Judgment 16.1

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The lawyers arrived from beyond the gate that bordered the property.  Rose was pretty sure they hadn’t truly approached.  They were there, but they hadn’t come from further away.  They hadn’t crossed the space from some distant point to there, before they’d started to make their way up the shattered driveway.

Folding space, or manipulating connections, Rose couldn’t be wasn’t sure.  It wasn’t like demons didn’t open doors into messing with the fundamental structures of things.

An ugly thought, that.  If they were drawing on demons every time they paid a visit…

Rose eyed the lawyers as they approached.  Levinn was the most recognizable, an older man, veteran member of the firm.  She also recognized the driver that had taken her to Toronto before the Conquest fiasco, though she didn’t remember specifics-

Memories flooded her mind.  Out of place, out of sync with her own.  As if viewed from the wrong perspective, the words and responses jarring with her own.

A conversation with the driver.  Word choice, priorities, meaning.  Getting the book Black Lamb’s Blood.

It didn’t feel good, and her head pounded uncomfortably, the edges of her thoughts burning or dissolving into static at the edges, recovering slowly.

“Tone it down,” she murmured.

Alister shot her a look.

She shook her head a little.  “Nothing.”

Walking behind the group was the creepy man who had delivered supplies to the house after her return from Toronto.  Long haired, prone to leering, he’d always struck her as the type that had probably been one of the worst kinds of diabolists, before.

Of the two new practitioners she didn’t recognize, one seemed to be occupied by something.  He came across as more Other than human, with dark circles under the eyes, and an unhealthy color and texture to his flesh.  When he was viewed with her Sight, it became clear that something crawled beneath the skin.

Bringing the total number of demons present up by one.

“What have you gotten us into?” the Elder Sister asked, under her breath.

As the lawyers crossed the distance to Ms. Lewis’ side, the group from Toronto backed away, forming loose battle lines as they did so.  A few weapons were discreetly drawn.

Rose used Conquest’s eyes to assess the situation, and she didn’t like what she saw.  If she stood on the other end of the battlefield, assessing the assembled group, she could have pinpointed a number of ways to break them, just by body language alone.

A lack of teamwork, obvious at a glance.  This was a motley crew, press-ganged into fighting by necessity.  Certain things stood out as being particularly vulnerable.

The Astrologer was a member of the group, but stood alone, apart from the others.

The sphinx was reacting to the demons with more fear and alarm than anyone else.  Isadora had backed away more than anyone else, when the group had retreated some. The fear of demons was apparently stronger when one was immortal.  Or was it that the sphinx noticed things that others didn’t?

Paige, the sphinx’s follower, hadn’t realized just how much Isadora had backed away, and stood off to one side, just a little more vulnerable.

Rose’s own group, huddled within the damaged diagram, hadn’t moved at all.  On a level, consciously or unconsciously, the members of Toronto had put the group between themselves and the assembled enemy, imps and lawyers both.

If that continued, it could spell disaster.

“What a grotesque lot,” the sphinx spoke.  Wary as she was, she didn’t let it show in her tone.

“Petty insults?” the old man asked.

“You seem poised for a war,” the Elder Sister observed.

“You seem to be under the impression that this will be anything but one sided,” Levin spoke.  “Lewis?  Please.  There are things to look after.”

Ms. Lewis nodded.  She squared her shoulders.

Rose felt her heartbeat pick up.

Blake was inside her, feeding her parcels of information.  Collecting memories, pushing them to the surface.

Grandmother’s notes on the lawyers.  Observations, collected across the diaries.

All drawn together like this, one after another, Rose found her head making a few connections that she hadn’t made when reading the diaries back-to-front, several times over.

Grandmother had written about every aspect of her life, and for the most part, she had been frank.  The diaries were diaries, and they held all the weaker and more embarrassing moments of adolescence, of romance and a brief affair with Aimon Behaim.  Even a visit to New York, to meet with a cabal of diabolists, for discussion, the trading of books, and an orgy.

She’d detailed her family life, which had been a challenge in every respect.  Finding a husband had been hard, when she’d been limited to Jacob’s Bell, and a husband that met her requirements was harder still.  She’d settled on a young man who was in Jacob’s Bell to dodge trouble, and had written about being relieved when he’d dodged Jacob’s Bell and his fledgling family too.  Compared to so many other mothers out there, she’d written so little of family.  They were an obligation, something she had little care for.  Her grandchildren had piqued more interest, but she’d watched them from a distance, interfering only periodically and anonymously.

All this was committed to paper.  She’d held nothing back, and she’d still been willing to leave her diaries for Rose to find.  Regular updates over the course of a long life.

It was, Rose realized, akin to the way a legal office might send a file, along with dozens or hundreds of other boxes of files.

The information in demand was there, it was only buried.

Family, husband, romance, sex, each had their turn at being glossed over.  But Lewis, Levin, and Mann were there, regularly, details provided.

Blake brought up the various little details and notes, one after another.

Ms. Lewis made eye contact with Rose, and the expression was unreadable.  Not cold, not angry, simply disconnected.

“Murr,” Ms. Lewis said, and the name was an intonation.  “Please.”

Murr unfurled its wings.  Black feathered, the wings spread, and the shadows grew deeper, spreading in every direction, as though the light sources were growing smaller.  In this perpetual night, the darkness was already thick.  Murr made it impenetrable.

One by one, the figures rose and stepped from the midst of the shadows, as if passing through thresholds.

Fell was first.  He staggered a little as he stepped forward, caught himself, then straightened.  He’d emerged armed, guns in hand.

“Malcolm,” Fell’s niece said.

Callan appeared second.  Worn out, worn down.

Laird was third.  He straightened his jacket, and the gesture seemed eerily Laird-like.  The way he held himself with his chin up, so very casually, as if he looked down on everyone, just a tiny bit, even when he looked, well, like he’d died and come back.

There were others, but they were others that Rose didn’t recognize.  Deceased belonging to other members of the group.  Someone for the Knights, dressed in the same rough, not-trying-very-hard way that the Knights had, carrying a gun.

Two women for the Sisters, one older, one middle-aged.  Maybe ones killed in the fight that had risen up around Conquest.

Someone for the Astrologer.  Rose couldn’t place the name, but she knew who he was.  The mentor figure.

Three children, for the Shepherd.

Alexis followed.  She’d been dead for a shorter time than the others, and she didn’t look quite so damaged.  Her expression was terribly sad.

Seeing Alexis was like a punch in the gut.  Rose tried to swallow and found it difficult, and that in itself was alarming.

To the best of her recall, searching back through all of her memories, she couldn’t remember ever missing someone.  Regret and heartache weren’t part of her emotional makeup.  In part, that was because she’d never had anyone to lose.

