Possession 15.7

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“When you say pests, or ‘help’, you wouldn’t mean, say, those imp things being pests and you helping us?” Peter asked.

“No,” Faysal said.

“Then you’re a complete and utter bastard,” Peter said.  “What the hell right do you have, calling yourself an angel?”

“That would be a label others applied to me,” Faysal said.  “Human invention.”

“I was under the impression that all Others of any given classification were of human invention, to some degree, conscious or unconscious,” Rose said.  “Influenced, at the very least.”

The lead imp, Murr, growled at her.

“What?” Rose asked the imp.  It was all she could do to keep her voice steady, without the benefit of Conquest.  “Don’t like that idea, imp?”

“Did you want something, Rose?” Faysal asked. “At this point, I’m quite prepared to help Lewis wrap this up so these creatures can be put away properly.  It’s less damage in the end.  You went to considerable trouble summoning me; if you had a reason to do it, this would be the time to share.”

“Right this moment, I’m curious as to why you’re changing the subject from the topic of others being human-made.  Or why you’re even asking when you could just help her and be done with it,” Rose said.

Faysal cocked his head to the side.  “This isn’t making me more inclined to help you.”

Not thinking straight, Rose admitted to herself.  To me.

I maneuvered through memories.  It wasn’t hard to find the memories in question, as Rose was calling up the very same ones.

Two minds in one body, two minds free to pore over Rose’s memories and experiences.

I’d given her a portion of myself, an attachment to Tiff, Ty, Alexis, and to Toronto, with the idea that maybe, just maybe, she might be able to engage in actual teamwork.  Not simply giving orders, but working with others.

If I had to, if I could figure out what she was striving to do, here, I could give her something else.

I saw grandmother.  I saw Rose at the house, reading.  Rose talking to the lawyers.

I entered one scene, and I could make out Rose, sitting in the armchair of the living room.  It was empty, quiet, tracts of darkness surrounded her, but the scene that unfolded from the window was that of a complete city.

Rose in the mirror.  Before I’d been eaten by Ur.

I looked over her shoulder, in a manner of speaking.  I peered through her eyes, to read what she was reading.

Grandmother’s diary.  One of many.  A stack of no less than twenty stood beside her.  Where anyone else might be concerned about a stray breeze or bystander knocking over the books, Rose paid it no mind.  In her mirror world, reading while I was active in the real world, there were no external influences.

Here, in this memory, she was utterly and completely alone.

It made me wonder.  Her new sense of friendship, how did it combine with her ability to hold it together here, without anything resembling human contact?

Or was that why there was so much damage, when two pieces tried to fit together?

She read with a dogged sort of determination.  Now and again, she reached over and made a note with her pen.  I looked over her notes as she did.

A textual silence, Rose had noted.  The text spells it all out, regular updates.  Undeniable, safe.

But, she wrote, and she stabbed the paper with the tip of the pen a few times, letting the ink blot out in vaguely circular shapes, it’s too convenient.  R.D.T. the good little diabolist.  She brings up thoughts of rebellion in abstract, then abandons them.  Except they aren’t truly abandoned.

Textual silence.  What isn’t written?  What subjects, ideas and plans came up, but went unwritten, in case her enemies read her work?

She wages a subversive war against the lawyers.  I may have to, if they keep up their pressure.

Who are my enemies?  What rules do they operate by?

I turned away.  I abandoned the scene.  I suspected I could skim the memories, rush through them, pick across several in a fraction of the time that seconds and minutes passed in the real world.  All the same, there was little to be gained by reviewing memories where Rose was only just beginning to pull ideas and strategies together.

I latched on to the idea of the list, Rose’s notes.

I followed it through several successive scenes.  Some were fleeting, Rose picking up the sheet, reading it, putting it away.  Others were longer.  Rose doing more reading while I slept, or while I was busy with other things.

Only a few seconds had passed in reality.

“I did call you for a reason,” Rose said.

“Of course,” Faysal replied.

Rose’s mind flashed over a scene.  Distinct and separate from what I was looking through.

The list.  Rose writing a note.

There must be a reason the lawyers haven’t seized control of everything.  They aren’t all powerful.  What is their vulnerability?

Same vulnerability as any diabolist.  Everyone loathes them.

Rose reached for Conquest.  There was something sure about the action, a kind of confidence to it that wasn’t artificial.  The same sort of confidence needed to leap off a one hundred foot cliff.

The confidence required for an action of scale.

I got the hell out of the way, as Rose fed her power and self into Conquest, allowing the incarnation to have a greater hold on her.

Focused on self preservation as I was, I saw Rose seize some of the ties I’d given her.  To friends.  It was unlike her usual Conquest-afflicted self.  A strange side of Rose.  Reaching to that for reassurance?  For a different kind of power?

When she spoke, it was with power, without hesitation.  “In joint partnership with Alister Behaim, I would hereby like to declare, to your ears, and all who would hear it, that we hereby claim ourselves as sovereign Lord and Lady in Jacob’s Bell, with all associated rights and powers.”

The words vibrated, carrying.

Rose could see the connections forming, the connections breaking.  Some were major in scale, while others were to very distant places and things.

Faysal’s head turned as he watched the aftermath of the statement, disappearing into the distance.

Rose noted Tiff glancing at Ty, wide eyed.  The two were huddled together.  Tiff mouthed words.  They might have been ‘what the fuck?’

“Let it be known,” Alister said, giving his support to Rose’s statement.

Rose could see that where some connections had been flailing, grasping, like so many tendrils or reaching arms, they held tight after that.

“Though,” Alister said, just under his breath, “I wouldn’t have minded knowing about this beforehand.”

“I’m sorry,” Rose said.

“You’re aware this is suicide?  The basic, fundamental idea behind this whole scene was that one side wins, consolidates its power, gets everyone else under their thumb, and then makes the declaration.  Not, you know, declaring lordship when we’re down, out, and just a few steps from dying in five different, horrible ways.”

