Judgment 16.4

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Rose hadn’t expected to feel the burden of this decision.  Her hands gripped the sides of the altar, and she leaned forward, head bowing just a little, feeling as if an immense weight had settled on her from above.

The candles that were set in sconces in the pillars of the church didn’t move or dance.  There was no smoke.  Plastic, the ‘flames’ simply flame shaped bulbs, screwed into candle-like bases.  A dozen large ‘candles’ on either side, drawing out a road between Rose and Ms. Lewis.  The practitioners, Others and humans of Toronto and Jacob’s Bell sitting at various points on that continuum.

Ms. Lewis, such as it was, didn’t bow or bend.  There was no sign that she was affected at all.  More like the false candle than a real person.

“If this is a question of my word,” Ms. Lewis said, “I can swear an oath.”

Not a soul responded.

Rose was tense enough that the slight turn of her head to check on Alister and the others made her head jitter partway through the motion.

“You called me for a reason,” Ms. Lewis spoke.  “If you aren’t asking for mercy or leniency, what did you want me for?”

“For this,” Rose said.  “Go fuck yourself, Ms. Lewis.  You have no friends in this church.”

“Are you going to remain in your church, then?” Ms. Lewis asked.  “If it’s a question of you not wanting to step foot outside, I understand.  Almost every practitioner has some sense of what we represent and what we can bring to bear.  Remaining where you are is easier than venturing beyond.  We wouldn’t penetrate the barrier around this church, though we have the ability.”

She’s changing the dialogue, Rose thought.  Making it so that staying, taking no action, is taking her side, or the Elder Sister’s side.  Surrendering.

Rose had to rally others to fight.  But now the lawyer was giving people the option of inaction.  An option that some were liable to take.

What would Blake do here?  He was better with people, but worse with words, form, delicacy.  When he’d stood here, back at the beginning, he’d chosen a hard, direct action.  Offering to spare others if they agreed to nonviolence.  Trying to divide enemy ranks.

Ironic, given what Ms. Lewis was offering now.

“We aren’t going to cave, and we aren’t going to stand by while you do what you’re doing.  We talked about it, and we’ve already decided,” Rose said.  “You can consider this our declaration of war.  This is our town, one we’ve fought for, one many of us fought each other for, and one we’ve bled over.  If you think we’re simply going to give it up so you can turn it into some victory for your side or a waypoint for demonkind and diablerie, you’re an imbecile.”

Ms. Lewis blinked very slowly, taking in the words.

Rose was privately proud of her word choice.  The imbecile at the end there, it wasn’t a word people heard often, so it had more weight.  It attacked Ms. Lewis’ standing more than any ‘fuck you’ or ‘asshole’ could have.

“Those are words you can only say because you stood to lose either way,” Ms. Lewis said.  “They lose value when you’ve effectively conscripted these individuals into a war for your own behalf.  A war that was heavily influenced by the fact that you allowed a demon you bound to go free.  Whatever happens from this point on, I hope they remember that if they’d simply given you to us, it all could have been avoided.”

Going on the offensive.  Putting Rose in a position where she had to justify herself.

She didn’t.  She let the accusation hang, though she could have explained herself.  Blake probably wouldn’t have.  He was too much of a scrapper, too intent on surviving, ironically.

He might have lost the war, even as he defended every point.

“Don’t even pretend you guys weren’t maneuvering for Johannes and the Angel all along,” Rose said, her voice hard.

Ms. Lewis smiled a little.  “Well.  Humanity is on its way out, all the same.  If you insist on hurrying it along, I’m sure my group’s, ah, associates don’t mind expediting things.  The moment any of you act against us, you can all consider my offer to respect your sanctuary to be null and void.  This doesn’t end until we have Rose Thorburn.  I would prefer her alive over dead, but dead works.”

She turned to leave.

Rose watched the woman pull the doors wide open, then step out into the darkness and the cold.

She was glad when nobody pulled a trigger or threw a bolt of lightning at her.

“It’s not like that,” Mags said, after the doors had swung shut.  “Johannes said humanity was on the up.  That we were winning.  I think that’s where a lot of his power came from.  That he recognized that we were capable or responsible for something greater, and he rode that to success.  Enough to be on par with a full family of trained practitioners.”

“I like that,” Rose said.  “That’s an idea to hold on to.”

“…Even if I don’t quite like what he was doing to the vestiges in his territory,” Mags said, as an afterthought.

“You know it, then?” Rose asked.  “You know your way around his territory?”

Mags nodded.  “Been there quite a bit.  Part of my duties.”

“I want you to help me, then,” Rose said.

Mags nodded.  “Darn straight.”

There was agitation now, restlessness, most were out of their seats.  Many weren’t quite listening to the conversation between Rose and Mags.  Their focus was on other things.

Self preservation, fear, general concern.  The lawyer had strategically dropped hints, enough to scare.  She could bypass the barrier, and Rose had very strategically invited her to.  If the lawyer hadn’t rescinded her offer to allow them their sanctuary, then Rose might have had to destroy the sanctuary herself.

Complacency was her biggest enemy here.  People being still, refusing to act.

“Listen!” Rose said.

She had their attention.  Conquest had nothing to do with it.  She’d earned it.

“This won’t be pretty, but the faster we do it, the less organized they’ll be!  We push out, we push forward, and my hope is to lead a select group straight for Johannes.  Hit them hard, pull out all the stops, create a gap we can use, and then default to staying alive.  Preserve yourselves, preserve the town, and keep pressure on them.  Recognize theatrics for what they are, respect the power of believing you can accomplish something.  That matters so much, I can’t articulate it.”

There were some nods.

“I wish I didn’t need to say it, but you should already know that if you attack me, you’ll violate the sanctuary.  I have no expectation that they’ll be merciful.  If you’re doing it out of hope that they’ll thank you by letting you leave Jacob’s Bell alive, you’re gravely wrong.”

Even veteran practitioners here looked pretty damn scared.

Rose hopped down from the stage to the floor below.  “Evan.”

“You know it!” the bird said, as if utterly oblivious to the tension and the danger.

He flew to her shoulder.

Have to strike a balance, Rose thought.  Each person I pick is more capability on my side, but one more body.  We have to be small if we’re going to be able to slip through.

“Alister?” she asked.

“I know how to ward off demons,” Alister said.  “It won’t work against Johannes, but I can protect these people.”

“Me, then,” Ainsley said.

Rose nodded.  “Enchantment would go a long way, for detecting trouble, and avoiding it.”

“I can offer my assistance until you’re out of reach,” Sandra said.

