Sine Die 14.1

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“Here!” Green Eyes called out.  “Found one!”

Wood popped, snapped, and creaked as I approached.  I started to duck low, beneath the lowest branches of the trees that clustered in the corner of one back yard, but changed my mind.  Closing my eyes, I walked through the tangle.  Where ice-laden branches bent to the point of breaking, they hooked themselves on the holes in my body.  I could feel the wood shift, much as it had when it had been gaining footholds in my flesh, crawling, shifting position, the little pieces I took in finding places at the edges of the gouges, holes, and other wounds.

“Goblins, probably,” Green Eyes observed.

“Safe bet,” I said.

“Huh?” Evan asked.  He started to make his way through my body, and started to poke his head out, when I covered his eyes.

It quickly turned into a game of whack-a-mole, as he shifted position, poked his head out, and was blocked before he could take in the image.  “You’re not letting me see this?  You know the kind of horrible gunk I’ve seen?  Old gobby Mcnailface back there?  People dying?  I bit a man’s eye.  You going to tell me this is-”

He managed to worm his head out and around the edge of my hand.

“-blegh,” he said, before retreating back inside.

The body was arranged in the tree, more akin to an octopus than a human being, if it had even been human to begin with.  Every limb was broken in multiple places, joints popped out of sockets, skin a bruised purple-black where it had been stretched, wrapped around the thorny tree branches.  Fingers and feet had been broken and bent backward, wrapped around and nailed in place, not with any precision, but more ‘nail until it stays where it is’.  Branches behind the body had been broken off, the points of wood penetrating back and buttocks to hold up the corpse.

The least broken arm had come free, and dangled at the side, long since frozen.  Bits of bark and splinters under the nails marked where the dying individual had tried to claw free.  Fresher than the blood under the nails, marking it as one of the last things the individual had attempted.

Maybe it was better that Evan hadn’t looked long enough to see the smaller details.

“They didn’t even eat him,” Green Eyes said.

“Wasn’t the point,” I replied.

“What was the point?”

“I guess they wanted people to stumble onto it,” I said.  “Sunrise is soon, and goblins can be stupid.  Maybe their desire to horrify and alarm overrode their desire to avoid karmic backlash.”

“Hm.  It’s more than that, isn’t it?” Green Eyes asked.

I glanced at her.

“If they were that stupid, they wouldn’t have lasted this long.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Well, it’s a crazy night.  Or do you think there’s more going on?”

“There was this one place near the cistern, back in the dark waters, this one place that I could swim to where the bodies sometimes collected, a bunch of goblins made displays like this.  I could get food there if I was quick enough to grab the bodies before they fished them out.  But the reason they did the displays, I think, is they were marking territory.”

“You think that’s what these goblins are doing?” I asked.  “Staking a claim?”

I cut one branch with the Hyena, and bent another until it snapped.  The body was stiff with cold, but it still flopped forward, mangled head on my shoulder, skin cracking and breaking as much as it bent, where the joints weren’t connected.  Like a child’s oversized stuffed animal, or a macabre dance partner.

“Going by what I know?” Green Eyes asked.  “Sure.”

“Meaning they’re planning to stay a while,” I said.

She didn’t reply to that.

I moved through the thicket, carrying the body, and laid it out on the road.

The road, at least, was black.  If any blood flowed, it wouldn’t raise suspicion.

I glanced at the satyrs, who were hanging a distance away.  Keeping watch, supposedly.  Mostly talking.

Kneeling, I unzipped the remains of the corpse’s jacket, then tore off a strip.

I laid the strip across the eyes.

“How come?” Green Eyes asked.

When I looked up, she was lying atop a snowbank, looking down at me and the body.

“It’s not intact enough for me to do the polite thing and close the eyes,” I said.

“Doesn’t work anyway,” Green Eyes said.  “The body keeps them open.  It gets weird if you try, and they keep opening their eyes.  I learned pretty fast, you have to look at them as meat.  Once they’re dead they’re gone.”

I cut, using the Hyena.

Green Eyes kept talking, settling her chin on the back of one hand.  “Gotta look for the light in people’s eyes, instead.  That’s where the person is.  Not always good, but still people.”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “Might be a little biased, given my situation, but I like the idea that the person is inside.  Not the body.”

“Why do you think I like you, you knob-head?”

Evan made a sound, like he was suppressing a laugh.

I found that several ribs were cracked.  I cut away flesh, fat and connective tissue, a cut along one spot, moving on after the initial incision.  By the time I returned to the first spot, the Hyena’s tendency to twist and exaggerate the wounds had pulled flesh away for another slice.

Once the broken ribs were exposed enough, I pried them free.  I inserted the new ones in alongside the old, broken ribs.

“You don’t want to eat?” I asked.

Green Eyes made a face.  “Remember that cistern I just mentioned?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I learned my lesson.  The goblins threw some back in the water, after fishing them out and doing things to them.”

“Doing things?”

“Glass shoved into the skin, twists of metal, rusty razor wire jammed down the throat.  Worse.  Not stuff you want to bite into.”

“Ah,” I said.  The arm was too broken to salvage.  I turned my attention to the lower spine.

“When you get hungry enough, you’ll eat anything.  I kept going back.  They had a net, with fishhooks and other things at the places where it was knotted.  I think they made it out of hair.  Now I smell goblin stink and I lose my appetite.”

“Gosh,” Evan said.  “Making you lose your appetite?  Goblins are amazing.”

“Shush, you,” she said.

Gosh,” he said, for emphasis.

“Save your energy for healing, so you can come out and I can swat you.”

“Gosh.”

I pulled the section of spine free.  “Evan, I might not be around forever.  I’d work on making friends with Green Eyes, just in case.  And heads up, coming in.”

“Coming in?”

I maneuvered the spine in through the gap in my side that I’d originally opened to access the spirits within me.

“Oh,” he said.  “And pshh.  Green Eyes and I are buddies, right?”

“Yeah,” Green Eyes said.  “We’re buddies.  You promised me chicken nuggets and that’s almost as good as saying I can eat you after you die.  I kind of want to see how you do it.  Get the nuggets.”

“Exactly.  See?” Evan asked.  He mocked a laugh, speaking in a monotone.  “Ha ha.  Nuggets.  So funny, now that I get the joke.”

I waited, holding the spine in position while the wood worked its way around it, much like roots might grow around stones.

I let go.

“You’ve been grouchier,” Green Eyes said.  “Ever since you ducked in there.”

“I wanna fly!” Evan said.  “Flying is great, then that goblin butt had to go and shoot me.  I’m useless.”

“You’re not useless,” I said.  “You think I would’ve walked away from the end of that fight with the goblin without your company?”

“Eh.”

“Okay.  In the interest of giving you something to do… I want you to visualize.”

“Visualizing.”

“We’re near the faerie house.  It’s at eleven o’clock.  Hillsglade is at two o’clock, maybe five blocks to the northeast.  I know you mostly looked from overhead, but can you remember the layout of the city?  I know Rose had you scouting Behaim houses, and we need to find some Behaims.”

