Sine Die 14.3

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“Oh man,” Evan said.  “Is that a dragon!?  That was fire in its mouth.”

“That was a dragon,” our satyr said.  “It disappeared.”

It had.  The area where the thing had dwelled was now only shadow, and stirring snow.

The satyr very pointedly looked up, as if expecting the dragon to drop on us from above.

Everyone present took his cue, moving closer to the nearest building, as if it might provide just a bit of cover.  It had the benefit of moving us out of the craggy giant’s field of view.

“How do you deal with a damn dragon?” I asked.

“I’ve played lots of video games,” Evan said.  “Dragons, uh…”

“They aren’t like they are in the video games,” Tiff said.  “Generally speaking, you don’t deal with dragons.  For one thing, they barely exist anymore, for another…”

The satyr, Green Eyes, and the maenad turned to look in the same direction at once.  I didn’t bother to check.  I just moved, which meant I reacted only a fraction of a second after they did.

Peter, Tiff, and Roxanne were just turning to look as the rest of us were moving the opposite direction.  I put my arms out, touching their shoulders, pushing Tiff and Peter.  Roxanne, in front of Peter, was forced to move with.

“Shit!” someone shouted.  “Shit!”

The dragon touched ground behind us.  The neighborhood rattled like it was a dish-laden table and someone had dropped a weight on it.  Windows, wood, cars, all shifting violently in response.  Icicles and piles of snow dropped from the overhangs around shops and stores.

I only caught a glimpse of it, as I passed into the alley.  I was just behind Tiff and Peter, Green Eyes on my back.

I’d expected something sleek.  The silhouette I could make out suggested something like a bear in stature, more like a small building in raw mass.  Broad, thick in build, and draped in looser scaly hide, with enough obvious muscle that my initial thoughts about its ability to fly were banished.  Its eyes glowed, not like Green Eyes’ eyes did, but as if lit with an intensity of their own.  The heat rising off of it pushed away the snowflakes that were frozen in the air.

It was maybe eighty feet away as I passed into the space between two buildings.  The space was narrow enough I could have just barely touched both walls with my fingertips, and was riddled with ventilation and general stuff.  A broom, a bucket of salt and sand, and garbage cans.  The others were ducking under a section of ventilation that had been spewing steam into the alley before it had been frozen in time.

Still running, I only managed to take two steps into the alley before the reptile slammed its bulk against the two buildings, shoving its head into the space.  The flesh was squeezed, drawn back by the pressure, teeth exposed and scraping against the brick and concrete on either side.

It reached one claw inside, head tilting to make room for the limb as it lashed out, clawing in my general direction, five or so feet short of actually making contact.  I felt Green Eyes clutch me tighter, arms around my chest.

I wondered if the damage to the alleyway could be explained away by saying a large truck had backed into the alley before realizing there wasn’t room.

It screeched once more, a loud sound, before clawing at the pavement and ice of the alley floor, digging deep gouges out of it, as if it could somehow make itself fit with enough raw willpower.

I ducked underneath one jutting piece of ventilation, backing away more than I ran, my movements limited by the speed of the people ahead of me.

The little alleyway was lit by an orange-red light from behind me, and I felt a sinking sensation in my gut.

Like thin tendrils of drool, an ignited fluid, molten metal or magma was escaping the corners of the dragon’s mouth.

It drew its head back, almost until it didn’t have a neck.

“Shit!” Peter shouted.

There was no escape route.  No place I could push forward.

Tiff was hopping up a set of stairs at the side of one building, touching a key the length of her forearm to a door.  Roxanne hopped up beside her.  An escape route, or a makeshift shield.  Maybe both.  The maenad, faceless woman and satyr were rounding the corner at the far end of the building.

I was too far back to take either option.

I reversed direction.

Not going for the dragon, but for the section of ventilation I’d just ducked under.

I grabbed a tall recycling bin, and swung it around, a makeshift shield, albeit a plastic one.  I braced it against the vent, my back to the wall.

Being a bogeyman meant I was immune to some human frailties.  My heart didn’t beat, my muscles didn’t ache, my lungs didn’t struggle to pull in air.  When we were hit, all the same, I lost my senses.  Up, down, left, right, backward, forward, my grip on Green Eyes, her grip on me, my ability to understand where I was, it all disappeared.

Disorientation, damage, my hand going to pieces as it collided with a surface.  Fire, as it painted every surface, igniting brick and pools of water.  Removing all traces of winter in this dismal, dark alleyway.

There was only the inferno.

I was on fire.  One arm, part of my chest.  Burning surprisingly well.

Turning over onto my back, aware that I was on fire, I was aware of the dragon’s maw.  In my disorientation, it looked like it was looming directly above me, while I was at the bottom of a deep pit, with walls of flame or smoke on all four sides.  Liquid flame spilled from its mouth, as if it had ignited itself, and it didn’t even care.

One of the four walls surrounding me was sky, I realized, as smoke cleared, and I struggled to get to my feet, to stagger toward that sky despite the lack of appropriate ground underfoot, the way my leg somehow wasn’t moving fast enough, and the way the overly bright flames seemed to claw everything back in the opposite direction, sections of brick wall, glass…

Like the pull of a star.

Green Eyes was screaming.  Others were shouting.

I shook my head, but it did nothing to help.

It was easier to work with my dashed senses than to try to put everything in order.

To get away, I needed to move away from the scaled beast.  That meant moving down.

I staggered more than I ran, not familiar with my surroundings.  I’d been halfway down the alleyway, and now I was at the end of it, surrounded by long licks of fire that looked more like fluorescent lights than anything I’d ever called flame, they were so bright.

The others were on either side of me.  A couple were shouting instructions.

Green Eyes was there.  Struggling with the fact that part of her face, hair, and the end of her tail were on fire.  I suspected that if she hadn’t been riding on my back, my head would be in that condition too.

Her focus was on me, mine on her.  Both of us momentarily more concerned with the fact that the other had been ignited than we were with ourselves.

It felt like such a long distance, to look over my shoulder.  Things had broken in the impact, when I’d been thrown by the initial  hit, and some of those things were part of my neck.  The amount of fire in the dragon’s mouth had increased.  A section of wall had broken away, where it had clawed at the surface.

I reached for Green Eyes, only to realize that my right hand had shattered.  Still there, but not intact enough to grip anything.

My left hand was okay, but the arm and elbow were blazing.  I was careful to hold the fire away from my body.

She reached out to me.  I gripped her hand, and tried to pull her along even as I braced my legs under me to jump, to lunge across the most passable stretch of dragon’s fire.

Aflame, my left leg gave up.  With melted, burning plastic from the bin I’d tried to use as a shield still caking it, the bone and wood simply gave up, bone breaking like chalk, the wood that braced it now essentially gone.

