Sine Die 14.4

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I’d committed to walking the line between human and Other.  If I felt like wings were somehow more of an appeal to my human side, despite all conflicting evidence, was that a bad sign?

I wasn’t an artist.  I wanted to be, but my memories of trying were ones of frustration.  Of false starts and disappointment and of putting two elements together and getting something other than what I’d wanted.  Alexis had turned flaws into features, and was adept at working with the mistakes of others, doing her thing with the tattoos.  Tiff, going by what I’d seen, worked in a sketchier style.  Ty, well, he made a lot of mistakes to start with, but in all the time that I’d worked on…

On painting?

I couldn’t remember what I’d actually done.

Which said a lot.  As I thought on it, I wasn’t sure I’d ever been able to remember exactly what projects I’d attempted and failed.  There was only my crude exercise in drawing the circles around the demon Ur.  Fragments here and there.

That, in turn, led me to the understanding that the art wasn’t mine.  I paused for a moment, hands freezing midway through my work.  A quiet horror, almost a sense of betrayal, but far from specific, hard to place, in terms of blame.

Had Rose experienced moments like this?  She’d known what we were for some time now.  Had she dwelt on it?  Those elements that were missing?

That dawning realization that some of the most intense, heartbreaking moments of frustration were because the other person had something we needed?

Friends.  The idea hit me.

For Rose, quite possibly, it was friends.  When she had failed to form bonds to the others, the same natural camaraderie, did she think of me?

I’d been given the desire to create, but left without the ability.  Rose had that ability.  I had little doubt.  Too useful to a potential practitioner.

The other things were things I could understand.  But this?  This felt like a slap in the face.  The cold stir of anger inside me prompted me to resume the work.  That felt more Other than human.

Or maybe it just felt more like the me I didn’t want to become.

The branches reached out and seized that which was offered, as if I were patching up a part of me that simply needed to be healed.  Wings that I’d been missing for a long time.  They made the wings twisted, gnarled.

Very quickly, I realized that it was lopsided.  I had only one arm, and the branches didn’t all match.  The wing on my left seized the stump, replacing the arm.  I panicked momentarily, trying to undo the process, but time I spent on trying to pry branches back and put the basic constructions in place for an arm gave the rest of the wings more time to develop on their own.  The branches rearranged, drew the broken extra rib from my chest to give structure and shore up areas I’d yet to find a branch for.

If I’d been an artist like Tiff or Ty or Alexis or Joel or Joseph, maybe I could have worked with it.  Tending to a garden that grew nearly as fast as I could cut, or position.  I could have worked with mistakes, developed them.

I could have made it elegant, made it fit right.

I’d studied birds at one point.  Birds had evolved from land creatures, and the first thing one had to do when understanding wings was to recognize them as fundamentally similar to arms.

The upper arm, the humerus of my wing, extending out from the gnarled spot on my back, it was thin.  Lacking support.  The elbow joint too small, weak.  The biggest problem, considering it was what the entire fucking wing depended on.  I tried to add more to it, a larger branch along the humerus, the broken end at the elbow, where I needed the joint more fleshed out.  Where, hopefully, the splinters might form the necessary elements of the joint.

Twists of wood reached out, fingers like roots or roots like fingers, and gripped the larger branch, found weak points, and splintered it.  Took it to pieces.  Carried the pieces down, like so many wriggling worms, one catching the splinters of wood as another let them fall.  Building the longer fingers I hadn’t wanted to build.  A bat’s wings, not a bird’s.

The horror I experienced was a kind I was getting a hell of a lot more familiar with, since realizing I was only a vestige, a fraction of a person.  I wasn’t, it seemed, in control of my own body.

Fuck that, I thought.

I grabbed at one bit of wood and I wrested it free from the little fingers of wood that were grasping at it, fitting it into another position.  Too little.

I used the Hyena, and I cut away at one of the fingers of wood, transplanting it up at the upper arm and elbow, where things were too thin to support anything.

Fingers began clawing at it.  The same thing as before.  Digging into the joints that had formed, breaking it down, trying to break up the larger pieces to create splinters.

I raked at the little roots and hooks of wood with the Hyena, shaving them off the arm.

My entire body, all at once, writhed.  Every branch bending, contracting, shifting position, scraping against bone.

I dropped to my one good knee.  The makeshift peg-leg scraped against sidewalk, but failed to find traction.  The strength went out of my hand, and the Hyena, staying for a moment due to the spikes that stuck through my hand, dropped to the sidewalk.

I grunted, experiencing something that quite probably would have been pain, if I still had proper nerves.

I was breathing heavily, though I didn’t need to breathe in the first place.  My eyes were open, staring at the ground, littered with smaller bits of branches I’d broken off and planned to use after.  I didn’t dare look to see what was happening.

Fuck it.  Fuck you, I thought.  Don’t you dare take this away from me.

Let me fly, damn it.  Don’t taunt me with broken wings.

To show me a vision where I had wings, to lead me to the point of tearing myself apart, replacing an arm, gouging at my humanity, then take it all away?

Even here, the Abyss had a hold on me.  Even here, it could effectively destroy me.  If it wanted to hit me where it hurt, to churn on as an endless machine of entropy, this was the way to do it.

“Show me you’re about change, not annihilation,” I muttered.  “Let me change.  Help me change.”

I felt the back of my neck crawl.