This sort of emotional distraction wasn’t what she needed right now.

Focus.  Bringing back the dead?  It didn’t make sense.  That wasn’t how demons operated.

She glanced over her shoulder, in the direction of Faysal.

Was it possible?  As a gatekeeper, he theoretically had access to any place, anywhere.  It was possible that he could provide access to some realm of the dead.

No.  Too many issues came up with that.  Alexis, if she’d died in the abyss, had to belong to the Abyss.

She eyed four new arrivals.  Black and featureless from head to toe.

Broken, somehow.  There but not there.  They didn’t move, didn’t react.

Three for her group, all three short, diminutive, one even looking at Evan.  One for the Knights.

There were more emerging.

“Tricks,” she said, aloud.  Not wholly because she believed it, but she said it because there would be far too many people here who would be put off guard, their heartstrings tugged at seeing someone they’d lost.

She had to establish it as a ruse, or the demon’s side would make their moves, and Rose’s allies wouldn’t have the wherewithal to fight back.

“No,” Fell replied, shutting her down, just like that.  “I’m sorry.”

Rose clenched her teeth.

They could talk.  That wasn’t good.

Zombies or effigies wearing the faces of loved ones were one thing.  But this?

“Help,” Ainsley said.  “Uncle Laird, the people standing behind you are not your allies here.”

“They don’t matter,” Laird said.  “This is between me and my family.  Just as Fell’s business is between him and his niece.”

“Rose too,” Fell said.  “At least, as long as she acts as a host for Conquest.  And Diana?  I’m sorry, but you did kill me.”

“Oh,” Laird said.  “Are we doing revenge, too?”

“We’re doing revenge,” Fell said, with conviction.

They knew each other?  Fell knew about Conquest?

No, of course they knew each other.  A major practitioner in Jacob’s Bell wouldn’t be able to function without some relationships to the major cities in the area, and Fell had been Conquest’s right hand man.

But Fell knew about Conquest.

She turned to the Sight, and she tuned her vision.

She took an involuntary step back, bumping into Christoff and nearly knocking him over.

The connections that tied the revived to others were eroding.

No, not quite eroding.  They were consuming, drawing fuel, and destroying in the process.  Dozens or hundreds of candle flames slowly eating at so many wicks.

Many of those wicks led to people who were present.

It was reminiscent of the broken connections that had been visible here and there, after Blake had been eaten.  The damage that had left Alexis sobbing without explanation, or Ty’s head going in circles.  Evan had been the most affected on that front.

“They’re tainted,” Rose said.  “Don’t get close to them.  And I’m not just talking physical closeness.  They’re consuming everything around them.”

That’s what that is,” Alister said.

“I’ve seen it before,” Rose said.

“If you hadn’t seen us before, I would be very worried,” Callan said.  “Grew up together.  I gave you goddamn baths, when you were still shitting in diapers.”

Tiff clutched Christoff a little tighter.

Rose spoke louder, “You aren’t revived.  You’re mockeries.  Very accurate mockeries.  You’re actively consuming everything around you.  Ignis Fatuus.  Fool’s fire.  Candles to draw the moths.”

Except they’re liable to do a hell of a lot worse than burn us.

The shadow figures were spreading out, and they either couldn’t see or apparently didn’t care about the imps that lurked between, pacing, joining them in spacing themselves out.

It did, Rose noted, have the upside that her side was closing ranks, drawing together, preparing to fight shoulder to shoulder if they had to.

“I’m real,” the Astrologer’s mentor said.  “I can feel my heartbeat, I have all of my memories.”

Gods.  Rose could tell how the Astrologer was holding onto every word.  A bomb could have gone off and it probably wouldn’t have torn the woman’s eyes from him, her ears from his words.

“I can remember reading you bedtime stories,” Fell said, to his niece.  “You can ask questions.”

He reached out, stepping forward.

The girl didn’t move.  Her hand, however, rose from her side.

The Elder Sister reached out, ring flaring.  Flame erupted, and it drew a line of fire between Fell and the child.

When the smoke cleared, Fell had a gun pointed at the Sister.  “If you don’t believe I’m real, I could pull the trigger right now.”

The Sister didn’t speak or react.

Everyone had gone still.

Except, Rose noted, the lawyers.  Levin was gone, absent.  The other Lawyers had retreated.  Eerie, to realize how much they’d been able to maneuver, with this distraction.

It was a wake up call, of sorts, to the fact that this was a distraction.  A damn good, dangerous distraction, but a distraction all the same.

The imps were lurking amid and behind Murr’s creations.  The only ones who weren’t primed, tensed, and ready to attack or defend at a moment’s notice were the ones the mockeries were successfully getting to, and even they were straining to hold themselves back.  Fell’s niece, the Astrologer, Christoff…

A horrible form of fighting, this.  To prey on those who bared their hearts the most.

“This is a great deal messier than I would have hoped,” the angel spoke, in a deep, melodic voice, far removed from the dark scene.

“I really did try to keep it simple,” Ms. Lewis said.

“I believe you.  But that doesn’t change that things are far from simple now.”

“Blame the Thorburn diabolist,” Ms. Lewis said.  “She was the one who conspired to raise the stakes.”

“I did warn you,” Isadora said, behind Rose.  When Rose turned, the sphinx was already looking, making eye contact.  “The best thing you could have done would be to simply end your own existence.  Now look at where things stand.”

“I don’t remember that warning,” Rose said.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Isadora said.

Rose felt more than a little heated at that, much as if she’d been talking to Blake, enduring his casual disregard for her, or how monumentally difficult he was making her life.  She wished she had some means of retaliating, telling the sphinx to shove it, somehow, without hurting the group’s cohesion.

Blake probably would have.

But the stirring of anger was different than she was used to.  Harder to pinpoint, when Rose was often very good at figuring out what was going on with her head and her heart.

A bit of indignation she hadn’t had before?  Stubbornness?

“I don’t want to die,” Rose said, aloud.  “I don’t plan to.”

“Who does?”

This line from Peter.

The act of rebellion, standing up for herself, it went a long ways toward centering herself.

Have to assert control, break this illusion.

You don’t want to die?”  Callan asked.  “What about me?  What about us?  Huh!?  We’ve died.  We’ve seen what there is, after.”

Fell, the imp’s Knight, and Alexis were nodding in agreement.

“Bullshit!” Peter said.  “You lying fuck!”

The ‘bullshit’ was becoming a refrain, almost a catchphrase.

“It’s true,” the Astrologer’s mentor spoke.  “I was a good person.  Paid my dues.  I was a good person, wasn’t I, Die?  I know I didn’t do the family thing, but, I took care of you, right?  As a scholar, I contributed to the betterment of people in general?”