Evan squirmed his way free of my body, poking his head out at the collarbone.  He still had a red gouge running along the back of his head, feathers sticking up around the wound.  “Um.  This is the street with the bad Christmas decorations?  There’s a Rudolph with a hole in it?”

“Over there,” I pointed.  “A bit worse for wear after the goblins passed by.”

“Ew.  Is that a real-”

“Which way, Evan?  This detour cost us time, but I don’t think Green Eyes would have left me alone if I missed the chance to shore myself up.”

“Nope,” Green Eyes commented.  She hadn’t moved from her resting position atop the snowbank.

“That way,” he said, pointing due West.

Seeing me stand and brush snow off me, the satyrs seemed to recognize that I was ready to move, and headed over to join us.

“We’re going to Hillsglade House, then we’re heading that way.  Next part of the plan is to work against the Behaims.  Go communicate with Jeremy.  Tell him what we’re doing.  Sandra’s done, but if we’re going to balance the scales and get things so we can all deal with Johannes, we’re going to need to hit the Behaims where it hurts.  We don’t have long, so… let’s do what we can.  We’ll meet you over there, if all goes well.”

The two satyrs nodded.

They made good time, running off.

“Trust me,” I said.  I picked up the body, and draped it across my shoulders.

Couldn’t leave it for people to find.  Not outside a random house.

Who was cleaning up?  At a certain point, things had crossed a line.  This wasn’t a mess that could be cleaned up before dawn, even with a concerted effort.  Even if every genie, practitioner and even goblin chipped in to help.

Corpses.  Monsters.  The most prominent house in the entire town, Hillsglade House, had broken windows, bodies, and debris littering the area around it.

“Um,” Evan said.  “So, you said Hillsglade House?  Isn’t that the wrong way?”

The bell continued tolling.

I noticed movement.  A dark figure at the periphery, shrouded by the general blur of darkness, stalking me much as I’d stalked the Duchamps.

Evan and Green Eyes’ heads turned at roughly the same moment mine did.

Problem was, they were focusing on other imminent threats.  I, standing to Green Eyes’ left, looked right.  Green Eyes and Evan looked left.

Evan noticed, looking between me, Green Eyes, and the two directions.

“Aw, crap,” he said.

“Surrounded,” Green Eyes observed.

I kept moving, as the Others approached from our left and right.  Crossing the street at a brisk pace.

By the time I had entered the street opposite, they had reached the corners of the intersection.  They started walking along the sidewalk, thirty meters back.

“We know those guys,” Evan said.

Why did that fill me with more concern than if they were utter strangers?

An Other dropped out of the sky, landing in front of me.

Not a bogeyman, to all appearances.  Where a bogeyman generally looked like something had been exaggerated, twisted, cut away and patched up until something had come together, in an extreme or in a single way, this thing looked like an artist’s work, and it was colorful, clean.  The feathers were more ornamental than functional, like a headdress from one of the First Nations, but they extended to wings, as well as a general mane.  His face was covered by a stylized wooden mask with a beak, painted gold and white.

If it weren’t for the taloned bird-feet that extended from knee down, I might have pegged him as an archetypical angel that just so happened to have red-and-gold feathers.

His hands, as he drew his wings back to reveal his torso, complete with a painted wooden breastplate, were taloned as well.

He drew a short sword from his belt.

“This one isn’t familiar,” I remarked.

“Along for the ride,” one of the Others spoke, behind me.

I turned, moving to one side to keep the feathered Other in my field of view as I did so.

The faceless woman and her companion, who had a head like a burn victim, lips and nose burned away, teeth and eyeballs exposed, almost too white.  His face was almost exaggerated with the burn, his flesh red and raw where it wasn’t black.  The Revenant.  The dead man that had returned.

“And now I’m hungry again,” Green Eyes said.

There were more Others approaching.

“I don’t have time for this,” I said.

“I know,” the Revenant responded.  He was surprisingly articulate for someone without lips.  “Why do you think we’re here?”

“Revenge?” I asked.  Our last encounter had ended with Alexis and Eva setting his head on fire.  He’d been trying to kill my extended family members and friends.

He shook his head, taking his time.

“Don’t keep us in suspense,” I said.

He turned, comfortable enough in the here and now to let his guard down, exposing his back to me.

“We’ve been manipulated.  Sent this way and that by the bell, and by practitioners.  My friend here was driven halfway up the wall by the tension here.  The bell let up, and I thought we had a moment to think for ourselves.  Some of the others have been noticing that they’re an awful lot stronger tonight.  There’s something going on.”

“Sure,” I said.  “There’s a lot going on.”

“Something specific,” he said.  “We went to go find answers, and we were headed off by the young Alister Behaim.  He sent us here, suggesting that we could get the answers we wanted if we ran into you.”

I closed my eyes.  “Right.  Of course.”

“We’ve been here for a little while, understand, my friend and I.  We know how this works.  We know Alister.  And, I’d like to think, we know when we’re being manipulated.  He knew what you were doing, and he decided we’d make a good obstacle.”

“I can see that,” I said.  “I expected him to intervene later.  When we were actually squaring off against the Behaims.”

He couldn’t quite smile in the conventional sense, given how his burned face exposed most of his teeth in that ‘smile’ that all skeletons seemed to have, but the change in his expression did reach his cheekbones, which rose up toward his exposed eyeballs.

“I went after your kin, your kin took my face off.  No permanent damage done either way,” the Revenant said.  “Let’s spite little Alister, yeah?  He thinks he can manipulate us, I say fuck him.  Let bygones be bygones?”

When bygones consisted of attempted familicide and mutilation?

“Sure,” I said.  “I’ll swear on it if you do.  To be a decent ally.”

“Broad.”

I shrugged.

“I swear we’ll be allies to you, or to leave you be.  Can’t promise to be with you through thick and thin, but you won’t have me champing at your heels during the thin.”

“Good enough,” I said.  “I swear the same.”

He did that smiling-despite-lacking-a-face thing again, and gestured.

All in all, eight Others joined us, before we’d crossed one block.  I moved briskly.

“We going to assassinate Behaims?” Evan asked.  “That’ll be a little weirder than anything else tonight, I think.  Strangers, okay.  But I’ve been watching Behaims and I know their faces.  It’s like in a video game, you know how you play, like, Fray, and-”

“What’s Fray?”  Green Eyes asked.

“Fighting game?”  Evan asked.

“I know Fray,” the Revenant said.

“I don’t know what Fray or fighting games are,” Green Eyes said.

“Okay, well, you’re brawling with these other characters, and you fight them and when you win two rounds you win, right?”

“Sure?”

“Well, what I’m saying is it’s like, when you play for way too long, you get to this point where you’ve fought Bat a hundred times and you see him and he’s kinda easy if you know how to deal with him so you feel almost fond of him?  You know anything like that?”

“Yeah,” the Revenant said.

“No,” I said.

“Not really,” Green Eyes said.  “But it reminds me of something?”

“Pshh,” Evan said.

“Oh, wait, now I remember!”

“Yeah?”