The crawling reached around to the corners of my jaw, then up to my temple, and across my cheeks.

I reached up to touch it.

Splinters, small fingers, hooks.  Scraping at my fingertips, gouging.

Slowly reaching for my eyes, reaching for my remaining flesh.

Tiny, like the legs of spiders, pincers, fish hooks, they stabbed and set themselves into the flesh that remained, around my mouth, near my eyes, at my forehead.

Then they stopped.  Waited.

Asking.  Offering.  A deal with the devil, metaphorically speaking.

Give up your face if you truly want wings.

Give up your eyes.

I could hear the dragon screech, not all that far away.

This crisis I faced was removed from a very large, very real crisis that threatened people and Others I cared a great deal about.

Do it, and you can fly.  Fly, and you might be able to do something to save them.

A question and an offer that did nothing to resolve the debate about whether the Abyss wanted ruin or change.  Or if there was even a difference between the two things.

Lose-lose.

Except I wasn’t there.  The Abyss might have had a hold on me, but I was still free.  I was a messenger, and I brought that ruin and change by nature.

“No,” I said.  “No.  You’re going to give me the damn wings, and you’re going to leave my damn face alone.  You’re going to do it, because I’m going to give you my word.  I’ll help the Abyss in a way that counts.  I’ll give you your damn meal, and it’ll be better than what you’d get by taking a piece out of me.”

I could hear the giant intone another monosyllabic word, from two or so city blocks away.  He didn’t shout, but he might as well have, given how far the sound carried.  The dragon screeched in response.  I heard the eruption of flame.

The wooden bits that had their hooks in my flesh released their hold.

Again, the wood shifted and reorganized.  Wood at the underdeveloped humerus was moved elsewhere, thinning out the long upper ‘arm’ of the wing.  The weak elbow joint got weaker.

I had the wings, but no feathers, no flesh to stretch between the fingers.

Still on my knees, eyes still on the scattered twigs and bits of wood, I reached for the Hyena.

I unbound the chain and barbed wire, and wound it around my waist and hips instead, a too-wide belt.  When that was done, I cut at the remains of my sweatshirt’s sleeve, where it was hampering the growth of the larger of the two wings.

No… the wings weren’t different in size.  There was a massive wingspan, the individual bones long, with the individual branches almost braided together, winding together like old roots.

The problem was the humerus, the elbow.  Too thin, too weak.  It threatened to snap from the weight of the wing alone, and I still lacked anything to tie the wing together.

“Come on,” I said.  “Come on, come on.”

The wood at the elbow peeled.  Knots grew, then fell out.

I sheathed the Hyena and reached out, trying to examine it, but the humerus was too long.  I had to stretch my arm out to the full length.

My thumb found one knothole, my index finger found another.

The knot that formed the wing joint at my back shifted, moving closer to the shoulder.  The humerus fit snug against my own arm, with only the sweatshirt in the way.

Reluctantly, I removed my hand and cut at that sleeve as well.

The branches at my back clawed the remainder of the sweatshirt to pieces.  Scraps.

The scraps, in turn, were carried off, dragged to their individual stations.  Stretched.  The membrane of the wings.  As the individual branches settled into position, they reinforced the wings.  Almost forming musculature.

I sheathed the Hyena yet again, and grabbed at the elbow joint to help hold up the wing before the added weight could break it.  Fingers into the knotholes.

Wood creaked, snapped, and strained as I raised the full wing.  Longer than I was tall.  The fabric had holes in it, and thin branches crawled through it like worms, veins, or vines, to spread out and shore it up.

I flapped, experimentally.

It wasn’t enough to lift me up.

Bat wings, not bird wings.

I couldn’t take off.  Couldn’t fly.  The twigs I’d been staring at on the ground were gathering at my feet.  Giving more substance to my peg leg, so it was more of an actual leg.

I could almost imagine the Abyss mocking me, making the twigs give me the foot I needed as I ran, my wings extended behind me, fingers close together, to reduce drag.

I was still light.  Almost lighter, given how the individual components of my body had rearranged.  I hadn’t added that much material to myself.  It was very possible the wings were fragile.

My body continued changing, rearranging, even as I ran.  Finding a better configuration, strengthening my new foot.

Settling.

If I’d accepted the seal of Solomon, where would I stand now?  Would this be possible?  Would I have needed to go this far, or would I have proven more durable?

I could see the scene.  The giant was in the middle of it all, standing in flames, while the dragon perched on a building just behind it, looking down.

Flames all over the street had frozen in place.  Snow had been stirred by the dragon’s flight and giant’s movement, given permission to fall, until it froze again, and there was a slight haze at the street, from the smoke and snow that had settled further down.

Every movement stirred time back into action.  It made smaller actions more obvious, in a roundabout way.  Everyone left a trail for others to follow.

I could see where others hid.  Ground level, inside buildings and shops.

It wasn’t anything that would help.  Not like this.  We’d run out of time.

The moment of truth.  Borrowing a technique from the dragon.  I ran, leaping onto the trunk of a car that had been knocked further into the street, then set foot on the roof of the car.

I leaped, wings extended, and flapped, bringing the wings down hard.

The fire was stirred into life.  Hot air reached me, rising beneath the wings.

I didn’t erupt into flame, which was fantastic.

I didn’t plummet into the fire, either.

