Histories (Arc 14)

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The wind blew, pulling dry bits of vegetation from the low, rust-colored shrubs and sending them dancing over the rocky floor of the tundra.  Snowless, but frozen.  When the wind didn’t blow, it was nearly silent.  The only noise would be the shifting of the earth, reacting to the pull of gravity, the noise of dirt stirring beneath nearly still water.

The vantage point the angel had chosen wasn’t a high one, but there weren’t many options for high vantage points.

Shape wasn’t a mandatory thing for him.  He could be all things, if he needed to be, but no one form completely fit.  He wore three at the same time.  A great white bear on his hind feet, a shaggy-haired wolf, and a man, neither young nor old, with hair and beard that had never been cut.  The white of the hair and fur were so pure as to be shining.

He thrummed, though utterly still, a part of all he interacted with.  The motes of sun that touched the tundra made it reverberate like a skin stretched tight, and that reverberation reached all the way to him.

Once, he had built.  He had been a theme, spelling out a thousand narratives simply by being, like so many pens touched to an endless scroll of paper.  He inked out paths and behaviors on the broadest scale.

When man had come about, he had been reflected in man’s thoughts and behavior.  As man became intelligent, so had the angel.  He had guided man and been guided in turn, a symbiotic relationship.

Man, however, created its own demons.  Some were obvious, while others stirred in the midst of the noise and chaos and took form.  Sentiments became figures, fears took form, and in some cases, man abandoned his kind to join the storm of thoughts and ideas.  To become the monster.

The creating ended, and man took the center stage, bringing change to that steady, stable creation.  Born from chaos and noise like anything else, a chance configuration of molecules, man carried that change and chance with him.  Each movement brought change, like a stirring of dust swelling and spreading out from underfoot.

As man’s power waxed, the creators’ power waned.

Soon, man’s power would wane, and it seemed ruin would follow.

Once the angel had created.  Now, he only maintained.  He mended that which had been destroyed, and he watched as the world spiraled to an end.  A distant end, yes, but an inevitable one.

A great distance away, glaciers cracked and erupted, and they fell into the oceans.

Here, in a small inlet, the local fauna was suffering, as the salinity of the water rose.

He left the area behind, but he traveled a specific path as he did.  The creeks feeding into the inlet changed.

The fix would be slow, but it would mend itself.  A small change, compared to the damage that was being done.  At this stage, it was only man.  Only change, carrying the world from one state to another.  In time, there would be more to be done, and the changes would not be so easy.  He would go to war and he would die.

His day had passed.  Things would change, they would find ruin, and the ruins would settle.

There was no emotion at this, no concern, no anxiety.  It simply was.

People milled through the streets.  Every one different, every one a harbinger of change, given the opportunity.

Collectively, more powerful than he was.

He counted the individual faces he saw.  Four hundred and twenty thousand, two hundred and eleven unique individuals had passed along the busy street since his arrival.  Brightly dressed, drab, young, old, male, female, happy, sad.  There were the locals, their skin a rich brown, and there were the foreigners and tourists, with skin and hair covering every natural human variation, and some colors that weren’t natural.

Most moved with purpose.  All but a small few moved in straight lines, once he corrected for the small changes, moving around people or letting people move around them.

In other places, the very light of the sun striking earth and the response of the earth to the pull of sun and moon could be deafening.

Here, amid so many footsteps, a storm of being, he wondered if mankind could take him to pieces simply by going about their day.

The wind stirred his fur.  He sat on a balcony, the railing around him rusting, the paint that had once covered it now peeling.  A woman sat in the shade of an umbrella, hands in her lap, mouth wide open.  Sleeping on a warm day, oblivious to the roar of the milling humanity below her.

If she woke up, she would only see a disheveled white cat perched on the little table at one corner of the balcony.  Dirty, but with enough white fur visible to suggest it could be beautiful, if left pristine.

A small child, riding on her father’s shoulders, happened to spy him looking over the railing, and waved.

Four hundred and twenty thousand, two hundred and ninety-six unique individuals, now.

He began adjusting paths.  Alterations to space, to placement.  One change, willed into being.  A car moved one inch this way.  More room for a car to park forward, making it harder for the men coming down the street in their great garbage collection truck to enter the alley and pick up the cans there.

Some trash should remain behind, but it wouldn’t be much.  The longer-term effect would be greater.  He could return in a week and do a similar thing.  The same men were liable to keep coming for the same patrol.

The rodent population would increase, and the monsters that lurked beneath the city would be encouraged to come up for the food and the comforting presence of the rats and filth.

There was an ecosystem here that needed balancing, too.  The monsters would run aground with the local goblin population.  Both would be weak when the practitioners at the nearby church stepped in, they would be ruined, but not entirely destroyed.

In a year, the angel could return.  If the practitioners were too strong, their direction dangerous, the angel could tease them into action by stirring the pot.  Distract and weaken.

A subtle change to the pathway slowed the movement along one street, to benefit one store, and subtly alter the course of business throughout this section of the city.

A growing date tree was guided so it might grow into the surroundings, fixing it in place, a curiosity that might inspire, and perhaps lead to the tree being allowed to flourish in its unique fashion.

More small changes were made.  To enhance growth, to rein in destructive elements, and sow seeds for future possibilities.

A figure appeared, standing opposite the angel, at the mouth of an alleyway.  His skin was a deep brown, his eyes dark but gentle, but his face worn.  He wore a dress shirt with the collar unbuttoned, and had a suit jacket folded over one arm.

The angel atop the balcony hopped down, just as the old woman beside him awoke.  She startled, trying to follow him despite the disorientation of recent sleep, but he was already gone.

Already at the side of the man at the mouth of the alley.  His brother’s side.

“Harith,” the angel greeted the man.

“Faysal.”  Harith took his hand.  They walked together, hand in hand.  “What news?”

Faysal shook his head.  He used the fingers of his free hand to brush hair away from his face, then smoothed his shirt as he dropped his hand to his side.  “No news.  The world turns.”

“We’ll encourage it to continue doing so,” Harith said.

They were in the midst of the crowd now.  People milled around them.  Each one a contained storm of events, of history, and untapped potential.

It was heady, distracting, to be in the midst of this.  Harith was a source of calm in the midst of a storm.

“Humanity surges in strength,” Harith observed.  “It surprises me at times.”

“Me as well.  I’ve wondered for some time if I should encourage it or discourage it.”

“Makes little difference.”

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Faysal said.  “Assuming we want to stave off the end of things, supporting humanity could make all the difference.”

“Or we could only be adding fuel to the fire, giving them the strength they need to speed along their way to the end of their road.”

“Yes.  I’ve wondered which it might be.  This would all be so much easier if we knew.”

“It makes little difference, because we can’t and don’t know.  We must ignore humans and look to balance.  Stability.  If the demon’s destruction is analogue to our creation, then stability is the balm to mankind’s change.  The humans are strong, and have seized the reins, taken to taming wild things.  Including us.  With a little help, they’ve willingly taken to engineering their own balance.  They are best left to their own devices.”

Faysal nodded.

“The demons are strong too.  They lurk in the background of things, and perhaps they always have.  When the age of humans ends, they will be best positioned to bring about an age of their own.  I feel we shouldn’t leave them to their own devices, as we mean to do with man.”

“Yes,” Faysal said.  He laid a hand on a child’s head as she ran by.

“Two problems have arisen in one place.  I’m otherwise occupied, and you’re not.  I thought to ask your help.”

“What problems?”

“One is a demon.  It is freshly bound and may not be bound forever, as the bloodline that did the binding may now be disintegrating.  It has been called a few times, and in answering the call, it is traveling a path.  Wearing down the road, if you will.  I know paths are your specialty, gatekeeper.”

“The other problem?”

“A man.  A practitioner.  He is building something.”

“Building?  Buildings are your specialty, Harith.  The third choir’s.”

“But the building is a subtle one, and subtlety is your specialty.  He is laying the groundwork for something big, that much is clear, but here we stand, off to one side, watching and wondering how he can build so very quietly.  Or why.”

“No sound of hammers, nor sawing wood?”

“In a sense.”

Johannes glanced over his shoulder.

Two bogeymen, a foo dog guardian, a ghost, and a faerie with a great rat pelt drawn over her shoulders stood ready.