“I kind of liked the pregnant sewer rats, before.  The ones that are the size of a dog?  They were slower.  Easier.”

“Well,” Evan said.  There was a lengthy pause.  “There you go.  Take what I can get.  That’s how I sort of feel about the Behaims.  They’re the bad guys, but do I really want to go after them like that?”

“Don’t worry,” I told him.  “We’re not after the Behaims, exactly.”

“Okay.  Good.”

“If one presents themselves, and they’re one of the sketchier ones, backing the wrong system, being more of a problem than they could ever be a solution… then maybe.  But that’s not what we’re after.”

“What are we after?” Evan asked.

“I’m quite interested in the answer to this question, myself,” the Revenant said.

“We need to knock their legs out from under them,” I said.  “For the Duchamps, it was the husbands.  For the Behaims, it’s their well of power.  To access that, we’re going to need information, and we’re going to need something else.  With luck, we’ll find it at Hillsglade House.”

We were two blocks away, if that.  Very few of the Others that were with us were the types to get tired.  Being dead, Bogeyman, or winged had a way of helping when it came to prompt travel.

“You may find that we have a problem on that front,” the Revenant said.  “For one thing, when we ran into Alister…”

He trailed off.  I picked up the statement.  “…It was at Hillsglade House.”

“Got it in one.”

I nodded.

“You know he’s engaged to miss Rose?”

“I know,” I said.

“They’re getting their ducks in a row.  You’re a concern for them.”

“I know,” I said, again.

The wind stirred.  Picking up.  The cold was sharper.

I looked east, and I couldn’t make out the sun itself, but I saw light at the horizon.

“I like your mermaid,” he said.

I gave him a curious look.

“Interesting,” he said.  “That’s all.”

“Well, I like her too,” I said.

Green Eyes looked up at me.

“Fashion choice, a little more curious,” he added.

When I glanced at him, he pointed to the body I still carried.

“Not sure where to put it,” I said.  “Moment I harvested bits from it, it became my responsibility, I think.  Couldn’t leave it where it was.  Body on a rooftop, it’s different.  This is harder.  ”

“Yeah,” he said.  “There’s a reason your traditional bogeyman picks on campers, or people on vacation.  Cleanup is easier.  Urban city center?  Gets harder.  Have to get creative, or have certain talents.”

I glanced at the faceless woman.

As if to answer the question I hadn’t asked, he said, “If it’s not recognizable as human, after the fact, and you can leave it by the side of the road for a cleanup crew, there’s something to be said for that.”

Four satyrs in total joined up with us.  “Jeremy’s coming.”

Hillsglade House loomed before us, as we rounded a corner, approaching the street just beyond the property’s railing-topped walls.  Hollow, dark, with scarcely any light within.  Plywood boards had been put up against windows, and only slivers of light escaped through the cracks.

As we drew closer, I could make out people around the house.  I couldn’t look at one section of roof or set of windows without seeing something broken.  Siding was gouged and torn, there was a suspicious dark brown or crimson stain on one outside wall, and more suspicious stains in the snow, where bodies had been dragged away.

The collected individuals were all Behaims.

Alister, other Behaims, including close relative of about Alister’s age standing close by.  The timeless armor, Alister’s weapon.  Rose.

Did Rose count as a Behaim, now?

What would I have thought, weeks ago, when all this started, if I’d known I’d ask myself that question?

Couldn’t pick a fight, not with Alister potentially being involved.  He’d know, and all the trouble I went to in order to attack from another angle would be wasted.  Turned on me, even.

I bit my tongue and continued my approach by the most direct means.

Up the driveway.  Much as I’d approached, back when it all started, for grandmother’s inheritance.

All of this was a dark inversion of what had been.

My friends were there, on the porch, behind Rose.

The family was together, for lack of a better word.  Our parents weren’t here, but I couldn’t imagine they would be.  Peter, Christoff, Roxanne, Ellie, and Kathryn were there, all the same.

“Your timing is inconvenient,” Alister declared.

I spread my arms.  “That’s just who I am.”

“Yes,” he said.  “And look at you.  You’ve made friends.”

I glanced back at the other Others.

When I looked back at the group, without meaning to, I met Rose’s eyes.

Her expression was stone cold, but I saw the lights that Green Eyes had talked about.  I could sense the fear.

“We just happened to cross paths.  Thanks to you,” I said.

“I only had a small role in it,” Alister replied.  “Satyrs and neutral monsters.  Odd, how they’re gravitating toward you, isn’t it?  How you’re doing so well, and how some Others have noticed they’re stronger?”

“You’re not taking credit, are you?” I asked.

He scoffed a little.

“Trust me,” he replied, his voice quiet, but carrying.  “I wouldn’t be laughing if I were responsible.”

Was he killing time?  Trying to bide time until sunrise?

I glanced at my cousins.

How was I supposed to get them away from the rest of the group?

Hey, get away from that safe, secure shelter, and come with us monsters.

Alister toyed with his deck of cards.

Off to the side, the faceless woman reached down to Green Eyes’ head.

I tensed, turning.

But it was only a stroke of the hair.  Green Eyes looked shocked at first, then looked up and smiled.

The faceless woman dropped down to a crouch, and withdrew a comb.  She used it to get the one bad tangle from earlier out of Green Eyes’ hair.

I wasn’t happy, given the proximity between Green Eyes and the faceless woman, but what was I supposed to do about it?  It wasn’t like I could make the faceless woman swear to something, given how she didn’t have a mouth.  I couldn’t shake her hand, either.  That was a trap unto itself.

Be careful, I willed Green Eyes.

I turned my attention back to Alister.

“You’re battle hardened, driven by the bell.  I can see the wariness in your eyes, the tension in your body.” Alister said.  “Rose told me just about everything.  You were made to be a warrior.  You settled into the role with remarkable ease.”

“I’m not sure what you’re insinuating.  Because you’re doing an awful lot of insinuating right now,” I said.

“You’re inclined toward action.  Right now, you’re itching to move, to carry out the next goal.  It’s like a workaholic that keeps moving because if he stops, he realizes how empty he truly is.  You can’t afford self reflection.  But try to relax, all the same.  I’m not going to fight you, unless you start a fight.”

I didn’t move a muscle.

“It’s like when you get caught in an undertow,” he remarked.  “You can’t swim for shore.  The current has too much pull.  The tides favor you, right this minute.  Sandra tried to go against you, I won’t make that same mistake.  I’d rather go laterally.”

“Laterally.”

“You came here with a goal in mind,” Alister said.

I nodded.  He could have guessed that much without being able to see the future.

“To move this along, I’d like to ask what the goal was.  I can find out, but we’ve only got a few minutes before sunrise starts, and I’d rather act before then.”

“Destroying the reserve of power the Behaims set aside.  What you accumulated over generations,” I said.

He smiled.  “Well, that’s good.”

I frowned a little.

“No,” Evan piped up.  “That’s not good at all.  You’ve gone screwy in the head.  Rose, he’s gone screwy in the head.  You’ve married a lunatic.”

