lets face it, the Duchamps and Behaims, and even Rose have all been thinking they are in control. But really they’ve been dancing to the tunes played by the real magnificent bastards the whole time. Not so sure about Johannes yet, but I won’t be surprised.

      Forget about lordship. If Jacob’s Bell is still standing at the end, I suspect all the families are going to be FUCKED.

  8. So Joanna is basically Shazam? With the exception of a few close associates, she hides the fact that she changes from a child to her adult alter ego.

  9. What was Sandra’s third mistake? Padraic says there were three, but he only names two: she thought he didn’t want the court to arrive, and he had no reason to expect anyone to be alive to tell his secrets when they did. The third is probably some other misunderstanding of the Faerie mindset, but what?

    1. My guess is that she made the mistake of believing that the faerie can be coerced through force (her chapter) or blackmail (here) where in reality land the faerie will just find some way to slither around it.

      1. Obviously.

        Actually, that letter he wrote to the girl in the checkered scarf back in Signature 8.3, he said he put “two hints” in it, “about how you might escape the predicament with the goblins.” Did the ‘keep reading this over and over’ approach only count as one? Then what was the other?

      2. Bingo. Anything written down? Will be “a perspective”. A such… he’ll be lying. Sorry, my bad: “half-truthing”. After all, if he admits it’s just a memory jogger, nothing says he’s jogging the bits that it looks like he’s jogging. 😐

  10. D’you know, I’d like to think that I can be a callous individual when the situation calls for it. If I don’t want my emotional buttons to be pressed, I can usually keep from reacting.

    But Wildbow has consistently shown the ability to mash those emotional buttons like he’s playing Mortal Kombat and aiming for a Fatality. So uh, very sketched-out props to him.

  11. “That’s insane. She’s everything we’re fighting against,” Penelope said.

    This is the second time Penny somehow performed mental gymnastics to put shunning Rose in the same category of must-do’s as not letting their parents boss them around. I thought the JBJC were ‘fighting against’ being controlled and browbeat and overshadowed by grownups.

    Unaware of just how much she was influenced by the well of karmic gravity that surrounded even the image of Rose Thorburn.

    Seriously. This has been a big ass blind spot, which seems really unusual, even given that karma will try to actively avoid being noticed. Because practitioners in the story so far have been smart enough to be self-aware about similar manipulations like this.

    Practitioners know the spirits love their rule of three, and try to work around it. They avoid third attempts that tend to backfire, or try really hard to stop enemies from trying a third time that’s going to be devastating, like with targeting Evan this arc.

    The Duchamp husbands knew that Sandra and her whole coven were enchantresses, and were too on guard for possible enchantment and manipulation for Sandra to actually perform any on them, when the group got touchy and split along gender lines.

    Hell, Duchamps even noticed that The Benevolent Polygamist left unnaturally good impressions on them all in person, they realized that karma was influencing them, and tried to work around it by avoiding his immediate presence, and somehow managed to hold not-so-high opinions of the guy.

    But somehow no one seems to actively be resisting, or even caring or noticing, that the Thorburn karmic debt might be warping their perceptions and making them behave irrationally, hypocritically, or against their own interests. Is there more than just karma at work here?

    For the mysterious puppetmaster Alister alluded to. How many candidates are there now? That superior goblin, whatever’s behind Molly’s power escalation, Cordivae, or as Blake keeps talking about, History personified?

    1. I don’t think Penny is working right in her head right now. It’s late, their family is fractured, she herself spit at Sandra after learning that everything she believed was a lie. Pica’s handiwork spreads far.

        1. Not only does Rose have the Family’s bad karma, but she has the added label of diabolist. For example, it doesn’t really matter that Sam the neo-Fascist you’re talking to really is a great guy; he isn’t a racist, nor does he want to conquer all the neighboring countries (and Russia); in most people’s heads he’s still a Nazi pig. If Rose was just a scourge, people might be able to work around the karmic debt, but the debt and the whole demon summoning make it all but impossible to look at her better qualities.

    2. The obvious candidate for puppet master would be the lawyers. The only issue is what they want is ultimately straight forward. They probably want to get the House and the Thornburn Heir. Cordivae maybe, but the only plot we’ve seen has been the Thornburn family. Sure he’s causing chaos now, but that only came after.