But you won’t come with, Rose read between the lines.

There was a look in Sandra’s eyes.  Not hate, not anything hostile, but very negative.  Almost but not quite pity.

She doesn’t think we’ll make it.

“If my family is willing to work with me,” Sandra said, turning away from Rose, “We can use the coven to strengthen workings, and we can give everyone on our side the benefit of that trouble-detection and the avoidance.”

Her family members began to gather around her.  Some more reluctantly than others.

Not working against Rose.  That would betray everything they were trying to do, but leaving Rose to deal with and face the brunt of the challenge she’d led them into.

Rose saw one group of younger Duchamps hanging back.  It was almost exactly the image Rose had had in her mind when she’d pictured people taking the Elder Sister’s option to surrender.  As more joined the larger group, others were drawn in, as if by a growing gravity.

Until only one was left.  The girl hesitated, unable to bring herself to join the others.  She looked at Rose.

“I’ll come with you,” Lola Duchamp said.

Even this late in the night, Lola Duchamp was heavily made up with bright colors around her eyes, enough that it could almost be called war paint.  She had pink tips to her hair, and a nose ring.  Not the typical subtle enchantress.  Bold as she appeared, Lola Duchamp looked very frightened.

“Thank you,” Rose said.

Lola shrugged.

Rose turned toward her cousins.  “Paige?”

Paige glanced backward, at Isadora, who sat by the door.

“Go,” Isadora said, her low voice carrying from the opposite corner of the church.  “Better you than me.”

Many sets of eyes watched that interplay, their attention caught by the sphinx’s very attention-grabbing voice.

Paige nodded.

There’s something symbolic about who I pick.  One from each major group, maybe, and Paige counts as the Toronto end of things.  She has talents we can use, that aren’t quite standard practice.  We have a Duchamp, and a Behaim, we have me, for the Thorburns…

“You know,” Peter said, “If I were Alister, I’d really have to wonder about how eager Rose was to gather a bunch of girls around her.”

“Ahem,” Evan said.

“You’re vile,” Paige told her brother.  “You know I’m related to her.”

“Tell me about it, the implications-”

“Peter,” Rose cut in.

“Right, right, I’ll stop.  My bad,” Peter said, while looking as far from sorry as possible.  He grinned at her.

“You’re with me,” Rose said.

Bullshit,” Peter said, smile dropping from his face in a flash.  “Bullshit and fuck you and fuck the unicorn you rode in on.  Or have Paige fuck the unicorn because she obviously likes the animal-”

Shut up.  There’s no time, and I know you’ll stir up shit until you see a way out of a bad situation.  I want a non-practitioner.  There are benefits to having you with us, as a relatively innocent human.”

“If he’s considered innocent then this world is fucked,” Paige said.

“Seriously,” Peter agreed.

“Ahem,” Evan said.

Rose shook her head a little.  “I mean innocent as in-”

“I know what it means,” Paige said.  She glanced at Peter.  “It’s still fucked up.”

Rose frowned.  “It was down to you and Ellie, Christoff is too young, Roxanne is too young and just a bit tainted by the Abyss, and you’re right.  I do need a staff along with the distaff, to balance things out more.”

Peter slapped his hand to his face.

“Fucking serves you right,” Paige said, under her breath.

Ahem!” Evan said, with a little more emphasis.  “Guy here.  I have a noodle, pretty sure.”

“I assume she means a guy whose testicles have dropped,” Peter told the bird.  “Presumably someone who can actually locate their noodle.”

“Wait, what?” Evan asked.  “They do that?  Testicles drop?  Where?  How?  Why?

“That’s essentially it,” Rose told Peter.  “Evan is too Other to count, I think.”

“You’re not just doing this to bullshit me?” Peter asked.

“Every body counts here,” Rose said, echoing her thought from earlier  “Harder to surround with an effective diagram, harder to stay hidden, to stay together.  I wouldn’t say it if it didn’t matter.  Humans are protected, on a level.  One step removed from all of this.”

“Ah, but see, I’m a cowardly, manipulative asshole,” Peter said.  “There’s not much manipulation to be done, and the asshole part isn’t any value.  If you want a coward, you should go with Ellie.”

“Fuck you,” Ellie said.

“Come on,” Ainsley said.  We really can’t be arguing.”

Peter frowned.  It had looked like he was going to say something, but he actually listened.

“How about you decide before we leave,” Lola said.  She turned to Rose, “Who or what else do you need?”

“I think that’s-” Rose started.

Then Blake hit her.

A memory, except it wasn’t a memory.  It wasn’t a replay of an event or an image or anything in that vein.

It was an impression, a concept.  Not a full one, quite possibly because he didn’t want to let go of it.  It was a tease, something to lead Rose’s thoughts to a destination.

The Abyss isn’t about destruction and ruin.

It wasn’t a confident thought, it was an idea or a hypothesis, a question without a question mark.

“You think that’s it?” Lola asked.

“I think…” Rose said, trailing off.  She turned her gaze to the other end of the church.  The Others were there.  Isadora was off to the left with the Eye, there were some scattered Others who had come as guests, some ghosts, there was the door, and an empty space as nobody wanted to be the first one through it, and then there were the more disturbed Others.  Goblins, ugly things, the revenant, and the bogeymen in residence.

Not about destruction and ruin?

Rose headed down the central aisle of the church, and her chosen group followed.  She didn’t turn to check, or to see if Peter was among them.

Her smallest cue here could make a difference in terms of how others perceived the coming conflict.  Expressing confidence was everything.  If she showed weakness, then that might be the excuse someone twitchy needed to try to take her life.

The trail of people who followed after her was a sticky one, catching or stopping here and there, to say words to this person or that one.

Rose stopped at the end.  “Green Eyes.”

The mermaid looked up at her from her seat on the pew.

“Blake wants you to come with, I think,” Rose said.

Blake apparently didn’t disagree or want to clarify his point.  He was still, motionless.

“Okay,” Green Eyes said.

Just like that.

As simple as the acceptance was, Green Eyes still glared with a steady, ominous sort of intensity.

She knew, Rose knew.  That Blake had made the agreement.  That there was no room in this world for the both of them.

She didn’t know, Rose suspected, that even now, Rose was digesting Blake.  Eroding him away into nothingness.

And that, very possibly, he was letting her.

But it was a toxic sort of digestion.  He was a poison, and for anything she gained this way, she lost something too.  There had to be a cleaner way to do it, and that meant that Rose and Blake were both operating on a time limit of sorts.