Diana nodded, and there was a fierceness to the gesture.

The look on the man’s face was terribly sad.  “Then take it from me.  Even for the good guys, every second of being dead is a kind of torture.”

Diana reacted as if she’d been struck.  She backed away a few steps, making an unintelligible sound.

Her mentor didn’t follow, and it was a break from the pattern where they’d been inching closer.

It lent his words a fraction more authenticity.

Freshly armed with a bit more caring and sensitivity than she’d had, Rose was trying to find some way to reach out, to convince these people about what was happening.

It was a flailing attempt at trying to figure out a strategy.  Blind, unsuccessful, unfamiliar.

And, she thought, if there was an answer to be found here, Blake could offer me something.  A memory, perhaps.

If there was an answer to be found, did it lie within her?

She took all the emotions and feelings and memories that Blake had given her, and she pushed them down and away.

She looked at this from an objective sense.

Fuck you,” she said.

Laird raised his eyebrows.  The mentor looked at her.

“I’m not talking to you,” she said.  She pointed at the Astrologer, then to the Elder Sister, then Nick.  “Every single one of you who are looking at them and getting all teary-eyed, fuck off.  You were happy enough to throw me and Blake under the bus when you thought we had something to do with demons, and then you see a demon actually create these sad-ass puppets, and you’re crying, you’re buying this?”

The focus was on her.  Even the Astrologer was dimly aware, and the Astrologer was a moth flying very, very close to the flame.

She simply had to use the advantage.  Somehow.

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

“What’s it like, then?” Rose asked.

“That’s-”  The Astrologer floundered.

“Someone?”  Rose asked, “Anyone?”

Apparently, anyone included Blake.  He was ready.  Offering up a memory.

This one so recent it was disorienting.

A glimpse of Alexis, fresh from the Abyss.  Changed.  Lurking in shadows, broken in form, with an unearthly light in her eyes.  The Abyss, taunting him.

This Alexis wasn’t that Alexis.

The action, the push of the memory into her head, it didn’t feel helpful.  It felt more like she was being stabbed with that twisted blade that Blake always had with him.  This new memory of Alexis was dropped in the midst of her other memories of Alexis, and the aftermath of it left her feeling hollow.

The feelings were a little too raw, too heavy, and a little too bogeyman.  It was worse than before.  It damaged things.

She’d been given the ability to care, then had a share of it smashed from her only moments later.

These were negative sum maneuvers.  Whatever he gave, she lost more.

The Barber’s curse.

It scared her, more than she liked to admit.

Fear, unlike her ability to care, to miss someone, was something that had sat close to her heart since all of this began.

That fear threatened to become anger, and the anger was directed at Blake, even as she knew he had a reason for doing what he was doing.

Even as she’d known, when she accepted him into her, that she might well become part of Blake’s negative-sum game.  It wasn’t exactly a surprise, now that he had access to her being, that the very being might end up a casualty.  That he might not see the full picture, like the fact that she’d agreed to be a scourge, and he’d just given her an experience the Abyss had used to get one more hook in him.

Now, potentially, it was a hook in her.

But, even as Blake’s crude interference it made her head hurt, left her mind feeling like it was scraped raw, it helped clarify her thoughts.  Make sense of it all.

This Alexis wasn’t the same as the Alexis Blake had seen.

Rose’s eye fell on the three shadowy figures who stood by, unmoving.

Broken.  Nonfunctional.  Something missing.

These were all constructs.  And they had been constructed in a way that didn’t reach to Blake, though it reached out to all of the others.

Because Blake was buried?  Hidden within her?  Was that part of what had broken these three, and the one near the Knights?

Oh.

What connected the Knights to her and Blake?  A certain demon.

She drew in a breath, then spoke.

“I’ve studied vestiges more than you would believe,” Rose said.  “Chances are good that these things are reflections of our memories, of details that we can’t quite recall, so it goes beyond just the surface level, beyond the point where we can think of things to trip them up.  They’re drawn from our impressions of them, most likely.  But that’s all they are.”

The Astrologer blinked.

“They’re mocked together from missing connections, from psychic impressions, or from memories, or something in that vein,” Rose said.  “And they’re wrapped around demonstuff.  It’s a headgame, and it’s a distraction.”

One perfectly tuned to get to us.  Manipulating connections even as they work to erode us through them.

“Distraction from what?” Alister asked.

“Good question,” she said.

Except for the feral imp, who was now at the Ms. Lewis’ side, the lesser demons were still out there.  Lurking in the shadows.  No longer visible, they were lumpy silhouettes on trees, or a winged shape flying in a tight circle, a dark background with a darker shape moving across it.

The lawyers themselves… were apparently content to stand back.  They were talking.

Blake had refreshed her memories of the lawyers.

She was equipped to analyze them.  To figure out how they worked.

Her eye fell on Laird, and she couldn’t help but think of his metaphor, way back at the beginning.

Nuclear weapons.  The lawyers made for a powerful group with weapons so terrible that they, corrupt as they were, were reluctant to use them.

How far did things have to go before they lost that reluctance?

Blake shifted within her, and Rose winced, both at the pain of Blake being there, ill-fitting, breaking things just a little with every action he took, and out of fear that he’d hit her with yet another painfully jarring set of memories.

But he didn’t.

He was only reminding her that she was there?

Trying to draw her attention to something?

Yes.

She was thinking too far ahead, again.

All well and good when she was in her library…

“Diana,” the mentor said.

Diana stared at him.  Rose could see the connections that stretched between the two.  The demonic taint was creeping along, reaching, making progress with every second.

“What if-” the Astrologer asked, “What if having only that much, what if that’s enough?”

The taint reached further, closing the distance, a metaphysical handspan from Diana’s heart, her throat, her mind.

“It can’t be,” Rose said.  “Take it from me.  I know vestiges, I know demons, and I know what it’s like to live with half of a person.  To be half of a person.”

She spoke the words, but she didn’t see the change she wanted to see.  The Astrologer wasn’t refusing the connection.  She wasn’t fighting.

Have to act in the now.

Evan… she looked for Evan, and she had trouble finding him.  So different from Blake, who always seemed to intuitively know where the bird was.

She found Evan with Ty, which made a degree of sense.  Letting go of Alister’s arm, she reached forward.

Evan hopped into her hand.

“Rose,” Alister whispered.

“Be ready,” Rose hissed the words.  They reached her entire group, huddled inside the diagram.

Rose broke away, stepping over the lines of Alister’s already broken diagram, more toward the others.

If the Astrologer lost this, well, she couldn’t be certain what would happen.

Please, she thought.  Don’t follow your heart.

The Astrologer bowed her head.

The taint continued creeping her way, taking advantage of welling emotion, of some vulnerability.

