Possession 15.5

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I looked around, but I couldn’t find the source of the utterance.

The landscape around me wasn’t quite dreamlike.  There was a logic here, a pattern that had a kind of familiarity to it.  There was Rose, and there was me, striving to fill the gaps.  In large part, I was able to.  But where this kaleidoscopic world was shifting, different elements moving around me like a close up of an eye, dilating and widening, there were solid elements too.  Elements that didn’t move.

It was like viewing the world with the Sight, which I hadn’t done properly since Ur had cut me off from the real world.  If I focused, depending on how I focused, things took on different forms.

I turned to the nearest pillar, focusing so that it was a pillar.  It was structurally sound, but only barely.  A large section of the exterior had broken away.

Another refocusing, and I could see the jagged cut, a place where nothing could dwell or connect.  A crack in the television screen.  No matter what we did, we’d be working on a different plane, unable to affect that screen.

I changed my perspective once more.  The pillar, the parts I could see, there were elements at play.  Figures, with longer hair, a length of thigh, arms folded over the chest.  Eyelashes.

They were me, or they were Rusty, but only fragments had survived the damage, from the cracks that ran along the pillar’s surface.

Femininity, perhaps, or self image that fit with Rose being female.

I blinked, looking around.

More structures.  Some mine, distinct, positioned where they once would have been part of things, now separate, degraded, damaged, and more raw.

I’d once prided myself on having an eye for interpreting art.  Now I was interpreting an alien landscape that should have been more familiar than anything else, because it was us.  I quickly made conclusions that I knew I couldn’t rely on, broad-strokes thoughts that let me put everything in a frame of reference.

An arch, more intact than the feminine one had been.  The books that stood out like they’d been half-way carved out of rough rock, the surface around them coarse, it somehow evoked thoughts of the Library we’d been in the process of escaping.

The Barber’s work had cut the arch in two, from one side to the other, and left a black fracture through the landscape that ran through virtually everything here.  The damage was such that the two halves didn’t fit together anymore.  A puzzle with a thick strip taken out of the middle.  The two halves no longer meshed.

I looked to the scenes surrounding the arch.  More orderly.  There was a rigid pattern to how the days and events had been laid out.

I focused a little harder one one section, a little more prominent than the rest, the colors bolder, the image sharper.  More importantly, it was a scene that was mostly intact, and entirely on her side of the black fracture.  Something of Rose’s that had been denied to me.  Entirely unfamiliar.

“Ros-” the sound stuttered.  “Go to the principal’s office.”

A seven year old ‘Rose’, pieced together from the remains of Rusty, looked up at her teacher, bewildered.

“Why?”

The teacher handed the foolscap paper to Rose.  “I’ll call ahead so they know you’re coming.  Don’t worry, it’s not anything bad.”

Rose couldn’t quite believe that.  You didn’t get sent to the principal’s office unless you’d done something wrong.

But she went.  The front office wasn’t far away.

“Hi Ros-,” the principal said.  The tall, thin man smiled.

He looked so big, from Rose’s perspective, even sitting down.

“Can I see?”

She had to step up to the desk to hold out the foolscap.  He took it and smoothed it out where she’d crumpled it a bit out of anxiety.

“Mrs. Wells phoned while you were walking down here.  She says you’ve been working very hard on your printing.”

Rose hesitated, then nodded.

“It really shows.  You should be proud of yourself.”

She allowed herself a smile.

“Do you think it deserves a sticker?”

She nodded.

He opened the drawer of his desk, and he pulled out a thick roll of stickers, as large as a roll of duct tape.  He peeled one off, and he pressed it down onto the foolscap paper.

“How’s that?” he asked.

She took the paper back.  Her eyes went wide.  The sticker was holographic!  Shiny!  The super-realistic image of the frog on the page opened its mouth, tongue starting to stick out as she looked at it from different angles.

She smiled wide, happy enough she could barely contain herself.

I pulled my attention away, but in the doing, caught other thoughts and reflections, associated to it.  A warmer memory, of mom seeing the paper, and giving her an awkward sort of hug, if it could even be called that.  She didn’t bend down, but just put a hand on Rose’s back as Rose hugged her, a pat and a short rub, then the work with the shiny sticker going on the fridge.

“Good job,” mom said.  “Look at that.  Do you think we should show this to grandma, the next time we see her?”

Rose shook her head.

“Okay.  But we’ll show daddy when he gets back from work, how’s that?”

“Yes.”

After mom left, Rose approached the image on the fridge, moving left and right to watch the image move.  Still excited, still proud.

Her face still a fractured mess, a reconfiguration that only resembled a girl.  The Barber hadn’t needed to be too careful, there.  It was a memory.  Flaws were to be expected.

I caught a thought from an older Rose, thinking back on the memory while she lay in bed.  Abstract, wondering why the school had done it.  Trying to build more positive relationships with students?  Or was it because she was a Thorburn, and the school had seen several other Thorburns pass through?  Were they striving to do this one right, where others had been disasters in their own way?  A more cynical line of thought.

One event could do so much.  So many individual things had been removed, destroyed, or moved elsewhere, to create two incomplete wholes.  How much had we been steered in our own individual directions?

I looked at an associated memory, a defining moment, on the far side of the fracture.  It was, on a level, an extension of me, as if I simply flowed into the landscape, as much liquid as solid, filling the available void.  The only difference from real life was that I was viewing things with different senses.

A shiny holographic image, our second, less important, but still, it should have been pleasing.  Except all that remained of that second memory was the sticker itself.  A bird on a branch, wings opening as I looked at it from different angles.  There was none of the academic pride, none of the surrounding memories.  Only the sticker, alone, at the edge of the fracture, something I had liked.

I heard Conquest’s voice, a whisper.

This time I was grounded enough to look for the source.

It came from above and around.  As if the sky was talking to me.

But the sky, as I looked at it, was only more distant images and scenes, structures.

I was, it dawned on me, making a fundamental error.  I’d tried to rise, I’d tried to navigate, but my surroundings were a shifting kaleidoscope collection of scenes, moving as Rose and I each focused on different things, even grating against one another as we did so, with some damage resulting, fragments of our selves being lost to the fracture.  Swallowed up and gone.

Given time, we might grind each other into dust, as we instinctively shifted pieces of the larger puzzle around, trying to fit things where they didn’t fit.

I’d tried to move around, to look up and down, even altered my focus, looking at things in different forms, to view the pillars as what they were.