If and when she found a moment to extract Blake and place him in a vessel, she would have to watch her back against Green Eyes, out of concern that the mermaid would destroy Rose before she could dispose of Blake.

It was a complication.  One that Blake apparently wanted.

Rose frowned.

“Thank you, Green Eyes,” Rose said.

She gazed over the assembled practitioners.  Her eye fell on Ty, who had been draped out over one pew, a bandage around his middle.  A card was pressed to the bandage.  Someone had offered some help via. practice.  He raised a hand in a bit of a wave.

She smiled at him, raising her own hand in a small wave of response.

Fuck.  She actually cared what happened to these people.  Not just to Tiff and Ty and her family, but to the people as a whole.

It made it so much harder.

“Do you have a strategy?” the Elder Sister asked.

Rose turned around.  Many of the Toronto powers were gathered behind and around her, along with Sandra, Alister, and the Briar Girl.

“Beyond the broad strokes?” the Elder Sister added.

“They’ll be waiting,” Rose said.  “We’re all gathered here.  They’re going to hit us hard.  Our fear is their strength.  They’ll want to break our momentum.  Have us run out the door, then turn and run back inside, before they crush us.”

“You apparently know them well,” the Elder Sister said.  The words were accusatory.

I just have to think of Blake’s strengths combined with my own, and strip away the genuine desire to be good.  Use that sort of individual and form an establishment.

But speaking and likening the enemy to herself wasn’t going to make her any friends or win her any loyalty here.

“In terms of my group,” Rose said, “If Emily could cover our escape, block the lawyers’ view of us… it would make a big difference, especially if they have their demons on leashes.  We break through enemy ranks.  Then, if Johannes is here we catch him from behind.  If he isn’t, we make a break for his demesne.”

“I can try,” Emily said.

Rose would have asked Emily to come, but the girl was so young.

It was a daunting idea, to ask so much of someone so… unreliable.

“But you think that our group will be tested,” the Elder Sister said.

“Yes,” Rose said.

The rest of the people in attendance at the church had gathered.  They were listening, faces solemn and serious.

We need a strategy, then,” the Elder Sister said.  “You have yours, thin as it is.  Enchantresses can help sway things, but they can’t form the focus of our attack.  I don’t have nearly enough power to bring to bear.  Chronomancers alter time, but we need to do something with that time.  I don’t have enough power to matter, and the rest seem to have limited resources.”

“We don’t need power,” Rose said.  “We need… to pave the way.  Leave moving forward as an option.”

The Elder Sister spread her hands.  “I lost our little contest, so I won’t say it, but…”

“You’ll imply,” Rose said.  That maybe we should hunker down and stay.

“Hey,” Evan said.  “Hey.  Hey.  I have the best plan.”

“No,” Rose and Tiff both said, automatically.

“You haven’t even heard me out!” Evan said.

“He’s right.  You haven’t even heard him out,” Lola said.  “He’s fighting alongside us, and he has as much of a voice as anyone.  If nobody has any suggestions, I don’t see why we can’t hear his.”

“I might love you a little,” Evan whispered.

“The plan?” the Elder Sister asked, her words terse.

“I’m a container for spirits.  I’m supposed to be a vessel for an Evan-spirit, but stuff got broke.  Spiritstuff is leaking out like a slow drip, so we’ve been giving me more spirits to keep me going.  So what I’m saying is, we stuff something inside me.  Something like a megahuge fire spirit, and we let me blaze a trail.  Literally.  And maybe we make them poop their fancy lawyer suits a bit.”

“Someone to lead the way,” the High Priest said.  “There’s worse choices than him, if he’s properly equipped.”

“Uh huh,” Evan said.

“I could do that,” the Elder Sister said.  “It wouldn’t last, if you’re leaking like you say you are, but I could do it.”

“Let’s make it happen!” Evan said.

“I might have something to contribute,” the Astrologer said.  “If I use my dipper sign to refresh the swan sign, given that you’re a bird…”

“Why are we even still talking!?”

Rose and Alister each pulled on one door, just peering around the edges.

The lawyers were gathered.  With them were motes, all the ones that had survived the first conflict, along with a few more.  But they were joined by no less than three demons.  Each was spaced out, and diagrams marked the snow, melted in, forming dark lines where pavement and burned grass were revealed.

Where there weren’t diagrams, the tumorous imp had blighted the ground in broad patches.  The road was cracked and pitted, trees had fallen and now hosted clusters of diseased flesh, and snowy lawns had been poisoned, turned into noxious marsh.  The poison there could quite likely kill a man with a touch, and it still festered, still spread centimeter by centimeter.

One demon in a female guise, her body twisted, enclosed in what looked like three cubes that had bitten into flesh.  Her head-cube rattled, shuddering, jittering, the orientation moving.

Another, broad in the shoulder, mouth yawning perpetually wide, as if its jaw were broken.  It wore human flesh like a shroud, a twisted mass of skin and muscle piled over and around the shoulder, over the head, a twisted mask where the eye and mouth holes of another individual’s face aligned with the dark, burned face beneath.  The eyes glowed, and Rose instinctually averted her own eyes away from them.  The ‘clothes’ of human flesh it wore moved and twitched, an eyeball that looked to be a heartbeat from falling from the socket moved, looking in another direction.

The third was narrow, a thin androgynous figure, wearing clothes that looked like they had been sewn together around it.  Corset thin, with voluminous sleeves, it had a thin mouth, no hair, and an oddly small nose.  The eyes, conversely, were overlarge.

Rose had almost expected a horde, but three demons was more than scary enough.  If they were anything like Ur or the Barber…

Everyone in the church was taking cover, staying out of the line of sight of the door.

Evan hopped up a bit, the sole exception.  In plain view, just a little bit behind the mat for drying and scraping boots, just inside the door.

Lights flared around him.  The Astrologer had removed some of the rigging she wore, laying it out on the floor.

Fire ignited, lighting up a trail of accelerant, drawing lines around Evan.

He swelled in size.  From something that weighed less than a full glass of water to something the size of a small dog, then a large dog.

His feathers glowed at the edges, like the edges of burning paper on a cigarette.

Evan laughed, and as he grew, the laugh swiftly took on a tone, deeper, almost guttural.

He spread his wings, continuing to grow.

“Yes!” he said, and it was more a man’s voice than a child, gravely, a hair from being a roar.

A bit of the influence from the Eye, which was being tapped as a power source.

The feathers ignited in full.  The flames poured off him, and they fell on the mat and the diagram.

“Go!”  the Elder Sister shouted.  “Before you incinerate all of us, for the love of-“

He took off, and in the doing, he stirred sparks and flame.