The problem was with building momentum.  My wings carried me forward, but they didn’t carry me higher.  I had to flap again to bring the fire to life, to stir the air into action once again beneath my wings.

If anything, I was losing height, inch by inch.  Failing to rise, even with the momentary benefits of each wave of hot air.

I tested my ability to turn, fractional movements of my arms.  Being able to stay very still was a benefit.

Testing my ability to fly, or to glide, while literally above a trail of fire was perhaps not my smartest move, but I didn’t have any fast routes to high places.  Elevators wouldn’t work with time stopped.

I heard the sound of crumbling masonry.  Looking to the source of the sound, I saw that the dragon had noticed me, and now clutched the wall, looking down, tensing muscles.

The act of looking very nearly made me tilt off course, off onto pavement that was spread with snow, ice, and little dots of flame where flaming spittle had touched it.  I righted myself, flapped, struggled.

I was still losing altitude, perilously close to actually touching the flames, I looked ahead.  Traced the paths the flame painted.

More fire was better.  It meant more heat, more air rising.

If I could fly over it, rather than straight into it.

The most fire, as it happened, was beneath and around the giant’s feet.

It posed a problem of sorts.  Go for it, and risk being crushed even if I had to throw myself to one side to avoid the flames, or give up on this attempted flight?

I went for it.  My wings moved, wood creaked and threatened to snap altogether, and it got worse as the warmth of the fires I was stoking into life made my body dry out.

The dragon leaped down, wings spread.

The giant lowered his chin to look down at me, ice cracking and falling from where it had frozen in clumps at his beard.

In the time it took to fall the two and a half stories to the fire, I almost managed to reach his foot.

The fire blazed.  Already active, without need for a beat of wings to animate it, the hot air waiting.

The dragon hit ground, close, and the impact stirred air.  Air, in turn, caught my wing, and knocked me off course.  Away from the heat and upward draft.

Acting on instinct, I changed course, aiming for the fire at the giant’s heel, so the leg would be between me and the giant.  In the doing, I very nearly sailed headlong into fire.

A change in the angle of wings, flapping-

Altitude.  Ten feet, twelve, fifteen.

I stalled.  I wasn’t an expert in flying.  There was only instinct, luck, and a scarce bit of know-how.  The angle was wrong, the hot air sliced past my wings instead of catching them, and I paused, riding the residual current.  All at once, I dropped, straight for the flames.

I stuck out one leg, dragging my foot against the giant’s leg, spread my wings once again, and tried to catch the fire.

Still sailing down toward it, albeit at an angle, now.

Another shift of angle.  Wings spread until the joints almost hurt.

I caught the hot air once more, just as I threatened to run out of fire, sailing past the giant and toward a dim, cold section of street.

I turned, instead, one wing dipping low, a perilous one foot away from dancing tongues of flame.

Small grace that the wingtip there was bone, not wood.

I turned, I stopped descending, angled each wing, and rose in a lazy spiral, around the giant’s leg.

I was graced with a glimpse of the bristling dragon, mouth wide, teeth on display, fire leaking at the corners of its mouth.

I was forced to close my wings as I passed between the giant’s thighs, back brushing the bottommost section of his sewn-hide kilt, and flapped more to try and hold on to my altitude after.

The dragon watched.  Aware, tensing to lunge.

The giant turned, and I was at the same height as his hand, where it rested just beside his thigh.

Unable to rise.  Dragon waiting to leap at me and snap me out of the air if I dropped.

Something told me I wouldn’t be able to simply dodge it by changing course.

I could only hold position, waiting and watching.

The giant’s hand came around.  A little bigger up close than I might have anticipated, cupped and ready to simply catch me.

I flapped again, pushing myself back, away.

And a little bird rose up, spiraling up around and past me as I’d spiraled up and past the giant’s legs.  Giving me a push.

The hand passed beneath me.

I flapped, Evan flew around me.

I rose, scaling higher, past the giant’s elbow, shoulder, and then past his head.

One large, dark eye peered at me, following me as I ascended.

“Hahahahaha,” Evan cheered. “Yes!

The giant, below us, dropped to one knee.  The movement down into the fire sent more air up.  I rose further.

“Awesome awesome awesome!”  Evan cried out.

My eyes were on the pair below.

The giant picked up the dragon.  Large as the giant was, he still needed to get both arms beneath the dragon to raise it up, cradling it.

It snapped at him, and he batted at its head with the fingers of one hand in rebuke, two fingers sealing the dragon’s mouth shut.

Evan’s movements, flying around me, passing beneath me, gave me a push here and there to stay aloft.

Can’t fly without help, I thought.

The thought of help made me think of the others.  I could see their hiding spaces.  The areas the dragon had attacked.  The broken shop windows, the shattered doorways.

A lot of damage done, individual elements adding up to make it that much more likely that people would ‘what the fuck’ out of Jacob’s Bell, the moment they woke up.

Giving reality less traction.  A bit of a story, and the place would disappear into a sinkhole, or something.  The news might not cover it, and Jacob’s Bell would be lost.  The records of it existing simply finding their way into dusty corners and wastebins.

But that wasn’t my focus, exactly.  My focus was on the dragon, and the sheer power it wielded.

I needed to stop it.

A sparrow and a wooden man with wings fighting a duo that had no doubt been together for a very long time.