Help, borrowed, bought, and coerced.

“Now or never,” he murmured to himself.  He glanced at his followers.  “Be ready.”

There were a few nods.

He turned forward once again.  His finger tapped.  His eye reread the page on Demesnes for the thousandth time.

Drawing in a deep breath, he spoke with confidence.  “I, Johannes the piper, the sorcerer, the vagabond, hereby-”

“-Stop,” a voice spoke out, soft, almost as if it were completing the sentence for him.

Johannes turned.

The man that stood in the doorway was beautiful, slight in build, white hair and beard cut short.  He wore a gently rumpled shirt and khaki pants, and his feet were bare.

Looking at the man with the sight, Johannes could see how the man fed into everything around him.  Where other connections were straight lines, the man shimmered, as if connections tied him to every speck of dust, every splinter of wood.  When he looked, he could see connections to more distant things.  To himself.  There was no tension, no rigidity to the lines.  The rules, very plainly, were different, where this man was involved.

The gleam of the countless individual connections made the man appear to shine, in the lobby of this partially built apartment complex.  He made everything around him radiate with something just as fundamental as light.

Johannes found his pipes in hand when he reached down.

His minions stirred, tense.

“I was expecting challenges and interruptions, but not before I started the ritual.”

“The ritual starting is what concerns me.  It’s very possible you’ve made a mistake,” the shining man spoke.

“No,” Johannes said, “I don’t think I did.”

“I can see it from here.  I’m not quite aware how, and I can’t say whether it’s to your benefit or detriment, but you’re about to act, and your actions will upset the balance.  That’s enough for me to take notice.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Johannes said.

“In this case, it may well be,” the shining man told him.

Johannes spread his arms.  “I’ve invested a lot into this.  Even the timing is pretty important.  A good few of the neighbors are off on summer vacation, or off in Toronto.  First weekend of summer, after all.  Unsporting, but what are you going to do?”

The shining man made the step from the doorway into the room.  He glanced around, then paced the perimeter, studying the circle and the boy.

Johannes was only fifteen, but his demeanor was one of someone older.  His long hair was tied back into a ponytail, flush with the nape of his neck, and his face had yet to grow scruff.  A gun, a laptop, and a set of papers sat on the top of the bar.  A cheap construction of wood that put everything at chest level, without Johannes having to sit down.  The laptop screen glowed, showing the same text that appeared in the book.

“The practice is about dealing,” Johannes said.  “Everything has a price.  The trick is to skew the deal in your favor.  I don’t see how this is different.”

“It defies convention.”

“To hell with convention!” Johannes said, raising his voice.  “Who or what the hell are you to come here and dictate what I can and can’t do?”

“One of the architects of convention,” the shining man spoke.

Johannes frowned.  “Ah.”

“And, it likely goes without saying, one of the protectors of convention.”

“That’s problematic.”

“Not if you put this matter to rest,” the stranger said.  “I could destroy you, I’m being gracious enough to offer you safety instead.”

“Thank you,” Johannes said.

He grabbed the book, then threw it to the nearest Other.  The childlike bogeyman caught it.

Johannes collected his laptop and gun.

“You’re taking this opportunity to leave,” the shining man said.

“Yeah, seems like the best option,” Johannes commented.

“I’m not oblivious to the fact that you intend to resume the ritual as soon as you get a chance.”

Johannes paused mid-stride.

“Fuck,” he said.

“Now please-”

“Attack,” Johannes said.  “Arthild.”

His pet Faerie went on the attack.  Her features distorted, and she swelled in size.  A rat, big enough to fill a smaller room, hair sparse, flesh purple with the veins just beneath the surface, stomach bloated and writhing.

One of the darker faerie, a lucky find, his ace in the hole.  He’d spent four months screwing with the rat population until something took notice.  He’d expected a spirit, he’d picked up the faerie instead.  One from the winter court, the sunless court.

The shining man dodged her charge.  She was mad, frenzied, and there was a deeper instinct driving her actions.  On colliding with the wall, her bloated stomach was compressed.  Fluids and rodents spewed from her nether regions, flooding much of the room.

Johannes was already heading to the door.  He turned, laptop held to his chest, and managed to grasp at the pipes while still holding his gun.  He paused for only a fraction of a second to make sure he wouldn’t accidentally shoot himself in the head before he raised the pipes to his mouth and blew.  A tune.

He’d had to learn the pipes to use the artifact’s power.  With the tune, he was able to sway the otherwise senseless swarm of rats.  What might have been a distraction or psychological weapon became a tool.  The rats swarmed the shining man.

He pushed on the door with his shoulder blades, spun, and ran.

His Sight told him that the combined collection of faerie and rats didn’t last any longer than it took him to run the length of a city block.  The connection between the pipes and the controlled was cut by the simplest, most inevitable means.  Death.

Johannes startled as the shining man entered the lobby of the hotel that was still in construction.  He had his laptop open, and a cable stretched behind the front desk he was sitting on.

He tapped the top of his screen.  “Architect of convention?  You wouldn’t be an angel, would you?”

“I am.  You’re trying my patience.”

“You have other things to look after?”

“Yes.”

“Things of structure?  The construction of elements, convention, I imagine?”

The angel shook his head.

“Damn.”

“Okay, well, with that in mind-“

Johannes swung his legs over the front desk and shouldered his way through the door behind it.

A short hallway, a turn, passing through some double doors-

There was a flash from the room behind as the door swung closed.

A flash in front, as he passed through the double doors.

The angel waited for him in the convention room of the hotel.

“Ah,” Johannes said.

Before he or the angel could say another word, he raised the gun and fired.

The angel stepped back.  Blood welled from a hole in the abdomen.

“Your weapons of war don’t work against me,” the angel said.

“Okay,” Johannes said, backing up.  “Angels… opposite elements are strongest.  You create, bullets destroy.”

“Bullets change, they affect structure, even if that is tearing down blood, muscle, and bone,” the angel said.

“Right.  Interesting!  Learn something every day,” Johannes said.  He continued to retreat, not to the door, but to the wall.

“You’re edging toward the light switch.  I assure you, whatever you intend, it’s not going to stop me.”

“I only need to delay,” Johannes said.

He hit the light switch, one light on, one light off.

The blacklight lit up the room.

It was now lit up lines and diagrams, words in script and spots of bodily fluids that had been given to power the working.

The angel stopped, taking it all in.

Johannes ran, sprinting from the blacklit room into the hallway.

He’d set up traps and tools all around.  He’d worked it so he had this entire section of town to play around and prepare in.  At least until tomorrow.

Trouble was, he hadn’t known who or what he was up against.  If he planned too broadly, he risked something powerful simply striding through and ignoring the effect.  If he was too narrow in having certain traps for certain foes, he risked having the wrong weapon at the wrong time, or simply not having an answer to a given threat.

He’d plotted that room and that trap with that in mind.

The binding wasn’t for the enemy.  It was for the bullet, which he had gone to great trouble to give a name.

The angel was free.  Nine brief meetings to date, nine skirmishes.  He hesitated to assign labels to beings as powerful and abstract as this angel was, but he was pretty sure that it was pretty close to getting pissed.

Around the fourth encounter, he’d stopped trying to start up the ritual and resigned himself to being chased.  His pursuer could travel anywhere instantaneously and couldn’t be delayed for long.  It was very possible the pursuer simply knew where he was.

But with that knowledge and the dogged pursuit, Johannes had formed a hunter-hunted connection with the angel.  He had a sense of where the angel was, and what tricks were working better than others.

Most were inducted into the practice as they entered puberty.  Johannes had been a part of it since birth.  He’d inherited it, and he’d inherited very little else.

He’d seen the good, he’d seen the bad, and he’d seen the ugly.

He’d done practitioners and others an awful lot of favors, and collected scraps of knowledge in pay.

He had, in a roundabout fashion, grown to loathe the status quo.  He’d found his mission, and very recently, he’d reached the point where he couldn’t postpone it any longer.

Now the status quo was coming for him in the form of an angel.

He was nearly out of tricks to use.  His pockets were light.

Time for the old standbys, he thought.  Back to basics.

Blood was power.

He drew slips of paper from his back pocket, and scattered them into the air.