Fire poured off him in a steady stream, splashing out onto snow and street.

A hundred feet away, they could still hear the deep, powerful laughter.

Ms. Lewis gestured, and Rose’s Sight could see the connections forming, snapping out, lashing around Evan.

He slipped free as if he were oiled, turned, and let the fire spill down over top of the lawyers and the one female demon toward the front.  It fell on and around Ms. Lewis.

The Elder Sister was right behind, gesturing, extinguishing the fire just past the door.

The Sphinx and Briar Girl were the next ones out.  Briar Girl gestured, and hands reached out of the snow, figures raising themselves up and out.  Her familiar perched on her shoulder, then leaped down, swelling in size, taking on feral qualities.

Evan’s laugh rang through the town.  Where the effect that kept the city dark still lingered, his movements created light, parting clouds as he rose higher, wings spread.

He flew past them again.  Flames dropped,  pouring over another rank of practitioners and devils.  A second attempt at binding him failed.

Rose felt Blake stir, warning.

Can’t let him go out in flames, she thought.

She joined the next group out through the doors.

Have to find a gap.  Or make one.

Enemy practitioners burned and continued to burn, staggering or crawling away from the fire.  Here and there, an enemy practitioner simply burned, and the fires kept them burning, locking them in place.

But the demons – the thin one with the clothes struggled, backing away, but the others remained unaffected.

The one with the cloak of flesh opened its mouth wider, and it screamed.

All rational thought and sanity fled Rose’s mind at the sound, and she wasn’t alone in that.  Nowhere close to alone.  Even Evan the firebird plummeted from the sky.

The last coherent thought she had was a realization.  She’d anticipated that the lawyers would make them turn back, breaking the charge before crushing the residents of Toronto and Jacob’s Bell underfoot.

Her mistake had been assuming that the lawyers would make it a choice in any way, shape or form.

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156 thoughts on “Judgment 16.4

    1. Formatting?

      an eyeball, that looked to be a heartbeat away from falling from the socket, moved, looking in another direction.

      might be more readable. I had to read the sentence 3 times to get it

        1. On the Table of Contents page, 16.3 now leads to 16.4.
          And in the Table of Contents to the right, there is no link to 16.1.

          Boy, that screaming demon sure is powerful.

  1. Wildbow, you might as well end the story here. Nothing is going to top Evan the Fire Bird laughing with glee. It’s like awesome overload.

    better you than me</em,>

    Is Isadora being a Jerky Pussy and saying it’s better for Paige to suffer from the demons or simply acknowledging that she herself has a great fear and is incapable of handling herself against demons?

    Rose. . . please don’t digest Blake. We need him so Green Eyes can have a happy ending.

  2. Finally, phoenix time!

    One of the nonpractitioners or Rose should really have kept Lewis from just walking out. If breaking through the barrier would put her in a better position she’d just have done it.

    1. Let’s see, Choir identifications. The thin one is repelled by fire, so reasonably likely to be Darkness. The screaming demon is likely Madness; that’s repelled by the Seal Of Solomon, so Isadora is up. Can’t identify the third,

    2. The church is supposed to be sanctuary. The second they tried to violate the sanctuary would have been the second they themselves would have lost any protection the place provides them.

        1. I assumed it was similar to the agreement between the major Jacob’s Bell powers before the conflict over the town came to its head. Rose refused to participate for good reason, and people agreed that the deal wouldn’t work as well if it wasn’t unanimous.

  3. Typo Thread?

    “Come on,” Ainsley said. We really can’t be arguing.” (Missing an opening of a quotation mark.)

    “You think that’ sit?” Lola asked. (Should be “that’s it?””

  4. Welp, momemt of glory for evan. It was the worst of ideas; it was the best of ideas. Drop the firebird and go out in a blaze of glory.

  5. Yessssss, Evan got to go firebird, everything is right with the world.

    Though him getting knocked out on the third shot is a bad sign.

  6. Fantastic chapter. The best one in recent memory, in fact. I don’t usually get caught up in the visuals of a story, but it’s very easy for me to picture the first scene, and how heavy it is. Practitioners and Others lined up in a dimly lit church, caught between the bowed Rose Thorburn and Ms. Lewis…

    That explanation of the spirit vessel was also very nice to have. Knowing the mechanics helps me visualize and understand what’s happening, and it came at the perfect time to set up Evan’s long-awaited and glorious transformation.

    That scene was another one that was easy to visualize: The deep-voiced, thundering laughter of Evan as he transforms into a flaming avian of doom and rains fire upon all who deserve it. Never give up on your dreams, little man. Never.

    It looks like the lawyers have finally settled on an offensive power setting somewhere below ‘demon nuclear holocaust’ but still significantly higher than their previous ‘doing near nothing’ setting, which feels much more in line with their threat level.

    I do wonder, though, if the lawyers haven’t been putting in 100% not only because of the demons-as-nukes analogy, but also because they’re not completely on team Entropy & Darkness. Ms. Lewis (or any of the others) could be a bit like Fell in this respect, beholden to obey her masters but having enough wiggle room to drag things out.

    There’s a million other things I could mention, but I’ll stop here before this comment starts to rival the chapter in terms of length.

  7. Sisters: We’ve got fire and icey glares,
    an eye that kills without cares,
    Behaims: We’ve got ticks and tocks and fancy clocks
    DuChamps: While entrancesses manipulate pairs!

    Astrologer: It’s not that I’m meek, or even that weak,
    but my tricks are all back in Toronto!

    Peter: My family’s a bit haywire, I’m really just mostly a liar
    and fuck you for giving me ‘Toronto’!

    Sphinx: Riddle me this, riddle me that
    What is a pussy and what is a cat?

    Paige: . . . (blushes furiously)

    Alister: We’re going to fight the lawyers
    Ellie: We’ll probably fucking die
    Mags: But if we can beat the lawyers
    Blake/Rose: It’s gotta be worth a try!

    Wide-mouth: AaaaaAAAAAAAAAH!

  8. Dear Wildbow,

    I’m really enjoying Pact! Fantastic story! Do you have recommendations for other stories or movies where people bind demons to do their bidding? Almost all the stuff out there is about hauntings or possessions, or battling demons. I really want to read more about people who summon and control demons like in Pact. I’d appreciate any suggestions from you or fellow readers. I already read the Bartimaeus series and thought it was pretty good.

    Thanks!

  9. Aaaaaaaaaah! I am geeking out! This was one of the best chapters ever! Everything flowed flawlessly and I could see the entire story coming together. And Evaaaan! Fire bird! Aaah! 😀 Thank you! pleasedon’tkillevannowori’llcry.