      Something from the abyss seems like a good possibility. The (God) Machine. Blake has been a major driving factor in this especially when we note that Molly was activated by Blake.

    3. Remember how massive a sinkhole the Thorburn debt was mentioned to be? Several lifetimes worth? Throw the magical equivalent of “neonazi” and generations of hate and you have a good excuse for everyone to not notice. I’d imagine it’s much harder to notice that you’re hating someone extra hard whom you already dislike, as opposed to having your attention forcibly manipulated or liking someone whom you know to have qualities that you normally find undesirable (like polygamy).

    4. It’s possible that the Thorburn debt is simply so high that, in addition to its greater effect, it is that much more difficult to notice it. It’s like the difference between noticing you’re on a speeding train versus noticing you’re on a massive ball of rock and gas hurtling through the void.

      1. Wait….I just noticed I am on a massive ball of rock and gas hurtling through the void.

        AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH PLEASE SAVE ME AHHHHHHHHHHH

        ….oh wait,its just earth,nvm.

    5. As far as adults are concerned, I think it is fair to say they fight the Thorburns not because of karma but power. The bad karma just helps them achieve what they want, and hating somebody tends to help at seeings them as enemies. Got nothing to say to the comments about acting against their own interests, though.

    6. i agree this feels like off. the Ruling families have avoiding bad karma while kicking puppies down to a fine art. why wouldn’t they have a similar casual mastery of avoided bad karma’s warping effects on their Perceptions?

  12. Okay, so two things we learned:

    1.) F**k Faeries. I haven’t seen a good one yet.
    2.) Sandra… yeah, she’s done. Mostly because of her assistance on the assault on the house, which is why Blake summoned Pica in the first place. It got Blake to put her under fire and Pica turned out to be the gunman.

    1. Well i wanted to see Blake but it was great nonetheless, though there are parts i must reread again since many things were quite had to understand.
      I don’t know who’s the gunman and the story about joanna is quite strange as well.

    2. Dealing with the Fae in almost any setting is like trying to explain why the sky is blue to a classroom full of first graders. the only winning move is to never even play.

      1. Hey, I’ve done that and it’s not a big deal. Here’s the slightly lengthy explanation — you toss some extra activities together. “White light, like the light from this projector, is made from all the colors of the rainbow mixed together.” Then show off some cool color mixing. Then maybe mix some paint together, color on top of another color, whatever. “Now red light is like a big semi truck on the highway, it just goes straight. Violet is like a race car and it zips all over the place, all around the curves. Here’s a meter stick, it’s one meter long. If an ant wanted to walk one meter, would it be faster to walk straight along the stick or would it be faster to walk through thick carpet like this piece?” Of course it’s faster to go straight there. Having previously broached the subject that the Earth is round… “The Earth has air all around it and look, if we skim across the globe like this we go through lots of air and if go straight down we only go through a little air. So when the sun rises and sets, it has to go through all that atmosphere and mostly only the red rays are big enough to run straight through everything to your eyes. All the light colors are scattered in the atmosphere and go to near where the sun is, which makes the sky near there the colors of the other side of the rainbow from red. And that’s why the sky is blue.”

        And for the rare kids who notice that violet is actually farthest and ask why the sky isn’t violet, you explain rods and cones in the eye and how your eyes can see blue a lot more, 2 drops and 2 drops of food coloring, and it looks more blue because your eyes see more blue.

        I’ve found, with kids, it’s best to be extremely straight forward, to exactly answer their questions, help them deal with any anxiety or misunderstood things, and then they go back on with their life.

        I never have kids continually ask why because I flat out tell them exactly why. You’re not really teaching them the math, just the explanations behind things. My niece, who’s in kindergarten, can talk about inertia and how frictions affects things and I think she’s a perfectly normal kid — every kid can know these things if you just take the time to explain things in terms that they can relate to.

  13. Gotta Say, J.C. knows his stuff. Let Blake do all the heavy lifting, then just finish up.

    Molly can’t really complain about that ending can she?