Green Eyes still holding my arm, unaware that I’d just lost my ability to stand, I was pulled down on top of her.

Green Eyes screamed something, but I couldn’t make it out over the roar of fire.

How eerie, to not be afraid, in the midst of all this.  To not be terrified, my face screwed up in panic like Tiff and Roxanne’s were.  Like the maenad’s face was, even.  I was still disoriented, still trying to deal with the world having been one thing in one moment, and holocaust and ruin in the next.

Metal.  Sections of ventilation duct, or dumpster.  I couldn’t tell.  It burned too, and edges had turned molten.

I grabbed it, and I slid it over toward the others.

Peter shouted, “It’s breathing again!”

One working arm, one leg, one screaming, flailing mermaid clutching me.  Maybe being burned by me, or burning me.

I made it two feet, pushed at the metal, kicked at the ground, trying to haul myself and Green Eyes closer.

The maenad reached me, leaning forward, to grip me at the shoulders, fingers hooking at sections of wood.

Peter was there too, a little more ginger in how he reached forward.

The metal served as a brief barrier to the flames on the ground, and when I was pulled, it was akin to a sled, something I could be dragged on.  Not part of the plan, but I wasn’t complaining.  It took all the focus I had to simply hold on to Green Eyes, in hopes that she might be dragged with me.

The fire rushed past.  A spray, a glob, like mucus or paint, covering every surface that wasn’t covered already.  Where there was already fire, it flared, spreading, growing taller.

Much as I’d seen the Dragon looming directly above me, my perceptions skewed, I saw Tiff, the faceless woman, and Peter all standing above me, talking.

“There,” I managed to make out what the maenad was saying.  “Grab it!”

A moment passed.

“Extinguish rune isn’t working…” Tiff said.

“Shit.  What the fuck did you drag us into?”  Peter.  “What the fuck?  Where is it?”

“…I didn’t think it would, but I don’t know what else I could do.”

A male voice further away.  “It moved.  Keep an eye on rooftops!”

“Blake,” Evan said.  “Blakeblakeblake, look.  No going into the light!  Or the dark, or wherever you’re supposed to go!  Blake!”

The satyr appeared, and passed a shovel to the maenad.  Not a snow shovel, but a dirt shovel.  The rusty head was shaped like a spade, connecting to a four or five foot long wood shaft, that was connected to a padded grip, in turn.

The maenad, standing, touched the shovel’s tip to my shoulder.

She stomped on it, hard.

“Damn it.  Tough wood,” she said.  “Move the sweatshirt.”

“Don’t get burned!”  Tiff said.  “Dragonstuff is potent.  I don’t think that fire ever goes out!”

Someone moved my sweatshirt at one shoulder.  The point of the shovel was repositioned.

She stomped again.  Driving metal into and past wood, into the joint of the shoulder.

Leverage applied, the point scraping against bone, deep inside, finding the notch where the socket met the shoulder joint.

Another stomp, to sever.  She tore the cloth of my sweatshirt with her hands, and then kicked the still-burning arm and section of shoulder off to the side of the alley.

“Leg next,” she said.

“Green Eyes,” I said.

She glanced over her shoulder.

She was gritting her teeth as she moved around to my leg.

I saw the faceless woman turn around.  Her back was to me, cigarette held high in one hand, the other in a pocket.  Watching Green Eyes burn?

Tiff was talking, “Um, melted plastic isn’t burning quite as well, so it’s not spreading as much here, but-”

“It’s airborne, somewhere not too far away,” the satyr was saying, eyes skyward. “The dragon is.”

The maenad placed the shovel at my thigh.

I moved my leg, and the shovel slid off, biting pavement between my legs.

She stared down at me, an angry expression on her face.

“Help Green Eyes,” I said.  “Help her now, or I’ll fight you every step of-”

“Don’t finish that sentence,” she cut me off.  “Or I’ll leave you to burn with her.”

I set my teeth.

She replaced the shovel’s blade, then struck it with her heel.  One kick served to break the wood and bone.  It also broke the shovel’s end from the shaft.  The metal had torn, no doubt already fatigued and rusted.

“Mm,” she said.  “Don’t move.”

She bent down over me.

“My-” I started.  I wasn’t even sure how to finish.  How was I even supposed to describe Green Eyes?  My friend?  My mermaid?  I gripped the maenad’s wrist, but my hand had splintered, and had no strength to it.  “Damn it, help her!”

“You might be able to summon her again,” she said, ignoring my grip as she tore a section of burning wood off the side of my chest.  “Bogeymen go back to the abyss when they die.  They can resurface.”

Tiff spoke my thoughts, “That’s not a guarantee, especially for a weaker bogeymen.  When we summoned her in the bathtub-”

“Uh huh,” the maenad said.

“There’s no guarantee the fire will go out if she passes on.  With dragon’s breath, it could burn her spirit, even.”

The maenad ignored Tiff.  “Let go of me, wooden man, or I’ll break this hand off too.”

I released her wrist.

“Don’t let him see,” she said, as she picked up the shovel’s head.  I could see a gleam in her eyes that wasn’t so different from the one I’d seen on the High Priest’s face.

I suddenly wished I hadn’t released her.

I saw flame licking Green Eyes, the tail moving this way and that as she continued to thrash, weaker than before, one hand raised, as if she wanted to clutch her face and couldn’t.

The Satyr stepped between me and Green Eyes.

He didn’t manage to stop me from seeing the maenad put the tip of the shovel against the center of Green Eyes’ forehead.  There was no handle to go with it.  It was only a rigid bit of metal, now.

“Little girl.  Take this.  Hold it steady.  You fuck this up, you only make more hurt, understand?.  And don’t let her touch you.”

“What?”  Roxanne asked.

“Hold.  It.  Steady.”

“Green Eyes,” I said, staring at the Satyr’s hoofed feet, as he impeded my view.

“Blake,” was the reply, from Green Eyes.

With Roxanne holding the shovel’s handle-less end in place, the maenad drove it down with one sharp kick.  I saw the tail move suddenly, flip this way and that, until the maenad moved and stepped on it, to stop the thrashing.  One bit of fin and some hair was still ignited.

The maenad stooped down, and cut the hair and fin away, as if to be safe.  It didn’t matter.  The tail wasn’t moving.

“Aw,” Evan said.  “Awww, and eww, but mostly aww.  Crumbs.”

“We need to go,” the satyr said.  “It’s stalking us.”

“Someone should pick up the wooden man,” the maenad said, “and it won’t be me.  Not after what he did to my sister.  Even if I’ve had my pound of flesh, I don’t trust myself around him, and I don’t trust him.”

Mute, I did what I could to try and rise.

I had only one fully intact limb.  My chest was fairly ruined, too.