“Alister and I talked about this,” Rose said, her expression grim.  “Hear him out.”

Every part of me was wanting to respond.  To confront them, to ask why Rose was being so reserved, so scared.  Ask why Alister was so smug.  To talk to my friends.  To make a plea to my cousins.

Even if I wasn’t sure how I’d word any of it.

“Sure,” I said, instead.

Alister held up one hand.  A ring gleamed there, and it was the wrong hand to be his engagement ring.

“Behaim family crest.  Knight’s helm above a kite shield bearing the Fleur-de-Lis.  The ring isn’t the well of power we’ve accumulated, but it’s the key to accessing that well.  If it’s destroyed, the Behaims won’t be able to access the well for a few generations, until we figure out a way to undo the damage or get at the reserve from a different angle.  It’s also the symbol of my office as the leader.”

“Fancy that,” I said.

“It’s funny, but I’m the first person that’s been able to wear the damn thing on anything but a pinky finger, for a long time.  My predecessors tended to wear it on a chain around their neck.  Thick fingers.  But I digress.  The benefit of being a very old, important object is that it has very strong ties to the family.  If the owner dies and is lost, the ring has its way of finding us again.  Only a very powerful being or a specific scenario would be able to keep the ring from making a migration to the display case in Laird’s old house.  The power of connections, connections strong enough that the Duchamps would have a hard time gaming this little system here.”

He pulled it from his finger, then held it up, peering at me through the hole.

“What are you doing, Alister?” I asked.

“Not fighting against the current,” he responded.  “Sorry for all the water analogies, but you would not believe how many times I heard the ‘time is a river’ thing, growing up.”

He handed the ring to Rose.

“Connections,” Alister said.

Rose gripped the ring hard, her knuckles going white.

“Rose,” he said, nudging her.  “We talked about this.  If you don’t… I’ll look silly.”

“You trust him more than I do,” she said, her voice low.  I wasn’t sure, but I suspected she didn’t realize I could hear her from where I stood.

He shot her a look.

She scowled a bit.

Then she threw the ring.

I had to take a step back, which was hard considering that I was standing on a slight incline, and reach out to catch the thing.

“There,” Alister said.  He smiled.

“I’m imagining about twenty different ways Laird would kill you right now,” the female relative standing beside him commented.

I looked down at the ring.

“A trick?” I asked.

Alister shook his head.

“You already depleted the reserve of power?”

“It’s brimming, the well is.  What’s more, we need the damn power.”

“You’re going to tell me that if I don’t play ball, my friends are going to get hurt?”

“Closer,” he said.  “But I’m betting they’d come out of it okay.  Their karma isn’t so bad.  Your family members, a little less so.  But that’s not my angle.”

I turned the ring over in my hand.

“What’s the angle?” I asked.

“In giving you the ring?  To get you listening.  Get you to stop, and maybe get you to relax.  The power’s in your hand.”

“Okay.  I won’t deny that.”

“Now that I have you listening.  The plan.  In six minutes, the sun rises.  I have a circle and a preparation rigged, which will only take me a moment to put into effect.  I can’t stop the sunrise itself, but I can alter perceptions, and I can bend the rules.  Doing it will cost my family quite a bit.  It’s almost as good as what you’re going for.  But it’ll delay Johannes’ plan.  Or you can destroy the ring, and break our power base, and deal with Johannes as you wish.  There’s a chance you’d even succeed.  The cards favor you.  The tide favors you.  Water analogy again.”

“But?”

He held up a card.  I couldn’t make out the face at a distance.

“Do you know the import of the tower card, in the major arcana of the tarot deck?”

“No.”

“Disaster, revolution.  Revelation, even.  We’re due an omen in about…” he checked his watch, “…forty seconds, and that should make it all clear.”

I glanced at Green Eyes, then at my extended family members.

He paused, waiting.

Forty seconds.

The bell tolled, out of sync, making counting hard.  I didn’t try to count.

I looked at my friends instead.

At Alexis, and Tiff, and Ty.

Alexis mouthed words.  I suspected I knew what they were.

Alister checked his watch, then drew in a breath.

The ground shuddered violently.  Everyone standing was forced to shift position.  Only those by the railing, my friends, and Alister, who could lean against his knight, were able to avoid it.

The rest of Jacob’s Bell seemed to rise, as the shuddering increased.

Snow all around Hillsglade House seemed to fold, then rolled and cascaded down the hill.

It all went still.

“There we go,” Alister said.

“What the hell was it?” I asked.

“Our omen.  Hillsglade House just dropped a few feet toward sea level.  It borders marshland, so that might be the official explanation.”

“And the unofficial, practitioner explanation?” I asked.

“You’re due a third visit to the Abyss,” he said.  “Except this time, Hillsglade House seems inclined to go with you.”

“Hillsglade-”

“And,” he said, “Sorry, but time is getting short.  You need to realize just why the rest of the town isn’t dropping too.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Jacob’s Bell is on the way down.  The only thing keeping it here are the innocents, snug in their beds.  No innocents in this house, so nothing to keep it up.  Now, if I don’t keep the locals from suddenly deciding to evacuate this town, which they will, shortly after waking up, Jacob’s Bell is going to become a new attraction in the Abyss, complete with a spiteful lesser god and a perpetually tolling bell.  Johannes takes over, by virtue of being in charge of all that’s left of the city, and we… go down to stay, quite possibly on a permanent basis.”

He paused to let the words sink in.

“Damn it,” I said.  “You win.  Take your damn ring back and stop this, then.”

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168 thoughts on “Sine Die 14.1

  1. Hi guys,

    Tonight’s chapter was a hard one to get out – I sprained or strained or otherwise buggered up my wrist while lifting a bookcase up against the wall, so I’m typing with one hand in a brace. Was fine for the first few hours and then sorta started suffering. Last section was written with one hand, while my other one chilled in a ice pack.

    This is the first of three chapters for this week. I’ve updated the schedule on the donate page. Bonus chapters are slated for the 4th and 18th. If we hit the mark for a third bonus chapter this month, I suspect I’ll have to fit it in for next month. Because Christmas.

    In response to recent donations, thank-yous go out to Kane C, Konstantin, Ruslan, Michael G, Aaron B, Doug S, Aaron K, Dane L, Simon A, Adam W, Nanette H, Jeremy L, and Лукьянчиков.

    Especially big thank-yous and acknowledgements go out to Walter F (by far my most regular paypal donator), Matthew F, Chase, and James B (who was extra generous – we’ve talked over email, but I felt the need to recognize it here).

    And, of course, a massive-thank you to my Patreon subscribers, who are too numerous to name here.

    Thanks for reading, guys. Onward into December!

    1. Ouch, that sucks. Hope you take it easy so you can get better. But it actually wouldn’t surprise at all me if you tried to write a whole entry with an entire chapter with a sprained wrist .

            1. No, no your not.

              Anyways take it easy on the wrist till it heals Wildbow. You don’t want to make the injury last any longer than it has to.

    2. Don’t injure your hand irreparably; Pratchett (and, for that matter, the author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) might have been able to write a book through slower means, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t work out so well for you.
      Please let Santa Claus be an Incarnation.