    1. Well, she can a little, since the younger Duchamps are all alive. But only a little. Progress!

      I hold out hope that Molly will be able to stabilize, Callan will come back as a revenant, and the Thorburn family will be able to come together again, with a couple more family members than they started this with, and begin to work through their issues together.

  14. Yeah, after today, I finally am forced to hope that Blake actually starts eating Others, Padriac needs his heart ripped out and eaten, and Corvidae deserves a duel to the death in the drains.

    1. The problem with that is there’s some “you are what you eat” at work sometimes, and Blake doesn’t need to get any concentrated bastard in him.

  15. A tie of hair in my pocket, wound around my finger.

    This hair-around-finger thing is fashionable among all the trickster bastards these days, apparently?

    His thumb brushed the lock of black hair that was tied around his right ring finger, easily mistaken by the unwary for a ring.

    Cordivae, in Histories 11.

  16. Oh, man. Padriac is playing the long game. He can grow up, as Joanna. He can get married, as Joanna. He can get pregnant as Joanna, and in so doing destroy the Duchamp working.

    1. I’m not sure that would work. He takes on Joanna’s appearance and everyone believes him to be Joanna Duchamp, strengthening the glamour and reality’s credulity, but he never took her name. So it’s iffy if the spirits would judge this as a Duchamp giving birth to a boy or not.

      And you have to wonder about the possible complications of a purely glamoured pregnancy, and could Padraic avoid getting bored maintaining that one guise for 9 months?

      1. Well, with your own body going bonkers for 9 months, it’s probably good entertainment for him. And there’s a chance the Court didn’t explicitely forbid him from having kid(s), either.

        Damn, now I really want to see it. Motherhood would do him good, unless he eats his kids.

        1. Depends entirely on how glamours work. I think if he wanted to get pregnant for whatever reason, he’d need to be so convinced in the glamour himself that it becomes real instead of an illusion. Which I suppose is why he keeps those diaries around, in case he ever needs to go native for a while.

  17. ‘There was another story that said that the unfair folk were people once, and they chopped off all the bits they didn’t like, and those bits became goblins (Signature 8.1).’

    I’m thinking that ALL the faerie in Jacob’s Bell really need to be banished & bound in the Abyss, force-fed goblins until both faerie & goblin essence are one then shot back into the faerie court for shits & giggles. After they have sworn to undo all damage they had caused directly & indirectly in their identity and other identities they had assumed of course.

    That or binding them to take on all the negative karma accumulated past, present & future by those they had done harm.

  18. Damn crow undid everything.

    I’ll reread this chapter tomorrow since Padriac kept talking about breaking the truth into thirds. Maybe there is something hidden in what he is saying.

    Poor girl. Everytime she speaks to Padraic she thinks she is leaving. Do they have Behaim kids too or did the other faerie choose random Behaim kid for the night only? I suppose this is what they get for dealing with Faries.

    Winner of the night is Johannes. Didnt even have to lift a finger.

    Hopefully Sandra survives. She is the only elder Duchamp I care about.

      1. Well let’s see: there was his victory in Toronto. And his victory over the Duchamps. Those are really his only two major victories. The fight against the Fae with Miss Lewis was tainted probably. I’m not sure how the victory against the Laird-Duchamp time ritual would be tainted. His victory against Ur is still solid.

        His other main victories are surviving the onslaught at the House, which is more or less untainted if they still live and his victory over the Duchamps, which honestly all Corvidae did was hammer that fracture as was asked. Maggie was bound against tainting that victory.

        I think mainly the victory against Toronto. Maybe Paddy got something when Blake took the lock of hair, but I’m not sure what. Toronto OTOH was basically destroyed by the meddling of Padraic and Corvidae. The only upshot is the slain Hyena. I blame Blake for this most recent meddling by Corvidae. He did exactly what was asked.

    1. Oh, there’s likely some extra bad news from the crow. This was entirely in line with Blake’s specific orders. I’m pretty sure that, as far as karma is concerned, Blake is responsible for all this. Namely, the deaths of many Duchamps and husbands he’d promised not to kill.

      Bye, positive karma balance! It was nice knowing you!