I had strength, but no structural integrity, and limited movement.

Still, I crawled over to Green Eyes.

Evan had perched on her tail.  The faceless woman still stood over her.

“Ow,” Green Eyes murmured, as she saw me.  “Oh wow, ow.”

My eyes widened a bit.

She had to twist her head around to see me.  The shovel’s blade had scraped off half her face, the eyeball with it.  Bone was exposed, where there wasn’t ragged meat.

She raised a hand to cover that half of her face.

I reached out and grabbed her hand with my ruined one.  I only had three intact fingers, and in trying to clasp her hand and failing, I only seized her fingers.

I was forced to let go, as Peter moved me, trying to prop me up with one arm at his shoulders, standing with me.

“Lighter than you look,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“Tiff?” he asked.

Tiff reached my other shoulder.

“My face, and my eye,” I heard Green Eyes murmuring.  Not to me.  To the faceless woman, ironically enough. “It wasn’t a very good face, but-”

I saw the faceless woman reach down.  I didn’t want to say anything, out of concern that a moment’s spite could make the faceless woman do worse.

But she didn’t use her ability to knit flesh.

She helped Green Eyes reposition, and I saw how Green Eyes’ hair had been combed down in front of one side of her face.  A curtain of hair so pale it was almost transparent.

She smiled up at me, but it was a little lopsided.

You’re not supposed to be this positive after we’ve both been maimed, I thought.

It took us a moment to find our stride, me supported by two others.

“Dragons are so like they are in video games,” Evan said.

“No,” Tiff said.  “Um, in video games, a guy with a sword can kill a dragon.  Only way that happens here is if a god intervenes, or you’re drawing on some similar degree of power.”

“We’ve got an in with gods, right?

“Not unless someone wants to hike back to the house,” Peter said.

“Not it,” Roxanne said.

“Not it,” Peter responded, without missing a beat.

“None of us are hiking back right now,” I said.

You definitely aren’t,” Evan said.  “You’ve only got one leg.”

“Yes, Evan.  Thank you Evan, for that,” I said.  “Tiff, you know something about dragons?”

“A little bit.  They were a side note in something else I was researching for Rose.  About vestiges, and spirits.  For Evan, and for you two.”

“Explain.”

“Dragons are… they’re sometimes called snags, or recursive loops, or um, shoot, can’t remember the word.”

“Problems,” Peter said.  “Problematic.

“Um.  Sure.  Most are.  Some think dragons are what happens when something feeds into itself.  Every dragon is different, and some are more elemental, or mostly elemental, or spirit, or deific.  Something like a lesser god that worships itself, or an elemental that takes in more than it puts out.  They happen only when the stars align right, and attempts to produce them tends to turn out…”

“Problems,” Peter said, again.  “That’s what this stuff mostly boils down to, right?”

“Um.  Not exactly, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but-”

“I’m right.”

“Yeah,” Tiff said.

“Yeah,” Peter said.

“It went wrong.  So they’re rare and they’re unique and they tend to be feral, not always reptilian, but there’s something to be said for memory and the world remembering the dinosaurs or whatever, so it’s more common, as a given snarl needs to find a reference point, but-”

“How do we stop them?” I interrupted.

“Uh.  You don’t.  Or you don’t easily stop them.”

There was a screech, close by enough that we nearly broke stride and fell, as a group.

Just on the other side of a nearby building.

Tiff’s voice dropped a notch in volume.  “Most Others, they have weak points.  As Blake just evidenced.  He wasn’t even directly hit, and we nearly lost him.  Faerie, you hit them with something  crude, and they can’t deal, on a lot of levels.  Goblins, you hit them with refinement, with cunning ideas and passive means.  But Dragons are different.  Like I said they’re a snarl.”

“Clarify,” I said.  I realized how tense I was, after what had nearly happened to Green Eyes, and added, “Please.”

“There’s no polar opposite.  Most are amalgams of elemental and spirit and animal and nightmares, on top of whatever else.  You have to beat them at their own game.  You get the dragons that are all poison, to the point that one drop of venom can clear out a lake.  Then you have to just out-poison them.  You get the dragons in some areas of the East that are more spirit and elemental, like dragons of the mountains and… it’s like you have to destroy a mountain by hitting it with a bigger mountain.”

“How do you-” I started.  “Nevermind.  You’re saying the only way to kill ol’ firebreath there is hotter fire?”

“No,” she said.  Her voice dropped to be even quieter, as we approached the end of the street.  “There’s another way.  Most are violent, killing machines.  So… if you’re brave enough, you can try the conventional means.  Facing them in battle.  Eventually someone succeeds.  Usually with the backing of some major power.  Usually a god.  Which makes them rare.”

“We totally have a god,” Evan said, “don’t we?”

“Fuck,” I said.  “What about giants?”

“A hell of a lot simpler,” Tiff said.  “Um.  Secluded.  Big.”

“Basically,” the satyr said.

“They still bleed, though?” I asked.

“They’re endangered,” the maenad told me.  “Can’t breed, no gods old or rough-edged enough still around to make more.  Except maybe where you’re from, but any that crop up there still aren’t going to be adventurous enough to move.  Everyone knows it isn’t right to touch a giant.  Or they should know.”

“And if that giant over there comes after us?” I asked.

“Metaphor,” the maenad said.  “One of the last elephants in the world charges you, your life is obviously on the line.  You going to shoot it?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I get your point.  I do it, it’s technically okay, but an awful lot of people aren’t going to see things technically.”

“Yes,” she said.

“Got it,” I said.  “Question: how the hell did Johannes get these things, and-”

There was a distant yowl.

Suggesting that we weren’t just dealing with a giant and a dragon.

“-and why are they so damn complicated?”

Everything’s complicated,” Peter said.  “And-”

“Problematic,” Evan joined in, as Peter finished the sentence.

“Johannes has them because he offers a sanctuary,” the maenad said.  “Just like our High Priest does for us, his followers, except Johannes does it for anything that’s willing to play by the rules.  The giants have enemies, just like they have advocates, and even if the advocates vastly outnumber the enemies, there’s people who come after them, and Johannes gives them one more hiding spot, just like this.  The dragon, that’s different.”

“It’s not smart,” Tiff said.  “It’s an animal, almost.”

“Does this animal have a tamer?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Tiff said.

“That’s something, then,” I said.  “But I suspect Johannes will learn from Sandra’s mistake.  He’s not going to expose his throat to any attacks.  Unless we make him…”

I could hear a low rumble.  Close by.

“…Somehow,” I finished, my voice dropping low.

I was in pieces.  I couldn’t fight.

The dragon was close.

It couldn’t be simple.