    So, a few disconnected thoughts.

    I still don’t get what the goal of the bad guys is. I’m often willing to suspend my disbelief when an explanation for an action is “it’s the nature of the character”. Demons’ nature is to destroy in one way or another. But what happens after they win and there is nothing left? Do they have any long-term goals? They must, if they have a legal organization.

    I wonder if Granny ever considered the lawyers would try to take over Johannes.

    I love how this war is warred out of pure selfishness. Rose doesn’t want to die, so she forces everyone to fight for her. I am oversimplifying, yes. I am well aware that if Rose fell on hands of the lawyers, that would be bad. But this war is still being held in great part because Rose doesn’t want to die/suffer eternally and I think that’s cool :3

    On the note of Rose, what a bitch. Blake has been Mr. Nobility all night long, sacrificing almost everything he has for the survival of everyone else. He offered to let you kill him for your sake. I would also distrust him in your position, but after all he has done, I will personally take offense with you thinking he is setting you up.

    Isadora, don’t be mean towards your pet :/ And, oh my goodness, Peter…! xD His diatribes just keep getting darker as he gets more tense. I don’t think most birds have noodles though, and ghost noodles probably don’t count.

    Talking about Peter, it’s neat that he listened to Ainsley. Maybe there truly is something going on there, even if that is not a great idea.

    Finally, I’m seriously surprised that no one took an out with the lawyers. I don’t see why not. The town is very likely lost. Everyone knows that diabolists always have the means to win, and it seems unlikely that the lawyers would pull a retreat at any point. On second thought, it isn’t. They aren’t stupid. But you wouldn’t want the world knowing that they were defeated. So why bother fighting them, aside from values? If the issue is a trust issue, well, Ms. Lewis offered to swear an oath and I doubt the lawyers would go through the trouble of breaking an oath for fun. And… why the fuck didn’t… they just call on the three demons they now have while their enemy retreated, rather than let their enemy regroup and gain forces… In their effort to avoid spending resources, the lawyers just keep spending more resources. I don’t get it.

    1. I don’t think most birds have noodles though

      They do. They fully retract into the body when not in use. Some are particularly weird; one species of duck has it spiral-shaped.

      1. Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I understand, most birds do not have a penis. They have only a cloaca, and the cloacal protuberance does not count as a penis. Yes, some birds do have a penis, like ducks, but they are the exception. I am pretty much paraphrasing from Wikipedia, so maybe I am just reading something wrong.

          1. Oh my goodness! xD I’ve been laughing for about ten minutes. That was amazing.

            Yeah, sorry about the Freudian slip! Such a dirty fox. The duck noodle shape must have reminded me of something else entirely.

    2. Remember, someone from Toronto made the path shorter for the retreating group? Also I think it costs them something to summon demons and use them. Their approach until now has always be of tact.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if we found out, they are let go out of the lawyers organization based on how less they use the demonic help. And I also think they use them lesser and lesser to get out quickly. I think its like a company loan, you have the option to take it but you will have to stay with the company till you pay it back.

  10. YAAAAaaaaayyy!! Evan went all fire-birdy! 🙂

    Aaaannnd promptly got hit with a Doomed New Clothes scenario. 😦

    Worst case scenario: Evan’s mind has been broken by the screaming demon and his new form as well as his own origin makes him the perfect symbol/sacrifice for the Lawyers to summon Phenex.

    Moderate case scenario: Evan’s fire-birdy form is destroyed thanks to demon induced damage and in a case of Sorry, Billy, but You Just Don’t Have Legs, he cannot become a phoenix ever again. But the good news is that the forms of other mythical birds are not barred from him.

    Best case scenario: The symbolism of the Phoenix (Transformation, Renewal, Re-emergence) resonated well with the bits of the Abyssal taint in Evan from Blake’s spirit infusion, a trip through the Abyss and healing inside Blake, enough to ensure that Evan is now immune to demonic destruction. The K.O from the demon merely knocked Evan down to Egg Form.

  11. YES EVAN THE FIRE BIRD!!!!!

    Could Lola Duchamp be Padraic? I remember her being in the story before, but not very well.

    1. Pretty much everyone there could be Padraic, but Lola has been one of the most prominent Duchamps in the story, after Sandra. Blake spared Lola’s mother and then got her permission to use her computer before he went on his purge of Duchamp husbands.

      (I don’t think he killed Lola’s husband-to-be, however. Wasn’t said husband supposed to be Spikedick, or something? The guy with the insane goblin familiar?)

    2. Lola is fairly prominent among the younger people, I seriously doubt that Padraic could pass as one of them without somebody noticing. They’re not that dumb. He probably got away with Joanna (Penny?) because she’s, like, ten and no one really pays that much attention to what she says. And Maggie because he left the town almost immediately after taking the form.

  12. Comments:

    1) Poor Ms. Lewis. She’s always the pinnacle of politeness, and everyone responds by insulting her =(. Mind your manners, protagonists!

    2) I don’t care what the goal of the Abyss is, it’s certainly not ‘good’ or ‘right’ or ‘Right’ in any sense our Pactverse characters would accept. All that said, Rose swore to serve as its scourge, so she doesn’t exactly have a say in the matter.

    3) I really don’t understand why not a single person in that room took the deal Ms. Lewis offered them. For instance, there’s Isadora: IIRC in Jeremy’s chapter she mentioned she swore to put her survival first. I don’t even understand why she came to Jacob’s Bell in the first place, not to speak of her participating in the fight or not quitting it here. I’d actually call her foresworn now.

    4) And if I understood correctly, there are a few remaining Duchamp husbands in the church. They have zero reason to stay, and every reason to ruin Rose, and Blake by association.

    5) Admittedly, I can also think of some people in the church that wouldn’t take the deal – people who suffered from (association with) diabolism, like Rose’s & Blake’s friends, the Knights, etc. Briar Girl wants the town, so she certainly wouldn’t forfeit it. I’m unsure about the Junior Council – they seemed somewhat more reasonable than their parents. But Blake’s side was never the reasonable side.

    6) And so on, and so forth.

    1. I’d actually call her foresworn now.

      If I were Isadora I wouldn’t assume that accepting the offer was any sort of guarantee of safety. As it stands, she’s still taking measures to ensure her own survival before anything else.

      1. Oaths are supposed to make practitioners and Others more powerful precisely because they restrict their behavior, and thereby make it easier for spirits to judge them. If an oath along the lines of “I put my survival first” does not force her to flee from demons, what does she actually have to do to be foresworn?