Each was inscribed with a name.  Vestiges of people.  Each one appeared in turn.  Imperfect.  His work in this field was better than most, but it was still crude.

Vestiges were fragile.  There was a chance this wouldn’t work.

He cut the back of his hand, and he touched the blood to each vestige’s forehead.

Of the seven, only two shattered on contact with the blood.  The rest at least looked more or less human, albeit with an eye or other feature slightly askew.

Blood was power, and if the angel was following the most obvious source…

Let them be distractions.  He only needed a minute to get set up again.

“Scatter,” he said.

“I, Johannes the bard, the sorcerer, the miscreant, hereby make a statement.  Let this be my claim.”

There was a flash of light.  The angel appeared opposite Johannes.

“I claim only those places and spirits as far as the reach of my voice,” he said.  “I claim this space and only this space.  I claim the connections here and only those connections.”

He watched the angel, tense, waiting for the attack.

The angel remained where it was.

“I name this space my demesnes, a place where convention doesn’t hold, beyond those conventions which I openly decide to be fair and right.  I claim this alone, with no bloodline of note behind me, and no intend to mark a bloodline after me.  This demesne is forfeit when I have passed from this mortal coil.”

He exhaled slowly.

“I claim this space as mine, as I dislike that which lies elsewhere.  I would return to old times, stable times, and let this place be a sanctuary, both for Others that would come here, and for myself.  For I do not like where things are going elsewhere, and I would hope to change the destination.”

“Or delay it?” the angel asked.

“…Or delay it,” he said, eyeing the angel warily.  “Let this be my challenge.  All who would deny me this demesne, declare your right to challenge me, and find me here.”

The words were ominous, and they held power.

But so very few heard, and many of the ones who did were slow to grasp their import.

Johannes had retreated to a broom closet, lit only by the glow of his laptop.  The angel was only a few feet away, looming over him.

“The device?” Faysal asked.

Johannes nodded slowly.

He worked his way to a standing position, facing the angel.

The angel reached out to touch the microphone.

Johannes spoke, “Why didn’t you stop me?”

“You’d already begun.  It was done.”

“Ah.  If you wanted to protect convention, mauling the person who tried to pull a stupid stunt is a good way to discourage others.”

“Martyring you?  I could be discreet, but I couldn’t be sure.  I’ll see this to its conclusion, first.  Some powerful beings did hear you.”

“What?  Who, where?”

“The bridge.  It’s a place where local goblins dwell.  They’re on their way now.”

Johannes grit his teeth.  He’d used up too many tools evading the angel.  He’d been forced to start earlier, rush it.  He’d wanted to be more careful with wording.

“There are others,” the angel said.  “Many will challenge you for even a small, closet-sized space.  Some Others do not want neighbors.”

“I made the speakers quiet,” Johannes said.  “Had to make it my voice, all the same.  Needed the quality to be top notch.  Should’ve been whispers, but it’s hard to test, spur of the moment.”

“Your voice was quiet, but they heard all the same.”

Johannes nodded, already weary.  The battle hadn’t started yet, and he was exhausted.

“I liked the declaration,” the angel said.  “The sanctuary.  Returning to old ways.  So much of humanity is focused on rushing forward.  Shall we discuss in the moments between your challenges?”

“Sure,” Johannes said.  “Sure.  But can we do it while moving?  Let’s get out of this closet, first.  If it’s goblins, I have things I can do.”

Johannes’ breaths were ragged.  He coughed, and he felt how one tooth didn’t quite sit right.  Probably loose, knocked ajar.

Damn goblins.

He struggled to stand, but one leg was in ruins.

Lost.

His eye had been given away to one powerful goblin, a goblin queen turned partially into a goblin.

His arm was a ragged mess, and might have to be amputated.

He sat there, the entirety of his being focused on maintaining consciousness.

“Will you stop me?” Johannes managed to ask.

“I’ll leave you be, provided you don’t disclose how you did this.”

“Yeah,” Johannes said.

“Make your claim, and then take me for your familiar.  We’ll see this happen,” Faysal said.

Johannes didn’t act surprised.  He simply sat there, a heap, bleeding.  His voice was a croak.  “Deal.”

“Finish,” Faysal pushed him.

Johannes couldn’t even nod in response.

“My last challenge met,” the sorcerer spoke, and his voice was just as raw as before, even as he found a surge of strength.  “I claim territory as far as my voice reached to the west, to the large stone tree…

“I claim territory as far as my voice reached to the southwest, to the base of the condo sign…

“I claim territory as far as my voice reached to the south, the bridge, goblin’s bridge…

The bell tolled.  Faysal watched from above.

The beings that dwelled in the abyss were emerging.  Areas were shifting.  Quite interesting to watch, given his vocation.  One who created paths.

He studied the practitioners.  Studied Johannes.

He felt no fondness for the man.  No fear, anxiety or worry.

But Johannes was crafty, and had been irritating enough with scraps of knowledge and meager amounts of power.  Now he had a great deal of power, and he hadn’t let his guard down, nor abandoned his canniness.

Faysal wasn’t a warrior.  He was a planner.  So long ago, he’d anticipated Johannes’ failure, and steered events so he might take advantage of it.  To deal with the demon, among other things.

As familiar, one part of a whole, he could exert his power, stretch his wings and lay claim simply by being more.

For the time being, he seized all that Johannes was, in body, mind, and spirit.

None of Johannes’ temporary companions noticed his brief falter, the stagger, the hand that went to his head, as he fought and failed to resist.

There.

The fallen house on the hill continued to sink, nearly as fast as they climbed.  If they slowed or faltered in the slightest, they might lose their chance to escape.  He was a gatekeeper, and he sat so he blocked the place that bridged the sinking house and the rest of the city.

“Stay,” he said, and the idea communicated along the loose, waving threads that bound Johannes to him.

Johannes accepted the order, and at Faysal’s bidding, passed it on to the others.

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190 thoughts on “Histories (Arc 14)

  1. Hi guys,

    New month has started, and I’ve updated the donation page. Two chapters paid for and one chapter from last month that I wasn’t able to write because I was ill.

    Donation thank yous go out to James H, Chris P, Mikolaj, Thomas, Dieter, Angela A, Daniel L, Luis N, Benedict S, Tieshaunn (Author of Brennus), Richard M, Ling B, Павлов, Christine S, Chris B, and Rhys P.

    Extra special thanks go out to Carson M, Sindre B, Laura D, Christophe R, and the ever-awesome Walter F.

    And, of course, the Patreon subscribers. I wish I could name all you guys and I totally would type out all 255 names, but the comment box won’t let me fit all of them in there.

    Thank you for having my back, guys. You’re fantastic, and words can’t do it justice. Looking forward to writing the end of Pact (which is maybe 20 or so chapters off) and start of Twig.

  2. Fucking Johannes.

    Fucking, fucking Faysal.

    Fucking… GIANT RAT THAT BIRTHS HORDE OF BABY RATS AHHHH! NOOOO!

    Speaking of giant rats, anyone else getting a Dark Souls from the cosmology here?

    1. Dark Souls cosmology is very much centered around the idea of imbalance, and I do see the similarities in that respect. However, In Dark Souls cosmology, there’s no blame laid on the humans for the evil stuff, as there is in Faysal’s version. If there’s any blame, it is laid on the Pygmy and by extension the Dark, not on the humans who find themselves becoming senile, apathetic zombies, all too willing to lash out blindly at every intruder if the cycle of undeath stretches just a little too long.

      Furthermore, the imbalance itself is shown as inferior to the peaks and valleys of what we saw in game. Foggy crags studded with identical great trees, bathed in monotonous grey light. “But then there was Fire, and with Fire came Disparity.” And that Disparity drove countless monarchs to do extraordinary things, so many that through their numbers they forged a cycle of inevitability from the remains of their kingdoms.

      1. I’m of the theory that Faeries are Goblins were once one people, a civilization that had been consumed by the Abyss. The one Genghis Khan wiped from history, perhaps? As a people, they became practitioners, and performed a working to free themselves permanently from the Abyss. Some embraced the place that changed them, and gained the power to move freely to and from. Some were ashamed of how it changed them, and used illusions to hide their mutations and create a world as beautiful as the Abyss is ugly: Arcadia.