We collectively drew back as the dragon advanced into an intersection.  Brushing up against an older pickup, the great scaled beast shifted the vehicle out of its parking spot, sending it out into the middle of the road, bumper largely scraped off.

The damn thing looked like it could take on four modern tanks and win.

A hand gripped the back of Peter’s shirt, pulling him back, and me with him.

The satyr.

He raised a finger to his mouth.

The giant, as it turned out, was quiet.  It moved at a plodding pace, but I suspected that in a long-distance race, it would beat a running human being by virtue of sheer stride and endless stamina.

Seven or eight seconds passed as it approached our general position, and then it exhaled, long and heavy.  Hot breath steamed and froze on the giant’s thick facial hair.  Its face looked to be carved out of rock.

There was a sound like a building settling as it turned its head one way, then the other.

Every movement was slow, calculated, as if he considered it all with great care, deciding each in advance, then carrying it out.

He stepped over the pickup, as if it were an afterthought, his head turning as he looked in the direction the dragon had gone, past the intersection one block over, and further down the street.

Bending down, he used one hand to seize the pickup truck the dragon had grazed, and moved it back into position.

He remained where he was, bent over, one hand still on the truck.

I couldn’t make out his face.  Only the back of him, one leg, and a kilt of what looked to be cow hides, threaded into a continuous garment with thongs as thick around as my remaining arm.

I saw his leg tense.

“Balls,” Peter said.

“I don’t see-” Evan started.

“Go!”  I said.

One slow, continuous motion.  Turning counterclockwise, pickup truck still in hand, the other hand settling on the roof of a building for stability.

The giant hurled the pickup truck at us underhand, casting it down the length of the one-way street we were on.

Roxanne shrieked.

The truck was still airborne when she’d finished.  The vehicle hit ground, not far behind us, flipping end over end, unpredictable-

The satyr went over it, as it rolled, leaping.  Green Eyes, low to the ground, simply flopped over, dodging it as it scraped past.  The maenad tackled Tiff and hauled her out of the way.  Peter, overburdened, trying to move too fast, fell, taking me with him.

The truck rolled past.

The faceless woman, further ahead, turned just in time to meet it, as it skidded on its roof, already losing momentum.  She stumbled back, trying to put her hands out to stop it, and then fell.  A moment later, she stood and dusted herself off.

The giant loomed at the far end of the street.

Thu!” the giant called out, his voice echoing much as the bell had.

“Fee fi fo fum,” Peter muttered.

Given free reign, causing devastation that was harder to explain as people woke up.  How would the locals process it all?  The fire, the destroyed vehicles and city property?

War?  Call it an airstrike in the night?  Something else?

They’d leave, the town would plummet into the abyss, and the giant and dragon…

Well, I supposed they were tough enough to work their way free.  Probably.

The dragon reappeared.  Perching on a rooftop, a matter of meters from the giant.

The giant reached up, and dug thick fingers into the dragon’s loose-fitting hide.

“That explains that,” I said.  “The dragon’s master.”

“Almost obvious in retrospect,” Peter said.

Ro!” the giant howled the word.

Attack.

The dragon, still perched on the rooftop, began drooling flame.

I glanced back at the alleyway that still burned.  The fire and smoke had frozen in time.  The effect reasserting itself.

“Shit,” I muttered.

“Yeah,” Peter said.  “Well put.”

I started trying to move, but it was slow.

Peter, in turn, tried to help me stand, but once it was achieved, slower still.  He could help me, but working on his own he couldn’t help me and move quick.

The dragon breathed.

A gobbet of flamestuff.  It moved in an arc, a stream and a spatter trailing behind.  A few dots of fire landed on the giant’s shoulder, and were brushed off.  The fire slammed into the ground in the center of all of us, liquid sloshing out diagonally across the breadth of the street, sidewalk to sidewalk, before colliding with a parked car.  Effectively cutting us off from one another.

“I need wood,” I said, as the flames embraced the parked car.  “I need a body.”

“I would love for you to have a body,” Peter said.  “Would love for me to have a body when all of this is over, too.  My priority, as it happens.  No offense.”

“None taken,” I said.

The dragon leaped.

It didn’t fly so much as it glided.  It used the hot air from the fire for just a little extra lift, but it was too heavy to truly rise with the hot air, as vast as its wingspan was.  Too dense.

It landed on the parked car, and the burning mucus splattered everywhere.

Drooling onto the blazing vehicle, it clawed at the metal, sending flaming scraps in the general direction of Tiff, Roxanne, and the maenad.  The group scattered.

I swear the dragon smiled as it lunged forward.

The maenad broke a store display window just in time for the girls to disappear inside.

The dragon began to gather fire in its mouth to spit again.  I could only hear the distant shouts.

“Leave me,” I said.  “Run.  Take cover.”

Peter dropped me, right in the middle of the street.  He ran.

This is the power Johannes can bring to bear? I wondered.

I twisted around.  One intact leg, one mostly intact arm.

I headed for the nearest store.  Outdoor clothing.  Boots.  I traveled maybe two miles an hour, doing it.

A glacially slow pace, as I was out in the open.  In full view of the giant.  The dragon only just happened to be after moving prey.

Reach forward, pull myself forward another foot or two, toe digging in snow and ice for traction to push myself forward, using my broken hand, or the hard edge of my elbow.  Where the ice was beneath me, it was possible to slide forward, harder to find traction.  Where it was road and snow, the opposite was true.  Never easy.

Reach forward…

The giant lurched forward.  Dark eyes larger than I was now focused on me.

I continued moving, because there was little else I could do.  Peter was already long gone.

Evan distracted the giant.  Flying past, right at eye level.

Again, he did it.

Then he backed off.  He was learning.  Moving over to help the others with the dragon again.

The satyr had a weapon out, and whipped a stone at the giant.  Barely a tap, but it got a moment’s attention, and a moment was apparently a meaningful amount of time to a giant, as ponderous and decisive as the creature was.

I reached the base of the store display, on the far side of the street, and I stabbed the window with the Hyena.

Glass broke, raining down around me.

The giant approached, covering more distance than I had with half a stride.  It bent down.

I crawled through, over broken glass, and into the store.  I tumbled down to the base of the display.

The hand reached through, breaking the display wider.  Fingers scraped.

They touched me, grazed me, and destroyed my already armless shoulder further.  But I was just another piece of wood.

Surrounded with broken wood, dead wood, if not branches, I began putting myself in order.  One splinter in my hand, just to have something approximating a thumb, then a larger piece of wood, a peg leg.

From there, I could move.  I could hobble.

Through the store, out the emergency exit at the side.

Half a block down, to the downtown street.  Old fashioned buildings for stores.  Trees at set distances, leaves gone for the winter.

At the base, broken branches.

Knowing every second counted, I began putting myself together.

Leg first, in case the giant spotted me.