“I’m aware,” Rose said, barely moving her lips.  Her eye fell on the nearest imp.

Even with Faysal suggesting an alliance, the imps were afraid to approach.

“You should be aware,” Lewis said, “That the only power you have as Lord is the power others give you.”

“Yes,” Rose said.  “But Johannes is dead, and Sandra knows she’s lost.  How many people out there are utterly unsurprised to be hearing this declaration right now, resigning themselves to the fact that the war is over?  Is Briar Girl?  Maggie?  The hag?  Are the goblins nodding themselves and remarking that they expected the side with demons and diabolism to come out on top?  There should be enough people in Jacob’s Bell who can believe Alister and I have become Lord and Lady that the belief holds some weight.”

“Enough weight to matter?” Faysal asked.  “You have no realm, your soldiers are few in number.  The spirits, as an extension of the world as a whole, can see you and evaluate you.  They know that you aren’t much of a Lord at all, and that counts for a great deal more.”

Rose didn’t flinch.

Theatrics, I observed.

Faysal sat a little straighter.  “As bids go, this counts for very little.  You strike me as one who will have a reign spanning minutes.”

“There’s more to it,” Lewis concluded, as an extension to Faysal’s thought.

“Yes,” Rose said.

“Not merely buying time,” Lewis said.  “I can look at you and I can tell, your demeanor would be different if you were still racing to piece together a plan.”

Rose smiled.

“So tell me,” Lewis said.  “Why shouldn’t I order the imps to attack you now?”

“Ask Faysal,” Rose said.  “If he thinks about it, he should realize why it isn’t in his interests to let it happen.”

Lewis glanced at the angel, leaning slightly to one side to look through gaps in our amassed group.

“I’m so goddamn confused,” Peter said, under his breath.

Rose reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, giving it a slight rub.  Reassuring.

“And creeped out now, too,” he said.

“You put power into your declaration,” Faysal said.  “You made it known.”

Rose nodded.

“You manipulated connections.  Ones tying you to Toronto.”

“Yes,” Rose said.

“You let them know,” Faysal concluded.  “The residents of Toronto.”

Rose smiled.

Faysal met Ms. Lewis’ eyes.

“Oh,” Alister said, under his breath.  He turned and let his forehead rest on Rose’s shoulder, the only available surface he was comfortable using, without a wall available.  “Peter?  Given that we don’t have a proper blackguard with us, could you do me a favor and-”

“I don’t know what that is,” Peter said, interrupting.

Rose reached up to put a hand on the back of Alister’s head, patting it.

“Just- just do me a favor,” Alister said.  “I can’t be sarcastic.  In my place, give me a good one?  Let me live vicariously through you?”

“I still don’t get what it is she just did,” Peter said.

“Faysal wants things neat and tidy,” Rose said, staring down the angel.  “He wants us swept under the rug, so the demons can go back in their box and he can go back to angel business as per usual.  In the interest of making that very hard to do, I’ve-”

“Declared yourself to be someone very important, to Toronto, for some reason,” Peter concluded.  “Making things very messy, for Faysal.”

“And us,” Ainsley added.

Rose didn’t flinch, and didn’t take her eyes off Faysal.

Brilliant,” Peter said, with every drip of sarcasm he could muster.

“Thank you,” Alister said, without raising his head.  “I really appreciate it.”

“What are in-laws for?” Peter asked.

Alister raised his head to shoot Peter a look, just in time for Peter to clarify, “Cousin-in-law, anyway.”

Alister sighed.

Digging through memories, I’d found Rose musing on the last chapters of grandmother’s work.

Tonight I summon the demon Barbatorem.  I have been the diabolist I was expected to be.  In a week’s time, I summon my grandchildren.  My children are useless, and it is largely my own fault.  The grandchildren, left alone, will meet miserable ends, many claimed by dark powers.  I have never liked using the demons, but I suspect few do.  All the same, I hope that one set of Wrongs on my part will better this bloodline.  I summon the first demon I bound myself, the first true step I took on this journey, and I use it to close this chapter.

Should it be used as a weapon, it may well be in pursuit of the likes of Laird Behaim, who I have never liked, even if I respect the man.  We have talked so little, outside of council business.

If it should act as a deterrent, all the better.

But chances are slim to none that I have a grandchild that serves my exact purposes.  Should it come down to it, I’ll be forced to create one.

Except the shears of the Barber, as is the case with any demon, cannot truly create.  They only strategically destroy.

“Rose,” my own voice spoke up, but not from my lips.  From memory.

Rose looked up suddenly, a little startled.

Looking through the gateway of the mirror, she saw Blake.  Me.

Except it was Conquest, wearing my face.  A face that hadn’t been mine since I’d become a bogeyman.  Blake-as-human.  A force that, from Rose’s perspective, was akin to Conquest, seizing her life, taking it over, perverting it.

Conquest hadn’t ever left.  He was still here.  Powerful, with Rose leaning so heavily on it.  Now it was watching me.

“Conquest,” I said.

The scene around me had gone still.

“Not going to come after me?” I asked.  I dared to turn away, poring over memories.  Conquest followed.

“She’s the Lord of Jacob’s Bell, and I have my presence here,” Conquest said, in a voice that wasn’t mine.  “I have what I want.”

I nodded.  “You’re easy to please.”

“I’ll be more pleased by what follows,” Conquest said.  “Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other.

“Rose is more a reader than I am,” I said.  “But that strikes me as laughably hypocritical, if it means what I think it means.”

“I don’t deny that I am pride and suffering,” Conquest said.  “I’m well positioned to know that a crown hastily donned makes for a reign of misery.”

“She’s not planning to reign for long,” I said.  Minutes?

What can she do with minutes?

“More suffering, then, in a shorter span of time,” Conquest said.

“For her or for everyone else?”