  3. “His eye had been given away to one powerful goblin, a goblin queen turned partially into a goblin.”

    Well that sounds familiar.

      1. I can think of at least 1 lady with goblin parts that seemed Human enough to Practice, and it’s neither Maggie nor Mags

          1. The goblin leader from 2.x seems to have the skills of a practicioner. She built bridges of bones to enter the city and intended to use Maggie’s connection to Fell’s brother.

  4. Johannes was pretty cool as a kid.

    So Johannes was awakened as a child? How does that even work? How has he not broken a vow?

    I hold no hope for the Pactverse now. It seems so fundamentally broken that only the power of Wildbow could save it. I just hope Evan has a happy ending.

    1. Lies are forgiven by the ambient spirits in a few days, and an oathbreaker only losses their abilities if it’s overly called to attention. If he made the pact at a very young age, well.. I don’t see how any caretaker would call a cold an oathbreaker and leave them for the goblins and grundles.

      1. Not quite, the spirits will “get around to it” eventually if being forsworn is deserved (according to Laird’s son). Calling the person forsworn alerts and focuses the spirits so they judge and rule immediately, but if they decide an oath hasn’t been broken there’s backlash on the one who called them forsworn.

  5. Has anyone kept track of what day it is in story? I’m guessing January/February 2015. I lost track of Pact time around the time of Blake’s Erasure.

  6. Wow, so that’s how Johannes managed to claim such a large area? By claiming everything that his voice could reach, and then planting a bunch of speakers to let his voice reach a wider area? It seems so simple, now that it’s been explained!

    1. I suppose that we really should have guessed that he did it with the power of technology, since he’s got such a focus on being modern. It looks like a loophole in the standard demesne invocation, where he has to spread his voice that far but doesn’t have to across the intervening space.

      1. melding the old with the new, the tradition of magery with Modern technology. ironic the Angels want so eagerly to murder someone who stuck a perfect balance between the two.

        1. They aren’t trying to murder him. He’s just collatoral. Honestly he was never that important to Faysal beyond being a useful pawn for binding Barbie.

    2. That doesn’t exactly explain it. As I understood it, you can make a demesne claim for anything you want. You could even claim the whole planet as your demesne.

      The problem comes afterwards, namely, surviving the demesne challenge. From this chapter, it seems the only ones to fight Johannes’ demesne claim were the goblins, and not a single other Jacob’s Bell power. That, I don’t understand.

      1. He also waited until several of the powers were out of town on vacation or buisness. Thus he didn’t have as many to fight as he otherwise would have.

        The other thing I caught is that Faysal manipulated Johannes. Johannes had to burn up a lot of his allies and stuff escaping Faysal all those times. Faysal was “Balancing” things even then. If Johannes hadn’t lost so much escaping Faysal, he probably wouldn’t have been mauled as badly claiming his demense.

        1. And we used to think Faysal was cool. I really want a alternate universe version of Johannes as protagonist of his own story.

        2. Mind you, he also kind of did him a favour. A Fae from the other Court mixed with the Terrible Trio? That’s either a Kick Me sign, a recipe for a quartet and/or a backstabbing/revolt of a different order. 😛

          1. We don’t know how the two courts react to each other. Granted in this case friendly or hostile, it’s still going to be trouble.

        3. Waiting for summer vacation was particularly brilliant, because only the most ‘human’ of the Others (and the actually human rival practitioners, presumably) would leave for that. These are also the only ones likely to realize what he’s pulling. He gets all the legitimacy of challenging an area full of Others, with minimal risk those Others will actually challenge him. It also means he doesn’t have to worry as much about driving all the Others away (leaving a demesne that is more empty and thus less powerful), like happened in the Gathered Pages.

      2. That’s where the wording comes in. People heard the challenge and figured he was making an extremely localized claim. If he’d said “I claim the entire northern section of Jacob’s Bell” people would have reacted strongly.

        1. He also kept the speakers turned down to reduce the number of people who literally heard his challenge. That probably cut down on the number of less well-connected others who intervened. And it made everyone else say “he wants to claim a broom closet?Seriously? Well, I guess he can have it.”

          1. and limiting it to his own lifespan at which point it goes back to unclaimed(rather than others we’ve seen that are permanent) so some things that might otherwise have challanged even an insignificant claim on principal went “fuck it, i’ll just wait the human out”

            1. He said “as far as the reach of my voice”. His voice reaches as far as the area covered by the outer speakers.

            2. So if he was on a Skype call to the ISS, or had sent a clip of his voice on the Pioneer probe?

              Indeed, the reverberations caused by your voice carry across the observable universe so his voice reaches way further than just the speakers.

            3. The effect is as far as the spirits consider his voice to reach, which probably means where it’s vaguely audible. But yes, the Skype call and ISS plans would almost certainly work, with the caveat that his use of multiple speakers implies he thinks that simply having one wouldn’t give a sphere of radius equal to the distance. But even if it didn’t signal too much to beat in the challenge, he’d anger quite a lot of people, potentially enough that they could gang up and storm his demense. The one he grabbed is about as big as reasonable.

              Of course, part of why Faysal showed up is that someone else might be able to do it.

            4. Doesn’t the demense lend itself to power, so having one at the four corner’s of the earth or in a cone expanding up to the moon or something make you nigh unstoppable right?

              It’s interesting enough that spirits consider it “his voice” when it’s been decoded and encoded and replicated by a speaker.

            5. Yes, having a demesne that big would make you incredibly powerful, save for one thing: you have to continue to defend it from challengers, that doesn’t stop once the ritual’s over. Have fun convincing NASA to let you hitch a ride every year or so. Of course, if you have an angel of pathways or somesuch this becomes manageable.

      3. Typically, if you want to claim a town you need to enhance your voice to the point where it reaches the entire town from where you stand. Which makes your claim loud as all hell. Loud enough that even creatures from dozens of miles outside your demesne will come to kick your ass.

        But if you use microphones to make it so that your voice carries from one end of the town to the other, while never being louder than a whisper, the only ones who will hear and challenge you are the ones inside your demesne. Which would be the goblins.

        1. I think demense challenges get forwarded to people in the general area of where the demense is getting claimed. Hence why both of the previous claimings we’ve seen (Mags and Jeremy) involved the local powers swinging by. It’s possible that Johannes specifically only claiming the connections in the area disrupted the signalling system, though, or that the people who held enough authority over the area to receive demesne challenges were out of town and so didn’t get the message. And not everyone who might want to dispute his claim would necessarily learn via connection.

      4. I think the issue here is that they knew he was making the claim, but were tricked into thinking that he was claiming an insignificant little area. By waiting until people were gone, he lessens the odds that someone would realize exactly how much he was claiming.

        From what I can tell, the demense ritual informs, or at least is visible to, practitioners in the general area. But the general area seems to be much larger than the actual space being claimed, as seen when the high priest had to defend his demense from a bunch of great powers throughout the city.

        But just because they know, doesn’t mean they necessarily have to respond. Most of the humans, it seems, didn’t care to contest such a seemingly paltry claim. The ones who came were mostly the ornery sort that are usually looking for a good fight wherever they can find it.

      5. You can’t claim a space that someone else already claimed though. There will probably be a stipulation on that rule in the future.

          1. Which reminds me; Johannes declared that his demense would end with his death. That looks likely to be happening soon. When it collapses, the residents most likely either go to a nearby portion of the Abyss or somewhere in the area it overlays in the physical world. Either of those would be problematic at this juncture.

            He might have planned for that eventuality, or he might have planned to live forever. Faysal probably has a plan for it, but he also appears to have a copy of the local phonebook entitled “expendable assets”. And he’d consider throwing more live bait at The Barber precisely the opposite of a problem.

  7. I actually found this interlude quite hopeful (relatively speaking). The angels who govern creation suspect that the end is coming and humanity will destroy itself and doom universe, so they’re fighting the demons to mitigate the disaster. But they don’t know what’s going to happen for sure. Humanity as a whole has more power than the angels (and, by inference, more power than the demons as well); it could be that humanity will yet redeem itself and prevent that destruction. And what are the odds that Faysal’s betrayal is yet another one of his subtle plots? Maybe Johannes actually did convince him to try breaking the status quo to see what shakes loose.