Then…

I thought of the vision the abyss had given me.  A view of my possible future.

I thought of how the dragon had flown.

Not arms.  Wings.

I set to building.

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196 thoughts on “Sine Die 14.3

  1. …I am conflicted. On one hand, following any of the Abyss’ visions seems like it can only be a bad idea. On the other hand, WINGS.

        1. How many ideas does Blake have that aren’t bad ideas? But not all his ideas are bad. Evan as a familiar was Blake’s idea, and that was awesome!

          1. In retrospect, the ones that look to me like bad ideas to me tend not to be, and vice versa for almost everyone else, at least as far as I’ve seen. This one looks awesome, so I don’t actually know what to think, except that Blake managed to keep the Hyena and possibly the goblin chain, and now is getting wings. He may end up as a pseudo Angel Of Freedom after all. Or possibly Worn Justice.

          1. Do you mean Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri?
            One of my favourite mangas. No idea who came up with the english title though. Sounds kinda weird.

            1. Dear god, you must be one of those people who have to translate everything to japanese, aren’t you?

              On a scale of 1 to 10 how angry does Sword Art Online’s title make you? Oh, what about Gregory Horror Show, or Future Dairy?

            2. You do realize two of those were originally titled in English, while Future Diary was not?

              Personally, I don’t especially care if a specific title gets translated or not, but generally some places use the original title and some use the translated title and it gets annoyingly confusing.

    1. I know. You know the yummy, yummy cake is probably poisoned. But, there it is, looking at you with scrumptious-appearing icing reminding you that it might only be poisoned a little bit rather than catastrophically. As far as you know.

      Which is it? A slight dose of the runs? Or a trip to the morgue? Or just really, really good chocolate cake?

    2. at least this is merely inspired by it and he isn’t accepting a direct offer from his personal ‘bird heart’ avatar of abyss(still the reason he didn’t do it sooner was he knew it’d cost but didn’t know the price…but its gotta be better somehow)

  2. Y’know, I’ve been waiting for this for a while. Reading this Urban Fantasy series where all the monsters and creatures have human shapes and vaguely human minds. I’ve been waiting. For something big, for something loud.

    For a fuckin’ dragon.

    And it’s beautiful.

      1. Ur is all smoky, and centipede-like, and really abstract. Not what I was waiting for at all.

        Also wanna see more of Hildr. Hope those two girls are still kicking around.

  3. So Blake is gonna have huge wings where his arms should be. I wonder if there will be fingers at the end, like a bat.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Pact is really about Blake’s journey to become Batman

        1. At this point, I’d argue that sparrows have been greatly undervalued in the the wonder department. Until now. 🙂

          Robins. All they’ve got are red breasts and a tendency to attack windows.

      1. same way a manbird uses a boxingglove =P (the mermaid is not amused)

        that or fingers on his wing elbows

        clenched in his teeth?

        temporally attached to his head like a beak?

        built into the limb like a feather?

        temporally built into his new leg like a talon?


        what I want to know is how he intends to make anything with just the one arm and a ruined hand using a splintered 2×4 as a thumb, and do it quick enough to matter (and using only the fallen branches that hadn’t been cleaned up the day before since he seems to be limited to dead wood? although the tree climb scene might explain away most of this including the material problem)

        1. My impression is that wood, or bone, when he incorporates it into his body, molds itself to fit his self-image. After the molding happens, then it’s much harder to repair/fix the body, without adding more wood or bone.

          In other words, I think newly acquired bone and wood is very plastic to Blake, but once it’s a part of him, it loses a great deal of it’s plasticity, except for a moderate ability to regenerate.

          He remembers a self-image of himself with wings from the drains, and he’s trying to use that to create himself with wings.

          Will he do it bird-style, or Gargoyle-style? Four limbs or six?

  4. I’ve been saying it for a while, but I think it has become quitea appropriate now. Blake should bind the Dragon into the form of a motorcycle

      1. Well, you have to remember that there’s certain rules he’s following. Unlike the Duchamps, who had Jeremy, he can’t break into demesnes. He can devastate everything around them, but then the Duchamps and Behaims and Rose pull out the big guns and he gets to find out how his minor angel stacks up to a moderate demon while all his allies are timestopped and/or trying to kill him. He’s been letting them kill each other off so that they don’t unite against him and their big guns are occasionally expended in ways that don’t hurt him.

            1. Conquest you can’t kill with a bullet. Johannes comes out of his demesne for meetings and he can bleed.

        1. Can’t break in, no. But if that fire never goes out like Tiff thinks then the ways out of the demenses can be closed off. Sure you’re still alive, but you’re also removed from the competition.

          So yeah, despite the fact that demons in the Pact-verse only ever leave the world worse, the dragon is something that I’d wholly support using Barby on.

          1. I’m not certain that transforming “Dragon” into “Dragon possessed by a powerful demon from the Choir of Ruin” is necessarily a good way to go if you want a town to rule over when you’re done.

            1. Two ruined dragons who hate each other. You’d really not want to be stuck in the middle of that imposed existential crisis unless you’ve got a major death wish. 😛

            2. Dragons are created when you’ve gotten a feedback loop formed, like a god worshipping himself. If the Barber breaks the feedback loop (e.g. cutting the god away from the worship), then you’ll be left with two entities, neither of which is a dragon.

          2. It’s funny, because Barby and Urr are things I’d wholly support using a Dragon on.

            The latter in particular isn’t going to like what this Dragon give’s it for Christmas.

            1. Dragons at least have some kind of natural wonder as a living part of the world to them, unlike demons.

              Or to put it another way:

              “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

            2. About nihilism: yeah. At least dragons have something at their very core. Narcissism, solipsism… or objectivism (and, their main object of concern is themselves — natch). 😉

              I bet most would rather like to continue existing and won’t care a fig about others… as long as their existing means the dragon’s existence continues to be entertaining.

        2. Unlike the Duchamps, who had Jeremy, he can’t break into demesnes.

          Remember that his familiar is an angel with door powers. I would not count on being able to keep him out of anywhere

      2. The dragon is tough when you’re Blake, but it probably doesn’t stack up all that well to everyone else’s big guns. Before they got spent fighting each other. In particular the dragon would take one look at the Barber before getting possessed by the thing. Not to mention it can penetrate demesnes and gank him. Then you got the Drunk’s divine intervention. The Well of Power might even be enough to stop the dragon (or the giant).

        Even if he could beat the Duchamps, and Behaims the dragon can’t attack the House since it would free the Barber. And as far as he knows Rose will in fact use the demons to win.

        1. Thinking about it, since the dragon’s eyes are lit from within they wouldn’t be reflective enough to allow access to abstract demons.