      1. Continuing the legalese, it’s used when adjurning something without giving a date to start it back up, with the potential it won’t start again. So we got a day without a day and a potential end to the fighting between the three families.

    1. According to Wikipedia, it’s primary usage is in the sense of “without a future date for resumption”. For, example, a body that is being permanently dissolved would be said to be adjourned sine die

      1. For, example, a body that is being permanently dissolved would be said to be adjourned sine die

        The right sort of acid could dissolve a body sine die, I imagine. That’s probably wise, to protect the innocents from recognizing remains as human.

      1. Sort of. The revelation of Johannes’ plan makes him awfully shitty. And I liked him and his angel, too. I suppose the wording is ambiguous enough that he might not be deliberately causing this, just benefiting from it, but it does sound pretty nasty either way.

        1. To be fair, he doesn’t seem to be planning on the civilians actually dying.

          Might even be a former Duchamp plan. They did have that Scourge.

    1. Fleur de Lis
      Fleur-de-Lis

      Glass shoved into the skin, twists of metal, rusty razor wire jammed down the throat. Worse. Not stuff you want to bite into.”
      missing opening quote

    2. Glass shoved into the skin, twists of metal, rusty razor wire jammed down the throat. Worse. Not stuff you want to bite into.”

      Missing the opening of the quotation marks.

    3. this thing looked like an artist’s work, and it was colorful, clean.

      colorful should be colourful, being Canadian and all 😉

  2. Awww. I was hoping for some decent Blake spite. But no, bow to the Behaim blackmail why don’cha. If I was molly, Blake’d have lost all that good will he earned.

    Mayhaps Corvidae’ll make up for it in the end.

    1. “The Hills”, or maybe “The Swamp”? If the house goes first, it’s bound to drag the landscape around it before the rest of the town?

    1. He’s always been game to play ball with sane people who aren’t dedicating their lives to destroying him.

      Its just that there are many people like that around.

  3. Oh ye gods, Blake is collecting a bogeyman posse.

    And I can see Hillsglade House as perfect for another section of the Abyss – a truly haunted house hanging out amidst the devastation and ruin that Jacob’s Bell is becoming. So instead of the Tenements, we have the Slums?

    1. Remember also that the Abyss twists the locations it acquires as much as it does the people. I expect the tenements were originally a rather normal set of apartments that got reshaped to fit the Abyss’s needs.

      1. Now i imagine a giant realm comprised of just mansion hallways, large ballrooms, that go on endlessly, bogeyman made of cracked porcelain wearing rotting ballroom masks endlessly dancing,

  4. And of course, the heroic boogeyman is going to try to save the town.

    Am I the only one who found the idea of Jacob’s Bell sliding into the Abyss to be not only entirely appropriate and well-deserved, but the only thing that can possibly make that place less of a nest of corruption? Nobody ever seems to consider the “let it burn” option.

      1. Would it? The demon lawyers inheriting Hillsglade in this world should be a bigger win for Wrong than them getting another town to drop into the Abyss.

        1. Normally the Abyss is more a tool of recycling than Wrong, per se. But now that Urr has a major clawhold in it, the long-term prospects of the place are pretty bad.

    1. Oh ooh! I like that option. hops about like a tiny bird spirit

      Besides, if everyone slides into the Abyss, The Thorburn crew seems to be the only ones who’ll beable to get out, and best suited to rule there if they choose not to. There’s nothing not to love with this plan!

      Let it fall!

    2. Yes-no. The Lawyers have a foothold wherever Jacob’s Bell is thanks to Hillsglade House (and, I can’t see how allowing that House to be sent down meets the obligations as Heir). And, the Barber has his sheers in there, too.

      I want neither party to have more input than any other negative influences have in that place, thanks. That’s beyond nightmarish. [shudders]

      1. Speaking of, I sure hope Rose fixed Barbie’s bindings. It’s not like she really needs a dead man’s switch at this point.

    3. No. If the Thorburn properties go to the Abyss, the Thorburns would fail the “upkeep” portion of the contract & The Lawyers get everything.

      You want The Lawyers to claim a section of the Abyss? That’ll be worse than Eras’Ur eating it!

      1. Knowing the lawyers, they probably didn’t mean maintaining the house, but literal upkeep…

        Falling into the Abyss bad, either way.

    4. Okay, so Blake’s plan A was in fact stupid and terrible. He was planning to shatter the powerbases of the Behaims and Duchamps and deal with Johannes “somehow”. As opposed to the sane strategy where he knocks out one of them, lets the other square off with Johannes, and exorts some concessions out of them in exchange for his help.

      1. The problem with that plan is that only one faction going up against Johannes is probably not enough. It’s why he wanted to Behaims and Duchamps to team up from the beginning. And this also results in somebody winning, and I think Blake wants no one to win.

  5. Holy crap, Alister actually got Blake to stop moving for ten seconds and listen. I am impressed. Rose, he might be a keeper after all.

    1. He was always competent. The question was whether he was good..

      And it was also a matter of whether Rose deserved him rather than the other way around.

    2. Uuum….Blake ALWAYS stops and listen,his first choie to everything is diplomacy roll,you are confusing his actions with his urges.

  6. I’m wondering now if Rose Sr. might have been trying to arrange for the house to fall into the Abyss, rather than allow the demon lawyers to have it in the ‘real’ world.

    This would allow the demons to have the house, but it would have no significant impact on the human world. Pyrrhic victory for the demon lawyers.

    Then again, it seems very likely that everything is falling apart so fast, that none of Rose Sr.’s plans are still on track.

  7. I have to say, Alister has earned my respect with his actions lately. Being able to force Blake into a “You NEED to work with me for the greater good” position is pretty impressive, he’s pretty much the only major player willing to work with the Thornburns, and his boldness is second only to Blake’s actions.

    I really can’t guess whether his plans will mostly work out or if he’s going to go down hard at some point.

    1. I’m sure that it’s not Blake’s fault.

      Well, not entirely Blake’s fault. He did escape from a place that isn’t too big on letting you go before you’ve completed arbitrary trials and has been tainting things around him by existing, like when he turned Molly into a wraith. But there’s probably a third party manipulating things.

      1. He also… kinda… uh, killed the practitioner who specializes in the Abyss, and likely would have had some knowledge on how to deal with this sort of thing.

        But Crooked Hat might have decided to help things along, to be fair.

            1. Honestly, I don’t think the Duchamps would have let him screw around with the city they lived in to that extent. My own crack theory is that giant Other in the Abyss is pulling down from the bottom.

            2. If they knew about it, that is. On the face of it, it looks like he would just have played a part in somebody else’s game and didn’t know the overall goal himself.

              But, he’d not help stop it, I think, were he still alive.

              Seriously, guys: I’m beginning to see the Abyss more and more as a genuine character Genius Loci with its own plans and ideas. If, perhaps, a slightly schizophrenic and contradictory one, given its various environments… I mean… viewpoints/voices/settings. 😐

        1. On a related note, it’s probably bad that the family which specializes in connections has lost something like half its membership right when they’re suffering a serious problem due to a shortage of connections. Maybe Blake needs to get Corvidae back on a leash and order him to steal something important and bring it back.