    1. Here’s the thing. Are the angels actually right about what they believe? There are two interesting things I picked up, if I read this chapter correctly.
      1-Angels were not actually sentient before humans appeared.
      2-We didn’t get confirmation that Demon’s are fallen angels, and it seems like the Angels might not know where demons actually come from.

      1. you could also conclude that, intentionally or not, the Angels are Directly working to Aid entropy, and Thus the Demons in their own work (by extension screwing literally everyone over, which is par for the course in the setting)

        .By their Own admission, the current Fate of the universe in question is to almost inevitably fall into Entropy (in scientific terms, probably a greatly accelerated Heat-death, if you look at time form the point of creation onward instead of form our own reference points e.g 100 years being a long time)

        By enforcing “Balance”, they attempt (again, intentionally or not) to insure it does collapse. never liked the concept of balance as a major part of a setting, it usually tends to boil down as an excuse to either keep changing sides (literal stabbing in the back of your former allies is optional)whenever the nebulous “Balance” starts to shift,or whiffle around doing nothing while innocent people die. or as an excuse to do nothing while someone you are afraid of rampages virtually unchecked.

        Or claim its totally fine to use as much force lightning as you want as long as you balance it out, and we know how well THAT worked out after the vong war.

        1. It got retconned after Disney bought the franchise?

          But yeah the problem with the balance thing is what the hell is the balance supposed to be? Is the balance actually preferable to an imbalenced state? For example a the balance between a person being on fire and a person not being on fire is a person who is half on fire… And that ain’t the preferable state.

          1. for example, you could claim to be supporting “The Balance”, (with both words Capitolised), if you were around after the assassination of archduke Ferdinand, and used your powers to ensure Verdun stayed a bloody stalemate for far longer then it did in our timeline, as breaking the deadlock would give one of the sides an “advantage”.
            ive pointed out that since Entropy is WINNING, there is no balance to preserve (if you look at it form my point of view on this, anyway, its subject to interpretation), and there are so many horrific things that you can justify to maintain The Balance in many scenarios, like causing an atomic explosion( or equivalent levels of destruction) in the middle of new York to balance Hiroshima,bringing an entirely new and highly virulent disease into existence and setting it loose to balance out humans virtually exterminating smallpox, ect ect. or dumping several hundred thousand gallons of mercury onto fertile farmland to compensate for heavy industry making a serious effort to reduce their environmental impact.
            that sort of thing.

            Regardless of his means, its pretty sure that, if nothing else Johannes WANTED to make a difference, and its looking more and more like Blake and the other Primary characters are going to be driven into Conflict with ANOTHER powerful group of Others if they truly are that obsessed with. you know. the B word.

            1. you misunderstand.

              balance =/= stasis.

              in this context it has been compared to keeping a top spinning as long as possible.

      2. The female lawyer said that the star-demon (I forget it’s name) used to put stars in the sky, but now calls them down.

        I think that’s pretty strong foreshadowing to the fact that angels can and DO become demons. This would lead smoothly to Faysal’s transformation into a demon, and the subsequent binding of him by our favorite diabolists.

        It seems to me that Faysal could be acting out his preservation instincts; (trying to wipe out personal threats, before they become dangerous to him)

        …the same kind of instinctual behavior that Rose and Blake have been battling throughout the story.

      1. No at this point the only option is to become a galaxy dwarfing giant robot powered by evolution and punch the universe into being a better place.

        I’m refferencing Getter Emperor there not the TTGL.

      2. Actually, yeah. We already know Barbatorem can take Faysal no sweat, the problem is getting him to comply. Though, technically speaking, anything Barbie would agree to could only make the situation worse, even if it’s just in the long run. “Killing an angel” has to be way up there on the bad karma and entropic decay of the universe lists.

          1. so? form what we’ve seen, the angels don’t really CARE about actually doing their job much more then Glorified hail Mary’s,since they reason that entropy is inevitable, so why do their jobs and actively fight it and risk upsetting the nonexistent balance of the universe ( by definition, if existence is slowly sliding towards destruction it is not “ballanced”)
            * makes a scornful sound.*. its the classic reasoning of an idiot, or a sub-sentient AI
            . its simple logic. if your reason for existing is to Create and Fight Entropy, you fail at your very purpose if you insist on only keeping things the same and constantly loosing ground instead of TRYING to do something meaningful.

            its like claiming that the only way to prevent Intelligent life form being exterminated by a Robot war is to create Killer robots to exterminate all sentient life, and claim its “totes ok u guyz, i recorded engramz of everyone i didnt kill out of hand out of pique so i didnt kill them dispite dem bin ded!” its just a hollow excuse to avoid risking your own skin against something with a realistic chance of ending you.

            1. You forgot the only foreshadowing being done with a few lines two hours earlier, and throwing out all the previously foreshadowed plot that actually made some sense.

          2. Don’t forget Barbie doesn’t actually kill. Then again considering what Barbie does do, Faysal dying would probably be less harmful to the universe.

            1. that actually begs an interesting question. Faysal THINGS he/it is aiding the universe. is he’it ACTUALLY doing so, or causing more damage?

  8. Man, I can’t get over that “stay” order. is that why dog’s shouldn’t be familiars? because they’re smarter than you think and the snark will be so real once they reveal that fact??? dang.

    1. As far as we can tell, you don’t want a dog as your familiar in Jacob’s Bell (and only in Jacob’s Bell, the Familiars 101 book has a Valkyrie and her caniform Familiar, suggesting either a strong enough Other or a more acceptable range of bodies in the practitioner community at large) specifically because Faysal is automatically its alpha. Comes with being an angel and all.

      And I would suspect the snark is solely due to Faysal. He’s pulled the trigger on his plan and ensnared everyone relevant to it with only the slightest of complications. There are very few masterminds who would not indulge in a spot of gloating at that point, regardless of schedule or moral alignment.

      1. aha! I missed that bit before, thanks. honestly, I love Faysal mainly for that decision. on everything else I’m ambivalent because I don’t know what it means on a broader sense but. I love that dose of character from a character that seems to be so direct/frank, otherwise, in terms of communication. or at least from what I remember of his conversation(s) with Blake.

    1. His eye had been given away to one powerful goblin, a goblin queen turned partially into a goblin.

      Two “goblin”s in the same sentence. Probably unintentional.

      1. It’s intentional and grammatically correct:
        “A goblin queen…” is an appositive for “one powerful goblin.”

        It just seems repetitive by having the word “goblin” three times.

        1. Technically, Mags is a Goblin Queen by her specialty/ profession. But, she’s not a goblin (yet — give her a few decades, though…). Just as the line between fae and practitioner is blurry, that between goblin and human isn’t that clear cut.

  9. So. Harith. “The lion which digs the earth.” Angel of the third choir, specializing in construction and building, opposed to the demons of ruin.

    Being a Histories chapter, it seems unlikely we’ll see him again, but that there are TWO angels interested in Jacob’s Bell is interesting.

  10. How has Faysal not yet turned into a Demon of Ruin given how he has been opening paths for humans to lead there and himself blocking the path to their path away from it?

    1. I don’t think he can turn into a demon. He’s an Other, he’s basically tied to a concept and can’t really switch.

      Of course, he’s not just an angel right now. He’s a familiar, and that gives him some flexibility, I think. He can exercise power more directly.

      1. He’s not a demon because he isn’t truly ruining things. It’s like he said about the bullet. It only changed, not destoryed. Yeah he might set things on the path to Barbie ruining them, but he’s still technically not ruining it himself, and is causing lesser ruin in the long run.

          1. and presumably without the protective instincts,functional Moral Compass or the Terrifyingly Strong Threshold empowering him XD

  11. long ago, he’d anticipated Johannes’ failure
    Mmm, when did Johannes fail? He was today fine until the angel back-stabbed him.

    1. Without Faysal as a familiar, Johannes would have faced the same uphill struggle against the practitioner families as Maggie Holt did when she started up. Remember the various prices she’s paid? And, she’s not been trying anything nearly so as status quo busting to them or the established Others in Jacob’s Bell. Outright destroying her for fear of what she’ll do? Never been on the cards for her.

      1. I don’t think this is entirely true. Maggie started off as low as she did because she had no power and no knowledge. Johannes had both: power from his gigantic demesnes, and knowledge from the favors he had done for practicioners. Faysal boosted him in both but he would have been strong regardless.