“What do you think?” Conquest asked.

I looked up from the collection of memories to assess Conquest, but he was gone.  Retreated elsewhere, to help Rose in his own way.

I turned my attention back to the task at hand.

Changing tacks.  Rose apparently had the current situation in hand.  We had to tackle the others.

Rose had read everything she could, helped by the fact that she hadn’t needed to sleep.  If I looked at it that way, I had access to the Thorburn library, as it had once existed.

I, in turn, was free to search out what she needed, while her mind focused on other things.

Trouble was, how did I identify just what she needed?

“Do you suppose we can wrap this up before the ones she called arrive?” Faysal asked.

“We can try,” Ms. Lewis said.

“Wait-” Rose started.

Attack,” Ms. Lewis ordered, ignoring her.

As one, the imps screeched and howled.  Voices of hell, madness, ruin, and worse things, guttural and high, they put everyone within the diagram off their guard.  They launched themselves toward the opening in the diagram, where Surbas had fallen and scuffed the lines of salt and the scratches in the frozen dirt.

Alister reached out and caught Christoff by the neck, hauling him back toward the center of the diagram, before Christoff could walk on more lines.

Two-headed Hauri, speaking with two voices that overlapped to the point of making no sense, distorted.  The imp broke into two parts, and the distortion touched all things near it.  The trees, the shrubs, everything shattered, splitting right down the middle.  All present could see that when these things were broken in the right way, the insides could be seen.

Inside of every thing, there was darkness, yawning, so black and complete that it threatened to consume everything.

People in the group were screaming.

Rose realized she was among them.  Her arms hugged her body, as she felt the distortion touch her, threatening to break her in two.

Even with Conquest shoring her up, it was a terrifying prospect.

I’m broken already, she thought.  It’s easier for me to break apart than it is for the others.

“Hauri, I order you to cease!” she screamed out the word, and with Conquest touching her voice, she managed to make it sound authoritarian.

But the imp didn’t listen.

Ms. Lewis held more sway.

The Knights were working together to fend of fanged Surbas and the two halves of Hauri, the former of which was taking an aggressive stance, lunging, snapping, while they struggled with Hauri’s distortion.  Murr lurked, waiting, while stretched-skin Naph and Obach, cancer of the land, paced behind, ready to fill the gap as soon as Hauri or Surbas moved.

Hauri was the concern here.

If the lawyers had access to these imps, they were bound in some fashion.

Were they in books?

I darted through Rose’s memories, searching, hunting.

I found the memories of Rose perusing the tomes.  Her expression was grim.

Paging through, trying to memorize, to study the enemy.

A part of me was gratified that she saw them that way.

Another part of me less gratified that one thought that had kept returning to her mind, then, was what to do about me, if there was anything she could use here.

Her eye passed over Hauri’s entry.  The memory was there, ready to be summoned with the right prompt.

She gave him a moment’s more attention than she had given the others, because Hauri, get of Flavros, was a mote of duality, associated with Flavros’ triality.  Where its master confused the establishments of one individual’s past, present, and future, crafting prophecies that tangled up lives, Hauri was not yet fully developed.  It could only create dissonance.  A conflict between what was perceived and what was, the notes speculated, or between what was and what wasn’t.

I needed to give this to Rose, except it was already hers.  Buried, lost beneath panic and pain and dissonance.

Power has a price.  Through payment, power.

I only needed a little, enough to let this one set of memories rise to the surface.  But I also needed Rose to know to grasp it, to use it.

Instinct.  Gut.  That which had allowed me to survive while homeless.  To get away from Carl.  To fight.

Just a little.

“Hauri!” Rose called out, through the pain.  “Get of Flavros!  Imp of the second choir!  Bound by Marissa De Roust!  I name you and I order you be bound again!  Stand down!”

Hauri hesitated, frozen.

The Knight’s machete cut one of his heads from his shoulders.  The body fell, and Peter hurried to kick it well past the circle.  The head landed out of Peter’s reach – he couldn’t kick it without pushing past other people, and he wasn’t about to put himself out there with the other imps still there.

Fanged Surbas lunged.

Tiff struck it out of the air with her bag, bludgeoning it and sending it flying well past the diagram.

The two imps in the background ran forward, ready to take over.  Tumorous Obach and stretched-skin Naph.  One with too much flesh, the other with too little, stretched tight over a tiny body.

The Behaims, Ainsley leading the pack, worked to bog them down, slowing their approach.

“The head!” Ty shouted.  “Give!”

Nick stepped forward, piercing the head with the machete’s tip, then stepped back, head skewered at the point.

“Tiff,” Ty said, grabbing the head atop the sword.  “Hand!”

Tiff shoved her hand at Ty with enough force she might have knocked the wind out of him.

Huddled together, while the distractions had been ongoing, Ty and Tiff hadn’t been idle.

Scratched out in pen on the back of Tiff’s hand was a diagram.

Holding the head in one hand, Tiff’s hand in the other, Ty murmured something.

Where Hauri’s blood had spilled, the blood flowed out into lines.  A sympathetic effect.

The two imps that had been lurking at the back reached the diagram, and they slammed into it.  Slow motion, but not hurting themselves any less as a consequence.

Surbas snarled, and seized Naph, swallowing the imp.

We collectively watched in quiet horror as Surbas swelled.  Though Naph had only weighed eight or ten pounds, Surbas grew by forty or fifty.  His oily black skin failed to grow at the same rate, and started to split at the scenes.  Blood leaked out from these fresh wounds.

Tatters came to hang from his mouth, as his fangs tore the skin that was trying to stretch over his mouth.

He cackled, a sound with sharp edges that threatened to slit eardrums.

Rose looked down.

Holding Alister’s hand, she led him over to the center of the diagram, and she used her feet to scuff the lines of the diagram there, where the seal of Solomon was marked down.

Surbas attacked once more.