        1. I am sincerely doubtful fleeing would actually improve her odds over even the medium term. She swore to put her own survival first, not to flee from battle, so when fighting is risky but safer than fleeing she stands and fights. Sure, Mrs Lewis offered to promise their safety. That’s probably as reliable as Padric’s promise to let Joanna go when the clock struck ten.

          1. The whole point of the lawyer shtick is that the organization keeps its word and its promises. The reason they’re reacting like they are is precisely because the Thorburns broke theirs. I would certainly believe Ms. Lewis’ promises. Jacob’s Bell falling into the hands of demons would be bad in the long-term, but certainly better for Isadora’s survival than the alternative of fighting against them directly.

            And Isadora could even ask for better terms, similar to Laird asking Conquest to postpone his attempts at diabolism for a century, in exchange for Laird feeding himself into conquest.

            1. I still don’t trust them. I would be entirely unsurprised if accepting the offer would lead to everyone in the church dying without Ms. Lewis breaking her word. And fleeing here would come back to haunt Isadora eventually, what with being immortal and all.

              I’m also frankly not sure the situation really is untenable. If Ms. Lewis bothered to make the offer, it’s because she’s worried about the Toronto faction. Otherwise she’d just have wiped them out instead of bargaining.

            2. I would imagine that being Lawyers they are very, very good at finding ways to keep the letter of the agreement while breaking the spirit of it, or at finding loopholes.

            3. None of our protagonists have only acted in good faith throughout the story. The people who were most consistently fair in their dealings in the practitioner world were Ms. Lewis, Faysal, and Johannes. (Remember how Faysal treated Blake, and how Johannes treated scarf girl.) Oh, and also Fell’s uncle (?), the nameless practitioner who died while saving Maggie.

              Faysal somehow managed to keep his true intentions hidden, so his betrayal came as a surprise; Johannes was genuine throughout, and Ms. Lewis seems the same. From everything we’ve seen from her – like visiting Blake in the Abyss out of pure courtesy – she’s exceedingly fair in her dealings. That she’s working for a Lovecraftian organization has no bearing on this whatsoever.

              Now, maybe RDT is right and Ms. Lewis is secretly doing all this due to sadism, but the combination of politeness and sadism sounds really weird to me.

            4. I don’t think she’s been acting in good faith. Firstly, way back when she first showed up, she told Blake how to summon Ornias, instead of something Blake might actually want to summon. She could have told him how to summon one of the motes, which would have been more manageable, and potentially might even know how to summon something which isn’t a demon

              Secondly, it should be noted that in point of fact the contract actually specified that if Rose failed in her responsibilities they’d get the house. House still exists. And Blake/Rose did make a good-faith effort to keep it intact and out of the Abyss. If she’d been acting in good faith she’d take ownership of the house and complain to Faysal about the damage to her property. Or just write it off as a loss, swipe the North End, and call it good.

            5. Blake/Rose did make a good-faith effort to keep it intact and out of the Abyss

              I think you forgot the parts where they promised to give away some of the property, abandoned the house for weeks, made the house a target during war, opened a doorway into the abyss, and literately lit the house on fire. That’s not even including the general lack of upkeep and willingness to play ball.

              I dislike the lawyers and acknowledge that they’re evil, but they’re in the right (maybe even Right) here. Blake/Rose broke their (the Thorburn) end of the deal and are being punished.

            6. There were reasons for all of those things. They failed to maintain the house, but they did attempt to do so as much as possible. Note that there’s actually a defined penalty clause for failing upkeep, and it’s that the Lawyers get the property. Since it still exists, that clause could still be invoked.

              Their only grounds for demanding any compensation beyond that is that falling into the Abyss rendered it valueless. However, that is most definitely not Rose’s fault. Entirely down to Faysal there.

            7. Um, what? Why does her being polite and courteous have anything to do with how trustworthy she is? There are daggers in men’s smiles. It’s basic shit that some characters will act reasonable and polite in order to make it easier to achieve their terrible goals.

              At this point I’m absolutely inclined to trust someone who’s rude and blunt like Mags over someone like Lewis.

            8. at the End of the Day, being Polite or “Keeping her word” doesn’t even enter the Equation. She, Being part of the Firm, is a Sworn Enemy of the universe itself/Support to the Professional Puppykickers, which is literally the only Definition of a “bad guy’ that 2/3 of the non-clueless population can agree on.

            9. Even if she did truly deal in good faith in the moment. Whatever all those good faith deals are leading up to is unlikely to be pretty. And people know this. It’s only Diabolists who are idiotic or desperate enough to make dealings with them.

            10. That, and it’s entirely possible she’s been working to establish the appearance of being trustworthy so she can get people to lower their guard. Then she betrays them and kills all the witnesses.

              I’ll start giving her the benefit of the doubt when she actually does something that hurts the firm.

            11. “The reason they’re reacting like they are is precisely because the Thorburns broke theirs. ”

              I don’t really think the Thornburns DID break on any promises to the lawyers. The heirs are supposed to act as caretakers to the property, subject to the lawyers oversight, but there was never any promise on how they would care for it or the like.

              The lawyers are essentially freaking out because they got outplayed. They wanted to get a Thornburn heir as a diabolist, but don’t seem to be getting that. They wanted the house, but that’s in the Abyss.

            12. While we don’t see the exact contract, it does apparently specify responsibilities for upkeep. However, it also specifies a penalty clause for failure to meet said responsibilites, which is not feeding the heir to demons.

            13. I really wouldn’t say the lawyers got outplayed. I mean, they knew from the beginning that RDT was planning something, right? Something related to their bad karma, which, it now turns out, refers to the contract with the lawyers.

              And yet, the situation was irrevocably ruined not by RDT, but by Faysal, who didn’t care about the house or the lawyer situation at all, but only wanted to remove the Barber.

      2. I’d forgotten the self-safety-first bit. It makes me think: Last chapter, she called Paige a tool with which to express some of her power. What kind of tool would someone like Isadora need, though?

        Maybe, a way to use her power without having to jeopardize her safety, which would violate her oath.

        1. From 7.09:

          “Mr. Thorburn, the closest parallel would be to you and Evan, yes.”

          I could see it. Paige as a practitioner, with a freaking powerful familiar.

          But wasn’t there a danger there?

          “So she’s going to be-”

          “Before you go further and inadvertently insult me,” Isadora told me, “Paige would be the ‘Evan’ in the partnership.”

    2. I expect the Duchamp husbands remaining are still there because they love their wives, and therefore support the Duchamp cause.