        1. To be honest, I don’t think e.g. Dionysus cares about the size of the barrier he knocks flat. Give the families reason to fear and to join up with disgruntled Others, yet take away the angel element making them cautious… And, you get a repeat of the Hillsglade attack on what was perceived to be a much-weakened disability set-up. Except centred on him.

      2. Jon burned up a lot of tricks fighting Faysal, so he probably would have come out of the ritual better off. Even the priest was only able to knock the barrier flat. Even after they got in they would need to find him and stop him before he woke up and killed them all. Its not exactly a fair fight when your opponent can play Floor is Lava with real lava. They barely managed that at the House and it was a lot smaller.

        Not only that they only got to call in the Priest for the big final battle. The Priest didn’t show up to deal with Molly. The tactics used against Molly are unlikely to work since he has an entire neighborhood to live in.

        1. OK: miscommunication probably because I wasn’t clear enough. The specific tactics they would use against hin? Would obviously differ, but they would be tailored to him: I threw in the examples we have about how the practitioners of Jacob’s Bell both use and stomp on perceived threats to their own ideas of a comfortable status quo.

          Without an angel-nuke, what is Johannes? An outsider who gained a wide swathe of territory by trickery when most of their backs were turned (and, if that isn’t a direct challenge to all the established power blocks, I don’t know what is). He is also using it in a way that could easily become messy if he can’t keep a lid on the Others who come to play. Which very much is a problem if you want to look effective as a future Lord. Oh, look at how many more resources we have as a coordinated group, if, e.g. we as the Duchamps can get everybody working together on this one… (And, we all plan to deal with the Thorburn soon: this young sorceror isn’t bringing any great power or element we don’t have or can’t get hold of to the table besides lateral thinking… we can afford to deal with him first, so he doesn’t become a complicating, random factor.)

          Who has to use the exact same tactics every time when you can pick and choose from centuries of accumulated knowledge and resources newcomers don’t?

            1. Yes. And, they could even have tried roping her into dealing with him before the real battle happened. Look, the families were actively waiting for her to die before making their move on the Thorburns. But, that doesn’t mean they hadn’t been planning to for years before they actually hit Hillsglade House… 😐 You really have to be careful around nukes: be they angelic or demonic ones.

    2. The failure had something to do with their initial plan, where they sink the house, before blake headed it off. The plan wouldn’t have worked out how they wanted it to, hence the failure. Faysal just sped it along a little.

    3. What I understood from that is that Faysal had an idea that Johannes’s plan of changing the status quo was going to fail in one way or another. Whether it was a guess, a hope, or premonition is beyond me.

      1. Bingo. Johannes’ idea of turning the clock back wasn’t actually going down all that well with the Jacob’s Bell establishment. However, they weren’t finding it too objectionable for a very good reason: when you’ve got a demon around, perhaps having an angel attached to a lunatic is worth keeping about enough to offset the distaste. And, an angel meant none of the Others taking Johannes up on his preserve idea were going to be hefty enough to go out of control when e.g. trying to turn on more than vestiges of inhabitants when involved with the thrill of the hunt.

        Johannes alone? May never have been able to have enough clout to fend off the likes of the Fae trio if they felt like trolling him, for example.

    4. Failure to Prevent Fasyl from backstabbing him? useing your own attack as a retroactive excuse for attacking in the first place would be classic other behavior. god knows the Spirits are too stupid to call Him on it.

  12. I’m a bit worried at the ‘Johannes is pretty much a braindead puppet’ that this indicates:

    he seized all that Johannes was, in body, mind, and spirit.

    None of Johannes’ temporary companions noticed his brief falter, the stagger, the hand that went to his head, as he fought and failed to resist.

    (…)

    Johannes accepted the order, and at Faysal’s bidding, passed it on to the others.

    I’m expecting a lot of time wasted trying to understand why Johannes is now a drooling imbecile.
    Oh well, Barbie time.

    1. How many of them know Johannes well enough to catch Faysal’s performance of Johannes in the medium of breathing meat puppet? Briar Girl is easy to pick out as “mainly her familiar”, but how many will suspect a total hostile takeover of Johannes? Particularly as he spent years watching the guy, so has a handle on how to act being him.

  13. I wish we’d gotten to see Johannes’ and Faysal’s familiar vow. Because I still don’t see how Faysal could betray Johannes like this without the latter suspecting a thing.

    Surely if you go from being enemies to the practitioner equivalent of a marriage, you should include “I will not betray you” as one of your vows…

    It would have been so simple. And from everything we’ve seen from Faysal, he doesn’t break his promises, and keeps to his bargains. For instance, he was exceedingly fair in his dealings with Blake.

    So I’m missing the story piece which allows Faysal to do what he does here, despite his personality.


    And why was Faysal certain that Johannes would fail? In his conversation with the other angel, they mentioned that they simply didn’t know whether they should help or hinder humanity. What was different in Johannes’ case? Presumably “he’ll fail because I’ll make it so” can’t be the answer?

  14. So, apparently, we haven’t even seen how scary fae can get. And it looks like angels can, in fact, kill. Quickly.

    Demons just kind of happened at some point in response to all the newfangled change and ideas mankind was bringing about? And some humans became demons? I wonder how Ornias supposedly went from being an angel to being a demon, or a fallen angel.

    Faysal’s being, like, the mother of all masterminds here. How do you fight something that can foresee destiny and then instantaneously intervene on multiple levels? The only thing we know that can beat an angel one-on-one is a demon, but it’s not like Barbie’s exactly bound anymore. And Blake really doesn’t want to call down Ornias.

    And if Faysal’s own description of change to Johannes is any indication, the “opposite” of an angel isn’t even within mankind’s ability to do. True destruction. Maybe antimatter would work, but that’s not exactly something you can pull off on short notice. You’d literally need to summon a demon to bind and angel.

    1. Or… if Blake becomes Other enough, he might be able to manage some level of true destruction on his own. But it would probably involve giving up whatever’s left of his humanity.

      1. He needs to be able to destroy, and create. Change and stagnate. To be able to do the impossible and the contradictory.

    2. I’m not sure if it’s demons that came into being or Others. Humans definitely became Others, though, not demons.
      I’m now curious as to whether anyone’s actually bound an angel, in a way that was against said angel’s wishes. Clearly people can muster up the strength to do so, given the number of demons that have been bound. Is it just that angels are so elusive? Or are you telling me that no-one out there would like a pet angel? It must be pretty rare, since we haven’t seen any books on it yet…

      1. Didn’t Blake once mention to Rose that he wondered why people would deal with Demons when Angels seemed to give so much better deals? I think her reaction was a non commental “Hmm”. It seems like dealings with Angels come with a hidden price.

        1. Maybe the reason is that they do stuff like this all the time. Particularly when they haven’t shown up on their own initiative.

    3. Actually that’s what the angels think. But it seems that angels didn’t think before humans existed, so make of that what you will. Still room for another big twist.

      1. or are the angels THEMSELVES being Meat-puppeted by entities capable of thought to use as power amplifiers/tools??

        1. I wonder if it could be something similer to Warhammer 40K where the gods and daemons are shaped by the collective belief of the mortal races.

          1. had a thought, has it been said that Angels are incapable of Lieing? we’ve had access to FAR more information regarding Demons then their opposing numbers, and we’re running on the assumption that Fay’s oath was vaguely worded enough that he could meatsuit his “partner” without breaking his word, but what if they don’t even have to worry about that?
            it’d just be swell if the Angels turned out to be as big a threat to us (ie humans) as Demons simply because they are almost as powerful, and can lie without repercussions form the spirits?

    4. Maybe antimatter would work, but that’s not exactly something you can pull off on short notice.

      Tinfoil hat theory: in Pactverse, LHC is a circle for binding angels.
      And one of CERN’s goals is to fight angels.
      And like another four-letter organization that fights angels with a three-letter superweapon, CERN is part of an ancient conspiracy with a sinister agenda and five letters in their name.

    5. Antimatter doesn’t count as true destruction. It’s just the conversion of matter into energy.

      Maybe something with a really high entropy rate?