But I was small, and I was looking at things in a small way.  A large part of the reason it didn’t make sense, was that I was studying a complex organism on what amounted to a cellular level.

I pulled back.

The kaleidoscope remained what it was, though not rainbow hued, but more muted colors.  The colors of Rose and Blake’s life.  Being a raw spirit, intertwined with my surroundings, my vision didn’t suffer for being further away or for me being bigger.

I was a share of the landscape here, at least in part.  I only had to own that reality.

Rose’s body was hers.  It was solid, a largely unchanging state.  I couldn’t occupy that domain.  Not easily.  Not without suffering for trying.

Her thoughts were more malleable, her memories all the more so.

Once I figured out the landscape on the macro sense, I was able to find her consciousness.  It moved like a roiling storm, too many factors and variables to take in.

Rose’s boots crunched through the snow as she approached the waiting group, Alister, Evan and Green Eyes in her company.  Peter, Ainsley, Ellie and Christoff all stood at the ridge above the hole the house had collapsed into.  Ellie and Christoff sat a fair bit further back than the others did.

“Peter,” Rose greeted her cousin.  Ainsley pulled away from under Peter’s arm to approach and hug Alister.

“Your hand,” Ainsley said, shocked.  “Oh my god.”

Alister shook his head.

Ainsley hugged him again, fiercely this time.  “I’m glad you made it out.  Everyone’s been so worried.”

“Not everyone made it,” he said.

Ainsley nodded.  “I heard.”

Rose glanced over at Ellie.  She offered a tight smile.

“I’ll try to relay what happened after,” Alister said.

“After a night’s sleep,” Ainsley said.  “Seriously.

It was family looking after family.  Rose watched Alister’s eyes, and she tried not for the first time, to reconcile her feelings on that front.  His face was almost punchable, sometimes, especially the periodic smirks.  Attractive, but punchable.  She wondered if it would become something endearing or if she’d grow to want to strangle him.  He was so casually confident, almost smarmy, at his worst.

But attractive.  She’d never been one to join the other girls in fussing over the boys, but now and then, she’d been able to think that one boy or another was certainly attractive.  Alister was one such boy.

Seeing him dealing with his cousin, his almost restrained patience at dealing with Ainsley’s mothering and concern, Rose felt like there was a possibility there.  A place in this marriage-to-be where she might be comfortable with him.  If not comfortable, at least not wanting to actively murder him.

She looked away before she could get caught staring.

Rose met Peter’s eyes.

“You look like shit,” Peter told Rose, in a marked contrast to Ainsley’s gentleness and care.

“Probably,” Rose said.  “You have no idea what we’ve been through.”

“The stickman didn’t make it out?” Peter asked.

“He did, in a manner of speaking,” Rose said, her voice soft.  She tapped her collarbone.

Eerie, to step back from the scene and look at it more abstractly, to see how the entire storm that was Rose’s awareness briefly focusing on me, searching for and finding me within her.

Clouds hued in the grays and blacks of what Rose was seeing, tinted with flashes of light blue, like Ainsley’s jacket, as if someone had dyed the storm.

“You’re going to remember him forever?  He holds a place in your heart?” Peter asked.

“No,” Rose said, annoyed.

Alister, beside her, was fiddling with his jacket, where it had been cut off along with his hand.  He pulled his glove off with his teeth and started to work with the fabric.

Rose helped, pulling his sweater down and tying it in a rough knot.  After a moment, she pulled off one mitten and pulled it tight over the stump.  It was mangled, but not openly bleeding.  It took some doing.

“Because here I was, thinking you and stickman didn’t get along,” Peter said, sounding impatient with the conversation.

“The bogeyman’s spirit is possessing her,” Alister said.  He reached out, and he clasped Rose’s right  “He’s dormant for now, but he may take a more active role soon.”

Ainsley’s head snapped around, giving Rose a second look, suddenly very concerned.

“Oh,” Peter said.  He paused for a beat, then said, “That sounds like a terrible idea, but you know, I’m just the uninitiated guy who got introduced to all this a matter of hours ago.  If you guys think it’s okay, I can roll with it.”

“No,” Alister said.  “It is a terrible idea.”

Peter flashed a smile.  “Oh.  At least I’m hitting the mark, figuring this stuff out.”

“Yes.  You seem oddly comfortable, all things considered,” Alister said.  He glanced at Ainsley.

“What?” Ainsley asked.

Alister shook his head.

“Seriously, what?  I have no idea what you’re saying,” Ainsley said.

“Can’t help but notice he had his arm around you, as we walked up,” Alister said.

“Did he?  I barely paid attention,” Ainsley said.  Then, a little defensively, as my cousin glanced at her, she added, “We were cold, sitting here waiting for all of you, and I’m tired, so I don’t see how it’s a big deal.”

It sounded like she was addressing Peter as much as anything.  Rose paid particular attention to that.  She analyzed it, and I didn’t follow the analysis.  I could figure it out myself, without studying it.

Peter took it all in stride, shrugging.

“Okay,” Alister said.  “Fine.  I’m overreacting, and I’m sorry.  We all have reason to be tired.”

Rose turned, surveying the surroundings.  “We should leave.  I’m not sure I like being so close to all of this.”

“No objection,” Ellie said.  “Would have done that an hour ago, but where the hell are we supposed to go?”

“Our place,” Alister said.  “We’ve got beds, right Ains?”

“Yeah.  Might have to pull out an air mattress, but we’re provisioned.”

Peter glanced at Ainsley.  “I thought there was a family rivalry.  Are you really okay with dirty Thorburns sleeping with you?”

“Okay,” Alister cut in, his voice firmer.  “You did not have to word that like that.  You could have asked me instead of her.”

Peter looked offended, “I spent way too long sitting in the cold with her, we hiked all the way from the woods on the fucking other end of town.  We’ve talked, so I’m sorry if I feel more comfortable asking her than asking you.”

“I don’t even know what you two are saying,” Ainsley said, exasperated.

Rose shook her head.  After all the stress of nearly dying, wrestling with countless others, and dealing with the demon, she was almost relieved at the mild argument here.

A movement behind her made her turn her head.

Her eye fell briefly on Green Eyes, who was laying in snow, one hand on a branch.  The thing.  She was supposed to be a mermaid, but she was a nightmare.  A mockery of a mermaid.  Every inch of her was covered in scales with flesh-ripping barbs, and even the angle and posture of her body threatened immediate and horrible degrees of pain.