It took three people, this time, just to stop his charge, each person stepping forward carefully, so as not to interfere with the lines that had been redrawn.

Claws flashed, swinging, and the High Priest blocked him with a gesture.  Nick stabbed Surbas’ other claw, while the other Knight went for the throat, only for Surbas to bite the blade and hold it in place instead.

Rose drew a small knife from her pocket, and pricked her hand.  She handed it to Alister as she let the blood drip.

Alister added his blood to the mix.

Replacing the sigil of solomon with the power of a Lord.  Even a small, temporary Lord.

The choir of the feral reverse the natural order.  Here, we reclaim it.

The diagram flared, and the imp was cast out.

“You did offer your help,” Lewis stated.

Rose turned her head.

“I did,” Faysal Anwar replied.  “We didn’t finalize it.”

“In all our past encounters,” Lewis stated, “We never finalized it.  I’ve almost forgotten why.”

“Call it bad luck,” Faysal said.

He rose to a standing position.

There was a flicker, like an image between two frames of a film, too fast for the eye to grasp.

Rose saw only the afterimage, a great wheel, with lesser wheels within it, a figure with seven arms, a motif of wings.  Far larger than this dog that stood before her.

“Faysal,” she said.  “Others are coming.  If you let this follow it’s natural course, they’ll arrive one by one.  You’ve seen what happens, when things are staggered like that.  Just before you brought down Hillsglade House, Johannes did it to me.  People arrive one by one, precedent is established, someone tries to take power, or there’s conflict.  If you want stability, all of the individuals who are coming here need to arrive at once.”

“My kind,” Faysal said, “Is rather misunderstood.  I am not good.  I’m not even right.  Order is-”

Rose’s thoughts flickered through notes.

Grandmother’s theories.  Notes on other powers, on the structure of things.

“Order is the antithesis of mankind,” Rose said, interrupting.  “Johannes and you tried to establish it, to weaken man’s dominion.  A different rule of law.”

“Not because I am of Order,” Faysal said.  “But because the alternative is to let man careen down his course, right into the growing dominion of demons.”

Ms. Lewis cleared her throat.  Rose looked the woman’s way, but Ms. Lewis wasn’t trying to voice her own piece.

“If you attack, right now, if you wipe us out, they’re going to arrive.  They’re going to see this carnage.  They’re going to try and address this carnage.  They’re going to investigate it.  Maybe even go down there.  What’s to say they won’t find the library, choice tomes, or the Barber?”

“What’s to say they will?” Faysal asked.  “The world is full of possibilities.”

“It is,” Rose said.  “But I have only one question for you.”

Faysal quirked his ears up.

“Why the hell are you still a dog?” she asked.

“I could be a gatekeeper, if it pleased you.”

“You could,” Rose said, “But that doesn’t answer my question.  Give me a straight response.”

“They’re buying time,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Shall I step in?”

“No,” Faysal said.  “Please don’t.”

“As you wish.”

“Tell me, Faysal,” Rose said.

“You ask, but you already know the answer.”

“Yes.”

“Because I am still a familiar.”

“You had to know this was possible.”

“That Johannes wouldn’t die?  Or that he would die, but the connection would be maintained?” Faysal asked.

“Yeah,” Rose said.  “I’m pretty sure he died, but he had an immortal thing inhabiting his body.”

“Yes,” Faysal said.  “The demon has his flesh and being, and the Abyss has the demon, in turn.”

“Both abyss and demon have the pipes, which allow the piper to command children, rats, and dogs, among other things,” Rose said.  “I imagine you want this situation resolved.”

“And you believe you can give me this resolution?”

“Fuck no,” Rose said.  “But I think they can.  Bring them here.  Let me bargain with them.  I swear, I truly believe this will create a better opportunity than letting this become a site of conflict.”

Faysal nodded.

One by one, they appeared in flashes.

The Shepherd.  The Astrologer.  The Eye.  A man I didn’t recognize.  A little girl in white.  Isadora the Sphinx, with Paige in tow.  Paige was dressed nice, though her dress looked a little bit too much like a toga, what with the flowing white drapery, beneath her heavy coat.  Her shoes didn’t look like outdoor wear.

PaigeBullshit!” Peter said.

Paige raised a hand in a short wave.

“Bullshit,” Peter said, quieter.

“If she’s alive, she’s okay,” Rose said.

“What the fuck do I care, about her being okay?” Peter asked.

A mite too defensively.

The Sisters were last to arrive.

Something about the tone of their arrival…

The Elder Sister smiled in acknowledgement at Rose, as if reading Rose’s mind. The new Lord of Toronto.

It wasn’t a pleasant smile.

The smile faltered as she eyed the imps, counting their number.

The four remaining imps were tense, and lurked, eyes on the new arrivals, moving through shadow, drawing closer as they searched for opportunity to attack.

Rose noted that Murr had yet to do anything.  It made her uneasy.

It made me go search for Murr in Rose’s memories.

“It’s not a trap,” Rose said.  “Only a bad situation.”

“I see.  One you were in a great hurry to summon us to.”

“Yes,” Rose said.

“After the state you left Toronto in over the course of several days, I’m somehow not surprised this is what Jacob’s Bell looks like after a week,” the Elder Sister said.

“Thank you for saying so,” Rose said.

“You’re thanking me.”

“It leads straight into my next big statement,” Rose said.  “We would like to abdicate my Lordship.  Given the state of things, I no longer feel that Jacob’s Bell should stand as is.  It’s not salvageable, and I would like to turn it over for Toronto to condemn.  Remove the roads leading into here.  Ward it from the eyes of the unawakened.  Let it be lost and forgotten.”

“Yet, by turning it over to us, you make your problems our problems,” Isadora commented.  “I can’t help but notice that you have… immediate, infernal problems at hand.”

“It talks?” Peter asked, under his breath.