      1. Oh. But then… like…. shoot, I don’t know. I can’t even conceive of something man-made that would cause true destruction. The google definition of entropy sounds promising, though. Maybe build a really, really inefficient system around him? Or assemble a classic vampire trap and make so many little inefficiencies in the surrounding ecosystem and environment all at once that he has to spend all day fixing them.

        Demonic radiation was compared to nuclear fallout a few times, so that might be a possibility.

        1. For Demons it seems you use what opposes their choir. Ur’s bindings are art, creation, imagination. So we need to figure out exactly what Faysal’s choir is and what the oppisate of that would be.

          1. From Conviction 5.5:

            “Demons and devils fall into choirs. Choir of dark, choir of chaos, choir of ruin, choir of madness, choir of the feral, choir of sin, and choir of unrest, in order. What we’re dealing with… I think it’s a demon of darkness, by all descriptions.”

            Seventh demonic choir is that of unrest. Seventh angelic choir would be status quo, I guess.

      2. If the conversion of matter into energy doesn’t count as destruction, then, unless demons can literally make energy disappear, breaking along the way all known laws of physics, there is no such thing as destruction.

        The heat death of the universe is akin to a bullet “changing the state” of flesh.

        1. Maybe Something like All-Nothing Technology (A.N Drive installed in the G-Darius Era Silver Hawk Fighter and the Thima Battleships as their primary power-source/ Their Beta Beam weapon) from the Darius Shoot-em-up series?
          if i remember Correctly, the Reason why the Thima went Berserk in the Prequel (G-Darius) was that the Amnelian Military weaponized A.N tech, which i THINK is capable of actually DESTROYING Energy/matter, as well as converting one to the other with an extremely high efficiency. Basically a Doomsday Weapon by ANYONE’S standards, and anything remotely similar would be even MORE Broken then giving your Average Fantasy mage in a medieval setting an academic-level education on physics centering on what does and does not constitute energy.

        2. I’m pretty sure the demons actually can destroy energy for good. That is, specifically, a demon thing to do and nothing else is capable of doing so. Everything else is merely capable of changing states.

        3. I think demons need the power to absolutely destroy matter/energy because of the laws of physics. Angels create and demons destroy; whatever an angel creates is just ‘living’ on borrowed time until a demon destroys it. Net result: nothing’s created and nothing’s destroyed.

          As for causality… well, it seems to work for magnets.

      3. Making art counted as creation for binding Ur, even though it was just moving stuff around as far as physics is concerned. Burning books or art would probably count as destruction.

        1. It’s worth pointing out that the factory had been built but didn’t count. I think it might be necessary to make something new to bind a demon. Maybe if you burned an original or the last version of something that would count.

          1. I think it’s also at least a little specific to each demon. ErasUr was a quintessential demon of darkness, hurt by light and fire, bound by creation of art. Faysal is a gatekeeper, an opener of paths. Bind him with a ring of broken keys, perhaps? After all, a broken key may just be changed in shape but its functionality and purpose have been destroyed.

        1. Oh and lets not forget how they missled us in the press campaign leading up to it “The ending won’t be just choosing pressing button A, B, or C” and it wasn’t… It was pick Red, Blue, or Green.

          But the worst of all was the the way they handled the complaints. Oh apparently after putting in hundreds of hours a lot of money on all three games and the DLC because I loved it I’m an entitled whiner and I don respect your artistic integrity when I criticize you for doing something that sucks? Fine then I’ve learned my lession to never buy from you again.

          1. at least the game was fun until it reached the endgame. always thourght that, despite everything they said, Bioware was rushed again,and half-suspected EA threatened to put the thumbscrews on the entire studio unless they kept saying everything was a-ok

            1. True, but damn storywise that ending sucked, and after all that you had done and worked at that ending felt like a slap in the face. Agreeing with the thing that was responsible for every bad thing in the series and it’s contradictory reasoning… Did they actually have anyone proof that ending and get their reaction, or were they going for “WTF is this shit and why am I so deppresed after winning the game?”

              Though, yeah EA almost certainly made them rush it. At least Bioware seems to have been able to take their time of DA3 from what I’ve heard.

  15. Something I haven’t seen anyone else talk about yet. I notice that Faysal was also working at “Balancing” things a lot.

    “There was an ecosystem here that needed balancing, too. The monsters would run aground with the local goblin population. Both would be weak when the practitioners at the nearby church stepped in, they would be ruined, but not entirely destroyed.

    In a year, the angel could return. If the practitioners were too strong, their direction dangerous, the angel could tease them into action by stirring the pot. Distract and weaken.”

    If we use this section as an example, what do we see? Looks to me like Faysal is keeping every group around, but also ensuring that none grows too powerful, stepping in to prevent any group from being destroyed. But this will only perpetuate the cycle. They groups will constantly gnaw away at each other, stuck in an stalemate. True change will never occur.

    And that I think is something. Angels don’t fully or truly understand change. Because they can’t truly destroy, and cannot truly understand making something new where something else was, tearing down that which is no longer relevant. They can create, but can they evolve? I wonder if Angels have any actual imagination?

    1. I think you’re misreading that. He was planning to bring up something from the sewers and set up a fight between it and the goblins so the practitioners could take out both, then swing back around to check on the practitioners and see if they were starting to become a problem once they’d secured local dominance. The sort of group that would provide Duchamp husbands, for instance.

      1. Note that bad things happen to ecosystems when something gets removed. So just wiping out things that appear to be purely negative can have adverse consequences.

        1. Thing is it reminds me of when Blake was trying to weaken the powers in Jacob’s Bell. We have no information one way or another on what the practicioners would be like.

          And the ecosystem is one way to look at it. But lets look at it another way. Imagine you have two gangs, and someone sets it up so they fight, and are weakened. Then in a years time they weaken the police if they have been doing too good a job breaking up the gangs.

          1. He was going to come back and check before he decided what to do. Beats automatically assuming that the practitioners getting stronger would be good just because they’re human.

            1. Maybe the practicioners are good, maybe they are bad. We don’t have the information to tell. But at the same time that doesn’t mean what Fasyal is doing will be good for the people of the city. This is the root of what I’ve been trying to articulate. Angels are not on humanities side in this story. They are on their own. And while they may not be as horrible as the demons, that doesn’t mean they won’t do things we humans find appalling. Or that might end up downright determental to humans.

              Just because they want to preserve the universe, don’t think Angels have the same morality and viewpoint as humans.

            2. Okay so I did somehow keep missing the part about checking to see what the practicioners would do.

              Though I think we can see why Angels are still dangerous to ask for help. They are very capable of manipulating things, and they have a very different mentality and morality from humans. I get the impression that preserving things is a major thing for angels, and they aren’t the sorts to let anything be destroyed if they can help it.

            1. A lot of others seem to straight up embody a specific concept or ideas. Far more starkly than anything human can, and far more extreme. Conquest is a perfect example. He is nothing more than conquest, and thus nothing else can come from him. No rebuilding. He will never try to improve the things he’s claimed or restore them. You won’t see him doing what the Romans did and building great roads and aquaducts. He can only claim things, then grind them beneath his heel so no one else can ever posses them.

              So it seems like they might be far deeper in these concepts or ideas than humans can comprehend, but at the same time they are narrower. They really are only those things, and thus lack the wider range of potential.

              And what’s more taken to a farthest extreme even a noble concept can become twisted to something terrifying. Remove compassion from Justice and it becomes vengance, the simple all consuming desire to punish the guilty, for example.

    2. Or by making sure that none of those supernatural factions are getting to strong he is ensuring that the innocents have an extra layer of protection. I feel like the fact that he manipulating monsters and practitioners and not normal people is an important detail.

  16. my ranting about semantics aside, id agree that Dangerous is a good word choice. unsure if they are as alien as some Depictions of the Fae ( like in the world of darkness), but they definitely mesh with the theme of the major non-human powers being disconnected form what we’d call conventional morality
    . you know, like demanding you kill your 2nd born son, as there’s a chance he could do something to upset the “Balance” between 2 sports teams, or demanding you kill a virology/ Bacteriology researcher who’s on the verge of discovering a “silver bullet” capable of killing all harmful bacteria/ rendering all virri nonviable and is impossible for them to mutate to resist,due to his work “upsetting the natural balance”, in exchange for help.