A bogeyman, Rose estimated, could be bad enough.  But one that was pissed off?

Rose’s heart rate picked up a touch as the creature narrowed her eyes.  She reached for Conquest-

-And I could see the landscape on my end of things change.

If Rose’s self was a realm unto itself, with me holding some territory and Rose holding the rest, then Rose willingly ceded territory to Conquest.

Changing my perspective, I could see Conquest taking hold, vines with tiny white flowers creeping, shoring up the solid structures, creeping between shattered images, bolstering them.

The storm roiled, but now white petals stirred, multiplying in the darker shadows which might have represented Rose’s fear.

I saw a tendril of Conquest’s reaching, and I moved to head it off, to look and see if my own strength could hold up to the incarnation’s.

Further from ongoing events.  Into memories.

It was much as things had been before.  Fractured images.  On the one side, Rose attended church with her parents.  On the other, well, I didn’t have those same memories.  My view of church was what I’d seen walking past and looking in, after a given church had closed.  The church where the Jacob’s Bell council met.  Ominous, dark, and empty.

“You’re in my way,” Conquest said.  She didn’t speak in a loud voice, but it carried in the church.  “I don’t think you want to be in my way.”

The scene was largely frozen, and it remained fractured.  On the one side, the church bright.  Mom and dad sitting on either side of a young Rose.  Rigid, proper, keeping her in line.  The fracture ran down across the benches of the rightmost aisle, and my side of the church was empty, dark, with things moving in the shadows.

Conquest stood at the Altar.  The minister, middle aged, all in white, with a pinched mouth and hard stare.  Two bouquets of flowers sat on either side of the altar, and both blossomed, white petals falling to make room for the new.

“I’ve been looking for you,” I said.

“Why?”

“Why do you need to occupy this sort of memory?”  I countered.

She pointed.  I followed her gaze beyond the church windows.

“Peter,” Rose said, with a stern tone.  Her connection to Conquest connected, exaggerated, and drew from several events in her personal experience.  From the scene that Conquest and I occupied, I saw Rose reach into and draw from the strict and slightly scary minister, our parent’s aura as they sat on either side of her, the pressure and expectation that she sit still and be good.

Peter shook his head, and looked away.  Breaking eye contact.

It felt satisfying to Rose, to achieve the effect she’d aimed for, getting Peter to back down with a word.

“That would be why,” Conquest said, her words tearing me away from the scene.  I was back in a church formed from composite images and memories.

Rose was relaxing her use of Conquest, and I could see as this Conquest retracted the tendrils and branches.

“I can’t help but note that you hold more ground than you did before she drew on you for power,” I said.  “You’re still here, for one thing.”

Conquest smiled with her pinched mouth.  She stepped down from the altar, fingers touching the petals that had fallen around the base of the bouquets.  Another sign of lingering influence.  “Rose knows what I’m doing.  She knows the price.”

I looked out the window, and I watched as the group turned to go.  Ellie and Christoff led the way.  Ainsley and Peter followed behind.

Heavy snow gave way under Ainsley’s feet, causing her foot to drop a few inches.  Peter caught her arm.

“Thank you,” Ainsley said.

“No worries,” Peter said, still holding her arm as he glanced over his shoulder.

His expression was placid, but he made eye contact with Alister.

It was probably more infuriating anything else.  It implied the shit eating grin that everyone present knew he was wearing inside.

Alister tensed, and Rose put a hand on his chest, stopping him.

“He’s…” Alister flailed ineffectually with his stump of a hand, trying to articulate something and failing.

“I know,” Rose said, gently.  They’d stopped, and the others were moving slightly ahead, out of earshot.

Rose was very aware of the mermaid bogeyman, who had also stopped, still glaring at her.

“I don’t know,” Evan said, from his perch just above Green Eyes.  “I’m clueless.  Someone explain?”

“She- Ainsley doesn’t know.  She’s not versed in this stuff.  She’s a good student, a good practitioner.  She doesn’t have any defenses against-” Alister said, with genuine worry creeping into his voice.  He stopped very deliberately.

“Against assholes,” Rose said.  “Against the scummy, slimy, far-too-intelligent-for-anyone’s-good guys who every dad and caring cousin worries will come calling.”

Yeah,” Alister said, and there was an odd inflection to his voice.

“Come on,” Rose said, tugging on his good arm.

Alister obeyed, swaying a little with fatigue.

Rose ended up with both arms around Alister’s arm, her shoulder against his side, her head resting against his shoulder.

It wasn’t familiar to her, not quite natural, never something she’d had experience with, but she was trying, and she was secretly hoping to find her way there.  If it was even possible, with what the Barber had done.

“He’s trying to get a rise out of you,” she said.  “He’s scared, and he wants control, even if that control is earned by getting to the guy who seems to know what he’s doing.”

“The guy,” Alister said.

“The handsome, talented guy who happens to be engaged to his cousin,” Rose said.

She tried to make the compliment sound natural, but to her ears, and to mine, as I listened with those ears, it didn’t sound that way.  I was also privy to the fact that it killed her, just a little, that she hadn’t been able to pull it off.

“Fair enough,” Alister said, and he did manage to make it sound natural, enough to ease that small knot of anxiety.

Rose looked to get to more secure ground, and simply advised, “The worst thing you can do is make a big deal out of it, because he can and will take it as far as he needs to, to win.”

“Oh god,” Alister said, “Don’t even go there.  I don’t want to know what qualifies as winning here.”

“Mmm,” Rose said.  She pushed down the complex emotions that were stirring at that thought.

“What’s up?”

“Thinking about winning,” Rose said.

“With the big bad bogeyman lurking within you?” he asked.  “I can see how you’d be a little worried.”

“Shhh,” she said.  “He’s there, aware, and he’s watching, listening.  As far as I can tell, he’s being good.”

Rose turned, and she glanced at the mermaid and Evan.  The bogeyman was stalking them, staying just a few paces behind, watching through narrowed eyes.  Evan rode on the mermaid’s head.  Disheveled, feathers sticking up here and there.  Nothing to do with the fact that they’d had to inject spirits into him.  But to do with associating with Blake.

With me, I corrected.

“I need to cobble together a good barometer,” Rose said, to the mermaid.  “But nothing feels wrong, there.  He’s okay.”

“Mm,” the mermaid said.  Her tone was low and threatening as she commented, “I sure hope he stays that way.”

“Me too!” Evan added, brightly.

I looked away from the window.