“I just finished saying goodbye,” she said.  “And you have to go and pull this.”

“My timing was always bad,” he said.  “Remember?  I’m a dork like that.”

She twisted her head to one side, eyes closed, a pained expression on her face.

The taint flared, spreading, encapsulating her.

Reaching into her pocket, she touched something.  A remote, or a crudely hacked-together-phone.

Light flared from beneath her clothes, worn LEDs.  One below her right shoulder blade, two on the left arm, three on the right.

Wings spread, and for a moment, she was an angel.

With the action, the connection frayed and broke.  The demonic taint fell away.

A long-necked bird, quite possibly a crane, rose up and away from the Astrologer.  It flowed forward and struck the Astrologer’s mentor.

As blows went, it was minor, but it opened the fight.

On the opposite end of the battlefield, three children rushed for the Shepherd, who hadn’t spoken a word, nor reacted.

He didn’t resist, didn’t react.

They made physical contact.

Rose turned her head away, as every connection that made up the Shepherd abruptly unraveled.  The Shepherd screamed.

In a heartbeat, he was a wet patch in the snow, though his scream continued well past that point.  Ghosts streamed from the location, one after another, and the associated emotions and effects were too intense to take in.  Rose twisted her head away.

Don’t fight me, Blake, she thought.

She drew more on Conquest, pushing Blake down and away.

Recognizing that she was, being so rough, doing the same damage to him that he’d been doing to her.

Then, as best as she was able, she reached out to him.

Never an easy thing to do, but it had paid off before.

He met her halfway, and she took hold of a part of his diminished, pressured being, and she drew on it for a little bit more power.

“Attack!” she gave the order.  “If you can’t attack yours, attack someone else’s!”

She hadn’t finished speaking when Fell wheeled on her.  Gun drawn, pointing.

“Go!” Evan shouted.

She threw herself to one side.  It wasn’t clever, or quick, or particularly graceful.

Fell, practiced, waited for her to stumble, then corrected his aim, lowering the gun as she bent low.

Evan leaped from her hand.  He went up, and he managed to push her down as he launched.

Rose landed on her stomach in snow, and the bullet fired, going over her head.

When she’d managed to catch her breath, she saw eyes in the darkness.

Her first thought was Green Eyes, and that was bad unto itself.

But Green Eyes, to the best of her knowledge, still had only the one eye.  Healing, but still.  One eye.

What emerged from the shadow was Surbas.  The fanged, feral imp.  The big one.

Surbas chuckled to itself.

“I ord-” she started.

Surbas howled at her, sudden, loud and forceful enough to take the words from her mouth.

No,” it said.

“Rose!” Alister shouted, from too far away.

Surbas leaped.

Something flew up, a mess of connections.  The telltale ticking of Chronomancy.

The imp collided with a barrier, and it shed its skin.

A smaller imp continued forward, while its skin remained; a torn, stretched, furry hide drifted in a soup of slowed time.

The imp landed right in front of Rose, only a fraction smaller than before.

Immune to the practice?

Evan flew past, and the imp’s first snapping bite missed.

I’m not a fighter.

Blake was, but she didn’t know how to tap into that.  Not in a matter of one or two seconds.

The imp lunged, and Rose’s world became noise and pain and brightness.  Her ear set to ringing.

Dark shadows danced across her eyes in the aftermath of something impossibly loud.

A bolt of lightning had struck the imp.

She looked over her shoulder, and she saw the Elder Sister, standing by the Eye of the Storm.  The woman pointed, and the Eye moved.

Rose scrambled to her feet.  Evan tried to help, and she fell, overcompensating.  She found her feet again, backing away.

The imp, struck, was crawling from its mouth.  Shedding another body.

Even proper death didn’t stop it.

Between her backing away and Alister’s approach, she reunited with him.

All around them, there was disaster, chaos.

Some of the lawyers, a distance away, were holding items, but they weren’t acting, weren’t summoning.

“Faysal!” she roared the words, and she gave them power.  “Damn you!  Help!  It doesn’t get messier than this!”

The sensation was akin to a mountain deciding to move.

Faysal flared with light.  He stood, he approached, and the imps were driven back.

The lawyers, even, reacted, retreating.

“Do you want a war, Faysal!?” Lewis asked.  “You’re outgunned!”

Faysal spoke, and his voice carried well.  “Let’s put an end to this.  Maintaining a good working relationship has to be better than this.”

Everything had gone still.

“You’re right,” Ms. Lewis said, relaxing.  “You’re very right.”

“Good.  Let’s settle this with words,” Faysal said.  On four legs, he advanced, putting himself between Rose’s side and the lawyers.

In the stillness, a faint tune filled the air.

Faysal froze.

With every passing second, it grew louder, more nuanced.

“No,” Faysal said.

Light flashed around him, then died.

Diagrams around the lawyers and tools they held each glowed with an intensity that suggested they’d taken the light.  Prepared in advance.

It was the last word he spoke.

Mr. Levin approached from the edge of the crater.

By his side was Johannes, holding pipes to his mouth with one hand.

Dogs, rats, and children.

Johannes moved with an eerie, lurching sort of ungracefulness.  The large pair of shears he dragged with him were part of it.  The damage and corruption to his body were another.

Rose felt utter despair take her.

“Well,” Ms. Lewis said.  She didn’t look happy.  She opened her mouth to speak, but she was the one who didn’t get a chance, this time.

The explosion struck in the middle of the collected group of lawyers.

“Ellie!” Evan said, cheerful.  “And rocket launcher witch hunter man!”

“Run!” Rose shouted, though the words were useless, redundant.  Everyone was already moving.  For the love of everything, run!

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145 thoughts on “Judgment 16.1

      1. DO NOT QUESTION ME MORTAL!!!!! Just kidding, but no, I didn’t. I don’t like to go into details in my comments lest I spoil for some in my comments.

  1. Oh wow. I’m not sure if the Barber is more powerful now or not, but he’s certainly scarier.

    Why’d the abyss let him go though?

      1. My guess is that since they knew exactly where to look for, and what, the Lawyers had no trouble just bringing Barbie out.

        1. Creatures are summoned from the Abyss all the time. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to learn that the Lawyers know the Barber’s true name and just summoned him.

    1. The world is a worse place without Faysal

      I’m not even remotely certain of that. It’s his fault an entire piece of geography just dropped into the abyss, complete with all the power a demonic library. It’s his fault Barbatorem is free of the only diabolists who were actually willing to contain it.

      I’m actually pretty sure that every single bad thing that is happening is his fault. It’s hard to say what all would have gone down if he had met a more timely end.