  17. I feel people are being to hard on the angels, they were willing to leave humanity alone for the most part and see what we managed and he described us as change incarnate. Also it seemed like Faysal was the one advocating for assisting us in the conversation. Hmm Faysal seemed to be trying to weaken the goblins and the unnamed undercity things and setting up some practitioners but was going to come back later to see if the practitioners needed to be smacked, combating some environmental damage, and manipulation to encourage growth like making the date tree to pretty to cut down in case it might inspire someone or boosting some business for a specific store. Honestly I feel like people are misunderstanding what he is doing.

      1. I think that’s still pro humanity-in-general. It’s just that our heroes would prefer someone who is pro us-in-particular.

        1. the problem is, they are very powerful, manipulative others with an agenda and have no compunctions pithing someone who though one of them was, if not exactly a friend, then a trusted ally, and wearing his corpse as a meatsuit/puppeting while he screamed hysterically into the darkness inside his own mind.. by default that makes them a very likely threat/ arc villain at some point, and im constantly expecting to see one of teh Local superpowers, as it were Pull a Saint and screw damn near everyone out of stupidity/arrogance at any moment.

          1. Either pithing him and wearing his corpse as a suit, or bodyjacking him while he was still conscious of what was happening, and most likely screaming inside his own skull. neither possibility suggest any level of warm and fuzzness form them.

            1. Fear not (subtext: gibbering in a corner in a panic is the perfectly normal, instinctive response when it comes to seeing what an angel is for a very good set of reasons).

              Light is not necessarily just a sparkling rainbow, but can be delivered via a battery of laser cannons. Balance doesn’t play favourites, so… maybe to mess with angels, it’d help if you had Sphinx-o-vision. 😛

            2. Yeah if you ever meet an angel that doesn’t open with “Fear not” it’s time to start praying and begging for mercy. You wouldn’t be able to run fast enough anyway.

        2. the angel, IT, is pro BALANCE. it cares as much about us as we do about the slightly ugly plants in the neighbors garden. or the bacteria in our guts, maybe. from what we’ve seen of its thought patterns, murdering an undercover Cop for “upsetting the balance between law enforcement and Drug cartels might seem completely reasonable. until we have far more detailed information on its thought processes the safest bet is to assume its a natural Dog-kicker till we get intell form a a completely unbiased osruce, or word of wildbow.

          1. i say this because about 2/3 of the others we’ve seen so far are puppykickers, and one of the more moral ones we’ve seen (the sphynx) is a Serial Killer who appears to have spent the last several millenia/ hundreds of years on a spree killing people for not living up to her standards (which could in the end turn out to be preferring to drink bear that isnt literally as thick as soup)

            1. In her defense, if someone is going to go through the trouble of killing a bear to drink it, they really shouldn’t water it down.

            2. I know. But it’s so much funnier to imagine Isadora getting upset because you prepared liquified bear improperly.

          2. Where is this supposed obsession with balance, I’m not seeing it here. From what we saw of his thought processes he seems more likely to help the undercover cop than kill him.

        3. I wouldn’t say he’s pro humanity so much as pro existance, without any particular malice towards humanity. It’s just the dumping a bunch of the cast including some we really like in a fate worse than death situation. Sure Barbie being trapped in the Abyss is better for humans as a whole, but it sure is going to suck for Blake and co.

          But I don’t think from his opening narrative that Faysal is on humanities side. He just isn’t actively against humanity. He’s sorta neutral about it. In a way I’m reminded of what Blake once said about Conquest. That he’s like a machine, fufilling his programing.

  18. I’m curious if most demons are as intelligent and foreseeing as these angels seem to be and if it is ever possible to truly trick any of the two in a contract. Even when Blake dealt with Pauz, did he just increase the universe’s net negative by the simple reason of having given a demon a deal the demon was willing to agree with?

    1. its implied that the lower-ranked Choir angel this particular one belongs to specializes in subtle planning and manipulation to counter its low position in the hireachy. there’d probably be a similar level of variance in general intelligence and planning ability amongst the Tiers, and to SOME extent between individuals.

  19. I only just got back from holidays without internet access. While craving my Pact fix, I stewed over some of the metaphysics of the Abyss. Specifically, why doesn’t the entire universe fall into the abyss?
    You see, things fall into the Abyss when they don’t have enough connections to the things around them, but the universe, by definition, has no connections to anything around it. There has to be something holding things ‘up’.
    The only answer that seems to make sense is that, ultimately, everything is grounded in the Abyss. This works with the idea that the Abyss ‘recycles’ the things that fall into it. Everything is formed from things stacked on top of other things with the Abyss at the base (or near it).

    But… this implies something odd. Things fall into the abyss when they lose their connections to the world around them… but what about the things ‘underneath’ them? Why does it seem that everyone and everything is dangling over a hole and they have to hold onto each other to keep from falling. If the universe is grounded in the Abyss, why is there no ground?

    The situation seems unstable. It looks like more is falling into the Abyss than is coming out. It feels like the universe might have once been solid and whole, but then something or Other gouged a massive hole in the lowest levels of reality. The world wobbled, but didn’t collapse immediately. Instead it began to collapse a little bit at a time in a semi-controlled fashion.

    What do you think guys? Plausible?

    1. So what your saying is that something turned the metaphorical sewers into a sinkhole and is just waiting for the metaphorical house to fall in? Not improbable in this series.

      We’ve heard various conjectures about what the Abyss is, and while we know fairly well what it does, what we don’t know is where it really came from. We have some speculations, but I’m not sure how accurate they are. The idea that it can bind demons more permanetly than humans is interesting. But the question is how well does it keep the demons from moving around and acting?

      The reason I ask this is because we know what demons want. The destruction of the universe. If the Abyss is where the foundations are located, do they even need to escape then? They’ll be in the perfect place to undermine everything until it crumbles.

      1. I seriously doubt the angels would be binding demons in the Abyss in that case. The Choir Of Structure would probably know it was a bad idea. I see several possibilities:

        1. The Abyss can take care of itself. It manipulates its shape, contents, and residents to keep demons from attacking the important components. Note that a sun god was positioned to block Ur’s attack. That very well might not have been a coincidence.
        2. We’re overestimating how much damaging it would effect everything else.
        3. More components keep getting added to replace destroyed ones.
        1. why not? the universe quite literally has idiots running the show (the spirits), i see no reason to assume the angels in general would be any smarter

          1. And the demons aren’t stupid. They are very smart, and capable of being very subtle themselves. And as we’ve seen, at least some of them have agents capable of entering and leaving the abyss.

            Come to think of it, I wonder if the lawyers will be showing up again soon. I know Rose just managed to head them off, but I would say that the house falling into the Abyss counts as a forfiture.

  20. WMG on the theory a bit above about how the universe feels like its allready had its foundations knocked out from under it. since there’s no guarantee that time passes at the same rate throughout the multiverse, or that each reality was born at the same relative “time”, the big broo-haha near the end of worm occurred far in-the past relative to pact, and it spilled over here.

  21. Re-reading the last chapter, if I were Faysal and I were CONFIDENT I would permanently rid the world of the Barber, I’d have dropped the house into the Abyss. Because the Barber is a permanent problem and (to be honest) the humans are expendable. Even if he is basically kind and fond of humanity in general, he has no particular love for THESE humans. And he has no reason to serve them.

    The real question is does this seem like a viable plan? Is the barber really going to be bound better in the Abyss? Holes are cut out of the Abyss every two seconds by practitioners.

    Faysal is of the seventh choir. Stability is his primary goal.

    1. the smart thing to do would of been to kill the humans involved first instead of dropping them into “certain death” like a Bond-Movie Villai (which does NOT give me confidence in his plans chances of succeeding)n. as it is i give em a 65% chance of completely destroying his plan JUST by trying to escape.

      1. He needed them alive. The Barber wouldn’t be interested in corpses. If he didn’t need them to provide a diversion, he’d have just dropped the house without anyone inside. The goal is binding the demon, not killing the humans.

  22. Wow.

    Just…wow.

    Johannes is my kind of mage, exploiting modern technology to his best advantage. On the other hand, Faysal is kinda a dick. He never intended to actually do anything to Johannes aside from exhaust his defenses, did he?

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