I felt vaguely uncomfortable.  There was a dissonance that came with looking through Rose’s eyes.  Seeing Evan and Green Eyes without the same sort of familiarity or attachment.

Most definitely not rose-tinted glasses.

The minister was gone.  The church had half-emptied, and Conquest was now in the shape of my mother.  She stood by a memory of a young ten year old Rose, fixing her hair, smoothing out her blouse, a fractured image of a dress shirt.

Winning,” Conquest said, looking up at me.

“There’s a joke to be made here,” I said.  “A juvenile one about conquering and mothers.”

Conquest gave me mom’s best disapproving look.  Rose and I had experienced enough that there was no shortage, even portioning them out between us.

The old standbys held, when it came to dealing with Conquest.  I needed to keep her from gaining ground.  I couldn’t let her influence me, or get me under her thumb.

“That’s not nearly as effective as you think it is,” I said.  “You don’t scare me, Conquest.”

She smiled, and it was a dangerous smile.  “I don’t?”

“For one thing, I’ve largely lost my ability to be afraid.  For another, I’ve seen exactly how much real estate you have in here.  I just faced down a demon, and I wasn’t even in that thing’s neighborhood when it came to raw strength or power.”

“I was there too,” she said.

“I can gauge how much you have to bring to bear.  You’ve only got access to a trickle of power in here.”

“That’s true,” she said.  She approached, still wearing mom’s and I held my ground.  “You’ve got more power and far more presence than I do.  I have the benefit of being very familiar with functioning on this level, knowing how to use the power I have.  We might even be an even match, if we were at odds.”

I had to wonder if I should be worried she was agreeing with me, or if that was a consequence of her being Conquest.  Was it even possible for her to back down, being what she was?

“We can be enemies in here,” I said.  “We can deplete power fighting each other, competing, or we can cooperate.  You can be for me what you are to Rose, with the same cost and payment.”

“I can,” she said.  She smiled a little, “But I decline.”

“To?”

“On both counts,” she said.

I wanted to react, to prepare for battle, but she was right.  I wasn’t familiar with this battlefield, with the weapons that might be employed.

She closed the distance, reaching out, and she seized me by the neck.

I tried to reach out, but I didn’t exactly have arms to grab her with.

“You slowly lost your arms when you became a bogeyman,” she said.  “You gained new ones, fabricating them, but they weren’t yours.  It was the Drains claiming you for itself, and you grasped that, deep inside.  Now, reduced to your essence, you’re left without.”

“Yet, somehow,” I said, my words a touch strangled, “I have a neck.”

“You’re a little more attached to your neck,” she said.  She turned her head, and dug her fingers into the skin between my neck and my jaw, to force me to look in the same direction.  Forcing me to look out the window, at the landscape beyond this church in composite.  “Much of this is yours.  You have defenses that Rose has lacked for some time.  Spirits that would protect a host, that I’ve worked to eliminate and replace.  But, even with your defenses, you’re raw, like this, and you can still be examined, analyzed, and broken down.”

“Does Rose know?”

“She knows that I have been making myself necessary.  She’d be stupid not to, and your counterpart isn’t stupid.”

I struggled, but in this medium, I wasn’t quite sure how.

Stupid, to get cornered like this, but what choice had I had?  I’d tried negotiating, and backing down or cowering would only have made Conquest worse.  I’d had to bluff my way into it.

Had to hope I could find power and leverage it.

But I might as well have been a one year old, this setting and form were so new to me.

“Ah,” Conquest said, still forcing me to look away.  Her voice had changed.  Harder, a little more crisp, a different person’s voice.  “I was expecting this.”

Outside, in the real world, Rose stopped walking.  She allowed herself to clutch Alister’s arm just a little tighter, before releasing it.

“Shit,” Alister said.

Rose was silent.  Most of the others, including the others who had escaped the Abyss, the High Priest, the Knights, Tiff, and Ty, had stopped, collected as a loose group.

Ms. Lewis stood a distance away.  Facing all of them.

“I was expecting this,” Rose said, echoing Conquest.

As she spoke, she drew on Conquest for presence, power, and courage.

Conquest, gripping me by the throat, squeezed tighter.  Hurt me.

Rose turned her head sharply to one side, as if listening for something.

“What?” Alister asked.

“Blake,” she said.

“He has atrocious timing,” Alister observed.

Not wrong.

“It’s not that.  He’s hurting.”

She eased up, letting go of Conquest, and the grip on my throat relaxed a fraction.  Still painfully tight.

“Not good,” Rose said.  “I’m disarmed, and we need every edge we can get, here.”

“You have us,” Alister said.

“I’m not sure that’s good enough.”

I looked down at Conquest, who wore Grandmother’s body, her expression cold.

Because, I had to assume, when I’d dealt with a dragon, fought multiple demons ranging from mote to nightmare, when I’d been in and out of the Abyss three times, befriended monsters who flayed people alive, and fought off the hordes of Toronto, my ignoble end had to be rubbed in by it being at the hands of an old lady.

“Rose,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Your husband-to-be, hello, Alister.”

“Hello.”

“And Mr. Thorburn, who isn’t in a position to respond.”

“No, he isn’t,” Rose said.

Rose’s heart was pounding, and I was keenly aware of it.  A sensation I’d missed.  Her mouth was dry, and she wanted to tap Conquest, very, very badly.

“We’re displeased,” Ms. Lewis said.  “I don’t imagine that’s a great shock.”

“No,” Rose said.

“We were to obtain the house, but the property isn’t in a state we can benefit from.  Which leaves us at a crossroads.”

“Crossroads,” Peter said, from the midst of the collected group, as if trying on the word, barely aware he’d spoken.

“This can be resolved without conflict, if you would agree to sign on with the firm.”

Several people in the group between Ms. Lewis and Rose moved uncomfortably.  Hands were on weapons.

“That’s good to know,” Rose said, very carefully.  “Can I have some time to get my affairs in order?”

“We would need an explicit affirmative on the offer of a position,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Are you giving it?”

Rose was silent.  Seconds passed.

Conquest tightened her grip on my throat.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Ms. Lewis said.

“It would be making me everything I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t be,” Rose said, “And I made other promises.  To Alister, and to the Abyss.”

Lewis didn’t look surprised in the slightest.

“Conflict it is, then,” she said.  “I’m sorry to have to do this, but I have orders.”

Rose nodded, but she didn’t speak.  She didn’t trust herself to.