      1. barber was bound by throburns, grannie’s “controlled bankruptcy” plan would have ended the capital t thornburn line and angeldog said that he was bound to them(abyss will hold him longer than any human line)

    2. given his lack of compatance/ his arrogance, that’s extremely Questionable. if he was SMART he would of AVOIDED putting a Group of Practitioners and others in a situation where the only way they could survive was to screw him over. plus its looking pretty Clear his plan NEVER would of worked, since the form was able to yank the Barber up with almost Contemptuous Ease. good riddance, i say.

      1. “As the size of an explosion increases, the number of (social) situations it is incapable of solving approaches zero.”

  2. Huh, I’d expected getting swallowed whole by a gigantic pillar monster inside a body with no remaining reflective surfaces that was not holding the shears at the time would keep the Barber down for at least a week.

    1. Hey, come to think of it, Johannes-Barber has the power to control Faysal with the pipes, right? The ones that he was holding while standing in the middle of a clump of Lawyers that just ate a rocket?

      1. Uh.

        In the stillness, a faint tune filled the air.

        That’s kind of the entire reason Levin fished him out of the Abyss for, and the whole problem of the shit/fan collision in this chapter, yeah.

        1. Right, yes. My point is that the pipes have just exploded. Potentially along with the Barber’s Johannes-ness, depending on exactly how the rules work there.

    2. I suspect that the lawyers pulled him out of the Abyss. The whole capturing of Faysal seems to be a bit too well orchestrated to not have been prepared before they showed up.

      We know they do show up in the Abyss because they want to/can. Its quite likely they have some sway in there, and a practitioner can summon creatures from the Abyss anyways.

        1. well it sounds like maybe its gotten a hook or two into him already from the condition of the body, so it’ll probably reel him back in eventually(not like a strong seal as much as a bungie cord crossed with a tarpit?

          given his specialty faysal not knowing this was easily possible seems….improbable at best.

      1. “It wasn’t like demons didn’t open doors into messing with the fundamental structures of things.” -> Why shouldn’t Levin bring forth the new vessel of Barbatorem?
        As pointed out in the last histories chapter: Once demons (expect for darkness) take humans, they may keep them “alive” for a long, long time. Johannes is in for a long time of agony and pain, with the prospect of his soul in eternal limbo after that. And guess what, Faysal is along for the ride!

        1. I still think Faysal is up to something. Firstly, he is a supernatural entity all about opening paths to places, and it seems highly unlikely this was possible but he didn’t know it was. Second, when Johannes-Barber showed up he attempted to fight instead of bolting like he did when unpossessed Johannes did it. Third, he opted to fight when outgunned instead of withdrawing and putting up the bat signal. Lastly, I still don’t see why he even showed up when Rose called but didn’t simply kill them on the spot.

          I’m thinking he might have set up to break the link by opening a door for a rocket launcher to nail the pipes. Or he’s consistent with his willingness to sacrifice things for the greater good and that Choir of Structure guy is going to slam a trap shut on the Lawyers.

          1. He didn’t attempt to fight. He didn’t realize Johannes-Barber was even present until it was too late and the pipes had been used to trap him; at that point he only had time for one word before he was obliterated.

        2. Even most (or at least some) demons of darkness leave their victims alive, based on the examples given in the Histories. They destroy part of the world or a person, and the remains form a pattern. The only specific example I remember off the top of my head was a First Choir demon with a bell; anyone that heard it had part of their ability to hear anything destroyed, and from then on heard only discordant and maddening fragments.

  3. Hey, Andy found a group of people he would rather aim the RPG at than all of the town’s practitioners. Bad in a fight or not, that boy has balls blowing up the demon lawyers and Barbatorem too.

  4. Wow, he failed at everything he went to Jacob’s Bell to accomplish, I guess this makes Faysal’s character arc… A Shaggy Dog Story. puts on shades

    1. Also, here’s The Screw from Faysal & the lawyers’ parallel running non-agreements. Even when you don’t make formal agreements with Infernals, they will still screw you over. Besides, what was he thinking, believing the Lawyers will allow him to suceed sealing any demon permanently?

      1. was never meant to be permanent, just for a millennium or two. barber got to cut people, faysal got to stall and then demons still eventually eat reality.

  5. Welcome to the end of your Path to Ruin Faysal.

    Karmic Fate:- The Forger of paths that leads Humans to Ruin ends up ruined by the leftovers of the one he himself ruined most of all.

    Karma based attacks with irony stack bonus are Evan Guided Missiles in Pactverse after all.

  6. Oh, those 3 of the Ur-eaten are the 3 chained goblins lost in the first factory fight. The “goblin followers” that Fell said the Hyena had, but that Blake mysteriously never seemed to meet, or even note the absence of, despite binding the Hyena.

    1. Waaaait, where did Fell mention that??? That makes the sequence where Blake realizes they lost members of their group even though he couldn’t remember them SO much more clever.

      1. It was in Fell’s History chapter, which iirc is directly following the arc where Blake confronts Erasurrr. It was from Fell’s perspective so we get to see what Blake forgot

    2. nah, more like people knights lost(unable to eat draw on/burn connections for details because of ur). nobody gave a shit about chained and compelled goblin cannonfodder

      1. as for the knight that did have form, i know they lost at least two in this recent fighting and iirc they know and partially remember one of their number escaped ur but got enough of a glancing blow(less than blake) for her to run away only to eventually drop her to the abyss(more like scarf girl’s experience with the cracks)

  7. So i guess Eva succeeded in unpoisoning Andy.

    So are we in full 3rd person mode for the rest of the story? I am very OK with that.

    I like Diana. She has a cool Practice. Even when she looks like she’s about to do something really dumb, it turns out she has a plan.

    Judgement. . . who is the judge? Molly? A Canadian goddess? God? Blake? Looking forward to the cryptic finale!

    Still don’t see anyway the group survives, though.

    1. Canadian Goddess for the win! Unlike Canadian Devil from South Park, Google doesn’t know this one, though, unless you count Yasmeen Ghauri.

      Forced to face the demons, the Jacob’s Bell’s survivors could maybe pull all the local spirits into a giant Spiritron 9001 for an epic showdown.

    2. Mags still has “Judge” in her job description, for all that counts (which may be very little)

      Funny thing is, I have informed myself a little bit more about the judical system in North American countries.
      As far as I understood it, judges act as mitigators between the two faction at court, and passing judgement to ensure a statisfactory result, whatever the case (or law) is.
      I may be mistaken or have taken in an oversimplified explanation of it but its a little bit different from Germany. Here, the job description of judges they have to “act according to the truth, common sense and the law” (in that order). Basically that means that judges may perform their own inquiries and investigations, regardless of whatever the any attorney does.

    3. In Tarot, the Judgement Major Arcana is associated with Archangel Gabriel, the resurrection of the dead, and the end of the world.