          1. I doubt Corvadae is unaware of Blake’s current plans. And I doubt it matters much to him. He’s playing a long game, and he can improvise as long as it gets him where he wants in the end.

    1. I’m thinking that the whole situation in Jacob’s Bell is a physical manifestation of the colloquial idiom of ‘Eating crow’ for every white man with Johnny boy as the trigger finger.

  19. Am I missing something to why all of the comments seem to be assuming paedric has been jo all along? While reading I assumed that this was somewhat recent, at least post-toronto. Not saying that he hasn’t been in her place the whole time just wondering why that seems to be everyone’s assumption.

    1. The real Joanna has never performed the awakening ritual, has never had Letita as a familiar, and believes she is just about to turn ten years old.

      It’s completely impossible for her to be the Joanna seen throughout the story until, who has an implement and a familiar named Letita, and is also like, 12 or something.

    2. I agree that it’s not as clear as it could be. It comes down to whether that last scene is contemporary or a flashback. Most people are assuming it’s contemporary (which is probably the case, although it’s not entirely clear).

  20. I wonder… how Padraic managed to get ahold of Joanna. Doing stuff to innocents is… allowed, but hard. Also, fuck Padraic. I am too tired to feel disturbed by his actions, but… no, I just can’t process how horrible that is.

    And Mother. Fucking. Corvidae. It makes me so pissed to see things going, presumably, well and then being completely invalidated. I also didn’t quite understand what happened with the gun guy. I need to reread this later.

    1. I don’t claim to understand all the action, but the gun action was fairly clear. Corvidae swapped the tattooed guy’s cell phone with a gun. So the guy puts on his coat and reaches for a cell phone, but comes out with a gun. The gun is generally pointed in diagram-drawer’s direction. In the seconds the gun holder is staring at it confused, he is noticed by Sandra, who forces the diagram drawer to notice the gun-holder. The diagram drawer interprets the gun as a threat, pulls a knife, and throws it. Mayhem ensues.

        1. Yep. I see I got some other details wrong, on a more thorough re-read. Sigh. Serves me right for answering without referring to the text while I was writing.

    2. he’s a Fae. the nice ones will brutally murder your family quite cheerfully if you violate some obscure custom or an oath you unknowingly made when you were 3. sociopathy is in thier nature.

  21. So Corvidae has broken the Duchamps as requested. I guess that is ultimately a flaw in the plan.

    I swear Wildbow must play Ars Magica. Slipping into roles? Made of glamour? Feeding off belief and attention?

    I think Faerie checks need to be instituted. First ask everyone to indicate they are not a Faerie by raising their hands. Then go dumpster diving. Walk across a ditch filled with offal, trash, and goblin bits. That should catch the Fae

  22. Going to toss a guess out that there’s no ‘puppet-master’ in the sense of a single director. Or rather there are multiple actors in the background (Such as Padraic here) spinning things to their own ends. Some of them may be aware of each other and others aren’t.

    The overall effect is that we get the impression of some mysterious puppet-master which is merely the emergent result of all the background actors’ chaotic manipulations.

    Or rather Johaness, Behaim, Duchamp, Thorburn, the Junior Council and maybe 1-2 others are on the stage. They’re each manipulating their set of players and actors a level below that.

    However, Crone Mara, Padraic, the Laywers, the elder goblin maybe the Barber and probably at least one other (Conquest? The Faerie Court?) are acting backstage to interfere with the play. Some of these – at least Padraic and Mara – know each other and yet are neither playing against each other nor helping.

    Add in that while a few of these backstage forces may be single-minded chess masters many of them are goblins and fairies or just people out for revenge who lack that single goal and the end result is, then, something no one is planning for. There are a dozen master plans, but none of them is going to come true.

    Meanwhile actors on-stage sees signs coming from behind the curtains and incomprehensible results and assumes that someone is running a game on them.

      1. In an interesting inversion, in the Pactverse, emrgent behaviour can become a single entity (ee spirit of X, e.g. Conquest). Not saying that there’s a spirit of “Everybody Loses in Jacob’s Bell”, but it’s not impossible per se :).