        2. The thing is that Johannes seems to have a huge supply of big guns. He’s got Faysal, his Dijinn (who blew open the library with a single blast), now these guys, and if he’s sending them to fight Blake and company who did he send to fight Rose?

          1. Rose- “Man we had sooo much trouble fighting off the Gummi Bears and Keebler elves. So how was your night?”

            I mean last time we were wondering how bad Rose’s night was going compared to Blake’s she got engaged.

            1. fairfolk with a cookie fettish and grizzlies made of collagen could be scary if deployed competently…maybe not “unstoppable dragon” scary, but still.

      3. I agree that Johannes’ combined forces could easily win this war. However, they’re more like mercenaries than a private army – I have to wonder what all this is costing him

        1. I gather he lets Others use his demense as a hunting preserve, and in exchange they come when he calls them.

          Of course, I doubt he’s offered most of them enough to get their service on a permanent basis. There’s probably some limit on how long and how often he can call on them, and ones who only visited for a time will probably only provide a limited number of services. Once this fight is over most of them will probably pack up and go home, and he won’t be able to bring them back for a while. Hence why he’s trying to end this in a decisive strike, he’ll be weaker for a time.

          However, he will still have Faysal, his demense, and at least some of the long-term residents available to him.

          1. I don’t know about Faysal. He’s now deliberately trying to drag a town into the Abyss, the place where everything that Angels stand for goes to die. So I think that backstab is soon coming.

            1. Uh, yeah we do? They stand for order and creation generally, as a mirror to demons that exist for entropy. Angels want to build and preserve the universe, demons want to tear it down.

              And I find it hilariously unlikely that the abyss is completely unrelated to demons. This is the place that things that are broken fall down to. It’s where people go when demons fuck them, it’s very likely that the bastards created it.

            2. “, it’s very likely that the bastards created it.”


              i donno….

              1 demons don’t create, (possibly they used to when they were angels if that theory is true…but not anymore)

              2 demons destroy and remove, abyss catches things grinds them down and reshapes. we’re looking at somebody’s fertilizer compost heap and saying the trashman is responsible.
              we don’t know what or why the abyss is. (its been theorized to be the raw underpinnings of the universe though, the original sea of nothing and chaos the god orb hovered over and said let there be land or whatever. given rules by forgotten gods and salvaging/extrapolating form from whatever it can get its hands on)

              3 projecting a single near miss from a demon who destroys connection as the expected fate of all “those fucked by demons” is a bit of a stretch

            3. Demons don’t seem to be on good terms with the Abyss. Both Orinas and Ur were tearing down the Abyss. Ur devouring it, Orinas making the lights less effective when it passed.

              The Abyss builds. It was gathering souls for the Machine. It wanted, wants to turn Blake into a monster hunting super bat. Its not nice, but its certainly not demons.

    1. Up until Blake messed everything up, Johannes and the other parties (except maybe Rose) were trying to limit collateral damage. The two previous heirs basically ramped up the war past the point of no return tonight

        1. Er, something which breathes fire seems like an excellent solution to something made of wood.

          Presumably he’s either holding the Djinn in reserve or sending them after another group.

          1. something that is dumb as a sack of hammers, is incapable of understanding the term “Collateral Damage” and causes fires THAT WILL NEVER GO OUT is overkill for one other that has been proven is vulnerable to being injured/killed by SANE measures.
            its like deciding to nuke the entirety of the British isles to make sure you kill jack the ripper.
            whatever way you look at it, all the people who are going to be burnt to death in their sleep by literally unstoppable fire are innocents being killed by another Ruthless Practitioner who’s sense of morality and Empathy has long eroded away.

        2. Some people will try and blame Blake for everything. He may have helped set things off, but both Jacob’s Bell and Toronto were disasters waiting to happen in my opinion. He was just unlucky enough to be the match.

    2. It’s easy — Johannes didn’t want to initiate tons of mortals. Now he has a full day to work in without any worry that any uninitiated mortals are going to wake up and see anything wacky happening. Once he wins and becomes Lord, he gets to turn the whole town into a playground, greatly expanding his personal demesne, which he’ll likely offer to get some “real” big dudes who weren’t enticed by his little playground before. Then, once that happens, he’ll have a couple big dudes wave their hand as the price of admission to play, and the town will be cleaned up.

  5. Typo thread:

    hooved
    hoofed

    handleless
    handle-less

    and It won’t be me
    and it won’t be me

    Nevermind
    usually never mind

    the iant
    the giant

    Effectively Cutting us off from one another.
    Effectively cutting us off from one another.

  6. “Leave me,” I said. “Run. Take cover.”

    Peter dropped me, right in the middle of the street. He ran.

    Thank you, Peter, for demonstrating some Thorburn-like unhesitation in abandoning your cousin, but also the incredibly rare gift of common sense. You are an inspiration.

    1. alternatively, the INTELLIGENCE to immediately respond to an order on the battlefield. im finding myself liking him more, if only because he seems to have common sense, like you said. a little work over time to reinforce his moral compass and he’d make a good protagonist for a spinnoff/side story. grins or send him off to scam someone who deserves a big loss

  7. Well couldn’t Blake just become a demonic Groot pirate with wings of course?!

    All he got to resemble one of his legs was a peg leg, and he can hobble!

      1. you know blake is just gonna zip up and blind(and/or de tongue) the giant leaving a mindless unstoppable saurian avatar of fire and death without his buddy’s orders keeping it restrained

        eye going off leash without conquest was bad enough, what can the dragon do?

        1. (that or annoy the giant into siccing the dragon on him and flying paths that get the poor endangered guy burned alive by his pet…which is an even worse solution and still leaves the dragon unbound)

    1. They’ll have to come up with a whole new typing just to fix this won’t they? And then the Dragon Trainers will bitch because they can’t just spam outrage.

      1. The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro? Wampus Cat? Cactus cat? Digmaul? easy to reach from canada but way too weak. griffins would likely make a different sound(although if pact has a griffin I hope its a keythong) and don’t really measure up to a giant or dragon anyway. same with chimera on both counts… we’ve already seen sphinx and they’re not the type to yowl, i don’t think i even need to mention cat sìth, its not likely to be bakeneko or nekomata and now those are all the cat monsters I know.

        1. Keythong are the varient of Griffon with no wings right? Yeah you never ever see that kind. I guess no one ever wants a griffon that can’t fly.

  8. Hm, Blake’s unnamed Other companions seem to have vanished this chapter. The faceless woman plays a part, as do Jeremy’s minions, but the guy with wings and the two mook bogeymen aren’t mentioned. Then again, neither is the faceless woman until she’s doing her thing with Green Eyes. I guess they’re just there.