          Like the Papacy.

          1. Papacy, that raises an interesting question: what’s happened to the worshippers of YHWH in this world/setting/history? Is the mention of angels, demons, church, and the Seal of Solomon merely a “translation” from Pactverse to Earth? Is there a Papacy to be found in Pact-Italy at all?

            1. Seeing as most urban fantasy settings are “like our Earth but with magic between the cracks” it would likely make the Church a larger power in Pact-verse modern times than it is in ours. Seeing as most religions operate under the assumption that there is something else out there, and modern fantasy settings actually have something else out there. It wouldn’t even matter if it’s “real” or not, the prayers of a billion innocents would provide the power needed to make it so.

            2. P: I think “between the cracks” is a very vague generalization. It covers everything from Mage: the Adverbing where there’s reality-by-consensus and doing magic contrary to the consensus where a bystander can see it results in reality giving the practitioner a wedgie, to Dresden Files where reality is objective and the practitioners stay subtle mostly by common consent because nobody wants to escalate things into Tanks&Trolls:The Wargame.

              In MtA I have little reason to believe the Papacy even exists due to the massive rewrite of the history of the world combined with the reality-by-consensus. If it does exist, it’s wrong, though the reality-by-consensus implies that a billion Catholics would get a say in how things look even though the Technocracy is running the show. Whereas in DF, Catholicism is strongly implied to be true (as is almost everything else; this is a fantasy kitchen sink of a setting) by the Knights of the Cross running around smiting demons, also the guest appearances by Archangels Michael and Uriel.

              Heck, “like our Earth but with magic between the cracks” even applies to Harry Potter which has a Wizarding Statute of Secrecy requiring the practitioners to stay undercover, and the practitioners have mindwipe squads to erase the memory of bystanders who see magic. In HP, religion seems to be pretty much a cultural relic represented only by the comic relief ghost of a friar who used to pull rabbits out of the communion cup, and I really don’t think the prayers of a billion innocents are going to change much about this setting.

              Nonrendering glyph person: Wormverse had specific points of departure. Superpowers showed up recently. Parahumans weren’t retconned into the backstory and projected onto historical figures like Hercules the way Pactverse did with Solomon, so I don’t think you can say this is just like wormverse.

              I guess what I’m asking is, how different is “different enough” in Pact?

              Why is it that the people in Pact never seem to consider calling in exorcists or any other sort of Ghostbusters? Are there none in Pact? (If so, what happened to all the churches?) Perhaps it’s because exorcism only functions against demons, not Others?

            3. Actually, according to some of the interludes (most notably Black Lamb’s Blood and Corvidae’s viewpoint in Histories 11.x) there are practitioner priests, though I’m not sure if those ones were Catholic. One of them bound Corvidae (poorly) to the Seal Of Solomon, and a strike force of them summoned an angel and battled the incest demon and its cult. That said, I have no idea how pervasive they are. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a good chunk of the Catholic priesthood counts as innocents, and quite a few of the rest are non-practitioners like the Witch Hunters.

              As for why people in the main story don’t call on them, it would probably be a bad idea. Sure, they might well be able to handle whatever problem they’re called on to deal with, but they would probably decide to resolve the local political situation while they were at it. No one in Jacob’s Bell is likely to be very popular with the church. Some of the people in Toronto might be, but neither team in the big confrontation would be.

  8. Well, I guess we found a way to get Blake to stop throwing his weight around and co-operate. Confront him with the consequences of the shit he helped bring about! Wish someone had done that sooner.

    At this point it should seem pretty clear to Blake that Molly is that the very least half of the cause of the cause of the town falling into the Abyss, and won’t decide to work with her again. So he’s not going to directly make things worse.

    Now all we need to see is whether or not whatever Duchamps are still active or the former husbands make up for it, or the some Behaims decide to depose Alister and fuck everything up even more.

    1. When humanoids or lesser monsters survive the Abyss they come back as boogeymen. I’m curious what the Abyss does to creatures that are already very different. Like Wraith-Godlings or greater Zeitgeists or Incarnations for instance.

      Also, I bet whoever is responsible has been feeding Molly a lot of power.

  9. Also, new entry in the multiverse-with-each-reality-mutually fictional: Fray. Looking forward to that one too, wildbow.

      1. Seemed more like a reference to Smash Bros.

        Fighting game. Melee, Brawl, Fray- hell, he used the word brawl.

        Maybe I’m looking at it too hard.

        I do agree though that it’s clearly renamed using McCrae naming convention.

  10. guess thats why our bogy’s been doing so well. whole town has one foot in the abyss, source of his power, even the fluttery heart bat trying to make a drains deal for power in the overworld which probably wouldn’t happen otherwise

    1. Oh… oh, oh! Yes, of course! Our dear Blake, tainted with the Abyss, has obviously had a hand in all of this. It’s beyond me how his actions would lead an entire town closer to the Abyss, and how the spirits are going along with it (I get the impression the universe doesn’t exactly like the Abyss even if it is an essential part of it), but it makes a lot of sense now.

      1. i meant more like the apparent massive good karma thing the comments have been going on about had more to do with the abyss being so near as it apparently has been

      2. Blake, tainted by the Abyss, got a part of his energy absorbed by Molly, when she was still a ghost. Which was probably the catalyst of her becoming first a wraith (that label may be wrong alltogether) and up to what she is now. Her tolling bell (Death Toll? Domm Knell?) is driving the whole town into the Abyss.
        As far as I perceive is, Molly is a lesser abyssal god of destruction, chaos and conflict. The war about the lordship fuels her, immensly so. She grinds the town into the Abyss, if she knows it or not.
        I guess the town can only survive if her internal conflict as well as the conflict about the lordship is resolved, and/or someone binds her. How the latter is to be achieved… I have no idea.

  11. Am I correct in thinking that through the whole conversation with Alister Blake has casually had a body over his shoulder the whole time?

    1. No, that’s just a composition of the following ingredients:-

      Water: 35 liters, Carbon: 20 kg, Ammonia: 4 liters, Lime:1.5 kg, Phosphrus: 800 g, salt: 250g, Saltpeter:100g, Sulfer: 80g, Fluorine: 7.5 g, Iron: 5.6 g, Silicon: 3g, and 15 other elements in small quantities.

      It’s just something that can be made with a kid’s lunch money, not whatever your’re thinking of. 😛

    2. i mean, regardless of intent or karma or good and evil, he did just kill about 10 people, many of them powerful, and some goblins and Others. Really, who’s going to raise an objection about the body at this point?

  12. What would be the official explanation for a whole town sinking, though? Jacob’s Bell isn’t that small of a town. And… oh. Only now do I realise that Molly’s bell is Jacob’s bell.