“Yes, yes, yes!  Hahahaha!  Love the wings!  Best call you’ve ever made!”

Ho!”  The giant proclaimed.

Firmly gripping the dragon, he hefted the Other.  Legs straightening, arms going overhead, the giant hurled the reptilian beast skyward.

I closed the fingers of my wings, but didn’t draw them close to my body.  I pulled my fingers free of the elbow, and did what I could to hold the wings in position.  I drew the Hyena as I dropped, straight for the dragon, the giant, and the flames.

“Worst call!”  Evan shouted, from his position far above me.  “This is worst call!”

It was a fall, or a dive, or both, or neither.

Straight for our opposition.

For a dragon the size of a one-car garage.

It bared its teeth.  Ignited spittle filled the air behind it.

Head arched back, not to spit, but as part of a greater movement.

Wings spreading, to guide it, to slow it’s ascent and its fall both.  Foreclaws raised.

Between the claws at my five and seven o’clock, and the fanged mouth at my twelve, I didn’t have much room to escape.

I ignored the instincts that told me to go for the spread wings that spread out to fill the rest of the ‘clock’ between twelve and five, and twelve and six.  Too easy.

I unfurled my wings, grabbing at the weaker humerus with the hand that still held the Hyena, letting the spikes on the handle snag at the wood and give me traction, helping to anchor the hand in place.

With the help of the wings, I changed direction.  Heading for the five o’clock position, on this vast span of death and scale and destruction that had unfolded beneath me.  For the claw.

When I’d nearly reached the claw, I shifted direction.  Re-angled my wings, hauling the right one to one side, a sharp turn.

My leg got caught.  The tip of one claw touching me at the knee.  Tearing right through, forcing another swift change in direction, one I hadn’t planned so much.

Tumbling head over heels, trying to get my wing in position, I passed the dragon.

I’d hoped to veer for the wing membrane, to slice it and leave the dragon immobile.

Now there was only the giant and fire below me.

I saw all of the typical weak points writ large.  Eye, throat, the bulging vein along one arm, that might have been an artery.  Most parts protected by skin that might have been as thick as my forearm was long.  Thicker than the Hyena was, at any rate.

Touch a giant and people will come after you, I thought.

I focused on orienting myself, on stopping myself from falling, getting to the point where I was gliding again.

I didn’t have time to sheath the Hyena.

I dropped it, and seized the wing again.  Fingers became part of the elbow joint once more, and my arm reinforced the wing.

The Hyena dropped, sailing down.

It landed point-first at the point where the giant’s hairline, at the very top of his forehead, sinking as deep as the now nonexistent hilt.

Now able to use both wings to the fullest, I controlled my descent, slowed it.

Removing my hand and folding my wings in one singular motion, I seized the handle of the Hyena.  Even my weight wasn’t enough to drag the blade through the great Other’s forehead.

It remained where it was, and I remained where I was, one hand on the blade, intact foot braced on the forehead, wings folded and head hanging.

To either side of me, the giant’s arms slowly rose.

Not in response to me.  Cupping his hands.

“What in the what are you doing!?” Evan shouted.

I looked up at him, just now arresting the dive he’d made to follow me.

“Help,” I said.

It took me two tugs, but I pulled the Hyena free.

“With!?” Evan said.

I worried that my instincts were wrong, or that they were right, but the need for a second tug had cost me time.  That I wouldn’t be able to manage even if I did everything right.

Then I saw the others.  Running westwards.

With that, I knew that it couldn’t be too bad.

Even if I failed, they’d manage.

The Hyena came free of the giant’s forehead, slick with blood.

All in one motion.  Sheathing the Hyena, seizing the wing.  My legs pushed off and away from the giant.  My body twisting so my wings could go out to either side, flapping while level with the ground.

Evan caught me, gave me more height, to make up for the lack of momentum.

With the height, I could swoop.

“Oh,” Evan said.  “Oh bananas!

The dragon descended, just in front of us.

Landing in the giant’s cupped hands.  Foreclaws extended to grip the giant’s forearms.

It was heavy.  Even with the difference in size, and the giant’s monumental strength, it wasn’t easy for the giant to hold the beast’s weight.

Arms dropped with the weight, as the giant adjusted.  The impact stirred the air, and I veered to one side.

A sharper swoop.  Timed so the dragon was only just landing, still adjusting.

Flame boiled in its mouth.  The mouth, in turn, yawned open.

I dove straight for the thing, aiming for the point just over its shoulder.

Teeth snapped shut, a few feet from me, missing thanks to the awkward position, the bob of the giant’s hands.

Flecks of dragon’s fire showered the air.

I flew through the flames, over the dragon’s shoulder, and folded my wings.

It wasn’t the Hyena, though I didn’t deny that the blade might have played a part, sheathed in the coil of goblin chain around my waist.  But the chain had barbed wire, there were sharper elements to it, and I had momentum.  I scraped along the length of the softest, most vulnerable area on the dragon that I’d been able to make out, the membrane of the wing.

I spread my wings, catching myself, and I flew, away and toward the others, as the dragon reared back, one wing shaking violently, balance lost.

The giant caught it.  Held it, drawing it closer.

I thought he might have rebuked it for snapping once more, as Evan and I flew away.

Neither giant nor dragon followed.

Winning wasn’t in the cards, in this particular fight.  But a one-for-one, injury-for-injury, wasn’t so bad.