Sorry, Blake,” she thought, communicating to me.  “But if you could endure, I’d really appreciate it.  And if you could help, that’d be even better, because I have a dozen ideas, and zero faith they’re going to work.

That thought expressed, she started to feed into Conquest.

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150 thoughts on “Possession 15.5

    1. Maybe don’t thank me yet. This chapter is weird, given where Blake is, and I’m not sure how easy it is to follow. Hoping it’s clear where it’s meant to be clear, but there are no guarantees when trying something new.

      Thanks for following along, guys.

      1. Nope, I got it. To put it basically, and tell me if I’m wrong, he’s existing inside of her like the spirits lived inside of him earlier. Conquest is playing monopoly with Rose and giving money (power) for land(power over her). So, you get to keep your thanks after all 🙂

      2. The chapter is definitely on the level with some of the weirder ones you’ve written. At times it is a little hard to follow, but considering what it is, it probably should be. Good job! 🙂

  1. Rose should feed Blake to Evan. Then Evan becomes whole and goes off to live a life with Green Eyes while demons damage the town (world).

    Blake needs to call upon his allies for help. Now would be a wonderful time to summon Lefty.

    I liked Peter in this chapter. Alister I liked as well, to a lesser degree.

    Wasn’t it mentioned a few chapters back that a Witch Hunter was with the Peter group? Who is it? Has Eva returned? Did Andy become unpoisoned?

  2. Oh for fucks sake Peter, don’t become a creeper to a teenager. Whatever he’s doing Alister should just beat the fuck out of him for it on principle.

    Wait, what? Feed what? WHAT?!

        1. Except that she could leave him in the body of a decrepit old man, if he ends up deserving it. And I really hope she can change him, because Peter is really cool, even if he’s a bit of a jerk.

  3. Dangling Threads Threads Untied Knots Thread, in which plot elements that haven’t yet been resolved are listed:

    1. Andy and his RPG
    2. Toronto turning into warzone/wasteland (debateable. Don’t know if we’re intended to see the fallout)

    3. Blood and Fire

    4. Ur and her notes

    . . .

    1. Molly Walker. Didn’t she mention she wasn’t intended to be the first heir, or something like that? I’m going to count 5 as ‘Mysteries of the Thorburn succession order.’

        1. Yeah, in 3.4. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Padraic was that girl, too.

          Which would be pretty ironic. Padraic getting glamour lessons, I mean.

          1. Blake promised he’d ‘show her how he did it’, which could have been fulfilled by them seeing him turn back into Blake. In addition, the Urraser theoretically let him get out of promises

    2. Briar girl in general

      Molly in general.

      Paige and if she got eaten or not.

      Padriac and his groundhog-day-hijinks with the child

      Also, blake and rose promised to be offered a deal from padriac. Granted, it was before they awakened, but still.

      Blake’s bike.

      alexis’s ghost/boogeyman thing.

      Fell’s niece and if she’s still conquest’s servant or not, who became the new lord or toronto, and how the “celestial wizard vs pyro-cult” battle turned out.

      Faysal

      And lastly- how the REST of the thorburns are going to deal with waking up only to find the house in a sink-hole-of doom, two thorburns dead, and rose engaged to an hand-less pretty-boy who is also the cousin of peter’s next possible conquest (pun intended).

        1. Well he’s still Johannes’s familiar and the one in charge of his demesne until johannes dies, and the barber wants to keep his victims alive for as long as possible, so I figured he’s show up at least once more.

          I hope not though. He was a dick.

          1. His goals were to bind The Barber and keep Johannes’ demense trick from becoming widely known. He’s done both of those, so the town is no longer a particular concern, at least not enough of one to stick around with several vengeful families of practitioners.

            The Lawyers might be a big enough target, but he’s noted that the Seventh Choir is not good at direct confrontations. He’s unlikely to go after them as targets of opportunity, and given how slippery they are setting a trap for them would be pretty difficult.

            1. I’m pretty sure that, if they can just hand the names of demons to clients for the sake of convenience in a fight, then they are way, way beyond anything Faysal can handle in a fight.

              (Wow is that a lot of prepositional phrases)

    3. While I fully appreciate the shout-outs to these things that we never saw resolved, I’ve got the impression that most of them aren’t meant to be resolved. This isn’t Worm, they’re not going to fight every enemy, confront every wrong, solve every puzzle, topple world governments and then go ahead and kill god. That said, I see the following as likely to show up:
      1. Grandma Rose’s conspiracies
      2. Padraic’s shenanigans with taking other people’s places and the fae council (50/50)
      3. More witch hunters. Lots of them.
      4. Blake’s promise to visit the grave the witch in the drains talked about (epilogue)
      5. The enemies shown so far in this arc (obviously)
      6. The Others that up till now were comfortable in Johannes’ domain
      7. Blake’s former friends finding a way out (or dying. Maybe they’ll get an epilogue too)

      I consider it unlikely we will see:
      1. Anything in Toronto
      2. A true resolution to Maggie’s blood, fire and darkness
      3. A detailed account of what’s going to happen to Urr, unless it gets involved in this arc with the lawyers
      4. Even if he turns up, the majority of the stuff Padraic’s pulling
      5. Any of the major goblins so far mentioned to be in the area (remember mr 99 scalps goblin?)
      6. Really any of the minor plotlines that were going on in Jacob’s Bell prior to this past night
      7. Or any plotlines centering around a character not currently a major member of the cast

  4. Does this mean Rose will be the next person integrated into Conquest and thereby lose her individuality? That’s sure what it looks like, and there is probably no way to stop it once it starts – Conquest does not give up territory willingly and Rose is too weak to do anything about it.

    If Rose and Conquest integrate, does this mean that one of Blake and Conquest have to destroy each other, or does the takeover obviate Barbatorem’s curse?

    I have been wandering what the lawyers can do – it will be interesting to find out.

    I am not seeing why Ms. Lewis is being apologetic. Somehow it doesn’t fit with a partner-level position in a firm that is dedicated to demons taking over the world. Is it a pure spirit-play, i.e. do the spirits give her a little more leeway to be nasty if she is nice first?

    1. I am not seeing why Ms. Lewis is being apologetic. Somehow it doesn’t fit with a partner-level position in a firm that is dedicated to demons taking over the world.

      I think Ms. Lewis is just a generally amicable person (as far as a lawyer can be). Being nice, but firm when it comes to business seems in character based of what we’ve seen of her thus far.