    Mmm. I’m very sad to not see some action. Things were getting good for Blake, he was actually getting allies, he was getting power, and he now has to give that up for the sake of “cooperation” and “saving everyone”. To make matters worse, I was listening to a very motivating song while reading this section of the story; it felt like a crescendo, preparing for a fight. I do wish that people would have spoken with Blake sooner, avoided all this trouble. Can somebody please invent magical instantaneous messages? On the bright side, maybe Rose will trust Blake some more? And, maybe, Corvidae’s involvement in the previous chapter won’t utterly screw with Blake’s plans anymore… because they don’t exist anymore. I am also starting to like Alister. I am honestly surprised he has become a likable character, where previously he was made to look as a very immature, feisty character.

    Also, what the hell is going on? The fuck did this fight end up trying to drag an entire town to the Abyss? I would really love to know more about other fights for Lordship, see if they have been similarly bad. And… why has Johannes not intervened? If the part of Jacob’s Bell outside of his control falls to the Abyss, he gains nothing. He won’t be able to expand his demesne, which was what he has been trying to do all along! And we have no indication Sandra knew this was happening, either.

    Finally, I love this chapter. It gave me such a spooky sensation. Going back to the Abyss, but this time with Hillsglade house, the demons, the books, the scary magical artifacts, a group of others, practitioners and humans. A house of demonologists in the Abyss sounds like a deliciously terrible idea.

    Finally, again, I am curious as to what happens when you move a demesne to the Abyss. We know of demesnes in the Abyss, but this is different.

    1. I thought about whether it be also grand idea. For it could lead to a grand battle that is basically a frenzy of destruction.

      A sense of the Abyss getting itself reaped by the seeds that it’s already changed and they now want to reap the abyss in return.

      Will the Abyss really want that or not?

  13. I’m curious if there will be an explanation as to why this is happening. Both Jacob’s Bell and Hillsglade House still have a lot of connections to people not at that place, no? Surely just completely evacuating a town doesn’t make the ruins go away or there would be no ruins in this world.

    1. Well, think about it. Lack of connections = people forgetting, Abyss slide. Thus, finding ruins means they didn’t slide into the Abyss and weren’t quite forgotten. Really, all it means is that every ruin you find is just the tip of the iceberg.
      Plus, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if a town sliding into the Abyss leaves some kind of impression behind, even if it’s nothing but a story. Bogeymen have to have an origin, after all, and that origin has to be told in a story. Otherwise it’s not as scary.

  14. I guess this is mostly due to the fact that Johannes has converted a good part of the town into an Abyss-like wonderworld for Others. When a good part of the town is hardly connected to the world, anymore, it becomes hard to keep it from sliding off, completely.

    As long as there are enough people with connections to something else (job, relatives), it keeps the non-Johannes part of town afloat, and the rest keeps hangin on to it. If they wake up and find the chaos of the fight, people might want to leave the town for a while, reducing the critical connection mass below the threshold needed for a town.

    Maybe the portal to the Abyss created in the house in order to escape the attack is one reason why the house starts sinking first? Maybe it’s still open, and acting as a drain hole, accellerating the process?

    1. I gathered that the general populace of Jacob’s Bell still being classified as “innocent” also has a stabilizing effect on the town – hence why it’s so important they don’t wake up and see the aftermath for what it is.
      The sudden shock of the population of an entire town losing its innocent status strikes me as a significant impact.

    1. Other none spoiler canidates include-
      “I’m Sorry.”
      or more humorusly
      “Fuck the mermaid already, will you?”

  15. Hm. There is a conspicuous lack of hand-injury here. I guess that Alister can heal the Hyena injuries after all. Lucky him.

    1. Or it just didn’t get mentioned.

      Johannes was described in Gram’s little black book as not having use of an arm, leg, and eye, though the flesh was undisturbed. In no interaction with him has his lack of use of any of those been mentioned, even when Blake was walking with him. Mind you, trickery could be involved (glamour being the most obvious possibility) but still.

  16. So any ideas for names for Blake’s new gang of others? Like the Spook Squad, Fear Force, The Boogey Brigade, Team Terror, Evan and hangers on…

  17. His face was almost exaggerated with the burn, his flesh red and raw where it wasn’t black. The Revenant. The dead man that had returned.

    “And now I’m hungry again,” Green Eyes said.

    Roast face, mm-hmm. Green Eyes seems a bit fixated on food.

      1. Others generally have themes or Aspects of reality they represent once everything else has been pared away.

        Green Eyes is seeming very like a creature of hunger. It’s entirely possible that she can’t even be sated.

  18. The faceless woman and green eyes .. don´t know, I really don`t like their proximity.
    And Blake is very powerful because the Abyss is feeding him?

      1. It would be nice if Sushi would make new friends. I mean, hanging with Groot and Nugget is fine, but you need a feminine touch too, right ?
        Plus, I imagine Miss Leinth here is the best cook she could ask for, considering her diet.

  19. I’d just like to say this. Blake may have something to do with the town going into the Abyss, but I bet the place was going to be getting some sort of disaster. Goblin Queen Bitch dropping in, the Wild Hunt, a demon, something. It’s like a town that has a toxic waste dump, a nuculer power plant, a molasses factory with an overfilled tank, all built on top of an Indian burial ground over a fault line. Somethings gonna happen at some point.

    1. You forgot the phosphene tanks in all this… but, yeah. Jacob’s Bell has “insurance disaster” written all over it.

      Maybe the Lawyers knew that ages ago, and that’s why they swooped in early to get good seats?

      1. And the Africanized Bees have moved in.

        Hmmn, sucked down to the Abyss… People would get desperate to get out. Desperate people make deals. Lawyers might be willing to help… For the right price.

  20. I hope for Blake’s sake that the body he’s carrying around doesn’t come back as a revenant. I know that I probably would if I died like that.

      1. It’s probably why they break all of their arms and legs in multiple places before tying them up. Even if they do come back, they can’t move very easily.

        Then Blake shows up, cuts him down, and gives him the idea of using foreign objects to reinforce himself to repair structural damage.

  21. So, Wildbow introduced a new Other, and specifically describing them. This new Other can fly, and is bird themed, possibly after a golden eagle. The newcomer is also armored in Native American fashion.

    In the Native American mythos, the eagle symbolizes power, the sun, and balance.

    The eagle Other carries a short sword as well, seeming to indicate colonist influence. This might mean that it is also considered to be a bridge to God.

    Blake might not be so far off in his initial thought that the new Other reminded him of an angel. I strongly suspect that this Other will have an extreme dislike for Corvidae, even if it’s not representing the desires of a higher being.

    1. Maybe it’s a thunderbird?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbird_%28mythology%29

      The plural thunderbirds (as the Kwakwaka’wakw and Cowichan tribes believed) could shapeshift into human form by tilting back their beaks like a mask, and by removing their feathers as if it were a feather-covered blanket.

      Judging by the pictures on that Wikipedia page, they’re typically depicted with red and yellow feathers, as well.

      They’re also noted to be monster-killers who delight in fighting and deeds of greatness.

      Evan is going to get his wish, isn’t he, but with fire-colored feathers instead of actual fire?