Our problems would include me, ideally,” Rose said. “I’ve agreed to be a scourge for the Abyss.  Help me deal with things here, including securing the fate of this angel, Faysal Anwar, and you’ll have all the assistance I can render.”

“And if we refuse?” the Elder Sister asked.

“These problems might become big enough problems to be Toronto’s problems,” Rose said, gesturing at Ms. Lewis.

“You’re aware of what this means,” Ms. Lewis said.  “My partners won’t simply accept a diabolist slipping our grasp.”

“I know,” Rose said.

“You’re bringing all of these others into it.”

Rose shrugged, unflinching.  “They were always a part of it.  They just turned a blind eye.”

“It’s not as simple as that,” the Astrologer said.

“It wasn’t.  Now I’ve made it that simple,” Rose said.

I’m such a bitch, she thought.

I privately agreed, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever liked her more.

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131 thoughts on “Possession 15.7

  1. Wrapping up the arc with this, I think, there should be a histories or gathered pages on Friday.

    There will be three chapters next week, barring extraordinary event.

    1. “Wrapping up”? As much as a “Declaration of War with an Army of Demon-Lawyers” can be called “wrapping up”. Not complaining here.

      Potential other powerful lines:
      Lewis: “You bringing innocents into this.”
      Rose: “Nobody is innocent.”

  2. Wait a tick. Blake is reading Rose’s memories of being trapped in the mirror world. She still has those?

    Also, I’m still not clear on why Faysal actually showed up instead of leaving it to Lewis. That seems unnecessarily risky. Unless he was planning on having Rose arrange for him to bring in the others from the very beginning. Which admittedly he might have been.

    1. On another note, apparently Paige passed. As she is now presumably a non-Diabolist practitioner lawyer, I expect great things from her in the near future.

    2. She has memories that appear to be of being in the real world which make more sense with the additional context that she was really in the mirror world.

    3. The memories are probably in deep storage and accessible through warped connections. She’ll remember reading everything in solitude, but thanks to Urr, won’t connect the dots about a lot of how and why she was stuck in the mirror. If she even is able to recall the mirror.

      Urr messes with connections, and how you remember anything is also through those. But, nothing says Urr can totally wipe everything that the connections are formed between. 🙂

    4. Faysal showed up because he was summoned. With Power. And since he has some sort of standing deal with the lawyers, he obviously didn’t think it that risky.

    5. Yeah, indications have been for a while that when connections are severed the ‘lost’ things aren’t destroyed – only the links to them are. (Though if your links are all severed and you have nothing holding you up you may fall into the Abyss as a result).

      Disconnected things simply sit there and noone ever looks at them. Disconnected memories sit in the mind unthought of and unaccessed.

          1. Rather Padraic than me, in that case. 😛 Trying to dial back the knowledge? Hard work. But, hey: pitching the jerkassery to the right level would be easy… just as long as Ellie and Paige weren’t in the picture. Which they are. One mistake, and they’d probably catch it. 😐

  3. A lot happenedin this chapter.

    Had to read it a couple times to make sure I got everything.

    Good to see Paige again though!

    Also, Girl-In-White is a weird title. I’m guessing a new player to the practioner game?

    1. Good to see Paige again though!

      Not to mention Isadora. I liked her. Given how much she loathes demons and those who deal with them, I look forward to her treatment of the lawyers.

  4. The stakes are too high, The protagonists are too weak, and the villains are too powerful. I think the best we can hope for at this point is that most of the main cast doesn’t suffer a fate worst than death.

  5. Awww. Blake’s agreeing with Rose about something. And he likes her. So he likes himself.

    Widdle Blake found some self esteem.

  6. Ummm. . . Clever words. Clever words. Typo thread:

    A mite too defensively

    Is this a tupo? Is there supposed to be more to this sentence? What did the mite do defensively?

    1. mite:

      1. Anything very small; a minute object; a very little quantity or particle. For in effect they be not worth a myte. Chaucer.
    2. “A mite” is used here in the same manner one might use “a bit” or “a little”; it is an adverb indicating “a small amount” or “to a small extent.”

    3. “Hauri!” Rose called out, through the pain. “Get of Flavros! Imp of the second choir!

      -Wasn’t Hauri suggested to be the imp of ruin in the previous chapter?

  7. Good old Peter, asking the right questions.

    Also Rose has made a glorious master stroke that neatly tied up the towns problems, and given us excuses to go have shenanigans with Toronto. Sphinx included shenanigans. Hee hee!

    And Rose’s sudden outpouring of affection is adorable, and the entirety of this chapter cements her as now a likable character.

        1. Because she was cold and calculating. She didn’t have allies, she had tools. Plus, we never got to see inside her head and we knew she was corrupted by conquest and manipulating Blake.

          1. Exactly! now we’re finally in a position to see things from her POV a lot more, which is something ive been desperately hoping for for the better part of a Dozen chapters. the main reason ive been so critical of her actions is the lack of knowledge of her thoughts behind em. a bit like how Goldark the Emperor of Fandoria in Dragonforce actually Turned out to be a good guy intentionally invoking the Threat of an Evil Empire to Unite the continent against the REAL threat one way or another. unless you play though his storyline, he just seems like a generic take-over-the-world guy.

            1. I’ve been waiting for the Rose hating masses to turn around. As it turns out, it only took until the second to last arc!

      1. I’ve been defending her throughout the story, stressing that Blake’s perspective isn’t exactly unbiased. But yes, if one didn’t read between the lines of Blake’s POV, coming away with a bad impression of her was all but guaranteed.

        That said, while I never found her evil, I was disappointed how useless she was during the house siege. That should have been one of her moments to shine, and instead it was totally stolen by Blake, RDT and Alister, turning her into little more than a damsel in distress.
        Granted, that moment was a black spot for the entire Jacob’s Bell cast: It’s a wonder the Barber wasn’t already freed back then, either by a Rose pushed far enough to use her dead man’s switch, or by the Others besieging the house.