“Oh man,” I could hear Evan, as he kept me aloft.  “Oh man, it’s going to be so hard to keep you alive, now!”

I shut my eyes, feeling the cold air rush past me, even through me, through the holes in my body.  The grit in my hair broke off and flicked against my wings, and extra bits of wood that had taken too much abuse were now breaking away.

I could feel the strain in my shoulder and elbow.

I couldn’t fly forever.  I could barely fly at all without Evan’s help.

I eyed the group below, and I knew I’d have to land.  Patch myself together.

But, even if it was assisted, even if it wasn’t perfect, I allowed myself to fly just a little longer.  If nothing else, it would help with navigating the mess of trees that lay before us.

Off to the witch’s hut, I thought.

Trying not to think about what she might have set up to protect herself, when things were as bad as they were in Jacob’s Bell.

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136 thoughts on “Sine Die 14.4

  1. “No,” I said. “No. You’re going to give me the damn wings, and you’re going to leave my damn face alone. You’re going to do it, because I’m going to give you my word. I’ll help the Abyss in a way that counts. I’ll give you your damn meal, and it’ll be better than what you’d get by taking a piece out of me.”

    Oh no, you did not just do that.

    Also, hey, turns out Blake didn’t exactly get everything that counted in the split either. Maybe he should have anticipated it with his skill at seeing things com- wait, no, he doesn’t have one of those.

    1. I’m sure that nothing bad could possibly come of this.

      Although honestly Blake is already feeding the Abyss with most of his actions. This is more collecting on built-up good will with a promise of more.

      1. Actually, I expect that the Abyss is basically going to demand he ensures that someone who wouldn’t fall in if the town went goes there, whether the town does or not. Unless Alister’s in a much better position than it looks like, the Abyss could easily get that to happen by just letting Blake fail.

        I’m expecting it to demand Johannes or Faysal.

          1. Except Blake specifically promised that it would get a better meal with this deal than it would have gotten by taking a piece out of him, and he did so by actually swearing an oath and risking being forsworn. So it gets to demand Blake give it a bigger meal than the town if it could get that by taking his heart, which is after all a piece of him.

            Granted, that would require the Abyss to actually call on the oath, but there’s no way Padric would miss that detail. And it would be entirely in keeping with history for the Abyss to tell Padric about this.

            1. Granted, at the moment Blake doesn’t have an actual heart. But I’m sure that there’s some component that would remove him from the field if it got eaten.

            2. I’m sure that there’s some component that would remove him from the field if it got eaten.

              I don’t think there is actually. The way I see it, Blake’s not an Action Boss where you need to find the weak point to defeat him. He’s the jrpg whose hp needs to be taken to 0 but has a weakness top fire.

              I imagine that unless he’s totally trashed, Blake can recover, given some wood and bones.

            3. I think it would still be bad if his spine were removed. Pretty difficult to track down a replacement without one.

            4. I’m pretty sure Blake can be no more forsworn than Peter or the Revenant. At the moment he is not bound by the Practitioner Ritual or the Seal of Solomon.

            5. I expect him to tell the Abyss to get fuck itself and accept the consequences. Because actually working for the thing is wrong on so many levels.

          2. Remember Nega, he DOES try to maker a Habit of being truthful when possible. you’d think that’d give his words/ actions more weight, being a being who can easily lie, but chose not to, instead of following a Geas and twisting his words into a pretzel like one of the Fae

            1. He’s honest because it carries more weight, which is probably the reason the Abyss agreed to their deal. He’s been good with his word, so it probably thought he could deliver on that.

            2. Though I have to wonder what Blake plans on feeding it, cause he sure as hell isn’t going to feed it the town.

    2. I think y’all are looking at it too narrowly. Blake’s ultimate goal is to kill [i]the system[/i]. Even a limited success there has got to be worth, like, so many faces.

        1. Tragic twist: Abyss is part of the system, so when Blake feeds it to itself, a new dragon is born.

          And that dragon’s name is Simurgh.

  2. So he has Wings like a Falcon from Captain America?

    And the Abyss is like a ruthless Loan Shark. “Sure, I’ll give you those wings. But it’ll cost you your eyes. Or you can try to use some broken ones and hope to save your friends. “

    1. Everyone keeps saying Blake is turning into Batman. But he clearly doesn’t want bat wings, but bird wings. And his sidekick is Evan, who is a bird. Now Evan needs to get the codename “Avenger” and Blake needs to learn to be powered by the sun, and Blake can be Birdman!

            1. Ah, but Robin has never done any of those. And much like Evan, Avenger was constantly saving his masters ass. And Blake did once invoke the power of a primodial god of light, and Birdman invoked Ra, who is the primordial egyptian god of light.

            2. Batman was reforged through murder and suffering. Evil. Blakeman invoked the power of a FALLEN god of light. There’s a rather famous being associated with light and evil who dwells in an underground place of torment. Can’t remember his name at the moment.

              Batman seems like a better fit to me for one other reason. Birdman gets a happy ending. Batman usually does not. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t see future Blake and Evan skipping through the daisies.

            3. The Lawyers were trying to get Blake to sign up at one point though…

              And Golden Age Batman could get a happy ending. Married to Catwoman, and a daughter. Siver Age Batman was actually compitaint in making Gotham not a giant shithole. Silver Age Batman could save an alternate reality version of himselfs’s parents and still inspire alternate Bruce Wayne to one day become Batman.