        1. It gets better: Judgemet is Lawful Neutral bordering on Lawful Stupid. You’re screwed if you’ve screwed up by its lights… whichever team you’re on and however good you might have thought your actions. The card may’s well have “doesn’t play favourites” written in a banner at the bottom. 😛

    4. no canadian goddess is going to be remembered enough to…well..exist at this point let alone have power to act in a meaningful way. the first nation’s deities are most likely holding up the walls of the abyss at this point. c’s origins saw to that

  8. Well, I just lost an argument with a friend about whether that was the last we’d see of Barbatorum. Totally called the rocket launcher though. On a side note, it seems Ur’s connection munching even messes up the plans of other demons to use those connections against people. I’m still suspicious that Ur is much more than a minor demon, but it just keeps destroying any connections anyone would have to make to realize that.

    This chapter was fantastic. We’ve got demons and explosions and a huge and varied cast, with everyone under enough pressure to really go without holding back. Judgement looks like it may be the most intense arc of Pact yet, and it has a lot of competition.

  9. You know, I’ve been saying since arc 1 that Blake needed to become a Blue Mage. He wouldn’t be in this situation if he was. A few Goblin Punches here, a couple Level 5 Deaths there, a Metal Claw every once in a while with ???? as a finisher, and Blake would still be with us, but human and in a much better situation.

  10. It’s a funny thing to say, but Pact reads more like a superhero story than Worm did: Characters die and are repeatedly revived; Evan is a sparrow version of old-school goofy Robin; and sometimes the fights are just plain ridiculous in the best of ways.

    Rocket launcher Pact is the best Pact.

    1. Rocket launcher Pact is best Pact. Techno-nerd megadork hacker with angel wings made out of starlight being a badass is also best Pact.

  11. Well, if there was any doubt about it, how Murr goes about things pretty much cements it. S/he/it must make Mummy/Daddy/Muddy Urr kind of proud. Just… how many batches of motes has that “middling” demon produced?

    1. Three confirmed motes, as far as we know. And if Murr is relatively newborn and is one of Urr’s, that ain’t no minor demon.

        1. Well apparently, classification issues can happen in-universe if the last chapter is anything to go by. Was Murr’s choir mentioned at all? I think I missed it.

          Whatever it is, its ability is mentioned as visually similar to Urr’s and using it makes stuff darker around it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the two were related somehow.

          Still, that’s a nasty power, and the only reason Rose was able to figure out what was happening at all is because Urr’s own power apparently glitched it. I wonder if it does lasting damage to the connections it draws from?

        2. Classification is always a little fuzzy. Why couldn’t a demon spawn a mote that focuses on an aspect of itself that fits better in a different Choir? Or one aspect interpreted a different way, like the variety of superpowers in Worm: e.g. “acid power” could become shoot acid, turn into acid to flow fast, turn into acid as a defensive response to attacks, transform things into acid, control existing acid, etc.; just from that we have Blaster, Mover/Changer, Breaker/Changer, Striker, and Shaker.

          In particular it’s stated that while many demons buy into the classification system, not all do. I get the impression ErasUr cares not at all for how humans classify it, and thus is not bound by their ideas of how it should work.

  12. I think the lawyers really, really wish they would have had a gun, or a couple of grenades, or any weapon at hand. Isadora and Alister can probably protect against all that, but their power has to run out at some point.

    So Murr is Urr’s child (purr purr). How /sweet/. I hope Urr is proud.

    I really, really liked the few lines about Granny’s diary. It gave her character much, much more life in my eyes. I thought she was a stuck-up, strict (albeit rebellious) person that did nothing whatsoever but work towards her goals. It’s interesting to see that she had both a love and sex life, and that she had common teenager problems and such :3

    Fell, no… bring back the real Fell.

    1. You know, I am deeply troubled by the way the lawyers act, or don’t act, rather.

      I know that they deal with demons and that calling for their help will always result in them losing power. I get why they don’t want to bring an Ornias, for instance, into a somewhat not-so-big skirmish.

      But have they not any method of attack between “call on small imps” and “call on the world ending demons”? As things are going, things are only getting messier and messier. And yet they refuse to call any other reinforcements, which means that they are too expensive. It just strikes me that they should have quicker and more direct mechanisms to kill practitioners.

      On their defense, though, they have an angel under control. Maybe it was even planned. So… they gained quite a heck of a lot.

      1. I think it’s a matter of motivation. The lawyers aren’t simply interested in crushing opposition, they’re always trying to turn people into assets. So they go for the least amount of force that does the job, trying to aquire better resources.

        1. True. Every time they use overwhelming force to crush a foe it costs them twice, maybe three times. First, they’ve spent their (side’s) own power and maybe karma. Second, they’ve cost themselves a potential asset. Third, they’ve raised the world’s awareness of them and possibly put targets on their backs.

      2. After the imps, they called in the Barber. He’s pretty much ideal for this situation, AND would let them take out Faysal easily. I’ve got no issues with their summon choices.

      3. They’re not trying to kill them, they’re trying to force Rose to join their practice, or more likely, punish her suitably enough that no other diabolist will ever think to repeat her defiance. Death is way too easy.

        Also, the small imps did a great job of delaying while they pulled the Barberhannes out of the Abyss and took out the Angel who kept getting in the way of dealing with Rose appropriately.

        Their plan was working pretty much perfectly up until an enterprising witch hunter brought his rocket launcher to the party. I’m sure they’ll summon something suitably horrific as retaliation.

      4. I recall one of the things mentioned about diabolists is that’s often the only form of magic they know, so if you get one in a tight situation more often than not they’ll end up summoning a demon to protect themselves.

        To be fair, when your skillset includes summoning other things with different skillsets, you don’t really need much else.

  13. Great chapter!

    Comments:

    Argh, I predicted the rocket launcher would make its appearance in the gathering here, but I stupidly didn’t post it before, and a retroactive prediction is pretty worthless. =(
    That said, I kind of thought it would strike the practitioners, not the lawyers. After all, the lawyers are like an unstoppable force of nature, while the practitioners caused all this mess.
    Although I didn’t think of this one, Faysal and everyone in-story could have seen that outcome with Johannes coming: Faysal isn’t the only one who can create gates to the Abyss; Ms. Lewis also demonstrated the capacity to enter the Abyss at will.
    If Ms. Lewis is suposedly a sadist, why was she unhappy at the sight of Johannes the Bardber? I still prefer to think she has more sympathy for our cast than she lets on.

    1. Aaand again, with formatting:

      Great chapter!