      1. Thunderbirds would certainly fit the bill here.

        I’m very surprised that Even didn’t say anything when the bird-Other showed up. If that IS a thunderbird, and it’s benevolent, Evan is going to be in hero-worship mode, I think.

        Fire? Fire? Why was I so hung up on Fire, Blake? Fire is slow. I want to be a Lightning Bird! Speed Of Light, Baybee!

    2. Speaking of Corvidae, C-word is the anthropomorphic personification of everything Corvidae was supposed to do harm to right? Would the best solution to get rid of both of them involve siccing them on one another until both die the final death?

  22. I wonder if getting the hell out of La Cité de Las Cloches before it sinks into lightless oblivion is still an option.
    Knowing the Universe’s connection-fu and the Abyss’ tendency to grab stuff and not let go, I’d say anyone involved in this conflict will find that events conspire to keep them in town ’till the bitter end.

    I don’t like this proximity to the Abyss at all. Remember who’s playing adventurer in the abyssal region “analogue” to the relatively close city of Toronto? Ur. And they’re delaying *sunrise… *

    Also wondering if Crone Mara’s woods are included in the marked-for-damnation area. If not, this is gold to her; she should be laughing her ass off right now, while making a toast of virgin blood in European settler bone chalices with Corvidae.

  23. Perhaps it’s Johannes who’s behind everything. If his area slides into the abyss, and all his vistages become bogeymen that he can control, then he could take his new army and… I have no idea what his motivation might be.

    Perhaps it’s Mara. She probably is laughing at the white town sliding off into the abyss.

    I’m still betting that Pauz has something to do with it, though.

    1. Johannes’ area isn’t in the town proper, I don’t think? Wasn’t there mention of his area being outside the sinking effect?

      This would make me think that if he’s not behind it, he was aware of it, and made plans to protect his area.

      If the rest of the area sinks into the Abyss, then Johannes would end up being the Lord of whatever is left, No?

      The fact that his angel familiar is going along with this makes me think that this is an attempt to get the Hillsglade house into the Abyss, before the Demons can use it as a bridge to the mortal world, like Ur’s factory.

        1. It’s also a demense, meaning he has a huge amount of control over it. And Fasyal is not just an angel, he’s a gatekeeper. As we saw, opening portals in and out of the Abyss is no problem for him. Anyone Johannes or him wants to get out of there they can.

  24. “No,” Evan piped up. “That’s not good at all. You’ve gone screwy in the head. Rose, he’s gone screwy in the head. You’ve married a lunatic.”

    Not good. Either the already hurt andpossibly dying to to not having a magic transfusion recently awesome-bird that is Evan just told three lies, OR he just told the truth three times….

    I’m not sure which option I prefer, given the circumstances….

    1. I believe that there is some leeway made for subjective perception. From Evan’s point of view, he’s perfectly correct.

      Think about it this way, two people might disagree on the course of action to take in order to solve a problem. They might both be right, they might both be wrong. Either one of them might be right and the other wrong. There are at least four different possibilities, if you make the problem black and white, and it gets FAR more complex if you throw in shades of grey.

      Saying something you KNOW is untrue – that WILL get you. Saying something you THINK is true, but ends up not being true due to you just not knowing enough might make the spirits irritated, but they won’t come after you with torches and pitchforks.

      1. I thought that was why blake was so careful to say “you sound crazy” or “you seem crazy right now” and things like that?

        1. Blake is more careful than Evan, typically.

          The spirits are probably a little more lenient towards children, and Evan is a still very much a child.

          I’m also pretty darn sure Evan was never a practitioner, and that might matter too.

          1. I’m not sure, but I think I remember them saying he’s bound by the truth because of the familiar ritual.
            Which would mean he has to follow the same rules as practitioners. But you’re probably right about more leeway towards kids.

            1. Normally he would be, but I’m not sure if he’s still a familiar. After the factory incident he was basically dying, which I take to mean he didn’t get any more power from the familiar bond, so he can’t lose that by lying. And however Rose kept him alive, it wasn’t a familiar bond, so it’s probably in danger only if Rose lies.

            2. See, he may not be blake’s familiar any more but I’m pretty sure he’s still bound by that pact he made. He IS still in bird-form after all, a form he only got due to his pact.

              So if blake being sent to the Drains annulled all aspects of the familiar pact, including his ability to lie, it would also annul the animal form he got, as that’s the main benefit for being a familiar- the chance to live as a living thing kind of.

            3. Aye, kids seem to define their own reality. I still remember being upset and hurt when my parents insisted that I stop turning the clock back an hour when I went fishing after school. I had to be back at the house by 5PM, you see, so I could help mom make dinner.

              It took about a week, several talkings-to, and a wooden spoon moment for it to finally sink in that I couldn’t just change the clock like that and have it magically be an hour earlier for everyone.

          2. It seems unlikely that Evan’s familiar ritual is still binding. All the stuff Blake did was forgotten by the universe when he lost to Urr. That includes the familiar ritual he did with Evan.

  25. I’m considering writing a crossover from the Pactverse into the Dresdenverse.

    Specifically, I’m thinking about having Butters & Bob meet up with Blake and Evan for a mini-adventure, and using it as a 5-10 chapter test of this “planning” thing that I’ve heard about some people doing before they write.

    If I do decide to write it, I won’t start for at least another week or so, but I’d be interested in seeing if there’s any interest from the Pact crowd.

  26. Why is jacob’s bell on its way down? I always wondered how entire places and demesnes become parts of the abyss….

    So if it’s blake’s third time down, will it also be his third time escaping?

    I’m not sure how Johannes being in charge of what’s left really matters. I mean, “what’s left” is just the north end, while everything else sinks down. So, it’s not like it’ll be exanding soon. In fact, the North End residents will leave too, so he’ll be worse off too. Less humans in the north end means less humans in his shadow-realm for the Others to feed on, which means less Others.

    Waaaaaiiit. Is THAT how Johannes came into so much power?? He borrowed power from the Abyss, and (intentional or not) made part of Jacob’s Bell part-abyss?

    1. We don’t know if this is actually Johannes plan or not. It may be he’s just taking advantage of the situation. Or they’ll go in, and stop him just in time to keep him from saving the town. We know what the Behaim’s think he’s up to, but they can be wrong. Still time for twists.

      As for getting more people to make vestiges for his amusement park, I imagine between his Familiar and his implement it would be a simple thing.

      1. Haha “The behaim’s have time to be wrong”. That has got to be the best line I’ve read in the comments in a very long time

        Ah true, I keep forgetting about the gatekeeper angel familiar and his Pied Piper Pipes.

    2. Well, his opposition would be gone and he’d get to keep his demense plus all the Vestiges he already has. He might not care about the town itself as much as people assume and just wants to secure a buffer around his demense.

      Given the power at his command, it’s also possible he plans to let the town sink into the Abyss, then have the Djinn partially rebuild it and make it look like a mudslide or something so it gets rebuilt courtesy of insurance and government assistance, or even have Faysal bring the physical town back from the Abyss while leaving all the troublesome practitioners and Others behind.

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