        1. Batman has a sidekick that is named after a bird.

          Birdman’s sidekick is a bird. And Blake wants bird wings which Birdman has. So obviously Blake wants to be Birdman.

          1. Technically, Blakeman has wickerwork bat wings. And he wants to strike fear into his enemies’ hearts.

            Oh! And he comes from a wealthy family and is self educated. No law degree.

            1. Actually it occurs to me there is another character Blake resembles. A supernatural being made out of plant matter who realizes he was never actually the human being he thought he was. Could Blake be Swamp Thing?

              Anyways Batman is getting overexposed these days.

  3. Aaaand Blake just crippled a dragon and stabbed a giant in the forehead… I can’t decide if he’s being stupidly brave or just awesome at this point.

    I loved where he got to fly with Evan though. Except for that whole promising to help the Abyss thing, the wings really were pretty dang cool.

    1. Blake did’nt clip the wings of the dragon, the Barbed Chain Goblin did. He did’nt stab the giant either, the giant accidentally lobotomised himself walking onto the path of killer litter.

  4. So now there’s a legitimate reason for Evan to gain fire powers. He can give Blake Hot Air to fly!

    Blake did pretty well. I’d like to see rematches between current Blake and Letita, Pauz, Conquest The Mad Rabbit, and/or Blake’s other early foes. Blake’s a much more effective fighter now, though he does have more obvious weaknesses.

    Did Blake just bind himself to act as an Agent of the Abyss in a meaningful fashion? In the words of Scott Pilgrim: That’s Eeeevil

    He is the Vengeance. He is the Knight. He is BLAKE!

    #EvanBeingAwesome

    1. “It landed point-first at the point where the giant’s hairline, at the very top of his forehead, sinking as deep as the now nonexistent hilt.”

      Seems like there’s a clause missing from this sentence. “Where the giant’s hairline” what?

  5. You know, I’m still wondering why he’s worried about people coming after him for attacking the Giant. He’s bound to the Abyss, which wants him to keep acting like an agent of change like the hook-man, Johannes is already after him, and he’s flammable. People are already coming after you, may as well make it count.

    1. It does seem unusually forward-thinking of Blake. I’m thinking that it’s just one of those things that’s been done for so long that it’s engrained into the fabric of the universe, and of course Blake is especially susceptible to such things.

      1. Uummm….Blake seems especially resistant to these things.
        See also:
        co-operating with Rose when having minimal excuse to do so,despite distrusting her by nature
        Trying diplomacy rolls with Rose even though its his nature to attack them
        Trying diplomacyrolls withe EVERYTHING even though its his nature to be aggressive.
        Killing the karma dude
        Exiting the Abyss with minimal possible damage.

  6. So at this point Blake is physically composed of Wood, Bones and Face (but not the death match kind). Blake would visit a Natural History Museum (they have those in Canada, right!) And pick up some Pterosaur wings.

    1. Unfortunately, all the ones they have on display are fake. And I think taking non-human bones might be bad for his humanity, discarding his human form like that was already bad enough.

  7. If Blake’s gonna be using the Abyss for now on, he should learn to do that scourge thing where he temporarily distorts local space into becoming Abyss.

    Just imagine, some Practioner is trying to stop another from harming Innocents. From the sky, Blake swoops down and grabs her. She hears “I see that you’re a monster.” The space around Blake and the practitioner distorts and a few moments later the Practitioner is gone, stuck in the abyss.

  8. Wow, the pacing in this one is spectacular. I absolutely tore through it. There were a few parts where it was hard to figure out exactly what was going on, but that didn’t really matter because it was so cool!

    1. I found the wings and repair part very hard to understand. The pacing was great, though, which actually made it more aggravating to read, as the tension was pounding, and I could not figure out what Wildbow was trying to say.

  9. Really enjoyed the process of the wing building. Especially this line:

    Let me fly, damn it. Don’t taunt me with broken wings.

    Wow. Strong stuff, and even worse with context.

    I am now dying to see fanart of Blake’s wings.

    Seriously, though, I can’t take this. nothing goes right, and if something goes right, well, off to the ancient evil child killing witch’s house, dearies! 😀 No time to waste!

    I miss characters being happy and not in constant danger. In all serious, I don’t think if could read this anymore if it weren’t for Evan.

    Someone wrote #EvanBeingAwesome higher up. I’m almost tempted to launch a campaign to try to get that trending…

    1. I miss characters being happy and not in constant danger.

      Yeah! Like remember when. . . actually, I don’t remember that part of the story. When was that? Seriously, Blake was attacked by Homonculi in chapter 2.

      1. Well, uh… Blake had that one dream during the Conquest fight where he was happy… Even if it was shattered soon thereafter. And Evan has fun playing video games? And Green Eye is happy, though to be honest, her standard of happiness is a bit inhuman. See? This story is practically oozing happiness.

      2. Yeah, it would have been nice to have some chapters just getting to know the characters, or see them going about their daily life, without them either being in a crisis or clearly about to go into one. I just find that it’s good to get to know the character when they aren’t in mortal peril once in a while. Sometimes a day in the life of Clark Kent, or finding out how Batman gets everything into the Batcave can be just as interesting as Superman stopping Lex Luthor’s giant robot, or Batman finding out the Joker killed a bunch of people before he could stop them. And add depth to the characters.