        1. I sometimes wonder if that’s what the Abyss’ job actually is: to do the opposite: break complexity down and supply the cues it needs to emerge in a different shape.

          The Outside can do it, too… but, as in the case of a certain crow and even Molly’s growth, you need a focus for it. And, somebody pumping in concentration, time and ability to make a unit form around the patterns.

    1. Somewhere that Blake would find it, so we the audience can see what sort of horrible tortures Joanna has been enjoying for the past 2+ years.

      1. If Blake actually saved a child of the Duchamp family then they’d owe him big time. I also wonder what kind of karma you get for saving an enemies child.

        1. You’re assuming she’s in any condition where saving involves anything better than a mercy kill. For all we know, she’s being subjected to tortures that would be impossible to survive without glamour, which is also being used to turn the pain into pleasure. The moment the clock strikes ten, the glamour ends… Well, the pain to pleasure part at least. She’ll get put back together after suffering the agony, then sent along for comfort to a family that’ll be convinced that she is the imposter.

          1. I’m not so sure. The Faerie don’t really care about consequences but they aren’t total morons. My notion is that they’re keeping Joanna in a dreaming state but intact so if they get found and are pressured into giving the child back they’re only going to give them a kid who was held back for two years, instead of a pile of hamburger meat.

            1. Now, now, I don’t doubt the Faerie Trio would return Joanna fully intact in such a situation even if she wasn’t fully intact during her playtime. If her family accidentally undid the glamour that repaired the wounds in checking her for injuries, it isn’t as though the ladies don’t know what happens to glamour when subjected to scrutiny and skepticism. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Joanna deserves to experience the full extent of Padriac’s abilities.

            2. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Joanna deserves to experience the full extent of Padriac’s abilities.

              Um, I’m sorry. What exactly are you saying here?

              I mean, I’m assuming that you didn’t mean that the nine year old who literally did nothing deserves to be tortured.

            3. Well, Padriac can’t speak outright lies, and he keeps saying she deserves it, so he must feel she deserves something for some reason.

            4. We’re not only accepting judgements from cannibal mermaids, but manipulative fairy bastards now? On a friggin’ pre-teen?

              Like, this line of thinking is circumstantial as fuck, and frankly kind of creepy.

            5. Let me be clear. I do not think Joanna deserves what she’s getting. I do think, however, that Padriac thinks she does, and that that opinion might influence his behavior.

            6. This is late, but I thought Padriac meant that she deserved all of this fun for the service of lending them her identity, and all of the fun that this gave the faerie.

  23. Project sleeping beauty is a go!
    Wait, we’re wasting the stores of power on THIS?

    The faerie have a house!?!?!

    So… what happened with the knife and cellphone guys? I don’t quite get it. Nor do I get how this ruined blake’s plan. Help?

    Waaaait. Hold up. Does this mean padriac tricked Jo into the whole birthday thing and thinking she’s ten again with some magic nonsense, and he only captured her recently, or that he’s been jo this entire time?
    Because if the latter- that means padriac did the awakening ritual AND familiar ritual. The hell?
    If the latter- wouldn’t sandra have notice by now? And haven’t there been times when the three faeries and jo have been in the same room at the same time??

    ….What WAS blake’s plan, anyways?

    1. Blake’s plan, I think, was to get the Duchamps to back off from fighting everyone else, but keep them powerful enough to fight Johannes. It was a fine balance, which Corvidae upset.

      1. It’s not a complete loss, since the Junior Council seems like it can pull together with Rose in their ranks. But yeah, Blake wanted a very specific level of power loss, because after all you can’t change the status quo with no power blocs around to change it.

        If Blake finds out what happened to Joanna and those other kids, goes to save them and tell the Duchamps about how they were taken, he might be able to bring more cohesion to the Duchamps, but I’m not optimistic about Blake’s ability to deal with Faerie bullshit.

        1. Not to mention, Blake owes Padraic a favor. Remember back at the beginning that Essylt went to touch Blake’s face and he slapped her hand away, then Padraic said that Blake owed her a favor and she tried to get Blake to “give” her his apologies (permanently so that he could never tender apologies to anyone else ever again), and Rose stepped in and saved Blake? Remember how Padraic (then called Patrick) said that he would take that flavor that Blake owed? Yeah, Padraic doesn’t seem the type to forget and he’s eventually going to call it due.