        1. I will point out that up until Blake gave her his affection for his friends, she was actively calculating who she could sacrifice to escape this.

          I don’t think that people’s judgment of her as a horrible person was entirely unfair. It wasn’t her fault (she was incomplete and had been cut in a way to make her like that), but when I go back over her characterization up until Blake gives her those feelings, I don’t see anything that would particularly make me like her, and lots of things that would make me dislike her.

          I mean, she wasn’t a total monster, since she was willing to be fair to Blake, but… she comes across as pretty horrible. What I came away with from these chapters is not that she was always better than Blake thought, but that she was horrible up until now because she was a painfully incomplete person.

          1. (Also, adding to that — a lot of people defending her in previous chapters said things like “Blake thinks she doesn’t really care about his friends; that’s so unfair of him!” The previous few chapters confirmed that no, up until Blake forced the connections to them on her, she actually didn’t care about them beyond the most superficial level, and did in fact view them as expendable tools. The whole reason Blake did that was because she wouldn’t stop constantly thinking about who she could sacrifice and how, which all else aside he recognized was a losing strategy for this situation.)

            1. lets be fair. in a situation where 100% Trustworthy allies are an extremely Limited resource, its not a “loosing strategy”, it full on stupid. just the kind of thinking that got Conquest Stuffed into a Mirror until SOMEONE let him out, come to think of it.

          2. yeah. im not saying she felt like the Next Fred Phelps, but she gave the aura of thinking and acting like just another Generic Practitioner ( as a lot of the extended cast appear to be). you know the whole “look out for myself, screw everyone and everything else” mindset that got the Current Main characters INTO this mess in the first place.

        2. It should be noted that Rose actually was the one who saved the day during the house siege. Perhaps not as quickly as one might have hoped for, but she was the one who ultimately got their enemies to call off the attack while Blake and Co’s major achievements were “survive” and “Run away!”.

  8. Inside of every thing
    maybe
    Inside of everything

    sigil of solomon
    sigil of Solomon

    And I think the ‘mite too defensively’ is OK. ‘Mite’ also means little and “A little too defensively” works there.

  9. So if the Elder Sister tries the responsibility deflection BS again as Lord of Toronto and Evan calls her out on it and Names her a Coward a 3 times, would he could gain a huge flamey power boost? 🙂

    *I know, not very conductive to resolving the current infernal problem but I can dream can’t I?

  10. Ooooh! Since Faysal is still connected to Johannes/Barber I guess the road to joining the Choir of Ruin for him looms pretty close after all if he isn’t on it already.

    1. get the Feeling the Angel might NOT have actually planned everything out in advance? a screw-up of that level DOES suggest he was flying by the seat of his non-existent pants….

  11. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a little context sensitive voice in one’s head that fed one whatever information that is needed when it it needed? I want a B.L.A.K.E. (imagine I actually managed to come up with a very clever acronym) installed, please.

    So… is Fell back? Please tell me Fell is back. Please. I am going to be dusting off my Blake x Fell fanfics.

    In retrospect, I have no idea how Blake feeding friendship to Rose made Rose think “I should call on Faysal”, unless she already had a plan. Which she apparently didn’t until now. And Ms. Lewis, why the crap did you allow this to happen and why didn’t she call for reinforcements before anyone arrived?

    All in all, I had such a fantastic time with this chapter. And the next arc seems to be the final arc? I’m sad, but excited!

    1. Faysal was both a stalling tactic and now he server her purpose of having the Toronto powers present. Also, he is leverage because he part of the potential problem for Toronto.

      This problem being specifically:
      A mortal with a dead body, inhabited by an immortal entity, claimed by the Abyss, in possession of magical pipes that can still control its kind-of familiar Angel and a lot of other potentially nasty stuff.

      Potential situation if left unattended/unresolved:
      A warped Johannes-Barber-Bogeyman rises from the gateway down, followed by an army of warped/split dogs, children-imps and abyssal demon-mice-motes. Ruin for all.
      And with its shears, it cuts into the fabric of reality, cutting the connection of whole cities from the world, letting them sink into the Abyss. Lots of fun.

      1. Yeah, a controlled or corrupted Faysal could trivially summon Barbatorem from the Abyss, just like he did with Green Eyes. Except it would be worse here – he could probably free Ornias, too, and maybe even Ur.

        1. Worse, is there anything stopping Ms. Lewis from calling down Ornias if pressed? She was the one who taught Blake about him…

          1. As the chapter says, the Lawyers have limits. There’s a reason Ms. Lewis told Blake that name and it wasn’t to be nice. If they could directly interfere without a contract why not just go on a spree? It would be a hell of a lot faster than making deals.

            1. My theory: Karma. It’s a lot better for the firm’s karmic balance if they can convince noob diabolists to summon demons instead.

              It’s probably quite the balancing act. Even as powerful as they are, several hundred lifetimes worth of bad karma – which is what they’d get for mass demon summoning – would be a quick path to oblivion.

              Even in this chapter, Ms Lewis is deliberately sticking to the small guns.

    2. And Ms. Lewis, why the crap did you allow this to happen and why didn’t she call for reinforcements before anyone arrived?

      I’m still of the opinion that Ms. Lewis is deliberately doing things as slowly as possible because she doesn’t actually want to win here — she has to fulfill her own contractual obligations to the firm, but she’s doing it in a way that takes as long as possible and gives Rose as many outs as she can.

  12. Wow, THAT’S what rose can do with feelings of teamwork and a little bit of the scrapper-ness that makes up blake?
    Holy crap, imagine how much shit they could have gotten done if they weren’t at odds with eachother for most of the story

    “Bound by Marissa De Roust!” So Ms. Lewis was Marissa? Awesome.