      Comments:

      1) Argh, I predicted the rocket launcher would make its appearance in the gathering here, but I stupidly didn’t post it before, and a retroactive prediction is pretty worthless. =( That said, I kind of thought it would strike the practitioners, not the lawyers. After all, the lawyers are like an unstoppable force of nature, while the practitioners caused all this mess.

      2) Although I didn’t think of this one, Faysal and everyone in-story could have seen that outcome with Johannes coming: Faysal isn’t the only one who can create gates to the Abyss; Ms. Lewis also demonstrated the capacity to enter the Abyss at will.

      3) If Ms. Lewis is suposedly a sadist, why was she unhappy at the sight of Johannes the Bardber? I still prefer to think she has more sympathy for our cast than she lets on.

      1. 3) I think that in her eyes, Johannes/Barber does his thing too quickly and/or crudely for her tastes, she may prefer a more drawn out affair.

      2. She might prefer to be the one who’s doing the torturing than simply watching people get tortured. Sadism is really more about the feeling of having power over someone, and it’d be kind of hard to get that when someone else is doing the damage.

        Which might be why she preferred the imps, because she can at least boss those around and tell them how to attack.

  14. So I guess Angels don’t beat demons when they try being sneaky and clever either. Looks like the Abyss didn’t hold Barbie long at all, and all Faysal did was give Barbie and the lawyers an even easier way of dealing with him. Well the universe seems well and truly boned. Oh and our cast too.

    1. The interesting thing is that I don’t think that Faysal actually knew they could do that. He seemed to think that the Abyss would bind the Barber, well, permanently. Longer than an hour, at least. He was trying to contain the situation, since the Barber was at risk of being loosed-instead all he’s done is release it and given it power over him.

      But if Faysal didn’t know, it implies that the lawyers don’t pull things like this often, because it would reveal that they’ve compromised a supposedly secure containment strategy. At this point they’ll want to contain that information-note how they prepared traps to keep him from fleeing? They don’t want anyone telling the other angels that they could be playing into their hands.

      1. Yeah, Faysal wouldn’t have expected it to last if he knew they could do that. So you have to wonder just how much the Angels have been getting outmanuvered.

        1. that’s what happens when you decide you can take someone on ( Meh optional) without bothering to do PROPER research on ALL the potential Hostiles involved

  15. I’ll apologize beforehand for the obscure literary reference, but…

    Someone call a doctor, because the Shan of Irabek just started having a seizure!

    1. Reference to Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was a long scene with body swapping and false identities which included the line, “that was when the fit hit the Shan.” In context the Shan was a rival noble, tricked into accepting a new body with epilepsy.

      Man I loved that book. Go read it. Really.

  16. <She looked at this from an objective sense.

    “Fuck you,” she said.

    Laird raised his eyebrows. The mentor looked at her.

    “I’m not talking to you,” she said. She pointed at the Astrologer, then to the Elder Sister, then Nick. “Every single one of you who are looking at them and getting all teary-eyed, fuck off. You were happy enough to throw me and Blake under the bus when you thought we had something to do with demons, and then you see a demon actually create these sad-ass puppets, and you’re crying, you’re buying this?”>

    Rose, I take back everything bad I ever thought about you. You are my favorite character ever. FINALLY someone calls them out on their hypocrisy!

    Faysal? You sucks. Nobody is going to miss you. The reason angels are doomed to lose to demons is not entropy or some other metaphysical stuff, it’s that angels are idiots. I mean, thousands of years of existence, years of plotting, and the best you could come up with was getting the guy with the tools to control you possessed by a demon and thrown into hell? You deserve whatever happen to you.

      1. i donno, as much as they say that wasn’t a blake thing it feels more like a blake thing. like when he flipped off the shepard

        the “ha i’m such a bitch” inner line in the other chapter felt rose though

  17. So … there doesn’t seem to be a Typo Thread yet. So here it is!

    Folding space, or manipulating connections, Rose couldn’t be wasn’t sure.

    Should probably be either just “couldn’t be sure” or “wasn’t sure”.

    I really liked this chapter. The shift to third person works quite well, and was done very smoothly.

    1. “Folding space, or manipulating connections, Rose couldn’t be wasn’t sure.”

      I think it should be “Rose wasn’t sure” or “Rose couldn’t be sure”.

  18. Okay. So, the angel who teleports things around and opens pathways up to the metaphysical level just got forcibly converted, not only is Barbatorem back but he’s got Johannes and potentially all the power at Johannes’ command, all three of the Lawyers are now on the field, and if Murr is one of Urr’s motes there’s even the chance they have Urr itself on call. Andy and Eva did just show up to help, but there’s no way that rocket launcher did anything but stall the unkillable Lawyers and I doubt Barbie would let something as simple as death break his hold over Johannes, not to mention the witch hunters aren’t exactly demon slayers. Rose brought in all her reinforcements to bear, but the Lawyers simply have more.

    I don’t see how they’re getting out of this. I just don’t. Even if they try to run and manage to not get eaten by imps on the way, puppet Faysal can just bring them right back. Maybe if Faysal wasn’t actually being controlled or had some way to break it they might have a chance, but otherwise? Lewis is probably going to make the motes eat them for exp or something.

    If there was a time to consider summoning Ornias, now might be the time. Assuming he’s as powerful as we’ve been lead to believe, I mean. If demons beat angels because entropy always wins in the end, what do fallen angels beat?

    1. I’m feeling like they need to keep making this the problem of progressively more powerful people until it’s the problem of someone who can actually fix it. Though they do have the Eye and Rose/Blake imitating Index. That’s not a bad starting point.

      1. Mmm. No idea how they can possibly involve anyone else. I think Rose already did all she could by bringing Toronto’s scene. But anyway, this idea? It’s a really good idea. Get everyone on board. It’s world war three here, literally. The world will have to make up a third world war to cover this shit up.

    2. I don’t think Ornias is a possibility. The fact that the lawyers suggested him originally indicates they have a working relationship with him. In order of decreasing estimated feasibility:

      Reinforcements: Faysal calls his brother, who is not bound and may be more powerful than him. If this is restricted, Faysal tells Rose et al. the name and they call him.

      Take away a critical advantage: Destroy the pipes. The familiar bond with Johannes still exists, but no direct control of Faysal is available. Alternative: steal/seal the pipes.

      Free Johannes/Faysal: Complete destruction (ashing / disintegration) of Johannes’s body ought to be enough to destroy any remaining of Johannes’s works, including the familiar bond. The Eye plus the Sisters’ fire spirit might be enough to do that.

      Diplomacy: Show enough ability to do one of the above and the Lawyers might negotiate rather than flat-out losing.

      Rebinding: Barbatorem was bound once. The lawyers might have weaknesses. A last choice because the Lawyers have too many ways to release bindings.