    3. Isadora is allowed to think long term (potentially very long term.) She can legitimately argue that any victory by demonic forces ultimately puts her life in danger; having a town next door taken over claimed by demons is a pretty nasty threat.

        1. Maybe if all the other heirs die there, Paige becomes the next heir, having to deal with the lawyers, and being connected to Isadora, that kind of makes it Isadora’s problem too?

            1. I think the point of Isadora taking Paige in was for Isadora to get another lovely lesbian lawyer follower/henchwoman who could help out in the 20-or-so hours-a-day that Isadora sleeps. That Paige happens to come encumbered by a diabolist family, well, Isadora can always just eat Paige if Paige is too much trouble — Blake tried to warn Paige about that back in the apartment in Toronto.

  13. Ooh, I get it. The Abyss isn’t about ruin or destruction-it’s not demonic. It’s about change, and that’s humanity’s gig. There’s something human about it.

    1. It seems that the Abyss might technically be the main karma payback mechanism. You are what you do, you become more of how you act. That the Abyss seems so creepy and negative might be from evil demon radiation that the angels have kept trying to trap in the Abyss, and from ErasUr eating away parts of its brain, etc.

    2. I think your onto something here. When the library fell into the Abyss, it didn’t twist into something disjointed or different. It stayed a library. An Abyssal library, but I’d argue that the character of the house wasn’t so much destroyed as it was turned up to eleven. Altered, to better fit it’s new surroundings.

      That library became a new part of the Abyss. A large part of the character of the Tenements came from its denizens, who went out of their way to attack the group. Re-reading the end of Possessions, it almost seemed like Blake was effecting his surroundings, morphing them to his fears and expectations.

      It’s possible that the Abyss is literally made of the things that fall into it. If that’s the case, then the fact that demons keep winding up there is probably going a long, long way to explain why a force of change is doing so much destruction.

  14. wonder if the demons ever interfear with each other, can a demon from the choir of madness make a demon from another choir go mad? demons destroy so can a demon destroy another demon? you know, attacking like with like instead of opposite, that is a kind of practisce that was suggested but never used in the story

    1. Actually, yes. End of the last arc had Surbas swallow Naph, so their abilities definitely work on each other. Not all their attack forms necessarily sensibly apply against demons, and they’re probably pretty resilient, but it does seem they can fight each other.

      That said, I can understand why no one does it. It’s a horrifically dangerous thing to attempt. There’s the risk that they’ll slip the binding or the demon being targeted has the ability to disrupt bindings, and then you have two demons on the loose. Furthermore, only the Choir of Darkness would actually get rid of the demon instead of altering it into something else that’s nasty or absorbing it and getting stronger. Then there’s the whole risk of them having radiation like Pauz that causes collateral damage no matter how they’re employed, the karmic backlash, and the risk that others will assume the Diabolist is only attacking the demon to clear out the competition. I’d only want to try it if both demons could be securely contained and the area was fortified against an external attack to loose them.

      This also leads to a question: why do the demons cooperate? They seem to want to destroy everything else, why aren’t they trying to destroy each other? Do they want to completely restructure reality instead of destroying everything and they’re just trying to clean out current existence? Are they only working together until they run out of other enemies? Or perhaps they really are fighting each other already in other realms and it’s just not common knowledge.

      1. I like these ideas. I wonder if we’re gonna have a ‘sudden understanding’ chapter here as we had in Worm (I’m talking about Interludes 26 and 29, mostly) that explains some of what the fuck is going on on the bigger scope. Those were some of my favorite chapters, because then everything made so much sense.

        (I am hoping for one of those here too 😉 )

      1. isnt that how this ENTIRE MESS started generations ago,anyway? and how it snowballed out of control? Family leader after Leader screwing over/ murdering person after person for their own benefit and not caring about anyone other then themselves?

  15. Has anyone else been having problems getting Pact’s pages to load? Last few weeks I’ve been having a terrible time, and most of the time I try to comment I keep having to resend it until if finally goes.

  16. hey wildbow. I can now answer and old question you asked

    Quote

    On ‘October 8, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    Thanks, AMR.

    I’m terrified and excited and terrified for what comes after. Will they like it? Will it work? How many readers are going to leave and never come back? Am I going to be able to pull it off?

    Spooky.’ End brin.. I mean ‘End Quote.’

    Well everyone, do we think he answered that question rather nicely then?

  17. sigh she’s backsliding again. see, this sort of thing is why ive never really liked Rose. she’s literally got Blake tearing Pieces off himself to try and make her Stronger, and she’s still too WEAK, or self-serveingly stupid, to fight the Compulsion to be a good little puppet and kill her other half. intentionally-bad imitation of her voice “oh, Blake’s made it clear that he has no desire to kill me repeatedly. i have to kill him before he can kill me.”
    or she’s getting greedy and wants the rest of him without the Annoyance of having a Functioning Concense /remotely normal Moral Compass.. i mean, she’s even regretting getting the ability to actually care about anyone other then herself in her inner monologue/ thought processes. Whenever we Get an actual look inside her head she completely fails to be sympathetic, or starts slipping back from whatever Development she’s made, or the Development turns out to be faked.
    Dammit WIldbow! stop teasing us with Character Development and yanking it away! getting whiplash here X_X

    1. still gotta deal with rose’s oath to serve abyss for life, maybe something happens and blake wins despite his every effort 😛 everybody gets to be happy

    2. Well, considering that she just got an overactive sense of empathy and friendship from Blake, and the way that Blake gives her things is removing them from himself…

    3. Is there any reason why Rose and Blake can’t just part ways once the whole thing with Jacob’s Bell is done (assuming they’re both alive and sane?). The Barber’s Curse is based off of the fact that two halves of a severed whole will compete for pieces of the original soul and will grind each other if they ever meet on a metaphysical level.

      But selves and souls are based off of memories and connections, and you can make more of those. Whats stopping Rose and Blake from agreeing to avoid each other for the rest of eternity, moving to different cities, and, by extension, forming connections and memories that are completely unrelated from each other, and therefore have no toxic competition associated with them?

      1. I don’t think there’s anything to stop them. It’s just that Blake was originally unable to walk away from everything after he saw the visions in the Drains. He wanted to leave the world better off, yet things got worse instead. The fates of Ty, Tiff, Alexis and Evan hit him especially hard.

      2. from what ive seen, Roses paranoia WILL lead to her Trying to Murder Him no matter what. The Demon’s Agents are LITERALLY righto outside and she’s STILL thinking about killing him and trying to play out how to do it. i give a 35% chance she gets multiple people killed by trying to pull of a “brilliant” plan in the next few chapters. really, the best outcome i see here is she becomes collateral damage before she screws things up further.