    I really want someone to punch conquest in the face and shoot him in the dick. I know he probably doesn’t have the latter, but for the former- he’s currently wearing Blake’s face, and I’m sure there are PLENTY that want to punch that. Or he could revert back to Granny Rose’s, or Rose’s mom- point still remains of many who want to punch those faces….
    IT MUST BECOME CANNON

    I am legitimately impressed by two things in this chapter that trumps most everything else.
    Not the motes, the angel switching sides again, finding out angels are mankind’s enemy, blake of all people speed-reading, nor the bid to become a lord and proving Alister wrong (when he said there isn’t enough time to claim a Lord).

    What impressed me was in the MIDDLE of all that, quite literally as well as figuratively, was how badass ty and tiff became, as well as fucking PETER of all people getting some of the best lines this chapter, as well as getting thanked by alister shortly before making another pass at his possible future with ainsly…

    1. “finding out angels are mankind’s enemy”

      we already know from the histories chapter this is not the case. path dog who’s name i can’t spell has apparently come to believe this(enough to get away with nodding and the small corollary “i don’t oppose mankind because i am of order, just because it stops them careening down the path that leads to them burning out and thats a problem since demons seem to be next in line) … but there is some disagreement on this(builder angel for example wants to see where we’re going with ‘this’)

      1. well, I meant everyone finding out angels are mankind’s enemy, not just the readers.
        I’m sure it’ll do wonders for Peter’s belief system.

        1. No, you misread what they said. Angels are not mankind’s enemy, not universally. Faysal’s decision to view humanity as the problem was explicitly something the other angel he spoke to did not agree with.

    2. I think Alister and Peter’s interactions, especially the ‘Brilliant’ line and thank you, were the best dialog in the chapter. Peter would make a good blackguard since lying and sarcasm seem to be in his nature.

      That whole interaction was interesting – a might be a way to get positive karma out of (someone else’s) lies with no serious karma losses.

      Practitioner: “I want you to lie and be sarcastic.”
      Blackguard: “I fucking love being your bitch.”

      The practitioner gets karma for correctly calling and controlling the situation. The blackguard doesn’t suffer karma hits for lies like the practitioner does. 1…2…3…profit.

      1. add some chronomancy in there to predict something along the lines of that the blackguard will say, lather, rinse, repeat, become a benevolent who isn’t retarded.

    3. That last bit isn’t so rosey: she’s one of the regular fae-masks. Which nobody has picked up on as yet. Which means any slightly/very inconsistent behaviour has usually been shrugged off until now. 😐

      1. Who-what-where now? Blake’s inside of Rose, complete with fragments and sections of memories only he has, while she has slivers of those ones. Plus him sending some of his to her causes some portion of it to get lost- that’s a demon thing instead of a fae thing.

          1. Ah, I thought you meant rosey as in Rose-like.

            So you think that the new Lord of Toronto, the head sister of the torch, is a fae?

  13. So wait, who was Marissa de Roust? I get that it’s Ms. Lewis, but was that name mentioned before?

    Also… Murr… Mote of Ur? We did have that scene with the Chekhov’s Motes way back when Blake was swallowed by the abyss…

    1. We had a timeline on when those would happen, right? It was supposed to be a few months or something, iirc. How long has it been since then?

        1. Lewis says the diagram wards against Unrest, Chaos, Madness, and Ruin. Therefore any imps having trouble with it are from one of those four.

          1. First of all, this is a creation of the practitioners, right? That would ward against darkness, I should think.

            We also don’t know for sure that the diagram is or isn’t affecting Murr – he could be holding back, or god knows what.

            1. I don’t think making a protective diagram that protects against four choirs would work on a demon of darkness. That would mean that ALL protective circles would ward them off- making them the weakest choir of all. Any protective diagram or circle or anything that you made would ward them off? That sounds like all those Knights sent against Urr shouldn’t have died.

        2. Quote from 7.x:

          A tiny hand attached to a tiny form, three-quarters of the way complete, eyes shut. Two more were pressed against it, part of the same growth, the three compacted so tightly together that the shape of them distorted. All in the form of human babes, with jet black skin. One with horns, one with tufts of spiky fur, the other smooth and bald.

  14. Blake gave up a little more of himself didn’t he? I really don’t think he’ll be getting out of Rose. I think that by the time things are done that there won’t be any Blake left at all.

    I also think Grannie Rose was an idiot. Considering how much Blake and Rose get done when actually cooperating, the original probably would have been a good chioce for an heir.

    1. The original was male and therefore an invalid heir. Though it would likely have been a better idea to cut just enough to get a female one and toss the male half in a fire.

      1. Given that she apparently met the universe’s requirements with that Barber ploy even when Blake was active and Rose was in the mirror, I really do wonder if just magically turning Russ into a woman would’ve done the trick.

    2. Grannie Rose wasn’t trying to make an heir-pair that would succeed, she was trying to trigger a cascade of failures that would wipe out the family line without anyone taking the Firm’s offer.

      1. Again, then WHY did she start having kids in general?
        She should have just killed herself when she found out she was prego the first time- same effect. Lawyers don’t get a new diabolist, Jacob’s bell can now have a fight for Lordship without fear of diabolism messing with EVERYTHING like it did now, and can bring tons of change to the city, no future offspring need to saddle the karmic burden, and no offspring need to meet deaths at the hands of demons.

        Honestly, I still think her plan was stupid.

        1. We’ve also learnt from Fell’s little adventure that the universe can claim anyone you care for as your family, regardless of blood. Seems like if Granny Rose’s plan had worked, the universe might’ve just forwarded the bill to the Behaims, given her closeness with Aimon.

            1. In Histories 5, one of Fell’s ancestors (Matthew) tried to escape his bloodline’s obligation to conquest by ensuring that his wife got pregnant by other men rather than him, and raising the children as his own. Isadora told him in no uncertain terms that wasn’t enough to stop Conquest claiming them (and Malcolm Fell’s existence confirms it).