      1. Mayyybe the Abyss helps a bit against the Lawyers.

        Apparently they just casually snatch Demons out of the Abyss like a bad neighbor “borrows” you demons/tools from your garage.

        If I were the Abyss, I would be slightly pissed at losing things like the Barber to them, especially after losing quite a few monsters to the Barber before being able to catch him.

        1. Yeah, there is that possibility. The Abyss is clingy, and it must be really angry about getting its prize snatched away and turned on its brand new Scourge from which it expects great things. I’m thinking it’s got enough fallen gods, corrupted practitioners, and dragons to make some real trouble even for demons.

      2. Re: Faysal: I read the line “It was the last word he spoke”, and assumed he was done for, for good.

        And concerning solutions, you totally missed “Evan turns into a bird of [even more] awesomeness” and wins by himself.

        I don’t see angels winning this fight – Faysal himself said they’d probably lose in direct confrontations. If that wasn’t the case, he wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble in the first place.

        Re: Freeing Johannes: RDT said the Barber would never leave your body once it entered through your eyes, so I don’t see that happening. Even killing him may be impossible.

    3. Don’t forget that it was the lawyers who told Blake about Ornias in the first place. Even if Rose were to summon him, I’d imagine the scenario would play out similarly to Rose and Ms. Lewis’s “struggle” over Hauri in 15.7. Namely:

      Rose: “Ornias! As your summoner and by my blood, I order you to attack your brethren!”
      Ornias: “Uhh…I’ve been buddies with these lawyers since you people invented fire, so…how about no?”

    4. Thing is Ornias is going to be on their side. You can’t just summon a greater demon and expect it to work for you. Remember the last histories? Summoning Ornias would be like dealing with an incoming nuke by detonating your own nuke on top of yourself.

      Barring something insanely Dues Ex Machina I can’t see how they will get out of this, and in the long run how the world isn’t demon chow. Good thing Wildbow isn’t me.

      1. The best outcome they could hope for by summoning Ornias is some spiteful vengeance where he annihilates both sides, but I’m betting they wouldn’t even be that lucky or Lewis would never have given away the name.

    5. Now that I think about it, their best option is to withdraw to a Beheim Demense, ideally Alister’s if he has one. They’ve been noted to be extremely difficult to attack, and apparently the passage of time in one is somewhat malleable, and it is likely extremely malleable inside a Chronomancer’s Demense. Attacking numerous skilled practitioners, some of whom know specific counter-demon tactics, who can perform rituals and set up wards many times faster than the attackers and are in a space that conforms to Alister’s will would be extremely difficult. Barbarotem can counter Demenses, but Alister probably already has a trap for exactly that set up. The group composition is also fortunate; the Eye and the Astrologer counter the Choir of Darkness with their fire/light powers, while the Elder Sister is apparently acting Lord of Toronto and thus counters the more chaotic Choirs. They could plausibly hold out long enough for other Lords to notice and intervene.

      There’s two big wrinkles with the plan, though. First, we don’t know if Alister actually has a Demense, and no one else would be able to exploit one as effectively. Second, unless the rocket took out the pipes, Faysal is likely to stop them from reaching it, or failing that pair up with a Choir of Unrest member.

      The desperation option would be to pray to the Abyss. The Library must have something applicable to the situation on its shelves.

      1. Barber’s there. You know, the thing that can waltz into demesnes without apparent effort? That’s not going to work even if Alister has a demesne.

        1. Yes, the Barber could waltz in if he misses being trapped in a binding circle and wants to return to that state as fast as possible.

        2. I agree, but playing Barbie’s Advocate, Laird did say that he had protection set up to defend against the Barber. It stands to reason that Alister, who had the same diabolic training, would also have anti Barber defenses in his desmence

          1. The defenses would cause the Barber to bounce, quite possibly sending him back at the lawyers. If the lawyers then manage to bounce Barbie, he goes right back at our protagonists. If they succeed in bouncing him a third (total) time he gets a massive power up versus the lawyers. I don’t know if that would be enough, but it may be the strongest option.

    6. Yeah, that’s a great idea — open up a huge can of negative karma for themselves by summoning something that may be on friendly terms with a lawyer…

  19. Wait, I had a thought. So the “revived dead” were constructs of loved ones who died of the people fighting the lawyers, right? Three of the four featureless figures were the goblins Blake and Rose used to fight Ur the first time. Does this mean the goblins and Blake/Rose/Evan were buddies (as much as you can be buddies with a goblin anyways)?

  20. There seems to be a lot of major players in the pactverse. Nearly every new encounter is terrifyingly powerful on some level. The Eye, Isadora, Elder Sister, Conquest, Faysal, Barbatorem, Mentor, Laird, Sandra, etc. It kinda makes you wonder what the scale is of everyone.

    1. The interesting/scary thing is, I’m not sure I’d even list any of those as truly major players. Half the group is from a small town and the other half is from a big (for Canada) city.

      Everything has been big and scary from the perspective of the practitioners that were just introduced to the world a couple months ago, but considering how little we’ve actually seen, the scale hasn’t been that big.

      That’s why I’ve actually found the escalation of the last couple arcs a little irritating. IMO this story has worked best when the stakes were lowered, before the cast were regularly dealing with beings that literally play with the foundations of the universe, in this small, Canadian town.

      1. The stakes are high from the perspectives of the characters, but they were still just one Diabolist, the Thoburn library/grounds/house, and a small Canadian town.

        That’s why the Toronto contingent wasn’t eager to jump in, but they got maneuvered and now Faysal is Barbatorem’d.

        The Eye is a moderately powerful entity, but not on Barbatorem’s level. Those two, Faysal, and the Lawyers collectively are the only major league players in the story imo; Johannes might have been, but uh, yeah, bout that.

        Everyone else just isn’t on the same level.

        1. Also, the Eye’s powerset is particularly poorly-suited to fighting most demons, since it seems to be focused on causing technology to go haywire.

          1. Not quite. The Eye of the Storm is the essence of elements turning against humans, be that ice on the roads causing crashes, storms keeping people inside, fires running rampant through the city, and yes, technology like ignition engines and electronics failing disastrously. Electronics aren’t particularly helpful hear, but he can still hurl blasts of fire and lightning. They Eye’s problem is it is out of its weight division.

      2. Also, let’s not denigrate Canada, my neighbor to the North. Just because people are from Canada doesn’t mean that they can’t be major movers and shakers, just that they are also generally discreet or quiet.

      3. Magic in Pact is interesting. Rather than setting up a ‘balanced’ system, Wildbow seems to have set up one where every field of magic is overpowered within its own domain. Pretty much all the players have demonstrated “nerf plz!” levels of power at one point or another.

        This is not a balance of roughly equal armies, it’s a balance of mutually assured destruction.

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