      1. Ms. Lewis is a liar wired for lying. Thus she will be nice as necessary in order to accomplish her foul goals.

        It just proves that the only reasonable response to someone acting reasonable is a bullet.

      2. I agree; this kind of behavior fits perfectly with what we’ve seen of her. Only Faysal and Johannes have been ‘nicer’ than her, in that sense. She answered Blake’s call from the Abyss purely out of courtesy, for instance.

        But now, business calls. And I’m very much looking forward to it.

      3. its actually a smart position if you are blatantly shilling for a force trying to distroy reality. making yourself seem as friendly and affable as possible to lure in suckers who don’t know the whole picture.

    2. Personally, I think everything about her, especially her sympathetic demeanour is a façade to further the Firm’s interests.

      1. I’m not sure I entirely agree. Her attitude when training Blake and Rose seemed genuine, for instance.

        I think she’s genuinely sympathetic; it’s just that she owes her soul to the Firm, so her personal opinions only matter so far.

    3. To quote someone who’ presumably smarter than me, “politeness costs nothing and gains everything.” Sure, I might have to carve out a pound of flesh because you’re in violation of our contract, but I will apologize for the necessity. It delays me by ten seconds, and if you survive, it helps blunt any hard feelings that might result.

    4. I don’t know that it’s been established that the lawyers are actually exactly “evil”. Not sure we really know just what their true agenda is.

      1. There’s no question that the Firm itself is pure evil. However, from what we know, the individual lawyers have some agency, at least in minor details. We don’t know for sure how much of that is actually just a trick by the Firm, but given that this is Wildbow, the safest assumption is that when the chips are down, you’re screwed.

  5. i thought about it and i dont know who to cheer for, everyone except blake , Thornburns and evan and greeny is a asshole all of them should burn,

      1. I care for Blake, Evan and Mags. Green can go swim with the fishes for all I care.
        Jeremy and Peter are cool too, it would be nice if them or at least half of their individual beings survive the story.

    1. Actually, I was thinking this might happen. It might not have been part of Faysal’s plan, but taking out one of those lawyers would be a huge win for the angels.

  6. For all that this is probably going to be a very bad day for everyone involved, I’m quite happy that Blake and Rose are working together again, in some form.

    One of my favorite parts of Pact was back in the earlier arcs when they were partners. It’ll be interesting to see how this relationship unfolds.

    1. Yeah! I completely agree. This new form of cooperation is interesting too: she fights on the frontline and he covers her back.

  7. First, Peter strikes me as the type who probably would creep on a teenager even if he was notably older. At least, whenever a hypothetical sugar momma wasn’t looking.

    As for Ms. Lewis being apologetic, it likely isn’t for Rose’s sake. Recruiting is a big part of the Lawyers’ modus operandi, so she’s presumably sorry she has to expend effort and resources when she’d rather be signing up her possible replacement.

    This all probably could have been avoided if Blake hadn’t killed that Benevolent dude from a while back. Always figured it was a karmic trap.

    1. Yeaah. The worst idiots like Ellie and Christoff can do is steal drugs and throw rocks at cop cars, respectively. But Peter’s potential seems to lie in the kind of depravity that turns people to taking cold showers to make themselves feel clean.

      Were these guys supposed to be innocent victims of the terribad not-Thorburns? Coz they ain’t.

      1. Hey, it’s not like we don’t know just how much of a jerk he is: he never actually hides it. He’s just rather good at angling himself into different portrayals of jerkassery.

        He didn’t start swearing at karma turning out to be a real thing for no reason, after all. :P.He’s the kind of jerk you’d want as a sergeant major, but the kind you’d want to kill as a son-in-law.

  8. Blake still has a connection to the Abyss at this level, he probably could use the cracks between him & Rose as a channel for it to devour C-word. The price would however be extremely high.

    1. These cracks are demon-borne, and unrelated to the Abyss. It will never heal and any attempt to make things fit better will, as described here, only cause further deterioration, weakening Rusty as a whole and giving Conquest an easier time.

      No, I think Blake has to learn possession tricks as fast as possible to get out of his current trouble. Introspection time ? Rose might have read a book on that during her sleepless-in-mirror phase. The knowledge should be available to him at a thought’s notice.

    1. I kind of like that kind of typo – no obvious word pops into mind, so most likely the author was hunting for the right word as well, went ahead and forgot to come back and fill in the final selection.

      Body? Aspect? Face? Just drop the ‘s? Easy to get too creepy….

  9. Name Conquest forsworn for failing his promises at the start of that contest! Do it! It will be doubly useful after Ms. Lewis feeds Conquest.

    1. This should work. Sandra and Jeremy worried about their unfulfilled promise regarding Blake, even though Jeremy didn’t even remember it due to Ur. And Sandra was unable to stop Corvidae from harming the Duchamps because her actions didn’t have enough weight at that point in time, presumably partly due to that broken promise.

      So Conquest’s promises should still count. That said, did he actually swear to uphold the competition rules? IIRC, broken promises aren’t enough to be named foresworn.

      On the other hand, why was Blake allowed to practice after the competition, again? Did he get an exception from Shepherd & co that allowed him to practice, or did they suspend the competition for good?

        1. The terms of the contest were not to exercise his power while fighting in Toronto, not to retreat to his personal realms, and not to command or assert control over anyone except his champions. I’m not sure exactly how firmly he’s bound to the contest in general; he never explicitly agrees to it but makes a definitive statement that the contest will begin.

          On the subject of Blake’s champions specifically he stated he would exercise no power over them. I think Blake could name him forsworn here if the terms stand as they did originally. I’m not entirely sure how well it would work, though. Between Ur and the way Blake and Rose only sometimes counted as separate people even before then, the spirits might consider Rose fair game. The terms of the contest included more general terms that would prevent this, but only in Toronto.

          Also, Conquest apparently had power banked that would let him lie, break agreements, or act against his nature. Even if it sticks, it’s probably just going to take away his gathered power.

          1. He would have been bound to the contest terms. It’s like the goblins who attacked Maggy. If they participated in the “game” after hearing and understanding the rules, they had implicitly sworn to follow them. Likewise, after hearing the terms of the contest, Conquest stated that it would begin, and a contest can’t begin without its rules.

  10. So, it looks like Rose has a similar thing going on inside her own head to what Blake had going on with his body. I wonder if they were progressing at the same pace, or if Blake’s was going faster due to how actively reckless he was being?