        1. Rose might be better in social situations, Sociopath-mode or not, but she is a Liability EVERYWHERE else, both in combat, and in GENERAL for being STUPID enough to volunteer to become Conquests next Mindless Meatsuit, and if she didn’t think that’d be in end result of the little “deal” she made, she’s ACTUALLY stupid and not just wired to make choices for short term gain that screw her in the long ( like most of the mage community seems to be)

          1. hyperbole aside, i did mean the last bit. she’s really not that Different form her other Half in that sense, neither of them make a habit of actually thinking about the consequences of their actions past immediate survival.

      3. Rose. she’s obsessed with Killing Blake. its even 3! on her mental Checklists WHEN THERE ARE MULTIPLE DEMONS TRYING TO KILL EVERYONE IN THE AREA. its looking more and more like she lost it at some point in the library during one of her research session in the period that Blake was in the Drains. yes, im being unthinkingly/unreasoning Hostile towards her. it stops the nanosecond she shows she actually has enough free will to even THINK about NOT following the compulsion.till then im treating her as what she was made to be: a Carbon Copy of her grandmother, no more, no less.

        1. guh! stupid double post >.< accidentally had the page open in 2 tabs at once, thought my original post didnt go though >.<

        2. I found a song for when rose goes off the cliff of stupid one dimensional bitchiness and fails to resist demonic impulses of self destruction:

          There are no fingerprints
          Deep under water
          Nothing to tie one to a crime
          And if you seek vengeance
          All you need are instruments of pain

          But beware
          For when you quench your blood thirst
          Others will seek their vengeance on you
          And they won’t rest
          Until you’re dead

          Hold your breath, swim and strain
          The smell of death, can’t escape
          Blood will cloud, drift away
          Attract the murders of Murmaids
          It’s so cold, they all know
          What you’ve done, you can’t run
          Vengeance is the law for thee
          A thousand leagues below the sea

          You’ve been tracked, you’ve been seen
          Murdering the next of kin
          Ate their hearts, drank their blood
          Washed your fins in blackened mud

          Now you swim, try to hide
          Heart beats faster from inside
          Thought it was a big charade
          Your life was ended by Murmaids.

          Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider Murmaider

          Teeth? Check.
          Claws? Check.
          Subject? Check.
          Desire? Check.

          Hatred? Check.
          Anger? Check.
          Mermaid? Check.
          Murder? Check.

          MURDER! MURDER! MURMAID MURDER!
          MURDER! MURDER! MURMAID MURDER!

  18. Idea! Rose waits until Blake is mostly eroded away, then stuffs him inside of Evan. That should plug up the holes in Evan and let Blake really fly. As familiars, they’re essentially a single unit anyway. If they’re occupying a single unit the messed up connection isn’t an issue. Doesn’t fix the him/Rose issue, though.

    Anyway… Hopefully the sanity-scrambling roar isn’t permanent.

          1. Won’t be forever.Technically,yes,his ghost would be,but if he can age mentally and change his body ,whats the problem?

  19. If there were any Fay still masquerading as humans, did they also just lose their insanity? And how surprising will it be for the lawyers et al when a “child” suddenly rips out of their skin suit and starts doing whatever it is that a millenia-old Fay does after losing all sanity?

    Oops, lawyers, you done goofed.

  20. Bonus chapter tomorrow?

    Also two other notes:

    The Demons were bound with diagrams made from melted snow. Are they free now that Evan the Phoenix has gone super saiyan on their asses?
    What is molly doing in all this? Preparing to play Chekhov’s God?

    1. I’m not sure if the diagrams were made of melted snow or were melting the snow. Either way, if they break it’s because they were intended to be broken, otherwise they’re substantial enough they won’t be damaged by physical influences

  21. Just got around to reading this chapter a bit late. I can’t express how happy I am that Evan is not the 2nd coming of Sleeper. Awesome.

      1. Sleeper is a character is Worm who is frequently mentioned as a threat on par with the most dangerous beings in the world. Wildbow kind of taunted us by repeated hints at him but never clarified what exactly Sleeper is or why he is so feared. I had this feeling that Evan’s firebird thing might end up being similar, but we were spared that thankfully.

  22. Hey Wildbow, long time reader, just want to let you know that I art’d something and I’d like you to have a look at it before I move on to color and the finishing touches. There may be inaccuracies, since my memory isn’t exactly perfect. I was hoping to use it as a portfolio piece in the future, and I thought it’d be polite to ask your permission first. If there are any alterations you’d like made or objections you have, go ahead and let me know. You can find it in the link below.

    http://joshthulhu.deviantart.com/art/Blake-Thorburn-Grayscale-Pact-512499079

      1. Fits, but I wanted to stay away from that. I could have spent more time on his arms and legs, but it turns out that making something look like a jumble of bones and wood fragments is pretty difficult if you want to maintain a recognizable silhouette and avoid visual messiness.

        1. Yes, it is difficult. Take a look at http://marveltoynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Hot-Toys-Groot-Figure-Accessories-and-Display-Stand-e1405702494892.jpg — they didn’t make that Groot action figure a jumble, he just has an usually broken lined wooden skin. You could go with something like that, but with more holes to show inner bits, or bits of emptiness inside, or whatever.

          He definitely has some human bones inside him, though, and your version has no human bones anywhere in it.

  23. “You know,” Peter said, “If I were Alister, I’d really have to wonder about how eager Rose was to gather a bunch of girls around her.”
    Now that you mention it…didn’t Taylor assemble a largely female group to deal with redacted towards the end of Worm?

    Also, neat, Evan’s a phoenix.

  24. Well. Humanity is on its way out, all the same. If you insist on hurrying it along, I’m sure my group’s, ah, associates don’t mind expediting things.

    I haven’t read beyond this part yet, but I can already tell it’s the part where the lawyers lost. Threats are one thing, but that’s not even an ultimatum- it’s “we’ll kill you even if you run,” on an extinction-level scale. Surrendering to an argument like that would just be… beyond inhuman, more like… insensate. Everything that lives wants a better life, for itself or for its successors; everything that lives wants.

    I would call it unreasonable for Miss Lewis to say this and expect it to work, except that we know she’s spent centuries doing nothing but a job that exposes her to endless varieties of fates worse than death. This is exactly the kind of thing that she thinks of as pragmatism- “run and hide, and live in fear and hopelessness for as long as you can.”

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