        1. I am suspicious that the issue is that if Blake ever has downtime we’ll discover that he’s actually really shallow in personality, due to anything that’s not immediately useful for the goal of “hit things with swords and then die horribly” having been partitioned into Rose. Perhaps Blake is more the blank slate rather than Rose…his commentary this chapter is especially damning in that regard. He thinks that she’s unable to form friendships, can’t even accept the possibility that she cares about their friends. You can practically see the wheels turning to justify murdering her to get the ability to paint.

          1. I don’t get that impression. That cold anger didn’t seem aimed at Rose (for once). More at the universe at large for taking that away from him.

            Sure, Rose has the ability, now. But, she doesn’t have the burning wish to use it or enjoy using it. Which is worse? Wanting to do something, but finding you can’t any more? Or having a talent, but never being quite able to realise you had the capacity to enjoy it, once?

            I really can’t decide which is the emptier place to be. 😦

            1. I see the damage done to both Rose and Blake much like a stroke patient or other forms of brain damage. Often, the brain will route around damage and figure out ways to restore some level of function. Blake’s creativity was destroyed by the split, but as this chapter and his most recent encounter with Ur show, he still has the actual capability to be creative in some respects. Rose was left without friends, but she’s started to fill in the gaps in her social life as time goes by. It pretty much is a tabula rasa situation in a lot of regards for the both of them. However, this rather forces them to fill in the gaps with non-mutual experiences, forcing that divide the Barber started even farther. They are pretty much irrevocably distinct entities as a result.

            2. Though it might be interesting If at some point Blake gives all that is still human in himself to Rose to strengthen her, leaving him nothing but an empty boogeyman.

          2. But Blake can create art. He did make the new bindings for Urr. He’s just not good at it. So it’s not that Rose can’t make friends, it that she sucks at it. And Granny Rose didn’t give Rose the friends, Blake got those. Blake didn’t just get stuff for making him a warrior. He got all the stuff Granny Rose didn’t want her perfect heir getting. And I don’t get where you see “You can practically see the wheels turning to justify murdering her to get the ability to paint.” in his thoughts. When Blake thought Rose wasn’t real, but she was stuck in the mirror, he wanted to help her get out, and to introduce his friends to her.

          3. shallow in personality, due to anything that’s not immediately useful for the goal of “hit things with swords and then die horribly” having been partitioned into Rose.


            got it backwards, blake is the pile of tailings after rose got everything a good heir should…if the rubbish pile happens to have been exaggerated in certain ways to shape it to hit things with a sword and try not to get fractured by casual physical contact so much the better

          4. I see you irrationally hate Blake,and try to twist everything to make him seem worse.My wmg is now that you are Behaim.

  10. Well bat wings are more efficient than bird wings, also more versatile. If Blake had bird wings he probably wouldn’t have been able to make half of those maneuvers, not to mention how how he wouldn’t have had the bat wing-fingers to hook his sweater-membrane onto. Maybe the Abyss was just doing him a favor!

    1. As a bogeyman, scary bat wings literally pay for themselves. Leave the fluffy feathery stuff to your plucky sidekick, Blake.

        1. he can still add feathers(predator dream blake had feathers on the batwings and mentioned he liked that he at least had that much) besides hes got enough twigs to shoot anyway, this way he can fire all of em without compromising his basic flight

  11. As a heads up, chapter 14.3’s bottom “last chapter” button is not working.

    “Testing my ability to fly, or to glide, while literally above a trail of fire was perhaps not my smartest move.”
    Well, Blake. It is YOU we are talking about, after all. And yes, not having erupted into flames is a fantastic event!

    This is an amazing chapter, especially because will make future chapters more interesting. Also, I almost feel bad for the dragon… which had a very obvious weak point. I thought dragons were meant to be strong because they purged weakness? Or did I get that wrong?

    Finally, does anyone know why they are going after Crone? I can’t remember.

    PS. Evan! ❤ #EvanBeingAwesome

    1. Wing’s pretty much always a weakpoint on any flier. That said, cut the wing up and now you have a dragon who is highly unlikely to get bored and fly off.

      They’re going after the Crone because someone has to be behind the town being on the cusp of falling into the Abyss and it’s not any of the factions competing for Lordship. There’s only two people in town on the suspect list.

        1. Well yeah, lots of people outside of the town are on the list. I don’t think it’s the lawyers, though, seems a bit odd in light of their previous actions. I doubt they’ll really mind this outcome, but I feel like it wasn’t plan A.

        1. if blake hears voices from the dolls not sure he’d be able to not try it especially since she could probably destroy him inside her own home

  12. What, specifically was Corvidae ordered to do most recently? Now that Blake has semi allied himself (and everyone else with him) with the remnants of the Duchamp family as a whole, does that mean that Corvidae has explicit orders to screw with everyone?

    1. Our dear Crow has been working on those standing orders for decades. He’d be doing so even without Mara being in the vicinity.

      But, her and he in allied combo is… pretty lethal on everybody else’s connections to everything. 😐

    2. “I don’t trust you in the house, but we still need help. I’m betting that someone will want to see how things play out. They’ll probably assume we’re busy and they’re too tough to take out, and venture out of safer territory. Find them, distract them. Don’t hurt innocents or civilians. Only the local powers, and only those hostile to us.”