    I suspect that mister wings the mysterious not-a-bogeyman may have a part to play in Blake giving himself wings…

  9. Here is a thought about the physics of Pact:

    JB right now seems to be frozen in time, except where there are actors in order to “wake up” the world. But as soon as they leave, the world freezes again.

    If you were to stand still, just breathing, you would eventually run out of breathable air, because there shouldn’t be any air circulation. Now, the world might try to cheat and just “make up” oxygen for you to breathe, but if you were to put some sort of detector next to you, it would be much harder for the world to cheat. Put a wind speed detector too, if you want. Eventually you would die.

    There you have it. Pact works like quantum mechanics, obviously /s.

    Dragons. Wow. I love the concept (they aren’t just reptiles), and I love how this dragon came out. And a giant having a pet dragon? Who would have thought? That’s genius and amazing!

    1. Actually, it just seems to be frozen in time. The spirits are locking things not in place into stasis or something. The air is probably totally unaffected.

      Apparently the big part of the spell and the actual time manipulation portion is going to be compensating for how this made everyone sleep through Tuesday.

      1. Well, my argument is that since everything appears to be frozen in time unless you interact with it or try very hard to look past it, like snow flakes that don’t move or fall, then something like air currents and gas densities might as well appear to be frozen in time. I mean, why would you freeze snow flakes but not wind? You can’t see air, of course, but you could use something like an anemometer and whatnot. And if machines don’t count as observers, use some magic, somehow?

        And even if things aren’t truly frozen in time, if your body (and the spirits) believe they are, then they would react as though they are.

        The biggest issue, I guess, is that the Pactverse need not be consistent with our world. Or consistent at all, for that matter. So the Pactverse might simply disregard my observation as invalid because it so desires.

        1. I also guess that, since breathing the air counts as interacting with it, then you are looking past the illusion and always getting fresh air. You might think that there should be a limit to how far you affect the air, but you can only test that putting measurement devices, which they themselves might count as observers as they interact with the air that is around them and give normal measurements.

        2. My bet is that the snowflakes are immobilized but the air is still moving. If you got a detector that wasn’t frozen it would show that.

          It’s basically a giant illusion that makes it look like time stopped, and like glamour that makes it partially true. Question why you can breathe too hard and it will come apart.

            1. In a not-too-distant country —
              JB, Canada —
              There was a guy named Blake,
              Not too different than you or me.
              He worked as a handyman,
              Just polishing switches to pay his way;
              He did his job well with a cheerful face,
              But the demons didn’t like him
              So they shot him into the Abyss.

              We’ll send him cheesy karma,
              The worst ever made.
              Blake says when you got lemons,
              You make lemonade wards.
              Now keep in mind he can’t control
              When the fights begin or end,
              Because he used the extra parts
              To make his Other friends.

              Other roll-call:
              Green Eyes
              Alexis
              Tiff
              Evan!

              If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes
              And other science facts,
              Just repeat to yourself “It’s just a story,
              I should really just relax
              For Pact Showdown 2015.”

  10. i imagine something akin to da vinci’s airplane design to blake, also, cool upgrade! seeing the characters use their powers in clever ways is always the best part in this stories

    1. no, i think the endbringers are still more powerful by sheer toughness, and in fact i dont think pactvers has anything quite as the endbringers, they were pure tanks of destruction that dealt in material power, in pactverse things always have a more abstract kind of damage and a more abstract way of being defeated

    1. maybe if his third trip is to the machine he will. he was in the mirror for like 3 days I’m not putting much stock on him staying a wickerman even overlooking the wing mod

  11. You know you’re screwed when you have to outfire a dragon and all you’ve got is the Faceless Woman’s cigarette.

    I don’t see this ragtag bunch of misfits bringing down those Big Guns, but I didn’t see a girl with bug control powers bringing down anything either, and just look at what she did.

    Maybe the Behaim “timeless armor” can bring down a dragon? It can certainly do something about the giant, unless Magic PETA is that much of a concern. A pity the cavalry is likely not coming.

    1. In the Giant’s case just trapping it or stopping it is fine. You don’t actually need to kill or hurt it. As for the Dragon… Uh well part of the problem is it’s a little bit of a rule breaker by nature.

      Bug Girl would have already taken out everyone in town, and would be sipping tea by now.

      1. simply castrate and blind the dragon. then it should no longer prove a threat or much plot relevance(but it’ll keep showing up from time to time in side chapters anyway)

    2. It seemed to me that as all dragons have violent death as part of their makeup, one actually can kill one in single combat.

      “No,” she said. Her voice dropped to be even quieter, as we approached the end of the street. “There’s another way. Most are violent, killing machines. So… if you’re brave enough, you can try the conventional means. Facing them in battle. Eventually someone succeeds. Usually with the backing of some major power. Usually a god. Which makes them rare.”

      1. Problem is that the first few dozen easy tend to end up charbroiled, and right now Molly might not be too happy with Blake since he’s working with the Behaims.

      2. violent death is part of them, violent death can kill them. like vs like…. pact has another kind of binding/countering though….has….has anybody tried hugging the dragon?

        1. Binding via opposites only works when the critter is weak. You could probably bind a death with symbols of brutal violence, though.

        2. Sounds like dragons are too complicated for that. Since it’s made of fire as well as violent death, it doesn’t have a clear opposite.

  12. So was anyone else worried about Green Eyes there for a moment? I sure was. I do hope her face heals up though. Sounds like she lost an eye, and Green Eye doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

    Damn it, she and Blake need to be okay and have some alone time at the end of this or something.

      1. No, but damn it we love Green Eyes. And judging from his reaction when he thought she was going to die so does he. At the very least he cares about her, and in this series sometimes you take what you can get.

    1. So was anyone else worried about Green Eyes there for a moment? I sure was. I do hope her face heals up though.

      Yep, same here. Hopefully the revenant guy can share the secret on how he goes about healing himself after this, given how blase he was about having had his face burned off, assuming that the practicioners in their group can’t come up with some sort of magical solution to the problem that doesn’t involve demons.

      1. If they bring down the dragon, Evan bathes in & drinks its blood, Green Eyes eats its flesh & Blake takes its bones.

        The power boost should be enough for them digivolve to a higher stage:-

        Evan (In-Training to Rookie)
        Blake (Rookie to Champion)
        Green Eyes (Rookie to Champion)

        But consider the fact that the Giant is the dragon’s Master, taking him down will be a much tougher prospect; even worse when both are attacking in sync.

  13. Here’s what going to happen. Blake is going to go assault the dragon and cut it open, bathe in its blood, and use the Abyss as a power source to turn into the the Abyss Dragon. Or Molly gives him a power-boost, seeing as she’s the only Lesser God in town.

    Then a fight to the death, Dragon Age Inquisition style. And after he kills it, he shoves its heart into his chest and become even more badass….