          1. Iirc, Blake did not agree to owe Padraic a favor. As I remember it, the Thorburn heir was to agree to simply consider making a deal with Padraic in the future. This would be an unofficial deal, for Padraic mentioned that he was officially not allowed to make deals. (Now thank I think of it, that’s the same tactic he used to trick Maggie).

            I don’t think Blake can still be held to this. He made deals with Maggie in Toronto. If that doesn’t count, Blake could argue that he wasn’t bound to the truth at the time. If that doesn’t work, I would think his Erasure would wipe it out.

            Speaking of Erasure, how does Maggie remember Blake and Toronto?

          2. Does Padraic? After all Urr at the connections between Blake and everyone else. Even if Padraic can figure out where Blake fits into the scheme of things, I don’t see how he really could remember that specific incident.

            1. I’m not so sure that a strong Glamour would stop Urr from eating a connection. If that were the case, Fairie would be the best counter for First Choir demons, and we would have heard about that. If he does remember, it’s more likely for the same reason Mags does. Padriac’s name stealing messed the connections up.

        1. fits his profile. he’s good at snap survival/tactical decisions on the battlefield, but sucks at strategy. still wish Rose haddent all but announced her intent to murder him at her first chance. she’d really help ballance that out.

    2. I was also wondering about the awakening/familiar rituals. I’m going to guess he’s seen enough of them to fake ’em with a sufficiently glamoured up room. I’m surprised nobody’s noticed he can’t actually practice, though. I guess he can make up for lacking enchantress skills by manipulating with words and glamouring up connections

      1. Who says Padraic can’t practice? Blake is apparently a very convincing Pinocchio, and Blake was able to do the awakening ritual, get a familiar, etc., even though he’d apparently been carved out of a “real person” by the Butcher. When Padraic was Maggie, Padraic mentioned in Toronto that he wasn’t used to this practitioner thing, that it was newly acquired. I thought he meant that, like Blake, Maggie hadn’t been a practitioner for very long, but in hindsight he was talking about the practitioner ability of “Maggie Holt” which he was able to tap into, was new to Padraic.

        Remember the Twilight vampire/fae and the Harry Potter references, as well as everything else we’ve seen about glamour. If you believe something hard enough, it basically is true. If Padraic “is” Joanna, then Joanna can go through the awakening ritual, etc., and Padraic can use that ability whenever he “is” Joanna.

    3. “Project sleeping beauty is a go!
      Wait, we’re wasting the stores of power on THIS?”

      See, I told you Alistair was going to waste it.

      “The faerie have a house!?!?!”

      They have to live somewhere. The got kicked out of the fae, so I guess a house is a must. I mean they don’t seem like the sort that would live under a bridge.

      “….What WAS blake’s plan, anyways?”

      Weaken the Duchamp’s enough so they can’t risk trying to fight alone for the Lordship. Show the younger family members that Sandra won’t be changing the marriage system. But keep them just strong enough so they can help fight Johannes. Problem is thanks to a certain trickster crow, the Duchamps are probably too fractured now.

      1. I don’t think there’s much that beats time magic for distorting time. Alister loses the advantage of momentum at sunrise, so he’s spending his power reserve to make that happen a good twenty four hours later.

        1. There are compelling reasons not to launch a major assault in broad daylight when the working to keep people in their houses at night is inactive.

          1. Right, but with enchantresses on your side, your opponent has more of his hands tied than you do. Plus it doesn’t hamper your side’s karma and store of power nearly as much. Johannes specializes in having his hands in a variety of pockets, to have a ridiculous number of approaches and many different solutions to his problems. Attacking at night allows him to employ all of his tools, while at daytime limits some of the toolboxes he can use. Sure, it does the same for the opposing side, and gives more risk, but they have to weaken him any way they can- as he came out of this particular night’s scuffle without much loss (if any) and any losses he did occur, he can make up quickly.