  11. Yo wildbow i would like a comment on this please, I have 2 questions, 1 how many different type of other are there? i know that seems a bit dumb since most others dont really fit in one category like midge who is part bogey/subhuman and corvid who is greater spirit turned bogeyman. Or is the category thing useless in-universe?

    1. shit forgot to ask, how many different types of incarnations are there? i know there/their? is war and conquest are there ones for say joy? or famine?

      1. I hate to burst your bubble, but these don’t seem like the types of questions Wildbow would answer, at least not until the story is complete. Not only that, but he may not be able to answer them — I feel like there are as many types of other/incarnation as there are people and ideas to turn into them!

      2. If (as it sounds like) you’re working on an RPG for Pact, I’d strongly suggest not making specific Other types ‘classes’ or similar. Go with a system that has much more freeform character creation like GURPS, HERO or Fate/Fudge.

        It is both true to the setting and more interesting to play if characters can owe allegiances to multiple parties (like a diabolist bogeyman who owns debts to both the Abyss and a firm of demonic lawyers) and can be of any concept that makes sense (for example a spirit of branches with birds on them).

        Things like ‘bogeyman’ or ‘demon’ would effectively be the labels applied to a collection of particular traits and aspects rather than classes. If you have been summoned from the Abyss then you could rightfully be called a Bogeyman. That doesn’t necessarily indicate a particular set of abilities, constraints or even background though.

  12. Waitaminnit. The lawyers are showing up, it’s very close to the end of the story. Can it be? Are the lawyers in fact the final boss, like I theorized way back when?

            1. It hasn’t been outright stated that the seven times have to be spoken by the same person, but it’s pretty likely otherwise Ornias would probably be out by now.

              Come to think of it, Ms Lewis spoke the name when she gave it to Blake, so if it were cumulative, then Blake would’ve spoken the seventh time already.

            1. Almost certainly – we know Ms Lewis knows how to summon Ornias for starters.

              What is less clear is whether they’re willing to shoulder the karmic burden that doing so would entail. They presumably have very good reasons for preferring to use mortal diabolists as patsies.

  13. I’m just gonna chime in with a contrary opinion: I’m not that skeeved out by what Peter’s doing. He’s aware now, not just of how fucked up the Thoburns are but also of the whole karmic panoply. Since we met him, he’s changed from pointless dickery to using his nature in the Blakeguard’s favor.

    I feel like this is more likely to be a sea-change in Peter’s behavior overall than just him playing the “how fast can you get a restraining order” game. And honestly, he’s one of my favorite characters after his speech to the Crone, so…

    1. There is the undeniable fact that getting in Ainsley’s good graces will help him learn more about the whole magic deal. He would have a hard time convincing others it wasn’t his motive.

      What I find actually interesting is Ainsley’s new take on thing – from her attitude in Subordination to hanging out with a Thorburn? Does Peter has mad mojo or what?

      1. Remind me, is Ainsley actually a fairy right now?

        It’s really not that surprising though. Getting to know members of a demonised group as individual people can happen surprisingly quickly though there’s often some dissonance at first like “Thorburns are demon-worshipping scum. Oh, I don’t mean you, Pete…”

    2. Yeah, Peter’s okay. EVIL, obviously, but he’s cool about it. And mostly benign in the grand scheme of things. I doubt anyone is going to get stabbed by a demon as a direct consequence of Peter’s actions.

      Speaking of demons, remember how Pauz had this lingering influence that made fights break out around Blake after he faced it? You think Barbatorem has one of those, too?

      1. Well, Pauz was a demon (imp) of ferality, right? According to the pact wiki:

        Choir of the Feral: The choir that reverts the natural order and instills hostility into those around it.

        So it would make sense for his “aura” to cause people to be hostile..Same wiki states the Barber is a demon of ruin, or:

        Choir of Ruin: The choir that brings about ruin. Opposed by structure, such as geometric shapes and symbols.

        With that said… an aura of ruin would be pretty shitty for the good guys to have right about now. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

  14. So it seems that Conquest is basically trying to do to Rose what it tried on Fell’s great-granddad, essentially anchoring itself in a human so that it has the trappings of modernity. It’s just taking a long time because she’s not willing and it only has a trickle of power.

    1. Well that’s good. Maybe we can go find Fell, maybe try to work something out with what he kno-

      -Oh shit.

      Well, Conquest is still not very imaginative, they have that going for them.

      1. Didn’t the Shepherd still have Fell’s soul? Not that he’d be terribly enthusiastic about handing it over, but still?

      2. He doesn’t need to be imaginative, he just needs to slowly advance and never give an inch. C is very much in his element here.

    2. Does the big C get smarter as he absorbs more people into himself? That’s what i am wondering and does he get there practitioner knowledge?

  15. Wow, Peter could have almost been allowed to rape ainsley just then, right? If she answered the question with something like “No, I don’t mind sleeping with you, and would prefer it to you sleeping out in the cold”, then he made a move on her, and she tried to stop him, he could have said “Ah, you said you wouldn’t mind sleeping with me. That wasn’t a lie now was it?”.
    WE know that she could easily get around that with some word-play, like “at the time, but it was a limited time offer” or some crap like that, but he doesn’t know. And that makes alister’s worries very very understandable.

    Granted- knowing peter, I am pretty sure he didn’t have that particular intention in mind, but still, I’m glad alister interrupted her from answering all-in-all.

    Sooo…. Conquest didn’t really answer why he needed that church-memory, did he? Does rose need a specific example of a dominating figure/memory to use his power? I don’t get it.

    I also don’t get why he(she?) tells blake to not get in his way, then, when blake is just asking questions or offering a proposal, instantly goes to strangle his soul. Why? He isn’t in the way, is he? He even offered to get out of the way- giving him pieces of himself (not like he has much to give anyways.

    1. Easier to just point out that she offered to sleep in his physical presence, not any other possible interpretation of the phrase.

    2. “I also don’t get why he(she?) tells blake to not get in his way, then, when blake is just asking questions or offering a proposal, instantly goes to strangle his soul. Why? He isn’t in the way, is he? He even offered to get out of the way- giving him pieces of himself (not like he has much to give anyways.”

      Blake will grow potentially much stronger than Conquest inside Rose. Conquest is just being Conquest and pressures the hell out of him just for the sake of it.
      Still the same methods and goals to do everything.

      Almost expecting Blake to slip out of his grasp by challenging him to a contest for Rose’s mindscape, double or nothing. Old crusty probably won’t be able to resist.