    1. Well shit, I just realised that killing the dragon may not be the brightest idea after all. Dragonslaying would likely generate immense bad karma given how Sigurd & Cadmus’ lives turned into utter crap after they did it.

      1. that was about the treasure though. the treasure was what fucked over fafnir enough to get gutted by some random jackass in the first place

  14. I hadn’t really made this connection before but the parallels between Pact and Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” are striking.

    “I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram/on a silver black phantom bike”

    “And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell”

    “There’s evil in the air and there’s thunder in the sky/and a killer’s on the bloodshot streets”

    It continued this chapter with

    “Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun”

    “Breaking out of my body/and flying away/like a bat out of hell”.

    I can only conclude that, like a bat out of hell, Blake will be gone when the morning comes.

  15. I love Wildbow’s writing. I love the action, the world building, the description. The characterization.

    But for the last little while something has been nagging at me in the back of my mind. Pact was missing something compared to Worm – and I figured it out. There’s no sense of peril.

    When characters died in Worm there was a sense of human loss. And there was a cost for survivors. Blake dies and comes back, burns and rebuilds. It is hard to feel sympathy.

    In theory we should care about his human friends but honestly they aren’t “on camera” enough to empathize with and the practitioners are all manipulative jerks.

    So I kind of read this with the same mentality I did Transformers as a kid. I enjoy the characters and action, but with no sense of threat. Whatever happens is entertaining but not tragic.

    The exception is the stuff Padraic does to Mags and the Duchamps girl. That stuff was TERRIFYING. But Mags is a human being with character and has had her own chapters. And it is hard not to worry about a child. There’s a human element.

    The best I can hope for with the rest of the series is that everything gets wiped out – ordinary humans are useless against the size of everything else. And none of the characters seem interested in redemption.

    It is an excellent series but the mystical elements have kind have put it beyond human empathy and that means I’m watching for the cleverness and the entertainment – whereas with Worm I was full of hope for the characters.

  16. My bet is they kill the dragon, and Blake uses the corpse to improve his body – he would look pretty much like the Drains’ vision of him if he were covered in dragon hide.

    And it would deal with his inflammability problem…

    1. the drains version of him evolved wings from a cloak made of “the dragon”‘s hide(sleeping greater goblin) didn’t it? iirc thats why he decided against plan “death from above” after waking up

      1. dragon is a glamored sparrow, fire is all in their heads..just gotta shake it off. thats why it seems more real than actual fire

        (the blake and greeneyes seen here are currently elves playing a role and that just leaves 2 unaccounted for stuck in the group somewhere

    1. beat him with a lead pipe, drive iron rivets though all his limbs, and chuck him in an industrial garbage compacter, turn it on, stay to watch, and bury it in thermite powder and light it off with a magnesium starter. im pretty sure molten/ burning iron would be harmful for one of his ilk.

  17. Got to love a dragon showing up, plus it’s stature feeling appropriate.
    Dragons are calamity made manifest, they can be beaten. As it is said, even dragons die…
    but…people forget for every George the dragonslayer, that same dragon killed ten-thousand hopeful and truly heroic opponents.

    Just showing up and playing the role of the hero who finally slays the beast is not enough. It’s necessary, but not enough. As most people who face a dragon run or try that tack, and most who fight a dragon die. In a way a snarl is an entirely appropriate way to describe a dragon, they break the story. Everyone knows how the story goes when the noble hero faces the beast. but against the dragon stories die on their feet.

    1. remember, a lot of the stories have many brave warriors die, only for some unknown to manage a desperate victory

  18. I am rather worried about how they’re having so much trouble already, when they haven’t even started going after Johannes’ demesne.

    I still have no idea whatsoever how they intend to actually deal with that. The only trait we’ve seen so far is spatial warping, which would let him simply remove all paths that let an attacker reach him, or amplify it to separate groups of attackers. And that’s probably not all it can do. While some of the Others might be able to do something like Blake’s mirror jumping to bypass that, I doubt they have enough of them.

    Now, the Barber can bypass Demenses, but aside from being a monstrously bad idea in a huge number of ways, I’m still not sure that would work. Faysal is normally outmatched, but with his master empowering him within the Demense that could very well change. Then there’s whatever is in there and the minor issue that Johannes is a practitioner and Barbarotum can be bound/bounced.

  19. again with the mutating and form change. does blake know people generally keep any body for longer than a month? his don’t seem to last the week. hes only had this one for what…8hrs?
    also you bastard, took one of green’s eyes and setting her on fire. (least it wasn’t evan this time since they don’t have the magic right now to run with it)

    1. He doesn’t even really have a crotch anymore. Not one that needs to be hidden for decency’s sake. So no, I don’t believe so. (I think it poofed out of existence when he entered the effigy)

      1. On the other hand the Spirits might be fond of the Monster Modesty trope. And god knows Wildbow has described enough monster Junk in this series already.

        Heh, we also had talks about wether or not he’d be able to “perfom” for Green Eyes a few chapters ago. Probably there is something like the 34th rule of magic that means yes he can.

  20. MUHAHA. Did you see that traffic spike Wildbow? That’s right it was me. Two whole clicks from my site over just a 24hr period. You’re welcome XD. Great chapter by the way, very interesting. Thanks a ton :).

  21. “Dragons are… they’re sometimes called snags, or recursive loops, or um, shoot, can’t remember the word.”

    Quines? That’s the first thought that came to me when I read the later description.

      1. Well, in a sense it already is an ouroboros, though it’s certainly worth a shot if you can make it try that.

        Hmm. Let’s say that a dragon is some sort of magical quine, or manifested by something similar to a quine. The “spirits” (or whatever mediates magic) act as an interpreter, for the purposes of this metaphor, and the dragon’s “source” (ritual, spell, artefact, whatever) invoked something that continually reinvokes itself, and in the process renews the dragon.

        One way to break the cycle based on that would be to introduce an anomalous element into the system. Like any program, quines can be fragile. Generally, if you change the source of a program arbitrarily, there’s a good chance you’ll change the semantics or even introduce a syntax error. If your program is a cleverly-written quine, there’s a good chance that even if the code still executes, the changes might change its self-representation sufficiently to break it this cycle or the next.

        So, um, now, all we need is some way to inject a foreign element into an extremely powerful, meticulously crafted force of nature. Not sure that’s even possible… Though maybe Molly could? She was able to directly influence Blake and some Others, and it looks like she might be getting power from an as-yet-unseen player. If she could impose herself upon the dragon strongly enough, there’s a chance she might corrupt its source code and bring the process grinding to a halt.

  22. I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone mention the Time Knight as a potential counter to the dragon. I mean, c’mon. There’s a knight, and there’s a dragon. They are on opposing sides. Wouldn’t karma force them together?

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