            The same can’t be said over the Behaims (who lost some boogeymen, automatons, and family cohesion), DuChamps (who lost a bunch of family members thanks to blake, and now stand more-or-less divided), and Thorburns (who just lost. Seriously, not only did they introduce more members with the seriously shitty karmic debt into things, but they also lost almost every singe non-demonic weapon they had, and now have to worry about doing things with the Jr. Council members AND the entire behaim family in mind, not to mention the fact the two powerhouses of the thorburn family, if you want to call them that, are destined to be mortal enemies and essentially want to kill eachother, nevermind the fact they were the weakest and most vulnerable of the powers bidding for Lord before this contest even began…).

            So, offense is the best option. But offense with one hand tied behind your back against an 20-armed opponent with six arms tied behind his back is better in my eyes than the 20-armed opponent against yourself without handicaps on either side.

            Matter of opinion I guess…

            Besides, that’s a LOT of power the behaims are expending. I’m sure there are better ways to use it…..

            1. I gather that Alister isn’t counting the Duchamps as allies just yet. Sandra isn’t in on this deal. It’s also going to take a lot of mystic firepower to storm Johannes’ demense, and he can get around some of the witnesses via door angel. Also, I gather that the Behaim superweapon is intended to somewhat even the odds.

            2. Very fair points. Okay, point conceded- alister isn’t stupid and thought this through. Granted, I personally dislike this method of using the behaim power stores, but I’m sure there are others in his family that feel the same way, and it’s not like there aren’t valid points for it

              Thank you for clearing that up.

            3. Eh, there’s no point saving power if you never use it.

              If a critical turning point in the battle for Lordship of Jacob’s Bell isn’t serious enough to tap into the family reserves, then I’m not sure when would be.

  24. Puppetmaster, puppetmaster… I’d be comfortable saying Corvidae. He’s a bit obvious, though. I’d be happy to see it be someone following up on gramma Rose’s conspiracy, since that’s only shown up here and there, despite being vital to the current situation (in my eyes at least)
    Leaves the question of ‘who’ though, since I’m still looking at Alistair as one of the bit players… She/they must have talked to someone besides Behaims…

    1. I’d actually start betting on the Barber. Splitting things, repurposing and using them is his thing.

      And, nothing says they have to know about it. Or need to have been recently put into play.

  25. Padraic stealing Maggie’s name was one of the most terrifying things I’ve read in years, and somehow Wildbow just made it worse.

    “My hat’s off to the Duke” – man, you write scary stuff. Stephen King doesn’t ever horrify me like this.

    1. You need to read more Clive Barker, Neal Steavonson, Neil Gaiman or Ursula LeGuin (why, yes: I do include her, thanks), then for the more existential forms of dread. And, then not hit me later for suggesting those authors. 😉

      1. Neal Stephenson, and yes, I highly recommend his “The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer” – 100% my favorite scifi novel of… whatever year I read that. I actually think it bears a few similarities to wildbow’s writing, interestingly.

        1. Thanks for the catch: I always mess up on his surname and I can’t for the life of me think why. I must have messed up totally the first time and it stuck. I actually Googled and thought I’d cut and pasted correctly: apparently not. [blushing ensues]

          Oh, for an edit button. 😀

      2. What do you recommend by Gaiman? I’ve read a fair bit of his stuff and apart from the short story “How to talk to girls at parties” I can’t think of anything like you describe (though Sandman obviously had its moments).

          1. Oh damn, how could I forget Coraline! Yeah that was very effective.

            Haven’t read Anansi Boys. I really do have to get around to that some time.

            I enjoyed American Gods a lot but didn’t find it horrifying at all. In some ways, Pact is actually a lot like a darker, more horrifying version of American Gods.

  26. I wonder how often Joanna has been replaced by Padric. I feel like the original still has to have been there, since no one caught on while Padric was in Toronto.

    Also, hats off to Corvidae. That was smoothly done.

    1. Most likely, Padraic had one of his faerie friends take over. My question is “what about the town hall meetings where both Padraic and Joanna are in attendance”?

  27. Who’s the big puppetmaster, pulling strings from a distance and making everything that much worse? Well who do we know that’s really good at pulling strings and making everything go to crap? Pauz.