      So no one on his team is on the target list. However, they also aren’t innocents or civilians. Which means Corvidae’s orders don’t preclude collateral damage to them.

  13. I will go back and re-read this later, but I was having some trouble following the action here. I suppose it was rather chaotic action, so perhaps that was deliberate.

  14. Umm. Just how aware is the Abyss? At this point it almost seems like it could be doing all that behind-the-scenes scheming by itself.

  15. “Oh man,” I could hear Evan, as he kept me aloft. “Oh man, it’s going to be so hard to keep you alive, now!”

    Evan knows his job and he knows it well. Truly, an endless task, and one doomed to failure.

  16. Sooo… whatever happened to that body blake was carrying? It would have came in handy right about now.

    So his wings are made of drainstuff? awesome!

    WAAAAIT- did he just make an oath to the ABYSS!??! How do you even make a deal with the abyss? IT’S SENTIENT!?!?

    1. oaths can be broken it just really sucks to do so(more for blake than the drunk since hes also alienating his primary source of power rather than probably making a mad god happy enough with drama to offset things a bit)

      ..unless something really convenient and nasty pops up for him to feed down in an awesome way(and i don’t think the drains is nice enough to swallow an enemy for him) he’ll probably welch out of spite(that place is an asshole) because fuck the spirits its the right thing to do and immediately get swallowed back for round 3 as a consequence

      1. Honestly if he isn’t intending to actually follow through he should have just given up the face. No way is that worse than what’s in store for him if he breaks his oath.

      2. I wonder if he can use his wood’s habit of consuming his flesh to consume the flesh of his enemies, and entomb them in wood-cocoons. The abyss gets what it wants, in a VERY ruin-y and change-y way, and blake gets one less headache to worry about.

        Granted, it’ll probably happen to tiff or an ally, but blake didn’t plan that far ahead…

      1. Fair points

        I think, in the Pact world, we can pretty safely say everything is an asshole, to greater or lesser degrees… Mostly greater.

  17. I’d like to throw in my two cents and say that I don’t think the Abyss is sentient. At least, there isn’t enough evidence to claim that. It’s just that the Abyss can react to certain things, and can be a bastard about it.

    1. That sounds pretty sentient to me. It also understands the concept of “Leave my face alone, and I’ll get you a better meal.”

      1. One could, presumably, write a computer program that is smart enough to parse language, statistics, magic even, and act towards a goal and it need not be sentient. It might be sentient, but as far as I know, being able to reason about the world by itself isn’t sentience. It might just be a magical machine, its metaphorical engine chugging, doing what it does to bring on change.

        1. What Guy said. There’s an inherent bias against machine intelligence. We’re so used to seeing intelligence as some sort of magical spark that if people invent a machine that can do everything the human brain can, people will still be going “it’s not really intelligent”. We can’t see the bit that is conscious that has a concept of “I”. Of course, forgetting that we can’t see consciousness in humans either from the outside.

          The goal posts keep shifting for AI. Decades ago it was considered that the ability to play chess well would show intelligence. Now that has been completely surpassed it’s no longer considered a sign of intelligence. Because we understand it. And if we understand it it’s not “intelligence” it’s just processing, right?

    2. think of it like a tree. it grows. overtakes. extends to further it’s domain. churning nutrients and recycling dead flesh. but in exchange it fosters new growth. which makes Blake’s descent into his arboreal hell even more threatening: a symbol for the abyss itself.

      1. I think it’s been mentioned three times already. Maybe even four? I can’t recall anything particularly bad happening once it was used, to be honest. Which confuses me. I was expecting fire and brimstone to hail down from the heavens. And it happened very long ago.

    1. I was reading the story to my brother while we drove a few hundred miles and he’s actually said that phrase, or a variant thereof, more than three times.

  18. Perhaps it’s actually Grandma somehow pulling strings from beyond the grave. Not that she’s actually pulling them now, but things she set up ahead of time. Just in case the Behaims/Duchamps haven’t agreed to work together against Johannes, then the town sliding into the Abyss should sure motivate them to work together.

    1. …With Rosalyn’s poor understanding of human nature, that’s scarily plausible. The old common enemy scheme. But if so whatever she’s set in motion has been hijacked or grown out of control by now, if Alister (one of her direct pawns) really has no idea what’s going on…

      Actually, the thought occurs that we don’t necessarily know that Rosalyn is permanently dead. She may well have been the kind of person who figured that that “produce ghosts of yourself and live forever through them” thing was a good option…

      1. We also don’t know that Alister doesn’t know what’s going on. We know what he’s said, which hasn’t been much. Maybe he’s being very coy and playing his cards close to his chest (pun intended).

  19. I can’t count on one hand how many ways the confrontation with the Witch can go wrong. And since this is a wildbow story Murphy’s law is very much in effect. I just hope that this’ll end up better for Blake than for… well anyone else in the wildbow-verse

  20. I just realised that if Blake had any talent or skill for painting, it would have been from painting his motorcycle. One more horror for what memories he lost. 😦

      1. Then all Blake really needs to do is to break off his arm again and give it to the giant, so that the giant can finally have his own real wand! 😉

    1. The puppy mauled the boogeyman and his girlfriend. If your going to take you dog out in public, keep it on it’s leash.

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