              Had Granny Rose not had any blood heirs, there’s always the risk that the universe would have latched onto those close to her instead. Still, I think she only mentored male Behaims, so she might have still been okay.

            2. “Your wife is unfaithful, Matthew, but the children she bears will be yours. They’ll be Conquest’s, too. Your struggles to date have been fruitless.”

              I thought that meant that the only child she bears will be his, the same way that the only children sandra will bear will be male, and the only children a duchamp who isn’t sandra will bear will be female.

              That was my understanding anyways. Plus, he used his illusion to make the kids “his”, but it was only supposed to be an illusion. Otherwise Isadora would have said that his illusions were too good, or that he shouldn’t have cared for them.

              Besides, it wasn’t the universe that had latched to Elder Rose, it was the lawyers and diabolism. And they did not make any claims to her nor her line in the same way conquest did- she wasn’t bound by any means into becoming a diabolist, nor was she bound to the firm. Her line did promise to work together with the firm, and her dying wish involved her heirs being part of the deal. If it weren’t for that- she didn’t need to have kids. They might have punished her, sure, but then that would have been the end of it.

            3. Where did it say that thing about him using illusion to disguise them? I don’t remember that.

              I’m assuming that Matthew Fell deliberately didn’t father any children himself, otherwise the entire plan to free his line is pointless. And changing the parentage of unborn children doesn’t really seem to fall within Conquest’s bailiwick (and such subtlety isn’t really his style either).

              It is ambiguous and I could be wrong, but given everything I’m inclined to take Isadora’s comment at face value: You’re those children’s father no matter who provided the sperm. Appearances and connections matter more than technicalities to the spirits. If you raise children as you’re own, the universe is likely to treat them as such.

              The universe/surrounding spirits are always the ultimate arbiter. Imagine Granny Rose had implemented her master plan and the Thorburn bloodline died out. Imagine the lawyers then approaching, say, Laird Behaim and issuing a challenge/claim like the following:

              “Laird Behaim you are the child of Rose Thorburn’s lover, heir to her knowledge. The one who she invested time in, whose future she planned for. You are more her rightful heir than any fruit of her loins and I call upon you to honour her debt”.

              There’s a decent chance the universe would go “Ooh, good point!”. The connections between Rose Snr and her Behaim charges are probably stronger than the ones between her and her blood.

            4. He said it like two paragraphs after that Quote.

              If you were right, then isadora would have told him to not care for his wife’s kids, which would break the cycle. Instead, she said that he cannot escape fate, and that her kids were his and conquest’s kids, and that it’s impossible to escape that. Just being close to her kids and caring for them is easily escapable, but she said he can’t escape from that.
              Instead of just finding a wife that’s unfaithful, he could easily find a wife that leaves him after bearing a child, and taking the child with her. If your theory is right, this would break the chain and boom- no more conquest-servants. However, if any children a wife of a conquest-servant bears is always a child of said servant and thus another conquest-servant, then it would mean that this would not be a way out- as the moment the wife gives birth, it’s already the child of the servant/decendent of Joseph (I think that’s the name of the first one of fell’s ancestor that started this… it started with a “J”. Oh well, you know who I mean).
              Which, in that case, would be impossible to escape.

              The problem with the theory that Laird would be claimed by the thorburn debt of the lawyers, is that it would literally defeat the entire plan of Elder Rose, Aimon, and Laird. They are more versed in this world than just about any other human in the story thus far, and they concluded that this plan to have granny-rose pretend to be playing ball with the lawyers, only to have things set up so all the heirs burn out and perish before giving birth to acceptable female heirs and ending the Thorburn line before the firm can get a claim in the physical world.
              The three most experienced people in the pactverse came to the conclusion that this is a possible outcome and very, very doable. If anyone Elder Rose put time and effort into nurturing was cause for being an heir, then the entire plan would be worthless and just plain stupid.
              Plus, the heir to the debt needs to be female. Laird wouldn’t count. Blake only counted as a stand-in because he is part of the real heir- he wasn’t really an heir, but a custodian of the mansion, while Rose was the real heir.

    3. Perhaps they needed to be torn apart first. By splitting Rusty in two, Blake and Rose are allowed to both be the warrior and a researcher at the same time, thus earning twice the amount of experience and information than they would if they were a single individual.

  15. Know what? I don’t think I’ve ever liked Rose more, either. There’s something about seeing things from their point of view that makes even the most annoying characters or the worse villains more likable.

    (“Worst villain” case in point: Worm)

      1. Re: perfect moment to strike:

        IIRC Blake is still fated to be betrayed by one of his allies. Since it’s not going to be Evan, and Blake has just turned over most of his human memories to Rose, I’m kind of hoping for a Histories chapter from Green Eyes’ POV, showing how she’s been corrupted by the Abyss, resulting in her betraying Blake right when things are looking up.

        Or someone in Blake’s vicinity turns out to be faerie. That would work out great, too.

          1. no destiny, no allusions, hes just referring to a single line of blake saying “thats twice now one of my allies has been an enemy in disguise, gotta watch in case it happens a third and fucks me” after iirc the elf as maggs thing dunchamps tried

        1. We’re not counting him being betrayed by JP, and again by faysal?
          I’m pretty sure he’s already been betrayed by more than one of his allies… No reason to suspect it’s going to keep happening.

  16. With the recent themes (particularly with Blake giving his memories to Rose) I will be kind of surprised if the next chapter (or perhaps an epilogue) is not titled ‘indemnification’ (I also think ‘subrogation’ would be a good one but only if Blake, Rose et al make others pay so a little less likely)

  17. Sarcasm by proxy. Best circumvention of being forced to tell the truth ever.

    Quite a complicated, sprawling, chaotic fight scene thing.

  18. I like this development. It sort of combines Rose’s and Blake’s respective strengths- Blake draws on connections to others as well as himself, Rose builds a pool of options as well as using the ones already available.

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