    Remember what Pauz’s main problem was? He kept accidentally killing his host. Remember what Rose told him? That if he was able to get an immortal host like Conquest, he could really go to town and start doing damage. Then Blake introduced him to Conquest. Blake later freed him and used the book that was tainted with Pauz to bind Conquest.

    Remember how Pauz told Blake that Blake would see him again? Remember how Corvidae, who has a sense for these things, took Conquest off to somewhere, the Conquest that’s infecting Rose? I bet Corvidae gave Conquest to Pauz. Given enough time, I’m sure Pauz could infect Conquest, then continue infecting Rose.

    Remember Blake’s dream about Rose leading an army of others with Pauz on her shoulder? It’s going to happen.

    Pauz infects Conquest who infects Rose. Rose then binds Pauz as her familiar. Pauz then uses his special invert ability to invert the familiar bond and take Rose as his familiar, just like the rabbit monster thing and Briar Girl have an inverted familiar bond.

  28. Someone on Giantitp figured out this concise analogy to the situation, and it was too good not to paraphrase here: Blake wanted to capture the wild Duchamp clan, but Corvidae used supersonic and the Duchamps hurt themselves in their confusion, and thus fainted.

    1. Just use quick balls. They work amazingly well in Gen VI. Except for that damn Relicanth I caught last night. Enjoy being named D* I* C* K you dick.

  29. Blake never revealed who exactly gave him the names of his targets.

    In particular, the Benevolent was a “request of a child”.

    1. I took that to be twice-relevant. The people in the chatroom were “children” by most modern standards. But, taking down Real Monsters (and, Mr Benevolent seems to have painted himself that way with his various actions quite nicely) is what he promised Evan right at the start of their relationship.

      I’m betting it’s Evan who’s the child he meant. 🙂

  30. Something occurs to me…

    Padric says Jo ‘deserves’ what she’s getting… What If in his own twisty fae logic, stealing her away wasn’t a punishment or incidental?

    What if to him it was a REWARD? Remember how all duchamps once at the age to be sworn into magic are basically made to swear in such a way that the family line has to hold? And that in doing so they are trapped in the pattern the family creates?

    So what did Padric do that ultimately invalidated that? He kept her from being awakened. He ‘took her place’ in those oaths.

    So this might not be the ‘menace’ of a fae… but instead the ‘good will’ of one…

    … not that you can really tell the two apart…

    1. That’s even more terrifying…

      I’m still wondering how it was even possible for Padraic, Ev and Keller to be in the same room as Joanna without anyone wondering where Letita was (presumably Letita can also glamour up as Joanna).

      1. Well, there are several ways, though they have drawbacks.

        1. Letlia glamours up and they just pretend she’s somewhere else. Advantage is that it’s unlikely anyone will break the glamour, disadvantage is that it falls apart if someone wants Letila to show up.
        2. Recruit another fae. Same general problem as the last one, though as they add members to the chain of swaps it’s less likely all of them will be expected. However, they appear to have a very limited supply of dependable fae contacts.
        3. They make some kind of puppet and glamour it up. This lets all their personas be in a room together, but I expect the puppet is less convincing. However, it should hold up in a council meeting.
        1. What I wonder about is the rest of the disguises. Presumably they had some reason to feel confident that the originals wouldn’t show up, but impersonating all of them over the long term rapidly becomes untenable. If they have stand-ins good enough to hold up unsupervised, they’re going to have to worry about running into the stand-ins.

      2. chickadee is easy to miss, evan spent a lot of time in blake’s hood

        familiars don’t seem to be tied by “range” to their pet humans, evan can go a good distance from blake for example and she manages to attend school and dance class without the bird so maybe the fairy taking a bit of “me time” while joanna is relatively safe at the meeting is expected, or maybe the familiars tend to hang out on the roof or something during meetings

  31. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out, there’s no difference between the harm Goblins do to humans and the harm Faerie do to humans. The only difference is the PR with the Goblins being direct & Faerie making it look cool/pretty; like the difference between party drugs (Ice, Coke, Ecstasy) & Intoxicative inhalants (glue sniffing, dung sniffing).

    http://www.rense.com/general27/frant.htm

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