      1. Conquests Great weakness is he is completely 1 Dimensional. he can be countered on to always take the least efficient route to any goal for the Pleasure of Crushing an opponent.

      1. Yeah, I mentioned that later in my post/rant.
        I said how I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying to get that karmic excuse, but I was still glad alister interrupted either way

  16. Oh. One last thing. Why the hell is Rose using Conquest’s voice? Giving up real estate in her mind/soul just to sound a little bit more authoritative?

    That’s a pretty fucking stupid trade if you ask me. It’s not like it works on everyone- Blake essentially ignored her conquest-voice multiple times, and earlier when she tried to stall people from leaving, it didn’t last long…

      1. Yeah, that’s a big part of it. Bear in mind that Blake was the stupid brave one of the pair and Rose had a tendency to panic or freeze up in fights. It’s really helped her out when she needed to be commanding or stare down her enemies.

        1. So…. that sounds an awful lot like an excuse I’d hear from a junkie about their drug of choice.
          (yes, there are some drugs that give confidence and help prevent against freezing up, plus give you focus and whatnot. At the cost of setting your liver on fire)

          1. Drug use is a pretty good metaphor. Conquest here is acting kind of like a hospital painkiller; very useful but dangerous and addictive if overused. Drawing on him really has been helping Rose; he’s let her assert authority over her followers and allies and seems to help with binding Others, and let her act like she’s in total control over the situation even in dire straits. The price she’s paying really is buying things for her.

            Rose went into this deal thinking she knew the price and would keep it under control. Clearly, she’s let it get out of hand. I think she was counting on the defenses Conquest mentions eliminating to let her reassert control. The deal would be a lot better if she could regain control over time when not using his power, and his influence does recede when she’s not.

            She’s also been using his power quite a lot more often than she was originally planning to. Partially because the recent past has been full of situations it legitimately calls for, partially because she likes being in control and has used it when she maybe didn’t have to.

            1. If you use Conquest, it gains leverage on you. If you don’t use Conquest, it builds up inside you and eventually takes over. Lose-lose.

              With Conquest, the only way not to be assimilated is not to get possessed in the first place.

        1. Not debating that, but Rose would have probably given in a long time ago were it not for Conquest. Or, maybe not. Maybe she would have thought of something else. That line about Conquest making himself necessary? Conquest is totally a drug, and Rose is a junkie. But maybe Rose would be dead.

        2. To be fair, it’s a very effective trade as long as they’re not planning long-term. And if the goal really is to wipe out the Thorburn line so the Lawyers don’t get anything, that’s certainly one way to remove a Thorburn.

          On the other hand, giving Conquest access to diabolism is still just as scary a thought as it’s always been.

          1. If the goal was to get rid of the thorburn line… why did she have kids in the first place? Or why didn’t she barber-them so they couldn’t have kids?

            1. I think she’s planning to cheat. The goal isn’t to kill off all her descendents, it’s to lose the debt. The details probably come down to exactly how the inheritance rules work, but basically she seems to want to arrange a situation where there’s no women left in the line of succession. Then a male descendent or a woman who somehow isn’t a valid heir gets the material assets(which they admittedly do not have now) and starts a new Thorburn family of practitioners minus the debts.

              My guess is that once someone holds the house long enough they’d be allowed to sell it, only their descendents will be valid heirs.

            2. its not the end of their family its the end of their line. THORBURN(with caps) seems to follow the female heirs and is separate from simply being of thorburn blood or name(the karmic debt only settled on the heir for example, not spread into a lesser burden on each of them). the thorburn is always female except blake who gets in because shenanigans. being a lesbian got page moved to the bottom of the list, being male got everybody but blake kicked off of it entirely.

              for some reason the way the heir declaration was made it seems if you kill or sterilize all the females the thorburn line apparently ends.

              wall off the debt and weight/power of being a thorburn into a doomed line(rose can’t have children, molly is dead, the others would either burn out in the war, never reproduce, or can’t inherent(male) and the rest go free, if there are still thorburn decedents then thats different than being the thorburn. its ‘sins of the father’ not ‘sins of my uncle twice removed’

            3. The problem with doing something overt like killing her family is that the lawyers would then intervene. This was explained by the cryptic talk Blake and Rose had when peace was being discussed. Rose had to keep up the act that she was interested in the lawyers’ offer, and further Granny’s plan of cheating themselves out of the debt, but she had to be discrete about it.

        3. That’s pretty much the story of Pact. Both Blake and Rose have been so completely overwhelmed from the get go that they have very little choice but to grab for whatever’s available that’ll help them survive the next few days. They know they’re digging themselves in a hole but see little in the way of alternatives.

          To a lesser extent the same can be said of many of the other players too. The Duchamps knew that their arranged marriages thing was a deal with the devil, but figured the family as a whole would be destroyed without it. I’m sure Jerry is very aware that he now pretty much exists at his god’s whim. Even the Behaims are apparently forfeiting a significant percentage of their lifetimes rather than see their family crushed by rival forces.

          Most of them, to a greater or lesser extent, are terrified of what the others will do to them if they fall behind in the arms race. This is most of all true for the Thorburns.

          It’s a shame that all the (apparently) major players had to be brought to their knees before they realised that detente is better than cold war for everyone involved.

  17. Just wondering, did we ever find out who Granny Rose’s Husband was? We know her parents were cousins. We know she and Aimon just luvved each other, but married different people. We know the kids and grandkids. Who was the husband? What happened to him?

    1. He was apparently an asshole. Or bastard, forgot the exact phrase she used in the will

      But no, we did not ever find out who it was. It might have been that she never got married- just found a guy or three, and had some “fun”. When Aimon was there watching as she used her first born as bait, there was no mention of who the male was that helped supply the seed for the rest of the fucked up family tree…

      1. When we married, we couldn’t meet so easily.
        -Aimon Behaim

        I always took that quote to mean that both Aimon and Granny Rose had been married. Noticeably, we don’t see Charles dad in the History and we know he eventually came to have siblings.

        Something about the situation is fishy.

  18. I read Worm last year and I finally caught up with Pact. I already expressed how I felt about Worm. As for Pact, even though this story is not as epic as Worm, it is still pretty damn awesome in its own right.

    I am looking forward to the remaining chapters and to participate in the comments without worrying about spoilers =D

  19. Most definitely not rose-tinted glasses.
    I see what you did there…

    Sucks to be Blake right now. Or at a zillion times in the past, I guess.

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